How Technology Has Transformed Conversation From Dancing Into Boxing

This is a Guest blog post from Mark Haas.

We use various forms of communication to inform, entertain or influence. Depending on intent and circumstance, we may use various technologies to send and receive. Voice, gestures, hand signs, smoke signals, radio, email. The availability of technology offers new ways to communicate that are offered as improvements in speed, cost and convenience. However, while the purpose of communication remains, new transmission mechanisms often alter effectiveness and outcomes.

Specifically, the advent of email, text and video formats have disrupted communication from bi- or multilateral to a one-way broadcast. Expectation of a reply is no longer assumed, expected or, in many cases, even desired. I want to say what I have to say to not just a specific person, but to anyone who will listen — or at least receive my message.

Communication Protocols

Just as standards make processes and products more efficient, communication protocols make communication more effective. Protocols exist in almost every industry and profession. They evolve over time to improve transactions.

But protocols don’t just involve technical, mechanical matters. They have to be used by everyone in the system. This means people have to appreciate their usefulness and use them. Just as Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (http) exists to facilitate standardized and efficient Internet communication, so too do social protocols facilitate interpersonal communication. If someone tried to set up a new Internet protocol, it would take time and effort to get people to adopt it, if they ever did. Similarly, using varying social and communication protocols would hinder, in some cases cripple, communication.

Argumentation is defined as the search for the truth (although the term has been somewhat corrupted lately to mean being disagreeable). Effective argumentation includes what is known as the burden of evidence (support what you say with presumably unassailable facts) and the burden of rejoinder (elevate the discussion when presented with facts by another).

This is what is being violated regularly, unwittingly at first and now possibly intentionally. It seems that social media only warrants a statement, unsupported by evidence when challenged, of one’s opinion. When challenged, the response is to attack, deflect or ignore. While not all discussions follow this pattern, one could draw the conclusion that social media is not a place to explore the truth. Argumentation has just become argument.

This is not miscommunication, where people do partially or wholly miss the meaning or intent of the message. This is more fundamental. It is the lack of desire by the sender for the recipient to respond. It is the lack of intent to participate as much as it is to send. How many people have asked to see a picture of what you had for breakfast? Are you expecting to engage in a dialog about it or are you just “letting people know?”

Dancing

For purposes of this conversation, dancing refers to ballroom dancing. Two people are a team. Their activity requires cooperation and mutual intent.

They send messages through their eyes, voice and gentle pressure on hand, shoulder and back. Two well practiced partners (and they are called “partners” for a reason) move as one, each seeking to anticipate and respond to the other, in the interest of mutual understanding and enjoyment. Even a mishap can be accommodated easily by an attendant partner. The combination of two (or many) can be entertaining and inspiring.

Boxing

Boxing is a contest between two adversaries, opponents, a challenger and a champ. The expectation of all who participate in, and observe, the contest is that one will win and the other will lose. Each has developed a plan to overwhelm the other. They trade punches with the desire that each punch will end the fight. Once the “knockout” has been delivered, the contest is over.

With such ease do we send a text, post a video or send a Tweet. We don’t even have to know who will receive our message, when they will get it or even if they will respond. And we are OK with this.

Can We Teach Boxers to Dance?

It has become easy to send a message without expecting a reply because we expect to be removed from an immediate social response. Without facial cues or body language, or immediate verbal/written response, there is no feedback that could effectively elevate the conversation.

We issue opinion, compliments or vitriol, sometimes not even knowing how our words will be received. Because of this disconnect, we often forget that we may have started a conversation. A conversation that might as easily be received as an invitation to argumentation as a sucker punch.

There is a difference between talking to an individual and to a crowd. Part of our challenge is to know the difference requirements in how we talk to each.

Another part is recognizing that our responsibility in a conversation is to assure our message is received as we intended, and that the conversation is beneficial to all parties.

I’d much rather interact with Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers on the dance floor (if they’d have me) than Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring. I’d also rather have a deeper and insightful conversation than lobbing, or receiving, insults.

Let’s all learn to dance better.

Mark Haas helps boards and executives create powerful strategies to help them make decisions with greater confidence, impact and pride. He helps companies and nonprofits develop strategies, create and validate business models, and execute with discipline. Mark is also an international trainer, facilitator and speaker in ethics, strategy and performance management.
Mark Haas
CEO, Association for Enterprise Growth
(301) 442-5889

7 Things to Do to Be an Effective Sales Leader Now

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This is a Guest blog post from Chris Tully.
7 Things to Do to Be an Effective
Sales Leader Now

 

Learning to adjust your sales leadership practices to fit these unusual times may not be an easy correction. You probably have been honing your system for years; pivoting to these extraordinary circumstances is hard for even the most limber.

My advice is to focus your attention on the definition of “Leader” as supporting your sales team, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

To get you started, here are 7 things you can do to be an effective sales leader right now.

1. Concentrate on client retention

Client retention trumps new business acquisition. I wrote about this extensively last month and it’s worth emphasizing again: Dramatically increase client communications to strengthen your personal and professional relationships.

Additionally, ask clients what assistance they need from you or what introductions you can make to help them retain their business.

2. Take care of your commissioned sales representatives

Close dates have been pushed back, and some opportunities have been cancelled entirely. Salespeople working on commission are worried right now – it would be remarkable if you weren’t hearing this from your team. So, consider what you can do to offer them some relief:

  • Consider reducing/suspending quotas for Q2 2020 and possibly Q3
  • Consider a commission floor, if it makes sense for your business
  • Reinforce their importance to your business, and give them the confidence that you’ll take care of them as best you can
Strengthening your sales team’s trust in you and your company will pay dividends in the long run.

 

3. Focus on internal communications and team dynamics

With communications 100% virtual, shift to deliberately communicating with team members.

  • Have a one-on-one with your direct reports every day or every other day.
  • Hold an all-team meeting every week
  • Get your CEO to give regular business updates, and make some of those “town hall” meetings where team members can ask questions
  • Enable “skip level” meetings to increase company transparency
  • Get these meetings on the calendar – on the same day each week, at the same time, with a set agenda and defined start/stop time.

If this seems like a lot, it’s really not. Calculate all the time you used to spend commuting to work and external meetings, and consider this “found” time well spent in building a stronger team.

4. Invest in collaborative tools

You’re encouraging your team to work together as well as with you, so invest in tools that make it easy for them. Slack and its competitors allow quick back-and-forth information exchange and easy real-time collaboration.

Use video conferencing as well as the presentation tools in your Zoom, GoToMeeting, or other account – it’s important to see your people, and it’s scientifically proven that face-to-face communication is the most effective.

Take advantage of the extra time you have to work on nagging process issues. Ask team members to help you identify cross-functional issues they’ve encountered pre- and post-distancing, and involve them in identifying, discussing, and solving those issues.

5. Plan for coming out of this current crisis

This is the time to make your plans and set (realistic) goals for Q3, Q4, and 2021 – even though we don’t exactly know what the new normal will look like. The more you can engage your team in planning for the future, the more invested in that future they’ll be.

6. Closely examine pipelines and sales opportunities

Sales pipelines and opportunities are not as robust as they were two months ago. If this crisis has taught us anything it’s this – while you can’t control the outcome you can absolutely control your mindset and your level of activity.

Dig into your sales pipeline. Pay extra attention to fully qualifying each deal. Are all the decision makers and influencers engaged? Are they bought into your value proposition? Is the economic ROI associated with investing in your solution crystal clear to them? Is the close date real?

Control what you can: increase your calls and emails to current and prospective clients, and negotiate more proactively.

7. Find ways to have fun together

There’s a lot to be said for leadership by example! So lead the pack in having fun from home, and organize a weekly activity that fits your work culture.

Examples of team activities are a virtual happy hour or karaoke night, trivia night, an online scavenger hunt, or other multi-player online game. My new favorite is Codewords, an online word-guessing game in the format of rival “spymaster” teams (similar to Codenames board game).
If event planning is really not your thing, then delegate different team members each week to choose the activity. But make sure you participate – sales teams that play together stay together!

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Visit My Website

The Innovation Imperative – 5 “Must Ask” Questions

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The Innovation Imperative – 5 “Must Ask” Questions

Going into the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all organizations were facing myriad challenges in terms of fiercer competition, more discriminating customers, longer sales cycles, and difficulty in differentiating their offerings, mostly due to tremendous advances in technology and a demand for greater transparency.

The pandemic has accelerated what forces were already in play, in addition to changing the way we all live and work, and devastating certain industries and business models. Now more than ever, every organization should be aggressively looking to innovate…or go extinct.

Every organization is different, with its own set of unique markets, customers and business drivers. As we work with our portfolio companies in helping them innovate, we start with the following 5 questions:

  • How congruent is the way you innovate with your vision and appetite for innovation?
  • How effectively do you articulate your vision and appetite for innovation to your stakeholders?
  • Is innovation a crucial part of your team members’ job descriptions?
  • Do you have the right processes to create and bring innovation to market?
  • How do you measure ROI and your ability to meet customer expectations?

Tying vision to appetite for innovation – This is core to a company’s ability to succeed as it iterates and pivots. Is the innovation imperative part of your company’s DNA? Those who embrace creativity and boundaryless thinking are essentially building innovation into the way they operate.

Articulating your vision for innovation – It’s not enough to just think in a vacuum. It’s necessary to evangelize the need for different thinking and changing for the better. The most innovative organizations talk about their innovation goals and progress, and they actively share this with their teams, shareholders, customers, suppliers, etc. “Walking the talk” brings it all together for stakeholders and they can all participate to help companies innovate.

Team members as “innovators” – We have heard the mantra that “everyone is in sales.” Embracing this mentality has benefitted many companies and their employees. The companies who are most effective at innovating think that “everyone is an innovator,” and they actively engage all team members in formal and informal exercises and conversations for ideas on organizational self-improvement.

Processes for Innovation – This takes leadership from the top, and an assignment of resources to execute on the innovation imperative. The most innovative organizations create and implement innovation processes, measure results, and iterate off that feedback. This set of processes is a playbook for how companies can continue coming up with the best and most creative ideas.

Measuring ROI – The best kind of innovations have a direct and measurable ROI. Some will not be measurable, but will have benefits (examples could be improved employee morale, increased retention, customer lifetime, value, etc.) and should therefore be undertaken. The discipline of calculating ROI by itself is extremely useful, as it forces a closer examination of the various drivers of a business.

In summary, what we are looking for are the vision/desire for innovation, how this is communicated, engagement of team in this effort, execution structure, and tangible ROI. The answers to these five questions will form a good foundation from which any organization can start looking at things differently and innovating its way to greater success.

Pandemic-Proof Your Funding Pitch Deck

 

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This is a Guest blog post from Ines LeBow.

Pandemic-Proof Your Funding Pitch Deck

Demonstrating to investors that your business model is sustainable, especially in times of uncertainty or jarring disruption, like we’re facing now with the Coronavirus pandemic, can give you the edge you need to get funded. In my previous article, “Now’s the Time to Get Your Business Funded: Coronavirus Edition,” I highlighted the fact that savvy investors are still looking for great investment opportunities. Those great opportunities include investing in both the idea and the one with whom the idea originated.

Pitch Sustainability In Any Market

As part of your funding story and pitch deck, it is important in today’s environment to present the ways in which you can navigate operating the business and even excelling despite quarantines and partial lockdowns being in place. Some sustainability concepts to consider include:

  • Business Model – Where does your business reside along the industry vertical or value chain?
  • Sales Model – How do you interact with and sell to customers (i.e., brick-and-mortar, direct sales, e-commerce)
  • Organization Model – What is the composition of your workforce? Do you require staff to be on premises? Are you dependent on contractors or outsourced partners?
  • Product or Service Offering – Is your offering something that will be of value during a major disruptive social or economic event?
  • Materials Supply – Will shutdowns like we are experiencing now impact your ability to obtain the raw materials, inputs, and supplies required to deliver your product to market?
  • Expertise – Who on your leadership team or advisory board has the experience and expertise in helping organizations navigate through crises and times of instability?
  • Finances and Cost Structure – Do you have a lean enough cost structure and a good enough understanding of the financials to ensure a proper runway for funding to growth?
  • Employee and Customer Sentiment – Do you have a clear understanding of the mindset your target customer has during “regular” times versus during a crisis like we’re facing today? What about your employees…do you know how a crisis will impact their ability to effectively deliver for your customers?
  • New Marketing or Channel Opportunities – Have you explored changes you can make to your product offering, pricing, payment terms, customer segments, delivery methods, marketing strategies, partnerships, and co-branding initiatives that would better meet the needs of the market during a crisis?

Investors want to invest in people with great ideas, but even more so with those who understand how to bring those great ideas to the market, whatever condition that market is in, successfully. Show them that you and your team have that expertise as part of your funding story and pitch deck. Now is the time, because if not now, when?

For the fundamentals of getting your business funded, check out some of my other articles, including a Blueprint on How to Open Doors to Start-Up and Next-Stage Growth Funding and a companion piece on Telling an Epic Fundraising Story, Starting with the Value Proposition.

To learn more on how to create an epic fundraising story for digital presentations to investors, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow, view the ETS website at http://www.transformationsolutions.pro, or email her directly at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.