Thursday, December 25, 2008

Managing Your Mindset. Your #1 Challenge in 2009

Woody Allen said “80 percent of success is showing up.”
Thinking about it, this is very practical advice, and for people in sales a good rule to live by. You can’t influence, persuade, or sell yourself or your ideas if you aren’t sitting in front of the person you need to influence. Now ask yourself this.

How often have you chosen to simply send an email or make a phone call rather than holding to a face-to-face meeting?

Essentially you are choosing between sending your message vs personally delivering your message. Using email and the phone is easier for sure. However, it is also easier for the other person to choose to ignore, misunderstand or fail to take the desired action in response to your message. Less investment in time and effort equates to less commitment to influence. So, showing up wins? Yes, no contest. But, I think that there is a critical and unstated assumption here. Let me explain. Showing up, how and in what state of mind? Showing up when you are unprepared, uncommitted, de-motivated, tired, or sick means that we may have been better off sending an email or making a phone call. Showing up when you are well prepared: having a plan, being fully committed and having a positive mental attitude is what will deliver success.

Maintaining a Positive Mindset
“Your altitude is determined by your attitude.” If you don’t think for yourself, someone else will do it for you. You must manage your mindset so that you can manage their mindset. How do you maintain a positive mindset or a positive mental attitude? Well, it starts with having a clear end game in mind, to know where you are going. To have clearly defined desired outcomes. “Visualizing something organizes one’s ability to accomplish it.” says Stephen Covey. It brings a sense of clarity and a sense of purpose to everything we do. Mental creation proceeds physical creation. Attitude equals thinking win-win and attitude is everything.
Keep your attitude in check by reminding yourself of the desired thinking, behaviors and beliefs that you want to reinforce using attitude affirmations like these:
· I will think of myself as Successful!
· I will have positive expectations for everything I do!
· I will remind myself of past successes!
· I will not dwell on failures, I just will not repeat them!
· I will surround myself with positive people and ideas!
· I will keep trying until I achieve the results I want!

Maintaining a Positive Message
The words you use and the way you deliver them is what determines your ability to get your message across and make it memorable. Words and how we use them are like a paint brush and a canvas in the hands of an artist. You are creating a master piece, a spoken master piece; you are using your words to paint a beautiful picture of your vision in the mind of the people you are meeting. Words work best when they are conveyed with e-motion (energy in motion). Emotion is what speaks to people’s hearts and minds. Emotion is what moves people to action. Emotion is what makes messages memorable and what creates lasting impact.
Maintaining Positive Momentum
“Plans are useless, but planning in indispensible.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Before the meeting replay in your mind your previous successes and big wins. Think of all the possible positive outcomes that exist. Then lay them out in front of your audience. Show them how you can help them bring positive change to the organization and the people you are meeting. Create the positive future that you desire by moving their hearts and minds and focusing their thinking on the next step; the decision to take action. The best and simplest way to do this is to ask the following question. “Where do we go from here….?” Then describe the 3 scenarios, alternative solutions or courses of action that you would recommend. “From what we have discussed together today the 3 possible courses of action that I see are…….” Then help them chose the best possible solution for their situation. Concur, confirm and validate. Agree with their decision and point out all its advantages. Then openly accept responsibility for making it happen by owning their decision. “Based on our discussion we agree that the best course of action is …………. because it delivers the highest level of new customer trails and maximizes the try-to-buy conversion rate by ensuring the best overall user experience for 1st time users. I am committed to working with you and your team to make this happen over the next 90 days.” Sale made!

Three Golden Rules for Managing their Mindset:
1. Always make the effort to meet with people in person face to face. The sale starts when you see eye to eye.
2. Be prepared. Plan out the objectives of your meeting and anticipate different outcome scenarios.
3. Check that you have a positive mental attitude by holding in your mind at all times a clear vision of your desired outcome(s).

Then as Woody Allen says 80 percent of success is showing up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Selling in an Economic Downturn

“When the going gets tough the tough get going.” - Joseph P. Kennedy (JFK's Father)

We are entering a period of enormous change and uncertainty. We are witnessing the emergence of a new world order and a new business era. The Financial Crisis will impact the global economy, but where, when and by how much we don’t yet know. One thing is for sure. The “New World” will be less tolerant and less forgiving of much of our current “Old World” sales practices. In a downturn, customers will reassess their activities, expenditures, suppliers and business relationships to see where they can make savings, streamline their business and find new levels of operational efficiency to drive down costs. This presents the New Era Sales Professional with an unparalleled opportunity to take the lead by helping guide their customers through this reassessment process.

A simple and effective way to move your thinking to a NESP (New Era Sales Professional) is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will help my customer’s business in the new world economy?
  • How can I leverage my understanding of my customer's business, my knowledge of their industry and my products/services to do this?

A Five Point Plan to protect your existing business and maximize your sales in an economic downturn:

1. Keep cool. Stay positive, confident and motivated. We are entering a radically new business environment. Things are going to be difficult (maybe), different (definitely). Your ability to maintain your energy, enthusiasm and conviction are vital. A positive mindset determines your ability to achieve and to succeed by overcoming obstacles, barriers and constraints that are going to appear to surround you. The first victory is over one’s self.

2. Keep close to your customers. Look for new and innovative ways to make your customers more competitive by demonstrating how you can save them money. Gain a deeper understanding of what is truly important and of value to your customers - and know why. Visit your customers more often. Get to meet and know more people in the customer’s organization. Set a goal to meet 2 new contacts on each visit you make. Call high and wide. Know your customers better than anyone else.

3. Keep focused on customer value. To succeed in the New World of business stay focused on 2 critical things: 1. the customer and 2. the customer’s unending pursuit of performance improvement. In the New World business value will captured in 3 areas: i) achieving lower costs, ii) gaining high levels of productivity from smaller organizations, and iii) striving to create sustainable competitive advantage. Look for new and innovative ways to better serve your customers. Innovate and re-validate your current product/service value proposition. Actively seek ways to add value to your customers above and beyond your current product and service offerings.

4. Keep prospecting. Selectively target new clients. Prospecting has and always will be the base metric of success in sales. In the New World the focus shifts from prospecting to prospecting effectiveness. Quantity (Old World) yields to quality (New World). New Era prospecting means being ruthless in deciding how and where to invest your time and effort to develop new business opportunities. That means deciding which prospects and which prospecting activities you are going to stop so that you can concentrate on New Era Prospecting.

5. Keep growing. Invest in yourself. Develop your New Era Sales Skills and your personal value proposition. It may seem counter-intuitive, but when it gets harder and harder to fell big trees it is time to stop and sharpen the saw. Sharpening your sales skills means setting aside time to develop your skills through reading, listening to podcasts, attending seminars and conferences, participating in training programs and joining expert groups. In the New World you are responsible for your own self development.

By finding ways to deliver new levels of business value to your customers, above and beyond what they are used to today, you will stand out from the crowd especially during an economic downturn.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Resilient Thinking: Leading in a world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity

“Its not what happens to you in life. Its how you react to what happens to you that makes the difference.”

One of the biggest challenges a leader faces today is learning to live with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity despite an increasing oversupply of information. This makes decision making more difficult and problematic than ever before. How can we deal with this growing confusion in our world?

Using Resilient Thinking we can turn around the above with a combination of Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility. The 4 antidotes to Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity work like this:

Volatility Yields to Vision:
Vision means having a clear intent, a clear direction for your actions. Vision is much more important than foresight since it seeks to create a future, not just study the future. With clear vision, creative space opens for innovation within the parameters you specify. A bold vision sees beyond volatility, with a calm perspective not trapped by assumptions of the present.

Uncertainty Yields to Understanding:
Listening leads to understanding, which is the basis for trust. You must learn to listen carefully without judging too soon. Today’s world creates urgency to act quickly, but sometimes it is a false sense of urgency. The best leaders have the presence and calm inquisitiveness to listen before talking.

Complexity Yields to Clarity:
Leaders must help others to make sense of complexity. Today’s world rewards clarity because people are so confused that they grasp at anything that helps them to make sense out of the chaos. The thoughtful leader’s quest is to be both clear and accurate, simple without being simplistic.

Ambiguity Yields to Agility:
Leaders cannot surrender to ambiguity; that would lead to paralysis and confusion. Rather, they must learn how to be agile and respond to attack and a continually changing business environment. Today’s world rewards networks because they are agile, while it punishes the rigidity of command/control hierarchies.

How can Leaders embed these four values into all levels of their organizations? It starts with applying the Foresight -> Insight -> Action Cycle which will be the subject of a future blog post.

*Based on ideas from the book: “Get There Early. Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present” by Bob Johansen, publisher by Berrett-Koehler, 2007
Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Creating Moments of Insight – The Key To Getting Results Through Others

"An insight is a restructuring of information. It's seeing the same old thing in a completely new way. Once that restructuring occurs, you never go back." - Earl K. Miller, Ph D. Neuroscientist at M.I.T.

One of the greatest moments in problem solving is the emergence of a break through idea, or the sudden flash of new understanding that we call an insight. Also known as “Aha” or “Eureka” moments, an insight is a sudden burst of activity in the right hemisphere of the brain that lasts for about 300 milliseconds. In comparison to normal analytical thinking an insight is instantaneous: the answer arrives like a revelation. This is usually followed by a feeling of certainty that accompanies the new idea.

“Your brain knows much more than you do. An insight is a fleeting glimpse of the brain's huge store of unknown knowledge.” - Mark Jung Beeman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience Program, Northwest University

What leads to moments of insight? How can you create or enable them? How can you create moments of insight in others? Imagine how effective we could become if we had several insights every day, or if we could bring about insights in others as and when we wanted. The job of a leader is to get results through others. Whatever your natural leadership style: Coercive, Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting or Coaching, creating insights in the people around you will enable you to capture their hearts and minds, align their thinking and secure their total commitment to your cause. Creating insights in others is the simplest and most effective way to get results through others. There are 3 phases to creating insights:

The Preparatory Phase:
The brain requires considerable computational power to process truly new and original thoughts. Therefore various sensory areas of the brain like the visual cortex need to go silent. The brain suppresses all possible distractions. This is the same reason we close our eyes when we are trying to think. "Focus is all about blocking stuff out" - Mark Jung Beeman

The Search Phase:
Almost all of the possibilities your brain comes up with are going to be wrong. The brain will keep on searching or, if necessary, change strategies and start searching somewhere else. Sometimes, just when the brain is about to give up, an insight appears. The suddenness of the insight comes with a burst of brain activity in the form of a spike of gamma wave activity in the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG) in the right hemisphere of the brain. This is the area of the brain used for understanding linguistic nuance, processing of jokes and for creating insights. This requires the brain to make a set of distant and unprecedented connections.

The Relaxation Phase:
The drowsy brain in an unwound and disorganized state is open to all sorts of unconventional ideas. We do some of our best thinking when we are half asleep. That's why so many insights happen during warm showers. The Concentration Paradox: Concentration, it seems, comes with the hidden cost of diminished creativity. We must concentrate on the problem and at the same time concentrate on letting the mind wander. The Focus Paradox: the ability to focus on not being focused. The brain must be focused on the task at hand and then be transformed by accidental, serendipitous connections. Predictive neural indicators are a steady rhythm of alpha waves emanating from right hemisphere. Alpha waves correlate with a state of relaxation which makes the brain more receptive to new ideas and unusual associations of ideas.

Insight Activation:
Immerse yourself in the problem until you hit an impasse. Then when it seems that nothing good is being accomplished, find a way to distract yourself, preferably by reading a book on a totally unrelated subject or going for a walk. Then, suddenly, the answer will arrive when you least expect it.

Creating insights in others is the single most effective leadership skill that I know of. It transcends coercion or authority. It transcends influence and persuasion. People always like best, and are motivated to act on, their own ideas. Creating insights in others allows you to transfer knowledge and ideas that are immediately appropriated by and become synonymous with the other person’s thinking. This is leadership by design and leadership by co-creation of desired outcomes through individual personal conviction. Activating insights in others comes through dialog based on asking questions. See previous post: Asking Questions in Colour.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Selling Your Ideas. The Art of Storytelling

“We have found that the most effective persuaders use language in a particular way. They supplement numerical data with examples, stories, metaphors, and analogies to make their positions come alive. That use of language paints a vivid word picture and, in doing so, lends a compelling and tangible quality to the persuader’s point of view.” - Jay Conger, "The Necessary Art of Persuasion," Harvard Business Review

From the beginning of time, man has used cave drawings, pictograms and hieroglyphics to tell stories to transfer information, knowledge and experience, to communicate complex ideas and to pass on values and beliefs from one generation to the next. In today’s business world narrative stories remain the most effective way to reach out and “touch” people and influence their thinking by communicating ideas that stimulate understanding, reinforce or challenge established positions and help the listener to imagine alternative courses of action and envision a new and better future.

Why tell Stories? Telling stories creates a lasting impact and conveys new levels of understand and meaning. Telling stories allows us to accelerate the creation of common understanding and purpose in others in a non-directive and therefore more sustainable and pervasive way. The best form of story has an ironic end, in which that audience realises without the need for explanation how the happy ending could have come about. In this way learning is internalised and the audience will always remember the message or moral of the story.

What makes a great Storyteller? Great Storytellers follow 4 simple rules:

1. Structure: All great stories have a plot and characters. The plot should be designed to move the audience to the desired point of view, decision or action. Examples of characters include: a novice character who serves as a stand in for the listener or a hero who serves as an aspirational role model.
2. Authenticity: The story’s message will resonate with the audience when it is aligned with the personality of the storyteller.
3. Congruency: Good storytellers know their own deepest interests and values, and reveals them in their story with honesty and candor.
4. Emotion: Being true to yourself involves showing and sharing your emotions. “I want you to feel what I feel/felt.” A good story is designed to make this happen by sharing information that is bound in personal experience and thus made unforgettable. Sharing emotion demands generosity on the part of the Storyteller. Why? Because it requires being vulnerable. Be willing to expose your fears, anxieties and shortcomings. This allows the audience to identify with you and thereby brings listeners to a place of understanding and a clarity of understanding that will ultimately move them to action.

What are the best stories to tell? The best stories to tell are your own stories because you can tell them with credibility and ease because they are based on your own experience.

Business Storytelling: You must enter the hearts of your audience because this is where their emotions live. Information seeks only to "rent space" in their minds and our minds are relatively open. However, we guard our hearts with zeal, knowing its power to move us. The audience’s mind is part of our target, their heart is our bulls-eye. To be effective the Storyteller must first display his own open heart.

Customer Success Stories: Knowledge of how existing customers were able to address their business problems using your product or service enables you to engage, present and sell to others customers who have similar situations. Look to capture 4 success stories from each customer sale that you make. 1) Vision of a solution: This is what the customer has in mind as he moves through the typical buying process. 2) Solution as initially implemented: The first inprovements and intial results from using your product or service and the time taken to reach this point. 3) Solution fully deployed: What are the full benfits and improvements generated by your solution after it has been fully deployed? 4) Extended solution: Here we are looking for examples of how the customer has been able to achieve other additional benefits to their business that you have not envisioned. These customer success stories often represent new market opportunities.

Stories create a common understanding, disrupt existing or engrained thinking, facilitate learning by enhancing facts and data with context and meaning, and can helpe us to recongnise problems, admit short comings or failure without attribution or blame. Increase your sales today by telling stories that enable understanding, reveal meaning and create insights into how your products and services can help your customers to achieve their vision, their business objectives and most importantly their personal goals. Remember: Don’t Sell, Tell (great stories)!