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Stop Playing Small – Six Activities to Empower You

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Here are some suggestions and ideas to help you step into the New Year with a new plan! These suggestions can be used to develop actionable steps to achieve the results you want to see in your life, whether it be work, home or both. Keep in mind, these activities do not have to be completed in order, but because they naturally build on one another, they have been outlined below in a series of interrelated steps. Any one of the activities could also be used independently.

Mapping

Take a blank piece of paper, turn it sideways, now draw a circle in the middle of the paper and write the word “manifest”, then think about what you would like to bring into being in your life and draw spokes off the center circle, with those words embedded in the other circles at the end of each spoke.

Assessment

Take a written assessment that would help you clarify both your strengths and your opportunities for growth. There are several out there you can take for free or for a reasonable amount. Here are some I recommend. Both will generate a report providing you with information about yourself that is useful for a starting point.

Free assessments can be found at the University of Penn State, if you are interested in assessing your well-being or you can search VIA Character for a free strengths based assessment.

Fee based assessments are more comprehensive in nature. For instance, the Gallup Strength Finder will provide you with a comprehensive report, resources and basic ideas of how to move yourself into action.

Touch Point Exercise

Chose three different touch points in your future. This can be any time frame you chose, just make sure there are three different dates. For this example, I am going to use one, three and five years. At those specific intervals, take time to develop a detailed snapshot of your life. “Where will you be living and working? What will your job description be at this point?” The more time you spend making the details come alive and aligning them with your vision and goals, the more “clarity” you will establish for yourself.

Action Inventory

In keeping with the example of a one, three and five year touch point, utilize a calendar (given how long your time line is you may have to print off your own calendar for subsequent years in the future). Begin identifying dates in which your tasks, steps or actions will be completed by. For instance, if you want to have an article published by January 2, 2017, start by looking at the action steps you have identified and sit down with a 2016 calendar and start working backwards from your goal date, targeting “by when” dates for the specific actions you are taking to reach your goal. Example: by February 15, 2016, research will be complete, March 20, 2016, article will be in rough draft form. Make this “you-nique” to you by using colored pens for each goal you are working on so you can visually see your progress. The one thing you HAVE to do is not let anything roll off your calendar. In other words, if you miss your March 20 deadline, you have to be committed to identifying another date and getting it on the calendar immediately. Commitment is key!

Fear Inventory Exercise

After taking the time to establish “touch points,” sit down and make a list of all the things you have identified at these specific times in your life. Don’t hold back during this exercise as the two work in tandem. Next to each item you have listed, write what you are afraid of associated with this step, task or ultimate goal. Example: In one year, I would like to be a published author. I’m afraid of being rejected. I’m afraid that I’m not a good enough writer. I’m afraid my family will find out and make fun of me. Seeing your fears outside yourself helps to give you a sense of power over them. Now you can begin to work with them and take your control back by designing ways to deal with them effectively.

Celebration Exercise

This is personally my favorite exercise because it’s all about YOU! Through my work with others, I have noticed the majority of us do not take time to celebrate our accomplishments. Yes, I myself am guilty of this so I can speak to it from an expert’s point of view! We get something done, breathe a small sigh of relief, and before we know it, we are off and running onto the next thing. Most of us do not allow ourselves to feel a sense of accomplishment. In this exercise, write down some rewards you are going to promise yourself as you get some of the items completed on your action plan. Don’t wait until the end, but reward yourself with small things along the way. These things do not have to cost money, they can be as simple as a bubble bath, a hike you have been putting off, taking the time to catch up with a friend for coffee. Once identified, DO NOT let these things roll off your calendar. If you miss your deadline, re-establish a new one along with your reward for completing it. STAY COMMITTED to the process.

Okay, it’s time to take action!

Remember, if you don’t take the time to design your destiny, someone else will.

Future Trends in the Sales Profession

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Sales Models

This change has been well documented. At this stage we have broadly three sales models – inside sales, road warriors or reps and account managers. We’re already seeing the demise of the middle one – the road warriors or reps – who trail the country pushing their wares. Customers don’t need or want a rep anymore, they can get the information they need via the internet or the inside sales operation. Replacing the road warriors will be an enhanced inside sales operation and more bespoke account management for tailored solutions.

You’ll find customers will make contact with your company and have already done their research and discovery, and want to purchase. They’ll do this automatically or will use automated intelligence – AI – algorithms to interact with you and make their purchase. Already many emails are not from humans but from AI algorithms. These AI can read emails, understand and respond accordingly. And they’re improving exponentially. Humans need not apply.

Think Siri

Or Cortana, if you’re a Microsoft fan. These embryonic digital assistants remind me of Star Trek “Computer, give me all the data on… ” These digital voice activated personal assistants will begin to populate the internet. Cloud based “big” data cannot be easily accessed by you and I so we will increasingly rely on these digital assistants to do this for us. For salespeople – inside sales and account managers – this will mean the CRM – Customer Relationship Manager software – will finally come of age. You’ll be speaking to the digital assistant something like “Marie, can you give me all the purchases from ABC incorporated over the last month and let me send an email to their purchasing manager?”

This will also impact the Business to Consumer market. The amount of data companies now hold on their consumers is breathtaking and is being amplified by social media streams which provide everything you ever wanted to know about Michael Chen from Borehamwood. Companies will start using this intelligence to market products and services in much the same way as Tom Cruise in Minority Report as the billboard changes to match his needs.

Metamorphosing of Inside Sales

I mentioned earlier the rise of inside sales and this is also well documented. You only have to look at company sales expansion and recruitment figures – it’s all inside sales. I’m not talking about contact centre inbound call operations – I’m referring to consultative sales people with accounts who operate inside. Using the phone, of course, but on the internet – Skype, instant messaging, social media and virtual or augmented reality facilities, which will revolutionise the whole inside sales approach.

Basic commodity based transactions will not be handled by inside sales; the automated intelligence algos will do this. Customers may think they’re interacting with a human, but they’re not and don’t need to. Inside sales people are going to be far better than mere order takers – they will consult with your customers, and provide bespoke solutions to customer needs. So beware of your product and service – if it’s commoditised and you don’t determine this, the market does.

Inside salespeople will carry out the complete sales cycle from start to finish; they’ll manage accounts, cross sell and negotiate. The sales process will be accomplished entirely online, not face to face.

Intelligence Not Data

Inbound marketing from sales organisations will continue to be dominated by content on the web. Increasingly though, customers are not just looking for data, they’re looking for intelligence and insights relevant to their business issues. They can get data from the web themselves, they’re looking for salespeople to provide just a little more – insightful content that adds value, not merely regurgitated content already available.

Content Creation

This will be done by salespeople in the future, not just marketers. Salespeople of the future will be writing, recording about their customers’ challenges, solutions, insights and the industry they serve. Anything that their customers will find useful in running their business.

  • Case studies
  • White Papers
  • Short and long form articles published on LinkedIn Pulse and other portals.
  • Videos for YouTube and Vimeo

Augmented Reality – AR

We’ve heard and I’ve already commented on virtual reality – VR – but this one is intensifying in real life, in other words, adding a virtual screen to your normal view. Think fighter plane pilots with the data in their helmets or Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator as he glances at a human and data appears in his eyes on the person’s weight, armament and threat.

Google have their Magic Leap, Facebook have bought Oculus and other tech companies are working on VR and AR systems. They will succeed and the cost will come down so as to allow us to ship devices to customers so they can immerse themselves into our service and products. Climb into a new car and drive it down the motorway, shake hands with the account manager who’s 1,000 miles away.

VR and AR will become ubiquitous and will have myriad applications over the next decade for salespeople:

  • Allow meetings with customers to be conducted hundreds of miles away and not the stilted web meetings of today, but real, immersed in VR.
  • Help customers interact with products.
  • Revolutionise sales meetings and training events as if you were really there.
  • Provide the salesperson with visual and instant data from the CRM and company cloud storage. Even adding the data to their view of any situation. They glance at the customer’s production line and instantly delivery time for key components is flashed up in their view.

Visual is the New Text

The internet is ever evolving and the trend that’s captured everyone’s imagination is visuals and videos. We know this. Customers demand visual representations such as infographics rather than lots of text. Younger generations demand video and consume these on their mobile devices. The trend for salespeople, particularly those on the inside, is to produce more visuals and more videos in helping their customers to see the value of their offering.

Social Media Evolving

Pick your channel carefully is the message for salespeople as inordinate amounts of time can be consumed in their medium. For the next couple of years LinkedIn will come of age allowing new innovations such as inclusion of video in your portfolios. And I’m not talking about video in your profiles, that’s been available for ages.

Facebook has just launched Facebook for Business and some large corporations are climbing on the bandwagon. Essentially this puts a Facebook style social network within your company so everyone can hook up, like each other, follow each other, post updates and anyone in the company can see them. Since Facebook is instinctive to use, the take-up is going to be huge. Imagine an Inside Sales Consultant who can hook up with engineers and people in marketing, and can collaborate more effectively to satisfy his customers’ needs. Sales Managers can inform and motivate and might actually be followed by their people, if they do a half decent job.

Sales Person Recruitment

The profile of salespeople is continually evolving. We now look for product and customer experts as well as the need for communication and sales experience. In the future you’ll be specifically looking for salespeople who are “tech savvy”, particularly those in the Inside Sales role as they’ll be asked to master various tech as part of their normal roles.

Driverless Cars and Drones

By the end of the decade you’ll be able to buy a reasonably priced driverless car. Every motor manufacturer has teamed up with tech companies and are evolving their driverless proposition. Can you imagine that cars will go the way of horses? People mostly ride horses for fun and leisure nowadays, not to go from A to B. In the future people will drive their own car for fun and leisure, not to go from A to B.

Just dream of the impact for the sales profession:

  • No need for company cars, just buy a fleet of driverless cars and let them move around from salesperson to person as and when they’re needed.
  • Your delivery fleet will also be driverless and customers can call on for samples etc. to be delivered without a driver.
  • In fact drones will do this better and more cost effectively.
  • With electric power, it just might rejuvenate the demand and provision of face to face meetings.
  • If your business has anything to do with public transportation, beware; your current model of placing a driver inside will be defunct.
  • Training can be conducted in the car more effectively and briefings could be automated to be delivered inside.

Wearable Tech

On my wrist now I have a Microsoft Band capable of monitoring my every body signal – heart rate, steps walked, sleep patterns and it uploads the data it collects into the cloud. It also feeds email, text, Facebook posts and calls.

Put one of these devices onto your salesperson’s wrist and you can:

  • Monitor their heart rate and stress levels, which is particularly relevant in fast based inside sales, allowing you to offer support when needed.
  • Communicate to them real time.
  • Help them to attain their fitness goals – wellbeing is so vital.

Gamification of Sales

In the near future we’ll see compensation plans moving away from the traditional “bonus if target hit” model and more to the mechanics of gaming. This is known as gamification. It’s not having fun all the time, although that’s important, it’s using the principles of a good online game in the way you reward and provide a motivational environment for your salespeople to flourish.

  • Provide instant rewards when levels are achieved, providing rewards for small victories that lead to the final sale. Reward activities being achieved as opposed to the results only.
  • Sales managers will be providing instant feedback on performance – as games do.
  • Excitement and engagement. Managers will want to continually provide excitement in the workplace.

Resurgence of Email

Blogs are losing their shine. Why? A disruptive piece of software that’s destroying the blog business model: Ad blocking software. Readers also report that free blogs and information sites are crammed with adverts, 40% in a recent survey suggested too much, enough to put them off visiting, particularly on mobiles and tablets where screen space is small enough without being clogged with adverts.

Besides, ad blocking software is killing the ads and blogs in turn. This has two impacts for salespeople. Firstly a resurgence of emails and email databases where you have the ability to feed content of value to your customers without ads. Admittedly you still can’t guarantee they’ll read it, but that’s up to you to produce compelling content.

Gated communities will grow on the web. Facebook, for example is gated and all content is housed inside the walls. Very clever. People will pay for curated content that saves them the time in exploring and seeking it out. This is an opportunity for tech savvy salespeople.

Online Disruption

The internet and technology – automated intelligence and virtual reality will completely disrupt the following industries, so if you’re in sales in any of them, you must evolve.

  • Bricks and mortar estate agencies
  • Human travel agents
  • Tax accountants
  • Journalists
  • Language translation
  • Secretaries, phone operators, and executive assistants
  • Publishers
  • Financial professionals such as stock brokers and advisers
  • Retail banking tellers and advisers.
  • Job recruiters
  • Taxi industry
  • Hotels and B&Bs
  • Bus and truck drivers, taxi drivers, and chauffeurs
  • Delivery companies such as DHL and FedEx
  • Manufacturers of any inert objects. 3D printing is the culprit.
  • Fast food workers
  • Toll-booth attendants
  • Radio DJs
  • Universities and college teachers

Summary

The Oxford survey of 700 job descriptions in 2015 showed that a third of these jobs would be taken over by technology in the next decade. To avoid being taken over by the robots you need to focus on creativity and influencing people. That’s what true salespeople do: creatively exploring their customers’ needs and challenges, communicating and influencing their customers to take on board their solutions. Robots can’t do that… Yet!.