Take the Stress Out of Success with Organizational Skills

Take the Stress Out of Success with Organizational Skills

How can organizational skills help you be less stressed?

Many bright, young, high achieving men and women come to me with this problem – how to manage stress and anxiety. They all have too much to do and not enough time to do it, which breeds anxiety. This leads to burnout and often, to leaving a career you are passionate about. So – how do you take the stress out of success? Develop organizational skills.  

Still waters

As I was working my way up the career ladder, I attended organizational skill building seminars. One instructor’s exercise, called “Mind Like Water,” I found particularly helpful. He had us imagine waking up early on a camping trip and standing before a lake with water like glass. Then he had us return to the lake later in the afternoon and envision people swimming and boating. We now saw a body of water covered with choppy waves. He explained that our mind is like a lake — when empty of activity, it can be still and calm.

Tips and Organizational Skills

Here are a couple of common sense approaches to organizing on the job. These can help you still the waters on a busy day.

  • Use a pocket planner – When you are away from your office, record customer requests in a pocket planner.  Repeat the request to your client as you write it down. Use your planner to jot down any other thoughts or ideas that come to mind. Don’t take a smart phone into your customer’s or prospects. It’s mere presents creates an immediate subconscious distraction. These actions eliminate the stress of trying to remember requests and important business to-dos.
  • Keep a journal – Buy a journal. When you are back in your office, or in your car between calls, transfer your planner notes to your journal. This process allows you to “download” information and ideas in an orderly way. Organizing your agenda on paper eliminates confusion, which causes stress.

These basic organizational skills are mind-freeing. Practice them and enjoy the calm waters throughout your career.

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Best Pricing Strategies

Best Pricing Strategies

The pandemic has disrupted supply chains, resulting in shortages of goods and rapidly escalating material costs. Many suppliers have had to adjust their pricing policies. The owner of a successful distributorship recently sought my advice on how to deal with price fluctuations.  Some of his largest durable goods suppliers were adding surcharges to all future deliveries. Other suppliers were changing their pricing policy to “priced upon delivery.”  With no control over supplier cost policies, he wanted to know about the best pricing strategies for his business.

Pricing Strategies

While the pandemic is unique, I have witnessed similar periods of price instability in the past. My sales experience suggests you consider the following actions when dealing with price fluctuations in your markets.

  • Make price increases timely – The media brings the rising cost of goods to everyone’s attention as they occur. Added costs also show up early in the grocery aisle, so your customers will be well aware of price increases.  If your suppliers have initiated an increase, give your salespeople copies of suppliers’ letters to share with their customers. These will support your need to raise prices. Don’t get caught waiting.  Adjust your prices as early as possible.
  • Review contractsBe sure your contracts include an escalation clause. These allow you to make price increases due to unforeseen circumstances. Most clauses will require you to provide proof of need to raise price when a situation occurs.
  • Anticipate surcharges – Be aware that with rapid changes, most manufacturers will include a surcharge to recover their increased cost. This is especially true of products that are quoted with long manufacturing lead times.
  • Price at time of delivery – Give the customer your best estimate cost but reserve the right to change it. Make the final price conditional to the cost you incur from your supplier. To protect his margins, I know a contractor who is quoting his projects with a surcharge for final adjustment when they are completed. When costs are changing rapidly, it’s wise to quote the final price at time of delivery.

Be Proactive

The strategies listed above are important to consider in these uncertain times. When confronted with a period of price fluctuation, be proactive.

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In the People Business

In the People Business

A year of living behind closed doors and in front of computers has left many wondering if the art of selling has been redrawn. Of necessity, we have adapted to ordering products and services online. Will this buyer’s paradigm shift diminish the role of the traditional salesperson that knocked on doors? Are we still in the people business?

The answer is mixed. Yes, more sales are being directed through online channels such as Amazon, Grainger, Home Depot, etc., and directly to suppliers/manufacturers. A salesman’s interaction is not required here and this is unlikely to change. Yet, there remain many circumstances in which the personal touch is still required to make a sale. What we think of as traditional interpersonal selling is still important.   

Technical expertise

In today’s sales environment, technical expertise is what differentiates you from the online order cart. It brings added-value to the transaction. Reps must be able to recognize, demonstrate, and present cost savings to their customers. It is these interactions that keep us in the people business.

Required skills

To compete against the ease and pricing of online transactions, you need good interpersonal skills. Focus on these: 

  • Use body language – Be empathetic. The ability to understand and share feelings builds trust between people. Use eye contact and positive gestures. For example, leaning forward in your chair demonstrates confidence, interest, and enthusiasm.
  • Look your best – First impressions may not be fair, but they are a fact. Make sure your initial visit is a positive one. Remember, you feel the way you look.  New clothes lift your spirits and this will show. Check your face for possible embarrassments before you get out of your car. When you arrive, smile.
  • Demonstrate interest – Your goal is to make the client feel important.  Show genuine interest by encouraging your prospect/customer to discuss his or her interests, needs, and priorities. Do not launch into a spiel about yourself or your products. Address your customer by his name, offer a compliment, ask questions, and listen.

The human connection

The pandemic has changed many things but not our ingrained need for human connection. The “click” cannot replace what transpires in a face-to-face sales call. We are all in the people business. Work on your interpersonal skills.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

Ready to Pivot to Online Meetings ?

Ready to Pivot to Online Meetings ?

Were you able to pivot to online meetings when the pandemic closed traditional sales channels? The owner of a high performance car engine manufacturing company told me that he just had his best year, despite the fact that his customers faced completely closed or reduced schedules at race tracks. How did he accomplish this? The company moved fast when the pandemic hit and pivoted to a new sales strategy. To determine how demand for its product might change, engine production was paused and time was spent contacting existing and potential customers via virtual conferencing. The company found that the race community had more discretionary money to spend on engines than they ordinarily would as other business costs (like travel, entertainment, etc.) had been lowered or eliminated.

The benefits of online meetings

While in-person sales calls are still a great way to present your product, the pandemic has proven that online meetings are also a viable way to sell.  Here are some of the benefits of virtual conferencing.

  • Meet anytime, anywhere – There are significant time savings and productivity gains associated with meeting online.  Without travel, the volume of calls can be greatly increased.  At the engine shop, the owner reported bringing in more new customers in one day than they previously did in two.
  • Put a name to a face – People like to see with whom they are dealing and video conferencing enables this. For the engine manufacturer, clients began requesting online meetings once that format was introduced. 
  • A quick path to the decision maker — With video conferencing, all the key players involved in a sale, including the owner, can come together at the same time, even if they are in different locations.
  • Reach a wider network – Online video enables meetings with potential customers that previously may have been considered outside your territory. The engine maker now has out-of-state clients.
  • Better customer follow-up – Virtual online checkups can rapidly measure a customer’s approval of your product or service. The engine manufacturer found that online follow-up improved their customer’s post-sales experience.

A new era

Make sure you are ready to pivot from traditional to online meetings. The pandemic has ushered in an effective new way to market goods and services —online sales communications — which are certain to remain an important part of business going forward.  

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

4 Elements to Overcoming Inexperience

4 Elements to Overcoming Inexperience

The seasoned salesperson knows where he/she is going and how to get there. It’s typical, however, to those new to the profession to feel insecure. In fact, it’s a good sign. Quoting Socrates, “The beginning of wisdom is recognizing the depth of your ignorance.” As a rookie, the young salesperson does not have a great deal of prior experience on which to develop his approach to a sale.  Acknowledging this lack of insight is step one in overcoming the obstacle of inexperience.

Preparation and practice

Let’s look at what makes a great professional. An effective public speaker, for example, achieves success by beginning with a well-developed script. He will continually edit and revise his words to sharpen the message. Then, he will spend countless hours rehearsing his speech until he can say it in his sleep. By the time he is behind the podium he has complete confidence in his prepared remarks and no fear of misspeaking. The same pattern of intense preparation and practice is also true of the professional golfer who is able to make the winning putt, or the NBA star sinking his final shot. These professionals have overcome inexperience by developing the kind of confidence that comes from a practiced approach to their game. Their winning strategy is second nature to them and can be mentally played back at the right time and in the right place, like a tape recording.

4 Elements to a Winning Strategy

What does a sales professional need to develop and practice to overcome the obstacle of inexperience? Here are 4 elements that I consider essential to a winning sales strategy.

  • Identify the decision maker(s) carefully and early in the sales cycle
  • Determine which results will constitute a win for each decision-maker
  • Know and use your personal strengths to create a win
  • Find people with prior knowledge of the account and enlist their help in obtaining pertinent information

My advice to the new sales rep is to develop a winning strategy and embed it in your psyche. In that way — like the public speaker, the golfer, or basketball player — when the pressure is on you are able to instantly play the right tape.

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The Efficient Home Office

The Efficient Home Office

Many of the sales managers and reps I advise have commented that working from home during this pandemic has made them more efficient. This has come as a pleasant surprise to companies that previously had only on-site employees. Many companies are now moving to make a higher percent of their work force home-based.

David McGuire of the Forbes Finance Council reported in a July 31, 2020 article, Big Changes Are Coming To Commercial Real Estate Industry In The Wake of The Pandemic, that “Retail space is expected to see a major loss in demand in the coming years, with some expecting negative demand for up to 13 quarters. A large percentage of workers are currently working from home, and many employers expect a great part of their workforce will continue to do so.”

Improved Productivity

What is contributing to the belief that working from home is more efficient than reporting to an office? Stephen Covey in his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, offers some insight. In his Time Management Matrix, Covey suggests that we should focus on two quadrants for improved productivity. They are: Important and Urgent and Important not Urgent.

Of lesser significance to efficiency are the quadrants he labels: Not Important but Urgent, which includes interruptions, some calls, emails, reports, and meetings, pressing matters, and popular activities; and Not Important not urgent matters, like trivia, busy work, some emails and phone calls, time wasters, and pleasant activities.

Concentrated Work

In an office environment there are more opportunities to be distracted by unimportant work details. The longer we are away from the desk, the more time it takes to get back into what Cal Porter describes in his book Deep Work, as the un-distracted deep thought which is necessary for concentrated work. At the office, trips to the coffee pot, water cooler, or bathroom, where we encounter colleagues along the way, can quickly turn a 15-minute break into one that stretches into a half-hour. If we remain disciplined about avoiding the kitchen sink and laundry, there are far fewer distractions at the home office and more time for deep thought.

More Efficient Work Days

Technology has changed the rules and forms of business socialization and has been a game changer for the stay at home employee. Virtual meetings have become the norm, cutting way down on time spent traveling. The hours that would otherwise been eaten up by a long commute also add productive time to the at-home worker’s day. Increased time for deep thought and fewer distractions in the home office translate into greater productivity and more efficient work days. Welcome home!

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.