7 Keys to Working Smarter and Being Highly Successful

After observing thousands of leaders in companies from startups to over $20B in revenue and helping create over $1 Billion in business value, I noticed one superpower in highly successful people. They worked smarter, not harder, and derive much higher results in less time than almost everyone else. These very successful leaders tended to value highly the Management Strategies and Learnings obtained through Business and Executive coaching channels.

For clarity, I deem someone to be successful if they can accomplish three times more than their peers,  have more joy and happiness, and do all of this in less time.  Now, I have to draw a line as many of us are highly ambitious, driven, and are classic workaholics. Most workaholics do not commit to reducing the hours they work and find work exhilarating. Regardless of your view, it would help if you wanted to achieve three times the results and earnings in less time. What you do with the extra time is your business.  But everyone should want to work smarter and not harder.

I am often exposed to CEOs in the same industry and have always been amazed at how varied leader’s approaches are.  To me, the right approach is the one that produces three times the results with a similar effort.  Let’s take the restoration industry.  I have met many CEOs who started their business 20 years before and are stuck at $5M in revenue or less. Also, I have met others that were in the industry for just a few years and had revenue over $5M.   I do not only find revenue disparity. I also find profit and time gaps.  While the average company earns a net profit of 5% of revenue, we have helped companies generate over 20%.  Would you rather be a $10M company that produces $500K of net profit or a $5 Million company that produces $1M in net profit?  That was a trick because you should want to be the $10 Million company generating $2 Million profit, expecting the growth and the profits.

The most successful CEOs build far larger companies, have higher growth rates, have more free time, and have 3x the net profit margin. And, yes, there are other measures of success. I want you to consider that working more hours than everyone else, regardless of what you earn, is a fool’s choice! All I want to do is challenge us to work smarter continually.

Which leads us to the big question: “How can we make it easier to achieve our success goals faster?”  How can a person make far more, achieve their intended impact, and work a lot less? Not only is this possible, but others are already doing it. After watching these leaders, I noticed they were not necessarily smarter, more creative, lack ethics, or privileged.  I have met many highly successful people, some ultra-wealthy, and found that they were formerly homeless, living in trailer parks, had no college degrees, and so on. I am sure all of us are capable of high levels of success.

Achieving success is simpler than you think but not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it.  The strange part is that we are familiar with the concepts but not living them. Here are the principles you must follow to work smarter and not harder:

(1) Manage Your Thoughts

(2) Have a  Strategy

(3) Be Strategic

(4) Work a Plan

(5) Be Disciplined

(6) Resilience Rituals

(7) Build Wealth

Manage Your Thoughts

There are three dimensions to managing our thoughts: awareness, intention, and perseverance. Our mind is a potent tool. How you think will change your outcomes for better or worse. Thus you need to be aware of what you are thinking. For example, if you make up your mind that someone cannot do their job, your words and actions will differ from those based on the premise they are capable of. Your thoughts need to be congruent with your intentions. If you intend on accomplishing something and focus your thoughts on contrary purposes, you will fail. Imagine you plan to have a good day but your spend most of your day angry about something. 

Once our thoughts and intentions are in unity, we need to have perseverance. When was the last time you set out for something new and challenging, and it worked out exactly as planned? Most often, we find we run into unforeseen difficulties and roadblocks.  If you allow your mind to waiver from the finish line, you may not get there in a practical manner.

Have a Strategy

Too often, I find driven people are in constant motion. They confuse activity with productivity. When they see a problem to solve, they are off to the races.  Often leaders are solving the wrong problems or not taking the best route to solve their problems.  By doing so, you may feel better in the short term, but it could have long-term negative consequences.

I recently witnessed a senior leader get angry with a subordinate because he felt they were taking advantage of the company.  He immediately launched into attack mode and let the employee know how he felt.  While the concern was merited and the employee course-corrected, there were longer-term consequences.  You see, the leader was so busy being right that he lost one of the highest-performing people in the industry. That employee decided to quit his boss.

In the end, the leader was not strategic.  Had he been, he would have waited until he wasn’t angry and would have developed a strategy to course-correct the employee in a manner that was okay for both parties involved. Instead, he may need two people to do the work the one accomplished, and his reputation may cause other competent people not to want to work for him.

While I used a personal situation, the same goes for taking on projects, lofty goals, and conquering the competition. One thing we have all learned is that there are many ways to accomplish an objective. Being strategic requires you to consider achieving the ideal outcomes, choosing what “not” to do, using the least amount of resources, and within the desired time frame. It is usually best to consider expanding your options before choosing a path.

Work A Plan

We are working on a plan ties to being strategic.  However, the critical difference is that the strategy is the vision of where you want to go, and the action plan charts your course from beginning to end—many of us are big picture people. We can see what is possible and have a “can-do” attitude.  The problem with visionaries is they believe everything is simple and underestimate what it takes to achieve the outcome.  Taking the ball down the field is usually someone else’s problem.  To achieve grand visions, I recommend the following project management techniques:

(1) Be specific – The objective has to be clearly stated so that anyone could step in and know what needs to be done.

(2) Make it Measurable – Identify the measurable milestones and deadlines that indicate you are on track.

(3) Action Steps – Identify the action steps necessary to achieve each milestone.

(4) Monitor Progress – There must be processes and systems in place to monitor progress.

(5) Course Correct – When progress is insufficient, it is essential to revisit your plan to get back on track.

Be Disciplined

Whether you are working on getting healthy, achieving your sales goals, accomplishing a major project, it takes disciplined action.  Too often, we like the idea of the outcome but are not disciplined enough to achieve it. Think about dieting. If I eat healthily and eat the right amount of calories for three days a week but overeat unhealthy foods the other 4, it will take a lot longer (if ever) to lose the weight. Where if you ate properly every day, that takes discipline.

My brother Matt is the President of Steven Douglas, one of the fastest-growing recruiting and staffing agencies in the US.  Matt has been a top producer every year since he entered the industry almost 20 years ago.  Most people in his industry only dream of producing his revenue production.  Matt shared with me that he has hundreds of employees, and none of them produce as much as he does. Given that he is President, he spends far less time than full-time salespeople. This caused me to ask his secret. Matt has a list of 300 key contacts he calls every sixty days.  He does this by setting aside one hour daily for outbound calls.  This single disciplined activity has helped him achieve more in 5 hours a week than others can produce in 60 hours.  Successful people are willing to commit to such discipline. I have shared this technique with at least 100 people over the years, and none has had the discipline to implement it.

Resilience Rituals

The airlines taught us a very important less when they told us that we must put our oxygen masks on first before helping others. I have found that highly successful people have a regimen of activities that they use to recharge themselves.  Here are my resilience rituals:

 – 1/2 hour of daily exercise

 – 15 Minute breaks between meetings

 – 15-30 of Meditation

 – 15 Minutes of Quiet reflection

 – Spending time with friends and family

 – Take 4-6 weeks off on vacation throughout the year.

 – Monitor and control my work hours

 – Weekly Massage

It would be best to have the same level of committed discipline to your resilience rituals as your business routines.  For example, if you work out 4 hours in one day, it will not have the same effect as 1/2 hour per day.

Build Wealth

Too many of us are so busy working that we don’t spend the right amount determining how to build wealth. Every very wealthy person I met has at least three streams of significant income.  It is essential that you identify, develop, and give enough attention to your various income streams.  Most people will tell you that the most significant part of wealth came from income streams outside of their day job.  The day gave them the financial start in investing in other activities. Still, many of those activities require learning about and developing strategies and plans to develop each stream. 

In Conclusion

While you can be highly successful without practicing the above activities, it does not invalidate them.  However, by managing your thoughts, being strategic, working a plan, being disciplined, practicing resilience rituals, and building wealth consistently, you will find your path to success with less friction.  Now I challenge you to determine how to use these principles to work smarter and not harder, so you have more time to do the things that are most important to you.

 


Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm, please visit his website at Activate Group Inc or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

Trying to Sell an Apple to Someone Looking for Chocolate?

Recently, I facilitated a meeting for one of the most innovative companies I work with. The leadership team is one of the smartest I have ever worked with, and there is a clear vision about solving gaps in their market. Moreover, they arguably have the best SAAS platform to serve their target segment. Yet, they have struggled to grow.

Have you ever wondered why some companies seem to grow with ease while others don’t? I have pondered this question because I have seen far too many organizations struggle to grow. For the SAAS Company, the secret showed up in a strategy session I recently facilitated. The conversation centered around one key question, “Why is this SAAS company finding it so difficult to acquire new customers? The answer was not what you would expect.

Are You Answering the Right Question?

Often, leaders are trying to solve their growth issues by centering on the wrong questions and problems. Typically if you asked the question, “How do we increase sales faster,” you would hear answers like:
• We need more revenue.
• We need more leads.
• We need higher quality leads?
• We need better salespeople.
• Our sales manager is not doing her job.
• We need better marketing.
• We need more marketing.
• We need more salespeople.
• Our customers don’t understand why we are different.
• We have failed to articulate our value proposition well.
• Our salespeople need a better process.
• Our salespeople need better training.

Have You Identified the True Problem?

While the above may be components of solving your growth issues, it is likely not your problem. I often see companies spend significant money and time addressing all the above. After years of frustration, they find themselves right back where they started from. They find other companies in their industry growing far faster, and some started much later and far larger. Your company has likely developed great products and services, cares about your employees and customers, works very hard, and has many loyal customers. In addition, your company might have implemented best-practice execution processes like EOS and Scaling Up, and yet the growth outcomes are not getting much better. What gives?

The right approach is to change your question. In my client example, we changed the question from “how do we increase revenue” to “why is it so difficult to acquire new clients ?” I asked the leadership to answer the question with a question. We brainstormed for 10 minutes until we complied with enough inquiries related to the initial question. Here are some of the questions they came up with?
• How do we remove sales friction?
• What would we need to do to increase market share dramatically?
• Why can’t we sell product “A” to our target market?
• Why is there so much friction in acquiring new customers?
• Would it be easier to sell a product that is on par with our competition?
• What do we need to shift in sales and marketing?
• Who is our real target customer?
• What is the evolutionary path for customers?

After developing 25 questions, I asked the team to narrow down the list to one critical question that would address almost all of the questions. The answer was, “why can’t we sell product “A” to the masses?”

By using the new question as a focal point, we were able to discover their real problem. The market was desiring a product they were not offering. Worse, they had the perfect product, and it was bundled into their more sophisticated product. In the long run, their product was more complete and would better serve their target market. The problem, most companies were not ready to consider their full suite, and they were trying to force it on them.

While there is a lot more to this story, I was hoping you could recognize that these extremely smart leaders were essentially trying to sell an apple to people looking to buy chocolate. When the prospect did not see the chocolate, they moved on to the competitors. We realized that we had to metaphorically get the customer into the supermarket and sell them chocolate before they were willing to consider the apple. Chocolate was their primary need. Once they loved our chocolate, we could take them down more isles and sell them more of what they needed.

Stop Trying to Convert the Heathens?

Are you guilty of ignoring the market? This is a common mistake. My client was a great example. They had the perfect product but were so enamored with their complete solution causing them to ignore the market expectations. While they are correct, their product can and will solve bigger, more complex problems, there were too few leaders that were aware and ready to solve them. They were getting ahead of themselves. And, like a good priest or rabbi, they were delivering sermons to inspire and convert the heathens. The problem was that the disciples were not listening. When this occurs, the sermon is white noise. Their best approach was to get the easy win, earn the customer’s trust, and use that as a platform to cross-sell later.

Conclusion – Ask Yourself… and Take Action!

If you are like many leaders, you know that your company can and should be growing much faster. Have you found the right question to answer? Do you know the primary problem? Are you spending enough time facing the brutal facts?


Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about Howard Shore or the firm, please contact Activate Group or call (305) 722-7216.

Do You Have Meeting Rhythm?

It may be a surprise, but in most organizations there are not enough good meetings. You might be saying there is no time for any more meetings, but when properly executed, good meetings will save you time and will make you more money!

This article focuses on how to develop good meeting rhythm in your organization in order to save you time and money. When you conduct a series of meetings that build upon each other, they allow management to see patterns that will help them to make better and faster decisions. In addition, by communicating in focused, structured, and organized fashion, you cut a lot of the inefficiency out of the organization.

The meetings every organization should have and their purposes should be as follows:

  • Annual Meeting – Discuss progress on last year’s goals, and set and get alignment among your management team around the goals you plan to achieve for the next year.
  • Quarterly Meetings – You measure progress toward your year-end goals and discuss what you need to do in the next 13-week race to stay on track.
  • Monthly Meetings – Focus on monthly learning. These are opportunities for the management team to start developing the next levels in the organization. This should be a two- to four-hour meeting for the extended management team to review progress with everyone, discuss financial results, and to make appropriate adjustments. It is also a great time to do an hour or two of specific training.
  • Weekly Meetings – These are issue-oriented meetings and strategic gatherings. At these meetings you discuss progress toward the top 5 critical initiatives in the organization (you have identified these right?), look at leading key performance indicators, customer and employee feedback, and spend 30 minutes on one single big issue. A big mistake made at weekly meetings is covering everything every week. As a result, weekly meetings tend to be too shallow. It is recommended that the management team pick a focus for the month or quarter to be the priority for your weekly meetings. By moving that one large priority for the month or quarter, you make a big impact on driving your business forward.
  • Daily Huddles – These are 5-15 minute stand-up meetings for everyone in the company, but not necessarily everyone in the same meeting. The purpose of these huddles is to help make sure that everyone is focused on the right activities, identify where people are stuck, create peer pressure to achieve key deliverables, and create daily contact among all team members. Companies that do huddles have found that it has made their days much more efficient and weekly and monthly meetings much more productive.
  • Specific Purpose Meetings – These meetings only include those people necessary to get something done, remove a bottleneck, and/or are designed to make a decision.

We help clients achieve quick, efficient and profitable growth through the easy implementation of proven methods. Contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com to find out how a business coach, our consultants and trainers can help you accelerate your success.

How Effective Are Your Meetings?

Do your meetings result in everyone feeling good after they leave? Does very little get done in your meetings? If so, your meetings function like most, and they are probably worthless!

Most often leaders are concerned with there being too many meetings, or meetings being too long, or some other wrong measurement. I would like to suggest that you change your measurement systems. For example, a good leading indicator that something important is being discussed is conflict. Other indicators of good meetings are the number of decisions made and the number of people held accountable for decisions made at the prior meetings. These are real indicators that your meetings are worthwhile. If you have a really good meeting, then everyone leaves feeling uncomfortable because there is so much more to be done, and they have a stake in it!

There are 7 critical factors that when managed correctly result in great meetings and top results for organizations:

  1. Conflict

    Conflict is a necessary part of good meetings. There should be good healthy conflict in every good meeting, and people should feel pressure. When there is a lack of conflict, it is an indication you are not talking about anything that requires any real discussion, failing to emphasize the hard-to-achieve goals and key performance indicators, not holding people accountable, not talking about the “elephants in the room” or the real issues going on the in company. If you are not having this type of regular conflict, you have a problem with your “team,” and I recommend reading “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. The lack of conflict can be an indication that the foundation of a strong team, trust, is missing. .

  2. Purpose

    Every meeting should have a purpose, and you should define that purpose before you enter the room. By the end of the meeting you should answer the question “Did we achieve our purpose?” For example, if your purpose was to decide whether or not to do an acquisition, you need to determine if a decision was made. If there was no decision at the end of the meeting, you need to determine the specific action steps needed to make that decision, and what alternative decision deadline is acceptable. You need to determine how often your meetings fail to achieve their purpose and why. If this is a regular occurrence, you need to challenge your team to identify whether it is a failure in preparation or some other symptom causing the organization to be ineffective. Do not allow yourselves to get off the hook.

  3. Time

    There are two elements to time. Making sure that you schedule your meeting on a day and at a time when you will get the team’s undivided attention is very important. You want to get as many people physically in the same room as possible. You also want to make sure that you schedule plenty of time to support your agenda. For example, I know of a company that regularly schedules a monthly meeting with an insufficient amount of time to cover the their agenda. As a result, they fail to finalize decisions, think through all the issues going on in the company, and hold people accountable for past decisions. The result is definitely showing up in the income statement, cash flow, and stress level. If you have covered all that you need to, it is okay to end a meeting early. If you did not cover all that you need to, you need to extend your meeting or reschedule the remaining items for a later time so everyone does not feel stressed because you are running over.

  4. Preparation

    All participants should know what is going to be covered in the meeting and what needs to be prepared in advance. This will allow for a more productive meeting.

  5. Interruptions

    Whenever possible, it is recommended that your monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings be done off-site. This will reduce and/or eliminate interruptions as much as possible.

  6. Responsibility

    Make sure that the responsibility stays in the room, and you do not play the blame game. Your meetings need to be about solutions. Leave excuses to the rest of the world.

  7. Accountability

    It is critical to agree on who is the one person that is accountable for each item, and to make sure that person is held accountable. Review key developments, assignments, and deadlines regularly until an assignment is completed.

We help clients achieve quick, efficient and profitable growth through the easy implementation of proven methods. Contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com to find out how a business coach, our consultants and trainers can help you accelerate your success.

Making Lofty Goals Realistic

Many organizations set goals that are not realistic and are in the habit of not meeting their objectives. Others achieve some of their goals by accident, and some could achieve a lot more. The first questions is, “Are your goals mandatory, or are they something you set out to try?” If they are mandatory, then I suggest you make sure that you are planning for success instead of failure. Many organizations set their goals without considering the obvious reasons they may not be achievable. By addressing these reasons up front, an organization can dramatically increase the likelihood of success or know that they must adjust them to something more realistic.

Here is a common list of possible circumstances that cause organizations not to achieve their goals:

  • Has consideration been given to the capacity of the target market (growing-shrinking) and what a realistic share of the market can be?
  • If revenue levels were achieved, considering seasonality effects, what is the ability of the organization to deliver the products and services at the optimum level while keeping its brand promises?
  • Can the company finance growth; should it grow faster than its ability to self-fund?
  • What advertising or marketing support will be needed to support the goals, and are there finances in place to support it?
  • How will competition respond to your strategic moves, and are your marketing and sales forces well prepared to properly differentiate the company?
  • What is the performance track record of the people that need to deliver, and will your new goals require a significant increase in performance?
  • Are there enough sales and sales support people based on: the amount of time to make the appropriate amount of sales calls; the number of meetings it will take to close a deal; how many proposals one has to write; the time it takes to process a deal, given the normal sales cycle, based on the average close ratio, the average size of deals closed, and travel time?
  • Will you need to introduce new products, by when, and how much of your sales volume depends on it?

Lofty goals require a regular regimen of adjusting your resources (time, people and money). As an organization answers the above questions, inevitably they should be considering upgrading some people, increasing some resources, moving some around, refocusing time, etc. Significant goals, those that require growth rates and increases in profit margins that are large improvements over prior years, need refinement on a monthly and quarterly basis. As we are trying things, we will make mistakes and/or see more opportunities for growth. The great leaders are the ones that are making these adjustments.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Conflict Avoidance Hurts Teamwork

A great way to tell whether you have a strong team is by the amount of regular, healthy conflicts that occur in meetings when decisions are being made and if decisions are really being made at all. It is often said that if everyone agrees than someone is not needed. This may be true but the real issue may be that the team dynamics in the organization has been broken. This breakage may be causing key people that can be contributing to stop contributing.

There are many leadership missteps that may be killing and destroying teamwork and cause conflict avoidance. Here are a few examples of when a leader can destroy the team.

  • Stopped being curious and really does not listen to people when issues are raised in meetings.
  • Intimidating or threatening so subordinates have fear of reprisal so they do not want to speak up.
  • History of judging people in the room (and voicing those judgments) when opinions differ from theirs or are not strong and thus people do not want to be vulnerable.
  • Appears to only be self interested.
  • Tendency to interrupt other team members before their idea may be completed.
  • Makes personal attacks when they are not getting their way.

According to Pat Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunction of Team, “fear of conflict” is one of the five dysfunctions that are critical to teamwork.  The leader has to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated, and that topics focus on the issues that need to be resolved. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks. What organizations find is that healthy conflict saves them a lot of time and leads to better decisions. The role of the leader is to practice restraint and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Think Before You Communicate

So often verbal communications do not work out the way people want. They cause a completely different outcome from their intended purpose. The challenge is not just the words one uses. It is the tone and body language of the delivery. Research tells us that words make up only 7% of the communication we receive. Body language accounts for 55%, and tone 38%. Meanwhile, people spend the majority of their time thinking about the words they want to use. I would suggest that not enough thought is given to timing and method of delivery.

The more prominent a person’s role in an organization and community, the more important it is for them to be a master communicator. Their prominence results in their communications touching and impacting larger audiences of people. For example, let’s look at Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His comments after LeBron James announced his decision to go to the Miami Heat will have a profound impact on his organization and his community. In case you missed it, he denounced the player who won MVP in the league for the last 2 seasons and carried his team to the playoffs for the last few seasons, making statements publicly that included the following:

  • Heartless and callous
  • Shocking disloyal
  • Shameful display of selfishness
  • Cowardly betrayal

Mr. Gilbert then went on “to personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former “King” wins one. You can take it to the bank.”

The consequences of these remarks served little purpose other than to embarrass Dan Gilbert and his organization and to hurt his community. It put the team in a position where LeBron might never consider returning to play in his home town, Cleveland, regardless of what trades they made. Gilbert violated the rule of “never burning bridges.” Had the Miami Heat or Alonzo Mourning done something so foolish back when he had health issues, Alonzo might not have returned to play a critical role in helping the Heat win the NBA title. There are many cases where players have returned to a former team later in their careers and played crucial roles.

In addition, the people in the city also should have thought before they burned their LeBron jerseys. All of these people acted in a shockingly disloyal and selfish manner toward a player who brought them incredible baskeball for the last 6 years and donated a lot of time and money in their community. Many stars continue to support their home towns after leaving for another team. Now these shortsighted people are alienating him. What are the chances that he will want to continue to give back to this community? What purpose is their communication serving?

The lesson here is that one must think before communicating. I would bet that many communications would never happen because they serve no useful purpose. They are often just an outlet for some to free their anger; as above. In the process they hurt themselves and others. There are only two proper purposes for communication: 1) to transfer information, and 2) to encourage others to behave or act a certain way. You know you achieve that goal when the information has been transferred properly or the other people are behaving or acting the way you desired. If this is not the case, you failed in your communications. If your purpose with communication is to hurt someone or to cause anger, it usually acts as a boomerang.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Face or Phone Time To Fill Your Sales Pipeline?

Have you noticed that the higher up people move in their organizations or the longer someone has been in a sales role, whether it be in professional services or a traditional sales role, the farther away they move from the daily regimen of outbound prospecting calls to schedule appointments to increase their sales pipeline?

Furthermore, they are typically not in the top 25% of sales volume producers for their industry group, which means they could be producing a lot more but have allowed themselves to get complacent. The only people that do not need to set aside time for daily prospecting calls and potential networking are the people who generate enough of a consistent sales pipeline to put them in the top 25% of all producers in their industry segment. Everyone else has to find a way to develop their pipeline either through networking and making phone calls.

For everyone else, aside from company leads and people calling you unsolicited, there are only two ways to build your pipeline: getting out to network and using your phone. After studying this for some time, I am convinced that people do what is comfortable for them, but not what is best for them. What is comfortable for most people is getting out of the office and meeting people.

It is very common to find people who go to every networking meeting available, hoping to run into a few decision-makers. If they attend an event with 100 people, there may be 10 that would be good client candidates; however, they may or may not meet any of those 10 people. By the end of this event, they are likely to walk away with zero meetings and, best case, perhaps some people who would take a phone call about future meetings. Of these, maybe 1 is a real prospect. Including travel time, attending the event was a 3-hour decision and time commitment. So all you accomplished was marketing your organization, introducing yourself to some new people who now know you exist, and possibly setting one future meeting, if the person you met ever takes your call.

Now let’s take that same 3 hours and use the phone. The average person starting out may not have a very large contact list and may need to do a lot of cold calling. But a seasoned salesperson and partners in a professional services firm should have amassed more than 2,000 contacts willing to take their call. The people being called also know people, and may be willing to give referrals. So, imagine how many people could be called and connected within 3 hours. Whether cold calling or warm calling, it is reasonable to expect a large number of outbound calls. Even if a large percentage of the calls result in leaving messages, all calls can be directed to a decision-maker in a company with which you want to do business. Conservatively, depending on the nature of your business and the level of the person you are calling in the organization, you should achieve 12 phone meetings and 2 to 3 prospect meetings scheduled for new business opportunities. If you are good at pre-qualifying your meetings, at least one of those meetings is likely to result in new business within your sales cycle. This is a much better result than attending the networking meeting above. In essence, you networked, but you did it over the phone. These results can be achieved whether you are calling people you know or cold calling a list of good prospects from a purchased list.

I am not suggesting that people do no networking. I believe that your networks make you powerful. However, I am suggesting that most people are making 2 mistakes with networking.

  1. Too much time is allocated to networking. No more than 10% of a salesperson’s time should be spent on networking. If you are in professional services and have to deliver, it should be no more than 5%, in order to allow enough time to get on the phone to properly fill the pipeline and to attend meetings with prospects.
  2. Too much networking in the wrong places. Do not go to a networking event unless the majority of the people there are the people that you would normally sell your product or service to. Do not go to events consisting of a bunch of salespeople from other companies. An exception is a networking group like Business Networking International (“BNI”), providing that you regularly get referrals from the other people you are meeting with. These relationship-based groups can be valuable if you are surrounded by the right people.

Another distraction of networking is board involvement. While this is can be a rewarding and important activity, it should not be confused with a productive sales activity. When you compare the amount of time it takes to sit and play the role on a board with the number of people on the board, amount of interaction with those people, and the amount of business received, a person would be better served taking the phone call route. So when someone decides to sit on a board, it should be a community involvement decision rather than one to help them make their sales production numbers. Many times I have seen people’s board involvement significantly detract from their production. They will develop business from their involvement, but it is far less than these people would produce had they chosen more productive networking venues and/or called on their rolodex to find business.

The key take-away is use of time. We must be careful not to confuse what makes us feel good with what is best for generating business. Most people do not put the time into making phone calls because they do not view this as an exciting part of their day. Because it does not fit their self-image, they avoid the most effective use of sales time. If everyone put as little as an hour per day, or five hours per week into filling their pipeline with meetings, they would always have a full and productive pipeline and find themselves in the top 25% of their peer group.  Many people have found that they complete the whole sales process without ever leaving their desk.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation.

Is your approach Self-Centered?

Too often managers, mentors and colleagues sound very much like parents talking to children. When you want them do something differently you tell them a story about yourself.  In the business world feedback may sound like this:

“You should have done “X” because that is how I would do it” or “Back in the day this is how we did things.”

This self-centered approach to giving feedback has the same effect as when parents tell their children “when I was your age.”  People shut down. They hear nothing that is said after that. The reason is that they are feeling like a victim as their self esteem is being attacked.  No one likes to feel like they are a bad person, that they are less than anyone else, or to be spoken to like someone who thinks they are better than anyone else. These are all feelings that generate when conversations begin from a self-centered frame of mind.

If you want someone to do, think or act differently it is important to approach them from their perspective. You need to ask questions instead of give directions. Help people think through their solutions rather than think for them. This may take a little longer and require you to be creative but the results will be much better.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Thanks Steven Slater and Jet Blue

I have been reading about Jet Blue’s flight attendant’s meltdown, and whether or not Steven Slater started the affair or the passenger did, it still highlights something that we can all probably agree on. People in general have lost their manners, and society needs to get back to basics. Whether we are on the road, in an airplane, in the workplace, shopping, or at home, people are not treating each other properly and in many cases are just downright rude and disrespectful.

I could never talk to my parents the way I hear kids speak to theirs today. The quality of communications among people has declined thanks to e-mail, text, twitter and other reasons not to talk face-to-face. Texting and e-mails have caused more strife between people than ever could be imagined. People do a poor enough job expressing themselves in person.

Even without the messaging problems, the basics have just gone out the window. For some reason, it seems that as generations go by, people think that it is okay to be disrespectful. Common courtesies have gone out of fashion like clothing. For example:

  • How often do all the ladies leave the elevator first?
  • How often are people holding the door open for people or just rushing in?
  • In South Florida I do not think anyone is ever on time. When someone is late, they are showing lack of respect for the people waiting for them.
  • When someone cancels a meeting at the last minute, they are showing disrespect for the other person’s schedule.
  • How often does someone see someone else carrying something heavy and pretend not to see them instead of offering assistance?
  • People do not return phone calls, e-mail, or invitation responses.

So after pondering these thoughts, I was considering some of the companies in the world that are known for their customer service. These customer service techniques are rooted in good manners. Saying thank you and you’re welcome, holding open the door for people, and other basic good manners.

I recently visited Aruba and was amazed at how friendly everyone was. I do not care who it was. You could talk to anyone, and they were helpful. The Aruban economy is clearly dependent on tourism, and the small country totally gets it. Compare that to say, Miami, which also heavily depends on tourism, and I would say half the hotels are not nearly as friendly and helpful as some of the street people were in Aruba. There was no surprise that in Aruba they have 2% unemployment, low crime and what they call a “happy island.”

So maybe if our state and federal governments want to spend money on something useful to improve our economy, they should require every American to attend good etiquette and customer service training. This alone might put our economy back on track and give us a competitive advantage over other countries.

If the government cannot see the forest through the trees, business owners must. If your company does not have a large loyal customer base, take a look at how well the staff treats each other and its customers. If you do not think they are setting an example in how well they treat people as human beings, I am sure it is having a negative impact on your top and bottom lines.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.