Seven Time Management Skills That Will Help Improve Your Productivity

July 4, 2018 by  

Everyone gets the same twenty-four hours each day, however, making productive use of that time can mean the difference between getting things done or simply scrambling to keep up. The following time management tips will help you streamline your day, get more done, and ultimately give you more time do the things you really want.

1. Do a time audit of a typical day.
At the end of your workday do you wonder where the time went? Maybe you wish you could have managed to accomplish much more than you did? You could be wasting more time than you realize and they could well be a discrepancy between how you think you spend your time and how you actually spend it. That is why doing a time audit of your day could be very helpful in determining where you can improve the use of your time.

This is a simple method for conducting a time audit.
• Use a timer that you can set to go off every thirty minutes. (The alarm app on your phone could do the trick.)
• Begin the timer and proceed to go about your day but try not to think about the timer, rather just let it run.
• When the timer goes off, write down what you are doing at that very moment no matter what it is.
• Set the timer for another thirty minutes and repeat the process until the end of your day.
• Then, review how you have spent your time and how truly productive you were or not.
• Try conducting this audit every day for a week in order to get a true overview of how you are actually spending your time. You can decide to vary the time between check-ins so that you don’t begin to anticipate the alarm going off every thirty minutes, instead do it for 40 or 45 minutes. You may discover that you have been spending too much time checking emails, scrolling through your social media feeds, or chatting with co-workers. In the end, you will know where you have to make adjustments and how to better schedule some of those tasks throughout your day in order to be more efficient and productive.

2. Develop a means to block out distractions.
Now that you have a better idea of what’s distracting you, you can develop some strategies to get rid of at least some of those distractions. For example, if social media is your downfall, you can try using a productivity app that blocks online distractions. If you are working on a writing project, try going into fullscreen mode to prevent yourself from opening tabs or answering desktop notifications. You can also turn off your notifications and turn off the sound on your computer, too as you really do not need to know every time a new email arrives or you are contacted on social media. Instead, you can set aside a specific time frame to check those new additions, once the key things you have to deal with have been taken care of.

3. Set up a schedule for yourself.
Instead of worrying about how you will be able to fit all your tasks into the average workday, if you plan and prioritize the pieces you will be more efficient and productive instead of feeling stressed and having to work overtime to stay ahead of timelines. Once you have chunked up your projects and prioritized the chunks according to importance, your stress will disappear and you will be able to much more easily meet your deadlines. Just make sure your to-do lists are not overwhelming as you can only accomplish so much in a day and will only frustrate yourself if you make the lists unreasonable. Every email does not need to be answered as soon as it arrives, this is another area where prioritizing can help you. Having a good plan for your day will make much better use of your workday as you will be able to spend time on the elements that are key to moving you faster toward your goals.

4. Avoid multitasking, it is a myth.
You may think you are a good multitasker, but here is the thing, multitasking is a myth because your brain takes 15-20 minutes to line up the necessary neurons to do any task at a high level of performance. Every time you are distracted by another job, you are pulling away some of those necessary neurons to set up for the next task. Therefore, by the time you are doing three or four or more things at once, you are actually doing none of them very well which is not efficient or productive as you will have to revisit most of them to “fix them” because they were not done very well. Hence, it is much more efficient to focus your efforts on one task at a time. Do it well and then move on to the next one. Or, you can group similar tasks so that you can use the right neurons that you have already lined up. Perhaps you can keep a small notebook handy and if you suddenly remember another task you need to do, write it down and then you can get to it when you are done with the current job.

5. Insist that others respect your time.
If you have decided that there are certain things that you have to complete this morning, then let your colleagues know that between 9:00 and 11:00 am you will be unavailable for phone calls, meetings or emails but will attend to them after 11:00 am. For example, if you have a “chatty colleague” just let them know, respectfully, that right now you cannot chat, however, you would be happy to speak with them over lunch after 12 today or over coffee at 3:00 pm. If a meeting is scheduled that you really do not need to attend, then let them know that you will be working on a pressing and current task so can get a summary from one of the attendees later. There is nothing wrong with letting people know that you need certain blocks of time to uninterrupted so that you can accomplish what you need to in order to be productive and meet your deadlines.

6. Keep your “call to action” in mind.
If you want to be productive with your time, be sure you are clear on what you want to accomplish with that meeting or phone call before you embark upon it. Decide ahead of time what outcome you wish to achieve so that you can be prepared for the encounter and get what you need from it.

7. Be sure to fit in sufficient downtime and rest.
There have been studies that show that lack of sleep causes more mistakes and impeded productivity and cognitive functions are negatively affected when you are sleep-deprived. That means that you need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you get that you will feel more refreshed and better able to concentrate so you will be more productive, make fewer mistakes and be able to focus more effectively. In addition, vacations are also beneficial as taking time to relax, disconnect from technology and spend time with family and friends also helps our focus and concentration. Following a wonderful vacation, you come back refreshed, renewed and ready to get back to work in a creative and meaningful way.

So try to follow the suggestions described above and you will be better able to make more productive use of your time and be more successful in all aspects of your life.

5 Great Tips for Effective Teaching Outcomes

June 20, 2018 by  

Just because you know how to do something or have extensive knowledge on a particular topic does not mean that you know how to teach it to others. Try these tips for imparting that knowledge and experience in an effective manner.
Pretty much everyone has to teach something to someone at some point. You might need to train your team, instruct or mentor a colleague or even help your child with homework or to solve a problem. As a soft skills consultant and trainer, I teach regularly. I have discovered that each topic requires a variety of approaches and activities in order to engage the audience and provide them with an atmosphere conducive to retentive learning. Most people are not verbal learners, rather they are visual or hands-on learners. In addition, most individuals, even if they try to focus will only retain about 20% of what they hear and two weeks later will likely only remember about half of that information. However, most people retain up to 90% of what they do and say. In other words, the more interactive the learning experience the more retentive the outcome.
If you have something important to teach you should give the process as much consideration as the topic and information. I actually continually search for new sorts of exercises that I can use in various workshops so that the material will resonate more for the learners and interject more fun and meaning into my sessions

Here are some tips that will help you do just that.
1. Consider your audience.
As I already mentioned, people learn differently. Some love to read while many others are more experiential. Millennials, for example, have a different approach to knowledge and information than Baby Boomers. Before you start delivering a program it is helpful to know who will be attending and if possible how they like to learn. Then you can adjust your approach to suit your audience’s learning style and perhaps, if you learn enough about them, even what they are expecting to take away from your presentation. This will help you with both content and structure.

2. Chunk up the content.
Most people can’t absorb a large amount of information all at once. They usually do better with smaller amounts. In addition, if you offer them the opportunity to the new strategies or information immediately it will be more likely to stick and become something they will use in future situations. To that end, it is a good idea to consider separating the key aspects of your topic into multiple shorter sessions. This will give you the opportunity to better flesh out those key elements and make them into more powerful segments so that the attendees can have those so important “aha moments”. Be sure to include appropriate stories, examples or even pictures to illustrate your points and reinforce your content. Besides, the more fun they are having the more likely they will look forward to subsequent sessions as well as be more likely to remember what you are sharing.

3. Simplify your delivery.
Do not complicate your points or ramble on and on when providing information to your audience. Use technology such as PowerPoint, Prezi or other delivery systems to reinforce your points but do not belabour them with too much text or be too wordy. Communicate your concepts in simple ways such as using short videos, animation, or appropriate pictures or graphics. Do not put everything you plan to say into your slides. PowerPoint serves two main purposes: Firstly, it focuses the audience on the key points you wish to impart and secondly, it reminds the speaker of the key points they wish to speak about. However,
how you are going to describe those elements should not be on the slides as your audience can read the slides faster than you can speak them so will get ahead of you and disengage. In other words, they will start to think that they do not need you and that you did not prepare very well if you need to read your slides. Instead, try to make your presentation so easy and simple that even an incredibly busy and distracted person could understand and get it right away.

4. Be entertaining.
So much training is just dull and boring, so if you are going to be successful in providing a good ROI for your audience and want them to actually take away some beneficial ideas and use them, you need to “spice up” your presentation with things that are memorable and fun. You can interject short videos, humorous stories, and funny graphics. Basically, you need to come up with creative ways to delight and entertain the attendees so that you keep them engaged and leave them happy.

5. Provide them with actionable takeaways.
People retain information more effectively when they can apply the new knowledge to situations that make sense to them right away. Therefore, it is a good idea to offer them the chance to try out what they have learned in a typical scenario familiar to them or to try out something with a partner or even to have them fill out a questionnaire and then debrief it together. When you do this, the attendees will be more likely to recall what they have learned the next time an appropriate situation arises.

If you follow these suggestions you will be able to create sessions that will be more successful for both you and your audience. Besides, both you and your audience will also have more fun and feel more satisfied with the time they have spent with you. So have some fun with your materials but keep it simple!

Effective Strategies for Defusing Anger

June 8, 2018 by  

Occasionally, you may be approached by a person who in such a state of anger or frustration, that it is first necessary to calm them down or defuse their anger to some degree before you decide how to effectively address their needs. Note that this is not always going to be possible and, at some point, it should be considered whether alternative interventions might need to be applied (e.g., contacting the police or a counseling service). Below is some general information regarding anger, with specific recommendations on how you might try reducing anger in others.

Key Issues to Consider:
Anger and aggression are often the product of frustration and a feeling of powerlessness. Efforts to resist physically or verbally are counterproductive and put the aggressor in an even more defensive position. In addition, never just tell them to “calm down” as this will only inflame their anger further.
Active Listening is the most important skill you can employ to defuse anger. There is no point in attempting to reason with a person in the midst of irrational anger, better to just listening carefully to what their problem is and then you can try to assist them with a solution.
Rather than trying to resist a person’s anger, it is better to redirect their verbal aggression into a non-threatening form of discussion that can bring about a cooperative, problem-solving approach.

Here are 6 Approaches for Defusing Anger:
 – Communicate Respect
 – Cooperate
-  Active Listening
-  Reframe the problem
 – Assertiveness
 – Disengage from the situation

1. Communicate Respect: Demonstrating respect is a primary means of de-escalating hostility. You can communicate respect by utilizing active listening skills and non-aggressive body language. When you respectfully listen and show the person that you have actually heard what is troubling them you will likely help them to realize that you actually have an interest in helping them to resolve the issue they are dealing with or the needs they are seeking. At the same time, you are also demonstrating an acknowledgement of the importance of their concern. It is also key to refrain from openly judging his/her behaviour. Better to remain non-judgmental and supportive.

2. Cooperate: By cooperating with the angry person, you are showing that you understand that they are upset and are willing to help them. Just be sure that you are not putting yourself or anyone else in harm’s way when you do this. It is also important to refrain from pointing out reasons why the person should not be angry. In addition, try not to disagree, instead, focus on communicating with empathy for the person’s feelings. In other words, your objective here is not to cure the anger but rather to simply avoid making the situation worse.

3. Active Listening: Employing Active Listening is your most powerful and effective tool for defusing anger. When attempting to defuse anger, you must shift the focus from getting your point across to understanding the needs of the angry person, and work with them toward achieving a common goal that will be beneficial. Everyone wants to be truly listened to and to feel understood. People often become angry or aggressive when they have not felt acknowledged or appreciated. Do not give in to the temptation to interrupt or correct the angry person as rational arguments may only provoke their hostility. Better to let them rant and when they are done, then you can make suggestions as to how they might like to proceed. When people are under stress associated with conflict or feelings of insecurity, the potential for misinterpretation is greatly increased, therefore it is extremely important to paraphrase or summarize what you heard, then clarify, and finally gather further information as necessary. When you do all of this you are validating the person’s experience. You do not necessarily have to agree with them, you just have to show them that have truly listened to them and now understand why they might be feeling the way they do. You can use ‘open-ended’ questions to get a clearer idea of how they do feel. Be cognizant of your reactions, and be curious rather than judgmental in your responses. If possible, try to match, then lower the person’s intensity. Be sure to pay attention to your nonverbal communication because if this does not reinforce and support your verbal communication, it will likely obliterate it and you will not achieve a win/win outcome. Standing at an angle (sideways), rather than directly opposing someone, can help keep a situation calm and non-adversarial. Remember not to talk too much, and whenever possible to use the person’s name, as that also shows respect.

4. Reframe the Problem: It is up to you to redirect the aggression into a non-threatening discussion of the person’s specific needs. When you are faced with hostility, it is only natural to want to push back. Reframing is a good way to change direction and move the problem forward as it reflects an understanding of the person’s issue but helps to change the emphasis to common ground and towards a more positive solution. When you provide a reframe of what the person clearly values, you are demonstrating an understanding of where they are coming from and they will then see you as honest and fair.

5. Assertiveness: Sometimes you will need to clearly assert yourself regarding your own needs in order to effectively manage the situation and actually be able to help the angry person. It is important to set clear, firm boundaries, and expectations for appropriate behaviour. You will need to be ‘hard’ on the issues, but ‘soft’ on the person. In order to do that you should use ‘I’ statements because ‘You’ statements tend to raise the level of tension as they often sound accusatory.                      For example, “I feel anxious when you pound on the desk…and it makes it hard for me to listen to you effectively.” Try very hard not to use the word “but” as it is very confrontational, substitute and, therefore, etc. as but is known as the ‘verbal eraser that tends to discount whatever preceded it in a statement. Assertive requests may not always be appropriate just make sure you are sending a message of cooperation, not a threatening one.

6. Disengaging from the Situation: If it becomes apparent that your personal safety is threatened, you will need to remove yourself from the situation when active listening and other methods are failing to reduce the threat. You should also disengage when you are feeling angry, as you will not be effective in that state of mind. Explain the need for a break or ‘time-out,’ and also offer a commitment for you (or someone else) to return to the matter shortly. You might offer food or a beverage, if available and appropriate. You may wish to request the assistance from a supervisor, co-worker, or police if things are really going off the rails. I would be a good idea to debrief your experience with someone you trust.

If Someone Shows Signs of Losing Control
Get help before trouble starts.     Use a prearranged warning signal to alert others.   Stay calm. This will help keep the person calm.  Talk slowly and calmly.   Use a firm, confident tone. Don’t threaten, but inform them of the consequences of inappropriate behaviour.    Try to leave yourself an escape route. Seek safety at your first opportunity.   Later you can take time to debrief the situation with colleagues and supervisors.

Keys to Achieving Excellence in Customer Service

May 16, 2018 by  

Customer satisfaction is essential to the building of a successful, growing, and long-lasting business, so what can you do to ensure that your company is providing good customer service?

Here are 4 elements to consider when establishing or improving the customer service within your business:
1) the Customer Desires & Needs
Everyone makes daily purchasing decisions, therefore, everyone is actually a potential customer. Understanding the desires, concerns, and needs of your customers prepares your customer service representatives with the necessary information to assist in the most effective manner. In fact, this knowledge gives them the ability to provide whatever your customer needs to be a happy, contented and then a returning customer.  In order to learn those important issues you mush train your employees to practice Active Listening.

2) Your Service Culture
Customer service is an important aspect of every employee’s job. Each and every customer service contact has the potential to gain repeat business or drive it away. Therefore, selecting the best people to deal with your customers is extremely important. Every organization wants to avoid negative publicity, especially today with social media able to make issues go viral in a matter of minutes! If that happens, it can easily and quickly damage your business reputation. Being cognizant of this issue can help you to avoid this issue as it can be difficult to recover from that sort of attack.

3) Trust & Loyalty
Your biggest source of business is repeat customers and it costs much more to acquire a new one. So, it is essential to institute practices that help to maintain your existing ones. Customers like to feel special and can be easily lost if they sense that you don’t care much about them. A single negative experience can cost you a customer. In both good times and bad, the long-term value of a customer is much greater than a series of single transactions from one-time customers. Here is one other important thing to remember…..if something does go wrong, that is when you have to do something outstanding to fix it so that the customer will be more likely to remember how you fixed the problem rather than the problem itself. In addition, if what happened was something that you were not aware of, such as a failure of a product, you should also thank the customer for bringing this issue to your attention.

4) Customer Service Employees
Frontline employees are the ones who portray the image of your company in the eyes of the consumer. Not all employees necessarily value the importance of excellent and consistent customer service. Therefore, it is extremely important to evaluate the behaviors, attitudes, and skills of the individuals who work for you to determine who is the most capable of holding a customer-facing position and then invest in appropriate training for those people. A single customer poor encounter with an employee can make or break a sale. In addition, if your culture is one that appreciates, supports and encourages your employees, they will be more likely to treat your customers with the same respect and courtesy.

In the end, meeting your customers’ expectations can lead to customer satisfaction; however, in today’s competitive marketplace going above and beyond expectations will ensure customer satisfaction. Companies with poor customer service risk losing current and potential customers. However, acknowledging and focusing on the key elements described above will enable your business to develop a good plan that will provide your business with excellent, consistent, and memorable customer service.

Tips for Stress Deflection

April 30, 2018 by  

Stress is mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes. In today’s ever-changing world of technology and strife, stress seems to increase and decrease in waves but never ceases. Changes in our world due to technology, the expectation of multi-tasking, the breakdown of the traditional family and other issues have shifted the nature and pattern of stress-inducing events.
Having said that, when stressors are relatively acute but infrequent, our bodies can recover. In fact, small doses of stress are actually beneficial to humans as they serve as a catalyst propelling us to higher achievement. However, prolonged exposure to stress does not give our bodies a chance to recover so we cannot fight or flee! In addition, that prolonged stress can cause irreversible physiological damage to our bodies and affect our cognitive abilities as well.
All these factors indicate that today we must have strategies to deflect and reduce our stress so that we can function effectively and stay healthy. In addition, we must find the fortitude to actually employ those strategies when necessary.

So what are some stress-busting ideas?
Here are some approaches you may wish to consider:
1. Breathe! Usually, the first thing that happens when we are stressed out, is we quit breathing appropriately thus reducing the oxygen levels to our brains which lowers our problem-solving abilities and rational thought.

2. Practice Active Listening……why? Because, just giving instructions or directions to someone does not guarantee that you will get what you expect unless you get some concrete feedback from the listener which proves that they received your message as sent, processed the information as necessary and so concluded what you expect to have happen. If you do not get this feedback, unless you are a mind reader, you actually have no idea what this person heard, how they computed the information and what they will actually do with that message. When we do not get what we expect we experience disappointment, resentment, complaining, confusion and of course, misinformation…….all of which cause stress!

3. Be Accountable…….that means taking responsibility for what you do and the mistakes that you make. If you do that you will learn from those errors and become a better problem solver.

4. Do not delay Problem Solving Techniques……… here is why, most problems will not disappear by themselves, in other words, you need to resolve issues and problems before they get worse and ignoring them or hoping they will fix themselves will not work!

5. Be Assertive……..if you have an issue with someone or a situation, it is best to address it but in an honest, calm and respectful manner. Allowing behavior that is inappropriate, disrespectful or even harassing, you enable it because we get the behavior we tolerate. Yes, it is often difficult to confront someone in such situations, however, if you don’t the problem will not go away by itself.

6. Get Regular Exercise……. Exercise helps to change your brain chemistry so that it releases more endorphins which give a feeling of wellbeing. In addition, you will have more energy to cope with your daily challenges if you are fit. This does not mean you need to run a marathon or develop the muscles of a weightlifter. Rather you can do whatever you enjoy that will get you moving. Take a dance or pilates class, take a drumming class, walk your dog a couple of times a day, do yoga, even learn to meditate. Whatever interests you and moves you will be good.

7. Eat Healthfully……..that means employing balance, moderation, and variety in your meals by eating from the four basic food groups, controlling your portions and enjoying a variety of different foods and styles of preparation. Your body needs proper nourishment to function well and you will feel better and stay healthier if you practice healthy eating. If you do not know how to do that, consider consulting a registered dietitian for some tips.

8. Get Adequate Rest…….most people today get less than 6 hours of sleep/night and that is truly not enough rest. Your body rejuvenates when you sleep and your memories become better embedded when you sleep. So, if you are not getting ample sleep neither of those functions is going to be happening, meaning you will likely not function effectively, make more mistakes and that will increase your stress.

9. Think Positively………..the only thing in your life that you have total control over is your attitude. One who thinks negatively, always sees the glass as half full and the bad in all situations is certainly not going to be a very happy person and will likely experience much more stress than a positive person. The positive attitude will bring solutions to challenges, find the good in any situation and will also experience far less stress because they will be too busy being happy!

10.Be Flexible… other words, go with the flow in any situation as some things you just cannot control and maybe you don’t have to control everything.

11.Laugh……..laughter is another thing that changes our brain chemistry and releases endorphins for a feeling of wellbeing. In fact, laughter helps us to heal so be sure to have some fun in your life on a very regular basis!

12.Believe in Yourself……self confidence and good self-esteem can help us to achieve more and at a higher level of performance. It does not mean that you need to become an egotist, it just means that you can believe that you can deal with pretty much whatever gets thrown at you.

13. List 5 Things that Make You Happy…….make that list and put in somewhere that you can see it often to remind yourself that your life is good!

14. Take a Vacation…..getting away from time to time is a great way to destress and it does not need to be anything exotic or far away. It can be just making sure you have some occasional “me time”. However, it can also add some fun to your life and your relationships.

15. Be sure you have a Good Life/Work Balance… sure to schedule in some time to spend with your loved ones and friends as that is just as important as being effective, efficient and creative and work.

In the end, remember that first of all, stress is different things to different people and that depends on their coping abilities, lifestyle, situation and even personality type.

However, for all of us, stress is rather like a violin…..

  • If you bow too hard on the strings the sound is very screechy.
  • If you do bow hard enough, very little sound comes out at all.
  • So your bowing technique needs to have just the right amount of pressure in order for the sound to be lovely.

So it is with stress……if you have no stress in your life, you likely do not have much of a life as stress is partly what makes us grow and change. However, too much stress is very harmful. So one must find a nice balance of occasional bouts of short stress and the ability to deflect enough stress so that it does not get out of hand and become harmful to our bodies, our minds, and our immune systems.

Seven Strategies for Keeping Angry Customers

April 4, 2018 by  

I believe you can salvage a relationship with an angry customer and turn them into a happy one depending on how you handle the situation.  Probably the most important key here is to practice Active Listening so that you can be sure that you clearly understand what the problem is before trying to make them happy.

Here are 7 ways to keep angry customers from storming out of your business and never returning:

1. Realize the customer’s time is valuable. If you put the customer on hold and transfer them three different times, you are going to make them angrier with each transfer. If that is what happens often you need to fix this system. It is better to solve the problem quickly and efficiently or direct the customer to someone who can. This can only be done if all your employees understand the chain of command and are empowered to solve problems. Employees should also know exactly who to refer problem customers to if it is beyond their scope and abilities.

2. Never outsource your customer service. Your customers want to be helped by people with good language skills so that they feel understood and that their issue will be handled effectively and efficiently. This, unfortunately, is not likely if the person is not even in the country and if English is not their first language.

3. Show empathy. Of course you must stay calm, however, you must sincerely show empathy for their situation and be ready and able to assist them quickly and effectively because they feel that they are in crisis and you need to fix it! In addition, never tell the customer to calm down as that will only escalate the exchange. Remember, this is not about you, it is about them!

4. Be Present on Social Media. Today, you must monitor your business on social media or you could be missing a big opportunity. Most people today find everything on the internet and consult social media for many of their needs. In addition, if they are unhappy about something they can also state that on social media. You need to have someone in your company actively updating your company profiles, website, and the information you post there. You should also be watching for comments good and bad about your business to see if you need to emphasize or change anything and then post that on the sites.

5. Over deliver, if possible. Once you have angered a customer, you need to do something outstanding in order to fix the relationship. You want the customer to remember how you fixed the problem rather than the problem itself. However, do not promise something you cannot deliver!

6. Don’t just say you will get back to the customer. Broken promises will only make the customer angrier. If you say you will get back to them this afternoon or tomorrow morning, make sure that you or whoever can fix the situation, does so. There is nothing worse than an unfulfilled expectation, especially after there has been some sort of issue that needed to be resolved.

7. Fix unreasonable policies. You can avoid angry customers in the first place if you figure out what is wrong with your process. Every organization needs to have policies and procedures, however, in some situations, the customer service people need to be given some flexibility with those policies, especially if they do not make sense in a particular situation. You, of course, cannot keep giving away the store, however, you do want to ask what will make them happy and try your best to deliver as much of what they are seeking as is reasonably possible.

So, you have an angry customer you might want to consider the above-described approaches to make sure that you can resolve their issue in a way that will allow you to keep them as a customer rather than chase them away. In today’s very competitive business world you want to make sure that your organization has the skills and strategies to deal effectively with problems of any sort with a win/win outcome.

Is Sales Training Important for an Organization?

March 13, 2018 by  

Here are some questions you might want to consider:
– Why should an organization implement a sales training program?
– What role does it play in an organization?
– Is it just a “nice-to-have” option or a “must have” option?
– Is it a part of a conscious strategy to achieve organizational goals?

In the end, just how a sales training program is perceived really depends on the specific organization. Some may think that it is a complete waste of time and that a sales team learns best while on the job. While other organizations may realize that investing in that training is likely to result in better outcomes.

So let’s explore the elements that could be gained from a good sales training program.

I Produces Increased Revenue: The sales department in any organization is the main revenue-generating component of that company. Other departments usually provide support functions. In our current very highly competitive environment, where there is so much competition for customers’ attention, the onus is therefore put on the salespeople to offer the most appropriate product to the right customer at the best time. By providing sales training to the staff, an organization can ensure that no time will be wasted in trial and error methods and instead the sales team will know exactly how to go about their job and do it more successfully.

II Provides Procedural Consistency: Excellent sales training offers knowledge on the fundamentals of good sales practices. The program would include the basics of sales procedure such as prospecting for your market, the means to determine needs identification, as well as strategies for closing the sale. In addition, in many industries, organizations need to follow certain rules and regulations while selling a product or a service and that information also needs to be shared. This is particularly true in the industries where employees have to adhere to the norms set by the local regulatory bodies. We certainly do not want any issues to be created if these mandatory rules and regulations are not followed.

III Offering Motivation to the Sales Teams: Sales is a certainly a high-pressure job that can easily lead to frustration and disappointment for the sales team. Sales training can provide an opportunity for managers to keep their sales team motivated toward reaching their targets or even more. By introducing fun team-building activities and morale-boosting workshops, managers can make sure their sales team does not lose focus on the organizational goals and the means to reach or surpass their determined targets. These sorts of activities and support approaches will likely reduce employee turnover and increase productivity.

IV Enhanced Product Knowledge: Information about the products that one is selling as well as those of your competitors is fundamental for a good sales outcome. A new salesperson needs to be well versed in the product or service that he/she is going to sell so that they can be better prepared to answer questions and determine if they are approaching the right prospects. A training program can provide all the information necessary about the products or services that the organization provides. Then the information can be passed on in an authentic and realistic manner, leaving no room for ambiguity or misinformation that might arise and cause the salesperson difficulties.

V Effective Soft Skills Training: The key to being an excellent salesperson boils down to effective communication skills and other soft skills that allow the salesperson to figure out how best to approach the prospect, grab their attention and ultimately complete the sale. Therefore, selling is both an art and a science as it involves both analytical and creative skills. By providing training in leadership, team-building, and communication skills, employees will be better equipped to showcase your companies’ products or services and employ their persuasive skills to convince potential customers that their product or service best meets the specific needs of that customer. In the end, this will ultimately help to complete more sales and thereby more revenue for the organization.

VI Ensuring High Business Values and Ethics: With increasing sales targets, there is always a risk of employees compromising on organizational business values and ethics. In order for an organization to succeed long term, it has to ensure that its employees follow the business and core values it espouses and this can be introduced and reinforced via an appropriate platform to effectively and positively deliver this key message to the sales force.

In summary, a sales training program provides the following advantages. It increases the efficiency, productivity, and creativity of a salesperson. It helps in accessing the abilities of a salesperson. And, last but certainly not least, it improves the organization’s ROI.

Finally, one can say that sales training is a most valuable investment that helps an organization remain sustainable and competitive for the long haul. It also motivates the team and helps them to remain current with the company’s products, market, core values, and competition.

Are You Assertive or Aggressive?

February 21, 2018 by  

There is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive and it depends upon your approach.
Aggressive behavior will not usually get you what you want as it offends others. Aggressive people are the blaming finger pointers who insult and aggravate others by demeaning them in nasty ways. This usually does not result in a good outcome and often exacerbates the situation.
It is better when you feel that you have been offended or disrespected, that you do it in an assertive manner……meaning have the difficult conversation in an honest, calm, and respectful way. That does not mean that the person will easily accept what you have to say, as you are criticizing them, however, you will have a much better chance for a win/win outcome with this strategy.

Is it hard to have such confrontational conversations……however, unless they are a mind reader, the person who offended you may have no idea that they did so and anyway, you are the one walking around with the stomach ache. Therefore it is your responsibility to try to rectify the situation by having that difficult conversation. In addition, you must also realize that having that conversation once may not solve the issue and you may have to screw up your courage more than once in order to obtain a change in behavior. Nonetheless, if you do not tell them you are enabling that behavior and they will very likely continue it. This sort of issue could also be when a colleague does not follow directions or comply with the company policy, which could be having an effect on the productivity of the project the team is working on.
In addition, remember it is not a good idea to confront the person immediately after the event occurs as you will not likely be able to remain calm and respectful. It is better to calm yourself down and make a plan for what you will say, how you will answer to their retorts while keeping your cool and try to anticipate what might happen so you can prepare yourself for how you will react. However, if you wait too long, because it was something that bothered you and not the person who did it, they will likely not recall the incident. So try to prepare to speak with them in a day or so, if you can.

Here is a simple format you can use for this difficult conversation:
1. Describe:
Describe the situation objectively, without using judgment words.
2. Result:
Explain what happens because of that behavior.
3. Request:
Make a polite, specific request as to what you would prefer to happen.

Realize that the person may not be happy with what you are saying and may argue or get nasty. If that happens you should just say you understand why they may feel that way, however, you brought this up as you do work together and wanted to make sure that you could continue to do that in comfort. You might also let them know that it is affecting others and that you are sure that was not their intention. If they stay angry or later give you the cold shoulder, you should let them know that you were sincerely hoping that this could be solved amicably so that you could maintain a cordial relationship. In the end, we cannot make people do things they do not want to do and if a person does not want to change their behavior there may not be much we can do other than this…….if you wish to offer a consequence, such as…..”I really do not want to go to the HR manager or our manager about this as I was hoping we could just work it out ourselves. However, if that is not going to work, I guess I will have to escalate this to them. Then, if you must do that, do it!

This is definitely not an easy thing to do, and many people will do almost anything to avoid having a difficult conversation, nonetheless, conflict does not disappear on its own and if it is not dealt with it can erode morale in a workplace, so better to “bite the bullet” and deal with it.
In the end, remember to stay positive, polite, calm, and honest whenever having such an exchange and be very aware of your body language. In other words, pay attention to your tone of voice, the volume of your voice, your stance, the look on your face as well as your gestures. Because if these do not match and reinforce the respectful words you are using, they will likely obliterate them and the person will feel that you are attacking them and they will very likely just want to attack you back.
Being assertive is not an easy task, however, if you practice it you will get better at it and have less conflict and stress in your life.

What Makes an Effective Manager?

February 2, 2018 by  

Developing effective management skills to deal with the challenges and problems of any organization is certainly important for many businesses and organizations in the current globally competitive environment, especially with the rapidly changing technology we face. Every organization should develop an appropriate managerial training program so that when they elevate someone to that position, they will be sure that the individual will be able to be effective in this role.
Effective Management Skills” help people to be successful in leading their team so that they can help each person to fulfill their potential which will benefit both the person and the entire organization. Proper management is vital in today’s complex environment. The quality of effective management styles can help to determine the culture of the organization, the productivity of its staff, and, ultimately, the success or failure of an organization. A manager should have the ability to direct, supervise, encourage, inspire, support, and co-ordinate. They should also be able to embrace and guide changes in a manner that gets others onboard. Managers need to develop their own leadership qualities as well as those of others. Management requires planning, problem- solving, organizational, and communications skills. These skills are key to successful leadership. In addition, a good manager should exhibit qualities such as integrity, honesty, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, determination, compassion, and sensitivity.

An effective manager should have the following skills:
I. Creative Problem-Solving Skills.:
(1) Ability to describe and analyze a problem.
(2) Ability to identify the causes of the problem.
(3) Ability to develop creative options and to choose the best course of action.
(4) Ability to implement and evaluate an effective and efficient decision.

II. Effective Communication Skills:
(1) Practice active listening.
(2) Employ effective presentation skills.
(3) Use supportive feedback Skills.
(4) Have excellent report writing skills.

III. Conflict Management Skills:
(1) Ability to identify the sources of conflict, both for functional and dysfunctional conflicts.
(2) Ability to understand the personal styles of conflict resolution.
(3) Ability to choose the best strategy for dealing with a conflict.
(4) Be able to develop the skills to promote constructive conflicts in the organization and the team, as not all conflict is bad, in some cases, it gives us a chance to learn a new approach or perspective.

IV. Negotiation Skills
(1) Ability to distinguish between distributive and integrative negotiations, the various positions one should take, and the principle negotiations necessary to be able to resolve the issue appropriately.
(2) Ability to identifying the common mistakes in negotiation and employ ways to avoid them.
(3) Ability to develop rational thinking when negotiating.
(4) Ability to develop the effective skills for negotiation that benefit all parties involved.

V. Self-Awareness and Improvement:
(1) Having a clear understanding of the concept of self-management. This is emotional intelligence.
(2) Ability to evaluate the effectiveness of self-management.
(3) Ability to use creative and holistic thinking.
(4) Having a clear understanding of self-motivation.
(5) Ability to effectively manage self-learning and change.

In addition, there are other qualities that would be essential for a manager to be able to successfully manage his/her staff.
1. Organizer:
A Manager has to take a long-term view; while a team member will be working towards known and established goals, the manager must be a strategic thinker so that these goals are selected wisely and appropriately. Using longterm strategic planning, the manager should select the optimal plan for the team and implement it. The manager ensures that work is completed in a timely manner with as few mistakes as possible, deals with problems as quickly as possible, and ensures that the necessary resources are allocated and made available.

2. Protector:
In any company, there can be issues, which can impact the workforce. The manager should be aware, guard against these issues, and protect the team wherever and whenever possible. If someone in the team suggests a good plan, the manager must ensure that it receives a fair hearing and that the team knows and understands the outcome. If someone on the team has a problem, the manager should try to help resolve it and the team should know that he/she is there for them.

3. Visionary:
An effective manager should have a vision of where the team is going, the ability to articulate that vision, and the ability to get others onboard collaboratively.

4. Good Communicator:
The ability to effectively communicate with people is the most important skill for every manager. The Manager is also the team’s link to the larger organization, so must have the ability to effectively negotiate and persuade when necessary to ensure the success of the team and their projects.

5. “Cheer Leader”:
Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. If a manager espouses a positive, can-do attitude others will tend to follow that lead. Usually, positive people are more committed to their goals and tend to also be more optimistic. No one wants to be around a negative person and it is up to the manager to set the tone for the team.

6. Competent:
Managers should be chosen based on their ability to successfully lead others rather than on technical expertise or having been with the company a long time. Expertise in effective management is another aspect of competence and usually needs to be learned. The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, model, and encourage must be demonstrated if managers are to be seen as capable and effective.

7. Effective Delegator:
Trust is an essential element in the relationship between the manager and his or her team. Your trust in others is demonstrated through your actions. Giving team members autonomy to do their jobs as they see fit is empowering. As long as the parameters and timelines are understood, micromanaging is very detrimental so just let them “do their thing”. Just be sure to delegate the right tasks to the right person.

8. Cool Under Pressure:
In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget, and with no major problems or obstacles. A leader with a positive attitude will deal with challenges in a timely and appropriate manner. When leaders encounter stressful issues, they are prepared to take them in stride, resolve them, and move on. When this is modeled for the team, they will be more likely to handle things in a similar fashion or come to the manager for suggestions.

9. Team-Builder:
A team builder is essentially a strong, capable person who provides the “glue” that holds the team together so that they can work toward their common goals. In order for a team to become a single cohesive unit, the team leader must understand the process and dynamics necessary for this transformation. He or she must also exercise the appropriate leadership style for each stage of team development. The leader must understand the different team player styles and how to leverage each person’s gifts at the proper time for the proper task.

10.Forward Thinker:
If you want your employees to work hard and be committed to the business, you have to keep them in the loop. Open, honest, clear communication helps foster loyalty and gives employees a sense of pride. It helps them understand how their work contributes to the company’s success and how it fits into the “big picture” that you have laid out for them.

11.Goal Setter: Setting deadlines and goals helps keep employees focused, occupied, and motivated them to do their work. Make sure employees understand their professional growth path in the company and help them to do the things necessary to achieve those goals.

12. Active Observer: It is impossible to know about personality conflicts, lagging productivity, or other problems in the office if you are not paying attention to what is going on. If you notice a change in an employee’s work habits or attitude, try to get to the root of the problem before it starts affecting the rest of your staff. If there are conflicts occurring, they will not go away by themselves, intervention is necessary and it usually falls to the manager to get them straightened out.
The first step in dealing with a problem employee is to identify the source of the trouble. Often, a simple, honest talk with the employee will resolve issues such as occasional tardiness or minor attitude problems. Coaching requires a manager to work one-on-one with problem employees or to assign another employee to work with the employee to overcome their shortcomings. The mentor should provide the employee with feedback as well as solutions for improving their performance. Coaching requires patience and a substantial time investment, but it can help modify an employee’s behavior and ultimately enhance the outcome for the team.
Poor performance is not always due to a lack of skills; rather, the employee may simply be disorganized or sloppy. These habits can usually be corrected with proper guidance if the employee is willing to learn new habits. If performance difficulties relate to a lack of skills, then you will need to consider coaching or additional training.

In some cases, an employee becomes a problem because their skills aren´t compatible with their assigned tasks or regular duties. In such situations, offering the employee additional training or assigning them a different set of tasks is usually the most appropriate course of action.
When you notice that, an employee has made some errors, calmly point out the mistakes to the employee, ask them how they think that happened, how they think the unwanted outcome can be remedied and what other option should they consider if this issue appears again. Then encourage them to go ahead and fix the problem and offer support if they need it. Remember to remain positive and focus on how important the employee’s contribution is to the organization and how their efforts help the team.

13.Active Listener: Employee feedback is critical when managing change. Therefore, holding focus groups with employees is a great way to gauge reactions and monitor the progress of how they are accepting and adapting to the change. You also can encourage employees to provide feedback through email or the company intranet. Communication is the cornerstone to successful change management. Talking to your employees is not a one-time event, and you need to reinforce your message by communicating early and often. In addition, if you listen respectfully to them, they will be more likely to come to you with issues and will listen to you when you are speaking with them.

To be an effective manager you must know yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, as well as those of the people around you. You must know your objectives and have a clear plan for how you will achieve them. You must build a team of people that share your commitment to achieving those objectives, and you must help each team member to fulfill their potential. When everyone works together toward the common goals they will be more likely to be accomplished.
As the manager, you model the way for your team, so the more positive, calm, and competent you are, and the better you are at effectively communicating with your team, the more success you will all enjoy!

Email Etiquette: Are there rules?

January 20, 2018 by  

Email is currently one of the most used forms of business communication. As many of you know, it is sometimes abused. The importance of email, therefore, should not be undermined, rather it should be utilized in an appropriate and respectful manner. So, it is certainly necessary to observe certain rules of business email etiquette.

Here are some basic rules to be observed when using this means of communication:

Rule No. 1:
Before sending an email, you may want to consider all the options available to you for the communication. With the variety offered by technology today, you have many other options such as text messaging, WhatsApp, Instagram, chatroom, even Skype messaging. Thus, it would behoove you to choose the one which is most appropriate for the subject you are dealing with as well as for the receiver with whom you are communicating.

Rule No. 2:
Sometimes you may be sending a sensitive message. Whenever conflicting statements are being made, it is necessary to be very careful. In those situations, you may find it useful to print the message before sending it or at least review and edit it very carefully before sending it off. You might even consider using a grammar tool such as Grammarly, which is free to download and can help you to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation of any document you create. You might also consider making yourself a hard copy so that you have a permanent record of the correspondence as you might need it if the conflict escalates into something more significant.

Rule No. 3:
Whenever you send an important email, it is truly crucial to read it more than once and check for spelling, content, logic, syntax, etc. You may need to improve the wording, clarity, or other aspects of the missive to be sure that it will be convincing, and clear to the reader. Your extra efforts of editing will pay off in the long run.

Rule No. 4:
Always maintain an up to date address book. It is not a good idea to delete names as you never know when you might need that address at some future time. Organizing your address book will make you more efficient. In other words, you may wish to separate your friends and colleagues from your business contacts and you may wish to arrange your business addresses according to certain groups by industry or relationship. This will make you more efficient as it will be easier to find the address you need more quickly.

Rule No. 5:
In business, in spite your best efforts, it can be difficult to maintain equanimity. It is not a good idea to send an email when you are not a good mood or upset by something as it is more difficult to keep that emotion out of the communication. Furthermore, when you are exhausted, you do not think clearly so this is also not a great time for sending messages. An email should be a spontaneous expression of your thoughts and ideas so you do not want other issues to influence the content your email.

Rule No. 6:
Do not try to make a business process simple, in other words, if a face to face meeting will better serve a particular situation, then make the appointment and have that meeting. Making it more convenient, just to suit you, could harm the relationship and the outcome of the exchange. Remember, an email message is never a good replacement for an important personal contact.

Rule No. 7:
Always remember the order for important business contacts. In many situations, a face to face meeting always comes first when trying to convince and influence a prospect. Sometimes that may not be possible, so your next option is to have a telephone conversation. Be sure to put a smile your face before you even say hello, as it will affect the sound of your voice and how your words are interpreted by the person on the other end of the receiver. Prepare the basics for your conversation before the call, you can even have some notes, as they cannot see what you are doing and that way you can be sure to cover all the key points you wish to impart. Lastly, you could leave a voicemail message, however, that is usually not the best of options as it can easily be ignored and it is hard to get much across in a short voicemail message but at least it is personal. When the previous three are not possible you can then use email and sure remember to follow the first 6 rules of etiquette so that your message will be well received and you will be more likely to receive a reply.

Again, technology can be a great advantage and convenience when used well, however, do remember that direct, face to face meetings are usually the best way to establish and maintain important longterm relationships in business or actually in any aspect of your life.

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