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Why Empathy Matters!

Empathy? Typically, not the first term that comes to mind when we think about leadership or sales, right? Not exactly a traditional business term or strategy. Well, leading and selling today are anything but traditional. And if you want to succeed, then you need to get out of your box and take a new approach […]

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Why Empathy Matters!

Empathy? Typically, not the first term that comes to mind when we think about leadership or sales, right? Not exactly a traditional business term or strategy. Well, leading and selling today are anything but traditional. And if you want to succeed, then you need to get out of your box and take a new approach – one that includes a little empathy. Let me explain.

This past week, I was leading a workshop on Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for a group of leadership executives. EQ is the capacity to be aware of, understand and control your own emotions, as well as understand and manage your reaction to the emotions of others. In my opinion, EQ is a critical element of professional success.

We were focused on the internal workings of the organization, on building a high-performing team. However, when we started covering the fourth element of EQ, Empathy, it hit me that we just tapped the most important skill of all when it comes to business growth today. The more you master the skill of empathy, the more powerful a leader, a team-player and a sales professional you are going to be.

Let me back-up. Again, I was working with this team on Emotional Intelligence, and we were diving deep into the five areas that help you strengthen this skill – Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skill. The first two focus on you understanding yourself, your emotions and how to tap into and use those emotions appropriately. The last three (Motivation, Empathy and Social Skill) are about you reading and understanding the emotions of others; and then, managing your reactions in a way the enhance relationships.

We were having a great day, lots of amazing conversation and really eye-opening exercises. When we hit the topic of Empathy, I have to admit I was a little nervous. I was about to stand in front of a group of high-powered, well-educated C-Suite professionals and talk about feelings. Talk about uncomfortable. You see, Empathy is the ability to understand, connect to and share the feelings of others. Not exactly what they teach in business school.

Nevertheless, it was not only part of the training, I knew it was quite frankly the most important element if this team was going to take their organization next level. As we started working through the exercises I had created, an amazing shift started to happen. This team, these high-powered executives, really started tapping into and understanding the power of reading others’ emotions.  How understanding people is the key to getting your team/clients to trust you. When people trust you, then leading them, working with them, or selling to them is such an easy next step.

So why is empathy so important and how does it lead to trust? To understand empathy, you have to understand people, how we think and how we communicate.  People communicate in a way that serves their needs first. Meaning: no one is ever doing anything “to you”, they are communicating in a way that helps or serves them. When you understand that, you know that no one can hear you or understand you or your needs until their basic need is met. And, understanding other’s basic needs is empathy.

3 Strategies To Build Your Empathy Muscle

  1. Question

The first critical step in building your ability to empathize is to learn to ask great questions. If you want to understand what is important to people, and what is really on their mind, you need to ask. Keep the questions open-ended and get people talking. The more they talk and the less you talk, the more you will learn.

  1. Listen

Next, of course, is listen. Don’t just listen to their words, but to their body language, their facial expressions and what they are really saying between the lines. The better you are at listening, the more you pick-up on the clues to truly understand and read people.

  1. Act

Lastly, and most importantly, do something with the information that you’ve learned. When people see that you bothered to ask, you really listened and you took action, they feel heard. This means they feel invested in, they matter and you are more interested in them than you are in yourself. A true differentiator in today’s marketplace.

So, even though empathy isn’t taught in training or school, it is a crucial component of being a great leader. Empathy should not be seen as a sign of weakness, but rather as a show of leadership, strength and true intelligence.

I’d love to hear your stories of how empathy played a part in your leadership role!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Strategy & Customer Service, Sales Tips and tagged , , , ,

The Silent Profit Builder

Six Strategies to Drive Collaboration I got a new client recently, one that I am excited about working with. First, because they are a referral from another client and that is always fun work to do. Second, because they are ready to make some changes. And third, because they are suffering from a problem that […]

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The Silent Profit Builder

Six Strategies to Drive Collaboration

I got a new client recently, one that I am excited about working with. First, because they are a referral from another client and that is always fun work to do. Second, because they are ready to make some changes. And third, because they are suffering from a problem that I just love to work on and solve. It is a problem that I like to call “the silent profit sucker.” My new client is suffering from lack of collaboration among their teams, their departments and their leaders.

Now, they do not know this is the problem. In their minds it is an unexpected and quite sharp decline in profitability due to a project that is past deadline and over budget. They are frustrated with their vendor, with the team assigned, and with the technology.

They think their problem is strategy, or lack of it. In addition to the absence of accountability. While they are partially right, they are missing the underlying challenge that is really causing their problems.  That challenge is collaboration or lack of it.

Collaboration is the action of two or more people working together to ensure completion of a task or a project. That is the technical definition; however, I think collaboration is so much more than that. In business, collaboration is where the rubber meets the road. It is the magic that happens when individuals work collectively together to achieve a goal.

The magic is increased productivity, decreased stress, absence of drama, and the creation of innovation. Who doesn’t want a workplace like that? Those silent profit builders every company truly needs to succeed in today’s marketplace.

In this marketplace, margins are skinny and competition is fierce. To really make it, you have to ensure every level of your organization is running at top speed, and working together.

Here are my Six Strategies for Igniting Collaboration!

  1. Start at The Top

If you want your team to collaborate, then you, the leader, need to collaborate. Always remember, actions speak louder than words. So, if leaders are looking to work together, gather input from other departments, or talk to competition about partnering. Then, you will see your teams begin to naturally collaborate, without you even saying a word.

  1. Create One Goal

Yes, every department and every team must have their own goals and objectives. However, if you want them to collaborate, they need a unifying goal. One that integrates their goals, and helps them look for reasons to work together and help each other succeed.

  1. Inspire Skin in The Game

It might be easier to tell people to collaborate, but telling never gets the results, that asking does. For true collaboration, teams need skin in the game. As the leader, you own the what. But the how best to do it, that belongs to the team. When you ask people for their input, you not only get great ideas and input, but you inspire ownership.

  1. Feedback Bottom Up

A big part of collaboration is feedback. For collaboration to work, you need to ensure that it comes from every direction, including bottom up. The power of collaboration is getting other departments, other teams, other people with different perspectives to weigh in on your projects. Giving you fresh ideas and innovative solutions.

  1. Invest in Relationships

Unfortunately, you can’t just wave a magic wand and get people to collaborate. Collaboration happens when there is trust, and trust comes when people have formed relationships. So, as leaders you need to foster social time, encourage people to connect, and allow personal relationships to build. When relationships build, trust is formed, and with trust comes the power of collaboration.

  1. Recognize, Reward, Emulate

So often, incentives and rewards are only given for bottom line results. Ironically, to get better bottom line results, you need to really be rewarding the behaviors you want. So next time you look at that  review or  incentive program, think about adding rewards for behaviors and actions you see around collaboration.

There you have it, the six strategies for igniting collaboration. How do you inspire collaboration? I’d love to hear your thoughts on getting your team to work together.

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Growth, Employee Engagement and tagged , , ,

The Power Of 4th Quarter

4 Business Growth Strategies To Jump Start 2018 Yes believe it or not, depending on when you are reading this, we are just about to start or are already in fourth quarter. In my opinion, the fourth quarter is the most important business growth quarter of the year. However, it can often be the forgotten […]

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The Power Of 4th Quarter

4 Business Growth Strategies To Jump Start 2018

Yes believe it or not, depending on when you are reading this, we are just about to start or are already in fourth quarter. In my opinion, the fourth quarter is the most important business growth quarter of the year. However, it can often be the forgotten or most ignored quarter too.

And believe me I get it, keeping the energy high and the drive going can be tough as we head into his last quarter of the year. I mean we are tired; we have worked hard all year long to meet our sales quotas, excel at our goals and ensure that our bottom lines are healthy and strong. Not to mention the fact that with fourth quarter comes budgeting, holidays, parties and a much needed break the everyday routine.

It is exactly for those reasons why fourth quarter is my favorite quarter of the year. It is the quarter that not only determines how strong you will start 2018, but it is the quarter where most of your competitors have taken their foot off the gas.

Success in business is about finding the opportunity and then capitalizing on it and there is no better opportunity then fourth quarter. Make no mistake the actions, the behaviors and the sales expectations you have in fourth quarter will be the single biggest determining factor in how much business you do in the first quarter and perhaps all of 2018.

Sales and business growth start long before they hit your bottom line. If you want to have a strong first half of 2018, then you need to start now, in 2017 on those prospects and customers that you want to do business with next year. And fourth quarter gives you the perfect opportunity for all those reasons that your competitors are slowing down you need to ramp up your fourth quarter strategy.

Holidays, parties and yes even budgeting give you plenty of reasons to head out the door to call on customers. One of the hardest parts of sales is just getting in the door and the unique happenings of fourth quarter give you every reason you need to get that door to open. So how do you get started and what do you need to do?

4 Business Growth Strategies to Jump Start 2018

1. Make a Plan – first and foremost you need to make a plan, and you need to commit to make fourth quarter your strongest sales behavior quarter of the year. Work with your team to determine which customers you are going to call on, which prospects that need to make your list, and then specifically when and how you are going to call on them. Time is short in the fourth quarter, with end-of-year obligations, holidays and vacations, time is not on your side. So, you need to be clear about what you are going to accomplish and who is going to be involved. Involved both from a customer and an employee standpoint and how you are going to do it. I advise my clients to have a 4th Quarter Roadmap, a fourth quarter customer contact plan that everyone can follow.

2. Reach Out – again fourth quarter gives you the best reasons ever to get in the door. You can invite your clients to parties, take them an end of the year gift, just stop by and wish them a happy holiday. The holidays and the “party” atmosphere lends itself to getting out of the office and visiting with your current customers and staying-in-touch with those all-important prospects.

3. Set the Stage – while inviting clients to parties or thanking them for their business is nice, it is not a sales call. Fourth quarter may not be the right time to ask for the business, but it is the perfect time to set the stage. Meaning visiting with clients wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving or a wonderful holiday season is a great start, but you also want to leave clients with the understanding that you will be back. Now is your chance when your delivering presents or celebrating the holidays to let customers know that you look forward to coming back around the first of the year just to make sure they have everything they need to make 2018 their best year ever. You set the stage, plant the seed, so when you give them a call January 3, they are not only expecting you they have already opened the door and are ready for the conversation.

4. Strategize – and last but not least you need to strategize. When all your competitors are using December to drink too much eggnog and eat too much cake, you need to be meeting with your team. Debriefing whom you called on, what you discussed, what presents you delivered to customers and how they enjoyed the holiday drop in. And most importantly what are your next steps, what is going to happen to turn that holiday drop-in into bottom line revenue. Then before you head out the door for the slowest week of the year (week before Christmas and New Years) you have your strategy, you have your action plan and you are all on the same page. You know exactly what to do when you walk in the door January 3 and your busy closes deals before your competition even knew what hit them.

So yes, you have to love fourth quarter it the quarter of opportunity. So what are you waiting for, it is time to rally the troops, and put these four solid business growth strategies into place so you finish strong and start 2018 with BANG!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Growth, Sales Tips and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Why You’re Losing Sales

This week, I was cleaning files and found a few old prospects lists. They were just short mini-lists I had either written on a plane, or while I was not paying attention in a meeting. I make prospect lists when I want to feel productive, or I am bored and stuck doing something I cannot […]

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Why You’re Losing Sales

This week, I was cleaning files and found a few old prospects lists. They were just short mini-lists I had either written on a plane, or while I was not paying attention in a meeting. I make prospect lists when I want to feel productive, or I am bored and stuck doing something I cannot get out of. Writing out my prospects, looking at my pipelines, makes me feel both productive and confident.

As I looked at these old lists, I quickly got out a pen and piece of paper to see if any of these names were prospects I may have forgotten about and perhaps needed to make a call to. I was busy scouring my lists when one particular name caught my eye. A big conference that I had had on my prospect list for years, and one I always desperately wanted to close.

I remembered I had been chasing this prospect for years, trying any angle I could think of to get my foot in the door.  Despite my best efforts, never, not once, not even a rejection, they had just never responded. So, on this old list, I had put them under the NO column. Which for me is something I rarely do (I have a whole strategy for what to do with non-responsive prospects that I will share another time). My only thought is that I must have been so frustrated with their lack of response that I counted them out, and just crossed them off my list.

However, I did not remember marking them “no.” So, I continued to call on them, sending emails, sharing articles, connecting on LinkedIn. Using all of my follow-up techniques that keep me visible without being annoying. Here is the funny part. The very day I found those prospect lists, the day I saw that I had put that prospect squarely in the “no” column, I closed a major contract to speak for them in 2018. How crazy is that?

It was such a massive reminder of how we never know what is going on with prospects. When my prospect, now client, called, she shared that she had wanted me for their conference for more than a year. However, they book their speakers a year and a half in advance and she had to wait until the timing was right. She also thanked me, yes thanked me, for staying in touch and continuing to keep her in the loop as to what I was doing and the value I could bring to her meetings. Sharing that she had brought all that to her committee, making the decision so much easier.

There we have it, closing sales is about having the hutzpah to stay in the game. Finding ways to keep in touch and add value to prospects, and continuing to build the relationship. Research tells us that most salespeople give up after the second or third call, and that ironically, most prospects don’t even begin to take notice until the 8th touch.

If you’re losing sales, chances are it is because you are not staying in the game. You are not remaining visible, and you are not top-of-mind when your prospect is ready to buy.

3 Strategies to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Prospects or Sales

  1. Pause and Go

Prospecting is one of the hardest things we do. It is the art of contacting someone we don’t know to get them to buy something they don’t know they need. So, understand doing that may take a while.

You need a strategy that allows you the stamina to be in it for the long-run. I call this the pause and go. You put your foot on the gas and stay in front of them for three months. Then you pause take maybe a month or two off, then you go again. This ensures you are not bombarding prospects with emails, calls or social media contacts. Yet you are staying in front of them enough, so when they are ready to pull the trigger you are their vendor of choice.

  1. Up the Value

Always remember that follow-up is about adding value, not winning business. What? Yep, you heard me the goal of follow-up is to add value, not to win business. Why? Because if you focus on winning business, then you are focused on yourself and your goals. Focusing on adding value ensures you put your energy and your resources where they belong – on your prospects. If you focus on adding value, then the business will come.

  1. Get the Clue

There is so much good information in rejection or silence from a prospect. When they do not respond at all, or if they say no, you need to get the clue. They are telling you a couple of very important things. First, they do not see the value in doing business with you. Second, their need is not urgent enough, they have other priorities. So, your job is to get your ego out of the way (rejection is not a bad thing and it is not personal) and learn from what your prospect is telling you. Adjust your strategy and try again.

These are my ideas and strategies for how to open more doors and close more sales. I would love hear yours!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Networking, Sales Tips

How Do You Build A Referral Network?

5 Strategies To Win More Business As a motivational keynote speaker, my favorite part of any keynote program is Q & A. That part of the program where anyone in the audience can ask me any question they want to ask me. I call it a “Hot Seat.”  In essence, my audience puts me in […]

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How Do You Build A Referral Network?

5 Strategies To Win More Business

As a motivational keynote speaker, my favorite part of any keynote program is Q & A. That part of the program where anyone in the audience can ask me any question they want to ask me. I call it a “Hot Seat.”  In essence, my audience puts me in the “hot seat” getting the information and ideas they need to implement the information my keynote just covered.

This past week, I had one of the most powerful “hot seats” I have ever experiences. I was lucky enough to be the keynote speaker for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s WomanUp event. We have more than 350 professional women coming together to build their network and expand their skills.

At the close of the one-hour long program, we did a “hot seat”, and I got over forty questions, specific to how to expand and build a network. First on the list was this question about how to build a referral network.

Just so we are all on the same page, let’s define a referral network. A referral network is a group of professional colleagues who send you clients (patients, customers etc.), market your skills and engage in helping you to grow your business.

Why do you want a referral network? Well in my opinion, a referral network is one of the most crucial strategies you need to effectively and efficiently grow your business. When another professional tells a potential client that you are the “go to” person for that service, well closing that sale is almost a sure thing. Traditional advertising is great, sales works too, but nothing is more powerful than getting others to refer you and send you business.

Then that just leaves the question:

How Do You Build A Referral Network?

1. Know Your Opportunities – To build an effective referral network you need to begin with understanding where your opportunity is. In other words, who can and who has the ability to send you referrals? You need to begin by doing your research, and create a list of who (both by name and profession) can easily send you quality referrals. That may mean that you need to back-up and define who is a qualified referral. This “hot seat” question came from someone in the dental industry, so let me use them as an example. If I am a general dentist, then a qualified referral may be someone who needs regular check-ups or needs a new dentist. If I am periodontist, then a qualified referral is someone who has gum disease. Once you know who your qualified referral is, you can better define who can send them to you. Again, the general dentist may go to primary care physicians or even realtors to get referrals. Where the periodontist would go to general dentists.

2. Make A “Value Add” Intro – Once you define who you can send you qualified referrals, you need to meet and engage with them. You need to get in front of them. However, you need to do it in a way that is more about their business then it is about yours. You need to make a “value add” intro. Whether you ask them to coffee, or do a ‘lunch and learn’. You need to find a way to engage with them so that they feel that their business is benefiting from referring to you.

3. Create A Process – Keeping up with a referral network is key, so you have to create a process. A system that allows you to consistently thank sources for referrals, touch base with them to see how things are going, find ways to add more value, and just in essence remain visible and top of mind. You need a process that reminds you what to do and when to do it. For example, maybe every quarter you take your referral source to lunch, or you drop by their office with a thank you gift. Perhaps twice a year you do an in-depth feedback session with them to see what is working and what is not. You get the picture. The idea is to create a process that allows you to nurture your referral network.

4. Apply The 80/20 – Apply the 80/20 rule that is. It is always, let me repeat that, always eighty percent of your business will come from twenty percent of your referral sources. Not all referral sources are the same, and it is your job to track and measure to determine where your referrals are coming from. Keeping up with and nurturing a referral system is hard work and it takes time. To get more efficient and effective, you need to make the number of referral sources manageable. Learn who sends you referrals, how many, and then nurture those referral sources that are the most lucrative.

5. Up Their Value – Always remember someone else, your competition that is, is also chasing and nurturing your referral sources. So, you need to find ways to consistently enhance the relationship they have with you and add value. Do things like send them referrals, keep them informed of exactly what happens with their referrals, provide ways to help them get education or CE credits. Lastly, talk and listen to them; value their ideas and opinions on how to make the relationship with you even more valuable.

Yes, building a referral network is one of your most powerful strategies to grow and enhance your business. Put these strategies in place, and let me know how it goes. I would love to hear your feedback, and gain your ideas on how to gain even more referrals.

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