19 Nov

Prospects Aren’t Always Prospects

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenAs sellers, we’ve been taught that someone with a need that our solution fulfills is a prospect. But that’s not true or we’d be closing a lot more business and wasting a lot less time following the wrong prospects. Just because we see a need does not mean they A. want it resolved, B. want it resolved now, C. have the buy-in to bring in an external solution rather than using their own internal fix or beloved vendor, D. are ready to give up the work-
around they have in place that resolves the problem well-enough. So rule number #1: need does not a prospect make.

Unfortunately, the sales model has no capability to go behind-the-scenes to facilitate buy-in from the within the buyer’s culture/system – the other people who don’t see a need or don’t want to share budget, the tech group that wants to do it all themselves, or the President who has her own agenda and hasn’t informed everyone yet. But, and here’s rule #2: until everyone and everything that will touch the new solution buys-in to bringing it on board, there will be no purchase, regardless of a need.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

Buyers have change management problems, not solution choice problems; a solution purchase (or any sort of change) is merely the last element in a chain of events – assembling the right Buying Decision Team members, getting buy-in, maintaining the status quo to avoid disruption – that must manage any change (and a purchase represents change) to enable the status quo to maintain it’s comfort. Rule #3: the status quo is sacrosanct, regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution.

Here are two situations in which I failed miserably (and lost quite a bit of money), prior to understanding that buyers (in companies and individuals) must manage internal change before they can buy.

I did a pilot for an iconic multinational. Using Buying Facilitation® the group had a 400% increase in sales over the
control group (we shortened the sales cycle from 7 months to 4 weeks). They chose not to role out my program because the problems caused by increased revenue and cash flow issues, shifts in the manufacturing schedules, etc., would cost many millions to fix. They eschewed the increased profit to maintain the system.

I trained a large insurance group that got a 600% increase in sales over the control group (they went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales). After the test month, the trained team handed in their resignations because they said they were ‘field sales’ reps and would rather quit then be ‘inside sales’ reps, regardless of how much money they made. They liked handing out donuts and schmoozing.

From my point of view this is nuts. But from theirs it made sense. The status quo must be maintained at all costs – at all costs – regardless of the benefits of our solutions. Indeed, if they had known how to change without disrupting the status quo, they would have already. Companies prefer excellence, so long as they maintain stability. And when we think they are excellent prospects, their purchase of our solution might butt up against their needs for stability. Unless they can figure out how to address this, they are then not prospects regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution.

THE SALES MODEL IS SOLUTION-BASED; BUYING IS SYSTEMS-BASED

Philosophically the sales model is accurate: as sellers we clearly see needs that our solutions will resolve. But it’s not a prospect until or unless the Buying Decision Team – everyone who will touch the final solution – is ready, willing, and able to:

          * bring in our solution and knows how to manage any changes in people, rules or job descriptions,
* bring in new technology without downtime,
* ensure the disruption won’t cost more than the problem it’s resolving,

they cannot buy. Indeed: a prospect is someone who WILL buy (and knows how to manage their change), not someone who SHOULD buy.

I developed Buying Facilitation® in 1983 to manage the issues my own sales team faced in my tech startup. As a sales professional, I never understood why ‘prospects’ weren’t buying as often as was logical. When I became an entrepreneur, I realized the problem buyers have when I needed to purchase solutions myself: how could I buy new software when the new programs weren’t working yet? When would be the right time to add new folks since the last new batch wasn’t fully trained yet? How would a new manager work with the current team when the current team had been working so effectively as unit for so long? When potential vendors came in to pitch new solutions to me, I understood the curiosity I had as a seller: the problem was not my need, but about managing my status quo effectively, and the sales model merely focuses on placing solutions and ignored the change management issues I had to deal with as part of my buying decision process.

So I developed my Buying Facilitation® model to add to sales the capability of beginning our prospecting by first facilitating the prospect’s ability and desire to seek excellence. Then, together (even on a prospecting call), we determined and addressed their tolerance for bringing in a new solution. I even taught my techies how to facilitate their users to make sure they got the buy-in for their programmers and project leaders and get the right people and the right data at the right time.We learned to enter each sales call as a facilitator rather than as a detective seeking a need/solution match or ‘qualifying’ a prospect immediately according to some specious standard we originally thought might have meaning.

Help prospective buyers determine how to change, how to get buy-in, how to bring in your solution. Along the way, you both will determine next steps, who needs to be included, and how to get everyone on board – with you! – to move toward the remedy will provide – even on a prospecting call! And then you can sell. Buying Facilitation® first, then sales. You need both. Then you can help buyers decide to be prospects – and they will buy.

_______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 457 0246. www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

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29 May

Meetings: The Purpose, The Pain, The Possibility

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenAs business folk, we hold meetings regularly. Yet often we don’t accomplish what we set out to achieve. Why?

The Purpose

Meetings are held to accomplish a specific, beneficial outcome requiring the attendance of the right people with the right agenda.

The Problem/Pain

Often we end up with miscommunication, wasted time, incomplete outcomes, misunderstanding, lack of ownership and ongoing personnel issues – sometimes an indication of internal power and faulty communications issues.

The Possibility

With greater success we can: stimulate thinking; achieve team building, innovation, and clear communication; and efficiently complete target issues. Here are some problem areas and solutions:

People. When outcomes aren’t being met effectively it’s a people- and management problem including: fall-out, sabotage, and resistance; long execution times; exclusion of peripheral people; restricted creativity and communication; exacerbated power and status issues. Are the most appropriate people (users, decision makers, influencers) invited? All who have good data or necessary questions?

  • Rule: unless all – all – relevant people show up for the meeting, cancel it. It’s impossible to catch people up or have them collaborate, add creative thoughts, or discuss annoyances. Once it’s known that meetings aren’t held unless all are present, the frequency, responsibility, and motives shift.
  • Rule: unless all – all – of the people who will touch the outcome from the meeting’s goals are in some way represented, the outcome will not reflect the needs of all causing fallout later, with resistance, sabotage or a diminished outcome.

Agenda. No hidden agendas! Recipients of potential outcomes must be allowed to add agenda items prior to the meeting.

  • Rule: unless all – all – of the items of ultimate concern are on the agenda, the meeting will be restricted to meet the needs of a few with unknown consequence (resistance and sabotage).

Action. Too often, action items don’t get completed effectively. How do action items get assigned or followed up? What happens if stuff’s not done when agreed? How can additional meetings be avoided?

  • Rule: put a specific, consensual, and supervised method in place to ensure action items get accomplished as promised.
  • Rule: as meeting begins, get consensus on what must be accomplished for a successful outcome. This initial discussion may change agenda items or prioritize them, detect problems, assumptions, resistance before action items are assigned.

Discussion. How long do people speak? How do conversations progress? How do the proceedings get recorded? What is the format for discussions? How is bias avoided?

  • Rule: record (audio) each meeting so everyone who attends can have it available later. Folks who didn’t attend are not privy to this audio. (See People above).
  • Rule: design a time limit for speaking, and rules for topics, presentations, discussions, cross talk.
  • Rule: include periods of silence for thought, notes, reflection.

Understanding. Does everyone take away the same interpretation of what happened? How do you know when there have been miscommunications or misunderstandings?

  • Rule: unless everyone has the same perception of what happened for each topic, there is a tendency for biased interpretation that will influence a successful outcome.
  • Rule: one person (on rotation) should take notes, and repeat the understanding of what was said to get agreement for each item before the next item is tackled. This is vital, as people listen with biased filters and make flawed assumptions of what’s been said/agreed.

Transparency. Agendas should be placed online, to be read, signed-off, and added to.

  • Rule: whomever is coming to the meeting must know the full agenda.
  • Rule: everyone responsible for an action item must be listed with time lines, names of those assisting, and outcomes.

Accomplishments. Are items accomplished in a suitable time frame? What happens when they aren’t?

  • Rule: for each action item, participants must sign off on an agreeable execution. A list of the tasks, time frames, and people responsible must accompany each item, and each completed task must be checked off online so progress is accountable.
  • Rule: a senior manager must be responsible for each agenda item. If items are not completed in a timely way, the manager must write a note on the online communication explaining the problem, the resolution, and new time frame.

Meetings can be an important activity for collaboration and creativity if they are managed properly and taken as a serious utilization of time and output. Ask yourself: Do you want to meet? Or get work accomplished collaboratively?

__________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? (free download at www.didihearyou.com) and NYTimes Business Bestsellers in the area of sales, decision facilitation, change management, and helping buyers buy. She is developer of Buying Facilitation® and a recognized thought leader in communication and decision making. She is a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant. For those in sales, coaching or leadership want to communicate better Sharon Drew Morgen has the tools to help make improvements with online learning, group coaching, or on-site training. Sharon Drew can coach and train your sales teams or license trainers to prospect and get more appointments by finding real buyers on the first call. She can be reached at: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

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08 May

Is this you?

by Michael Hoffman

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FullSizeRenderI’ve seen Hector (not his real name) wheeling his cart around Barcelona a few times. It’s massive. It must be extremely difficult to maneuver. One day I went up to him asked him if he really needed all of those things. He actually articulated an impressive defense.

Does that remind you of anyone you know?

It reminds me of all the people I have encountered who justify their overstuffed inboxes, piles of papers on their desks and drawers filled with goodness knows what. Just like this homeless person, they carry all their crap around (mostly digitally) and defend their ways as not being problematic at all for them. I can find everything; It doesn’t bother me; I’m a creative type; or the biggest lie: I don’t have the time (What they mean is: I don’t want to prioritize being orderly).

If someone took Hector’s cart, he would find a new one. In a few weeks it would be as big as he could bear because he is a pathological hoarder. What about you? Isn’t it true that those times you have cleared your desktop, physically or digitally, you have gotten some satisfaction – and maybe even some pride from the achievement? Yes, it eventually fell apart again because you didn’t have the correct habits in place, but that’s another story. The point is that it felt good. You felt organized and on top of things. If you have had moments like that, then you’re not a pathological hoarder. But if those moments are few and far-between you’re also not at your best. Imagine having that feeling of being at your best, not just when you finally get so tired of the mess that you painstakingly clean it up, but EVERY DAY. Just because it hasn’t worked for you in the past doesn’t mean you can’t be more consistent NOW. It just means that you need some help in finding out what the trick is – for you – from someone who has enabled many others in the past.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes time to build new habits, but what if you could change this part of your life in a few short weeks? From then on, you’d be at your best EVERY DAY. Or you can continue with your cart; the one that everyone notices but you.

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15 Apr

8 strategy questions every CEO should ask

by Jeroen de Flander

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With 300+ likes and 1K shares, the strategy article 8 things every leader should know about strategy somehow struck a nerve. But as many readers pointed out correctly, it’s one thing to know what strategy is all about, but it’s another to get out there and come up with one.

As you will probably agree, there is no magic formula for crafting the perfect strategy. If there was, the business world would look a lot different. But that does not mean there aren’t a few shortcuts that you can take. Here are 8 strategy questions to inspire your strategic thinking.

1. Should I strengthen my current strategy? And if yes, how?

Are you doing ok today? If yes, ask yourself how you can strengthen your existing strategy. Look for ways to improve what you do well already. Think about introducing new technology, features, products or services that leverage other areas in the value chain and fit with the current strategy. In short, build on what you already have.

2. How can I copy with pride?

Copying what others in your industry in your main markets are doing isn’t smart. You will start competing on the same axes and this competition will lead to price erosion. But copying can still pay off big time. The world is a big place and many great companies only operate locally. But in this information era, it’s easy to find them, learn from their success and see if some of their ingredients for success can be copied.

By spending only one evening on the internet, 56 out of the 80 companies that participated in my research found at least one great example in another geographical area that fuelled their strategic-thinking process

3. How can I go beyond product innovation?

Don’t focus only on the product or service – a risk, especially in an engineering environment. There are more things to a value chain then the product itself. The key to a sustainable competitive advantage is that ALL activities are tailored to the value proposition.

4. How can I recapture company heritage?

If your company has been around for some time, it follows that it has been doing something well for at least a certain time period. Finding out what that uniqueness is/was and reapplying it to boost your strategy is an interesting way of fuelling your reflection process about strategy. This doesn’t mean that you have to re-do it in the same way, but an adapted version might be just what you need.

5. How can I take advantage of a crisis?

Take a look at these figures from an article in the Harvard Management Update(Baveja, Ellis, Rigby, March 2008). A study of more than 700 companies over a six-year period found that “Twice as many companies made the leap from laggards to leaders during the last recession (90-91) as during surrounding periods of economic calm”. And most of these changes lasted long after the recession was over − a clear indication that what you do during the crisis determines your position when it’s over. Put differently, what you do during a crisis determines your strategic position once it’s over. So when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And win in the end.

So keep going, even when it’s tough out there.

6. How can I build an execution edge

Strategy Execution provides a competitive edge. A strategy needs to reinvent itself every five to seven years. Execution capabilities last much longer. So it pays off to invest in strategy execution excellence.

7. How can I innovate my business model?

A business model is a fancy word for the combination of choices you have made in your activities – your value chain – to bring your value proposition to life. The concept has been around for a long time, but for some reason, everyone apart from strategy consultants have forgotten about it. A recent book by Alexander Osterwalder in which he puts thinking about business models in an easy-to-use format has been a big hit. If you want to get going, identify activities and ask yourself some questions for each block.

8. How can I create Shared Value?

Sustainability is a hot topic today and I believe it is more than a fad. Shared Value is a new concept that helps strategists to incorporate social value into the strategic positioning of an organisation. And it goes far beyond philanthropy.

Michael Porter’s definition of Shared Value is: “You create shared value by enhancing the competitive position of a company while at the same time advancing the society in which it operates.”

The words ‘at the same time’ are very important. When people look at the relationship between a company and society, they tend to think it’s a zero-sum game, a game with only one winner. The strategy concept of Shared Value looks at the positive sum. It means that certain choices will strengthen the strategic position of the organisation and at the same time offer benefits for society.

It’s your challenge as a strategist to find that sweet spot.

There’s an active discussion on LinkedIn Pulse. You can join it here

Original source: The Performance Factory by Jeroen de Flander

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26 Mar

How my small company cut in half our $3.2 million dollar inbox expense in just 12 minutes!

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greasymOK, I have a small company of only 200 employees, so $3.2 million is nothing. But imagine a company of 2,000 employees that spend 2 hrs. per day on email with an average annual salary of $70,000. That would mean that they spend OVER HALF A MILLION DOLLARS PER DAY managing email.

Since we all know that email is a fact of life (nothing we can just cut out of the budget) I came up with a quick fix in the form of a memo that I sent to everyone in the company with the following 5 suggestions:

  1. Don’t check your mail too often during the day (Just enough so you don’t miss anything).
  2. Respond quickly. (I got this one from Google’s Eric Schmidt – GENIUS! – So don’t pay too much attention to rule 1)
  3. Use the OHIO rule; Only Handle It Once (unless you can’t, so don’t – and most you can’t)
  4. Prioritize your mails before responding, then answer the high priority mails first – remember that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. (I’m sure there is a way to do this in Outlook, just play around with the menus until you get it right)
  5. Don’t Cc: everyone, just the ones who really need the information (But always keep your boss in the loop and maybe a few others.)

So I figure, if a CEO of a 2,000 employee company does what I did, he could save $16,000,000 in just 12 minutes.

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. The truth is you CAN double your productivity and cut in half your email management cost. But you CAN’Tdo it with a memo, seminar, workshop, add-in, app, or any of the other methods that you’ve tried. There is only one solution on the market that works for entire populations of employees and it takes a lot more time than 12 minutes to see the results. 10 TIMES That. (Yikes – two hours!)

It takes 10 times more time than a memo, but it’s the only long-term, complete solution for your multi-million dollar black hole you call an inbox.
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14 Jan

Sorry, Email Won’t Die In 2015 (Or Any Time Soon)

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typing-email-1There’s a horde of startups trying to replace email.

Some of these apps, like Slack (which we use at Business Insider), take a chat-room approach.

There are enterprise messaging apps that work like Snapchat, like Cotap and TigerText.

Some mobile-first productivity apps like Quip imagine that we’ll communicate directly in the documents we’re working on.

They’re all wrong.

According to the latest research conducted by the Pew Center Internet Project, 61% of American workers now say that email is “very important” for doing their job.

That number hasn’t moved at all in 13 years. As the researchers put it:

As early as 2002, Pew Research Internet surveys showed that 61% of American workers were using email at work. In 2008, we reported that 62% of working American adults were “networked workers,” meaning they used the internet or email in the workplace….Email’s vital role has withstood major changes in other communications channels such as social media, texting, and video chatting. Email has also survived potential threats like phishing, hacking and spam and dire warnings by commentators and workplace analysts about lost productivity and email overuse.

Why is email so resilient? The report doesn’t go into that, but it’s pretty obvious:

  • Everybody has it on every device. There’s no need to download anything, no need to learn a new app or system, no need to persuade your coworkers to use it.
  • It’s less interruptive than a phone call. The only other mode of communication that reaches everybody is the phone. But placing a phone call requires the other person to be available and willing to talk, right then.
  • It’s exceptionally flexible. Most of the tools that aim to replace email require you to do things in a certain way — for instance, if I want to make sure a colleague sees a message I post in Slack, I have to tag them with their handle, otherwise it might get lost in the flow of information in their newsfeed. (Sometimes, it gets lost anyway.) When I used Yammer at a previous job, we had to come up with conventions for the kinds of things we’d post and avoid. With email, it’s basically a blank slate — you can put anything you want into the blank box and the person on the other end will receive it.
  • It’s a deliverable — a measurable part of work. Email isn’t just for communication. It’s part of work. If your boss sends an email, you pretty much have to reply. There are plenty of other tools to coordinate workflow, but everybody still jumps back into email to send certain kinds of communications, like urgent requests for information, updates on particular tasks, brainstorming, you name it. You have no choice but to respond.

There are some ways email is used that aren’t perfect. For instance, a lot of people use their email inbox as a to-do list, even though it’s hard to organize and items sometimes fall through the cracks. Here, a tool built for workflow, like Asana, may end up being better.

But for day-to-day communication, email is not going away.

Original source: Business Insider UK

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