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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Amp It Up: Prefacing Questions

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Amp It Up: Prefacing

Asking questions in sales, service or support is important.  There are a million theories, books and articles on what questions to ask. 

I don’t care about any of that today.

I’m going to give you 3 powerful tips however that will amp up the results of your questions and they take all of less than 3 seconds in a tactic I call Prefacing.

Each of these is additive in that if you apply just one tip, you’ll get better results than you do today with your normal questions  but  if you do all three – watch out, you’ll see amazing results immediately.

Preface #1: “I always ask…” Begin with “I always ask..” as a preface to your question of the customer or prospect.  Let’s pretend you are on software sales –   “I always ask business leaders if you see enough data on a daily basis to measure the health of the business…” Or let’s say you sell online marketing “I always ask owners where they think the best social media place to be to drive business.” Whatever your purpose is in asking the question is fine.  But prefacing it with “I always ask” makes you sound like you’ve been there before; that you have experience, that this is not your first rodeo.  In less than a second you’ve built some credibility in the minds of the listener and that psychologically will result in a more thoughtful answer by the recipient. 

Preface #2:  Add an Affiliation:  Remember this is additive – so for example “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations if they see enough data… Or “ I always ask my HVAC folks where they think….”;  This addition is incredibly powerful – not only are you credible already by adding  “I always ask” but now you’ve imparted in just one more second,  that you know something, have talked to, have hung out with people like them in their world or in their industry.   You’ve talked with CFO’s (and even better talked with CFO’s in financial orgs) or you’ve talked with HVAC owners and understand what is happening.  Immensely powerful – your questions now have an even better chance of getting thoughtful and deep answers which translates into better sales service and meaningful conversations.

Preface #3:  Put a Number on the Questions:  This too is additive so in our examples let’s take it to the 3rd level, “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations these 3 questions about visibility….”  Or “I always ask my HVAC folks these 2 questions about where they think the best place is…”  The theory is simple and powerful.  Placing a number on the questions helps lower time tension.  People are busy.  When you articulate the number of questions you are going to ask in a particular space then the listener knows when it will be over and in essence will stay focused for those questions and give you great information.   Not articulating a number can lead to that self-talk of “When will this be over?” or other distractions.  Prefacing with the number of questions needn’t be limiting.  You can easily move on to other subjects with for example “I always also ask 2 questions of HVAC folks about how hard it is to get paid quickly….”

Are the types of questions you ask important?  You bet.  Does everybody forget or not even think about the value of Prefacing a question?  Without a doubt.   In my opinion prefacing is as important as any aspect of questioning.

Here’s the beauty of today’s post.  It’s easy.  It’s less than 3 seconds of your time.  If you are in sales, service or support as a pro or perhaps a leader, or you are a business owner, consultant or entrepreneur looking to get better conversations and more business; print this thing, spend a few minutes wrapping your head around and go to it – you’ll be amazed at what you get in return.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Plan Ahead (and Behind)

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Plan Ahead ( and Behind) 

It’s always a risk to see my mug on video first thing in the morning – but here are two short ones to jump start your day with messages about planning.

The first one can help you like, today.. 

This next one can help you like, forever…

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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If You’re Confused, What The Heck Do You Think Your Prospect Is?

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If You’re Confused, What The Heck Do You Think Your Prospect Is?

I spend a lot of time looking at, and experiencing training these days.     And sometimes it’s clear that the things we train our own employees, like some of the products and services we sell,  can be …well …..confusing.  Not every service or product as everyone well knows,  is tangible or simple.  Some,  like financial products or online marketing products can feel particularly abstract and complex.

And if it’s confusing to my Trainers when they first start to learn the products and then later for the Sales and Service people who then have to present in front of customers, do ya think it might be that much more confusing for prospects and clients when they are first are approached or exposed to these things? 

And if you’ve ever read anything in this blog before, you already know that confusion kills sales.

Here are 3 ways to alleviate that confusion when you represent a complex product or service:

  • Teach your Sales people to teach.  Get past the idea that sales of complex or non tangible products / services begins with the pitch.  It doesn’t.  It begins with the teach.  It’s OK to build teaching into your sales cycle despite the fear of lengthening the sales cycles.  You aren’t lengthening the sales cycle – you are starting earlier – you have to.    It’s OK to get all your sales people to a level where they become experts with online webinars under their belts, with  killer LinkedIn pages and Twitter followers who look to them for as much insight as they do for what’s on sale. 
  •  3’s:  Everything in 3’s:   The mind is not wired to remember more than 5 numbers, let alone 5 points.   If you have a service for example that manages your online marketing spend then even if it has 12 steps to get started, it should sound like “…Only 3 key steps to getting you started.  In the first step we’ll interview you around 3 important areas like…….  Then after that, we get to tackling 3 areas of your current website like…..” You get it.  “3” sounds simple.  Simple eases tension and sales can keep on moving.
  •  Analogies:   Nothing simplifies better.  Are you a marketing consultant? Nope, you’re a marketing GPS that gets the business to the destination of 25% more customers.  Are you a website developer?  Nope; you are building an automated employee that works 24 hours a day taking orders and that never sleeps.    Think hard about what you sell or service and find that perfect analogy that makes it click and stick. 

This blog is not complex but I kept it to 3 points.  More than that and it gets confusing who the heck wants to read that?

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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No Wins, Not Quite

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No Wins, Not Quite

This High School football team didn’t win a single game this year.  Not one. 

But you’d never know it looking at the faces of the kids and everyone else I saw at the season-ending banquet on Saturday.  

I didn’t get to see many Varsity games this year with the kickoff times being mostly held at 4pm on Friday nights.   But I know that what had to be tough games to watch, would likely carry over into a somewhat depressed pall cast over the season ending banquet. How could there not be, having gone this year without a single win and having just one win last year.

But what I saw was a room full of cheering parents, proud young men and a half a dozen coaches who spoke of their players as if they were their very own kids.

I saw a Head Coach who talked glowingly and positively about every player from Freshman to Senior as they were introduced.  It wasn’t what you think; time flew.  He found something unique and great to say about each.   He found affirmative things to say about their work ethic, their progress, their spirit, their unselfish willingness to help each other and refreshingly for many, their outstanding grades. 

My son didn’t play a down this year having suffered a pre –season injury requiring surgery but he had his name called and was acknowledged for his commitment to supporting the team throughout the year.  He wore not only a tie (that was as required for all players) but a broad smile shaking the hands of coaches and teammates as he walked onto the floor.

There was continued talk of overcoming more injuries and obstacles, of learning new positions and new offenses, of learning a new culture and of responsibility and accountability.  There was talk about the honorable values and the unique contributions of team captions, assistant coaches and supporters all around. 

There was talk of shunning the individual accomplishment and focusing on bonding as a team, in a concerted effort with a common focus.   There was talk about reaching out to each other and encouraging each other to work together not just during football season but all year round.  And finally, there was talk that in the end of all this important stuff, one of many great results, (but not nearly the only one), will be some games to be won.

It’s trite of course, but these games are not the lead story – at least for the gatherings of these young men who yearn to push a ball across a goal line just a bit more than their competitor.  My guess is that if there were two seasons of winning records already under his belt, this Head Coach would have talked about the same things.  

I sat there thinking how wonderful these presentations and speeches were and asked myself how different are they than what the gatherings of families, groups or even companies in good times or in bad should be hearing?   These messages are the ones that we and not just our sons benefit from.   These messages are at the root of what is valuable, at the root of what drives achievement across a wide swath of life.  

Thanks for the pep talk Coach.   Thanks for the shot in the arm of prioritization and principles.  Better luck next year in that win / loss thing but regardless, there’s no doubt you’ll truly win. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

The Laminator

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The Laminator

This is the actual machine pictured in Kansas City.   

It has its own cubicle The Laminator does, right outside the Site Leader Dale’s office.    Really it does.  It is the only thing on this desk right near the front door.    And it deservedly has this space all to itself because of all the good work it does.   

The Laminator’s work was plastered everywhere in the KC facility I visited.  Laminated Certificates were hanging from the shelves, the monitors and the walls.  For some folks, they even hung from the ceiling. 

I sat with some employees for a bit that day.   A few had evidently received many certificates from The Laminator and I was kind of surprised by the care in which these were displayed and hung in their cubicle spaces.

I commented to one person I was talking with who had a dozen or so in his cube and said “Wow look at all of those…” and with what I admit was more pride than I expected,  he grinned and said “ Yeah, pretty cool eh?”

The other folks I sat with seemed similarly proud of them.   Dale’s center had a pretty good vibe and I couldn’t help but think this emphasis on recognition had something to do with it.

Flying back home that night it got me thinking about that darn laminator and how we need more of those around these parts.  But of course what I really walked away with is how important it is to recognize and be recognized. 

Sure some of us,  we tend brush the need off with comments mostly to ourselves like “Who cares” or “It’s no big deal” or “People know they are valuable”   but if we are honest – recognition is a big deal.     If we are honest, we do look twice at that email from the boss that says “good job” or “great point”.  If we are honest, we do look at the comment from the blog reader or the person that liked your status update.  If we are honest, we do smile a little inside when we get a little public recognition be it your name called out in a meeting or yes, on a certificate for all to see. 

The Laminator knows this.  The Laminator is as honest as they come.  A little heat, a little plastic and Voila! – it’s a shot in the arm for someone.   There are dozens of other ways to recognize people and I’m sure Dale and his team is using more than just The Laminator. 

But here’s a thought – if you have an empty desk and a need for a bit more acknowledgement of good people and good work, fill that space with a laminator.  It does a darn good job. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Great Gifts For Sales People

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4 Gifts Your Sales People Need This Year

This one is for all the sales leaders and coaches out there….

Looking for that perfect little something for your salespeople this year?    Look no further.  And no worries, I checked this list twice.

Hands Free Gift Cards:  Instead of adding more for your sales persons’ hands to do next year; take something away.  Entering orders in 7 systems, 3 tracking sheets, 2 CRM’s and the partridge in the pear tree isn’t selling.  That’s called data entry.    Sales people need to read and think and speak and sell and then read and think and speak and sell some more.   I get the efficiency and information gathering piece and you do too.  But I know there are gifts out there, be they tools or  support that can take some burden off the hands.  More Hands Free = More Sales.

25- $5 Expired Scratch Tickets .   Ah…. the joy of wishing and praying and of hoping the luck comes in will be dashed (Holiday pun intended) when you hand over these 25 expired loser tickets.  It’s one of the better gifts for sales people because even though it is downright mean, it’s a great message that that kind of good luck don’t work no more in sales.  Every scratched ticket does not get you closer to a winner, that’s for sure.  Same for unconscious dials & smiles!  Sales is not about spraying (or scratching) and praying!

A Coaching Promise.  No -, a real one!  Not the same old coaching you do all the time – you know that kind right?  The kind where you talk about the numbers and say cool stuff like “What are you going to do to hit those numbers?”  or” “I’ve noticed a decline in your performance lately, What’s up?” conversations.  Heck, Siri can coach like that.  I mean a coaching promise on the “How” to hit those numbers.  I mean a coaching promise that has you show, preach, teach and demonstrate how it’s done.   Real Specific, Real World and Real Time means Real Sales.

A Stronger Point of View:   I don’t mean yours, I mean your company’s.  Selling today is less and less about discovery and digging and probing and uncovering the darn needs of a prospect.  It’s more and more about being attractive.  Sales people need the powerful story; the powerful differentiators and the powerful point of views that attract prospects to the sales rep and into the conversations – not push them away.  Boiler Room & Glengarry Glen Ross are so 90’s – it’s 2013 and the world’s a lot smarter, a lot less trusting and just plain different now.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark.