It’s becoming a bit of a habit!

Expectations

In talking with senior executives recently from a global Systems Integrator, the discussion was full of “I want my people to be able to….” and “I want my people to stop reacting badly or panicking when faced with….”

We had started our conversation on more familiar territory – exploring classroom-based skills development that had worked very well previously. “We liked what you did for us previously around relationship development and want something similar for our current teams”.

But what was now intriguing was that these executives were sharply focused on extending the capabilities of their highly technical experts in non-technical areas – in particular the areas of empathy, listening skills, resolving tensions and clear influential communication. All those so-called “soft skills”.

“They know the technology inside-out. They are the industry experts. But they lose people as soon as they dive into that technical detail. They don’t connect with, let alone excite, the other people in the room.”

Specific goals

More than once they explained their goals along the lines of …

“I wish my technical people knew….

  • how to tune into another person’s wavelength more naturally. “
  • how to adapt their style to other people”.
  • how to feel comfortable managing tensions and conflicts in the professional context.”

It should come as no surprise to us that the skills and behaviours they seek have become essential in the virtual Covid19 world. There have been many case studies and scholarly articles that articulate this permanent shift.

The solution

Getting into new habits. Habits that promote meaningful relationships. 

Having collaborated previously, we – namely Gareth Bunn Consulting and Influence and Persuade – joined forces to evolve our on-site training courses and materials into virtual bite-sized sessions, each delivering a specific relationship development outcome.

By reframing our thinking and starting from the point of: “On completion of this module, you will be able to….”, we have moved the learning of business relationship management skills on to ‘hard’ outcomes. As you would imagine our Kipper® methodology figures in a number of them. In fact, when combined, the new modules lay the path to achieving the 5 habits of mastering business relationships:

Habits 1

  • Manage perceptions
  • Drive to action
  • Communicate clearly
  • Diagnose effectively
  • Deliver strongly

This “turning things upside down” has created a suite of ‘virtual modules’. With all sessions only 90 minutes long or less, and very interactive, building up the 5 habits can be done at the speed of, and to the right level for, each individual team.

A “Pick and Mix” approach

You select the specific outcomes you want from a current list of 30.

Habits 2

It’s the new ‘Pick & Mix’ approach to personal and team development.

30 modules with clear outcomes that can be packaged into highly customised programmes for specific team needs.

Habits 3

And as we continually seek further outcomes we can enable, let us know your suggestions.

The result

Say goodbye to the days of technical experts struggling to connect with non-technical people.

Say hello to technical experts being able to master business relationships effortlessly.

If those executive concerns mirror your current people development challenges, contact us to see how the ‘Pick & Mix’ approach can work for your organisation in a virtual world.

Gareth Bunn: gareth@garethbunnconsulting.co.uk

Amanda MacAuley: amanda@influenceandpersuade.net

Habits 4

Sales – putting credentials in their right place

Selling – discovering the right perspective – theirs!

Selling is a form of communication. It should, if it is to be successful, draw upon the art of persuasion – rhetoric. But, from my observations of the way in which companies pitch for business, it would seem that there is often a preoccupation with themselves and their products and services rather than with the client and his issues. This can of course seriously detract from the pitch.

This preoccupation frequently starts early in the sales cycle. There will be the internal pressures to push certain products and services – “strategic offers” is sometimes what they are called. Effort will be expended on establishing what the win themes are and how to differentiate from competitors – often based upon out of date views or a misunderstanding of competitors, laced with some self-denial.

By the way, this usually takes place before there has been any detailed analysis of the potential client’s circumstances, issues and concerns. The result is that these themes are often inward focused and can, without continual and objective refreshment during the sales cycle, become completely detached from the prospective client’s real needs. As my friend Joe Binnion put it – we need to think about “buying themes” rather than just “win themes”.

And, does it not make you wince when you see the last section of the proposal or presentation entitled “Why [insert name of bidding company]?”? It is usually followed by crass regurgitation of those old win themes (sic) or a set of supposed differentiators which sound just like everybody else’s. What is transmitted to the potential buyer is lack of empathy, indifference and arrogance. I have never been convinced that these things will help people buy.

Use of credentials

I wanted to touch on just one symptom of this internal focus – the misplaced and over-use of credentials in a pitch. I use a simple mnemonic “QAEC” to help put credentials into context and avoid what I often come across – a situation where their over-use detracts from rather than enhances the power of the presentation. This very simple structure is explained below. It does match perfectly with the “kipper” tool for the design of messages, courtesy of the Rhetorical Company.

A sales presentation is in effect a narrative – a story based upon a number of ideas or points which lead the listeners to an “Ah Hah!” moment when they form a mental impulse or conclusion and are persuaded to action. Let us take just one of those points (bones if you are trained in the “kipper”) in an imaginary narrative.

Identifying the question – Q

The main reason you would make a specific point in a pitch would be to answer a question that you believe the listener might have – the “Q”. For instance, you might have established that the listener is concerned about how quickly an action needs to be taken.

Responding with an answer – A

The answer (“A”) to this might be: “You can’t afford to wait” or “You are running out of time” or “You need to start now”. So this becomes the point you make.

Proving with evidence – E

Any assertion made needs to be proved by evidence (“E”) and it is this that pitching companies often fail to address – leaping instead to telling the audience about how they did a wonderful job for another client in a super-fast way. This is not only irritating to an audience because you are not talking about them, you are not satisfying the basic rules of conversation – that is that conversations are about responding to each other. This also applies in presentations – it’s just that only one side of the conversation is vocalised.

Let us continue the example and take as your point – “You can’t afford to wait”. This should trigger in the listener’s mind a silent question – “Why’s that then?” The next thing you say needs to be evidence – proof of the point you have made. It is clear that citing a credential here does not prove the point. In this case, good evidence might consist of (for example): citing actions taken by competitors; movement in reputation scorings; the time taken to achieve realisable benefits.

Making the credential relevant – C

If you take the idea of a one-sided conversation to the next step, you might imagine that having demonstrated and proved the urgency of action, the silent question in the listener’s mind might be something along the lines of “OK, but will it be possible in that timescale?”. It is at this point that use of a credential (“C”) may be both justified and helpful, since it now provides proof that “it really is possible”.  The credential is though optional – the key components of any point (bone) you make are the point itself and the evidence which proves it.

Summary

Credentials do have their place in a sales pitch. But do try and avoid them becoming the main reason for your pitch. If you follow the simple QAEC sequence described for each point you make in your narrative, you will find that where you do use credentials they are an enrichment of the listener’s experience rather than a detraction.