Eight Ways to Turn Sales Reps into Creative Thinkers

Creative ThinkingSuccess in sales depends on how well you differentiate yourself and your product. That requires creativity. Average salespeople may be a dime a dozen, but truly original, creative thinkers are harder to find. Customers want to work with a salesperson who can generate ideas to set them apart from and ahead of their competition. Use these sales management tips to boost your team’s creativity and your bottom line.
1. Encourage daily improvement. Ask your team to concentrate on improving just one selling skill each day. At the end of the day, allow salespeople to exchange ideas on what they did differently that day and what effect it had. Open the floor for suggestions on improving and expanding each idea.
2. Post a brainstorming board. Encourage your team to generate solutions to a specific problem. On a whiteboard, write a common sales theme or problem. To help solve your team’s actual selling problems, take suggestions and give them a chance to come up with the problem.
3. Hold an idea lottery. Each month, use a roll of numbered tickets to hold an idea lottery. Solicit original ideas from your team, and reward the contributor of each new idea with a ticket. At the end of the month, fill a bowl with pieces of paper with numbers corresponding to the ticket numbers. Share the contributed ideas with your team, then draw a number from the bowl. The salesperson whose ticket number matches the number drawn wins a prize. Good prizes include dinner for two at a nice restaurant, movie tickets (throw in money for popcorn and drinks) or a gift certificate.
4. Display personal creativity symbols. Each of your salespeople has a unique perspective. Encourage them to express their individuality by having them display items on their desks that represent their views of creativity in selling. A crystal ball, for example, might represent a view toward future sales, or a bottle of Heinz ketchup could symbolize a personal goal of generating 57 new selling ideas.
5. Brainstorm over burgers. Group brainstorming sessions allow your salespeople to bounce ideas off one another. Each week, have your salespeople meet for lunch in groups of four or five. Ask each person to read and share from an article, report, or book chapter on creativity and relate it to how it can help sales. When you can, invite an innovative businessperson to join you and provide an outside perspective.
6. Keep a bright ideas notebook. To make your team’s ideas pay off, you have to put them to use. Help ensure that those ideas don’t go to waste by encouraging your salespeople to record their ideas in a notebook. Each day, have your team write down three ideas for improving sales, and at the end of each month, collect the notebooks and categorize the ideas for further discussion.
7. Start a creative thinker’s hall of fame. If your team isn’t used to thinking creatively, you may need to provide an incentive to motivate a change in their thought patterns. Designate a wall in your department as a “Hall of Fame” for posting photos of salespeople whose ideas are implemented. Accompany each photo with a paragraph about the salesperson, the idea that was contributed and its impact on the company.
8. Consider how things can be done instead of how they can’t. Many of mankind’s greatest inventions were believed to be impossible until some innovator found a way to make them work. Ask your salespeople to think of three sales-related goals or tasks they think are impossible (such as getting an appointment with a tough prospect or setting a new sales record). Then have them think of three ways to accomplish each “impossible” task.
Progress doesn’t come from following the same old routines over and over – it’s a result of innovation and imagination. The sales team that wants to sell more effectively first needs to think more effectively, which means breaking out of rigid and traditional thought patterns. By taking proactive steps to manage the efforts of your sales team to think more creatively, you’re helping them take advantage of their highest potential.
– Michael Michalko

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3 Life-Changing Habits of High Performers

High performers

When it comes to being successful, high achievers have a number of habits in common. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be right up there with them.

Here are three qualities all successful people share and how you can make them your own:

1. Say ‘no’ to distraction. Every. Single. Time. Successful people make better use of their time because they are disciplined goal-setters. I’m referring to those high performers who experience no down-time. Sure, there are vacations and time spent with the family, but that comes after success has been achieved.

Successful people have that same list of tasks to accomplish as anyone else, but the difference is they make time to get them all done with no excuses. They may not enjoy it, but that is irrelevant. What matters is that it gets done. They are disciplined in planning their work and sticking to their plan.

Even when you’ve achieved that level of success, the work doesn’t stop. I am always on the lookout for a great, profitable investment. I might be out with my family, but my brain is always aware of business opportunities around me. I don’t just shut it off when I’m not at work.

2. Read something new everyday. Successful people read constantly, find mentors who can teach them and value new information that can help push them forward. Whatever field you are in, you have to learn before you earn. Learn your product, customers and competition. And then: keep learning.

3. Flaunt your failures like a champ. Fail as many times as you can. Everyone fails. It’s part of life. Too many people take failure as a sign it’s time for them to give up. Those people don’t get very far. What sets successful people apart is the ability to get up and give it another go with a better plan for how to be successful the next time around.

If you want to embrace the habits of successful people, you’ve got to make the change within yourself first.

BY 

10 Steps to Executive-Level Confidence

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Making the move from middle management to the executive suite requires a healthy dose of confidence. Executives have to make critical, wide-reaching decisions, often with limited information and time—then persuade others to execute those decisions. Self-assurance is a must.

Yet gaining confidence can be a struggle. The “Impostor Syndrome” is real:  researchers at Georgia State University found that 33% of the high-achieving adults they interviewed did not feel they deserved their success. The Imposter Syndrome meant that sufferers opted out of important career opportunities, to their financial and personal detriment.

Women in particular struggle with confidence. They often are less adept at moving forward after setbacks, reading temporary failures as permanent deficiencies, and they often have smaller professional social safety nets than men.

The good news is that confidence can be learned, like any career skill. Here are 10 steps that can have you operating from a place of power:

1) When in doubt, act. It’s the difference between running and stagnant water. When you’re stagnant, doubt and insecurities breed like mosquitoes. Dale Carnegie wrote that “inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.” Fear of failure can paralyze us, as we almost always overestimate the consequences. Build your confidence instead by taking action, often.

2) Do something outside your comfort zone each day. If we don’t stretch our comfort zones, they shrink. Constantly challenge and improve yourself, and you’ll become comfortable doing new things—and you will establish your identity (both to yourself and others) as someone who takes risks. Each new thing you try adds to your knowledge and skill base, and provides you with a foundation of competence. This is the bedrock of any successful career.

3) Put the focus on others. Choose to be conscious of others instead of self-conscious. Ask people questions. Turn conversations into a game where you try to find a connection with the other person. Give compliments generously, and volunteer to help others when you can. Looking for the best in others will help you see it in yourself.

4) Cultivate mentors. Their advice and connections are invaluable, plus you will make better decisions about opportunities thanks to their objective assessments of the pros and cons. And you will be much more willing to take risks knowing you have supporters who will help you get back up on your feet if you fail.

5) Keep self-talk positive. It’s hard to feel confident if someone puts you down all the time. It’s impossible if that naysayer is you. Watch how you talk to yourself. Is it how you would talk to a friend? If not, then make a change.

6) Eliminate negative people from your network. You absolutely need to invite and be receptive to constructive criticism if you want to grow as a professional and as an individual. But recognize that some people will never be happy with you or with life, and it is a waste of time to try to convince them of your worth.  What’s more, their sour outlook on life is contagious. Learn to identify these people quickly, and move on.

7) Take care of your health. Make time for exercise, and get enough rest. Your body must be physically ready to take on challenges.

8) Do your homework. Keep up-to-date on the news in your industry, and know your company and department inside and out. If you have a challenging task ahead, prepare and practice in your mind. Nothing builds confidence like knowledge and preparation.

9) Watch your body language. Your posture and overall appearance affect both your mental state and how others perceive (and thus respond) to you. If you want to be a leader, you have to dress and act the part. Stand and sit up straight, make eye contact, and remember to smile. Wear the professional clothing of your industry. Eliminate the telltale signs of nervousness: excessive twitching, closed-off posturing (crossed arms and legs, hunched shoulders), and shallow breathing.

10) Practice gratitude daily. In a recent study of how successful people spend the first hour of each day, the No. 1 response was investing time in thinking about the things for which they are most grateful. Starting your day by saying “thank you” for the good in your life makes it more likely that you will approach the day’s challenges with the proper perspective.

Like public speaking or leadership, confidence is a professional skill that can be improved. According to Dr. Peter Buckley of Georgia Regents University, “As you add experiences, you’re more likely to gain confidence. And with confidence, you will embrace new experiences.” Start growing your confidence today.

Becky Blalock is the author of the new book, “Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge.” You can take a free quiz to measure your current confidence level at her website,BeckyBlalock.com.

Women and Today’s Culture

glass ceiling, generations, baby boomers

Today’s culture will make a change on its own when it comes to men and women and their resilience and success in the workplace. Today’s culture calls for more empathy, nurturing careers and listening to employees.

Never before, have there been 4 generations in the workplace all speaking a different language with different motivators as to why they are there and how they create value for the organization.

I am finding in my consulting engagements that men are having a more difficult time with managing the generation gap. Not because they don’t have the skill set but because many of them still believe in a hierarchal style of management or that women are not equal to men when it comes to experience and ability. Especially many male baby boomers, who are still caught up in how they were treated or better yet how they rose to their current positions. They want their subordinates, especially the Millenniums to adhere to this same principal.

Unfortunately this just doesn’t work and talent is lost as a result of that. Women on the other hand just naturally possess a more nurturing attitude, empathy and the patience to listen. Perhaps it is because they themselves have struggled for acceptance and acknowledgement. I’m not suggesting that they mother these quick witted, sometimes impatient entitlement acting Millenniums, I am saying that they have a wiser way of hearing them out and coaching them in what they need.

We all wake up in the morning and turn off our alarm clock and tune into station WIIFM. “What’s In It For Me”? These are called our intrinsic motivators, it’s what makes us get up in the morning go to work and “kick some…..” It’s when we get to work and those motivators are compromised that we turn up the sound of station WIIFM and tune others , often our supervisors, out. The workplace is full of everyone wanting what they want and it’s all based on what they value and that is what initiates their behavior.

In my coaching and consulting experience I find that men have more difficulty “giving them what they need” versus “giving them what they want them to have”. Women on the other hand have figured out that if you can create a motivating environment by listening to what employees need to be productive, they are able to keep all 4 generations feeling valued.

This is why I believe the culture itself will make a change as women will eventually make their way up the ladder and they will be much more effective as leaders. Ultimately this will cause the gender gap to narrow. Not every organization will embrace this and not every male manager is stuck in the behavioral model they learned. I was fortunate to have worked in an organization in my mid-twenties and broke through the glass ceiling thanks to some wonderful male role models.

My advice to women is to not get caught up in “this glass ceiling affect”. Do your job well, expect to be recognized and you will be. It is changing, perhaps not fast enough but I guarantee you that the younger generation in the workplace does not see gender, they see talent and equality and one day they will be running our organizations. Hang in there…a change is gonna come.

-Sharon Jenks, President of The Jenks Group, Inc. http://www.thejenksgroup.com

 

6 Secrets to Hiring and Retaining Great Employees

1 GiraffesDrupal Connect’s founder John Florez drives the fast growth of his company by stacking his team with top tier talent. Here’s what he looks for when hiring for his Drupal development company and how he keeps them excited about coming in each day.

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Hire Awesome Personalities

Hire people who are not only awesome talents, but awesome to be around as well! You’re building a team; each member has to be able to work well within a collaborative environment. Hiring someone who is talented but a “lone wolf” is a risky and potentially costly endeavor.

2 Monkey
Positive People Are Contagious

Hire cool people who have a positive outlook on life. The employee you want to take on is someone you can share a beer with at the end of the day. Positive attitudes spread, and ultimately come to define your company as a whole.

3 Dog and Frisbee
Keep People Excited About Work

Be a leader who is welcoming and positive, and sees the best in each of their employees. This attitude will trickle down and make for a more positive work experience overall. People want to wake up each morning excited about coming to work. It’s important for a leader to create an environment and culture that people are proud and excited about.

4 Chipmunk
Don’t Nickel-and-Dime Your Employees

Be mindful of the bottom line – but not at the expense of nickel-and-diming! These are tough times for a lot of people out there. But let’s face it: no one wants to work for a cheap boss.

5 Penguins
Coach Your Leaders

Coach your leaders, but don’t manage them. If you find yourself managing your top people, you’re doing something wrong. You’re not inspiring, and you’re therefore not bringing out the best in your lead employees. If you properly coach your leaders by bringing out their best qualities, they will in turn coach those reporting to them.

6 Hippo
Avoid Stagnation

Make constant growth a priority, and encourage your team to contribute to this evolution. Your company is a living, breathing organism that needs to be fed and nurtured, and employees need to be able to contribute to this growth process. For example, six months ago, a team member suggested we create a support and maintenance program to offer to our clients. Today, this program is a thriving and growing part of our company, accounting for 20% of our overall business!

The No. 1 Reason Business Ideas Fail and How You Can Avoid It

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I have a friend who has a steady stream of ideas — both great and hair-brained. A lot of times he comes up with viable new product ideas, but only occasionally stays the course required to bring the good ones to market. As a professional innovation consultant and brand developer, for me, this is like nails on a chalkboard.

Most recently, he brought me some samples for a chocolate eggnog he was developing. It was tasty, but the flavor profile needed tweaking and the packaging and marketing needed work. It had potential, if only he kept working on it. But the thought of having to continue in the development process was too daunting, or disappointing, or a combination of both, so he shelved the idea.

And that’s where a lot of inventors fail. They give up too soon.

There are four essential tenets of inventing and product development — especially once the rush of a great idea makes it from your imagination to paper or prototype.

1. Inventing is work that requires passion. Passion motivates us to persevere. Enthusiasm is essential to convince not only others of the worthiness of your ideas, but to convince yourself as well. You are going to have to do a lot of hard work before an idea reaches the point where a consumer realizes it’s exactly what they’ve been looking for.

Truly passionate inventors embrace the flaws in an idea, seeing them as pathways to workable solutions. Many aspiring entrepreneurs, however, are like my buddy, seeing criticism not as the starting point for revisions, but as red lights.

According to psychologist Martin Seligman, we can overcome pessimism by consciously developing our brain’s optimistic side using “self-talk” — a technique that involves actively disputing pessimistic assessments of our situation. This isn’t just a personal pep talk. It’s a rational and impartial way of looking at failure as temporary and fixable, which allows us to move on to new solutions.

2. Question everything. The moment you discover your idea is somehow not working can occur at any stage on the journey. Since I know this from experience, when a new idea pops into my head, I immediately start looking at all the negatives and potential challenges. I know if I uncover problems at the beginning and can solve them, there will be fewer obstacles along the path.

This habit can be frustrating to others who want me to just enjoy the idea, and not be so objective. But I can’t help it. I know that the myriad issues I have to tackle later will be lessened if I can eliminate other structural, marketing or packaging problems as soon as possible.

3. Trial and error is a good thing. There are times when you find you have to go one more round with an idea, create one more prototype, write one more description or marketing message and it just seems endless. You feel like the juices have stopped flowing. This is when you have to “act as if” and just sit down and do what needs to be done.

Going through the motions seems antithetical to creativity, but it’s really not. In fact, thinking — even seemingly “forced” thinking — does fire up our neurotransmitters, and what started out feeling forced may turn out to be your best work ever. Bottom line: push through the resistance.

4. There is no magic answer. Just as there is no one perfect way to live your life, there isn’t just one way to solve a creative problem. My friend, for example, could have gone in several directions with the flavor profile of his eggnog and more than one might have worked.

There are multiple ways to tweak a product to make it better. The one you settle on depends a lot on your purpose, audience and expectations. That’s why I advise innovators to make a product as early and as quickly as possible in order to let people play with it and offer useful user feedback.

Remember: Criticism shouldn’t invalidate your ideas. It should serve to strengthen them. If you really love your idea, you’ll be willing to listen, learn and pivot when necessary.

21 Awesome Things to Say to Yourself

businessman-looking-in-mirror-bkt_12170  Self-talk works for some people but not for me. Looking in the mirror and saying, “I am awesome, I am awesome, I am awesome…” is a waste of time since a louder voice in my head is always shouting, “No you’re not! No you’re not!”

But I do like self-talk that results from something I’ve done. Because I’ve earned it, the doubting voice in my head goes silent.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. For the next seven days, put aside your standard to-do list and do what it takes to ensure you can say these things to yourself:

1. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Pick one thing other people aren’t willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Make the call no one will make. Help the person no one will help. Volunteer for the task everyone else avoids.  Instantly you will be a little different from the rest of the pack. But why stop? Keep going. Every day do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year you’ll be incredible. You won’t be like anyone else.

You’ll be you.

2. “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought…” The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.) But nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you think. Plus it’s exciting to overcome a fear. You’ll get that, “I can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane!” rush, a feeling you may not have experienced for a long time. (And you may find that feeling is addictive, but in a good way.)

3. “It’s totally my fault.” People make mistakes. So we blame them for our problems. But we are almost always to blame, too. Maybe we didn’t provide enough training. Maybe we didn’t foresee a potential problem. Maybe we asked too much, too soon. Maybe we did or did not do something we could or should have. Take responsibility instead: Not in a masochistic, “woe is me” way, but in an empowering way. Take responsibility and then focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative next time.

4. “I finally got started!” You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something. Every day we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stops me and may be what stops you, too. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step.

The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.

5. “You’re great.” No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. Feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then… and maybe a little more impact because you still remember what happened a year later.

Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

6. “I’ll show you, –hole.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me (or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I’m justified in feeling that way or not.) Whether I’m justified in feeling slighted or angry is not the point: I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more importantly, achieve what I want to achieve.  Call it manufactured anger. Call it artificial competition. Call it, shoot, childish and immature. I don’t care — it works for me. And it can work for you.

So don’t turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary — in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or angry — because that will help shake you out of your same thing different day rut.

7. “Can you help me?” Asking someone for help instantly recognizes their skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration. That’s reason enough to ask someone for help — the fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.

8. “Can I help you?” Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes, can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

And then actually help. You’ll make a real difference in someone’s life–and you’ll take a solid step towards creating a connection with that person.

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” Most of the time you should worry, at least a little, about what other people think… but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live. If you really want to start a business but you’re worried people might think you’re crazy, F ’em. If you really want to change careers but you’re afraid of what people might think, F ’em. If you really want to start working out but you’re afraid people at the gym will think you’re fat or out of shape, F ’em.  Pick one thing you haven’t tried simply because you’re worried about what other people think — and just go do it.

It’s your life. Live it. F ’em.

10. “They’re no different than me.” Incredibly successful people don’t necessarily succeed because they’re smarter or more talented or somehow genetically gifted. The only thing that makes them different from you is the fact they have done what you haven’t done… yet. Find someone successful to talk to; you’ll come away realizing what they have done, you can do too.

You’ll realize you can be them — or, more importantly, you can be better than them.

11. “I’m really sorry.” We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive. Pick someone you need to apologize to — the more time that’s passed between the day it happened and today, the better. But don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer like, “But I was really upset…” or, “I thought you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you’ll both be in a better place.

12. “I’m the king of the world!” Maybe Leo was on to something. According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing — standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips — will dramatically increase your confidence. Try it before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)

It may sound freaky, but it works.

13. “Yes.” You’re busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today. So say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you’re most afraid of. When you say yes, you’re really saying, “I trust myself.”

Trust yourself.

14. “No.” Still, you can’t do everything. You can’t help everyone. You may want to but you can’t. Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you. Say no at least once this week — the harder it is to say, the better.

And don’t worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people, too.

15. “You’re fired.” Maybe there’s an employee you really need to let go but haven’t. Or maybe there’s a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend. Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back and let them go.

16. “It’s not perfect… and that’s okay.” Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers or your boss will tell you what needs to be improved — which means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter.

You can’t find out until you let go. You can’t really accomplish anything until you let go.

17. “That’s not my job… but who cares?” Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done. No matter what your role or what you’ve accomplished, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring.

The next time you see something that needs to be done, do it.

18. “Maybe I should do it that way.” Sure, we’re all individuals. (Okay, I’m not.) We should always set our own courses and follow our own paths. But sometimes the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish, and follow that path.

One time, don’t try to reinvent a perfectly good wheel.

19. “Jeez, that was stupid. We should do it again!” Sometimes the dumbest things result in our fondest memories: The time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and another employee drove all night so you could arrive at the customer’s warehouse first thing the next morning to sort defective product; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm, sleeping on cots and eating vending machine food and cranking out product… All those happened years ago but the memories are surprisingly vivid.

Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy, the harder the better. You probably won’t love it while it’s happening, but the result will be doing something cool and creating a memory that will always make you smile.

20. “Hi, Mom! Hi Dad!” Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They will always be there for you.

They won’t be around forever. Call them.

21. Nothing. Self talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you’ve worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of……look in the mirror, smile, and just nod at the person looking back.

Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgement of achievement and fulfillment. -Inc Magazine