I was looking for some funny sales cartoons last week and during my 'research' I was struck by a common theme – a negative perception of the profession of sales. Unfortunately, I get it and it’s our own fault.
Think about the old school way sales was taught (or not taught at all). Sure organizations often provide technical or product training, but what about actual sales skills? There was (is?) the common scenario of ever-increasing targets and misguided compensation plans that reward the wrong behavior. Given the lack of training and poor comp plans, is there any wonder why sales has a bad reputation? We were literally creating an environment where a collection of under skilled, unprepared sales people with intense pressure to ‘close’ were interacting YOUR clients. As a result, it’s not a surprise that we often see desperate or unethical behavior from sales people.
The often poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me. Let’s change that.
Don’t believe me or think I may be exaggerating? Well, I will politely say you are wrong. As noted in my recent LinkedIn post, In his book "To sell is Human", Daniel Pink did a survey on the perception of sales people and 80% of the responses were NEGATIVE.
Based on my ‘research’, I see many top sales writers and influencers speaking about the evolution of sales, especially with the recent pandemic causing even more need to adapt.
The Modern Definition of Sales-Generally speaking, sales is a process of creating value and helping prospective customers fix their problems. Sales is all about ABH or Always Be Helping rather than an old school ABC which was all about Always Be Closing
I like that. I also saw this comment that resonated with me:
“What makes someone effective at sales? A genuine desire to help others solve problems”
Lisa Earle McLoed describes a concept of Noble Purpose. Her research has revealed that salespeople who's focus or purpose is to improve their customers' lives—rather than a metric assigned to them (quotas), actually sell more and are happier in their roles.
So then how do we help sales people evolve into sales professionals and shift the perception of sales?
Well, what elite athletes have in common is an intentional plan and time commitment to work on specific skills. Why don’t we do the same with Leadership and Sales skills? (I don’t know either- that’s why I am asking you!).
Organizations rely on sales to grow revenue. Always have. As we recover from the pandemic, we need effective, motivated and well-trained sales professionals to grow our organizations and our economies. This underlines how important it is to focus the appropriate investment, time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams skills to increase the opportunity for success.
Proper training and coaching is more important than ever to help sales reps evolve into effective and fulfilled sales professionals. All of us can benefit from enhancing and updating our skills.
I am fortunate to be a Senior Partner with the Envision Group and work with many exceptionally talented people across North America. I am also fortunate to be collaborating with several other seasoned professionals closer to home. This diverse teams of business all-stars have helped me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow closer to their potential. The focus is very much on ‘new school’ skills we all need to learn, practice and incrementally improve on over time. Topics include skills such as:
These programs are available virtually and when appropriate, in-person.
Let's work together to professionalize sales by providing better training and coaching support for the people who chose to work in this incredibly important area of our organizations.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.
Think about the last time you were in a work situation where you were handed a new assignment or were given a promotion. Did you think to yourself ‘oh boy, I am in over my head on this one’. Or maybe ‘This is it – I can’t do this and now everyone’s going to know I’m a failure’.
And what happened?
My guess is, with some hard work, persistence, support etc., you did it. Right?
Why am I writing about this now? I have sense that if you’re reading this, we have had similar experiences and doubts in ourselves.
Imposter syndrome: The persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.
In her article Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, author Gill Corkindale states that Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence
I have known for a long time that fear of failure is a HUGE motivator for me. I think it always has been. For example:
University – I wasn’t a great student. But in university I knew I couldn’t goof around anymore. Especially as my parents were paying for me. To make it even harder on myself, I took a Business minor. To avoid failure, I worked my butt off and studied all the time. I graduated with high marks and had way better marks than High School.
Sprint Canada – Everyone seemed smarter, more talented and better looking than me. Crap, I should have stayed where I was. Fast forward 15 years and I can look back on an extremely successful career and made many great friends along the way
KPMG – What am I doing?!?! These people are smart and established professionals. Those 3 years turned out to be extremely rewarding and I Iearned a lot about business and professional services. Most importantly, I started to get a sense that I was more capable, adaptable and resourceful than I gave myself credit.
Envision Group & SBD Growth Strategies – What do I have to offer that could help others? What credibility do I have? This ‘experiment’ isn’t going to work and I will have to swallow my pride and get a real job again. I am not an expert….am I?
While I have been on my own for 5 years, just over 3 years ago Pat Lipovski, Founder & CEO of the Envision Group, invited me to come to Houston to help with leadership training for an oil and gas client. I am 51 years old and I am now having ‘holy shit’ moments constantly.
Um, I can’t co-facilitate leadership training!?!
Pat just called on me to say something!! @%$! Ok just relax
1 on 1 coaching!?! These poor people…
I am starting year 4 with Pat and the client in Texas and Pat’s probably now wondering if I will ever shut up (during the training anyway)! I REALLY enjoy facilitating workshops and I may enjoy 1 on 1 coaching even more. It is so energizing and rewarding. And while I cursed Pat for putting me in those situations (like A LOT), I wouldn’t have grown in my capabilities and confidence if that jack ass hadn’t basically MADE me do it. (Thanks Pat. And sorry for calling you a jack ass)
Stop beating yourself up and give yourself credit for your accomplishments.
Start, or continue, on your plan to get better. Not tomorrow…Today.
You got this!
I don’t know about you, but I am becoming more reflective and sentimental as I get older. Here’s my story, what I have learned and why it just may matter to you.
This weekend my wife and I were cleaning up the downstairs office. I came across some papers that reminded me about the weird and wonderful journey I’ve been on the past few years.
The papers were in a binder from the Province of Manitoba's Self-Employment Program (run by the YMCA) I completed about five years ago. It listed the various attendees, and coaches they were assigned to work with. I could have been assigned any of the coaches, but fortunately for me, I was paired with Frank Atnikov of Frank Growth Solutions. Before I go further and explain why this is so key, I want to go back in time.
In 1994 I joined a young group of professionals at a new company, Sprint Canada. Over the next many years, I learned a lot about sales and leadership while working with so many great people here in Winnipeg and across the country. One of those people was the Founder & CEO of Envision Group International, Pat Lipovski in Calgary.
Fast forward to 2009 and I am looking for a change. Well into my early 40’s, and after 15 years in the telecom industry, I sensed I needed to do something different if I was going to grow professionally. Pat knew that his former sales leader at Sprint Canada moved on to become the National Director of Sales at KPMG – one of the big four global accounting firms. Pat informed me that KPMG was looking for a Director of Business Development. I managed to land the position, but with it came LOTS of uncertainty and trepidation. I didn’t know if I had what it takes to be effective in this role and was pretty sure I was in over my head. Oh, and I hate failure… so there’s that.
I worked hard in this role for three years and came to realize that I could in fact be effective in the role. It was tough and challenging, and it stretched me way beyond my comfort zone. I figure I grew as much in three years at KPMG as I did in 15 years at Sprint Canada. In the process, I learned a great deal about different aspects of business and professional services. Again, I met a lot of terrific people, including TDS’ Director of Client Services Mark Howe. A couple of years later Mark and I started an informal business networking and referral group, meeting monthly with a great group of local professionals.
Now it’s late 2015 and I am trying to figure out what I want to do ‘when I grow up’. One of the people in our business group, President/Founder of 6P Marketing Paul Provost, suggested I go out on my own and look into Manitoba’s Self Employment Program. And that’s where I met Frank Atnikov. We both liked working with nonprofits and felt we could help some of them by providing foundational sales and marketing training. Together, we built 2 unique ½ day training programs to support non-profits by giving them valuable tools for improved sales and marketing results.
I was nervous, again, but with some hard work and support from Frank, it went well and I realized:
The last few years have been a fun, rewarding, challenging, nerve-wracking, humbling, exciting and an incredible learning experience. Further, if you would have told me five years ago that I would be doing leadership and sales training and coaching, primarily within the energy sector, while spending most of the last year working ‘virtually’ from home in a nice shirt and pj pants (ok you didn't need to know that part), I would have thought you were wildly misinformed.
If that wasn’t enough, kicking off my own local practice at SBD Growth Strategies has given me even more to be excited and nervous about. But y’know what? I know I am going to make it work out. Someway, somehow I always have and I have the confidence to do it again. I think...
You may be thinking ‘great story Scott but what’s your point’? The point is:
Enjoy the journey, learn from others, focus on YOUR professional development, don’t be afraid to seek help along the way and if you’re wondering if you can do it, you probably can.
Good luck and here’s to a great 2021.
Do you think a succession plan for your role, and for your organization overall, is important?
If so, what are you doing about it?
Some things to consider:
· According to ERC, research figures show that the number of people in leadership roles that plan to retire in the next few years is higher than the number of people entering the workforce.
· A study conducted by the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation (CFERF) found that, “only 40% of Canadian private companies have a clear business ownership succession plan in place.”
· According to a PWC report, there are substantial benefits to be gained by identifying talented employees – including those deep in the organization with specialized skills – and coordinating their training and development to prepare them for the future.
With this in mind, let’s explore opportunities to be more mindful of building your succession plan.
First, how often do you find yourself doing ‘stuff’ because if you just do it yourself, it will be done faster or ‘I know it will be done right’? Do you realize that while that could be true in the short term, in the long term you are robbing yourself of time to do other work? More high level, strategic and/or proactive work?
Further, you are robbing the team you lead the opportunity to take on new challenges and learn new skills that allow them grow, learn and evolve.
You may be thinking ‘yah great Scott but this is easier said than done. I’m busy and succession planning takes time’!
May I suggest, for the 3rd week in a row, Living Above the Line as a way to help you think about and build your succession plan .
One really easy way to build your succession plan is to
Yup - instead of doing it yourself, identify opportunities to ask questions. Instead of telling your team what to do, think about appropriate questions you could ask.
This Forbes article articulates this really well. The author suggests 3 main benefits of Asking vs Telling and the third is 'Asking enables others to lead'.
“When others are encouraged to bring their best thinking to the table, they demonstrate leadership regardless of their position or title. Enabling others to lead and then supporting them in growing their confidence and ability helps to create more leaders within an organization.”
In a recent coaching call, we were exploring the benefits the person I was working with received from using the Living Above the Line model. She used the term ‘purposeful delegation'. That’s a gooder. Because she had an ‘a-ha moment and did a wonderful job of sharing her experience with me, here are my notes based on how she described the process from her perspective:
Looking at tasks from a different perspective. Less tactical, now more strategic
Inviting people to come along for the ride
When you give up control, people will work really hard and:
To increase your chances of being promoted and have an even ‘more awesomer’ (that’s a word!) high-performing team, invest your time in building an even better and stronger team of successors. Living Above the Line provides a simple and powerful model to guide you in that journey. It begins with something as simple as less doing and more asking.
(We offer a 60 minute webinar that further explains the Living Above the Line model and helps attendees better understand when and how to best implement this powerful tool.
Does it frustrate you that that no matter what you do, some people on your team just don’t seem to be engaged? They won’t make decisions, offer suggestions or take initiative on any projects. Do you wonder if there is anything you can do as a leader to get them to contribute more without being told what to do?
You may be asking yourself, ‘what’s wrong with them?’
Maybe…stay with me on this point…it’s not (just) them?
I’ve done research on top complaints about managers and some common themes come up:
Top complaints about ‘bad bosses’, in no particular order include:
3. Resistant to change
5. Not empowering employees
Last week I wrote about using the concept of Living Above the Line to gain back some of your time. This week I want to focus on Living Above the Line as a leadership method for helping you help your team be even more engaged and empowered.
The above graphic is used extensively by the Envision Team (http://www.envisiongroup.ca/) when training and coaching our clients around the world. It’s probably our most popular leadership tool according to current and past program participants and coaching clients.
Why? It’s so simple and provides an easy, visual tool to guide leaders through the process of helping others “Live Above the Line”. The secret? Start asking employees questions to get them thinking ‘above the line’ about a positive future state and how they feel you can best get there.
Think of it this way - are you more likely to be engaged on a project if you come up with an idea or if your boss says “here’s a problem we have and here’s how I want you to fix it’? Living Above the Line encourages us as leaders to empower our teams with the confidence and courage to become part of the solution instead of just being told what to do.
In his e-book Great Leaders Ask Questions, Bob Tiede Founder & CEO of LeadingWithQuestions.com writes:
“Leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers, as it is about knowing the right questions.
Questions are the golden keys that unlock hearts and minds.”
Instead of telling your team what to do, could you ask more questions? Questions like:
“What does your experience suggest is the best way to do this?” Or
“Interesting, what do you think we should do”?
Even IF you have the answer, or an opinion, you don’t always have to interrupt your other responsibilities to offer it up. If someone on your team is encouraged to share their ideas and act on them, they tend be more engaged on the issue or project. And, if over time, that employee is encouraged to act and is acknowledged for not only sharing their ideas but also on a job well done, it’s also more likely they will do it more often. They’ll be even more engaged in their work and feel more empowered to share ideas and take initiative. They may even start to ‘put their hand up’, so to speak, in meetings and suggest a course of action or share an idea they have. So yah, be even more engaged.
Living Above the Line helps leaders enhance the culture of empowering and engaging employees. I will share with you a recent email I received from a current coaching client to drive this point home:
“Living Above the Line positively encourages team members to come with thought out solutions to the problem(s) raised, rather than just throwing their hands up in the air and complaining about an issue. In turn, it encourages innovation for them, collaboration, creativity, independent thinking… etc.
For me, it means I get more time to do the things that need my direct attention, as opposed to just being everyone’s problem solver.”
What strategies have you found to be successful in your leadership role? I’d love to hear your comments, experience and questions. Also, If you want to learn more about Living Above the Line and how it can help drive an even more positive culture in your organization, visit my website at http://sdbdsolutions.ca/ or drop me a message on LinkedIn.
Last week I had a great conversation with friend and marketing guru Tim Phelan (https://www.linkedin.com/in/timphelan10/). He helped give me some clarity on several ideas I have bouncing around inside my cavernous melon.
For example, a few weeks ago I made a post that science shows that we get ‘dumber’ when we try to multitask. We think it’s helping to get more done, but in fact we get less accomplished, make more mistakes and lower our creativity. Further, it contributes to the frustration of feeling like we didn’t get enough accomplished again today. I have struggled with this and I am making a concerted effort to try and stay on task and not get distracted by ‘squirrel’!
I bring this up as I have noticed a recurring theme in many of my coaching calls recently where clients want to Get More Done. In other words - Better Time Management. Many people feel as though they have to increasingly do more with less.
A concept that I use in training and coaching, Living Above the Line, points us in a direction that can help. Here is one example:
As a leader, think about a typical day. How often do you have peers and/or people on your team popping in to see you to ask a question, get clarification or complain about something that ‘isn’t working’? Do you typically have the answer……and give it to them? Or tell them how to fix it?
Are you the ‘answer’ person on your team or in your company? The go-to person that almost everyone comes to for answers because of your education, training and experience? Feels good to help people and be the one they come to for answers, right?
Well STOP IT!
Yah seriously, stop doing that. At least stop doing it so often. As long as you always give them the answers, they’ll keep interrupting your day. Think about it – how often does the person asking the question probably already know the answer? Or, how often with a little help, they could go and figure it out themselves? Additionally, how often are they simply wanting to bitch about somebody or something?
While it’s helpful to vent, we need to move the conversation to a positive place or outcome.
We need to get, you, and them, Living Above the Line. This is all about your frame of mind, your approach or perspective. For example, what may happen if you said to them something like:
“What do YOU think we should do to fix this”?
“How do YOU suggest we move forward”
Imagine all the different and good things that can happen from this. First, you are creating the environment where they come with problems AND solutions; or at least ideas. Second, they will eventually start to figure these things out on their own and come to you less and less. From a time-management perspective, imagine this: a team that is, eventually over time, more confident, more engaged and independent. Would this future team come to you less often for answers. Can that save you 30 minutes a day? An hour? More?
Many of my coaching clients have found that getting better, even incrementally over time, at Living Above the Line, has many benefits, including giving themselves more time to work on their own work. Some even spend less time fighting fires, dealing with other people’s problem and being less task focused and (gasp) more working on big picture strategic initiatives.
Sounds awesome right?
Stop having ALL of the answers ALL of the time. Identify the appropriate opportunities in your day to help someone answer their own questions or find their own answers (good leadership right!). Besides being good for them, it will also help you gain some time during your day.
Work with me here:
Think of your favourite (yes Canadian spelling) hockey team (GO Jets Go). You watch all the games and are a huge fan. Let’s say their 5 on 5 game is good, Penalty Killing is near the top of the league, but the Power Play is ineffective and not only doesn’t score, it takes momentum away from your team. The Power Play has sucked for a while now and nothing seems to work. But they keep doing. The same. Dam. Thing. Man that's frustrating, right?
As a fan are you screaming at the TV for the coach to ‘do something’? (I don’t do that by the way). Maybe fire the GM? Or change it up and put so and so in front of the net.
"If it’s not working, why don’t they do SOMETHING? Anything?"
As the coach, if you knew the PP was hurting your success, wouldn’t you look to update and improve your power play?
Additionally, what if they didn’t track this part of their game (analytics/KPI’s) and don’t even realize the extent the Power Play and is hurting the team’s success? That would be irresponsible to the players and the fans. Especially the fans.....
Wait a minute - does this maybe, possibly, even a little bit...sound like your sales game plan?
While I have your attention, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is your sales strategy?
2. How do you measure your effectiveness?
4. What does your sales funnel look like? (Does it look like a funnel?)
If these questions were difficult to answer, or you didn’t like the answers, should we fire the coach? Of course not. But it does drive home the fact that if we took a page from sports in terms of our approach to sales and sales leadership, we could probably be even more successful.
Here’s another example to hopefully drive this point home: Think about the amount of time sports teams invest preparing and planning for their games. Football for example takes an entire week to review game film, devise a game plan specific to the next opponent, run drills at practice, more drills, pre-game preparation etc.
To maximize the opportunity for a successful outcome.
In our case that may be a sale, but it may also be another meeting. It may be an opportunity to get in front of more decision makers to even better understand how you can help them. It may be the opportunity to submit a proposal for the first time with this account. Those are all 'wins' that lead up to the 'championship' – a new client.
How many of us show up to our calls and meetings prepared with a well-defined sales game plan?
No? Ok that’s it! FIRE THE COACH!!!
Kidding again of course.
But, maybe you could hire a Sales Coach to work with your team. One that has the experience to help guide team players and management on developing a sales game plan that will lead to increased success. Someone who could put processes and structure into place that will lead to building that capacity internally so that you can eventually run your own game plan. Someone that could help with practice plans and provide a safe and fun environment to practice your various skills so that when you get into the game - sorry met with a customer - you are prepared to be at your best, help the customer and invariably, make the sale.
Somebody who is funny, witty and with boyish good looks and charm for days. I know a guy…
Imagine what it would look like if teams measurably improved their overall performance and had an even more positive work environment?
Over the past couple of years, I have learned how much I enjoy professional coaching and how incredibly rewarding it is. When you work with someone 1 on 1 and can help them evolve professionally, and especially when they have that ‘ah-ha’ moment, it feels fantastic to know you helped them find their own answers.
The research is clear that there are undeniable benefits to having a professional business coach. The International Coaching Federation provides the following statistics:
· Increased Productivity (up to 70%) Includes Work Performance, Business Management, Time Management, Team Effectiveness
· More Positive People (increase up to 80%) Includes Self Confidence, Relationships, Communication Skills, Life/Work Balance
· Return on Investment (86%)
Further, sales teams who use a sales performance coaching had 161% more wins (salesforce)
Based on all of the articles and data I was seeing on the benefits of investing in a business coach, I decided to get feedback from some of my current and past coaching clients. Their feedback could be summarized into 3 primary areas of benefit:
1)A confidential conversation with someone external to the company to provide an independent perspective
2) Help with performance improvement and professional development
3) Ability to speak openly and freely
What my coaching clients are saying: http://www.sbdgrowth.ca/testimonials.html
If professional athletes can benefit from working with a coach or multiple coaches, so can you!
Based on my own experiences working with people, and fully backed up by a whole bunch of data, coaching works. If you feel that you and/or people in your organization could benefit from working with a coach, let’s set up a time to have a conversation to explore how I can help.
I had lunch recently with someone who said something I really liked. We were talking about the noble profession of sales, how difficult it can be and how many businesses struggle or fail because they don't invest the proper time and energy into sales and marketing and/or they don’t respect (or understand) the profession of sales. His comment was about the fact that while he may not have the specific expertise that his clients have, why do ‘they’ so often feel like they know how to sell/do business development!?!?
That’s a great question and something I wrote about in one of my first blogs over 4 years ago: “How hard can it be?”
It is still baffling to me how often really smart people feel that if your organization has a great product or solution, that's essentially all you need and growth will simply occur.
My lunch date also shared a story of a scientist who came up with a new ‘invention’. He was asked how do you expect to grow revenues for this invention and his response was they would write a couple of papers......
In another example, I recently had a conversation with an association that represents engineering professionals in their province. We were discussing leadership training and the conversation turned to sales. To paraphrase her comment: Engineers are smart people that don’t have a clue how to sell. (Not picking on engineers!)
In prepping for this blog I found a LinkedIn article that I liked, especially point 5.
The author quotes Henry Ford "Nothing happens until someone sells something”.
The more I thought about the quote the more I appreciated how profound it is. You can have the greatest product or solution but without a strong sales and marketing plan, and someone to execute it, not much is likely to happen in terms of growth. You can assemble the best team of professionals and create a great solution for customers but…..somewhere along the line there has to be an effort to find a potential customer, an initial conversation with the right person, a relationship and trust built, an in-depth understanding of the challenge/opportunity and then a solution presented that fits that need and helps the customer.
If all of this was easy and anyone could do it.....
There is an undeniable synergy between the art AND science of selling. If sales was easy there wouldn’t be so many books, articles, training systems, etc. out there designed to help people get even better at selling.
Sales takes hard work, constant improvement, training, failure and learning, a genuine desire to help, time and energy, more hard work and more training, more failure and learning.
Also I wouldn’t have gray hair if sales was easy. Although I think it makes me look smarter.
So to be clear, I don’t know how to be a:
· Software Developer
· Exotic Male Dancer (apparently I am ‘too old’)
· IT Expert
· NHL goalie (I wish tho)
· Supply Chain Expert
· Operations Expert
· Network Designer
(I think you get the picture)
And if you are really good at any of these, chances are pretty good you could use some help growing your business.
Further, it’s precisely my lack of expertise in all these professions above that allow me, and other sales/business development experts, to help your organization grow. It is the coming together of experts with different areas of specialty and collaborating that create the ingredients for success and revenue growth.
My 30+ years of experience in sales and my renewed commitment to professional development has reinforced for me that if you try to sell off the side of your desk, or if you don’t invest the appropriate time and energy in your sales team (hiring, training, mentoring) and sales processes, you are very likely to be disappointed in your growth results.
So if you and/or your company are looking to do any of the following: improve revenue, increase margins, shorten sales cycles, earn more business, reduce sales turn over and help more clients, think about having a conversation with a sales consultant. I know a guy.