Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Field Notes: Singapore

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How To Be More Successful

I recently had the honor of being asked to do a segment for ITPRO.TV, a video channel aimed specifically at delivering world-class training and certification courses to IT professionals. The topic they asked me to speak on was professional development, especially focused on how to take your career to the next level in 2017. I think there are several good ideas here that apply to anyone who wants to have more success in their career and life.

If you found this video helpful, I hope you will share it with your network. Thanks – John

Two Superb Books I Highly Recommend

John SpenceI have just returned from three weeks on the road, including 10 days on a speaking tour across Poland as a guest of the United States Consulate General in Krakow. I had a lot of time on airplanes and read several books but there are two that I would especially like to recommend.

The first is called “BOOKSMART – hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness,” by my friend Frank Sonnenberg. This is an absolutely fantastic book of wisdom and sage advice that is presented in a very user-friendly way, with lots of lists of things to think about and apply. The book covers numerous topics around business, family, success, financial health, marriage and other critical issues. The chapters are short but powerful. I have already reread this book twice and have applied several of the ideas to my business and life. This is one of those books I plan to come back to often as a reminder of what I should be focusing on and how to build a happy, joyful and highly successful life. This book would be a wonderful Christmas present for anyone you know that enjoy books on self-improvement or business improvement.

The other book I’d like to recommend to you is called, “The Leaders Mindset – how to win in the age of disruption,” by Terence Mauri. In this book Terence describes three major leadership mindsets:

  1. Think Big Mindset (Future Shaper)
  2. Act Bold Mindset (Risk Taker)
  3. Learn Fast Mindset (Knowledge Seeker)

He then goes on to describe how to integrate all three of these mindsets in order to be an effective and successful leader. I underlined a lot of this book, and I’ve recommended it to several of my clients. It’s a good, solid book that will help you take a new look at how you lead in your organization. One of the reasons I love this book so much, is that it aligned very strongly with what I have been studying for years about great leaders and great organizations. It was reassuring to read such focused and detailed ideas and descriptions that match so closely with my strongly held beliefs about what makes a real leader. If you are interested in a book that will help you examine the way you think about leadership and the actions you take as a leader, you will definitely enjoy this book.

I have just a little bit of downtime around the Christmas holidays, so I will have a few more books to recommend at the start of the new year. If you have recently read a great business or self-help book, please comment on it here so that my followers and I can pick it up and learn from your recommendations.

I hope you find these books of great value – take good care – John

 

90 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think

I was surfing the web and came across the following blog on Marc and Angle Hack Life: Practical Tips for Productive Living. Their 60 are awesome, but I added another 30 that were impactful to my thinking.  I welcome, no, I strongly encourage you to PLEASE add your favorite quotes in the comments section below – let’s make this a truly life-changing list!

 60 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think…

In your quiet moments, what do you think about?  How far you’ve come, or how far you have to go?  Your strengths, or your weaknesses?  The best that might happen, or the worst that might come to be?  In your quiet moments, pay attention to your thoughts.  Because maybe, just maybe, the only thing that needs to shift in order for you to experience more happiness, more love, and more vitality, is your way of thinking. Continue reading “90 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think” »

How To Increase Your Sales Success

shutterstock_46908313I have been teaching consultative sales for the past 20 years and in my opinion three of the most critical skills necessary to be superb as a salesperson are: asking highly focused and thoughtful questions, being an intense listener and then taking excellent notes. Great questions allow you to gather the essential information needed to understand the customer’s problems, create the exact right solution and close the deal. However, if you ask great questions and don’t listen carefully and write superb notes, you might as well not ask any questions at all.

Let me help you understand how important listening is. Think about the average value of one of your larger sales, then determine how much time (in minutes) you actually spend in front of the key decision-maker during the sales process. Then divide the total value of the sale by the number of minutes and it will give you how much money is on the line for every 60 seconds you’re talking to the key decision-maker. For some of my clients that number has been in the thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars per minute. The number might be much smaller for you, or it might be quite large, but either way it is essential that you be incredibly focused on your customer during the brief amount of time you get to spend with them. One of the best ways to demonstrate that you are paying attention and truly care about what they are saying is to be absolutely fantastic at taking notes. Again, if you ask a great question and they give you an in-depth and detailed answer – and you don’t write any notes – you are telling the customer not to answer any more of your questions because it will be a waste of their time. (**As someone who has owned several businesses I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve had a salesperson sit in front of me while I explained my problem or need in detail – and they didn’t write a single note – nothing. Which is exactly what they got from me, nothing. No sale, no deal, and no invitation for a follow-up appointment).

Here are some of the things I recommend to increase your listening and note-taking effectiveness and clearly demonstrate that you are focused solely on your customer.

  1. Turn off all electronic equipment that you do not plan to actually use in the meeting. No phone, no iPad, no computer – nothing that can distract you.
  2. Bring a professional notebook such as a Moleskine to write your notes in. Unless you are a phenomenal typist and can keep great eye contact while typing notes, it is better to use a pen and paper and transfer the notes over later.
  3. Bring an extra pen.
  4. As you are listening and taking notes use good body language and eye contact to show your customer you are fully engaged in the conversation. If you are selling over the phone use of verbal cues to let the customer know your listening and encourage them to continue talking.
  5. As the customer is talking repeat what they are saying over and over again in your head as you are taking notes. This will shut out any mind chatter you have and help you remember what your prospect is telling you because even though they have said it only once, you have heard it several times in your own mind which makes your memory and recall dramatically better.
  6. I have created a number of special icons that I use to help me focus in on the most important information in my notes. For example, I put a # next to where the customer gives me numbers, and a $ next to where those numbers represent money. I draw small set of clock hands next to anything that deals with time. When a client emphasizes a specific point I put a big star next to it, if they mention it again I put another star – and another if they talk about it even more. I write a ? when there is something I need to come back and ask for more detail on. Then, at the end of the meeting (or phone call) after the client has shared a significant amount of information with me, I can quickly go back over my notes and say something like:

“I’ve listened to you very carefully and from what you have shared with me it looks like you have three major concerns: 1, 2 and 3 (the three items that I put several big stars next to) that are costing you about XX dollars (based on everyplace I have written a $) and are causing you to waste about XX hours a week (based on where I drew little clocks) and you’d like to try to get this fixed by XX day (based on where I put the #’s). Does that sound about right to you?

Typically the client is overwhelmed by the quality of the notes I’ve taken and the information I can summarize and give back to them. I have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that I am listening, paying attention, interested in what they are telling me and because I’ve written it down in such great detail I will be able to remember it and develop the exact right solution based on my understanding and analysis.

  1. Then as soon as I get out of the meeting or end the phone call I immediately take out my notes and dictate (I use the voice recognition software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking) a clean and thoughtful summary of everything that was discussed and agreed to during the meeting.
  2. I then send a copy of that summary/call recap to my client to confirm that I’m on target, that I have not missed anything important and that we are in full agreement on next steps.
  3. Lastly, I post my call recap/summary into my client’s file so that I will have it to review days, weeks, months or years in the future. I still have notes from phone calls I had with clients more than 10 years ago and they are amazed that I can go back and share with them key things we discussed a decade ago.

I will tell you from experience that if you use the tools and recommendations I have listed above it will have a significant positive impact on your sales success. Everything I’ve mentioned is common knowledge, every salesperson knows that they should do this, but very, very few actually do. When you conduct a professional sales meeting, asking superb questions, being a highly focused listener and taking incredibly thorough and detailed notes – you clearly differentiate yourself from all of the other salespeople your customer is meeting and create a level of trust and professional respect that is difficult, if not impossible, for your competition to copy.

I hope you find these ideas of value and that they help you close more big deals!

 

The Best Focus On Getting Better

5117ec57cab7b.imageI just had something very interesting happen. I finished up a sales training class for a client I have worked with for the past 12 years and after the class several of these attendees thanked me very much and said they had taken pages of notes and learned some very valuable ideas. Then, later in the evening I attended their annual sales awards dinner, and again several folks told me the session that day had been wonderful and two of them actually told me that, through various programs I had delivered for their company, they had learned some “career-changing” ideas. I was extremely flattered and glad to know I had helped, but what happened next was career-changing for me!

As the CEO stood at the front of the room and announced the company’s top sales people and managers I was amazed to see that most of them were the very same individuals that had thanked me for the workshop. In other words, the most successful people were also the ones who wanted to learn the most, even though many of them had been in the field 20 years or longer.

Earlier in the day as I was teaching the workshop I had noticed that many of the “older” sales people were furiously taking notes and nodding in agreement every time I covered a particularly important point. They were also the most eager to ask questions and engage in the workshops and group discussions. However, I also noticed that several of the “jokesters” took few notes, rarely participated in the discussions and did not ask a single question. Not surprisingly I did not see any of them win an award, but later at the bar I did hear many of them complaining about the comp plan, that their products were priced too high and that their competitors were “buying” contracts with lavish presents and dinners with purchasing agents.

 The mediocre thought they already knew it all, the best were eager to learn more.

 

The mediocre were resentful, the best were grateful.

 

The mediocre saw problems, the best saw opportunities.

 

The mediocre complained, the best succeed in the same arena.

 

I might have spent the day teaching, but I learned just as much as they did, well, at least the best of them.

Four Things That Kill Companies

business conceptI am doing a strategic planning retreat for a multi-billion dollar company tomorrow and another similar retreat next week. In 2015 I facilitated perhaps a dozen such meetings and here are four key things that I have seen companies struggle with time and time again as they looked at their current performance and began planning for their future success.

Lack of Focus: This has got to be one of the major issues that many businesses have a hard time with, trying to do too many projects, working in too many markets and trying to serve too many different types of customers with too many different types of products. Here is a phrase I just learned that sums up my thinking on this issue, “Simplicity Now – Fancy Later.” Heck, I wrote a book on this topic so it’s pretty clear I believe it is hugely important to keep the focus of your business Awesomely Simple. Another way to put this powerfully is:

Deciding what NOT to do is just as important in a strategy as figuring out what to do.

Lack of Execution: This is a problem I have been tracking for the last 15 years, and in the last five years it has become the leading issue in almost every company I work with. There is no shortage of cool, innovative, bold strategies, but there is a massive shortage of organizations that can take those strategies and execute them with discipline.

Lack of Agility: Let’s face it, the marketplace has never moved faster and it is not going to slow down anytime soon. When I began leading strategic planning retreats more than 20 years ago it was not uncommon for us to work on a 10 year planning horizon, today I rarely work with a business that looks out more than three years. Wildly volatile economics, changing customer expectations, nontraditional competitors, global competition and the incredible velocity of technological change are just a few of the factors that demand companies be agile, nimble and highly innovative – just to stay in business.

Another factor around agility is the failure to make decisions quickly. Too much hierarchy, aversion to risk, resistance to change and the need to get consensus on every major (and sometimes minor) decision is an all too common obstacle for many organizations.

Lack of Talent: It is one of the key themes in all my work, “The future success of your business is directly proportional to the quality of the people that you can get, grow and keep on your team.” However, I run into far too few companies that take this idea seriously and actually look at talent acquisition, talent development and talent retention as a strategic objective. Although it is essential to have a deep bench of talent in order to run a sustainably successful business, I have had too many clients tell me something like, “We are being held hostage by our worst employees, they know that we don’t have anybody to replace them with, so they feel secure that no matter how poor their performances is they won’t get fired.” It almost makes me cry.

So in working with dozens of companies all over the world those are the four major issues I see companies grappling with when attempting to create a thoughtful strategy that has a high potential for success. My advice to you? Make sure that you have a strategic plan that addresses these issues and makes them a strength in your business that creates opportunities not a weakness that exposes you to competitive threats.

How Do You Want To Feel?

Here is a very brief video on two good books and one awesome question. I hope you will take a few minutes to try to answer this question and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below…

I wish you every possible happiness and success – John

In case you have not watched it, here is a link to my recent video on:

The Five Keys To Business Success in 2016

 

I Am Never Right

Business IdeaWhen I first got into the training and consulting business I really believed that it was critical that I demonstrate an exceedingly high level of competence and a strong confidence in my ideas. Often times when a client felt that I was wrong, I would argue with them and defend my position with vigor in an attempt to prove that I was right and they were wrong. Then one day I had an epiphany…

I was not right.
Actually, I am never right.

The truth is there are often multiple right answers. My ideas are based purely on my opinion and every person in my classes has a right to their opinion too. Each of them has a unique background, with unique experiences and they have seen, read and learned all kinds of things I have never been exposed to. No matter what my answer is to a question, it is extremely rare that my answer is the only right answer.

As soon as I realized that, everything became easy.

I no longer had to defend, argue, persuade or attempt to prove that I was right – because I knew I wasn’t. Sure, I’ve had a lot of business experience, read thousands of books, worked in hundreds of different companies all over the world – but still, at the end of the day, I’m just giving a thoughtful guess as to what I think the answer might be. I could be completely wrong, I have been several times in the past, and I will be several times in the future. However, there’s also a very good chance that I will be right, or at least my idea will work well, perhaps as well or better than other people’s ideas.

Adopting this position allows me to be fearless, because it is impossible for me to fail.

I offer my opinion, I give some feedback, I suggest the very best ideas I can possibly think of, and then is up to the other person if they want to accept my idea or reject it. It’s just an idea. If they hate it, that does not matter at all, they are perfectly welcome to think that my idea is terrible. But here’s the most important point: that doesn’t mean I’m terrible or stupid or incompetent, it just means they didn’t like my idea. Big deal.

Luckily, the people that hire me are typically inclined to be interested in my ideas and most often think they are pretty good and even sometimes excellent. Again, that’s nice, but it doesn’t crush my soul if someone feels I’m completely off-base and have no idea what I’m talking about.

It’s just an idea…big deal.

I look forward to your thoughts – do you think I’m right?