Let me start with a Story of one of our key clients. XYZ is a fast-growing technology company, having problems between product development and product marketing. Product development certainly had a big job for their stable applications that were the backbone of the business. They were also quickly transitioning to a nimbler organization with design thinking and agile methodologies; but not quick enough for the functional units who relied on them. Product management was actively working with the new digital customers, frequently needing changes to respond quickly. Customers were demanding digital experiences monthly, weekly, and daily. Jane, the head of Product management was constantly in Chip, the VP of development’s office, first requesting then demanding that they move faster. Shift what they were working on and change on a dime was always the theme to Chip. Jane could not listen or hear why development could not meet this pace. Unfortunately, it got heated to the point that Jane and Chip stopped talking. This spread like wildfire through watercooler conversations, cascading to other loyal members of their teams. Tough issues became harder to disagree on and discuss. The conflict was having a large effect on product development, speed, quality, and even affecting customer satisfaction. Fortunately, in this case, the relationship became so broken that it bubbled up to the CEO, Bill. He was first very angry. Did they just not like each other? Not want the company to succeed? Why could these two senior executives let this happen? Then an idea hit him like a bolt of lightning: what if it was his leadership problem?
We believe that this is not an isolated incident in our fast paced world. Miscommunication and misalignment may be rampant in your organization. If so, it is sapping your company’s productivity, adding time and expense to large projects and slowing your organization down. Multiple technology disruptions are affecting us rapidly in Cloud, Big Data and AI, IOT and Blockchain. This coupled with the multi-generational transfer in the workplace is creating unprecedented change. We call it Digital Disruption, and want to help you turn it into Digital Transformation. How do you stay ahead, make sense of this chaos while exploring some new ways of communicating to increase productivity, move faster, reduce conflict, and drive real business results? By focusing on the human side.
Think about your workday and then extend it to the key people you interact with internally or externally. With not enough time to accomplish your important tasks and priorities shifting on a dime, you are frequently multi-tasking or transitioning between tasks. This creates a lot of opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstandings that result in doing things over. There is often not enough time to clarify for our understanding particularly when we disagree. Without this connection and empathic understanding, we are like runners in a relay race who constantly drop the baton.
The effects of our environment are making it harder and harder to communicate for real alignment. And unfortunately, it is hard to detect. These opportunities for miscommunication are unfortunately not as clear to your P&L as a lost piece of revenue, increasing costs, or an angry customer. The effects of undetected misalignment and miscommunication can be terrible with downstream affect on costs, employee morale, and your all important culture.
We understand that most of this miscommunication is occurring because the world is changing fast and we are all pressed for time. Unfortunately, the old communication tools and techniques that we have been taught are just not working. They do not teach the behavioral or psychological skills needed to connect with people or how to listen in a way to gain empathy and understanding. And they do not teach us how to slow down. When conflict starts happening, our urges to be right take over. Using communication skills 1.0 in this brave new 2.0 world are the root cause of many of our biggest problems. Why don’t we do something?
We believe that interventions and training that focus on the human side of change and communication will reap huge rewards for those leaders with the Insight to act now.
When businesses and the way they operate shift from their traditional mode of operation and management to the modern and technology oriented ways of operation, the transitions referred to as Digital Transformation or disruption.
A new survey finds a “widespread stall” in digital transformation efforts, suggesting that its leadership is in crisis. 39% of the senior executives surveyed said they encounter resistance to new ways of working and feel overwhelmed by the complexity of digital transformation efforts.
Connecting with and understanding customers’ business problems and personal implications is more important today than ever. But in this fast-paced world, bombardment of digital messages, priorities shifting on a dime and never enough time, it’s not easy. However, when you don’t fully understand your customer, you are at great risk.
One of CI Squared’s clients, a large software company, discovered the consequences of not taking the time to truly understand their customer. After an initial demo/presentation to this long-standing customer, CI Squared’s client received negative feedback that they were losing. They were given another chance and came back 8 months later with a renewed presentation. The 12 members of the team devoted their time and effort to the new presentation during these 8 months, but they were again rejected by the customer. What happened?
CI Squared’s lost deal analysis revealed that at the crux of why they lost this sale was a lack of understanding. No one on the deal team connected with the operational team or key leaders. They were not able to uncover the real implications of their customer’s business problem and the time frame needed to solve it successfully. Without these insights, they were proposing a perceived solution they thought would fill their customer’s needs. However, from the customer’s viewpoint it did not hit the mark and would take too long. By contrast, the competition had built strong connections with workers and executives, they understood the business problem, motivations of the individuals, and the sense of urgency needed. The customer’s team felt that the competitor “got them” and could deliver a better, timelier solution.
The damages were huge: time, resources, and opportunity cost. They could directly measure that they lost a 3-year, $1.5 million deal in an existing account, $4.5M. How about the investment in people and time or the opportunity cost? How much did it affect their standing with the customer and confidence?
CI Squared believes that better discovery which leads to understanding the customer, both business and personal, is critical in today’s world. How do you help your customer uncover their real problems and deliver insights when they don’t have time? Better human interaction through empathic communication can help you gather the Customer’s whole story and is at the heart of winning today. Customers want to be understood and want to buy from sales teams that give them insights and confidence. But we often rush to talking about our product or service vs staying in the moment and saying, “Tell me more.”
The world has changed and Buyer 2.0 with it. They do not want the same old sales teams who just pitch their products. They have seen that movie before. Your old sales techniques are not enough today to give you the ability to make a strong human connection and listen well enough to get their complete Story with empathy. However, most salespeople have not been exposed to new and innovative ideas and tools. Why not? Some don’t realize the magnitude of this problem on their performance. Some are complacent because change is hard. Some just won’t invest in their people to fill these GAPS. And some think they do it well already which the research debunks.
You can challenge yourself to see how big of a GAP this is individually or organizationally. Benchmark your win rate % against industry averages. Sirius Decisions statistics show that if you count every deal you work on, best in class B2B sales organizations win 40%, lose 30%, and the final 30% just do not buy. We believe that if you calculate this accurately, you will want to do something now. We can help you dramatically shift these ratios.
Or, why aren’t you breaking through the clutter?
You may ask yourself this question after a series of unanswered emails or a promising deal cut short. Here’s why. People don’t have time. What our research shows us is that the amount of incoming content to every person is staggering. “According to Time.com, the average person looks at his/her phone 46 times every day (up from 33 looks per day in 2014). Our new-ish -“always on” culture, complete with the enormous pressure of the expectation of instant responses, effects everything from the quality of our sleep to the depth of our relationships”. (Forbes)
In a fast paced world filled with overwhelming amounts of external and internal stimuli, people are of course:
- Busier than ever before
- Shifting priorities constantly
- Answering too many messages
- Bombarded with content
But if you do not realize this, your message or attempt to get through to a customer will undoubtedly fall flat. The most important mission of sales people and sales methods & techniques is to break through the static. Many current sales methodologies are stuck in the past, not reflecting the new behaviors of Buyer 2.0
Lack of understanding and not connecting personally with customers is a trait that unsuccessful sales people possess in abundance. They hog the conversation with chatter, solutions, features and functions instead of listening. They do not listen to or understand the customer. Humans crave emotional connections and a conversation that uncovers insights. According to this article on Openview, the top sales performers listen 54% of the time and talk 46% of the time. It’s not just that a conversation (not an interrogation) is happening, but the interesting topics that weave in and out of the conversation. What kind of sales conversations are you having? Is it just product, solutions, features and functions? Are you having trouble understanding and making a connection with your harried customers? Are you listening with empathy?
We believe that the world of work is changing dramatically and if you do not update your communication skills to have more insightful business conversations, you will struggle mightily.
Evaluate critically your business conversations to determine what needs to change and invest now to innovate and grow.
B2B Sales is more challenging than ever. Are you following the old herd or leading the new pack?
Customers’ buying habits are changing. The fast pace of technology only accelerates this change with an overwhelming amount of messages and shifting priorities clamoring for people’s undivided attention.
There’s also an intergenerational shift in the workforce as boomers retire and millennials take over which creates a multitude of buyers with different needs. Every one of those individual buyers demands specific valuable insights; something they don’t know, for improved performance from sales teams.
Research from Gartner/CEB states in the shifting B2B executive landscape, alignment of critical stakeholders before any major purchase is highly important. So more people hop on the buying cycle and key people-not as far along in their Buyer’s Journey because of shifting priorities-come in late. Multiple buyers like this in the process result in delays due to repeated activities, frustrating sales teams. Drawn out sales cycles negatively affect everyone involved in your sales campaigns, sales, presales, services and your executives, sapping productivity.
Our research shows the sales teams who struggle the most with the Buyer 2.0 exhibit these “old behaviors”:
- They don’t understand and connect with customers personally: People want human connection as well as business results. 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously(crowdspring) so having the ability to emotionally connect with people in their harried world is more important than ever
- They don’t understand the customer’s business problems deep enough to provide insight: Because “customers are coming into the sale armed with better product knowledge than ever before. The average customer is more than halfway through the decision-making process by the time they talk with a sales rep, according to some estimates,” (Agile CRM) oftentimes they don’t have the time or energy to provide the finer points of their business problems. But without understanding the business problem it’s hard to offer insights and differentiation, so talk turns to a well-known subject: the product.
- They rush to demo features and functions: It’s not unusual. According to Gartner, 73% Sales reps focus too much on product. We observe that many sales teams rush to demo the features of the product because this is their wheelhouse, but jumping right to knowledge of the product will not cause them to win the deal. If anything, rushing to demo without digging in deep to the problems elongate the sales cycle, confuses the customer, halts progress, and many times causes you to miss the opportunity for understanding. But we all train on, know, and love our product.
Which behaviors are you most guilty of? Are you or sales and marketing guilty of using the same old process and methodology or are you adapting to the new buyer? Quickly adapting to align with shifting customer wants and needs is imperative. How will you leave the herd mentality, set yourself apart, and lead the pack?
Family can bring out the best and the worst in us!
Why is it that what is touted as the “most wonderful time of the year” can bring on such angst and anxiety? According to psychologist Leonard Felder, author of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People, “most Americans experience significant tension at one or more family events each year.” Felder found, in a random sample of more than 1,350 people, 75% had at least 1 family member who gets on their nerves (Trespicio, CNN). At least 1? Try 5 or 6!
The holiday season means different celebrations for people, but it always means togetherness, family, and a haul of interactions leading people to fall into two groups as they anticipate the holidays: those who struggle or those elated. With expectations set to have a wonderful time, different personalities, and overall heightened emotions, the holidays emphasize that struggle. How we react to those situations (naughty or nice?) stems from the core layers and building blocks of our personalities.
During the holidays with large groups of people around, understanding ourselves and others comes in handy. While it isn’t practical to start teaching emotional intelligence to each member of your family, slowing down a little to learn how to better understand the people in your life can make for a much happier holiday.
When we start to better understand what aspects of personality drives our loved-ones’ behavior, we can adapt our own behavior to allow more effective interaction, and put it in the right perspective. For example, maybe your mom’s thorough detail-orientation for decorating the house drives you nuts. Why can’t she be like your sister who just takes the decorations and gets it done? But they do things 2 different ways, and approaching both your sister and your mom the same way will be ineffective. It is helpful to know who we’re dealing with, what drives their behavior, and therefore how to improve communication skills.
Having an insightful handle on different personalities, not just family dynamics, is invaluable. That insight will help you adapt to improve interactions, not just around the holiday dinner table but in every aspect of your professional/personal life. In the corporate world, having a positive, fruitful interaction with coworkers or clients begins with knowing who they are as people and their motivators. How effective could the sales and marketing be if they harnessed the knowledge of personality to improve communication skills for sales people and business sales techniques?
American automobile executive Lee Iacocca said it best: “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
Everyone has a core personality formed by the basic principles or nature, nurture, and a combination of the two. While we cannot change our personality, we can grow an acute awareness of who we are, and our nuances. To understand others, the first step is understanding ourselves. Do you accurately know your personality profile? Think about where yourself and others fall on the DiSC personality map below. Start looking at stressful holiday situations differently and they will change. Aim to understand, not escape.
“…we need to know our own personality, as well as others’ personality. That is, the characteristics of each and how to flex our styles for more effective interaction and communication.” (The Art of The Nudge, pg. 73)
Nudge: Whether you are naughty or nice, gather and communicate mindfully to make the most of your holidays.
Other Points of View
This month we are proud to have the President of CI Squared, John Geraci, present his point of view on the state of the corporate training world, drawing on his experience in the United States Army.
Do you feel like you’re flushing training dollars down the toilet? Frustrated and a bit angry, yet knowing training your people is key?
Like most of you, I have been a student, buyer of training and trainer for the better part of 40 years. I believe that we all have great intentions with training, but 80% of our training results in very little behavioral change or real business results—WHY?
While pondering this, my subconscious reminded me of a Story… I was a captain in the United States Army, Airborne/Ranger Infantry. After graduating from the Infantry Officer Advanced course at Fort Benning, I was chosen to participate in a major Army Training Initiative which prepared newly inducted soldiers to be more competent when arriving at their unit. It was an honor to be selected and I would no doubt learn from this experience, but it took almost 40 years to truly appreciate training and how to use it to scale operational performance and gain leverage to train soldiers (people) to execute effectively.
The training struggle for the Army in 1980 was two separate training programs in two locations for basic and advanced trainees. This meant programs were executed by separate cadres and instructors. With typical bureaucracy and overhead, precious time was wasted moving troops from one location to another. They also realized that much of the training was disjointed and had to be repeated. After the 16 week training programs, they were graduating high rates of students per class. But field commanders who received these “newly trained” recruits were left incredulous and frustrated at the unpreparedness of these soldiers and used their own time and resources to bring soldiers up to speed.
General Don Starry, Commanding General of Tradoc, wanted to blow up this model and develop a centralized process that delivered highly trained soldiers to their combat units at a lower cost. This went on to be dubbed “OSUT”- One Station Unit Training.
I was asked to help in the planning to innovate the old into new, so we worked with active infantry units to better understand their needs and problems when trainees arrived. Reimagining how to deliver higher quality, enforceable soldiers while linking the training goals to skills that could then reinforce the principles in the field was a huge step forward. With focus, simplicity, and consistency, less could be more. After 18 months of trial and then implementation in the field, the cost, time, and number of resources, cadres and trainers, was reduced to achieve a better outcome. The graduates left experienced and motivated, battlefield commanders were ecstatic, and the Tradoc Commander and Army Chief of Staff were happy with the cost and overall quality increases. I was proud of the small part I had played and was sure that it would lead me to my dream assignment of working at the Ranger Department. The Army had different ideas, and I became a civilian with the blessing of choosing the nascent Software Industry as my new battlefield.
At this point you may be wondering, what is the point of this Story? Who cares that you trained soldiers and left the Army? How can this Story help me? I may not know everything about your company, but I see a lot of companies making the same mistakes. There are too many disjointed training programs with no focus or reinforcement; programs being thrown over the fence with no active alignment with first line management; exorbitant amounts of time and money spent on classroom with very little practice and reinforcement; training departments working very hard but with no clear goals, alignment or collaboration with field leaders.
Here are 4 lessons to think about as you invest your training dollar to help your employees deliver high performance:
- Start any idea of a training initiative with the WHY and WHAT in mind? What do you need to change or enhance and WHY? Increasing sales productivity to drive revenue from X to Y; increasing customer service conversations to drive satisfaction and more buying from Sat score X to Y and customer revenue from X to Y; aligning people to an organizational change initiative to increase revenue and decrease the cost of a project? If you do not know the business metrics you are trying to change, you will not really be committed and short change the time and effort to make a difference.
- Training is NOT an event. When we trained soldiers to shoot rifles, we not only had 8 hours of classroom instruction, but also had 40 hours of on-range training, both live and dry firing. How many times do you conduct a 1 day or 2-day training and assume that your people can execute these skills post training? How do you reinforce the training? How do you continue to discuss and tell stories about results of training? How do you keep this alive as a core skill for competitive advantage?
- First line managers are key to reinforcement and practice. If the squad leaders were not bought into reinforcing the training and working pieces into their Battle Rhythm, these important skills would not be mastered and would atrophy over time. Are your first line managers bought into the training? Do they know how to reinforce and practice these skills in everyday situations so it fits into the natural cadence of their work? Or are they first time participants from training scheduled by some HR or higher-level leader with no energy or passion to help make these skills habits that lead to real results?
- Training is a campaign, not an event. The OSUT training program we devised all linked together in a way that reinforced the key modules and integrated into the rest of the soldiers training. There was ongoing reinforcement and field practice supervised by competent first line leaders. The skill did not become an effective and efficient behavior until well after the initial training with the necessary focus and emphasis on using this competency to get results. How often do you have this approach?
Let’s learn the value of training and take from the General Don Starry Commander book and design your next training initiative as a campaign to send your troops (employees) into the field with military precision and the right tools to battle and win business.
CI Squared is a leadership and sales training company focused on communication through Storytelling. We are bringing all of these ideas to our training programs in a desire to innovate or “change the training game”. We deliver real behavioral change to achieve your business results.
Learn more about John’s Story:
What can Whale sharks and Great Whites teach us?
The start of the new third quarter and second half of the year is an ideal time to identify changes necessary for a monumental second half. What has gone well and what needs to be tweaked is worth time and reflection. Some people feel uneasy when facing the year-end deadlines… cue the shark music… because they subconsciously know this is the last chance for changes to influence 2017 performance. Taking a break to evaluate how you’ve met goals personally and professionally can be the difference-maker between sink and swim.
Even the big sharks have to pivot to stay relevant and achieving in current climates. Think about this:
- Amazon just announced hiring 50,000 new warehouse employees in the United States
- Apple’s main supplier Foxconn is making substantial change by committing to a large factory and 3,000 new hires in Wisconsin
- A declining Sears franchise has finally struck a deal to sell appliances through Amazon
These are significant improvements, innovations and changes with an expectation of adding shareholder value, increased revenue profits, customer satisfaction and employee engagement. These positive business results sustain life in a company, just as the water that must be constantly pulled over a shark’s gills provides oxygen.
Simon Berg of Ceros wrote, “If you don’t change things (experiment), how can you ever make things better (find out the outcome of your test)? You don’t have to know what the results will be to make a change. In fact, you usually won’t know what outcome to expect. That’s the compelling thing about change–you often end up with a result you would have never guessed. …It’s about making change when something feels broken, could be better, or even just because you’re curious.”
Certain breeds of sharks die from lack of oxygen if they stop swimming. Implicitly, we know change is a good thing but does fear of change stop us from swimming? Simply pause, evaluate and adapt.
Don’t look back and don’t get comfortable with the status quo. We hesitate when faced with the unknown in front of us because of the comfort associated with our experiences and biases. Inherently, change is necessary and provides challenges and new circumstances. CI Squared’s book The Art of the Nudge tells us: “At the subconscious level, we are already programmed to do the thing we are doing, and it becomes automatic. We have a lot of connections, experiences, and repetitions that make it simple and easy to do. So we are afraid of new things. Our conscious brain puts up blockages; reasons about what could go wrong; and just plain feels uncomfortable.” (pg 43)
We know change is vital and possible, but don’t change for the sake of change. Change-your thinking, a process, a department-to make something better. “Although your automatic reaction comes first from the subconscious brain, you can bypass that wiring with a new story that empowers you to take a different action…We also believe that understanding the story we are telling ourselves to see whether it is empowering us to take the appropriate action, is important. And if it’s not, the story can be nudged. Although our brain connections (superhighways or dirt roads) are developed as we grow, they can be altered.” (The Art of the Nudge pg 47)
What kind of shark do you want and need to be? Do you know what stories you are telling yourself about the changes you need to make to impact your business results in the second half? How can you build a new story that will keep you swimming toward your goals without sinking to the bottom?
Nudge: Stop, slow down and evaluate what in your company or business could benefit from change in the second half of the year.
What am I doing wrong?
Have you ever asked yourself why things aren’t changing for you, whether personally or professionally? You’ve done everything you can think of to change direction, but you always end up back at square one. But maybe it’s just that: changing how you think. Whether we know it or not, our subconscious is perpetually at work, feeding us biases and stories. Stories inform emotions, emotions inform actions.
Our conscious brain, what we are actively thinking about, opposes the subconscious brain, what’s going on beneath the surface. The conscious brain methodically deals in facts and figures and can process only up to 9 things at a time while our subconscious brain is a messy composite of deeply influential experiences and emotions, processing millions of ideas simultaneously. This is both fascinating and frightening as we realize that the subconscious could be a great enabler and deciding factor in our actions and thoughts. Story informs your actions 100% of the time, you’re simply not aware of it.
You’re always having a conversation with yourself which results in stories being formed. So stories surround us, but the five stories that are most likely to hold you back professionally or personally are:
- The self doubt story. People will know that I’m not good enough or smart enough. These negative stories pile on top of each other until we perceive it as the truth.
- The fear of failure story. A story of a past mistake repeats itself. You’re afraid to try something new because you can’t shake the notion that it will go wrong.
- The unknown story. Change is hard, so we fear the unknown and our possible inability to handle it. But you are more capable than you know.
- The assumptions story. We all assign meaning to people’s behaviors and interpret their actions. Our minds have a way of spiraling out on us. We can’t assume just because Bob didn’t wave to me at work today like he normally does that he is furiously angry at me.
- The overconfidence story. You say “I got this. I have it all figured out”. We tell ourselves what we want to happen and hear versus what is happening in reality. Our confidence and judgments sometimes cloud our ability to make the right decisions.
80% of what you said to yourself yesterday, you say to yourself today. You have to engage your conscious brain to first realize that these stories are being told before you can identify what stories are being told. Story creates bias, that bias instructs our behaviors. Start digging deep and figure out the stories you are telling yourself that are holding you back.
Nudge: Tell yourself a new story of positive change!
Other points of view:
How can you ignite passion?
According to a Gallup research poll, only 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in its work. Shockingly, the vast majority of U.S. workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential. Analyzing how and why your employees are motivated is worth investing in to ensure success and productivity for your business.
While many exist depending on the company, there are 2 main reasons why your team is not committed:
- Employees focus on WHAT they are doing, not connecting with WHY or their passion.
- Leaders don’t have a compelling vision
In our fast paced world today, everyone is moving at light speed and leaders don’t take the time to inspire. Leaders finds themselves lost on what inspiration to tap into because they have not taken the time to ask employees about their passions. So how can we understand peoples’ passion and motivation to help inspire them to bigger dreams and successes? We try to do it with simple words or phrases, but do these attempts truly harness the passions and desires of the team? Does it help them see how they make a difference and ignite their potential for action?
It all comes back to the fundamental basics of understanding people. For true understanding and empathy, you must take the time to listen. Use this information to shift your conversation or Story to one of inspiration.
- Gather the stories of your people and understand how to inspire them into action. How can their individual “WHY Story” be tied into the purpose of the company and real business outcomes?
- Lead. Your team is looking to you for inspiration – be a beacon of hope and dreams. Make your employees passion the key to your company culture and you will tap into unprecedented excellence in all aspects of your business. Tell and celebrate internal Hero Stories of employees who overachieve and delight your customers.
- Communicate your vision/strategy and their role in achieving this success. Explaining the “why” and the “what” to your employees makes empowering them to execute with their own “how” that ignites their 100% commitment, leading to innovation and success.
Have you asked your team “Is this really what you want to be doing with your life?” If you think, NO, then instead of fearing, be open to ask why, gather the challenges and redefine. You may not have all the answers, but be open to asking, telling and sharing. If it is “YES I am,” then find ways to harness this passion on your key activities and projects allowing you to execute with passion. Your colleagues and leaders will take notice.
A passionate workforce is a productive workforce. Everyone benefits from listening and gathering to understand. When the struggles get tough and performance/ productivity starts to lag, you will be able to re-inspire your team if you tap into their WHY and passions. We all fundamentally want to win and succeed.
As quoted in The Art of the Nudge: “Unfortunately empathetic listening and playing back emotions is a rare skill…When you truly believe that someone really knows how you feel, you identify, you feel safe, and you let your guard down. This intent focus by someone else can make you feel like you can be more than you think you can, and accomplish almost anything.” Pg 98 and 99
Nudge: Go deeper than just small talk with your employees. Start a conversation about passion, commitment and purpose.
Other points of view: