Sales tips, leadership communication skills insight and more from Steve Giglio, sales training professional for more than 25 years.

The Are No Easy Answers

Some people assume there’s got to be a secret system to “getting it right” every time—a set of tricks. How else, they reason, can people far less competent consistently be more successful than they are? The temptation is to look for a quick and easy answer. There isn’t one. It’s critical to your success that you realize at the onset that there’s no trick, no secret, no magic bullet. The key is understanding that no situations or clients or employees are the same so, don’t treat them as such!

HEY! Pay Attention!!

My father was a successful surgeon, beloved by his patients and staff. When I was growing up, I used to make hospital rounds with him. It would take all morning. I’ll never forget my dad hovering over a patient and sweetly, with empathy, asking a series of fact-finding questions to discern progress from the day before. Patients would brighten up immediately upon seeing him and answer him thoughtfully and honestly. He was so concentrated on the responses that when I would ask him when we were going to lunch, he wouldn’t hear me. When he was with a patient, a marching band could have trooped down the hall and he wouldn’t have heard it!

This is the sort of interaction that needs to occur whenever you meet with a client or counsel an employee. Pay attention! Not only will they appreciate being heard but, you will be making sure you heard them correctly so that you can make a proper recommendation. We live in a world of distractions. Don’t let them get in the way of your mission.

Treat Clients Well…Just Not the Same

Back to my father. He was a very patient man, always giving people time to explain themselves and what they needed. In other words, he treated everyone well. But, of course, as a surgeon he didn’t treat them the same when it came to his recommendations. He believed no two patients were the same. He used to say, “If you decide to treat one patient the same as the other, you are putting at least one of them at risk.”

It’s the same for you. If you treat two employees or clients the same, ignoring differences like background, experience, personality, goals, etc., then at least one won’t be getting the guidance from you they need. You risk losing one or the other…or both. Can you afford to lose clients? Employees?

I’ve found that you honor others by treating them like no other individual you’ve ever met. This is how you stay fresh, engaged, on target and successful.

Has anyone ever treated you as if they were on autopilot? How? What was your reaction? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks. -sg

Business Development is Not an “Add-on” Responsibility

Are you feeling the pressure? Many of my clients are. When they were hired, they didn’t have any or much business development responsibilities. That was handled by “other people.” However, as the business world evolves, more and more companies are tasking employees with generating new business. So, on top of their day-to-day tasks that have consumed all of their time to date, they now have to figure out how to bring more business on board. It’s an “add on” responsibility that creates a lot of pressure. Sound familiar?

The problem I see time and time again is that these folks aren’t equipped to manage new business development. Some of that can lay at the feet of the executives who created the “get new business” mandate. They haven’t given their teams the right tools. However, that’s only half the issue. The other is that these associates don’t have the right behavior that would make this work easier and allow them to be successful.  

The Tools for Business Development

Being thrown to the wolves in terms of business development without the proper tool set is unfair. You’re not alone if you’ve asked yourself, “How can they expect me to get new business when I’ve never had to do that before?” Regardless, they are asking you to do it so, what’s your answer? I suggest you check your tools to see if you have the following:

Training:

Nurturing a new client relationship is challenging for anyone without proper training. You didn’t learn to drive without instruction? Someone had to teach you to write your name, throw a baseball, cook a meal, etc. So, business development requires instruction and mentoring. Ask the person who gave you this new “opportunity” if you can get some training. And if you are in a management position where you are asking your directs to take on business development, be sure that they have had or will get some proper training. The time you invest upfront will deliver a better-prepared representative who will produce long-term results.

A Systematic Approach:

Business development is not a “by the seat of your pants” activity. You need a systematic approach so that you can easily work through steps that will give you the highest likelihood of success. This system should be written down and committed to memory. Doing proper research, learning about the client’s industry hot points, pre-determining possible pain points, having an arsenal of probing questions, scheduling follow-up calls…they are all part of the process that you must have as you move into this new area of business development.

Products/Service Knowledge

How much do you really know about your company, its products and services? If you have surface level knowledge, in business development that’s not knowledge at all. Clients, especially new ones, expect that you are a source of in depth understanding about your company and its offerings. I’m always amazed at how little some people really understand about their company and the benefits it offers potential customers. Do your internal homework!

The Behaviors of Business Development

Just having the tools, however, is not enough. You must have the right behavior to use those tools. Here are the key behaviors that you’ll need to be successful:

Desire:

If you don’t want to do business development, you will fail. You will find reasons to put it off. You will find people and circumstances to blame for why you aren’t successful. You will get frustrated and distracted easily. While you may not have many or any of the tools listed above, they can be obtained…but you have to want them. If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with your boss and find another position that better suits your, and their, needs.

Empathy:

Very often I’ve seen people ask about their client’s business but only skim the surface in terms of knowledge gathering. You have to be empathetic, a good listener.  In short, you have to care. When you discover a pain point, you have to stay in it and find out what is really at the heart of the issue.

For example, during a role-playing training exercise recently, a client of mine was speaking with a CEO. The CEO said, “We really have to trim the fat to be competitive.” My client said, “Ok. And what are your marketing goals for the upcoming year?”  

WAIT! I want to hear more about trimming the fat, don’t you?  What he needed to do was delve further, even using my tried-and-true question, “Really?”  Getting your clients to open up about what is really driving their decision making will allow you to provide a recommendation that’s far more relevant, timely and purposeful.

Ambiguity:

Yes, I said one of the tools you have to have in business development is a systematic approach. However, you cannot be so rigid that you miss opportunities to understand your client better. In the above example with the CEO, my client was running through a list of questions we had developed. The questions are important but you must be flexible and have enough ambiguity so that you don’t pre-determine how things are going to go. Let conversations flow so that you get better intel for your recommendations.

Ok…so you never thought you would have to do business development and now you do. Get over it! You can do this if you have the proper tools and behaviors. Your boss has faith in you so, turn that into motivation to get out there and be successful!

What tools and/or behavior are you missing?  Let me know. -sg

Top Ten Leadership Mistakes

Over several years of coaching leaders, I have observed many common mistakes they make. Some have clear signals, others are a bit more subtle. The following is a compiled list of those mistakes. Use it to assess how you are leading your team and be aware of how it affects your leadership abilities.

Failing to Act When Needed

It can happen in a moment’s notice. You see an inappropriate behavior and you let it go. Next time, ask your Direct to explain his/her reasoning for this behavior, then offer an alternative action.

Managing Not Leading

The leadership mistake here is acting as a custodian of your team versus a steward of them. By steward I mean living as though their behavior is also your behavior. What they do reflects on you. Are they presenting the image you want?

Driven By Looking Good To Your Superior

At times a leader will appease their superior versus presenting the required plan to get buy-in for a solution that resolves an important business issue. Looking good is preferred while accomplishing the intended goal is sacrificed. Ultimately, this behavior will not produce the results your supervisor wants so, remain true to that vision and confidently deliver the plan.

Buying a Direct’s Story Versus Asking Questions

We want to believe everything our Directs say. But as noted above, Directs will, at times, present issues in a way that makes them look good to you. When your instinct says I’m not sure this situation is really true, probe to get underneath the issue.

Fearing Confrontation

Ahh…but the solutions could lead to confrontations. OK…but you can’t lead without illustrating your concern and values. When you have a Direct who doesn’t see value in your direction/ethos, confront them constructively and find out why he/she disagrees.

Not Coaching the Right People

While a rising tide raises all ships, spending too much time on those that are sinking slows down the progress of others. Limit your development time with “C” Players. Rather, focus your time with “B” Players who can become “A’s.”

Allowing Bad Behaviors to Continue

Coaching can be done over time with willing participants. But, if a behavior exists that is truly detrimental to the team, it has to stop immediately.  Tell the Direct that his/her specific behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop now. After that, put a coaching plan together that has them move beyond this behavior.

No Follow-Up

Just as in consulting, a successful leader needs to be persistent, yet likable, to coach, lead and develop. Hold your teams accountable for what they said they would do and by when they said they would do it. People who fear this call it “micro-managing,” but I call it establishing standards.

Detaching From Directs

Never orphan a Direct. The more you collaborate with a Direct the quicker they develop.

Allowing Your Team’s Issues To Affect You

Keep your perspective. Notice certain trends and patterns in your leadership efforts. Hold to the objective evidence in front of you versus any loud voice you hear.

See if being aware of these common leadership mistakes helps you develop your skills, and those of your team. Let me know how it goes.

 

 

9 Fundamentals of a Group Presentation

A team presentation can be tricky. So many personalities, mindsets, trains of thought and opinions…it can get messy quickly. But as their leader, it’s up to you to direct the presentation so that it flows as well as if one person were delivering it. That says easy but does hard. To help, here is a list of what I’ve found to be invaluable fundamentals to follow when preparing a group presentation.

Rehearse

Oh man, does this one get put off to the last minute! Ever practice your team presentation on the way to the meeting or in your client’s parking lot? You must insist that your whole team rehearse the presentation at least twice. This will help you fine-tune the flow, make sure everyone is involved and give them confidence that they know the material well.

Assign Roles

A good rule of thumb…if someone is in the room but doesn’t have a speaking role in the presentation, they don’t need to be there (unless their role is to take notes!). When organizing your presentation, determine who will deliver each part of the presentation. Assign to their strengths so that they present information they can speak to easily and can answer questions on the fly if needed. Speaking of questions…

Review Possible Questions

Your audience will ask questions, most of which you can anticipate. In your dry runs, have your team consider what questions might get asked and when. You can then determine who will answer certain questions, again playing to the strength of each team member.

Make Each Other Look Good

“I disagree with my teammate.” No you don’t. Ok…maybe you do but not in front a client you don’t! Before the meeting begins, remind your team that you all look bad if anyone of them cannibalizes the others thoughts. Commit to making each other look good.

Establish an Agenda

I’ve written about the importance of a meeting agenda previously. A group presentation can get way off track quickly unless you have a timed agenda. During rehearsal, pay attention to who takes more time than allotted. Work with them to pare down their thoughts so that they don’t usurp the time, forcing others to rush.

Avoid Too Many Participants

While you want to include your whole team, having too many people in the room can a) be hard to control and b) overwhelm your audience. Find out in advance how many client representatives will be there. It’s alright to have more than them…just not too many more. As we stated above, everyone should have a critical role, so that will help you limit participants.

Who is Leading?

While you are the team leader, it doesn’t mean you have to lead the presentation. The meeting leader is responsible for introducing the agenda, keeping everyone on track and being mindful of the timing. If you assign that role to someone else, then you must step back and take on only the role you’ve rehearsed.

Say Only What’s Needed

Too many times, I see people having a need to speak that overshadows whether what they say is important to furthering the conversation. You don’t need to be a “color commentator” like during a football telecast. If what you are about to say doesn’t add more information to what your team just said, keep it to yourself. And that lesson goes for your whole team, too.

Perform a Post-mortem

Reserve time after the presentation to break down what went right, what went wrong and what the next steps will be. If you don’t pre-arrange that time, the freshness of your team’s reactions will be diluted and you will get a much different perspective a day or so later. Do it as soon as you can!

Utilized these fundamentals and you’ll put your team in a winning position for their next presentation. Let me know how it goes!  – sg

Two Sure-Fire Leadership Killers

I have been coaching and developing leaders for many years and during that time, I have found two behaviors that are “leadership killers.” They are acts that consistently, no matter who the leader is, weaken their position in the eyes of their reports and lessen their ability to lead. These leadership killers are: wanting to be a friend and orphaning instead of confronting.

Friendly But Not Friends

It’s important to realize/accept the responsibility you have as a leader that you must convey your observations, especially those that are focused on areas where employees can improve. But many times, I see the leader’s desire to be accepted by the direct report, to be considered a comrade and a friend, as something that stands in the way of delivering those observations. I counsel my clients that while it is perfectly fine to be friendly, you cannot act as their friend or they will not take your input seriously. You are the leader they are following into battle and as such, you must separate yourself so that they count on you for honest, direct input that isn’t mired in emotion.

Don’t Leave Them Orphaned

Providing the input described above can be difficult.  And so, some leaders will avoid the “tough” conversation with a direct report. Avoiding this conversation sets a precedent; it says it’s okay to keep doing what you are doing, it’s fine…when it’s really not. In a sense, you are orphaning your direct report by not interceding and letting them continue on a path towards failure without your guidance.

People you coach can be just as skeptical, jaded and fearful of being led as you are to lead them. Hey..it takes courage to lead! But the big question is will you deliver frank, constructive input that will eventually help them achieve their goals, and those of your department, or will you simply set them to sea without a compass?  If you constantly choose the latter, you can expect to develop a team that will not take your orders/input to heart and will time and time again blaze their own trail.  That’s usually a recipe for disaster.

Keep interceding. Give them what they need, even if it’s not what they want. You will become a stronger leader and people with thank you for it.

 

The Courage to Close

People get funny about closing negotiations, deals, interviews, meetings, etc. Nerves take over, body language changes and confidence erodes. Why is this?  I’ll tell you…it’s because closing is inorganic for most people. It feels forced. And that should never be the case.

When it feels uncomfortable for you to close it’s likely because you have not banked enough comprehension of your client’s situation. And yet, you are about to make a recommendation and convince them that your advice is sound. If you are nervous about that, then guess what…it probably isn’t sound!

Gain the Momentum to Close

Closing represents the next step in the momentum you’ve built with your audience. Throughout the course of your interaction, if you’ve been listening well and asking the right, researched probing questions (which you’ve prepared in advance!), then momentum is on your side. But if you collapse the whole process into a mostly one-sided conversation in which you are doing most of the talking, there is no momentum. It’s like you are driving the car and your passenger (your audience) has no idea where you are going. So when you get there, they are confused instead of assured that they are in the right place.

Sell Into the Future…Their Future

You got the meeting because they have some modicum of interest in what you are presenting, right? So, knowing that, you have to find out what that interest is. And ALL of the time their interest is about the future. They have a problem and they need it solved so that their future doesn’t have that problem in it.  For example….

A client recently was having issues with one of her managers who, we discovered, the team felt was quite dour and needed to lighten up to relate to his directs and clients. He always needed to be an expert on everything, which was off-putting. That was the problem. What I had to see was how fixing this problem could create a much different future for my client. If her world didn’t include having to deal with the blowback from this manager’s behavior, what would that free her up to accomplish. Once we both were aligned with that future, we could move forward together solving the issue. This future-seeing isn’t the stuff of crystal balls…it takes listening, understanding and affirmation.

Closing is Helpful to Your Clients

At the point of close, here is what you are doing…you are offering a solution to what your client has communicated to be a problem. In other words, you are helping! So, don’t be nervous about that. You’ve gathered their testimony, you’ve affirmed their position, you’ve asked insightful questions that elicited more detail than they were likely going to share. In short, you’ve partnered with them during your time together. And now it’s time to move the ball forward by asking for a logical next step and that your client will understand is the next phase in alleviating an issue for them.

You can do THAT with great confidence and courage so, let me know how it goes next time.  -sg

Top Sales and Leadership Blog Posts in 2017

What a year! I cannot recall a year in recent memory that had so many ups and downs…and a few sidewayses thrown in there too!

At this time of reflection while we moved into the new year, I want to thank you for taking time to read my blog. It is an honor writing it for you. I will be taking a little break from writing until after the first of the year so, I will leave you with this recap of the five most read posts from 2017.  Have a great holiday season and we wish you the best for 2018!

Top  Posts of 2017

Silouettes of people debatingWhat Is a Healthy Debate?

One often hears the term “healthy debate” as a reference to two or more sides getting together to hash out an issue that could escalate into argumentative discourse if not dealt with upfront. Some might believe that a debate in business cannot be healthy at all since it pits people against each other. They’d rather have a “discussion.” Let’s take a look at why debating can be good for your business…if handled properly.

Read more…

 

"not" symbol for passive aggressiveHandling a Passive-Aggressive Leader

When someone openly criticizes your work, at least you know where they stand, directly. But someone who uses indirect expressions of blame, upset, or complaint can grate on anyone. This passive-aggressive behavior can create an atmosphere of constant stress, doubt and fear, which I’ve never seen lead to good things. Rather, the result is a team that resents their leadership, hides out so as to not come into the crosshairs of the boss and privately complains about the state of the department/company. Is this familiar to you?

Read more…

 

What’s the Plan? Leading Your Next Conference Call

I have a client who hosts up to 25 conference calls with clients…per month! The challenge, besides the sheer volume, is that his clients usually have four people on the call and so does he. Adding to the complexity is that each conference call participant is in a different part of the world! I am currently coaching him on how to manage this so that he gets the results he wants. But leading a conference call is a skill that, unfortunately, so many fall short of doing well.

Read more…

 

The 10 Worst Probing Questions

Every time I work with an executive or a sales team, I stress the importance of probing questions. They are open-ended questions that get you to a deeper level of understanding of your client’s business. They also give you a subtle opportunity to show that you’ve done your homework by asking well-researched questions. Feedback I get from business leaders is they wish more people would take the time to ask these types of questions since they lead to far more productive questions.

Read more…

Five Words to Avoid in Business

They are common, every day words that seem harmless. Casual words thrown into your client/customer communication. Often, we don’t give them much thought.
But the following five words (and words like them) are killing your position of strength with your clients.

How many are you using?

Read more…

 

 

Where the Airlines Fail, You Must Succeed

This holiday season, millions of people will take to the skies to visit family and friends. It will all go smoothly, right? One look at the massive construction at New York’s LaGuardia airport or the recent pilot scheduling snafu at American Airlines belies the reality…the air travel industry’s image has morphed from the lap of luxury to languishing in mediocrity.

But what can YOU learn from their mistakes? A lot. Here are some key lessons to consider (perhaps while you arrive two hours early for a flight that is then delayed indefinitely!):

Your Only as Good as Your Last Encounter

Many people have a negative image of air travel because…the last time they traveled they had a negative experience. How did things go when you last talked with your client? If the answer is “Not as good as I would have liked,” then find an opportunity to engage with them again. This time, bring your “A” game so that is the last thing they remember. The longer you let that one bad moment linger out there, the more time they have to make it a bigger deal than it probably was. Reset the table!

Competition is Always Waiting to Pounce

Complacency has killed a lot of customer service today. People just don’t seem to care like they used to. Airlines, which used to come up with many creative ways to attract customers, compete solely on price and convenience. That’s not going to get YOU very far. Remember, your competition is right outside, waiting for you to forget about them so they can slip in and steal your business. Have you worked hard to establish client loyalty? If you haven’t, you might have to go the back of line as your client moves on.

It’s Not the Product as Much as the People

I believe that clients buy people first, products second. However, airlines seem to fall all over themselves promoting seats that recline or that have more leg room. Is the expectation of comfort really something to promote? You should know what your clients expect and deliver it to them. Then, you need to find ways to stand out. Do your research and make smart, fact-based recommendations. Ask solid, probing questions that open up the dialogue. Create a follow-up plan…and follow it! Find ways to contact your client with meaningful, of-the-moment intel that shows you care. Whatever you do, don’t assume that your product/solution is good enough. It won’t be for long!

Be Inventive…Always

Most of us are too young to remember the golden age of air travel. But it wasn’t so long ago that we can’t imagine what it might have been like to travel when flying was new, exciting and something one anticipated with great hope. That’s how you want your client’s thinking about you. If you’ve ever been let go by a client you’ve had for years and replaced with a competitor, you know the sting that comes along with that rejection. What did they do to win the business? More than you because you become a commodity, instead of something of value.

What was the last GOOD customer service experience you had? Why did it standout?  Reply below.  -SG

The Arrogance of Selling

This blog/message is written as a reminder for you..and me.

You know that swagger you have when you walk into a client’s office ready to present your product/service?

STOP IT!

Start walking in with a presence of curiosity and support, not surety. It’s implicit that you know and can defend your offering. However, that’s not the point of an initial business development meeting. The point of this precious encounter is care and concern. You’ll have your time for presentation swagger later.

Think doctor to patient. If your physician said to you “do this, try that and I’ll see you in three weeks” and then walked out, how would you feel? My point is, business development is ALL about the tailoring of a recommendation, just like a physician who correctly establishes an empathetic relationship with you then presents his Rx. It’s easier medicine to take.

Too many business development professionals assume their product is perfect just the way it is and unconsciously are arrogant about it.  We’ve got to prove to our client we affirm and understand their challenge WAY before we cure it. Master discovery behavior to condition your clients to your openness and desire to tailor your recommendation, not lead with it.

10 Things to Know About Your Clients

If you’ve followed my blog over the years, you know how much I stress doing your homework. It’s critical. When dealing with smaller companies, this task is mostly manageable. However, with larger companies, you may find that the challenge isn’t getting enough information…it’s getting enough of the RIGHT information.

To help, I’ve narrowed the focus of pre-meeting reconnaissance to these 10 things you really need to know before you enter the room. Get up to speed on these and you’ll be well prepared!

What You Need to Know About Your Clients

  • History. What is the history between your company and theirs? Who were the key players before you got there? What is the temperature of the relationship? Is there anything from the past that could haunt you in the future?
  • Marketing goals. Probing questions can get you the information you need prior to the meeting.
  • Business trends. What’s been happening with your client’s business the past 6 months? Year? 3-5 years? What are the industry trends and how are they affecting your client?
    Market share. How big a player is your client? Where do they have an advantage or are the market leader?
  • Competition. Who is gunning for YOUR client and how? Are they chipping away at your client’s market share?
  • Distribution network. Do you know what industry your client targets? How do they get their products or services to market? How broad a network do they have?
  • Target Audience. Who is the ideal “decision maker” who buys their products or services? Where and how do they find them?
  • Key Contacts. Find out who the key people are at your client’s business. Find them on LinkedIn to know their background. Who ultimately is the decision maker regarding your recommendations?
  • Latest News. Dig around on the Internet and other sources. What’s happened to your client lately? What’s been the biggest news? How does the media cover the company and its leaders? What’s been posted on the company’s social media channels (and what has been the reaction)?

Using this list, you will pare down the vast amount of information that’s out there about your client to the information you can use as their trusted adviser.

Which on the list do you feel most unfamiliar with? Let me know with a reply below. -SG