Create Compelling Sales Urgency, NOT Sales Pressure!

TWO Sales Skills to Help Build Urgency for Change

A sales cycle that drags on without a solid buying decision greatly lowers the probability that a positive purchase will eventually occur. The long, exhausting hunt often results in returning home with just a goose egg.

How can you create compelling urgency rather than aggressive pressure to positively influence a buying decision? The TWO Sales Skills below will help you create a methodical sales process that mitigates the relentless and cruel march of sales time.

 

The Status Quo is the enemy, not your competitor’s price. It’s not news that most people have a strong aversion to change, especially if there is a perception of risk involved. The thinking goes – my current situation may be undesirable and stressful but at least it’s familiar. Your sales process should fixate on creating the urgent conditions necessary for buyer behavior change. Behavioral science supports this universal human condition of possessing a strong aversion to loss, as captured by this quote:

“Losses make us hurt more than gains make us feel good.” -D. Kahneman and A. Tversky

 

TWO Core Sales Skills* for Creating Compelling Sales Urgency:

*It is assumed that the sales rep has built a trusting, credible relationship with the prospect or buyer before attempting to dive too deep and too soon into a customer’s business. If not, your sales approach is guaranteed to feel pushy, disrespectful, and your sales attempts will be rejected. Your humble intention to help, not sell, must shine through.

#1 – Find painful (e.g. expensive) problems to solve. Every prospect and business owner has lots of problems, just like you and me. However, there is often a singular one that is most costly. Find it. No serious problem = no serious pain. No pain = no urgency. No urgency = no solution, and you return home with yet another goose egg.

This says easy, does hard. You must be patient, persevere and be willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable while the prospect or buyer mulls over and quietly marinates in their current dilemma. Your penetrating questions, however, foster the crucial tension, or compelling urgency, that begins creating cracks in the formidable status quo.

#2 – Help prospect or buyer convincingly answer – “Why Change?”

Your non-aggressive persistence has paid off – the buyer, with quiet introspection, admits how her actions keep leading to the same discouraging business results. You can relate to her, as every business has their share of festering problems.

 

Behavioral change is often preceded by pain; this vital knowledge directs our sales process.

 

Gently, yet assertively (never aggressively) help the customer feel the pain of their key problem. Simple, insightful questions help facilitate the buyer’s thinking about the very real costs associated with the current situation:

  • What is the business cost of your current situation?
  • What are the non-financial costs of having this problem?
  • What benefits would you achieve if this problem were solved?
  • What would happen if you simply chose not to address this problem?
  • How does this situation prevent you from reaching your goals?

Humans’ natural bias for the status quo is a formidable sales foe. The science of human influence and change strongly suggests that our sales approach creates the prime conditions for change: compelling business urgency and pain. These two core sales skills are instrumental in facilitating this change process.

 

“An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.”  -Newton’s First Law

 

You cannot control time but you can control your focus in each sales conversation! Make a mid-year resolution to invigorate your sales process with a purposeful sense of urgency and disciplined approach that steadily raises alarm bells that the status quo is unsafe and dangerous. The two skills above are fundamental for creating the conditions of buyer behavior change.

It should be noted that these skills remain relevant but are often insufficient for more complex B2B (business to business) sales where products can be expensive or have lengthy implementation steps.

Future sales topics will examine additional sales skills critical for keeping sales time AND momentum on your side!

 

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!  -Steve

How to Leverage Positive Conflict

Five Tips for Conflict Resolution

It’s quite apparent that conflict will happen within any team. The most intrepid manager-coaches know how to distinguish the difference between productive and destructive conflict, and foster the productive while stifling the destructive.

The Small Business Chronicle defines constructive conflict as conflict that “generates productive, mutually beneficial, shared decisions.” Anyone who has attended one of my coaching workshops or webinars will recognize right away that difficult conversations which culminate in commitments to improve behavior or performance perfectly fit SBC’s definition. Often, destructive conflict stems from management’s shaping of the company environment and processes as one-size-fits-all. It’s vitally important for manager-coaches to remember that each team member needs personalized coaching styles and for company culture to reflect flexibility. Poor conflict resolution skills stem from poor empathy, lack of understanding, resistance to change, and feeling vulnerable. It’s management’s responsibility to remove these roadblocks.

 

“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” -Margaret Heffernan, former CEO of iCast Corporation and MBA Lecturer

 

Here are 5 Tips to enhance your conflict resolution skills (Forbes):

  1. Define Acceptable Behavior – yelling, cursing, or shutting down is common but not acceptable
  2. Be Proactive – identifying potential sources of destructive conflict before they occur can be the best way to prevent a bad situation in the first place
  3. Walk in Their Shoes – try to understand the other person’s point of view and empathize with them
  4. Pick Your Battles – don’t look for conflict where none exists and know when to confront people (6pm on a Friday isn’t going to produce good results)
  5. View Conflict as Beneficial – an opportunity to improve is always a good thing, frame your conflict resolution in this way

 

It’s clear that conflict is beneficial to organizations when managed properly. And, since conflict is inevitable, the process of turning negative conflict into positive conflict is absolutely crucial for all manager-coaches. One of the best opportunities for positive conflict resolution can be found in difficult conversations about a team member’s work ethic or attitude. By using the above skills, a great manager-coach can pivot the conversation to make it constructive. Take your coaching to the next level by becoming an expert, watch the replay of the Managing Difficult Workplace Conversations webinar today!

Three Performance Sales Coaching Skills to Master

Sales Managers — How do you tell a sales rep they aren’t as good as they think?

Effective sales manager/coaches understand that providing accurate and candid feedback of their sales reps’ abilities is the primary tool for continuous sales improvement. However, what if your sales rep does not agree with your honest assessment? The following is an all too common sales coaching dilemma:

Consider Cindy, a top performer on Matt’s team. She and Matt do some sales role-playing, and Matt offers her a candid assessment about where he feels she could improve. Cindy quickly responds, “I normally do much better in front of a customer—you just make me nervous! Look at my numbers if you want to see how great I’m doing.” Matt must admit that Cindy regularly exceeds quota, and wonders how he can argue with success.

How do performance-driven sales coaches address observed sub-par sales skills, regardless of whether a sales rep has met sales quota, or not? Mastering the following three performance coaching skills provides sales managers the confidence and competence to gently, but directly, address this universal dilemma.

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 1 — Know what great looks like and hold people accountable for exceeding expectations.

Competent tennis coaches know what the body biomechanics standard is for a great tennis serve. They coach and train the athlete to meet and exceed that standard. Just because the athlete might be a current top performer, a coach worth her paycheck would not allow the player to rest on historical performance laurels.

A sales skill, such as handling objections, can be broken down into fundamental elements, repeatedly trained, and provided with real-time feedback. Sales managers must know what it looks like when sales skills miss, meet, or exceed expectations.

 

“Constant, incremental improvement is the mantra of great coaches.”

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 2Coach to lead indicators, not lag. Lag (the “numbers”) is easy to measure but difficult to influence. Lead activities, or inputs, are controllable and predictive of future success. Effective sales coaching should focus on the behavioral change, skill development, and knowledge acquisition that leads to desired results.

Even if your company “only cares about the numbers,” you as an inspiring leader ought to broaden the definition of results with your reps to include professional capabilities such as leadership, collaboration, strategic thinking, building resiliency, and adapting to change.

 

“Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.”  —Navy Seals adage, Harvard Business Review

 

Performance Coaching Skill # 3During training role-plays, remain confident that the sales skill ability you observe is the rep’s dominant response under stress.

The above scenario where the rep states, “I normally do much better in front a customer, you just make me nervous,” is wrong according to social facilitation theory. This theory confirms when a person’s performance is being assessed they experience psychological arousal, or stress, and this pressure produces the individual’s dominant response, which is the most authentic and trusted representation of their skill ability.

Respected business leader Max De Pree claimed that “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” and social facilitation theory provides managers the confidence to do so.

This theory is so well validated that it guides the rigorous training of fire fighters, martial artists, law enforcement, military personnel, and other professionals who must perform at high levels under dangerous conditions while making split-second decisions. Successful sales managers have internalized the value of training like other elite professions.

Telling sales reps a targeted sales skill is below expectations can be challenging, particularly if they are meeting their sales goals. However, trust that what you see in that moment is the rep’s highest capability under stress. Be sincere, be caring, but insist the rep continually practices under gentle pressure to build up skill levels under stress. Master coaches understand that this is a trusted training pathway for sustained high performance.

Newsletter February 2017

Effective Sales Manager-Coaches

Don’t Add Sales Training, They Embed it!

 


Steve’s Newsletter Promise: Valuable content will be…

  • Driven by real manager challenges and opportunities
  • Pragmatic – offering “how to” solutions
  • Instructional – teaching specific sales leader skills, mindsets, and principles

Most sales managers know they should provide more sales skill training, but don’t. While coaching and training is no motivational silver bullet, strategically deployed it can improve performance up to 19%.

Top expressed sales manager barriers to coaching and training include:

– I’m buried with manager duties and can’t find the time
– My sales reps resist my coaching and training efforts
– I’m not confident in my ability to teach and train sales skills
– There is no budget for training

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
Peter Drucker

Embedding, not adding on, sales training and coaching into daily workflow overcomes all of the above barriers. The 80/20 principle of results guides the strategic manager’s thinking. She believes that consistent training is a lead indicator – a predictive activity that will lead to increased sales results.

 $ The Money Question $
How much could your sales revenue increase if your sales reps had 20 additional hours of annual, focused, sales skills training and coaching? If your answer is close to “a lot,” then embed the following plan immediately!

 

Winning Sales Leader Mindset: I am responsible for coaching each of my sales reps, however, I am not responsible for training all of my sales reps.

I can’t stress enough that effective sales leaders delegate sales skills training to their team!  Learning and collaborating together is a best practice for ensuring your team develops the capacity to be adaptable and nimble in a fast moving, changing marketplace.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

Embed this Sales Training Plan into your weekly team meetings:

Your FBO (Flash of the Blinding Obvious): You must replace 25 minutes of *trivial meeting content and replace with vital training focus. *Sobering Tip: Ask your team what is trivial, they’ll educate you.

Your Delegation Action Plan: 1) Explain to the team the new training plan, 2) Answer “What’s in it for me?”, 3) Gain buy-in (this doesn’t mean 100% agreement!), 4) Delegate the weekly sales skill training plan – who is teaching what (co-partners work best because they need to develop a very strong role play script that targets real customer scenarios).
Teach/Lecture – Top 2-3 best practices of one targeted sales skill (5 min)

Strong Real/Role Play – Use sales reps real customer scenarios (15 min)

Q&A, Feedback, and Plan next week’s sales skill focus (5 min)

PRACTICE = PROFITS! 25 min x 50 work weeks = 20 hours of annual sales skills training!

Embedding sales training into normal workflows is a sure bet to increasing the team’s motivation and engagement. And why not? Elite sales performers understand that perfect practice makes perfect!


Enjoy this month’s Newsletter? Follow Steve on social media for even more great advice! And always feel free to drop Steve a line for any of your questions.

FREE ASSET: Access a free copy of The 4% Championship Sales Coaching and Training Plan.

Coming soon: Free Sales Coaching Webinar titled  Practice = Profits.

2017 Top 10 Coaching Tips for Managers

Reverse engineer a great manager/coach and we might quickly brainstorm hundreds of ideal traits, skills, and capabilities. The following top ten list, while certainly not exhaustive, contains the core DNA of those bosses who don’t just manage people, but instead help make their team members great while achieving significant business results.

  1. View coaching as a strategic priority, not an action to be crossed off a list. Dedicated managers/coaches understand that adapting to tomorrow’s business uncertainties requires building team members’ capacities today.
  1. Treat calendar real estate as the holy ground for business priorities. They prioritize their time and let their team know it. A good practice to follow is scheduling all your coaching 1:1s twelve months out. This loud act signals to the team that coaching and development is a key driver of performance.
  1. Use coaching models as a framework, not a cage. They have a proven coaching process but remain flexible to meet each unique team member’s motivational drivers and goals.
  1. See coaching as a collaborative partnership built on trust. Great coaches think and say “we.” Their actions communicate to team members that they have their best interests at heart. The old adage, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” sounds trite but remains true.
  1. Remember that complacency is the enemy. Effective managers/coaches swarm complacency and eradicate it like the disease it is. Expecting and demanding high performance incubates a culture that attracts and retains top talent.
  1. Model and demand a growth mindset. They reject any team member beliefs that talent alone— or even experience— creates enduring success. High-performing managers are driven and guided by Jack Welch’s management mantra:

“Change before you have to.”

  1. Stretch, not stress, their people. Effective managers/coaches leverage the performance power of good stress, known as The performance curve (Yerkes-Dodson Law) informs how you appropriately challenge each individual.
  1. Sharpen core coaching skill sets. Top managers/coaches ask better questions. They deepen their listening. They behave like a business “thinking partner and trusted advisor.” They provide candid and caring feedback. They co-craft SMART next action steps that emphasize growth and accountability.
  1. Never consider hope a strategy— inspect what you inspect. This is not micro-management! A culture of accountability is built on two fundamental, self-reinforcing processes: 1) Individuals continually making and keeping agreements, and, 2) Management holding themselves, and all team members, accountable to established agreements. At the end of the day trust is built on agreements.
  1. Make work fun but not everyone gets a trophy. Mangers/Coaches know that they must make regular time for relaxed team gatherings and to celebrate effort and results. They ensure that recognition and reward initiatives focus on individual and team performance.

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!

-Steve

 

Want to share these ideas with your team to help improve your company’s bottom line? Contact Steve to learn more about his coaching services.

3 Reasons You Must Pay More Attention to Company Culture

“The best companies in terms of long-term financial performance are the ones that are able to combine profits, passion, and purpose.” –Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness

Company culture has been a very prominent focal point of popular business analysis for half a decade. From the laid back beach-side offices of Snapchat to the rigorous high-performance culture of Amazon, thousands of articles have been written about how to make company culture work for you.

But the need to cultivate culture goes beyond making a place where people feel good. Creating a strong, purposeful culture is the talent manager’s trusted strategy for fostering fierce employee loyalty.

Here are 3 Reasons that company culture needs more of your attention:

  • Hedging Against Headhunting:

Headhunters luring top people away are currently catching organizations and their managers off guard. The best defense is a good offense. Cultures that are tightly knit with purpose, strong social bonds, recognition, and achievement help repel external threats to your talent pool.

  • Engaging Millennial Team Members:

News for us Baby Boomer managers!—Millennials do not care about our title or the company’s organizational chart.  However, Millennials are attracted to leaders who are inclusive, who provide appropriate autonomy, rewarding job assignments, and regular coaching and feedback. Creating an environment where these points are nurtured will ensure that Millennials stay on the team and develop into top performers.

  • Company Culture Happens With or Without You:

Culture is created with or without intentional leadership. All cultural elements—orientation, on-boarding, community-building events, recognition and rewards programs, and business planning sessions should promote a coherent message about the values and expectations of your enterprise.  Managers who are cavalier about culture building might as well just give the keys to the business away.

Cultures that value training and leadership development are talent magnets.  Whether your culture is quirky, or conservative, a clear development pathway should be integral to your organization’s employee value proposition.

Want more high-impact coaching on company culture and managing talent? Sign up for the free eBook series on my website: www.steverudolphcoaching.com.

Keep it Simple, Keep it Focused, and Keep it Inspiring.

Agitate, don’t Stir!

Shiny pearl in the shell on the beach

“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.” – Mae West

 3 Management Practices For Creating Purposeful Urgency and Pearls

Having a team member apparently content to retire on the job is not an uncommon situation for many managers. The employee may simply not be aware that moss is growing on their back or a country named Greece has fallen on bad times. Their mental maps may need upgrading.

Drifting into comfortable patterns of behavior is natural for individuals, teams, and organizations; however, competitive innovation and complacency cannot co-exist. Innovation requires creative tension and conflict. Complacency, by nature, develops immunity to outside tensions.

Managers who successfully create purposeful urgency have an acute understanding of basic physics.

The Law of Inertia, or, My People are in a Rut

Newton’s first law of motion basically states – there’s a natural tendency of objects (your people) to just keep on doing what they’ve been doing, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. YOU, the manager, are the unbalancing force!

Effective managers, of course, never use force or coercion to persuade others; they leverage their hard-earned trusting relationships to influencing others into new ways of operating.

Still, it’s very common for a manager to inherit a low-performing team where there’s not time to build trust, prior to setting necessary new, bold directions. My experience is that engaging new team members in candid, transparent, and respectful dialogue actually builds trust fastest. Why?

Most under-performing teams didn’t arrive in this handicapped state by market forces. Their performance crept downward, led by unfit management. Teams crave clear and courageous leadership. Your ability to create purposeful urgency and clear direction offers hope. Trust always follows on the heels of leader credibility.

3 Management Practices for Creating Pearls 

1. Agitate, Don’t Stir. Agitating your people is intentionally disrupting their current view of reality. In the best sense, agitating your people is engaging them in honest dialogue about the business consequences of not changing. Agitation is not causing careless duress by contriving burning platforms for change. Agitation is declaring a future that doesn’t currently exist; it’s the vision thing. You are the irritation that initiates the pearl-forming process.

There’s a time to ask and there’s a time to tell. This practice leverages the latter skill. Vision requires leadership clarity. Ideally, the vision setting process has been highly collaborative, involving front-line staff. But at the end of the day a decision made is a course set.

Awareness is an antecedent of change. The effective manager makes a compelling business case why embracing the status quo is dangerous. She creates cognitive dissonance; appreciating that discomfort is the solution, not the enemy. Actively playing the role of a grain of sand requires management resiliency and courage.

2. Imbed Emotions and Engage. People learn best with stories and visuals. Data rarely changes behaviors. If “wearing hard hats” is the new mandatory future, then show your people a video of like workers wearing hard hats at a respected industry leader known for their safety records and high employee morale.

Have your people listen to the stories of employees who journeyed the change path successfully. Engage your people in a rigorous dialogue about the implications. Be transparent. Respond authentically to their concerns.

Most (sane) people do not expect their opinion to carry the day, however, people do expect to be heard openly and with empathy. That is, if you want their buy-in. Leaders know there is tectonic difference between compliance and commitment.

3. Apply Constant, Gentle, Pressure. This is the leadership and management philosophy of famed restaurateur Danny Meyer (Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.)

Effective managers and leaders apply steady pressure on the standards-of-excellence gas pedal, not on people’s necks.

Meyer equates these three leadership dimensions to the legs of a stool – an absence or weakness in any one guarantees operational mediocrity.

 “Go Slow, to Go Smooth, to Go Fast”

 Remember, people do not fear change. They fear change that is too big and too fast. Applying these practices, thoughtfully, ensures your people do not rest on their laurels. After all, the customer doesn’t care how good you were yesterday.