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Archive for May, 2012

Telephone Skills for Salespeople

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 31, 2012 NO COMMENTS

Making a sales presentation in person is quite important. But how do you “appear” when you are using the phone? Clients or potential clients may call you or you may call them to obtain an appointment, discuss your solution, or even embark upon a full-scale sales presentation. With this perspective on the use of the phone, it is vitally important to come across as professional, enthusiastic, and persuasive. Let’s discuss some tips for your phone presence.

First, take a breath before picking up a call or making one. When we’re working, we tend to take shorter, shallower breaths, especially if the day has been stressful. And a person on the other end of the line is likely to hear this in our voice and our breathing patterns. If you take a deep breath before speaking over the phone, you can speak while you exhale. Speaking upon an exhale tends to carry more energy and less “deflation” in the voice. Your client will pick up on this. Remember that the first 30 seconds of a phone call are probably the most important, so a “deflated” voice will not be very enthusiastic or persuasive.

Next, keep a smile on your face. This may sound “hokey”, but it is a tried and true method of using the phone. If you’re not happy about the call, this will come across in your voice. Try recording your voice on an MP3, tape recorder, or cell phone. First, try saying something about your product without smiling. Then try the same words or phrases with a smile. You can tell the difference and so can your clients. Of course, if you have to muster all of your energy to get a smile, you may need to consider how happy you are with your work and your environment.

The third area of selling over the phone is the self-identification. Whether you are taking inbound sales calls or reaching out to clients or prospects, your greeting is vitally important. In many cases, your self-introduction may be scripted. If that is the case, try not to make it sound “canned”. Remind yourself that each call is different, although you may have said the same words repeatedly during the day. If you sound sick of saying it, your client or prospect will be able to tell. Keep the smile on your face and the inflection in your voice. Another good way to keep a greeting from sounding canned is to keep it slow. We have the tendency to speed up our speech when we’re nervous or when we’re saying something we’ve said before. Take it slow – it may even sound too slow at first, but remember that your prospect or client may be hearing it for the first time. When you record your voice, as we discussed earlier, try recording your scripted greeting or introduction. Make changes based on what you hear.

Next, remember to use sincerity and empathy at all times. Have you ever called someone for help and could not tell if you were still talking to the computer? Your voice over the phone should never give the prospect or client this feeling. The person should know that they have reached a live person. Try not to be “fake” and then position yourself as an empathetic problem solver. When you’re making an in-person presentation, think about how the inflections of your voice go along with your body language. If you’re using a headphone or earpiece to make phone calls, use the same body language. You’ll find that the emotions in your voice, like empathy and sincerity, will come out even though you don’t have an audience directly in front of you.

Finally, be attentive. The person on the other end of the line can tell if you’re having coffee or playing Solitaire. Remember to focus solely on the caller in your ear. If you have trouble keeping your hands occupied, take notes on the call. This way, you’re recording important information about what the client says and you’re keeping yourself as attentive to the caller as possible.

A sale can occur anywhere, so remember that talking to a prospect or client on the phone is just as important as speaking to him or her in person.


Decision Making Strategies

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 24, 2012 NO COMMENTS

Leadership skills become second nature for many people. But one of the most difficult skills is decision making. There are always numerous factors to consider, impacts to predict, and, simply put, it’s difficult to please everyone from the highest levels. It’s easy for leaders to procrastinate on decision-making or even try to offload the decision to someone else. But an effective decision making strategy is a highly useful leadership tool, so let’s discuss how to make those decisions in a methodical and factual way.

First, let’s discuss how decisions are made. Some leaders may make all decisions alone. This may be based on the individual or the dynamic of the group he or she leads. On the other hand, some leaders do not step into decision-making unless they have their “sounding board” group around them. Before you enter into the decision process, determine how you’ll make your decision. With that said, remember that group decision- making is sometimes highly effective because, let’s face it, none of us has all of the answers.<!–more–>

The first step in decision-making is to clarify the issue at hand. To do this effectively, you must examine the facts surrounding the decision. This sounds simple, but often there is “hype” or emotion surrounding the facts. Your job as a leader and decision maker is to extrapolate the facts from the junk surrounding them. Once you’ve clarified the issue and reduced it to its facts, you must put it in common terms. These terms can be your own terms for ease of understanding, or in terms that are readily understood by the organization. With a clear issue that is easily communicated, you’re ready to move to the next step.

Brainstorm the issue at hand, either alone or with a group. Single person brainstorming tends to be one sided, but at least you can create causes and effects for the decision that needs to be made. On the flip side, a group brainstorming session allows for various points of view and the elaboration of further problems relating to the issue, possible solutions, and possible pros and cons. Once you begin the process of brainstorming, either alone or with a group, write down your thoughts. Put the thought page where you can see it and refer to it as the decision making process is underway. In a group setting, create a dialogue between group members about the decision and be ready to accept other points of view. After a brainstorming session, the possible decisions will probably become clear.

Take the possible decisions and create a list of advantages and disadvantages for each. It sounds simple to create what amounts to a “pros and cons” list, but the method is effective for eliminating possibilities. If a possible decision is heavy on cons and light on pros, it may not be the best decision at the time. If you’re making a decision with a group, be sure that everyone in the group participates on the pros and cons identification – you may achieve clarity where you thought none existed. Even if you finish the pros and cons exercise with a few possible decisions, you’ll still be closer than you were at the beginning.

Next, take all of the “finalists” and map out the consequences. In fact, you may have identified consequences in your pros and cons activity. But analyze the decisions further. Consider using a timeline. For example, if we make decision “A”, what will be the result within one week, one month, one year, or five years? Some decisions will require speculation based on current knowledge, but some decisions may be very clear at this point. You must take an extremely analytical approach at this point in your decision making process. One way to do this is to make conclusions such as, “If condition A exists, then situation B will emerge”, or, “if decision A is made, then the result will be actions B, C, and D.”

The last step of methodical decision-making is to make the final decision. After going through this process, your final decision will probably be very clear. But you must be prepared to explain why you’re making the decision. And you must be able to back it up with facts. The fact-basis of decision-making cannot be underestimated. If there is any emotion in the support for the decision, you may need to consider going back to the drawing board.

Decision-making is difficult, but these five steps will help you obtain clarity, fact, and a clear path to the decision itself.


CFA Organizational Benefits

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 17, 2012 NO COMMENTS

jobs_fin_anThere are numerous benefits to both the organization and the individual in relation to the CFA designation. We have discussed many of these benefits, but let’s take a look at the benefits that the organization can gain and utilize if you are looking to bring in CFA charterholders. Keep in mind that you may also be considering moving some of your existing associates through the CFA designation, so all of the organizational benefits we are discussing would apply in either situation.
First, let’s examine the overall organizational benefit, the level playing field. Every organization looks for this leveling in terms of departments or individuals. Where it’s applicable, the CFA designation serves as a “leveler”. For example, you may place the designation as a preference in hiring. As other associates begin to leave the applicable areas, the new hires with CFA designations will take their places.

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CFA Competencies

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 10, 2012 NO COMMENTS

An individual with a professional certification brings credibility and expertise to the organization. But when you look closer, you’ll see that a certified individual brings a package of multiple competencies to the table. These competencies are important both in terms of ability to the job as well as long term benefit to the organization. Many times, a professional certification brings both expressed and implied competencies to your organization. If you are looking to bring in more people with a special designation or if you are considering sending your brightest through the program, be sure to examine the expressed competencies and determine what competencies you can imply. The CFA designation will provide your organization with a long list of expressed and implied competencies. Let’s discuss those in detail so that you can determine if the CFA designation competencies match those of your organization.<!–more–>
First, let’s look at expressed competencies in terms of the CFA designation. Expressed competencies are those that we know are covered in the certification curriculum and process. These are easy to determine but it’s still a good idea to pick them out, both technical and soft skill competencies. Obviously the CFA program has a list of technical competencies, including knowledge and application of various markets and financial instruments. But what other competencies are expressed in the program and how can those fit in with your organization?
One of the more obvious “soft” competency groups in the CFA program is related to ethics and ethical behavior. Given the current financial situation, high ethics are certainly going to be beneficial to your organization and its future. In the CFA program, candidates are evaluated based on their ability to place integrity over their own interests. This competency obviously has a huge impact in today’s environment, in which many financial professionals have fallen because of self-interest over integrity. Among the other ethical competencies in the CFA program are the improvement and maintenance of the candidate or charterholder’s professional standing, through education, networking, and appropriate decision making.
In relation to professional competency, the CFA program expresses that duty is also a key attribute, next in importance to ethics. The program stresses that each charterholder has a duty to his or her client as well as a duty to his or her employers. This duty extends into making the correct choices, maintaining professionalism, and keeping every action above the board in terms of ethics. Between ethics and duty, the expressed soft competencies of the CFA program are quite strong.
Once an individual as passed the three levels and becomes a CFA charterholder, he or she can apply for membership in the CFA Institute. The requirements for membership are almost as strong as the requirements for entrance to the program, and bring another level of professional competency into play. To begin with, each local society may have different requirements. But on top of this, a person entering membership after obtaining the CFA designation must have two sponsors, one who is already a member and another who is a supervisor. Obviously the requirement for sponsors will provide another view of the CFA charterholders professional and ethical competency. In addition, the prospective member must be involved on a daily basis in the evaluation and application of financial data, specifically related to securities and investments. The potential member must also supervise this type of activity effectively and may also have taught this activity. Plus, at least 50% of the prospective member’s time must be devoted to investment decision-making and the creation of added value through those decisions. These are not only technical competencies but are also leadership and management competencies.
Let’s take a look at the competencies we can imply from the CFA program. First and foremost, the program is self-paced, with only the exam schedule as a final deadline for the candidate. As training and development professionals know, a self-paced program of any kind takes a specific type of adult learner, someone who has the drive and ambition to see the project through to the end. Plus, the person will probably have weighed the pros and cons of entering the program pretty heavily by the time he or she makes the decision to enter the program. This in itself shows a high level of analysis and decision making skill. A self-paced learner must also possess a high level of self-reliance and focus in order to complete a course of study. In the case of the CFA program, there are study groups and assistance available; it’s just a matter of determining when the time has come to go those resources. In other words, the self-paced learner must utilize self reliance but also be self-aware enough to realize when it’s time to reach out. Isn’t that a great combination in the field?
Revisiting the CFA curriculum, we see that technical and financial acumen are tested routinely, and in multiple levels of learning taxonomy. This will require that a candidate have the ability to move knowledge through those levels. For example, a less-disciplined adult learner may learn enough to “get by”, but not enough to synthesize the knowledge he or she has obtained in the course of study. This probably wouldn’t work in terms of the CFA program. The currency of the CFA curriculum combined with the analysis and synthesis of knowledge will also require a candidate to possess leadership and technical decision making skill. On top of all of this, these competencies will prepare a potential CFA charterholder to make the decisions that drive your organization forward.
Clearly the CFA designation tests the competencies of potential charterholders. And because the CFA will come to you with those competencies, the benefits to the organization will be impressive.
In our final discussion, we will look at the CFA designation and the overall benefits at the organizational level.


CFA Recognition and Standard

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On May 3, 2012 NO COMMENTS

21_nharris_snr_financial_analyst2Certifications and professional designations have a value to the organization and the individual only if they are recognized or explainable in terms of the standards they uphold. In other words, both individual and organization look for designations that can be used to market, lend credibility, and explain standards, education and experience. Many organizations have internal certification or designation programs and these are a great way to get associates involved and retain them. But what does an internal certification actually prove? Everyone inside the organization knows what the certification means, what the person had to do to get it, and what standards he or she was held to. But outside of that organization, what value is the certification to shareholders, customers, or other organizations? The CFA designation is well known throughout the world, and because of its structure, gives your organization and each individual the recognition and standard they deserve. Let’s find out how.

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