Posts Tagged ‘Communications’

Weighing the pig won’t make it fatter, but feeding it will

July 28, 2014

How top companies are changing their approach to sales

When the influential management analyst Dan Pink conducted a poll for his latest book To Sell Is Human, he found that the most common word associated with salespeople is ‘pushy’ – no surprises there. But this cliché of sales as the domain of ruthless hustlers is as tired as it is tenacious. Fuelled by new research and innovative thinking, the UK’s best sales teams aren’t just driving the bottom line, they’re taking a lead role in generating customer advocacy and loyalty, not to mention boosting employee engagement. They’re game-changing the industry.

Unfortunately, the majority of businesses are still struggling with outdated sales mindsets, and change can be particularly scary when times are tough.

The days of ‘hooking’ the client, fielding objections, and constantly pushing to close are over. Thanks to social media, customers are unprecedentedly informed and empowered; recent research from the Sales Executive Council finds that most buyers are 60% of the way down their decision-making cycle before they even talk to a salesperson. Distrust in big business has skyrocketed, and regulatory changes are causing massive upheaval.

Weigh the pig

Stop weighing the pig

Doing more of the same – selling faster and harder, to bigger targets and shorter deadlines – will not lead to different outcomes. Instead, leaders need to help salespeople redefine who they are, what they do, and how they do it. It’s not easy, but it’s urgently important, and the results will speak for themselves.

Let’s begin by examining the ‘who’. When it comes to personal sales styles, it’s time to give pushiness the shove. A study published by Adam Grant last year in the journal Psychological Science found that ‘ambiverts’ – people who are equal parts extroverted and introverted – perform best. Dan Pink’s essential ABC of sales traits are Atunement (an ability to connect and understand needs), Buoyancy (an ability to bounce back) and Clarity (being clear what you’re offering). The Challenger Sale, a new book by the Corporate Executive Board, outlines five typical sales personalities – the Lone Wolf, the Problem Solver, the Hard Worker, the Relationship Builder and the Challenger. Experiments reveal that it is the Challenger, the commercially savvy, far-sighted and well-researched self-starter, who really moves the dial.

So emotional intelligence, sensitivity to context and a sophisticated perspective are the personal qualities that win out, but the way in which organisations frame the function of sales itself is equally important.

Earlier this year, Bryan Kramer, CEO of PureMatter, popularised the concept of H2H (Human-to-Human) sales and marketing, in which he advocated discarding the concepts of B2B, B2C and D2C in favour of a connection between equals: “Human beings are innately complex yet strive for simplicity. Our challenge as humans is to find, understand and explain the complex in its most simplistic form […] Find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.”

This includes understanding that salespeople are not just there to sign off order forms. Research from the Corporate Executive Board finds that a good sales experience accounts for 53% of what drives long-term loyalty, so although price will always be important, focusing on value at the expense of service can be a false economy.

Of course, these new mindsets will only take hold if they’re embedded in a whole ecosystem of suitable management, process and reward. Encouraging advisors to provide authentic experiences rather than setting restrictive sales targets, coaching Challenger skills, and tweaking recruitment criteria are all part of the mix.

In his previous book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink suggested that 80% of the workforce is motivated by a sense of purpose, autonomy and mastery more than they are financial gain, so leaders also need to balance a fair and transparent pay structure with the sort of flexible, empowering culture seen in young hero companies such as Innocent and Netflix. Sometimes this involves getting rid of people who cannot or will not adapt. Netflix is as ruthless with ‘dead wood’ as it is supportive of bright stars, so if you followed this approach, your own Lone Wolves will gradually have to be rooted out.

It’s challenging stuff, particularly for large, established companies operating in sectors such as energy, finance and telecoms. Thankfully, there are leaders out there proving that it absolutely can be done.

A leading energy company has 15,000 people in their energy sales channel, 4,000 in their homecare channel, and 500 in field sales. A few years ago, they hired a brilliant new sales director who believed that current perception of the energy sector begged a whole new channel approach, and called on Blue Sky to help. Starting with the 1,200 people in their outbound channel, we helped them remove the frontline sales-per-hour target, instead encouraging salespeople to focus on having a great conversation with the customer, building the brand and being genuinely helpful. If customers didn’t wish to make a sale at that time, they were given a number to call back on later if they changed their mind, rather than being pushed to confirm a sale straight away.

The results? Sales per hour stayed largely the same, and from an engagement perspective, the workforce was far more motivated. Plus, thanks to the ‘call back’ mechanic, they saw a significant increase in the volume of inbound calls – which had double the conversion of the conversations on the outbound line.

“Selling, I’ve grown to understand,” says Dan Pink, “is more urgent, more important, and, in its own sweet way, more beautiful than we realise.” Sales leaders need to stop selling themselves short. H2H makes for better results – but it’s also a sales approach of which we can all be proud.

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementSally@bluesky

http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

 

 

Advertisements

How accountable are you?

March 17, 2014

The Accountability Ladder is a tool we use a lot at Blue Sky; it’s part of the company lexicon and used to help us understand why we’re not achieving everything we’d like to at work and at home. So, how does it work? Well, a recent conversation with my nine year old nephew explains it rather well:

“Hey Vincent, is everything ok, you’re looking a bit worried?”
“I’ve got a bit of a problem, I’ve not done my school project”
“So how come you haven’t done it?”
“Well, I didn’t know it needed doing.”
“Hmmm, but if you didn’t know it needed doing, how come you’re telling me about it?”
“Well, I guess I did know that it needed doing…”

In this short exchange, young Vincent is already on the shifting sands of perspective. So how does the tale fit with the tool?

Well, the Accountability Ladder describes the eight levels of accountability that allow us to step back, evaluate and really look at the choices we make and how we handle different situations. The top four rungs describe accountable behaviours (things that happen because of you) and the bottom four describe victim behaviours (things that happen to you). The more time you can spend towards the top of the ladder, the more opportunities you can open up for yourself and your team and the more attainable your goals will be. 

So, although I wouldn’t want to say that a young nine year old is a victim or displaying victim behaviours, in the sense of the model, Vincent was just not taking accountability. What he was trying to do was hold on to being right about being wrong; his own very good reason not to change. Indeed, in his own mind, an entirely adequate reason for his lack of effort or his lack of success. Our conversation didn’t stop there:

“When you said you didn’t know, but you did know, what’s the real reason you haven’t done it?” I asked.
“Well, I never really had it explained to me, the teacher didn’t make it clear,” so he moved to a place of blaming someone else.
“Ok, what didn’t the teacher make clear?”
“Well, she didn’t make it clear… well, actually she did make it clear”.

Even at this point, Vincent’s fertile imagination continued to justify his inaction:
“We’ve just been so busy this holiday” (still at the bottom of the ladder…. someone else’s fault for taking him out and showing him a good time).
He then moved up the ladder to excuses.
“Well I can’t do it now because there’s only three days left so it’s pointless, it’s not worth me doing it”.

So here he’s kind of saying there’s maybe something I could have done, but at this point I’m still right in not having to do it, if it was my fault before, I’m still ok because there’s no time left.

He then went on to say: “Well, with a bit of luck, some of the other kids won’t have done it either.”

So Vincent is now on the wait and hope rung and what he’s really doing is saying: “These are all the reasons I haven’t done it: I didn’t know about it, other people should have explained it to me, I can’t do it now because I don’t have time and with a bit of luck, other people won’t have done it either.”

In a work context, we’ve all sent a wait and hope email; the kind where our response is non-committal or pushes the responsibility away… the kind where you press send, sit back, sigh in relief and cross fingers that it won’t come back.

So when we choose the “I didn’t know” and “blame others” excuses, or “I can’t” and “wait and hope”, the chances are we’re stuck. So next time you find yourself thinking “I can’t talk to that person because they’re just so aggressive” (blame others) or “I haven’t got the time” (excuse) or “well at some point they are bound to realise what they are doing wrong” (wait and hope), the chances are that you’re on one of those bottom rungs of the ladder.

So when Vincent said: “My dad will kill me if I don’t do it”, he was acknowledging reality and in doing so, he moved up the ladder. He realised that actually, if he was the only child in that room that hadn’t done the project, the teacher was going to hold him to account. He then moved into owning it.

In fact, he was like the cat who got the cream when he turned round and said:
“Do you know what? I bet in three days I could make it look as if I’ve worked on it all holiday”.

He had started to find a solution and make a plan, “I could use google maps”, “can I borrow your camera, Uncle Guy? You could drive me around and I could take some photos around the local area”. And then he moved into making it happen.

The Accountability Ladder doesn’t necessarily mean you get the output that you want, or that you’re able to solve things. What it does mean is that irrespective of whether or not things turn out in your favour, you can hand on heart, look anyone in the eye and say “I was accountable for my decision”.

If you think of a relationship with any one person where it’s not as good as it should be and you want to change it, then you need to own it, become the solution and make it happen. At Blue Sky we talk about Conscious Choice, which is about making the decision to actually act from the top of the ladder.

Where do you sit?

Guy Bloom - Blue Sky Performance Improvement  Guy@bluesky

  http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

Does your customer really want a partnership – or a Partnerschaft?

December 3, 2013

Inside views from three global procurement directors

The business world is awash with jargon: strategic partnerships; strategic sourcing; strategic intent… but what does it all really mean for B2B sales people today?

I interviewed three global Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) from Fortune 500 companies to find out.

In the words of one CPO: “The only way I would want a partnership is if I cannot achieve the business result via RFP or competitive procurement activity.”

Another CPO suggests, “If you are a strategic supplier then that means you will give me more discount.”  Another confirms, “When we hear the seller say ‘partnership’ we start to think, ‘What do they want?’  This is another way to leverage us.”  I was then playfully reminded of the German term for Partnership… Partnerschaft.

So, in the eyes of Procurement, what really is a strategic partnership?  One Fortune 500 Bank estimates they have nearly 18,000 suppliers across the globe, but they have just 35 relationships that are considered strategic (under 0.2%). However, these 35 suppliers account for >56% of all money invested (see accompanying model).

Supply base analysisThe real test of a partnership

If that supplier went away, would the customer be harmed more than the supplier? Is there joint investment between the two companies to generate increased revenue; reduce risk or reduce costs to both parties? One CPO claims “unless you have invested, it’s not a partnership.”

So what our panel of procurement leaders suggest is that for many sales people today, a term that they could consider using is “effective commercial relationship”. Customers don’t want a partnership… and they certainly don’t just want a friendship or merely a ‘good relationship’. Develop effective commercial relationships with your customers and save the Partnerschaft conversations for the lucky few.

Andrew's Photo (blog)Andrew@bluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Speak no evil…

November 26, 2013

Felix Harrison is one of several twenty-somethings who belong to my family of ‘surrogate children’ – having had none of my own, I’m blessed with wonderful (but usually, virtual) relationships with my friends’ kids.  Most of the time, I know more about their comings and goings than their parents do because I keep up with their blogs, Twitter feed and Facebook…and they keep up with mine!

Right now, Felix is in his second month of teaching English in Japan. He’s been keeping a wonderful blog – http://harrisongoeseast.wordpress.com. Check it out – I’m sure he’d be thrilled. This weekend, he wrote a heartfelt piece about the difficulties of communicating without the benefit of the spoken word. ‘Aha!’ I thought.  ‘I can give him some comfort by introducing him to Mehrabian’s theory of communication’ and proceeded to search the web for nuggets of wisdom.

Instead of reassuring him that ‘words account for only about 7 per cent of human communication. 38 per cent is to do with tone of voice and over half (55 per cent) to do with how we look and act when we talk’ I came across a YouTube animated video which apparently blows Albert’s theory out of the window! Not really true – Mehrabian’s theory only applies when people are talking about their feelings or attitudes. So, in fact, Felix is still doing everything right – conveying his feelings towards the cool girl that’s grabbed his attention through nods, smiles and eye contact…whilst still trying to learn the right words to say in Japanese. Can’t wait for the next instalment, Felixsan.

There’s a lesson for all of us Brits abroad – shouting loudly in English will never compensate for a smile, a wink and learning a few words of the local language beyond ‘two beers please’

Carla-MarchCarla March

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses

July 25, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I start to read numerous articles each week, but in truth, actually finish reading only a small proportion. I’ve been wondering why that might be.

I think many open with statements that immediately make me feel like I’ll need to commit to a considerable journey of exploration with a resulting output, that in truth, is likely to leave me none the wiser.

Confronted with complex questions, theories, models, mnemonics, tinged with an inordinate amount of academic references and unpronounceable words, the outcome tends to be the same. “Hmmm, haven’t I got work to do?”

Now, whilst I’m no Stephen Hawking, I’m certainly no slouch so surely if I find much of this stuff heavy going, intimidating even, there must be others like me, no?

I want to read articles that engage me immediately. Things I can identify with and understand without reaching for a thesaurus, something that hints at what’s in store and lures me in with tantalising titles, offering me a little “try before you buy”. Essentially, I want a mini-break before committing to the fortnight’s holiday.

Well, I fairly recently discovered Daniel Goleman and have found his articles an absolute breath of fresh air. Whether skimming the surface or a mere flirtation with the topic, he has a way of keeping it simple whilst offering links which will take me on the deeper journey, if and when I decide I’m ready. Whether it be Evaluating your own Emotional Intelligence with the starting point being asking myself 9 very straightforward questions or exploring the Five Key Steps to Habit Change, he does enough to engage my thinking swiftly.

Seriously, who could resist an article entitled Maximize your “Aha!” Moment Before I know it, I’m there, bags packed and heading off on a journey to who knows where.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that this is over simplified nonsense. Trust me, with his Ph.D. from Harvard, for those interested, there’s enough references to Freud and gamma activity to keep even the purists happy.  I think he succeeds where others struggle, in bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses.

Miranda-Cain---Blue-Sky-Performance-Improvement   Mirandaatbluesky

Blue Sky Performance Improvement Logo - High Resolution

Quiet Please!

March 5, 2013

When a colleague recommended Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ I was intrigued. The introvert/extrovert spectrum is a topic I have long been interested in and I had no idea that such a book exploring this existed.

Built on the premise that Western culture has increasingly adopted an ‘extrovert ideal,’ and that culturally, we need a much better balance between extroversion and introversion, both in the workplace and in the classroom, Cain proclaims that in this day and age, the bolder, louder extrovert is valued over and above the more reserved, quieter introvert. In a world where introverts are increasingly pushed aside, she shines a spotlight on them, not to criticise extroverts, but to celebrate their opposite, arguing that they, too, have an important role to play in today’s society. A greater willingness to listen to others, heightened sensitivity, risk aversion and potentially a heightened moral sense are just some of the traits she believes are linked to introversion that can prove invaluable in the workplace, and adds weight to the idea that success is not just the domain of the extrovert!

It may surprise you to know that between one third to a half of the population are introverts, and by introvert, we are not talking about shyness (which is a fear of social judgment), but actually about the way one responds to levels of stimulation, including stimulation of social situations. By design, extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, for example loud parties, group chat, thinking aloud, while introverts feel at their most comfortable when experiencing lower levels of stimulation i.e. spending time in their own company, enjoying quieter environments or reading a book.

Needless to say, the book now has pride of place on my bookshelf as not only was it factual, rigorously researched and engaging, but it has left me feeling empowered, with a real boost to my self-esteem. Drawing upon many years of extensive psychological and neurobiological research, this book has shed some real insight into how aspects of my personality, such as not enjoying school, avoiding small talk, feeling uncomfortable in large group situations and thoroughly enjoying quiet evenings by myself or with one or two close friends, are actually all related to my introversion.

Not only do I recommend it to any introvert, partner or parent of an introvert, but to extroverts looking to understand a large proportion of the population a little better… If you are considering it, but still not convinced, follow this link to watch Susan passionately bringing it to life.

Kat@Bluesky

Katherine Marsh - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Show Trust to Build Trust

November 21, 2012

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Ernest Hemingway.

What does it take for you to trust me? You probably have to be able to rely on me, and to know that I will do what I say I will do. Building trust requires telling the truth and being transparent. What is the benefit of trust? When we have trust in the relationship we can work together effectively and combine both of our resources to create something bigger than we could do by ourselves. So what happens when there is no trust in a relationship? You could say that without it, little or no relationship is possible. It’s almost impossible to work effectively together without mutual respect. Much time and energy is wasted in second guessing, and speculating on the other person’s motives and intentions.

Building trust is a process that begins when one party is willing to risk being the first to ante up, being the first to show vulnerability, and being the first to let go of control. If you are a leader, the first to trust has to be you. If you, as a leader, show a willingness to trust others, your team members will be more likely to trust you. To build trust in your organisation:

  • Share information about you, who you are and what you believe in
  • Admit mistakes, none of us are perfect and people will forgive you if they see you trying to aspire to the high standards you set. We are only human and showing you are fallible will show your human face
  • Acknowledge the need for personal development
  • Seek feedback, and treat it as a gift
  • Take feedback to the source, avoid ‘corridor conversations’
  • Listen carefully to what others have to say and sometimes not saying
  • Invite interested parties to important meetings
  • Share information that is useful
  • Celebrate other people’s successes, make sure the team or individuals get the recognition for their work…don’t take credit for other people’s good work or when things go wrong, don’t let them take the fall
  • Encourage people to contribute
  • Show you are willing to change your mind when others have a good idea
  • Avoid talking negatively about others
  • Say ”we trust them” and mean it

Trustworthiness is in the eye of the beholder. To build trust your team must see that you have their best interests at heart. It means that you don’t want to see them get hurt, be embarrassed, feel harassed or suffer. You want them to be happy, fulfil their potential and succeed. This may seem like a risk….but it is one worth taking.

Some handy tips:

  • Be authentic. If there is something you are not saying and covering up, there is a good chance the other person will know you are doing that – it will leak out in your body language and tone of voice. They might not be able to put their finger on it or explain exactly why they don’t believe you are being truthful, but they will have an instinctive, intuitive feeling that they cannot trust you.
  • Don’t gossip or speculate on someone else’s motivations and intentions.  Don’t have the conversation with someone else, have the conversation with the person…take it back to the source. Show openness and consistency in your behaviour, and demonstrate a strong moral ethic.
  • If trust has been broken it can be recovered. You need to apologise for your side of where the trust got lost, be open and honest and sincerely regretful for the part you played in the relationship break down. Then explain that you are committed to this not happening again and what you will personally do in the future to avoid the situation happening again.
  • Write down a list of all your key relationships at work. Rate on a scale of 1-10 what the level of trust is like. This will help you identify which relationships you could work on.
  • Spend some time with people you might not as readily trust. Get to know them a little. Disclose some information about yourself, open up a little. This is a good way to show someone that you trust them.

To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.George MacDonald.

Sean@Bluesky

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

The art of handling negative critique

August 24, 2011

Sometimes when talking with managers, a question comes up, “When I am asked to communicate a message from the company, and it’s a message that I personally don’t believe in, how do I communicate to my team, in an authentic way?”

It seems the dilemma for people is that they don’t want to be dishonest in their views and they also know that agreeing with their teams negative opinions, will lead to a spiral of negativity that will end up being de-motivating.  The temptation in this instance is often to keep the relationship with their team by agreeing that the message or company direction is not a good one. The problem is, this undermines an individual’s relationship with the organisation, and the employee’s motivation and morale.

Motivate - Saving Private Ryan (Courtesy of Dreamworks SKG-Paramount Pictures) - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I think Tom Hanks in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ deals with this delicate situation really well.  His team do not believe in the mission they have been sent on. They respect their leader, and so they ask what his opinion of the mission is.  After listening to them, he responds that he thinks it’s an excellent mission, well worthy of their best efforts, and I think it has a positive effect on the morale of his troops. Here’s the video for reference.

It also has a nice message about how to shape your teams gripes.  Later in the film it transpires that he doesn’t believe in the mission at all.  My take on it is that he is more concerned with his team (their morale and motivation), than he is of his own opinions.

So if as a manager you can’t believe in the message or the direction the company is taking, perhaps it would be helpful to change your perspective?  Imagine that you are the person responsible for the decision or message you don’t agree with. Force yourself to take their view point and to ask yourself, “Why is it a good thing?”  What was the motivation behind it? What is the person trying to achieve with it? It’s not about positive thinking, it’s about consciously and deliberately taking a different perspective in order to help and motivate your team.

James@Bluesky

James Hodgkinson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Don’t let the technology get in the way of the message

July 6, 2011

I was interested to read the CCA latest press release warning about the complacency in handling customer’s emails. The use of email, text, web chat and social media are clear growth channels of the future. What lessons have we learnt from call handling to make sure we create a clear and differentiated customer experience online?

The old saying ‘what goes around, comes around’ is true and it’s great to see that we might be going back to applying the good old fashion rules of written communications and I believe some of the key philosophies that should be applied are:

  1. Make sure you flex your style of writing to match your customer’s style of writing. Very often the company brand comes first and without flexing the style of writing the level of rapport and connection will be limited.
  2. Bring good news upfront – how often have you received a letter or email response with three paragraphs of explanation around the process and in the last paragraph an answer to your question. This does little for engagement
  3. Apply a peak end rule at the end, make your customer feel that you have really read their email and use some of their language at the end of the message and not the usual company sign off line.

There is a real opportunity for companies to embrace this channel and learn from previous mistakes, to view the CCA press release click here

Definitely food for thought.

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement