Leadership Lesson from X Games

Tucker HibbertTalent Alone is not Enough

January 27, 2013 marks the first time an athlete has ever achieved a six-peat…six consecutive gold medal performances…in the winter X Games. Tucker Hibbert did so in remarkable fashion in the Snowmobile Sno-Cross event Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t his talent alone that won the finals for him. The X Game analysts were quick to point out that this was one of the most experienced and capable field of champions they have ever seen.

What they did point to as the differentiator, rightfully so, was his preparation. You see, in between the semi-finals and finals, Tucker chose to spend his time walking the course to evaluate how the snow conditions had changed. He also spent time evaluating where the shadows were falling on the course along with identifying the intended lines he would take. It turns out that he was the only competitor that did so.

Assimilating all of that information resulted in his selection of starting lane (afforded to him because of his semi-final finish), which was counter-intuitive to where most others wanted to start from. By the time they all completed the first lap, Tucker was in the lead and on his game plan. More than half way through the race, conditions continued to change as the shadows continued to shift and the snow conditions on the track worsened.

Lap 9, Tucker was jolted by hitting a rough patch in his originally chosen line. He adjusted his line to his plan B approach by the time he reached that same rough section on lap 10 and continued to put distance between himself and the second place competitor. Six laps later, he had finished the race creating a phenomenal 13 seconds of distance between his next closest competitor.

The Mark of Effective Leadership is Reflected in Their Preparation

Tucker prepared in a way that his competitors failed to do. In fact, all things being equal, each of the competitors had the opportunity to win with similar experience, equipment and conditions. Yet, it came down to Tucker’s preparation that enabled him to respond asymmetrically to an otherwise, equal playing field. Tucker clearly had an advantage over his competition. An advantage also available to each of his competitors, but they declined, instead relying upon their own experience to see them through.

For leaders, you can certainly attest to the pressure to perform while leading your team to do the same. With the level of responsibilities a leader typically carries, the tendency can be to approach business as just another day. merely showing up and reacting to whatever the next day has in store. This is certainly no way to lead, and definitely not a recipe for intentional, predictable and repeatable success.

So how can you tell if you have fallen into this trap? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do today’s actions reflect about your preparation to lead your team to success?
  • Specifically, what have you done today to ensure your team’s success?
  • Does your to-do list focus more on tasks than it does in leading your team to success?

If these questions have exposed some vulnerabilities in your daily approach, you are not alone. Be encouraged as you have taken the first step to acknowledge complacency. Complacency threatens all of us if we don’t intentionally disrupt our own status quo. Here are three steps to help you prepare differently, much like Tucker had done for his record performance. After all, wouldn’t we all like to succeed in intentional, predictable, repeatable ways as Tucker did?

3 Ways Effective Leaders Prepare Differently

  • Intentionality. Evaluating ever-changing conditions in the business environment requires being prepared for anything. This includes anticipating problems before they happen, and even planning how you will respond to the unanticipated. To have this ability, the leader will need to take intentional steps and set aside time to address these areas. Action: Schedule this into your calendar to address consistently and frequently. This needs to become an habitual routine.
  • Predictability. After you begin intentionally looking for ways to be better prepared, you will begin to see patterns. These patterns often come in the forms of team member behavior that leads to lesser performance, complacent reactions of competitors, or even economic rhythms that you can predict and address now that you see them. Action: Practice predicting outcomes privately. Start developing this capability and pay attention to predictions and what surprised you along the way before you go public.
  • Repeatability. When you have devoted the time to be intentional, others begin to notice your seemingly innate ability to predict outcomes and that you are well-prepared, you will find that repeatable successes happen with much greater frequency. This makes you an invaluable asset and resource to your team and your organization. Action: Look for ways to repeat your success without relying on repeating the same exact actions. Life usually doesn’t work that way. But for the effective leader that knows how to succeed repeatedly, do as Babe Ruth did and call your shots before they happen. Then make good on it by developing your intentionality and predictability muscles.

The most meaningful things in life take time to develop. Effective leadership is one of those meaningful areas worthy of pursuing. But it’s up to you. What will you choose? What will you do differently today, that will make a noticeable difference in what you and your teams do tomorrow?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

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1 Easy Step to Shorter Meetings

Shorter MeetingsProblem: Habitual Thinking About Time
Think about a meeting you typically schedule for your team. How long do you schedule for the meeting? For sake of discussion, let’s assume it is an hour-long meeting. Is an hour really needed, or is scheduling an hour just a habit in thinking about time in 30-60 minute increments?

We have become accustomed to increments of time that are rounded off…and most often, rounded up to greater increments of time. For example, consider human behavior with New Year’s resolutions.

What is normally considered a goal, becomes a resolution because it was set on or around January 1. Then most people stick with it for as long as they can…typically a couple weeks…then say to themselves, “I will try harder next year.”

While we are accustomed to think habitually in terms of year-long resolutions, when what is really needed are week-long or even day-long resolutions. Why wait a whole year to make adjustments to what didn’t work after a few weeks.

Shorten your time increments. Similarly, when we schedule meetings, we tend to look in 60 minute blocks of time, when what really may be needed is 45 minutes or perhaps even 20.

Solution: Plan for Less

To Meeting Organizers – Reduce meeting time by 25% or more.Before scheduling your next meeting, first be a responsible organizer and do the following:

  • Ensure there are clear decision points
  • Communicate to all necessary attendees in advance of meeting
  • Determine how much time you think will be needed for the meeting
  • Then recognize you are thinking about time in traditional ways and reduce the time by at least 25%

This is counter-intuitive, but you will be amazed at how properly prepared attendees that know the meeting time is short, will focus in on the essential decision points. Longer meeting times suggest to the participants, that there is plenty of time, so settle in and pace yourself.

To meeting participants – Plan to leave early.
For your next scheduled meeting, let the meeting organizer know that you will have to step out [25% of the meeting] early (i.e., leave 45 minutes into an hour-long meeting).

  • Ask the meeting organizer to cover the key points while you are there
  • Identify a colleague to get a recap for the last 15 minutes missed
  • Congratulate yourself for taking intentional steps to reinvest valuable time
  • Recognize this is a short-term solution, so address it at the root by sharing these tips with others

I understand this is not possible for all meetings, particularly meetings that your supervisor called. In those instances, what you can do is share the concept you read here. Let them know these methods have increased staff productivity levels in excess of 25%. What supervisor would not be a fan of that?

“Less talking, more doing!”

This really works and puts valuable time back in your day, especially when you attend or hold multiple meetings each day. The result? Spend less time talking about what you will do and more time actually doing it.

Please share your successes in employing this technique. Also, if you have a favorite way to reduce meeting times…or meetings altogether, we’d love to hear about them.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

A Leadership Horror Story

Every Saturday usually begins the same way for me. I get up, head to Starbucks and have a cup of coffee while reviewing the past week’s results and the next week’s goals. Debriefing the week and reflecting upon what changes I need to make is highly productive time for me. However, my regular routine this last Saturday was disrupted by a horrifying scenario playing out before me.

Leadership and TerminationTHE SCENARIO: “Good morning, you’re fired!”

I noticed a woman across from me that seemed to be waiting for someone, but otherwise enjoying her morning. Ten minutes later, the man wearing a tie arrives and motions for her to join him at a table rather than the more comfortable chairs in which she was already sitting. In an instant, I saw from his demeanor that something wasn’t right. I sensed a mismatch between her expectations and his actions.

With no coffee order of his own (Clue #1), he sat down across the table from this woman and spoke in a low voice (Clue #2), all the while averting eye contact with her (Clue #3). His questions were seemingly aimed at the table, since that was where he was looking. She gave explanations for each of the things he asked about. Explanations wouldn’t matter. His position was resolute. The outcome was predetermined. Her employment had just ended right in front of me at 7:43 am.

She did her best to hold it together in such a public setting, although a few defiant tears refused to be held captive. That first tear must have been the leader, because it led a number of others right down the side of her cheeks. She was completely caught off guard. Apart from her coffee, she had nothing to dab her eyes with. He continued to speak to the table to tell her no need to come back to work on Monday.

She was devastated. I was nauseated from the recklessness and thoughtlessness of this leader’s actions.

He grabbed his backpack and left without speaking another word. His job was done. It was at this point that I was able to articulate in my own mind my observations of his demeanor when he walked in. I concluded that what bothered him was not how the news would affect this woman. He appeared to be bothered more by how it affected his weekend.

As leaders, what can we learn from this example?

DEBRIEF: Lessons for Leaders Delivering Difficult Messages

  • Be Predictable. Staff members should never be surprised when it comes to their performance. Provide consistent feedback. Care enough to share.
  • Be Discrete. The old adage to ‘Praise in public and correct in private’ is good advice. With corrective actions or terminations, choose the location wisely as the discussion should never be on display for outsiders to observe.
  • Be Present. Regardless of circumstances, when having a conversation, be completely present and engaged in the conversation. Staff should expect that from leaders.
  • Be Professional. No matter how difficult the message is for you to deliver, it is worse for the person receiving the news. Don’t portray yourself as the victim.
  • Be Honoring. Treat people with dignity and look them squarely in the eyes when communicating. Averting eye contact is dishonoring and suggests there is something in which to be ashamed (e.g., Surprising a person with a termination for performance).
  • Be Thoughtful. When delivering any message that may evoke emotion, be thoughtful by being prepared. Have tissues on hand. You may also consider having your discussion in a different meeting room to avoid parading your upset staff member in front of their peers after the discussion.
  • Be Careful. Most of us are not immune to having our own leader, CEO, board members, etc. approach us with a difficult message. Therefore, remember the Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated.

Terminations and disciplinary actions happen for legitimate reasons. They can…and should always be…constructive in nature, never destructive. Practicing these characteristics in our daily demonstrations of Leadership can help to ensure we are constructive in our approach. Let’s all make sure we avoid creating this destructive horror for others.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Diagnosing Misdiagnosis in Business

Diagnosis and MisdiagnosisIn the medical field, a doctor’s misdiagnosis can prove fatal. Have you ever considered the consequences of misdiagnosing a sales, marketing or business issue?  In the metaphorical sense, a wrong diagnosis can prove fatal to your career or business as well.

According to the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), misdiagnosis occurs in the medical profession up to 42% of the time.

When you consider that doctors, being highly educated and well-trained in their field, still misdiagnose symptoms for 2 out of every 5 patients, how much more susceptible might the everyday sales or business professional be in proffering a wrong diagnosis? Yet for many business professionals, they cavalierly forge ahead with untested hypotheses of their business issue, and a firm course set for remediation.

“For most diagnoses all that is needed is an ounce of knowledge, an ounce of
intelligence, and a pound of thoroughness”

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Try to recall a recent business result that fell short of expectations, and subsequently required diagnosing the problem. What was the process you used to identify the problem, and identify a remediation plan?

For many people, they follow an inherently flawed two-step plan:

  1. They compare their result to their expectation, then
  2. They work backwards from the result, looking for a plausible explanation for why they fell short

While this is a common approach, the problem is that beginning with the comparison as your starting point for diagnosis is far too late. All you can do at this point is learn for next time…if fortunate enough to have a next time. The second problem is that working backwards from the result only serves to explain symptoms, but not address the root cause. If we want to avoid bad results or avoid repeating bad results, we need to get at the root.

HOW DO YOU GET AT THE ROOT?
I used to live in a neighborhood where there were a lot of very large, mature trees with roots that would buckle the sidewalks. Imagine a city planner tasked with inspecting the damage and evaluating a remedy for the current problem, to serve as a model for future neighborhoods.

Imagine how preposterous it would be if the City Planner recommended a ‘root-redirection’ program when sidewalks started to buckle? In other words, if the proposal was to address the point of the visible problem by digging up the damaged sidewalk, and working to redirect the roots downward, we would laugh at the foolishness of such a plan.

Common sense suggests either planting trees farther away from sidewalks or changing the type of tree altogether. Stated differently, we would need to change what we do on the front end to get better results, not work from the point of the buckled sidewalks backwards.

Yet, this serves as a picture of how missed expectations are often addressed. A person does a comparison, sees the variance and looks for an explanation to the problem. When taking this approach [from the end rather than the beginning], the tendency is to stop searching once you believe you have reached a conclusion.

“A conclusion is the place where you got tired thinking.”

Those were the words of the German-American physician, Dr. Martin Fischer (1879-1962).

PRESCRIPTION FOR PREVENTION
Dr. Denis Burkitt said, “Diseases can rarely be eliminated through early diagnosis or good treatment, but prevention can eliminate disease.” Most would agree, prevention is much better than prescription.

In order to prevent a career full of missed results, followed by faulty diagnostics leading to more missed results, we need to look at a new process that will enable one to succeed intentionally, predictably and repeatedly. Doing so will prevent a career full of regret.

The best way to do so is to have a repeatable structure or process for achieving results, so that you can quickly identify and detect problems early.

Following are a list of steps to get you well on your way:

  1. Long-term goals should be front and center as your starting point
  2. Connect all shorter term goals into your long-term goals
  3. Identify specific activities/tactics necessary to achieve your goals on weekly basis
  4. Plan specific times each day/week to achieve the tactics leading to your goals
  5. Evaluate each day/week how you performed according to what you planned to do
  6. Adapt your approach as necessary based on your evaluation and insights

Do not let the process scare you as this not only is guaranteed to improve your results, but literally only takes 20 minutes/day and increases the success rate significantly. I do steps 1-4 in The First 15 Minutes of each day, and steps 5-6 in the last 5 minutes of each day before I leave. I jot quick notes of my observations for what did and didn’t go as planned and as a result, have a written record of how to repeat success.

What steps do you take to create intentional, repeatable and predictable success?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Can you guarantee your next hire is an ‘A’ player?

Hiring A-PlayersYour down a person and need to ensure you bring in a top-notch person to replace your exiting staff member. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing absolute certainty, what is your confidence level that your next hire will be an ‘A’ player? Have a number in mind? Good, what is it?

After asking this question of hiring managers for years, the responses I hear most often usually come in one of two forms:

  • They respond by saying, “It depends on the hiring pool…position…economy…time of year, etc.,” or
  • They provide a number between 6 and 9

To be candid, I only see an answer of ‘1’ or ’10’ as being acceptable, not a number in between, as I don’t subscribe to varying levels of confidence. You are either confident or you’re not.

Nevertheless, I have continued to ask the question intentionally in scale form because the answers serve as good indicators on how a person sees their role in the process. What I have found is that answering in either of the two aforementioned ways can suggest that they are unintentionally relegating themselves to a victim of circumstance in the hiring process.

So back to the question, what was your gut response to your confidence level? If less than 10, do you understand what created that seed of doubt? Perhaps it’s a history of mixed results in your hiring. If that’s the case, it is certainly understandable. Consider the results of two significant studies that had been conducted on success rates in hiring.

One study by John Hunter, Ph.D., at Michigan State University, showed that the interview is only 14% accurate in predicting a successful hire. Another study conducted by Harvard University concludes that nearly 80% of turnover is due to mistakes made in hiring.

With the odds against you, it stands to reason that to beat the odds, we need to be intentional in how we go about the process of creating repeatable successes in the hiring process.

To be clear, there is a lot that goes into excellent hiring, and I do not intend to cover all facets. Instead, I want to provide one specific area that can give you a quick start to immediately beating the odds.

The Problem…

Following are the three areas I most commonly see at the root of the problem:

  1. You don’t have interview questions prepared in advance for the position to be filled
  2. You have questions prepared, but they are not tied into the business processes that lead to excellent results
  3. You have questions and they are tied to your processes, but you don’t have specific responses that you are looking for

Further Diagnosis…

  1. No prepared questions in advance. This can suggest more of an ad hoc hiring process and approach and can leave hiring the right candidate to the luck of the draw. For people at this stage, you are likely to find that there is a lot of pressure and stress on you as you are not only scrambling to find a replacement for the exiting staff member, but you have a lot of administrative responsibilities added in addition to opening a job requisition, recruiting, screening, thinking up ‘good interview questions,’ etc.
  2. Questions not tied to known business processes.For the person in this second category, this most typically describes the hiring manager who has taken the time to prepare questions in advance. The problem that arises in this category is that while the questions are prepared in advance, they often times are developed with the filter of whatever the exiting person’s inadequacies were. For example, if the person that exited your organization was weak in reporting, the new interview questions will tend to be aimed at screening for reporting. This can distract from the larger issue of whether ‘reporting’ is central to the success of the role or a secondary issue. Another trait for this category is that questions are often crafted from the hiring manager’s perspective of what “good interview questions” are. You may like to ask, “What books have you read lately?” This may be interesting to know, but how does it tie to known processes that you are screening for to get the results you are after?
  3. Questions without answers. In this third category, this describes the person that has prepared questions in advance and has even drafted them in such a way that carefully asks about skills in areas known to contribute directly to the results you seek. So where is the problem? The most common problem I see for hiring managers in this area is that while they have specific questions they want to ask, they don’t have specific responses they are looking for. What ends up happening in an interview is a carefully scripted question gets asked of the candidate, and without knowing what a great response would be in advance, all you can do is decide based on a gut feel, if you like their answer and the way they answered. The problem with that is too often style trumps substance, since there was no sense of what the best answer should have been.

The Solution…

As you may have guessed, the answer to producing more intentional, repeatable hiring successes is to do the following:

  • Write down the business processes for the position that, when consistently followed, lead to excellent results
  • Identify the specific skills necessary for the position that map directly to the business processes
  • Develop situations or at a minimum, situational questions (e.g., “Tell about a specific time when…”) that provide you with direct demonstrations of the candidate’s level of competency in the skills you seek
  • Finally, predetermine what good responses would be to the questions asked, so you recognize a successful response when it comes

A final word of encouragement…While the process described above is simple, it is not easy to just whip this out if none of this has been identified. My encouragement is to invest the time now before it’s time to hire. Doing this process simultaneous with trying to rehire for a position is really tough. Perhaps that is the situation for some of you. Be diligent. Most opt out and just stick with the status quo of how they have always screened, interviewed and hired. I have seen this prove costly time and time again for many, highly competent leaders that didn’t invest the time up front to fortify their team with ‘A’ players.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Success in Sales Has an Expiration Date

Expired SuccessOne of life’s unfortunate realities is that succeeding once does not mean succeeding always. As we are all aware, “success” has a shelf life…or an expiration date, if you will.

We all want it, and most work hard to get it…often times with failures along the way, and when we finally achieve the success we were after, we are brought back to the reality that this will not last forever, nor ensure success with our next endeavor. For the repeatedly successful person, that means we have to replenish our successes. The more frequently, the better.

Given that this website is dedicated to the creation of intentional, repeatable successes, I am typically less concerned with or enamored by a person’s initial success. I am more curious about what creates repeatable successes.

I have listed below a few characteristics of those that have consistently demonstrated their ability to repeat success in all areas of their life:

  • Learner – They have huge appetites to take in as many points of meaningful data, philosophies, best practices as possible to better inform and guide their decisions
  • Distiller – They not only take in data, but assimilate and distill information in ways that can be dispensed at will
  • Distributor – With much collected wisdom…from both success and failure…they share freely with others
  • Conduit – They serve as a collection point for information, knowledge, wisdom
  • Filter – Despite seemingly endless supplies of wisdom & knowledge, they filter out noise for themselves & others
  • Reasoner – They have a unique ability to mentally process complex lines of thinking
  • Disciplined – Through constant practice and refinement, they rehearse the behaviors that produce the greatest benefits in their personal and professional lives
  • Curious – By nature…or practice, they have a genuine curiosity, tending to do more asking than talking
  • Decisive – Decisions are made more readily, not despite the many inputs, but because of the consistent practice of collecting inputs
  • Observer – One other key attribute is they careful observe why success does or does not occur, so they know with surgical precision, which behaviors to repeat and which to avoid

Again, this is not an exhaustive list of characteristics and traits, but rather some of the most common attributes I have observed over the years from all walks of life. This includes both those in which I have worked and consulted as well as those, whose stories have been shared in biographies, autobiographies, or other.

What have you observed from those in which you have worked or observed that are intentionally and repeatedly successful? Which attribute is your favorite?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Do You Have the Right Decision Strategy?

Decision StrategyAs a business professional who has dedicated my career to identifying the behaviors that create intentional, repeatable results…or what I call Succeeding on Purpose, there is one area I see commonly connected with poor business results. That is in the area of decision strategy.

More specifically, this refers to the tendency of professionals to make decisions based upon current, unexpected results they encounter. On the other hand, those that consistently create intentional, repeatable successes expect occasional ‘losses’ and remain committed to their time-tested strategies and processes to guide their decision-making when a loss occurs.

Reams of materials have been written correlating successful companies with excellent decision-making processes, so no need to add to the contributions of legends like Jim Collins and Ram Charan. My aim is to provoke thinking around your own decision strategies and test how well they are working for you.

In Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, he discusses how at one point he took up the game of poker and studied it intently to learn how to master the principles. Following is an excerpt from his learning experience:

“One of the most interesting things about playing poker was learning the discipline of not confusing the right decision with the individual outcome of any single hand, but that’s what a lot of poker players do. If they win a hand, they assume they made a right bet, and if they lose a hand, they often assume they made the wrong bet.”

One of the key points Tony drives at is that adjusting the bet based on an individual hand is a losing strategy because it is reactive. That type of short-term thinking often compromises longer-term results. Rather, it is better to be disciplined in making the right decision where the odds of winning are more favorable in the long run.

What does your decision strategy look like?

The principles that Tony articulated in his book are excellent, but as you may have perceived, if you don’t have the right decision strategy, then remaining disciplined to the wrong strategy and process can commit you to failure. That said, it is important to note that simply reacting to results is most typically the approach with the ‘poorest odds of winning.’

Not convinced? Consider it from this perspective – Imagine starting an exercise program. You know there are a myriad of exercises that can bring results, but you need to stick to the program in order to see results. If you simply use a mirror, which represents current circumstances and results, as the primary feedback of your results, you will likely react in the wrong ways based on what you see. That is simply because the mirror does not reflect the long-term results of what you are working towards. It merely reflects your present reality, and for many, they don’t like their present day reality. So they react to do something differently, thus disrupting any momentum that may have started to build.

How do I know if I have the right decision strategy?

As a basic litmus test to know if you have the right strategy, ask yourself this question…When I see things getting off track, how do I respond?

If your first response is to review your strategy for misalignment or derailment, that is an excellent sign. On the other hand, if you more typically find yourself reacting to circumstances or unexpected results (e.g., Missed a monthly sales goal,  weak marketing campaign response rate, etc.), without orienting to your strategy to calibrate what you are seeing in your present reality, you may respond prematurely and even inappropriately.

For example, I recently saw an organization struggling to recover from sales declines in one of its areas by switching strategies to start offering aggressive discounts to bolster sales for the current month. The results? Cannibalization of future customers. Sales from future months were borrowed for the current month’s performance result. My understanding is that the organization has yet to recover from the short-term decisions made many months earlier.

How do you respond when unexpected results occur in your business? Are you betting based on winning or losing the individual hand, or are you betting on the process that delivers success in the long-term?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Challengers: Don’t Confuse Teaching with Learning

Teaching vs. LearningAs a big fan of the Challenger Sale, those that follow the approach quickly understand that ‘teaching’ is a primary leg of the three-legged stool (i.e., Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control).

For those less familiar, the premise is that the best reps [statistically] TEACH where prospects learn…not SELL…by presenting a unique point of view while offering the prospect value through that unique insight.

Not All Teaching is Good

So what is the problem? The problem tends to present itself with those that misunderstand what the Challengers knew all along…that teaching was never about the teacher.

Those that misunderstand this point and try to emulate the ‘teacher-centric’ model become so enamored with themselves being perceived as the profound ‘teacher’ with a different point of view, that they fail to recognize that nobody is learning anything at all.

As I have said before, “A person who puts their own PR before [t]eaching is merely [PR]eaching.”  (Click to Tweet)

The solution? Concentrate less on how well you’re teaching, which puts yourself at the center of things, and concentrate more on how well they’re learning. This puts your focus and attention back where it belongs…on your prospects and customers.

Prospects will never see themselves in the story you’re telling if the focus is on yourself. (Click to Tweet)

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

The Sales Athlete: Do You Warm Up or Play Cold?

Sales Call Warm UpHave you ever considered how a professional athlete may perform in a game if they never practiced first? For the golfer, this may look like no time spent at the driving range before tournaments….or no batting practice between games for the baseball player…No free throws for the basketball player…No blocking and tackling for the Football player, etc.

Sure, their natural talent may certainly kick in and mask a bad performance during the game, but would a truly great performance be a realistic expectation of the professional athlete without first practicing?

We are all likely to agree that it is not realistic. More likely, the initial inning, quarter or period played is likely to produce mediocre results, with performance increasing as they get warmed up in real-time.

See where I am headed with this? Consider how often the sales professional jumps into the game with no warm ups. For many sales professionals, they may inaccurately chalk the first few losses on sales calls or appointments as the customer being a poor fit or uninterested. What if in truth, it had everything to do with the rep jumping in cold to a situation in which the customer would later respond better to a ‘warmed up’ competitor?

In doing analysis on contact rates some time ago on each of my outbound sales teams, I noticed that our best contact rates were generally in the morning, though the conversion rates were lower. In digging further, I saw that typically, these peak contact rates for our markets, were within 30-45 minutes of the rep’s shift beginning. The inference was that during peak opportunities with prospects, we were using the calls for what I call ‘game-time warm ups.’

Sales Warm-Up Exercises

As a result, we began incorporating warm up routines that we call ‘batting practice’ into weekly sales meetings and daily sales rep’s routines to improve our batting average. While we vary the activity to adjust to where we are needing the most practice, here are a couple quick and easy examples to follow to incorporate into your own batting practice.

  1. Call yourself – Leave yourself a voice mail message with your most compelling point to provide value or a teaching point. Perhaps just a 30 second message that demonstrates credibility or adds value with reason to call back. See how you sound to yourself and determine if you would call yourself back. If not, refine and repeat.

  2. Pair share – This is a quick exercise to do with a peer in which you practice a specific skill, question or comment in areas you are likely to find yourself dealing with. Over time, you will find that the paired reps begin to give more open and honest feedback on what statements ‘compelled’ and what ‘repelled.’ After all,  they want the same type of feedback for themselves.

  3. Spontaneous Reframes – At the leader level, we work on spontaneously coming up with a unique point of view and reframe on common, everyday objects or situations. The goal of these exercises is to quickly identify what we want to teach, then do a warmer statement to establish credibility in the topic and end with a reframed way of thinking about the object or situation. At the leader level, we call this ‘Iron sharpening iron.’

Those are a few ideas from what we are doing. How about you? Do you use unique exercises to warm up your sales leaders and reps?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

The Best Information Comes From Short Questions – by Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter”

Mark HunterThere’s no better way to improve the quality of information you receive from a potential customer than by asking short questions.  We all can recall far too many times when we’ve sat across the table from a customer we’re trying to help–and we know we can help, if they would just provide us information about their needs and goals.

The problem is that no matter what question we ask, we get the same response: a big fat “I don’t know” (or something along that line).  Then, almost without thinking, we put on our super-salesperson cape and start telling the person everything they need.  Unfortunately, when it comes to getting the sale, the person turns cold.

Our problem in dealing with this type of customer is we need to find a better way to engage them and to get them to think about what they want and need–and then share that information with us.

The answer to this dilemma? Short questions. I believe that short questions get you long answers (while long questions get you short answers).  What too often happens is we are talking to a customer and asking them what we believe are simple questions, but in reality, those questions are simple only to us.

To someone unfamiliar with your industry, the questions are complex.   For example, we ask a question that has a couple of facts wrapped up in it. As a result, it winds up being more of a statement for which we are simply looking for feedback. No wonder clients can give us the cold shoulder and the blank stare.

What we want to do is ask short questions. In their simplest form, they are questions like “why” and “how.” Or possibly they look like this: Could you give me an example?  Could you explain that again to me?

The shorter the question, the more likely we are to get a long answer. The next step is to ask them another short question, following up on what they just said.  The beauty about this is it allows the client to do all the talking. By doing the talking, they’ll tell you what their needs are. They’ll tell you their big life goals and will reveal a level of information you need to determine how to best serve them.

When using the short question approach, there are only two things you need to remember.  First, ask the customer a soft easy question to which you know they’ll respond. Then after they have given you a response, continue with the short questioning approach by asking, “Could you give me another example?” You then pause and allow the client to give you more information, upon which you follow-up again with another short question such as, “How?” or “Why?” Basically, you want to do whatever you can to get them talking more.

The second rule to remember is to not keep asking the same short questions. If you do, you’ll come across as an inquisitive 3-year-old rather than the professional salesperson you know you are.

You can avoid this best by picking up on a single item they shared with you and drilling down on just that one item. When you drill down on a single item, you demonstrate your listening skills and your ability to truly discern information.  The beauty of this approach is when it works, the customer will many times share with you exactly what they want in a policy and they will begin asking you questions about features and benefits.

Short questions get you long answers.  Long questions get you short answers. It is up to you as to the approach you want to take, but if you want to actually learn something about the customer’s needs, you will get there quicker by asking short questions.

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is author of High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price. He is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  To receive a free weekly sales tip and read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit www.TheSalesHunter.com. You can also follow him on Twitter http://www.Twitter.com/TheSalesHunter, on Facebook www.facebook.com/TheSalesHunter and on Linkedin http://www.linkedin.com/in/MarkHunter.

Reprinting of this article is welcomed as long as the following is included: Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” www.TheSalesHunter.com, ©2012