Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Iron Sharpens Iron

Seems like I am at the point in my career where I am working with many seasoned professionals. These people have had a lot of success in their careers and several of them are taking off in second or even third careers.

It’s really interesting to coach and consult for some of these people. They have been the bosses in many jobs prior to the current job. They know what they’re doing. They can actually do some of these jobs with their eyes closed but they’re coming to me because they want to get ahead quicker and don’t have a mentor as they may have had earlier in their career and they know the value of working with a coach.

In several of these cases, I’m consulting, which means that I have to share with the client what to do. Coaching is helping them discover it on their own. But in my case, I have a lot of expertise that they need so I’m there to tell them what is going to work and what isn’t going to work.

And in a few of these cases recently, I’ve had to use the analogy of Iron Sharpens Iron!!! And it’s true! These people are challenging me over and over and because I know what I’m talking about, I’ve had to tell them to trust me, and to understand that I’m on their team and that I want them to succeed. But, I’ve told them, that if they keep doing what they’ve always done, they’ll get the results they’ve always gotten!!!

One of my friends, Carlos, told a story that captured what is happening in my business right now. He told me that he used to be a white water rafting guide and part owner of the company and recently he went to Colorado to visit and went rafting. He automatically started barking out orders and immediately, the guide whose boat it was, yelled at him to stop yelling orders. He said, "this is my boat, and we’ll do it my way!" If the passengers listen to you and not me, we could have an accident!!

My friend was a bit shell shocked.. mostly at his own reaction of taking over the helm of someone else’s boat. It was natural for him to do, but the second he was commanded to stop, he did.

Those of us with strong personalities and who have had success sometimes have to regress a bit when venturing into something new. We have to put away the need to always be right, and the need to have everything go our own way. Sometimes, when moving in a new direction, there are others who can guide us, and because we do have strong personalities and great experience, we might occasionally bump heads.

I’ve learned along the way, that bumping heads is normal, natural and not something to avoid. It’s going to happen, and when it does, it can make both professionals better, because the one who is leading, has to explain in a way that another leader can understand and agree to and follow.

Iron sharpening iron is keeping me focused on understanding that my clients are knowledgeable and successful, but coming to me to get the best of the best. I’m helping them write speeches, present themselves better professionally, as speakers, in the media or on video, and to their companies leading meetings. They’re learning to motivate their staffs, coach their teams and to lead more effectively.

Iron sharpens Iron. And I am determined to keep myself and my clients sharp!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Connected to Strangers

Airports are the new dating services! More and more people are reporting meeting potential mates while waiting for planes than ever before. It’s probably not such a new concept, but one that is getting a lot of press recently.

As a business traveler I’ve been privileged to meet many extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances. It truly does seem that everyone has a story.

I met Pete, the 50 something Health care professional who left his mom today for the last time. He confided in me that his mom was probably going to die later on today and that he said his last goodbyes. Tears welled up in me as I heard him tell the story of how his mom told him that she could see his dad and her sister at the end of her bed. His dad had died in 2003 and her sister years before. He told his mom that they were waiting for her and that it was okay to go. He comforted her by saying that everyone who was still here was going to be fine and that she would be missed.

I met Maria, the long time public school PE teacher who now worked in a non school environment who now bubbled with passion over the non traditional way of allowing kids to learn what they want when they want. She assured me that kids have a natural desire to learn and that in time, they all accomplish the things they need to learn in order to be successful.

I met Nathan, the 26 year old fast tracker in the financial industry who looked like the perfect crisp fraternity boy who had success written all over him. He was charming and humble and curious what life would bring. He was a swimmer in high school and recently ran 10K without training and it gave him a run for his money. He reminded me of another friend in the financial industry and so I promised to introduce them with the hopes of my friend Brian who is a fast track executive in the same industry.

The list of interesting people that I have met on the road just goes on and on. It’s true that every single person you meet has a story. It’s usually a really interesting story too, and at some point throughout the conversation, you can usually find how you’re connected to the person, by race, religion, region, friend, industry, or interests.

I’ve found that we are naturally connected to everyone. What gets in the way of any meaningful relationship is ourselves. In 99 times out of 100, if we get our own egos out of the way, our own fear of talking with others, then we can share of ourselves, and experience the true joy of being connected to another.

The stranger is no longer a stranger. They have now become a friend.

Breathe New Life into your Sales Force!

Have you ever wondered how you were going to keep your sales team motivated day after day, month after month, and year after year? After the team is consistent with making quota and doing a great job with their customers, how do you get them to continue reaching for the stars and continue to stay motivated?

Yesterday I was in the office with a new sales team that I’m coaching. I sat with the sales manager for quite some time and quickly uncovered a few glaring areas that are standing in the way of this team moving forward. Because this team has been doing things the same way for several years, they didn’t have fresh eyes to see where they could be saving some time and making more money.

In this down economy, they’re having a tough time getting on the phone to make cold calls and have seen companies cancel contracts to save money. Because they’re experiencing this rejection, it’s tarnishing the real amazing benefits that their company offers others, which is the ability to MAKE money and to SAVE time. They’ve been focused on the wrong things emotionally, so what we’re implementing are a few things in the very short term that can get this team back in the saddle, feeling the love for their products and services once again.

We’re setting up a conference call with a few customers who are in love with this company. They’re satisfied customers who are regularly using the products and services but don’t have the need to be on the phone with the sales team anymore. They’ve moved way beyond a regular sale at this point. They’re customers who are content with the company. So, we’re going to get the whole sales team on the phone with a few customers and get a conversation going to hear the stories how the products have been used and integrated into their businesses. It may sound like they’re preaching to the choir, but not really. They’ll be motivating this team, and to remind them, that they represent an awesome company and product and group of services.

Next, we’re having a sales contest! This contest is a short term, one week contest focused on outgoing calls. I call them CONNECTION CALLS which mean they’re at least 2 minutes a piece. This is plenty of time for a connection to take place and for the sales pro to get a bit of information.. either a new name, a referral or a bit of information that will help them develop a relationship with the right people.

The award will be a night in a hotel and dinner for two. When I originally presented this idea to the CEO, he didn’t think that something so small would motivate this seasoned team who can easily afford this on their own. But what he doesn’t understand is that this will be a FREE Trip! And even the celebrities who are multi millionaires love getting free stuff! Everyone does!

So, we’re off and running. The coaching has breathed some fresh air into this team by reconnecting them with the happy customers and by bringing about a short term and fun contest. In just in one or two short sessions, this team is getting their juices flowing and gaining the excitement once again.

For a coach, this is where the excitement starts to build. When you see enthusiasm returning to a team that has been a bit stale, you know you’re on the right track! It’s exciting to see, because you know, that right around the corner, that calls will be made with a fresh new attitude… and that with all of that positive energy, that sales are lurking right around the corner!

Go get ‘em guys!!! I’m cheering you on!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Difference between Coaching and Training

Have you ever been told to do something, and you know you SHOULD do it, but you just can’t seem to make it happen? Conversely, do you remember experiencing something new and thinking to yourself, “this isn’t so difficult… I can do this!”

This is the difference between coaching and training!

Recently I was in a new client’s office introducing myself and doing an introductory coaching session. The purpose of the coaching was to get some of the new sales professionals over the fear of cold calling. They believed they were always going to be given warm leads to follow up on, and not have to make the effort to call anyone new. When the leads started getting less and less, the business strategy was forced to change and they knew they needed to start the sales and marketing process with current team.

The management team told the sales team that they now had to start seeking clients. The phone records showed a different story. No one seemed to be doing an effective job so they decided to bring in a coach in to see if that would help the sales team to make outgoing sales calls.

The sales team was all extremely friendly, sharp and outgoing. But when the manager started announcing why I was there, two individuals clammed up, crossed their arms in front of their chests, and seemed incredibly intimidated and closed minded.

So after being given the floor, I introduced myself, gave a bit about my background and what I do and then started asking questions. I asked about them and their job backgrounds, what they loved and didn’t love about their former jobs, and I asked about their strengths and weaknesses. I asked about the environment that they were finding in the marketplace. I asked about the strategies they had in place. I asked about their systems. I asked about how their best calls went and then we determined the best type of buyer or an ideal client. At about this time, the CEO told me in front of the group, “they already know this. We’ve already had training on qualified buyers.”

At that point, I looked at him and said, “That’s great! But I need to hear from THEM about what they are doing and understanding and feeling. I need to hear where they have total confidence and where they find blocks. This needs to come from them, not from anyone else.”

Then I continued to ask questions. From that moment on, I had everyone’s attention, and they all started sharing. They shared with each other about what was working, what wasn’t working. They shared about some of the best conversations that had taken place. They announced that they felt they needed a script to help them get comfortable with what they were doing and they mentioned not ever doing phone cold calls before and that they were unsure of how to do it and a bit intimidated.

I listened to them as they admitted their fears with as much openness and acceptance as I could. Then I acknowledged them for feeling that way and shared with them that that was extremely common and that they were completely and 100% normal!!! They shared stories of obnoxious sales professionals that I asked them to compare or contrast their own personalities to and then I asked what they would suggest to the obnoxious sales professional if they were coaching them. I asked them if they were also intimidated when they first started this job and they admitted they were. I asked how they got comfortable with doing their current job and they shared that they watched others, learned the strategy, the “language” and then practiced. I asked if they’d be willing to take on that same strategy when learning this new skill of cold calling. Then through a series of me asking questions and them answering, most of them felt that starting a marketing process before they had to cold call would introduce the company and its services first, so they wouldn’t be making actual “cold calls” when the time came to reach out to the client. They all seemed to be comfortable with that idea.

At the end of the 2 hour session, all of the sales team were sharing, taking notes and offering to type up their findings with the group. Then I asked each person what was their “take away” from today and 1 goal they were going to set for the next week. Each person had something great they were able to take away from the coaching session and had set new goals that included putting a strategy in place for marketing, making new cold or warm calls and finding new clients. The stiff bodies were replaced with a relaxed and comfortable team who seemed to be enthusiastic about moving ahead.

Later that day, I received an excited email from the CEO who was in the room the whole time. He told me that he had tried to get them to make cold calls for the past 5 months with no effectiveness. He shared with me that several of the team had had mentoring and training from management on the cold calls for weeks at a time, but still, it was ineffective. He seemed genuinely blown away that after one coaching session the entire team was excited and open to moving forward and now had a specific strategy for doing so. And he was excited to continue moving forward with coaching and saw that no matter how much people are told what to do, that if they have fears, they won’t do it until they feel they CAN do it.

So I shared my very deep and wise philosophy that I hope he never forgets.

“Coaching….. works!!!”