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.

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.

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.

Designing Your Sales Process

Sales is like a jigsaw puzzle. Instead of physical pieces, it consists of emotions and events that are connected together to create a detailed image of a completed deal. Some emotions and events might be easier to identify while others might be more interesting or exciting. But the puzzle is not complete until ALL the pieces are in their proper place and linked together.

Here are a couple ideas to help outline the framework of the best sales process for you, your clients, and your business.

What do you want to have happen?

Before we can make anything happen, it is crucial that we understand exactly what it is that we want. That’s why puzzles come with a reference image of it completed (except the extremely difficult ones). It helps to share this vision with others so they can see their own role in it.

Start with the most obvious.

Get the YES!, place the order, or sign the contract – at mutually-beneficial terms. (mutually-beneficial is the cornerstone of win-win and long-term success). But this is likely a long journey away, so it helps to build several small ‘sales’ as milestones to keep everyone motivated and ‘on-track’.

Depending on the industry and type of products/services being served, the maturity and branding of the company, the confidence and personal style of the sales professional, as well as market timing and dozens of other factors; this list could be as short as 8-10 points or as long as 25-30.

Some ‘small sales’ might include: Acquire contact information; Get permission to market to them (establish interest); Set appointment; Meet all the decision-makers and influencers; Learn pain-points and desires Understand scope of needs; Be seen as trusted advisor; Receive referrals and introductions to key influencers.

Before we can make ANY of it happen, we need to get them all on paper and organize them by priority. This naturally leads to action steps. Go ahead and write down any that come to mind, but DO NOT take action yet.

Who is ideal audience?

We really must get past thinking our target customer as ‘people who want/need products and have funds to purchase them.’ Traditional demographics should also be tossed out as well.

Smartphones are not just great for users to conveniently check/update social media status and take selfies. They are extremely powerful tools that help (savvy) marketers understand audiences in different ways. This leads to highly customized solutions and offers that make sense for specific individuals rather than gross demographics. This allows us to identify unique ways to communicate value with both new and existing audiences.

Here are some lifestyle criteria to get your thinking started: household income, home value, education, hobbies, digital subscriptions, print subscriptions, preferences, habits, locations frequented, conferences or major event participation, retail orders, loyalty programs, and much more. Once you determine what information is most relevant, you can start leveraging it to attract your ideal audience.

What products/services are available?

Start with a list of each inventory item or or service that can be offered. Define each of them in terms of key features, benefits, distribution models, pricing, and (most importantly) ways they can be used to solve problems.

I challenge clients to make a list of at least 100 unique ways to use products (or problems it solves). Even seasoned sales pros will struggle with this – the point is not necessarily to complete the 100, but to get creative and discover alternative ways customers/users they might use it. This will open countless niches that were never anticipated.

Here is an example you might understand. MP3 players existed long before Apple launched their iPod. They all solved the problem of making music portable. The first iPod made it faster to transfer from computer while giving a luxurious user interface that told other people that you appreciate the intersection of music and technology. The real breakthrough, however, was with the launch of iTunes that made it easy to organize and manage growing music collections and eventually to legally purchase digital content.

Making a list like this provides an incredible arsenal of talking points to help build connections with audiences and help them identify their pain-points.
With these as a foundation, the process can begin to take shape. Be sure to check out next week’s article where we continue with additional steps. This list contains plenty of ideas to get you started.

If you would like a personal consultation on how to build a sales process that fits your business, drop me a line and start the conversation.

Identifying Correct Problems

Every business has their own unique problems to address. I can easily say that the largest, most important opportunity exists in identifying the CORRECT problems to address.

Running closely behind this is understanding the full extent, reach, impact, or cost of the problem; only to be followed by creating an adequate budget or plan to address it.

In my consulting role, I get to hear a lot of problems, challenges, difficulties, and struggles. This is not a complaint whatsoever as it plays well to my strategic, forward-thinking, idea-generating strengths and keeps me engaged in my work. I find an outsider’s perspective to asking difficult questions and checking assumptions is incredibly efficient at pinpointing major challenges. It also helps to minimize blame and emotion – just stick to the facts of where you are as compared to where you want to be.

As you begin identifying problems; you’ll likely run into the following distractions:

Lack of budget; lack of time; lack of talent; don’t know what to do next; lagging sales; low conversions; slow pipeline; anything technology-related and countless more.

These are NEVER the correct problem. Read that again. They are important, but not the actual problem. They are, however, indicators of the problem. Trying to fix the distractions is a never ending cycle of shifting resources from one fire to another without fully extinguishing any of them. Keep digging and you’ll soon arrive at the source.

Fair warning; the source of all the problems is usually the owners/leaders. It often comes down to a disconnect between goals, purpose, vision; and the messaging, audience selection, and/or structure design. 

I freely admit that this is a bitter pill to swallow. Like taking vitamins or eating plenty of vegetables; the benefits far outweigh the temporary unpleasantness.

The Simple Approach

Whether it is a desire to show how smart, talented, or gifted we are (ego and collective ego), or not taking the time to make sure we understand it to the very core; we often make things more complex than they need to be.

Perhaps you’ll get some inspiration from the following quotes. This notion has been around for a long time.

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”  ~ Albert Einstein

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  ~ Hans Hofmann

Some things are naturally more complex and nuanced than others. But everything has its own base of simplicity. When we rush to market without a certain level of simplicity, we are plagued by struggles, challenges, and slow growth. When we invest the time into discovering and pushing this simplicity, efforts will be rewarded with ease of communication and the spread of ideas.

As we develop clarity about these disconnections, we can begin to see new opportunities for solutions that make significant and sustainable changes in our organizations.

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify the correct problems in and around your organization, connect with me here and mention ‘opportunities’ in the introduction.