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Managing Remote Conversations

3 Distinct Conversations to Drive Engagement, Accountability and Productivity

The remote work environment not only creates a vacuum of human connection but also fosters a blurry view of work performance. Managers, in partnership with their team members, must proactively pursue two prized output dimensions:

  • Increased engagement and collaboration
  • Increased accountability and results

Team disengagement and sub-par performance thrives in the backwaters of ambiguity and uncertainty.

“Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”

-Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

Communication should provide three core needs for all employees to do their best work:

  1. Direction
  2. Clarity
  3. Support

3 Distinct Remote Manager Conversations to Elevate Team Engagement, Accountability and Performance

#1 Manager Conversations that Provide Direction

Key elements include:

  • Goals / objectives
  • Measurements / metrics
  • Outputs / results
  • Roles / responsibilities

Coaching Tip: These items are commonly known as expectations, or in stronger language, non-negotiables. Effective managers manage around clear expectations, not personalities.

#2 Feedback Conversations that Provide Clarity

  • Frequent – daily
  • Candid + Caring
  • 3:1 ratio of positive to developmental
  • Positive recognition outperforms low recognition cultures

Coaching Tip: High-performing managers create feedback-rich environments and grasp that smaller, sooner conversations are better than larger, later conversations.

#3 Coaching Conversations that Provide Support

  • Monthly (or more frequent) one-on-one meetings
  • Largely based on employee’s agenda
    • 80% focused on their development + 20% on business and performance outcomes
    • Employee does 80% of talking, manager does 20%
  • Accountability – Concludes with a SMART action plan

Coaching Tip: View a disciplined coaching process as a strategic, competitive advantage. High-performers want to work for a manager who will grow and develop them, and sponsor them for next-level leadership opportunities.

“The meaning of a word is the action it produces.”

-Ashley Montague

Managing a remote team can be a confusing, and often, stressful experience. But this new world of telework also presents an excellent opportunity to elevate your leadership communication skills!  Pierce the fog of remote work confusion by regularly engaging your team in these three distinct and powerful conversations.

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring. –Steve

Remote Work from Dining Room

Special Issue: 5 Skills for Managing a Remote Team

Plus 5 Coaching Tips!

Managing Remotely Webinar Series

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically shifted work from the office to your employees’ living rooms. For many managers, the challenge of coaching a remote team is vexing. How do you ensure high productivity while maintaining a positive and collaborative culture?

Here are 5 Core Manager Skills to create an accountable, engaged, and healthy remote team:

Skill #1 – Elevate Engagement by Stepping Up Yours. The lack of daily in-person interactions creates an energy vacuum. Your team doesn’t need a cheerleader. But they do crave intentional leadership that provides clear direction, facilitates esprit de corps, and brings a positive outlook during uncertain times.

Coaching Tip: Communicate regular appreciation to your team for their energy, collaboration, and results during these challenging times.

Skill #2 – Be Vigilant About Tending to Your Culture. Passionate and unified cultures are strongly correlated with improving performance across a host of key business outcomes (Gallup). Complacency or business-as-usual is your enemy. Cultures, like gardens, are healthiest when receiving attentive care.

Coaching Tip: Begin your weekly team meeting asking each member to quickly share A) what success they had the past week, B) where they are struggling, and C) what help or input they need from the team.

Skill #3 – Establish Sacred Meeting Schedules. It’s vital to understand that “employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings” (Harvard Business Review). Clear routines, like meetings, provide team members with structure that fosters certainty, lowers anxiety, and enables high productivity.

Coaching Tip: Three meeting examples that drive Kevin Kruse’s, CEO LeadX, team’s remote work.

  • Weekly One-on-Ones
  • Weekly Action Review (WAR)
  • End-of-Day Check In

Skill #4 – Clarify RRA (Roles, Responsibilities, Accountabilities). Gallup’s research found that high employee engagement was most strongly correlated with a positive response to the statement – I know what is expected of me at work. Further, the ultimate prize of effective collaboration is enhanced when each team member understands how everyone’s part fits into the big picture. Ambiguity is a remote manager’s worst enemy.

Coaching Tip: Post everyone’s RRA to a project management software or a Google document for high visibility.

Skill #5 – Focus on Growing Talent. Telework is an excellent opportunity to engage your team members in career or skill development conversations. The International Coaching Federation reports that “83% of employees indicated career support positively impacts their engagement.” The same study showed “85% of individuals agreed, or strongly agreed, there is nothing wrong with staying in the same job if they can try new things or develop new skills.”

Coaching Tip: Your weekly one-on-one meetings are the mechanism for providing effective feedback. These deeper conversations strengthen your relationships and send a sincere message that you care about each team member.

Managers who are intentional about prioritizing relationships, collaboration, and accountability will engage their teams in healthy and productive remote work!

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring. –Steve

Managing Remotely Webinar Series

Hero Manager

How to Transition from Hero Syndrome to Distributed Leadership

With 4 Leadership Skills for Managers Making the Transition

Carl, a very seasoned and capable production manager recently shared, “I’m going to retire early because I can’t take the stress anymore.” Business volume and complexity had overrun Carl’s traditional top-down management approach. When I pressed Carl for why he feels like he must make all the decisions his answer was revealing, “I’ve always been the go-to guy and senior management expects me to solve every problem.”

Carl suffers, in part, from hero syndrome, the strong need to be right, to be Mr. fix-it, to be chief firefighter. Additionally, a traditional control management structure reinforces team members to be order-takers, not co-owners of accountability and outcomes.

“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.”

–Max McKeown

Distributed leadership, as opposed to a control management style, is partially defined as, “Leadership activity as a whole is stretched, or distributed, across many people.”

Accountability for results, quality, and decision-making gets distributed to team members. Through its 14 Lean Management Principles, Toyota embodies distributed leadership by empowering teams to solve problems, accept accountability, and make localized decisions.

4 Skills for Building a Distributed Leadership Structure

  1. Build Shared Cognition. This is a vision + mission statement on steroids. Team members must clearly understand, internalize, and commit to a renewed way of working. Leadership communicates the Why and What but not the How. Team members will learn to accept greater accountability for decision making, with formal leadership serving as guidance. CRM (crew resource management) offers a blueprint for transitioning from a command structure to a distributed leadership matrix.
  2. Clarify Expectations. This includes new team structure – roles, responsibilities and agreed upon approach to achieving results. Example: Beginning Monday morning we will have daily huddle-ups. The first 10 minutes will be business status updates, the second 10 minutes we will surface issues or challenges and create action plans with individual accountability distributed among team members.
  3. Continuous Improvement. Conduct on-going After-Action-Reviews or PDCA (lean manufacturing) cycles. The guiding adage – never confuse ceaseless activity with progress – instructs leaders and her teams to engage in regular reflection and learning loops. The opposite is a culture that hides its problems, rejects fresh ideas, and slowly stagnates.
  4. Psychological Safety. Trust does not exist without agreements and agreements do not exist without trust. The backbone of a distributed leadership structure is strong, positive, and committed relationships. Gifted leaders pay equal attention to relationships as they do tasks.

“A successful company is one that can learn effectively.”

–Ariel de Geus

Managers who suffer from hero syndrome will also quickly suffer from burnout. A single person can’t possibly put out all fires. That’s why firefighters come in teams. By following a distributed leadership structure, the hero-manager can help shape a hero-team, which lessens the burden on any one individual.

Keep it Simple. Keep it Focused. Definitely Keep it Inspiring! -Steve

As always, check out my other blog posts for even more great manager-coaching tips!

Strategic Coaching Chess

Manager-Coaches Don’t Coach to Be Nice; They Coach to Be Strategic

3 Mindsets and 3 Coaching Skills of Effective Managers

 

Asheville-area Managers: Please take our short survey

 

The most successful managers I know are obsessed about pursuing excellence and delivering results. They are equally committed to talent development. Their site line is crystal clear – grow their people first, who in turn grow the business.

 

“If you focus on results you will never change. If you focus on change you will get results.” 

                                                            -Jack Dixon

 

Great coaches are usually born, but can be made. The mechanics and skills of effective coaching, of course, can be taught and learned. But great manager-coaches just seem to get it. Their coaching DNA drives their focus to help others be their best, while insisting on goal achievement and results. Yes, they are skilled but their skills are an outcome of their beliefs about people and business.

 

3 Mindsets and 3 Coaching Skills of Great Managers

#1 Coaching is a strategic business decision, not just a box to check. A talent management mindset is not murky – finding, engaging and retaining great people is a competitive business strategy. Great strategy with mediocre people produces mediocrity. Professionals committed to learning, growth and development will always find a way to increase market share and build long-term customer loyalty.

Coaching Skill: Conduct regular (3-4 weeks) one-on-ones that engage, inspire and insist upon positive action and accountabilities. Coaching without individual, measurable actions is a waste of company resources. Short on time? Use the 4-Step Coaching Plan to conduct one-on-one meetings in 30 minutes.

 

“Talented manager-coaches don’t lose people, they grow them.”

Steve Rudolph

 

#2 The greatest business potential is in the middle. Every manager wishes they could clone their one or two rock stars. Sustained business outputs cannot depend on the few. The strategic coach focuses 80% of her energies on building the skills of the middle 60%, knowing she’ll need solid players to be resilient and adapt to a changing market place. For the rock stars, use this Coaching High Performers guide.

Coaching Skill: Require each team member to develop an IDP (individual development plan) and update it quarterly. Coaching one-on-ones always results in a SMART action plan that directly supports IDP goals. Managers who attract high performers have a reputation for growing future leaders. Implementing a clear system for developing talent forges coaching reputation.

 

“Change before you have to.” 

                                                            -Jack Welch

 

#3 Coaching is not a technique; it’s a strategic connection. Effective coaching cannot exist in low trust relationships. People want to be appreciated and understood. Great coaches get to know their team members, their drivers, values and aspirations. Money doesn’t produce inspiration, meaningful work and a connection with others is the fuel of motivation. It’s a trite adage, but powerfully true – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Coaching Skill: Listen a lot more than you speak; adopt an active listening technique. Deep, empathic listening builds trust. Trust causes people to open up, to share useful information. Because leadership is the art of influence, trust makes employees more likely to listen and be persuaded by the manager’s ideas.

 

While great coaches are mostly born, not made, managers who make a dedicated, strategic commitment to coaching others often experience a renewed sense of managerial motivation. There’s just something special about connecting with others in pursuit of purpose and performance. Begin a rewarding journey by adopting the above 3 Mindsets and 3 Coaching Skills.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring.

 

Throwing Papers

3 Manager Skills for Bringing Order to Disorder

Effective managers don’t wait for top-down direction, they set it!

 

Schedule a Call with Steve Today to Discuss Tailor-Made Coaching Strategies

 

Many managers express their frustration about senior leadership communication – That it lacks clarity and congruency or is short on inspiration. If a manager reacts with passivity or paralysis, she is guaranteeing the delivery of a muddled message. After all, the seeds of team apathy and anxiety are fueled by ambiguity. Managers must proactively engage their teams with a constructive strategy.

Bringing order out of chaos is a manager’s #1 responsibility. A thought-out, action-oriented strategy (even an incomplete one) will always beat a foot-dragging, wait-and-see approach.

 

“Let chaos reign, then reign in chaos.” Andy Grove, former Intel CEO

 

3 Manager Skills and Mindsets for Reigning in Chaos

 

#1 Develop and upgrade your team’s capabilities. Effective managers leverage chaos to test and develop their team’s capabilities while channeling attention and focus. They take a sustained growth and development view but don’t allow disruption to rattle their team. Purposeful urgency is good, unbridled distress can be debilitating.

Manager Skill: Engage your team in rigorous thinking that stretches and grows members while demanding forward action, such as…

  • What do/don’t we know?
  • What’s in our control?
  • Who will do what by when and what’s our action plan?
  • What will we do to make sense of uncertainty?
  • How will we leverage our current capabilities?
  • What new knowledge and skills do we need to be successful in this environment?

 

Disciplined, thoughtful action is the antidote for chaos.

 

#2 Set provincial stretch goals for and with the team. Compelling stretch goals help focus the team’s attention, fosters a feeling of camaraderie, and maintains performance standards and high expectations. Low standards have never motivated anyone!

Manager Skill: Foster collective ownership and accountability by facilitating a collaborative goal-setting process. Motivation is strongly related to feelings of control. Heavy, top-down goal setting can worsen team anxiety and confidence. Striking a balance between quantitative (e.g. beat revenue goals by 15%) and qualitative (e.g. be #1 in growing and retaining customer loyalty) helps galvanize energy and channel focus.

 

In an unpredictable world, the effective manager knows that goal setting is a powerful process that can buffer the paralyzing effects of chaos.

 

#3 Be an optimistic, passionate and inspiring leader. Your team doesn’t need ‘rah-rah’ speeches or rose-colored predictions. They do, however, need a confident leader that can set direction, build positive team unity and hold others accountable.

Manager Skill: Communicate a collaborative “we” expectation. Express belief in the team’s ability to conquer adversity. Be passionate about the organization’s purpose. Tell stories of historical challenges that were overcome by strategic discipline, commitment, and unification.

 

Leadership is not a position. It’s a behavior. It’s the rare combination of driving results while engaging others in a vision worthy of inspiration.

 

Unclear direction from senior leadership rarely disables the competent manager. They embrace chaos, and employ skills and trusted processes to best manage the turmoil. The most critical ways to guarantee success include adapting a growth mindset, encouraging individual and team performance, and being a leader worth following.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

 

Schedule a Call with Steve Today to Discuss Tailor-Made Coaching Strategies

 

Difficult Conversation

Managers, the Goal for Difficult Workplace Conversations is not Personal Comfort…

It’s action and commitment

 

Manager Skills Boot Camp II: Improve your Difficult Conversation skills and more!

 

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

 

Grant is a steady performer; an overall solid team player. Ellen, his supervisor, has given Grant feedback several times that his work lacks attention to detail and the quality is often marginal. Grant’s behavior has not changed, so it’s time to have a difficult conversation that gently provokes him at his edge.

Ellen’s untiring feedback attempts to get Grant to improve have failed. Ellen needs to amplify her expectations and become the outside force. Intensifying one’s tone while being prepared for the consequences naturally stokes levels of stress and anxiety, both for Ellen and Grant.

A critical challenge for Ellen is to appreciate that tension is a resource to gently increase and manage, not avoid. Why? Tension and struggle are the universal energy sources for human growth, change, and transformation. The chick embryo must work and struggle to break free of the eggshell to become a healthy chick.

Grant must experience constant, gentle pressure to understand it’s in his best interest to change. Tension, when harnessed appropriately, creates awareness. Ellen must develop a *safe learning container to leverage the tension in pursuit of Grant’s development. It’s a classic manager’s paradox.

*If managers have not created trusted working relationships with their direct reports, these conversations are often emotionally difficult with messy outcomes.

 

“The challenge for leaders is to disturb or disrupt the movement at the edge to provoke the desired outcome.” -Per Bak, author of How Nature Works

 

Two Outcomes of Turning Comfortable into Uncomfortable

#1 Ideal Outcome: Grant takes 100% responsibility for his sub-par performance and sincerely makes a commitment to change. Most managers report a mere 10-20% success rate with this highly desired outcome. When this level of spirited partnership is achieved, managers call that a great day at work!

On the other hand, being overly attached to this outcome is often driven by the manager’s need for comfort and control. In order for the outcome to be ideal, this need should be relinquished.

#2 Acceptable Outcome: Ellen is leveraging her personal relationship with Grant to persuade him that it’s in his best interest to change. She’s selling, he’s not buying. Now she must pivot from expecting an ideal outcome to an acceptable outcome.

Grant commits to taking concrete and specific actions, including changing his behavior, and understands the consequences if he does not do so. This uncomfortable condition is known as agree to disagree. Ellen must be okay with the fact that he doesn’t share her belief. Her goal is to demand expectations that serve the company, not for her or Grant’s comfort levels.

 

So What Now?

Monitor, Measure and Provide Feedback

Ellen’s previous feedback attempts were based on hoping Grant would change. The Situational Leadership Model instructs Ellen to apply a much more direct style until Grant has made observable behavior changes. Being more direct is not Ellen’s default leadership style, but that’s not important. Ellen’s primary objective is to help develop Grant’s full potential. This is Servant Leadership at its core – the sincere desire to help others be their best. This leadership style says easy, does uncomfortable.

 

Sometimes Acceptable is…Acceptable

Few management situations are more frustrating then having a difficult conversation, especially when the employee digs in and says, “I disagree with your assessment.” Managers must develop the emotional fortitude to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Tension is not a condition to be avoided, but instead, constructively managed towards an acceptable, not perfect, outcome.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

 

Manager Skills Boot Camp II: Improve your Difficult Conversation skills and more!

 

Managing a Tone-Deaf Boss Can Feel Like Riding a Cow…

The cow doesn’t want to be ridden and the ride is rough

 

Watch the complimentary webinar: Difficult Workplace Conversations

 

Growing up next to a farm with a tribe of reckless boys, I had lots of painful and failed attempts at riding cows. If you’ve ever tried this, you’d know that it feels pretty similar to “managing up” a tone-deaf boss.

 

Like cows, tone-deaf bosses:

  • Don’t enjoy be ridden (e.g. “managed up”).
  • Ensure the ride is very uncomfortable and possibly risky for you
  • Purposefully attempt to rub you off the fence
  • Will throw you off (Falling off a cow is like falling out of favor with your boss: Bruising and dangerous for your career)

Inversely, in-tune bosses are on high alert for shifting workplace discord and proactively engage team members in sincere two-way dialogue. These bosses are engaged, hands-on, approachable, and biased toward democratic action.

Safety is your #1 goal while riding a cow. The same goes for managing up: The psychological and political perils are many and often hidden.

 

Cow-riding tips and parallels to managing a tone-deaf boss:

Rule #1 – Try to minimize surprising the cow. Cows, like bosses, possess a survivalist brain that easily spooks into fight or flight.

  • Boss Rule: Schedule regular 1:1’s with your boss. I recommend at least 20-30 minutes every week. Provide a clear agenda in advance that is solution-oriented, sensitive to tight budgets, and demonstrates your clarity around key priorities.

Rule #2 – Never attempt to change a cow. A cow has gotten to where it’s at by being a successful cow; bosses too. Nothing yields rigid thinking and outsized egos more than historical success.

  • Boss Rule: Show that your riding attempts will be a win-win. Point directly to the green pastures on the horizon. Your boss needs assurances that your obvious persuasion attempts consider her best interests.

Rule #3 – Cows are stubborn negotiators.  An armful of freshly cut hay usually provides leverage.

  • Boss Rule: Most bosses can be swayed by strategic solutions that support her objectives and the organization’s priorities. Complaining without a clear business plan promotes resistance to your ideas. Just like cows, bosses will simply ignore you, stare you down, or become agitated by your anemic advances.

 

A tone-deaf boss is a major source of frustration for many dedicated employees. There is no ‘grass is greener over the fence’ strategy, but take it from an experienced cow rider: There are trusted rules for what and what not to do.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

 

Watch the complimentary webinar: Difficult Workplace Conversations

 

Great Managers Possess a Leadership Point of View and Act on it Daily!

4 General Leadership Points of View

 

Upcoming Workshops to Develop your Leadership Capabilities

 

“So in my first hundred days [as Ford CEO], we have developed a point of view of the future of the company: Smart vehicles in a smart world.” -Jim Hackett, CEO, Ford

 

Are your people clearly motivated and aligned with your point of view? Do you enroll them in co-creating ownership of the vision? Do team members see a clear line-of-site between their work and performance outcomes?

Effective managers, like great CEOs, know that having a clear point of view is critical for galvanizing peoples’ energies, aligning around expectations and delivering targeted results. A clear point of view coupled with visible daily supporting behaviors is inspiring leadership that fosters strong team loyalty.

Below are Four General Leadership Points of View to stimulate personal reflection, help clarify your values, and motivate you to craft a philosophy that will inspire your team:

#1 We will act our ways into new ways thinking, not think our ways into new ways of acting. Encouraging a strong bias for forward action and continuous improvement is the best insurance policy against workplace complacency and stagnation. Everyone is expected to bring forth ideas for improving products, services, and operational efficiencies.

#2 Grow people first, who in turn grow the business. Effective managers are great teachers, coaches and mentors. Their #1 priority should be the future health of the business, not career advancement. They focus their efforts on building tomorrow’s leadership talent pipeline.

#3 Clear expectations and a feedback-rich environment create a high-performance culture. Exceptional managers believe that most employees truly want to give their best, contribute to the team, and achieve visible results. Work is a daily hard-played game and team members want to know if they’re winning. Goal clarity, lots of recognition, and frequent two-way feedback is a trusted recipe for a high-performance culture.

#4 Create an environment where people feel safe speaking up, contribute fresh perspectives, and proactively report problems. The evidence is clear (and tragic): Authoritative, rigid, top-down leadership has been identified as a root cause of space shuttle disasters, failed dam levies, and commercial airline crashes. When team members fear potential retribution for speaking up, problems stay hidden.

 

“As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow.” -Himanshu Bhatia, CEO, Rose International

 

Revitalize your management focus by clarifying your leadership point of view. Take the Four General Leadership Points of View to adapt, edit, and craft your own. Or, of course, create your own philosophy, share with your team, and enroll them in a rich two-way conversation to gain their input and support.

Most importantly, commit to a few repeatable tactics each day to drive your vision deep into the culture. Good things will happen!

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

 

Upcoming Workshops to Develop your Leadership Capabilities

Bad Managers Cost You Money!

Three Actions for Building a Solid Talent Promotion Program

Promoting the right individual to a management role is, arguably, the single most important business decision. Need evidence? Consider Gallup’s research that those managers who meet the criteria of “high levels of talent…contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers do.”

And yet, smart people get this critical business decision wrong. In fact, Gallup has found that 82% of management hiring/promotion decisions fall short of optimal. Imagine if your business could make 48% higher profits just by choosing the right managers!

Just because an employee is great at coding, sales, customer service, or has been with the organization for 10 years, there is little correlation that these capabilities will contribute to becoming a great manager.  In fact, your organization will lose a great star performer and inherit a mediocre manager – a lose-lose decision.

 

Avoid the common promotion minefields by investing resources in developing a methodical talent promotion program for your organization. Here are three pragmatic actions to counter your current spaghetti-against-the-wall manager promotion approaches!

Action1: Require all managers to formally identify leadership talent, regularly. The accepted truism applies here – “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Management must be visibly committed to this critical initiative. Senior leadership should expect and inspect each manager to advance potential candidate names quarterly, for example.

Action #2: Assess a candidate’s potential against a balanced scorecard type criteria, such as:

  • Key management and leadership competencies
  • Core business values
  • Long-term business strategies

Action #3: Implement distinct talent development pathways, based on assessment ranking.  For example:

  • A “Ready Now,” top-tier candidate – Initiate new manager onboarding and training program. “Strong onboarding processes improve new-hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent” (SHRM, 5/9/2017).
  • A “Could Be Ready,” candidate – Initiate a 60 day Action Learning Project. Real-time business initiatives enable two constructive events: 1) Candidate is provided opportunity to demonstrate skill level in target “gap areas,” and, 2) Manager is able to observe and coach candidate, while receiving feedback on candidate’s potential from involved team members.
  • A “Not Ready” candidate – Provide individual a kind and candid assessment, along with a general development plan. After 12 months, candidate may re-apply for internal promotion. Thank them graciously!

 

Stop using outdated and ineffective reasoning for manager promotions – your business, customers, and team culture will benefit immensely! A wise manager promotion or hire will make your business a lot of money. It makes business sense to invest in a more objective and disciplined talent promotion process. A transparent process also helps mitigate the politics that often surround next-level promotions.

To learn more about promoting the right people, watch this video.  Stay tuned for a webinar on this topic where we will delve into the details of each step, provide resources for implementing organization processes, have live demonstrations, and be ready to answer all your questions!

 

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

-Steve

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 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 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 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 skills critical for keeping sales time AND momentum on your side!

As always, check out the resources page for some helpful tools and additional information to further your goals.

 

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