Monthly Archives: October 2016

Know More How Your IT and Sales Teams Can Learn to Love Each Other

bs3Salespeople tend to not be especially tech-savvy. Their primary skills are based on their natural charisma—they have an uncanny ability to network, surface a person’s expressed and latent problems and propose meaningful solutions. Unfortunately, sales reps often see technology as a burden instead of a tool, and tech changes can be met with great resistance.
In a given business, IT professionals are held accountable for the productivity gains (or lack thereof) of the team, including salespeople, even though these same sales reps often push back against implementations from the technology team. Despite the process improvements that IT staff regularly make, they typically receive none of the commission or glory when projects are successful. It is not an enviable position, but it is a necessary one. However, IT employees must constantly find and implement technological tools and processes that improve their organization’s performance, even if those additions are unpopular and cause internal uproar.

For sales-dominated companies, a proactive IT strategy can feel like an afterthought. But management should make it a priority to work with both their IT and sales teams to limit the organizational resistance to change and then develop strategies to overcome their reluctance.

Understanding a Sales Team’s Resistance to Technological Change
It shouldn’t be surprising that sales teams tend to resist technological change. Sales is an extremely process-oriented position, and even a minor alteration can drastically impact the way they do business. Considering that a salesperson’s paycheck often is directly correlated to his or her performance, change can be especially sensitive.
Resistance to change isn’t a new phenomenon, either. An article published in Harvard Business Review in 1969 talks about dealing with and overcoming resistance to change. In their case, the studies were focused on minor changes in the daily processes of factory operators. In some of the instances, the resistance to the minor process change was so bad that workers quit or filed grievances.
For a sales team that’s not technologically inclined to begin with, it’s easy to understand that resistance is inevitable. The key is not eliminating resistance—but learning how to work with it and alleviate the sales team’s concerns.

Strategies for Overcoming Hesitancy Among Salespeople
It’s not necessary to understand or overcome an organizational resistance to change, but it can be in your best interest to do so. The main takeaway from the studies published by Harvard Business Review was that the more a team bought into changes, the more successful those changes were. If you want your improved processes and tools to be effective, you need your sales team to embrace change.
Here are some important ways you can overcome these resistances to start working together with sales—instead of against them:
1. Avoid short implementation schedules.
Some experts believe that one of the biggest reasons people resist change is that they have a natural fear of the unknown. If you push technology upgrades or changes onto members of your sales team without much notice, they’re going to be caught off guard and may resist. Your best bet may be to implement over a longer period of time, giving them plenty of training and time to mentally adapt to the changes. Give them a heads-up that changes are coming long before the change ever takes place. This can go a long way to helping them accept and embrace the new state of things.
2. Find a champion.
If your IT folks are working separately from the sales team, it may be hard to get their buy-in. Instead, identify one of the salespeople who has a bit of tech savvy, and invite him or her to help IT management develop new processes and select new tools. It’s much easier to pitch a new sales-management system if it’s the one that a salesperson thought was the easiest to use. That sales insider will be able to explain the benefits to his or her colleagues in a way they understand, making your job much easier.
3. Start small.
When you’re working with a sales team that’s especially resistant to change, you should consider aiming for a small win first. Instead of completely revamping the sales management system, try changing a small part of the system. By getting the sales team to understand the benefits offered by a small change, you may have a good chance of explaining the benefits of a larger overhaul.
4. Provide plenty of support.
Immediately after your IT folks launch a new system or process, it is their job is to support the sales team as much as possible. The worst thing that could happen is letting the company miss out on a sale because sales reps are busy resisting a technological change or fumbling with an unfamiliar sales dashboard. Dedicate staff specifically to support the sales team with any questions, concerns or bugs they might run into.

Driving technological change in a resistant sales-dominated company is not often easy, but it’s a crucial ingredient to long-term success. By understanding why salespeople have reservations with change and working diligently to help them overcome their concerns, you may be able to give sales the tools they need to help win over new accounts and grow existing ones.

Some Efficiency Lessons Business Owners Can Learn From Manufacturers

bs1I’ve always found it useful to be eclectic when it comes to looking for advice. You may think your dry-cleaning business or auto mechanic shop can’t possibly learn from businesses that are in completely different industries, but you might be surprised at what you can learn if you open your eyes and mind.
One of my businesses is a small manufacturing company, and it occurred to me the other day that I’ve learned a lot from our successes and trials. I’ve been able to put those lessons to use in my other business ventures to improve my efficiency. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned from manufacturing that may be helpful to your company too:
1. Eliminate waste.
Whether it’s office supplies, raw materials or employees who aren’t earning their keep, you know there are measures you could take to cut costs.
Manufacturers have learned that becoming more efficient can be difficult if they don’t trim unnecessary costs and stop wasting time and money.
2. Establish SMART goals.
To improve efficiency, it helps if everyone in your organization understands your clearly defined goals. It also helps if those goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-specific—otherwise known as SMART goals.
If your company goals don’t meet every single SMART criterion, then you and your staff may end up spinning your wheels in inefficient activities that can hurt your bottom line. Consider sitting down with your team to define your goals and make sure they’re SMART.
3. Establish systems.
If you or your employees must hand-manage every single task you need accomplished, you may become so mired in minutiae. And that can get in the way of efficiency.
Consider taking a step back from your company’s processes and look for ways to establish systems—portions of your business that you can automate. Systems can help free up you and your staff for more important hands-on tasks, thus improving efficiency. Scaling up requires systematization.
4. Look for bottlenecks.
Bottlenecks are points in your process that prevent you from running more quickly and efficiently. They’re the sticking places where workflow gets gummed up. Bottlenecks can create backlogs that leave your staff idle, waiting to be able to do their jobs—they can be an efficiency killer.
Whether your bottleneck is a task that might benefit from streamlining, or a person who’s unable to keep up with the rest of your employees, when you identify and resolve bottlenecks, you may find that you can accomplish much more.
5. Use key performance indicators (KPIs).
In addition to setting SMART goals, savvy manufacturers use KPIs to evaluate their progress in achieving those goals. KPIs can help you make sure that your goals are clearly communicated to your staff by evaluating them on your prioritized tasks. If your staff knows what matters to you, they may be better able to help you achieve it.
6. Establish quality controls.
Whether you’re manufacturing widgets or cleaning houses, providing excellent service and value to your customers is important. If you don’t have a way to assess the quality of your finished product (and of the staff producing it), you may find yourself struggling to wow your clients. Consider building assessment and evaluation into your process—this can help you learn how much more efficient you can be.
7. Employ root cause analysis.
Business owners often face troubles in their business, but the most successful entrepreneurs find ways to surmount them. It’s important to avoid treating the symptoms of your problems, rather than the cause. Root cause analysis can help prevent just that.
One of the simplest strategies you can use to make sure you’re getting to the heart of your problem is to ask “Why?” until you actually arrive at the root cause. Take this for example: A manufacturer of watches is having trouble delivering orders on time. She asks why. It turns out one portion of her factory is at a standstill. She asks why again. They don’t have the materials they need to produce their component. She asks why. The materials haven’t been ordered. Why? Because the vendor went out of business.
By asking why until she got to the real cause, the manufacturer discovers what her course of action should be. She can then find a new vendor and begin meeting deadlines once again. Root cause analysis is about getting to the actionable issues.
8. Strive for continuous flow.
Most manufacturers understand that streamlining their process can help ensure a smooth, continuous flow of work. An important part of streamlining is ensuring that clients are moved through your process without a hitch. What that means in practice is that if you have a marketing team handing leads to your sales team, that happens without customers getting stalled or neglected in between.

Clients (like products in manufacturing) must be handed off from one department to the next without being dropped. If those handoffs aren’t seamless, you may not be as efficient as you could be. It helps to work toward making your workflow process as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
Ice cream shops, accountants and home repair contractors alike can all benefit from learning from the strategies manufacturers use to become more efficient and profitable. Even if you’re in a service industry, efficiency is worth striving for, as it can always affect your bottom line.

How To Using Time and Timing as Business Power Tools

bs2Are you using time to your business advantage? We can save time, but we can’t buy it; we can kill time and make time, but we can’t go back or forward in time.
But we can use our time better if we think about it. Here are a three ways you can turn time to your business’s advantage.

The Powerful Pause
You can make the so-called awkward pause your tool in business conversations. Most of us grow increasingly uncomfortable with silence in a meeting. We want to fill those pauses. But instead of filling the pause, consider using it to your advantage.
For example, imagine that you’re a buyer in a sales pitch. The seller delivers pricing and terms. You pause. Silence swells. You wait. Quite often the seller will fill the notoriously awkward silence by lowering the price and sweetening the terms.
You haven’t even said no yet. You seem to be thinking about it. But the dynamic around the pause may end up sweetening the deal for you.
I learned about the power of the pause while consulting for an American company in Japan. It turned out that there was a simple cultural difference that played out in favor of Japanese people negotiating with Americans. In our culture, the pause is uncomfortable. In Japan, it is often a sign of respect. The scene I suggest above played out often with Americans selling to Japanese people.
That was decades ago. That cross-cultural phenomenon may not even be still true today. However, whether that detail is still true or not, the pause can be very powerful when used well. Think how it could help you in negotiations and meetings. Those few seconds can be time well spent.

The Waiting Game
We all want to be decisive when it comes to making business decisions. But at times there are very good reasons to put a decision off for later.
1. When more information is coming later. It might be an upcoming sales conference, a meeting, next month’s sales, results or input from somebody else. Having more information coming can be a good reason to wait on making a decision.
2. When there isn’t a penalty for waiting. Since I started using this framework, I’ve been frequently surprised with how often we make decisions quickly when there is no penalty for waiting until later. That’s more obvious when you know more information is coming. But even when you don’t think more information is coming, if there’s no penalty for waiting, you can wait. You might get information you hadn’t expected—or maybe you get insight from your subconscious mind. You may have something to gain and nothing to lose.
3. When you have a gut instinct. It’s the common-sense idea of “Let’s sleep on it.” Sometimes decisions are better when you let them sit for a while. The quasi-scientific explanation might be letting the subconscious mind work on it.

The Slow Simmer
Do you ever turn to a recurring problem, get impatient, forget that there’s a solution already underway and jump ahead with another new solution? I’ve done that more often than I want to admit. I end up not giving the first solution time to cook before jumping in with a second and even a third solution to the same problem.

Business ownership can be full of problems that take time to solve. You might be changing systems, developing software, remodeling space, looking for some new hire and so forth. Meanwhile, the problem reoccurs and frustration sets in. Very often you should take a step back, remind yourself that things are cooking, and wait until they are done.
That can be hard to do. As business owners, we want to solve problems. It’s hard to wait for solutions that take time. Not waiting, however, can be inefficient and counterproductive. Clearly it’s not efficient to throw a second or third solution to a single problem before the first has the time to work.

Some Tips to Help Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome describes individuals’ fears of not being as adequate, competent or intelligent, as others view them. Typical symptoms may include feeling like a fraud or a phony. This can lead to anxiety about being unmasked or being “found out” as an impostor. Those who experience impostor syndrome may suffer from self-doubt. This may make them incapable of taking credit for their accomplishments and successes. They may feel that their success is a fluke, which can lead them to belittle or discount their achievements.
Impostor syndrome typically involves individuals who are high achievers, intelligent and accomplished. There’s a misconception that impostor syndrome primarily affects women, and especially professional women or women in business. But men, too, are subject to it. It can affect anyone from scientists, academics, programmers, actors, authors, librarians, to entrepreneurs and executives. A 2015 study by Vantage Hill Partners, a UK consulting firm, shows that even CEOs experience impostor syndrome. The study, which involved 116 companies, revealed that one of the top fears of CEOs is being found to be incompetent.

Even Albert Einstein may have experienced some aspect of this syndrome. “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held,” he said, “makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
If you think you might suffer from impostor syndrome, try this test. It might help you determine whether you have impostor syndrome characteristics.
So, what can be done to manage, or overcome, impostor syndrome? Here are some suggestions to consider:
1. Don’t fake it.
Well-meaning advice is to “fake it until you make it.” But this might only reinforce the feeling of being an impostor.
Instead of faking anything, consider focusing on increasing your competency in whatever you undertake. Devoting whatever time and effort is required to own your area of expertise can help you feel less like a phony. When we genuinely practice what we know, there’s no need to fake it. There’s power in being authentically who we are and doing work we’re qualified to do.
In that vein, you may not want to take on any challenges where you genuinely feel that you aren’t qualified or where you know you don’t have what it takes in that particular area. If it’s too much, acknowledge it. Acknowledging legitimate concerns can help free you to focus on what you’re good at.
2. Boost your self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is not our ability to do something, but rather our belief in our ability. One way you can increase your self-efficacy is through mastery experiences. This means having successful experiences through repeated effort. Let’s take public speaking as an example. By repeatedly speaking in public, or delivering presentations, you can overcome obstacles to speaking well. Successes that you achieve through persistence and doggedness can lead to mastery experiences.
Another way to boost your self-efficacy is through vicarious experiences. This means watching individuals who are similar to you achieve success through perseverance. This can increase your belief that you, too, can improve your performance in similar activities.

3. Cut yourself some slack.
It’s safe to say that almost everyone who is a high achiever may have, at one time or other, worried that they may not be as capable as others may view them. Perhaps this is what philosopher Bertrand Russell had in mind when he said that “the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Instead of self-flagellation, consider practicing self-compassion. Reminding yourself that you’re not alone in this can help you reduce your fears.
Worrying about how others may view you is natural. It’s an indication that you care. There’s humility in worrying and some humility is an attractive trait. It can trump arrogance. And here’s something to keep in mind: Real impostors probably don’t experience the pangs of the impostor syndrome!

4. Practice metacognition.
Metacognition is not only an awareness of our own thinking, but also an analysis of our own thinking. Simply put, it’s thinking about thinking. Since impostor syndrome typically involves thoughts and feelings about one’s performance, rather than the actual performance itself, it pays to raise your awareness of what’s happening in the moment.
One way to do this is to try and catch yourself when self-doubt starts to creep in. Pause for a moment, and ask yourself:
– Is my self-doubt justifiable?
– What hard evidence is there to validate my fears?
– What scripts am I carrying in my head?
– Who put them there?
– Am I allowing my emotions to highjack my logical brain?
– Are my feelings a result of emotional exhaustion? (e.g., Have I over-extended myself?)
– Do I need to change my strategy?

5. Cultivate mental and emotional poise.
When we practice mental and emotional poise, we’re more likely to achieve that wonderful state of balance, of equilibrium. We can do this when we acknowledge that we’re doing our very best to learn and know our craft. There are other ways to achieve this: For one thing, stopping the tyranny of comparisons. As Mark Twain put it, “comparison is the death of joy.” As well, stop seeking external validation. Why choose to depend on others’ judgments, opinions and possible biases?
Finally, consider reminding yourself that the costs of perpetuating impostor syndrome far outweigh any possible benefits. For example, the anxiety that accompanies such feelings can be an unnecessary distraction. Feeling like an impostor can cause you to undersell yourself.
Whether you’re a business owner, a professional or an entrepreneur, impostor syndrome can sap your energy and discourage you from going out there and pursuing your goals for success. Acknowledge it—and take comfort in the knowledge that many others, especially successful people, experience the same feelings. Then resolve not to let it stop you in your tracks.