The ‘golden hour’ is a term used in medicine that suggests every second of the first hour after a traumatic injury can mean the difference between life and death. In criminal investigations, the initial 48 hours are deemed critical to whether a case is solved or not. Action saves lives, solves investigations, and in the job world, can mean the difference between a candidate accepting a job offer or rejecting it.
Research by Becker, Connolly and Slaughter for Personnel Psychology in 2010 found that quick job offers resulted in a higher probability of acceptance. The longer a candidate was kept waiting, the less likely they were to accept. This research is a decade old and it wasn’t even new news then!
Studies on the subject date back to the 1970s and beyond. Good candidates are hard to find and offer acceptance isn’t guaranteed. That was true in the 1970s, true in 2019 and true today, even amid a global pandemic. Recent figures suggest that up to 85,000 UK jobs have been lost amid the Coronavirus pandemic so it would be easy to assume that good candidates are aplenty and, as it’s a job led market, they’re bound to accept your offer. That is not the case. Yes, there are more good candidates job hunting than there were in February. However, good people will have options. If you’re able to, now is a great time to recruit talent that wouldn’t normally be available. Don’t miss out on that talent, particularly at the offer stage, because your competitors beat you to it.
Thanks to the evolution of technology, we’ve been granted
access to vast amounts of information and data on anything and everything.
Despite there being more readily available information on health, fitness and
nutrition than ever before, studies by the NHS show that obesity in the UK has
risen from 14.9% in 1993 to 27.7% in 2018. While a lot of available information
on health and fitness is valuable, much of what we see on social media is
focused on quick wins that promise significant results with little effort.
While these programmes may be achievable, they foster a culture of instant
gratification and neglect the importance of structure, consistency and
commitment over time. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t become a world-famous
bodybuilder because he went to the gym for a few weeks, he committed to a structured
plan and executed the basics every day, for years.
clear parallel can be drawn with sales. Many embark on sales careers as a
vehicle to get rich quick, thinking they’ll be the next high-achiever on the
block and earning over £100,000 within a year. While a sales career can,
undoubtedly, be life changing and lucrative, expectations of success are high
from the off. Many with solid potential turn away from a career in sales
because it’s hard work and those sky-high expectations aren’t met. It’s not
necessarily their fault, but often that expectations weren’t managed. Those who
do well long-term tend to be those who focus on mastering the basics and
putting them into practice, again and again, day after day.
the environment, the idea of quick results with minimal effort is a dangerous
one. Whether hunting for a new job in the current climate or working off the
quarantine cake, stick to the basics, execute them well today, tomorrow and the
next day. Good things will come.
In late 2008 and only months away from running out of cash, Ford Motor Company faced a bleak future. The wider industry was in even worse shape and, while others took huge bailouts, Ford committed to saving itself. And save itself it did, catapulting from near bankruptcy to becoming the most profitable car maker in the world. The story of how that happened is a remarkable one, detailed in the book “American Icon” by Bryce G. Hoffman.
A key contributor in that colossal turnaround was Alan Mulally, former president of Boeing Company’s commercial aviation division and, as of 5th September 2006, CEO of Ford Motor Company. What’s interesting is that despite helping Boeing recover from the impact of the 9/11 attacks, senior executives at Ford were sceptical. Mulally’s credibility was repeatedly questioned because he was an outsider with no knowledge or experience of the motor industry. In one meeting, Ford’s Chief Technical Officer commented that “we appreciate you coming here from a company like Boeing but you’ve got to realise that this is a very, very capital-intensive business with long product-development lead times. The average car is made up of thousands of different parts and they all have to work together flawlessly.” Not one to be dismissed so easily, Mulally responded “That’s really interesting, the typical passenger jet has four million parts and if just one of them fails, the whole thing can fall out of the sky. So, I feel pretty comfortable with this.”
14 years on, relevant industry experience is an essential requirement for many companies. For some roles, it’s essential for good reason but for many, it’s not. So often those with the desired skills, attitude and aptitude are dismissed outright purely because they lack industry experience. Industry experience isn’t a skill, it’s knowledge. Knowledge can be taught but having the attitude and will to succeed is much more difficult. If an individual has the knowledge AND skills, attitudes and habits you seek – great, hire them! Where that isn’t the case, industry experience is often prioritised over and above other requirements as the perceived risk is lower. If that’s the case, the best person for the job isn’t always the one being hired. How damaging to business success is that?!
It’s positive to read that Ford had the foresight to hire for such a senior role based on skills and ability rather than industry experience. In doing so, Ford took a risk and, rather than detailing the demise of Ford, Hoffman’s narrative is one of success. Since then, Ford has continued to seek fresh eyes for top roles – current CEO Jim Hackett spent 30 years working for furniture manufacturer Steelcase and current CFO Tim Stone has a background in Tech. While only three examples can’t serve as 100% proof of the point, they do suggest that an outsider’s perspective paired with the right qualities, mindset and skillset can breathe life into companies that may otherwise stagnate.
“May you live in interesting times” is a phrase often quoted as a Chinese proverb though, apparently, there’s no trace of it in Chinese. Whatever its source, it’s a wish that’s certainly being fulfilled in our world right now.
At this time of big change, I’m reminded of a dinner conversation I regularly had at exhibition weekends across the world in my days in the international property market. “If you could go back to any time in history to see what life was like, which era would you choose and why?” I had a few different answers and could never quite settle on one but the most interesting comment from a colleague was about the days of cavemen and women (someone at the table elected that era).
“I think we’d be surprised how similar to ours the day-to-day life for the cavemen was.” Initially that appears a ridiculous assertion but, on reflection, I think not. Cave dwellers needed to eat and drink. They needed warmth. They needed rest. They needed to reproduce (and protect offspring to preserve their bloodline). And they would have sought relaxation / sport / leisure of some sort.
Our essential human needs and desires are no different – we just have easier means to access all those things though we are also helped considerably by not having to fight for life on a regular basis (none of you reading this anyway).
“So what?” I hear you say.
As we reflect on the changes we see in our society, we may neglect what hasn’t changed, such as the needs of our clients. As ever, clients want value. They want transparency. They want to trust the people with whom they do business. They’re happy to spend their money but they won’t spend it unless they see that value, that transparency, that belief that they can trust you. No matter that we all now find each other online, check each other out online, complain or praise each other online, we have the same needs. We just receive and send our thoughts in different formats.
Spend a little time this week making sure your old-fashioned message (which is also wonderfully up to date) of value, transparency and trust is communicated in every single interaction clients and potential clients have with your company. From your website home page to the recorded answer on your voicemail – online and offline – it’s all building or destroying the value your clients seek whether you’re consciously planning that or not.
I called my 13-year-old today to see if we could meet on our respective commutes home.
“Hi Alfie. It’s Dad!” I said, in a surprised and excited tone as he hardly ever answers his phone.
“Hi Dad. Why are you calling me?” he replied in a tone that suggested neither excitement nor pleasant surprise.
“Hi Dad! How are you?! How nice of you call me! is what you meant to say surely, Alfie?” I replied.
“Yeah, that too. Anyway….why ARE you calling me?”
Kids just say it the way it comes to mind, of course, but this was an example of what we all really think when someone calls us, even someone we know. We might tolerate a ‘How are you?’ though I rarely welcome the question – you don’t really care how I am and I don’t care to discuss it. Are you a doctor? Could you make me better?
Some of us may even allow a little preamble of social chat that is directly proportionate not to how much time we have but to how much we like the person calling or the perceived benefit we expect to get from the call. However, it’s rarely beneficial or interesting to either party if we’re really honest.
Ultimately we’re really thinking, “Why are you calling me?”
You may ask for the same level of social interaction with your close friends and family as I did with my son but, when making business calls, cut to the chase. Pay your respect to those you call by answering the number one question as quickly and clearly as we can: Why are you calling them? Please, for their sake and yours, don’t waste time asking after their health, their enjoyment of the day’s weather or their plans for the weekend.
A few years ago, I was involved in a training session in Bangalore and had a problem with attendees coming back late from breaks. Late arrivals cause timing issues and can also lead to disengagement in the room because others read their tardiness as inconsiderate or indicative of a lack of interest. It’s not easy to solve. As this session was a pilot for a Global Programme for one of the world’s biggest technology companies, it had to work. I came up with an idea.
“For many reasons, it’s important we all come back on time. At the end of our next break, I will close the door to the training room. If you return after this time, do come in but please stay at the front of the room. The last one to arrive back late will stand at the front of the room and sing a song to us all.”
Nobody was late again. The pilot was a success. More than 15,000 employees worldwide have been trained in that programme since.
Story-telling is one of the most powerful ways to sell and is too rarely used by salespeople.
Why are they so powerful? And why have I told my Bangalore story so many times?
Human beings love stories. We grow up being read them by our parents, watching them on TV and telling them to each other. There’s a familiarity to them and we like familiarity. It relaxes people and we listen better when we’re relaxed. This relaxation is particularly helpful in sales conversations where our target audience probably listens with a degree of scepticism. Taking down that guard is a big step forward.
Stories are also easy to tell, particularly if they’re true and happened to you. You’re just recounting an experience and it’s easy to picture that experience in your mind and recreate it for others. Additionally, it’s a way to connect easily with a prospective client, something done well with a bit of humour or a story which shows you as being just like them.
Finally, and most importantly, stories put across sales messages in a more subtle way than telling people a benefit of your service or product. There are times to explain the benefit and give an example of that but that isn’t always the best way. You can sow seeds in people’s minds through stories, you can highlight problems or worries that they might have but are not willing to share with you and show how you’ve helped others get over them (and they never need to admit to having this worry themselves!).
So, familiarity, relaxation of audience, ease of telling and subtler messaging are all benefits of stories as sales tools. All of these make your stories, and you, memorable which is also pretty helpful.
And why have I told my Bangalore story so many times?
It’s easy to listen to and an easy story to tell – it’s real, it’s short, it has simple story format: Challenge faced – Solution found – Result achieved (happy ending). Incidentally, that’s the format of just about every story told (yes, think of the films you watch, the books you read and that’s the format). It’s also funny, amusing at least, and people like that – it always raises a smile.
Finally, the subtle messages beneath the surface are magical. I’m telling the audience that my training is credible and used by the best (one of world’s leading tech companies – £250k deal). I’m telling them that my company does Customer Service training not just the sales training for which we’re best known (this has won us deals!). I’m highlighting that we deliver training all over the world. I’m telling them that I have the presence of mind and the confidence to assess an unexpected problem and, without prior planning, to come up with a solution that quickly solves that problem. Clients like that.
All that powerful messaging is woven into what seems, on the surface, to be a story about people getting back late from a break in training. That’s actually the least important part of it all.
A client called me recently to talk through a problem. Her fast-growing sales team has been doing well but her most senior person was floundering a little by his own high standards. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
I paraphrase a little: “His duties haven’t changed that much and he has more support with a team of people around him but his sales performance is suffering. He just has to focus them in the mornings, check on the important calls they all have to make, offer help to anyone struggling to close a deal, make sure everyone hits their numbers of sales calls each day and report any relevant information back to me. Apart from that, he just needs to make his sales calls and yet his numbers of sales calls each day are the lowest of anyone and he’s not closing the deals he was.”
So he’s now the Sales Manager and remains, potentially, your most successful and experienced salesperson? “Yes.” How much training has he been given as a Sales Manager? “Er, well.. he hasn’t actually had any training in how to manage the team.” Has he ever managed a team before? “No, never.”
This is a classic mistake and, yes, I’ve made it myself several times. A Sales Manager role, one in which you’re also expected to make sales as well as manage the team is one of the most difficult jobs in business. Really it is.
The job of anybody leading a team or running a company is to help your people understand what they need to do each day in order to be successful. What activities should they be doing and how should they structure their day? What levers are they able to use and when should they use them?
Some salespeople take well to managing a team but my experience tells me that they’re the exception. If you are not personally able to help your Sales Manager understand what they need to do each day then it is your responsibility to find another way to help them (which will help you too of course).
So, after my basic questioning and my client’s slow unravelling of unpreparedness, what were my tips on the leading salesperson who was losing their way as a Sales Manager? For any boss facing this problem, my tips are the same.
First, if you support the member of staff (she does) and believe in their ability, then tell them that you’re behind them and admit that you have let them down with the lack of support.
Second, recognise that if you give them additional duties (motivating team, checking activity, coaching on calls), their call time and call numbers will go down. This will probably see their sales go down too. This, I know, is blindingly obvious but many overlook it because, I think, lots of the extra jobs are ones that ‘only take a minute and that makes no difference’. It does for two reasons. The odd minutes add up over a day. And, it’s not just the minute offering advice, it’s the 3 minutes tuning back into whatever you were doing before. Or the one minute lead into a conversation about something else. In short, it dilutes focus and that has a cost.
Third, give them some training for goodness sake! If you’re good, then do it yourself. If you’re not, then hire someone that is.
Finally, if you can’t afford to lose their sales success then think very carefully about whether you want to make them Sales Manager at all. If you still decide to promote them, give them as little extra administration as possible. For small teams, the best managers are those that lead by example through their own sales activity and sales performance but then they’re Sales Leaders and not Sales Managers. And that’s a whole other article!
London is home to scores of nationalities as well as people that have moved here from across the UK. Surely with so much diversity, it’s what we say and do rather than how we say things that ma’ers? Or, should I say, matters? Our experience is that it does matter.
When assessing the match of a prospective employee, the way we speak is part of who we are. And the way a company’s employees talk gives a certain impression about that company; it’s part of the brand. We can argue back and forth about what type of pronunciation is the right one but I have no doubt that it makes a difference.
I’m not specifically talking about accent here though there can often be a crossover between accent and dialect. I’m talking about the pronunciation of certain sounds such as the ‘th’ of think or the ‘tt’ of letter.
We all have different ways of speaking – you’ll talk a certain way to your mates and a different way to your parents – and in most cases we switch between them unconsciously.
Whilst my belief in the diversity of language remains intact and I remain ambivalent around whether pronunciation should matter, my recommendation for your job hunting is to recognise that, right now, it does make a difference in most cases.
As a salesperson, you’re a voice for the company. For an interview, you’d be well served to understand the voice of your prospective new company and match it as closely as you can.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily” Zig Ziglar
Most good things start with motivation. All good things that stop lack motivation. Yet the greatest myth around motivation is that you either have it or you don’t. In fact, so many of the greatest myths (ie. the most dangerous) are based on the premise that you either have something or you don’t. Like talent. Or skill. Or morals.
As motivation is pretty pointless in short bursts, I want to offer some tips to sustain motivation as it’s partly based on good habits. Too often, I’ve heard people tell me that, when they’re in the mood, they’re super-motivated. Just you stop me then. Really? I wonder, are those the same people that needed to be in the mood to revise for exams? How long did you wait for that mood to come along!?
Motivation is not about doing something you enjoy at a time when you feel in the mood to do it. That’s called recreation. Motivation is about doing something that needs doing when you least feel like doing it. Motivation is sticking at something when it’s not going well. Motivation is doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done in order to achieve your aims. If you don’t stick at things, you’re very unlikely to succeed and the reason so few people, relatively speaking, succeed in their working life is that few have sufficient motivation to stick at something well enough for long enough.
At a TED conference several years ago, both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were on stage for Q&As. A member of the audience asked if they believed that you needed to love the thing you do in order to be successful at it. The answer was that whilst love or passion for what you do is not necessarily a pre-requisite for success, it tended to turn out that way because when times get tough, you’re much more likely to stick at it if you have passion and belief that what you’re doing is right. Without it, you’ll give up.
So, if we accept that motivation is needed for success, how do you help yourself and your teams to sustain it? Here are my top 3 tips.
Do it every day
Best captured by Zig Ziglar in the quote above, the biggest problem with motivation is people think it’s a one-hit wonder. Get a motivational speaker in (or appoint yourself that person) and give them all a rocket or an inspirational story or an end-of-year financial target, then watch them fire on all cylinders. Please write to me if you’ve done this and seen success all year long as it would be a world first and I’d like to break that story. A little every day is best.
Don’t rely on yourself
You’re allowed to have help. I’m currently listening (again) to the motivational presentations of Zig Ziglar and I have to tell you that they’re brilliant. And, yes, I follow the advice of point 1 above and listen to him every day on the journey to and from work. Recently, my earphones stopped working and I missed Zig’s voice on the way to work!
Remember the endgame
It absolutely, definitively, undoubtedly, unquestionably will not work (the motivational regime) unless you are clear about why you’re doing the tough things you’re doing. Write it down, have it in front of you every day at work, tell someone else about those aims (a vision shared is a commitment you’re more likely to keep).
As Zig might say, y’all have a happy, successful and motivated end to 2019!
I left a networking event recently and bumped into a fellow attendee as we left who said, “How awful?! Those people standing at the front of the room selling. That’s not what networking is about.”
Whilst the presentations could have been better, I completely disagreed with the conclusion. The number one reason to attend a networking event is to sell your services. The key is in how you do that.
I made the mistake for years of seeing industry networking events as a good chance to spend an enjoyable evening with industry friends and have a bit of fun swapping old stories and hearing the news. With the greatest respect to my business friends, if I want to spend an enjoyable social evening somewhere, I have family and friends with whom I’d rather be.
My tip, therefore, is to understand that you are giving up your time to attend a networking event in order to generate business. That is the number one reason to go.
Ask yourself three questions in preparation:
Is there anybody worth meeting at the event? Check who’s coming in advance if at all possible. (I have grave reservations about attending an event if you have no idea who might be there)
How do I ensure that I meet those people and have productive time with them?
What results should I expect?
Of course I recognise that there are many occasions where something (or someone) unexpected crops up at these events and for that you cannot plan. However, that’s just like any sales conversation in that you cannot prepare for everything but that doesn’t mean you should prepare for nothing.
The costs of not preparing are too big to take the risk. Going to an event with nobody worthwhile (for your business development) to meet just means losing hours of your life you’ll never get back. Going to an event with 3 perfect people for you to meet who remain unmet at the end because you didn’t know who they were or that they were going is an even bigger loss. Meeting them at said event and not making the most of the opportunity because you haven’t prepared properly is also a terrible waste.
Let’s not do that again, shall we? Let’s assume, from now, that you’ve checked the list and found 3 people that you’d really like to meet (these could be existing contacts or new ones). How do you make sure you make the most of the opportunity and walk away with a productive result or three?
First, don’t focus your efforts on ‘What can I tell them about my company?’. Rather think of something valuable that you can give them, something that makes you nothing. Maybe you know a subject matter expert that could help their business. Your valuable offering would be an introduction to that person. This is also a very easy way to make an introduction to someone new.
“Jane, my name is Paul Owen. I saw in advance that you were coming to this event and wanted to make sure that I spoke to you. Having researched your company, I think that a business mentor I know, Tracy O’Sullivan, could really help with your expansion into the Chinese market.” You can probably work out the rest of the conversation yourself!
What have you done? You’ve flattered them with your desire to meet them and also given immediate value to them with no apparent gain to yourself. In doing so, you’ve made yourself memorable. You’ve given a reason to exchange business cards. And there is a simple and immediate next step to your relationship.
Your result? You’ve started a potentially productive business relationship by preparing properly. Do that once at each networking event you attend and you’ll reap the benefits. Do it three times and your business generation could go through the roof. And you can still catch up with some old industry friends too – the two outcomes are not mutually exclusive!