Tag Archives: thought leader

5 Steps: When You DON’T Make the Sale

9 Mar

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy working on a prospective client proposal and presentation. Then you learn that you didn’t win the bid. After you overcome your disappointment, what do you do next?

Below are the 5 Steps to take when you DON’T make the sale:

  1. Contact the client to learn which company they selected and what the “tipping points” were for the selection. Letting the client know that you merely want to learn if there are any areas of growth or consideration that you and your colleagues can improve upon for the future. Be sincere and authentic in your desire to get their feedback and suggestions.
  2. Evaluate the selection criteria from step 1 above. It’s important to determine if any of the selection criteria are areas you can improve upon, change, or are simply are beyond your control. You can learn a lot from your “losses.” Do you see a trend in the reason you’re losing business? Is the trend something that can be changed or is it a fixed trend.

    Example: If you are in hotel sales and you lose business because of your location, you can’t change that – but you may be able to find positives in your location to counter the client’s objections. However, if you lose business because you don’t include breakfast in your room rate, that’s a fairly simple fix.

  3. Establish an internal “trace date” to follow-up with the client based on benchmark dates: (1) If it’s a meeting planning contract, contact the client 30-days after the event to touch base on their event. (2) If it’s an annual contract, contact the client 90-days prior to the end of the contract term to determine level of satisfaction. (3) If it’s the sale of a product or service, contact the client 30-days after purchase to gage satisfaction.
  4. Create a Google Alert under the client’s name to follow their progress, company news, and press releases. Staying on top of a prospective client’s news opens opportunities for you to drop them a congratulatory note for a positive outcome in their company or a door opening for you to approach them with a new product.
  5. Maintain communications long after the initial “loss” is over. Given the Internet resources currently available, it’s easy to find ways to maintain communications with a prospect:
    • Connect with them on LinkedIn
    • Subscribe to their company’s blog or RSS feed
    • Create a “Stock Alert” (if they are a public company) to follow upswing in their company that may open new opportunities for you.

“Losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again…” — John Wooden, Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach

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Top 5 Reasons an M.A. in English is Useful in Business

26 Feb

People often ask me if I think my Master’s Degree in English is useful in business. I find it a curious question since the answer seems so obvious to me. However, since it’s asked so frequently, I’m offering the following top five reasons:

  1. Communication Skills: My coursework improved my written and oral communication skills. When you’re pursuing your M.A. in English, you learn to write clear, concise, well-documented research. You also learn to orally communicate your arguments in classroom discussions with peers and professors. It’s one thing to have an opinion and another to be able to clearly and cogently discuss it with others. And, whether you’re writing emails, blogs, or reports for your colleagues, these skills are timeless.
  1. Critical Thinking Skills: Writing, research, and critical analysis are the foundations of a master’s degree. You learn how to accept constructive criticism of your work and use that criticism to improve and grow. You learn how to conduct research, organize that research, and then use inductive and deductive skills to facilitate an outcome. Regardless of your business environment, this is a skill set that transfers beyond the classroom.
  1. Consideration of Varying Viewpoints: An essential foundation in the study of English literature is literary theory and criticism. Literary theory is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for its analysis. By studying the many schools of literary theory you learn to view literary works through a variety of lenses. Learning to analyze information from many different perspectives offers the opportunity to grow your thought processes. Understanding the various schools of thought translates into the ability to do so in the business world. You learn to be open to new business models and methodologies.
  1. Commitment to Long-term Goals: One of the most arduous tasks a student will undertake is the research, writing, and presentation of their master’s thesis. The process generally begins as you reach the final semester of your coursework. The length of time it takes to complete your master’s thesis will vary — but it always takes longer than you think. I was given great advice by my thesis chair to, “pick a topic/writer you feel you can live with for the next year or two.” As in business, you may not enjoy every task your job requires, but if you’re pursuing your passion, it makes it all worthwhile.
  1. Conceptual Thinking Skills: Individuals who have strong conceptual skills typically have excellent cognitive abilities. These skills include thinking creatively, formulating abstractions, and analyzing complex situations as well as understanding issues and solving problems. Conceptual skills allow a manager to visualize the entire organization and work with ideas and the relationships between abstract concepts. It also enables an effective manager to weed out those variables that are inefficient and/or detrimental to a successful outcome.

Why Are We Meeting?

28 Sep

A few years ago, Psychology Today published an article by Ray B. Williams, “Wired for Success” in which Williams argues, that if you want to “improve productivity, scrap meetings.” He sites SmartBrief on Leadership that conducted a poll asking this question, “How much time do you spend in recurring meetings?” The results of the poll indicated that 30% of the respondents are spending between 30-75% of their time in recurring meetings. (Keep in mind, these meetings may be face-to-face, conference calls, or web-based.)

That said, you undoubtedly have meetings that are absolutely necessary and you may not need to “scrap” them. However, meeting leaders are responsible for preparing for the meetings ahead of time, ensuring all attendees understand what’s expected of them prior to and during the meeting, and then the leader must manage and control the meetings efficiently.

The Agenda
An agenda is essential to a successful meeting. If the meeting’s organizer can’t take the time to create an agenda then he/she may need to rethink the need for the meeting. Meetings, by definition, are established to communicate, evaluate, discuss, and produce results. That said the agenda should be disseminated to those invited to attend in advance. There’s nothing worse than attending a meeting having not received an agenda and being asked questions or for opinions that needed advance notice or analysis.

The Preparation
Creating an agenda takes time and preparation on the part of the meeting organizer. They need to determine and define the purpose of the meeting, the expectations during and following, and the objectives the meeting is intended to achieve.

In turn, the attendees should review the agenda upon receipt and ensure they too have done their homework to be prepared with the necessary information, reports, and recommendations on the topics outlined in the agenda. Quite simply, all of those seated at the meeting should be serving a purpose or a reason for their attendance and participation. As the meeting takes place, each person’s role and contribution should be demonstrated.

Useful Tips to Achieve a Productive Meeting:

  1. Don’t hold a meeting unless you’re prepared, organized, and have demonstrated goals.
  2. Distribute a specific agenda including intended outcomes in advance
  3. Be clear about the outcome and purpose of the meeting.
  4. Hold attendees accountable for the reports and information that they are expected to provide.
  5. Don’t use meetings to distribute information or give updates or low-level housekeeping  – –  do that by email
  6. Hold meetings just before lunch so people will value the limited time
  7. Limit meetings to one hour in length
  8. Always begin and end the meetings at the announced times

What tips or guidelines do you use?

Not All Managers are Leaders

31 Jan

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – – John Quincy Adams

I’ve always been fascinated by the difference between a manager and a leader. Actually, fascinated may not be the right word; let’s say that I’ve been perplexed and often frustrated. I think the genesis of my frustration is a potential fallacy that a manager should be a leader. However, anecdotal evidence has proven that just because someone manages people or departments does not mean they are leaders. Many managers are not effective leaders.

So let’s put aside all of the fancy research and management/leadership style models and simplify the concept. What differentiates a manager from a leader?

What is a Manager?
Managers have subordinates. A manager executes the plans, decisions, and goals driven from upper management. A person becomes a manager by virtue of his position. The followers are generally the manager’s employees. Followers follow the manager by default of management and supervisory hierarchy.

What is a Leader?
Leaders have followers. A leader is someone who influences the behavior and work of others in the group’s efforts towards achievement of specified goals in a given situation. A person becomes a leader on basis of his personal qualities. The followers of the most effective leaders tend to follow by choice. Followers have bought into the leader’s vision, personality, and most importantly, feel a respect for the leader’s knowledge and abilities.

What is the Nexus?
In my opinion, the ideal situation is when a manager is also a leader. Reality, it doesn’t always work out that way. Often, managers move through the “system” by navigating the designated ladders of professional ascension within a company or organization. Sometimes it is merely the result of seniority and company tenure.  And, their ascension may not be a reflection of their leadership ability, but a reflection of their management ability. Whether that’s a bad thing I’ll leave to your discretion.

In contrast, a leader is often chosen for his/her ability to move people, to move platforms, to facilitate change. As such, a leader provides direction, vision, and motivation. A leader is less concerned with ruffling the feathers of others since his followers tend to be believers. They trust that the leader is driven by a shared success and they want to be a part of that success. In contrast to a manager’s ascension, a leader’s ascension from within an organization is often a result of their successes, both measurable and intangible. The confidence others demonstrate for the leader elevates their corporate capital. Do all leaders make good managers?

Dilemma
When a manager is not an effective leader it often creates a barrier to decision-making thus hindering forward movement. Over the years, I’ve learned that more is often lost to indecision than the wrong decision. A manager lacking leadership skills frequently suffers paralysis by analysis. They spend so much time considering alternate options (fearful of making the wrong decision) they relent to inaction. Subsequently, their inaction and/or hesitancy result in a loss of confidence by subordinates creating future barriers to success.

Are you a leader, a manager, or both?

You’re Branded!

25 Jun

Whether you’re starting a new career, advancing your current career, building a new business, or just graduating from college, you need to build your brand. Years ago, we used the buzzwords “image” and “identity” to define our public selves. However, with social media and Internet speed and access, we are now “brands.” Let’s face it. If we don’t proactively nurture and grow our brand, it will be identified by our tacit acceptance of the comments of others. In other words, we’ll be conspicuous by our absence and lack of attention. And rarely can a company or individual be professionally successful when they’re invisible.

Define Yourself/Company
Create a list of how you identify yourself, your skills, and your company. Who are you and what do you bring to the table that is unique? The great news is that everyone is a unique individual. But, in the business world, not every businessperson stands out in the crowd. Often, we are labeled by the brand of our job title. Don’t be “the sales guy that sold me my car.” Instead, give your customer a reason to identify you by name and a problem you solved for them. Something special. This is the type of individuality that causes others to refer new business or opportunities to you.

Identify the Problem You Solve
People don’t hire other people or companies simply because they have a need to be filled.  They hire you because they have a problem and are looking for a solution. Define how you are the solution. The marketplace is crowded for just about everything. You, your product, or services need to offer something that others don’t. As a person, you should possess a special skills or distinctive experiences that enhance your ability to solve a customer’s problem.

Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
Be more that a resume. Demonstrate your knowledge, experience, and passion for your field through a blog, video, how-to guide, volunteer work, or speaking engagements. Thought leaders take all shapes and sizes. What’s important is that you’re passionate about your subject matter and able to demonstrate the value of your knowledge.

Create a Network of Opportunity
Use social media tools, local area events, and conventions/trade shows to connect with others in your field. This takes some homework. You’ll need to research where your peers, colleagues, and target audience “live.” Spend time in the “neighborhood” to listen to their concerns, best practices, and gaps in knowledge. Most importantly, take good notes and follow-up on any potential action items.

At the end of the day, building your brand takes time, patience, and an ongoing commitment.

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