Leading is About Knowing People, And Never Forgetting The Goal!

After writing Do You Want To Be a Leader?, I am coming back to the Leadership topic! I believe that only with a strong Leadership we can unlock [people] talent and creativity to develop the great solutions we need to face the challenges ahead. So, if Leadership is so important, why insisting in the same old and irrelevant question of What is your Leadership style? Instead one should try to find a good answer for, How do you lead your teams?, the real question that deals with behaviors and acts, rather than trying to find a box to put people in. Asking for a style is nothing more nor nothing less then asking for a label, reducing all the Leadership topic to boxes and labels. Like I have mentioned before, in The Bad Habit of Labeling Everything!, I do not like labels! Labels harm creativity, inhibit innovation, and reduces leadership to a style. Instead of labeling Leadership, I would rather learn more about the why a Leader behaves and acts the way she does. The difference between a good and a bad leader, it’s for me related to the way a Leader reads reality, learns about it, and acts accordingly to meet her goals, without defrauding her company’s vision. What kind of information does she take into account to act? How does she adapt? Does she faces the day-to-day situations, and the unusual situations same way? All these question are related to the decision-process, and their answers will all depend on the situation at-hand. Therefore, I believe that each situation needs a strong assessment before going on deciding how to handle it! Like in a chess game when the players read the chessboard before going on defining strategies and tactics, and never forgetting the end goal: reaching check mate. Likewise, a Leader should be able to read the situation at-hand in order to choose the best approach possible also without forgetting her ultimate goal.

So, what are the key variables to be assessed?  I would like to propose 3 main group of variables: team’s maturity (degree of readiness, experience and knowledge), nature of the situation (form a day-to-day routine, to a brand new challenge), and timeline (from a short, to a long deadline)! By learning all this info about her team, a Leader is not only readier to face challenges, but also better able to design a career advancement strategy, and keep a higher level of motivation. The situation and timeline are aspects to be accessed in the moment, and can change in some way the team’s readiness, by leveraging or not on their knowledge and experience. Therefore, knowing one’s team is the halfway through to be a good Leader, the other part (no less important and crucial) is about having the ability of learning the situation and timeline correctly, design a plan, and be able to execute it – by acting and adapting! I would like to highlight the importance of knowing the team well when looking for those among the team who can, regarding experience and knowledge on that specific situation, help designing and executing the plan.

Regarding these aspects, and acting accordingly to the maturity of the team, the Leader’s behavior changes, and evolves*, so if the team’s maturity increases the leader’s behavior should evolve from a) Directing, Guiding; to b) Coaching, Explaining; to c) Supportive, Collaborating; to d) Delegating, Observing. The decision making process evolves also along the process, and from being the leader’s full responsibility in phase a, to being the team member’s full responsibility in phase d. Along this process, the leader encourages and empowers the team members to make decisions, more specifically by coaching in phase b and empowering in phase c.

As one can see it is important to know the team in order to decide which behavior or mix of behaviors to adopt, it is also important to say that there is no fixed style when leading and that will always depend upon team’s maturity, situation and time frame. However, it is important that each leader follows is own way! Leadership is all about people, knowing yourself first, your company and its goals second, and your people last, but never the least. In order to be a Leader and achieve your goals with a  strong and motivated team, one needs to invest in guidance, have the best coaching and training programs available, know when to delegate and support, know their potential and limitations, but never forgetting your mission and goals.

Have your own vision regarding your team and talent management, a vision that enables you to achieve great things and do amazing stuff! Be a Leader! 😉

*Inspired by the “Situational Leadership Model” by Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson – 1996.

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How about having fun while working?

When chatting with friends and business partners, I keep listening the same complain – “Well, I like my job, though it’s not funny anymore”! When asking, why is it? I receive almost always same answer, “to be taken seriously, in my job I need to be focused, and serious all the time!”. And that answer confuses me a lot, because I strongly believe that having fun while working has nothing to do with being focused, or be taken seriously by others. Having fun is one of the reasons why people stay motivated and wanting to excel. Why then corporations and managers try to inhibit employees of having fun while working? I believe that the reason is connected to the idea that it is impossible to have fun and do hard work at same time. What is in my opinion wrong, and a preconception instead! A preconception that it is costing millions to companies in retaining and motivating talent. In a time where uniqueness, innovation are as key as talent management to thrive in the business world, I believe that the ‘how one should work and play her role within a company’ should be rethought in order to better aim 21st century ‘s reality and challenges ahead.

Having fun while working does not imply being less focused or the lack of professionalism. In an environment that privileges ‘milking the cow as soon as possible, and with the higher profits possible’, it is complicated to have companies built to attract and keep talent for more than a couple of years. In my perspective, running a business with a ‘squeeze oranges’ mentality leads only to immediateness, forgetting the medium and long term. Attracting talented people is a key aspect when starting a company, though keeping it in-house, motivated, and willing to excel it is the toughest part of the challenge of starting or managing a company in the 21st century. In order to build a strong company, one needs to a build it as a real challenge, and find the unique ingredients that lead to success. However, to build a strong team for that company, one needs a corporate cultural that stimulates and allows people to do different, creative, and meaningful stuff. And having fun is an ingredient that should be present, and stimulated.

Companies should nurture a culture of meritocracy, where having fun can be positive and bring competitiveness. How? Well, if you are having fun you are probably happier, and therefore you have a higher predisposition to be creativity, inventive, and more productive. The trick part is to build up a corporate culture that allows and stimulates the ‘right’ (right is highly subjective, and depends on the social and cultural aspects of the environment where the company works) positive behaviors that lead to better results.

Being irresponsible, not focused, not productive, or acting as a free-rider are behaviors one can find regardless the corporate culture and that should be condemned but also understood in order to avoid and prevent them! It also happens that sometimes these same condemnable behaviors arise due to a inappropriate corporate culture or unfit leadership.

The ability of having fun while working can definitely be considered as a important factor when analyzing a company for its competitiveness! It is something that some companies can stimulate and other cannot! What kind of company do you want to work for, or start up?

Online Cold Calling – Using e-mail & social networks! [Part 2]

Hello again, hopping you are having a good day. Like I promise on my latest post – Is Cold Calling outdated? No think so! [Part 1] -, I will give you some more tips on how to utilize on online resources and boost your cold calling activities.

Obviously, by now your targets should be already listed and prioritized accordingly to your objectives, and aligned with your business strategy. Only after that one can think about what tactics, and sales techniques one should be using. So, please get this right first before going on cold calling and targeting randomly!

Before continuing further, I would like to share with you that using email or any social network to cold call can be risky. Why? Starting with the idea that it can be seen as spam and immediately deleted, making your time spent doing it unworthy; or that you can spoil your opportunity by using a channel to engage with the prospect that she does not appreciate; Or even, and going a little bit further, and saying that your prospect can see it as annoying, and upsetting, and call the Legal department. So be sure you follow all the legal rules in your prospect’s country. Although, unsolicited is need to sell, please do it right first time!         

In order to use internet cold calling efficiently please follow a two-key-step process to avoid falling in the risky situations mention before – Preparation and Execution.

Preparation

Please do your homework and investigate before sending an unsolicited email or online message. Try to find a way in, a lead on an issue or special need that your company can help with.  After saying that, start by getting the name of the person you want to target, the Decider, who is someone with the power of deciding on spending and budget allocation. However, before you can get in touch with her, you may have to pass by the gatekeeper (normally the Personal Assistant), an Influencer (someone you know within that orgaization with some power in other areas but not in the one you are exploring but can help you with an introduction to your dear Mrs. Decider), or even a Contact you have within the company that can help you indirectly with your mission. Ah, and never forget that your mission is, scheduling an appointment with the Decider. Second, search all the relevant information (all about the company and person you are targeting, its competitors, industry, etc) you need to achieve your goal: schedule an appointment. Third, fill in your CRM with the intelligence in order to keep a record on it.

Execution

What ever is the channel you are using, email or a message through a social network (e.g. Linkedin, Facebook, …), please follow a set of rules to make it more likely that your message is read and that you receive an answer. How to do it: direct the message to a person (your target); tailor-made it to her and company; make it short (3 paragraphs maximum); make it meaningful for the person reading; add an easy way to unsubscribe your emails; and please before sending it do check if you are doing the targeting correctly, and that this is the right person. What information to include: targeted person’s name; quick presentation of you, and some key words describing your company; a few lines pinpointing the benefits of your offer, or solutions for any problem you might have identified in your target (use this opportunity to keep your target’s attention by being creative in your writing); add a referral or at least a success case of a well known client of yours. Don’t add any files on a first email because it can be seen as a threat (viruses, etc…) being the email deleted with being read. Though, you can make a “tailor made” presentation to this specific client and add a safe link to it in your email. End up with a thanks note, and request an appointment. Mention that you will try to follow up by phone and ask for her coordinates (direct contact phone) if you do not have it yet!

Please along the process keep always the eye on the ball! Schedule an appointment first, doing business, next. Ah, and use some creative writing what being not easy can help you out with having your message read, but more than that have it replied with some free slots to schedule an appointment.

Well, good luck with your cold calling and never forget to mix your sales techniques to adequate your sales tactics to your objectives.

Note: If you have any experiences that you would like to share please feel free to comment or send me an email.

More tips on Sales here

Is Cold Calling outdated? No think so! [Part 1]

I don’t think cold calling is an outdated sales tactic, though, I believe it should be refreshed and refurbished for the 21st century! Social media and direct email can also be used to boost cold calling and bring it to the 21st century, though, please don’t stop using the phone! I like to believe that selling it is about mixing up several tactics, techniques and resources to communicate, engage and gain customers’ “love”, and interest in our products. Thus, the winners would be the ones who will find the most inventive and ingenious ways to engage and communicate with their audiences creating value for all the involved parties! Therefore, don’t be afraid of mixing old with new sales tactics, and add some technological flavor on the top!

Before embarking on a cold call tactic, one should first answer the following question: Why cold calling? Is it the right technique for what you’re selling? One should also understand that, cold calling it is called that way just because the person one is contacting doesn’t know one will be contacting and try to sell something. Cold calling it is still a strong technique, and tactic when correctly used by a well informed and prepared sales fellow, otherwise, one should call it “blind call” which is really a wasting of time with zero return. After being sure that cold calling is the correct technique and that it can be fruitful, one should start designing a plan. Yes, a tactic used to achieve and implement your sales and commercial strategy.

My plan! I would probably allocate my resources not only to traditional cold calling (phone), but also on the internet and social media in order to target my audience the best way I could. As you probably know by now, social media can be highly profitable when coming to engaging, passing a message, creating buzz and word-of-mouth, selling and getting referrals. Saying that, and after being sure that cold calling make sense to what I am trying to sell, I would have a second question answered. What kind of preparatory work do I need? And, I would probably start with the WHAT and WHOM! What are the products and to Whom am I selling to? One must have a good idea on what kind of niche or market one is in, meaning a strong analysis on competitors, suppliers, potential clients, market, etc.

After knowing everything about the product and to whom they were produced for, I would segment WHO are my potential clients, the ones I want to target without being loosing my time nor their’s. A short list with segments and reasons why they might be interested. And because I don’t want to spoil my contacts because I didn’t understand my product or market, or I wasn’t prepared, next step would be Preparations phase. Like other sales techniques, cold calling is about preparation, finding the best channel to communicate, right message to be delivered, and the correct moment to interact with the chosen “cold calls” (time range).

After I am sure that I’m using an appropriated sales technique and that I’m prepared (with right info and knowledge) to do it, I would next start designing  my execution plan! I would build a script with the schematics of the approach to your contacts. a) list strong open questions and understand well what are the reasons why they may need the product, along with some dead-ends solutions to move on when you get a “No, thanks” for an answer; b) I need a good hook as a starter, a good reasons why they may be interested in the products, strong arguments to avoid a “no”, and a closing-deal argument; c) with the info gathered on b) I would design a script help you guiding the conversation, with multiple possible ways and solutions for dead-ends leading me to a yes. The script should be built in a decision-tree format with several possible paths for each “intersection”. I will write a second part to this post only with techniques to “cold call” clients using social media and eMail, don’t miss it!

Summing Up: Cold calling is a good and valid sales technique! Though, 1) Be sure cold calling is the correct technique; 2) Be sure you mix it with new technologies like internet and make use of social media as a lever. 3) prepare yourself with info and knowledge on product, clients and competition; and 4) have a strong idea on how to do it, an execution plan. Ah, and don’t miss the second part with social media and email tips to cold call.

Good Luck! Have good time selling and don’t forget to engage and converse with your clients. Selling is more challenging than ever! 😉

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