Would You ‘Lunch & Learn’ or ‘Dine and Dash’?

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?

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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.

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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!

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.

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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!

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If you are new to sales or you are recruiting new sales people bear these in mind.

Career Segmentation

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.

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

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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’.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

 

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:

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  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.

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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.

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:

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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.

Culture

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.