• Leadership Skills Shortfall is Holding Back the UK Economy

    A lack of leadership and management skills is hampering the growth potential of small businesses and acting as a brake on productivity, according to a new report published recently by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

    The report found that while three fifths of small business owners (59%) say they update their business knowledge and skills at least once a year, specific management training is often lacking.

    Only a quarter of small firms questioned (25%) had undertaken management training in the last 12 months. One in four (26%) had never undergone any form of management training at all. The FSB also found few smaller businesses seek external management training for staff, with just a fifth (19%) offering such training to their employees.

    Currently just under half of all new UK start-ups fail in their first three years. Studies suggest that a leading cause of failure is poor leadership and management skills. This skills shortfall partly explains the growing productivity gap, with the UK consistently trailing behind its competitors, falling a full 18 percent below the G7 average. This is the widest productivity gap with the G7 since comparable estimates began in 1991.

    Here at East Midlands Sandler we specialise in training and developing leaders and managers – this is our core business.  We do this through re-enforcement training, using proven methodology which is guaranteed to work.  We get results – great results – every time.

    A recent example is a client who came to us after been stuck at £3.5m turnover for the past 7 years.  Everything they tried failed. They joined Sandler and after 18 months being on the programme they had increased their turnover (and profits) to £7m.

    This is the type of success story we have all the time, for varying sizes and scales of businesses of course.

    Don’t be one of the 75% of businesses who are standing on their own foot and holding the business back.  Make your first positive step and come to a complimentary Sandler Masterclass.  Click here to find your local Sandler Trainer.

    Peter Jones

    Peter Jones

    Peter Jones is Managing Director of Sandler Training in the East Midlands. Peter works with business owners and MD’s who want to increase their return on investment made in their sales team and business owners who need to improve their business development skills.

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  • Do you pay staff commission?

    Paying Commission

    Paying Commission
    Companies paying commission and overtime will need to review their holiday pay arrangements and possibly the way they pay commission.

    Following a European Court of Justice decision and subsequent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision in Lock vs British gas Trading, a case that was first heard in 2012, employers will have to pay commission as part of holiday pay. For more details of the case read on here: http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/holiday-pay-case-eat-confirms-employers-must-pay-commission/

    Commission, guaranteed overtime and overtime where an employee may be required to work will have to be included in holiday pay. It will affect staff who normally receive commission and overtime and are paid less when on annual leave. The details of how payments should be calculated have not been decided yet.

    British Gas have requested permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal so that there can be a definitive ruling on the issue so the case is likely to go to Appeal.

    So what should you do in the meantime?

    You can do nothing. You can get legal advice and change your commission and holiday pay structures. You can make financial provision for back pay.  Your lawyers are sure to be providing their clients with a briefing soon – so read it and then decide.

    Ermine Amies

    Ermine Amies

    Ermine Amies runs Sandler Training in East Anglia with monthly Master Classes in Norwich

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  • I hired experienced Sales People, so my Job is done right?

    Small business owners tend to stay small because they do not install systems and processes into their business. Most owners want to hire “experienced” sales people. The mentality is to hire someone, teach them about their products and services, then expect the person to “go sell”. What’s the problem? If we hire experienced sales people, once they learn the product or service, they should be good to go, right?

    Wrong. Why do small business owners experience so many failed sales hires? Largely because there is too much left for interpretation between knowing the product and making sales. Owners hope “experience” will fill the gap. The truth is that a sales person’s experience in one company or industry most often does not transfer to another. The problem could be a different type of customer, a difference on the level of customer one should call upon, or a different set of competitive issues. There are countless reasons that explain why an “experienced” sales person will not succeed in a new company.

    What should a business owner do to overcome this issue? Creating a common set of expectations and defining the customer profile are great places to start. A customer profile may be defined in terms of geography, prospect type, industry focus, and appropriate level of contact within the client organisation. Clearly identifying the prospective customer base will keep your sales people focused in the right area. Holding sales people accountable to a common set of expectations ensures they will be completing activities that enable their success.

    Further, define your sales person’s role by clearly articulating how they should make contact with the new prospects. Teach them how to start a conversation with the target client. Help them understand the common problems your company solves for new customers. Challenge them to bring back quality information gathered in their sales calls. Make them qualify new prospects in terms of the customer’s ability to spend money and make decisions. The more detailed the activity, the more success your sales people will find.

    While hiring “experienced”, sales people is a decent first step, using specific selling systems and processes are the only way to put that “experience” to good use.

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Turn Bad Times to Your Benefit

    Yes, sales at the big stores are awful. The housing market in many areas is lousy. Consumer confidence is weak and may be even weaker by the time you read this. I don’t disagree with any of that. Facts are facts.

    What I do take issue with is the notion that this can’t be a time of strong productivity for the sales professional. It can be and should be a great time, no matter how discouraging the economic indicators may be.

    Pessimism may be contagious, but it shouldn’t be.

    There are at least two reasons this should be a period of profit and productivity for the savvy sales professional.

    First, most sales people are paralyzed in today’s environment. They don’t have a system for success and, facing a difficult environment, are only reactive. They’re shot-gunning their efforts. If you have a process or system, and you trust it and embrace it, you enjoy a distinct advantage over other sales people.

    Second, you need to identify the real issues facing decision makers in this environment. When you have identified those issues, you will be able to position your product or service so that your prospects must have it to resolve the problems they face. Most CEOs right now are trying to streamline processes, decrease expenses and increase revenues. So you will need to help them discover that your product or service is necessary to their success in meeting those goals. That’s how you distinguish your product or service. It goes from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have.

    This is not a time to talk about your product or service’s features. This is a time for a pain-based approach. You need to identify your prospect’s pain and demonstrate how what you are selling removes that pain.

    Here’s why the prospect’s discomfort works to your benefit. A lot of expert salespeople have never learned this, but successful sales depend less on the sales professionals’ ability to talk rather than on their ability to listen. (Many sales people who rely almost exclusively on their own gift of selling tend to burn out quickly and needlessly.)

    The secret of selling lies in getting prospects to talk about their pain. That’s because the way to make a sale is to identify the prospect’s discomfort and then to show how the product or service you are selling makes that discomfort go away. Simple, isn’t it?

    And it is in down times like these that prospects are most likely to speak with the greatest honesty about the problems they face. Sometimes they will pour their hearts out to you, which is not often the case when they’re flying high.

    Plus, they’ve got the time. Now it’s up to you to seize it.

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Are you a Buzz Lightyear Manager?

    Are you a Buzz Lightyear ManagerAs Leader and Manager in your organisations, you have the toughest job. You are expected to motivate, guide and help your team(s) as well as having a deep understanding of each member’s typical behaviours, attitudes and skill sets. That’s in addition to your day job!

    For some (many) leading from the front, that also means fighting the voice in your head that may sound something like “I hired you to do the job, just do it!”, the sure fire way to torpedo your own Balance Sheet below the waterline.

    So today as you hurtle through your business ‘fixing’ things, pause for a moment and ask yourself, what does the word “Leadership” actually mean? What would be your definition? Difficult isn’t it! How about this from Peter Drucker? – “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

    When I come across a dysfunctional team (and I’ve worked within some of the worst as well as in my career creating a few of my own!), often its when an otherwise successful head of the business hasn’t acquired the understanding how to Manage their people. Or perhaps have the profile where its of no interest. ‘Inspiring’ can come naturally for some but for the employee it gets tedious watching individuals get away with poor performance just because the ‘Leader’ fails to grasp the nettle and actually ‘Manage’ their team. We can kid ourselves that a ‘Buzz Lightyear’ approach to Leadership will build a great business but it probably won’t on its own. There has to be more effort put in to ensure the good staff stay and grow alongside you.

    Here’s a quick exercise: At a basic level, you may know the four hats we must wear to be effective leaders. Score yourself out of ’10’ against each one today:-

    • Coach ______ out of 10
    • Mentor ______ out of 10
    • Trainer ______ out of 10
    • Supervisor ______ out of 10

    How did you do? 10’s across the board? Its more usual to score well on one, maybe two points but get a slightly lower score against others. Hold on a second, though, how well did you do differentiating between Coach & Mentor? That’s a tricky one for many so here’s some help:

    • Mentoring is where a manager shares wisdom(?) from their past experience. The pitfall for some perhaps is thinking they are coaching but actually under pressure they end up telling / directing based on experience or what they think was the right thing to do. You’ll know if you are doing this as you will regularly be owning all the decisions on a daily basis and take the worries home whilst paying all your staff the same wage for them not to.
    • Coaching is the behaviour & technique that takes more time and patience, helps people discover for themselves the correct outcome and has a longer lasting effect. (ahem…..may take some longer to achieve than others).

    Considering this, does it change your scoring a little? Maybe not.

    All employees have choice, they can CHOOSE to be either Productive or Non-Productive. They can also choose whether they are productive all the time or just as a ‘One-off’. Coaching is the Leader’s opportunity to help their employee’s discover the best choices to make. A Coach operates as an ‘Adult’, is non critical and nurtures their employee’s so that they make the right choices and if they elect not to, are aware of the consequences.

    So coaching requires effort, skill, takes longer to effect and requires us to hold back with the answers. Undeniably, delivers the greatest results for longer effectiveness. Its easy to see then why ‘Buzz-Lightyear’ managers miss out.


    Chris Davies

    Chris Davies

    Chris Davies has spent over 35 years in both sales and leadership environments with companies such as Sony, Toshiba, IBM and others. Observing first-hand the declining effects of traditional, much copied selling methodologies. Typically, Chris works with business leaders, partners and top producers who are ready to work smarter and commit their time, money and energy to attract new clients, sell more products or services and generate more profits with integrity. Tel: 01525 280777 Mobile: 07891 055925

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  • More on goals

    January is the time for setting goals.  Indeed, many business professionals are familiar with writing business goals for the upcoming year.  Unfortunately, it’s common to find these well intentioned goals tossed in a file drawer not to be looked at or referred to again.  What was intended to serve as a guiding force or roadmap for positive behaviours and change has been forgotten.  Does this behaviour seem flawed to you?

    Goal setting is all about creating balance. Goals need to address the whole person, not just the professional person.  If attaining a goal means sacrificing in other areas of your life, (health, family etc), one risks creating imbalance.  This imbalance can jeopardise not only the success of attaining the goal but risks creating a negative impact on other areas of life.”

    Sandler training has been working with professionals to develop, execute and achieve goals for more than 30 years.  By utilising a proven ten step methodology, people are able to identify, organise and plan activities designed to move them towards goal attainment.  The Sandler Goal Setting System is designed to address all areas of life so that goals work in harmony thereby accelerating success rates.

    Sandler’s 10 Steps To Goal Setting

    1. Label eight sheets of paper each with one life goal area: 

    Social, Physical, Financial, Mental (Educational), Professional, Family, Personal, Spiritual. Reflect on your current status within each life goal area and write it down.

    1. List everything you would like to accomplish for each life area

    Don’t pre-judge your thoughts, write them all down as if nothing is out of reach

    1. Prioritise goals in each of the eight areas from most important to least important.
    2. Create a master list of the top three goals from each of the 8 areas.
    3. Prioritise the master list.  Check for balance and any possible conflicts
    4. Write a detailed description of each master list goal and how you are going to achieve it.

    Goals must be SMART:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.
    Goals are made to make you stretch so don’t make them too easy.

    1. Develop a timetable for each goal

    Break down long term goals into short-term activities with deadlines
    Include daily, weekly and monthly activities

    1. Share your goals with others – Hold yourself accountable.
    2. Review your goals regularly and track your progress
    3. Be persistent – DO NOT QUIT
      Priorities change over time so be prepared to redefine or realign you goal
      Only abandon a goal if it becomes irrelevant, never because it’s too difficult

    There are 68,899 books on goal setting listed on Amazon.co.uk so if you need more specifics on the process, any one of them can provide them. Experience, however, tells me that it’s not about the “how”, it’s about the “whether”.  My hope is that people reading this article will be motivated to take action, either setting goals for the first time, or setting more challenging goals, or scheduling time for review and refinement … and ultimate success.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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  • Manage your behaviour, not numbers

    You can’t manage what you can’t control but you can manage what will influence what you can’t control.

    You can’t manage the number of sales you’re going to make but you can manage the behaviour that will help you make those sales. It is clear that you simply can’t predict who will and won’t buy from you. It is only the prospect who knows if they really want what you’re selling but on the rare occasion. The prospect isn’t very clear on what they want specifically but they know they need a solution (Which you can give them). Whether they have the budget and if they can make the decision to move forward is completely outside of our control.

    However, there are some things in your control, such as:

    • Strategically developing a plan based on the number of calls we need to make.
    • Creating questions that qualify the prospect for need, budget and decision-making.
    • Disqualifying those prospects who won’t or aren’t ready to move forward.

    We frequently let our persistence stall our sales development and this can keep us from identifying whether a prospect qualifies or disqualifies to be a client.

    If it happens that it’s the wrong timing for the prospect. We can ask questions to discover if there is a better time to approach the topic. Whilst this may be a good use of persistence it is of no use if the prospect is not completely engaged in the agreement to regroup at another time.

    Pipeline filling behaviour will improve your chances of closing business. The reason we hang in too long or bail out too easily when prospecting or in the middle of a sale tends to centre around three things:

    • Our Attitude
    • Our Behaviour
    • Our Technique

    Managing your behaviour and attitude is all about doing the things that will result in gaining business. It’s about taking control of where and with whom you spend your time and energy. It’s ultimately about developing a plan and following it through each time, and being part of your plan rather than the prospect’s.

    Remember: Some will. Some won’t. Who cares? Who’s next?

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Success is Permission to Fail

    Failure is part of the human condition.

    Despite this, we understand from childhood and as we enter the world of work that it is only when we succeed at something that we are rewarded with praise or personal gain. Yet failure is something to be celebrated and should not be feared or frowned upon. I would even go as far as to say that if you’re not failing then you’re missing out.

    I was reminded of this recently when listening to the story of Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In 2002, Brunel came second in a BBC public poll to determine the ‘100 Greatest Britons’.

    Amongst Brunel’s greatest accomplishments, (the Great Western Railway to name just one) were numerous and sometimes catastrophic disasters. With each of his designs, he sought audacious solutions to long-standing engineering issues and this is what made him one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution. Brunel had an unrelenting determination to step outside his comfort zone, push boundaries and conquer personal failures.

    Business owners (and sales people) can learn a lot from the likes of Brunel. Typically we live our lives in one of two ways; we are either risk adverse in the way we do business or operate within our roles (often because we worry too much about perceived consequences) or we do take risks but when the risks don’t pay off, we look to apportion blame to others or cite external factors as the cause.

    If we are not failing, we are repeating the same patterns of ‘safe’ behaviour. When you passionately champion something that stretches you, of course, mistakes are bound to happen. Accept these mistakes and take personal responsibility for them, otherwise golden opportunities are wasted.

    If we are ambitious and want to create growth or change, then we must learn to fail and accept our part in the consequences constructively, in a way that doesn’t make us risk adverse.

    Learn to see failure as a tool to improve performance. It is not our successes that help us grow and enrich our lives; it is the lessons we take from our mistakes.

    Give yourself permission to fail and you’ll feel better for it.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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  • Who is defining your success?

    Each of us have different definitions of success, that point at which we say, enough, I’ve reached my target, or I’ve haven’t but I will redefine success to equal my attainment.

    Perhaps you are someone who uses each level of achievement to set your next target, to see how far you can go.  Adopting this mindset brings the possibility of failure, but you’re comfortable with that. Setting a personal target is one thing, setting targets for other people is almost a futile activity. If they don’t share your belief that it’s an achievable target or have the drive to work towards it then it’s likely the target will not be achieved.

    If we consider this in the context of employees, their personal definitions of success and their attitudes will have a huge effect on the outcomes they achieve and consequently the success your business achieves.

    Consider further what it is that delivers success – what are the key activities you require people to perform? How well do they do that? Why do some produce better outcomes than others?

    Levels of skill and knowledge will be a factor but what about their levels of ambition?  Is failure something they cannot contemplate?  Factors such as these can impact the most fundamental levels of their performance. For example will they look for opportunities for self-advancement in how well they perform their roles or does the scale of the task fill the time available?

    Ask yourself this question. Am I managing people who are bringing me opportunities or am I drained by people bringing me headaches? Do I constantly have to ‘motivate’ individuals, listen to excuses about why it didn’t happen and will never happen or do I see people who are continuously challenging themselves, failing and improving.  Possibly you think it’s perfectly reasonable to take four meetings with a prospect before securing business or even that it’s OK to take four meetings and then not secure business. You haven’t challenged this definition of success, therefore it is has become the norm, reflected in the performance of your employees.

    So what is your definition of success? Is it matched, or bettered by your employees? Are you taking the time to really understand them and what makes them tick? Helping them to become target setters and adopt a culture of improvement will bring a huge change to your experience as a manager and to the performance of your business.

    Gary McKinney

    Gary McKinney

    Gary McKinney runs Sandler Training in Yorkshire, based in Leeds, helping business owners regain control of sales and achieve significantly improved sales results.

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  • Marathon Blog

    This is worse than cold calling! Or 5 Lessons Learned from running my first marathon.

    A few weeks ago I ran a marathon.  26.2 miles was certainly a challenge.  It seemed completely do-able when I signed up on Christmas Day 2014 (after perhaps a glass of champagne too many).  Up to this point, I had never raced further than 10km and many people suggested a half marathon first but I decided I might as well set a big goal, so a marathon it was.  Now that a few weeks have gone past, and the legs have stopped hurting and I no longer need to wince when going down stairs, I can reflect on what I learned from completing this.

    1. You cannot be too clear with your goals.

    A question people have asked me is, “Did you think you wouldn’t finish?” To be truthful at no point did I feel I wouldn’t finish.  I felt I wanted it to end quicker than the 26.2 miles, I felt my muscles were sore and I felt it was a stupid thing to have signed up for, but never that I wouldn’t finish it.  I had set out with the goal that I would complete this before they closed the race down and the time to complete the marathon I wanted to be between 4 and a half hour and 5.  I also decided before I started that I would really enjoy the first half.  And I did.

    2. It’s OK to rely on a support team.

    For those of you who know me well, you will be aware I am a rather independent person. It is one of the things I value about myself so it was tricky for me to admit that I could not have done this without the help of my parents.  They were stationed at every 5 miles and this simple fact made the miles just tick past.  The most it would ever be on the mile counter until I saw them again was 4 miles. It made the 26.2 miles seems like merely 4 checkpoints and then the end.

    3. Preparation – not hitting wall

    As I have competed in triathlon for a number of years, I have consulted a professional sports nutritionist to help me with endurance races.  She has helped me with the calculation for race preparation and also for the nutrition needed whilst racing.  This meant that with the help of my amazing parents (see previous point), every time I saw them, they handed my next nutrition pack.  The beauty of this was I did not hit the wall (when your body runs out of fuel to keep going).

    4. Hills occur. Whether you want them to or not

    The marathon I completed was hilly.  I knew this before I started but still the sheer amount of hills surprised me.  Coming from Oxfordshire, we have a few hills but not like these ones on the outskirts of Bath.  One of these “hills” went up for over a mile and a half – surely, surely that counts as a mountain? It’s not dissimilar to when we set ourselves goals, we know there is likely to be something that makes it difficult but still we are surprised when it happens.  The main point is the hills didn’t last forever.  They certainly weren’t easy, but they finished.

    5. You are unremarkable.

    This comes down to some advice someone gave me the night before the race.  At the time, I didn’t think it was very helpful but it turned out to really help.  They said, “you’re not going to come first, you’re not going to come last.  You are just there as a grid filler, a body to make the race go ahead. They need lots of people like you.” From about mile 14 onwards, when the whole race became less enjoyable, I thought about this.  I thought about how hundreds of thousands of people complete marathons every year if not more and there was nothing special about me. This helped me to keep going as if all these other people could finish it, I was just like them, there was nothing special about me that would make me not finish, so I did.

    So that all important question…. Will I do it again?  Absolutely!  Not this year though and on a flat course by choice – I mean why make more obstacles than you have to!

    Anneli Thomson is MD of Sandler Training in Oxfordshire.  She ran the marathon to raise money for Myton Hospice as a family member had been helped by them last year.  If you would like to check her progress or sponsor her – the link is here (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Annelismarathon).

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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