• The Hidden Costs of Untrained Management

    Getting the best out of your people is what all managers are really hired for. What they deliver is too often the opposite.

    I’m not blaming managers since most were good at what they did (e.g. sales) and they were recognised and promoted. Their training involved being given a new desk, perhaps an office, their car was upgraded and they saw a couple of thousand on top of their base salary. Chucked in at the deep end they revert back to what they learned first; they routinely behave like their early managers.

    If they had a manager who rescued, and by that I mean, they helped without boundaries or permission, or they had a boss who allowed and worse encouraged upward delegation, or they had a boss who was “all about the numbers” and tried to manage them, they will try to adopt these behaviours.

    Managers who micromanage, who do the heavy lifting for their people, who tie them up in reporting and tracking metrics over which they have no direct control, hobble their talent and give their non-performers a place to hide. Managers who are not clear about what they expect from the member of staff, throughout the hiring and selection process to the exit interview, sow the seeds of their own failure as a manager.

    Untrained managers will typically hire in their own image, only weaker, so the problems catalysed by untrained managers is compound over time. Eventually what happens? The best people leave because they grow tired of missing out on bonuses because other people didn’t hit target, they grow tired of raising a sinking ship and they go to your competition. Your once allies become your competition and they know all about your weaknesses, your prize accounts, where they are vulnerable to predation. Meanwhile you are left with the middle layer of mush and the deadwood.

    You fall further behind and your conditioned response is probably to work harder and look for ways to “motivate” your team. Your efforts at bribery fail because you don’t understand that money is often number 5 or 6 in order of priority when people are seeking a new job and since you never knew you actually had to find out what makes each individual tick, you never asked. When that doesn’t work, you take to beating them with a stick as you see the p45/pink slip looking in your near future. Perhaps you start to take a closer interest in what each person is doing. You start micromanaging forgetting that by doing so you tell them you don’t trust them to do their job. You start muscling in on accounts when you see little or no progress. You play the role of knight in shining armour and without realising, you have created a culture of learned helplessness.

    I lay the responsibility for these circumstances squarely at the feet of the big cheese right at the top of the organisation. Lack of clarity at the top creates confusion, politics, departmental conflict, turf wars, silo and NIH (not invented here) thinking. If your people are spending more time competing internally than they are ripping business out of the competition and you are the boss, then look in the mirror. Take a long, hard look.

    Is it possible that YOU ARE THE PROBLEM?

    Owners who build successful small businesses frequently don’t yet have the skills to grow a bigger business. Of course they can be learned but because they have always been at the heart of things, and are always so busy, they don’t step back and invest enough time in thinking, planning or improving their own skills as a manager, leader or strategist. Small businesses stay small because their owners keep them that way!

    Few managers realise strengths are development areas; weaknesses are not. Working on a weakness (something you dread doing, take forever to do, do badly, time drags, you make many mistakes and when it’s over you look forward only to never having to do that again) is not a wise use of time or your resource.. Smart managers find people whose strengths make their own and their team’s weakness irrelevant. They structure roles around individual’s strengths. They hire to fill those gaps. They are always looking out for a better hire than their last one. And they are constantly interviewing and banking good people so when they need them they can cut months off their recruitment cycle. They have a planned, 90-120 day on boarding process to make sure they set up new hires to succeed and they implement regular, simple, consistent reporting and expectations.

    They introduce them to people they need to know and work with and make it clear that they are to be afforded the help they need. They set clear expectations from the moment the 1st phone interview is conducted. Once hired, they track a small number of leading indicators and manage behaviour. They help, encourage and give clear direction but the how of it, they leave to the individual. If individuals need more support they organise interim review meetings to make sure progress is happening and they aren’t throwing their hands up at the last minute complaining that the person has failed.

    How do you know you need help?

    If you died under a bus, would your business die with you?

    If you lost your biggest client would that hurt badly?

    If you weren’t there, would your biggest client leave your company?

    Do you sometimes hire senior, experienced people who fail within 12 months for salespeople, 18 months for managers and 24 months for Executive hires?

    Do you ever hang on to people who don’t perform because recruitment is a chore?

    Do you tolerate non-performance because you don’t want to upset anyone or don’t like conflict?

    Have you ever felt it was easier to do the work yourself rather than rely on someone you are paying to do it?

    Do you get frustrated trying to manage?

    Do you manage the numbers?

    Do you ever learn there’s a problem but it’s too late to do anything about?

    Does management involve telling people what to do, checking their work or doing their work?

    Is sales forecasting about as accurate as using the entrails of a goose?

    Do your sales fluctuate between feast and famine?

    Do you lose good people when you eventually manage to hire them?

    When you lost one top performer, did others leave soon after?

    Do you work stupid, unsociable hours and feel tired all the time?

    Do your children scream “Mummy who is that strange man?” when you walk through your front door?

    If you answered yes to any of these you have a serious and costly problem. If you said yes to many, you are probably sitting on a goldmine. If you answered yes to the last question, get your priorities straight!

    Call a Sandler Trainer if you want to make all the problems discussed in this blog disappear forever. Before you pick up the phone know that it is not easy, comfortable or cheap. You will be asked many uncomfortable questions and we don’t take everyone as a client. We are very selective because this takes a lot of hard work and there’s no point starting to learn unless you are fully committed to consigning the problems you’ve created to history and seeing this through to the end.

  • How to differentiate your business (Part 2)

    Continuing on the theme of differentiation, here I explore three other important aspects that you may wish to consider when driving forward your differentiation approach.

    1. The Social Sales-scape

    The rise and rise of the social web has been a key factor to the need for businesses to truly examine how they differentiate themselves. Digital technologies and social networks have dramatically changed the roles of buyers and sellers, their cycles and how they interact. The features and benefits of a product or service can be quickly and easily debunked as not necessarily unique to one’s business in what is now an open access market. Indeed for many products and services the provision of comparator information has become a business in its own right.  This undermines the possibility of selling within these parameters, making price one of the only discernible differentiators.

    In today’s fast evolving buyers’ market, true differentiation needs to be found in new places. You need to get beneath the skin of your brand’s essence to connect with what truly makes your business different. This often comes down to sales; it can be how you run your business and your sales strategy, how you approach and sell to prospects, how well you equip your people to take your business forward and how you manage client relationship strategies. These all need to be structured and systemic as frequently they are what will set you apart from the crowd.

    Getting these strategies right is critical for businesses of all sizes. Businesses tend to invest too much time, resource and creativity in creating brand or product or service differentiation, despite a simpler, more elegant strategy that focuses on the organic, systemic way a business sells often being more beneficial.

    Indeed, product or service differentiation cannot really be achieved at the point of sale and seeking to do this can in fact make you appear more salesey and less attractive.  It requires a trust and understanding of you and your product that a buyer will not have (nor can they until they have worked with you, which in turn, requires them to buy)

    1. We’re all grown-ups here

    When it comes to differentiation, it’s essential to treat your customers like adults, and build the expectation that you should be treated like an adult.

    This sounds odd but an adult-to-adult relationship is critical to building engagement and trust. This is what will strengthen your position in the buyer-seller framework. We talk a lot about communication being at the heart of our relationships. What we forget is that, when it comes to differentiation, it’s about what you do, not what you say and I see businesses failing to recognise this time and time again. Delivering on your promise – at all times, without fail, that’s what drives customer trust, customer commitment and customer loyalty. That’s differentiation.

    Your customer has a role to play in this too. Let your customers know what’s expected of them in the process. A classic example here is when companies in the services industry pitch for new business. Very often, the pitch process becomes an extended programme of free consulting with no real return. By having the guts to draw the line under the process, making the rules of engagement clear with your prospect, you are setting yourself apart with buyers who have expectations of the norm. You are also saving your business a lot of time and money. In this way, the buyer and seller start to treat each other with equal business stature – as adults. Changing your behaviour and attitude by holding your nerve against pressure from buyers to devalue your business will be critical next year.

    1. Holding your nerve

    Economic uncertainty makes this a tough environment for businesses and the temptation is all too great to compete on price. We all know that in the longer-term, this isn’t sustainable for businesses looking to grow.

    Businesses need to have the guts, the courage, to remain true to themselves. Understanding their competitors, understanding their customers and understanding their own place in the market will help them map out their differentiation strategy. Communicate this right across your business to ensure your customers get a consistent, cohesive message. Creating a sense of ownership around your business’ authentic point of differentiation is critically important.

    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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  • How to differentiate your business

    As businesses continue through uncertain times, I thought I would look at how differentiation could be the key to your success.

    Has the word “differentiation” started to sound a little tired? If so, this is because it is both misused and over used.

    We need to pause and think about what differentiation actually means to businesses. In business, when we talk about differentiation we are talking about separating ourselves from our competitors. Ideally, we want to achieve two things by doing this. Firstly, to attract customers to buy from us, and secondly, to have them buy at our price. Working with businesses from a number of sectors, I find that they don’t always realise that a key purpose for striving for differentiation is to maintain their price point; as a result they often end up selling themselves short. This doesn’t look like real success to me.

    Differentiation should therefore not be seen as an end in itself but a means to an end, namely to sell on terms that make sense. Additionally we need to adapt our attempt to differentiate our businesses to today’s tough and increasingly cluttered marketplace.

    In a series of 2 blogs I have looked at the 5 things you need to consider when striving for that all important differentiation.

    1. Know your competitors

    Understanding your competitors is at the crux of differentiation – it’s only by doing this, that you can carve out your own market segment. However, this again requires a new way of thinking.

    Your competitor isn’t necessarily the shop next door. You need to think wider than this.  There are obvious competitors here such as similar products/services, geographies or employee pools. There are also the less obvious ones such as people who provide a very different solution but one that fixes the same problem, meets the same need as yours.  There is also the frequently overlooked ‘competitor’ which is the option to do nothing or to do it in-house.

    It is therefore important to think carefully about your competitors, know what they offer and know what you have to do differently to deliver a more attractive proposition for your customers.

    1. Authentic differentiation

    We hear a great deal about developing our unique selling proposition.  However, your USP, like differentiation, is a concept that can come across as trite and pedestrian in customer engagement as we all work so hard to prove how different we are from competitors and as a business. As brand-savvy consumers, expectation of differentiation had grown.

    There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to crystallising your USP or point of differentiation. I quote Steve Jobs here when I say, quite simply, “Brands are themselves”. You need to know – beyond making a profit – what the purpose of your business is and what you believe in it. There has to be that authentic core at the centre of what you do, rather than merely focusing on “What will sell more?” Customers today are sophisticated and discerning – they will see through the empty promise. Working with CEOs and business owners, I constantly encourage them to go back to the seed of their business.  To identify your business essence, get back in touch with yourself and your business to create that consistent and genuine proposition.

    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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  • When is it best not to email?

    Have you ever communicated a message that was completely misinterpreted by the intended recipient?

    Typically, we communicate by face-to-face exchanges (video conference, Skype); verbal exchanges (by telephone); or by written communication (email, hand-written letters, postings and exchanges on social media).

    When we communicate, the message we send comprises up to 3 elements (depending on our mode of communication), each contributing to the overall meaning of our message:

    • the words we use;
    • our tonality- the pitch, rhythm, volume of our verbal message; and
    • our physiology- the gestures, posture, facial expressions – our “body language.”

    Studies show that in face-to-face communication (when we communicate non-technical information, such as an idea or an opinion) as much as 55% of the “meaning” in our message is conveyed through our physiology or body language. 38% of the meaning is from our tonality – how we express the words; and only 7% by the actual words themselves).

    Changing any of the three elements of our communication can significantly alter the meaning received and understood. When we have modes of communication that miss some of the elements (e.g. phone communication has no body language element), the scope for miscommunication increases – as fewer components of the sender’s original message are sent or received.

    An exercise: repeat the following sentence out loud seven times, but place the emphasis on a different word in the sentence each time:

    He said that she stole the bag.

    Notice anything…?

    The meaning of the sentence changes subtly with the different emphases: same words, but different tonality providing different meaning.

    Imagine if we had emailed the sentence in the earlier exercise.  Although we write our email using words and the tonality in our heads, only the words are sent in the email. The recipient will read the words with their own tonality, which may be different from the tonality of the sender.  Consequently the perceived message of the email recipient can be very different to the intention of the sender.

    When using email, you (or someone you know) might have experienced one or more of the following:

    • Sent an email intending to show your understanding of a person’s situation in (what you thought was) an empathetic, constructive way; only to get a blunt response, where the recipient has taken offence.
    • Received what felt like a curt email, which on following up (by phone) turned out not to be the case at all – just that the sender is a two finger typist who was in a hurry.
    • Or found yourself trying to explain something in an email starting with ‘I am not sure I effectively communicated my real meaning’; ‘it looks like I have confused/upset/annoyed you; this was not my intent.’

    The chances are that you have (or your friend has) then had to needlessly invest extra time and energy to repair the relationship to recover the situation, instead of moving things forwards.

    Email is an effective communication tool for sharing basic information.  But, if we want to express an idea, share a concept, feeling, or perspective; where practicable, it’s best to visit the person or pick up the phone.

    Roger Plahay

    Roger Plahay

    Sandler Training in Bath & Bristol A Chartered Accountant by profession, Roger spent his whole career sceptical of salespeople, sales methods and has the firm belief that 99% of sales training simply does not work. He leads effective Sales Development and Business Growth for ambitious business professionals by helping them break the conventional rules that constrain them and win more business.

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