Monday Mornings with Madison

Category Archives:
People skills

Getting Back in High Gear after a Vacation

Everyone needs a vacation every so often. According to countless studies, people need time to disconnect from work and allow time for “play.” For some, play might mean just relaxing at home, reading a book and doing some gardening. For others, play may constitute high-adrenaline sports such as snowboarding, skydiving or bungee jumping. For the vast majority, play is all about changing scenery and exploring a new place and all that entails. Culture; architecture; cuisine; language; history; the arts. Whether it’s an adventurous vacation or a calm staycation, the one thing all vacations have in common – if done right — is a complete disconnect from daily grind of work. It’s a mental break… as in breaking away from the day-to-day routine. Even people who love what they do for a living and thoroughly enjoy their jobs need an occasional vacation.
But, from a global perspective, Americans are among the worst at taking vacation time. They are notorious for not taking all (or sometimes even any) of their vacation time each year and for often working during vacations. Americans vacation less than workers from most other industrialized nations of the world. Consequently, by the time Americans do take a vacation, it is often desperately needed and long overdue. The tough part is that once a person finally gets relaxed enough to be really enjoying their time off, it’s time to return to work. At that point, it is hard to shift back into high gear after letting go of it all. Some find it hard to bring their A Game after a week or two break. But there are ways to shift back into high gear quickly and easily after returning from holiday. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother. Continue reading

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Overcoming the “Bad Day” Blues

Everyone has had a “bad day” at one point or another. Certainly everyone in business – and especially in sales – has had bad days… periods when nothing seems to go right. And every business owner has most likely endured his or her share of bad times. An important piece of equipment breaks. A big account switches to a competitor. The computer network goes down during a peak time. A deal falls apart. It happens. In fact, bad days can even stretch out into weeks or months or longer. 2009 was a downright bad year for builders, investors, bankers, lenders and financiers. Many could not take the stress and left the real estate and financial sectors in search of greener pastures. Those “bad day” blues can be devastating… even killing careers. But they needn’t be so damaging.
Those who have overcome the “bad day” blues have learned a few things. They don’t let a bad day stop them from reaching their goals. They know that there are bad days… and understand that those days can be tough… and even leave scars. But they know not to be ashamed of the battle scars obtained in the scrappy world of business. They understand that those scars means they were stronger than whatever tried to take them down. So how does a person develop the resilience and fortitude to deal with a “bad day?” How do you overcome the “bad day” blues? Continue reading

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Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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11 Things Salespeople Should Do but Often Don’t

Ask any salesperson and they will tell you that selling is hard work. In fact, anyone who has ever had a job in sales will likely admit that it’s the hardest work they’ve ever done. If a salesperson gets a yes immediately, they haven’t really sold anything as much as taken an order. Selling starts the moment a prospect says no. Selling is what happens when a salesperson turns a No into a Yes. And yet, most salespeople make common mistakes throughout the sales process that keep them from making a sale.
There are a myriad of things that sales people should do… could do… would do… but don’t for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes salespeople are taught wrong. They are told to do things a certain way even though those techniques, approaches and strategies haven’t worked for half a century. Sometimes salespeople are taught the right things to do and they just don’t do them, either because they don’t believe the sales program is effective or they think their way is better. But a lot of the time, salespeople aren’t taught at all how to “sell.” So they emulate the worst examples of salesmanship, which just makes the job of sales even harder than it already is. The following are things a salesperson should do to make the sale.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

It is difficult to live life completely unaffected by what other people think or say. Like pollen, the attitudes and opinions of people blow into the lives of others, shaping their perspectives and influencing their decisions. This is especially true in the age of technology, with digital winds blowing every bit of information farther and faster than ever before. When those opinions and messages are positive, it can be a valuable thing. In business, arguably nothing is more valuable to a salesperson, exec or company than for a customer to share a positive review with others. Customer and vendor recommendations are like gold. They yield a harvest of opportunity and good will over time. But what happens when the opinions and attitudes are negative? What happens when people are talking but what they are saying is not good?

In a world obsessed with being remembered and staying top-of-mind, the goal is to be talked about, no matter what’s being said. In fact, some like to say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. But that is just not true. Not all publicity is good or beneficial and there are countless examples of how bad publicity can be really bad for business or careers. For professionals and businesses alike, bad publicity can hurt in a multitude of ways. Consider the cost.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

There’s a saying that goes: “Talk good about me; talk bad about me; just as long as you’re talking about me!” It is also kiddingly said that the only thing worse than death is to be forgotten.  This may seem extreme, but it is emblematic of the pressing need to be known and remembered; an epidemic that has spread to all industries. Overwhelmed by constant digital noise, companies and business people struggle to be remembered and stay connected with contacts. It’s referred to as “staying top-of-mind.”

Staying top-of-mind is the great challenge in business today. Companies search for ways — from the legitimate to the trivial — to keep in touch with all of the customers and potential customers possible. Webinars. Blogs. E-mails. Advertising. Junk mail. Billboards. Sky writing. Commercials. The messages scream “Know me! Remember me!” All of this effort to stay top-of-mind is contributing to the white noise that, in turn, is making it ever harder to stay top-of-mind. It is the quintessential vicious cycle. So, is all of this effort really necessary? Or worth it? Most would argue “Yes!” Not only is it worth it, but it is absolutely necessary. So what strategies can a company or business person use to stay top-of-mind?
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The Many Facets of Leadership

Imagine that a company or business is like a boat and the boat has a destination… the port of profitability and growth. On the left side of the boat are the Marketing oars. On the right side of the boat are its Sales oars. If only the left oars are rowing, the boat will go around in circles, clockwise. And if only the right oars are rowing, the boat will go in counter-clockwise circles. Even if both sets of oars are rowing, but not in tandem, the boat will not move in the intended direction very swiftly. But if both sets of oars row in tandem, the boat will move forward. If guided by someone who knows the destination, it will move toward that spot. And the faster and more efficiently they row in tandem, the more swiftly it will get to its destination. The process of getting all the oars to row in tandem, efficiently and effectively, to a particular designation is management. Getting there faster than the competition is good management. And leadership is the wind in the sails of the vessel, which can help propel it even farther and faster. If the leadership is strong and steady, the work of the sales and marketing teams is made easier, and everything glides forward quickly.

Great leaders make the difference between an average performance and an extraordinary one. Today’s leaders do many things, including coaching, mentoring, counseling and, of course, managing. Employees today expect people in leadership roles to be willing to roll their sleeves up and keep managing and facilitating. In practical terms, what does good management look like today? It is more than just someone telling someone else what to do. Continue reading

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The Many Facets of Leadership

Much has been studied, researched, written and taught about leadership. There are even entire doctoral programs in leadership at prestigious universities. That’s because, arguably, good leadership allows companies to succeed when they might have otherwise failed. And great leadership pushes companies to rise above an ocean of mediocre ones. That is why the most successful investors — think George Soros and Warren Buffet, who achieved annual excess returns 15% over the S&P for over 30+ years — spend an inordinate amount of time every day studying not only a company’s financials but also the skills and track records of the leadership at those companies. Companies with the most innovative products can still fail to thrive without well-developed leadership. To state the obvious, leadership really matters.

Also, great leadership skills are not just essential for Presidents and C-Suite executives. Great leadership is invaluable for those directing divisions, departments, teams and projects. That’s because leaders are responsible for managing finite resources as well as planning and executing direction and action. In particular, one of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to help employees develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. That is called coaching and it is a key facet of leadership. So exactly what is coaching and what makes a great coach? And is there a difference between coaching and other things leaders commonly do such as managing, mentoring, teaching and counseling? Continue reading

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The Art of Negotiating Business Deals

One of the most challenging parts of working with a new client is finalizing the business agreement. This is the process in which the parties hammer out the details of the contract. The bigger the deal, the more complex the agreement. And negotiating the final terms of a complex deal can have its challenges. In those situations, a sales professional might find himself in a position where the customer holds all the cards. The salesperson may have invested a lot of time and effort in developing the opportunity. He may have even promised his boss that a commitment was imminent. The salesperson may feel boxed in and the customer may think he can dictate the terms. That’s a losing proposition for the salesperson and his company, even if they land the deal. Business deals that start out very lopsided – a win-lose proposition – don’t bode well for a good long-term business relationship.
The goal in any negotiation should be to achieve a win-win outcome. That may sound cliché and idealistic, but it is the secret to long-term success. But if the sales professional starts negotiating from a weak position, it will be hard to hammer out a win-win contract. To chisel out a win-win agreement, a sales professional must garner some negotiating power and then use smart negotiation strategies during the process to close the deal. Here are some tips. Continue reading

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How to Spot and Hire A Players for Key Positions

When organizations hire employees for key positions, they want superstars. They want rainmakers and movers-and-shakers. Basically, they want A Players. They certainly don’t set out to hire 10% A Players, 80% B Players and 10% C Players. But that’s what most companies have. Still, it is fair to say that no recruiter ever hired someone knowing he would be a C Player, nor could he have known with certainty who was an A Player and who was a B Player. If only 10% of the employees at most companies are A Players, then clearly HR departments are hiring lots of B and C Players. That implies that it must be hard (or should we say nearly impossible) to distinguish between A, B and C Players.
The truth is that it is a challenge to distinguish between A, B and C Players. But when hiring for key positions, spotting A Players is essential. Certainly, companies more capable of spotting and hiring A Players for key positions will likely grow and thrive. A Players are the ones most likely to deliver creativity and innovation. They are the ones most likely to drive productivity, growth, and sales. They produce results. By the same token, it is reasonable to conclude that companies that have trouble identifying, hiring and keeping A Players will likely be less successful. So how does a manager spot and hire the A-list for his roster when they are not only hard to spot, but also when every other company is vying for the same top talent? Continue reading

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