Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

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Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

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March 27, 2013


Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Sales,Services — Alec @ 5:26 pm

We talk a lot about all kinds of tips for ways to do your job better, smarter, and enjoying it more. But let’s not forget that a big part of our job includes interpersonal skills with your coworkers and interacting with your customers. Especially in Sales!

Sales is about knowing the customer’s personal and professional WANTS & NEEDS. And I mean their actual WANTS & NEEDS, not the ones you think they should want. This takes time and focus. Every single time you meet with them they will give you a little more insight about them. This is where those active listening skills will come in handy. Be a good listener and take notes. Review those notes just before you go see them the next time. You might even repeat back to them their professional WANTS & NEEDS, “Last time we met you said you wanted to reduce X, Y, Z” or “We discussed that you are having trouble with…”

The customer will tell you their Personal Needs: Family, Ethics, Social, Mental, Financial, and Physical. But probably not the first time you meet. They don’t know you well enough yet. They will also tell you their Professional wants and needs: Time, Sales, People, Productivity, and Strategy. Again, probably not the first meeting. But over time they will share it with you. Listen closely, it may be delivered in code. You will have to learn to decipher subtle statements like, “I am having absentee problems,” or “My operations manager and controller argue a lot.”

Your best Sales Tool? Get to know your customer.

March 22, 2013

Coaching and Sales

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Motivation,Sales — Alec @ 11:00 am

We’ve already talked about: Tom Izzo, Malcolm Gladwell and getting “the fire in the belly” as it relates to Green Belt projects. But not all of you are in the midst of getting certified. Let’s take another look at how these themes apply to other aspects of business.

Izzo’s words for Sales

Instead of Practice :: Think about OG Mandino’s character Hafid and adopt his personality. Make phone calls, don’t just send emails. Schedule meetings and ask for referrals. It doesn’t matter if at first you are no good or even bad at sales calls. Just find the passion to work hard, fight, and care EVERY DAY. Make calls and set up appointments, meetings, lunches or coffees every day. As you care more about your customer, they will feel that you care more. As you make more calls and work smarter, you will get better at making calls. Care when you make a sale and care when you lose a sale. I want you to care so much that you ask why you won a sale and why you lost a sale – what was the differentiating factor in each of those scenarios? When you lose a close sale, don’t let it ruin your game. Instead analyze the missteps and work smarter/harder tomorrow.

What were you wearing? Were you distracted? What questions did they ask? What questions did you ask? What time of day was it? Did you ask the value statement? Did you ask “anything else”? Did you set a follow-up meeting?

You will get better. Bill Gates wasn’t born a success, he spent his 10,000 hours earning it. You can too!!

March 20, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

When Michigan State University Basketball’s head coach Tom Izzo was asked if he thought the players were starting to take on his personality, his response was, “I hope so. Not because I want them to be my personality, as much as I want basketball, I want games, I want playing good or playing bad to matter enough that a guy will fight, cry, care each and every day,” he said. “You’re damn right I’m looking for that. I really am looking for that. And this team is getting better.” He went on to comment, “We’ve had a couple games that weren’t as good as others. But we’ve been in every game with two minutes left, one way or the other. And that’s what’s gonna be important as we move on.”

Don’t you just love it?! Doesn’t it apply directly to almost everything in life that we want to be really good at? If you want to be good at anything you must practice, do it, do it often. Olympic players say they must do something 10,000 times. In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the factors that contribute to high levels of success and hits on the “10,000 Hour Rule”. I guess the old adage of practice makes perfect might actually ring true. If you want to be Hafid from OG Mandino’s Greatest Salesman in the World, you must have fire in your belly.

Let’s restate Izzo’s words as they relate to Green Belt Projects

Instead of Practice :: You must collect data and check progress every day. Don’t just keep your project on the daily Things to Do list, Schedule meetings. It’s not about the quality of work at first – if you’re good or bad, whether you are making progress or have a solution – it’s about doing something on the project every day. Now you are practicing!

Instead of Fight, Cry, Care :: Find the Passion! Get that fire in the belly to work hard, not give up, and care every day about your project. Collect the data and analyze it EVERY day. Just like players care more about the game, you will grow to care more about the customer. As you collect more data and work smarter, you will find yourself getting better at analyzing data. Players care when they win and lose. I want you to care when you find success and when you don’t. I want you to care so much you ask Why?

When you don’t identify the key variation factor, analyze and work smarter/harder tomorrow. Ask Why? Are you collecting data correctly; by hour, by shift, by machine, by day of the week, by operator? What questions did the team members ask, what questions did you ask? Is time of day a factor? Did you ask the charter question? Did you review the problem statement? Did you ask Anything Else? Were you proactive and set up a follow-up meeting?

The first step to finishing any project is the Start and the second step is to Do It Again tomorrow. While working on Green Belt Projects, I see some people get their projects done in 60 days. And I see others that never get done. When I ask myself why, I see a common theme. The people who complete their projects done are working on it a little bit every day. It is on their daily TTD list.

We are all busy, but find a way to work on your project 10 or 15 minutes every day. When it’s all said and done, you will be the winner.

You see, Mister Og, most of us build prisons for ourselves and after we occupy them for a period of time we become accustomed to their walls and accept the false premise that we are incarcerated for life.” Remember, we determine our own success by the limits we place on ourselves.

March 13, 2013

Selling Ice Cubes to Eskimos

Filed under: Food for thought for friends,Sales,Services — Alec @ 1:31 pm

Have you ever have heard the expression “She could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo” or “He could sell an Ice Box to an Eskimo”. It leaves you thinking, why would an Eskimo need ice or a freezer? What the phrase really means is that he or she can sell something deemed unnecessary by many to pretty much anyone.

The real skill here is the ability to sell the value of what is perceived as the impossible, when it is very possible. With all the science fiction writers the last 25 years it is very conceivable that you could find someone to believe you have an implantable memory chip for your brain. If someone believes in it, they will buy it. Advances in technology could also convince us that a pair of sunglasses could double as a computer monitor. Google glasses aren’t far from this concept, and I bet people will buy it.

Think of some of our most influential inventors throughout history. There is some debate over when and by whom the radio was invented, but for the sake of argument let’s says it was David Edward Hughes in 1879. About the same time Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and received his first patent in 1876. In 1876 Paul Gottlieb Nipkow patented a rotating disc that could capture and display an image using electricity. Now let’s say in 1890 you gathered Hughes, Bell and Nipkow in a room and tried to sell them on your idea for a little hand held device that could be used as a wireless communications device with text and video. You were trying to persuade them to invest in your new little gadget or today’s “smart phone”. Do you think they would buy it?

Many people have tried, without success, to sell their ideas and get buy in from potential customers. Xerox comes to mind. The inventor of Xerox eventually gave up on buyers and started his own company to develop and produce “photo copying” machines.

The key to selling an idea is to clearly paint a visual, realistic picture in the buyer’s mind and show them the value behind the idea. Even better, create that picture in their mind appear as if it was their own idea to help their product. In other words, find a way to explain the idea without starting at the total concept, but start by asking small questions. If I were selling the “smart phone” to Hughe, Bell and Nipkow, I would ask them “What could happen if we married your three patents?”  Or maybe start even simpler and speak to Bell, “Could your phone be wireless?” This creates an easy lead in to more questions. “Is it possible for your wired phone to have a picture?” The hardest step but not impossible, “Could we marry all three? And if we could, how would it change the business world? What would it be worth if we could communicate blueprints, information and voice in just minutes or seconds to REST OF THE WORLD?”

Selling is first about helping your customer visualize from within. Then we expand the notion to consider the value to their business. This is the crossroads where selling and listening meet. We must listen to their minds and ask the right questions to lead them to self-discovery. Now you can sell something you knew was beneficial to their company and they just realized they definitely needed.

March 6, 2013

Everything You Ever Wanted to Learn :: Active Listening

Did you know that we spend up to 80% of our conscious hours using four basic communication skills? The big four are Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening. Try putting that on your next resume…

More than 50% of that time is credited to Listening. That means we are spending 40% of our awake time just listening! Hard to believe? According to these facts, we spend a lot of time doing something we all seemingly undervalue. Here’s where is gets tricky…

On average, people retain 25% of what they hear. Why?

We perceive listening as a passive activity. Many people find the sustained concentration required to sit and listen is practically impossible to maintain. The average person speaks at about 130 words per minute. Our thinking speed is about 500 words per minute. Because of this gap, people tend to jump ahead of what is actually being said. Our minds wander, daydream or take a vacation from what is being said. Here’s Why:

• Outside “noise” or distracting thoughts cloud what is being said to us.

• The listener is anxious, stressed or filled with emotion and impairing his or her ability to listen.

• We are already thinking of our response and have stopped listening to what is being said to us.

• The perception of the listener differs so greatly from the perception of the talker that the listener had begun to misinterpret the conversation.

So what do we do?

Try Active Listening, which is the technique that makes the process of communication a two-way street. Summarizing and Non-Verbal Communication are two great types of Active Listening to keep in mind:

This takes into account what the messenger is trying to deliver and involves the listener stating back his or her understanding of the information. This rephrasing should take place at regular intervals and with help with:

• Checking understanding

• Offering opportunities for clarification

• Showing the messenger that you have been listening and are interested in the message

• Giving the messenger appropriate feedback on how well the message is being expressed

Useful phrases are:  “As I understand it, what you are saying is ….” and  “So your point is that ….”

Non-Verbal Communication
Don’t forget about about friend non-verbal communication and body language. A few things you can do to show you are listening:

• Maintain eye contact with the speaker 60 – 80% of the time

• Nod and shake your head when appropriate

• Try mirroring the messenger’s body language (although be careful not to “mimic” or insult them)

Pretty simple techniques can make huge difference in something we all spend a lot of time doing. Research has shown that we take in 7% by words, 38% by tone of voice and 55% from body language. That means that HOW something is said and the body language displayed, divulges more secrets than WHAT they say. Try doing that on Twitter.

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