They Can Be The Boss of Me!

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Good news:  This post is not about bad boss behavior.  This is about brilliant boss behavior in my estimation.   This is the good stuff and it’s from bosses who were the boss of me very early on in my work life and I’m thankful for that.

So Steal Shamelessly.

 “I found 10 dollars!”   As a 16 year old, one of my early jobs was as a busboy at a restaurant called The Ground Round.    My first night shift included vacuuming up peanut shells and popcorn strewn about the floor after closing.    As I pulled a heavy table away from the booth, (as I had been instructed), I found a crisp $10 bill!   That was a lot of milk money back then.   Never found any more bills in my 18 months – but every night thereafter I pulled out those tables, vacuumed and hunted hard for more.   Years later I learned it was planted by the boss and he did that for many new employees.  Incent the behaviors you want and you’ll get it every time.  Brilliant!

“You have an attitude problem!”   I was 15 and working at Stahhh Mahhket.  (Clarification; – it’s “Star Market” for you non-New Englanders).   This grocery chain had a lot of shopping carts and a big lot.   I  would collect dozens of carts in the sleet, snow and rain, slam them through the auto doors, drift the whole heavy train across the wet floors and crash them into the well because golly, this job sucked.    One night the Store manager came storming out of his office after watching me do this and said,   “You have an attitude problem and you can’t have that here!  Look at your vest – that has my store’s name on it and everyone is watching you whether you think so or not!  I will not have that attitude in my store.   This ends now!  Act professional!”   I did immediately.   There was no conversation prep on his part or any concern for my feelings or point of view.   Good.  Sometimes it’s OK to be the boss.  Brilliant!

“It means a lot less to me than it does to you.”  I was a 17 year old newish driver insisting on driving the truck from the warehouse to the retail store.  With my boss in the passenger seat, I was getting a kick how fast this box truck was compared to my mother’s 75’ Plymouth Valiant.  The state trooper got a kick out of it too and pulled me over.  A $50 ticket.   As we drove away my boss pulled a $50 dollar bill out of his pocket and tried to give it to me – I said “no way” it was my fault.  He said “Buddy, $50 bucks means a lot less to me than it does to you, take it.”  I did and used it to pay the fine.  That always stuck with me what he said.  Not everyone has to do everything equally; If it’s easier for me to write the report, or pay the bill, or make the phone call and it’s really really hard for you; let me do it – it’s not the same burden.  Conversely, the things we struggle with, there’s a darn good chance someone you work with or work for doesn’t bat an eyelash helping you with it no matter whose turn it is. Brilliant!

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Why Don’t We Practice Enough at Work?

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On Saturday I got to hear something beautiful from one of the best saxophone players in the game.  Jaleel Shaw, a 2000 Berklee College of Music grad, came back to speak to accepted students for the fall semester but didn’t play a single note.  He didn’t even bring his saxophone.

Yet his contribution was as moving and inspirational to the hundreds of students and parents listening in Saturday as surely his music is when played.

Thoughtful, so very humble and endearing – he kept genuinely and transparently falling back on the value and need to “practice”.   He must have mentioned the word more than 20 times eventually having  said it so often he had the crowd laughing (and for sure learning).

He told of his days at Berklee being long and grueling yet each semester he would map out where and exactly when he would fit in at least 8 hours of practice each day between and around his full class load.

Surely his renowned teachers, the Berklee connections, the theory courses, the performances and the education degree he acquired were essential to his success today but practice, practice and more practice was his sincere message.

And the message is a great one far beyond the study of music. In fact practice should play a much bigger role for us in our business lives.    But what do we really do about it in our jobs today?  Do we really practice unless we are forced to?

  • How often in the cubicle aisle does a salesperson grab a colleague out of the blue and practice dealing with difficult objections or articulating better what problem the product really solves?
  • How often as trainers, do we really stand up in front of that mirror or virtually with a colleague, practice our messaging and presentation before delivering our training?
  • How often as managers and supervisors and coaches do we prepare and practice a difficult conversation with an employee or for that matter, practice a nurturing conversation to maximize the conversation’s potential?

It’s obvious that a college like Berklee should be  a culture of ardent practice and it makes sense.   I’d contend that Practice Culture has a value far wider than just at a Music school and would do quite well where you work.

Till Next Time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

What Is An A Cappella Leadership Team?

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Any parent knows the huge popularity of a cappella singing these days.   In fact, at a small  college we just visited Saturday, there are no less than 5 a cappella groups on campus ( one of which sang at the opening session of the visit).  For the uninitiated, a cappella singing is a small group of people using no instruments but their voices which blend into some amazing harmonies.

It’s not a new music art form of course (in fact I always say the original a cappella hit was written in the 1630’s- have a listen here to that).  But of late, we can thank super groups like Pentatonix and others for the surge in popularity.

And it’s fantastic.  I love people singing together without “a net” or in other words, the safety of instrumentals to fall on.  When done well, it is a glorious sound of a half dozen folks who are uniquely gifted in their own ways but listen, really listen to each other blend together perfectly.

I won’t beat the metaphor alluded to in the blog title too hard, but there’s a lesson in a cappella for the very best leadership teams.   Every day it seems we are surrounded by Executive Leadership teams, Division leadership teams and more.  You yourself may be on one of them.    In the best kind of environment these leadership teams aren’t awkward, faceless or sound like a soloist performing with a couple of backup singers.  Nope –these teams perform like an a cappella group.

The a cappella Leadership Team members aren’t the same cookie cutter images of each other.   They look different and sound different and each has his or her unique gift of range, talent and responsibility – and would never be confused with one another.  Yet each sings from the same strategic score and must listen to each other equally – for if just one of them is dissonant, the whole thing falls apart.

These a cappella Leadership Teams are genuine and transparent.  There’s little in the way of policy, history, or hiding behind “the way we always do things” that an a cappella Leadership Teams lean on.  They are open, exposed and work without the trappings of a score recorded years ago or being played today by someone other than themselves.

Done beautifully, the a cappella Leadership Team knows their sound and messages must stir the people who look to them for direction and guidance.  They know they have to work very hard to impress, retain and attract followers based on their performance.

Take a look (and a listen) at a cappella from every angle and consider the lessons throughout.  It makes perfect sense and perfect pitch to me.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Role Players

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image from inthenetsportsacademy.com

Role Players

The New England Patriots are going about it differently this year.  The players have only received Playbooks; they are not practicing.  Sure, they’ve had lots of meetings at camp discussing and talking about the plays, why they are constructed as they are and why the plays will work.  But not a single player has practiced the routes, the blocking schemes, the throws or the running plays.

Why would they bother?  It’s not real.  Heck most of the time in camp they are playing against each other on the same team!  How silly is that? Nothing counts and someone could get hurt and what’s the point of that?  Besides, they’ve studied the plays; they get it.

Not.

Of course the Patriots are practicing this year.  Of course the Patriots are learning their roles by practicing these routes, those blocking schemes, the throws and the running plays.

But we either hate doing that stuff or just don’t care about doing it.

The day I walk through a sales site and see a coach and a sales rep leaning up against some old file cabinets on a sidewall spontaneously practicing a customer scenario about objection handling; I’ll just about have my coronary and end it right there.  I have never ever seen that in real life.

The day I can go to 3 training sessions in a row (live or virtual) where the role play portion wasn’t cut off, or skipped due to time or just wasn’t part of the session – I’ll have that second coronary (well hopefully not with the medication I’m on now and the life changing behaviors I’d have adopted) but—you get the idea.

The day that sales manager from half way across the country Skypes his sales executive and forces her to go through the competitive differentiation portion of the conversation that’s going to soon happen in the C-Suite with a real customer, I’ll have that 3rd myocardial infarction (metaphorically of course).

Maybe I need to get out more often and this stuff happens all the time now.  But maybe it doesn’t.

The sad part is I have a lot of memories when people do some intense role play and apply that Playbook in sessions with their coaches or in war rooms or in “bull in the ring” sessions.   I have lots of memories where those people said, out loud, that that was the best part of working their boss or in the team meetings or in the training classes.

The Patriots aren’t fools.  They know they have roles to play.  And they know they need to play these roles and practice even when stuff ain’t real.   They know because when the time comes; they need to be ready.

And so do we.  Hut! Hut!.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

I’ll pontificate with the best.   And there are a couple of things I don’t agree with regarding sales advice of late that are bothering me enough to do just that.

Difference here of course is that when I pontificate I am right.  🙂

Presentations Should Never Lead With Info About Your Own Company.   Wait, what? If I had a dollar for every post, newsletter, tweet, LinkedIn post and e-book of late that said this I would be rich and then actually I would be poor cuz’ I wouldn’t sell anything.

I get it.  Everyone says your presentations should lead with and be about your client, the result of your research, your discovery and how your company solves problems or drives revenue.  Yes, I get it.   But the reality is your company, its credibility, its experience, the friends it hangs out with and the intelligence of its people are always a concern for a prospect especially in this democratized world where a 1 person operation with a slick website and a social media presence can look like a big boy that has done nothing but looks like it has.   Buyers and prospects are more wary than ever because while a national and global marketplace is advantageous to buyers, it is no assurance that providers are inherently credible.

I’m not saying blather about your years of experience, testimonial and client lists in slide after slide in your presentations but you must at least lead with stories that build the trust and credibility of you and your company with like clients and prospects and then move into your key learnings and what your company brings to the table for the client.

The Client Should Do All (or most) of The Talking:   Really?  I’ve heard and read this like from the beginning of time – and I still see it and hear it daily.   But talk to the best sales reps out there.  It’s not true.  These sales people who are killing it are experts, challengers, loaded with insight and play a consultant role with prospects and clients.  They do a lot of talking, a lot of teaching, a lot of the story telling, and a lot of the credibility building as well as some of the listening.  They don’t just sit back 80% of the time and just take notes through the sales process.    The key here is these sales folks inspire their clients to share and talk honestly about their needs and their ambitions as a result of sharing their insights and by asking great questions.  It is far closer in effective sales to be ~ 50%/50% between client and sales rep than 80%/20% in favor of the client.

These reps know that Interrogation is Not a Sales strategy.   These reps know that what they provide has to be different and more worthy than what the client or prospect can find on the company website or brochure and that requires communicating.  These reps know the mastery of communication and conversation is not excelling at a mute Freudian analysis absorbing the soliloquies of the prospect or the client.

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You may disagree with my take on both of these nagging feelings about sales advice.  In fact, I expect many of you do.  But you would be wrong.  (Or maybe, it is possible, remote-though possible, that I am wrong).

Either way – only good comes from thinking about these two or discussing with your teams or colleagues; They are important places to focus

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

That Hero Formula

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That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

5 Phrases You’re Not Using Enough

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5 Underrated Phrases

Words matter.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

“Tell me more about that…”  Great at client meetings, great in customer conversations, great in coaching sessions and great at parties!  You don’t lead unnecessarily, you don’t shut someone down and you don’t force anyone down any path they don’t want to go.  You learn and they get to talk and share.  Great sales people know this.  And any of you actors out there know this is the one of the keys to great improv acting—it always keeps the conversation moving and don’t we all want that?

“We love you…”  What is wrong with us?  Do you think your customers give a flying hoot that you “value” them or “appreciate” them or “thank” them?  Blah Blah Blah.   Don’t you really love them? And if not, shouldn’t you?  (Their business puts food on your table).   Use “love“, “adore” or “cherish” in your print materials or email marketing and even those live conversations or voicemails.  There’s nothing wrong with saying “You folks are one of our absolute greatest customers”.  Make it your own—but make it different and real.  Get above the clutter and stand out.

“Let’ me figure out what I can do.”  Who knows why we humans default all the time to what we “can’t” do.  It’s maddening and so hard to break.  But you say the same thing except far better by saying “Let me think about it and come back with what can be done.” Vs “I can’t do this.”   It’s a world of difference be it at work in service, sales and even in your personal relationships.  Positive Resonates; Negative Detonates.

 “Who besides yourself…?”  Add any ending to Who besides yourself as in “has a say in the decision”, “wants to review”, “would like more info”, “would benefit from a demo”?  Too often we push our contacts away (whether we know them well or they just answered your call) instead of protecting them, their contributions and frankly their egos.  Always include, never insult unintentionally by presuming they do not play a role in the next step.

So you’re all set, this will get you (insert pursuit, dream or goal)”:  Easier than it seems but sadly at the end of most meetings, transactions or purchases we limp along and wrap up the pricing, the purchase order or the specifics of the next contact instead of inserting how what just happened is so critical to what the client or the business wants.   They don’t want the copier you’re selling; they want more time to focus on real work.  They don’t want business Facebook page built; they want to get more customers because they’ll be found more easily.  They don’t want to just list out action items for the next meeting; they want to know how what they did today is going to make a difference.  Tie off each meeting or interaction that way no matter what you do—you’ll solidify the value and strengthen the partnership.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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