Blog

>>January
­

Don’t Lead a Team of Headless Chickens?

Have you ever wondered why some sales teams work a lot and produce near zero results while others over deliver with a lesser effort? Most of the underperforming sales teams are confused, disorganised or at worst utterly aimless. On top of this, they have no clue as to how to measure their progress.

You don’t need to be a Steve Jobs to figure out, that unless sales teams have clearly articulated and agreed on the success metrics, their activities will rarely lead to meaningful results. Now, according to me, metrics is more than the year-end numbers that the sales team needs to clock in, the best companies measure leading indicators and not the lagging indicators. 

To give you an example, At Platformax we don’t put a single revenue number for a sales manager, we break down the journey to a successful sale. As long he/she can replicate multiple journeys the sales number will happen, the month end sales number is an output only. We measure the input steps, and this leads to a predictable sales number.

We work with multiple clients and help them in accelerating their sales number, whenever we onboard a new customer, we look for these symptoms to figure out if there are headless chickens doing rounds in the company.

We are always active

Most of the teams believe that they have been hired to be busy, no that’s the fist stepping stone, you don’t hire people to come and sleep in your office (though I love to catch sleep in the office when I am in Japan). 

The first reaction is to do a lot of work, and the lack of measurement systems doesn’t help them see through these activities and figure out that they are not translating into results. So the sales team may brag about the number of roadshows, cold calls and mailers sent and yet they may be unable to show a clear linkage between what they are doing and the final results that you expect them to achieve. 

During one of our sales acceleration assignments, we found that a sales team member continued to make calls and sending emails during Chinese New Year to clients in Hong Kong.  He made sure that he left a voice message too because most of went to voice mail.

He told us that customers in Asia prefer personal meetings and he has to travel to Hong Kong, as they don’t respond to phone calls. And the best part he had data to prove his point. His manager was logical and got convinced with the data and analysis. As a result, he got a 20k USD approval to travel to Hong Kong!

They lack direction

Lack of well-designed metrics squanders the team’s energy and most of them spray and pray for results to happen. Resources are always scarce, and they need to be allocated efficiently, the metrics help you in funnelling these resources to the most important activities that will lead to results. One of the first things that I do when we work to accelerate a client’s sales is to ask them “what are you working towards” if the jaw drops I know there are headless chickens around.

Inability to recover from failures

My passion is Archery, and I have competed at the national level in Slovenia. I must admit that I was very raw when I first started practising the game, my archery coach Samo Medved ( Samo Bear) had told me “If you fall, it’s not about why you fell, it is about how fast you can get to your feet again. After that see why you fell.”

Even the best sales team will have bad days and encounter failure, the presence of a scorecard in such situations helps the team see that they have steadily improved on the metrics and the failure is just a blip. Teams that do not have such guiding stars find it difficult to adapt to such a long terms perspective and may feel demotivated in such situations.

Using these simple principles, I hope that you will be able to guide your sales team to success. In case you are struggling with your sales numbers, please do write to us at Platformax and we will use our sales Jedi to help you in turning the tide. We have helped numerous clients in increasing their sales by using our proprietary tools and would love to help you too.

17. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity|

What is killing innovation in your company?

 

Innovation is a buzzword in corporate corridors, and millions of dollars are being spent to find the holy grail of innovation. If the culture in your company is not conducive to innovation, appointing consultants or rebranding will not yield tangible results. Here are the few things that kill innovation.

 

You are living in a capsule

Exposure to cutting-edge ideas and best practices within their industries allows teams to explore their limits and test new ways of working. Unfortunately, some organisations suffer from a silo mindset that insulates them from ideas and individuals that are not from their coterie. The most isolated teams are the ones with the greatest deficits in creative thinking. Not only are they cut off from the flow of new ideas; they also don’t have access to informational networks that can keep them apprised of new ways of working.

When such teams try to innovate, they end up reinventing the wheel, because they are not aware of the new solutions that have been already applied, tested and, improved by their peers or competitors.

 

You suffer from not invented here syndrome

The company and its incumbents may be valuing experience over creative thinking. In this type of work culture, ideas are often killed before receiving a fair hearing and team members are routinely criticised for suggesting solutions that represent a departure from status quo.

 

You punish taking risks

If your company has a trophy wall with headgears of people who made a mistake, you have successfully created a group whose members dread making a mistake. As a result, most of them will be checking and double-checking their actions, because errors are fatal and may lead to annihilation. With consequences of this sort in place, team members quickly learn that they are likely to suffer criticism for proposing new and untested approaches to problems. On the other hand, if they adopt or support solutions suggested by their team members, they avoid the risk of failure. As a result, they will always wait for others to march.

 

In your company Managers call the shots

Newbies and less experienced team members tend to be influenced by the opinions and ideas of their senior and more experienced counterparts. These seniors censor and restrict the innovative ideas coming from juniors or fresher’s on the team. One of the most common tactics used by the seniors is to throw an aggressively timed challenge to the team members to come up with a complete solution when they are just beginning to formulate new ideas. Another commonly used approach is to take the team problem-solving discussion offline to influence the originator of the idea to get off the boat and tow the company line. As a result, the newcomers are reluctant to express new ideas and have great difficulty obtaining a fair hearing for their ideas.

 

Your company lacks drive

Innovation requires a work climate that compels teams to leap beyond barriers and explore new ways of solving the problem. If your business has little expectation from the team, which in turn discourages team members from testing and strengthening their abilities, innovation may be a distant dream. Lack of pressure puts the team at ease and complacency tends to set in such circumstances, which further erodes the drive.

 

Your company has limited or no interaction between teams

Innovation is a synergistic process that thrives in a work culture where team members learn from and build on each other’s ideas. This type of symbiotic learning may take many forms, from team members who exchange ideas on a particular project, to the team leader who shares an exciting research with the group. Innovation gets severely handicapped when team members lack ready access to one another or if team norms and practices discourage them from freely discussing their ideas without any humiliation.

12. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|

The Four Stages Through Which Team Grows

 

I have handled multiple assignments for our clients; most of them necessitated building ‘on-the-ground’ team that worked for them. At Platformax our customers trust us with their biggest problem, lacklustre sales or dwindling orders. We sift through the maze, automate the sales processes and help them tame the sales beast.

Through this article, I am sharing my experience on how the ‘on-the-ground’ teams evolve. As the team matures, members gradually learn to cope with the emotional and group pressures they face. The team goes through these somewhat predictable stages.

 

Stage 1: Forming the team

When a team is being formed, members cautiously test the boundaries of acceptable group behaviour. This stage reminds me of hesitant swimmers, they stand by the pool, dabbling their toes in the water. At this stage, they are moving from individual to a member status and analyzing their team leaders guidance officially and unofficially.

In the Forming stage these feelings surface:

  • Excitement, adaptation and optimism
  • Satisfaction in being selected for the assignment
  • Provisional sense of team belongingness
  • Doubt, fear and nervousness about the job ahead

In Forming phase, team exhibits these behaviours

  • Endeavours to state the tasks and agree how it will be fulfilled.
  • Efforts to define agreeable group behaviours and how to deal with group problems.
  • Decisions on what information needs to be collected.
  • Lofty, intellectual discussions on models & concerns; and some team members may be exasperated with these dialogues.
  • Discussions of symptoms or problems not relevant to the task; struggling in identifying appropriate problems.
  • Objections about the organisations and barriers to the task.

 

At this stage of the team formation, activity abounds and sidetracks the member’s attentiveness; the team makes minimal achievement in its project goals. Don’t panic; most of the teams go through this phase.

 

Stage 2: Storming

Storming is the most difficult stage for the team. It is as if the team members jump in the water and thinking they are about to drown, start panicking by flipping their limbs. They start to realise that the task is difficult and more burdensome than what they imagined it to be. This makes them tetchy, blameful and at times overzealous.

The lack of advancement fuels resentment, but they are still raw to figure out the next steps in decision-making; they feverously debate about the course of action the team must take. They heavily rely on their past experience and skillfully resist any need for inter-team collaboration.

In the Storming stage these feelings surface:

  • Opposition to the task and the methodology being recommended by other team members.
  • Snappy oscillations in their perception of the team and the project’s ability to deliver on commitments.

 

In Storming phase team exhibits these behaviours

  • Disagreement among members even when they agree on real issues
  • Defensiveness and competition, factions and choosing sides
  • Probing the prudence of people who selected this assignment and assigned other members to it.
  • Establishing unworkable goals; concerns about disproportionate work
  • A perceived pecking order, dissent, increased strain and distrust

 

As a result of these pressures, team members get drained and are unable to progress towards the desired results. However, they start understanding each other in a much better way.

 

Stage 3: Norming

In the norming stage, members resolve opposing devotions and duties.

The members wholeheartedly accept the team; agree to the norms and get comfortable with the role assigned to them, and graciously accept the individuality of other team members.

Emotional conflict and its draining effect on the team members shrinks as cooperation replaces competitiveness in the team. In other words, as team members realise that they are not going to drown, they stop thrashing about it and start helping each other’s stay afloat.

In the Norming stage these feelings surface:

  • Knack of expressing criticism in a constructive manner
  • Acceptance of membership in the team
  • Relief that it seems everything is going to work out

 

In Norming phase team exhibits these behaviours

  • An attempt to achieve accord by sidestepping situations that give rise to conflict
  • Increased friendliness, sharing personal challenges and deliberating about the team dynamics
  • A sense of team cohesion
  • Establishing and maintaining team ground rules and boundaries

 

As team members begin to iron out the differences, they free up more time and energy for the project, thereby making measurable progress on the team goals.

 

Stage 4: Performing

By this stage, the team has settled its relationship issues and expectations. They now begin performing, analyzing and cracking problems. By this stage team members have discovered and are comfortable with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They start playing with each other’s strengths instead of fighting over their shortcomings.

 

In the Performing stage these feelings surface:

  • Team members have insights into personal and group processes and better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Satisfaction at teams progress

 

In Performing phase team exhibits these behaviours

  • Constructive self-change
  • Ability to prevent or work through group problems
  • Close relationship within the team

 

In this phase, the team starts acting as a consolidated unit. The pace of work and results gather momentum in this stage.

 

Every team goes through this cycle. The duration of each of the phases vary for each team, depending on how quickly they progress, work through obstacles or problems and so forth. At Platformax, we reinforce that these phases are normal and a sign of progress.

10. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|

The Four Golden Rules of Improvement

 

I must admit that I am a bit cynical when I see my pet dog, Adi, chasing his tail and running in circles. Now that reminds me of the way most companies run sales improvement projects. They keep on going round and round in circles with no end in sight, and the management rewards them for their efforts too.

Over the years, we have helped multiple companies in structuring their sales process. And we were not the first ones to get these assignments; the companies on an average had changed the head of sales thrice before they came knocking on our door. In most of the cases they were doing the same mistakes time and again and expecting different results, changing people does not shoo away the problem, the problem just passes over to a new incumbent. From my experience, these are the four golden rules of improvement, if you follow these principles, you will increase your chances of success by multiple times.

 

Start with meaningful data

Collecting useful data is the foundation of success, and the irony is that too often, teams collect inappropriate data or make poor collection procedures. Since they have never been shown how to recognize such mistakes, they base their decisions on unreliable data and end up failing to bring about the desired improvement. They collect more data and make more improvement without realizing that they are looking for apples in an orange orchard.

Collecting meaningful data in the first place can save you months of effort, doing this is not too complicated either. The golden rule is first to know exactly what you want to collect, using standard definitions so that everyone takes the measures the same way.

 

Be a Badger, dig deeper for root-cause

It is easier to react to the visible symptoms rather than searching for the underlying cause. The best way is to use a fishbone diagram or the five why method to explore the potential sources of the problems. You should have patience and avoid zeroing on to the first possible solution, however, plausible and palatable that may look.

 

Develop relevant solutions

The curse of being intelligent is that it forces most of us to pre-empt solutions or root-cause of the problem even before starting the solutions or data gathering phase, sometimes we may be correct too. However, this can be an exception and not the norm. In my experience, the right solution that fixes the problem for once and all is never evident at the first stage.

 

Plan and make changes

There is an adage, which says, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail“. However, over the years we have got attuned to “Ready, Fire and aim” instead of “Ready, aim and fire.” This attitude is slippery and encourages people to act even if it is not the right thing to do. The key to making strides at work is to have your teams look ahead, anticipate resources needed for a successful project and think about the steps to take if they hit a wall.

6. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|

Is Your Sales Team Fit For Challenges?

It is not uncommon for a sales team to run into occasional unanticipated challenges. Considering the times in which we live, sales leaders cannot plan for every eventuality. On the other hand, if your team is often choked with unforeseen events, you may want to develop stronger early warning systems. The best sales leaders know that being successful is closely related to securing timely information about circumstances that can affect their performance. Having an early warning system is more than just looking ahead, your team must be ready to respond quickly and with flexibility to the changes in the environment.

A team that lacks foresight often miscalculates the impact of external and internal changes. The team members may see a variety of potential problems in an impending merger but never consider the growth opportunities that will accompany the change. They are obsessed with threats and miss to see the opportunities. And opportunities don’t lie dormant; they are frequently gobbled up by your competitors, who may be adept at profiting from team’s lack of foresight or preparedness.

Depending upon your team’s position about the agility of response and adjustability, they can be classified as Happy, Jumping Jack, Let’s do it or Platformax.

 

Happy team

“Happy teams” live in denial. When they face a significant change, they either ignore it or convince themselves that it’s just passing by the phenomenon. They firmly believe that the hiccup is a temporary aberration and soon enough things will return to normalcy. It goes without saying that such teams display an extreme degree of rigidness. Once they chart out on a course, they keep on marching ahead, irrespective of any new or adverse information that may suggest a need for midterm course correction.

 

Jumping Jack team

The second kind of team that you witness is the “Jumping Jack” team.   They are usually slow to respond and take action after the situation is obvious. While they believe that the situation warrants change, they demonstrate a minimum amount of adjustability. They make small changes to the original plans and are convinced that the original plan was robust enough to tackle this unforeseen event. Jumping Jack teams focus their energies on the past rather than the future. The team members subtly deflect questions about planning or future actions and are quick to explain that they are too busy putting out fires, which need immediate attention.

 

Let’s do it team

The third kind of team that you may have seen is the “Let’s do it” team, these teams go ahead with change and consider the possible implications of events as they unfold. However, they are myopic in nature and plan for events that are just beginning to appear on the horizon. Mostly, they miss the business implications of large-scale changes as they concentrate on an event that concerns their unit only.

 

Platformax team

The fourth and the best team to tackle unforeseen challenges is to build a “Platformax team”. Irrespective of their day-to-day work pressures, they continually scan the horizon to track trends and performance of their companies. They invest a considerable amount of effort in thinking through and preparing for all contingencies, and wherever possible they attempt to influence the course of business events. They anticipate and make an endeavour to shape the change, rather than waiting to be engulfed by it.

 

We have helped numerous entrepreneurs in structuring their sales process. In case you want to build a Platformax sales team, drop me a note and our Sales Jedi will conjure the best team for you.

3. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|