Do Your Homework to Improve Sales Results

Do you want to improve revenue and the performance of your sales team? Then do your homework! Now that’s a pretty obvious better business basic!

Last week my partners and I began a new consulting relationship with a new sales team in the energy management industry. We coached them on ways to improve sales performance. And what did we focus on? Do the research!

How much do you know about the company you’re approaching? Do you know who the CEO and CFO are? Are you familiar with the organization chart? Have you been tracking them on the Internet? Are you connected with anyone who knows them through LinkedIn? For their key deciders, how much do you know about their values, what’s important to each of them? Have you spent time building productive relationships with them?

Most sales people who approach potential customers about a big or complex sale think they know enough about their prospect, but they don’t. In many cases we’ve found they don’t even have basic information like what I just listed, and more.

Effective sales people are all about building productive relationships. They do that by gaining information and knowledge. They do that by understanding the prospect’s situation. They do that by understanding the needs of the prospect and how their solution might fill that need. They do that by being honest and sincere, and building credibility with that prospect. They do not do that by pushing a prospect into buying a product or service that they do not need!

So I raise the question; have you built that productive relationship with your prospect? Are they really ready and wanting to buy from you? Have you done your homework?

Just a little common business sense folks…

Improving Results through Servant Leadership

Servant leadership may be perceived as a “fad management technique” but I actually find it to be one of those better business basics I keep talking about.  Here’s why…

If you’re with me on the idea that you improve results by improving performance and that performance is personal before it is organizational, then the question is, “What have you done to help your people improve their performance?”  As a manager, your responsibilities include guiding your direct reports, setting expectations, monitoring performance, and providing feedback on their work.  But what have you done to clear away barriers that prevent them from performing up to their full potential?

Your primary responsibility is to deliver results and protect assets through the wise use of resources within your area of responsibility.  How do you do that?  You set your people up to succeed.  If you aren’t addressing their needs, and clearing away those performance barriers, you are limiting their ability to perform up to their potential, and you are failing to deliver the results that your function has the potential to deliver.  You are also failing to develop productive relationships with your people.  After all, your people are your most valuable resource!

As a manager you may need to employ authoritarian, participative or hands off leadership approaches depending on the situation within your area of responsibility.  You may even need to be the benevolent dictator.  Regardless of the leadership approach you use, integrating elements of servant leadership will help your people achieve their full potential, and help you deliver the results expected of your team.

So communicate with your people, develop productive relationships with them, learn what is preventing them from delivering the best results possible, and clear away those barriers or point them in the direction of other sources of help that you may not be able to offer yourself.  Be a servant leader and you’ll see improved results through improved personal performance.

If you want to learn more about servant leadership, read James Hunter’s The Servant, or The Servant Leader by Blanchard and Hodges.  Both are a good read, the latter with more religious overtones but still very applicable in the work environment.  And don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like some help.

Improving Results – Where Do I Start?

When results aren’t running as expected, profits declining, customer complaints rising, employee morale slipping; where does a manager look to find the cause?

If the results relate to dollars and cents we often leap to the idea of cutting costs or raising revenue or fixing a broken process.  If it’s customer satisfaction we jump on product quality, or maybe we start heading in the right direction, our customer service team’s performance.  If it’s an employee morale issue we look at the culture, or specific events that may have triggered some negative employee feelings toward management or owners or each other.  Again we start drifting in the right direction, performance.

However, we often incorrectly define the situation as a problem of organizational performance.  What we frequently forget is that performance is personal before it is organizational, and what your people are, or are not doing, is directly affecting results.  How do you zero in on the personal performance issue?

There are many aspects of personal performance we could focus on, but two seem particularly important and they’re not job skills so much as they are life skills; building productive relationships, and communicating effectively.

You knit together your entire organization through formal and informal communications.  Communication about anything from mission, vision, and values to individual performance expectations must be clear, concise, received, fully understood, and converted to specific actions by the intended recipients.  If that doesn’t happen your people won’t know what is expected and may end up performing unnecessary tasks and demonstrating inappropriate behaviors, or not performing necessary tasks or demonstrating desired behaviors.

Effective communication contributes to the formation of productive relationships between employees, between managers and direct reports, between customer representatives and clients, between the business and the community, and … well any connection involving two or more people.  Giving attention to effective communication throughout your organization is a good place to start resolving performance issues and getting those results back to what was expected, and beyond, but this isn’t an easy task.

Many organizations have tried repeatedly to improve communications without success.  If you want to learn more about an approach that has proved successful in numerous situations, try this link and visit the contact page to ask me about improving communications in your business.  After all, communication is just another one of those better business basics!

What a Novel Idea!

February 8, 2011 1 comment

Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I were discussing my business.  In fact she was asking me lots of questions about it such as, “What do you do?” “How successful have you been lately?” “Can you give me some examples of your results?” “Are you actively networking?” “Can you make it more affordable?” “Who’s your audience?” “What’s your elevator speech?”  …

About two and a half hours into this conversation she had proposed an entirely new business strategy and marketing plan and given me a kick in the pants about making it happen.  My first thought was, “I think I need to hire this woman as our newest consultant.”  Then I asked her how she got so smart about running a business, and she told me she had a really smart dad who taught her a lot.  “Oh yeah”, I thought.  She just spent over two hours feeding back to me a whole slew of business basics, honed by her own experiences over the last few years, that I seemed to have forgotten, or at least failed to regularly revisit.

The lesson?  Remember the basics; and, if things don’t seem to be going as expected, revisit them. Every once in a while, get a look at your business through someone else’s eyes.  Then evaluate your key performance drivers.  Are your mission, vision, and values still sound?  Does the strategy support the purpose?  Do the plans (marketing, finance, operations, etc.) support the strategy?  Are your processes still working effectively?  Does your organization structure still make sense and support your business activities?  Are your people still capable, on the same page and focused on results?

Many thanks to my wise entrepreneur of a daughter, who looked at my business through fresh eyes and reminded me about the most important better business basic: don’t lose sight of those sound business basics!  They’re the essence of success!

(By the way Sunshine, are you available?  Love, Dad)

Categories: Foundation

Personal Performance vs. Organizational Performance

Why do we believe performance (and change) is personal before it is organizational?  It’s not just because a colleague once told us.  It’s because we see it every day in every organization we interact with.

When is the last time you walked into a store, had a bad first contact with a customer service representative, and yet still purchased something from that store?  What about when you had a good first contact?  Much more likely isn’t it that you bought something from the latter store rather than the former?

Have you ever had an unresolved disagreement or argument with a friend?  Not too conducive to continuing the friendship, was it?  What about a relationship with a co-worker that went negative, still conducive to a productive working relationship?  Probably not.  Is your employer impacted?  Probably so if your continued interaction is essential to service or product delivery.

Let’s say you and your co-worker agree to work together, even though you disagree on a particular functional issue or expectation you have of each other related to your jobs.  Will your work relationship and communications be speeding along in overdrive, or stuck in second gear due to the tension or stress you experience?  Ever tried driving a car with the parking brake on?  Found yourself going nowhere fast, didn’t you?  How can an organization possibly perform up to its full potential if people aren’t performing up to theirs?  It can’t!

Am I stating the obvious?  Of course I am!  And yet these situations occur and fester daily in every organization to some degree.

So what can a business leader, or a worker on the shop floor do about it?  It doesn’t matter whether you choose a top down or a bottom up approach because somewhere along the way everyone in the organization needs to get on board, to get themselves on the same page with each other, improve their communications, and begin strengthening their working relationships.

It may start with a boss and his or her direct reports making clear their expectations of each other, and agreeing to accept accountability for delivering results.  It may start with two co-workers seeing and acting on an opportunity to improve how they work together to get better results, and talking with others about their success.  Regardless of where the effort starts, the focus is on communicating, clarifying, and delivering what is expected and necessary.

Do you want better organizational performance?  Then regardless of your place in the organization, make performance personal, develop your communication skills, express your expectations, don’t assume others know what you need or want, and hold yourself accountable for your commitments.

Is this easy?  No.  Is it necessary?  Yes.  It’s a matter of common business sense, and a better business basic.