Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Use the “Gap of Silence” more Effectively

I have always used the term “pregnant pause” when I facilitate any sales program where I ask people to sit back and fold their arms and just listen to what the other person is saying. The need for silence is real in most communications, yet most sales people find silence to be threatening to their presentation environment. An article that appeared from justsell.com, the author changed the term from “pregnant pause” to “gap of silence”. This is certainly the term I am going to use moving forward.

The use of this “gap of silence” within a sales presentation is an art and it is important to hesitate in terms of providing a response immediately following what your customer has said and providing the proper response.

The use of this “gap of silence” allows the customer continue on with the conversation providing clarification of their real needs and allow them to offer additional specifics relative to you having the ability to provide a solution. This additional information can be very useful when determining which features and benefits of your product may satisfy their specific needs. It can be an integral component for gaining clarification of their real “prime buying motives”.

Many feel that silence reflects a disconnect, when in reality it can provide a much improved connection between the sales representative and the customer. In fact, it can improve the connection between the employer and employee, and even your relationship with your spouse or a friend.

Remember, listening is the most important skill-set or competency for excellent communication. This “gap in silence” technique can take your listening skills to a higher level. It is important to realize that communication is the connection between two or more parties. Empathetic listening is when you can feel the meaning behind the words and this “gap in silence” can in many cases enhance your empathetic listening while clarifying the meaning and desired outcome.

This “gap in silence” can be used even more effectively if you understand the behavioral style of the customer, employee or friend. Our Communication and Selling Workshops like “Stop Selling…Build Relationships” can help you understand behaviorally when silence may be the best response.

You can sell more by using the “gap in silence” technique and using it more effectively to close the sale when you understand the customer’s behavioral style and how it relates to their “prime buying motives”.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

3 Signs of a Dysfunctional Company

Like a car with an engine that can't fire on all cylinders, a business that's dysfunctional may move forward for a while. But eventually it stops running.

Companies don't start out maladjusted, of course. It just tends to happen over time.

"The hallmark of a dysfunctional organization is a gap between reality and rhetoric," says Ben Dattner, a New York organizational psychologist. When resources are not used effectively or fairly, when plans are heavy on talk but weak on action or when barriers to communication cripple performance, you're dealing with a dysfunctional company.

Once diagnosed, the corrosive effects of such problems can be corrected. But make no mistake: It's neither easy nor immediate. You need to be tough-minded about identifying the source, particularly because it often starts at the top, where the power resides.

Here are three telltale signs that your company is unhealthy and some possible ways to get it well again.

1. You've got leaders who fake it.

Recently, management consultant Linda Hanson of Dallas-based LLH Enterprises was called in to help turn around a Houston construction company that had about 50 employees, annual gross revenues of $160 million and senior managers who were at each other's throats.

"People were snarly and mean," Hanson says. "There was in-fighting and lots of yelling. They had lost respect for one another and weren't working as a team." A prime example was the information technology (IT) manager. Although every department depended on him, the other managers complained that he "didn't care about their problems, didn't have time, didn't listen, didn't support them and marched to his own drum," Hanson says.

The atmosphere got really heated when the chief executive officer, in an attempt to change the culture, hired a new, buttoned-down sales manager who began instituting very different policies and rules. The hiring drew such fire from the other managers that Hanson was tapped to address the company's ailments.

She began with exercises in "process mapping." At a meeting of the managers that included the CEO and president, she asked everyone to look at work flow and operations, focusing on inbound orders, external sales, delivery and so on. She asked each manager to stick up a Post-it note whenever he saw a glitch or something wrong, without finger-pointing, of course. "That caused great excitement," Hanson says. "They began to see the duplications and the weaknesses." More importantly, the CEO and president, who were usually removed from such details, had their eyes opened to what was going on.

Later, she confidentially asked each manager to evaluate himself and all the other managers. Then she went back to each to report: "Here's how you see yourself and here's how the other managers see you." That stopped a lot of the backbiting.

Hanson also required the managers to meet one-on-one for lunch, for a golf game or the like, every month. Each executive was given specific and corny assignments for such meetings, such as being told to talk about a hobby or an interest — anything but work. The idea, of course, was to build relationships. Within four months, she says, managers set up meetings to discuss business scenarios rather than to fulfill assignments, which was the result she intended.

Still, the real problem stayed at the top. The CEO and his friend of 10 years, the president, "were both volatile people and they weren't changing," Hanson says. Even though they were asking senior managers to evaluate their work habits and improve peer relationships, the chief executives themselves were unwilling to do the assignments or to work at transformation.

"Within four to six months, the company was functioning much better," Hanson says. But it needed another nine months to a year to really come together. And that didn't happen. "You need to set a picture at the top of what the company should look like. It's very hard to say to the CEO, 'You're the problem.' "

Lesson: The discrepancy between what leaders say they want and what they really want often causes company dysfunction. You can't ask employees to do anything you're not willing to do yourself.

2. You've got bosses who like to point fingers.

No company can flourish in an environment that penalizes experimentation or trust. While that sounds obvious, on a day-to-day basis the nature of risk-taking inevitably means a great number of dead ends before any breakthrough. Very few managers remain calm after hitting the wall.

But how you handle those crashes — and how you encourage employees to pick up the pieces and start anew — makes all the difference between a company that encourages innovation and one that stagnates.

"When you see a pattern of blaming and people trying to protect themselves and their particular turf, something is wrong," says Russ Moserowitz of Franchise Insights, a Bedminster, N.J., consulting company.

Lesson: The remedy is to put your trust in the people you hire and give every employee sincere responsibility. Hands-on, my-way-or-the-highway entrepreneurs won't find this easy. But that's how the business gets better.

3. You've got a CEO who doesn't set priorities.

Fast-growing companies are often so intensely focused on moving to the next level that no one is actually in charge. That's how dysfunction creeps in and takes hold.

Paul Glen, an IT management consultant in Marina del Rey, Calif., tells about a 20-year-old software company that hired him to create a new product management department. The business had released several successful products and grown to 100 employees with 13 departments, each headed by a different executive. Every one of the managers reported directly to the CEO, so no one had to talk to anyone else about his department's work.

When Glen asked each executive what the new department would do, he got 13 different answers. It turned out that the company didn't need a new division at all. What it needed was someone to coordinate the company agenda and get the managers to share information.

The idea for a product management department was how the executives expressed their need for better coordination. "The product development department didn't take direction," Glen says. That meant the group simply created products and released them without checking with any other department. So sales didn't know about the features of the new products, or when to sell them. Support and consulting were also in the dark. They couldn't help customers implement products or fix any problems. And so it went.

"Each department flew off on its own, trying to do what was right." Priorities were constantly shifting. Decisions were continually made and unmade. "The CEO assumed the executives had the authority to make product decisions and it wasn't her job to tell them what to do," Glen says. While everyone had the very best of intentions, chaos reigned.

Lesson: Company leaders must set the mission and the agenda. A hands-off policy can only go so far.

Epilogue: Time for a checkup

Smaller businesses are both more susceptible and harder hit by the ripple effects of dysfunction. With a close-knit staff, it's easy to make allowances for people's tempers or bad moods or refusal to take responsibility. But, sooner or later, that kind of thinking catches up with you and the business.

Lesson: Take the time now to check the health of your workplace. And make the course corrections you need. Starting now.

From Microsoft's Small Business Website