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The Super Employee Evolution – Part 3

October 18, 2012 1 comment

the tired employee

Without proper management, the employee has more chance to feel alone and under-appreciated.

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)

Bob had had enough.  Overworked, over-stressed and feeling under-appreciated, he asked his boss for a raise.  He was denied.  Citing a poor economy and everyone having to tighten their belts for a while, he was told that perhaps in the future there would be more funding for pay raises but not right now.  He was told how valuable he was to the team and that his efforts had not gone unnoticed.  He was appreciated.

Management began to see glimpses of the danger they were in and began to search for a replacement for Bob….just in case.  There were many applicants and eager personnel eager to take on the job at hand.  Unfortunately, for Management, however, no one was able to take over the existing system as Bob had personalized it.  All his macros and short cuts to make the system efficient and workable for him were indecipherable for anyone else and no one would be able to come in and take over smoothly.  In fact, Management was shocked to discover they would have to hire 2, 3 or maybe even 4 people just to maintain the status quo.

Meanwhile, after working hard to make up for being short-staffed for three years, Bob was no longer satisfied with Management’s response.  Management was in denial and falsely believed Bob didn’t have any place to go.  However, while the job market was not the lush and fertile field of 2005, it also wasn’t the bleak and barren landscape of 2009 any more.  Companies had begun to hire again, albeit very selectively, and Bob was the ideal candidate for the new market; he could multitask, had middle management experience and was never laid off.

Bob received a very generous offer and tendered his two-week notice at work.  To say Management was surprised is a massive understatement.  Suddenly, they realized their mistake.  They had put all their eggs in a basket named “Bob” and for the first time became fully aware of their folly.  If they didn’t keep Bob on staff, there wouldn’t be anyone left to run the IT department and the firm would come to a grinding halt.  They had an emergency meeting and put a counter offer on the table and presented it to Bob.  Finally in a position of power, Bob agreed to stay but with a much higher salary increase.  Bob had basically asked for more than twice his original salary and an extra week of vacation.

Management had no option but to acquiesce.  They were appalled at the position they found themselves in but saw no alternative.  Bob, on the other hand, was finally happy…still over-worked but for double the money, he no longer dreaded getting up in the morning.

Management began to take a look around the company to see just how vulnerable they were in other departments.  Initially, keeping the teams under-staffed was a good thing because it was more cost-effective and added to the bottom line.  However, they now saw the danger in keeping this as a permanent solution.  Fewer employees were actually expendable than Management had believed and the false power Management had over them was now transparent.  The only solution, much to Management’s chagrin, was to hire and add staffing to key areas within the company to prevent another “Bob” situation from surfacing.

Properly challenging and compensating the employee makes for a happy employee.

Is this the only reason why employment is slowly and steadily rising?  No.  Obviously, there are other factors in place.  There is more faith in the banking system again just as banks have more faith in borrowers now than they did four years ago.  Notoriously foolish practices such as approving mortgages for people who did not have the resources to pay them back have been curtailed just as people are no longer borrowing above their means.  Plus, there are other factors affecting the economy and how companies hired/fired over the past five years that I will not get into here.  Suffice to say, The Super Employee Evolution is one of the unique results of the process.  It didn’t happen for every company, but it did manifest itself enough that the topic came up often in my conversations with recruiters, HR departments and the candidates, themselves.  Additionally, it wasn’t just in IT.  The S.E.E. also grew in Sales, Marketing, HR and any other group that required one person to maintain the day-to-day operations of the department over an extended period.

What’s the lesson learned?  For companies, a short-term reduction in force may be fiscally responsible but the long-term effect of keeping a skeletal staff is not worth the risk.  As for employees, the take away is to continue learning and self-education to ensure survival within the company and in the chosen field.

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)

Don’t Take Rejection Personally But Don’t Stop Feeling It, Either.


It has often been said in order for a salesperson to be successful he or she must develop a thick skin.  Rejection is a daily occurrence in sales and it can’t be taken personally.  It is very easy to be bogged down by the sense of rejection and fall into a funk and despair that you will ever break free from it.  Even your best customers will occasionally turn to another vendor from time to time and you have to let it go.  You need to know why it happened, of course, but you need to let it go.  There is, however, an even more damaging and dangerous development…growing immune to the rejection.

I have seen salespeople become so good at brushing off the rejection and disappointment that they no longer feel it…unfortunately, they also stop learning at that very moment.

It is crucial to always understand why the deal was lost.  It is the only way to prevent it from happening again.  At the very least, examining how a different vendor was chosen will help you set a plan to minimize the possibility repeating your mistakes.

When a sales rep takes a lost deal too personally and doesn’t learn to how handle the emotion, it is up to the manager to help the rep develop a new approach.  There is still a sense of accountability and responsibility that can be tapped into to work on the issue.  Together, it will either be rectified or the sales numbers will diminish enough that the rep will either be fired or quit.

When a rep no longer feels the loss of a deal it creates a dangerous environment in the workplace.  A laissez a faire attitude is soon to develop and that will permeate throughout the sales team.  Others will feel it and in short order some may adopt the same approach.  Waiting for the sales numbers to drop enough to justify letting the employee go may take months and that is much too long to let a potential issue fester in the workplace.

Does it seem extreme?  I wish it were but I have seen it multiple times working for multiple companies.  A healthy sales environment has to be carefully nurtured and monitored but it is easily set back by just one bad rep…or the lack of management to deal with a potentially bad rep.  The message being sent is “if the bosses don’t care why should we?”.

When you see an employee becoming desensitized, address it immediately.  Usually, it is a rep that cared too much and hasn’t been taught how to balance the emotional aspect of sales.  With proper management, both the emotionally-heavy and the numb employee types can be avoided.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Can Help Close The Deal


This past Memorial Day, in between beers and hot dogs and making sure I knew where my kid generally was, I had a chance to speak with a software salesman, (brother-in-law to the host), and we got to talking about shop for a while.  I always love it when I find another example of sales principles that apply regardless of the product or service being sold.

He began to tell me about a recent trip he took to Mississippi for business.  He sells fire fighting training programs to municipalities and had a few appointments scheduled.  He landed at Jackson-Evers International and spent the next two days entertaining, being entertained and mostly getting used to the heat.  Finally the day came for his presentation and he got down to it.

Although he had originally proposed to have three different presentations for the three different towns, he ultimately decided it would be good to bring them all together and give his pitch to one big group.  This is always a risky choice as many sales require a more intimate approach.  If one person were to voice displeasure with his software he ran the risk of losing the entire group.  However, they all seem to have known each other and were all aware he was coming down to speak with them.

He started his talk.  It was a typical conference room crowd.  Some listened.  Some were speaking among themselves and others were on their phones.  He became a bit more aggressive in his engagement techniques but no one was biting.  After an hour, he gave the group a 15 minute break and he stepped outside for a cigarette to gather his thoughts and see how he could turn the crowd around.

Outside, there were a few others from the group also smoking and they casually asked him about life in the northeast.  Somehow the conversation turned to music and, as they began to walk back inside for the second half, one of them casually chuckled and said, “Too bad that program of yours doesn’t play Lynyrd Skynyrd!”.

He stared at their backs for a second as the were walking and then ran to his car to get his mp3 player.  The program he was selling wasn’t built to play music but it did have a mp3 capability used for augmenting the learning experience.  There wasn’t any reason why it couldn’t play music in the background.  He returned to the podium and plugged it in.

Suddenly, no one was checking phones or talking to their neighbor…there were smiles as the beginnings bars to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ came on and, as a group, all cried, “Turn it up!” at the appropriate time.  There was lots of laughter at that but the sales pitch continued; albeit now with everyone’s attention as country rock played in the background.

Soon after he returned to the office, he was notified that $550k worth of software had been purchased by two of the three attending parties.  All he had done was listen to the group and, more importantly, was willing to make a change to his sales pitch midstream.

The lesson here is that your delivery should be a template and not set in stone.  Be prepared to adjust it as you see fit, whether before or during the presentation.  Your clients will usually give you hints if you are on the right track or not and you need to always be looking for them.  Ultimately, every delivery is a unique as your clients are themselves.

When Shouldn’t You Prospect?


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Never.

 

 

 

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How My Daughter Marketed Herself And Landed A Job With A Wedding Planner


Part of being in a sales cycle with your prospects and clients is the need to keep them aware of your presence.  It is a crucial and required element but one most people and firms get wrong.  Either the campaign tilts over to annoying or it is non-existent and not worth the effort.  Keeping yourself front and center requires persistence and consistency but it should never be over or underwhelming.

My daughter, Jess, is a junior in college and, like most sophomores, she didn’t have a clue last year what she wanted to be when she grew up.  Wandering aimlessly and simply going through the motions, she decided to help out one of the clubs with an upcoming event.  Well, the light bulb went off bright enough for me to see it 800 miles away and in an instant she decided she wanted to be an event planner specializing in weddings.

I suggested she contact the best wedding planner in her area and just let them know she was available for any upcoming celebration in the event the planner found herself short-handed.  So every Tuesday, she left a simple message saying just that.  She did it for a month.  Then the month turned into two months.  Two months became half a year and we talked about it 4th of July weekend when she was home.

She told me she was considering not leaving any more messages because they obviously didn’t need her.  I listened to her and understood the negative feeling she had developed.  Sales is a tough place and you have to grow a thick skin and not take anything personally.  She hadn’t gotten to that point yet so I offered her some advice.

“First of all,” I said, “you have invested quite a bit of emotion into this but it has actually only cost you 10 seconds a week to leave a message.”  That made her stop and think.  I could see her eyes going distant for a second.  “Secondly, and most importantly, no one has told you to stop calling.  I think you should keep going until something changes.”  So she renewed her efforts.  Every Tuesday.

She returned to school in September and suddenly her phone rang on a Friday night.

“Hello?” she said.

“I hear you’ve been trying to reach me.” a voice replied.  My daughter had the number in her phone so she was fully aware of where the call was coming from.

“YES!  I’ve been leaving messages for you every week!”  Jess hurriedly answered.

“I’ve heard them all.  You want a shot?  I’ll give you a shot.  Be at this address tomorrow at 8am.  Black sneakers.  Black pants.  Black shirt.  Don’t be late.  You’ll be working all day.  Let’s see what you’ve got.”

She immediately told her mom and me and the first thing we told her to do was to go and buy the black clothes she didn’t have.  I told her to relax because this is the best kind of interview.  She wasn’t going to risk flubbing a ridiculous question across a desk in a 10-minute interview.  She was actually being given the chance to prove whether or not she could do the job.  This is the type of opportunity everyone deserves but few truly get.

Jess learned a fantastic lesson in perseverance and determination because not only did she get the job but she is now doing high level work for the company.  She did it by staying on the radar and not going over the top with it.  She kept it short and sweet.

You, as the salesperson, have to determine what is annoying and what would be deemed acceptable by your client.  It is different for everyone and every industry.  A client may not be happy with a caterer asking for business on a weekly basis but an electronics aficionado may be perfectly okay with daily updates of the latest available hardware and software on the market.

However, that same caterer may be better served by simply proving a bit of food education to the customers.  In this manner, there isn’t a sales pitch but the business stays in the forefront of the client should the need for a caterer ever arise.

Remember, don’t give up, don’t be too heavy and be consistent in your delivery.

You Lost Another Deal? Learn From It.


Okay, so you lost another deal.  So what?  It happens.  There’s not a salesperson in the world that hasn’t lost a deal and, if you stay in sales, I guarantee you will lose another eventually.  It’s part of being in sales so, while you may never get used to it, you should at least expect it.  However, you can minimize the possibility of losing a sale again by performing post-opportunity analysis.

Not unlike a football game where the quarterback takes the fall for the entire team, the salesperson is also on the front line of blame in the event the deal was not made.  However, a sale doesn’t stand alone on the shoulders of the salesperson.  The entire company is involved; from upper management to sales and marketing to distribution.  The final step in the sales process should always be a wrap-up meeting with the department heads and everyone within the departments that had a major role in the development of the refused offer.

This meeting will provide a level of accountability that highlights which step went wrong.  If it was the fault of the salesperson for not having vetted the opportunity correctly, so be it.  Perhaps upper management did not provide the required support to win.  Was distribution at fault for not having had the merchandise available in time?

This is not meant to be another version of the Blame Game.  Regardless of the reason why the deal was not won, this is a fantastic opportunity to shed light on the issue that made the prospect hesitate to do business with your firm.  You now have a chance to address the problem, fix it and keep it from happening again.  Sometimes, though, you’ll find no one did anything wrong and every department worked to the best of their abilities.  In these instances you can only shrug and move on.

Here’s another point I have always been an advocate of.  Never do anything as a manager that will later be seen as a negative reinforcement by your team.  For instance, if you hold post-op assessments then make sure you gather your team for wins as well as for losses.  It is as vital for your staff to know what they did right as well as it is for them to know what needs to be improved upon.  If they don’t see the big picture and know what was correctly done, then there is a strong possibility it won’t be repeated for future deals.

Another reason why I advocate post-op analysis is it will give you a good indication of which employees work well together and which ones don’t.  The workplace is a very fluid environment and you should also be alert to ever-changing relationships that will add to or detract from the company’s culture.  Stay on top of it.

Look, I understand when you lose a deal the last thing you want to do is to discuss it.  I’ve been there and I just wanted to get out of the office and not talk to anyone.  It’s painful and it’s easier to file it away and forget about it.  It’s the pain, though, that should be your motivation to have a post-opportunity analysis.  You should want to do everything you can to minimize your losses in the future.

Don’t Offer One-Price-Fits-All

April 25, 2012 2 comments

Your clients want to feel as if you are treating them according to what their needs are.  There is a level of personalization required for your clients to feel comfortable enough to purchase a product or service from you.  It’s as simple as that.  You shop for clothes at a store and walk out with a product only after you know it is a style you will wear and a size that actually fits you.  You would never purchase for yourself a shirt you considered to be ugly and ill-fitting.  So why would you expect your clients to do so?  The solution is not to offer a one-size-fits-all pricing but rather a matrix that allows the client to feel comfortable with the decision to buy.

The logical point to start at is to provide at least three different options to choose from.  This will create the widest net for you to find new clients.

Offer an entry-level package…call it whatever you like.  Basic.  Silver.  1st Tier.  It doesn’t matter as long as you remain consistent with your naming scheme.  At this level, you should offer enough to provide a value for your clients but also tempt them enough to come back at a later date and buy a more comprehensive package.  The customer is still paying you and that requires a level of trust not easily developed.  Don’t misplace that trust with a shabby product simply because it is the least expensive you offer.

At the next level package, again, call it anything…Intermediate.  Gold.  2nd Tier.  You should be focusing more of your marketing on this level that on the previous one.  You have to offer a full package here.  Supplement your first level with an added service and also some additional access.  This is where you make your money.  This is the level that will keep you afloat and make your business thrive.  This is the level that keeps the lights on in your office.

The tertiary level.  Advanced.  Platinum.  3rd Tier.  Will you have a lot of sales at this price range?  No.  However, the sales you do make are the sales you will feel the most satisfaction with because they will represent clients that trust you implicitly and want access to every possible service you can provide.  These are the clients that can call into a dedicated customer service representative.  This is where you would add 24/7 365 service if it’s applicable.  These are the clients that will call you on vacation if you allow for it.  Whatever it is you offer them for the highest level should include a level of customization that makes them feel they are the only clients you have.  These clients are known as whales.  You can’t depend on them but you can appreciate them when they buy.

A word of advice on letting clients jump from one level to another.  If the jump takes place while the process is active, then just charge the balance and move the client up.  If the jump up happens AFTER the completion of the contract them it is perfectly acceptable to add an additional fee.  If too much time has elapsed since the completion of the cycle then make them buy it from scratch.  You have a business to run and maintain and it should always be a leading element that guides everything you do with your pricing.

There are multiple ways to price what you offer but it is important to remember that your clients are all different and many express different needs.  Don’t sell your clients bells and whistles they don’t need.  It may look good on the sales sheet for the month but you have guaranteed the customer will not return for more.  I’m sure your business doesn’t have money to waste so don’t assume your clients do.