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.

Time Is On Your Side…if focused properly

Busy managers can still be great coaches!

According to the Harvard Business Review, great managers “discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it.”  This is precisely what differentiates mediocre managers from amazing manager-coaches.  But it’s often hard to judge how to best divide your workday between managing a budget, daily operations, and a team.  The answer: Do all of the above!

Forbes suggests that there are 7 qualities that good managers possess:

  1. They Love the Company Culture
  2. Their Positivity is Contagious
  3. They Sustain Focus
  4. They Listen to their Head and Heart
  5. They’re Honest
  6. They Take Accountability
  7. They Make Decisions

Notice that not a single one of these qualities is about managing finances or operations.  Each and every one of these qualities can be categorized into one super-quality: team building and relationship management.  Okay, technically that’s two super-qualities but the point remains the same: these two super-qualities are absolutely necessary for managers, and by association their teams, to excel in any business.  Yet, too often managers are obsessed about their financial goals, budgets, technical operations, and a million other things they have on their plate.  The key is that successful managers must find quality time to coach their team members.

The necessity of effective coaching has been widely established as the route to achieving that managerial excellence so often talked about.  In fact, Purdue University issued a public memo to their supervisors outlining that “coaching is an ongoing, two-way process that involves using constructive, consistent feedback to reinforce positive behavior or to counsel employees, resulting in improved performance.”  And, improved performance always means better business!

Never forget that your team is the lifeblood of your organization; often the people you manage are the only people customers will ever face.  In an ideal world there would never be the need for management intervention with a customer because your team would be fully equipped with all the skills, confidence, and authority they’d need to satisfy every customer need.  Of course, the world isn’t perfect but great manager-coaches strive to achieve perfection and impart that value on their teams!

“But I’m so busy; how can I take the time to consistently provide feedback?” -Manager X

If you’re near the Asheville, NC area on June 1st, 2017 then you’re in luck!  Steve will be conducting Workplace Coaching Skills for the Busy Manager to answer this very question!  This highly engaging workshop will teach managers how to be better coaches and leaders for their teams and their organizations. Effective and inspiring managers are key drivers of employee engagement. Participants will gain clarity on how their capacity to grow and develop their people is central to attracting, engaging, and retaining top industry talent. People rarely quit a great boss, but they often quit mediocre managers. This workshop will help the dedicated manager be a great leader and coach. Steve looks forward to seeing you on June 1st!

Purchase Tickets

 

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Keep it simple, keep if focused, and definitely keep it inspiring! – Steve

Managers Should Pay Their Career-Aiding Feedback Forward

Many leaders credit receiving a critical, and often tough, piece of feedback during their developing career as contributing to their current success.

For example, “You know, Kim, I can tell I’m not really getting through to you. I’m going to have to be clearer here. When you say um every third word it makes you sound stupid.” Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, shares this stinging feedback that she received from her then boss at Google, Sheryl Sandberg.

Scott suggests replacing the word feedback with guidance because who doesn’t resonate with that?

Reverse engineering great feedback, like Sandberg’s, reveals these core elements:

  • Honest
  • Direct and candid
  • Caring
  • Example-driven (usually with facts from past performance and observations)

Like Scott, are you beholden to a mentor or boss who cared enough to shine a bright light on a blind spot or a potentially career defeating behavior? I recently received a radically candid piece of feedback from a VP of sales: “Your self-deprecating humor undermines your credibility and makes you look weak.” Ouch, but thank you.

In those moments, feedback— err, guidance— feels less like a gift and more like a vaccine shot. If the individual internalizes the medicine they build immunity to behaviors that may no longer serve them. Thanks to the guidance this VP shared with me, I have severely cut back on my inward-focused humor and am grateful for the advice.

However, many of these same gifted bosses who have benefited from such feedback report that their biggest management shortcoming is providing the same guidance to their direct reports. It’s perplexing, but reasonable to conclude that receiving career enhancing feedback doesn’t translate to naturally being effective at this key management skill yourself.

We know most managers don’t like giving feedback and most employees complain they receive too little. This counter-productive dynamic becomes self-reinforcing. Managers quickly offer a host of reasons for not providing more consistent and direct feedback. A common justification, burned in most of our memories runs along this theme— I gave candid feedback one time and the employee called HR charging me with creating a hostile work environment. Who wants to touch that hot stove again, right?

My coaching to managers is to stiffen up and pay it forward! Embody the ethos of the person who made a difference for you. While guiding those who report to you may take you out of your comfort zone, and almost feel confrontational and unpleasant, this feedback and discipline could steer that person onto a better path within their career. Consider the cost of not sharing your observations and how overlooking these potentially damaging and negative behaviors will affect your professional relationship, and their ability to self-reflect and move forward.

Potent coaching questions, like radical candor, can also cause useful cognitive dissonance. 

An accomplished and well-respected leader shared with me an early development epiphany. He was asked, “What are you known for?” He confidently blurted, My strategic technical abilities,” quickly summarizing his analytical prowess. The follow up question, What else are you known for?” however, hit him like a ton of bricks because, as he says, “I couldn’t think of one leader I respected known only for analytical skills.” Two simple, direct questions ignited his commitment to be known for many, not one, leadership capability and charted his path for being a widely respected and gifted leader today.

The objective is to candidly address issues or behaviors, not tear people down.

Avoiding tough issues is a management sin. But confronting situations by asking sincere, open questions can foster the psychological safety critical to an honest, respectful dialogue. Begin building your leadership legacy by developing a reputation for growing tomorrow’s leaders. Pay forward the servant leadership that enriched your career and life.

 

Keep it simple, keep if focused, and definitely keep it inspiring! – Steve

 

Download free useful manager/coaching tools:

www.steverudolphcoaching.com/training-resources

Please drop me an email with a question or comment:

Steve@steverudolphcoaching.com

Connect with me on https://www.linkedin.com/organization/3476330

 

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.

Coaching A Tenured Team—The Newer Manager’s Dilemma

7 Highly Effective Performance Coaching Skills

With 2016 right out the front windshield, it’s an ideal time for managers to recommit themselves to recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent.  Central to any talent management strategy is a dynamic coaching culture led by managers who possess a range of coaching competencies.

Strive to become a talent magnet in 2016 by mastering these 7 Coaching Skills:

  1. Be consistent. Standing, sacred 1:1’s are just that. Due to natural workplace conflicts, coaching sessions may get nudged around the calendar, but they happen with religious conviction.
  2. Expect and model dynamic collaboration. Think and say “we.”
  3. Build trusting, transparent, and supportive partnerships.
  4. Goal focused. Each conversation has a clear outcome that’s mutually beneficial and measurable.
  5. Insist on action. Accountability is built upon agreements that move the business forward.
  6. Don’t feed their monkeys. The employee must own the path forward.
  7. 80 / 20 rule—80% of coach communication is open-ended questions (implicates you for being a deep listener), and 20% is teaching (not telling or selling) the employee something of value to them, not you.

Hopefully this quick coaching primer energizes you to create the vibrant and focused workplace that today’s top talent seeks.

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

–Steve Rudolph

Want more key insight to managing talent and becoming a talent magnet? Head over to my main webpage www.steverudolphcoaching.com and sign up to download a complimentary copy of my book Managing Talent is Talented Management!