Smart Boss

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Laser-focused and timely distillations of what's working now in leadership.

Where Sellers Go Wrong

You don’t think of yourself as a salesperson, right?  You do other things at work – not just selling!

But is it also true that, if people at your level DON’T do some business development work, the future of your firm is compromised?

If you’re still reading, you’re probably living with anxiety about the business development part of your job.

Of course, if potential clients CALL YOU, you’ll be more than happy to serve them.

But you’re not reaching out.  You may not even be networking, when opportunities present themselves.

And in the long run, you’re going to fail.

I’ve been observing and supporting professionals who need to do some business development since 1992:

    • Consultants whose practices have stopped growing.
    • Accountants making arguments for why their revenue projections are DOWN.
    • Scientists who aren’t bringing in the money they need to do the research they want to do.
    • Business owners who are great at what they do – but lousy at connecting with people who might actually choose to buy.

Here’s some good news:  these people don’t need “sales skills,” really.

They need the motivation to DO SOME OUTREACH, consistently, methodically, on an ongoing basis.

Try answering these questions.  I’ve provided my answers to them, too.:

  1. What’s the biggest mistake people make in selling?

    Answer:  It’s lack of outreach, and then lack of follow-up.

     

  2. Why do you hate selling so much?

    Answer:  Usually it’s that you hate being sold, so, of course, you hate to be selling others.  You’re afraid of being a slimy, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer pain in the butt!  And you hate being rejected (by the way, 100% of the human race hates rejection!)

     

  3. What’s the minimum level of selling most people can get by on?

    Answer:  It varies, but for many professionals, spending just 5% of their work week on the business development aspect of their jobs will yield significant results.  (5% of a 40-hour workweek is 2 hours a week, spent consistently on nothing but business development.)  Note that I am not writing, here, about people who were hired to be salespeople.  Those people should spend a much greater percentage of their time in business development!  But if you have lots of other responsibilities – you sell, and you deliver services, and you have administrative responsibilities, let’s say—a well-spent 5% of your workweek spent on bus dev could be enough!

     

  4. So if you did decide to do more business development, what would you actually DO?

    Answer:  Most people say, “Call some of the business cards I’ve accumulated.”  But that’s often not the best strategy.  There’s often gold in renewing your relationships with past clients.

     

  5. Is it a good strategy to try to develop relationships with people who might buy from you?

    Answer:  Sometimes.  But statistically you have a better chance of success when you challenge your prospects.  Let them know that there’s something new they should be aware of, and be clear that you’ll be happy to update them.  We’re all overloaded with information we can’t digest; suggest that you’ll be happy to share a few nuggets of information they can use immediately.  By the way, I just did that:  did you know that relationship selling is now the least successful approach to selling new clients, and that challenger selling is the best?

     

The key to success in business development is to make time for it.  Once you’re committed to that, you may want to get a few nuggets of information about specific selling approaches that are most likely to bring in new clients and new revenue for you in today’s marketplace.  And you may also want to build in some accountability; a Sales Coach will hold feet to the fire to DO the behaviors that are most likely to drive new revenue.

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Get What You Want!

A researcher finds that people who imagine themselves older are less likely to engage in … unethical behavior.  Hmm.  How about using that technique for the opposite outcome on your executive career?

Don’t waste the power of your vision trying to avoid what you don’t want!  Imagine your older self in clear detail in order to get what you want!

For some time now, I’ve asked my Executive Coaching clients to envision themselves 10 years older.  We talk about that aged version of themselves – discussing the person they would like to grow to be in 10 years.  Typically, I document the imagined details of this future self on a single-page “Personal Vision Statement” with some eye catching graphics and an announcement that this document is the “Vision for (name) at age 40” (or whatever age they’ll be 10 years from now).  I have my client put this Personal Vision Statement in a conspicuous place, so they’ll see it (and envision it) regularly.

In doing this, I have been operating on the belief (and earlier research) that showed that those individuals who develop a clear vision of what they want to be in the future – and who then revisit that vision with any regularity – are most likely to create exactly that life for themselves.  Now comes the Harvard Business Review with an update on this concept of visioning as a method of ensuring future success.  Go have a look at this most recent study!  An important caveat:  focus on what you DO want, not what you DON’T want when visioning the life of your future self!

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Confident Leadership or Fear of Being Challenged?
Why DON’T More Americans Seek Executive Coaching

Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that work groups that scored the lowest on candor (the quality of being open and honest in expression) see the poorest financial returns. 

Coaches often help those they support to be more candid, offering negative feedback and criticism in a more caring way, and receiving feedback with less pain. 

Americans are BIG on financial returns. So why are most of the recent clients that hired me as their Executive Coach NOT from the USA?

Who actually gets Executive Coaching?

Lately, in my experience, it’s people in Tanzania and Italy, Denmark and Brazil, Colombia and France. 

But not the USA!

Surprised?  So am I. 

While I am happy to have worked with people from 53 countries around the world, it would seem that I might have worthwhile ideas for my fellow U.S. citizens, too.  After all, I have

  • 20 years as a successful business leader, having been promoted and promoted and promoted
  • Been the #1 sales rep worldwide at Xerox Corporation
  • Launched a new product that produced US$75 million in revenue in its first year on the market
  • Launched a second new product that produced US$40 million in its first six months
  • Successfully Coached hundreds of people, many of whom give me nice, quantified testimonials (http://www.YouCanLeadCoaching.com/testimonials)

But let’s leave me out of this.  Are Americans so confident that we don’t even think we can benefit from bouncing our ideas off others … or is it that we are afraid to be challenged? 

It seems there’s a lot of misunderstanding around the subject of how people are helped by professional coaching.  Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Keith Ferrazzi says, for example, “We’ve all been there: trapped in pointless meetings.  (We’re) waiting for the meeting to end so that the real conversations – which usually happen in private – can begin.”  Ferrazzi’s research shows that work groups that scored the lowest on candor (the quality of being open and honest in expression) see the poorest financial returns.  Often coaches help those they support to be more candid, offering negative feedback and criticism in a more caring way, and receiving feedback with less pain.  (Hint: Ferrazzi suggests that when you offer feedback that may be seen as critical, use phrases like “I might suggest” and “Think about this.”  And learn to thank the person offering you candid feedback, making clear the points on which you agree.  Think of the person giving you honest feedback as generous!)

It’s also clear that part of one’s preparation to succeed is learning to take criticism – another skill that coaches can help you acquire.  Citing a Sensitivity to Criticism Test to which 3,600 people responded, Andrea Kay writes that those who tend to be defensive about criticism “are less happy with their job, have low performance ratings and low self-esteem.”  Kay quotes Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests, which administered the study, who says the key is to get past the “harsh outer shell of criticism to the nugget of wisdom at its core.”  If you tend to block out the constructive part of the equation and only focus on the criticism, you’re missing a success opportunity!  Why take the time to address this?  Because those who respond defensively to criticism are feeling out of control.  A coach can help you to move toward being interested rather than defensive.

When criticism comes, to what extent are we reacting to pain we’ve experienced from critical comments in the past?  In her column “On the Job,” Anita Bruzzese quotes Deanna Rosenberg, author of From Rage to Resolution who says that the problem is that “because so many workers have been burned by unfair criticism, they avoid any feedback at all, a habit that can hurt careers.” (italics mine)  The crucial skill:  “understanding how to ask for more specific information when critical comments are made,” so you can learn where you need to direct your energies, instead of just becoming emotional and unproductive.  Among Rosenberg’s suggestions are these:

  • Control your body language while listening to criticism.  Don’t clench your teeth or cross your arms.
  • Focus on the problem.  When the speaker is done ask questions and then rephrase the issue in this way:  “As I understand it, you are concerned about (this problem) and you would like me to (solution proposed).  Is that correct?”
  • Hear the complete message.  Don’t stop asking questions until the other person agrees that you fully understand the concerns.
  • If it’s clear that the other person is correct about a situation, acknowledge it and offer an apology if appropriate.  Express your appreciation for the other person taking the time to offer you feedback, and follow-up when appropriate, to show that you valued the input.

I just hired a Coach for an aspect of business that isn’t my greatest strength – and I have done so regularly.  If your challenges are in the areas of Leadership, Sales or Marketing, I hope you’ll do the same!  Most Professional Coaches do first conversations for free; call us and see what you think!

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Is Sheryl Sandberg Right?

Sheryl Sandberg is 43, and she’s worth “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to Time magazine.

That’s probably why the cover of that publication, with a photo of Ms. Sandberg, reads “Don’t hate her because she’s successful.”

It used to be “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

Seems we women run the risk of hating successful and/or beautiful women.

Maybe also those with more interesting lives.

Or more attractive friends.

Or better partners.

Lots of room for hate!  Why do we hate pretty, accomplished, successful women, when we could be learning from them?

Ms. Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and has just written a book advising women to “lean in” to difficult jobs, challenges, opportunities.

And she’s laying the blame for not having done that … at least partly on women.

Well, that’s an old theme:  women are responsible for their own problems.  Don’t you just hate that?

More hate … less understanding.

I’m old enough to remember fighting for women’s rights – just for equality of opportunity and pay.  I was the leading fundraiser west of the Mississippi River for the failed campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in 1981.  And I remember asking for money to air a commercial that did nothing more than read the amendment – so people could see that it had nothing to do with unisex bathrooms or drafting women into the military.  The substance was that equality of opportunity, under the law, shall not be denied by the United States, or by any state, on account of sex.  Read that sentence to people on the street, and most agreed with it … but the amendment failed when not even all women could step forward in support of it.

Now here we are, these years later, with Ms. Sandberg writing that we women are underestimating our abilities.  “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”

I think she’s got a point.

Rather than hate her for her accomplishments, for her Harvard MBA (full disclosure:  I have one of those, too), for her beauty, perhaps we can see her as holding a mirror up to ourselves, and helping us to look at what we are doing – or not doing!

I’m an Executive Coach and a sales trainer.  Working at the executive level, I meet confident, accomplished women.  But at the middle management level, especially lately, I meet women who seem to want to hold back.

It’s as if they never want to see a finger pointed at them, saying YOU, YOU are the person who MADE A MISTAKE.

But playing not to lose, of course, is a far cry from playing to win.

Are you hiding, afraid that someone will disagree with you, and you won’t be strong enough to hold your point of view?  Are you stifling yourself because, at root, you think people don’t like opinionated, forceful women?

I think people don’t like pushy people.  Opinions – especially those held by people who can listen to others’ points of view – are often welcomed, and energizing!

Are you afraid to express your opinions?

In a book I’ve just written, I included a piece about the current phenomenon, especially among members of Generation Y or Millennials (people born in the 1980s or 1990s), to respond to “How are you?” with the phrase “No worries!”  Is that a fervent hope – that there’s no conflict, no confrontation, no disagreement?  If so, perhaps withholding opinions is consistent with that.  But I don’t think it’s going to get you very far!

Having spent nearly two decades in Corporate America before forming my own consulting and coaching practice, and now having coached hundreds of businesspeople of both genders in 52 countries around the world, I think the keys to success are:

  1. To be informed,
  2. To put forth opinions,
  3. To listen to those whose opinions are likely to be informed and worthwhile,
  4. To take action and
  5. To monitor your results, making adjustments when you’ve fallen short.

These days, though, too many people lean away from taking a position – the opposite of Ms. Sandberg’s advice to “lean in.”

She has two children.  Apparently, a loving spouse.  She’s worked hard, and she’s accomplished a lot.  She’s quite pretty.  And, by all indications, she’s smart as a whip.

But don’t let that stop you.  I think she’s very much worth reading.

Rather than hate her … think about her opinions, and form your own.  Ask yourself whether you’re fully taking your own shot.  Have you jumped into “the game” of working … or are you sitting on the sidelines?  Sheryl Sandberg may just be the boost you need to get moving.

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Dr. Ann Speed
Cognitive Psychologist, Sandia National Laboratories

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“Observing the positive effects of Lenann's executive coaching with a colleague, I reached out. I was impressed after our first conversation with how well she listened -- not just to the concept I was trying to convey, but also the words I chose to describe situations. As she reflected those words back to me with insightful questioning, I began to fundamentally understand myself better and what communication tools were needed to be more effective in management and leadership. What reinforced my learnings from our sessions further were the reflections and readings after our sessions. As Lenann heard about my interest in analytics she provided me with a very detailed overview of specific degree programs that were exactly what I was interested in pursuing. This again is evidence of how carefully and deliberately Lenann listens and invests in her clients. Furthermore, dedicated to her clients, Lenann was extremely responsive and always available. I have benefitted immensely from my time with Lenann and recommend her highly for anyone who finds themselves wondering how they can grow or improve themselves professionally. I use the tools and techniques I developed with Lenann's assistance regularly. My only regret is that I could have met Lenann sooner!”

Dr. Irene Krokos
Senior Regional Medical Director, Molina Healthcare (a Fortune 500 company)

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Igor Rodin
(Former) Vice Chairman, Deloitte Central Europe

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Closed 5 deals last week!! Thanks, Lenann, for your support, guidance and belief. The Game On Sales Coaching program we are doing with you keeps me sharp on the follow ups, value estimation and most importantly the closing rates!”

Jase P. Choenni
Head of Sales & Marketing, TMF GROUP BRAZIL

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I was amazed at how perceptive Lenann is about issues (both personal and professional) that were impediments to my reaching sales goals. She helped me to understand that selling is first understanding the client's frame of reference, positioning through powerful, provocative statements, and a process of gaining agreement to next steps. Lenann demonstrated specifically how this is done in both verbal and written communications. In our consulting session, she distilled all the latest research and what's working in today's environment. What she taught me should become basic to my approach with all prospective clients. Lenann is brilliant, enthusiastic, and above all, very personable. The experience of working with Lenann was surprisingly pleasant, and gave me the confidence that I could also improve my selling abilities by following her recommendations. She is truly inspirational. I look forward to continuing my work with Lenann.”

Lisa
Wealth Management Professional, Major Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The Coaching I received from Lenann was invaluable to me. My takeaways included: Learning how to understand your client as opposed to 'knowing your client' – this has made me a far better listener and more empathetic to my clients' REAL needs; Being the 'trusted advisor' as opposed to a service provider – I had an interesting experience that I would like to share with you. I was asked by a potential client to assist with a matter that I knew we did not have the 'firepower' to assist them with. In the profession, it is unheard of to admit that your competitors are ahead of you but I tried it with the client and it worked. Today, he FIRST talks to me about any assistance that he may need and does not even ask for competitor bids; Handling difficult clients. Lenann has been a great help in honing my skills in this area. I have found myself more prepared to 'walk the road' during the client's time of difficulty than before. In my business, we are supposed to be transaction-oriented since we deal with clients on a project-by-project basis. However, where I have invested the time to deal with a client's unhappiness instead of handing the matter over to my colleagues, to my surprise, the client has 'come around' to even admitting that his/her organization was the place where the fault lies – that is a major 'coup' for us since it is very seldom that a client does that. We have managed to build a sustainable business (revenues and earnings is way up on last years' and, most importantly, we have built an impressive team) under fairly trying circumstances – Lenann has played a role in enabling me to do this.”

Neven Hendricks
(Former) Partner Deloitte, United Arab Emirates

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Here are some key things I learned from working with Lenann: 1. I like the concept of a “Challenger Salesperson.” The more interesting, engaging and informative we can be in a useful way to the client, the better. 2. I don’t spend as much time selling as I think I do. 3. The way people do business continues to change and evolve – and I have to keep my selling skills current to keep up with those changes. 4. Treat others the way they want to be treated (not necessarily how I would want to be treated if I were them). A big company we haven’t done meaningful business with in about 5 years is about to come back in a very meaningful and multi-million dollar way…”

Russ Conser
Key Account Manager, Oberthur Technologies

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, you've been great, as always. You put me in the right direction every time we speak - you tell me to focus on the right stuff and 'build it right.' Thanks!”

Scott Price
Regional Director - Americas, Custom House Fund Services, Chicago

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann has been my coach for over 8 years now. The coaching conversations we have are worthwhile because they give me the opportunity to speak freely and honestly about the leadership challenges I am facing without fear of retaliation or negative thoughts from superiors within my organization. Her advice has often put me back on track to achieve my goals and career ambitions. The focus and accountability she provides has been extremely valuable for my success and advancement. Another unique aspect of Lenann’s coaching for me has been the female role model perspective. There are very few women throughout my career who have advanced their careers as far as Lenann has. The respect I have for her as a role model and as a professional businesswoman with a family has given me hope that I can do it all, too!”

Tina Sampson
(Former) Vice President Sales and Marketing, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I am glad that, in addition to our Sales Training, I chose to have you sit down, one-to-one, with four of our key people. The observations you sent me about each of them are perfect and helpful, especially in cases and/or aspects which I could not put in words before, but had a feeling about.

Two of the professionals with whom you spoke continue to develop well, they are thoughtful, have considered the feedback received, and learned from it. Both have sold new engagements for us, and they are going out to sell more and more. It is nice to see how their level of confidence has increased!

Thank you again for helping me in this matter.”

Julia Varga
(Former) Managing Director, TMF Group, Hungary

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The coaching I had with Lenann is paying off in SPADES. I’m pulling in money for other people, now. Recently I spent two hours with a prospective funder (who approached me), and followed Lenann’s selling approach (i.e., we took NO slides to the meeting and let the customer talk 95% of the time, only talking to ask questions – not to tell the customer anything about what we do). At the end of that time, I said, ‘What’s the next step?’, and the customer replied, ‘How do we send you money?’ You have to know how to conduct a conversation to make that happen – it’s 95% listening (literally!), 4% asking questions, and only 1% discussion about your content and capabilities.”

Dr. Ann Speed
PMTS, Sandia National Laboratories

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is a very accomplished and experienced Coach, who builds her advice and coaching based on her own Executive experience. She understands the daily pressure of high level executives and through her advice is an excellent catalyst for increased productivity of her client – ultimately to the benefit of the company. She provides real value for the money, and I would any day again participate in a coaching program with Lenann given the chance.”

Claus Vorreiter Jensen
Chief Commercial Officer, Svendborg Brakes, Denmark

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, your influence has been so positive for my career! I will never forget you. I keep close to my heart people that contribute to my growth, and you have definitely been part of my growth professionally. I hope we can always keep in touch.”

Elena Montiel
(Former) Executive of Global Business Development, TMF USA, Inc., Miami

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann was terrific! After her ‘Trust and Respect in the Workplace’ learning experience, we had the most absolute pleasant best day at work in a very long time!”

Ellen Diamond
Mark Diamond's Jewelers, Albuquerque

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Thank you for your Sales and Closing Skills Class and follow-up program for our global team. I appreciate your response to my request for your thoughts on the

  • Selling Strengths you observed on our team
  • Selling Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Leadership Strengths you observed on our team
  • Leadership Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Implications of all of the above for the future of our firm, and recommendations.

I found your 5-page analysis to be succinct and immediately useful and I’ve applied the lessons there. Very valuable input!”

Koen van Weezel
(Former) Group Director, Global Sales & Marketing, TMF Group, The Netherlands

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My prospect chose to invest $2 million today – and I say ‘Thank YOU a million, Lenann!’ I couldn’t have done it without your good sales coaching yesterday! This was especially sweet because the client had expressed an interest in a discounted up-front fee, had access to plenty of managers who don't charge those fees, and yet when I took the approach you recommended, the fee wasn’t a problem. I could not have gotten that result without your guidance, Lenann.”

Lisa
Wealth Management Professional, Major Global Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is absolutely the best there is! I've heard Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, all the gurus, but I felt 'Yeah, I've heard all this before.' Lenann changes people's lives – the way they work, think and are motivated. She makes a very real, and quite incredible, difference!”

Patti Roland
(Former) Vice President Sales & Marketing, Stonebridge Homes

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My Executive Coaching experience with Lenann has helped me considerably. My judgment of the value of Lenann’s Coaching can best be seen in the fact that I have encouraged other members of my staff to work with her, and they have. I have seen improvement in them as well! I particularly appreciate all the ‘homework’ Lenann had me complete to get me to look at my leadership behaviors, and see ways in which I can improve. I find myself sharing materials Lenann gives me with members of my senior staff, so the learning is shared in our organization. Lenann is always the first person I mention when others ask about Coaching.”

Patty Kehoe
CEO, Molina Healthcare of NM (a Fortune 500 company)

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, I am proud to say that our volume is up – this is very, very positive. And the growth is interesting; there are no signs of slowing down in the trend of huge sales increases we have seen. The key executive whom you are coaching is making strong progress! Thank you for the monthly Coaching Report you provide – it is an extremely useful, clear picture of where we are.
Looking forward to continuing to work with you”

Roberto Schianchi
Chief Executive Officer, ZOBELE HOLDING S.P.A

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I enjoyed Sales Coaching with Lenann so much! Lenann is very good at assessing the situation -- with a couple of simple questions she gets to the bottom of things. The one-on-one nature of Lenann’s Coaching means there’s no way you can hide (as can happen in a classroom). I was continually intrigued by Lenann’s questions and constant feedback on performance…”

Wouter Plantenga
Senior VP, Head of International Structuring Americas, TMF USA, Inc., New York

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“(Lenann’s) coaching activities are very thorough, and are a part of a modern approach which makes a lot of sense. Our sales team had a great performance in this month, and I am convinced that Lenann’s (coaching) had a big influence on this result.”

Thierry Montfort
(Former) President and CEO, Heel USA

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I feel very good about the coaching that you provided to a professional on our team. Your coaching made a critical difference. His performance was much improved after his session with you. In fact, it contributed substantially to our success last year. Thank you!”

Dr. Will Swearingen
Executive Director, TechLink

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I attribute, easily, $10 MILLION in sales directly to learning with, and coaching from, Lenann.”

Mark Walton
(Former) Partner and Global Head of Operations Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, London

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I worked with Lenann about 5 years ago. Just this month, I once again applied what she taught me, and closed 4 of 5 proposals – over $300,000! Lenann Gardner is a combination of blazing intelligence and electrifying enthusiasm!”

Pat Davis
Vice President and Director of Consulting Services, Marketing Insights Practice, KantarHealth

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The demands on consultants these days are immense and it's so easy to end up in a 'feast or famine' situation. When you're working an engagement with a client, it can become all encompassing. I am happy to serve as a reference for Lenann McGookey Gardner, who helped me with a Coaching program. Lenann has a very engaging personality, a person never to be forgotten. I consider the materials Lenann provided to be very useful. Most of all, Lenann's advice and tips are straightforward and readily implementable when you're engaged in demanding client engagements.”

John Corr
Director AlixPartners (A global firm of senior business and consulting professionals), Somerset, United Kingdom

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