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

Stop the Indifference!

I live in a city where a hamburger routinely costs more than $25. And while patrons are enjoying them, somewhere nearby is a fast-food joint selling a burger for less than a dollar. Why in the world would someone pay 2,400% more for the same product?  Two reasons: quality and value.

The same is true in business. People will pay more for quality service and products IF they perceive that it’s worth it. The problem I see so often is that the people often charged with convincing new and existing clients of their company’s value proposition have watered it down so much, the offering gets homogenized. As a result, they are lumped in with the “fast food” competitors and aren’t standing out as exceptional.

That’s where indifference rears its ugly head. By indifference, I literally mean that customers see no difference in your offering compared to your competitive set. When that happens, you know what they’ll base their purchase decision on, right? Price.

Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?

Value Is Based on Their Needs, Not Yours

I’m often approached to transform a team of like-minded business development executives to lift their commercial offering. The value of this is stopping customers’ indifference. This happened with my business recently.

I was referred to a head of business development by a client. Upon meeting with him, he acknowledged that we were going to discuss engaging me in coaching his team but emphatically stated that “Basically, you people are all the same, aren’t you?” Ahhh…there it was…indifference! Yikes!!

Then I realized he was upset and wanted to be heard, relative to what had last occurred. As many of you know, I’m big on listening to understand someone’s struggle before I solve anything. So, I asked him why he thought this. He proceeded to detail his disappointment with past consultants and why he grouped them all together as one homogenized unit. The experiences left him feeling like he’d been promised the $25 burger but got the 99-cent version.

Have Them See Your Value

Once I understood what didn’t work, I was then able to present how I’d approach his challenge and what his unique solution path looked like. I used details from our conversation and the unique perspective he provided to craft my responses. It was then that he could start to see that I was relatable, listening, and engaged. I knew I didn’t want to be grouped in with those who had come before me.  But as I reflected on this situation, I realized that what was most important to him was that HE and his team were not homogenized, either.

Ultimately, we were able to agree on a development path that was unique to his company and the individuals involved. And it’s important to note that I didn’t just sell him on my service…I got him to see the value of my service to him and his business. He may still have indifference toward my competitive set but I’m no longer in that group!

 

Three Indispensable Communication Principles

You must “be” before you “do.”

You can “do” to the extent which you “are.”

What you “are” depends on what you “think.”

-from the book: The Master Key System by Charles Haanel

Said simply, you must talk the talk and walk the walk to succeed.

“Be before you do” means understanding who YOU are and what matters most to you. It’s what drives you, what gets you up in the morning, what you determine to be your signs of success.

“Do to the extent which you are” means that you can only produce a result you see yourself producing. When you set goals, you set them within what you believe is attainable.

“What you are depends on what you think” says that you define yourself by what you consistently think about. If you’re always thinking about how bad things are, you are defining your attitude for yourself and your team. If you are someone who is always looking for improvement opportunities, then you are putting that out to the world as who you are.

Haanel’s adage makes sense for our world today. The time for genuineness has never been more in-demand. And as he is noting, it all starts with you. People know when you are recommending something that suits you over them and they know when you are recommending an action that’s best for them. Have you defined yourself as someone who is sympathetic to their issues/situation or as someone who is only focused on their own success?

Recently, a client of mine asked if I knew why she had hired me. I was speechless (rare for me!). I said that I would very much like to know. She said that during the interviewing process, the other consultants didn’t make her confident with what they’d deliver. When we met, she said, I had made it clear what I was going to do, how I would do it, and what results we would produce. She didn’t have to guess or wonder. Once I completed the program, she was satisfied that we had accomplished what we had agreed to do at the onset.

In this instance, I was “being” someone who cares deeply about my clients and the challenges they face. What I was “doing” was envisioning my client’s success and setting aggressive goals I knew I could achieve. And I knew I could deliver because what I was “thinking” was about my client’s long-term success, something that occupies a great deal of my time for all of my clients.

By putting all three elements together, I am able to communicate my company’s brand promise consistently and with confidence.

How do you define yours?

 

Run Your Race

From the biblical meaning to the meaning in the movie “Secretariat”, the phrase “Run your race” is important to impart to others.

It says, despite the defeats of life, stick to your plan.

As you develop your leadership skills, and those of others, keep this phrase in mind. Developmentally it says when you hit barriers, take them in stride. Do not get dissuaded or distracted by them. Instead, be fueled by them and continue on the path you’ve chosen.

A few weeks ago, I was challenged by this. I was introduced to a prospective client who was skeptical of the coaching program I recommended. Too many times in this situation, I’ve seen people adapt their recommendations so that they get the business, sacrificing what they believe to be the best course of action in favor of “winning” a client. I didn’t do that.

Instead, I recalled the “Run your race” phrase and recommended that we not work together. She was not prepared for that level of resolve. When she inquired why, I restated the goals she had communicated and said that my plan was the most effective way I knew to achieve them. In my mind, I was sticking to my race, my course. She didn’t have to agree. But I wasn’t going to be detoured.

The result? She backtracked and we mutually agreed on the program agenda.

Had I not been resolute about what I believed was best for her, I might have acquiesced to her agenda, not mine. And then I would have been running a different race. It’s hard to get back on track after that.

In another example, I was recently traveling through Africa. While in the Serengeti, I met a wonderful man who was our camp’s head chef. Upon asking him about his personal journey, he told me that 19 years ago he began working as a gardener in one of the Singita camps. One day he observed a cook cleaning fish for that evening’s dinner. Knowing he didn’t want to garden his whole life, he asked to help clean the fish. That began his culinary journey. He grew in cuisine and is now the head chef of the camp! The courage he showed to engage with the food staff blew me away. I could feel his resolve and determination. He is “running his race” with one published cookbook and another on the way!

Holding/believing in your process/ability to make a difference is as essential as the difference you actually make.

Five Steps for Coaching in Action

My previous two posts discuss how important it is to retain employees post-Covid and that feedback is a core tool you need to employ toward that end.  So, now that you’re ready, willing, and able to develop your team, I have outlined five essential actions to take to insure a relational, professional conversation.

Throughout this endeavor, it’s important you know that the more you engage with your team, the easier it gets. At first, just be comfortable being uncomfortable. It will get better, as a great German expression suggests: Practice, Practice Makes a Master.

Steps for Providing Employee Feedback

Step One: Schedule check-ins

Meet one-on-one with each of your directs, not in a group. These conversations need to be formalized, not ad hoc. Therefore, each month you’ll need to meet with each direct and review the development goals you BOTH have engineered together to measure their achievements. You can also share that your desire is to make your development conversations more intimate vs peripheral. Therefore, one-on-one is best. Your direct needs to see, feel, and understand your concern for them.

Step 2: Avoid postponing and never cancel

Nothing says “this meeting isn’t important to me” more than postponing it in favor of other work or worse, canceling it altogether. Since you are going to do these check-ins monthly, it will be relatively easy to schedule around them. Do it! The message you send when you constantly postpone check-ins is that they aren’t important to you and thus, your employee’s success isn’t either.

Step 3: Be relationally specific

I encourage my clients to be relational and encouraging. But without the former, the latter falls flat. You can tell a direct that she is “doing a great job.” Or, you can tell her “You really stepped up in that meeting and your points hit home with our client.” Which would you rather hear? Giving them specific bits of encouragement also opens the door for providing feedback on areas needing improvement.

With incorrect behavior, remain objective and still be specific. Explain the impact of the incorrect behavior. “When you missed the deadline, others had to delay their work which resulted in the project being late to the client. That diminished their trust in us. What do you need from me so that you can keep projects on track?” This relational approach avoids being too matter-of-fact/critical, which becomes a “marching order” rather than a mutually agreed-upon approach to an issue.

Step 4: Keep their development plan current

In past posts, I’ve stressed the importance of knowing what drives each of your directs, personally and professionally. Armed with this information, you can mutually create a development plan that will get them to where they want to be. But you have to stick to it. So many times, I’ve seen managers create a plan and then fail to ensure that both they and their directs are following it. Soon, the plan is shelved and things start to unravel. Avoid this by consistently reviewing the plan, setting achievable goals between check-ins, and then monitoring their progress through the month until you meet again. This level of caring is critical if you want a team you can trust and that can take on greater responsibility.

Step 5: Stay focused on the objectives

Don’t get distracted. Each meeting should have clearly stated objectives from your direct and you. “Today, we are going to discuss your concerns about the project, outline your role with our new client, and review your development progress.” Keep to that agenda. As with so many meetings, check-ins can be diverted by unrelated discussions which take up time and result in not achieving the meeting objectives. Table them and then, if you have time, discuss them after you’ve gone through your agenda. If you don’t do this, the structure of your meetings will deteriorate and your check-in system will break down. And if you know me, you know that I abhor a system-less approach to development!

Actioning coaching requires that you hold yourself to a high standard of coach and facilitator of a direct report’s growth. Without your insight, a person will plateau in their ability. That’s bad news for them AND you.

The good news is you can systematize this process as I’ve outlined above. The more you employ these five steps the easier and more fulfilling coaching will be for you.

Video: First Step with Feedback

Coaching and Feedback Post-COVID…More is Better

Based on my last blog that dealt with employee retention through strong leadership, you’ve completed an inward look at yourself, determined your goals, and assessed if you’ve conveyed those goals effectively to your team, right?

Ok…then the next step is to provide coaching and feedback to your team. Now more than ever, they need it. The more, the better!

The question is how and when? And my answer is…right after you’ve heard from them first!

Get Feedback Before You Give It

Job #1 is to realize everyone has something with which they are struggling. Our job as leaders and managers is to empathetically find it. Do you do that by questioning? Perhaps…some strong probing questions for sure (see below)…but mostly you’ll do it by listening. It’s been my experience lately that my clients’ employees have a lot to say…they just need someone to hear it. So before you jump into your feedback to them, get feedback FROM them. I guarantee it will change what you were going to say and relationally help you move forward with each employee.

Schedule Feedback Sessions Regularly

As noted above, a feedback session is a two-way street. And, these sessions must be conducted on a regular basis. I recommend you host them with each employee once a month.  If you’re saying to yourself, “What the heck are we going to talk about once a month?” Don’t worry. There will be plenty! On your side, you’ll want to assess the employee’s output, quality of the work, and level of engagement. And part of that assessment is to learn where they think they are in those areas.

To help, here are some employee feedback questions you can ask:

  • How have you been?
  • How did this month roll out for you?
  • What did you enjoy?
  • What was challenging?
  • What are your goals for the rest of the year?
  • What issues are you concerned about?
  • What would you personally like to strengthen?
  • How do you want to be perceived by your peers and management?
  • Would you like my help?

Show Empathy with Feedback

Take note of the first and last questions. Both of them demonstrate your empathy and caring. That’s huge as you develop employees!  The last question is especially important. It hits the reset button on coaching and gives you the chance to establish a development plan you both can own. And then, each month you can review how the plan is going, whether the employee feels he/she got the help they needed, and then reset again for another month.

Give this a try with all your employees. Let me know how it goes! -SG

Key Feedback Principle: More is Better

Retention Through Strong Leadership

Post-Covid, we’ve all experienced a commercial talent drain. With so many options provided by the new remote-workforce culture, people are now unwilling to remain in a position where they are not shaped and groomed.  I don’t blame them.

Our job as leaders is to create a culture of curiosity, skill-building, and empowerment. However, at least once a  week I hear this lament from clients:

“I’ll just finish this work myself; my direct reports can’t do it right.”

And each time I hear it, I blame the leader. Our job, responsibility, calling, is to contribute to people not to marginalize them. But too often, fiscal pressure to hit goals takes a back seat to growing an inspired, eager, motivated workforce that aligns with those goals. Therefore, taking over a project or task yourself is penny-wise but dollar foolish. Not only have you not shown your directs the method you prefer for accomplishing goals but, you have diminished their sense of responsibility by signaling you don’t trust their abilities. Stop doing that!

People Are Inspired by the Inspiring

It is important for leaders to lose the concern over status and transform it to our teams. A large part of your job as a team leader is to make work enjoyable and affirmational after this awful two-year Covid hibernation that stifled people, their talent, and their inspiration to contribute to the world.

That inspiration to contribute must be lit by you. You must foster this environment. You accomplish this by linking each team member’s work to the attainment of their professional development goals.

To do that, it will require a frank conversation where you both acknowledge road blacks, determine how best to overcome them, and then offer constructive feedback for future growth.

Ask Yourself…

To help you determine your role in retaining talent, here are some questions I encourage my clients to ask themselves:

  • Am I inspiring my team?
  • Have I shared MY vision?
  • What have I commercially declared that has moved me and my team?
  • What can my team count on me for?
  • Have I manifested it?
  • As I look back each week, did I actively contribute to each team member accomplishing their goals?

So many times I hear leaders blame losing employees to some force outside of their control:

“They were never going to make it here.”
“This work wasn’t right for them.”
“They never had the drive to succeed.”
“Nothing I could do…they wanted to move to [fill in the city or company here].”

That line of thinking is disempowering for YOU. Consider that they left due to a lack of inspiration and motivation. And then, hard as it might be to accept, realize you could have provided that inspiration and motivation. Once you take that on, you can see how your actions, attitude, and leadership are what is really needed to retain your teams.

So, how did you do answering the questions above? Let me know. -SG

Video: Working on Employee Retention Skills

Offer a “Confidence-Good” to Present Your Value

For several years, I consulted with a marvelous, highly successful fixed-income brokerage company. One morning over breakfast, the CEO offered a provocative phrase and strong acknowledgment of his general counsel that I’ve never forgotten.

He stated his general counsel was indispensable to him for the “confidence-good” he provided him. I paused and asked him to define this.

He said his counsel will often flag an issue that can become larger and more problematic down the road if not neutralized now versus when it’s too late or requires too much effort or capital. I thought this was profound.

Predict the Future, Provide Solutions

I then thought about my own practice and how I offer a “confidence-good” to my clients. It can take many forms, from recommending a Town Hall that will nip a problem in the bud to stating that an organization is not in one voice with their offering, which could lead to fragmentation and miscommunication of the brand’s value proposition over time. These recommendations are examples of “confidence goods.” They provide a client with confidence that you have presciently noticed how to help them and had the courage to speak it. It also demonstrates that you not only concern yourself with current issues but are invested in the company’s future enough to predict issues while recommending preventative solutions. Like a game of chess, you are observing current conditions while staying three to four steps ahead.

As you go forward, define the “confidence-good” you can present to a client and watch it resonate with them!

If you need help with it, give me a call. – SG

You Got the Business…But Do You Want It?

In these times of upheaval, it’s sometimes easy to grab whatever business you can get without considering if you really want it. I caution you to pause, assess these business opportunities, and then react. Here’s an example of how I put that advice to work for my own business.

Getting the Business Is Not the Final Step

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet an incredible CEO who was affable, lightening smart, and insightful.

During our dinner, he spoke about the importance of business development for his executives. He was frustrated that some of them were not succeeding in this area. It had been this way for far too long and no, he was not happy about it.

He went on to fully explain the financial frustration he and his firm were experiencing. He remarked that some of these talented individuals might not be employed for much longer if they didn’t begin producing results.

It was here that I let the conversation go a long time so that I could fully capture his observations AND his increasing emotional upset.

By the time he completed his remarks, he resignedly asked, “Will you take it on?”

Certainly, my first inclination was to say, “I’m in!”

But a disciplined little voice in my head said, “Not so fast!” In this case, getting the business was the first step…not the last.

Assess If You Want the Business

At this point, I knew nothing about his associates except that they were underperforming. Additionally, while I had already developed a respect for this CEO, I had no knowledge of his managerial style nor what his directs thought of it. And honestly, he didn’t know that much about me either yet he was ready to hire me on the spot to affect a major change in his organization. Call it a red flag, warning lights, whatever you’d like…I put on the brakes.

I responded by carefully outlining my coaching critical path. I explained that I would first meet each executive so I could assess if they truly had a desire and the commitment to undertake the coaching program/rigor I would tailor for them. In short, were they ready to do the work to change?

My close to him was this: “I won’t waste your money on someone I feel is not ready and willing to take this coaching journey. Once I determine they are, I’m all in!”

I knew this was a gamble on my part. I risked this potential new client bristling at my approach. And that I didn’t immediately say, “Yes!”

And guess what? It worked! He bought into my methodology, which is always key to starting a successful engagement. Through more discussion, he could see my approach would start with a strong foundation and it would result in a stronger team with reliable business development skills. This was a relief as he admitted that he had worked with other consultants who allowed their programs to go on without any end in sight and at great cost to his company.

If You Are Aligned…Then Say Yes!

Your takeaway from this example is: make sure you’re aligned with your client first before you say “Yes!” Get to a place where you are both agreed regarding each deliverable you’ll produce and what issue it solves, even if you use a little cognitive dissonance to get there!

It’s Not Wrong to Be Wrong

One of my New Year’s resolutions (yes, I still make them because what gets measured, gets done) is to read a minimum of one business book a month. I’m off to a good start, having completed Adam Grant’s book, Think Again.

He’s onto some great transformational behaviors we can adapt as we lead clients out of our global pandemic. For one, he recommends we let go of our knowledge and opinions that don’t serve us anymore. If you aren’t willing to change your mind, you can’t change anything.

Change Your Mind…Even in the Moment

Case in point. I’ve been working with a CEO client of mine, brainstorming about how to contribute to his new, inherited leadership team. I initiated delivering my ideas only to find out that he’d put as much time into thinking about our process as I had. I realized at the moment my client presented his ideas that I was wrong in my direction. I quickly held my tongue and listened to him orchestrate a great set of actions we’ll operationalize in Q1. I also decided to LEARN from my client what was dearest to him and embrace being wrong. My idea being right was not the goal so, I could let go of that. It was very freeing. Thank you, Adam Grant!

Embrace Being Wrong

Therefore, as you boldly move into client meetings and present your ideas/recommendations, embrace being wrong when this occurs and accept the learning from it. Being wrong is not wrong…insisting you are right is. Openly acknowledging that you needed more input from your client creates an honest, collaborative relationship. By doing this you will become closer to your clients, having established a mutual commitment to shaping the best solutions together.

It’s great to suspend your opinion and learn from others.

What did you learn from your clients and/or direct reports today? Let me know! – SG

When You Hit the Q4 Wall

Recently, a dear friend and client texted me with some alarming news…he had hit a wall. He said that he’d lost his way, didn’t have anyone in his life that cared about him, and didn’t want to go to work at all.

His life/business resignation was palpable and a cry for help. After a very long text and conversation, he got back to a more balanced way to engage with life.

From this incident, I got to thinking…this feeling could arise in any of us at any time. And at the end of a tumultuous 2021, you may encounter several walls that seem insurmountable.

This is especially important to discuss and try to preempt. Now is the time to begin to set your sights on 2022 and how you’ll engage with life and clients more personably given the slow ebbing of the virus. Anticipating that you may hit a wall (or two…or more), is part of understanding how you will finish strong, setting up momentum for 2022.

When You Hit a Wall…Give, Love, and Serve

What I shared with my dear friend is that it’s normal to hit a wall. The question, though, is what we do when it happens.

What’s ironic with my friend is that thirty years ago, his life motto was, “Give, Love, Serve.” I shared that with him because it was and still is a life motto of mine when the going gets tough. What that motto says to me is to place your attention on others and from this, you will be taken care of. It has served me very well lo these years.

Get Out of the Way to Make a Difference

Second, I reminded my friend of the difference he makes in people’s lives by his profession and that by surrendering to his client’s wellbeing, he’d be lifted up from that difference he made. Focusing on their issues allows you to get out of your own way and continue to make meaningful connections that lead to results.

As we go through the remainder of this year and begin to plan our business strategies for 2022, it’s essential to:

  • Put others before ourselves
  • Recognize and be proud of the difference we make with clients
  • Acknowledge that are always more of them to serve and build connections
  • Find business solutions that solve real client challenges
  • Become prescient/look into 2022 and initiate recommendations you truly believe will help your client’s business
  • Start listening NOW for Q1 solutions

If you’ve hit a wall, let me know…we’ll get through it by serving others.