Tuesday, 17 April 2018

What does a salesperson need to be an expert in?

I am sure if you search the internet you could come up with literally thousands of suggestions! However, I believe there is one area that is such a priority and so important that is supersedes everything else. And you know it is not sales tactics, it is not cold calling, it is not tenacity, it is not being organised, etc, etc  – although they can all really help.

What you need to be is an expert it your prospects and clients’ needs. What is important to them, day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year. This is why you need to do everything possible to spend time with them talking about their business, their direction, aspirations and goals.

Armed with this information you are able to make such a better job of aligning what you are selling to their needs. But there is something else – nearly always an expert is welcome. Your clients will want to talk about their business with you because you understand them, you have a level of genuine empathy, you may even be able to guide and help (without necessarily always selling something) and at the very least you can be a good listener and sounding-board.

What salesperson would not want that type of relationship with their clients!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Self Scouting

In sport many teams and individuals spend time on what is known as ‘self scouting’. Rather than thinking about and planning for the next game and what strategy they should be developing, they take the time to consider themselves. They look to identify strengths, weaknesses and trends, the identification of which will in turn help them better understand themselves and focus on areas for improvement.

As human beings we tend to have reluctance to self scout. It can feel awkward, almost making ourselves feel embarrassed by thinking about how we are acting and performing on a day-to-day basis. Self scouting is something that is very easy to ignore – but we do so at our own peril. By choosing not to do so we could be at minimum ignoring the opportunity of improvement and at worse hiding our head in the sand.

Perhaps we start by being strong enough to regularly ask ourselves (and answer) a few hard hitting questions? The great thing is that you do not have to share the answers with anyone else – they are just for your consumption!

For example, but I am sure you can come up with your own;

-          What I am doing on a regular basis that holds me back?
-          What am I doing about the things that matter most to me?
-          What am I holding onto that I need to let go of?
-          When am I going to surprise myself by doing something new or different?
-          How do those who are important to me view how I act?
-          How many new people have I got to know recently?

Friday, 12 January 2018

Avoid time looking in the rear view mirror

When wishing people Happy New Year I always try to ask them what they hope the new year holds for them. Rather than taking them backwards and asking "How was 2017 for you?"

The idea that everything is about today and tomorrow is not quite true, we do need to enjoy our past successes and learn from our mistakes, but I do worry about the number of people I coach that spend far to much time looking in the 'rear view mirror of life'. They can provide the greatest detail about what has or has not happened in the past, and very often identify where things went wrong, but shrug their shoulders when I ask about plans for the upcoming 12 months.

In business we often use the tactic of "What isn't measured, does not get done", in other words if you do not identify your objectives and then review your progress, it is highly likely nothing is going to happen. Such an approach will probably mean that the upcoming year will be much the same as all the previous! This does not mean that I necessarily advocate that we all need detailed 'Life Plans' that we stick to with the zeal of the most driven life coach, but we do need to know what we would like to achieve. At least a 'direction of travel' with regard to our home and work life.

From a career perspective try to at least be able to verbalise what you hope the future holds. Even if it is no more than an intention to continue improving in what you do, establishing yourself as a more and more valued employee and using the time as a foundation for future years. It has to be so much better than a shrug of the shoulders and a return to the rear view mirror.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Why team building works

Becoming friends, or at least closer colleagues
The better you know someone the better you work with that person. Socialising and having some fun in the workplace is one of the best ways to increase productivity in the office. The office morale increases dramatically, people feel better about themselves, their colleagues and the work that they do.

Turbo charging performance
Knowing colleagues better creates dramatically improved teamwork. After completing team building activities together, people better understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Attitudes within the workplace can significantly improve simply because staff understand each other so much better.

Competitive edge
Allowing teams and groups to compete with each other in fun and enjoyable activities then translates into that same desires being manifest to do the best possible job on a day-to-day basis.

Enjoying the moment
Watch how any sports team celebrity winning a league championship or knockout cup. That moment of victory spurs players on to the next level of competition and performance – exactly the same can be achieved within the work environment through team building activities.

Improved thinking
Once colleagues becoming more comfortable with each other, they feel freer to express themselves. Often as a result of team building you will find staff that until now have been reluctant to be proactive in the workplace, take on a new persona.

That old chestnut ‘Communication’
Rarely when talking to staff about their working environment is internal communication not placed high on the list of areas in which they believe the company could improve. What they often do not realise is that they contribute to the problem through their poor communication skills and reluctance to engage. Team building activities breaks down communication sensitivities both at a staff-to-staff and staff-to-management level.

Monday, 18 September 2017

What is in a name?

Most of us know we can always improve our Inter-Personal Skills, but when the pressure is on, being pleasant, empathetic and positive often goes out the window in place of just having to get our heads down and get stuff done.

With this in mind I am often asked if there are any quick fixes for improving our Inter-Personal Skills and while most of the time it is a case of developing a medium/long term personal development plan, there is at least one very simple thing you can do that will make a huge difference.

Subject to the size of your organisation, once a day, or perhaps once a week, learn the name of a colleague that you don't know and with whom you don't currently speak. Then use their name when you next see them, as a minimum saying hello, but even better try to enter into a short conversation. It doesn't really matter if it is a bit bland - "What you up to?" / "Did you have a good weekend?" Also try telling them something about yourself - perhaps what you did at the weekend.

Now I know this may seem a bit clunky or even contrived, but I promise you it is so worth it. The person whose name you have learnt now knows you and will feel more comfortable in your presence. Your reputation will grow as someone who is personable. Just as importantly, you will feel a lot better about yourself - what a great thing to do, you just turned a nameless unrecognised individual into a person who means something!

We are often told that an easy way to make ourselves feel good is by doing something for someone else. Using someone's name for the first time does the same thing.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Why senior managers should wear walking boots

We have framed pictures of walking boots that we sometimes present to clients! As well as being a bit of fun they act as an important reminder.

The definition of management by wandering around (MBWA), also management by walking around,  refers to a style of business management which involves managers wandering around, in an unstructured manner, through the workplace, at random, to check with employees about how they are, understanding their view of the world and how any particular piece of work or activity might be going. The critical word is ‘wandering’ because it is the unstructured and (hopefully) naturalistic approach of the manager to staff that makes the big difference. It generates a sense of genuine interest from the manager with regard to the individual and what is happening in their part of the business.

However, MBWA is not solely an activity with regard to staff motivation. Such an approach will regularly provide the manager with insights they otherwise could never gain.  While the production qualities of such reality TV programmes as BBC 2’s ‘Back to the shop floor’ and Channel Four’s ‘Undercover boss’ might be questionable, the principle of MBWA underpins their existence. The notion of the manager getting out of their office, away from the small circle of colleagues with whom they usually communicate and instead listening to those ‘at the sharp end’ not only makes compelling viewing, but also makes perfect business sense.

On the reverse of the picture of the walking boots we print the following hints to try and make sure our clients’ MBWA really works;
  • Be informal - let people see that you are genuinely interested
  • Practice your very best listening skills, try and let them do most of the talking
  • Ask for feedback and ideas
  • Encourage questions
  • Don’t just wander with a few people, make sure you spread yourself evenly
  • When you see something good happening let them know you are impressed
  • Don’t use wandering time being judgemental, if you see something that is not right plan to go back and address the issue later
  • Don’t overdo it so that people feel you are being  intrusive but do it regularly enough so people are not surprised
  • Enjoy yourself it is one of the best things you can ever do as an effective manager

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Do it now or do it tomorrow, but not later today

When we ask, or indeed when the management at one of our clients asks their staff what subject area they would like coaching on, the most regular response is ‘Time Management’. It seems that most of us have a pretty low regard of our ability to manage time, often in both our business and personal lives. In fact, even people who genuinely seem to be highly effective in the area still believe they are not doing as well as they could. While they are perhaps being overly critical of themselves, it is also probably true, because as human beings by the very nature of how we engaged with time, it is all but impossible to perfectly optimise it’s usage. For heaven’s sake Doctor Who has a time machine and he still runs everywhere!

 We have developed a number of coaching sessions with regard to time management. Some are half day events at which we look at a number of different methodologies using exercises to help attendees identify how they currently manage their time and what different approaches and processes might be overlaid on how they work. Other sessions last less than an hour, at which we (in the spirit of time management) speed through the ‘Top 50 Tips for Better Time Management’, asking delegates at the end to share with each other which 5 of the 50 they plan to adopt. At a subsequent follow-up session, individuals share with their colleagues what has worked and not worked for them, creating an environment where people learn from each other’s experiences.

Rarely at such sessions are we not asked the killer question. I know would ask it under similar circumstances – “What is your approach to time management – how do you do it?”  Interestingly providing an insight into what we do seems often to achieve as good a level of adoption as the actual coaching sessions themselves. We explain that rather than any elaborate process of prioritisation and execution, we have a mantra that we try to adopt as often as possible;

Do it now or do it tomorrow, but not later today

So let’s breakdown the three elements;

‘Do it now’. This covers two core types of tasks – emergencies and simple/quick activities. If the office is on fire (or the commercial equivalent) you have to stop what you are doing and get on with addressing the issue – you have no choice. Alternatively if the task is so simple or small why would you bother scheduling it or even making a note of it, just do it there and then and move on. As a rule of thumb, ‘small’ for me means less than five minutes. One important consideration with regard to ‘Do it now’ is interruptions. If you are interrupted during a significant task you may choose to pause what you were doing and address the interruption now, but the important thing is to avoid interrupting yourself. Once you have decided to work on something significant, stay focussed and do not consider what else you might be doing until you have finished, then is the time to look at the next task and make the do now or do it tomorrow decision.

‘Do it tomorrow’. Most peoples’ days are pretty full and constantly adding to your list for that day can be somewhat demoralising. However, adding it to your to-do list for tomorrow acknowledges that it needs to be done, means that you have scheduled it and you can then forget about it and get on with today’s work. The other huge advantage of ‘do it tomorrow’ is that tasks change. How often have you worked on something to find that you then get new information or the job itself is redefined, wasting the effort you have already put in? Allowing the task to percolate for a day gives it a chance to settle down and have clarity. Also sometimes taking such an approach means you do not have to complete the task because it becomes unnecessary and not needed – even on occasion it gets done by someone else.

‘But not later today’. The people who seem to be the most effective time managers have a plan of action for what they need to get done. Using the cliché, ‘they plan the work and then work the plan’. This means that they stay focussed on what they know they need to do that day and more often than not they nail it. The best way to not achieve what you have planned is by letting it expand, by trying to tag new things onto what you have already committed to yourself to get done. Adding more and more tasks to your to-do list for today imparts a sense of being out of control and even overwhelmed, the knock-on effect being that actually you do not even complete what you had planned, let alone the new additional tasks.