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Category Archives: Return on Investment

Every Great Conversation

by Randy Sabourin

I believe that the most important things that happen at any organization are conversations. They are the reason we innovate, collaborate, sell, lead, coach, change, succeed, or fail. A salesperson who struggles to have meaningful customer conversations, a leader who is misunderstood when implementing strategy, or a manager who prefers to avoid coaching conversations are all negatively affecting their organizations. Given its significance to success, why is it that most organizations and individuals take their ability to execute a great conversation for granted? Understanding how we communicate with each other and how we influence and collaborate should be discussed, taught, and – most importantly – practiced.

The fundamentals of a good conversation remain consistent across a variety of business and personal situations. Training programs in sales or customer service, negotiation, coaching, and leadership all contain the same foundational elements. These are often re-taught or re-invented by providers to package a complete solution. These programs require a detailed list of skills for participants to master. For example, when learning how to coach it is critical to understand many steps – or skills – such as establishing trust, setting an agenda, observing behavior, giving feedback, gaining commitment, and many more. It is important to receive feedback on these individual skills so that they can be understood and leveraged. In each program, the number of measurable skills to learn and practice can range from ten to thirty.

During an actual conversation, it is unrealistic, complicated, and even a distraction to try and recall every step within each process and program we have learned. Brain-based learning research tells us that when we are engaged in a conversation – listening, understanding new ideas, and adapting our opinions – we require a much simpler model to simply recall the various skills associated with the exchange.

There are four foundational elements that can be applied to business or personal conversations, and that are simple enough to stick. They act as an effective foundation for any communication-based program.

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How to Differentiate Your Outbound Sales Calls

by Doug Robertson

“Until recently, we’ve been lucky. Because of our brand, we had lots of inbound calls. Today though, that stream is drying up and we have to extract more business from our existing clients. That means we need our sales crew to maximize every interaction – including outbound follow-up calls. But outbound calling is a very different skill set… and we’re anxious. We’re not sure what to do.”-  Retail Sales Executive

As a sales training firm, we’re hearing that outbound calling, even cold calling, is becoming more important. And while there are sometimes cultural, operational, or structural factors that make this kind of selling a challenge, often the biggest barrier is skill.business-conversation-design_1133-88

When skill is the issue, training plays a role and there are plenty of excellent training solution providers that can help teach new skills. But beware, not all training solutions are created equally. Only a few solutions build the skills that can truly differentiate your outbound call from those of your competition.

 Outbound Calling Skills that Differentiate

If you want your outbound calls to stand out from the rest, here are a few skills that your outbound calling team must know and do:

  1. Introduce themselves – clearly and slowly – and acknowledge their call was unexpected
  2. Ask permission to explain why they’re calling
  3. Immediately position the reason for their call, in terms of its value to their prospect
  4. Set specific time and outcome expectations and ask for permission to continue the conversation
  5. Ask two to four open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”– questions carefully planned and focused on prospects’ specific needs, values, hopes
  6. Listen closely and actively and play back what they’ve heard using their prospect’s own words
  7. Position their solution using engaging language
  8. Ask for the business and when they get it, agree on specific next steps

 

Bridging the Know/Do Gap Continue reading

The Two Most Common Missing Ingredients of Great Sales Conversations

by Randy Sabourin

A sales conversation can be a beautiful thing; it can flow, it can be fun, and it can pay the bills.  It can also establish creditability, build trust and become the catalyst for a relationship of mutual respect. But it can also be heavy lifting, it can feel like a battle, it can be full of frustration, and you can walk away feeling further behind. And though both parties are responsible for the outcome, the salesperson is accountable for its success.empathy_curiosity

I’ve personally conducted, observed and coached thousands of sales conversations: successful and otherwise. For over 17 years, our organization has helped salespeople practice hundreds of thousands of sales conversations. We’ve tracked the performance of every salesperson in every one of these conversations. Through this process, we have also coached on every conceivable sales model and process in every market in North America and around the world.

With all this qualitative and quantitative data I can say that the two most important skills (and the two that are often performed worst) are curiosity and empathy. Continue reading

The Battle For Attention – (we can’t afford to be boring anymore)

By Randy Sabourin

The two significant outcomes of Learning & Development (L&D) organizations are increasing the knowledge and improving the skill of its participants. The currency that learners pay for these outcomes is their attention, which has been a highly-valued commodity ever since stall merchants competed for it by calling out at market to sell their goods. Today, our attention is demanded by theblog2 screens that we work and play on, advertising designed to prey on our deepest fears and dreams, and of course, the really important things like family, friends, walking the dog – you know, reality.  Combine this well-crafted assault on our attention and our obligations to reality it’s no wonder that when you see the data on the meager effectiveness of traditional L&D programs like Leadership Development, Sales Training and Coaching, they are typically the first to have their budgets questioned. Consider the following numbers released at a recent industry event:

  • 43% of employees reported being bored and disengaged at work
  • 80% of those believe that the opportunity to learn new skills would increase their engagement
  • 45% of employees believe that learning offered to them in their organization is not applicable to their day-to-day
  • 94% of CEOs are looking to their L&D teams to drive results
  • Only 8% are satisfied that they are getting what they need from traditional L&D.

Clearly, there is a demand for effective learning from executives and employees. However, the results speak for themselves.

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1:1 Deliberate Learning & Practice – Case Study

1:1 Deliberate Learning & Practice – NO Workshop Sales Training

Practica Learning combines 1:1 Learning and Scenario-Based Deliberate Practice to deliver a new approach to training a large or small group of participants quickly and cost effectively. The objective of this approach is to reduce the costs associated with low-retention Instructor Lead Training (ITL) and increase the skill level of each participant.

Executive Summary

Practica Learning has successfully designed and delivered a 1:1 Learning Program that converted two days of traditional workshop content into two forty-five minute 1:1 ‘tutorial’ sessions delivered over the telephone or synchronous video.  By removing learning in a group environment we can reduce the time spent by each participant in non-productive classroom activities. Each participant remains free from distraction and can focus, along with the facilitator, on understanding the content and developing skill. The motivation for this methodology is to quickly and cost-effectively increase the knowledge and skill level for conversation-based interactions such as coaching, customer service, sales, leadership development, change, diversity, and performance management. This case study concentrates on delivering a sales conversation process to 500 Salespeople.

The solution leverages a combination of:

  1. Facilitated content delivered through 1:1 tutorial sessions

  2. Interleaving and Spaced practice scenarios supported by feedback and coaching

  3. Roleplayer Coach assessment and feedback

The benefits:

  • Increase time to value for learning deployment and skill improvements

  • Measure performance and development of each participant by skill

  • Decrease cost per participant

  • Decrease time out of office, travel, lost opportunities

  • Remove all training licensing fees

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The Missing Link – How to Really Get ROI from Your Expensive Sales Methodology

Executive Summary: There’s a better way to get ROI from your sales enablement investment and empower your salespeople to have value-based conversations with their prospects. It’s called “deliberate practice,” and it’s helping enterprise sales organizations create high-performance sales teams by moving average salespeople to the top tier and getting more consistent results from their top performers.

click to read full article – pdf 

The Competitive Advantage of Deliberate Practice

  by Randy Sabourin

One of the most critical competitive advantages for any organization is the skill level at which their people have important conversations. Interpersonal interactions, whether customer-facing, coaching, diversity & inclusion or leadership, can positively or negatively affect an organization more than a marketing campaign, a recognizable logo, a great product, or a good price. Business leaders look to Learning and Development (L&D) to deliver this competitive advantage across the organization with the expectation of a greater return on their investment every year.

deliberate-practiceWe are about to witness a fundamental shift in the way L&D organizations deliver on this mandate. To be an expert at an interpersonal skill, whether internal or client-facing, knowledge of the process is only half of the equation. Converting knowledge into a skill, or crossing the ‘know – do’ gap will be the new strategic objective for leadership and L&D.

L&D has traditionally focused on transferring knowle
dge to their learners in the form of workshops, e-learning, videos, etc. According to research from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), 80% of L&D budgets are allocated to these traditional knowledge transfer methods, with 50% being instructor-led training (workshops). The evolution of technology has enabled L&D to deliver knowledge from a vast variety of sources to a learner’s preferred device, all at an effective cost . The art of curating content is becoming more and more valuable to organizations. For example, having access to an unlimited amount of songs becomes a burden without the aid of curated playlists. L&D organizations have become extremely good at delivering knowledge to their learners. However, knowledge is not skill.
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Where The Bullets Aren’t (or – how Survivorship Bias and WWII Mathematicians can inform your L&D strategy)

 by Randy Sabourin

In order to continually improve our Learning & Development designs and deployments we frequently look to successful participants, members of our team, or the industry to try to understand what learning strategies we can glean from their success. This is a strategy I am often asked to execute when creating coaching or sales training programs for clients. Certainly there is a good deal to be learned from the most successful in any organization, however isolating them as the only source of ‘best practice’ is a very limited and potentially dangerous perspective. There are critical lessons to be learned from those who fail and those who may have moved on. It is sometimes difficult to recognize situations where Survivorship Bias affects our decision making negatively.

toughplane.jpg

I find the stories about very smart people using math, technology, and brainpower to defeat the enemy during WWII fascinating. One of the lesser known stories that has offered valuable business insights for me is that of Abraham Wald.

Abraham Wald was a brilliant Hungarian mathematician, grandson of a Rabbi, son of a kosher baker, who was forced to immigrate to the United States in the late 1930s as Nazi Germany’s influence made life very difficult. Wald was invited to Columbia University and fought his war as part of the Statistical Research Group (SRG) think tank. SRG was the mathematical equivalent of the Manhattan project, but using statistics as opposed to explosions. The group of mathematicians solved some of the most important problems facing the Allied war effort: where guns should be placed on planes, fuel mixtures for optimal distances, torpedo barrages, bombing patterns, and numerous other problems that require mathematical expertise to be applied to real life situations.

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Are Your Salespeople Schrodinger’s Cat (or – a thought experiment on sales training sustainment)

By Randy Sabourin

I think the greatest challenge we face in the Learning & Development (L&D) world is whether the audience we design and deliver content for actually use the learning in the field. In my experience the content is generally good, and improves year after year. Trends such as mobile technology and gamification can extend the life of a learning initiative, increasing the impact that L&D budgets have on their target audience. Even with new delivery methods for learning design, are you certain that your people are applying the content?  Who knows? The executives who allocate training dollars think you should know.

When I reflect on this issue, which I do  frequently as our business is based on solving this particular problem, I try to connect it to other disciplines, professions, or stories that may have faced similar challenges.

Schrodinger’s Cat walks into a bar and doesn’t

In the early decades of the twentieth century, new ground was being broken in physics. Interesting and sometimes bizarre theories around reality and quantum mechanics were being created.  Many of these theories ended up in popular science fiction writing. One of the most famous of these theories is called the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics that states a quantum system (an atom or photon for example)  can exist in  multiple states at the same time, each corresponding to different possible outcomes. It remains in this strange state until it is interacted with or observed by the external world. Only then does this superposition collapse into one or another of the possible definite states. Basically it exists in all of its possibilities until someone observes it. So Schrodinger (inspired by Einstein) put together a thought experiment to illustrate the concept in plain language.

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To learn more about us and how we can help your employees become more effective communicators through deliberate, experiential practice, please contact us.
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