Culture: Your MVP for Growth

Let me begin with this. Humans are social, intelligent, dynamic, learning, caring, resourceful, and reactive beings who are strongly inclined to make emotional connections and associations with others. We are driven by some sense of togetherness. It is one of the things that has allowed our species to thrive on this planet.

We need culture in nearly every aspect of our lives!

Yet businesses continue operate on a different mindset and rely heavily on various ‘carrot and stick’ approaches to management.

Here is what that produces:
A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn reveals that 64.7% or professionals claim they decline job offers, projects, and promotions if they don’t know, or do not agree with their culture. 52% of them claim to be actively looking for employment with places that align with their own beliefs.

The Gallup Organization has formally been studying and monitoring employee engagement since 2000 and estimate a low engagement contributes to a negative impact of over $400Billion in the US alone.

Despite this information, thousands more reports, articles, consultancies, and resources being available; nearly 80% of companies to not have a formal strategy regarding their culture.

Building a thriving culture comes down to formalizing three simple ideas with absolute clarity, dedication, consistency, and transparency.

Mission:

This is the WHAT that you are doing, assigning, targeting, or building. It is as much about the macro, big-picture notions as it is about the micro, daily details and tasks. Everyone remotely related to the process should know and be excited about the mission to which they are contributing.

Values:

These are the beliefs, attitudes, and actions that are important, supported, accepted, tolerated, and inexcusable. These five distinct lists are more important than any specific mission because when people come together based on values, they will almost effortlessly adapt or completely change the what if it doesn’t align with their shared beliefs.

Purpose:

This refers to the WHY that inspires us to contribute, and sometimes contribute our very best. It can be aimed towards a social endeavor or problem, supporting a non-profit cause, community, environmental, technological, artistic, entertainment, religious, fun/adventure, or be purely altruistic/philanthropic. It can be anything besides ‘making money’, growing, selling products, increasing profits, or any similar ilk.

Bringing clarity and sharing your MVP is the foundation of your culture. It also allows people to build emotional connections to it. These emotional connections are THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can build. They will be created whether you focus on them or not. The difference is in the number and strength of those that support your growth efforts.

Here are a couple ways your culture determines your growth.

Talent attraction:

Because of the interconnectedness of humanity (as in the six decrees of separation concept), your current workforce is likely already connected to the next 2 rounds of talent you need to hire. Social media sites (LinkedIn is most powerful) help facilitate and visualize these connections if we use them properly. The missing factor is your culture.

Your employee Bill has a great friend named Suzan, whom you want to hire. It is very likely that Bill is in one of the groups at the top of article who is not aligned with the company, and will try to dissuade Suzan from leaving her current position even though it pays 20% less.

The opposite is also true. Suzan absolutely loves where she is working, so much that it always shows up in her smile – even in the carpool line where she and Bill regularly talk as they wait to pick up their children. Her attitude is infectious and makes Bill wonder if the extra money is worth the headaches of his culture.

The situation of Bill and Suzan occurs thousands of times every day and has likely already happened to your company on more than one occasion. In her role as Development Engineer, she developed breakthrough products for your competition. Remember, we are hiring humans. Emotional connections are crucial!

Customer attraction:

Rebekah is looking for a new car. She talks with friends about what they drive, how they like it, and service it needs. Though all of her friends can easily afford the purchase of new cars, Ramon still drives one that he has had for 15 years, and he loves it.

She had previously never considered that brand because she never heard any stories. Because Ramon (not a car salesman, employed, or affiliated by the brand) was the only one of her friends who displayed any passion for the car he drove, she went for a test drive and was comfortable making a $50,000 purchase. Her other friends talked about the next car they were thinking about buying because they were bored, unimpressed, or frustrated with their current one.

The situation of Rebekah and Ramon also happens thousands of times daily. The purchase had almost nothing to do with marketing budgets, the dealership price, or salesperson’s skill. Remember, all purchases are made by humans. Emotional connections are crucial!

 

Culture impacts marketing more than most budgets do and it comes into play in all industries and price points. It is time to invest into understanding and shaping your culture so that it becomes the MVP of your growth. Feel free to connect with me to start a conversation about it.

Four Keys to Building Trust

There are millions of books and articles written about the value of trust and how to build it. More are produced every year. In spite of this, it seems people in roles of marketing, sales, and leadership find themselves challenged in how to build trust in their roles.

I offer four simple concepts that have been effective throughout my life and career. These concepts are as easy to do as they are to ignore. Just writing them to share today is part of me renewing my commitment to them.

Keep Your Promises:

Do what you say and say what you’ll actually be doing. It sounds simple enough, but I know from personal experience that it can be easy to say what people want to hear. Early in my sales career I thought I wanted to be known as agreeable and accommodating. In my eagerness to please potential customers, I would agree to requests (discounts, expedited delivery, rushed production, etc.) that lead me to a couple situations where I couldn’t keep my promises – making the reputation and the deal backfire on me.

One of my solutions was to reserve blocks of time where I would make sales calls/presentations. And reserve other blocks of time to make good on my promises. During calls, I would write down all the things I said I would do and schedule a deadline verbally with them – “I’ll have that information to you on Thursday by at noon.” One of my favorite ‘keep promises’ blocks was Thursday mornings.

As I got more comfortable in my system, I learned how powerful this was at establishing trust with clients and prospects. Phase two of it was to ask busy owners when and how they wanted to have certain information presented to them (email, phone call, visit/meeting, etc.) so I could schedule each one as an appointment on my calendar.

Communicate Openly, Truthfully, and Timely:

If doing things the right way were easy, they wouldn’t call it ‘the right way’. It is not easy to bring up difficult situations, especially when it makes you look bad. When we look at mistakes and errors as opportunities to learn, improve, or impress; we can begin to understand their true power.

There is an adage that tells us, “not making mistakes means you aren’t trying hard enough.” You’ll earn more trust by pushing the envelope at the right place and pace. When errors happen, own them. Communicate proactively and quickly.

Not that I liked having my orders get messed up, or I liked calling clients to report a problem; but the results were always positive when these situations were followed in this manner.

Act Consistently With Beliefs:

The phrase, action speaks louder than words remains true, but it overlooks the synergies created by actions and words supporting each other. This is more important in today’s age of social media and the variety of ways we are represented digitally because each profile offers a history of our interactions.

Potential employers, employees, customers, partners, investors, board members, and more look to social media to form opinions about a company, its products, leadership, and culture. We want to engage with businesses and people who are aligned with our beliefs. Credibility is built on ALL of our actions, not just when we are face to face.

Deliver More:

Add something more to what you do – a bonus, something extra, an unmistakable part of YOU. It could be a smile, hand written thank you note, or a comforting story about how you made the same mistakes they made. It can be reassurance, positive thought, sharing of your passion, or something creative. These gifts strengthen the relationships because they connect us on a emotional level beyond the scope of the transaction.

These gifts are more valuable than favors, chits, or I-owe-yous because they are volunteered and therefore not tabulated and tracked. This is exactly the type of human interactions that keep us together as groups, tribes, and even society itself.

 

These are not limited to business relationships. They can (and should) be applied to interactions with friends, family, volunteer opportunities, and romantic relationships with the same zeal and consistency.

Goals Bring Progress

Goals are some of the most powerful tools known to the human race! Our brains are naturally problem-solving organs that have an indescribable power for creating options, ideas, and circumstances for our own success. Babies begin finding ways to get their hands on almost everything in sight—without anyone encouraging them. They naturally mimic gestures and words while learning how to crawl, walk, run, and communicate.

When handled well, this phenomenon can continue throughout our entire careers and lives.

Goals help bring focus and shape to our future. Key steps begin to fall into place once we get a clear idea in our head. Naturally some individuals seem better at this or more driven than others; but it is an ability we all have.

The best thing about having and achieving goals—better than the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction—is becoming what it takes to achieve them. No matter what happens to the item or goal itself (making a certain dollar amount, receiving the promotion, etc); the process of learning and becoming is YOURS FOREVER! Great managers and leaders understand how to use the right goals to ignite the passion and effort of their people.

Set long-range goals to keep you excited and moving far into the future. Set small, easy-to-achieve
goals to keep you motivated through regular accomplishments. Set fun goals that keep you smiling. Set BIG goals that require you to work with others. Remember that big goals are just lots of smaller goals connected together like links of a chain.

Expressing Goals:

Dreams and desires are great, but lack the action plan necessary to become reality. Learning the ideal format of effective goals helps align our own powers to make them come true. Perhaps the most difficult part of achieving goals is actually in the setting and refinement of them—not in the work to attain them.

Once goals are clearly established, internal forces begin to take over and constantly work in the background of our consciousness to bring them to fruition. The following format techniques will help streamline this process and help you set powerful and exciting goals. The nuances can sometimes get tricky as we learn how to put these fictitious ideas from our minds into a physical form. There is no ‘perfect’ way to do it, but this guide will help provide structure.

Results Goals

These are the most common types of goals as determined by a measurable result or end—$100,000 personal income, complete triathlon, achieve ideal body weight, and so on. These are relatively easy to understand and accomplish. They might be items on a ‘bucket list’, to-do tasks, or be linked to work quotas.

Write each one on a separate sheet of paper in large letters. Fill the rest of the page with action items or milestones that can be checked off the list.

Feeling Goals

These are about how you feel during (or directly after) a task. This is an ideal approach when we want to become a better presenter; build confidence, or increase comfortable in some aspect.

Start by taking a moment to honestly rate your feelings about the particular task on a simple scale of 1-10 (10 being best or strongest). Then set a results goal for where you want it to be. Finally, list some process goals that might help build your confidence.

Process Goals

These are great for pulling us out of the inevitable slumps in performance. Rather than a specific result, these focus on a specific process that is loosely correlated to bring about the conditions of a completed result.

The disconnections are critical as they prevent emotional investment into a lack of result. make 20 cold calls, attend 4 hours of networking, or run 15 miles each week. It doesn’t matter when, where, or how they are done – just that they are accomplished.

They build confidence in essential habits, facilitate key learnings, and help keep us focused on growing.

Connecting Sales With Purpose

Sales as a career can indeed be noble. This is the position/department responsible for generating the revenue that essentially pays everyone’s salary – including the CEO.

Under ideal circumstances, it can be very lucrative as well as personally fulfilling (as you bring value to everyone involved). Too often, circumstances are less-than-ideal and this reveals the ugly, cutthroat, gimmicky, self-serving tendencies that push people away rather than build value.

One way to attract and bring out the best in sales professionals is to connect sales, marketing, and other revenue-generating activities with an authentic and consistent mission or purpose. This purpose can be either altruistic in nature (unselfishly giving to others) or it can be product/customer-focused. Both tend to bring about the same benefits when supported well.

Altruistic Purpose

Funding a non-profit organization that operates to benefit others is one of the easiest ways to align with a purpose as long as it is a noteworthy cause and an amount that is enough to do good and catch people’s attention.

Another way to align with an altruistic purpose is to commit your entire operations to it. TOMs Shoes provides one of the best examples with their One For One program. From their very beginnings, the company donates one pair of shoes for every pair they sell. This was a key element in their rapid growth in an already saturated space of footwear. They launched in May of 2006 and have already given over 60 million pairs of shoes!

Patagonia sportswear calls itself The Activist Company, and sells sustainable outdoor clothing. Their mission statement reads: Build the best products, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. It is easy to imagine that they are very active, and vocal about minimizing their environmental impact. They live and breathe their mission every day.

Once these principles are indoctrinated into the books, operations, and cultures of the organization; they become amazingly easy to implement and expand through growth.

Product or Customer-focused Purpose

This sort of purpose is considerably more delicate to get right. Using words like ‘the best’, ‘great service’, or ideals related to ‘customer experience’ are easy to claim, but very difficult to define, implement, monitor with any consistency. Thus, they often become petty lip-service that lacks any connection or inspiration.

Microsoft is a great example. Their mission reads: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It has essentially been the same since the day it was founded! This led to the creation of numerous programs to make it easier to navigate and harness the power of computers. Customers truly win by having such tools at their disposal.

It is interesting to think that the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation is still living out that same purpose of helping people achieve more. Instead of using computers, they are focused on some of the most overlooked populations. Imagine what they can contribute to the world with core knowledge and without hassle of fighting diseases like malaria!

How It Works

Connecting sales with purpose brings out the humanity in the business. It helps to build connections with audiences and provides compelling reasons to feel good about the purchase. In highly competitive situations where price often seems like a major concern, a compelling purpose often wins them over better than a discount.

Unless 100% or your people (staff, team, associates, leaders, contractors, vendors, partners, etc.) know and can recite your purpose in their own language; it isn’t clear enough. We know some folks who can help you discover and communicate your purpose in ways that help drive sales! My purpose is to engage, create, and help organizations grow. Let’s start a conversation.

Designing Sales Processes Part 2

In part one of this article on sales processes, I stated that sales is like a jigsaw puzzle where pieces are replaced by emotions and events to make a complete picture. This article builds on the foundation questions we began last week  and continues to build the puzzle with insights into additional questions.

What do they want?

Henry Ford brilliantly claimed that if he simply asked people what they wanted, they would answer that they wanted faster horses. Rather than simply asking potential prospects what they want, it helps to actually BE a customer or potential prospect and align your passions with ideal solutions.

Understanding them as a peer sends powerful signals that build genuine trust with audiences. Intimate knowledge helps you ask questions that spark better conversations. Ask about their challenges, needs, and/or problems in ways that are relevant to what you offer.

One thing customers almost always want is a complete vision of the solution. They can likely only put a portion of the solution into words. Often, answers will be in terms of what they already know (and already know doesn’t work). ‘Faster horses’ is framed around the known method of travel. Such answers are not to be taken literally, but as sub-conscious indications that essential needs are not met

Your questions and responses can help them refine the problem at hand and see the entire solution (i.e. you, or someone else) more clearly.

When do they want it?

It seems counter-productive to try drinking from, or even watering a garden with a fire hose. It can be tempting to dump all our information and solution options on a prospect, but this tends to overwhelm them into not making a decision at all.

Part of your sales process is about timing the delivery of critical information to meet their needs and interests. It is about adapting your sales process to their buying process.

Besides matching this cadence, it is about delivering in formats they can use. Products and services for sale are only a basic level. Extending this to resources like budgeting, long-range planning, performance reviews, how-to-guides, ebooks, and audits are essential to building raving fans who receive maximum benefit.

This is clearly one of the most critical overlaps between outside sales, inside sales, new marketing, existing marketing, and client support efforts. Invest the time to collaborate share information as getting it wrong here can easily push clients away.

How is it delivered?

There is so much that goes into making a sale. Some think it stops when the order is signed. Be sure to put the same care into how the product/service is delivered as went into getting it purchased in the first place. Consistent branding is key!

I cannot offer any hard-set rules, other than being consistent. Individual people are the driving force behind your brand. Attitude is far more important than appearance. Delivery, service, and instal personnel often serve as critical intermediaries between buyer and seller. They can provide critical information back to all departments as to the performance, reliability, and packaging of products and services of all types. The best sales processes find ways to incorporate this feedback into their systems.

 

Like what you read here? Share it with others or leave a comment below. Better yet, let’s start a conversation about how we can build or update your sales processes.