Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How To Keep Your Team Motivated

It's a long-standing concern in every business: how do you keep your employees motivated to be creative and effective, day in, and day out?  It's not hard, but it is a recipe.  Like any recipe, without any of the ingredients it won't work out.


AUTONOMY: Employees list autonomy as the top wish in their work lives, and it's what managers
fear the most.  When employees make their own decisions without going up the chain of command, they feel respected and empowered.  They also make mistakes, which make managers aggravated, and more likely to micromanage.  Where ever possible, step back and let your team make their own decisions.  If you have educated them thoroughly on the goals of the department and the company, their creativity and effectiveness will flourish.

POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT: Employees with positive relationships with co-workers are more productive, and remain in jobs substantially longer than those who list their workplace as "challenging" or list co-workers as "difficult."  A positive tone starts at the top.  Do not complain, whine, gossip, or lose your temper at work.  When others are doing it, shut it down.  Greet people with a smile, and use their name.  It works.

TRUST IN MANAGEMENT: If your managers to treat employees fairly, ask them to perform only professional duties, and take an interest in each employee's goals, trust will be built.  Each member of the organization wants to be recognized as a human being, and a quality professional.  Transparency in management and decision-making show employees that management means what they say, and does what they say. Avoid secrecy whenever possible.

APPRECIATION: Celebrate little things, like improvement on filing timely paperwork, successfully overcoming a brutal deadline, or no absences for a week after the flu tears through the office. Recognizing these moments reminds everyone that work gets done by people working together.  If there is nothing to celebrate, bring in lunch for the team to thank them for working hard in a tough environment, and sit with them while they relax and eat.  If the whole team needs to step up their performance, institute a meaningful reward for the "most improved performance."  Talk about the achievements publicly in glowing terms, and manage failures quietly in private.

FAIR COMPENSATION:  If your organization docks pay for a variety of "infractions," multiple studies show this destroys both trust and morale.  Find another way to enforce your rules.  Pay your people as well as you can and remain competitive.  Once you've helped develop their skills, you don't want them moving on to the competition for a paycheck!  Now your investment is working against you!

COMMON CAUSE:  Share successes with the entire team.  If you sign a big contract, increase your profit margin, grow your company, or any other good news, let everyone know that their teamwork was integral to the achievement of the goal.  

If you work in an environment where all of these ingredients are present, you're probably happy to go to work every day.  If you don't, you're probably looking to change jobs.  What are your employees thinking?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The 5 "E"s Will Close More Business

Quite often I mention how important it is to have an agenda for every client interaction.  The five "E"s are a great example.  They are the groundwork for every client interaction, and after each meeting, I write down the notes relating to them. There is no script, but there is always a plan.

Energize yourself, your presentation, your materials, and because of that, your meeting.  You don't need cheerleader-level spunk, but it needs to be clear that you're happy to meet with your client, and that you're paying close attention to the conversation.  Don't ask your client to repeat themselves if you can possibly avoid it!

Encourage the client to share long and short term goals for themselves or their company (depending on which is the customer.)  Goals are why people buy. They want a hole, not a drill. Make sure you know what their goals are, because it tells you what to sell them, and how.

Educate the client about how your product will meet their goals.  If your product makes beautiful holes quickly, talk about holes.  Talk about product reliability in terms of "security in hole-making for years to come." Answer questions about the product, but don't drone on
like an infomercial!  The client cares about reaching their goal, and moving on to the next one.

Engage the customer on a human level by dropping the jargon as much as possible.  Say "hassle" instead of "impediment," or any other opportunity to humanize the conversation.  Talk to people like they're people. Jargon is necessary in most businesses some of the time. Humanity is necessary all of the time.

Empower your customer to reach their goals by supplying only the right products, always at the right price.  If you over-sell, you will probably not earn repeat business.  Your client will have an unrealistic impression of the cost and complexity of your solution.  If you under-sell, your customer won't reach their goal.  And if you overcharge, they will find out at some point.  Not only will repeat business be in jeopardy, your reputation may be as well.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

You Say You're In A Slump?

In sales, like all things, our performance is inconsistent.  Even the best, most solid of us have times where we perform below normal, and even the worst of us sometimes perform magnificently.  What gives?  Luck.  Really!

Let's think about the biggest reason it might not be your fault: statistics. Every time you flip a fair coin, the chance of it coming up heads is 50%, because that's the number of possible outcomes, or 1 over 2.  (You'll never get both results from a single flip.)  If you flip 5 heads in a row, the chance you'll flip a heads on your next toss is still 1 in 2, because the coin still has two sides.  (There is a human tendency to think the results of the previous flips will change the odds, but it really doesn't work that way!  Learn more here: The Gambler's Fallacy.)  How can that help us in sales?

Statistics tell us that stretches of positive outcomes and stretches of negative outcomes will happen.  The reason this is good news is that if you haven't closed much lately, the odds are reset to normal every time we knock on a prospect's door. You're no more likely to have a negative outcome if you're in a "slump" than if you were on a "winning streak" if all other things are equal.  It's just like the coin flips - the previous sales call has no effect on the next sales call.  (We're still assuming you are not suddenly less capable and talented, you're just in an unusual patch of bad luck.)

But sometimes it's hard not to let self-doubt creep in.  After several unsuccessful sales calls in a row, we begin to dread adding another failed sale to the list.  What's a nervous sales pro to do?  Snap out of it!  Dread will put you an a frame of mind that "primes" you to expect defeat.  Your language and tone of voice change, and your customer will quickly lose confidence in you and the product. If you psych yourself out, you will be the problem.

Instead, run through a checklist of the information you need to convey before you meet with your customer.  Review any goals the customer is trying to achieve.  If you don't know their goals, make sure you plan to learn them.  Doing this will remind you that you do, in fact know what you're doing, and are properly prepared.  Then, go into your meeting with confidence that you can help your customer achieve their goals by buying your product.

Still feeling a little nervous?  Play your stereo loudly and sing along to an upbeat song.  Studies show this increases mood and confidence, even if you're a lousy singer! Remember how well you did in closing a few difficult deals, and how good you are at helping customers achieve their goals.  Positive visualizations and self-talk are also backed by science as mood-lifters and performance-enhancers.  Calm down, cheer up, and go get 'em!

If your slump is, in fact due to some problem on your part, it will become clear soon enough.  Each sale will break down in the same place, or you'll be defeated by the same objection over and over. That problem is easier to fix - you can pinpoint the problem and train yourself accordingly!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Selling Against A Lower Price: How To Win The Sale

"I can get it from XYZ Corp for 8% less.  Can you meet their price?"  We hear it far more often than we'd like.  What's a sales pro to do?

Your manager would say, "You haven't adequately sold the value of the product."  To some extent that's true (it helps them meet their goals), but we all know there are some people who will always buy on price, no matter what. What do you say to them?

"I never worry about my competitor's lower price; they must know what their stuff is worth.  What my product is worth is $X.  My product meets your goals of  A and B.  How many would you like?"  With this response, the competition is minimized, and you're back on track.  There is nothing your customer can say to this approach that will shake your explanation of the price differential.  All you need to do is take the order.  They may talk about budget, giving you an opportunity to discuss payment arrangements.  Don't sell on price.  You'll lose.

When your customer makes your competitor a topic of conversation, you need to change the focus back to your customer's goals and how your product helps to achieve them.  You're not an expert on the competitor, and even if by some chance you are, it isn't what you need to discuss to sell your product.  Nobody's goal is to have a 1/4" drill bit - the goal is to have 1/4" hole.  Stop talking about the tool, and start talking about the goal.

This "They must know what their stuff is worth" approach can easily be overdone and beaten to death.  When you say it, say it once, clearly, and then drop it.  You're not bad-mouthing with this approach, you're stating a fact.  If you are perceived as talking trash about the competition, your reputation and your sales are quickly going to be in trouble. Keep the focus on achieving goals, and close our sale. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Drunk, Yelling Mexican Men Are...

Before the Stomach Bug
My husband and I went to Mexico for our honeymoon. It was great, at first.  Then Dave came down with a stomach bug which made him feverish, nauseated, and weak.  I stayed with him all day until he finally fell into a peaceful sleep at about 10:15pm, and then went to the restaurant in the hotel.  It was closed.  I hadn't eaten all day because Dave was sick, and I was starved!  A helpful desk clerk mentioned that the bar/cafe across the square was open.

The square was quiet.  Two men shared a park bench with a radio.  I walked over to the cafe, went in, and ordered in broken Spanish.  Before my food came, a very drunk Mexican man tried to buy me a beer.  I couldn't understand his words, but I got the gist from his hand gestures.  He was well dressed, and a happy drunk, but I found it unsettling.  Maybe I'd take that food to go.  His friend came over and apologized in English, and also offered to buy me a drink.  Where was my food?! 15 minutes passed.

The noise level in the cafe grew.  It had floor-to-ceiling windows that opened on to the street.  I looked out on to the square to see it had suddenly filled with young men waving flags and shouting. Then men in the restaurant also started shouting.  I realized I was the only woman in the place.  I was very uncomfortable, and seriously considering leaving without my food, but I was no more excited about crossing the square alone.

The gentleman who had spoken in English to me earlier came over again.  "Miss, you are afraid, no? Be calm.  Our favorite soccer team has won the championship just now.  We are celebrating!  Have a beer!"  

I laughed at myself.  I looked out at the square, and now saw a community celebrating a soccer win. Young men hoisted flags high and circled the square on motorbikes, girlfriends clinging to them in the rear seat.  The young men were all wearing some version of the soccer uniform.  The men in the cafe were toasting, dancing, and buying one another drinks. And my waiter was celebrating with them.  It was wonderful!  I'm delighted to have seen it.

Drunk, yelling Mexican men are great.  I had a blast watching the celebration. I was sorry Dave missed it.  I also realized how silly it was of me to assume I was in danger.Watching them dance and drink, wave flags and ride motorbikes, I realized how important it is to understand what is being communicated to you.  I vowed to become a better listener and communicator.  And I think of that night when I'm working. Things are not always as they seem, and they are often much, much better! I need to ask the right questions, and listen carefully to the answers.  There could be something to celebrate!
The Square In The Daytime