by Lisa McCarthy

The 10 Most Valuable Skills For The Next Two Decades: For Everyone

Skills

Did you know that the thing that’s keeping more CEOs awake at night than anything else is a skills shortage, and that the top ten most “in demand” jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004? The problem is, people don’t seem to understand the “real” problem. While billions of dollars are being invested in recruiting and exiting people, restructuring, and developing and acquiring technical skills and solutions which will soon be out of date – the deeper and more systemic issue isn’t being acknowledged or addressed. (more…)

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What Will It Take? Apathy is a Symptom, Not a Cause

apathyEven with “great” practices, processes and programmes – over half of all change initiatives fail, fewer than 23% of the workforce are “engaged” in their work, and workplace stress and overwhelm is at an all-time high. What will it take to create a real shift, and see the changes you want to see?

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Who Are You?

post-it-note-art-e1320927062673While others were enjoying a long weekend I decided it was time to renovate. Time to renovate my business, my life, and myself. My kitchen wall now looks like it’s the victim of an explosion in a Post It Note factory, so maybe it qualifies as a home renovation as well. As I was going through the process, I found myself pondering on the question of

how can the changes we want to make in life and business, be made as simple as moving a Post It note from one place to another, adding a new one, or deleting an old?”

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Golden Rule or Platinum Rule

throw_away_money.ceIf you want your people to be fully engaged, try ditching “The Golden Rule”.

Exit… “The Golden Rule”: Treat others how you want to be treated.

Enter… “The Platinum Rule”: Treat others how they want to be treated.

Yes, it requires actually looking beyond our own self-centredness, and learning what’s truly important to the people we work with, and serve.

Here’s a way to do this – It’s a framework I work with … (more…)

3 Steps For Greater Business Breakthroughs

breakthroughIf I told you that walls, windmills and waves (the 3W’s) could be the keys to unleashing the greatest breakthroughs across your entire organisation, and radically increasing the ROI of your existing innovation, Kaizen and change management investment and initiatives, surely you’d at least be intrigued – right? (more…)

The New Rules Of Sales

sales

The New Rules of Sales

Do you remember the days when information was in the hands of the privileged few? It was just a few decades ago that parents would even sacrifice meals to own a set of encyclopaedias, hoping to give their children an edge because “knowledge was power”.

Once upon a time, knowledge was also power for the salesperson. Sellers had information that buyers didn’t, but the world wide web and social media has flipped that on its head. Buyers now decide how, when, and even if to engage with salespeople. They have more access to information, more choice, and their sales and service expectations have increased.

As a result the role and core competencies and processes of selling; and how we recruit, train, lead and equip salespeople have changed. Sales and service is a new game, with a new set of rules.

Here’s a quick introduction to some things that any organisation who sells will really benefit from paying attention to:

1. The Salesperson

The skills and qualities for successful salespeople today are different. Some of the best skills a salesperson can develop include asking questions and listening to clarify motives and find the “right problem to solve”, picking up on buying cues, and having the skill to improvise what comes next. Have you ever considered that drama and improvisation lessons may be some of the best training for your sales people? It makes even more sense when you consider the immense power of effective storytelling when it comes to engaging prospects and customers.

The challenge for buyers now is not lack of information, but too much. Salespeople can add real value by curating information and cherry picking resources that are timely, relevant, and meaningful to individual customers and prospects.

And here’s the real key to the kingdom: People buy from people they know, like and trust, and they don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care. The best salespeople have a real desire to “serve” the customer in the best way they can – even if it means they sometimes miss out on an immediate sale.

Move from upselling, to upserving. Strangely enough, this’ll also be your best weapon to overcome any resistance your salespeople have to selling. Selling has a bad rap – but most of us feel even better when we help others, than when we help ourselves.

2. Ask Your Salespeople

Your salespeople are your eyes and ears. More often than not they can identify and articulate what buyers really want, and how well or how poorly the company is serving those needs. They are a valuable source of new ideas for products and ways to serve customers better, or more efficiently. How well do you listen to and respond to your sales people, and keep them in the loop?

…And here’s a tip that comes from the Synchronised Sales programme that we created here at oAi. It’s a question to ask each and every one of your team, and it works a charm.

What one thing that you’d enjoy would you like to do, learn about, or lead – that would contribute most to growing sales?”

When I use this question the answers always surprise and astound – and the energy of the team grows. The team members feel significant, empowered, heard and valued; they get to grow and progress in a way they find meaningful, the company gets new ideas and resource to grow sales, customers are better served – and sales and staff engagement soar. Go on – give it a go. Of course, when this question is used in tandem with the entire programme it’s power is magnified, but still incredibly valuable and mind blowing on it’s own.

3. The Sales Manager

In a world of agile sales where the sales funnel is more like a sales web, and authentic relationships rule, Sales Managers need to empower their sales team with the autonomy, resources, and ability to be agile and to improvise, and to bring their own natural style to the interactions.

4. Rethink Sales Commissions

Increasingly we’re seeing that team commissions and rewards tied to team or company performance outperform individualised reward when it comes to impact on the bottom line. This approach also promotes and encourages collaboration, and teamwork.

5. What Buyers Want

The mass market is largely dead. Today buyers want and expect products and services that they perceive were almost made for them, and they want them when they want them – ie now. I recently tried to open a business bank account and was informed that my enquiry would be responded to in two days. Guess what – when they rang ten days later I had an account with another bank. Buyers today want and expect real time sales and service. Two days is not OK, and ten days sends a clear message that they don’t want my business. If it takes them that long to respond to a sales enquiry, how long would it take to respond to me as a customer if I had a serious issue? – it creates doubt.

And remember – buyers buy on emotion, and then rationalise with logic. That’s why storytelling and building trust are so powerful. Yes, even in the enterprise market, but here the emotional component is a lot more covert.

6. Marketing and Sales

The gap between sales and marketing is narrowing. They need to work together, and with their customers to grow market and customer understanding, – and identify the strategies, collateral, content, and resources that will make a difference. Marketing provides for the macro level, while sales is devoted to serving the needs of individual buyers.

If you’re not sure what a buyer persona is, or haven’t got yours sorted, a great resource is the Customer Empathy Map by Alexander Osterwalder.

7. Technology

High tech, high touch is a powerful combination for selling especially when you consider the demand for real-time and agile service and sales. Simple tools and apps like Tweetdeck, Signal and SideKick are now available to help you identify who’s looking at and considering what, and when. If a sales person can enter the conversation when the purchase is top of mind, and add real value to the purchasing decision the chance of a sale increases exponentially. Likewise, if a support or service person can identify and respond to complaints in real time – the chances of not only retaining a client, but repeat business, and positive word of mouth are boosted.

By and large, CRM systems have not kept up with the new rules. Almost all are designed to capture the movement of a prospect through a sales funnel without any real understanding that the buyer is now in charge of the process, and it isn’t quite the nice predictable funnel it used to be. The CRM system is almost always geared to provide the Sales Manager with a mechanism to report and predict sales, rather than a tool to help add real value to salespeople to facilitate the sale.

8. Alignment, Performance Management and Sales Targets

Select your salespeople wisely, ensure they’re aligned – and give them freedom to move. If you can’t trust your people to do the right thing by your customers and your business – there’s something wrong that won’t be fixed by cracking the whip.

A few years ago I was on the leadership team for a significant Australasian bank. Part of my role involved sales coaching. The people I worked with faced a challenging dilemma on a daily basis. They wanted to do what was best for the customer, but they were not empowered or trusted to do this. The pressure and drive to meet targets overpowered the drive to serve customers best.

Is the way you measure performance and set targets helping or hindering your short and long term sales results, customer satisfaction, and team engagement? If the behaviours you’re driving through targets are counter to your overall mission, or creating conflicting objectives – get creative, take action, and fix it.

If you want to learn more…

If you want to learn more about the new rules of selling I particularly like the work of David Meerman Scott and Daniel Pink. Both are thought leaders in this sphere, providing valuable and more detailed insights than I can possibly cover here. Great books include The New Rules of Sales and Service: How to Use Agile Selling, Real-Time Customer Engagement, Big Data, Content, and Storytelling to Grow Your Business, by David Meerman Scott; and To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, by Daniel Pick.

The market is ripe for organisations who are willing to embrace the new rules. It’s a very real opportunity to stand out in a sea of sameness to win valuable long term business, and your people and your customers will love you for it.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, we’d really appreciate it if you’d “like” it, and if you think others may enjoy it, please “share” it too. Thank you.

About The Author: Lisa McCarthy (M.Comm) is the creator of the Optimal Agility methodology. She is the driving force behind the vision and strategy for oAi, providing leadership and direction for partners and teams across the network. Through her speaking, coaching, corporate training & private consulting services, CEOs, executives and teams quickly discover new possibilities and opportunities, and develop the desired adaptations in their culture and organisations that counteract the rapid market and environmental shifts that besiege them.

Her areas of expertise and interest include business agility, entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, innovation, effectuation, sales, personal development, human potential, blue economy, leadership and coaching.

Web: http://www.optimalagility.com   Email: contact@optimalagility.com.

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Free Personality Test – Jung (MBTI Style)

Personality profiling helps you to understand how you’re wired up – how you think, make decisions and approach the world around you. Your own personality profile will help you understand why you communicate better with some people than with others, why some jobs seem more appealing to you, and why you approach relationships of all kinds the way you do. When you apply this understanding it will empower you to be more effective, happy, and build stronger and healthier relationships.

To discover your own personality profile you could start with something such as this free personality test. After answering 108 multiple choice questions – where there are no rights or wrongs – you’ll be given a four letter result such as ENTJ, or ISFP.

Once you have your result we recommend you visit a site such as 16 Personalities or Personality Desk and learn more about your profile. If you don’t think it fits you, take a look at the other profiles and see which one you think may be a better fit. Sometimes it pays to share your results with someone who knows you really well, as you may have some blind spots and a different perspective may be useful. Consider the results more as a guide than an absolute – an indication of styles and preferences, and not a box to lock yourself or others in. Remember that ultimately we are all unique.

Personality profiling is also powerful in a group or team context to help you chose the best people for the job and team, as a personal development tool, and to understand and improve team dynamics and communication. If you’d like to explore team dynamics more thoroughly, take a look at Team Dynamic Profiler and the free demo for the smart leader app which we think is pretty cool.

Free “Strengths” Test – Learn and Apply

strengthsYes, it’s true that we and our team members contribute the greatest value, enjoy more success, and are happier and more engaged when we’re playing to our strengths. According to Marcus Buckingham, people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. Teams that focus on their strengths are 12.5% more productive.

Discover your own strengths with this free strengths test, and then learn about them, how to apply them, and what to watch for. One place you can go to learn more is Lets Talk Personality. On this site you’ll find your strengths categorised under the headings of connecting, energising, mobilising, reflecting, and insights. Simply hover over the headings until you see the strength you’re looking for.

We recommend that you focus on your top 5 initially, and ask yourself this question

“what can I do to ensure that the bulk of my time, and the time of my team (if relevant), is invested in one or more of our own strengths?”

If you want to explore the topic of strengths further you may want to check out books such as Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow,  StrengthsFinder 2.0, or  Now, Discover Your Strengths.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – (But What’s Possible With What You Have?)

keep calmDid Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones have it right when they hit the airwaves in 1969 with -“You can’t always get what you want – you get what you need”? Perhaps the reason the song is now listed as the 100th greatest song of all time is because we can all relate to the lyrics just a little too well. We know how it feels when the things we hoped for don’t eventuate – or even worse, when we’re blindsided by news that shakes us to the core. In these times, it’s often difficult to see the opportunity – but it’s always there if you know how to find it. (more…)