Bill Zipp http://billzipponbusiness.com Think strategically. Act boldly. Sat, 27 Aug 2016 15:10:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.14 Think strategically. Act boldly. Think strategically. Act boldly. Bill Zipp http://billzipponbusiness.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://billzipponbusiness.com Killing Change: Four Deadly Decisions http://billzipponbusiness.com/killing-change-four-deadly-decisions/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/killing-change-four-deadly-decisions/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 07:00:42 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=5162 Change or die. That’s what the bumper sticker said on the car in front of me. As stark as that statement may seem, it’s been my experience from over a decade of working with organizations both large and small, the latter is preferred over the former. Not that anyone would it admit it. No respectable […]

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Change or die.

That’s what the bumper sticker said on the car in front of me.

As stark as that statement may seem, it’s been my experience from over a decade of working with organizations both large and small, the latter is preferred over the former.

Not that anyone would it admit it. No respectable leader would announce to the world, “I would rather die than change.” But they say it nevertheless.

They say it with their actions. Actions that fail to foster the climate in which change flourishes. And they say it with their inaction, failing to deal with forces that resist change.

I’ve identified four deadly decisions that kill change and offer answers to them as a path forward to better.

Deadly Decision One: Deny Reality

Dysfunctional families and dysfunctional companies have the same fatal flaw: a strict code of silence that rules their relationships. This code of silence prevents people from speaking the truth, speaking it openly and speaking it honestly.

As a result, these human institutions live in a perpetual state of denied reality. For a business, denial like this can be devastating.

Marketshare is eroding, but no one will talk about it. Customers are unhappy, but no one will listen to them. Cash is in short supply, but the downturn is blamed on the economy (the government, the president, the competition, insert your own reason here).

Human beings have an amazing capacity to ignore the obvious until it’s too late. And so it is with change, killed at the very start, nipped in the bud before a bloom ever begins.

You can avoid this mistake, however, by becoming a leader who accepts feedback. Not just accepting it, though, but actively seeking it out.

You can become a champion for change by learning how to listen, really listen, to the people around you, even (especially?) when what they have to say cuts against the grain of the status quo, and, perhaps, your own personal comfort.

In other words, stop denying reality and break the code of silence that exists in your company (By the way: your family will thank you for this, too).

Deadly Decision Two: Move Too Fast

The second mistake that kills change looks likes a Seinfeld episode. You know, the one where they’re traveling upstate and George is driving so fast that Jerry can’t keep up with him. George has the directions to where they’re going and wants to make good time, but Jerry can’t see his car anymore and ultimately gets lost.

Like most Seinfeld episodes, we’re amused by the crew getting mad at each other and the hilarity that ensues from their self-inflicted frustrations.

In the real world, we’re not amused, and the frustration of leaders moving too fast don’t produce hilarious outcomes. They kill change.

Geoffrey Moore in his seminal work, Crossing the Chasm, reveals the way people embrace change in the technology adoption bell curve.

On the left of the curve is early acceptance of change by Innovators and Early Adopters. In the middle of the curve is mainstream acceptance of change by the Early Majority, and on the right of the curve is late acceptance of change (or no acceptance at all) by the Late Majority and so-called Laggards. Technology Adoption Lifecycle_webimage

The chasm that exists between Early Adopters and the Early Majority drops off into what Mr. Moore calls “the valley of doom,” or where change goes to die.

This death occurs because Innovators initiating change, sometimes securing expensive financing for it, misinterpret the enthusiasm of Early Adopters and assume the rest of the world will be just as enthused. They are not—at least not at first—so a new technology falls to its death in the Valley of Doom, never to rise again.

Change leaders do the same when they assume the majority in the middle will be just as excited about the changes they’re proposing as Early Adopters. And, again, they’re not, not at first anyway. But leaders keep pressing ahead, driving faster and faster and faster (like George Costanza), leaving their people lost and frustrated.

The truth of the matter is this: change takes time. And because it takes time, leaders must not move too fast with it.

This means taking the time to engage the middle, to explain the reasons for change, to paint a compelling picture of the future when change has been fully implemented, and to answer the dozens and dozens of questions that arise when they do.

For it’s acceptance by the middle, not Early Adopters, that’s key to the success of any change initiative.

This is true for two reasons. First, the middle is where the majority of people exist and critical mass in favor of change can’t be gained without them. That’s a raw statical reality. The second reason is people in the Early Majority are the ones best positioned to win over the Late Majority and the Laggards, making change an overwhelming mandate in your organization and not just a passing fad.

Deadly Decision Three: Manage Change, not Lead It

Google the word change and you’ll find another word closely associated with it, management. As in “change management.” The problem is, change management doesn’t work. You must lead change, not manage it.

It’s not my intent here to perpetuate the silly debate that rages on the Internet about which is better: being a leader or being a manager.

Anyone working with a leader who pays no attention to management whatsoever suffers the painful consequences of missed meetings, unanswered email, dropped details, and wasted resources. Direct reports who have a boss like this beg them to acquire these missing skills.

And, yes, the other side of the coin is painful too, cautious analytics who seem to be afraid of their own shadow and fail to take the business in new directions.

The truth is, we must both lead and manage. But in that order. The cart doesn’t come before the horse. The horse comes first and drives the cart down the road. Neither does the horse run wildly through the countryside, however, but delivers its load while pulling the cart.

Here’s how to do this when it comes to change:

  • First, leading change requires us to create a sense of urgency around the completely unacceptable nature of current unreality, and then to paint a compelling picture of future. In short, a champion of change knows how to cast vision, and vision is a coin with two sides: rejection of the status quo and passion for a new reality.
  • Second, leading change requires more than just words, even very persuasive words. The most persuasive thing a leader can do is act. Champions of change don’t have a double standard for the future they’re proposing but lead by example, acting with full integrity to it. They also insist, without compromise, that the leaders who work with them do the same.
  • Third, leading change requires us to understand the implications of change. That is, to foresee the unintended consequences that will occur when it arrives and to carefully prepare for them. This is management at its best, planning for contingencies and being ready to respond to them.

More than once I’ve seen dropped details derail a perfectly good, and desperately needed, change initiative. A lack of attention to important details can bring a grinding halt to future progress and erode any trust you’ve established that the future will be better than the present.

Finally, please observe the ratio of leadership and management I’m proposing in the paragraphs above: 2:1. That is, two parts leadership, casting vision and leading by example, and one part management, attending to important details. In my opinion, this is the mix that works best for successful change initiatives.

Deadly Decision Four: Avoid—or Attack—Opposition

Sir Isaac Newton was right. Remember him? Science … freshman year … high school. Yeah, I know it was a long time ago. A very long time ago.

Newton’s second law of motion states this: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. True for the physical world, and for the corporate one.

Every change initiative—and I mean every one, without exception—will have forces that resist it. If there weren’t forces that resisted it, change would not be necessary for it would have been achieved already. This is a simple, logical conclusion.

Those forces are the “opposite reaction” to your action, and will be “equal” to your energy in their resistance.

Leaders take two dramatically different approaches to the opposition to change, or alternate between them. Neither works.

Some leaders completely avoid opposition to change, leaving critical issues unaddressed. They do this, naively thinking that the opposition will decide one day to quietly fade into the fabric of the furniture. They won’t, maintaining their opposition as change dies a slow and painful death.

Other leaders do the alternative. They attack their opposition mercilessly, naively thinking that they’ll cave under a barrage of mortar fire. They won’t either. What actually happens is this: public and private attacks strengthen the opposition and harden their resolve to resist change at all costs. Cold. Dead. Hands.

Those who oppose change must not be avoided or attacked, they must be engaged. We must come to them with an honest heart and an open hand to collaborate in making change work. In most cases—not every case, but most of them—when I’ve done this, those who initially opposed me have become my most loyal supporters.

This takes time, but change takes time (See: Deadly Decision Two), and the investment is worth every minute.

Here’s the Bottom Line

People have many fears, rational and irrational.

There’s the fear of death, second only to the fear of public speaking. There’s also the fear of spiders, the fear of germs, and the fear of angry white male presidential candidates (who are, strangely, a lot like spiders and germs).

We needn’t fear change, however. It can be the best thing to happen to us and the organizations we serve. Change brings growth and change brings opportunity, if we let it.

If we approach it with our eyes wide open to reality, taking the time needed for it flourish, leading it and managing it (in that order), and courageously collaborating with those who oppose it.

In other words, there’s no need to die. Change.

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The Superman Syndrome: A Recipe for Leadership Ruin http://billzipponbusiness.com/superman-syndrome/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/superman-syndrome/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 07:00:46 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=5098 Superman has superpowers. But Superman has a fatal flaw: he can’t be all places at all times. As a result, a lot of things don’t get done. Really important things, like feeding starving children, keeping airplanes from falling out of the sky, and finding a presidential candidate we can actually support. When you can’t be […]

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Superman has superpowers. But Superman has a fatal flaw: he can’t be all places at all times.

As a result, a lot of things don’t get done. Really important things, like feeding starving children, keeping airplanes from falling out of the sky, and finding a presidential candidate we can actually support.

superman

When you can’t be all places at all times, no amount of super power will suffice. You need a different kind of power. People power.

People power is the ability to get things done through others. Really important things. It’s the ability to motivate and mobilize your people to do great work and expand the capacity of the organization you serve beyond what you can accomplish as a solitary person.

In short, people power is leadership in action.

This point is so important that best-selling authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan starkly state in Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, “Getting things done through others is a fundamental leadership skill. Indeed, if you can’t do it, you’re not leading.”

That’s right. You’re. Not. Leading.

Leaders who lead like superman—using their super powers to do as much as they possibly can—may look amazing on the surface, but they fail miserably. Why? They can’t scale the business, because everything in it is dependent on their personal presence. Superman’s fatal flaw.

And when you can’t scale the business, the business will ultimately collapse. In other words, Superman-like leaders are not leaders at all, but highly skilled individual contributors who don’t get things done through others, stunting the growth of their organization and diminishing its capacity.

What’s even worse, leaders who lead like superman end up burning themselves out. This occurs because—surprise, surprise—they’re not superman with super powers. They’re just ordinary human beings wearing tights and a cape. Any ordinary human being trying to do everything themselves will fail. It’s a recipe for ruin.

People power, however, is available to any leader willing to ask (and answer) this critical question, “How do I light a fire in someone’s soul?” For when you know the answer to that question, you know how to motivate and mobilize people to do great work. And when they do great work, you get great results. That’s people power in full force.

While the answer to this question could go on for pages and pages, here are three fundamentals to get you started: trust, purpose, and fit.

SECRET ONE: Trust

The first and fundamental secret about all human behavior is that people follow leaders they trust.

Those of us in leadership, especially those of us afflicted with the Superman Syndrome, somehow believe that people follow us because of our great wisdom, incredible talent, or impressive resume. But that is not the case.

People follow us when they believe in us and will continue to do so willingly when that belief is validated over time. Trust starts (and ends) at one fundamental place: character.

Character means you’re a person of your word: you do what you say you’ll do. It means others can depend on you, and you’d never ask them to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Character means that you act this way when things are going well and when things are going poorly, when you’re having a good day and when you’re having a bad one.

MORE: Why Should Anyone Trust You as a Leader? The Truth About Trust

Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden once wrote, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one’s watching.” Wise words from the Wizard of Westwood. That’s the point, isn’t it? Character is not dependent on the public eye to perform. It acts consistently with its core values, even in private, and in doing so increases people power by the truckload.

SECRET TWO: Purpose

The second secret to getting things done through others and curing yourself from the Superman Syndrome is purpose. Purpose, as with trust, lights a fire in someone’s soul and unleashes their passion to do great work.

This happens because all of us at our very core want to contribute to a cause that’s bigger than ourselves. Unlike robots, we need a reason for the things we do. The bigger the reason, the more we’re willing do.

When people are connected to a cause they believe in, it gives them that reason. No longer are they pushing a big rock up a tall mountain, like the cursed god Sisyphus, but they’re doing something that matters, work that makes a difference.

This is Southwest making travel fun. This is Nike making life an adventure. This is Apple making technology simple and elegant.

“The authentic way to increase shareholder value is with a purpose that inspires employees to create innovative products and provide superior service to customers.” writes former Medtronic CEO, Bill George, in Authentic Leadership. “When employees believe their work has a deeper meaning, their results will vastly exceed those who only use their minds and their bodies.” Purpose, too, provides leaders with people power because it unleashes a vast reservoir of passion that lies untapped inside our soul.

SECRET THREE: Fit

A bird is born to fly. A fish is born to swim. The talent for the task is present in these animals, and, as result, a bird flies high, a fish swims fast. Naturally. Effortlessly.

No pushy manager must be present to make this happen. No cushy compensation plan must be in place to keep it happening. Birds fly and fish swim for the pure joy of the experience.

The final secret to getting things done through others is fit.

Leaders with people power understand this dynamic and work hard to align the talent and tasks of the people who work for them. Or, in the words of Jim Collins, “getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.”

Fit then leads for you, getting things done through others almost miraculously.

When talent and task are aligned, people work for the pure joy of the job. In fact, it feels more like play than work at all. They go the extra mile, not because they’re forced to, but because they want to. A fire’s burning inside them that mere time can’t put out.

Turn In Your Cape and Take Off Your Tights

When people trust you as a leader, are working for a purpose they believe in deeply, doing that for which they are uniquely gifted, you possess people power. There’s nothing that can stand in your way.

So it’s time to turn in your cape.

It’s time to take off your tights (They didn’t fit very well anyway).

And it’s time to stop pretending you’re a super hero with super powers and learn how to become a real leader with people power. A leader who gets things done through others.

The difference you’ll experience as a result will be nothing short of transformational, for both you and the organization you serve.

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Leading Across a Dotted Line: Responsibility without Authority http://billzipponbusiness.com/leading-across-a-dotted-line/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/leading-across-a-dotted-line/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 07:00:42 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=5084 Jenean manages an enterprise sales team for a rapidly growing technology company. She sits in Seattle with half of her team selling out of the Seattle office. The other half of her team, however, sells out of a Boston office, and one of her sales reps works in London. This is not some rare occurrence. […]

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Jenean manages an enterprise sales team for a rapidly growing technology company. She sits in Seattle with half of her team selling out of the Seattle office. The other half of her team, however, sells out of a Boston office, and one of her sales reps works in London.

This is not some rare occurrence. A distributed work force, nationally and internationally, is now common practice.

But that’s not what makes organizational life so challenging for Jenean. What makes it so challenging are the dotted lines.

Jenean works with a marketing department in Chicago. She’s responsible for providing qualified leads to her salespeople, but has no direct authority over marketing programs, practices, or personnel.

Jenean also works with a software and service team in Israel. Again, she’s responsible for deals that close to actually stay closed and not fall apart in implementation, but has no direct authority over this group either.

It’s a popular notion that the complexity of organizational life today arises from the international setting in which businesses operates—Seattle, Boston, London, Israel. While this can be daunting, it’s often overcome by frequent trips and the latest technology.

The real challenge—the one that no one’s talking about—is the dotted line challenge. The places in our work where we’re held responsible for results but have no direct authority to secure them.

That’s the fundamental nature of a dotted line: responsibility without authority. How do you lead in that context? Can you lead at all? Here are five secrets:

Secret One: Make Your Request

The first and fundamental problem that occurs across a dotted line is a complete lack of clarity around what needs to be done.

In a direct line the potential exists, at least, for someone to enunciate measurable outcomes. In a dotted line, no one feels comfortable doing that because they’re not “the boss” and don’t want to be perceived as being bossy in any way, shape, or form (For, alas, that would be socially unacceptable in today’s politically correct culture).

As a result, critical expectations are left unexpressed and pressing business needs unaddressed.

In this fog you can lead. In fact, you must. Not by taking on the role of “the boss,” but by being very clear about what you need. Reaching out with an open hand to your internal business partners and asking them to join you in getting something specific done.

Leading Accross a Dotted Line

Secret Two: Explain Your Why

Making your request, specifically and respectfully, is the first secret to leading across a dotted line. The second one is this: explain why.

A simple experiment conducted in the 1970’s proves the point. Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, had random people request to break in on a line of employees waiting to use a copier. She instructed these people to use three different, carefully worded requests:

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the copy machine?”

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the copy machine, because I have to make copies?”

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the copy machine, because I’m in a rush?”

The wording of the questions, in specific explaining why, made a dramatic difference on whether a person responded to their request. Here are the results:

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the copy machine?” Received a 60% response rate.

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the copy machine, because I have to make copies?” Received an 83% response rate.

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copy machine, because I’m in a rush?” Received a 94% response rate.

The conclusion? Most people, being social creatures, want to help others out. We’re wired for why. By explaining your why, you’re giving someone a chance to act in a way that’s aligned with their basic humanness.

The formula for doing this is simple, as illustrated in the research study above. Make your request followed by the word “because …” Then give the reason behind your request.

Secret Three: Explore Their Why

More powerful, however, than your why is the why of the person to whom you’re making a request. Victor Frankl famously wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “He who has a why can endure any how.”

The how you are requesting may be hard, even difficult, but by exploring its why from another person’s perspective (not just your own), you unlock a deep, untapped reservoir of motivation.

Human beings are not robots. We need reasons for the things we do. Your why gives an altruistic, others-centered reason. Their why appeals to enlightened self-interest. Both work brilliantly together.

Secret Four: Receive Any Requests

This fourth secret turns the tables of the conversation. Until now you’ve been explaining your requests and the reasons for them, now it’s time to explore any requests that may be made of you.

The way to do this is simple and straightforward. Ask, “What can I do for you and why?” Ask it in all honesty, completely prepared to answer it, and not as a manipulative trick.

You’ll be shocked at how easy it is to fulfill most of the answers you’ll receive. I’ve heard things like, “When your salespeople talk to me, could could you have them slow down and treat me with respect?”

At which point I say, “Done!” And make sure it happens.

Some requests will be much more involved than that, but at least expectations are on the table, out in the open, and you have a chance to work on them together. Remember, lack of clarity is the biggest derailer in working across a dotted line.

The Balance of Advocacy and Inquiry

You’ll notice a balance between advocacy and inquiry in these first four secrets. This is a key theme in my work.  Advocacy only and we drive people away in one-way conversations and one-way relationships. Inquiry only and we become hopelessly accommodating, a doormat to anyone’s demands.

Neither option works across a dotted line. The key is clearly explaining your point of view and honestly exploring the point of view of others. Then reaching an agreement that both of you can fully support.

Advocacy and inquiry allows you as a leader to use the power of influence instead of the power of enforcement, a much more effective use of power, for “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Influence, then, will quickly become your go-to method for leading in any organizational role, dotted line or direct, because it inspires people to follow you freely.

Secret Five: Document and Follow-Through

Frankly, you could complete all the previous four secrets faithfully and have your agreements completely fall apart. Why? A lack of follow-through.

“Follow-through is the cornerstone of execution, and every leader who’s good at executing follows though religiously,” declares best-selling authors Larry Bossily and Ram Charan in Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.

“Following through ensures that people are doing the things they committed to do, according to the agreed timetable. It exposes any lack of discipline and connection between ideas and action, and forces the specificity that is essential to synchronize the moving parts of an organization.”

This is a simple but universally ignored practice. After an advocacy and inquiry conversation, write down the decisions made by detailing who’s going to do what by when and why, and distributing those details to everyone involved.

Who’s going to do what by when and why?

Having documented your agreement in this way, revisit that agreement on a regular basis, every week or every month. Not as a boss but as a workout partner. Both bosses and workout partners provide accountability, and both help us become the best version of ourselves. You’re using the latter because you’re not in a position to use the former. Either works amazingly well, because accountability accelerates performance.

Our Brave New World

This morning I was on a call from my office in Oregon with a sales manager in London, as a sales leader he interacts with joined us from the Midwest. We spent most of our time talking about members of his sales team who work in the Netherlands, one of whom had moved there from France.

This is the brave new world in which we live and work. But it’s a fairly simple world compared to the dotted lines that give us responsibility without authority. Master these five secrets and you’ll thrive in the midst of increasing complexity.

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Three Secrets to an Effective Sales One-on-One http://billzipponbusiness.com/effective-sales-one-on-one/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/effective-sales-one-on-one/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 07:00:25 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=5067 One of the favorite things my wife and I like to do together is try out a new brew pub. We live in the Pacific Northwest, and a new microbrewery seems to pop up every week, so there’s no lack of options to explore. A few weeks ago we were sipping beer (Okay … she […]

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One of the favorite things my wife and I like to do together is try out a new brew pub. We live in the Pacific Northwest, and a new microbrewery seems to pop up every week, so there’s no lack of options to explore.

A few weeks ago we were sipping beer (Okay … she was sipping, I was guzzling.), as a couple in the booth next to us sat down and began—what appeared to be—a first date.

It did not go well.

The guy talked and talked and talked and talked, and the poor young lady sat in silence with a forced smile on her face. Sadly, there was not going to be a second date.

It’s my observation that most one-on-one’s between sales managers and their sales reps are a lot like that ill-fated first date. A sales manager talks and talks and talks and talks and a sales rep sits in silence. The difference is, a sales rep can’t decline to go on a second date, but is subjected to bad behavior like this week after week.

This is tragic because the single-most powerful tool in driving sales performance is managers having effective one-on-one’s with their salespeople. They are a proven means for increasing revenue, deepening commitment, and improving productivity.

If there’s one thing you’ve got to get right in sales leadership, it’s having effective one-on-one’s. No exceptions. Here are three secrets for doing just that:

Secret One: Ask Good Questions

Unlike our hapless dating friend, an effective sales one-on-one is making the meeting all about the sales rep and not about the sales manager. The way in which you do that is by asking questions. Honest questions. Genuine questions. Meaningful questions. Good questions.

Good questions ask a salesperson to think for themselves, and not rely on their sales manager to think for them. Good questions allow a salesperson to hear their own voice, building buy-in and creating accountability. Good questions expand organizational capacity and break the bottleneck of dependency most sales managers allow to exist (unintentionally) within their sales team.

The flow of questions in an effective sales one-on-one starts with the past then moves to the present and the future as follows:

Sales One-on-One FlowThe Past: Results

An effective sales one-on-one begins with reality. It does not launch into fanciful dreams for the future without first understanding true business conditions up to this moment in time. Questions about past results are not demeaning or derogatory. They are objective, factual, and posed with the dignity and respect all sales reps deserve.

Here are the questions to ask:

  • What is your sales performance compared to your sales plan for the month?
  • What is your sales performance compared to your sales plan for the year?
  • Where are you in stack ranking with your peers?
  • Where would you like to be? This question applies to all three of the questions above.

Do not under any circumstances give a salesperson the answers to these questions. They will not own the answers if you do. Provide access to the information needed and ask them to share that information with you. The latest, current, accurate information.

After briefly connecting with a rep on a personal basis, this part of your one-on-one kicks-off and frames your meeting with them and shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

The Present: Pipeline Health

Once you’ve framed the sales one-on-one by an honest look at reality, it’s time to explore pipeline health. The present. This will take the bulk of your time with a sales rep and provide the vital information you need to assemble an accurate forecast.

Here are the questions to ask:

  • What new opportunities are in your pipeline today that were not in it the last time we met? What makes each a good opportunity?
  • What existing opportunities have you moved forward in the sales process since we last met? What are the best ways to keep each moving in a positive direction?
  • How does the volume of opportunities in your pipeline support your goals for this month/year? Are any changes needed?
  • How does the distribution of opportunities in your pipeline by stage support your goals for this month/year? Are any changes needed?

The answers you receive to these questions determines how you’ll proceed in your one-on-one. Will you pivot to the right or pivot to the left?

Secret Two: Pivot

The real genius of an effective sales one-on-one takes place here in Secret Two: Pivot. After you ask your questions, listen closely and, based not the answers you receive, adapt your response to the needs of the moment.

Pivot A – Inform and Inspire

If the answers you receive on pipeline health indicate that a sales rep lacks the information he or she needs to move forward successfully, you’re free to talk. Only if, however, you’re convinced the rep really doesn’t know the answers to your questions. If they do know the answers and you jump in and talk, you’re hijacking the one-on-one and preventing learning and accountability from taking place.

If however a rep is truly stuck, give them the information they need and follow that information with the inspiration they also need to do it. In other words, provide direction and then support.

Pivot B – Praise and Polish

If the answers you receive indicate that a sales rep actually has the information he or she needs to move forward successfully, keep drawing them out by continuing to ask good questions (The simple question, “What else?” May be all you need). Limit the talking you do, then, to a bare minimum. Your goal in Pivot B is to help a rep hear their own voice and hold themselves accountable to achieve their own goals. You’re there to facilitate that process, not dominate it.

If you need to say anything, make it polishing—fine tuning—not advice giving. In other words, provide support and then direction (if needed).

The key to doing this well, again, is listening closely and attentively. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Ask your questions, shut up, and focus on the response. Then, and only then, open your mouth.

For those of you familiar with Situational Leadership, you’ll recognize the dynamic mix of direction and support in Pivot A and Pivot B. You’ll also noticed that I’ve skipped diagnosis, which on the whole I find to be a theoretical exercise that takes place in a vacuum. Pivoting is much more dynamic, diagnosing on the fly and quickly applying the leadership style needed, live, in the moment. Much more like the real sales world.

Secret Three: Wrap-Up

In wrapping up your sales one-on-one, it’s critically important that you return to asking good questions. This time, however, your questions are about the future, not the past or the present. Or in the words of Paul Simon in his multi-platinum album, Graceland, “Breakdowns come and breakdowns go, so what are you going to do about it? That’s what I’d like to know.”

Here are the questions to ask:

  • What are you going to do in the next week/month to build your pipeline to achieve the results you want?
  • What else? Ask this question repeatedly (and kindly) until all options are exhausted.

Make sure that both of you write down the actions that emerge from the answers to these questions. Capture the commitments made in this part of the meeting and review these commitments at your next one-on-one. You’ll only have to do this a couple of times and your reps will get the idea that you’re a leader who’ll help them become the very best version of themselves, as opposed to a leader who can’t remember from one meeting to the next what they’ve agreed to do.

World Class One-on-One’s, World Class Results

Each part of the sales one-on-one—the past, the present, and the future—teaches your team what’s important in sales. What’s important in sales? Results, pipeline health, and activity.

Don’t deviate from these priorities or delve into hypothetical discussions about sales “strategy.” For that, too, will teach. It will teach that talk’s more important than action (not something you want learned).

Most of us as sales managers are compulsive talkers. We like to hear our own voice and love to give advice. This backfires as badly as a boring first date and alienates those in the meeting with us. Follow this structured plan. Ask the questions I’ve given in each part of the plan, and your one-on-one’s will become world class. So too your results.

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Focus and Flow: How to Spend the Time of Your Life http://billzipponbusiness.com/focus-and-flow/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/focus-and-flow/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2016 07:00:55 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=5020 Walk into any mall in any city in America and you’ll be confronted with a dizzying array of things to buy. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, furniture, watches, computers, televisions, and enough food to feed an army (or two or three or four). Try to buy everything that catches your eye, and you’ll soon end up broke […]

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Walk into any mall in any city in America and you’ll be confronted with a dizzying array of things to buy. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, furniture, watches, computers, televisions, and enough food to feed an army (or two or three or four).

Try to buy everything that catches your eye, and you’ll soon end up broke and bankrupt.

ThailandMall

The current climate in which we live and work has a similar dynamic. A dizzying array of things to do—meetings, tasks, texts, email, dates, and deadlines—confront us every minute of every day. Try to fit them all in, and you’ll end up emotionally broke and physically bankrupt.

There are two secrets to surviving, and even thriving, in this 24/7 tsunami: focus and flow. Here’s how each works:

The First Secret: Focus

This first secret asks a simple question, “What are the most important things of the most important things in your life?” Asking this question in a repeated, rigorous way applies focus to the myriad of options available to you and how you spend your time.

It’s like setting a budget before you go to the mall. A budget, not because you’re cheap (Okay, you may be cheap, but that’s a different story), but because you have important financial priorities you want to be true to no matter what.

This is a question with two parts. The first part asks what the most important things are in your life. But that’s not enough. The second part of the question sharpens your focus even more.

Being in good physical shape may be an important priority to you. But there are dozens of ways in which to do that. Which one will you choose? Likewise, giving back to the community in service to others may be something that rises to the top of your list, but how exactly will you do that?

That’s why this question doubles down on the most important things of the most important things. The point is to uncover the absolute highest priorities of your life and leadership, not just passing interests.

No one can answer this question for you. And don’t let them. That’s where much of our busyness comes from, fulfilling the expectations of others and not following our own voice, blazing our own trail.

Having answered this question, the next question to answer is: What are you going to do about it? That is, if these are your highest priorities, what goals will you set to get them done? It’s one thing to have a dream, quite another to give that dream a deadline.

The first part of the focus question is aspirational, even idealistic. But the second part is real, measurable, and practical. Vision is the ongoing mission for the key areas of your life, goals are the plan that emerges from your mission each and every year.

The Second Secret: Flow

Armed now with your vision and your goals—dreams with deadlines—secret two, flow, now comes to the party.

Flow is very different than focus but just as important to the process. Focus selects from a myriad of options what is to be done, flow now takes those selections and makes them work in real time.

focus and flow

Focus is cool and calculating, almost ruthless in pruning unimportant activities from our life. Flow, however, is emotional, even is artistic, allowing those activities to flourish.

Flow is a term pioneered by the legendary Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his groundbreaking book by the same name. It refers to a state of optimal experience where we’re doing something that captures our attention and consumes our imagination, seemingly without exerting any effort whatsoever.

Flow challenges us without breaking us, keeping us from boredom without burning us out. In a state of flow, time stands still and work feels like play.

The great misconception about flow, however, is that it’s a random occurrence, a mystical event that comes and goes like a mirage. This isn’t the case. We create the conditions for flow to exist by spending protected time on the things that give us energy.

Experiencing flow on a consistent basis is the result of wise planning, not dumb luck.

In this way focus leads to flow. In other words, focus culls from all the things we could do, the things we must do because they are our highest priorities: the things we believe in deeply, the things that give us joy. Flow then makes time for these things so we actually do them.

The process looks like this: vision becomes goals, and goals become steps of action we place in our calendar, protected from the demands of others that would derail them. This practice is known by a decidedly un-flowlike term, time blocking, but it’s a central discipline that allows optimal experience to take place.

I time block sales calls and writing sessions, exercise workouts and date nights by scheduling them in my calendar each week as uninterruptable events. I do this because they are the most important things of the most important things in my personal and professional life.

MORE: How to Make the Most of Every Week in 60 Minutes or Less

When a week doesn’t flow, we must discover why and make the necessary corrections. If we don’t, more weeks will be wasted, and along with them, ultimately, our very lives. If the unexamined life is not worth living, neither is the unexamined week.

The Real Power of Personal Productivity

Which brings us to the real power of personal productivity. The real power of personal productivity is not to see how much crap we can cram into a day. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s real power is to uncover the things we feel most deeply about, our passions and priorities, and give them the protected time they need to grow and flourish.

This is the secret to surviving, and even thriving, in the crazy-busy world in which we live and how to spend this precious thing called time: find your focus and give it flow, every day of every week.

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The Angry Leader: Critical Lessons from C-Suite Meltdowns http://billzipponbusiness.com/angry-leader/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/angry-leader/#comments Tue, 01 Mar 2016 08:00:36 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=5001 It started with an earthquake. Then came the tsunami. A giant 50-foot wave overwhelmed the seawall at the Fukushima Power Plant and flooded generators cooling the cores. In rapid succession, three nuclear reactors melted down. That tragic event happened five years ago this month. Thousands lost their lives and the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl […]

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It started with an earthquake.

Then came the tsunami.

A giant 50-foot wave overwhelmed the seawall at the Fukushima Power Plant and flooded generators cooling the cores. In rapid succession, three nuclear reactors melted down.

That tragic event happened five years ago this month. Thousands lost their lives and the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl occurred as a result.

The word “meltdown” could be used for some of the behavior I’ve witnessed in C-suite boardrooms. An earthquake, of sorts, occurs, perhaps a sales forecast missed or a financial detail dropped. Troubling, yes, but not tragic. Yet.

But then there’s the response to the earthquake, a tsunami of emotion and accusation, which, in turns, results in more reaction and more accusation. Soon everyone is flooded with emotion and the fallout affects the entire organization.

angry_leader

Here are three critical lessons from the C-suite meltdowns I’ve seen as an executive coach and consultant:

Lesson One: Anger Feels Good but Fails Badly

For most of us, it feels good to get angry. In the moment, at least (some of us feel guilty afterwards). We feel powerful, strong, and even righteous in expressing our point of view vociferously.

As cathartic as it might feel to vent our anger in a meeting, the results are always destructive. There are a dozen different reasons for this, but here’s the main one: it injects fear into the organization.

And fear doesn’t deliver world class performance.

Fear forces people to think only of short term results (alleviating the source of fear). It keeps them from taking risks, for fear of failure and punishment, and closes their mind to creative alternatives. Anxiety and creativity do not coexist.

Think of it this way. People run really, really fast for two reasons. To get away from a snarling German shepherd and to win a gold medal. With the former, people stop running the minute the German Shepherd is gone. With the latter, they’ll run year after year after year to get better and beat the competition.

Which of those two options do you want in your company?

Lesson Two: You Get What You Ask For but Not What You Want

Of course, the natural consequence of fear is compliance. That is, the sheer force of fear makes people do what you say. Immediately, without thinking.

But is that what you really want? People acting without thinking? Is this the kind of business you want to build, a collection of people who look to you to tell them what to do, fearful of taking independent action?

I didn’t think so.

But that’s what the phrase “you get what you ask for but not what you want” means. You want strong, strategic thinkers who bring all their energy and creativity to the table to meet the challenges of the marketplace. Anger short-circuits all that.

Again, anxiety and creativity do not coexist. Neither do enforcement and empowerment. Nor personal accusation and open discussion.

Lesson Three: Anger Poisons Its Possessor

Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Anger has a similar effect. The more we give in to anger, the more we get angry. And the more we get angry, the more we become an angry leader, managing people through fear, intimidation, and exploitation.

Like most things in life, anger is something that happens. It’s part of the human experience. The goal is not to eliminate it—that really can’t be done—but to control it. To manage it. To keep it from hijacking the airplane of our leadership and crashing it into the ground.

Here’s the alternative, then, to the emotional hijacking anger can cause.

Anger’s Alternative: Stop. Be Safe. Be Sound.

Anger is part of the emergency response system that’s been built into our brain. It’s the fight side of the fight or flight reaction we feel in a threatening situation. It’s a primal emotion and not our best foot forward in most circumstances.

The adrenaline that surges through our veins when we’re angry (much like a tsunami) can overwhelm us and cause us to say things and do things we regret later. Really stupid things.

When that overwhelming impulse to act flows through you, stop. Do nothing. Get control of your emotions before you say anything, before you do anything.

Then be safe. That is, attend to the dynamics of the relationship before addressing the issue at hand. Set a context where your words can be heard.

Listen before you speak. Understand before you try being understood. If you’ve contributed to the problem at hand, own it. Say you’re sorry.

Then, when it’s time for you to speak: be sound. State your point of view clearly, plainly, factually. And be brief.

The tendency we have when operating under the influence of adrenaline is to exaggerate, to press our position too hard and go on and on and on. This is not sound and will cause people to reject in its entirely what we have to say.

Safe_Sound

Here’s some advice I was once given about my tendency to go on and on and on in a tense situation, “Stand up, speak up, and shut up.” Not bad advice.

Are you an an angry leader? Here’s my warning: it will ruin the very business you’re trying to build. And it will ruin your life. But don’t take my word for it. Consider the wisdom of Solomon, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds in back.”

In other words, stop. Be safe. Be sound.

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How to Win the Morning: The CEO Solution http://billzipponbusiness.com/morning-practice/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/morning-practice/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2016 08:00:48 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4971 There she sat across the table from me. Frazzled, frustrated, and utterly exhausted. This gifted, passionate leader had been the CEO of her company for only a few months, but she was already running on empty. And wondering … Wondering if the role was right for her. Wondering if she had what it takes to […]

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There she sat across the table from me. Frazzled, frustrated, and utterly exhausted.

This gifted, passionate leader had been the CEO of her company for only a few months, but she was already running on empty.

And wondering …

Wondering if the role was right for her. Wondering if she had what it takes to lead at this level. Wondering if all her hard work really mattered anyway.

Yes, yes, and yes.

But no. No to how she was going about it: waking up, smartphone in hand, texting, emailing, and getting the latest news before her first cup of coffee. And continuing her mad dash through the day, collapsing in bed just before midnight, smartphone in hand again. Busy business

This is a recipe for disaster, physically and emotionally, mentally and spiritually. So I shared with her what I’ve come to call The CEO Solution.

The CEO Solution is based on a powerful principle that effective leaders for centuries have followed. Make the very first hour (or so) of your day a protected, private time of personal reflection and strategic preparation.

In short, win the morning. For when you win the morning, you win the day, and when you win the day—everyday—you win the weeks, the months, and the years of your life and leadership.

So whether you’re a busy CEO, a stressed-out salesperson, or just looking to gain greater control in your life, here’s my approach to this morning practice: four rules and four rhythms.

Win the Morning: Four Rules

1. No Snooze

The first key to winning the morning is refusing to lose to your alarm clock. Every time it goes off and you hit snooze, you’re admitting defeat at the very start of the day.

So rule number one is this: when the alarm clock goes off, get up. No exceptions. No excuses. What that means for most of us is getting ready to win the morning the night before. Turning off the television, shutting down your electronic devices, not drinking too much alcohol, and going to bed at a decent time.

If waking up is a challenge for you, Google the term “sleep hygiene” and follow the instructions you find. Or read the brilliant book The Promise of Sleep by the pioneer in sleep research,  Dr. William Dement.

2. No News

The second rule involves not injecting yourself with the drug of adrenaline at the very start of the day.

“If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead,” is an newsroom mantra for a reason. News is about the latest emergency. Breaking headlines scream crisis, crisis, crisis. And if there’s no crisis to report, one will be made up.

This is not how you want to begin your day because crisis kills creativity and short-term urgencies undermine long-term priorities. Feel free to read the news later in the day, just don’t start with it.

3. No Email

For similar reasons, the first hour of your day should not be spent answering email (or posting on social media).

“Once you start looking at email, the whole day cascades into email responses and replying back and forth,” writes Laura Vanderkam in What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.

Urgency, not priority. Crisis, not creativity. Don’t start any day this way. Again, after your morning practice, take the time to answer your email. But not before.

4. No Cheating

This final rule is like the eleventh commandment. What’s the eleventh commandment? Do the first ten!

In other words, don’t cheat on the above rules. And I know that’s easier said than done, adrenaline can become an addiction and checking email an obsession. As with any bad habit, though, its power must be broken or your life is not your own.

Win the Morning: Four Rhythms

1. Read and Reflect

What do you do instead of reading the news, checking email, and posting on social media first thing in the morning? Read and reflect.

Feed your mind. Feed your soul. Feed your spirit.

While you’re Googling sleep hygiene, Google the term “sinkhole” as well. What you’ll find is extraordinary video footage of the ground swallowing up roads, houses, cars, and anything else in its path.

What happens with a sinkhole is ground water below the surface of the earth dries up and things above the surface collapse into it. It’s a crisis affecting states like California and Florida that have been overrun with commercial development. Get the point?

Your outer world is entirely dependent on your inner world to survive.

Reading and reflecting is the first 30 minutes of my morning practice. I read the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs in their entirety once a year and write in my journal the thoughts and prayers that flow from them. Your spiritual tradition may be different, but the principle is the same: the perspective of eternity is where to start with time.

2. Exercise

Having fed my soul and spirit, the next 30 minutes of my morning practice involves physical exercise.

Exercise is another one of those below the surface activities in our inner world that our outer world is entirely dependent upon. A sudden heart attack or a case of chronic depression is often the collapse of a sinkhole in a life that’s not attended to the priority of physical health.

It doesn’t take much, but 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, some strength training and stretching, and I’m energized for the day. If I need a longer run or a more extensive workout, I’ll do it later in the afternoon or on the weekend.

While leaders of past centuries don’t mention health club memberships and elliptical machines as part of their morning practice, they didn’t live the sedentary sitting life we do today. That’s why exercise is one of the four rhythms and the morning the best time of day for most of us to succeed in it.

3. Review Your Vision

Now it’s time to think about work. But not its pressing problems. Reviewing vision is about looking at your strategic priorities. The demands of the day should always be filtered through a larger lens, the view from 30,000 feet.

“Concentration—that is, the courage to impose what really matters most and comes first—is the executive’s only hope of mastering time and events instead of being their whipping boy,” Peter Drucker wrote four decades ago in The Effective Executive. His words are even more true today.

Impose what matters most and comes first by writing out your vision and reviewing it every day. Keep it simple and powerful. Vision is what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you’re going to get it done. That’s it.

I have statements like these for each area of my life and make them an integral part of my morning practice (instead of being the whipping boy of time and events).

4. Focus on Execution

You’re now ready to plan the day, but in a different way than perhaps you’re used to. Instead of having a long list of things to do and whacking at that list like a slab of meat, take a different approach.

Ask yourself, “What’s the most important things I can do today to fulfill my highest priorities?”

Pick five or fewer, three might even be best, and write them down. You can use a 3×5 card, an app on your smartphone, or a dry erasable board on the wall. Whatever method you use, these five (or fewer) are your focus for the day.

I call these items VIT’s: Very Important Tasks. They’re not the only things you’ll do in the day for sure. But they’re the first things. The most important things. The things that are aligned with your strategic vision for all the areas of your life.

The cumulative effect of five VIT’s getting done everyday without fail has a profound effect on personal and professional productivity. You’ll be amazed at the difference focusing on the execution of a vital few priorities will have on being more successful as a leader, instead doing a dozen things half-way.

MORE: Three Powerful Steps to Make the Most of Every Day

Here’s another piece of wisdom from Peter Drucker, this from an interview with Forbes magazine, “The pressure on leaders to do 984 different things is unbearable, so the effective ones learn how to say no and stick with it. They don’t suffocate themselves as a result. Too many leaders try to do a little bit of 25 things and get nothing done. They are very popular because they always say yes. But they get nothing done.”

Don’t be that kind of leader.

Strengthen your “no” muscle first thing every morning. That’s how you’ll get stuff done. The important stuff, the high priority stuff, the stuff that really needs doing.

Are you in?

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Culture: The One Thing That Changes Everything http://billzipponbusiness.com/culture-the-one-thing-that-changes-everything/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/culture-the-one-thing-that-changes-everything/#comments Tue, 15 Dec 2015 08:00:02 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4896 It’s not enough to just be in business. There may have been a time when that was enough (maybe), but not anymore. To just be in business means that you just provide a job to your employees, just provide a product to your customers, and just provide shelf space to your vendors. The problem is, […]

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One thingIt’s not enough to just be in business.

There may have been a time when that was enough (maybe), but not anymore.

To just be in business means that you just provide a job to your employees, just provide a product to your customers, and just provide shelf space to your vendors.

The problem is, employees today are looking for more than a job, they’re looking for a cause they can commit to with all their heart and soul.

Customers today are looking for more than a product, they’re looking for a company they can believe in and recommend freely to family and friends.

And vendors today are looking for more than just another retail channel, they’re looking for strategic partners with whom they can build a long term business relationship.

Businesses that are just in business don’t last long in this new reality. Try telling today’s customer that you can’t respond to their request because, “It’s not our policy.” Gone is what they’ll be, to someone else who will.

And that’s a good thing. A very good thing. But it means doing business differently.

Are You Ready for Different?

Different means this. It means creating a culture at the core of your company that makes your business a movement, not a half-hearted attempt at making money. Culture motivates the people who work for you to give one-hundred percent effort, one-hundred percent of the time and inspires loyalty in customers like a religious experience.

This is Southwest making travel fun. This is Nike making life an adventure. This is Apple making technology elegant and simple.

Culture also makes money. Southwest … Nike … Apple. All money making enterprises, am I right? But money didn’t come first with any of those companies. Culture came first, then money. Lots of it.

What Is Culture?

What is culture? Quite simply, it’s the internal operating system of your company.

We all love a good app, don’t we? It may be a game, a social media site, a to-do list manager, or a news aggregator. We have our favorites and use them every day, many times a day.

No app in the world, however, can make up for a bad operating system. If the operating system on your smartphone is slow, out of date, or simply broken beyond repair, an app won’t work no matter how amazing it is.

In the business world there are apps as well—marketing, sales, production, service—and there’s the operating system. Culture is that operating system. The best product at the best price brought to the marketplace with the most brilliant plan cannot overcome the destructive power of a broken culture.

Or, in the words of Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

And this is where to begin in leadership, because the impact of culture is all pervasive. Rather than having it be an occasional concern, successful executives make culture their top priority and enjoy world-class performance as a result.

Two Keys to Culture

Culture really isn’t that complicated. Your internal operating system is driven by two things: beliefs and behavior.

Keys to Culture

Beliefs come first. They’re the values your company embraces at its very core. Beliefs are what your firm says it will do no matter what, the most important things of the most important things. These are what define your company’s character.

Behavior follows beliefs. It’s what you actually do as a company about what you say you will do. Not mere words on a page or a plaque on the wall, but the actions you take based on your values. Consistency of character. Practicing what you preach.

It’s a beautiful thing when behavior and beliefs are aligned. Customers feel the difference and employees give their all. The expectations they have about your company meet their actual experience. Imagine that?

The converse is painful.

At the college I attended, the dean’s birthday was Clash Day. What we did on Clash Day was express our “love” for the dean by wearing clothes with colors that clashed terribly. We marched around as clowns on campus in repelling outfits with offensive color combinations.

For some companies, everyday is Clash Day between what they say they will do and what they actually do, between the things they espouse and the actions they take. As a result, they repel employees and customers alike.

As you come to the end of this year as a leader and consider the opportunity of the next twelve months that lie ahead, ask yourself these questions. How’s the culture at your company? How well are its beliefs and its behavior aligned? What can you do about it?

It’s the one thing that changes everything.

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Stop Using ABC and Start Using ABG http://billzipponbusiness.com/stop-using-always-be-closing/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/stop-using-always-be-closing/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 08:00:12 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4884 Classic sales dogma says this: ABC. Always be closing. If you’re still following that acronym, please stop. Now. You’re ruining sales for the rest of us. Replace it with this: ABG. Always be giving. ABG Versus ABC Here are four critical differences between ABG and ABC: Always be giving starts by providing important, valuable information […]

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Classic sales dogma says this: ABC. Always be closing.

If you’re still following that acronym, please stop. Now. You’re ruining sales for the rest of us.

Replace it with this: ABG. Always be giving.

ABG Versus ABC

Here are four critical differences between ABG and ABC:

Always be giving starts by providing important, valuable information with your prospects. Information they would pay for, but you provide free to build a trusting, professional relationship. Always be closing pushes and pushes and pushes for a deal, destroying the buyer-seller relationship.

Always be giving infuses sales calls with helpful content that prospects look forward to receiving. Imagine that, a prospect welcoming your sales efforts because they’re consistently helpful and informative. Always be closing irritates and alienates buyers, eventually burning every lead on your list.

stop using always be closing

Always be giving qualifies prospects and improves the quality of your pipeline. As prospects consume the valuable information you’re providing, they start moving through the sales process without even realizing it. Always be closing teaches prospects to say “no” at the very start of the sales process, resisting any attempts to move further in it.

And finally, always be giving makes sales fun and rewarding. Your sales week involves genuinely offering help to people with their pressing business needs. Always be closing sets you up as an adversary to the buyer, someone you must conquer and kill. Not fun.

Is Closing Dead?

Given the dynamics described above, is closing dead? No, it’s just different.

Buyers are more sophisticated than ever before and won’t be hoodwinked or pressured into a sale. If you try, they’ll go down the street (or to the Internet).

But buyers are still human beings, and human beings need the occasional poke and prod to help them do what’s in their best interest. So once you’ve established a trusting relationship using ABG, leverage that relationship to close a deal through legitimate methods like multiple pricing options, impending deadlines, usage scenarios, and limited trials periods.

Use these closing techniques not as manipulation, but, again, as ways to help prospects do what’s in their best interest. And, because you’ve built the platform of a trusting relationship by giving and giving, that platform can hold the weight of your request.

Giving first, then receiving. What a concept! It’s a revolutionary approach to sales that the best sales professionals are using to hit their number every week, every month, every quarter, every year.

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Make Your Point in Print: Five Powerful Writing Tricks http://billzipponbusiness.com/five-writing-tricks/ http://billzipponbusiness.com/five-writing-tricks/#comments Tue, 27 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000 http://billzipponbusiness.com/?p=4825 There it is: the blank screen. Staring at you. Mocking you. Daring you to write something that will actually be read. Daring you to write something that will be taken seriously and acted upon. It may be an email, a report, a letter, a blog post, or any one of a dozen forms of written […]

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There it is: the blank screen. Staring at you. Mocking you. Daring you to write something that will actually be read. Daring you to write something that will be taken seriously and acted upon.

computer-screen

It may be an email, a report, a letter, a blog post, or any one of a dozen forms of written communication executive leaders must master today.

And there you sit. Stuck. Afflicted, not with writer’s block (You’ve got plenty to write about. Too much to write about, in fact), but with writer’s doubt. “Will anybody ever read this?” you wonder. “Will it make a difference if they do?”

You’re in good company. Legions of leaders like yourself have stared at the blank screen, desperately needing to communicate through the written word, doubting if any of it will break through the clutter. It’s like what you have to say is a tiny drop of water in a massive ocean of meaningless communication.

So here’s help for your blank screen moments. The top five tricks expert writers use to make their point in print. Use them yourself, with utter and complete abandon, to have your words pop on the page.

Writing Trick One: Tell a Story

Since the dawn of time, stories have been used as a means of communication in every culture. Aesop has his fables, Shakespeare his plays, and Ted his talks.

As a professional speaker, I’ll meet people who heard me speak years prior, and they’ll recite—nearly word for word—a story I told in a previous address (Sadly, not my fabulous three point outline).

That’s the power of a great story.

Consider the beginning of this article. I could’ve stared with the words, “There are five tricks experts writers use to make their point.” But I didn’t. I started with a story, a story about a blank screen.

Stories draw people in. They spark human emotion and illustrate truth in a compelling way. Use them well.

MORE: Nail Your Next Presentation: Tell a Great Story

Writing Trick Two: Twist a Phrase

This is one of the niftiest tricks expert writers use to make their point in print. They take a well-worn phrase and twist it. This trick is eye-catching, attention-grabbing, and exceedingly memorable. Good writing all.

It’s “Ready, Fire, Aim” instead of “Ready, Aim, Fire.” It’s “The War of Art” instead of “The Art of War.” It’s Warren Buffet’s brilliant, “You can’t teach a young dog old tricks.”

To twist a phrase, identify the main point of your writing piece. Explore sayings that could be used to disprove the point. Now twist one to, in fact, prove your point.

I once read a statement on LinkedIn that said, “I survived a meeting that should have been an email.” So I wrote an article on the overuse of email when communicating emotional information, using the words, “I survived an email that should have been a meeting.”

That’s how you twist a phrase.

Writing Trick Three: Break the Rules

Some of the rules we learned in Composition 101 still haunt us today:

  • A complete sentence has a subject and a predicate.
  • A complete paragraph has a topic sentence, supported by complete sentences that have a subject and a predicate.
  • A complete piece of writing has an introduction with a thesis statement, the logical development of the thesis statement, and a conclusion that recapitulates the thesis statement.

Now yawn.

And forget them all (along with never start a sentence with a conjunction). Write like you speak, in short spurts and dramatic exclamations. Not in thesis statements and puritanical subjects and predicates.

Break. The. Rules.

Writing Trick Four: Keep It Short

While you’re breaking the rules of grammar, don’t break this rule: keep it short.

The most limited resource in business today is not time or money. The most limited resource in business today is attention. We fight for ever-shrinking mind-share, and to get it we must practice pith to make our point.

Here’s a quick quiz. How long is the Gettysburg address? 272 words. How long is the Lord’s Prayer? 52 words. How long is the United States Tax Code? 5.5 million words. I rest my case.

Ann Handley in her best-selling book, Everybody Writes, gives these guidelines on the ideal length of things we write as business leaders:

  • Email Subject Line: 50 characters or less
  • Email: 4 paragraphs or less
  • Paragraph: 4 lines or less
  • Blog post: 1000 words or less
  • Facebook post: 100-140 characters
  • Twitter post: 120-130 characters

Writing Trick Five: Always Call to Action

In this context ACA doesn’t stand for the Affordable Care Act, but something far more effective (and much more affordable). ACA: Always Call to Action.

Expert writers know words pop on the page when they ask readers to do something. Not a dozen somethings, but one specific, strategic something. Cut writing off from this practice, and all you have are mere theories, passive ideas that never change the world.

Business writing is persuasive writing, and all good persuasive writing focuses like a laser on the next immediate step. For every piece of written communication you produce, ask, “What do I want the reader to do?” Then state it clearly, practically, unequivocally.

What’s your next immediate step after reading this article? You’re probably reading it on your computer or smartphone when you could be reading it in your inbox. So I’m asking you sign up to receive my blog on business, leadership, and life by email. Newsletters will come every couple of weeks, and I’ll never give away your contact information to anyone else. Ever.

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