What Need Do You Fulfill for Your Customers?

By Jim Cathcart

As needs emerge, so do opportunities. Will Rogers once said, “There is no shortage of work. There are fences to mend, crops to tend, and more. You may not get paid for doing it. But you won’t get paid for not doing it either.”

He was commenting on the situation in The Great Depression, during which so many people were out of work. But even when most jobs are filled and most work is getting done, there are still abundant opportunities. As life goes on so do challenges, problems, and dilemmas – and the need for practical solutions.

How to encourage businesses

To encourage people to solve problems, make the problems obvious, allow people to experiment and to take reasonable risks, and celebrate those who step up to create solutions! Praise entrepreneurs publicly. Make a positive example of them. Others will follow.

Last year I was the closing keynote speaker at the Austin Small Business Festival. This city-wide event attracted hundreds of people to multiple venues and received the support of the mayor and the governor of Texas! All over town there were seminars, demonstrations, tours, performances, and speeches that were simulcast to a huge audience. The entire town became aware of the presence and sensitive to the needs of entrepreneurs. They also encouraged others to experiment with their own products and services.

Austin is perfect for this because it boldly encourages another type of entrepreneur: musicians. Austin has declared itself the “Live Music Capital of the World”! Being a professional musician myself I really value the atmosphere of experimentation and involvement they have created. Similar festivals are happening worldwide. (My friend and colleague, Matthew Pollard, is the organizer of the Austin events.)

News flash: Big businesses start out as…yes, small businesses. Some guy or gal with a good idea starts seeking support and goes to work solving a problem. One great benefit of big businesses is that they raise the standards of performance. The McDonald brothers had a nice hamburger stand with Multi-Mix milk shake machines but – when Ray Kroc worked out the systems to multiply the stores and retain the quality, friendliness, and cleanliness – an empire was created and hundreds of millions of us had easy access to foods we wanted. J. Paul Getty started in the oil fields. Bill Gates was experimenting with technology during the off hours at his school. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were working on a shoestring budget in Job’s garage. Uber was just some people looking to make some extra money driving their own cars. Netflix was simply an effort to do a better job of what Blockbuster used to do – rent movies.

What does this mean to you and me? “Find a need and fill it.” That success advice has been around for generations and nobody has provided a better answer. As long as people exist there will be opportunities to help them.

You may have a skill or interest for which others are willing to pay. In fact, you probably do! The more you do work that you enjoy, the better you will do it – and the more our entire society will advance. Society is nothing more than a lot of individuals connected in ways that help them find the solutions they need.

Where does sales fit into all of this?

Selling is leading people to take action to fill their needs. It is an act of friendship: helping people get what they want or need and earning a profit by doing it.

Entrepreneurs must become effective salespeople even if they don’t choose to. Nothing substantial happens until people start to cooperate with others to make things better. Sales professionals are the folks who activate that impulse.

Great guitar makers don’t affect anyone until somebody buys one of their guitars and uses it to produce beautiful music. Selling is helping and it is essential to our society’s well-being. Think of this: Without life insurance many people would be wiped out by the death of their breadwinner. But, without insurance salespeople, most folks would not proactively seek insurance. Salespeople stimulate the need, clarify the solution, paint pictures of the benefits, and guide others to commit to a purchase. We need salespeople.

What can you do to help somebody today?

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE, is one of the world’s most award-winning professional speakers and the author of 18 books. He’s the sales consultant and motivator who popularized the concept and practice of “Relationship Selling.” Jim is a regular contributor to Selling Power and a certified Mindset Trainer. Contact Jim at Cathcart.com.

Five Ways a Sales VP or Chief Revenue Officer Can Get Fired

By Jim Lochry

As most VPs of sales and chief revenue officers know, the mortality rate is quite high for those who take on ownership of meeting an organization’s top-line revenue. The job security of a VP of sales is often determined by whether they made the number for the last quarter.

So, what can a VP of sales/CRO do to avoid becoming just another casualty?

There are some issues beyond a sales leader’s control – like when the product doesn’t work, when there is no market for the product that has been built, or when the product isn’t competitive. These issues are often outside the control of sales. There are, however, several fatal mistakes that are controllable. I have outlined five of the most common below.

  1. Signing up for an unachievable revenue target: This is the classic situation sales finds itself in during the budget setting process. The goal line keeps moving during the revenue negotiation. The VP of sales keeps getting pressured into signing up to an ever-increasing revenue target. Pressure then gets applied to ensure engineering delivers on time and that a sufficient marketing program spend is in place to drive the needed lead generation activities. Pressure pressure pressure! Too much pressure.  

  2. Poor sales talent and inability to develop them: Unfortunately, many in sales leadership roles don’t build a strong sales pipeline of prospective candidates. This often results in hiring new sales reps under time constraints, which can make poor hiring decisions – such as not filling open positions in a timely manner. This will result in missing revenue targets, unpredictable forecasts, high turnover, and inability to scale.

  3. Ineffectiveness in defining and targeting ideal prospect: There are great tools, which integrate with services such as Salesforce, that marketing uses to target macro-level profiles for prospective customers and markets. These definitely provide value, but are often insufficient for optimizing the ideal prospect and profile for an individual sales rep’s territory. Variables such as verticals and account-based selling strategies make account reps’ territories unique. Additionally, for sales to be successful in having more customer interactions, they also need to know when and how to optimally reach a specific prospect.  

  4. Lack of investment in provisioning a sales team with the right technology, such as auto dialers, to make them more effective and productive: A CRM system is a great repository/database for sales reps to access. What salespeople need, in addition, are tools or a platform that allows them to leverage the data that resides in the CRM. They need to use that data to increase the amount of customer engagements. Ideally, salespeople need a multi-channel customer engagement platform that supports customer communication through email, voice, text, direct mail, etc.

  5. Don’t speak with your customers, but pummel them with a barrage of marketing automation drip and nurturing campaigns: If you are selling something other than a pure commodity, the ability to build a trusted relationship with your customer is often what determines whether you win or lose the business. This requires a dialogue – not just a series of email monologues. No doubt email is a useful tool, but it should not replace the need for a real conversation between buyer and seller. To understand the buyer’s need and articulate the unique value proposition you’re offering, you need to get to know the customer, establish a relationship with them. You have to talk to them.

Today’s sales leadership will always be in a high-pressure and high-risk position due to revenue being the lifeline of all organizations. Monday morning quarterbacking and second guessing will never go away. But the odds of survival can be dramatically improved – if you remain aware of the above pitfalls.

Jim Lochry is SVP corporate development at ConnectLeader. Jim is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and alliances. He is a results-driven software industry executive who has held domestic and international sales leadership roles with P&L responsibilities for leading enterprise software companies such as Oracle, Extricity, Versant, and Peace Software.

What You Need to Create a World-Class Customer Experience

By Amit Gautam

When I meet with our clients or prospects, the problem definition is nearly always very broad. As an example, Brillio recently met with the business leader of a consumer durables company. He told us, in essence, “I want to improve the stickiness of my customers. I want to create a world-class customer experience when they are in our stores. I want to know everything about them and I want to increase sales.”

That’s a tall order, obviously. How would you go about trying to find a solution?

If you are a generalist, you would probably bring in the specialists and hope they could stitch a solution together. In this case, you might want a user experience expert, a digital experience expert, a Big Data analytics expert, and a host of development-specific experts. You’d have tons of specialized expertise sitting around the table: impressive, but (probably) a tremendous waste of time. They simply would not know how to start the process. Specialists tend to look at the world through a narrow but focused lens, while problems like those our clients face tend to be expansive.

In today’s world, where customer experience, speed, and specificity of the solution create the greatest impact, a generalist approach of customer-centricity – by being the messenger or coordinator – won’t cut it. As the face of your firm, your customer-facing team has to create a world-class customer experience by bridging the gap between client problems and what your firm can offer as a solution.

What you need is a versatilist. It’s an awkward word (spell-check hates it!), first used in a Gartner press release way back in 2005. Gartner’s point was a somewhat narrow one: that, in information technology, technical prowess was becoming insufficient for success. Gartner wrote that trends in IT “will lead to the emergence of a new breed of IT professional, the ‘versatilist,’ who will have technical aptitude, local knowledge, knowledge of industry processes, and leadership ability.”

A versatilist would start by asking questions to define the current customer journey and the experience around it. A versatilist would understand enough about the potential solutions and technologies to build an informed view of the company’s current engagement model and experience creation as well as an understanding of the data currently used and its sources. This helps the versatilist create a perspective on today’s reality from the proverbial “big picture” view – then start to create a vision of where to go.

When you have a vision, you can start to create pieces of the solution. For my client in this situation, we started by creating an omnichannel customer experience that would be delivered by an integrated application available on mobile devices, any Web browser, and in-store systems. A customer can launch a shopping/buying experience anywhere, on any device, and continue it anywhere, on any device – including in-store. We also developed customer personas that included social media data, and applied data science to create patterns that drive buying decisions and increase sales. Our solution included everything Brillio has to offer: data analytics, mobility, e-commerce, and cloud.

But the important message here is that the solution was driven not by specialists in data analytics, mobility, e-commerce, and cloud; it was driven by the versatilist approach to understanding the client’s issues. A versatilist must combine enough understanding about the available solutions and enough understanding of the client’s situation and context to be able to create a high-level solution. It should address the client’s problem statement, of course, but it will probably go further.

For the digital services firm, no two solutions look alike, so you need to constantly imagine, solve, and evolve – and only a versatilist can do that. This is how versatilists build trusted partnerships and world-class customer experiences – which is exactly what customers are looking for. They want someone to hear them, create a solution, and then own the outcome and get the solution delivered.

The bottom line: The best customer experience professionals aren’t the folks bringing specialists to the table. The best customer experience professionals are versatilists.

Therefore, be a versatilist!

Amit Gautam is head of Customer Experience for North America at Brillio and a business and thought leader around the impact of disruptive technologies on business outcomes. Amit is part of the leadership team at Brillio, the company that focuses and organizes its service offerings in three major areas. His core strength is to establish vision and drive multi-year growth by developing foresight into industry and customer businesses, run profitable operations, and build a successful and winning team.

Five Scientifically-Proven Ways to Improve Your Sales Presentation


By Peter Arvai

When you are a sales professional, presentations are a part of your daily routine – and the fate of your business often rests on them. Whether delivering an internal presentation to your team or pitching the business to a potential new client, sales teams need to be able to communicate their message in a way that engages the audience, sticks in their minds, and persuades them to take action. This can be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the job, but – if done right – it can also be one of the most rewarding.

In our daily work at Prezi, my team and I are laser focused on building tools that help people give more effective presentations – and, through that work, we’ve done a lot of research on what makes information engaging, memorable, and persuasive. We’ve gone digging through studies conducted by psychologists and neuroscientists to try to understand how audiences’ brains work. As it turns out, people are hardwired to respond to certain kinds of content, and there are a few simple things presenters can do to take advantage of this. Here’s what science has to say about improving your presentations.

1. Text-based bullet points are not compatible with the way our brains consume information.

We’ve all seen the typical slide: a headline followed by a long list of bullet points full of text. Research has shown that this format, however, is highly ineffective, especially when compared to a more visual approach. Media consultant Mario R. Garcia found that in print, the eye goes to large pictures, even before the title or headline. In another, researchers found that visuals and/or animation increased persuasion over text alone. Another study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group found that people read content in an “F-shaped pattern” – that is, they pay the most attention to the content at the top of the page and spend less time with each subsequent line as they move down the page.

If we apply this research to the typical format of a traditional bullet-pointed slide it is easy to see that much of the content will go unread or fail to make an impact. What’s worse, while your audience is struggling to read your slides, they won’t be listening to what you have to say, because people can’t actually do two things at once. According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, one of the world’s experts on divided attention, there is no such thing as “multitasking.” When we are doing multiple tasks at the same time, we are actually switching, cognitively, between each of those tasks very rapidly, which makes us worse at everything we’re trying to do. As a result, your audience will likely disengage and miss key pieces of your message.

So ditch those bullet points. Instead, put one piece of information on each slide or frame of your presentation, and stick with visuals instead of text wherever possible.

2. Metaphors engage more of our brain.

Numerous studies have found that, when presented with metaphors and descriptive words or phrases – things like “perfume” and “she had a velvety voice” – the sensory cortex in our brains is triggered. This is responsible for perceiving things like smell and touch. That is, how the brain handles reading and hearing about sensory experiences is identical to the way it handles actually experiencing them.

On the other hand, when presented with non-descriptive information – for example, “The marketing team reached all of its revenue goals in Q1,” – the only parts of our brain that are activated are the ones responsible for understanding language. Instead of experiencing the content with which we are being presented, we are simply processing it.

Using metaphors within stories is such a powerful engagement tool because it engages more of the brain. Vivid imagery brings your content to life in the minds of your audience. Next time you want to hold the attention of a room, tell a story.

3. Showing spatial relationships taps into deep memory.

Do you think you could memorize the order of two shuffled decks of cards in under five minutes? That is exactly what Joshua Foer had to do when he won the United States Memory Championship in 2006. He was able to use a time-tested technique that has been around since 80 B.C. to memorize a vast quantity of information in a very short period of time – a technique you can use to make your presentations even more memorable.

This technique is called the “method of loci,” more commonly known as the “memory palace,” and it relies on our innate ability to remember spatial relationships – the location of objects in relation to one another. We have evolved this powerful spatial memory over millions of years, and it enables us – as it enabled our hunter-gatherer ancestors – to navigate the world and find our way.

Numerous studies have shown that the method of loci improves memory. For example, in one study, normal people who could memorize only a handful of random numbers (seven is average) were able to remember up to 90 digits after using the technique.

What does the method of loci teach us about creating more memorable presentations? If you can lead your audience on a visual journey that reveals the relationships between your ideas, they will be much more likely to remember your message – because they are much better at remembering that visual journey than they are at remembering lists of bullet points.

4. Conversations build connections, which are key to convincing your audience.

If you want to make your presentation more memorable, make it interactive. Research has shown that people are more likely to remember which brands are associated with certain products when first presented with the information in an interactive format versus a static format.

Beyond being more memorable, however, interactive, conversational presentations are also more effective at convincing an audience to take action. A lot of research has been done around persuasion in the context of sales presentations. RAIN Group analyzed the behavior of sales professionals who won more than 700 B2B opportunities, in contrast with the behavior of those sellers who came in second place. This research revealed that one of the keys to delivering a winning sales pitch – that is, a persuasive pitch – is connecting with your audience.

In looking at the top 10 behaviors that separated persuasive salespeople from those who didn’t win the deal, RAIN Group researchers found that prospects listed collaboration, listening, understanding needs, and connecting personally as some of the most important. In fact, collaborating with the prospect is listed as the number two most important behavior when it comes to winning a sales pitch, just after educating the prospect with new ideas.

Crafting your pitch like a conversation – and allowing your audience to take the driver’s seat in deciding what to discuss – is a key tool in selling effectively. More broadly, in any presentation where you are trying to convince your audience to take action, consider taking a more collaborative approach if you want to be successful.

5. Telling a story instead of sharing raw data will make your presentation twice as persuasive.

Stories are one of the most fundamental ways we teach children about the world and how to behave. And it turns out that stories are just as powerful when it comes to delivering a message to adults. Research has shown again and again that storytelling is one of the best ways to persuade people to take action.

Take, for example, a study conducted by a marketing professor at Wharton Business School, which tested two different brochures designed to drive donations to the Save the Children Fund. The first brochure told the story of Rokia, a seven-year-old girl from Mali whose “life would be changed” by a donation to the NGO. The second brochure listed facts and figures related to the plight of starving children across Africa – like the fact that “more than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.”

The team from Wharton found that the brochure that contained the story of Rokia drove significantly more donations than the statistics-filled one. This may seem counterintuitive – in today’s data-driven world, making a decision based on “gut feeling” rather than facts and numbers is often frowned upon. But this Wharton study reveals that, in many cases, emotions drive decisions far more than analytical thinking. Next time you want to convince your audience to take action, consider telling a story that brings your message to life rather than presenting data alone.

PeterArvaiPeter is the CEO of Prezi, the interactive presentation software, which he cofounded in 2008 with Adam Somlai-Fischer and Péter Halácsy, an architect and an innovator, as a means to create a more memorable and engaging way for people to share stories. Before co-founding Prezi, Peter founded omvard.se, a company that aggregates data on treatment outcomes for hospital patients, as well as developing the world’s first mobile newsreader so people could follow TED Talks from their mobile devices. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Five Things Sales Leaders Do to Create High-Performing Teams

sales leaders

By Julie Thomas

According to the Social Security Administration, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will be eligible for retirement every day for the next 13 years. At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports, “…young workers are uninterested in sales – a field they perceive as risky and defined by competition.” Given the dynamics of the labor environment, what are sales leaders doing to get the best out of their team members?

When you’re building a sales team, you’re always on the lookout for people who have the right personality and team fit – combined with sales competency. Once you’ve secured them, you’ve got to retain them – coaching them, holding them accountable, and rewarding their successes.

Personally, I’ve hired, trained, and coached thousands of sales professionals at all levels. Working with sales leaders in both multi-national sales organizations and rapidly emerging firms for the past 20 years, these are five things leaders of high-performing teams consistently do.   

  1. Hire the right people. As Jim Collins said, “Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go.” 

    High-performing sales leaders hire individuals with the right attitude, right enthusiasm, and right work ethic. They look for people who love to learn and who can accurately self-assess and adjust. These are all innate traits. You can’t teach someone to be an optimist.It takes time to get the right mix and the right team members. A single bad attitude can spread like a virus among your team. So it’s worth the wait and due diligence to build a strong team.

  2. Close competency gaps. Whether you hire seasoned pros or train new hires on the organization’s sales methodology, have a plan for onboarding and continual reskilling. 

    Assess each individual and train them to close the gaps. “Fake it ’til you make it” is not how new team members should be operating. Instead, provide the right training, education, and coaching.To make training stick, be sure it’s easy to implement and fits within your existing processes. Offer a learning environment that’s engaging, relevant, and ongoing.

  3. Measure what matters. We’ve all heard that what gets measured gets done. Hold your sales representatives accountable to things that they care about. 

    Are you building a culture of continuous improvement? Do you have a team made up of people who continually stretch, learn, and grow? Those are the sales professionals you want. They’ll serve as shining examples for the new hires on your team.To recruit and retain the right people, create metrics that are meaningful at the individual, team, and organizational level. When all three are aligned, the team is high-performing and unstoppable.

  4. Recognize and celebrate people. Ken Blanchard said, “Catch people doing something right.” High-performing leaders recognize and praise more than they correct and beat up. 

    When you have to correct a team member, do it in a way that’s constructive and motivating rather than destructive and criticizing. Make sure your positive feedback outweighs the constructive by a 2-to-1 margin.Nobody’s perfect and no one likes to be called out when they make a mistake. With this in mind, praise in public; correct in private.

  5. Drive incremental performance. How can you get everybody on the team to do their jobs just a little better? Create an environment where coaching can be used to drive incremental improvement. 

    In baseball, the goal is to get the team playing better. How? By making each individual’s performance better. While every player has a distinct role on the field, success in one role doesn’t diminish the success of other roles.By increasing each person’s skills incrementally, the competencies of your entire team come together. With this coaching strategy in place, you are positioned to win the game.

But that’s not all. Balance these five actions with a management style that builds credibility, demonstrates flexibility, and displays empathy throughout your sales organization. All of this together makes for a proven path to creating a high-performing team.

thomas_julie_150x210Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, is a business consultant, coach, facilitator, speaker, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation at a Time. She has led ValueSelling Associates to become an award-winning, competency- and process-based training provider that measurably improves sales performance in B2B sales organizations around the world. Visit valueselling.com.

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How to Lead by Listening

leaders listening

By Selling Power Editors

Have you ever heard the saying that humans “listen half, understand a quarter, think zero, and react double”?

In his book, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders, Steven R. Shallenberger cites this as one of his favorite quotes. Why? He’s found that communication is one of the top concerns among the executives and leaders he’s worked with around the globe.

“Our clients are always looking for ways to improve their communication,” he writes. “But few of them realize that better communication begins not with speaking or expressing yourself, but with listening to others.”

Communication is the heart of business and a classic leadership skill. “Whether we’re talking about a personal relationship in the home or landing a $100,000 business deal, understanding the other person and being a highly effective communicator can make all the difference in the world,” writes Shallenberger.

Tip #1: Listen with empathy in mind.

When it comes to listening skills, you want to strive to listen in an empathetic way. That means you must do more than simply understand the content of what the person is saying.

Shallenberger says many leaders listen “with the goal of finding a solution or resolution rather than simply trying to understand the person’s feelings as well as his words.” But, if you want to capture the hearts and minds of the people you hope to influence, you must seek to connect with them on an emotional level.

Tip #2: Make eye contact.

When you’re talking face to face, don’t let your attention wander. The best way to do this is to make good eye contact.

True leaders understand how to hold someone’s gaze as they’re speaking. They do so in a way that makes the speaker feel he’s the most important person in the world. Maintaining steady eye contact conveys that you are fully present and receptive. When speakers sense this energy from you, they’ll be more open and feel that you’re someone they can trust.

Tip #3: Pause and repeat what you think you’ve heard the person say.

Providing feedback on what you’ve just heard is a critical component of active listening. Shallenberger suggests using such phrases as, “Just to make sure I understand, you’re saying that …” or, “I want to get this clear in my head: you feel that ….”

The mark of a great leader is the ability to pause and provide your understanding of what you’ve just heard. This is evidence that we’re truly listening. What if you missed something or misheard? Perfect – now you can work to create alignment. If you had not stopped to repeat what you heard, you wouldn’t have known there was a problem.

When practicing this skill, make sure your tone and manner aren’t hostile, defensive, or patronizing. “If it’s sincere, it shouldn’t feel like an interrogation,” Shallenberger writes.

When you listen openly, sincerely, and empathetically, you become the kind of leader that people want to follow.

As Shallenberger puts it: “Think about the people you value as mentors and guides in your life, and you’ll probably realize that one of the things you value most about them is that they are willing to listen to what you have to say.”

What are some of your best tips for leaders who want to become active and engaged listeners? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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5 Things Sales Leaders Should Never Say

Sir Richard Branson

by Lisa Gschwandtner 

If there’s one thing Sir Richard Branson understands, it’s the pressure of conveying a clear message (either in meetings, public statements, or speeches) without sounding negative. According to his book, The Virgin Way: Everything I Know about Leadership, here are five words and phrases he tries to avoid in team meetings and speeches.

1) “That’s not a bad idea.”

If this is your response to an idea, your team won’t be clear on whether you love the idea or hate it. “Not bad” could mean you actually kind of like the idea. On the other hand, you didn’t specifically say you love the idea. Don’t leave your audience confused.

“Be definitive,” writes Branson. “If you approve or disapprove of something, be assertive and make your position absolutely clear, making sure you explain why.”

2) “You’re not going to like this, but …”

This phrase sets up your listeners to hear something negative. As a leader, it’s your job to inspire people and instill them with positive feelings – even if what you’re about to share might upset or frighten them. Branson suggests instead saying something like, “This may be a tough nut to crack, but I’m sure we’ll get it done.”

3) “We’ve had better years.”

Sales leaders are often asked to provide some kind of public commentary on results for the month, quarter, or year, but Branson views the above phrase as a cop out. “People want the truth, not some sugarcoated version of it,” he writes. Admit the reality of your situation and follow up with an honest assessment of how you plan to achieve better results in the future.

4) “That said…”

Branson considers this to be “possibly one of the most destructive phrases in the English language.” When people hear these words, you invalidate anything you said just a minute ago. This can create great resentment among your listeners. “As a verbal bridge from the pros to the cons, try using something like, ‘Of course, we shouldn’t overlook…’” writes Branson.

5) “No comment.”

Branson understands that sometimes leaders aren’t at liberty to discuss sensitive information, but he dislikes this classic approach to discretion. “A stark ‘no comment’ tends to come across like, ‘We’re guilty as hell and don’t want to talk about it until our lawyers have come up with a plausible alibi,’” writes Branson.

Instead, he suggests saying something like, ‘I’m really sorry, but until we gather all the facts, we are not in a position to issue a statement.’

What are some of the key phrases and words you’ve learned to avoid during speeches, meetings, and presentations? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

For more leadership insight from Richard Branson check out his book, The Virgin Way: Everything I Know about Leadership.

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Lisa GschwandtnerLisa Gschwandtner is Editorial Director at Selling Power and Media Manager of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

[Top image via Flickr / Jarle Naustvik]

How to Build a Great Relationship with a New Boss

new boss leader

Working with a new boss can be a tense experience. In his book, The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Michael D. Watkins outlines a comprehensive program for executives taking on a new role under a new boss. One of his tips is to negotiate terms of success with the new supervisor.

“It’s well worth investing time in this critical relationship up front, because your new boss sets your benchmarks, interprets your actions for other key players, and controls access to resources you need,” writes Watkins. “He will have more impact than any other individual on how quickly you reach the break-even point, and on your eventual success or failure.”

Watkins offers the following tips for establishing a productive relationship with your boss in the first 90 days of your tenure.

  1. Reach out proactively.

Your boss might be the type who sits behind a closed door and doesn’t make an effort to circulate with his or her direct reports. Sometimes executives take this as a good sign or breathe a sigh of relief that their new boss isn’t a micromanager. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?

On the contrary, Watkins warns that very little communication from your boss can lull you into a false sense of security. If you receive no overtures from your boss, Watkins recommends reaching out proactively.

“Otherwise, you risk potentially crippling communication gaps,” he writes. “Get on your boss’s calendar regularly. Be sure your boss is aware of the issues you face and that you are aware of her expectations, especially whether and how they’re shifting.”

  1. Bring solutions, not problems, to the table.

Although you want to make sure you give your boss plenty of warning if you see problems developing, you don’t want to become known for being the constant bearer of bad news. Whenever you need to discuss a problem, take time to see the issue from your boss’s perspective and think up some potential solutions. This way, you’ll be associated with positive rather than negative messaging.

Watkins also cautions, however, that you should not develop full-blown solutions to problems before discussing them with your boss.

“The outlay of time and effort to generate solutions can easily lure you down the rocky road to surprising your boss,” he writes. “The key here is to give some thought to how to address the problem – even if it is only gathering more information – and to your role and the help you will need.”

  1. Let your boss’s priorities, goals, and ideas guide your actions.

Caring about what your boss cares about can be an ideal way to establish a collaborative environment. If you’re working on developing a relationship with a new boss, Watkins advocates targeting some of your boss’s preferences and devoting your attention to those areas.

“One good way is to focus on three things that are important to your boss and discuss what you’re doing about them every time you interact. In that way, your boss will feel ownership of your success.”

  1. Don’t expect your boss to change.

It’s always nice when we work with people whose styles are similar to our own; however, you can’t rely on a common working style to build a great relationship with your boss. As Watkins points out, people frequently have different approaches to communication, motivation, and management. Remember that your role is to adapt the style your boss prefers and cater to his or her preferences.

In the book, Watkins describes the case of a man whose new boss had an aggressive, hard-driving approach that did not pair well with his own team-building style. Using the comprehensive 90-day method Watkins outlines, the man was able to take a proactive approach with his new boss and deliver strong results in the first 30 days. After a second month of great results, the man had built the credibility and capital to request that he be judged on his results and not on the manner in which he got them.

Your relationship with your boss is critical. A contentious relationship can spell disaster for all concerned. Use these tips to establish a great working relationship, and you’ll increase the chances that you’ll enjoy productive interactions, smoother communication, and mutual success.

Get more insight from Michael D. Watkins in his book The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter.

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3 Things You Need to Be a Predictive Sales Organization

predictive analytics Selling Power

Do you look into your revenue future and see uncertainty?

If so, that might be because you’re still looking at backward-focused data rather than making predictions based on future-focused insight.

Business Intelligence vs. Predictive Analytics

As early as 2013, experts at Gartner were saying that using business intelligence (which looks back at what happened in the past) was no longer enough to be competitive. Instead, they encouraged leaders to look at the potential of predictive capabilities.

This year, the mission of the Sales 2.0 Conference is to educate business-to-business sales leaders about the power of predictive analytics. The reason predictive tools are so powerful is that they help you answer two key questions:

  1. “What could happen?”
  2. “What should we do?”

What Questions Can Predictive Analytics Answer?

Predictive capabilities improve your ability to make informed, intelligent decisions about how to manage your team and generate revenue. In their book, The Power of Sales Analytics, experts at global sales and marketing consulting firm ZS Associates write that data and technology can be used to address the following common questions for sales leaders.

  • How can salespeople identify the right customer opportunities? What sales activities best seize those opportunities?
  • How can sales activities be organized into effective selling roles? How many people do we need in each role?
  • What is the profile of a successful salesperson? Does our recruiting program acquire the best talent? Are we training and developing the right competencies?
  • What information and tools does the sales force need to create value for customers?
  • Are incentive programs, goals, and performance-management processes aligned to motivate high achievement and drive results?

Three Ways Sales Teams Can Become Predictive

If you want to adapt to a predictive future, you need to take the following three steps.

#1: Embrace your organizational data.

Analytics run on data. The good news: you don’t need any extra data to become predictive. Predictive applications use data you already have to make useful predictions about future events.

#2: Don’t play the waiting game.

Many sales organizations are still behind the data curve. In this month’s Selling Power magazine cover story, Jenny Dearborn, senior vice president and chief learning officer at SAP and a past presenter at Sales 2.0 Conference events, said that very few sales leaders know how to leverage data in a comprehensive way that impacts the sales cycle “from start to finish.”

She observes that, by contrast, leaders who are using data and predictive analytics are driving “breakthrough results.”

To hear specific examples of how these tools are helping sales leaders, join Mike Moorman, managing principal of sales solutions at ZS Associates, at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco in April. His presentation, “Sales Analytics Truths, Myths & Realities: Insight from 30 Years of Sales Analytics Leadership,” will show

  • how leading companies have, are, and will use sales analytics to increase profitable revenue growth;
  • the sales analytics business case;
  • how to achieve world-class sales analytics capabilities.

It can be intimidating to tackle mounds of expanding information about your customers, sales transactions, market potential, competitors, sales activity, and salespeople, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to start turning data into predictive insight.

#3: Use your CRM system diligently.

Most sales organizations today rely to varying degrees on a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Ideally, it holds important, useful data related to prospects, pipeline coverage, sales opportunities, and customers; however, salespeople aren’t always using this tool consistently or diligently. As a result, data is often inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain missing.

Becoming a predictive organization will require a culture change, starting with the consistent use of the CRM system. Once salespeople see the results and what predictive tools can do for them, they’ll be ready and willing to do so.


Lisa Gschwandtner Lisa Gschwandtner is editorial director at Selling Power and manages the Sales 2.0 Conference media team. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.


[Image via Flickr / Mark Weaver]


How To View Failure and Roadblocks in a Positive Light

sales leadership roadblocks Great leaders don’t fail less than the rest of us. The truth is, they fail frequently, but successful leaders learn to see failure in a positive light.

According to Patti Johnson, author of Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life, setbacks are a signal to stop and take stock. Maybe it’s time to abandon this particular project and move on to the next thing. On the other hand, maybe this is the exact time to double your effort. No matter which route you choose, you first need to address your underlying emotions about whatever setback you’ve encountered.

Learn to Roll with the Punches

First, remind yourself that, from time to time, all leaders struggle with failed initiatives. Disappointment and other negative emotions are natural reactions.

For example, Johnson describes a feeling of disbelief hitting her team after a key sponsor said that the global change initiative the team had been working on needed a whole new outcome. The directive came “after months of work and a widely communicated launch date.” Johnson’s response to her team? Roll with it.

“I told them we had one night to be frustrated and angry,” she writes. “But the next morning all energies were to be spent on how we could adjust our plan.”

Focus on What You Can Control

Once you move past your initial disappointment, Johnson recommends focusing on what you can control. She cites Stephen Covey’s concept of the Circle of Concern (what we care about) and the Circle of Influence (what we can affect).

“The vast majority of people focus too much time and energy outside their Circle of Influence, in their Circle of Concern. Such people typically worry about things they can’t influence, much less control, such as the weather when they go on a beach vacation or who will become the new leader of their group.” The faster you can get to the “What can I do?” phase of dealing with setbacks, the faster you can start learning from the experience.

Learn from Your Leadership Setbacks

Johnson outlines the following self-assessment questions leaders can use to learn from setbacks.

  1. How credible was your vision or idea?

Whether you wanted to write a book, create a new department, or change a long-standing process, take a dispassionate look at how realistic your idea was. These questions will help you:

What gap or need did your idea fill?

What was the actual impact of your idea?

How much research did you do?

What facts guided you to the idea?

What experiments or tests did you perform?

Why did you believe the idea would work?

  1. Who were your stakeholders?

Were you able to generate enthusiasm and support for your idea from colleagues and decision makers? “This question is to determine if the idea was able to gain traction with others who want what you want,” writes Johnson. “Did you find interest in part of the idea but not all? What resonated and what didn’t? This question helps you determine if it is the idea that needs to be reconsidered, the way it was shared with others, or the execution.”

Again, disappointment is normal when you experience problems that get in the way of your vision. Be patient with yourself and remember that all your experiences, good and bad, can be viewed as growth steps.

“I’ve had many situations where my idea/plan/change didn’t quite gain traction at first, but I knew I was building support to benefit the cause for the next time,” writes Johnson. “Recognize your progress and decide how it can work for you in the future.”

What are your tips for leaders on how they can best respond to setbacks? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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