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

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.

Three Things to Help Client Relations During the Pandemic

I don’t need to tell you that these are unprecedented times. While we wait for the next normal, I’ve used this time to consider how we can be even better at connecting with clients. It’s now, perhaps more than ever, that they need us. Everyone is going at this a bit blindly, right? Well, this is the time to shine the light for them. But how?

There are three ways that I’ve come up with that will further establish you as a trusted advisor. I will go into more detail in future blogs post but for now, here’s what I’m talking about:

 

 

Credentialing Yourself…Again

There are so many places through the course of daily life where we have to prove who we are. Just think of the numerous times you are asked to show your credentials before boarding an airplane. Have you ever considered how much you have to show your business credentials throughout your client/customer work? A very successful client often speaks about this for his team of advisers. Throughout his career, he’s honed the skill of credentialing himself.

Let Them Know Who You Are…Again and Again

Showing, even proving, who you are to your client takes the discipline, and humility, to know that it must be done in the first place. My client reasons that if he doesn’t do it… it won’t get done. Credentialing oneself means illustrating through your adviser-like behavior a level of professionalism and focus your competitive set doesn’t present. It means being consummately prepared before a client meeting and understanding how to carry yourself inside every meeting at all times. Client relationships are a series of encounters, like bricks in a building, each one supporting the next. If you stop laying the bricks, no progress is made.

That’s the “why” of credentialing yourself, the “how” of it requires homework.

The Process of Credentialing

As I often put forth, being prepared before a client meeting is step #1 of the process.

Step #2 is framing questions to a client in such a way that they realize how prepared you have come to the meeting and you have a solid understanding of their issues.

This requires us to have:

  • deep knowledge of their business
  • the desire to capture their precise objective
  • an ability to frame what is at stake for them
  • the expertise to link how their issues affect their organization
  • the skills to craft a solution with a critical path for them to follow

Keeping those skills fresh and present for your clients will keep reminding them of why they engaged you in the first place and that you are developing knowledge specific to their business. Try this process out this month and let me know how it works for you.

-SG

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Five Pitfalls of Business Development Virtual Meetings

Now that we’re getting into a slight groove with managing our time and realizing the opportunity of connecting to clients in our virtual world, I realized there are pitfalls we can find ourselves in without the right planning and execution.

Listed below are the pitfalls to avoid!

As long as we all just meet and talk, we’ll be okay.

NOT!

Arranging and facilitating a meeting requires MORE planning than an in-person meeting. If you haven’t noticed, once a meeting is on, you hear crickets! To avoid crickets, create, circulate, and time out your agenda. Check-in with everyone at the start relative to their health and family’s health. Make sure you have a goal in mind for the meeting to produce. Assign a note-taker who will record action items, owners, and deadlines. Call on people during the meeting to get their input (and ensure you have their attention!). Once the call concludes, make sure the notes are distributed quickly. Throughout the week, follow up on the action items so that projects keep moving toward the agreed-upon goals.

We’re all smart, we’ll get to a solution.

No!

You must first understand and acknowledge each participant’s issues and challenges. Factoring in these issues is critical to stewarding your meeting, not being its custodian. To get to a solution that is shared/welcomed by all participants, you must master the skill of synthesis. Meaning, synthesizing each topic as you move through your agenda. No one will do this except you.

The idea I have for my client will be welcomed.

That would be NO!

In the area of business development, be patient. Focus on strengthening your relationship with your client. This requires that you be interested in them BEFORE you become interesting to them. Listen first, fix second. Especially now, assume people are anxious and skeptical. Neutralize this by listening, as though you are the client’s “crash-cushion.” The best way to listen is to be the one asking the smart probing questions that get them talking. All will be revealed!

Every client should want this idea I have.

Ahhh…No!

I realize you want to make a difference and recommend a product/service. Choose wisely. Now is the time to focus on your “A” Clients first. It is essential for them to know you emotionally care about them and you KNOW what their challenges are now. Not necessarily to fix but to know. That alone is comforting. The next step is to recommend a brainstorming call to air ideas together. This type of collaboration will demonstrate your willingness to partner rather than sell, advise rather than sell.

As long as I have my contact, my corporate relationship is safe.

Way No!

The only thing certain these days is uncertainty. Putting all your eggs in one basket/client contact is a risk you should not be taking. This is the time to pick up mindshare! You do this by determining every potential executive with whom you need to develop an indispensable corporate relationship. But don’t go around your current contact…that could backfire! Collaborate with him/her and determine how you could be helpful to their colleagues and get their opinion of the idea you have. Mutually decide if they would be comfortable setting up an introduction. Your goal is to make your contact look good by presenting options to their colleagues that can strengthen their business operations.

Above all else, be present for clients, listen and learn from them. They’ll remember your humanity during this difficult time.

-SG

 

 

Avoiding Smart Guy Syndrome

Throughout my years coaching executives, I’ve noticed a common behavior that decredentials leaders: the need to illustrate they are the smartest person in the room. Trust me, the moment you start doing that, you’ve lost:

  • the climate to foster meaningful, honest dialogue
  • the possibility of debate that’s essential to gaining insight and coming to the BEST decision, not you’re decision
  • the freedom to discover a solution with others
  • your direct reports’ trust in you as someone who cares about them and their input

That’s a lot to give up, right?

Four Behaviors to Avoid the “Smart Guy” Syndrome

Being aware of your need to establish yourself as the “smart guy” and knowing what you’re giving up as described above is just the beginning. From there, try these four behaviors that will help you avoid losing the confidence and trust of those in the room:

Never Rush-to-Judgement

Immediately judging input and the person giving it as “good” or “bad,” “worthy” or “not worthy” will create tension in the room. The moment you do this you shut the space of discovery down. You’re actually saying, I don’t need your input, I’ve got this. You will no longer get honest input, rather you will get what they think you want to hear.

Tell the Truth

If you’re afraid to tell the truth, you can’t lead. Of course, there are issues you should not discuss or open up about, you’ve got to be responsible for all the issues. Most issues are better communicated with honesty than with fabrication. And being able to admit you don’t have all the answers will engender loyalty far more than creating solutions out of thin air.

Over-Listen

I can’t stress this enough. The leader who listens is the leader who is respected. Let conversations remain ambiguous for a while and notice who participates in the solution of the issue, beyond you; that’s a future leader.

Offer honest consistent feedback

The clearer your observations are of people the more they will desire your coaching of them. They will feel your concern for their development, rather than your isolated positions. People want feedback so they can improve how they operate. Not giving them feedback says either you didn’t listen, didn’t care, or don’t have the respect for their input. That’s not going to win you many fans, is it?

Try these four behaviors at your next meeting. Let me know how it goes with a “Reply” below so we can all learn from your experience!  

– SG

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Coach More, Delegate Less

It is often the case that a new leader wants to have a fast start with their organization. In their zeal to accomplish this and make a splash, they over-delegate and under coach.

To succeed as a new leader, I recommend the opposite.

Coach, Don’t Manage

It’s better to over coach/shape your direct reports and their direct reports versus delegating tasks in the hope that each exec perfectly accomplishes their mission. But coaching is not the same as managing or micro-managing. The latter can be overbearing and puts people on the defensive while the former creates a partnership atmosphere where you aid their efforts, not command them.

Coaches Create a Bond

It is during this early time when you will begin creating the bond between you and your directs. They need to see how you lead, get a sense of your vision, and see how you will be there to work side-by-side with them when needed. A coach does this…a delegator does not.

What is mission-critical is that you put your imprint as a coach on your directs by selflessly shaping their actions and being more concerned about what they learn in this process versus the perfect outcome of the process. Bear in mind that it is your directs’ journey they will value and remember long after the tasks are completed.

Do you remember the last time you were a new leader of a team? How did it go? Could this post have helped you avoid some issues early on? Answer below in the comments. 

SG

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Nobody’s Listening

You may be the most senior person in the room. You may be the boss. Heck, you may even own the company! But that doesn’t mean they are listening to you. Don’t let that happen to you.

It can if you’re not careful and mindful of these SIX Behaviors to Hold People’s Attention and Lead Successfully:

#1: Avoid Dominating Conversations/Meetings

By definition, you’re the leader of the meeting since they report to you. Do not take advantage of it. Domination comes in many forms. You can:

  • Over-communicate about an issue.
  • Become too professorial by lecturing
  • Jump to a conclusion (invariably the one you decided on just before the meeting)

Every one of these behaviors shuts people down and worse, does not affirm them. That’s when they start tuning you out.

#2: Lose the Swagger

Everyone knows you run the show, don’t push it. You get a “hall-pass” on just about everything, take advantage of none of them. Instead, let someone else’s swagger present itself. Others will notice that you don’t always have to be the center of attention.

#3: Be Forebearant

Definition: Patient restraint, keeping oneself in check when provoked. 

It’s easy to be provoked. Your day is busier than everyone else’s (or at least, that’s what you think!). When you’re in a meeting, “be there”/“be present”, with no distractions. Just because you’re ahead of everyone’s thinking doesn’t give you the right to leapfrog/hijack the conversation. Give their ideas a chance to live so that you don’t send them on a goose chase after what you think is the only solution: yours.

#4: Guard Your Time

Avoid spending time vetting an issue others should be vetting. You do not have the luxury anymore to wax poetically about “what ifs” or alternative realities.  Every time you do, you diminish your responsibility as a leader of people. The return on this behavior will be increasingly minimal so, keep it in check.

#5: Stay On Message/Be Concise & Clear

Mastering the organization of informative or persuasive communication is mission-critical for you, your image, and legacy. If you don’t know how to do this, get coaching on it. Boards are notorious for their sensitivity towards this skill. They want and deserve to be motivated. A great Board member of a Fortune 100 company once said to me, “What I most want to say to my CEO is ‘Great, what do you need from me?'”

#6: Give Credit to a POV

Please find and do this. Your job is to grow others. It’s to foster an environment where people feel they can contribute without fear of public critique, or worse you one-upping them. Listeners know when someone should be acknowledged for their smart contribution, don’t do it and you risk being labeled a know-it-all or unappreciative. You just lost your audience’s attention, perhaps forever.

Are they listening to you? If you don’t know, give me and call and we will find out together!

-SG

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