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.
Further to my post last week, recent events have given me time to think….. and as a result, re-focus on what I love doing: sales training and coaching
Last week I posted about the ongoing and rapid evolution of the sales profession.
Old school tactics and ‘tricks’ don’t work and created a lot of inappropriate sales behavior that tarnished the view that many people had (or have) of sales and sales people. It likely also resulted in many good people avoiding or leaving the profession because many of these old school approaches didn’t sit well with them.
"The sometimes poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me either. I am going to do my part to help people and organizations who want to grow. "
Organizations rely on sales people and sales departments to grow their business, move into new markets, introduce new solutions, increase market share, create positive experiences with new and existing clients, make ice cream taste better, improve margins, grow revenue and help our dogs love us even more. (just making sure you are paying attention and getting the point about how important the sales function is within your organization).
The above points, well most of them anyway, reinforce how important it is to focus the appropriate time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams to increase the opportunity for success. Imagine a hockey coach having a great break out plan, speed and numbers through the neutral zone, strong zone entry plan, offensive zone set up and then…..crickets. No plan to create high danger scoring chance. Do they think ‘We’ll figure it out when we get there’?
My sports analogy aside, there are many organizations that spend considerable time, energy and money on great products and solutions. They develop top notch products and services, with high quality engineering and development teams, highly educated and skilled finance and operations teams etc. Ask yourself if you are investing the corresponding time and energy into hiring, training and supporting a world class sales team? One that will, after considerable effort, eventually put the puck in the net or push the ball into the end zone?
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. These diverse teams of business all-stars are helping me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow into even more effective sales professionals. 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:
I think you get the point.
Initially the plan was to deliver these as ½ day and full day in-person training experiences. Circumstances dictated that these will now be delivered in 90 minute webinar modules. These programs will be ready to launch in the very near future and I am excited to share them with you once they are ready.
My goal is simply this – to help sales professionals continually improve and to love what they do. What they do is help people solve problems and leverage new opportunities. Like any professionals in business and in sport, we need a plan - and then to practice based on that ‘game plan’ so we can continue improving our skills, to grow and to reach our potential. Investing time and energy into professional development in order to constantly evolve and grow just makes sense.
That’s where, as professionals committed to constant learning and growth, we can benefit from the opportunity to work with a trainer and coach who can help us.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.
I have always felt that the notion of ABC was rubbish.
Remember when we were young(er)…..and we were taught to Always Be Closing (ABC)? It didn’t feel right.
I didn’t feel natural. That’s not how we have real conversations with actual people. Imagine the following scenarios:
“Hey, I know we just met but if I could show you that I am a good person, would be good with kids and make a good living, would you consider getting married?”
Or how about this one:
“This should be fun year of beer league. So I was thinking….if I prove to be a good teammate, a good guy to hang out with for a beer and helped you move heavy furniture when required, can I borrow your new truck to go on holidays this summer?”
Who talks like that? Nobody talks like that.
Rubbish (I like that word and plan to use it more). Those tactics don’t work anymore and never really did
Lastly, how many of you have had an experience like this at some point in your sales career: “Here's all of our product specs, features and benefits sheet and crappy outdated prospect data base, now go sell. Oh and your quota just went up”
When we think about the old school way sales was taught (or not taught at all) and the all too common scenario of aggressive, ever-increasing targets and misguided 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 with clients - so it’s not a surprise that we often saw desperate or unethical behavior from sales people.
"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 go onto LinkedIn Learning, read books and articles and watch sales vlogs (that the right word?) you can see lots of examples of just how much sales has evolved in recent years. In one of the articles I read recently there was a definition of sales I really liked:
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”
Further to this, I have read a couple articles and completed the LinkedIn Learning module by Lisa Earle McLoed on what she describes as Noble Purpose. Her research has revealed that salespeople who focus on their purpose—to improve their customers' lives—rather than a metric assigned to them (quotas) actually sell more and are happier in their roles.
How do we help sales people evolve into sales professionals?
Well, elite athletes tend to have a plan and are intentional about working on specific skills. They make time to practice and work on getting better - all the time. They have a coach, or many coaches, to guide them on the journey and help them to adapt and evolve in ways that allows them realize new levels of potential. 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 have always relied on sales people to drive revenue. They are the front lines in our relationships with customers. Today, more than ever, sales professionals are vitally important in growing revenues and will be called upon in reviving our organizations revenues as well as the overall economy.
Let’s invest in their abilities and skills and by doing so, arm them with the right tools, skills and confidence they need to help them be even more successful.
SBD Growth Strategies is working with several partners to help sales people grow into sales professionals.
More to follow on this…..
Even after 4 years people still often ask me “what is it you do now Scott"? Historically, I’ve told them what I do – initially Business Development Consulting and now that has evolved into what I described as something along the line of “I provide leadership and business development training and coaching’. Often the response I get is ‘that’s really awesome’ and sometimes even ‘that’s what I want to do when I retire’.
However, as I am learning thru delivering training and my own efforts at continued professional development, it’s clearer and more impactful if I explain ‘Why’ I do it.
So, for your reading enjoyment and for me to practice what I teach, here is WHY I do what I do:
1) Personal enjoyment and satisfaction
It used to be that I gained a lot of satisfaction and pride in creating great relationships that ultimately evolved into a sale. Still do of course. However, I feel a great sense of pride when someone comes up to me after a training session and shares how much they enjoyed the program. Particularly if the workshop started with them disengaged and with arms crossed and ended with them excited to go back to work and practice the new skills they learned. The transition is awesome to see.
Also, when finishing a coaching call and the person I am working shares how much they’ve gained by working with me. Man that feels good.
2) Giving back
Have you ever invested a lot of time and effort getting good at something? Maybe you were immersed in a sport or music and as you got older you felt compelled to coach or teach others. With 30+ years as a professional in sales and leadership I now have the opportunity to work with others who want to get even better at what they do. It is very rewarding to help others. (Plus gray hair and glasses give me more credibility!)
3) Believe in people growing and improving
It is really encouraging to see people wanting to grow and get ‘more better’ (Scott-ism). Professional Development is not something I was dedicated to in the past. I always felt that working hard, treating people the right way and relying on my people skills was enough. I realize now with the benefit of hindsight that being intentional about growing professionally and dedicating time to learning and continued growth will greatly improve your results professionally (and personally).
Helping others who have figured out (earlier than me) that they want to grow as leaders and as sales professionals is important to me.
4) Believe in the profession of Sales
Sales and revenue generation are so important to companies and the economy. Further, most senior positions in organizations are held by people with specific education and degrees – CFO, Director of Engineering, VP of HR etc. However, in many organizations and sectors we tend to hire younger less experienced sales people and encourage them to ‘get out there and sell’. Sell more. Sell quota. Sell bigger deals in a shorter time period.
It is vitally important that we continually educate, train and coach our sales professionals on the right way to do this. What are the best and most effective ways to work with our clients to build trust, uncover their challenges and opportunities and help them achieve their goals and by doing so, grow our sales and increase revenues for our employers?
Better sales people = better results and more satisfied customers. So let’s work together to elevate the profession of sales.
5) It's Fun
This is fun. I like people. I like helping people. I am learning and growing - so what else do you need?
So WHY I do what I do is that I really enjoy helping organizations and people grow. I believe in the value and importance of helping people grow and the significance of the profession of selling.
How I do this is by leveraging my 30+ years of varied and extensive professional experience and the partnerships I have with organizations like The Envision Group (www.envisiongroup.ca). Now that I better understand WHY I do what I do, I am now better able to share it with you.
So what do I do: I help organizations and people grow
Here’s to a great 2020!
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.
Hey business leaders: Are people on your team comfortable putting their hand up so to speak and sharing ideas freely?
What are you doing to encourage them to offer up new ways of doing things?
Clients often tell me they wish their team was more creative and developed more innovative ways to solve problems or take advantage of new opportunities. Leaders I work with often feel like the responsibility of coming up with new ideas or solving a current problem rests primarily on their shoulders.
I recall a meeting I had in the fall of 2019 with a large Winnipeg company. They told me one of their biggest challenges was getting employees to share their ideas more openly. Too often in meetings people would shut down an idea by saying things like 'We tried this 10 years ago and it didn't work.'
How often do you hear people say something similar in your organization?
In that meeting we discussed the opportunity to promote an environment that encouraged:
In my research for this blog post I found a really good article called Good Questions Encourage Creative Thinking by Nagesh Belludi
Nagesh shares that creative thinkers ask open-ended, accommodating, and exploratory lead-in questions such as:
In my quest to seem ‘more’ smarter (trademark), I am going to once again refer to the Harvard Business Review.
In the article, Rebecca Shambaugh refers to the need to ‘facilitate spaghetti throwing’ (I love the reference). She notes that research reveals that an overwhelming majority of executives — 94% — are unhappy with the innovative performance of their company. She further states that leaders need to facilitate experimentation and encourage people to see what sticks and what doesn’t. To do this, leaders not only have to ask people to share outside-of-box-thinking, but to also lead by example.
Lastly, I am going to refer once again to the Forbes article I noted last week (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/living-above-line-building-succession-plan-scott-donald/?trackingId=xKl1D8e0u04gH4B9naMjiQ%3D%3D).
In her article Three Reasons Why The Best Leaders Ask Rather Than Tell, author Sinive Seely notes that asking opens the door to new ideas and possibilities.
“Asking open-ended questions requires both the leader and their team to dig deep for answers to problems that have no obvious solutions.”
A common theme I see is organizations tending to rely on what worked in the past. This year has pretty clearly shown us that we can’t rely on what may have worked in the past. We are being dragged kicking and screaming into a new pandemic reality that demands we tackle these new challenges head on with new ideas and better ways of doing business. While 2020 has been horrible and devastating on so many levels, I am encouraged by the incredible amount of creativity and innovation we are seeing from people. I have read about and spoken with so many professionals who have come up with new and better ways to run their business, help customers, earn new customers, communicate their message and just do what they do, but do it even better.
Let’s make the best of what we can control. And we can control asking good questions and inviting our teams to share their ideas and suggestions.