Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

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Unfortunately, the majority of businesses are still struggling with outdated sales mindsets, and change can be particularly scary when times are tough.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

 

 

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

Why leadership programmes fail

January 16, 2014

Have you seen this latest piece of research from McKinsey on why leadership programmes fail? If not, click here, it is definitely worth a read.  The key messages are:

  1. Decide on the essential skills of your leaders and develop them (don’t drown them)
  2. Understand the science of how change actually happens – don’t get sucked in to programmes that look great on paper or have a great badge of honour but don’t actually get your leaders doing something different
  3. Understand how essential the right leadership mindset is to behavioural change and pay proper attention to it in your programme
  4. Measure the results to ensure the learning is taken really seriously in your business

Personally, I agree and I am loving the research because our Conscious Leadership approach addresses all of these pointers head on. I would of course love to tell you about it if you would like to know more, but in the meantime take 10 minutes and have a read – it is good!

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Elke@bluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

“If I Had More Time I Would Write a Shorter Letter”

August 7, 2013

Simplicity & Sophistication.

There’s much debate over who this quote is actually attributed to. On this occasion, let’s credit Mark Twain. More here. No matter, it’s a theme that fascinates me. (It’s also a rich vein for irony as any expansion on the topic surely invites ridicule. Note to self: Use the KISS principle in blogs.)

Recently joining Blue Sky I am learning all the time about us: as people and The Blue Sky Way. Then there are our many wonderful clients and projects. Have you seen our case studies?! It’s really rather exciting! And yet really rather overwhelming when you’re new. My poor, overloaded Welsh brain is imploring folk to provide summaries, headlines, priorities and snapshots because it can’t make sense of it all.

This is where the fun starts.

You see, when you are so very deeply connected with a job/project/idea, to pull back and give someone a simple oversight is surprisingly challenging. It’s all too easy to brain dump and give all the detail in briefing a colleague. How so? This is human nature on several fronts: our professionalism, our intelligence, our thoroughness, our knowledge, our expertise all jostle for position.

Yet such detail is not always helpful to the new guy/gal. Not at first. So how do you do this in a manner that gets the newbie up to speed with maximum efficiency? Time to efficiency is a concept all of us have some interest in at work. (Although when you Google it I was rather surprised to see searches around Viagra as a top hit!) How long before you’re going to be truly effective?

Not that one can exist on a diet solely of sketches, helicopter views and big pictures you understand. Yet to prioritise, one must get a handle on the themes at play and then seek out the detail. It came to me in a flash: I need people to pitch to me so that I can buy what they are talking about.

At times like these I turn to Dan Pink. In his corking read “To Sell is Human” he postulates that we need to practice six pitches to get on.  Here’s the first one:

http://vimeo.com/66508882

On a note closer to home, I’ve had success with asking “how would you explain this to my maiden aunt?” Then I get a non-technical, jargon free, plain English overview for what’s going on. It works wonders. Why? Because then I’m curious: then I want to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Da Vinci said it before, I’ll say I again:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvementhttp://www.blue-sky.co.uk

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

Feel the love and blindfold your staff

July 25, 2011

As a CEO and highly trained chartered accountant with a passion for numbers and ROI I have a major confession to make – I absolutely love my role in developing the Blue Sky culture.

Yes it’s the soft fluffy stuff that’s my joint passion and I challenge every leader to truly embrace it. We preach engagement to our clients, we extol the virtues of driving performance and for me as a CEO it’s my role to lead on it and make sure it truly happens.

Inspire - Blindfolded on a bus to nowhere

Like all organisations we have core values and I try hard to make sure they’re not simply fancy words on a poster but we are living them and breathing them and holding ourselves accountable to each other when we’re not. A great example of making sure we embed them is our Inspire events. Every four months all our staff spend two solid days together and the agenda is simple – take time out to reflect on and live our values. We host many different sessions so for example at our June event we held a brainstorm around updating our approach to social media to demonstrate our value around Progress.  Another value core to us is Being Authentic and a workshop around creating an open feedback culture was well received by staff and is something we are always striving to create. Then there was the fun bit! Connection is another one of our values and this time that meant blindfolding all our staff, putting them in a mini bus and abandoning them in various locations in the Sussex countryside (yes now and again a leader’s role definitely means you can be fiendish!) and make them find their way back to our secret location.  Four hours later some felt more connected than others!

So what do you do to lead the culture of your business and do your staff see you at the heart of it?

Go on, embrace the fluffy side. You might just enjoy it!

Marc@Bluesky

Marc Jantzen - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement