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

The Start of a Meeting: A Fine How-Do-You-Do!

Even though we are doing more video meetings than ever, starting them should have the same light, tight, and bright focus as in-person meetings. Too often, people start meetings without a purpose for those critical first few minutes. Instead, the conversation drifts…often about the weather, sports, the state of the pandemic, etc. 

The moment you greet your client, you are “on.” It’s up to you to move the conversation in a productive, meaningful direction. Your client’s business needs must be an obvious concern of yours from the moment you say “Hello.” You’ve done your reconnaissance; you’ve made the appointment. Now, you are ready to take command of this video call and project an aura of ease, confidence, and care. This is not a casual Zoom call to reconnect with your college buddies…it’s your chance to demonstrate value and earn your “trusted advisor” status. 

That being said, the first few minutes of a call are usually highlighted by small talk. Being successful with small talk is not easy. A good dose of caring, friendliness, and intelligence is required as well. Let’s break those down in terms of how the first few minutes of your next call could go:

Care About Your Clients

Especially in today’s times with the pandemic impacting everything, it’s important to be empathetic. “How are your family and your holding up during these troubling times?” is a good opening. It lets your clients talk about something personal while you learn a bit about where their mind is for the meeting. Pay attention to the answer! It’s not just small talk…you are always collecting intel, even if personal. Bring it back the next time you talk with them, “Last time we spoke, you were concerned about your son returning to college. How did that go?” Immediately, you’ve reconnected and once again, you will have them talking about something that’s really important to them. 

Be Professionally Friendy…and Focused on Them!

Your clients are not your friends. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be professional friendly with them. What I mean is that you can care about their life (see above) and be genuinely interested in what’s going on for them outside the office. But don’t take it too far. You’re not angling for a holiday dinner invitation! 

And as I always say, it’s important that you be interested…not interesting! During the opening small talk period, however, people tend to want to relate what’s being said to their own life. A few years ago, I joined a client as she visited one of her clients. She noticed a photo of a soccer player and he asked who it was. Turned out, it was her client’s husband, something she noted with pride as she told us he played professionally. Great! We got her to loosen up a bit and garnered some intel as well. But then, my client started talking, at length, about her college soccer career…from 15 years ago! I watched as the life force of her client whooshed out of her face. We were still discussing a topic that her client had an interest in but we were no longer talking about the reason why she was interested in it! 

Bottom line, if you find you are doing more talking during the opening salvos of small talk, you are starting to lose the meeting. Get it back! How? 

Read on…

Start Smart…and Stay That Way

If you’ve read my blog over the years, you know I am consistent in my recommendation that you DO YOUR HOMEWORK!. You must know as much as you can about your meeting attendees and their business. What does the company do? What are the industry’s challenges? What competitors are there? What’s the latest company and/or industry news?  It’s that latter question that can help move you from small talk to intelligent conversation.

To do that, start with a topical, business-oriented statement or question that shows you are genuinely interested in your client’s company and its goals. And use your homework to ask it intelligently! 

“I read in the Wall Street Journal that your competitor is shutting down 40% of its European operation. Have you seen any impact from that already and what could it mean for your international growth this year?”

State one or two aspects of an issue, ask for your client’s thoughts on the matter, and then sit back and listen. Opening with an informed insight shows knowledge of your client’s world, knowledge that your client may not figure you have and which is, therefore, impressive. And it can be accomplished within the first 30 seconds of a meeting!

The first few minutes of a meeting sets the tone. And you are in control of it! Keep these three themes and let me know how it goes!

Four Leadership Tips for Moving Ahead of COVID

Leaders, you have no idea how IMPORTANT you are now!

You represent hope, clarity, vision, and direction. Do not dismiss this responsibility!

Stay focused on bringing your teams through this pandemic and mollifying the impacts it’s had on your business, their growth, and their lives. Despite everything, there is still work to be done, right? Now, perhaps more than ever, they need YOU to guide them so they achieve results and strengthen the faith your clients/customers have in your company’s partnership with them.

Last week, I provided business development tips that you and your teams could use to keep things moving forward. This week, I am offering four leadership tips that will help you move THEM forward!

Know What Matters Most and Communicate It
It is mission-critical to present your strategy for COVID-recovery. Be guilty of repeating yourself so that it is ingrained in your direct reports. Your team will embrace it as a raft that leads to the far shore of business equilibrium. Hint: you don’t have to have it perfect. You just need to articulate it from the objective evidence you have. It is likely to change over time. Fine! Just communicate the changes, the reasons for them, and get buy-in from your team so they bring the strategy to life.

Remain Optimistic/Believe in your Team
There is no substitute for optimism; it drives followership. Acknowledge your team and keep them optimistic, too. You accomplish this by understanding what they’re dealing with. You don’t have to fix it, you just need to demonstrate you understand the challenges. That being said, don’t let them wallow in them. It’s your job to pick them up and get them moving in the right direction. Optimism is a positive tool for making that happen.

Be Innovative
It’s not “business as usual” out there, is it? No, it’s not. So, now is the time to be innovative, creative, and bold. Brainstorm ideas with your team and create ways to implement the ones that resonate the most with them. Surprise your clients with new ideas that look beyond the current situation so that you can further the long-term partnership your company has with them.

Invest in your Team
This is the time to invest in the development of your “A” Players. And I don’t just mean financially, which could be tough right now. But invest time in them! Reinforce the qualities you expect with your leaders. Communicate directly with them often, offering acknowledgment and providing guidance for “what’s next.” This will forge a culture of growth and trust with your core players…those who represent your future success. Then, when you are able to schedule leadership development training for them, they will know they are considered top performers and will embrace any investment that moves their career forward.

Your teams are facing a lot of challenges and need leadership right now. That’s YOUR challenge. Are you up for it?

 

 

 

Four Business Development Tips for Moving Ahead During COVID

Most of us have mainstreamed into the next normal – digital business development. And it comes with a lot of challenges, not the least of which is how to keep moving your career ahead. A lot of my clients are facing this challenge and are adapting using the four tips I’m providing below. Give them some time, try them out on your next virtual meeting, and hone them so they become part of how you operate instinctively.

1) Be the optimist
Just about every business has been disrupted during these times. You don’t need to remind people of that. They are living it! What you can do is present your recommendations that will lead to a way through it. Take some chances, make some bold moves, and demonstrate that you are thinking about their business as much as they are. No one wants to do business with someone who is over-conservative attempting to transform their client’s business. Be excited and clear-of-mission in presenting your recommendations

2) Listen for the 2021 dream
Yes, we’re back to insightful/intimate questioning. Discover the business priorities/ideal outcome your client desires by Q3-Q4 2021, then tailor your recommendations to what matters most to those outcomes. We will return to a healthy world eventually. Facilitate post-COVID conversations with clients now so that you are part of the COVID-recovery/exit process when it comes.

3) Remain connected/tenacious
Care for your clients by keeping the conversation going. Once you know their direction, reassure them by staying in front of them with potential ideas and the accretive benefits to these ideas.
Remember that business development works like this: No. No. No. YES!

4) Be flexible
Recognize the changes in your client’s direction and how they’ll underwrite their 2021-2022 business. Next year could be an intermediary year for your client. Make sure you find this out. Knowing this will help you tailor your post-COVID recommendations.

Remain optimistic. Support their dream. Stay connected. Be flexible. Do these things so that you are primed and ready to be their partner as they move through these times to a brighter future (with YOU in it!).

Next week: Four LEADERSHIP Tips for Getting Ahead During COVID

Six Rules of Virtual Meeting Participation

Ever since we’ve all been forced into a business world where virtual, online meetings have become the norm, I’ve noticed from my coaching engagements that often the knee-jerk reaction to participating is to take a passive role versus an engaged one. And what I tell my clients is that being virtual is not being invisible; being virtual is being engaged. To do the former is akin to not being in the meeting at all and to do the latter makes you a valuable contributor to the meetings success. People will notice.

Below, I provide my rules to follow as you continue developing your virtual meeting skill….and a skill it most certainly is!

Six Rules to Virtual Engagement

1) Accept the meeting as a challenge.
Challenge yourself to be alacritous ( cheerfully engaged in the conversation) your enthusiasm enlivens others. Optimism is the new “cool”
Determine what you can add to the meeting that is positive, thoughtful, and prescient.

2) Create an agenda to share
Having an agenda actually controls the meeting or a portion of the meeting. Make sure your points are in their correct order.

3) Time it
First, find out from the meeting host how much time has been allocated for the meeting. Next, determine how much time you will be given so that you ensure you’re not running over the time. You don’t want to be the one who caused the meeting to run long or someone else’s time being cut. Set up your timer so you can see if you are on track or need to adjust so that you stay within your allotted time.

4) Know when to check-in
Plan how you’ll check in to confirm your contribution to the meeting. You need to know beforehand what will be expected of you. Contact the meeting organized and find out how much time you will have, what you will need to discuss, and what you will accomplish.

5) Don’t interrupt people/hijack the meeting
It seems so obvious yet, in some meetings I’ve participated in with others, certain people freely interrupt. It seems like it is even more easily done with virtual meetings and can really throw things off. Interruptions bifurcate the meeting and slow down the momentum of the meeting. Hold your points until you have the floor or can respectfully ask for it!  Doing otherwise is selfish.

6) Own and assert your message
Hold yourself accountable to being accretive to the meeting. Do not pass up the opportunity to participate in portions of the conversation. Avoid drifting into silence. I’d rather you over engage than not at all, providing that your participation forwards the meeting. Go back to #5 to discover the difference!

All you and I ever wanted to do is help others and be a solution. Now is the time to bring everything you’ve got to any meeting. Your energy and enthusiasm will lift others who may feel lost, marginalized, and alone. Think about that. You can be a bridge to others’ full self-expression from your courage and confidence in the meeting. You’ve got nothing to lose. And, when you debrief with your superior explain this desire to him/her. It will enliven them!

An Innovation Focus

“Maintain an Innovation Focus.”
-McKinsey & Company

This brilliant advice is important to share with you all. I believe that the more innovative you are, the more your clients will think well of you and want to follow your lead to help them recover from our global dislocation. And there has been no time in recent history when it is more important to be innovative.

Let me make one distinction…being innovative does not mean you have to recreate everything you do, all the time. However, it does mean that you are always looking for ways to improve and are ready to pivot when situations demand it. Case and point…during this pandemic shutdown, I realized I could no longer video record my clients giving their presentations/recommendations, which is an invaluable part of my sessions. With no more in-person training, I had to find a substitute. I needed a solution that would still provide value and let my clients see how they are presenting themselves. In short, I had to innovate. My solution was having each client record themselves via their phone, playing it back for themselves, and then initiating my coaching recommendations. Voila! Challenge solved.

I should note here that nothing I used for this solution was, in itself, innovative. Phones with cameras exist. Sharing videos between people is easy. But what’s important to understand is that I used these technologies to innovate a new way for me to do something that I’ve done for years…just never in this way.

And that’s the point. When you look at current challenges, it’s important that you assess the resources you have to meet each challenge and use your creativity to innovate a new way to accomplish the result you want. As you look at your business, determine where you can innovate your client deliverables. By doing this you establish a new protocol that gets noticed. Whether a client accepts your innovative idea or not, you have credentialled yourself as someone intent on leading the way out of this dislocation into a recovery that works for everyone.

Let me know if you’ve had any “light bulb” moments of innovation recently!  – sg

Discover What’s New with Your Clients

“What’s new?”

Everything. All of your clients have been affected in some way by the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic shutdown. No one has been immune to the impact, whether they got the virus or not. Whole companies working from home. Schools closed. Retail shifting heavily online, leaving brick-and-mortar stores empty. Videoconferencing the required norm rather than a “cool to have” option.

A lot has changed. People are adjusting and realizing that the way they’ve always done things may not work any longer. New thinking and actions are required. And I’ve been coaching my clients that they have to be part of that new thinking for their clients.

Prove You are Part of the Future

Our focus now must be to reconnect to our essential clients and prove we can contribute to their success. Connecting now is all about learning and understanding a client’s new challenges that you and your organization can help resolve. Essentially you are building a new cornerstone for revenue growth. The goal is to prove the value of your work and the relationship you have with your clients. They are in recovery mode, right? It’s your job to predict what their recovery will involve, how long it will take, and what it will look like. Your recommendations must be based on this vision so that you can meaningfully contribute to your client’s (and the world’s) recovery.

Begin Anew

Create an atmosphere of discovery to understand what your client must accomplish to drive profitability. Be ready to tell your client that the way you went to market before may not be the way you need to go to market now. Keep probing so that you truly understand where they are headed.

And then wait. Don’t make rash or too-quick recommendations. How you interact with your clients now is critical, so act as their sounding board first. Let the solution remain ambiguous for a while. That action drives trust and accountability. It also allows you to field the right team of people that can become the consummate solution team. Now you are ready to make recommendations that are based on the new future your client is facing.

With each client discovery meeting keep thinking: “What can we originate together?” The more you center your conversation on what you both can newly create, the more solid and transformed your relationship becomes.

Start Leading Again

As the Coronavirus crisis continues, and in some places gets worse, it’s hard not to feel a bit disenfranchised. We’re upset that our business life has been upended, our environment ripped away from us, and our teams scattered. We keep hearing people tell us, “You are not alone.” But it can sure seem that way, right? Well, imagine how your direct reports feel. Start leading them again!

Everything Has Changed…Except Your Job

The only way your team will adapt and function in this next normal is if you do. That’s leadership. And it’s what they need now, perhaps more than ever. Are your actions leading them towards the goals you set before the pandemic (or the ones you’ve reset during it)? Remember, your job hasn’t changed…just how you do it has. Working from home? OK, so are a lot of people. Getting used to using technology like Zoom or Teams to communicate with clients and your teams? Right…welcome aboard. We’re all doing that. Learning as you go about how to move things forward when everything isn’t as it has been? Yes, that is the challenge we are all facing.

Remain optimistic and connected

You’ve got to over-communicate now. No direct report should attend a meeting without being seen and heard. What’s at stake here is their self-actualization and experiencing their participation as additive. Check-in with your directs at least once a week, asking them if they’re okay and what they want to achieve in their business efforts the next week that you can support.

Make time for them. And come from your heart, not your head. Don’t miss out on developing your directs by being so intensely focused on business development. If they aren’t being as successful as you’d like, find out why first before you start offering advice. As I’ve said many times when dealing with clients, “stay in the pain.” This applies to your teams, too. Get in there with them, understand their challenges, and empathize with how things have been disrupted for them, too. From there, you can start to map out a plan that gets them back on track. Remain optimistic for them, even if they don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. And most of all, stay connected. By listening to your team you make them valuable.

One last thing…it’s important to recognize and be grateful for the fact that you and your organization can retain your team right now. Many organizations can’t. Don’t take that for granted. You’ll be thankful you still have your team when things return to “normal.”

A Three-Part System to Virtual Business Development

If you are like me, each day during these times you often wake up anxious, skeptical, and then…hopeful (I wish it we in a diffident order). Well, so do our clients.

Understanding this and factoring it into our business development ideas and recommendations is mission-critical. Like I wrote in my last post, now is the time to relate, then sell.

Push vs. Pull Relating

Here’s what I mean. Recently, several Fortune 50 clients created exquisite presentations on the effects of COVID-19 and sent them out to their clients as a form of edification. While this process is a sound one, it’s not enough to drive client engagement or business development. This “push” action provided useful information but, it didn’t gather useful information. My clients needed to follow this up with a phone call to “pull” from their clients how the pandemic shutdown is affecting them, personally and professionally. That’s where the real relating happens!

Three Steps to Stay Relationally Connected

Here’s a process you can use to systematically, but with heart, engage with your clients.

Part one: synthesize two to three pages of important data that you will give to your clients. Think of it as a gift to assist them in underwriting their business going into the second half of this year when we slowly and tentatively begin to emerge from our virtual hibernation.  The truth is we will all emerge. But are you helping your clients come out of this smarter, more commercial, and effective?

Part two: call them and walk them through the data and linking the data you sent directly to their business. This shows how affirmational you want to be and how prescient you are relative to their challenges. Take time to listen to their reactions. Use probing questions to draw them out and get real intel you can use.

Part three: facilitate a brainstorming session using the data you sent to support the commercial recommendation you have that will truly help their business. This part defines your relational behavior. Don’t sell them on the recommendation, just discuss it. If your recommendation is solid, they will draw the link…you won’t have to.

Above all, relate to your clients now and uncover their “new” pain that you can mend. Staying connected at this level will bolster your status as a trusted adviser well into the future.

Good relating!

 

Pick Up Share By Relating, Not Selling

As I mentioned in this video, “Three Things to Help Client Relations During the Pandemic,” now is a time to relate to your clients and customers, not sell.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do any selling. You can…but it must come from your client’s request, not yours. But before you even get to that point, you must find out more about their current situation, how they are handling the global shutdown and pandemic, what affect it has had on them personally, and what impact this will have on their short and long-term goals. Ultimately, you will pick up share by relating at this level during a time when so much has been upended.

Make a Contact Plan

I always say that when you systematize your process, you take the ‘guesswork” out of your client relationships. That’s even more true in these times of uncertainty. So first, make a list of your past twelve months of clients. Determine what the last contact you had with them was, the result, and if you had intended to follow up. Once COVID hit, a lot of those plans probably fell by the wayside, which is fine. But you need to know where you are starting up again with each client.

Contact with Intention

Next, contact them. Your intention should primarily be one of relating, not selling. This is the time to ask about them and their families. It’s so important that you be interested, not interesting. Don’t use this conversation as entre into your selling objectives. Rather, take this opportunity to connect. The more you relate to your clients now with the intention of strengthening your emotional connection to them, the more likely they will engage with you post-sheltering this summer or fall. If you don’t do this now, don’t expect to connect then.

It’s quite gratifying to just listen to clients you respect and enjoy working with. You also get to ask them about their thoughts on Covid-19, their organization’s plans for reentry, whether in September or January 2021. This will be very helpful for you to gauge when your next contact time will be. And, who knows, they might even say that they’ll need your advice shortly.

Converse with No Distractions

And as a tactical tip…as you engage via videoconference with your clients, make sure the experience is a seamless one. Test your audio and visual presentation so that you are sure it is performing optimally. Avoid the Five Pitfalls of Videoconferencing that I wrote about early in this pandemic. You don’t want any distractions when you are having these important conversations.
It’s essential now to provide a professional digital experience while being human and empathetic.

And a final note…if YOU are struggling with how to balance your professional life with some increased stress from the “next normal” created by the pandemic, let’s talk. Without trying to sound like an old Army commercial, I really am here to help you be the best that you can be. Stay safe. – SG

Coronavirus Communication Tips: Sit by Your Own Fire

A lot of us have extra time right now during the coronavirus isolation.

I recommend to clients that they “sit by their own fire.” Usually I mean this metaphorically but heck…some can do it physically, too! When you sit by a fire, it’s hard not to get lost in your own thoughts, right?  That can be a really good thing. The big idea can come to you. Clarity about key issues arises. A long-ago forgotten detail comes rushing back to you. So, I recommend that you take time to sit by your own fire and give yourself some space to let this kind of thinking happen. It will remind you that you have value, you are good at what you do, and you deserve the attention of the clients you are trying to counsel as they go through this.

Why Downtime Matters

The Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset once said, “Life is fired at us at point-blank range with no time to think.” Often our survival mind kicks in and invalidates our confidence in a matter. In these uncertain times, it’s easy to spook-out. One negative thought about oneself can multiply like wildfire.

Don’t let it.

How you avoid this is by knowing your value because YOU declared it.

By knowing your true value/true gift to people you can pass through this false worry and engage with the world to make a difference. Most worry is false. In this time in our lives what you produce doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be genuine YOU.

Remembering Gratitude Daily

One idea to automatically change your chemistry is to be grateful for ten people in your life, every day. For the past year, every morning, I’ve consciously listed 10 people for whom I am grateful to have in my life…be it business or personal. This simple exercise makes me think about gratitude and starts my day with positive thoughts. You may find it hard to believe but it really has changed my outlook on the world. Try it for a week. I bet you’ll notice some changes, too.

Discover (or Remember) Your Gift

Look…we all need the confidence to do what we do. In these times, with a lack of direct contact and communication, it’s easy to think about what you are NOT doing or focus on when you did not provide value. So, I suggest two steps to get back in line:

First, speak with your partner or family member and ask for their support in reminding you of your gift. They will have no problem giving you that feedback. These close people see you in ways you can’t when looking in your mirror. You likely see faults, they see greatness.

Next, select a client that you’ll contact with your only purpose being to listen and relate, not sell. You must genuinely care about what this client is going through right now and listen intently, sympathetically, and without bias. Giving them the opportunity to “vent” issues without you having to fix them right away is a great gift you can provide if you conduct the call correctly.

In my next blog post, we’ll talk about how to manage that client call.