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The Importance of Building Relationships in Business

Jeff Cochran

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If you have spent more than a few weeks in sales, then you have hopefully learned two valuable lessons about business relationships and networking:

1. There’s no correlation between your sales figures and the number of business cards you hand out.
2. Similarly, there’s no connection between your sales figures and the number of contacts on your LinkedIn profile.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with business cards or LinkedIn. Both can be great tools to help you expand your professional network. However, building better relationships in business is all about cultivation.

While training and consulting sales teams and executive leaders, it’s all too often that we run into business professionals who put a focus on contacts, not on relationships. Truly successful businesspeople don’t have a mountain of contacts whose names they barely know. Rather, they have a carefully developed and cultivated portfolio of relationships.

How to Develop Better Relationships

 

Are you interested in developing better business relationships?

  • Listen to people and probe them with questions.Don’t do all of the talking, and definitely don’t tune out the person who’s talking to you.
  • Be honest and forthright with new contacts. Don’t misrepresent yourself or your business just to make a new contact. Relationships built on lies go nowhere – fast!
  • Give more than you receive. Business relationships aren’t a 50/50 deal. Each party should be willing to give more in order to hit the payoff.
  • Be personal in your business relationships. Sure, ultimately you’re trying to make the sale. But people are people – even in business (or especially in business).

Why Build These Relationships?

No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll probably find this maxim to be true: People want to do business with the people they like and know. It’s a basic fact of life. An unknown company’s small discount or slightly better product is rarely going to take a client away from you if you have a strong business relationship with your client.

Also, good business relationships make for a richer, more enjoyable career for you and the people on your team.

So what are you waiting for? What will you do to build better business relationships?

Ways to Measure Training Success

Jeff Cochran

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Training your team to be the best they can be is neither cheap nor easy. However, the ROI of a successful training program makes it all worth it in the end. In fact, with the proper training methods and materials, your company’s employees can give your bottom line a tremendous boost.

But once the work of training is done, how can you measure its success? Business training pioneer Donald Kirkpatrick was famous for being one of the first people to critically evaluate the success of training programs.

Kirkpatrick developed a four-step model that everyone in the training industry knows. The basic Kirkpatrick evaluation method asks four things:

1. What was the participant’s reaction to the training?This is often judged on a scale of 1-10 by asking the participant about impressions and general feelings about the training program.

2. What did the participant learn? This can be measured through evaluation tests.

3. How did the participant transfer learning back to the workplace? This can be more difficult to determine, but is analyzed with further surveys and observation.

4. What overall results did the training have on the business? Again, measuring the direct ROI of the training in terms of sales, revenues, and customer satisfaction can be challenging. However, through formulas and analytical models, fairly accurate dollar amount values can be applied to individuals’ training experiences.

 

Measuring Your Company’s Training Success

You can measure the success of a training program within your company yourself or with the help of a professional training firm. Depending on the complexity of the training program and the scale on which it’s implemented, you might choose to do it yourself or hire an outside performance improvement firm.

Have more questions about how to evaluate training success in your company? Leave them in the comments section where we see them and respond.

How to Get Your Sales Team to Buy Into Your CRM System

Jeff Cochran

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How to Get Your Sales Team to Buy Into Your CRM System

Do you have a great new CRM system? Does it provide answers to all – or most – of the challenges that your sales team is currently working through?

Then why aren’t they using it?

Selling your sales team on a new system might be one of the hardest sales you have to make. Sales teams can be stubborn in their ways and slow to accepting change. But, chances are, your problem isn’t really with the sales team. The problem is with how you’re selling them.

More Than the Sales Team

Sure, a CRM system is most likely to be used by a sales team. If you work in a small company, then you know perfectly well that the sales team doesn’t account for the only users of CRM software. Upper management and the marketing department are just two of the groups that might dabble in the CRM system from time to time.

Focus on selling to the senior management of your company before selling to the sales team. When senior management is doing it, your sales team is going to be more likely to want to do it, too. (Also, give special attention to the new hires at your target company. New hires are less set in their ways, and more open to change.)

Present a Need & Drive Pain Points

In B2B sales, pain points are everything. It turns out that pain points go a long way in getting your employees to buy-in, too. If you’re struggling to sell your CRM system, it might be because you aren’t demonstrating the need to your sales team very well.

Present the sales team with real problems in the company, and ask how they’re currently addressing those issues. Then, tell them how the new CRM system would help them more effectively address those issues.

For example:

“How do you remember the lead channels through which your major, long-time accounts were secured?”

“We’ve integrated our lead tracking software with the new CRM system so that our clients’ lead information is automatically attached to their profiles in the CRM system. No more forgetfulness!”

Offer a Solution

The bottom line is this: your CRM system should offer a solution to specific problems that are currently not addressed. Even if the sales team you’re pitching to is change-resistant, you will have a breakthrough when you offer a truly innovative solution.

When you offer solutions, get specific. If you know that your sales team has a propensity for losing valuable information, demonstrate how your CRM system can capture and retain that information. Show how effortless and easy it is. Then, attach dollar figures to what your solution means for each salesperson in gained commissions.

Sales Training in 2012: 7 Performance Improvement Trends

Jeff Cochran

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From cutting deals in the boardroom to learning to recognize your own flaws, we want to help you and your sales team be as effective as possible. To increase your effectiveness, you have to carefully cultivate the habits of your sales team at a fundamental level.

2012 has brought about a shift in sales training trends that places a larger focus on “small-level” performance improvement. Check out seven tips to boost in-office performance that can help you can shave off countless hours of wasted time across the board…

1. Give your sales team “process maps.” Your company may have hundreds of processes that happen on a routine basis, from submitting pay sheets to sending out memos. Chances are, some of your employees will spend three minutes on submitting a pay sheet while others spend 20 minutes on the task. Determine the most efficient method for these types of processes to be completed, and give employees recommended guidelines for how much time they should spend on the task.

2. Create benchmarks. Watch your big picture goals become much more manageable when you break them down into small goals for your team. If you want your 20-person sales team to generate 400 leads over the next month, then break it down. That’s 20 leads per person, which is one lead per day over the course of four weeks. Check in to see how your team is meeting your benchmarks.

3. Create your personal schedule at the beginning of every day. Obviously, you have to work around meetings and other commitments. But, you should schedule each half-hour segment of your day with particular tasks. This will keep you on-track and focused. Encourage your sales team to do the same.

4. Block out a morning for “spring cleaning” once per quarter. When you get rid of office clutter, unnecessary papers, and other visual distractions, you will see a big performance improvement. Provide your team with recycling bins and waste receptacles. If you give each employee his/her own waste receptacle, then it’s more likely that your initiative will be acted upon.

5. Reward highly efficient salespeople. When your team realizes that you’re serious about rewarding, they’re more likely to act on your performance improvement initiatives.

6.Get your Internet under control. Efficiency experts like Tim Ferriss have been pushing for this for years. If possible, only access email two to three times a day. Avoid social networking sites during office hours. Use a RSS feed for your blogs. It’s all easier said than done, but good habits take practice.

7. Don’t micromanage. It’s easy to get carried away with these tips. However, the more freedom you grant your team (and the more respect you show them!), the better performance improvement results you’ll witness.

 

What fundamental strategies do you employ in your office?

 

Good listening = Good Probing

Jeff Cochran

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Have you ever sat in a sales planning meeting and a few minutes into it realized that you don’t know which account your manager is currently talking about?  While your coworkers have been discussing and making plans, you have been thinking about all the emails that you need to respond to and getting to your kid’s baseball game on-time tonight.  This happens all the time and to everyone; especially in our time-limited, multi-tasking society.  And not to mention with all the technological gadgets and devices that we are constantly being distracted with.  Research suggests that we remember less than 50% of what we hear.  Meaning we miss over half of everything.

However, those that excel in sales negotiation have excellent listening skills.  In order to effectively probe, listening is critical.  The more information you are able to obtain from the other side, the better your position and the greater power you hold.  However, getting more information from the other party is always a challenge.  In order to extract information, you have to probe effectively.  This involves focusing and carefully listening to what the other side is saying and telling you.  It is important to hear not only the words that another person is saying, but to understand the complete message being sent and what is being implied so you can ask appropriate follow-up questions and probe further.  It is important to focus, listen and understand.

SNI teaches a simple, but effective approach to enhance your listening skills. It is – “The Three Cs” – Connect, Consider and Confirm.  First, connect yourself either through eye contact if you are in a meeting or by using the person’s name that you are on the phone with.   Second, carefully consider your response after listening to the other person.  Pause to reflect and then formulate a response.  Don’t mentally form your comment or counter argument while they are still talking.  You can’t effectively listen if you are busy thinking.  Third, confirm what is to be discussed and what has been discussed.  Using agendas and written summaries help to prioritize and highlight important aspects, and also eliminate harmful mistakes and misunderstandings. These are just a few, easy ways to help you become a more effective listener.

 

Does E-learning really make the grade?

Jeff Cochran

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E-learning sales training has become quite popular and the new trend in staff training.  With globally-dispersed teams, and decreased time, dollars and resources to spend on sales training, more and more companies are investing in versatile e-learning strategies to train their sales staff.  According to Bersin & Associates, approximately 20% of training programs now involve e-learning.

There are a wide variety of formats to choose from — self-paced audio and video webinars, podcasts, interactive simulations, or live video classrooms.   These formats are extremely convenient and flexible.  They can be easily downloaded and viewed anywhere and anytime by all their staff.  No longer do salespeople have to waste travel time, hotels and travel expenses, all to meet up at a particular location for the training.  They no longer have to come off the road or away from the phone, and be tied up in meetings all day.  They can fit the training in when convenient.

This flexibility is extremely advantageous, but is it as effective in providing solid, traditional in-person sales training?  There are many pros and cons to consider.

Some feel the personal element is lost.  Many experienced sales professionals are more comfortable in the traditional formats, doing one-on-one role-playing and scenarios.  Passively watching others, on a small screen, discussing such scenarios is not the same as personally being in the room and taking an active role.  A great example of this can be found in a study conducted by Corporate University Xchange.  They studied 4,148 online learners and in regards to retention, the e-learning drop-out rate was about 70% percent compared to only 15% for classroom training.

But for others, especially those new recruits who have grown up along side electronic technology, their comfort levels and engagement are greater.  They expect these formats and find it unusual for companies not to invest in them.  They view the traditional methods as outdated, regardless of how relevant or up-to-date the information being presented is.

Another key consideration is that not everyone learns from watching.  Some learn more effectively from doing.  For example, watching a video of a sales demo about the operation of a complex piece of equipment you are actually required to personally demo and sell yourself to customers perhaps is not the best way to learn how it works.  For proper learning in this situation, it would be more practical to be able to physically touch and operate the equipment.

Thus, the effectiveness of the e-learning format is dependent and bound by the type of product or service being sold, and the type of information being presented.  For example, a quick podcast would be best suited for market updates or a new success story.

Sales departments traditionally are big on being cohesive, tight-knit teams.  With the personal, team-building element lost when the employees undergo training solo, how does the sales department maintain or build that cohesive environment they strive for?  It is important that this is not lost, and that other forms of team-building are implemented and encouraged.

Many companies struggle with this challenge and hire specialized consultants, like SNI, to assist in developing better designed training programs.  E-learning sales training is continually evolving and being incorporated into sales departments existing training programs.  It is an important element and should be continually and carefully evaluated to determine its overall ROI, effectiveness and relevance, and not just viewed and used as a cost cutting measure.

The Health Benefits of Talking Less

Jeff Cochran

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You know that feeling you get when you’re in a negotiation and you feel like you’re not being heard?  You talk and talk but no matter what you say you feel like the other side isn’t listening.  They may be feigning interest, but you know that they’re not really hearing what you’re saying. You become a little agitated and try even harder to get them to listen.  Eventually you feel like your heart is beating faster and your collar is getting tighter.  Is this all in your head?  No, it’s actually a proven effect.

The following is an excerpt from the book Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People by Ron Shapiro, Mark Jankowski, and Jim Dale.  It shows that changes in your emotions can change your physiology and vice versa.

Psychologist James J. Lynch, director of the life Care Health Center and former faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is one of the first researchers to use a technology that measures patients’ blood pressure, almost word by word, during conversation.  What he discovered is something we have long sensed, that speaking has an identifiable, measurable effect on our bodies, specifically on our cardiovascular systems.  Put simply, talking tends to cause blood pressure to rise and it continues to climb until the speaker senses that he or she has been heard or understood.  Sometimes, of course, that never occurs, leaving the speaking not only frustrated but with markedly increased blood pressure.

Lynch first observed this in crying babies.  Adults react just like crying babies except that we have learned to socialize without crying (most of the time).  As with babies, when adults are heard (or comforted), their blood pressure tends to decrease.  Lynch says, “The biggest misconception. . .is that talking is a mental process.  You. . .talk with every cell in your body.”

The bottom line is that while talking without feeling you are communicating or “getting through” can raise blood pressure (and possibly do physical harm), the converse is also true.  When the relationship between talker and audience or listener is positive, it can be healing.  Both parties communicate and derive a psychological as well as physical benefit.

 

Writing Their Press Release

Jeff Cochran

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It can be challenging for most of us to come up with solutions that allow the other side to save face.  It’s not an easy task to step outside of ourselves and think like the other side.  (Hey, they are the other side after all.  How could they be right?)  One technique we have used to bridge the gap to the foreign territory is the exercise of “writing the other side’s press release.”  In other words, as you come up with options that they may find attractive, give yourself the hypothetical assignment of crafting a statement to the press that explains why the resolution is a “win” for the other person, as if you are the other person.  Forcing yourself to go through this exercise will ensure that you frame proposals or options from a point of view that demonstrates benefit to the other side.  It is rare that you will ever be in a situation in which you are writing a real (not just hypothetical) press release, but this practice can really make the difference when you are explaining how your proposal allows them to win as well.

That being said, there was one time Ron actually did write the press release to announce the other side’s “victory” (which, in reality, he had shaped and defined on behalf of his client).  Ron represented a well-known news anchor that happened to be the single most desired local anchor in the country at the time.  The news anchor was happy where he was and didn’t want to leave, but he wanted to be compensated accordingly.  He also didn’t want too much attention on the dollars involved in the contract.  The news station wanted to pay him, but they didn’t want the backlash of the largest contract of all time.  So what did Ron do?  He wrote a press release focusing on the length of the contract, which also happened to be the longest of all time.  This made the news station’s management look like they had won the deal, since they would be able to keep him basically for life.  Ron handed the press release to them, and they liked it so much that after a few tweaks they actually used it themselves.

It’s All About How You See the Scoreboard

Jeff Cochran

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If you prepare before a negotiation, you will be more confident.  Confidence greatly improves your chances of negotiating a good Win-win deal.  But sometimes the stance you take in looking at the negotiation is important too.  Is the glass half full or half empty?  Are you getting most of the provisions you wanted, or are you losing a few?  Don’t disregard how important having a positive outlook on things can be when trying to find that perfect balance for a WIN-win negotiation.

The following is an excerpt from the book “The Power of NICE” which tells a story about a very confident young boy who sees the scoreboard through rose-colored glasses.

“Never underestimate how far confidence and a positive attitude will take you.  Some people are born with this outlook.  My 6-year-old nephew is one of these people.  I went to see him pitch in a Little League game.  First, he walked the first five batters.  He then struck out two kids who could barely hold their bats up.  The next kid bunted the ball but ended up with a home run because of all the fielding errors.   After several more walks and hits and errors and lots of runs, my nephew struck out one more kid.  The inning, mercifully, was over.  He had given up 12 runs.  As he walked over to me, I expected tears.  I said, “Nick, are you okay?”  He broke into a broad smile and said, “Yeah!  Did you see that?  I struck out the side!!!”  That’s looking at the positive side.”

 

Sometimes No Deal is the Best Deal

Jeff Cochran

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Have you ever suffered from “negotiation fever”?  You probably have.  It’s where you get so caught up in the heat of making a deal that you lose sight of the quality of the deal.  As an outside observer you may know it’s a bad deal,but since your directly involved you forget about your objectives.

If you ever catch yourself in a deal where any of the following occur, a large red sign should appear.

  • When the other side forces you below your bottom line

If you’ve prepared before sitting down, you know your starting point for a deal and you know your ending point.  This is the point past which you not only don’t want to go, but literally can’t.  At this point, the deal no longer pays out, has a return, works, or makes sense for your side.

 

  • When you have better alternatives than the one proposed

Ask yourself if it’s a good deal by absolute standards or merely as good as it’s going to get with the other party.  If you know there’s another buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, supplier, shipper, or partner with whom you can make a better deal, don’t get drawn into a lesser deal just because it’s the one at hand.

 

  • When you’re confident the other side cannot abide by the terms of the deal

Don’t think you’re the only one who can get seduced into making a deal just because it’s the one on the table.  Make sure that at some point you take a step back and survey the situation.  Can the other side really do what they say?  Can they deliver?  Or will you spend as much time and effort enforcing the deal as you have making it?

 

  • When long-term problems can outweigh short-term gains

Have you ever eaten a fudge brownie sundae because it’s in front of you and then hate yourself in the morning when you get on the scale?  This is a similar situation.  If the terms of the contract are going to become a problem for you in the future, don’t sign the contract so you can get the instant gratification of finishing the deal.