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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Three Fears: FINAL Post

Fear #3: Fear of Feeling Inferior. We all have egos. The trick in “naked” or transparent consulting is to not let that ego keep us from serving the client, first and foremost. Sometimes consultants feel the need to be smart, needed and respected—and that ego need can blur the line between client service and self aggrandizement. Avoid ego like the plague if you want to obtain and retain clients! Some suggestions from the author follow. First: Make Everything About the Client. “It’s all about the client, stupid!” should be your mantra. Second: Honor the Client’s Work. Either you respect the client’s work or not. If not, pass on the work. Not easy, especially when you could use the cash flow. Third: Admit Your Weaknesses and Limitations. It takes a whole lot more energy to play act what you’re not than to be honest about both strengths and especially weaknesses. In fact, there is research that if you mention a weakness up front in a conversation, people are far more likely to believe what you say. One Final Note: I like all of Lencioni’s stuff. In fact, he inspired me to write leadership fables. So, Patrick, thanks for this and for your efforts to make this a more legitimate genre.

The Three Fears: Post #4

Fear #2: Fear of Being Embarrassed. No consultant hired for his/her expertise wants to give a client the wrong advice. But the fear of making an error can turn consultants in to cowards, too afraid to tell the truth or ask the question everyone is thinking of. Lencioni offers a few suggestions. First: Ask Dumb Questions. A former McKinsey consultant and friend of mine says that it’s always best to act like the dumbest guy in the room—very smart advice. Lencioni’s advice comports perfectly. Second: Make Dumb Suggestions. One of the values consultants bring to the table is an open mind. Don’t shut it down by holding back. Sometimes the “dumb” idea becomes the new breakthrough (for evidence consider the story about how 3M invented those Yellow Sticky Notes). Third: Celebrate Your Own Mistakes. Don’t fear being humble…admitting when you’re wrong, dead wrong. Clients like seeing people human, just like them. Fourth: Take a Bullet for the Client. Be humble enough to take an embarrassing barb for the client, especially in public, but then don’t be afraid to confront the client in private later with the truth.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Three Fears: Post #3

The First Fear: Fear of Losing Business: When clients think that consultants are all about the money, not about the client’s problems, they can literally smell the lack of sincerity, even the fear the consultant may have of losing the engagement. So the author recommends several solutions. First: Always Consult Instead of Sell. Use every sales moment as a teaching/value-creation opportunity. Second: Give Away the Business. By giving away consulting from day one, you get back business. Third: Tell the Kind Truth. Tell the king he has no clothes on, but do it with empathy and respect, and hand him his pants! Fourth: Enter the danger. Don’t fear failure rather embrace the challenge in front of you. Read this section in depth because I think Lencioni provides a road map for excellent client/ business development.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Three Fears: Post #1

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty (Jossey-Bass, 2010) by Patrick Lencioni Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

In summary, the story is about two consulting firms—specifically a large, competitive bill-by-the minute firm that buys a smaller boutique firm founded on the owner’s principles including honesty, transparency and getting “naked” by dropping all pretenses when partnering with the client. The main character, Jack Bauer (not the guy on “24,”another cheesy device that the book didn’t need) is a consultant in the larger, stuffier buying firm who is sent to the smaller, more vulnerable firm. Thrust into this experience, Jack learns much more than he teaches about how the former managing partner of the smaller firm taught his team how to become transparent (naked), open, vulnerable and of higher value to their clients than Jack’s own firm. In the process, he learns some painful, but useful lessons about the three fears that sabotage client loyalty and relationships.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Three Fears: A Review

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty (Jossey-Bass, 2010) by Patrick Lencioni Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

Patrick Lencioni, along with gurus like Ken Blanchard, has given the business fable real legitimacy. Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team really put Lencioni on the business fable map. And he’s managed to stay on the top of this field for some time now. And with this book he retains that position. Unfortunately, Getting Naked has a title that doesn’t work well, other than for shock value. Despite that error, the book works because it tells a decent story about important issues for consultants. Also, as a coach and consultant myself, the words ring true and right on key. In fact I’d recommend the book to any of my students thinking of becoming consultants one day. My only recommendation to the author is not to listen to the editors next time when it comes to titles—even if it means selling a few less books. I’d rather see titles like these: The Vulnerable Consultant, Fearless Consulting, How NOT to Sabotage Client Loyalty. This week I’ll review some of the basic elements of the book. I recommend Getting Naked as a decent business read.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

HBR July-August: FINAL Post

Other stuff in this issue (July-August): An interview with Charles Schultz, Starbucks legendary and serial CEO; Innovation’s Holy Grail; Unleash Your Employees on Social Media, and more. This magazine is the best investment I make every year!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

HBR - Post #6

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen (professor at the Harvard Business School) explains the three questions he asks his students to answer for themselves on the last day of his business administration class: How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and family become enduring sources of happiness? How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?! One quote I love: “Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.” He instructs students to take business administration theories—like strategic planning, resource allocation, culture creation, and calculating the impact of marginal costs. He also adds a warning to ad a healthy dose of humility to the mix. If I were to go to Harvard today, I’d take this guys course in a heartbeat. My only criticism is why not do this on the first class of the semester, rather than the last class.

Friday, August 20, 2010

HBR - Post #5

Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, by Matthew Dixon (Corporate Executive Board); Karen Freeman (Sales Executive Council); and, Nicholas Toman (Customer Contact Council) tell us to forget all the hype around delighting customers—rather they suggest just solve their problems. The basis for their recommendations (five of them) come following a comprehensive survey of 75,000 people who interacted with customer service personnel (web, phone, email and chats). They suggest that the kind of “Have a Happy Day” approach, that service focus on solutions. Five ways: 1) Don’t just resolve the current issues—head off the next one (some great examples here); 2) Arm your service reps to address the emotional side of customer interaction (I loved the idea of listening for personality cues); 3) Minimize channel switching by increasing self-service channel stickiness (I just experienced this at Symantec); 4. Use feedback from disgruntled struggling customers to reduce customer effort (detractors can help you build better systems if you listen); 5) Empower the front line to deliver a low-effort experience (don’t go for speed in customer care, but effectiveness).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

HBR Summer: Post #3

“Power Play” by Jeffrey Pfeffer (professor at Stanford’s Business School) teaches us that if you hate the politics of power, maybe there’s something else you might rather do than lead. He makes a compelling argument that whatever you have of value (a network, staff, information, etc.) can be leveraged to gain power and influence in an organization, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He offers 11 ways to exercise power, such as mete out resources, shape behavior through rewards and punishment, make the first move, remove rivals—nicely if possible and make important relationships work, no matter what (read the rest in the text, along with his explanations and examples). Finally, he explains why people shy away from power. He calls on three barriers that keep people from establishing their power base: They believe that the world is a just place; The leadership literature (touts how we wished people behaved); their delicate self esteem (people quit when their self esteem gets damaged).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HBR Summer: Post #4

"Finding the Right Path" by Laurence Capron (professor, Insead in Fontainebleau) and Will Mitchell (professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business) summarize the guts of their article in one sentence: “Executing a new strategy nearly always involves acquiring new resources and capabilities.” Look, if you decide to stop selling rowboats and to start selling sailboats, you’re going to need different tools and people. In a 10-year global study of 162 telecom companies they gleaned several kernels. Here are a couple of questions and solutions they developed: Do you have the relevant resources? If you do, then invest in internal development. If not, hire a recruiter to find the right folks. How easy is it to agree with your provider about their value? If difficult to agree on that value, consider an alliance or a business acquisition. Read the rest and it might save you some real grief as you grow.

HBR - Corporate Strategy: Post #2

A spotlight survey of the HBR Advisory Council (on which I participate) found that 1,075 respondents to a survey about strategy and execution offered this collective wisdom: the biggest execution challenge is make strategy meaningful to frontline workers; a lot of people can’t tell you what the corporate strategy is; strategy comes mainly from the top; and people involved in developing strategy are more bought in. So, guess what the lessons are from this survey?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

HBR Summer: Post #1

HBR Cover Story: This summer’s HBR’s cover story screams “The Effective Organization: Turn Great Strategies into Great Results.” The lead article, “The Execution Trap” by Roger Martin (Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto), says it best in a single line: “Drawing a line between strategy and execution almost guarantees failure.” Thinking that the smart generals are at the top of the organization drawing up strategies and the foot soldiers just implement with no integration…but a yes-sir attitude…will not only lose the corporate war battle but the entire war. Rather, Martin argues for a “cascade of better choices” in four steps: Explain the choice and rationale; Identify the next downstream choice; Help subordinates make the downstream choice as needed; Modify the original choice based on downstream feedback.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Customer: FINAL Post

Customer Sustainability: Client retention is as important as client recruitment—maybe even more so. Remember your marketing 101 class—it’s much easier to retain a client than find a new one. And, value creation selling greatly helps that retention rate. Also, VCS must be powered by top management otherwise people will revert to a more traditional solo sales model. NOTE: VCS is a team sport. Monthly surveys of the sales leaders on how other departments are performing to support them are important. Keeping focused on not only increasing revenue but also reducing costs becomes critical in the VCS model. Remember: VCS costs money and takes time and training. To evaluate VCS sales leaders, companies look at profitability, the ability to use the VCS model with customers, quality of account planning, presentation clarity and effect, etc. One technique I like is called the Customer Summit (cocktails and dinner) where senior executives of customers gather with the vendor (who hosts the meeting) to get direct feedback from customers about what the company is doing and could do better. In essence, they test how VCS is working. Finally, Charan offers a set of questions to help evaluation and a list of descriptors to help companies know if VCS is really working (see pp. 146-147). For any company or organization wanting to attract and retain new clients, this book is a MUST.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Customer: Post #6

Selling the VAP: “Honing and perfecting the value proposition to meet the customer’s needs is at the heart of value creation (p. 115).” So every time your sales team (sales leader, financial, IT, marketing, etc.) meet with your customer to discuss the VAP, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the customer’s needs and hone that value proposition. Thus the process is iterative, not one meeting or one sale. So, the formal team presentation of the VAP is followed by intense dialogue between your team and the customer’s team. The key is to raise all the issues so that you have time to research them and get back to the customer with a follow-up presentation of an even more well-honed VAP.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Customer: Post #5

Developing Sales Leadership: Value creation necessitates a new kind of sales force and what I call sales leadership. Less of a solo practitioner concerned with individual results and bonus, the sales leader listens well, hears the customer’s needs, builds relationships, and knows how to integrate in his/her company and the customers. VCS requires sales leaders to understand financials, data, even analytics—not to mention a strong grounding in the customer’s industry segment. So, training, selection, and even divesting certain people may become necessary. In particular, the authors spend a lot of time on the need for training sales leaders to have deep “business” discussions with their executives prior to approaching key clients. Using a kind of corporate university approach, Charan suggests teaching the following: How to prepare the VAP; collaboration skills; business principles and language; fostering trust in the company and with the customer; and understanding the TVO. Further, measuring results will focus the sales team on the collaborative effect (not solo salesperson). Charan recommends measuring such elements such as market share of the customer’s wallet, customer benefits, customer perception, etc. Many such factors get measured using a simple survey.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Customer: Post #4

The Value Account Plan (VAP): The value account plan lays out the value proposition for the client—expressed in business terms (cost reduction, revenue enhancement, etc.). As the author notes: “Translating the customer’s needs into a unique offering with well-defined business benefits is the crucial distinction between value creation selling and the traditional approach” (p.57). Charan has a few hand-drawn sketches in his book that are worth noting (I’m a huge fan of visuals). See his sketch on p. 59. In short, he notes that the VAP needs to include three elements: A brief description of the customer; the value proposition (consisting of the customer need, your offerings, and the financials and costs of your offerings); the direct benefits to the customer (ROI, brand equity, cash flow, reputation, etc.). In creating the value proposition, the sales leader has to coordinate the effort. And finding insiders who can help you understand key pain or touch points is beneficial. I would suggest using Linkedin as a great assist in this area to learn who in your network knows an insider. Charan recommends listing the Total Value of Ownership (TVO) to the customer. To do this, he suggests looking at the entire value chain starting at the consumer and moving backwards. He has a couple of good examples at Thompson Financial and Mead Westvaco (be sure to see the VAP sketch on pp. 78-79). Also, benefits that hit many different parts of the business (like marketing, finance, even legal) will be able to tap into various budgets, not just rely on one. Finally, the sales leader has to be the conductor of this effort where there’s a match-up and integration between your organization’s departments and the customer’s.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Becoming a Trusted Partner to Your Customer: “Value creation selling (VCS) is a customer-centric strategy. That means that the customer is at the center of everything that the company does” (p.35). If you want to be a trusted partner, burn that quote from Charan into every one of your employee’s brains. And the very heart of VCS is information—lots of it. He suggests five areas you must understand: 1) Your customer’s opportunities and competitive dynamics. A good starting place is to figure out how your products or services could help your customer compete better. He points out the differences between Target and Wal-Mart and how you’d approach each differently based on their competitive dynamics; 2) Your customer’s customer, and their competitors. This was a revelation for me. Think about how your customer makes their money by selling to their customers. Figure out how to help them do that, and you’re a high-value advisor. Simple. Profound; 3) How decisions are made. We often think it’s all about the purchasing department. Wrong. Charan suggests the old FBI mantra: ”Follow the Money.” As a former FBI agent, I strongly agree! 4) The customer’s culture and values. The corporate “symptoms” are often apparent if you just look for them. How do people negotiate, reward, or incentivize people? He uses Wal-Mart as an example of a culture based on tough vendor negotiations. 5) Customer goals and priorities. All companies have short and long-term goals, which sales teams need to know and have the “business acumen” to understand P&L, ROI, and other business issues to be of real value to the customer.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Customer: Post #2

The Sales Problem: Charan provides a quick retrospective on sales. Remember the days when only a few companies in the US sold laptops. Then came the Internet, globalization, commoditization and now you can buy laptops for a fraction of the old cost—with one exception Apple, which offers a far more unique selling proposition—cool apps, cutting edge design and a lack of Window viruses…oh yeah and cool iTunes. He offers a graphic that show the old, flat sales model—from vendor to sales person (of the vendor) to customer. The customer, usually customer purchasing, pushes back on pricing, and the sales person pushes back on the vendor—her own company. And when the deal is done—price get commoditized. But in Charan’s newer sales model, there’s a sales team the moderates a value-based discussion between the vendor’s team of experts (legal, technology, finance, manufacturing and marketing) and the same type of team of experts from the customer. Thus, this process is less single-point (price) focused and more customer centric. In such a relationship, the vendor becomes more of trusted partner. Here’s the simple revelation and genius of Charan’s model: The process becomes collaborative, not competitive.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Customer: Introductory Post

What the Customer Wants You To Know by Ram Charan (Portfolio/The Penguin Group, 2007) reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

If my reviews of Go-Givers Sell More and Drive! make the point that focusing on your customer’s success first will create success for your company, then Ram Charan’s What the Customer Wants You to Know really drives that point home. What’s more, Charan, much vaunted author, speaker and former Harvard professor, offers a practical road map that radically transforms sales people from order takers (with more monopolized services) and hucksters into trusted ad visors and success partners for their customers. And with this new trusted-advisor status, value creation selling (VCS) professionals will move their pricing from commoditization to premium value pricing. BEWARE: The transformation from traditional sales to VCS requires an investment in money and time. VCS isn’t easy, but well worth the process—because it works and creates a collaborative, not competitive, relationship with the customer. VCS requires: Getting a much deeper knowledge of customer issues and problems; learning how the customer makes decisions (especially financial); helping customers drive revenue and increase margin; understanding your customer’s customer; and connecting sales with other key functions like finance, operations, and even legal. When you become a trusted advisor, you’re no longer a commodity dealer, but a success partner of your customer. That relationship drives your unique sales proposition and is a premium value for your customer.
This week I’ll be reviewing this book in depth.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Go-Givers Sell More: FINAL Post

The Law of Receptivity: Give first, but don’t be afraid to get too. Many people actually have a hard time taking compliments. The authors argue such a mentality sometimes sabotages sales. They insist on people being in an “attitude of gratitude” that keeps them psychologically open to receiving the wealth that life naturally gives to us. It’s almost like willing something to happen that helps make it actually come true. Just say “thank you.” And, living generously and openly creates an openness and trust that spreads. That’s why you will often get a piece of business that seems to come out of the blue. However, when you analyze it, that business comes from your spreading your own wealth and then staying open to the world giving back, without ever being asked. The final chapter of this book is about trust. Having written The Trusted Leader this year, I was pleased to see trust discussed by the authors. They ask: How do you get people to trust you? By being a trusting person. Finally, they add that you can’t control others, only yourself. So, serve others, create value for them, and be trusting. Great advice. Great book. Get it, read it, do it!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Go-Givers Sell More: Post #5

The Law of Authenticity: Show up in any conversation as yourself. Integrity is key…doing what you say you will. Great quote: “Facts tell, but stories sell.” Remember that listening is not just waiting your turn to talk. The authors talk about the difference between closing and opening. Rather than using a traditional “closer” approach, they suggest: first, to apply no pressure; second, give them an out by making a pressure release statement: “If you can’t, I’ll definitely understand.” Finally, allow a lot of air time for the other person. You do that by not rushing to fill in the dead air with chatter. The authors say it best: “In conversation, often the most powerful moments are not when you are speaking but when you pause and make room for the other person.” In short, the more the customer talks, the smarter you get, and the better the customer feels about you and your product. Nice ROI.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Go-Givers Sell More: Post #4

The Law of Influence: You’re persuasive based on putting other people’s interest first and foremost. I love this quote from the book: “…pushing is telling what you want, pulling is finding out what they want.” Take a guess which one is more effective with customers. And the wider your networks, the more likely you’ll reach and get customers. The perfect “pitch” is to have NONE at all. Rather, have great questions about the other person. This is big. To develop rapport with people, ask them questions that give them a good feeling…like “What advice would you give to new graduates wanting to enter your profession?” Also, THE best type of question: Can you tell me who your ideal client is so I can refer people to you? Another distinction is to offer benefits (serving rather than pitching). Not: I’m an executive coach. But: I help executives and leaders get to the next level of their careers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Go-Givers Sell More: Post #3

The Law of Compensation: The more people you touch with your value, the better off you’ll be. Key word here is touch. Touch people with impact and substance. And to the extent that you can increase your reach of that experience, you’ll be compensated very well. The idea is that when you meet people, don’t sell to them, but get to know them better—and touch them—by being truly interested in what they have to say and what’s truly important to them. Find common touch points. When people tell their stories—about where they grew up or what they do for a living—listen closely to connect your life with theirs. But always remember, it’s not about you. Gaining rapport is a principle of connecting, and the quickest way to connect is by just smiling at people—and there’s a lot of science around that one too!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Go-Givers Sell More: Post #2

The Law of Value: Give more than you take. Give with no immediate expectation of return. It’s the flip side of Return on Investment (ROI). When you go in looking first what you get from people (ROI), they sense it, and their defenses go up, which is why so many sales people fail. “Giving” up front in any relationship allows the other person to be open and receptive. So, it ends up more like a conversation between friends than a debate between adversaries. The authors put it this way: “The point is not to act generously in order to create a strategic result; it is to act generously, period.”

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Go-Givers Sell More: Post #1

Go-Givers Sell More by Bob Burg and John David Mann (Portfolio published by the Penguin Group, 2010) reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

In an episode of Seinfeld, my all-time favorite sitcom, George Costanza starts doing the opposite of what “old George” would do, because whatever old George did, it never worked out the way he wanted. The minute he starts doing the opposite of what he would have done, George meets with success. Go-Givers Sell More preaches rather convincingly that George was right. The authors of a previous giant best selling business fable, The Go-Giver, Burg and Mann have created a sales manual for every person who wants to provide a product or service for fee. The trick is never to sell…do the opposite—give. Start with value, don’t end with it. Talk less, listen more. Ask what you can do—not if they’ll buy your product or service. Their model is the opposite of the old sales model that had sales people prospect, qualify, present to them, and finally close the deal. Rather, their sales model is to create value, touch people’s lives, build networks, be real and stay open. There are Five Laws of Stratospheric Success: The Laws of Value, Compensation, Influence, Authority, and Receptivity. Why am I so passionate about this? Because it works! I’ve practiced an iteration of this model for years, but these guys have given it structure, definition, and legitimacy. It’s a book I’ll be buying for a number of my friends.

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