Thursday, December 23, 2010

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Five Common Failures In KAM Training

Any sales organisation worth its salt soon wrestles with the problem of key account management (KAM). Many invest money in KAM training, which is often little more than “advanced sales training”. As long as KAM training is seen only as ‘development’ for senior sales people, it is likely to fail. Five important dynamics contribute to this failure:
  1. Poor targeting. KAM involves a lot of work and by definition, not every account can be a key account. First and foremost, it is a resource prioritisation exercise. Having clear criteria for accounts to be on the list is a sine qua non.
  2. Key to both partners. Do your customers see the relationship as key? Looking through their eyes is highly illuminative. Our biggest account may still be an insignificant part of our customer’s business operations and all the effort in the world on our part is likely to be met with indifference on theirs.
  3. It’s an organisational NOT individual activity. KAM invariably involves alignment of internal processes and teams to follow a plan. KAM is therefore a team development exercise NOT solely an individual one – paying attention to internal co-ordination is a more significant challenge than training the KAM.
  4. Salesperson or Facilitator? The co-ordination of longer term programmes places the key account manager in the role of change agent, facilitator, internal champion. These skills are often missed in KAM training, which has a heavy customer orientated perspective.
  5. Wrong Measurement. KAM initiatives are often stillborn because measurement is short term and based on existing sales targeting. Defining a staged plan with clear milestones is often vital in key account development, which in the short term brings no immediate revenue gain. Having the skill to make a good plan and the discipline to execute and measure progress against plan is indispensible.

Good KAM development is therefore a mix of training and organisational development. If KAM programmes are on your agenda, contact SalesPathways for an intelligent approach tailored to your organisation.

Four Sales Challenges That Will Only Get Worse In 2011

This year has been another challenging year for most B2B sales organisations. In SalesPathways work we have seen several patterns emerge which have risen to the top of the ‘issues’ list. See how many of them your sales organisation is dealing with (hopefully not everyone!).

Sluggish Sales Growth
Still the major issue for many businesses. This problem has several forms, inability to raise retail prices, demand not picking up, and extreme volatility in the sale pipeline are the three most common symptoms. The softness in sales numbers has encouraged some Sales Directors to use Sales Promotions to increase demand – to in effect buy business through cutting prices, increasing discounts, putting packages together etc. The danger with this approach is of course creating a new (lower) market price which is difficult to then move away from if demand doesn’t pick up

Rising Sales Costs
Regardless of what is happening to your top line sales costs will rise, usually at a faster rate than inflation. The Internet was supposed to reduce sales costs but unless you are completely on-line it has added to them, because the web has become either an additional sales channel or a straight marketing cost.

Continuing Creeping Commoditisation
Value chains continue to commoditise, especially at the lower end. Unless salespeople can move up the value chain to a place of greater value add, they become very expensive communication conduits of price and delivery information.

Increasing Transparency Being Demanded
If your margins rely on opaqueness you will struggle to maintain them. If a cost plus margin is added with no demonstrable value add customers start to ask questions. Open book pricing, and co-creating value is where real partnerships can be built.

Getting In The Minds Of Salespeople

A Sales Director asked Father Christmas for the ability to really understand sales people. Having Santa as a strategic partner has allowed us a sneak preview of the Sales Director’s present.
  1. All salespeople believe that when they succeed its all down to them, and when they fail it’s down to factors beyond their control.
  2. The best salespeople are secure enough to cope with rejection, but insecure enough to need the constant reassurance of success.
  3. Sale people have learnt it’s not how confident they feel that matters, but how confident they appear.
  4. Technicians/engineers who sell dislike salespeople or even being thought of as ‘in sales’.
  5. Sales people live, and are encouraged to think, in the world of the possible; so don’t be surprised (or too critical) when they apply the same thinking to their sales forecast.
  6. Sales people are hugely conflicted when they think of customers. They love them and hate them - at the same time.
  7. The worse a salesperson is doing the less they think about how to improve things. They often need to be pushed in front of difficult customers by someone else.
  8. Top performing, high earning salespeople are hated by the rest of the organisation.
  9. Salespeople love anything that signifies differentiated status.
  10. More salespeople than you might think don’t like other people very much.
  11. Because field based salespeople are dislocated from the physical organisation their rumour/gossip dial is turned to 11. If you want to find something out, ask a sales person.
  12. If you want to upset a sales person, change something. Regular changing of their incentive scheme is a guaranteed hostility generator.
  13. Sales people love a short training course where they learn something genuinely new and implementable. They hate training based on old ideas wrapped up in new language.
  14. Sales people aren’t negative about company policy, simply misunderstood.
  15. All sales people under the age of 30 believe they are immortal and can only fail if their employer gets in their way.
  16. All sales people over 50 have developed hugely finessed ways of working that they are reluctant to reveal to anyone else.
  17. A sales person will offer to mother/father your children if you deliver them a reliable, easy to use, sales generating, non-time consuming CRM system.
  18. Only being as successful as their last set of numbers eats into salespeople’ souls to varying degrees.
  19. Sales conferences are attended for the craic, the rest is management propaganda.
  20. Having to sometimes bend the truth, suspend disbelief, deal in misinformation or give the briefest of detail creates a kind of interpersonal hysteria, which can lead to odd behaviour.
  21. Leaving a customer with a big order/contract that smashes their target and wins their favourite incentive is the daydream of choice.
  22. Salespeople love a manager who knows when to get out the way and when to pile in and save them, and then pretends they didn’t (save them).
  23. The words role-play make sales people die a little.
  24. The best sales team contain both men and women.
  25. Sales peoples’ biggest fear is that they will be found out.

It will be really interesting to see what this Sales Director does with this information.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Focusing On Developing Your Competitive Advantage

As the old truism has it; ‘Give the people what they want and they will buy’; if you do that successfully and you do it better than other businesses making a similar offer you have competitive advantage. Let’s look at this a bit more scientifically. There are five major sources of competitive advantage:

Distinctive Competence
Simply put, you do something materially better than anyone else. The competence (or capability) of designing and delivering a fantastic Graphical User Interface (GUI) is an Apple distinctive competence. The user experience with other products is compared to the Apple standard.

Better Insight/Foresight
Can you call the market? Are you able to get inside the customers’ head? Do you constantly try to envision the future market landscape? Businesses that do this well lead the market place. Amazon (led by the visionary Jeff Bezos) do this well. First to on-line books, first to fulfilment excellence, first to running a competitive market-place, and first to leverage their technology as a platform others can use. We’ll see whether they win the e-reader battle, but they’re doing well so far.

Inside Track Access to Suppliers or Customers or Talent
You have relationships others simply can’t compete with. Metro newspapers in stations is a great example. Tesco Clubcard, giving direct access to customer behaviour, which even customers might not be conscious of. Holding the only Rolex concession is a large town will make you the local go to jeweller for that watch brand. Employers of Choice brands have the pick of the best people; Google, McKinsey, Apple.

Unique Links
You build your own eco-system of offerings. Microsoft Office running on Windows offering very high interoperability. Gillette razors need Gillette blades, end of story. Geography can be important; links into China either for export potential or product sourcing can provide significant advantage.

Your way of doing things outperforms the competition. The John Lewis retail experience is different because of its peoples’ service and product knowledge skills. GE has a very strong earnings performance culture. Interestingly this form of competitive advantage can be the hardest to replicate.

SalesPathways can help you develop a strategy for increasing your competitive advantage. for further information contact us.

Ten Ways To Improve Your Call Centre Customer Service Scores

We all have to use the phone to talk to our bank, broadband provider, support service etc. How many of us do it with a glad heart? When you have a good experience it's easy to deconstruct why. Here we collect the common sense top 10 ways to improve your telephone handling:
  1. Make it easy to locate the number. Label the number clearly if there is a choice and don’t hide it away in the third level menu of your web site.
  2. Answer the phone quickly, goodwill evaporates as the phone continues to ring out.
  3. DON’T have it answered by a machine. Period. IVR, Interactive Voice Response is a curse that is all about cost reduction and nothing about the customer experience.
  4. Waiting music should be avoided. There is no such thing as good waiting music, because you’re WAITING.
  5. Have a clear line with good volume. Make sure the person has a good clear strong speaking voice. Many overseas call centres fail on this point. Just ask anybody over 70 if they like dealing with an overseas call centre.
  6. The person must not speak too quickly especially at the beginning of the call.
  7. Avoid over scripting, screen prompts can be just as bad.
  8. Deal with the call effectively and as quickly as possible.
  9. Design the process and train the people sufficiently to handle as many calls on the first bounce (the call doesn’t have to be transferred). This is most significant factor in getting a positive customer reaction. ‘I made the call and the first person I spoke to dealt with it really well’
  10. Allow your call centre people to be human; gve them the space and time to express their personality.
This list doesn’t look difficult is but it is very rare to find. Take a bow First Direct for inspiring this article - an organisation that really gets it.

Revisiting A Classic Work Problem -Not Enough Time: How Successful Salespeople Are Great Time Managers

Time management is a perennial personal development need. Here in a couple of lines is the training remedy distilled; the difference between urgent and important, reactive from pro-active tasks, things to do lists, delegation and work–life balance.

We’ve recently been doing some work with a group of high-performing salespeople who seem to manage their time very well. It was instructive to see how much of what they did came from the orthodox time management toolbox.

The first most obvious thing is how well organised they were. They avoided building up a any kind of back-log of work. As far as possible they operated a clean day working model, beginning the next working day ‘clean’ with no overhang of work.

They were voracious users of the entire technology going. No double entry, or multiple systems. They updated CRM in as real a time as possible.

They are selfish. They said no to things if they got in the way of their primary objectives. They focused obsessively on value adding activities and tried to avoid those that weren’t.

They kept on top of their email and only sent email that was strictly necessary. One said the fewer emails I send the fewer emails in my in box. There was a general preference for using the phone, more direct, more personal and more likely to deal with the issue in one go.

They work intensively. Some worked long hours, but not everybody. What they all did though was work productively. They didn’t waste time (none of our group had time for Twitter or Facebook). They liked to multi-task on trains and planes.

And finally they all hated meetings, even effective ones which were described as ‘a necessary evil’.

If you want to improve the productivity of your sales organisation contact us.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Career Segmentation (Part One)

Marketers are familiar with life stage segmentation in trying to understand buying motivations and decisions. For some time we have been interested in how the same technique might be applied to looking at career phases.

Below we have developed our own tool that we believe identifies the key phases of the career focused working life:

These age ranges are not exact, for some they happen slightly earlier or later, but we believe for most people these are the key phases that need to be paid attention to:

The Seeker
It’s in childhood that much of how people approach their working life is formed. A person’s approach to leadership, responsibility, authority, conflict, motivation, material acquisition and ambition all are shaped in this phase. Formal learning plays only a part in the process.

The Student Protégé
How focused is the person? A university degree is now much more than a lifestyle choice or a deferment of work decisions. The financial cost means choices have to be conscious and considered. It’s in this phase that people experiment, test early passions, and reject options. If they’re lucky they will find good advice and a mentor. They should be laying down deep layers of learning.

The Young Gun
This is a short, key phase. It’s where ‘early form’ needs to be demonstrated. The person gets noticed through early achievement. By leveraging all they have learnt so far this phase has the potential to be a real career ‘kicker’.

The Bet Placer
Here the person should be succeeding with real achievements. Through the generation of insight they position themselves to take advantage of opportunities. They become an important member of the ‘go to’ cohort when things need to be done.

The Rain Maker
In this phase the person has real power (and uses it) to change and transform things. They see more angles, more opportunities and more risks than others. They make things bigger and they put interesting things together. They can, and do, make things happen.

The Safe Habour
Here judgement is everything. Because they have seen a lot, they call things right and they call them early. They can be relied on to say something sensible (not the same as being conservative) and to come up with solutions.

The Counsel
Wise words said by people who have no further career ambition and probably no financial incentive either. This makes their opinion valuable.

Next month we will explore how Career Segmentation can be used, both by organisations and individuals.

Seven Things Every New Sales Person Should Know

If you are planning to go into a sales role for the first time there are a number of key things you should be clear about before taking the plunge. Or if you are the one who is recruiting new sales people then it’s doubly important that you have taken the right steps to identify these areas of knowledge and skills and that you can support your new sales person to make the grade.

We list our top seven things every person that is new to sales should know:
  1. It’s tough out there: non sales people get the idea that sales-folk swan about in a company car with an expense account only communicating when they want to moan about something. In reality the sales-person has to develop a level of resilience and coping skills higher than most other professions.
  2. Their market: sales people need to know what is happening in their sector not just at the local level, but if they are to succeed, also at the macro level too – what are the major change drivers in their market? – who are the movers and shakers?
  3. How to find meaningful ‘insight’: customers want to deal with sales people only if the sales person can provide some sort of clear focus on critical factors that the customer hadn’t thought of themselves.
  4. The commercials: high turnover is fine but what about the margins? Where are the real, long-term, profitable relationships to be had? Which customers’ corporate strategy aligns best with their sales organisation’s strategy? Which customers are going to be worth all the hard work and focus in the long haul?
  5. How to say ‘No’: not only to all those colleagues and co-workers who make unreasonable demands on the sales person’s valuable time, but also having the confidence to say to ‘No’ to customers who make unreasonable demands.
  6. Their company: the organisation’s corporate strategy, its vision, values and goals, its history and background, its current market position and competitors as well as all its relevant products and services.
  7. How to provide excellent customer service: the difference between ‘good’ profits and ‘bad’ profits is about the customer’s experience of the service they received – ‘good’ profits come from customers who rate the service they experienced 10 out of 10 and therefore become loyal promoters!
If you are new to sales or you are recruiting new sales people and want help with any of these seven key areas, please contact us.

Would You ‘Lunch & Learn’?

What if you know your people desperately need some development in a key area of their role, and supposing you even had the budget to pay for it, can you really afford to let them out of the office long enough for it to happen?

It seems that even during these cash-strapped times, often the biggest obstacle to getting people trained up is the impact that their absence has on the day-to-day operations. The lost opportunity costs added to the costs of training, travel, accommodation etc are just too much to contemplate when people are under so much pressure just keeping their heads above the water.

What if you could do your people development in bite-sized chunks during your lunch time, say between 12:00pm and 2:00pm? Minimum down-time, minimum disruption to normal service, maximum impact without any fuss!

So what can you do in 90 minutes that will make a real difference to your people over lunch?

Business Simulation - a high-impact, practical activity (with a little underpinning theory for good measure) on a single, critical task such as:

Managers: The Selection Interview, The Performance Appraisal, The ‘Difficult’ Conversation, Motivating Individuals etc.

Sales People: Getting Past the Gatekeeper, Selling to the Difficult Buyer, Handling Complaints, Overcoming Objections, Tough Negotiations etc.

The activity would be completed at your place of work whilst participants enjoyed a ‘free’ lunch (what better incentive do you need?) along with receiving valuable techniques and strategies that actually make a difference.

The activities would be based on real-life examples prepared with information supplied by the organisation beforehand. Briefs would be sent out to participants prior to the session and all attendees would be encouraged to play a part in the Business Simulation with everyone receiving personalised advice and feedback.

'Lunch & Learn' saves you the money, time and hassle of normal training whilst you maintain business as usual and your people are getting the added motivational benefit of learning new skills or refreshing old ones without the added pressure of having to catch up on their work-load afterwards!

If you would like to find out how 'Lunch & Learn' could benefit your organisation, please contact us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Good Is Your Succession Planning?

Many organisations talk about succession planning (SP), a large majority simply work to an annual appraisal with added ‘widgets’.

Below we provide a best practice guide to real succession planning:

  1. Effective SP cannot operate in a people development vacuum. Make sure you have effective performance management and appraisals, people development plans and effective feedback loops.
  2. You will also need coherent transparency around role classification practices; including job descriptions, competency profiles aligned to grading, pay scales etc.
  3. The previous two points create an SP platform on which to build career structures. The old metaphor of career ladders we believe now doesn’t apply. A ladder implies linear progression, hopefully upwards. Careers aren’t like that anymore, they are more like crazy paved mazes going sideways, often moving in a discontinuous fashion.
  4. Good SP reflects this, not developing people for fixed, hierarchically determined roles, but developing capabilities and experience to meet strategic requirements.
  5. Coaching cultures are better at SP than didactic, command and control ones because there is an open, learning relationship between boss and subordinate. This facilitates higher quality conversations about the future peoples’ real ambitions.
  6. A clear transparent taxonomy needs to be created that, as neutrally as possible, positions people not relative to each other but in relation to the required (high) standard. Someone who is labelled as ‘one to watch’ needs to really understand what that means, what they did to earn that label and what they have to do to keep it. The same needs to apply in the opposite way to someone who didn’t achieve the distinction.
  7. Remember the first thing someone will want to do on acquiring an SP classification is seek affirmation through relative comparison. Who else has the same label? Who has achieved a better/worse label? For the process to have credibility and ‘bite’ it has to really mean something. If there is little or no differentiation, if ‘face fitting’ or experience moves you faster, if there is any form of inappropriate discrimination then SP will be viewed with contempt. It can’t please everyone, but it can be seen to have integrity and be fair minded.
  8. Make it a closed loop feedback system. People need regular progress updates to stay informed. People need to know they are off track as much as on track.
  9. Set clear objectives linked to a clear milestone plan.

Why Are Some Organisations Still Struggling With CRM Adoption?

Given database ubiquity and technology literacy you would think sales organisations are now fully up to speed with their CRM. Below we give the most common reasons why some sales organisations are still behind the curve.

  1. History: Under previous management decisions were made that have either been difficult to unwind or have taken the organisation down a blind alley.
  2. Legacy systems: This can be to do with point 1 although there are still businesses in autumn 2010 that are still making legacy based decisions that will give them problems of functionality and scalability in the near future.
  3. Cost: Might be connected to the previous point, but sometimes simply driven by a lack of understanding in the profound and structural change technology is having on the customer/sales interface.
  4. Make not buy: Do not build your own unique thing. It is unsustainable and too expensive to change. Those that have are now scratching their heads.
  5. Previous bad choices: Selecting something that didn’t work very well that has killed the small amount of motivation and goodwill that was there beforehand.
  6. Salespeople are highly adaptive: In the absence of anything they will create something. Their own database, spreadsheet or diary system. At the single user level these can be quite sophisticated. They don’t want to give them up, they complain bitterly about how the new system isn’t as good as their own.
  7. Ignoring the holy trinity of field force technology adoption:
    - Connectivity first. People have to be able to log on easily, quickly and from anywhere.
    - Reliability second. The connection has to be robust, reasonably fast and always on.
    - Functionality third. It has to do what is says on the tin.
    It doesn’t matter how good it is in theory. If people can’t use it or stay on it without any effort they simply won’t use it.
  8. The CRM has to align with the sales process and workflow: Single entry inputting, real time, single view of the customer, and data integrity. All critical not optional requirements.
  9. Proper training with follow up coaching supported by the right hardware.
  10. Mandatory usage requirement: No double running systems, opt outs or discretion. Negative consequences for those that don’t align with the new ways of working.
Note: This isn’t a 'majority will do' list. All need to be present for take up to work.

We Are At A Personal Technology Inflection Point – The Future Has Arrived (Again)

We have arrived at something of a Strategic Inflection Point. The internet now delivers sufficient bandwidth and ease of access to provide the web content we really want. Netflix, the US film rental business, has just announced it is now a film streaming business. It’s already responsible for 26% of used bandwidth in the US. And now Internet TV is about to explode with Sony launching Google TV before Christmas.

We are now encouraged to have only ‘immersive experiences’ through 3D TV and full body gaming led by the Wii, now being taken forward by Microsoft and Sony with their own Xbox and PS3 versions.

Facebook growth shows its commercial potential is several years ahead of where Google was at the same time in its journey, suggesting Facebook could be bigger than Google. We have only just begun to understand what Mr Zuckerberg plans to do with all our personal data.
LinkedIn has become the business network for many organisations and individuals. Some people use it as their primary career move tool.

Generation Y adults, those who can’t remember a pre-Internet world, are using communication in new ways, younger members now viewing email as the ‘old persons’ preferred choice. They would rather not eat than lose connectivity.

The old ‘dead trees’ print media has realised it has got to be more creative than just replicate its newspapers on-line. Murdoch is trying to sell premium content behind a pay wall, early evidence is not encouraging. The Guardian is committed to providing free access to a much wider and deeper resource than the newspaper, which is increasingly looking like a daily printed digest of yesterday’s best stuff. The Daily Mail web site is going gangbusters since it morphed into a celebrity gossip column with lots of papped pics.

Three very different positioning models, all searching for the post printed future
At the other end of the scale McKinsey, the strategy consultancy, announced last week they are scrapping premium membership of their Quarterly print book, replacing it with a simple registration model. They believe getting their ‘intellectual capital out there’ is more important than protecting a relatively small revenue stream.

Amazon announces the Kindle e-reader is their biggest selling product with analysts predicting it making more than a $1.5bn contribution next year. Bet your house the McKinsey Quarterly will be purchasable on Kindle.

The other obvious ‘A’ listed organisation shaking things up is Apple. Through inventing whole new device categories and reinventing others, they have become more valuable than Microsoft. They brilliantly connect with our unarticulated needs, tapping into brand new revenue streams.

This brings us to the mobile phone. Smart phones are taking the world by storm, following exactly the same adoption pattern as the phone itself, which started as a converted business tool, twenty years later being more ubiquitous than any other electronic device. Smart phones will be the same. Small powerful computers, with location based services, linked in real time to several personal networks, used for communication, (voice, visual and written), entertainment, payments and access control.

The business opportunities are significant; however the chance of your business model being ripped away from you is also significant!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moving Motivational Ability Up The Agenda

These days most managers say they are familiar with the seminal motivation models, whether that’s Maslow or Herzberg, Expectancy Theory or Intrinsic Motivation.

That being the case why is it common to find a large minority of people in any organisation below even an average level of motivation? Is that just a standard distribution curve no organisation can escape from or is it more a comment on the quality of motivation application from the majority of managers?

When we work on designing a Management Development Centre we always include something to bring out motivational ability (or not). Being a bad motivator is something no self respecting manager would admit to, so it’s interesting to see how many managers don’t have any vocabulary for talking about how they go about doing it. When we ask the question the most common reaction is to drag up some half remembered theory (see top of article) from a training course long ago attended. Practical application seems rare. And it’s very unusual to see motivation on a management meeting agenda apart from when approached financially with something about incentive schemes.

Here’s our quick check list to get motivation properly focused on:
  • Make sure you (really) understand the theory. Recap, relearn to study from scratch.
  • Nail the difference between needs and drives. Its needs that stimulate drives, not the other way round. (Needs being a proxy for wants, hopes and desires as well as real needs).
  • Think about what motivates you. There is a connection here, the more self aware you are, the more sensitive you become in understanding other peoples’ motivation.
  • Don’t be reductive. Motivation is more complicated than just applying a carrot or stick.
  • Personalise. The most effective motivation strategies are designed for individuals not teams or functions.
  • Don’t ask people what motivates them, because either they don’t know, or they’ll make something up, or they will try to intuit the answer you’re looking for. Work out what motivates people by taking the time to get to know them. Remember all behaviour is goal directed at the conscious or unconscious level. People reveal so much through how they behave. Become a great observer of people.
  • Motivation is highly situational, the more context you have the more informed your insights will be.
  • Run a session on motivation at your next meeting, talk about how improvement strategies could be adopted.
If you would like to work with Predaptive on improving the overall quality of your mangers’ motivation skills contact us.

Why Family Is Bad For Business

What descriptor do you use to describe the people who work in your organisation? Employees, workers, staff, group, team, family? Or do you stick with the literal, neutral term and call them – people?

The term that is most dangerous to use is family, and not because of its alliterative relation, happy. When an organisation talks about its people as a family it thinks its doing the right thing, focusing on being inclusive and supportive through demonstrating a collective set of cultural norms. We think it’s an incorrect metaphor for two reasons:
  • Family membership (by blood) is never a choice and family membership by marriage can be fraught with difficulties. You cannot appoint family members, nor can you withdraw family status. Trying saying to a sibling we cannot afford you must leave the family, never to return. Or explaining how the families changing vision means a particular family members’ skills are now ‘non-core’
  • The other reason is one of hierarchy. One of the pleasures of being in a functional family is everybody knows their place. Who is in charge, where we all go for Christmas, who makes key decisions etc. That’s why the opposite of a functional family is so awful; when families fight for position, try to usurp someone’s position, not make allowances for a tradition that has become the norm. This kind of ritualised behaviour in organisations can be really dangerous.
Here is a word to try on your organisation. Describe the people as a community. A high-functioning organisation will be effective in delivering the three dimensions of community:
  • Place - This is likely to be physical space(s), and certainly will be different virtual spaces (email, phones, web etc)
  • Interests - People who engage in similar work with similar skills and expertise. People who work with the same customers and get passionate about the same products and who want to achieve similar standards of excellence.
  • Belonging - Shared corporate values a common vision and some close personal relationships.
Membership of this community is highly conditional. There are standards of performance and behaviour that are non- negotiable, people are allowed in but it takes a while for them to become fully accepted. The community will fight to support someone who remains true to the community ethos but will expel people who let the community down.

How credible would you sound in describing (in an organisational-wide session) that we are a community?

Predaptive works on building employee engagement (which bolsters community spirit). For more information contact us.

Using Appreciative Inquiry- The Positive Way To Deal With Difficult Change

How do you get a group working in a high functioning state without going into the common spiral of overdosing on problem diagnosis and failing to get to any agreed resolution?

One way might be to use the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach. This whole system approach came out of the US in the 1980s, becoming an effective organisational tool that focuses on what works and making better rather than what is failing.

AI is a constructive method for understanding what we can take from the existing organisation/working practice that’s good/works well, and how we can build on it with our version of what we are trying to achieve, what the architecture looks like and finally, how we might make it happen? The four stages are:
  1. DISCOVERING: Identifying the organisational processes that work well.
  2. DREAMING: Envisioning processes and practices that would work well in the future.
  3. DESIGNING: Planning and prioritizing those processes in a workable form.
  4. DELIVERING: Implementation of the new proposed design.
By focusing on what works, and by creasing conscious competence, teams and organisations can build real momentum around scalable new ways of working. It also works well for developing best practice norms and standards.

A challenge for AI can be engaging with people who are locked into a remedial, negative approach to problem solving. People who believe there is little or any merit their organisation or team does that can be modelled positively; they simply want to have reductive, whinging conversations. In really serious cases this mental model can have solidified into a cultural norm, sometimes infecting large teams, even whole divisions.

We use a concept we call breakthrough AI – where if we can get a senior team thinking differently, who can view the future positively, who can show (at least) a little leadership can be a breath of fresh air and can quickly start to change the collective mind-set.

If you would like to find out more about using AI techniques in your organisation please contact us.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why Working With Demanding Customers Is The Best Thing You Can Do

Think about your most important customers; think about the ones you enjoy working most with. Think about why you enjoy working with them – they're nice people, you make good money from them, they pay up on time, they are low maintenance, they’re compliant. Sound familiar?

All the above reasons are perfectly valid in terms of why you might like working with particular key customers, but the most important reason isn’t in the list. We enjoy working with them because they are very demanding, they stretch and develop us in ways no other customer does.
  • There is a lot on evidence that shows why working with demanding customers pays off:
  • They drive your product development to go at a faster pace
  • They force you into making difficult choices and tough decisions
  • They improve your customer service levels
  • They increase your peoples’ confidence when they achieve “the impossible”
  • They ‘prove’ new value propositions you can sell elsewhere
  • They get you thinking why, not, why not.....
  • They encourage new thinking and challenge your company’s self-imposed orthodoxies
  • They improve your selling/negotiation/key account skills
  • They act as a reference site for you to leverage new work from
  • Their early adopter status creates a pull-though momentum that more conservative companies follow.
Not having any demanding, challenging customers is as dangerous as having some is beneficial. This isn’t about size, a large undemanding customer can create a real sense of complacency, and the smaller customer that puts you under pressure to constantly come up with something better/different keeps your thinking sharp and your reflexes sharper.

In some organisations we see people complain about having a demanding customer, they are ‘hard work, difficult, never satisfied’. Give this person a talking to; reorientate them to understand this might be the customer that delivers this person’s future.

Structured Training helps organisations create account and engagement strategies for the most demanding customers. To find out more talk to us.

Role-plays – Love Them Or Loathe Them?

Are role-plays still a valid part of the learning process?

The dreaded role-play! When most people find out that they’re required to do a role-play as part of a training course they groan ‘oh no, do we have to?’ especially when it’s in front of their peers. Most would willingly trade the role-play for a five thousand word essay which is arguably more arduous and less beneficial. Why does the thought of doing a role-play have this effect?
  1. They’re artificial – not like real life, so you don’t behave the same way and don’t give a true account of yourself
  2. The high probability that you will make a mistake under pressure and look foolish or incompetent in front of your colleagues
  3. The embarrassment of being put ‘on the spot’ and not knowing how to respond or ‘freezing’ at the crucial moment
  4. Knowing that you are going to get ‘feedback’ which will inevitably include some criticism or areas that ‘require improvement’
Having been on both sides of innumerable role-plays over the last 25 years – we know they can play a vital part in the learning process. We get surprising feedback ourselves from people who, afterwards say that the role-play was the highlight of the session and the section from which they learnt the most important lessons about themselves.

So how do we ensure that use of role-play has maximum benefit for the participant with minimum cringe factor?

Make them Realistic - do research on the background and context for the role-play; include appropriate technical details, style of language and genuine issues.

Make them Relevant - take examples of activities the participant will face in their job role – and get their input on the context e.g. Handling Complaints, Conducting Performance Reviews, Dealing With Objections, Making Presentations, Selection Interviews etc.

Make them Safe - talk about the methodology you are going to use, and that they can stop, rewind, and try again at any stage, it’s a chance to learn from their mistakes; after all, it’s better to make mistakes amongst your peers than in front of your customers.

Make them Structured - provide a framework with some kind of rationale or logic to the order of events and enough flexibility to adapt to the individual; and explain the criteria for the feedback and how it is designed to help.

Role-plays can be challenging, thought-provoking and fun ways to draw out and develop participants’ interpersonal skills – for further information on how to design and deliver successful role-plays contact us.

Course Of The Month - Winning Business By Telephone

Sales teams are under pressure to deliver strong results in a patchy economy. At times like this every customer contact counts, and every opportunity needs to be capitalised upon. Internal sales teams, sales support teams and customer service teams can make a real difference to the sales effort.

With some additional skills, techniques and confidence internal teams can make a major contribution, uncovering new opportunities, arranging customer meetings and maximising customer spend as well as ensuring satisfaction and loyalty.

Structured Training’s course, Winning Business By Telephone, is a cost effective way to boost your sales, enhance team morale and improve retention. For a team of twelve the per head training rate falls well below £200 and with just one day away from the office your internal team can be delivering better results immediately.

Winning Business By Telephone

In-Company Course Overview

This course is also delivered as an open course. Click here for details.

This telephone selling skills course uses interactive tutorials and role plays to develop the self confidence, skills and belief required to proactively sell products or services over the telephone. It will develop an understanding of the sales process, how to deal with objections and then gain commitment to buy. Participants will leave the course having the confidence and skills required to deal with complaints and difficult situations.

Who Should Attend
People who need to develop their sales skills on the telephone, build better relationships with customers, and more effectively promote products or services by telephone. This course will also prove valuable to experienced salespeople who wish to improve their telephone selling skills. It is appropriate for people dealing with in-bound and out-bound telephone calls.

Course Objectives
After attending this sales training course, participants will have the ability to:
  • Transmit to the customer a feeling of interest and attentiveness
  • Be confident when dealing with price and delivery enquiries
  • Build rapport with customers, so the customers keep phoning back
  • Keep control of the conversation
  • Handle complaints and difficult situations professionally
  • Make and take effective sales calls
  • Handle objections and gain commitment to proceed
  • Structure a sales call for maximum results
  • Enhance the reputation of their organisation through the application of successful telephone techniques.
Course Programme

Essential Telephone Skills
Conveying enthusiasm and commitment
Using your voice as a business builder
Transmitting a 'can-do' attitude

Understanding What Motivates Customers To Buy
Viewing your product or service from the customers' perspective
Adapting your style to meet the customers' needs
Making the most of E-mail enquiries

Controlling An Inbound Call
Asking questions to understand your customer
Understanding what gets in the way of communication
Utilising complaints as an opportunity to build loyalty

Making An Outbound Call
Planning - preparing to succeed
Structuring the call to gain attention and meet your objectives
Making the most of switchboards, assistants and voicemail

Managing The Sale
Selling benefits - putting products and services into customers' language
Handling objections and obstacles professionally
Gaining customer commitment

Building New Business
Targeting new sales opportunities
Sourcing prospect information on the Internet
Making appointments for yourself and others

Staying Sharp On The Telephone
How to identify 'performance lag'
Keeping yourself motivated
Asking for and using feedback to improve your performance

To see how this sales training course can help you to proactively sell products or services over the telephone or to talk through your requirements, including tailoring this course to suit your exact needs, please contact us.

All In The Family

The political pages are full of talk of sibling rivalry, inter-family conflict and the psychological damage that family members can do to each other in work situations. Ed winning the Labour Party leadership over his older brother David looked unlikely back in the spring, but it’s a reality now.

The big decision the brothers’ face now is whether David will stay on as a cabinet member and support his brother using his experience, influence and intellect on his behalf, or step back from the shadow cabinet to defuse any speculation about conflict and set about developing a new career of his own away from that particular limelight.

Thousands of miles away Kim Jong-il has just appointed his son Kim Jong-un as a general, a move that’s probably designed to signpost a transfer of power. There are other disappointed (and possibly embittered) sons, sisters and brothers-in-law in the background, but without a free press we won’t see hundreds of pictures of them and be invited to interpret their facial expressions.

When family members work together there’s plenty more going on psychologically than in ordinary working relationships. The emotions in play can be far more intense and the stakes are different.

One family member who maybe doesn’t work as hard as others is no big deal in a family who have different professions in different organisations, there may be some grumblings about a lazy kid sister but it has no major impact on the day to day lives of all the family members. If one sister is focused on amassing a fortune ready for an early retirement to a Florida villa, whilst another is busy creating a nice nest egg to help her children gain a good education and get on the housing ladder, and a brother is busy spending everything he earns (and a little more) to enjoy the life he has right now then there may be a few snide remarks at Christmas, but they’ll likely get along fine.

When those different objectives exist within a family business, and family members have varying visions of where that business is going and what the key objective is, then emotions tend to run high and the resultant conflict is just as likely to be destructive as positive.

Predaptive has worked with a wide range of family businesses over the last decade, helping them to be clear about the business goals and work more effectively together as a committed team as well as a functional family. If you’d like to learn more about how Predaptive could help your family business to succeed on its own terms then contact us.

What Is The Most Effective Learning Style – ‘One To One’ Or In Groups?

Surely the answer to this is the same as the answer to any other complex issue – ‘it depends’. Historically we view learning from our experience of childhood education and classrooms of thirty or so children with varying abilities and backgrounds miraculously taking on-board literacy, numeracy, science, the arts and plenty more. This can be either incredibly stimulating or a complete nightmare for us as students in the preparation for our lives ahead in work and at play.

Most of us have had limited experience of one-to-one teaching; where we’ve been ‘singled’ out for attention or for ‘special’ requirements like learning a musical instrument. These can be very trying circumstances; intensive focus on very specific requirements with no-one else to share the attention and nowhere to hide!

Today, however, more people are looking at one-to-one coaching, for example, as a way to get specific skills honed in a style that is bespoke to our individual requirements. We all remember some words of wisdom we received from someone we looked up to as a mentor or role model that gave us that individual focus and helped at a crucial stage in our development.

There are more opportunities today to look at different learning methodologies and chose those that best suit our needs. Here are some of the key areas that should be considered when choosing between Group or One-to-One learning:

Specific or Generic
How widely spread is the skills and knowledge required? How similar is the application to other related work environments? How easily transferable are the techniques needed?

Tailored or Off-the-Peg
To what extent does the learning and material need to be adapted for its application? How bespoke does the ‘fit’ need to be for the desired effect? Is there a ready-made solution available?

Simple, Complex or Subtle
Even complex subjects can be learnt in groups but sometimes where the distinctions are more subtle than complicated, a one-to-one approach ensures better understanding.

Learning Styles
Some individuals thrive in group activities whilst others find it easier to take on information without distractions or the need to compete for attention.

Cost v Investment
What is the budget available? Does it include the costs of premises, equipment, travel and accommodation? How much time is ‘lost’? What is the ROI expected and what is the most effective way to achieve it?

For more guidance on tailoring your personal development plans speak to us.

What We’re Watching: The Wire

Management consultants and leadership gurus often spend a lot of time looking for inspirational leaders and models of managerial success with which they can inspire people.

It’s become almost a cliché to draw examples from the military and sports. Those examples are often filled with products of private education and great universities, excluding individuals from more diverse backgrounds, or adding them in as ‘exceptions that prove the rule’.

The Wire offers up a variety of perspectives on leadership, management, vision, values and goals. None of them are particularly attractive, but the contrasts between them are instructive.

The show focuses largely on the drug trade in Baltimore. We’re introduced to the harsh realities of life in a criminal gang, with strong leadership, high risks and rewards, brutal performance management and a focus on delivering financial results. Yet even in this world we see conflicts around values and goals – Is market share as important as sustainable profitability? Is some competition healthy? Does co-operation with competitors create long term security of income? These conflicts tend to lead to murder rather than a board room spat, which does draw them into sharp focus.

More interesting challenges appear when the drug trade intersects with law enforcement, the school system, local politics and the media. The need to produce quick results and TV friendly statistics pulls against the need to actually make things better for the long term. Every Sales Director can relate to the struggle between working to produce solid, sustainable revenue, and having something good in the forecast for next quarter.

We don’t recommend that you adopt the leadership and management practices you’ll see in The Wire, but it is a great way to explore how different approaches work and the benefits and limitations of each.

Great leaders and ruthlessly effective management don’t always put their efforts into the greater good.