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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Strengths Based Selling: #5 Assessing Opportunity

Assessing Opportunity: One old rule in sales is that the more face-to-face meetings you get, the more likely the sale. The authors preach (not unlike advice in other sales books) talking to the right person, the decision maker. Then, they advocate using your talents and strengths to assess the deal. They also raise the issues of recognizing when people are ready to buy. Often customers will smile, nod and nonverbally indicate their willingness to sign…don’t over talk a sale. When they’re ready to buy, use your strengths and instincts to recognize and ask for the sale.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strengths Based Selling: #4 Pprospecting

Prospecting: This section speaks more to process than style (talent). Nonetheless, it’s valuable stuff. The authors recommend, again, leading with your strengths and not being afraid to call people and ask for meetings. Such “call reluctance” is common even among the best salespeople. Understanding the key “value proposition” remains at the center of overcoming the reluctance. I liked the section on how salespeople unwittingly set a sales price or “anchor” that fixes the discussion on pricing early on in the relationship (pp. 34-5). They suggest always recommending the top price you can because it becomes the anchor around negotiations. Thus if you come down, the customer will feel like s/he has saved money. Also, the advice about warming up a cold call by preceding it with a letter makes a lot of sense.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Strengths Based Selling: #3 Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths and Weaknesses: This may sound familiar… “’All my boss ever wants to do is talk about what’s going wrong. He never mentions what I’m doing right’” (p.14). Focus on strengths and minimize weaknesses could be the mantra of this section.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Strengths Based Selling: #2 Defining Strenghts

Defining Strengths: The top 25% of sales people significantly outperform the bottom 25%. Top sales folks have the ability to build relationships, close deals, and keep those relationships going long term. Taking the Clifton Strengths Finder is a quick and inexpensive way to identify your top 5 strengths. Their simple formula: Talent x Investment = Strengths.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Strengths Based Selling: #1 Overview

Strengths Based Selling by Tony Rutigliano and Brian Brim (Gallup Press, 2010). Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., April 2011.

I loved the opening quote of this book: “Those who follow the part of themselves that is great will become great. Those who follow the part that is small will become small (Meng Tzu).” For decades now, Gallup has studied what is great in people (their talents and strengths) and the implications of people working in their strengths areas. Strengths Based Selling springs forth as a natural progress of their research. Specifically, Gallup studied over a quarter million sales reps from Gallup clients. The results were simple and stunning: The top 25% produced 57% year-over-year profits, whereas the bottom 25% were selling less than the year before. The big difference was talent, and applying specific, individual, natural talent areas of salespeople to their jobs. Gallup’s formula for successful sales people: Identify your top 5 talent areas (by taking the Clifton Strengths Finder for free with purchase of the book) and apply them to the sales process (prospecting, meetings, proposals, and sales). In short: “The key is to build a business case focusing on your strengths and managing your weaknesses.” [Or as we used to say in the Marine Corps: Never try to teach a pig to sing. It won’t work, and you’ll just piss off the pig.] Not only do the authors talk about salespeople, they also consider the customer. And for customers, emotions rule; in fact, the authors quote Simon Cooper, former CEO of the Ritz-Carlton: “’When it comes to customers, emotions are facts’” (p. 104). The authors also explore the emotions of customer engagement: Confidence, Integrity, Pride, and Passion. I enjoyed the section where the authors describe the stark difference between being merely a vendor and having expansive relationships. Their examples and characteristics will likely give many salespeople pause about the kind of relationships they have with clients/customers (see pp. 122-28). Bottom line: Identify your top 5 talents (take the Clifton Strengths Finder), work on polishing those talents until they become well-honed strengths, then use them daily when dealing with customers and watch success happen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #9--Final Words

Guber gets public speaking. He’s been a storyteller his whole life. He certainly knows how to tell a story. And in this book, he invites us into his vast experience with the power and persuasion of oral narrative.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Best Business Books #9--How to Win Friends....

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (originally published in 1936 and republished by Simon and Schuster, 2009). This book is a classic and one that has sold well over 15 million copies over the years. Carnegie makes two big points: First, handle people effectively. Don’t criticize, complain or condemn and give honest and sincere appreciation. Also, Carnegie offers his big second piece of advice: Make people like you: Be genuinely interested in other people, remember people’s names, be a good listener, encourage people to talk about themselves, make the other person feel important, and finally smile! While Carnegie was not a researcher, his basic tenets can be supported by today’s research and by common practice.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #8--Tell It

Tell It. After getting ready and getting set, it’s time to tell your story. Again Guber offers some great advice as a movie producer, successful businessman, and accomplished speaker himself. First, he suggests that good speakers “get into a state.” Great actors, musicians, entertainers and athletes know this state. I call it getting into the zone. And it requires that you physically, mentally, and psychologically get set to deliver. Guber mentions a very important element, “…your intention [as a speaker] is actually what signals listeners to pay attention to you (p. 174).” Dan Siegel told Guber that mirror neurons in the mind of the audience only get tuned in and turned on when the speaker is acting intentionally and with active purpose. So when I move, point or raise or lower my voice, I literally turn on your mind. This is why nonverbal communication is so critical for public speakers. BTW, don’t forget to smile…highly contagious with audiences! There’s a TON of good stuff in this section…about being interactive with the audience, getting attention, engaging their senses, and being willing to go off script to adapt to the situation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #7--Get Set

Get Set. Moving toward a great speech requires this next level. Guber gives us a few key steps. Step one, define your hero. Remember every good story requires a hero to struggle with a villain of sorts (a person, place or thing—even a shark…think “Jaws”). People like drama, conflict, and uncertainty; good stories fuel drama. In business the “hero” can be a customer, the product, or service, even the storyteller when it’s appropriate. Step two, find good raw material. This comes from personal experiences, preferably something you’ve witnessed firsthand. Metaphors are also great vehicles to transport audiences quickly to a new place. You compare a certain situation to an activity known to the group. Many effective speakers will use TV series (like “Seinfeld”) or movies (like “Jaws”) to make their points visually. Finally, Guber demands that we move people emotionally with our stories—we have to emotionally “transport” the audience. In one speech I gave recently, I showed a photo of a booby trap I almost stepped on in Vietnam. After describing the situation in detail and the fear coursing through my veins at the time, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. I think, for that moment, I had transported them into the steamy jungles of Vietnam with the possibility of death very close.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #6--The art of the tell

The art of the tell: Putting your story to work. Guber uses a simple, effective
structure in this section: Get Ready—Get Set—Tell It. Get Ready. Guber outlines several aspects of getting ready to speak. First, let preparation be the master of your success. What’s the essence of your goal as a speaker? Or, what do you want the audience to say, do, or think when you’re finished? Second, are you aligned and congruent with your own goals? Just like animals, finely tuned people can sense when you’re enthusiastic and congruous with your message. Before anyone will go a mile with you, they have to trust you. Third, do you know your audience? It’s ultimately all about them…your idea has to resonate with them or you’re just musing in public. What are their perspectives or biases? And what’s the right context for the speech—informal, formal, mediated or in person, etc?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #5-Stories and Meaning

Stories and Meaning: One section of the book that resonated with me was Guber’s explanation of mirror neurons. These reflective elements in our brains allow us to interpret and imitate the actions of others. Not mentioned but worthy of note is that scientists equate the discovery of neurons/neuroscience with the same level of importance as the discovery of DNA in biology! And what stimulates mirror neurons are sensual activities…sights, sounds, smells, tastes, movements, etc. And stimulating these mirror neurons leads to activating the part of the brain that processes meaning. To make this point, Guber quotes Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist “’…humans are-meaning seeking creatures…we can’t remember anything without giving meaning to it…If you’re going to pass on ideas and influence people, you have to be able to tell a story’”(pp. 45-46). And the good news: We’re all hard wired for stories.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #4--Story Elements

Story Elements: Guber offers early on a kind of screenwriting 101 course for the novice. First, good stories come from the heart, not the head (Thomas Jefferson would be proud…read his Head Heart Letter to Maria Cosway). Guber tells us that facts and logic can only take us so far. We need to use stories to transport the listener emotionally, or even the best data will fall flat. Audiences want a distinct hero, a decent struggle over something that matters both to the speaker and audience (he calls it a me-to-we factor), and an element of surprise. Guber describes Dan Siegel’s (a UCLA neuroscientist) theory that the critical requirement of a good story is surprise. Siegel breaks it down this way: surprise expectation + violation of expectation. It’s the uncertainty of the struggle that engages any audience. For example, the struggle uncertainty happens every year with March Madness. We get most involved when Ohio State and Duke get knocked off…not when they win! It’s the unexpected surprises we live for, which then are the stories we love to tell.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #3--Emotions

Emotion: It’s the E-word that matters! Storytelling in speechmaking succeeds to the extent of the emotions it stirs in the hearts of the audience. Audiences (listeners/readers) need to be emotionally hooked in the introduction, have their emotions amplified in the body or struggle, and then be stoked to action by the conclusion.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #2--Emotional Journey

The Story takes listeners on an emotional journey.
--Audiences are taken on a journey by what Guber explains as a three-part story: A challenge or problem; a struggle (hero struggles with villain over something of value); and resolution (the call to action).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tell To Win: Post #1--Overview

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story by Peter Guber (Crown Business, 2011). Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., April 2011.

If Peter Guber had his way, the CEO would be the Chief Emotional Transportation Officer because Guber believes a leader needs to emotionally transport people to action. Guber—an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur, movie studio chief, pro basketball team owner and more—leverages his moviemaking career to give us a fundamental lesson in people: We like drama—also known as story. Although not mentioned in the book, story has its roots in Aristotle—the point guard on my personal fantasy intellectual dream team. Author of many classics including Rhetoric, Aristotle notes that to have a good story (or speech) you need to have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. I like how Guber puts it (true to his moviemaking roots): We need a challenge, a struggle and a resolution. He steps it up by saying that in the storytelling process, good speakers (storytellers) transport people to action by emotionally engaging them through story. His book is rife with personal stories of him interacting with all manner of people including presidents and dictators—I especially enjoyed the story about his conversation with Castro. So, Guber practices what he preaches. His message is simple, powerful and something every leader, and especially every Chief Emotional Transportation Officer, should heed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Strategic Speed: Post #12--FINAL Post

Tools for Achieving Speed: As a kind of action guide, the authors offer the reader tools for achieving strategic speed (title of chapter 7). They offer explanations and simple surveys around assessing four areas: time/value, teams, leadership, and the speed matrix. I particularly like the Speed Matrix on page 170. In closing, this is an easy-to-read, effective strategy-to-execution guide for company executives.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Strategic Speed: Post #11--Cultivate Experience

Cultivate experience: This starts by allowing people to formulate, discuss and reflect on their progress toward meeting their goals. It’s also about respecting differences about insights and approaches. One size does not fit all. And those insights can instruct an open and accepting team. Finally, allowing and enabling people to experiment, learn and adjust to meet new problems form the core of this section.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Strategic Speed: Post #10-- Manage the Climate

Manage Climate: Climate is all about what it feels like to work in a place. It’s not the culture—the imbedded values and vision that the founders set in motion years ago. Rather what’s it like on a day-in and day-out basis to work there. And leaders who monitor the climate and work at creating a positive one will reap the benefits—more profitable (33% in one study), drops in employee turnover (19.6% in another study), and an increase in customer retention (32%in a third study). Worth noting: 70% of the climate difference between units is attributed to the behavior of direct managers. And climate determines the motivation, individual execution and organizational execution speed. Thus, climate starts with the leader and ends with the followers, who are either motivated or de-motivated by the climate the leader creates.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Strategic Speed: Post #9--Drive Initiatives

Drive Initiatives: It’s not enough for a leader to initiate or even sponsor a project. S/he must also drive the process—it’s all about execution. And project management is a critical skill. Any leader who wants to drive change must acquire the skill. Strong leaders do the following to drive initiatives: Stay involved, draw a specific vision to show the change people must make, treat strategic goals like projects (with budgets, goals, objectives, etc.), remove barriers to help people change, involve the entire team in the up-front planning, and select teams as if you were hiring someone to join the firm. I also like the “execution model” on p. 93.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Strategic Speed: Post #8---Affirm Strategies

Leadership Practices that Boost People Factors (Clarity, Unity, and Agility).

Affirm Strategies: Make sure that good strategy addresses the who, what, when, where, and how: Who are our customers, what’s our story, where will we compete, when will we make our moves, and how will we actually get it done. Next, affirming strategy is about building a clear business case for the strategy. The authors talk about various communication strategies. One in particular, communication by intervention, addresses the reasons you’d use to create change now. What’s the burning platform, so to speak, that would make people jump in with you? Leaders also make the change relate to how it personally affects people and their lives and then holds them accountable.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Strategic Speed: Post #7--Agility

Agility: Is not some predetermined process, rather it’s a sense of flexibility and adaptability necessary to go fast. I think of agile leaders like good quarterbacks who go to the line with a play but then call an audible at the line to adjust to the defense. The hallmarks of agility are the ability to explore new technologies and to create innovative products and services. I like this quote: “In short, agility must be built on the foundation of unity and clarity—especially clarity regarding the standards and values on which you won’t compromise” (p. 46).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Strategic Speed: Post #6--Unity

Unity: Is not solely about your team or even the company. It’s about the key stakeholders both internal and external (vendors, clients, etc.) who can have an impact on your strategic speed. Unity, like clarity, is about senior leadership alignment. It’s also about flexible team members, open and honest discussion of problems, and management systems that support the objective.

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