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Saleswise Blog

July 2013

Saleswise: What Honeybees Can Teach Us About Decision-Making

Jul 4, 2013 9:27 AM
Nicki Weiss

I’ve written a number of times about how holding practice sessions for your sales team can boost their performance and your company’s revenue.

I’ve also been in many conversations lately with sales leaders, presidents and CEOs about how and why they should institute regular practice sessions with their sales teams.

And yet, very few leaders act to make practice a reality in their organizations.

I don’t get it. Practice is important. Practice is free. In time, practice becomes fun. (It can start out fun, too.)

A sales team can either act like a beater car with misaligned wheels and engine trouble or like a finely tuned automobile that gives a smooth and dependable ride. Which kind of vehicle reflects your sales team?

To encourage you to launch regular practice sessions in your organization, I created a two- minute video. It helps you get started with five practical and easy tips.

Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOBTu-OYE38

Talk back: Let me know what you think of this video. Ping me a note about what you do – or plan to do – to start your sales team practicing in a disciplined, consistent manner. As a leader, what is standing in your way? What would make the process easy?

Let me know if you want my help getting started…or to amp up your current efforts.

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June 2013


The Art of Navigating Paradox When Making Decisions

Jun 20, 2013 9:16 AM
Nicki Weiss

 As I work with leaders and their teams, I am often struck by the role paradox plays in struggling with business decisions. For example, my colleague Joanne and I are messing around with the idea of creating a Leadership Academy. We’re wrestling with the paradox that we want this academy to be both a small-group experience and yet include a lot of people. One choice means close connections among a small number of people; the other involves a wider circle with fewer deep connections.

There is no simple answer to our quandary. I agree with H. L. Mencken who said: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” Many decisions involve dealing with paradoxes; few situations lend themselves to black or white solutions that work on all levels.

Here are some ideas that may help when you’re struggling with a business decision.

Notice and appreciate the paradoxes

As I pick my way through complex decisions, I find it helpful to look at the major paradoxes in my thinking when figuring out what route to take. It’s about trying to find the right mix of getting both that fits whatever situation I'm trying to solve.

Here are three that I frequently encounter. Maybe you face the same ones. Hopefully, they will spur your ability to recognize the paradoxes you face and help you sort out how to solve problems.

Fast~Slow
Hurry up. Slow down.

Hurry up because you've only got a certain amount of time to live, life is short and you want to squeeze the juice out of it. “Hurry” gets you places, spurs you to accomplishment.

Slow down because if you're going too fast you won't notice yourself and your life. Slow down because mindless doing isn't life at all, but just doing. “Slow” connects you to what's around you.

Tasks~Relationships
Check off. Check up.

Check off tasks on your to-do list. Get things done. Follow up and follow through. Be efficient because your desk is caving in with projects you’re working on and loose ends to tie up. Getting tasks done is good for business.

Check up on the people we care about. Build new relationships within your own company and the businesses you serve. Have conversations. No check list here.

Without relationships, you have no projects. You can become lonely. Relationships are the fire and fuel that build thriving businesses.

Big Picture~ Small Details
Look up. Look down.

Look up and see the bigger picture. Understand the context. Step back to see where you've been and where you're going.

Look down to notice the details. Draw closer to discover the beauty and see the pattern in the minutiae. Fine tune what's there.

Have Joanne and I figured it out?

Not yet. We’re still wrestling with the paradoxes. And we both appreciate the struggle. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Talk back: Please send me the paradoxes you encounter in your life and work.

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May 2013


Saleswise: What Honeybees Can Teach Us About Decision-Making

May 23, 2013 9:19 AM
Nicki Weiss

 You may know that I am an urban beekeeper. As the weather warms up, we beekeepers are chomping at the bit to get into the bee yard to inspect and tend the colony hives. A few weeks after it is warm enough for the bees to start foraging they begin swarming, a natural and fascinating phenomenon.

Swarming happens when the majority of a colony’s members – a crowd of some ten thousand worker bees – flies off with the old queen to produce a daughter colony, while the rest stay at home and rear a new queen to perpetuate the parent colony. The migrating bees settle on a tree branch in a beardlike cluster and then hang there for a few days. During this time, these homeless insects will do something truly amazing: they will hold a democratic debate to choose their new home.

Several hundred of the swarm’s oldest bees will take on the role of nest-site scouts, exploring the surrounding area for dark crevices. These house-hunters will advertise their discoveries to each other by performing lively dances and dance-debate vigorously to choose the best nest site. When they have reached an agreement they rouse the entire swarm and guide the cloud of bees to the new home they agreed on, typically a hollow tree several miles away.

Humans can learn a lot from these site scouts about how to make quick and reliable decisions.

Bee Lesson #1: Carefully choose group members

Scout bees respect each other’s opinions and constructively debate the options each member brings to the challenge. A human group composed of clashing, stubborn curmudgeons doesn’t function effectively. Members need to respect each other so they can evaluate ideas without resorting to defensiveness or anger. Populate the group with genuinely reasonable people who have a reputation for being respectful and incisive debaters.

Bee Lesson #2: Minimize the Leader’s Influence

Power is evenly diffused among the scout bees. No scout leader tells the others what to do. Even the all-important queen, who is the genetic heart of a swarm, is merely a bystander.

Most human groups operate with a leader. However, to promote sound decisions, the leader needs to act like a scout bee, impartially considering all solutions and not settling on a particular option at the beginning of the process.

Bee Lesson #3: Seek Diverse Solutions

Bees explore a vast number of possibilities and ideas before deciding on one.
Humans can follow their lead with these guidelines:

  • Form a group that is sufficiently large to engender multiple ideas
  • Include a range of diverse backgrounds and perspectives in the group
  • Encourage each member to independently gather knowledge on the available options
  • Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable proposing solutions

Bee lesson #4: Debate vigorously

The bees’ decision-making process is a turbulent debate among groups of scout bees supporting different nest sites. These groups compete to gain additional support from bees who are not yet committed, and the group that attracts a quorum of supporters wins the competition. The winners then build consensus among the scouts so they agree on the flight plan when it is time to pilot the swarm to its new home.

Human groups struggle when trying to reconcile strongly held diverse views into a single decision. Here’s how to emulate the bee process:

  • Have everyone share their ideas in an open forum
  • Hold a friendly competition of ideas. Ask questions, clarify positions, and regularly go around the room to ask everyone for their opinion
  • Once everything that needs to be said has been said, take a secret ballot vote. All members can express their true opinions, free of peer pressure and group think


Bee Lesson #5: Keep the process short

Scout bees debate the pros and cons of each site vigorously, but not endlessly.

A few tips from the honeybees on how to speed up decision-making and ensure the best result:

  • Take a secret ballot periodically to see how close the group is to consensus
  • If the vote is far from unanimous, continue to debate
  • If 80% agree on an option, ask the outliers if they can support the majority position

Talk back: What do you think about applying honeybee democracy to your meetings? What will you do differently?

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April 2013


Do communications in your business foster more authenticity and good reputation?

Apr 9, 2013 9:20 AM
Nicki Weiss

Miri McDonald shares the wisdom of business magnate David Grossman, a founder, CEO, and former communications director of two well known companies.

The new role of the communicator according to Grossman includes helping leaders define the culture of the business, shape their leadership style and find ways of creating greater investment among employees. By satisfying the base needs of your workers, listening more and improving communications systems, employees will move from a "me" thought pattern to a broader "we" philosophy, making the authentic work they do reflective in your company's reputation.

Here is the article: http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2012/07/03/10-principles-guide-21st-century-communications/

Do these ten principles resonate with you? Have you used similar communications strategies with senior leaders in your company?

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What is your company doing to retain great employees and cultivate leaders?

Apr 2, 2013 9:16 AM
Nicki Weiss

As an HR expert and leader her the field, Meghan Biro discusses the importance of developing leaders and having loyal, happy employees as the most important aspect of today 's best business practice.

Biro presents the 2012 Society for Human Resource Management survey about challenges facing HR in the decade ahead, shows a significant spike in the top 2 areas from 2010 to 2012; leadership and retaining the best employees. She sees these challenges as two sides of the same coin; supporting and rewarding excellence is the best way to grow and keep great leaders.

Here is the article:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2012/11/11/5-greatest-challenges-ahead-for-hr-and-leaders/

Biro highlights employer-provided education among her top 5 'must haves ' for leaders who want their company to flourish and remain competitive in these uncertain times.

How has your business begun to tackle the leadership gap? Has rewarding excellence and your investments in HR bred new leaders and loyal, happy employees in your company?

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March 2013


Does your company convey your best leadership practice?

Mar 26, 2013 9:18 AM
Nicki Weiss

 On the day of his resignation, former Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith publicly discloses his reasons for leaving after 12 years with the company. The central issue in Smith's disdain for GS is the pervasive culture of greed and impudence in the organization. They strayed from their core values.

Although the circumstances Smith presents may be more extreme than in the case of your own business, it makes you think: do we have clear core company values? Do they permeate every aspect of how we do business and how we treat our employees? If not, what is the impact on us as an organization and the people we serve?

You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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What is your company doing to retain great employees and cultivate leaders?

Mar 19, 2013 9:13 AM
Nicki Weiss

 As an HR expert and leader her the field, Meghan Biro discusses the importance of developing leaders and having loyal, happy employees as the most important aspect of today 's best business practice.

Biro presents the 2012 Society for Human Resource Management survey about challenges facing HR in the decade ahead, shows a significant spike in the top 2 areas from 2010 to 2012; leadership and retaining the best employees. She sees these challenges as two sides of the same coin; supporting and rewarding excellence is the best way to grow and keep great leaders.

Here is the article:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2012/11/11/5-greatest-challenges-ahead-for-hr-and-leaders/

Biro highlights employer-provided education among her top 5 'must haves ' for leaders who want their company to flourish and remain competitive in these uncertain times.

How has your business begun to tackle the leadership gap? Has rewarding excellence and your investments in HR bred new leaders and loyal, happy employees in your company?

Add Comment
  

How will you inspire your employees to make 2013 the best year yet?

Mar 12, 2013 9:10 AM
Nicki Weiss

Professor of management, Nathan Bennett of Georgia State University surveyed his social network to uncover his top 5 new year's resolutions for every leader.

Topping the list are management skills like; practicing what you preach and leading your employees by example. Other ideas for the best 2013 business leaders include careful listening, trust over micromanagement, and the importance of firmly rooted morale.

Here is the article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/12/03/five-new-years-resolutions-every-leader-should-make/

Your own new year's resolutions might include some of these leadership ideas, how will you make sure they really stick in your business?

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Want to see sales soar? Watch this video

Mar 5, 2013 9:12 AM
Nicki Weiss

 I’ve written a number of times about how holding practice sessions for your sales team can boost their performance and your company’s revenue.

I’ve also been in many conversations lately with sales leaders, presidents and CEOs about how and why they should institute regular practice sessions with their sales teams.

And yet, very few leaders act to make practice a reality in their organizations.

I don’t get it. Practice is important. Practice is free. In time, practice becomes fun. (It can start out fun, too.)

A sales team can either act like a beater car with misaligned wheels and engine trouble or like a finely tuned automobile that gives a smooth and dependable ride. Which kind of vehicle reflects your sales team?

To encourage you to launch regular practice sessions in your organization, I created a two- minute video. It helps you get started with five practical and easy tips.

Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOBTu-OYE38

Talk back: Let me know what you think of this video. Ping me a note about what you do – or plan to do – to start your sales team practicing in a disciplined, consistent manner. As a leader, what is standing in your way? What would make the process easy?

Let me know if you want my help getting started…or to amp up your current efforts.

Add Comment
  

February 2013


Debunking Sacred Sales Myths

Feb 26, 2013 9:47 AM
Nicki Weiss

 I’ve been gobbling up some interesting sales research recently that slays a few sacred cows. Many of us in sales hold on to certain long-held beliefs about our profession that I’m finding out are no longer true. Are any of the following myths holding you or your team back?

The Education Myth

Do you know what Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Harry Truman, Dave Thomas (founder of the Wendy’s hamburger chain), and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They have all achieved extraordinary business success (Harry Truman was a successful businessman and the 33rd president of the U.S.) without finishing college. In fact, Dave Thomas dropped out of high school.

We live in a society that values education. Many firms require at least a bachelor’s degree, if not an MBA or advanced technical credentials.
But does education have any bearing on sales success?

Gallup researched this question and found that education is never – even in very technical fields – related to sales success. Never. As my husband, a successful salesperson himself, says: “The A’s teach, and the B’s work for the C’s.”

Bottom line: if you want a sales career, don’t limit your search to jobs that ask for your particular education credentials.

If you are recruiting salespeople, take off your education blinders. Ask candidates some questions that allow you to uncover the following: how quickly they learn; if they can clearly explain how your products meet customers’ needs, and whether this sales job is a good fit for their strengths.

The Experience Myth

In some professions experience matters and has a huge relationship to success. If you need open heart surgery, you should go to the cardiac surgeon who has successfully performed the most procedures.

Research shows, however, that sales is not an experience-sensitive profession. Salespeople with ten years of experience in the same companies or industries do not necessarily sell more than those with five years. Individuals with five years’ experience do not necessarily sell more than those with three years’.

However, many companies place great weight on experience, and herein lies the trap. If you are performing at only an average level, your strengths may not “fit” your job. Sales experience can delude you and potential new employers about your capabilities. You will probably get “up to speed” more quickly and need less training in a job that is similar to your former job. However, if you are average, all you will do is get back up to average more quickly in a new job that is similar to your former job.

Bottom line: Focus on “fit” rather than experience. Sales calls on nurses are different than calls on doctors. Large, complex sales are different than transactional sales. If you are recruiting salespeople, uncover how they like to work and what gets them jazzed. You will learn whether they “fit” your job.

The Lone Wolf Myth

Reps often work alone, not checking into an office for days or even weeks. Even if they work in a crowded office, salespeople are constantly evaluated by the numbers they post each week, month or quarter. The best salespeople are substantially more self-reliant than those in other jobs. However, this skill can mask the important role managers play in contributing to growing numbers. Top performers are not “lone wolves.”

Research shows that the best managers understand how to create a culture that supports reps. In this environment, sales performance shoots up. However, when less able managers take over, numbers decline. Just as legendary movie directors elicit better performances from actors, great managers can enhance sales performance.

Bottom line: If you don’t have the manager you want, find a coach or mentor who can help with your professional development. If you are a sales manager, ask yourself if your role is to develop and support your people or to take over their sales calls look like a genius at their expense.

Talk back: What are some other sales myths that may get in your way – as a rep or as a manager?

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