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How to Build Your Human Capital

5 Strategies For Innovative Succession Planning It is Back – the war on talent! The challenge to find and build a great team. Unemployment is reaching new lows, and for now, this economy is rockin’. While that is good news, it means for those of us in leadership positions, finding, developing and retaining top talent […]

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How to Build Your Human Capital

How to Build Your Human Capital Meredith Elliott Powell5 Strategies For Innovative Succession Planning

It is Back – the war on talent! The challenge to find and build a great team. Unemployment is reaching new lows, and for now, this economy is rockin’. While that is good news, it means for those of us in leadership positions, finding, developing and retaining top talent can be tough.

When finding, developing and retaining top talent is tough, succession planning can be damn near impossible. At a time when we have a record number of baby boomer leaders leaving and retiring from the workforce, we are woefully short on experienced leaders to take their place.

In the past, succession planning was something that was nice for a company to have, a bonus for those organizations that could afford the extra training and development. However, today, if you are not growing your own talent, if you are not developing your next level leaders, then you are going to find yourself on the losing end of the War on Talent!

Understand in this economy the only thing that is differentiating you from your competition is the level of talent you have working for you. Think about it; there is not one single product or service you offer that your competitors do not already offer, couldn’t offer or won’t offer.

In an economy where customers can buy products or services anywhere, any time and from anybody; it is the service, and the experience that your customers are looking for, that is what they are willing to pay for. So controlling the customer experience, and building your reputation is one hundred percent dependent on the level of talent you have in your organization.

 

“ The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” ~ Harvey S. Firestone.

 

Now here is the good news, as the leader, owner or person-in-charge you are in control of the talent you have in your organization, and the depth of succession planning you have in place. All you have to do is make it happen. Wanting a succession plan and building one are not the same things. Here are five innovative succession-planning strategies to get you started:

Five Strategies For Innovative Succession Planning

Own it – Make it your job, as the leader, to develop talent and create a succession plan. All too often talent development and succession planning are delegated to the role of human resources or middle management. While both of those departments need to be involved, if you want Succession Planning to happen in your business, then you need to make it your priority. Take ownership and understand that what you place value on in your organization is what will happen.

Know What You Need – When it comes to talent and succession planning, you need to know what and who you need. You do not need to fill positions; you need to fill positions with people who are the right fit and bring the right value to your organization. Before you start your succession plan, you need to take inventory – what talent do you have, what do you need, what new skill would add value? (source.)

Graph It – The most important part of succession planning is about ensuring you promote and develop the right people. And to establish the right people you need to define what “the right” person is for your business. Jack Welch – the legendary leader of General Electric – used to use a powerful graph to determine who the right people are.

On the left side of the graph, Jack (yes I am going to call him Jack) he lists values. The values for his company, and what he wants in his leaders. On top of the graph, he puts the production, meaning the level to which they help the company achieve their goals. The A’s – share the values and are productive; The B’s are productive but lack the values; C’s share your values but struggle to produce, and D’s well you have to wonder what you are doing employing them at all. (source– Jack Welch)

Graphing your employees ensures you are building your succession plan with team members who share your values and are productive. This is key to ensuring your succession plan is promoting the right leaders.

Develop it – Once you know whom you are going develop, you need to begin to train them. Meaning you must devote in finding out what skills they need, and then provide the training to ensure they get them. This will take time, money and resources, so you need to be prepared to invest. Seems risky right? What will it cost? What if they leave? Remember, if you commit to strong talent development and succession plan, no matter who stays or goes in your organization, you will always get back more than you invest.

Own It – Last but not least; you again have to “Own It”. A succession plan is not something that you start and stop; it is an ongoing process. A continuous process that you must own! As the leader, the one who is placing value on this process, your team needs to see you engaged, involved and actively participating. If they believe it matters to you, it will matter to them.

In today’s marketplace, there is no better investment of your time and energy than talent development and succession planning. If you are looking for an innovative way to stand out from your competition, then invest in these five strategies to build your succession plan.

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in leadership development, succession planning and tagged , , , , ,

How to Sell Financial Services

A Powerful New Course with LinkedIn Learning – taught by Meridith Elliott Powell! (me!) I am very excited to share my new course “How to Sell Financial Services” will be launched on LinkedIn Learning on April 24, 2018. A passion of mine, this course is the nuts and bolts of how to sell financial services. […]

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How to Sell Financial Services

Selling Financial Services by Meridith Elliot PowellA Powerful New Course with LinkedIn Learning – taught by Meridith Elliott Powell! (me!)

I am very excited to share my new course “How to Sell Financial Services” will be launched on LinkedIn Learning on April 24, 2018. A passion of mine, this course is the nuts and bolts of how to sell financial services. This course is for anyone brand new to the industry, those interested in taking their sales skills next level, and for leaders who need to coach and inspire a team to sell.   Here is a sneak peek at what you will find in this innovative video series.

There is little in life, other than family, that is more important to people than their money. They lay awake at night thinking about how to make more of it, how to save it and how to protect it.

That is where we come in, as financial services professionals we have the answers and solutions that can help our clients solve their most significant challenges and ensure they achieve their dreams. However, the only way to do that is to sell.

“The key to selling financial services is to focus first on building trust with your consumers.”

The key to selling financial services is to focus first on building trust with your consumers. In other words, investing early in building their confidence in you. Establishing their belief that the information they are gaining from you is of value. When your customers come to trust you, selling your products and services is much easier and far more rewarding for both you and your clients.

When you begin by building trust with your customers, you open the door for more meaningful conversations, more capacity to learn about your customers, and you are in a stronger position to build a long-term relationship versus a one-time transaction. Their confidence in you grants you the ability to offer multiple products and services which enhance their lives and help you achieve their goals.

To build trust with the customer, you must focus on connecting with your customers. You achieve this by investing the time to understand their goals, their challenges and what they need and want in their relationship with you, their financial services provider.

4 Strategies to Build Customer Trust

  1. Take A Genuine Interest – you begin selling financial services, not by focusing on the products or services you want to sell but be genuinely taking an interest in learning who your customers are. Asking great open-ended questions such as: Tell me a little about yourself? Or What do you do for a living? When you ask open-ended questions, you get your customers talking about the person you are most interested in learning about – them!

At this point of the relationship, you want to focus on asking open-ended questions. Here are some of my favorite questions include:

Tell me a little about your business. That is so interesting, how did you get started doing that? What do you most value in a relationship with a financial services provider? What are some of the most significant changes you have experienced in the last few years – professional or personal?

Those are my “go to” questions. When I begin a relationship by asking those questions, I set the tone that I am far more interested in my customer’s goals than I am on my own. Talk about establishing trust.

  1. Truly Listen – when you ask open-ended questions you get an excellent opportunity to listen – truly listen. When you listen to your customers, tell you about themselves and answer your questions two things happen. One your customers will tell you exactly what they need, what they value and how they want to be sold. If you are listening, this is critical information if you are going to close a deal. The other thing is again when you hear to what they are saying; you are sending a strong message that says this relationship will always be more about them and their goals; then it will be about you and your goals. In other words, you send a message that you are interested and that you care. When customers feel that you listen to them, and when they feel that you care, it sets up the trust you need to begin to build the relationship.

“The biggest communication problem is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply.” ~ Stephen Covey

  1. Act-On Urgent Need – when customers tell you what is most important to them and what they most want this is what we call “urgent need.” Customers cannot hear anything else you are talking about or information you want to share until you acknowledge and solve their urgent need.

Let me give you an example, let’s say that I come into your financial institution to get a car loan. In the discussion you are having with me about this loan, you notice that I have $150,000 sitting in a savings account. In fact, that money has been sitting in there for more than two years, primarily earning no interest. When I share that I do not have plans for the money and that I am not interested in using it to buy my car, you naturally are thinking about talking to me about investor services.

While as my financial services provider you are right, I do need to be thinking about moving that money into a product that will ensure it starts working for me. You need to understand that until you address my need for a car loan (the urgent need I came in for), I will not be open to discussing my investor services need. Why? Not because as the salesperson you are not right, but because when you dismiss my need as not urgent, it makes me as your customer feel unheard. When customers do not feel listened to, they do not trust, and without trust, sales becomes a one-time transaction vs. a long-term relationship.

  1. Plan Next Steps – with your customers urgent need solved, and their feeling of being heard established, you are well positioned to begin to sell financial services. You have built trust, the foundation of creating a long-term relationship. It is time to establish next steps. At the close of any sale, and most importantly after acting on urgent need. Let your customers know you will be calling them in a week, a month, whatever your time frame to discuss the next steps in expanding this relationship. Laying the groundwork for proactive contact is vital to ensure you keep the trust you have built and put yourself in a position to quickly sell your customers more of the products and services they need. My favorite line for this is “Thank you, Mrs. Jones, I enjoyed working with you today. I am going to give you a call in a week just to ensure everything is working smoothly with your account. Then we can talk about some ideas I have, based on our conversation, to save you a little time and perhaps save you a little money.”

This is just the beginning; this course holds so much more about how to sell financial services. By the end of this program, you will not only have built your sales muscle, but you will also have a powerful process you can use day-in and day-out to build your portfolio and expand your customer base.

For more information about selling financial services—I invite you to take my latest course called “Selling Financial Services” on #LinkedinLearning. The course is launching on April 24, 2018

If you enjoyed this post and want to keep up with news about sales, leadership and employee engagement, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter here or follow me at @meridithpowell

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Customer Service – The difference between Poor to Great

One CRITICAL Step to Get Employees on Board My work as a business coach and sales and service speaker has me traveling quite a bit. I often must run errands and take care of family business while on the road. This past week, in between speaking engagements in South Carolina, I needed to pick-up a […]

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Customer Service – The difference between Poor to Great

Image of Grumpy CashierOne CRITICAL Step to Get Employees on Board

My work as a business coach and sales and service speaker has me traveling quite a bit. I often must run errands and take care of family business while on the road. This past week, in between speaking engagements in South Carolina, I needed to pick-up a graduation card for my nephew. Luckily for me, I quickly found a CVS pharmacy and pulled right into parking lot and headed in to make a purchase.

As I selected the card and headed to the counter, I noticed a long line and one poor customer service person handling it all. Now I know she was a “poor” service person because of the irritated look on her face and the story she shared with every customer in line. Here is what she said: “I am sorry for the long line, CVS says they want to improve customer service, but they keep cutting our staff. They are so greedy.”

So now let’s think about this. Ten customers were standing in line, each waiting their turn and listening repeatedly that CVS is understaffed and greedy. What kind of impression does that make, and what kind of brand is CVS creating? I dare say not the one they want.

Now visualize how much CVS, and other corporations are spending on marketing, advertising, sales training, and big customer initiatives. Vast amount of money is being spent, immeasurable decisions are being made, and big ideas are being undertaken in the name of improving customer experience and increasing revenues; all the while overlooking the most critical factor in the customer experience. The element that is going to decide whether the customer service experience improves or falls flat. That element is the employee.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” ~ Richard Branson

Oh, I do not mean that employees do not know, that employees are not sent to training, and that employees are not needed to perform these new tasks. I’m implying that they are not involved, not engaged and not on board. Therefore, they are not “really” improving customer service.

So why if we are spending all that money, engaging all the experts, and implementing the right programs; we are still getting employees who act like that “poor” CVS customer service rep? Because we miss the one critical step that ensures we get our employees on board.

The one critical step? Get your employees involved about customer experience right from the start. You can tell your employees what they need to do, but you need to ask them how to do it. Employees support what they help create. If you want your employees to implement your customer service strategy truly then you need to give them a voice in the process. Get them on board early, help them understand why customer service is important and then include their ideas in the strategy.

Engaged employees outperform their competition and in a gallup survey shows that there is a connection between engaged employees and customer satisfaction!

Getting them involved, giving them a voice gets them motivated, engaged and a reason to take ownership. (source – Forbes) Besides, they live this day-in and day-out and they have great ideas!

All the money in the world, all the best experts and all the latest ideas and techniques will never do as much to help you improve customer service as taking the one critical step you need to get your employees on board. Great customer service begins on the front lines of your company and considering this one crucial step will make sure your frontline staff has the same goal in mind as your top executives.

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Chasing The Elusive Dream Of Work-Life Balance

Four Vital Lessons I Learned From Taking Time Off I just took a month off from work, an entire month where I made the decision to go have fun, travel (to Southeast Asia) and not to focus on growing my business. Okay I will admit, I did still answer some emails, and I did make […]

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Chasing The Elusive Dream Of Work-Life Balance

Four Vital Lessons I Learned From Taking Time Off

Chasing The Work Life BalanceI just took a month off from work, an entire month where I made the decision to go have fun, travel (to Southeast Asia) and not to focus on growing my business. Okay I will admit, I did still answer some emails, and I did make some sales calls, but again, I was for the most part MIA (missing in action) from my business.

This is my second year in a row doing this. Giving myself permission to turn off my entrepreneurial drive for two full months per year. Even though the idea scared me to death the first year, I decided to do it as an experiment just to see what would happen. What would happen if I took my foot off the gas and focused my attention elsewhere? To my surprise in 2017 the result was that my business increased by thirty percent. We will see what happens at the close of 2018.

So why did I decide to do this? Well, like most of you who run your own business, or are part of a team that is driven to succeed, I work all the time. I never turn it off. Now I love what I do, so this work is not something I don’t like, in fact just the opposite, it is something I have the passion for, and I am driven to do.

However, I kept reading the articles, listening to the gurus about the importance of taking time away from the business. Doing that would actually recharge my battery and increase my productivity. Also, I wanted to travel. Now that my husband has more flexibility in his work, it is the first time in our lives we can take those three and four-week vacations.

Being a life-long workaholic, I started small. Three years ago, I took my first two-week vacation half of which put me in a location with no Internet access. When my business did not suffer, it motivated me to take it a step further. In 2017 the goal was to take one month off, and I chose May (one of my historically busiest months.) When the world did not come crashing down, and I actually realized how much I enjoyed my month away, I decided to take December off too. When my accountant told me at year-end that my business actually went up, I was sold on this idea of giving myself permission to chase this elusive dream of work-life balance.

Now I don’t really believe in balance nor am I striving for it. I think a smarter goal is to know what you want out of life both professionally and personally, then merge those together in a way that has you feeling excitement whether you are doing either. For me, I had found that in my professional life, there were goals and things I wanted to do personally that I needed time away from my business to achieve.Chasing Work Life Balance

Here are Four Vital Lessons I Learned From Taking Time Off

Re-Charging My Most Important Muscle – I have always heard that the brain is a muscle and it needs time to rest and to recharge. That is just like any other muscle in our bodies, we can overuse it and stretch it too much. Working seven days a week year in and year out I am guilty of that. By giving myself the time to walk away from the day-in, day-out need to produce, I find this important muscle is so much stronger and ready to work once I get back in the professional chair. The month after I return from my extended vacation, I find is my most creative and productive.

Paradigm Shift – walking away from my business for a full-month and shifting my focus to physical exercise and cultural experiences have given me the opportunity to see my business from a different perspective. I get a real paradigm shift when it comes to problems or challenges in my business. This is probably my most surprising lesson of the four. I had no idea how much taking time off would do for giving me room to breathe new life into my business. In this fast-paced, constantly changing marketplace, companies need to change and grow. By walking away, and taking my head out of the business space, I always come back with powerful new ideas on how to grow my business.

Getting My Priorities Straight – we all say it, that our family and friends are the most essential things in our lives, but like many entrepreneurs, my actions did not really show it. In the last two years, both my husband and I have lost our parents, and that experience has been a huge wake-up call to what really matters. When I look back on my life now, my greatest memories are never of work they are of travel with family, special occasions celebrated and time with friends. Taking this time away from my business has helped me get my priorities straight. Creating memories and experiences that I treasure and will remember for my lifetime.

Putting It In Perspective – this is my favorite lesson of all because it has taught me not to take myself too seriously. As an entrepreneur, I have always been defined by my business and what I do. I needed to get a grip and understand that there is more to life and more to me that the services I provide and the work that I do. Taking time away from my business has helped me put that into perspective. Whether my business grows from the experience or suffers a little, it just does not matter. When my career comes to an end, I want to make sure I am not that person who is lost with what to do with their life, but someone who is excited about the possibilities. These mini month-long vacations are ensuring I can put things in perspective.

One of the significant benefits of being an entrepreneur is that you set your own schedule. One of the drawbacks is that you set your own schedule. Every self-employed person I know works all the time, never really taking a vacation day and considers weekends time to catch-up. While I understand that two-months off per year may be too much for most to consider, I would challenge any of you working for yourself to find the time to chase the elusive dream of work-life balance.

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Adapt to Survive

5 Strategies To Succeed No Matter What This Economy Does These past few weeks I have been traveling and working in Southeast Asia. Okay, I must confess, maybe a little more traveling than working. Between speaking engagements, I have had the opportunity to take in the culture, learn the history and embrace the uniqueness of […]

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Adapt to Survive

Adapt to Survive5 Strategies To Succeed No Matter What This Economy Does

These past few weeks I have been traveling and working in Southeast Asia. Okay, I must confess, maybe a little more traveling than working. Between speaking engagements, I have had the opportunity to take in the culture, learn the history and embrace the uniqueness of this fantastic area of the world.

While touring the Cloud Forest in Singapore, I came across an amazing display of the plants, trees, and species of Southeast Asia. One area of the exhibit, in particular, caught my eye, it was entitled Adapt to Survive. This exhibit laid out how each of these had morphed, changed, and grew over the decades. They grew given the challenges and obstacles they encountered. Not a single one of them stayed in their original form, because those that did, those that resisted, were now extinct.

Just like everything does, this exhibit made me start to think about business and the challenges of today’s marketplace. I do not know I am just wired that way; everything makes me think about business.

Given the challenges in today’s marketplace, are we doing what we need to do to Adapt to Survive? What are the obstacles and challenges we are facing in today’s marketplace, and what are we doing in our businesses to morph and change? Are we facing our reality? Because if we are not we may just be on the verge of extinction.

Here are five strategies that will position you and your business to Adapt to Survive, and 5 Strategies To Succeed No Matter What This Economy Does:

  1. Understand – first and foremost, you need to understand what is going on with this economy. You need to stop, take a breath, and take an honest look at what is happening outside the four walls of your business. Survey and take a look at what is changing in the marketplace, your competition, and your customers. What changes are coming in your industry, and how is technology going to change the way you do business.
  2. Assess – next take a look at your business given with all those changes coming your way. What are you doing that is working, and what is not? Where are you competitive at and where are you not? What are you doing that are attracting customers, what are you doing that is causing you to lose them? Take a long hard look at where you are making progress and where you are holding yourself back.
  3. Grow & Expand – with the understanding that everything about this economy, your customers, and your competition has changed, and that some of your business growth strategies are no longer working, it is time for you to grow and expand. It is time to invest in your professional development and learning. You need to increase your education about what is working in this economy, following those organizations that are thriving in this economy and discovering innovative strategies that will grow and expand your business.
  4. Adjust – with this new knowledge of what strategies are working in this economy; it is time to adjust your strategy to include them. Time to integrate these strategies into your approach to attracting new customers, expanding existing relationships and gaining competitive advantage.
  5. Repeat – last, but not least you need to repeat, repeat again and again. The one thing that is constant in this economy is change. So this process of understanding what is happening with this economy, assessing what is and is not working with your strategy, investing in your growth and development, and then adjusting your strategy to include what you learned needs to be a constant.

There is so much to be learned about business, just by paying attention to what is happening in other parts of our society and more importantly what has taken place in our history. I am excited to continue on with my journey through Southeast Asia to see what else I can learn about business growth and success. Tune in to learn as I share more about the strategies you need to succeed no matter what this economy does.

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