Training is Learning … to Succeed

Humans evolved by adapting and adjusting to change. We learned by experience to manage threats.

Businesses operate within competitive environments, but it is not just a Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” By understanding market demand, businesses can respond to customer needs … and if they innovate, improve, and differentiate themselves—they can become financially successful.

It’s the people within each company that recognize opportunities, solve problems, and provide solutions. Management guru Peter Drucker recommended that companies invest 5-15% of revenues on training and development. He was really saying that if a company’s greatest resources are its people, then they should be treated as assets to be developed. Employee knowledge and capabilities are the tools a company uses—to build its customer base.

Many professions require continuing education, but too often companies view training as “overhead” costs to be minimized, rather than as investments in people—and in the future of the business. Consequences of this short-sided thinking are mistakes, unsolved problems, negative customer experiences, lost time, and revenue.

Autumn is traditionally “back to school.” Because the marketplace is always changing—businesses are never out of school. To manage change, businesses should embrace continuous learning.

  1. The purpose for training should be clearly communicated to employees, and why improving specific job capabilities is good for the company.
  2. Training should have direct application to each employee’s job, whether it is to expand knowledge, build skills, or improve collaboration within teams.
  3. All company leaders should fully commit to training.
  4. Company leaders, managers, and supervisors should become coaches, use constructive feedback, work with employees to improve specific behaviors, and monitor everyone’s progress.

Job specific learning is crucial for employee development. Engaged employees are better at providing quality products and services to their company’s customers.

Success is when all company leaders and employees do the right things at the right time. Whether training is applying job specific information, or about building a positive company culture … there is no substitute for learning.

Important Questions

Do You Have Too Many Customers? This question was posed to a room of about 80 business owners and senior executives. Not surprising, there wasn’t anyone in the audience that said yes. In fact, there was a low chorus of chuckles and incredulity.

The presenter then asked: Are you making too much money? The collective response was the same, but noticeably even louder, with more laughter. The entire audience was fully engaged. EVERYONE wanted MORE customers and money. Go figure!

This presentation was about customer experience and journey mapping – very important topics for all businesses. Yet, it occurs to me that every business owner and executive charged to grow their business might reflect upon these two questions and arrive at completely different change initiatives to generate MORE customers and MORE money.  It might be improvements in IT infrastructure, operational efficiency, HR hiring practices, marketing communication, and/or a host of other critical business activities.

Our advisory practice helps businesses to improve “customer-facing” employee motivations, capabilities, and habits, and the company processes and business practices that support customer creation and customer retention. We help sales teams to sell more effectively and all employees to deliver customer services that keep more customers. Many business owners have concerns in this area.

While the challenges (we call them GAPS … hence our company name) vary in each company, it is important to frequently evaluate poor financial performance to determine what is causing the shortfalls.

For instance, if the challenge is weak revenue growth, the resolution of that issue may reside in the sales team, or it may reside elsewhere in the business. It may derive from dysfunctional company hiring or onboarding practices, or order processing procedures. Numerous factors can combine to have a negative impact on customer perceptions of the value delivered.

We believe all business owners need to understand the root causes of underperformance, the resources required to resolve those challenges, and how best to prioritize the resolution of those challenges.

The perspectives of independent expertise can help businesses in this discovery process, and implement specific initiatives that can move the entire organization to being significantly less forceful in answering the two questions posed in this post.

One final question: What are you doing about it?

 

Belief and Trust

Belief and trust are not the same. Sometimes they interact, sometimes they conflict. Once upon a time people believed in fire breathing dragons, but science has never documented their existence. Beliefs change over time, especially with experience and knowledge. In those days of dragons, Kings and Queens ruled the land … but in modern times people believe more in self-rule.

Trust – is a simple word that can be much more than belief. Trust sometimes occurs without empirical or scientific evidence – what we call proof. We understand it as it relates to our personal relationships. Trust is vital with families and friends, because we believe they will not harm us.

In some instances, “doing no harm” grows to putting other’s interests ahead of our interests, such as the relationship between parents and their children.

In business, what defines trust and why is it important?

We believe that trust in the workplace is not automatic – it must be earned. For employees, trusting an employer is the result of not only personal experiences with the owners and executive team, but includes the collective perceptions of fellow employees. It extends to observing how the company treats vendors, customers, and others in the marketplace.

Because of widespread social media, negative perceptions of company actions can adversely affect an employee’s mindset, and consequently their productivity. Business research proves that highly motivated employees – those who believe in the company’s Mission, Vision, Purpose, and Values – become far more productive employees.

Many articles and blogs describe toxic managers, employee disengagement, and dysfunctional company cultures. This is the evidence of beliefs ruined, and trust removed. These realities cause financial losses for the company.

Loss of internal trust … extends to perceptions of mistrust outside the company – with vendors, prospects, and even clients who begin to consider other options.

Workplace trust is intensely personal and collective. It is the relationship between employees, and the company they represent. It is the relationship between a manager and a team member. It is the relationship among a company’s sales and service representatives, prospects, and existing customers. Every one of those relationships is strengthened and maintained with TRUST.

For any business to succeed, it is not just in what all players can BELIEVE, it is in what they can TRUST.

 

Prospects and Persuasion

Every business starts with a belief that they have a product or service that others need and will buy. The business usually starts slowly, as time, energy, research, and an untold number of conversations with friends, colleagues, external advisors, and potential customers begins to congeal into a Vision, Mission, and Purpose.

Assuming the business has achieved a reasonable measure of market traction, and as the business pushes through its initial months and years, the structure, strategies, and tactics of the business solidifies. Processes and practices are formed, refined, integrated, and executed by employees, each with specific roles and responsibilities to create and retain customers. We call it Customer Building.

But, it’s not just about creating customers. Ultimately, it is about thrilling your customers to promote retention and long-term advocacy. To create, thrill, and retain customers is, truly, a never-ending set of activities.

What is included in the process of customer creation? It must involve:

  1. Understanding the opportunity and the prospect’s business needs and concerns,
  2. Creating trust in you and your company,
  3. Solving prospect problems aligned to your company’s offering,
  4. Effectively communicating how your company can and will accomplish the objectives, and
  5. Building an ongoing relationship.

Some would describe the above process as selling … the requisite steps in closing a sale.

In certain business settings and industries, these individuals would be titled as Sales Representatives, Sales Managers, Vice President of Sales, and similar titles. These companies are business-to-business oriented, and are in industries that are more typically product-driven and transactional.

Other businesses would prefer to describe the same process as customer or business development, and have the same objective – closing a sale.  These individuals frequently have titles that either say Business Development or Customer Development, or offer no indication that a core role and responsibility includes “selling” – regardless of the label assigned to it. These companies are also business-to-business oriented, but are in industries that are services-driven and far less transactional.

Many companies that emphasize “customer development” are lawyers, accountants, bankers, wealth advisors, consultants, architects, and engineers – and in other professions that have a longer vision of customer creation. Many of these individuals are owners, principals, and associates in their companies, or hold CEO, President, General Manager, and other titles that signify leadership rather than selling responsibilities.

Regardless of the title or label, the “selling” process is the same. Only the language is different.

You are persuading a prospect to become a client.

High Tech and High Touch

We live in a demand world. Technology has enabled businesses to push unlimited messages out to the consuming public. Emails with special offers pummel our inboxes daily. “Like us on Facebook today, and get a free doodad!” “Take our survey and get 20% off your next order!” We may tolerate the bombardment, but I’ll bet that most of us still don’t like it.

The more that “high tech” marketing and sales tools provoke negative reactions, the more crucial it is to differentiate your company—with positive “high touch” CUSTOMER BUILDING practices.

The thing is… human beings have real and specific needs. Have you noticed how you feel when you realize that a company really gets you? It is almost as if you don’t mind giving them your money—because they are providing you with what you really want.

It is not a mystery—we just want companies to understand us. That realization should be front and center for a business. Zero in on what people want, and then deliver it with good quality, and at a fair price. We call it the “FAIR EXCHANGE,” and we teach fair customer development and service practices at GAPWORX.

Your marketing messages should be understandable, and convey a clear value proposition to the prospect. Hire capable salespeople that can follow an effective and humane sales process. Teach them to ask probing questions, to uncover the prospect’s CORE interests and needs. Build capabilities in your sales team about product and service knowledge, so that they can answer any question about prospect FEARS, UNCERTAINTIES, and DOUBTS. A well-equipped sales person will be able to match real prospect needs, with your product and services.

The way your company sells… and the way your company serves, should be balanced to the same high level of performance.

Creating positive CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES should be a priority for every company employee who encounters a prospect or a customer. Just as with successful sales people, customer service employees should ask effective questions…to understand the customer’s problems, and their emotions about the problem.

You can’t fix what you don’t understand!

This does not happen automatically, but it can become the intention of a company’s CUSTOMER BUILDING strategy, tactics, and systems. It can work with knowledge, training, and perfect practice-practice-practice.