I recently read Adam Grant’s book titled Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
. It helped me piece together situations I’ve been involved with over the course of my entire business life. As many of you know, I like to start new businesses and initiatives. Grant’s book helped me understand the many challenges I’ve faced over the years.It’s also helped me better understand why I have made certain life choices and chosen this path. (Editorial comment: I’ve also been drawn to the song “Different,” by Micah Tyler — because, at times, that’s how I feel.)
Grant concludes his book with these Actions for Impact:
- Question the default. Instead of taking the status quo for granted, ask why it exists in the first place.
- Triple the number of ideas you generate.
- Immerse yourself in a new domain. Originality increases when you broaden your frame of reference (e.g., spending time in a foreign country with locals).
- Procrastinate strategically. (Editorial comment: Grant suggests there are times when procrastination — or waiting — is the right approach.)
- Seek more feedback from peers.
- Balance your risk portfolio. (Editorial comment: Hedge your bet.)
- Highlight the reasons not to support your idea. (Editorial comment: This is counterintuitive but it’s a great idea, due to confirmation bias.)
- Make your ideas more familiar. Repeat yourself. It makes people more comfortable with an unconventional idea.
- Speak to a different audience. Instead of seeking out friendly people who share your values, try approaching disagreeable people who share your methods.
- Be a tempered radical. If your idea is extreme, couch it as part of a more conventional goal.
- Motivate yourself differently when you’re committed vs. uncertain. When you’re determined to act, focus on the progress left to go — you’ll be energized to close the gap.
- Don’t try to calm down.
- Focus on the victim, not the perpetrator. In the face of injustice, thinking about the perpetrator fuels anger and aggression.
- Realize you’re not alone.
- Remember that if you don’t take the initiative, the status quo will persist.
If you’re an innovator, I would highly recommend you read Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. It will be encouraging and will help you understand why change is so hard. You’ll also get some great ideas about how to be more successful, and you’ll realize you’re not crazy.
If you’re a business owner who wants your team to be more creative, it will make you aware of potential obstacles that may inadvertently discourage people from suggesting or making change. You can’t have it both ways.
Somehow I missed another great author, Donald Miller, whom many of you probably already know. He has led a pretty diverse life, which includes the making of a movie based on one of his books, Blue Like Jazz
. In another book, Building A StoryBrand
, he does a wonderful job of helping organizations script their “elevator speech.” I’ve experienced — and agree with — most of his advice.
When it comes to his StoryBrand messaging, he recommends using the following seven categories as a framework:
- A Character: The customer is the hero, not the brand.
- Has a Problem: Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems, but customers buy solutions to internal problems.
- And Meets a Guide: Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide.
- Who Gives Them a Plan: Customers trust a guide who has a plan.
- And Calls Them to Action: Customers don’t take action unless they’re challenged to take action.
- That Helps Them Avoid Failure: Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending.
- And Ends in Success: Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.
Miller summarizes the above with three strategies:
- Identify your customer’s problem.
- Explain your plan to help them.
- Describe a successful (happy) ending to their story.
As you know from Adam Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, sometimes we need to take risks — so here I go. The following is the Doescher Advisors StoryBrand Elevator Speech:
“Over decades we meet business owners who are lonely. They lack an experienced, objective, confidential partner. Doescher Advisors fills that void through active listening and practical advice, like a member of the owner’s executive team. The result: Our clients sleep better. Try us out for a month, with no further commitment.”
For those of you who have read StoryBrand, please let me know what you think of my new elevator speech.
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s easy to talk about and live out your values during the good times, but the real acid test comes during recessions and crises.
Back in the early ’80s, I was a young partner at Plante Moran. The firm had an opportunity and made a very unique confidential investment. In the partner meeting to vote on the investment, it was stated that 10 percent of the profits would be shared with the staff. Well, it turned out to be a fantastic investment that matured and paid out in 1983, which was a deep recession year that significantly impacted the partners’ earnings. I was very curious about whether the plan to share with the staff members would be honored. (Keep in mind that the staff had no idea about this confidential windfall.) To my delight, we (since I was a partner) did share our good fortune with the entire Plante Moran team. I was re-recruited to the firm. Our walk matched our talk.
Why am I telling you this decades-old story? The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses, which have had to make some really tough decisions. Barbara and I are very proud to be associated with our clients, whose actions matched the words on the plaques on their company walls. I can’t share all the heartwarming stories I’ve heard, but I’ll highlight a few.
- A professional service firm’s competitors almost immediately laid off employees and reduced salaries. Although it was gut-wrenching, the CEO of my client’s firm decided not to make any reductions. Recently I asked, “Now that we’re past the worst of it, how do you feel about your decision?” He responded, “It was the right thing to do!”
- Another client, whose manufacturing plant could have remained open due to some “essential service” customers, closed his facility because the CEO was very concerned about his workers contracting the virus. But that wasn’t all he did for his team. He continued to pay all salary and hourly workers during the stay-at-home executive order. Really!
- Finally, the owners of an essential service client decided to provide his $12-13 per-hour workers with a $1,000 bonus. It gets better. The CEO and two other top executives personally handed the bonus checks to their 500 hourly employees working all over Michigan and thanked them for their service to the company, especially during these difficult times.
Every company I’ve ever known says it really values its employees. These three owners proved it, just like Plante Moran did back in 1983.
My question for you would be: Can you substantiate with real evidence that your employees are important to you?
If you have any cool stories about something that occurred during the pandemic, I would love to hear them.
Recently, a client was telling me a story about a staff member who had left his company. He said, “Yeah, now I have a new client.”
When this staff member, a recent college graduate, started with my client’s company five years ago, his wardrobe was seriously lacking (editorial comment: At this point, I had no idea where this was going). My client said the new staff member was very smart and hard-working, but his sloppy appearance detracted from his overall effectiveness. So, one day, my client gave the staff member an envelope and said, “Why don’t you take the afternoon off and go shopping?” Inside the envelope was a list of suggested business clothing and enough cash to purchase the items. Wow, what a great story! But that was only the beginning.
My client told me that, more than 20 years ago, his mentor had given him an envelope with a business apparel shopping list and the necessary cash. My client went on to say he still has lunch with his now-retired mentor, and shared that the long-ago action had such a positive impact on him, he’s paid it forward with a number of junior associates over the course of his career.
The story gets even better. He said, “I now have five clients who were former colleagues, and at some point I helped them all with their wardrobes.”
Wow — what a great story about mentoring, re-recruiting, and new business development all in one.
This blog is a follow-up to my last post, which highlighted the common issues Mike Weinberg, author of Sales Management Simplified,
experiences when he works with his clients.
Part Two – Practical Help and a Simple Framework to Get Exceptional Results
- The 4 Rs of sales talent management: Put the Right People in the Right Roles, Retain Top Producers, Remediate or Replace Underperformers, and Recruit.
- If I confidentially polled your salespeople, would the majority say the leadership of your company is “for” the salespeople or against them?
- According to Weinberg, sales managers “invest” (waste) most of their time: They’re slaves to emails, they have a ridiculous number of meetings, they get caught up playing assistant general manager, they focus too much on administrative items and unnecessary reports, and they don’t protect their calendars.
- Sales managers’ top three activities should be: 1) Conducting monthly one-on-one meetings with individual salespeople, 2) Leading sales team meetings, and 3) Working alongside (observing, coaching, helping) salespeople when they’re with customers and prospects.
- During monthly 20-minute one-on-one meetings: 1) Compare actual sales results with goals, 2) Quickly review the salesperson’s pipeline of potential deals and sales opportunities, 3) Review sales activity going forward, especially in situations where the salesperson fails the first two tests.
- Two great sales activity questions to ask: 1) Can you name the new opportunities that are in your pipeline that weren’t here last month? 2) Can you name the existing opportunities that you moved forward in the sales process since last month?
- Sales team meeting agenda potential items: 1) Give brief personal updates, 2) Review sales results and highlight outstanding performance, 3) Share stories, 4) Conduct product training, 5) Share best practices, 6) Brainstorm deal strategies, 7) Have an executive or other department guest presentation, 8) Conduct a book or blog review, 9) Work on sales skill coaching/training, 10) Give business plan presentations, 11) Have a brief, controlled bitch session, 12) Share some non-sales-related inspiration, and 13) Talk about takeaways.
- Riding along with your salespeople provides an opportunity to observe them in action.
- Working in the field presents a priceless opportunity to coach a salesperson before and after sales calls.
- Windshield time and mealtime provide a rare opportunity to learn more about your salespeople; this will make you a more effective sales manager.
- Getting out of the office provides you with a firsthand look at what’s taking place in the market.
- Fieldwork helps you develop important relationships with key customers.
- When with your salesperson, be present with your salesperson.
- Don’t do your salesperson’s job.
- Free up your excellent sales hunters so they can maximize their time hunting.
- Most sales managers wait too long to address underperformers.
Hopefully you’ve identified a tip or two that you can incorporate into your business. My suggestion would be to get a copy of Sales Management Simplified and use it like an owner’s manual. Pull it out when you have a specific issue with your sales team, and take advantage of Weinberg’s wisdom on the subject. He obviously has seen it all.