Two Approaches to Sales Training

There are two approaches to training and employee development in the sales industry. One side firmly believes that the responsibility to become a fully trained salesperson is ultimately up to the salesperson. The opposing view encourages a company supported training platform that is designed to identify the best candidates and train them to reach their full potential. For anyone to be successful in the sales profession there must be a strong sense of self motivation evident. The most prolific in this field are considered to be self starters. Because most sales positions are commission based, a willingness to work and produce with little to no supervision is necessary.

People who need the stability of a regular paycheck often are not successful in the sales industry. The most productive salespeople typically enjoy the challenge of having to produce everyday to insure necessary compensation. Those that are willing to find answers and make things happen tend to be the best fit for sales. The attitude of not being denied serves many salespeople well. The culture that exists in companies that prioritize training and employee development is often positive and provides excellent results and below average turnover. There is a cost, however, to the company for providing this type of environment. A commitment from the top levels of the management team is truly needed for this type of workplace synergy to exist.

Whether the approach is based on individual effort or a company supported training platform, the desired result is sales and productivity with the least possible investment of time and resources. In other words, the most bang for the buck! A move towards the middle of these two extremes would have a positive influence on the perception the public has of the sales industry in general. The best pieces of the argument for self motivated sales professionals are their willingness to work hard and be held accountable. The training position states that the necessity of training and employee development will always pay dividends. Anyone that trains salespeople will always welcome a motivated trainee. Conversely, a new salesperson that is willing to do the work would definitely appreciate the opportunity to plug into an environment that will help them be successful. There is a great deal to be gained by merging these two approaches to achieve training programs that produce well-trained, motivated employees that contribute substantially to the overall success of their companies.

Are you a great manager?

What do you think of when you hear the word management? You will invariably get a different answer from people when you ask them for their definition. Often the explanation of this word involves talk of the workplace and the infrastructure that exists in most businesses. There is no doubt that the work environment has a management component. Businesses must manage staff, economic resources, facilities, and so on.

I firmly believe there are more personal management opportunities in our day to day lives than there are in the workplace. Here are a few:

Relationship management – all of our relationships are being managed every day either by the attention we give to them or the attention we do not give to them

Financial management – lack of appropriate management in this area can and does have long lasting effects in our lives

Spiritual management – without getting too specific this is about how you manage the conversations you have with yourself as they relate to your faith or possible the absence of faith

Civic or giving management – this is all about how you appear in our society with regards to your giving of time, money, and resources

We are all managers. On my weekly radio show I talk with authors, businesspeople, and coaches. Although the subject matter is professional in nature, the themes can often be applied to personal matters. Here are a few examples:

  • A marketing expert encourages clients to be aware of how they are perceived in the world. Perception can be important in your personal life.
  • A sales trainer is teaching how to understand and relate to people. That fits all the management categories we mentioned earlier.
  • A coach works with people to improve specific areas of their lives. Who does not have areas of their personal lives that could use some specific attention?
  • A business person leverages their position to promote an initiative that benefits others. You can always find opportunities to help others.
  • An entrepreneur talks of finally putting it all on the line and branding himself so he can pursue his dreams. All of us have things in our lives that we have not managed to do or say.

Here are the results of all this: everybody has elements in their lives that must be managed. If we choose not to deal with them then we are mismanaging them. They will happen. They will show up at inconvenient times. They will impede our progress in others areas.

Here is what I want everyone to do. Decide that you are going to be the best manager you can be in your personal life. Strive for a promotion. Go out and earn the distinction of Manager of the Year. Be the manager that others aspire to be. Grab hold of the peace of mind that goes with YOU being fully engaged in the process of managing your life well. Are you a great manager?

Let’s Talk About Giving

Why do we tend to focus on what giving costs us rather than what it represents to others?

The concept of giving is a win – win situation

  • Giving can be done without a tremendous sacrifice of time or money

Most people immediately think of time or money when they consider giving. For instance, if someone is asked to volunteer at church or their childrens school they typically think “I do not have enough hours in the day as it is!”

When neighborhood children come to the door selling wrapping paper, gifts, or cookies folks think about all the things they have bought for various fundraisers.

Here is the reality check: we all find the time and money for things we want. The person who says they have no extra time often commit several hours a week to watching TV. Those that are out of money often mean they do not have any money after they go out to eat lunches and dinners several times a week.

Now please do not misunderstand me. I have a few shows that I love to watch. You will never meet a bigger fan of going out to eat than me. The examples I gave were intended to illustrate that it is how we prioritize what we do that informs our giving.

  • One way to define giving could be recognition

The practice of recognition can be a very easy habit to develop. It takes very little time and virtually no money. All it requires is for the giver to take a moment to focus on someone else. I will give you a great example. I have a meeting that I attend every Tuesday as a member of Toastmasters. Our club gathers in a meeting room at an assisted living facility. When I arrive there are usually a few of the residents either outside in chairs or sitting in the foyer. I always say hello and ask how they are. I do it for a couple of reasons. First of all it is about being that type of person who will greet people. The second in this example is most important. I was raised to respect my elders and it is totally appropriate to acknowledge these folks.

If anyone doubts the power of a hello just watch the reaction. Often they will light up because you RECOGNIZED them! This will work just about everywhere. The next time you go to the grocery store and wait in the long line remember this talk and look at the name tag of the cashier and say “Hi Mary How are you?” You just may be the first person all day to actually acknowledge the person and not just the cashier. It literally takes 2 seconds to do. You can make a persons day with that little bit of effort.

This approach is like magic if you apply it to your family and friends. I make every effort to recognize when my kids do something well. It is not just saying “good job honey.” I look them in the eyes and RECOGNIZE and ACKNOWLEDGE what they did. My job is to build them up by giving them positive interactions as much as I can. This straightforward style also makes it easier to correct them when they do something less than desirable. When you establish the positive through recognition the occasional hiccups do not stand a chance of derailing your lines of communication.

  • Givers are the go-getters in our world

Have you ever notices that the people that volunteer their time, resources, and energy tend to be the most positive people you come across? You might think they should be the least likely to be positive based on their efforts above and beyond their personal responsibilities. They will tell you it is just the opposite.

There is power in giving yourself for the benefit of others. The key here is to give without any expectations of anything in return. This requirement separates the pretenders from the true givers. There is a tremendous feeling you get when you help someone just to help them. Those that go through their day with a disposition that is committed to help others when the opportunity arises find that the opportunities arise regularly.

If you do not know people like I am describing I will tell you that you do but you may not realize it. Quite simply these are the people that you like to be around and leave you feeling better than you did before you interacted with them. They are the givers.

My hope is that my interpretation of giving resonates with someone and spurs them to examine how they can be a giver in their lives. It can be a powerful piece in the puzzle of how you want to live your life. Know that it is more than time or money. It is recognizing opportunities as they present themselves and deciding that you will be present in the world as someone who gets it. Can you be a giver even if you are the only one that knows you gave? Make the decision to be that person and the recipient of your efforts will ultimately be you.

How to get ahead at your company

What do you do if you cannot seem to get ahead in your company? There are many avenues one can take. The following are a few approaches folks use:

  • Some people just plow ahead and incorrectly assume that stress and aggravation come with the territory. Although certainly some jobs are more stressful than others it is often how we process the challenges that dictates how well we deal with them and if we ever overcome them.
  • When someone cannot continue to simply keep pushing ahead they default to the next line of defense which is the good old it is everybody else. These folks convince themselves that their managers, co workers, suppliers, and customers are somehow out to get them and would love nothing more than to see them fail. This approach requires the victims to have an obscene focus on themselves. These players have a great deal of time invested in seeing themselves as the straw that stirs the drink. This is why it is so difficult to get them to see the light.
  • The third option is when the challenged just throw in the proverbial towel. Often these people just go through the motions and really do not apply themselves to achieving any real results. The larger the company the more of these you will find. They tend to do just enough to keep things rolling. They do not want to bring attention to themselves. Of course they still have the audacity to continue to pick up a paycheck that is based on work that they do not actually consistently perform.
  • If someone does not fit in one of the three areas we described above they may actually be ready to choose the best option of all. Anybody can be down when things are not going well. It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on how bad things are. We have all done it. The achievers leverage challenging times to distance themselves from the competition.
  • A positive attitude can be very attractive to management when they are looking at options regarding staffing. Know that difficult times are a part of doing business. The challenges will not define you but your response certainly will. Put the decision makers in the position to help you get ahead. Great managers are always in need of more people to set up to the plate. Be one of those people! It starts with you.

    Building a Team – How To Get Different Personalities To Cooperate

    Different personalities are a good thing. Occasionally an extreme personality can be a good thing too. The part of unique individuals that can at times be challenging is also the part that is an asset if you are open to it. In the work environment people will bring their experiences with them. It makes them who they are. They cannot separate themselves from them either. You do not want them to.

    In situations that require collaboration the asset side comes into play. Some will make the mistake of assuming that different personalities all trying to get together is chaos. They think that the parties involved will never be on the same page. If you simply put them in a room and say ‘figure it out’ that will probably be the result. After all if people are thrown into a give and take environment and they do not know what they are giving to they tend to fall back on taking because that is human nature. When people are put in a situation that leaves them unsure they default back to making it about themselves. It is like a defense mechanism. After all if you are less than confident in a situation you can focus on yourself and get a little balance.

    How can multiple personalities coming together be a good thing? Well there is one ingredient that I left out of the scenario above. The example would produce poor results because all these people were focused on different things. Here is the secret: give them a target. If you introduce a specific goal to that same group of personalities you will drastically alter the result they produce. If you are wondering why I am going to tell you. When a defined target is put out there for the team they will all be focusing on the same thing. No more of the what is next question. They know why they are there and what needs to be done.

    This example should be expanded to fit any situation where the people on your team could collaborate to come up with answers to questions. It does not have to be in a room. It can be on the phone, web conference, or even shift by shift. The point here is to seek the perspective of your people. If you did a great job in the selection process and you have made sure that your training is excellent you should have a team of people that are ready and willing to contribute to any project that is beneficial to the company as a whole. You can access untold amounts of opinion and ideas that you possibly would never have without this collaboration

    It starts with one word – Respect

    What is one piece of advice you would give a new manager?

    It starts with one word – respect. If the employees that report to you respect you then there is a foundation to build a great career on. A successful friend once told me that the first thing you have to do to be successful professionally is show up at work to work. Place that above all else. Of course it can be beneficial for everyone to get along well and certainly there is a place for a degree of social interaction. The job comes first. People you work with do not need to know all the details of your personal life. It is counterproductive. A separation between work and personal life can create a nice balance that allows you to get away from work and recharge. Being liked is not leadership. Being liked is not management. There is the story of the manager who was accused of not making friends on the job. His response was ” I have more friends than I have time to see. I am not here to make friends. I am here to do a job to the best of my ability.” For new managers the transition from employee to one with responsibility can be tricky. The reality is if you focus on being friends with everyone and trying to be liked sooner or later one of those ‘friends’ will probably put you in a tough spot because they think you should treat them differently because you are friends. I once had an employee who was going to leave the company to pursue another opportunity and he gave me a great compliment. He said ” I do not really like you very much personally but I respect you as my manager because you hold everyone accountable equally and you work just as hard as we do.” Mission accomplished. If you or someone you know is struggling with this dynamic contact Smart Management 101. We can help.

    Customers do not grow on trees

    It would be great if they did!

    Regardless of your industry customers are a valuable commodity. Every company needs more and many struggle with the best way to get them. The most effective way is by word of mouth or referral. It is very simple but never easy. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it is an equation that is rarely solved. The lucky ones that do occasionally break through will be the first to tell you that it is far from an exact science.

    The days of utilizing more traditional advertising methods have encountered a slow, painful death in many cases. It is especially true for small business owners. The expense of radio and television advertising has become prohibitive for many business owners. The companies that thrive going forward will embrace the concept of word of mouth advertising and will make certain that is has a prominent place at the marketing table.

    There is a reason that literally thousands of network marketing companies are in existence. A majority of these opportunities utilize word of mouth advertising to move an enormous amount of products. Your customers need a reason to talk about you. It is your responsibility to put them in that position. If customers are happy with your product or service they WILL tell people. If they are unhappy they WILL tell many more people. It seems to be human nature to want to share poor experiences. I wish it was not true but it is.

    The worst mistake any company can make is to assume there will always be more customers. There is not nor will there every be an endless supply. I believe the recent economic challenges have people carefully considering how they spend their money. In many cases customers are spending considerably less than in recent years. There is much less pie to go around. You have to earn someone’s business more than ever before.

    As an owner or leader in your organization you have to monitor your relationship with your customer base. I do not mean that you should utilize customer counts and other statistical data to give you a reading of your customers. These types of measurements are certainly useful and often necessary to make other important decisions in your business. These markers rarely are able to give a true representation of the depth of the relationship you have with your customer base.

    I suggest that you evaluate using a different approach. For the sake of this discussion just try this out. You may be surprised at the end result. Decide to be your customer and rate the experience through the eyes of an 8 year old. Here is why this will work. If you have ever watched kids this age they are constantly asking WHY? They want to know WHY they cannot stay up late, WHY they have to stay in their yard, WHY they cannot watch grown up shows, WHY they cannot use water pistols in the house, and so on. Well just be your customer and ask WHY the policy makes providing great service difficult, WHY there are extra miscellaneous charges, WHY errors continue to be made in the billing department, WHY the staff have poor attitudes, and so on. Ask these types of questions and commit to finding answers that work for you and your customers. There is nothing like the feeling of turning a corner in your business. Try this approach and turn a corner.

    Put your systems to the test

    I would like to talk about systems. Some folks have no systems in place while others suffer from overkill. Finding a balance is essential for providing structure and accountability and still allowing for creativity and flexibility.

    Whatever systems you decide to utilize they must be in sync with the following points:

    • Deliver desired results This may seem obvious but too many companies implement systems that are a good fit conceptually but do not provide a win with regard to practical application. If a system cannot be well done it will diminish results.

    • Is user friendly They must speak the language of your people. The view from upstairs is often quite different than that of the front line staff. If the employees believe the system is an obstacle there will be no buy in.

    • Consider the customer/client I believe if a survey of consumers were done regarding their objections in dealing with companies the lack of a resolution to their problems by way of employees quoting company policy would be at the top of the list. If this describes your company take the bull by the horns right away. You will not regret it.
    • Provide efficiency A great system that is slow and cumbersome is not great no matter how many times the creator of it tells you so. It may have potential and contain components that address key issues but if they get lost in the process you cannot benefit from them. A sequence of events is always important so A must get to B and then C quickly and efficiently.
    • Be measureable If a system does not deliver you need to know why. It may be that one or two pieces are in need of adjustment. If there is no way to gauge the progress you cannot make effective decisions about which parts to work on or how much tinkering to do.
    • Agree with core values Nothing diminishes credibility faster than a mixed message. This is typically not done intentionally. Many companies tend to develop priorities in a compartmental sense. They create initiatives without much regard to how they fit with current standards and practices. Starting with the core values of the company is a great way to insure that the ultimate message is consistent and it will provide a roadmap to assist in setting agendas and timelines.
    • Make sense financially At the end of the day if your system causes conflict because of lack of hard resources or manpower availability you must regroup. You cannot ask a staff member to do a job by themselves if it requires two or more people to perform the function properly. The same is true of actual hands on tools. If staff does not have what they need they will resent being asked to do something you have not equipped them to do. This only serves to dilute the importance of the system and the desired result.
    • Differentiate your company A great system will make customers tell others about you. It will keep a client with you long term. It can deliver value and be a partner to you in attracting new business. It will highlight your effectiveness and provide you a comparable advantage versus your competition.

    The development and implementation of systems does not have to be relegated to the most organized and detail oriented people on your staff. It is beneficial to get feedback from all staff when possible. If that is done well everyone is invested in the success of the system. Understanding the value of systems is an essential piece in the arsenal of a smart manager.

    People actually tip for bathrooms

    People actually tip for bathrooms. They will actually use the facilities and base their tip on the level cleanliness they find. I always thought this was unusual. I typically decide the amount of my tip based on the server and my overall experience. Since I worked in the restaurant industry years ago I know that the server is not usually the person directly responsible for cleaning and stocking this important area. They usually are going a mile a minute to cover their guests’ needs. It does make you think about how people decide how much of a tip they leave when dining out.

    There are as many criteria as there are guests in a restaurant. I have actually heard people say if their drink gets more than halfway empty they penalize the server. These are often the folks who are determined to get their moneys worth and to truly test the free refill policy by gulping it down as fast as they can. The server does not stand a chance. I think they also drink so much so they can justify a bathroom visit that may influence the tip as well. Once I had a quite industrious server who noticed that I drank my first beverage pretty fast because it was hot outside. She came back with two and commented about how she did not want me to have to wait. I loved the personality and energy. The rest of the visit was terrific because she was terrific. Her tip was pretty good as I recall.

    The point of all this is that people have their personal agendas and criteria for just about everything. If they use a benchmark that is unrealistic there is not much you can do. There are a lot of little things that people notice and that will influence their overall impression of your establishment. For instance if a patron is the type that keeps a clean, organized house do you think they notice the glass entry doors being dirty or the mat at the entrance needing a vacuum session? Of course they do! This goes for staff uniforms, light bulbs needing to be replaced and a whole host of other small details. All of these things form an impression. It may not be enough to keep them from patronizing your establishment in the future but it could. Do you want to risk losing a customer because no one on your staff will walk through and pick up a bathroom or cannot find the 30 seconds it takes to clean your entrance? Would you allow someone to come to your home and find these things? I do not think you would.

    The name of the game in the restaurant business is making the customers feel as though they received value for the money they spend. This is what makes the determination if they come back. Do not start off with a negative if you do not have to. Let your service and your menu act as your calling card. All these details are things that people assume will be taken care of. If you are the person responsible you should not assume these items do not matter. Have someone come in and tell you what they see with fresh eyes. The perspective of an outsider can be quite a learning experience. I encourage you to approach the details as though they are the building blocks of your foundation and prioritize them. You can build one heck of a castle on a solid base. You can put your organization in a position to outperform your competition and have your customers telling everyone that you are a smart manager.

    When all else fails read the instructions

    Every one of us has done it. You buy something that needs to be assembled and you rip the box open and pour the contents on the floor. You empty all the little packets of hardware into a big pile. At this point you attempt to lay things out so you know where it all goes. Then you actually get started on building this thing. Everything is going well then bam! A piece is missing or does not fit quite right. You get confused and look back over all the pieces in the floor. You may even say a couple of bad words and comment on how stupid the company is that designed the thing. At this juncture there is only one option remaining: read the instructions.

    You probably cannot even find them at first. You left them in the box that has been thrown outside. After a humble retrieval you read over the paper and literally start over with organized piles of screws and a new found respect for the people that came up with this ridiculous piece. You also asked yourself somewhere during this transition if you really needed it anyway. Once you get going using the provided plan you find that it is going quite well. When you finish you declare that you could do another one because it was not so bad after all.

    There are many managers out there who approach their responsibilities in the same manner. Whether it is a project, training, or just tending to the day to day details of the job there is no plan. Or they are not using the plan. Either way you cannot expect superior results with the fly by the seat of your pants approach. The lack of a well crafted plan is often the beginning of a disappointing outcome. Why is it that decision makers will not execute a plan? I believe it is lack of vision. I believe managers that will not subscribe to the mindset of planning with the desired result in mind are doing a disservice to their company and the staff. They rarely realize the full potential of the project.

    People who do not execute a plan typically have never been exposed to the type of success a well thought out agenda can produce. Once you see that it works you tend not to go back to the old way. I believe they perceive going by a plan to be a waste of time. They often think that they do not need to follow a plan because they are so good at their job. This attitude plagues all types of businesses.

    If you are not the planning kind of manager just go out on a limb and give it a try. The worst that can happen is you think before acting and the team feels like they know what is going on. If that is as bad as it gets then you are a winner. Give your team and yourself a track to run on and you will soon hear them telling people that they have a smart manager.