Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World

AGILE SELLING

What Really Makes the Difference in Sales
Asked by a client to explain her success, sales consultant and author Jill Konrath realized that the most successful salespeople had attributes that went beyond their sales techniques and skills. “Because they were just ‘things’ I did, I had totally disregarded their importance,” she writes in her new book, Agile Selling. Specifically, Konrath writes, it was her ability “to rapidly acquire knowledge and develop new skills, combined with the flexibility and strength needed to withstand challenges and leap on opportunities” that she believes gives her and other highly successful salespeople the edge. Getting up to speed quickly and rapidly adapting to changing conditions are the two core elements of what Kornath calls “sales agility.”

Such agility is especially valuable today, in the age of self-educated buyers who complete 60 to 70 percent of the sales process on their own. Only after acquiring the information they need to make a choice, Konrath writes, do buyers call in a few vendors and start negotiating. Thus, sales success today, she explains, depends on knowing more about the buyer and his or her business, providing value through ideas, leadership and guidance, and providing buyers exactly what they need when they want it and how they want it. Quickly.

Konrath also emphasizes that sales agility requires a new mindset, one that keeps sellers moving forward through challenging times. The first step is to recognize that sales success is a choice, not a right. There will be struggles and doubts, she writes, but agile salespeople decide that they are going to choose success over failure. To achieve this, they have the mindset that obstacles are opportunities; simply taking this attitude, neuroscience shows, reenergizes the brain. Agile sellers also reframe failures as learning experiences and believe in continuous improvement: for them, performance goals are “getting-better” goals.

From Chunking to Prepping

The bulk of the book consists of short, snappy chapters that provide techniques and strategies for learning new information and picking up new skills quickly and acquiring the habits that allow sellers to bounce back more easily from setbacks and stay motivated. For example, Konrath offers six rapid learning strategies that bypass the trial-and-error learning of the past. These strategies are:

• Chunking, or breaking down big subjects into smaller, more manageable chunks.
• Sequencing, or prioritizing the chunks of small topics.
• Connecting, which is the highly valuable practice of linking new skills and information to something you already know.
• Dumping, which is the habit of storing information out of your head and into a place where you can find it later.
• Practicing, a basic habit often overlooked by sellers but which can make a big difference.
• Prioritizing, which is the practice of not attempting to multitask, but rather recognizing that for the best productivity and effectiveness, you need to choose and focus on one activity at a time.

Konrath’s guidance for picking up new skills fast is equally insightful and easy to digest. She offers, for example, the clues that a seller can use to know if he or she is losing the connection with a buyer, including raising of the eyebrows (revealing skepticism), tapping of fingers, heads moving slightly back and forth, uncommitted responses, lack of eye contact and crossed arms. Another chapter offers “recovery” strategies, as when a sellers puts off a buyer because of excited over-aggressiveness (the best strategy: take a step back by explaining, “I get really excited about how we might be able to help, but I don’t know enough about your business, yet – tell me more”).

In the last section of this info-packed book, Konrath focuses on the success habits that agile sellers possess. In a chapter called “Optimize Your Attitude,” for example, Konrath tells the story of a salesperson whose results were being “killed” by the recession. When she accompanies the salesperson on a call, she discovered that he started every pitch with, “So, how’s the recession impacting your business?” The conversation, Konrath writes, went down from there.

Konrath is a veteran sales consultant. In Agile Selling, she shares the wisdom of the highly successful who know that it’s not just about degrees or experience; mindset, attitude and the right habits can make the difference between success and failure.

The Key is to Care

LEGENDARY SERVICE

Fable Unfolds ICARE Essentials
Written with two veteran consultants of the Ken Blanchard Companies, Kathy Cuff and Vicki Halsey, management guru Ken Blanchard’s latest fable offering is Legendary Service, which focuses on customer service. The story focuses on an employee working in the Home and Office section of a large discount store who strives to apply the lessons she is learning in a customer service class she is taking at a local university. In those classes her professor lays out the ICARE customer service model.

The Framework

The five elements of the authors’ ICARE model are:
Ideal Service. The focus here is on consistent dayto- day service, which the authors describe as employees striving to meet customer needs because they truly believe that service is important. In the fable, the heroine of the story, Kelsey, exemplifies Ideal Service by jeopardizing a sure sale for the benefit of the customer: she confirms to that customer that the vacuum cleaner he’s decided to purchase for his wife’s birthday is not a great present.
Culture of Service. Going beyond individualized day-to-day service, write the authors, a culture of service creates the environment in which employees are inspired to focus on the customer and are held accountable for carrying out the company’s service vision. While Kelsey’s employer displays a complete lack of service culture, various businesses that cross Kelsey’s path, including the physical therapy practice rehabilitating her grandmother’s injury, illustrate the hallmarks of a service culture, including a posted service vision for the company.
Attentiveness. This element of the model involves knowing customers and their preferences well. Kelsey is led through the exercise of creating a customer profile: the various categories of customers she serves and their respective needs and preferences.
Responsiveness. Knowing your customers is a first step; the next step is knowing how to respond to their needs. In the story, Kelsey’s colleague deals with a customer who is unhappy that the store no longer matches competitors’ prices, in this case for a lamp. The colleague notes that the competitor charges extra for the lamp shade, thus making his store’s lamp actually less expensive. “Kelsey was impressed,” the authors write, “not only with the way Rob had listened to his customer and solved the problem to her satisfaction but also with his knowledge of the other store’s pricing policy.”
Empowerment. The final letter in the book’s customer service model is for empowerment: employees having the freedom to take the initiative to implement their company’s service vision. Both Kelsey and her manager want to turn around the store’s poor customer service reputation and yet are continuously hampered by a leadership that focuses only on the bottom line.

Legendary Service is successful because most readers will be able to relate the fictional characters and events to actual people and situations: the people-oriented small business owner represented by the physical therapy practice owner; the small business that dresses up its facilities but offers terrible customer service, such as the fancy hair salon Kelsey walks out of; the stores that offer the same products but with completely different customer service cultures, illustrated by the two competing discount stores at the heart of the fable. The situations are authentic, and the conflict that moves the story forward – will Kelsey quit and join the competitor as her own store goes from bad to worse? – will keep readers engaged. And if there is a bit of a deus ex machina ending, why not? It worked for Jane Austen.

A Powerful System for Achieving Breakthrough Career Success

TURBOCOACH

With numerous words of wisdom for improving yourself, your field, your productivity and your business, coaching experts Brian Tracy and Campbell Fraser present a complete personal coaching program in TurboCoach. Filled with tools, exercises and stories that offer the building blocks of a personal strategic plan, TurboCoach creates a complete foundation on which readers can develop the knowledge, skills, habits and activities that can take them to the next level of business success.

The first part of TurboCoach describes a process for helping the reader gain clarity in his or her personal life and business life. Each chapter begins with probing questions that encourage the reader to focus on a specific aspect of him – or herself, and ends with an exercise that helps him or her apply the answers to daily life.

Your Personal Strategic Plan

For example, the first chapter, “Create Your Personal Strategic Plan,” starts with the questions, “In the past six months, have you given any thought to setting specific career or business goals for yourself?” and “If you have set goals for yourself, do you have a schedule for achieving them?” The chapter ends with an application exercise that includes questions such as, “What is your career or business purpose? Whose lives does your career or business serve?” and “What one goal, if you achieved it, would help you the most in realizing your ideal career or business vision?” By asking these types of questions, and providing the guidance that drives readers to answer them with purpose and direction, the authors help readers focus on their goals and contemplate a broader perspective of themselves.

The second part of TurboCoach shows readers how they can increase their productivity. The tools the authors offer include 11 keys to increasing productivity, Pareto’s Law (the 80-20 Rule), zero-based thinking, effective delegation, the power of leverage, and Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage and the Parthenon Principle. This last principle can be summed up in the simple sentence, “Small improvements in multiple areas can result in large improvements in results.” The authors write, “Like the Parthenon, your career or business is also supported by pillars, each of which is central to its integrity and survival.” If you want a career or business that is built to last, then you must base it on rock-solid principles. As each pillar is strengthened in a small way, the durability of the entire structure changes dramatically. The authors point out that improvements in just 10 percent of each of the core systems of a business — sales, service, pricing, promotion, referrals, productivity and profitability — will virtually double the productivity and the profitability of the overall enterprise.

Grow Your Business

The third part of TurboCoach, “Grow Your Business,” provides readers with seven essential strategies to increase revenues in any organization. These are:

1. Make more sales. Expanding your customer base is the best way to do this.
2. Sell more often to existing customers. Look for ways to increase the number of times you sell to an existing customer in any given period.
3. Sell something else. Ask yourself, “What else would my customers buy?”
4. Make larger sales. How might you increase the dollar size of your average sale?
5. Increase your price. Increasing the perceived value of your offering can justify a higher price to your customer.
6. Make more profitable sales. Knowing the profitability of your individual customers and products can be a key to increasing net revenues.
7. Reduce your selling costs. Examining your sales process is the first step to doing this.

Once this base is in place, the authors describe ways to increase customer satisfaction, build business through referrals, create a marketing plan and create a personal brand. Their laws of personal branding include rules on specialization, leadership, personality, distinctiveness, visibility, congruence and persistence. They explain that the time and energy anyone invests in building a powerful, personal brand will pay huge dividends because people will trust him or her and willingly accept his or her suggestions and recommendations.

While describing how to maximize an organization’s profits, the authors explain the importance of habitually examining the profitability of employees, customers, sales and marketing initiatives, products and markets, and show readers how they can develop the discipline to become an industry leader.

How a Funny Name and Six Core Values Revolutionized Convenience

THE WAWA WAY

Win the Hearts of Your Customers

In August 2011, Philadelphia magazine described a burly, 300-pound, 24-year-old man named Jeremy Plauche, getting the logo of a convenience store called Wawa tattooed on his inner biceps. Plauche, according to the magazine, works night shifts for the rescue squad in Millville, NJ, but is originally from Louisiana. “I tried to explain to my friends there what Wawa was and what it means to people who live up here… and they kind of didn’t believe me,” Plauche tells the magazine. “Wawa is part of our culture. It’s part of our way of life.”

From the couples who marry at the Wawa where they met to the Facebook group People Who Miss Wawa How, consisting of former Wawa customers who have left the chain’s service area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and now Florida), Wawa is indeed a way of life for its fans. How does a regional convenience store elicit such devotion from its customers and even its employees (like those who kept a store on Long Beach Island open during much of Superstorm Sandy even though some had had their houses washed out to sea)? The history and principles of Wawa, as presented by former Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel in a new book, The Wawa Way, can offer lessons for any business seeking to engender fanatic customer and employee loyalty.

Private and Shared Ownership

One key to Wawa’s success, according to Stoeckel, is its unique ownership structure. Nearly 40 percent of the company is owned by the Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP), with the rest owned by Wood family members. The shared ownership with Wawa “associates” motivates all employees to make the stores a success, Stoeckel writes. Perhaps even more important, Wawa does not face the short-term pressures of a public company. “We’re not making decisions, as a lot of companies do, based on what Wall Street analysts or minority investors will think,” Stoeckel writes. “We’re making decisions based on the best long-term interests of the business.” One example are the concrete posts in front of every store to prevent customers parked in front of the store from accidentally plowing into the store (as happened a number of times). Deciding to put the posts in front of every single store “was hard to justify in terms of return on investment, but in terms of living our values and protecting people, it was the right thing to do.”

The Six Core Values

The true secret to Wawa’s success, however, is that it lives its six core values, Stoeckel writes. The ESOP and concrete barriers are just two examples of Wawa’s core value of “valuing people.” Stoeckel also recounts numerous stories of how associates “delight customers,” from bringing a Thanksgiving dinner to a wheelchair-bound customer who would be alone for the holiday, to lending a $200 coffee pot to a customer when the store ran out of coffee-to-go boxes (the customer cared for an invalid spouse and usually bought a coffee-to-go box every morning). The Wawa Way is also filled with examples of how the company follows its remaining four core values: “embrace change,” such as the decision to add fuel to its business model; “do things right,” “do the right thing,” and “have a passion for winning.”

Any company will have ups and downs, and Stoeckel is candid about some mistakes the company has made – including a poorly thought-out strategy for adding fuel to the mix in the 1980s and some questionable products. Wawa continues to excite the passion of its customers, however, because as it moves through different strategies and decisions, it continues to remain true to its core values and traditions. This is a manual on delighting customers.

The Third Metric to Redefining Success

THRIVE

Don’t Judge Yourself; Don’t Judge Others

“The architecture of how we live our lives is badly in need of renovation and repair,” writes Arianna Huffington, founder of the media company the Huffington Post. “What we really value is out of sync with how we live our lives.” The reason, she argues in her new book called Thrive, is that success has come to be defined by two things: money and power.

To achieve money and power, men and women are living unsustainable, high-stressed, non-stop lives that physically destroy their bodies, leave little time for joy and reflection, and culminate in the realization that acquiring money and power is not the fulfilling quest of a life well lived. As former Merrill Lynch managing director Roseann Palmieri explains, “I’m at the table. I’ve made it. I’ve networked, I’ve clawed, I’ve said ‘yes,’ I’ve said ‘no,’ I’ve put in all this time and effort and I was underwhelmed. What I was getting back was not acceptable to me.”

For Huffington, the current success metrics of money and power are only two legs of a three-legged stool. Without a “third metric” based on well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, our lives, like the defective stool, topple over, she writes. In the early pages of her book, she presents a range of evidence, from alarming health statistics to stories of highly “successful” yet unsatisfied people who left their careers, that proves the adverse impact on both men and women of today’s high-stress quest for money and power.

Huffington believes the path to the third metric will be especially blazed by the career women who find the current metrics of successful “not acceptable.” “If we’re going to redefine what success means,” she writes, “if we are going to include a Third Metric to success, beyond money and power, it’s going to be women who will lead the way – and men, freed of the notion that the only road to success includes taking the Heart Attack Highway to Stress City, will gratefully join both at work and at home.”

The Shimmer of Rain

Having made the case that a third metric of success is vital, Huffington then explores in four inspiring, information-packed chapters how to bring “well-being,” “wisdom,” “wonder” and “giving” back into our lives. Huffington – who recalls how her mother, who never went to college, “would still preside over long sessions in our small kitchen in Athens discussing the principles and teachings of Greek Philosophy to help guide my sister, Agapi, and me in our decisions and in our choices” – weaves ancient and modern philosophy, academic research, and stories and quotes of successful people, from the world-renowned to the ordinary ladder-climbers who realize that the view from the top is not enough to make the journey worthwhile.

The Experience of Wonder

The opening pages of her chapter on wonder are typical. Huffington begins with short anecdotes about experiencing a sense of wonder on a drive to an airport, as the falling rain “gave everything a beautiful, almost magical, shimmer.” At the airport, she hears everyone complaining about the rain: wonder is in the eye of the beholder. She offers a beautiful short poem on rain by Albert Huffstickler, then quickly moves the reader through discussions on the wonder of children (“Mommy, what makes it go?” one of her young daughters once asked as they watched the star-filled sky); the wonder at the root of spirituality, which is not religion; wonder as the connection between outer space and inner space; how photography interrupts wonder (“…by so-obsessively documenting our experiences, we never truly have them); the power of love, backed by a Harvard study; art museums as oases of wonder – all in the first six pages of a fascinating 45-page chapter.

The chapter ends, as with all her chapters, with three simple practices to help people live in the moment: when stressed, focus on the rising and falling of your breath for 10 seconds; pick an image that ignites joy in you, and go to it whenever you feel “contracted”; don’t judge yourself; don’t judge others; “then look at your life and the day ahead with newness and wonder.”

Thrive, as it should be, is a book to be savored. There is so much learning and wisdom in these pages that one might be tempted to take notes. But as with photography on a vacation, they would only interrupt the enjoyment of one of those books that everyone should have within reach at all times.