Latest "Employee Engagement" Posts

Are You Managing Your Sales Team or Are They Managing You?

Just this past week, I was doing a keynote presentation for a company (who shall remain nameless) whose executives warned me that my biggest challenge would be the sales team.  “They just don’t like change they said.” Are you kidding me? What do you mean they don’t like change? So why does that matter? Your […]

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Are You Managing Your Sales Team or Are They Managing You?

Changes Ahead Who is Leading Your Sales TeamJust this past week, I was doing a keynote presentation for a company (who shall remain nameless) whose executives warned me that my biggest challenge would be the sales team.  “They just don’t like change they said.”

Are you kidding me? What do you mean they don’t like change? So why does that matter? Your customers need better and more enhanced service, your profits need to improve, and business growth is not an option it is a requirement. To get any of those things you need change! So why is a little pushback from a sales team making you hesitant, and getting you to slow down? Who’s in charge anyway- you or the sales team?

Okay, I hear you, and I get it, you are going to get nowhere “forcing” your team to accept change, and yes, I have seen those cultures where they push, drive and demand change; that does nothing but create cultures of disengagement, resentment, and lackluster results. However, setting a vision or creating a strategy and then not engaging your team to carry it out has even worst consequences. It ensures you never implement change, and you will lose your best and most talented employees along the way, your best customers and any chance you might have to grow your business.

“Take risks. If you win, you’ll be happy; if you lose, you’ll be wise.”

– Anonymous

 

This is what we call being caught between a rock and a hard place. How do you  “make” your team do what you want them to do, and make them happy about doing it?” Answer – You stop letting your team run you, and you start running your team.

Let me show you what I mean. A few months ago, I was working with one of my favorite clients in business development training and strategic business growth. Our typical style when making change is to involve and engage the team right from the start, ensuring before we implement change we get their support and buy-in.

However, out of nowhere the company got a major opportunity, and the CEO had to make a quick decision. It was a unique and innovative new product line that would be the perfect addition to their client offering. A little out of the box, but truly filled a client need. If they wanted to offer it, they needed to act quickly and sign an exclusive deal with the vendor. Meaning there was not the time to engage the team and get their input and buy-in. Not an ideal situation, but one we didn’t worry about as this product was going to give the team a great new product to sell, a great way to open doors and sell more to existing clients. I mean who would not love that right?

The CEO was pumped up, excited and could not wait to share the news with the team. I cautioned him that we needed to prepare for this meeting and discuss how we were going to get their buy-in; and how we would handle their push back. He blew me off, and felt that was unnecessary, his feeling was how could the team not embrace a new product line that was going to make sales, client growth and retention so much easier?

Oh, how naive some leaders can be; so, I let him go, and it was like watching a lamb being lead to the slaughter (not that I have ever done that – but you know what I mean.) So, forward he went, had the meeting, and he rolled out the new idea complete with the dates of required training to get started. I asked to be at the meeting to observe, and observe I did. The moment he started talking, his entire sales team, including his sales leader, began to resist. Before they even said anything, you could feel the energy in the room change, feel how irritated the team was getting, and you could almost hear all the negative thoughts running through their heads.

As soon as the CEO stopped talking, they started; pushback, complaining, and shear resistance. So strong and so loud, that even the sales leader jumped in and the CEO started to cave, and he at once began making concessions. Concessions such as, perhaps we could wait on the training, maybe we could have the product in our mix and not highlight it, perhaps we should review it one more time before we truly signed the contract, and the list went on. The more he back peddled, the more the team smelled blood and the stronger they got, they knew they had him, and if they just pushed a little more, they could kill this entire “change” thing.

It was clear at that moment who was running the sales team and the company, and it was not the sales leader and not the CEO, it was the sales team. Unfortunately, if someone didn’t start leading the sales team, this company was going to miss a significant opportunity.

However, again, what do you do when the very people you need to embrace the change, resist it? You stop managing your sales team, and you start leading it. People don’t resist change because they are bad people, they oppose it because they don’t understand it.

Your job as the sales leader is to simultaneously acknowledge the challenge of what they do see and help them see the benefit of what they don’t. You need to ensure they understand what is in it for them, your sales people, their customers and their company.

In this case, right after the meeting, the CEO, the sales leader and I had a coaching session in which we debriefed the meeting. Going through what went well (very little) and what could have gone better (a lot). The result, a CEO with a stronger backbone and a willingness to strategize before meetings about change, and more importantly a sales leader who was now committed to focusing on seeing opportunity rather than challenge when change is introduced.

We had a “do over” and this time walked the team through all the benefits of this new product line (which were immense and why the CEO was so excited,) acknowledged their worry with the added challenges on the front end and guaranteed the support and help they would need to make the transition.

The result? A motivated, engaged and excited sales team hitting record sales numbers with the new product line; and a CEO and sales leader who back in charge of their sales team.

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Employee Engagement, leadership development and tagged , , , ,

9 Strategies To Deliver Effective Performance Reviews

The dreaded performance review!  Leaders don’t like to do them, employees don’t like to get them, and they don’t ever make the top of anyone’s priority list. However giving feedback, providing input, and working with our teams to help them improve is the highest and best use of your time as a leader. We all […]

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9 Strategies To Deliver Effective Performance Reviews

Employee Performance ReviewsThe dreaded performance review!  Leaders don’t like to do them, employees don’t like to get them, and they don’t ever make the top of anyone’s priority list.

However giving feedback, providing input, and working with our teams to help them improve is the highest and best use of your time as a leader. We all want engaged employees, and the best way to create it is to develop a culture where connecting with employees is prioritized, and getting feedback is valued.

Here are 9 Strategies To Deliver Effective Performance Reviews.

  1. Commit – make it a core value, something that is a non-negotiable and prioritized by your leadership team. What you focus on gets done, what you measure gets completed. Take the lead and be a role model for your team, and then place importance on holding them accountable to do it too.
  2. Clear Outcomes – before you begin the performance review process you need to be clear on what you are reviewing the employee about. Performance reviews, their objectives, and metrics need to be defined and communicated ahead of time with both the reviewer and the employee.
  3. Get The Facts – performance reviews need to be based on facts and facts only. No opinions or emotions. Before doing a performance review, you need to get input and feedback from those who know and work directly with the employee for whom you are doing the review. Then before including that feedback, you need to separate fact from fiction.
  4. Let Them Talk – first that is. People want to be heard more than anything, and if you want them to be open to your feedback then get their feedback first. Beginning a performance review by asking employees to speak first will create a far more meaningful conversation.
  5. Be Transparent – when reviewing an employee, it is essential to tell them what they are doing well, and where they need to improve directly. Do not try to soften the blow, or beat around the bush. Employees trust you and give value to the feedback when they feel you are open and transparent with them. Be respectful but direct.
  6. Listen For Feedback – once you deliver your message, allow time to get their input on your feedback. And listen, really listen, not just wait for your turn to talk. If you want the employee to buy-in to the review, you need to allow them to weigh in on it.
  7. Create A Plan – together, create a plan together. Once you have delivered your feedback, and they have weighed in, you can develop a plan of action. The key is to do it together. People support what they help create.
  8. Schedule Creatively – one primary reason we do not like performance reviews is that they come at the worst time of the year – the end of the year. So why not schedule creatively. No hard, fast rule says performance reviews have to be done year-end, and even if there is break it!
  9. Check-in Regularly – whether an employee is doing well, or whether they have some work to do should never be a surprise. Giving feedback and checking in with employees regularly should be part of your routine as a leader. By the time the performance review comes around everyone should be on the same page.

The highest and best use of a leader’s time these days is with employees. Coaching, developing and yes, giving performance reviews. Your only competitive advantage left in today’s marketplace is the engagement level of your teams. Now isn’t that worth investing a little time in performance reviews?

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

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

What To Do When Your Sales Manager Sucks

I was 27 years old when I got my first job in sales. I was thrilled to finally be given an opportunity to make some “real money.”  After years in customer service, I had talked my supervisor into giving me a chance to make sales calls and earn what, in my mind, was some hefty […]

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What To Do When Your Sales Manager Sucks

I was 27 years old when I got my first job in sales. I was thrilled to finally be given an opportunity to make some “real money.”  After years in customer service, I had talked my supervisor into giving me a chance to make sales calls and earn what, in my mind, was some hefty commission.

My only challenge was that I had no sales experience. While I had done a great job of taking care of our existing customers, I was not sure how to go about actually making a sales call. And, as luck would (not) have it, my sales manager had no clue about how to actually go about training a sales person.

From my first day, my Sales Manager (I use the term loosely) made it very clear what sales goal I had to hit. Beyond that, he provided no coaching, no support and no training. He would certainly call me every day to see how much business I had closed, but never called to offer advice or keep me motivated.

For the first three months, my life in this new role was rough. Again, I had no clue what I was doing. To say that I was struggling was a major understatement. When I finally worked up the courage to ask for help, my sales manager looked at me like I had lost my mind. He responded instead by increasing my daily accountability. Rather than choosing to coach me or help me, he just increased the number of times he asked how many sales I had closed.

I think most of us in sales have been there. We have all had those Sales Managers that lack in coaching skills, and those that, well, actually just suck. Sorry to be so crude. But honestly, that is the perfect description. They provide us no support, no coaching, but plenty of (over-the-top) accountability. In fact, they tend to micromanage. Unfortunately, in the world of sales, I often find that there are more bad than good sales managers.

So, what are you supposed to do if you have sales goals to hit; deals to close; and clients to serve; but you are cursed with a less than stellar Sales Manager? Luckily, sales is one of those skills you can learn. And, if you take a little initiative, it is one you can learn on your own.

What To Do When Your Sales Manager Sucks

4 Strategies To Succeed No Matter What

  1. Embrace it

First, and probably most importantly, you need to embrace it. You need to just accept the fact that your sales manager is not a going to give you the support and help you need. Understand that complaining, whining or blaming your sales manager is a complete waste of time and very precious energy. Time and energy that you are going to need to get the training and support you need to learn to sell.

  1. Be Bold

Take charge and be bold. You need to find the courage to ask what it is expected of you. And, what your sales manager needs from you in order to be successful. You may not get the support and help you need, but you still need to find out what they expect of you.

One of the biggest challenges and reasons salespeople fail is because the expectations are unclear. You may already know your sales goals, but you need more than that to be successful. Sales Managers vary, and they want different things when it comes to reporting, making sales calls and tracking systems. You need to know, you need to be clear, and you need to deliver on expectations.

  1. Find A Role Model

Now that you have accepted that your sales manager is not going to be your best coach, you need to find someone who can. You need to find a role model, someone who is not only good at sales, but someone who is good at the system of sales.

Take the initiative to look beyond your sales manager, maybe others on your team or even in other fields. Find a good sales professional and ask them for help. It can be as simple as an interviewing them to find out how they got so good, to asking for advice, or suggesting they give you feedback on occasion. Most really good sales people will not only say yes, they will love to help. Why? Because most likely somewhere along the way, someone helped them. And, they have been looking for the opportunity to return the favor.

  1. Become The Master

You have what you need. Now the only step left is to master this process we call sales. Dig in, invest the time in learning how to sell. Yes, to be good at sales you need to learn how to sell, and without a good sales manager you need to teach yourself. You can read books and articles and watch videos about the skills it takes to up your sales game. So, commit to becoming “The Master.” Invest time weekly to learn new skills, ask better questions, and how to follow-up and follow-thru.

It took me two more sales jobs to figure out that a good Sales Manager is hard to find. And while I spent longer than I should have struggling in sales, I finally found a good role model. Well actually, he found me. A top producer on our team, who witnessed my frustration and reached out to ask me to lunch. Over soup and a sandwich, he changed my view about sales, Sales Managers, and who is responsible for my sales success. He shared these four strategies, and helped me take control of my sales career.

Yes, in a perfect world we would all get the ideal Sales Manager. The Sales Manager who is truly invested in ensuring we get what we need to excel at this sport we call sales. However, as we all know, the world is not perfect, and sometimes your Sales Manager sucks. If you find yourself in this position, and believe me at some point you will, deal with the problem directly. Use these 4 strategies to succeed at sales no matter what.

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Employee Engagement, Sales Tips and tagged , ,

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