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Archive for June, 2012

A Roadmap For Creating Customer and Employee Value

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 28, 2012 NO COMMENTS

When organizational leaders are asked about their most valuable asset, they are most likely to say that their customers or employees, or both, are the most valuable. But recent studies show that only 54% of executives have a concrete strategy to build one-on-one customer and employee relationships. It’s not easy to go from awareness to execution, but here are four high level tips for leaders who want to create a value strategy.

First, look at yourself and your own interpersonal skills. No matter how good you think your skills are, they can always use some improvement. And before a discussion of how to improve interpersonal skills, remember that the skills you display will be the ones that filter down into the organization – and out to its customers. To begin with, practice relationship building in your own areas. Leaders sometimes have “built-in” relationships with people in the organization because neither has a choice. But your leadership will excel if you find a way to build real relationships with all of those people. A much harder, but highly effective, method is to ask for feedback from colleagues, other leaders, and yes, even direct and indirect reports. And don’t just store the data you obtain – use it to make improvements.

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The Sales Learning Curve

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 21, 2012 NO COMMENTS

<span lang=”EN”>Psychological and learning theories tell us that learning curves are a continuum of four basic competency levels. It may seem like a stretch to apply theoretical knowledge to your sales process, but simply being aware of the levels of knowledge and how they can impact your sales is a great place to start. Think of this as your own sales competency continuum, a way in which you can continually improve.</span>

The first level of knowledge is called “unconscious incompetence”. It sounds like a terrible label, but if you’re in this area you’re not really aware of what your knowledge deficiency is. The only way to move to the next level of knowledge is to watch someone else perform the skill, or explain it to you, so that you become aware of its existence. New salespeople may be in this stage in regard to products and services, but can also be unaware of various sales techniques. But with more experience comes the feeling that you cannot improve – which means you may be missing out on new or improved sales processes and techniques. Obviously, new salespeople will attend training and observe the pros to find out what they need to learn. But if you’re highly experienced, you can also take the time to observe others and discover some areas of unconscious incompetence.<!–more–>

Once you’ve become aware of the knowledge you don’t have, you move to the next level of learning, which is called “conscious incompetence”. In this stage, you obviously realize the skills you lack – or the skills you need to make improvements in your sales process or client handling techniques. With awareness, you might even practice a new skill or technique, because you know that practice will help you incorporate the skill into your everyday work. In the conscious incompetence phase, it is absolutely vital that you make the commitment to learning and practice – even if you are a highly experienced salesperson. Set a goal to attend seminars, read on the subject, and even to find a mentor who can help you improve. But becoming aware isn’t the end of the road on new skills.

The third stage is called “conscious competence”, in which you learn to practice the new skill or technique reasonably well. If it’s a new technique, such as remembering to research your competition before every sales presentation, you’ll start to roll it in because you’re constantly thinking about it. And even though you think about it, it’s still easy to forget because it’s not quite a “rote” skill that you practice every day. You may even be able to demonstrate the skill to someone else, but it’s probably difficult to pull the skill apart and explain it to someone who doesn’t yet have it. In sales, and many other professions for that matter, the best thing you can do in the conscious competence stage is to practice, practice, and practice. And only through practice can you move to the next new skill or technique, so make a commitment to deploy the new skill in your sales process every time you make a presentation.

The final stage of learning is the “unconscious competence” phase, where your skills and techniques are second nature. Often learning theorists will describe driving, walking, and writing as unconscious competencies, because you can perform the skill without thinking. As the skill becomes more developed, you may even discover that you can teach it to others. But the main thing to remember about unconscious competence is that it does not exempt you from comparing yourself to new standards and consistently observing others to find even more unconscious incompetence. In sales, you can make a commitment to observation and to asking for feedback from others to evaluate yourself. In addition, with unconscious competence comes responsibility, because you can observe others and mentor them with your highly developed skills.

It’s easy to settle into a sales process that works – and continue using techniques that always generate results. But when you consider the sales competency continuum, your skills should always be undergoing change and improvement – and will therefore improve your bottom line.

Copyright 2009-2012 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at his LinkedIn Page: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author

 


Changing the Focus of Training

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 14, 2012 NO COMMENTS

As we hear rumors of the eventual upturn in the global economy, organizations are beginning to emerge after taking cover and taking drastic action during the downturn. Many organizations will never operate the same again, and many are looking for ways to absorb the lessons learned and move forward with new structures and operations. How can the training organization help during this time of stepping forward? There are several areas on which to focus and change training – and ensure that the organization continues to move forward.

First, take a look at the new hire situation. Many organizations are on hiring freezes or may still be involved in layoffs. But some organizations are in constant need of new hire employees, especially on the front lines. If your organization has high turnover or simply continues to hire, look at the training that was offered for this group during the times before the economic downturn. How much of the information was truly “need to know”? Did the training integrate efficiencies such as e-learning and on-the-job programs? If not, take the time to revamp these programs to make them as efficient in delivery and subject matter as possible. Did the material focus on how to do the job efficiently? Try focusing the training itself on efficiency and see how well the new hires do. On top of this, remember to evaluate the new program in order to clean it up and keep it as cost-effective as possible.<!–more–>

Next, have the organization’s leaders received training over the period of economic uncertainty? In many cases, the leadership pool has been hard at work trying to keep the organization together. Be sure to look at the formal training programs for leadership and start working on how to include them when the budget and economy allow. But again, look for ways to address the new shape and face of leadership going forward. How can the organization’s leaders provide a role model in the new environment? What has changed for them since the economic downturn? What leadership tools will be most useful for the organization and its leaders? Focus any formal programs on these aspects of leadership and you’ll be able to show efficiency. In addition, you’ll be able to prepare and retain leaders for the organization and how it is emerging in the new economy. As always, keep a focus on championing change, looking and listening for efficiency, and keeping an “open door” for subordinates.

Third, consider management training. Most likely, there has not been a great deal of this while the organization was in a contraction. But how can the training department, when budget allows, tackle management training for the new environment? Focus programs on how to manage effectively and efficiently. Try to hone in on how managers can be on the lookout for new ways of doing things – and how they can manage from the perspective of the bottom line. As managers start working in this fashion, the people who report to them will also work in that fashion. The entire organization will be looking for ways to operate efficiently and with cost in mind.

Fourth, look at how your organization is affected by compliance, ethics, whistleblowing, or regulation. Some industries are in a complete uproar where these issues are concerned, and some are not. But wherever your organization stands, get executive buy-in on programs that teach how to comply, what ethical standards are required, and how to report perceived ethics issues without fear of retribution. Many organizations did not focus on these issues, especially ethics, before the economic meltdown. And unfortunately a few unethical actions caused a great upheaval in the way the world does business. Training can help an emerging organization operate “above-the-board” in the new environment, along with efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Finally, and again if and when budgets allow, focus some training on retention and career paths. Training can be a vital partner in teaching and retaining employees at all levels, especially if those employees are given a way to advance, expand their knowledge, and broaden their competency and appeal to other areas within the organization. Consider how to disseminate information on career paths and career tracks efficiently, such as through on-the-job programs, “brown bag” lunch programs, e-learning and Internet, case studies, and self-paced interventions. Make the requirements for career path and advancements available to all associates in the most effective and cost-efficient manner. You’ll find that retention may increase along with satisfaction.

Organizations that are emerging on the other side of economic crisis certainly have an uphill battle. Training departments can focus on these aspects and partner with the rest of the organization during the difficult transition.

Copyright 2012 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at his LinkedIn Page: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author

 


Getting Past the Gatekeeper

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On June 7, 2012 NO COMMENTS

You’ve worked on your presentation, your communication skills, and your research in order to persuade a particular client. But then you realize that getting to the decision maker is going to be more difficult than you imagined, because that person has a gatekeeper. Let’s discover some strategies for getting past the gatekeeper effectively, without creating a conflict.

First, it’s important to understand that there is more than one type of gatekeeper. The first type of gatekeeper is the permanent one, who is usually an executive assistant, administrative assistant, or secretary. This person probably holds all of the access to the decision maker, and he or she can make the decision as to whether you get through to that person or not. The second type of gatekeeper is the temporary or situational gatekeeper, which is a person who is working on a project with the decision-maker. That person may be a committee member, a team member, or a person on a project who is assigned to RFP’s and demonstrations. It’s important to understand what type of gatekeeper you’re dealing with in order to fashion your strategy. What works on one type of gatekeeper may not work on another. Now, let’s take a look at three strategies for getting through the gatekeeper – or avoiding him or her completely.<!–more–>

The first strategy is a direct approach. You’re dealing with a decision-maker, who sometimes may be a manager or director. Think about how that person operates. He or she is probably someone who is confident and works with self-assurance. If he or she were to request to speak with someone, he or she would probably be direct instead of “beating around the bush”. You can use this approach to get through the gatekeeper. Be polite, and never take a rude tone, but consider saying, “Could you tell Mr. So-and-so that Bob from XYZ Company is on the line?” This approach may not always work, but it may cause the gatekeeper to stray away from asking too many questions.

Another strategy may take you all the way around the gatekeeper. In this strategy, you must consider using another “gate”. Are there industry groups or networking events that the decision maker belongs to or attends? If so, consider going to these events or joining the group in order to get an introduction. Remember that groups such as Chambers of Commerce or industry-specific groups use their events for networking; you cannot go to an event without the prospect of someone introducing him or herself to you. And decision makers know this, as well. In fact, some decision makers go to these events for the purpose of seeking out possible business partners. Here’s another way to use this approach. Once you’ve met the decision-maker, you can use the direct approach with the gatekeeper, as we just discussed. But when the gatekeeper says, “What’s this about?” you won’t be stuck fumbling for an answer. Say, “I just met her at the Chamber of Commerce meeting and I have a business opportunity to discuss with her.” When you relate it that way, the gatekeeper is far more likely to let you get through.

A final strategy is also a very effective one with permanent gatekeepers. Make an ally of the gatekeeper and sell to him or her. Think about it. Many executive level decision-makers trust their entire lives to the assistant. That person has control over the executive’s calendar, office, files, etc. The decision maker most likely respects that person’s opinion. First, find some common ground with the gatekeeper. Then introduce yourself to him or her as a solution-bearer. When you do this, you’re “getting chummy” with the gatekeeper and you’re going to have some influence there, as well.

The important thing to remember when formulating strategies for getting through a gatekeeper is that the approach is not a “one size fits all”. When you do your research, find out if a gatekeeper exists. Find out what kind of gatekeeper he or she is – and judge how that person will react to various approaches. If you make your gatekeeper strategy a part of your initial research and preparation, you’ll find that your sales process is easier – and that getting through the gatekeeper is not such a terrible chore.

Copyright 2012 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at his LinkedIn Page: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author