Selling to the C-Suite

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In a previous post, I shared my opinions on selling to the top of an organization and why it isn’t always the best route to success.

There are obviously times when selling to the top is not only smart, but it’s required. Recently, I was asked about how to approach busy professionals with an idea, product, or service. If you are selling to senior executives, here are a few guidelines that may prove helpful.

 

“Stop selling. Start helping.” –Zig Ziglar

Be prepared.

As a sales leader, knowing your own company and your product is a requirement.  Take it a step further.  You need to know our company, too. When someone obviously hasn’t so much as looked at the company’s Web site, he has already lost credibility.  Don’t flaunt your advanced preparation, but work in ways you think we will benefit from a relationship.

It applies on the phone, too.  I can’t tell you how many people who finally do get me on the line are not prepared.  If you’re ready for the gatekeeper, but not the person you’re targeting, here’s a hint:  Don’t make the call.  Do your homework.

 

“Timid salesmen have skinny kids.” –Zig Ziglar

 

Be clear.

Don’t launch into a stream of acronyms or nonsensical statements.  No, I’m not meeting with you for an hour to learn to “drive efficiencies throughout the organization, maximizing ROI and improving profits.”  Really.  We do that every day, and we know the business and you don’t.  So, be clear on what the benefit is to the organization.  Don’t use complex language designed to impress.

 

“Every sale has 5 basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.” –Zig Ziglar

 

Be crisp.

We’re all busy.  Don’t drag it out.  Most executives are incredibly busy and bottom-line oriented.  If you catch my attention, then you will have more leeway and time to make your case.

Why You Should Comment on Blogs

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I’ve been blogging for just over two years now.  One of the strange things I have noticed:

Most readers are not bloggers, but it seems that most commenters are bloggers.

Why You Should Comment

So, if you aren’t a blogger, why should you comment on a blog?

If you like what you read, it is hugely rewarding to the blogger when you share the post via your social networks.  When I see a post take off, I know what is resonating and it helps me prioritize what to write about in future posts.

Most readers are not bloggers, but it seems that most commenters are bloggers. -Skip Prichard

There’s nothing worse than writing a post and hearing nothing but crickets.

In addition to sharing, consider adding a comment.

Why comment?  Well, technically it helps the blog because it shows that the page is updated.  That, in turn, increases the relevance and the chance that Google will rate the blog higher.

But that’s not why you should do it.

ENCOURAGE

Yes, that’s reason enough.  If you like the blog you are reading, why not encourage the blogger by jumping in?  When I started commenting on other blogs, I saw the power of a little encouragement. Feedback matters. In addition to encouraging the blogger, I have noticed that it encourages the community of readers at the site to think about issues differently.

INFLUENCE

What I like to see is the dialogue, the conversation, the debate, or the agreement.  You may add a story or an additional thought.  You may agree or point out something that I missed.  You may change someone’s thinking.  My own views are more informed when I read what others are writing.

RELATIONSHIP

You are able to build a relationship with someone fast when you comment regularly.  I have made friends this way and have connected with my regular commenters, too.  It makes a difference.

Why don’t most readers comment?  It ranges from fear of making a mistake to not knowing how to do it or even worrying about getting spam email.  It really isn’t hard.  Most blogs, like this one, do not spam you or send you any email because of your comments.

COMMUNITY

I receive a lot of personal email from people about posts I write, but I have decided not to engage in side conversations for the most part.  Because, if you have a comment or question, others likely will have the same one.  Why not let everyone benefit?  And, frankly, I just don’t have the time to answer a question many times when it could be done once.

Why Bloggers Comment

Why do bloggers comment on other blogs?

If you study Web marketing, you know that there are many reasons you want to be a regular commenter.  A few of those reasons are:

  • Gain traffic back to your Website.
  • Build backlinks to your blog.
  • Build a relationship with the other blogger or the community.
  • Increase your authority as an expert.
  • Improve your search ranking with the search engines.
  • Because they appreciate and know how hard the job of blogging really is!

A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER LEFT A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG.

I do have a comments policy where I reserve the right to delete any comment that is inappropriate, spam, advertising, offensive, profane, or for whatever reason is not wanted.  That’s the right of the blogger.  I try to leave comments that disagree with me and have only deleted a handful of comments in two years.

 

 

How to Conduct A Job Interview Without Getting Sued

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This is a guest post by Johanna Harris. Johanna has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC. Her new book is USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace.

As a manager, one of your most important responsibilities is interviewing an applicant for an open job position. The key is to be probing and thorough and, at the same time, avoid any questions that could be interpreted as illegal or improper.

Not sure how to ask the question?

Sometimes managers ask illegal questions because they’re not sure how to acquire important information that they are in fact legally entitled to know. A manager may legitimately want to know whether an applicant can master all of the procedures required of the job. Unsure how to get at these qualifications, he asks the applicant how old he is – an illegal question. Or a manager may legitimately want to know whether an applicant is available to entertain clients in the evening. Similarly unsure how to address this issue, he asks her whether she has young children – again, an illegal question.

Four main areas to probe

During a job interview, there are four main areas you want to probe.

  1. Does the applicant have the skills that match the needs of the new job?
  2. Can the applicant be available at the times and places you need him?
  3. Does the applicant possess the core attributes that would make any person a valuable employee?
  4. Does the applicant fit within the culture of your organization?

Skills

To ask effective, legally permissible questions about a prospective employee’s skills, you need to do some homework. That means learning in detail the duties of the job, as well as the level of skill required to perform those duties. It also means prioritizing job responsibilities, as some duties may be more important than others. The formal job description is a good place to start, but it certainly is not the end. Talk to employees who are successful in the same position. Consult with users of the services provided by the new job. Check out industry descriptions of the job, too

Once you know exactly what the job requires, you can craft pointed questions to the applicant that relate directly to the job requirements. That includes her previous work or projects. “How does your experience in the design of user interfaces for retail store management carry over to the healthcare field?” “How does your experience in selling heavy equipment to agribusiness carry over to marketing pharmaceuticals?” There is nothing illegal about giving the applicant an assignment – to be completed either at the interview or at home – that shows whether he indeed has the specific skills required of the new job.

While your focus is on the specific responsibilities of the job, you can still ask more general skill-related questions that help you get a feel for the applicant’s attitudes toward work and interactions with peers. “Have you improved at your current job?” “What skills or experience do you still lack?” “How do you approach your work?”

Availability

An employer has the right to know whether the applicant can be available at the times and places necessary to complete the job. Your task as manager is first to determine exactly what kinds of availability the job requires and then to ask about them up front. “Can you work 15 hours of overtime each week?” “Can you be available to entertain clients approximately twice each month?” “Can you travel out of the city for monthly sales conferences?” “Can you fly to California in March of every year for the annual sales summit?” These pointed questions put the applicant on notice. If he cannot meet these availability standards, he is at risk of being fired. Putting these requirements up front can also give him a sense of comfort that he knows exactly what will be expected of him.

Mobility may be an important prerequisite for advancement in your company. If so, then you should explain that up front, too. You are entitled to inquire, “Are you prepared to transfer from our branch office to the national headquarters?” Even if you believe that applicants with children are less mobile, you cannot ask him a question such as, “So, what arrangements have you made for child care?”

How to Lead in a Crisis

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Gisli Olafsson knows how to lead in a crisis. He led the first international rescue team to arrive in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.  He has led teams in other world disasters from the floods in Ghana to the Horn of Africa Famine to the Typhoons of Bopha. With over 20 years of experience in disaster management, Gisli is one of the world’s leading experts on the use of technology in a disaster response. He is the Emergency Response Director for NetHope, enabling humanitarian organizations to serve the developing world.

Who better to talk about the subject of leading in a crisis?

The Crisis LeaderLeading through Difficult Times

Gisli, your new book The Crisis Leader is all about leading through difficult times.  Your experiences of managing crises are very different than my own.  Would you share a few of the more challenging circumstances you’ve faced?

The most challenging circumstance that I encountered was leading the Icelandic Urban Search and Rescue team to Haiti following the devastating earthquake in January 2010.  We were the first international team to arrive in the country, and the scenes of our first day will forever be branded in our minds: tens of thousands of bodies lying on the streets being collected into dump-trucks and taken away.  Sadly, we would continue to experience scenes of death, despair, and chaos our entire mission there.

 

It is in times of crisis that good leaders emerge. -Rudy Giuliani

 

As a team leader during the next two weeks, it became all about me ensuring that the team could perform at their maximum level, even though they had just witnessed the most terrifying experience of their life.  Keeping morale high, watching out for signs of stress, and encouraging them to give their best in order to save lives was all I did, 20-22 hours per day.

These and other disasters I have responded to taught me lessons about leadership, lessons that I discovered were not just unique to the world of disaster response but were in fact applicable to any organization or company dealing with a crisis.

Leadership vs. Crisis Leadership

You have seen some tragic events.  I cannot imagine how you felt. What’s your definition of leadership?  Is crisis leadership different?  Does it require a different approach?

Haiti Earthquake 2010 Haiti Earthquake 2010

Leadership is about getting people to do the things you want them to do, without necessarily having the authority to tell them to do these things. Leadership is about sharing a vision of a future state and influencing others to help you reach that state. Leadership is about focusing on that future vision instead of the past, while leveraging the lessons of the past to ensure you do not make the same mistakes while trying to reach that future vision.

Crisis leadership takes all of this to a higher level. There is so much more at stake. In my world it may make the difference between life and death. For other crisis leaders, it may mean the difference between the company surviving or going bankrupt.

Rudy Giuliani phrased it well when he said, “It is in times of crisis that good leaders emerge.” It is at these times that you see who the true leaders are, which ones can take the pressure and which ones can really get people rallied around a common vision forward, instead of giving in to the despair that is all around.

 

Leadership is about focusing on the future vision instead of the past. -Gisli Olafsson

 

Is there one characteristic that is a must-have for a crisis leader?

10 Email Productivity Myths

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Like you, I receive my share of email.  I have multiple email accounts.  It is especially difficult to manage as I travel the globe, working across time zones.

Over the years, I have heard my share of advice about email.  I call them “email productivity myths” because they are widely shared in leadership and productivity classes.  The problem is that some are not true.  Others work for some but not all.

Here are a few:

1. Email is one of the biggest time wasters.

 

Why:  This is one I hear all the time.  It seems a given that everyone sees it as a nuisance, as a time waster, as taking too much time.

Why it’s a myth:  More often, email is saving time. It allows quick communication with people all over the world. What takes a few minutes to write and to read would have required scheduling a conference call, preparing, and having an unneeded long conversation.  How to use email properly is an important skill, but don’t fall into the false belief that all email is a waste of your day.

 

2. Never reply all because you are filling up everyone’s email box unnecessarily.

 

Why: Carelessly hitting reply all adds an email to everyone’s inbox.

Why to do it: There are times when replying all is important. You are sending a message where everyone needs to stay in the conversation.  The important reminder is to think about where it is going.

 

3. Don’t respond.

 

Why: Say you receive an email sent to a few people, and you have an opinion and decide not to respond.

Why you may need to respond:  Depending on the culture of your organization, silence may be read to equal agreement.  If you have a point of view, you may need to share it either via email or in-person.

 

4. Use the blind cc: feature to copy people.

 

Why:  You are using the blind carbon copy to let someone know you are handling a situation, but you don’t want the receiver to know.

Why you should rarely, if ever use it:  It feels slimy.  It’s like you are hearing a one-sided conversation, and don’t get to hear the response.  If you receive a blind cc, you have to keep track of what you are supposed to know, and what you aren’t. Worst of all, we have all seen someone who was blind carbon copied respond, embarrassing the sender.