Volume 47 February 21, 2005
Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Helpful Hints from fellow Practitioners
Tips from Our School for Managers
Feature Of This Issue
Second Feature Of This Issue
Third Feature Of This Issue
Coming in the Next Few Issues
Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested friends, customers and potential customers
MESSAGE FROM CHARLES LOEW:
It amazes me how many organizations have decided to ignore their customers. Of course they do not openly express this as one of their objectives, but the actions that are taken by the management of these organizations results in ignoring the customer. The following three experiences all happened to me personally during the past few months.
- We are in the process of down sizing and are purchasing a new home in a "55 and better" community. The builder recommended a landscaping company and we have been trying to receive a plan based on our two-one hour meetings with them. Finally, after contacting the Vice President of the firm and complaining that we had not received the plans as promised, he assigned someone else to work with us. We made an appointment and started over again, with promise of plans in one week. Two weeks and three telephone calls later, we received the plans. I asked when we would receive the pricing information. "Oh, I will have that to you on Monday." Again, two weeks later after three telephone calls from me, we finally received the pricing.
- When I attempted to return a phone call, the automated menu options did not apply, so I tried to reach a receptionist, which was not an option. After several attempts, I succeeded in speaking to four people and reaching the call center in India twice, I finally reached the extension of the person I was calling, but she was busy on another line, resulting in my leaving a message for a return call. And so it goes - on and on.
- I stayed in a very nice hotel and decided to have dinner at its restaurant. When checking in, I received a voucher for a free glass of wine. I waited for five minutes at the hostess desk before someone arrived to show me to a seat. The restaurant was not very busy, with many empty tables. After I was seated, the waitperson asked me what I would like to drink. I requested a glass of wine, showing her the voucher. During the next fifteen minutes I had to ask for my glass of wine two additional times. The final blow was that I was charged for the wine, even though everyone that tried to "help" me was shown the voucher!
Please e-mail me at Charles.Loew@masetllc.com with any positive or negative experiences and we will take a quick poll to see if others are being treated better.
We are looking for some additional Helpful Hints from you. We would like some hints covering meetings, training sessions, dealing with others or any other subject that fellow readers might enjoy reading.
Our first article, "Why Selling Will Never Be The Same", by Linda H. Stimac, covers a major shift taking place between sellers and buyers. This shift is a direct result of all the information that is available to every buyer on the web. The shift affects every one of us as buyers and many of us as sellers. One of Maset's Products and Services covers this new methodology. Its description can be found at RxSales: An Expert Performance System. I think you will find the article very informative. We also will begin a new series during the next 12 months expanding on a tool that is very helpful for sales practitioners to become better sales individuals. Before you dismiss this article because you may not be in sales, reflect on how often you have to persuade others about projects or ideas you have. Isn't that selling?
The second feature article titled "Culture Power" by Ron Kaufman provides thoughts on how we can do a better job with our front line associates. Management needs to implement change by allowing the individuals who interact with customers to treat them as they should be treated. This article applies to everyone regardless of their role in an organization.
The third article is the continuation from last month on "Leadership Development in China: Challenges and Solutions" by Median Resources. We continue with the final four factors that hinder the development of strong local Chinese leaders. Many of the items covered in this article are equally valid in other countries around the globe.
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS:
No comments submitted after the last issue.
NEW ON THE MASET WEB SITE:
Information regarding our upcoming public seminar titled "Customer Focused Six Sigma for small and Midsized Organization" scheduled for April 6, 2005, has been added to the web site. If you are in the vicinity of the Pittsburgh Airport or you can fly in for a day to attend, you will find it is time well spent. The seminar is being presented in cooperation with the Robert Morris University and Catalyst Connection. Visit the description and to register at http://www.masetllc.com/upcoming_events.shtml.
HELPFUL HINTS FROM FELLOW PRACTITIONERS:
When facilitating a training session or a team meeting and faced with a loud or disruptive personality on the team, walking up close to the person tends to quiet him/her down.
Tips from Our School for Managers
- by Andrew E. Schwartz
PROBLEM SOLVING - THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
When problem solving, you may recognize that you were working on a symptom instead of the problem. An analysis of the more clearly defined problem may require an alteration to the objectives or the ideal solution. These reviews and changes are costly in terms of time and effort which emphasizes the need for rigid scrutiny during the initial problem definition to avoid wasted time and effort. Once implementation begins, it is even more difficult to learn that the entire action plan and subsequent efforts were based on symptoms in lieu of authentic problems.
Copyright A.E. Schwartz & Associates, all rights reserved
For more information: Charles.Loew@masetllc.com
ONE LINERS - "To make you think and/or smile"
- I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.
FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
Why Selling Will Never Be the Same
By Linda H. Stimac
Everyone knows that the Internet has changed our daily lives. But did you know that the Internet revolution has had a dramatic impact on the world of sales? If you understand the phenomenon, your company has already made changes in sales practices. But if this phenomenon is news to you, then you may be operating with systems and beliefs that are no longer effective with current prospects and clients of your organization.
Before the rise of the Internet (1995), the majority of buyers were Delegators. In terms of their advice seeking behavior, 59% of all buyers delegated their decisions to trusted advisors. They were fully dependent on the sales professional to provide three things: (1) information about the product or service, (2) a way to obtain the product or service, and (3) advice about the product or service.
Less than two years later, in 1997, only 21% of buyers were Delegators. What happened? The Internet gave birth to two new kinds of buyers: The Opinion Seeker and the Self-Directed Buyer. By 1997, fifty-percent (50%) of all buyers were comfortable using search engines to find information about products and services. Another 29% discovered that they could obtain the product or service directly. These Self-Directed Buyers are a familiar sight today - they buy and sell their own homes, they buy stocks without a financial advisor, and they book their own travel.
Sales professionals know that the Self-Directed Buyer has changed the sales world forever. However, sales professionals are not usually aware of the dramatic impact that The Opinion Seeker has also had on the way they sell and on their results. The advice seeking behavior of buyers in 2005 has not changed much since 1997 - 53% are Opinion Seekers.
Opinion Seekers wreak havoc in the sales profession because they desire information. If you are the last sales professional that they happen to seek out, then they may buy from you. But what if you are not the last one, and instead, one of two or three or four in the middle? Then, sadly, your fate is to become an unpaid consultant - giving information to the Seeker and not getting paid for it.
After awhile however, Opinion Seekers, run into a problem called Information Overload. They consult Google and Jeeves; they visit websites; they read newspaper and magazine articles; and they talk with friends, other advisors, and significant others. Soon they are drinking from a fire hose of information and become paralyzed with indecision. There is just too much information out there. A key to the new world of sales is the knowledge that buyers want someone to help them navigate through the avalanche of information. What they crave most is someone to help them make a decision.
This means that the role of the sales professional has to change. Sales professionals can no longer function as Intermediaries, occupying the position between the buyer and the product or service that the buyer desires. The sales professional used to be the single source of product information, the means to acquire the product or service, and advice. But only one role remains.
Today the sales professional is a navigator. It is a wonderful role to have, but only if you know how to be a navigator or facilitator as opposed to a salesperson. Advisors help prospective clients make decisions amidst an avalanche of information. They help clients navigate their way to a decision.
Consultative selling skills are the framework for getting and giving advice, and although part of our sales lives for thirty-five years now, have never been more essential. Companies in all industries are making the transition from transactional to consultative selling. While they don't always know that it is the Opinion Seekers who have made the transition necessary, sales leaders do recognize the negative effect the Seekers have had on sales results and customer retention. They've watched their sales team's waste time with prospects who are "just seeking information, thank you."
But before you dust off an old copy of a sales book or call your local sales trainer, it is important to recognize something else that will never be the same: the way sales professionals learn.
We now know that in order to execute, sales professionals must first have an opportunity to identify the ingrained myths they have about selling. For example, they may believe that it takes a long time to close a sale in their business. Like a myth, there can be a kernel of truth in the belief. In life insurance, the underwriting process can be very lengthy. Nevertheless, there is a negative outcome for the sales professional that holds this belief. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If one believes that it takes a long time to close a sale, then it will take a long time.
Myths are often the source of skill gaps. For example, if sales professionals believe that it is not right to ask for introductions, then they will not ask for introductions. The skill goes undeveloped, and it is a critical skill. Myths and skill gaps are the reason that most sales systems don't work. Work first to strengthen beliefs and remove conditions that interfere with highly developed skills. Then, sales professionals will execute the sales process with consistent precision.
As for the right consultative selling system, not just any system will work. Most sales training programs do not address the way buyers buy - i.e. what is the emotional decision making process that prospects and clients employ to make a buying decision? The sales professional who understands how the client thinks becomes an expert navigator.
Sales professionals learn best through blended learning. According to Barbara Lyman, author of Blended Learning: An Ongoing Process for Internet Integration, "The most common theme in adult learning theory is that, in order to be effective, teaching must be learner-centered and self-directed."
When salespeople are motivated, they want to be self-directed. If they want to learn, they wish to obtain some of that knowledge on their own. A web-based learning program that can hold attention and encourage participation is the answer.
Effective learning is also learner-centered, meaning that there must be a time and place to apply the concepts of self-directed study to the real world of the salesperson. This is best done in a group setting, where colleagues learn together and share ideas about current sales in progress.
So, as you can see, learning, like selling, will never be the same. The rise of the Internet means that more companies are discovering how to make blended learning work for them. In a Sales and Marketing Management study of 272 companies in 2003, 42% have been using e-learning for "quite some time," and 29% were using e-learning with their sales force. That study is more than a year old, and the percent of companies who want to employ blended learning techniques is increasing steadily, especially in the United States.
In a world where the buyer has changed dramatically - and changed forever - the most important thing that sales professionals can do is to change the way they sell. When they do, they become highly skilled facilitators of decision making. The reward is that their clients appreciate the experience and make more high quality introductions. For a company, the ultimate rewards are that sales professionals achieve their full potential as advisors, sales production is more consistent, and client retention increases.
About the author
Linda Stimac is the author and developer of RxSales: An Expert Performance Systemô. After more than twenty-five years of helping organizations and their sales professionals close the gap between potential and actual performance, Linda works today with industry leaders and consultants who employ the Expert Performance System.
SECOND FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
"I want to speak to a Supervisor!" (Part 1 of 2)
By Ron Kaufman
A young man working for a Big Boss made an expensive mistake his first week on the job. At the end of the week the young man cleaned out his desk and packed his things to leave. The Big Boss asked, "What do you think you are doing now?"
"I'm leaving," said the young man. "I made such an expensive mistake; surely you don't want me coming back next week."
"Are you kidding?" exclaimed the Big Boss. "I just spent a small fortune educating you. You better come back next week and show me what you learned."
Does this make sense to you? if so, read on...
Have you ever asked a Frontline Staff for something special and been told, "Sorry, company policy. The answer is NO."? Ever asked to speak with the Supervisor and found the answer soon changed to YES?
When this happens (and it does all over the world) how do you feel about the company? Do you respect it more, or less? How do you feel about the Supervisor? Do you admire her use of authority, or feel pity for the Frontline Staff she over-ruled?
How do you think the staff member feels? (And whose rule was he following in the first place when he said "The answer is NO"?)
One Supervisor took this problem a step further and asked the following question: In our business, customers who get special treatment come back later and only want to speak with a Supervisor and no one else. These customers have lots of friends and tell everybody. I am afraid everyone will want the same special treatment. In the end we would have no need for Counter Clerks as the Supervisors will be serving all our customers! This might make the customers happy, and that is our ultimate goal, but it would be too much for our Supervisors to handle. We have plenty of other work to do! How can we solve this situation?
Here is my answer to this situation:
Companies should empower and support Frontline Staff to do what the Supervisor ultimately does, without having to check with the Supervisor each and every time. This means Staff must get enough training to KNOW what's right - and have enough authority to DO what's right.
It means Supervisors must trust their staff to do the right thing at the right time and not abuse the privilege. It also means Frontline Staff must learn the skills - and earn the trust.
This approach shifts the Supervisor into the role of educator and motivator, not controller and dominator. It's a huge change of mindset and culture in any organization. And, it's the right thing to do for two reasons:
One: The experience customers have with your company must be positive and uplifting, or else they won't come back. If your customer must reach a Supervisor to find satisfaction, more flexible competitors will take your customer away. If, however, you can please a customer, inspire a customer, make a customer feel "Welcome" in a non-bureaucratic way, their desire to come back (and tell others) will grow. This is essential for successful business in a customer-centric world.
Two: The cost of staff doing robotic work (and referring every exception to the Supervisor) is too high to sustain. Customers get smarter every day. Smart companies provide self-service tools for most basic needs. Well-trained Frontline Staff help new customers get acquainted and assist repeat customers with special situations.
This makes sense and makes money.
The next time you need to go over the Frontline Staff to get what you want from a Supervisor, ask yourself if you would gladly go elsewhere if the Staff could simply say "yes" in the first place.
Key Learning Point: Give your Frontline Team the training and authority they need to take care of customers without constantly asking for approval. This will help you grow your business, please your customers and keep your best-serving staff.
Action Step: Make a complete list of everything your Frontline Staff CANNOT DO for customers without getting a Supervisor's permission. (Hint: ask your Frontline Staff to make the list.)
Now scrutinize the items one-by-one and do everything you can to make the list simpler and shorter. Where staff can be trained to decide for themselves, train them. Where guidelines are needed, provide them. If mistakes will be made, allow them. Over time, everyone can learn do to what only the Supervisor once knew.
Empowerment is simple, really. Give good staff the authority to make a decision, and tell them to use their common sense. If they bring a situation they should handle up to you, turn it back to them. If they make a good decision, pat them on the back. If they make a bad decision, pat on the back for doing SOMETHING and then help them LEARN from the mistake. Then share the learning with others and watch your company culture grow.
Note: Leaving things as they are is NOT an option for success.
Your best staff will leave in frustration, your customers will leave for better service elsewhere, and you will be right where you were at the beginning, making all the decisions...alone.
About the author
Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed innovator and motivator for partnerships and quality service, and the author of the best-selling "UP Your Service!" books and the award-winning monthly newsletter, "The Best of Active Learning!" Visit http://www.RonKaufman.com
Copyright, 2004, Ron Kaufman. All rights reserved.
THIRD FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
Leadership Development in China: (part 2 of 2)
Challenges & Solutions
By Meridian Resources
In our last issue of Global Skills Update, we looked at the first three of seven factors that hinder the development of strong local Chinese leaders.
As difficult as it is, developing local leadership is critical to success in China. Only by transferring responsibility to local employees can a company lower the cost of expatriate packages and fully leverage the insights of Chinese personnel into markets, competitors and the best operating strategies.
In this issue, we will take a look at the remaining four factors and offer suggestions for managing them:
- "SOE" mentality (state-owned enterprise)
- Overestimation of abilities
- Lack of teamwork
- "Silo" mentality
1. "SOE" mentality
A significant number of local Chinese managers have worked many years for China's state-owned enterprises (SOEs). These managers are typically older, often in their 40s or 50s, and therefore more mature in their judgment. But offsetting their greater maturity may be a set of bad habits including a reluctance to take risks, resistance to learning new policies or procedures, and a bureaucratic approach to work and personal relations on the job.
Suggestions: Begin with developing basic professional habits like time management and setting priorities. Then move to developing proficiency with your employee evaluation system; emphasize the need to set measurable goals and the importance of objectivity. Finally, encourage local managers to take modest risks: reward successes and do not penalize failures the first time. Local managers with an SOE background are highly risk averse: to release their creative potential you must first remove fear of punishment for mistakes.
2. Overestimation of abilities
The brightest young local managers in China today are graduates from the China's top universities like Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, and Tsinghua and Beijing Universities in Beijing. Since these universities are highly selective, their graduates are the China's "cream of the crop" and can often be arrogant. A sense of superiority can lead young "hot shot" managers to feel they know more than they really do. They are thus often critical of companies' employee development programs, especially when they feel that since they already know the material, these programs are a waste of their time.
Suggestions: Instead of forcing your high potential managers to attend a program, suggest instead that they attend a part of the program on a trial basis and review what they learned afterwards. Overconfident managers will be surprised at how much they don't know. Schedule a meeting afterwards and ask open-ended questions about their experience; close with a suggestion that they continue the program. Even the most arrogant managers will usually agree, though often with some reservations to save face. In reality they will be grateful for your suggestion.
3. Lack of teamwork
Young Chinese managers tend to view career advancement as a "zero-sum" game: many believe that they can only get ahead at the expense of their peers. Expatriate managers discover this the first time they promote a strong performer, only to find his or her peers complaining that the promotion was unfair and demanding to know why they weren't promoted first. This "winner takes all" attitude makes the development of teamwork particularly difficult.
Suggestions: Make teamwork an explicit corporate value in your China operations; talk about teamwork frequently and illustrate with examples. Ask your senior local leadership team to develop a short list of behaviors (5 ideal, 7 max) that they feel define teamwork; don't be afraid to edit the list or make your own additions. Then ask team members to examine their own behavior in light of the list; they will usually be quite honest about any discrepancies. Finally, consider creating a reward for teamwork linked to compensation. Don't be afraid to make this a substantial sum: your actions speak louder than words and monetary rewards are a powerful incentive in China today.
4. "Silo" mentality
A "silo mentality" plagues many Chinese managers. Traditionally, the Chinese have viewed people in top leadership roles as authoritarians who preside over their "kingdoms" with a strong, paternalistic hand and are often at war with neighboring "kingdoms" over scarce resources. Expatriate executives in China are often dismayed to find that their best local managers are so busy defending their turf that they are uninterested in looking beyond their own functional area. This "silo mentality" is a serious impediment to developing leaders who have the broad perspective required to take greater responsibility for the business.
Suggestions: Institute career plans that ask your best managers to rotate into different functions; consider postings overseas. Look for cross-functional projects that develop a broad perspective. Establishing a cross-functional team to launch a new product in China, for example, will force each member to see beyond his limited horizon. Reward generously managers who take the initiative to develop skills beyond their own function; make them role models. Finally, point out the real costs of silos and tie compensation to improved performance that results from greater cross-functional collaboration.
Meridian offers a complete set of consulting and training services for companies doing business in the PRC. Contact us to find out more about how we can assist you with your China operations.
COMING IN THE NEXT FEW ISSUES:
- Future tips from Our School for Managers will include topics in Coaching, Goal Setting, Time Management, Communication, Delegation and many others.
- Sales and marketing workshops
- Understanding the change occurring between buyer and seller
- A new workshop - Mentoring for Employee Success
- GoalCentrix - Driving Effective Plan Execution
- Online method of conducting an employee satisfaction survey
- A new links page to connect you to other sites of interest and value to you
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