Archives for category: communication

customer-service

In the sales world, ensuring that proper service, support & satisfaction levels exist requires consistent & frequent engagement with your customers, including any combination of the following tactics:

* the business’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is closely monitored by Sales Management to make certain that all the necessary activities are occurring, being updated and remain current

* the Sales Team is being challenged during weekly sales meetings for updates on key clients (a prudent method for monitoring any salesperson’s awareness with regard to the status of their customers)

* periodic customer surveys (either electronic or via phone, depending on the type of client base) should be administered to gauge current levels of satisfaction with regard to: responsiveness, delivery times, product quality and assortment, etc.; while further ascertaining details about any concerns

* random follow-up calls to customers conducted by Sales Managers in order to get instantaneous feedback with regard to their customer’s current needs & levels of satisfaction, as well as their Sales Team’s performance

* the aforementioned weekly sales meetings provide an obvious forum for the sales team to share examples of actual sales success stories and best-practices with regard to what is working with customers, and/or changes in the marketplace that should be addressed

Further, Sales Managers must provide periodic updates to their team providing  commentary on any recent “wins” or key findings. This additional information sharing can be utilized by your salesforce as part of their selling “toolbox.”

Importantly, sales success stories should be ideally spread throughout the entire organization, directed at creating a collaborative culture and spirit of camaraderie across the company.

Finally, from a brand enhancement perspective, customers should be solicited for testimonials about the company which can be utilized by the marketing team for promotion of the business (which also can be utilized to celebrate the sales team successes).

Why not conduct a self-assessment of your organization’s sales operation to validate that these activities are consistently occurring?  It couldn’t hurt!

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Image result for sales & marketing team

A common fault that I find in the businesses that I coach is a lack of alignment between the marketing and sales operations. 

Actually, I consistently discover a lack of cooperation and collaboration between most departments in any given business operation!

Simply stated, the fundamental purpose of a company’s marketing efforts, beyond building their brand, is to generate and increase leads, i.e. opportunities for the sales organization to pursue and follow-up.

In order for the marketing team to excel, there must be consistent and frequent communication between these two business sectors (versus having them operate in their respective “business silos.”)

This lack of alignment between the marketing and sales operations can easily be remedied via well structured weekly, or worst case fortnightly, meetings between these two groups. 

The objective outcomes…

  • monitor performance
  • establish actual or perceived return on investment (ROI) from the marketing efforts
  • provide updates on what is and isn’t working in terms of lead generation
  • discussion regarding new opportunities that may have surfaced as a result of marketing efforts

My recommendation is to conduct a quick check-up within your business to gauge if these two business functions are operating in a co-dependent fashion.  This is mandatory in order to optimize sales productivity & results.

 

In his seminal work,  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey introduced his philosophy on empathic communication…Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Dr. Covey notes that there are five types of listening: Ignoring, Pretending, Selective, Attentive and Empathic.

Exceptional communicators strive to achieve that pinnacle stage of becoming an empathic listener, i.e. “putting yourself in the other person’s proverbial shoes”. This means paying attention to the level that we truly understand their feelings and emotions.

The physical act of hearing is different that the mental act of listening. Listening with empathy requires a concerted effort to commit your undivided attention to the speaker. Sounds easy, does hard!

Fortunately, we can develop the skills to become better listeners, and communicators.

One technique that has helped me improve in this area is to conscientiously “listen with my eyes.” By maintaining comfortable and consistent eye contact with the speaker, it helps me to focus on them and to better concentrate on the message they are trying to deliver.

listen eyes

 

While watching the World War II classic movie Tora, Tora, Tora about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I noticed another “classic” taking place as well, that of pathetic leadership!

There is a scene where a General is visiting a strategic enemy detection station on Oahu. He gives “instruction” to his subordinate commander to take certain action, and in response to the General’s ill-advised “direction”, the commander reports the issues and concerns that impact their situation.

The General then provides typical “leadership direction” by stating to his commander “take it easy, you’ll figure it out!”  The commander says, tongue-in-cheek, “yeah, I’ll figure it out.” You can vividly see the engagement and morale impact of this dialogue.

Now I’m a proponent of empowerment, but this is not how it should be done!

Fast forward…the same commander then gives “direction” to two soldiers at the location by saying “well don’t just stand there, you guys know how to operate this thing”.

Their response is that “we know the theory sir”, to which their “boss” responds, “well let’s put the theory into practice.”  “You two stay put and keep watching that screen.”

Then comes this classic question…“excuse me sir, but what are we watching for?”

Regrettably, the absurdity of unclear and uncaring communication evident throughout this scene occurs on a daily basis in many workplaces.

Now watch the rest of this stunning dialogue in reply to the soldier’s inquiry:

Colonel: “Anything unusual coming from the sea.”

Soldiers: “Sir, if we do spot something, what do we do?”

Colonel: “Report it to headquarters.”

Soldiers: “How, Sir? We haven’t got a telephone.”

Colonel: “There’s a gas station a mile down the road, they must have a phone.”

I won’t even start to discuss ensuring that your team has the right tools and resources to do their job!

Sadly, we all know how Pearl Harbor turned out, and although I suspect much of this movie dialogue was fictional, it leads me to think that with more caring leadership, the tragic results of that Sunday could have somehow been altered.

pEARL

Confused EE

During my career, I’ve been involved with business environments where there was great concern about publicly sharing how the company was performing.

The underlying paranoia was that if “P&L” or strategic information was shared with employees of the organization, then that data might (would) somehow be used against the company by the competition.

My belief is that as a leader, whenever you attempt to conceal performance (or other essential) details from your team, that not only fosters an environment of distrust but further reduces employee engagement. A 2012 Forbes article noted that of engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organization than the disengaged.

In leading your team,  it is imperative that we take the next step beyond communicating visions, strategies and goals by candidly and consistently reporting how we are doing.  Not openly sharing performance results is akin to playing any sport with no scoreboard…why bother if we can’t determine who is winning?

 

Platinum rule

During a recent long distance drive, I was getting a dose of automobile university, the learning while listening process touted by the late, great Zig Ziglar.

The audio book was Michael Port’s Beyond Booked Solid which focuses on helping consultants get “more clients than they can handle”.

Throughout my business career, much notoriety has been given to the Golden Rule principle of treating customers how you would like to be treated.

However, I believe there is a stronger customer perspective which was reinforced in the book, that of the Platinum Rule, shown above.

Life and business is about relationships, and I genuinely believe that success comes by understanding what is important to those people who you come in contact with, and in turn, giving them what they want (i.e. treat them the way they would like to be treated).

By the way, this is equally important to all stakeholders that you interact with!

While watching the World War II classic movie Tora, Tora, Tora about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I noticed another “classic” taking place as well, that of pathetic leadership!

There is a scene where a General is visiting a strategic enemy detection station on Oahu. He gives “instruction” to his subordinate commander to take certain action, and in response to the General’s ill-advised “direction”, the commander reports the issues and concerns that impact their situation.

The General then provides typical “leadership direction” by stating to his commander “take it easy, you’ll figure it out!”  The commander says, tongue-in-cheek, “yeah, I’ll figure it out.” You can vividly see the engagement and morale impact of this dialogue.

Now I’m a proponent of empowerment, but this is not how it should be done!

Fast forward…the same commander then gives “direction” to two soldiers at the location by saying “well don’t just stand there, you guys know how to operate this thing”.

Their response is that “we know the theory sir”, to which their “boss” responds, “well let’s put the theory into practice.”  “You two stay put and keep watching that screen.”

Then comes this classic question…“excuse me sir, but what are we watching for?”

Regrettably, the absurdity of unclear and uncaring communication evident throughout this scene occurs on a daily basis in many workplaces.

Now watch the rest of this stunning dialogue in reply to the soldier’s inquiry:

Colonel: “Anything unusual coming from the sea.”

Soldiers: “Sir, if we do spot something, what do we do?”

Colonel: “Report it to headquarters.”

Soldiers: “How, Sir? We haven’t got a telephone.”

Colonel: “There’s a gas station a mile down the road, they must have a phone.”

I won’t even start to discuss ensuring that your team has the right tools and resources to do their job!

Sadly, we all know how Pearl Harbor turned out, and although I suspect much of this movie dialogue was fictional, it leads me to think that with more caring leadership, the tragic results of that Sunday could have somehow been altered.

pEARL

The band Astral Projection released their song “Searching for the UFOs” in 1999.

In the business world, especially during any rapid growth periods, my recommendation is for leadership to be searching for the BFOs, aka the Blinding Flash of the Obvious!

Let’s start with the big assumption that an organization has a clearly defined mission, vision, goals and consequently a strategic plan in place to accomplish all of the aforementioned.

It’s amazing to me how often leadership continues to go in search of new and better ways of operating, well before ever giving their original strategy and tactics a chance to work.

The BFOs represent something that should have been very evident all along yet the team was moving so fast, and without recalibration, that solutions to issues and/or opportunities, that were staring them right in the face, were not realized.

Reflection and paying attention can convert what was a confusing challenge into a remedy that has now become terribly obvious!

And by the way, an obvious place to seek guidance in this area is through solicitation of both employees and customers alike.

Capt Obvious

 

 

By definition, Human Capital describes the combination of knowledge, skills and experience that an organization’s employees possess.

It is often stated that people (your talent) are the most important asset of a leader or organization.  Yet, all too often managers perform pitifully in providing their team with the focused attention they deserve.

To achieve alignment with the definition of Human Capital, leaders should consider the following checkpoints for each and every direct-report during the conduct of business:

  • do you have a genuine command of the knowledge that the individual possesses, what they’ve learned and acquired through prior work and life experiences, and what areas they desire or need to learn more about?
  • have you tested for application of the requisite skills in order for the person to optimize performance in their current, and future roles?
  • are you providing the necessary coaching, teaching, feedback and follow-up to help the employee develop their fullest talents, directed at achieving ongoing growth and success?

Strong leaders ensure that consistent monitoring, training, reinforcement and praising is an ongoing event under their watch.

human-capital-connection

Pick a setting…your workplace, golf course, restaurant, classroom, any conversation, etc. and conduct an attention observation experiment.

The bombardment of real-time, rapid-fire information at our fingertips has created a world where our focus is constantly pinballing from one “interruption” to the next.

Between cell phone alerts, email intrusions, new message pop-ups, etc., it’s a wonder how one can truly concentrate on any item for more than a few minutes at a time.  These disruptions wreak havoc on any significant efforts that require undivided attention…if we allow it.

Two personal favorites are: the business “meetings” where attendees spend their time looking at  their laptops or mobile devices; and the “face-to-face” conversations wherein eyes are focused on computer screens or  I-phones during most of the discussion.

You have the personal power and discipline to manage the electronic leashes should you choose to do so!

electronic leash II