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

Checking Covid-Fatigue and Other Things Affecting Your Team

As a doctor, my father saw dozens of hospitalized patients during his long career. And as anyone who has been in a hospital knows, it can be a stressful, anxiety-inducing experience. I used to make rounds with my father many times as he visited patients. Even as a young boy, I could appreciate his manner and the approach he took with each person. He was courteous, optimistic, patient, and clear. I also noticed how he transformed each patient’s feelings about their surgery.

I could see their anxiety ebb from his interaction with them. The main message my father got across to his patients is that he cared. He took time to listen and to understand their apprehension. Never rushing them, he heard what they wanted to tell him, the result being very cathartic for his patients. By the time he completed his pre-op evaluation, they were brighter, confident, and peaceful.

Fast forward to us as leaders in a pandemic…Do as my father did! Now is the time to learn about your direct reports. How is this “next normal” affecting them, their families, their mindsets? Where/when are they experiencing the most anxiety….like my father’s patients did? And how can you help them cope while still growing in their professional role?

To help, here are some key things to do as you connect with your team members:

  • Schedule formal team check-ins: Put them on the calendar and do not vary from that schedule!  Formal vs. ad hoc check-ins prove you care about the well-being and self-actualization of your team. Notice how directs will open up to you more and more from this effort.
  • Aim your conversations forward not backward: It’s been a hard 12 months for everyone. But this too shall pass (eventually!). Focus your conversation on the positive steps that can be taken now and for the future. This action illustrates optimism and that you realize how important your team’s actions are to being part of the global recovery.  
  • Empathize with COVID-fatigue: The burden of living/working through this pandemic is a heavy one to bear. It is real, it is debilitating, and it needs to be addressed. Ask your team about how they are dealing with this challenge? What impact has it has on them mentally, physically, financially, etc.? Ask about their family. These questions are mission-critical to pinpointing what may be thwarting your direct’ s ability to focus and produce the results you need.
  • Agree on a forward-thinking business development strategy: Working from a plan will help reduce your team’s anxiety because they will know where they are headed. Creating this path keeps your team focused on the right prize and what matters most, professionally. 
  • Establish and CELEBRATE short term accomplishments: A win is a win. Celebrate it! This is imperative to do to cement the actions you want to be replicated. You are also letting your team know that you are paying attention to what they are doing. Providing real, meaningful, positive feedback is one of the greatest, most valued things a leader can provide a team member. Do it!

The benefit of these actions is that they transform a team’s spirit along with each individual’s self-actualization. You are reminding them, and yourself, that they make a difference!

Do these things in the next few weeks and let me know how it goes!  -SG

What Will You Be in 2021?

This time each year, I create my New Year’s resolutions and business goals. I recommend you do this too. For me, it creates my focus and often, weekly reflection. It also reminds me of my higher self. You know, the one that’s the “good angel.”

For many people, myself included, 2020 did NOT go as planned! The goals I set for 2020…out the window as Covid changed everything. But that doesn’t mean you should give up creating goals and plans for 2021. The new year has the potential to be one of transformation like no other. It’s also the year to celebrate a new normal with clients by embodying optimism and strong virtual commercial judgment.

An Understanding Optimist

One of my first 2021 resolutions is to remain an optimist. My second is to promise my clients, and myself, an in-depth understanding of their commercial journey. Our bridge to a better tomorrow is built by being affirmational with clients today. What that means is we know their business/professional goals and, to a great extent, their personal goals, too. Once a client shares this with me, I hold it as a covenant for collaboration. It’s an honor for a client to share what’s truly driving their focus and energy, beyond just the window dressing of expected goals.

A Trusted Advisor

The more I understand the white space a client is wrestling with, the more I can assist them and be held as a trusted advisor. And that’s always a goal for me…it should be for you as well. This requires a commitment to forging an intimate commercial relationship with your client, beyond the peripheral one each of us has. It requires asking questions that may seem too invasive. Let them be that way. If a client bristles with some of your commercially intimate questions, explain that the reason you are asking them is to clearly understand their burning challenge. And, once knowing this, taking it on as a marching order to make the grandest difference you can, helping them resolve that challenge.

Ultimately, you want a client relationship that results in them speaking well of you even when you are not around. Getting in deep with them and staying in their pain as described above will help achieve this goal.

I wish you much success, prosperity, and good health for 2021!  -SG

My New Year’s Wish For You…

As I piece together my New Year’s Wish for you, I’m struck by your complete humanity and commitment to make a difference even when your life, family, and business are threatened. This is remarkable and bears a profound acknowledgment for your bravery, focus, and constitution amid this uncertain, dangerous world.

On March 18th, when I moved my business to the virtual world, I was scared, apprehensive, and confused. Pre-COVID, my world was one of standing in front of people, from one to one thousand, and coaching/teaching. Once I figured out how to operate in Zoom, Teams, etc., I took stock of myself and committed that I would make a difference in people’s lives, one person at a time, no matter what the world threw at me. I would also remember to be grateful and actualized from it. It took this COVID crisis for me to realize I could make a difference virtually as well as in-person, anywhere and anytime!

So can you, if you say so.

As you look into 2021, reflect on your core DNA that you’ve proved is unshakable. You sat by your own fire, understood the difference you make, and said to the world: “I’m going to continue to make a difference, COVID or no COVID.” Going forward look around you. Notice people’s isolation, grief, and fear. Do your best to empathize with them. Embody optimism to serve as a bridge to transform their world. Let others know that they can be as brave as you are. By doing this, you’ll find your light.

Don’t let COVID shut someone down that’s in your sphere. Show them they’re stronger than it.

As we close out 2020, list what you’re grateful for and gain strength and pride from it. Many of us have struggled and lost friends, family, or colleagues this year. Yet we’re still here, still making a difference. With your collective effort, know that we will dance again.

With all my support and admiration, I wish you a rewarding and prosperous New Year.

Assess Your Client Relationship Before Next Interaction

Do I need to tell you that these are stressful times? If I do, please let me know your secret for blocking out the world around you. For the rest of us, these times are creating an urgency that we “must” get things done ASAP or risk losing clients/business. Understand something here…this is not the reality. If you are at risk of losing clients, it’s more likely it’s because you have not consciously and systematically remained connected to them. Help is here!

Below I’ve listed key questions I recommend you ask of yourself before every interaction with a client. Pause and focus on them. Be honest with yourself about how your relationship is shaping up. By doing this, you will have assessed the situation well and can enter the interaction from a point of reality and not a stress-induced panic that will negatively cloud the interaction.

Questions to Assess Client Relationships

Have I shown my foresight?
Clients and teams want and need to be led. They value your prescience. It shows that you’ve been thinking about them and their commercial challenges. Consider the last encounters you’ve had with them. Did you look to the future and make strong recommendations? Or did you simply react to what’s happening now to put out fires?

What potential transformation have I offered lately?
Have you demonstrated your critical thinking and innovation? I don’t care if it’s off base a bit…just put forth what you believe your client or team needs to transform in 2021. This shows your insight.

Have I instilled additional trust and assuredness in my leadership?
Did you deliver on your commitments lately? Follow up and get feedback so that they know you want to drive results based on their goals, not your own. This leadership will increase trust.

Have I created a side-by-side relationship with this person/team to solve the issue being discussed?
As you find out what they need to strengthen, create a critical path to solve that challenge with them. Let them know they are not driving alone…you are helping to command the ship and move things in the right direction. This creates a partnership relationship rather than a client-vendor one.

What level of optimism have I shown?
Be optimistic. Comport yourself as though we’re in the middle of 2021 where the virus has begun to ebb. Let your client vent about the world’s issues…you’re job is to bring them back to the things that can be controlled and establish your team and you as critical to moving things forward.

How can I make our next interaction meaningful?
In this difficult time, make your interactions meaningful by caring for the person first, then moving to your business agenda. You must know their challenges/what keeps them up at night. Be relational first….sell second.

Having and maintaining self-awareness/emotional intelligence is critical now. Be grateful for the people you collaborate with and the ones you lead. Use these questions to improved your standing, related to your clients, and create a positive outlook for 2021. It will be a breath of fresh air for a lot of your clients (and employees) and have you stand out from the crowd!

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.