Managing Meetings

It is the time of year where most sales people will be focusing on how they are going to achieve their objectives for 2008. We often prepare for meetings thinking only about our own goals and objectives; what we want to achieve from the meeting or presentation.

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A technique that can be particularly useful in preparing effectively before a meeting is called ‘Perceptual Positions’ It is a process that enables you to think from a wider perspective about the forthcoming meeting to improve your chances of a successful outcome that deepens the sales relationship you have with the prospect or client.
Perceptual Positions

  1. Think about the meeting and what you want to achieve from it: what are your goals and objectives as the sales person responsible for this deal?
  2. Now imagine that you are the prospect and think about the meeting from their perspective. They are giving you some of their time – what are their priorities and challenges, what might be going on that will impact their focus in the meeting, what do they want to get out of this meeting with you? The key to success at this stage of the process is to think as if you are the prospect; use “I” rather than “they”
  3. Now imagine that you are a ‘fly on the wall’ in the meeting. From this detached perspective you can see both you (the sales person) and the prospect in the meeting. From this perspective, what do you notice? How is the meeting going? How is the prospect reacting and interacting? What advice would you give the sales person to help from this perspective?
  4. Finally, go back to your own perspective (1st position) and review what you have learnt. You may need to adjust or re-assess your initial thoughts and objectives for the meeting in order to take account of the other person.
This simple process takes 2 minutes before you go into a meeting. Whilst you are only ‘mind-reading’ the client in the 2nd and 3rd position it is a useful tool to encourage greater empathy with them which will result in a deeper sales relationship.

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To help you increase your sales speed to competence our Selling…The Essentials For Success will help you add value to the customers business and create solutions that make a real difference.

Personal Effectiveness

As a Field Sales Manager, it will be part of your job to delegate in order to achieve your targets. As we know, not all sales people naturally make good managers. Here are some hints and tips to get you on your way!

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  • Utilise the essential organisation tools diary/personal organiser, customer and prospect ‘records’, maps, territory plan and all appropriate sales aids
  • Plan your sales territory based on achieving optimum use of selling time, maximum coverage and greatest penetration of potential
  • Plan your day by starting at the same or earlier time every day, avoiding unnecessary disruptions and by a disciplined operation of your journey plan
  • Make a daily list and prioritise – must be done should be done or could be done
  • Schedule the ‘musts’ for the time when you know you are mentally at your most capable (usually am)
  • Allocate time for each priority and include ‘time to think’
  • Research and qualify your prospects
  • Make appointments and keep all records up to date
  • Organise and prepare yourself fully before every call, never ever resorting to playing it ‘off the cuff’
  • Keep up to date with all changes and developments relative to your product, your company, your customers and your prospects

Our Operational Sales Management course will give you the fundamentals of sales management excellence.

Do, Review, Conclude and Plan

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford are best known for their definitions of learning styles. Knowing your learning style can also help avoid repeating mistakes by undertaking activities that strengthen other styles, for example, if you tend to “jump in at the deep end”, consider spending time reflecting on experiences before taking action. Below are definitions of each Honey and Mumford learning style. Do you think you can tick all the boxes of one or are a combination of styles?

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Activists: (Do)

  • Immerse themselves fully in new experiences
  • Enjoy here and now
  • Open minded, enthusiastic, flexible
  • Act first, consider consequences later
  • Seek to centre activity around themselves

Reflectors (Review)

  • Stand back and observe
  • Cautious, take a back seat
  • Collect and analyse data about experience and events, slow to reach conclusions
  • Use information from past, present and immediate observations to maintain a big picture perspective

Theorists (Conclude)

  • Think through problems in a logical manner, value rationality and objectivity
  • Assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories
  • Disciplined, aiming to fit things into rational order
  • Keen on basic assumptions, principles, theories, models and systems thinking

Pragmatists (Plan)

  • Keen to put ideas, theories and techniques into practice
  • Search new ideas and experiment
  • Act quickly and confidently on ideas, gets straight to the point
  • Are impatient and endless with discussion

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Structured Training understands the theories behind adult learning and practices different techniques to engage the learner, whatever their learning style(s)! For further information please contact us.

Using Assessment/Development Centres (ADCs) To Improve Performance

It’s no coincidence that sales excellence and the use of ADCs are highly correlated.
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First a quick definition. An ADC is an event which utilises a range of interventions to identify the degree to which prospective candidates display the competencies and behaviours required for a particular role. Typically an Assessment Centre will include ability testing, case studies, group activities, interviews, presentations, psychometric testing (we use our own proprietary, certified instrument, containing the normative data of over 10,000 salespeople), role play simulation, and written exercises.

A Development Centre assumes the people are fit for current role, but would benefit from further development. Here, the output isn’t a role offer but a personalized development plan. Both require a pool of candidates to make work.

The motivations for running Assessment and Development centers should never be confused. The worse example being of running an Assessment Centre under the guise of Development.

Why are they a proxy for sales excellence? Because the running of ADCs shows the organisation has the following in place:

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  1. A clear set of role definitions with related KPIs
  2. A supporting set of role competencies
  3. A candidate profile
  4. Articulated organisational values
  5. A clear vision and corporate strategy
  6. A sales strategy
  7. Mapped sales processes and related organisation charts
  8. An exemplar of the role in question.
  9. An effective Performance Management System ( including Personal Development Plans)
  10. A proper budget for building people capabilities

These ten points show a sales organisation that knows what it is trying to do, obviously at the output level (results), but as importantly at the input level (the things that drive success).

The biggest obstacle we see in their use is money. The first one is costly to run because of the heavy design requirement. Even then the per person cost to put somebody through one (depending on numbers) will be in 4 figures. But this misses the point. Look at the benefit list of running ADCs:

  1. Much higher success rates in appointing high(er) quality candidates that ‘stick’ to the organisation for longer. This single point alone can save many sales organisations tens of thousands of pounds per annum.
  2. Faster speed to competence.
  3. Improved loyalty because of higher engagement. People like to see organisations taking their recruitment, selection and development seriously.
  4. A constant deepening of the intellectual capital around what makes a successful salesperson, which feeds into later ADCs, creating an even stronger sense of what constitutes sales best practice.

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We run ADCs for a selection of high performing organisations. For a no obligation chat about how they could help your organisation please contact us.

Speed To Competence – No Faster Way To Impact Results

Think of a new sales appointment. How quickly will they be able to reach the minimum level of productivity and results you require to constitute their appointment a success?
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Visualise a simple x/y diagram. The vertical axis represents performance the horizontal, time. Draw a notional line that sows the minimum level of performance required over their first 12 months. The line will quickly move from zero to target performance. How much time is covered to make that journey? 3/6/9 months? Longer? What will affect the line’s angle? Several factors, their experience, motivation, raw capabilities and the difficulty of the role will be the most obvious four.

What about designing their induction to shorten the speed to competence? Customers of ours that have done this have found they can increase speed to competence by over 20%. Put simply if it takes a typical person 5 months to reach on target performance, through applying Speed to Competence they get there a whole month earlier, which could represent thousands of pounds of revenue.

What are the things you can do to increase Speed to Competence? The major tool is the induction plan. The quality of induction must not be left to chance, disparate individuals, or the person’s own initiative. The minimum plan should cover 12 weeks. Week 1 should be broken down into 2 hour slots. Weeks 2-6 into half day slots, weeks 7-12 into day slots. Each slot should have an owner, and learning objectives. The learning should be validated at least weekly, to begin with more frequently is even better. By definition, at the end of induction they should be able to do the minimum requirements of the job, properly validated.

For salespeople a key milestone on the critical path of their induction plan will be when they are able to interact with customers ‘unchaperoned’. In one organisation we found a salesperson was able to visit a major customer after only 10 days on their own, engaging in a difficult negotiation, whilst in the same company, a person wasn’t able to operate a key piece of machinery for 20 days and after passing 2 written tests. The salesperson lost a potential piece of business worth six figures, citing poor product knowledge as the main reason.
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Create an owner for Speed to Competence, make it a standing agenda item and measure its progress. There is untapped performance its effective implementation.

Training Sales Managers To Coach Without Context Will Not Deliver Improved Results

“We are all coaches now” said an International Sales Director at a recent conference. Later at the same event a new Performance Management system was introduced that required managers to sit down with their people twice a year and complete an on-line appraisal. Sales managers complained they hadn’t got time to do it properly. What is the likelihood of this organisation having a culture conducive to coaching? Not very, I hear you mutter, and you’d be right.

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Widely applied coaching is first about organisational culture, second about the psychological contract between coach and coachee and thirdly (and lastly) about skills.

Organisational Culture
The ability of a business to instil a coaching culture cannot exceed its demonstrable capacity as a learning organisation. Put another way, because coaching implies a deep understanding of what works, and because there will be more than one coach, it follows this organisation is able to articulate excellence, not in terms of results (that’s easy and obvious) but in terms of behaviours and activities – the raw materials of effective coaches. And it follows from there that this organisation can point to role-models who demonstrate what they are trying to coach towards. It you are thinking that your own organisation doesn’t have this learning culture; you can forget coaching playing a significant role in developing people or practices.

The Psychological Contract
These are the unwritten behavioural norms that drive any relationship, in this case between two people. Think about giving negative feedback to somebody. There are some people you would feel able to do it, that some people would be impossible. Think of families that have ‘no go’ areas of discussion, CEO’s that you can joke with and CEO’s you wouldn’t dream of saying anything to unless asked. These relationship dynamics are all informed by different psychological contracts. For a coaching relationship to work the psychological contract has to be built on the following foundations:

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  • It’s OK to give and receive positive and negative feedback, both ways
  • The mandate to give feedback and suggestions comes not from seniority or position, but from relevant expertise and insight
  • Feedback will often be given on the fly, formal structures or permission are not required
  • The coachee seeks out the coach, rather than the other way round
  • Mutual trust and respect underpins the relationship
  • There is no imposition of process. It is being done the way both parties like it, in ways and at a rhythm that suits them both.

Coaching Skills
If the first two elements are present and working effectively the skills required become very straightforward, usually built around a simple model.

This isn’t to suggest that anyone can coach, or that training to be a coach isn’t valuable, even to accredited levels. All these things can be valid.

What we are suggesting is that without understanding of, and focus on, the first two elements of this article any coaching skills development will have little impact and can even be damaging because people can view coaching as another management fad rather than the powerful personal and performance development tool it really is.

How To Give Good Phone

Whether it’s a clack rotary dial phone or part of a high tech telecommunications network, the telephone is the essential business tool. At the touch of a finger, it can give you immediate access to any one of a billion other phone users – customers and clients, potential employers or sources of financing and important contracts anywhere on the globe. Despite the vast power that’s quite literally waiting at our fingertips, few of us fully exploit the potential of the phone.

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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, would benefit from attending our one day, Winning Business By Telephone course.

Making Personal Change

People live with change constantly: in a lifetime, everyone goes through personal transformation from infancy to adolescence, young adulthood, middle age and finally old age. A career path may lead from subordinate to junior management, middle management, senior management and even on to board level or consultancy.
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Change has been described as the single most important element of successful business management today. To remain competitive in increasingly aggressive markets, organisations (and the people in them) need to adopt a positive attitude to change. Ignoring, or trivialising a changing trend can be very costly.

Many of us fear change and the uncertainties it will create. Frequently, we believe that the changes will only be temporary and therefore we will end up feeling disappointed or let down.

Below are three simple principles of change that are very powerful when consistently and skilfully applied. If you are seeking to make some form of personal change, applying these principles will significantly improve the results you achieve.

  1. Raise Your Standards
    If you are sincere about making the change the first step is to raise your standards. Standards describe the minimum level of performance and quality that you are prepared to accept. It is important to understand the difference between a goal and a standard. Goals and objectives are aspirational; they are targets you plan to work towards. However, the best of intention does not always result in action.

    Raising the standard, or minimum level of acceptance of something, means that you will simply not tolerate anything less and as a result will have to take action when the standard is not met.

  2. Change Your Limiting Beliefs
    If you raise your standards, but don’t really believe you can meet them you’ve already sabotaged yourself. Our beliefs are like unquestioned commands telling us how things are. Our beliefs tell us what is possible and what is not possible, what we can and can’t do; they shape every action, every thought and every feeling that we experience. This means that changing our belief systems is central to making any real and lasting change in our lives.

    The dictionary defines belief as ‘acceptance as true, feeling of certainty’.

    Most of our beliefs are generalisations about our past, based on interpretations of painful and pleasurable experiences. This provides a challenge: Most of us do not consciously decide what we are going to believe. Often our beliefs are based on misinterpretations of past experiences. Once we adopt a belief we forget it is merely an interpretation.

    We treat our beliefs as reality, we rarely, if ever question long held beliefs.

    Beliefs can be simplified into three main strengths:

    a. Opinion – easily swayed, based on impressions

    b. Belief – larger reference base, strong emotions, sense of certainty

    c. Conviction – emotionally intense, obsession, closed to new input, prepared to take action.

    A simple way of understanding a belief is to think about its base building block: an idea. Now whether it’s an idea or a belief will come down to the amount of certainty you feel about the idea. The more certain you feel, the stronger the belief. The level of certainty comes form the reference experiences you have had that underpin the idea.

    A good metaphor to use to help with this concept is a table.

    The belief is stated on the table top, but what gives the table its strength are the legs, or reference experiences that underpin it.

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  3. Change Your Strategy
    Strategies are how you organise your thoughts and behaviour to accomplish a task.

    To understand strategies think of a master chef. If you use his recipe, you will probably be able to cook as well as he does, or very close. A strategy is a successful recipe. To make a wonderfully tasty dish, you need to know three basic things:
    – What the ingredients are
    – Quantity and the quality of each ingredient
    – The correct order of steps

    The ingredients in the thought process will be something you see, hear or feel. The quality and quantity will be how you represented those ingredients.

    Strategies create results – using the same strategy in the same circumstances produces the same result – much like a recipe.

    We all have strategies we use for everything we do. We probably have no idea what they are. However are we getting the results we want? Do we arrive where we want to go? Any strategy, like a train, works perfectly well, but if you get on the wrong one……. you will go somewhere you do not want to go. Don’t blame the train.

    If you are unhappy with the results you are getting in something how often do you ‘try harder’? What we normally mean by try harder is use the same strategy with more passion or speed. It is unlikely to work. Far easier to identify someone who gets the results you are after and find out what their strategy is. If you are happy with it, use it – it has a much greater chance of success.

If you are looking to make a lasting and successful change following these simple steps to explore why you are not getting the results you want and consider modelling someone who already gets the results you are seeking. Establish and compare:

  1. The standards each of you is applying
  2. The beliefs each of you has about the situation
  3. The strategies each of you uses to obtain the results

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To help you reach a higher level of personal insight and quality of contribution, our From Management To Leadership course will take people to new places.

For further information contact us.