Raymond Berry was the head coach and the New England Patriots when I was playing in my short career with the Patriots. Raymond was a Hall of Fame wide receiver in the NFL in the early 1960s. He is still considered a standard of wide receiver perfection with route running, catching the ball, and causing defensive misery with his results.
Harold Jackson (longest tenured NFL receiver of all times) was the receiver coach during that period of time. Coach Berry and Jackson were masters in the sport and they were also masters at helping and training others to be successful.
I was thinking about the techniques they used to coach us, and how they helped some of our receivers be league leaders (Stanley Morgan and Irving Fryar). I quickly realized those same techniques (not including fumble recovery drills) would help a sales team have great results.
Here are 7 points (yes, a little NFL play on words) that I observed in the techniques they used to run our practices. I believe these 7 points can be used just as effectively in making for a great sales meeting.
- Everyone had a ball – Every receiver had a ball in their hand all practice. We would be flipping it around in our hands, tossing it up to ourselves, tossing it to others, and getting TONS of touches. We would put a ball down when we ran a play with the team or had to do a drill. But, nobody ever stood with “nothing to do”. This is the biggest fault I see in poorly run sales meetings. The leader works with one person and everyone else is sitting there with nothing to do and no interest in the conversation. The topics in the meeting should stimulate thinking of everyone in the room, challenge them, inspire them, teach them, give guidance, and build their confidence. Asking about individual deals and individual objectives is wasting everyone else’s time. Maximize your time by bringing value to everyone in the room.
- One on Ones – We had to do one on one drills every day. This is where the receivers had to go one on one with a defensive back on a pass route. The quarterback would throw the ball to the receiver if he was open. This training was miserable. It highlighted you in front of everyone. The entire receiver and defensive back team watched each play (with a ball in hand…) and cheered on the results. You were exposed at your skill and talent. You were given immediate feedback on success and failure. The coaches gave each player coaching after each play (as did many of the other players). I believe sales people would benefit from this level of practice in sales meetings. I don’t think it is productive to always have everyone watch the one on ones. I think pairing up people to go one on one with each other is an excellent use of time. They can practice their skill and get feedback from the other player. The coach (Sales Leader) can walk around and observe and give feedback as well. Build the skills with one on one training every practice.
- Building Confidence – Our coaches knew that if we lacked confidence we would be worthless in the NFL. You have to believe in yourself and your team to win at that level. Our coaches constantly gave us encouragement, highlighted what we did well, and made us feel like nobody could beat us. We believed we were the best receivers and we couldn’t be stopped. Building the confidence of your sales team is one of the most critical jobs of a Sales Leader. A sales meeting is not the time to beat up people or make them feel bad. It is an opportunity to be a motivator and build the confidence of your team. Encourage them on their strengths. Help them have success in practice so they can take it to the field. Remind them of the strength of the organization. Let success stories be brief but highly recognized and celebrated. Show motivational stories and videos. Your goal should be to have your team pumped up when they leave the room and ready to go win!
- Celebrate Success – Every time we had a big catch, a big block, a big play, we celebrated each others success. That was lead by our coaches behaviors. We genuinely were pumped up when someone made a great play. Even if it was the guy in front of you in the line up. We became more energized when we saw success. We couldn’t wait to replicate it ourselves. We even had TD celebration practice on a regular basis. Too many sales organizations don’t celebrate. They have a jealous culture that roles their eyes when someone else gets a win. Make celebration a fun and positive environment that gets everyone involved!
- Team First – Our coaches made it very clear that we were a team and not a bunch of talented individuals. Our top receivers were the first to give advice to the young guys that could eventually take their jobs away. When a receiver was on the sideline, he would look for ways to advise the starting receivers on better ways to get open on pass routes. In our meetings after games, we would review the receiver group stats and see how we did as a group before we ever looked a the individual stats. We set goals as a receiver group and did everything we could to meet those goals. Sales teams have a great opportunity to help each other get better. The team should be working toward meeting the team goals. If someone has to do more than their individual goals to help the team, that is what they should do. When you know others are depending on you, the drive is greater than when it is only your outcome that matters.
- Skills Practice – We worked on the basics and advanced skills every day. We were responsible for picking up a fumbled ball and falling on a fumbled ball before every water break. We stood in front of a ball throwing machine to work on our hand position in catching a ball. We knew that perfection of our skills was the only way to guarantee success. When you stop practicing any skill, the chance of performing at a lessor level is almost guaranteed. Sales teams are backward. They tend to make rookies practice and don’t require it from veterans or experienced Producers. It is tough to create a culture of practice. However, if a Sales Leader pushes through the initial phases of practice, it will become normal. A last point on this topic. Can you imagine an NFL coach telling players to practice something and the players go sit down and talk “about” doing it? This is what many sales training sessions look like when role playing or practice is required. They discuss the topic because they don’t want to do the actual practice. Make this unacceptable.
- Group Lessons - Take group time for individuals only when it benefits more than ½ the group. I don’t ever remember one of our coaches stopping an entire practice to deal with one player. They may pull the player aside and talk to him with someone else replacing them. However, when a mistake, situation, correction, or “coachable moment” took place, the coach would stop and have everyone listen. This strategy works because it allows multiple people to get value from the lesson. This principle is important in leading sales teams. Before you speak, teach, or give guidance, ask yourself “is this going to impact the majority of the group or just a few?” If you need to address a few, or just one, meet with them in a private session.
When I lead the sales team in New Mexico and during the many opportunities I have had to lead sales meetings with our clients, I have used these principles. The 7 points will work for you and will help you increase the score in your sales results.
The Author, Larry Linne, is the CEO / President of Sitkins International.
91% of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years.
This study along with many others might be one of the reasons that support the claims of older generations - Millennials are disloyal and entitled.
Being a millennial, I have always thought these statement were a generalization of poor leaders.
However there's no arguing the facts. The surveys are accurate. We are changing jobs much more than their predecessors.
So as a leader in your company you have a choice.
You can accept these facts, throw in the towel and continue down the path of frustration and disdain toward the millennial generation...
You can understand what drives us and use this information to your advantage.
For those who have chosen the latter, read on.
2 Ways To Develop & Retain Talent
Stephen Covey said it best:
If you do not make the time to get to know the millennials within your company, it's likely they'll become disengaged and disinterested in helping your company achieve its vision.
Here are two ways that will help avoid this from happening while turning millennials into your most loyal advocates.
The "Meaning" Work
My first job out of college was in the commercial real estate industry. I was tenant rep broker that would help businesses lease office space.
Long story short, I failed miserably.
When reflecting on this experience, it became clear that the root of my failure came from the meaning that I associated with my job.
"I help businesses lease office space."
This in no way excited me.
As every rookie or veteran salesperson knows, if don't believe in what you're selling, then all the rejections and failures that you have to endure will drive you into the ground and keep you there.
"In order to become a great salesperson you have to sell yourself on what you're selling first. You have to be utterly convinced and believe in what you're selling so strongly that you become unreasonable. That you think it's detrimental and unethical not to convince someone to buy from you."
Had I been more mature and adopted the mentality above, I would have realized that my job was much more than just helping people lease office space.
Here's what I mean:
Behind payroll, the office lease is oftentimes the most costly expense for business owners. Therefore identifying the best space and negotiating favorable terms for their lease plays a critical role on the bottom line of their business. In addition this also affects the future of every single employee along with the members in their families.
Now the "meaning" of work takes on a whole new purpose.
I believe it's critical that you constantly communicate the importance of what you're selling to your young sales talent.
By adding meaning to our work, not only will it deliver a strong sense of purpose to what we are selling but it it will drive us to produce at higher levels.
Be a Mentor
With all the negative generalizations being thrown around about millennials it's easy to assume that we don't want feedback or guidance on how we are doing or how we can get better.
In fact, oftentimes we are at fault for giving off this perception.
Regardless, I strongly recommend that you don't buy into it. What you should buy into is the importance of our development and growth.
My reasons are as follows:
Effort vs. Production
Growing up many of us were told that we deserved the best. This was supported by the act of receiving praise and trophies for giving any level of effort regardless of the outcome.
Now transfer these habits to the business world. We both know they're not going to fly. Effort means nothing if you don't produce.
This could explain why many of us feel entitled to a raise or promotion - because "we gave an effort".
That's why it's critical that you clearly establish the expectations immediately.
But that's not enough.
You must consistently reinforce these expectations while giving us the mentorship, coaching and tools needed to succeed.
If this does not happen we will continue to assume that by giving effort we will receive praise and compensation.
However, when there is no doubt in our mind that we will be rewarded through production along with receiving constant support and guidance from our mentors, it will help us breakthrough barriers and destroy limiting beliefs.
New Projects and Initiatives
From my experience, the best mentors I've had are the ones who challenged me on a daily basis. They were always pushing me outside my comfort zone. This came in the form of many exercises however the one that made the biggest impact was taking ownership of new projects and initiatives within the company.
I'm assuming you have many new and innovative ideas you want to implement in your company but you just don't have the time to execute.
This is a perfect opportunity to hand off the initiative to one of your young salespeople.
If your response to this is:
"I just need them focused on prospecting, making calls, producing…", I understand. However I think you should consider the following.
We as humans have proven to be terrible at predicting what will make us happy. One of the bigger differences between millennials and other generations is that we seem to be taking more of a "trial and error" approach to find what makes us happy. So if we are not happy in our current job, we think we will find more happiness in the next job. Thus the reason for all the job-hopping.
By giving us new projects and initiatives, not only will you see your ideas come to life but you will be playing a critical role in our development. You will be creating a culture of flexibility within your organization, which is something we as millennials seek.
Herein lies the key to earning our loyalty:
Show us that you're looking out for our best interest and we will go above and beyond to return the favor.
Author - Blake Cavignac
The definition of urgency is the “importance requiring swift action.” Over the last two weeks I have watched a banana spider outside the window in my home office. Normally I eliminate spiders right away. But, by the time I noticed this one and its web, I was intrigued. So, I have left him be and I have been enjoying watching him.
It struck me how urgent the spider became once an opportunity came its way. I watched a dragon fly get caught in the spiders web the other day and it took the spider less that 3 seconds to move to the dragonfly, inject the venom and begin to spin a web around the bug.
So often we can lack the urgency needed to take advantage of opportunities we work hard to create. Or we lack the urgency to go out and create more opportunity.
So how do we build urgency?
- Have clarity around your goals – Without knowing what you want there is no reason to take swift action.
- Have clarity around why your goals are important to you – Without the motivation of the why, action will seem pointless. You will be left to just go through the motions.
- Live with purpose – There have been multiple studies that show that people who live with a purpose tend to be happier, healthier and more energized. We have all heard the story of the man or woman who died shortly after they retired. I believe much of this happens because they lose their purpose and don’t have anything else meaningful that would give them purpose in retirement.
Take some time today to think through your level of urgency. As you do, I encourage you to ask yourself the question, what does it cost me when I lack urgency? What can I do to elevate my urgency and take swift action?
The Author, Gregg Goodmanson, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.
Gallup has released its 2013 State of the American Workplace Report.
View The Report
There is some very compelling information in this report. As leaders, each of us needs to take personal responsibility to understand this information and react to it properly. We ignore this information at our own peril.
Gallup's Chairman and CEO's comments are vital to our understanding of the important role that employee engagement plays in reducing costs and improving productivity within our organizations. A few of his thoughts are below.
"At Gallup, we’ve studied the impact of human nature on the economy for decades. We’ve now reviewed more than 25 million responses to our employee engagement survey, the Q12. And what we found out about managers and employees has serious implications for the future of American companies and the world.
Of the approximately 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs, 30 million (30%) are engaged and inspired at work, so we can assume they have a great boss. At the other end of the spectrum are roughly 20 million (20%) employees who are actively disengaged. These employees, who have bosses from hell that make them miserable, roam the halls spreading discontent.
The other 50 million (50%) American workers are not engaged. They’re just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers. Here’s what you need to know: Gallup research has found that the top 25% of teams — the best managed — versus the bottom 25% in any workplace — the worst managed — have nearly 50% fewer accidents and have 41% fewer quality defects. What’s more, teams in the top 25% versus the bottom 25% incur far less in healthcare costs. So having too few engaged employees means our workplaces are less safe, employees have more quality defects, and disengagement — which results from terrible managers — is driving up the country’s healthcare costs.
Gallup research also shows that these managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the U.S. an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually. If your company reflects the average in the U.S., just imagine what poor management and disengagement are costing your bottom line."
I encourage you to read Gallup's report. It is clear that improved engagement leads to an improved bottom line. In an economy where businesses are looking for any opportunity to cut cost and improve the bottom line, engagement is a huge opportunity!
The Author, Gregg Goodmanson, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.
Recognition of employees can sometimes be significantly under-estimated as a key driver of business success and performance in an organization.
According to most research today a very high percentage of employees are looking to be recognized for a job well done. Unfortunately a very low percentage of leaders are recognizing them.
How would your employees answer the following?
- I feel my pay and benefits adequately reflect my performance.
- When I do a good job, my performance is recognized.
- I receive adequate recognition other than compensation.
The good news is most organizations do a pretty good job on the first two especially from a monetary perspective. As a leader of many teams my greatest success came on the first two as well.
To be competitive you have to be mindful of researching the marketplace (not just your industry) to find out the average compensation package for specific talents. Personally, I have no desire to be the highest or the lowest but I want to be competitive. Remember we are talking compensation not just salary.
Secondly it’s important to give employees the opportunity to make more through performance based bonus systems, which can be tied to growth and/or profitability of the organization. Of course it should be something totally in their control.
Where I have missed the mark in the past it is on #3: I receive adequate recognition other than compensation.
Don’t get me wrong, compensation and monetary rewards are very important to employees but for the majority of your staff they are not the key drivers.
Believe it or not employees are looking for simple things like a pat on the back for a job well done. They are looking for recognition on simple things such as their birthday, their anniversary, stepping up to the plate to help team members and going the extra mile for a client.
Recently I had a conversation with a leader of an organization and they told me that their CEO writes handwritten personalized notes to all employees on their anniversary. They have over 100 employees.
There are so many different things we can do to improve on employee recognition. This does not have to be all about manager to employee. Some of the greatest recognition programs come from a three-prong system – organization to employee, manager to employee and a big one - peer to peer recognition.
I was just introduced to a book that may help you. It’s called “The WOW! Workplace” By Mike Byam.
Let’s take some time out of our busy schedule and look for some simple strategies to start recognizing our employees. It will go a long way to drive your business in the right direction.
The Author, Bonita Argent, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.
There was an interesting article written on Harvard Business Review titled "Surprises are the New Normal; Resilience is the Skill”.
While I am not convinced that this is a new problem in the world, I do believe resilience is a critical key to long-term success. In particular, in the world we live in today. The margin for error has narrowed so our ability to react and bounce back quickly is vital.
So, how do we bounce back quickly? Here are 5 ways that can help:
- Take responsibility quickly for any mistakes you have made - One thing that is clear to me is those who won't take responsibility for their mistakes ultimately fail. Failure may not be immediate, but it eventually happens. On the other hand, those who have the ability to do the proper self-analysis, identify mistakes quickly, and take corrective action are much better positioned toward growth while minimizing the negative impact of that mistake.
- Learn the lesson the first time – Most of us have repeated the same mistake and had to go around the mountain again because we didn’t learn everything the first time. I believe one of the reasons this happens is because we don't take the time to document the lessons we can pull from a mistake. This delays the learning process and hinders us from bouncing back quickly.
- Engage with trusted advisors - No one should be an island. Many of us feel we have to be an island or a rugged individual who can manage any problem. Getting help from people you trust after you have made a mistake is a key to bouncing back. A fresh perspective from people who truly care about you and who will be honest with you will further your thinking and get you past the mistake faster. In today’s world, speed is critical.
- Create a plan - After you have analyzed the mistake, it is imperative to create a plan to do things different moving forward.
- Do what you do best – Focusing on unique talents will help you make less mistakes. I have found that when I get outside of my unique talents I make more mistakes. How much time do you spend working in your area of expertise, doing what you do best? If the answer is less than 50% of your time, that is not nearly enough! The ultimate goal is to spend 80% of your time doing what you do best. That can be difficult when you first begin managing this concept. However, an awareness of what you do well and a plan on how to increase the percentage of time you spend doing what you do best will improve your productivity, keep you from many mistakes and you will have a lot more fun!
None of us are above making mistakes. How we react to them is key to our ability to bounce back and have success!
The Author, Gregg Goodmanson, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.
One of our core teachings is that every producer has their own company. It's known as "Me, Inc."
Within this company, they have a number of important roles. They are its Chairman, CEO, President, CFO, Sales Manager and sole Producer. One thing they're not is the service person! That's not their job.
So the first thing producers must do is start thinking more like an owner. They only get paid what they're worth; the only way they'll get a raise is if they get better results. At the same time, it's vital to remember that "Me, Inc." is part of "We, Inc." Although they're managing their own book of business, they're still part of the overall agency.
The Author, Roger Sitkins, is the Founder and Chairman of Sitkins International.
One of the beauties of being an independent insurance agent is that, if you do a great job, you can have clients for life. Although insurance is a product your clients have to buy every year, we find that agents frequently make it far too easy for clients to leave. To prevent that, agencies and their agents should put the following exit barriers in place.
- Full-Time Clients. You should not have any part-time clients, those that only have one or two policies written with you. Every one of your clients should be buying all of their insurance coverage’s from your agency.
- Formal Relationship Management. Most agents know way too little about their clients to formally manage the relationship. Typically, they don't know their personal or professional history, including educational background or likes and dislikes. Part of managing a relationship is simply knowing more about a person and visiting them on a regular basis. That's why you should put all pertinent client information in a formal profile that includes a calendar of events (i.e., opportunities for you to further cultivate the relationship).
- Continuation Process. Most agencies have a renewal process that starts 90 days before expiration and is always a big deal. The goal of the continuation process is to make the renewal a non-event. This continuation process should start with a stewardship report at the six-month anniversary and an agreement on what the renewal strategies will be for the year.
- Trusted Advisor Team Member. The difference between a trusted advisor and a vendor is based upon when your clients call you. When clients call you before they do something, you're a trusted advisor. When they call you after the fact, you're a vendor. Do your clients count on you for advice, just as they would their banker? Accountant? Physician? If so, you're a trusted advisor.
- Spear Proofing. We used to employ a technique known as "spear questions" about the incumbent agent. Basically, this was a method of beating up the prospect with "gotcha" questions that the prospect wouldn't be able to answer. For example, an agent might ask the prospect: "When your current agent comes in and does the work comp experience audit, what usually happens?" "What sort of ongoing educational seminars and materials has your current agent provided?" "What normally happens during your stewardship meeting?" These days, we avoid that technique. We find that forcing a prospect to admit they made a stupid business decision is unnecessarily aggressive. But we still like the underlying concept, which is why we advise agents to do a spear-proofing session as part of the exit barrier process. In that session, we ask them, "What are the five questions you'd hate to have someone ask your best clients?" During a client review, this internal discussion allows agents to (a) consider how their client might react to questions about them and (b) make a plan to deflect any possible spears from the competition.
The Author, Roger Sitkins, is the Founder and Chairman of Sitkins International.
When I was still in college, a good friend was interviewing for a position with the Secret Service of the United States. He was trying to become one of the brave souls that would take a bullet for a national leader or investigate a financial crime for the United States Treasury (they do that as well). My friend and I were up late talking about it one night and I thought it was such a cool career, that I immediately went back to my computer and filled out an online application! While I was at it, I filled one out for the CIA, ATF & FBI. Because if I was going to go for a cool job, being James Bond could be fun! After about a month of waiting for my phone to ring, I reluctantly gave up hope of hearing anything more from my all-night "coolest jobs ever" online application binge.
Three months after my application was submitted, I received a letter in the mail asking me to be present at a group interview for the Central Intelligence Agency. After calling and talking with several "I don't make jokes" kind of people, I figured that this was a legit letter telling me where to be and when. I showed up at the bland Federal office building and sat with a group of about 75 college-aged men and women. We were all given a one-hour written personality test to be filled out with a #2 pencil and turned in. Afterwards, we were given a 15 minute break and about half of us were asked to come back to the room. The other half were told they were no longer being considered. For those of us that remained, we were given another written test and we followed the same pattern as before. Once again, only about half of us were asked back into the group room. The 18-20 of us that were left, were then divided up into groups and put in line for one-on-one interviews. Again, we were asked to wait patiently and following the interviews, there were only about 8 of us left out of the original 75. Now keep in mind, to this point, I am not even sure for what job I was interviewing for!
The last interview session (or at least my last) was one-on-one with what appeared to be a higher level management-type than who I had been dealing with prior, who began posing situational questions and asking me how I would respond. I must have done well on the first few but the next question really stumped me. He asked, "Brandon, what if we had a high-value detainee who knew intimate details of an impending terrorist attack on US soil and you had to get him to talk? What would you do?" Let's just say for the sake of the humanity of printed word, that you don't want to know my response! But it had something to do with being inhumane to his family and friends (What do you expect when you ask a 21 year old guy who has clearly watched too many Arnie Schwarzenegger movies?! I have matured a lot since then, I promise)! The interview promptly came to an end and the interviewer offered me his hand and a "thank you for coming in". On my way out, I had to know what the right answer was to this situation so I politely asked. His answer has stuck with me ever since: "If we want someone to talk to us, we ask them the same question over and over again, in a thousand different ways if we must, until they crack. Persistence always breaks resistance."
Needless to say, I didn't get to become James Bond but this simple message has served me well in my career. To instill clarity in your message or to move someone to action, repeat the desired outcome regularly and with purpose.
The famous business consultant, Patrick Lincioni, stated in his book 'The Four Obsessions of Extraordinary Executives' that after you build a cohesive leadership team, the last three obsessions include creating clarity in the organization, OVER communicating the clarity through repetition, and reinforcing the clarity through human systems. Create clarity, over communicate and reinforce. The message and direction of the company is regularly discussed, pushed, debated and reinforced everywhere you turn.
How clear is the direction of your company? How clear is your message when you share it with a client or prospect? I have producers and executives come to me regularly and say "My message just isn't getting through." My first question in response is: "How many times have they heard it?" Most of us think that we speak with such authority or are so good in our communication skills that when we say something once, our audience hears it, processes it, and immediately puts it in their long-term memory never to be forgotten again. I have news for you: your audience checked out 10 minutes into the conversation because a text message came through with an urgent news story about their favorite sports team! Say it again. Communicate the same message, only differently.
To find out how you're doing here, go ask your individual team members or your largest client what separates you from your competition. You may be surprised by the answer. You may need to tell them, and SHOW them, again...and again...and again.
As for me, I am going to make sure that my phone is not bugged and black helicopters are not circling my house. I think I may have talked about the CIA too much in this one!
The Author, Brandon White, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.
On a recent trip I was reminded that things don't always go as planned. After missing my flight by three minutes (literally the gate had just been pulled away from the airplane), things went into a tail spin. The next available flight was 7 hours later. After sitting there for a couple of hours I learned that the late flight was going to be delayed by 2 hours as well.
Life can be at best, managed chaos at times. For control freaks, which I will neither confirm nor deny that I may or may not struggle with from time to time, this can be a real challenge.
There are some lessons and things we should remind ourselves of when we get into those situations where we are subject to a loss of control to external circumstances.
- Be flexible - Rigidity steals your joy and stifles creativity. It is often in times where we are challenged where our best ideas and learning happen.
- Don't sweat the small stuff - Life is serious, but missing a flight or being late due to traffic, or losing a sales opportunity due to no fault of your own is really just a part of life. The human experience is one that does not guarantee a smooth ride. But, if you take a moment to put things into perspective, you will realize that this too shall pass and greater things are coming on the horizon.
- Control what you can, let go of the rest - At the end of the day, there are certain things that are truly out of your control. Let them go. Holding on to them leads to anxiety.
- Exercise thankfulness - There is always something or things to be thankful for. Find them, focus on them and be grateful. This is truly a great way to get rid of the anxiety.
- Don't waste a good learning opportunity - Every situation brings opportunity to learn. If you spend your time focusing on the frustrating situation you will miss the opportunity to learn. Perfection is not attainable and life is not perfect. But, growth is essential to life. Learn from your situation and you will grow. That is the ultimate opportunity no matter what the circumstance.
The Author, Gregg Goodmanson, is a Vertical Growth Advisor with Sitkins International.