This blog is all about my latest insights into growth, strategy, and execution.
The most important question to ask your customers is…oh, but don’t ask right away.
It is an important question to ask but not during the sales process.
Ask it after you have landed the customer and have delivered well on your commitments. Ask it of all your existing customers that you think are your “Core Customers,” those that love you, are loyal, tell others about you, don’t bitch about price, and are fun to work with.
Keep in mind that this set of customers is probably only 20% of your client base but probably delivers 80% of your business.
Here’s the question:
- “Do you remember when you first talked to us (or ordered from us)? Will you tell me about what was going on in your business and job that made you decide to make a change and consider us?”
Then probe the answer to death to gain insight as to what drove their decision to make the change and talk to you. Resist the urge to make another sale.
In fact, don’t let your sales person make this call or ask this question.
You as the CEO, or maybe a marketing expert, make this particular call. This is not a salespeople call; they’ll try to make a sale and ruin the conversation.
The answers you get will be the keys to building a great “brand promise” to apply to all of your customers and prospects. Infuse what you learn into all of your processes that intersect with your customers. This should be reflected in marketing, sales, customer service, etc.
Get ready to learn and grow.
Usually, I’ll post recommended book lists a couple of times a year. This recommendation for selling couldn’t wait.
Stop Selling and Start Leading
This is a book your management/sales team should read.
I mean it. Read it. Don’t pick it up and set it on your credenza or nightstand. Order it, and crack it open as soon as you get it. Finish it quickly. Then put it to work.
We’ve all learned that the sales game has changed. Customers don’t want to be sold, but they do want to buy.
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have taken their findings on leadership from their seminal book, The Leadership Challenge and have explored the world of sales and have learned that the way customers buy lines up with the strong leadership habits outlined in The Leadership Challenge. They have compiled this new book, Stop Selling and Start Leading (with additional co-author Deb Calvert) that outlines and demonstrates how it works.
Your best sales people (if you have good ones) aren’t pitching anything to customers and prospects. They are leading them through a buying process to make good decisions through good leadership behaviors. Modeling the Way, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Challenging the Process, Enabling Others to Act, Encouraging the Heart.
Get Stop Selling and Start Leading, and get to work.
My two previous posts have discussed discovering whether you are focused on “getting it right” or “being right” and how to shift your focus for growth. Now, we’ll look at the reasons for “why” you should make this change.
Why is “getting it right” better than ‘being right” for your company?
By focusing on “getting it right” instead of “being right,” you and your organization will benefit in so many ways. Let’s cover the main ones.
- You get buy in from the team. By engaging in dialogue to “get it right,” you engage the brains of your team and in doing so they’ll find it so much easier to commit to what you will be doing. They were part of the process of the decision instead of just implementing it.
- Your team gets smarter every time you engage in dialogue to “get it right.” They’ll be exercising their thinking muscles. When you exercise more you get stronger right? Same thing with the brain. It get’s smarter. You want smarter people don’t you?
- Your team members learn how to lead. When you are ready for more leaders, you’ll have them.
- The pressure is off of you. You won’t have to come up with all the ideas and decisions. You’ll be making them with other brains engaged. The decisions will be better and better and better. Opportunities just might get solved before they ever get to you. You will no longer have to solve everything.
- You’ll have more time for identifying larger opportunities for you and your organization. Enough said.
“Getting it right” is so much better than “being right.” As Billy Crystal used to say about looking good is better than feeling good, “It’s Marvelous!” And you end up being right and more right as a result.
The difficulty with shifting from “being right” to “getting it right” is that it is much more easy to “be right” than to be “get it right.” It’s worth going through the pain of this shift to become a more effective leader and to unleash the growth from your organization.
If your focus is on “being right”…
you don’t have to consult others to take action or make a decision. You merely have to consult yourself, and then make sure you are heard. You merely have to convince yourself that your decision or action is a sound one. Then just go do it. It’s how you manage most of the decisions and actions of your life as you proceed through your day. In the short term, it’s easier to just go do it. It’s natural.
If your focus is on “getting it right”…
presenting your idea for approval is the last thing you want to do, but shifting this behavior pays off. Your focus shifts to letting everyone else be heard first, taking inventory of their ideas, and thinking before putting your idea out there. This takes time. It’s not natural, at least not for most people.
Shifting your focus takes practice.
Your first action is to define the problem or idea that you have to get right. Focus on that. Hold your idea back. Have dialogue not a debate. Throw in your idea for getting it right in the process but only after hearing those ideas of the others in the dialogue. With a full inventory of ideas, thoughts, and data, you’ll have the best chance of “getting it right.”
“Getting it right” or leading doesn’t feel natural. In fact some experts say that if it feels natural, you probably aren’t “getting it right.” Think about that for a minute. Leading isn’t a natural action. It’s awkward, and that is a sign of “getting it right.” It feels awkward when you’re figuring it out.
Next in this three-part series is the impact and benefits of making this shift for you and your team.
Which is your focus?
Do you want to “be right” or “get it right”? Pretty interesting question isn’t it? Most people will say the correct option is to “get it right.” As leaders, parents, citizens, and business people, we all intuitively know that the way forward in whatever it is we do is to “get it right” more often then we get it wrong.
Inevitably, we get this wrong. Something happens in the process. We shift to “be right” over “get it right.” Might be just for an instance, but usually it evolves into a habit. All sorts of things cause this: hubris, insecurity, success, intelligence, anger, frustration, etc. I could write a blog about each and every cause (don’t worry, I won’t). However, I will be doing a three part series on this dilemma and how it’s resolution impacts the growth of you business. Consider this post the first part of the series.
So, which right is your focus?
- “Be right” is about winning the debate, positioning yourself or your idea as the best person or the winning idea. It’s a contest, a beauty pageant, a match race, a competition. It’s about looking good, winning the argument, impressing others, and maybe even intimidating other people.
- “Get it right” is about gaining understanding, clarifying complexity, creating the best solution, and aligning everyone around it. It’s about listening, learning, leading instead of telling, teamwork, and creating commitment.
During your organization’s next problem solving session, observe everyone’s behavior using the criteria listed above. Try to determine which category applies to them. Better yet, apply the criteria to how you participate in the meeting. What is your focus?
Part two of the series will focus on how to shift to “get it right” from “be right.”
Part three will focus on the benefits, or lack thereof, of being one or the other.
You did the work and put together a good strategic plan. Should you regularly review it? Do you need to update it?
“How do I know I need a new strategic plan?”
I get asked this question often enough. Here are five key indicators that creating a brand new plan is necessary:
- When what’s been working well doesn’t work so well anymore. Same amount of work and effort being done well, and you are getting less results. Something has changed. Dig in, and figure it out. Change your plan accordingly.
- When things are going a lot better than they have in the past. This surge in growth needs to be supported, or the wheels will come off your organization. Something has changed, this time for the better. Dig in, figure it out, and change accordingly.
- New technology enters your arena. Something has changed. Dig into it and figure it out, hopefully so you can take advantage of it. Change accordingly.
- New technology/competition enters into your customers’ arena. Something has changed. Dig into it and figure it out for your customers. Change accordingly.
- Your team changed. You have a brand new team. Dig in, and figure out what the new players on the team bring to the table. New talent, new insights, more bandwidth. Change your plan accordingly.
I could go on and on, but I’m hoping you are catching my drift. Whenever you see that “something has changed,” good or bad, you need to figure it out. And change your plan accordingly.
I love setting goals.
They give you something to compete for. Hopefully you have set goals for your business. What the outcomes you want to achieve in 2018 with your revenue, market share, profitability, new customers, new products or product lines, acquisitions, etc.? I have set my goals, as well. Good job, and well done!
That’s not enough though.
If the goals aren’t translated into a plan, you dramatically reduce your chances of achieving your goals. As many have said in many different ways, “You need to know where you are going to be in the future (goals), and you need to know what you are going to do about it right now (actions/plan).”
This need not mean starting from scratch and creating a whole new strategic plan. At the very least though, you need to update what you have in order to reflect the current circumstances. Here are some basics to keep in mind as you update, plan, or create a new one.
Take stock of the following:
- Talent – Do you have the right people in the right seats doing the right things the right way?
- Strategy – Is what has been working still working as well as it did in the past? What is changing, your customer base, technology, competition? Is your strategy focused on your customers, and is everyone aligned around the same strategy?
- Execution – Is the team working together well? Are they working on both new initiatives (ROCKS) and existing tactics (SAND)? Are the leading indicators where they need to be, and if not, are adjustments being made to make sure you hit your goals?
- Cash – Got enough cash to cover what needs to be done to produce results?
You also want to ask yourself if everyone is involved in creating the plan, and is everyone aware of what the plan is? When people are actively involved in creating the plan, they are much more committed to making it happen.
Set your goals. Create your plan. Plan your work, and then work the plan.
Love them or hate them, one can’t ignore the winning record of excellence demonstrated by the Patriots in the past decade or so. They’re in the Super Bowl again (hurrah or dammit). Since 2000, they have played in eight of them and won five! They’ve played in 14 AFC Championships and won eight. That means 14 AFC East Titles, and they have gone 201-71.
They are always knocking at the door.
Though many attribute it to cheating (Deflategate and Spygate), I’m sure it has much to do with the future Hall of Famer’s Bill Belichek and Tom Brady. These guys are a winning combination if there ever was one. There have been other great coach/QB combos (Lombardi/Starr, Knoll/Bradshaw, Walsh/Montana, Landry/Staubach, Dungy/Manning) over the years, but they haven’t come close to the success of the Patriots.
What makes the Patriots different?
It’s their dedication to team work and being good teammates. I’m not talking about having the best plays or strategy. I’m talking about how well they work together. They work on more than just running the right plays the right way at the right time. They work on working together well. Constantly. They are self aware and fully aware of each other. This team knows how to communicate effectively. They can read each others’ minds.
Do you work on working together well? Are the various members of your team self aware of their weaknesses and strengths as well as the weaknesses and strengths of each other? Are they lined up correctly around them, as well as being aligned around your organization’s strategy?
Your team needs to work on working well together. too.
A good start is to use a tool like the Predictive Index ™ to help individual team members become self aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and then share them each other. This allows teams of all types to become better able to work with each other. Team players become better at utilizing each other’s strengths and working around each other’s weaknesses to move the company forward.
I’ve become a Predictive Index ™ Ambassador and have been using the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment to raise the games of the leadership teams of my clients. I’ve been conducting what I’m calling In-Synk Executive Alignments. Communication barriers are broken; collaboration is enhanced; teamwork increases, and achievements come faster. It’s a session that helps the team work on being a better team. In other words, they work on working together well.
You might hate Patriots, but you can’t help but be envious of their ability to succeed and keep winning. It comes from working at being a good team. An In-Synk Executive Alignment will get that process started for you.
Full disclosure: I’m a Wolverine, and I love Tom Brady. Go Blue!
You’re the owner/founder of your company. So, most likely that means you have a bit more chutzpah and smarts than everyone else in your organization. But, do you delude yourself into thinking that you know more about EVERYTHING else than everyone else does? It’s easy to fall into that trap, because as we all know “the boss is expected to have all the answers.”
There are so many pitfalls to this delusion:
- When you follow it, you lose trust in the front line of your organization. You also put an increasing amount of pressure on yourself.
- Your front line will stop thinking and will wait for you to decide everything. This slows down the company.
- The information and ideas you need to make the best decisions, and lead, will stop coming to you. This makes the decisions harder to discern, further slowing things down and making all your decisions more risky.
- Eventually, it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that your business is so completely different than all others that no one can really help you, not even outside experts and peers. This puts your company at further risk.
What you can do instead:
- The first thing to do is to admit you might be a genius at a few things, but most likely it’s only a few things. It’s certainly not everything. There are only one or two geniuses like Steve Jobs in every generation, and it took him many years to realize his genius. Remember, he was fired from his own company and had to learn about collaboration elsewhere before he was able to make Apple into what it is today.
- Accept that FINDING the right answers is what’s important. It’s not knowing all of them. Lead with questions; ask lots of them.
- Focus on identifying the problems and the opportunities. Then lead by asking questions of your team to bring out all the data and the potential solutions (this is called being a “multiplier”).
- Make the assumption that your team is “smart enough” to figure things out. Expect them to do so. You”ll lift your expectations of your team, and they will rise to the occasion. Ask any successful teacher about this. It’s called the Pygmalion Effect. High expectations bring high results. The best teachers have high expectations of their charges.
- Hire people who are smarter than you, especially in the areas where your experience and knowledge aren’t so strong.
Become the decider on the answers. As you lead, you don’t need to be the man/woman who knows all the answers.
Can ROI (Return on Investment) be calculated when it comes to coaching? It’s important to me for my clients to get a tangible return on their investment in my services. Therefore, I have an annual Return on Coaching meeting with my clients. Sometimes, we have a ROC meeting more often if the value I’m providing isn’t crystal clear. It keeps me honest and keeps our relationship healthy.
Mathematically, ROI on coaching is easy to calculate.
You take the fees invested in coaching for the time spent coaching and divide that into improvement achieved measured in Revenue or Gross Profit or Net Profit for the same period. I recently calculated this for a client I’ve been coaching for about two and half years. I did the back-of-the envelope math and realized my client reaped a 5371% ROI from my coaching. Pretty damn good, right?
However, doing the same calculation a year and half earlier, after only working with the company for the first year, the number came out as zero. Even though we had successfully attacked and overcome so many obstacles and opportunities, the improvement in revenue and profitability was totally flat. We were rebuilding the business. Although we had turned the company around, the payoff was still to come. The math calculation made no sense.
Why keep going after a questionable math calculation?
To make sure the coaching was working and paying off, we listed all the accomplishments and initiatives we had worked on. They were then scored from 1-5 based on impact upon the company. This confirmed that momentum was building, and it was good to continue the investment in coaching. The payoff for all the coaching in the first year started coming to fruition and resulted in the 5371% ROI listed above. Our work in the past year a half is building on all of that. I can’t wait to do the math next fall.
Return on Investment when it comes to coaching, whether you calculate it mathematically or with a scorecard, should be looked at regularly to make sure your coach is delivering.
I’m proud to say that I’m regularly delivering a healthy ROI on my coaching.