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.
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:
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” according to the losers and their parents
You win deals, you lose deals, and some deals are left hanging. You can’t win every one right? Or can you? You can get closer. First, get to know the standard at which to gauge your win rates. In our 3 years of significant research we found the 40/30/30 model, a metric used at end of sales pipelines which represents the average win rate for high performing companies. Most companies who claim to have higher win rates do not measure every deal a real sales person touches. If you have 10 deals in the pipeline you’ll win 40% of them, lose 30% and 30% will be left with no decision. Look at your company’s own win rates then analyze:
1. What’s happening in the good deals? What’s happening in the bad deals?
2. Why do you lose?
3. How much time did sales reps spend on lost deals?
4. Did you understand the customer?
Conducting a lost sale analysis was just the tip of the iceberg for one of our customers realizing why and how they lost a significant deal. This customer, a large software company, brought in their sales team to sell to a customer, yet they did not understand what the customer wanted and when they wanted it. Consequently, their boss had 12 members of the team charge ahead for 12 months on a product for future integration only to bring it back to their customer and have it solidly rejected. The timeline for this product was way too long and the CFO, justifiably, chose a company who could provide correct software quicker. Our customer realized lack of understanding was the crux of the problem. They were proposing a perceived solution that they thought would fill their customer’s needs when in reality, for the customer the benefits were too far out on the timeline compared to the competition.
Time wasted. People wasted. Customer good will squandered. How much do you really lose by competing for a piece of business for this long with no apparent customer solution? They didn’t “lose fast” and move on. They didn’t know to walk away because they did not gather the customer’s story well, understanding them and their struggles. The best of the best know where to focus their time, energy and resources to increase probabilities of winning deals. Lose fast and convert the no decisions.
Helping your customer uncover their real struggles is key. Then analyze the implications of those struggles to their business. Who’s affected and why? Is this tipping point enough for them to take action? What needs to shift? Can your company play a key role in solving their problem?
Communication and gathering the whole story and struggles are at the heart of a successful interaction whether you win, lose or somewhere in between. Understanding the customer and their struggles leads to you knowing exactly what they want and what you can offer to solve it. You’ll now know where you can’t win and gain courage to lose fast. Value your time and move on to win the next deal. What would happen to your performance in you changed 40/30/30 into 50/25/ 25?
Nudge: Be curious – Ask open ended questions and LISTEN to gain better insight of your customer’s real struggles. Want to become a better listener and get the whole story? Contact CI Squared to learn more firstname.lastname@example.org.
Millennials…Start ‘Em Early
Remember back in the day when “1999” by Prince thumped on every boom box? The ominously funky jam was the perfect song to celebrate the new millennium. Yet as the reality of “Y2K” sunk in, people responded with panic, triggered by great fears of the unknown. So many questions, worries and tragedies were predicted. With some minor glitches and adjustments, we all survived. So why does a momentous generational shift already in motion alarm your company?
Millennials are the generation born then between 1982 and 2004, now 13 to 35 years old and quickly maturing into the work force. They’re most known for filling positions formerly held by baby boomers but “This group’s values, needs, wants and ways of working are different and will cause the same kind of disruptions and opportunities that the baby boomers who preceded them did” (The Art of the Nudge pg 17).
The Bersin by Deloitte report highlights, “…more than 3.6 million company chiefs are set to retire as younger professionals ascend to managerial slots. Companies are busy planning for this transition anticipating the massive loss of boomers” (Altman). Once again, the impact of the “millennium” creates its own sort of chaos as this unique workforce comes in requiring a cultural shift as well. Communication-wise, Millennials appear to be the most connected digitally, but disconnected interpersonally. This generational shift requires training and development programs to allow new employees, managers and leaders to adapt. Are you investing time to train Millennial employees to adapt? You should be.
Leadership expert and author of Liquid Leadership, Brad Szollose says, “You can’t put someone in a leadership role assuming they have the skills to lead, only to train them 10 years later. If you want Millennials to succeed, invest in their leadership development today.” Leadership qualities and soft skills are invaluable and critical to prioritize in training Millennials.
With 200-300 social/digital media posts coming at Millennials every day, the number of disruptive ideas accentuate the pace of change. It’s no surprise Millennials’ priorities shift rapidly; they are distracted and racing to keep up!
New leaders need to be able to communicate in a way that:
- Engages people by listening and respecting them;
- Creates a compelling vision that they want to and are able to “opt into”;
- Gains alignment so they take action with passion and persistence;
- Creates high performing execution;
Employers view these characteristics as critical a skill set for high performance as competent, technical skills. Gathering stories from others fosters unprecedented understanding of them so we walk away from conversations knowing how we can help one another in a mutually beneficial way. A human leader speeds up your real business performance. We find Millennials to be thirsty for learning to elevate their skills and inspired by the idea of slowing down to truly understand people, their needs, wants and desires through empathic conversations.
Nudge: Think about what are you doing to create these new Millennial Leaders. How will you help unleash, embrace and empower their enormous potential?
A song in the new film La La Land (Chazelle, 2016) contains the lyrics: “Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know”, describing the fortuitous serendipity which evolves into a meaningful meeting or interaction with someone. Do just a few people have magnificent stories or do only the tenacious find them? Actually, everyone has a story that is meaningful in its own way, including your boss, coworkers, family members and friends. For example, CI Squared’s President John Geraci and his colleague Bill, who have shared a 20 year friendship, discovered that Bill had no idea about a significant event shaping John’s life until Bill watched John’s “Why” video recently. The sharing of life stories have the ability to bond people in an unprecedented way.
We’ve heard it before: technology impedes human interaction and connection. When you’re not connecting or bonding with your colleagues, the work suffers greatly. People know this. What they don’t know is that life stories are a solution to the problem.
Life stories are a composition of noteworthy events like the best scenes of a movie edited together. People could argue the workplace is not a cozy camp fire, therefore compelling anecdotes have no place; but they do. As people start to open up, you understand them in a beneficial way, finally understanding why the person is the way they are and therefore able to Nudge them to a higher performance. A more empathetic culture develops from understanding. Businesses with a more empathetic culture and people who easily work, communicate and collaborate together can only thrive. Truly Understanding others’ stories is a way to construct this culture.
Events in life stories do not have to be particularly formidable, as the simple act of sharing and understanding is monumental. A vulnerable moment holds the potential to change relationships and even business outcomes. CI Squared’s Chief Architect Christine remembers the story of a workshop/Storytelling breakout session where best failure stories were being shared. Out of the 6 people, one man shared a story of his son’s extraordinarily rare learning disability and feelings of failure and remorse as he struggled to help his son. Suddenly, someone else in the group spoke up. They went on to explain that their son too had the exact same learning disability. Two people who had never spoken were now irrevocably bonded through shared life stories. They went on to deliver the largest revenue deal for their unit that year.
Ask yourself: What would it mean to you if someone knew your story? Empathized with you in a different way? Would you be inspired to help the team achieve and succeed and they, you? How do your stories influence people? What’s the most fascinating thing you know about your neighbor at work? If you’re not telling, asking and gathering, you’re missing people, both colleagues and customers. Making a conscious effort to tell your story and gather the stories of others has unparalleled business benefits. Ask, then listen and you won’t need fortuitous serendipity to meaningfully connect with your colleagues. Find in someone an opportunity to learn something new and connect with a life story.
Nudge: at your next team meeting tell your colleagues a story about yourself that will bond you with them and to you in a unique way. The result is an extraordinary impact just waiting to be experienced in work process, relationships and Revenue, Profit/Cost, Customer Satisfaction, Employee Engagement and Shareholder Value.
“…stories…that make a point, cause us to feel something, and lead us to take action, a NUDGE.” (The Art of the Nudge Pg. 85)
Other Points of View: