C-Suite Network™

Best Practices Entrepreneurship Personal Development Women In Business

Turning “Failure” Into a Learning Lesson

A few years ago, I had to deal with an opportunity that went awry in my business. It was disappointing, frustrating and complicated, to say the least. As I was going through it, I questioned my own ability to make clear decisions. I wondered how I missed some of the signs that perhaps others had seen. I spent too much time replaying every little detail. And I kept asking myself the question: Was I a failure?

Here’s the thing, I was working on a project that I so was extremely passionate and excited about that I allowed myself to be blinded by the questionable factors that were happening at the same time. I brushed it off, continued to do the work and, mind you, be successful in the process. I continued to forge on until I had to face the reality that the project was not going to find completion.

As a life coach, my job is to make sure my clients are reaching their goals in a positive and growth-filled way. I want to make sure any project I work on is going to be impactful to my audience. My message is clear — you can have the life of your dreams if you do the work and find optimism in your journey. Once I realized that for my now defunct project, I no longer felt like I had failed. I needed to find the learning lesson in my experience. I teach this to my clients every day; it was time I listened to my own advice.

Overcoming a “failure” (not a word I particularly like), isn’t easy. Here are a few steps to help you along in your process:

1. Acknowledge your “failure.” Allow yourself to say yes; give yourself the grace to recognize that your situation happened to you. This could be a difficult pill to swallow. You’re going to get questions from outsiders asking about details of your experience. It’s your choice about how much information to share. Always be honest with your responses, and be careful with oversharing.

2. Accept it. Moving through a failed situation is like moving through the grief process. There are a few stages: shock, anger, guilt and reflection followed by the upturn of rebuilding through it. You have to be able to step back and be okay with your experience in the end. Give yourself a few minutes a day to work through it, start with the bad thoughts, continue through the learning pieces and end with positive affirmations. I use this exercise with my clients and it helps tremendously.

3. Look for the positive lesson. What did you learn from your experience? What would you change or do differently? In my case, I had the opportunity to meet and network with some amazing new people with whom I will continue to cultivate relationships. I learned to be better at vetting business partners. I learned that regardless of this particular outcome, my passion for collaborating and creating will continue.

Often we see failure as a bad thing. But if we turn it around and find the learning experience in it, the situation can become a little easier to bear. I try to learn from all of my experiences, good or bad. That allows me to continue to grow and educate myself both personally and professionally.

Don’t beat yourself up too much. None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes. The most important thing is that we learn from them all.

Best Practices Sales Skills

You Need Both: Sales Process AND Sales Methodology

In the sales performance space, there are those who think sales process and methodology are the same thing, and those who realize they’re different. If you couldn’t tell which side of the debate I’m on, they’re different, and do different jobs.

Some of the confusion is that both are kinds of process, although methodology isn’t always as predictably sequential.

Process:  Selling Activities.

The term selling process refers to the actions a selling organization takes along its selling journey. These steps might include (but might not be limited to):

  • Prospecting
  • Qualifying
  • Needs Analysis
  • Demonstration
  • Proposal
  • Negotiation
  • Close and Implementation.

When these are detailed sufficiently, people throughout the selling organization know what deliverables they need to support the process at what times, what documentation is expected, what resources are typically required, and much more.  Process grows into a “playbook”.

Notice that these are seller-centric activities.  Once your company builds its sales process, this are a great way to track an opportunity pursuit through your funnel or pipeline.

Today’s CRMs are mostly built around processes.  They usually come with a generic process provided, and one of the first thing a company needs to do is define their process in that CRM.  Manager dashboards will also be boilerplate at first.  It’s commonplace to track selling activities like calls made, emails sent, lunches bought, demos scheduled, and more.  Once you have management reports and analytics defined and refined, sales managers can track a lot of activities really efficiently.

There is one thing missing from sales process:  the customer’s buying process.  Tracking only selling activity fulfills the great promise of  CRM when:

  • All customers buy the same way
  • Every customers is equally engaged
  • All customers have the same needs
  • Customers respond equally to the same “value messages” (a term I really disrespect.I’ve blogged on this before, and am likely to do so again in the near future).

Every sales professional knows what doesn’t happen when they keep churning through a sales process while a customer has not progressed through a buying process.  Methodology solves for that.

Methodology: Selling Behaviors (which engage a buying process.)

Sales methodology consists of trainable, coachable, trackable selling behaviors that engage a customer in a buying process.

It’s easy to measure process, like number of telephone dials (especially with CRM/phone system integration). Measuring number of quality conversations is hard.  Don’t do either in isolation.

Ironically, I hear sales leaders tell anyone who will listen that they need to measure quality and not quantity…while looking at sales process analytics.  The reason that they’re achieving the results they may be because they’re measuring activity.

Methodology…behaviors…keeps the sales process aligned with the buying process.  Methodology behaviors might look like (but might not be limited to):

  • Understand the buying process being used
  • Understand all of the buying personas.
  • Planning and executing meeting plans to uncover all needs, all desired outcomes, and the value of all of those outcomes to the various personas.
  • Building a case for change, including adding personas where your value warrants.
  • Cultivating internal support for a proposal.
  • Aligning demonstration, then proposal points to persona outcomes.
  • Building the value case
  • Facilitating any customer change management, and setting implementation up for success.

Because every customer buys differently, methodology tends to be less rigidly sequential.  The customer buy process drives methodology, but should generally track with a well-designed (that is, customer-centric) selling process.  For example, change management appears prominently near the end of a sales process, but methodology should have uncovered individual persona outcomes and developed supporters of the change all through a pursuit.

Process vs. Methodology:

 First, I should point out that by “vs.” above, I don’t mean that there is an either/or choice.  You need both.  The “vs.” is because I want to contrast the two to show why you need both.

Process vs Methodology Table

Process organizes and orchestrates the complex web of selling organization activity around selling and delivering the company’s offer.  Methodology organizes the selling organization’s effort to facilitate a customer buying decision.

Sales process is measured by activities, which can be measured by any current CRM system I’ve ever heard of.  Methodology is about selling behaviors; only a few exceptional CRMs track behaviors, although most can be modified to do so.

Sales process, as simple activities, can generally be learned and mastered via a straightforward “knowledge transfer” class of training.  Methodology involves behavior change, and requires some element of coaching to lock in behavior change.

Process adoption and compliance results in selling efficiency, whereas methodology focuses on building customer-perceived value of your offer.  Great methodology drives customer value, which makes selling more effective. Efficiency and effectiveness can both drive up sales, but in different ways.  Efficiency might mean churning more prospects through a low close-ratio process each month.  Effectiveness could mean increasing the close ratio.  They aren’t mutually exclusive. They are synergistic.

Don’t Confuse the Two.  Don’t Limit Yourself to Either/Or.

I hope that you found this compare and contrast article useful.  Process and Methodology are both worthwhile pursuits. I help clients with both, and they feel different.  Please comment below, or contact me directly if you have any detailed questions.

To your success!

Culture Growth Leadership Personal Development

The New Generation of Casual Dress in the Workplace

Take a look into any office today and there will be a noticeable difference in how employees are dressed compared to past decades. Dress code policies in companies today are, without a question, more casual as younger generations enter the workforce. This adds an element of having more leniency, which has been raising a lot of questions for business professionals, as well as those trying to navigate what is and is not appropriate in their workplace.

In the late 1900s, it was unacceptable to show up to work in anything besides a complete suit, ironed to perfection. For women, a business pantsuit or tailored dress with little to no color was the usual. More informal dress began as “casual Fridays” which was seen as a benefit for employees but also built moral between every employee in the office.

Today, we see companies like Google, who claims they have no dress code at all, and employees are free to wear sweatpants if they choose to do so. Many other big companies including Apple and Facebook, have made the switch to a casual dress code. This can include business casual, or even jeans and a generic shirt. Even Wall Street has made the switch to a more casual policy, one that would have never been acceptable in years prior. As technology continues to grow and change the way companies do business, it makes sense to be able to loosen up on the demands of everyday attire. So, what does this mean for our new generations entering the workforce? Are the dress code changes leading to a more lenient and lackadaisical work effort? As a business owner, it is important to assess and decide what type of dress code is effective for your company.

Will allowing employees to wear casual outfits hinder their performance and make them lazier? The opinions of this topic vary greatly and by generation.

There is a common belief that dressing up professionally puts employees into a working and proactive mindset. “You look good, you feel good” is a common phrase that explains that you will perform better and have a better work ethic when you are dressed to impress. Some professionals believe that what kind of work you are doing, depends as well. Assistant professor at Columbia Business School and Author of “The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing” state that casual clothing makes workers think less abstractly and more concretely, useful for completing tasks focusing on details such as writing code or planning a product launch. He says that with a formal dress, workers feel more powerful and ready to tackle higher-level abstract thinking. When thinking of the bigger picture, dressing formally will increase productivity. The new generation has a different approach.

Millennials have grown up seeing Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, in a casual t-shirt and jeans and believe this does in no way define your productivity or success. When asking some students at the Business Management building at the University at Buffalo, the overall consensus was that being comfortable leads to being more productive. Students say that when they are not in a stuffy suit, especially in the hot summer, they are more relaxed and can focus on their goals for work. For the women students at UB, comfortable shoe wear is key. “When I wasn’t forced to wear high heels that hurt my feet, I could focus so much better on the presentation I was giving and not how I looked and felt.”

Another benefit of casual dress in the work environment is that employees report that they feel like an important asset within their company. They feel that everyone in their office is a team and that they are not just a level in the hierarchy of their organization. This can lead to removing communication barriers between employees and higher managers within offices. Removing these barriers allows for a better flow of ideas, and can improve attitudes and performance. All these can positively affect the productivity and success of an organization.

On the flip side, casual policies may potentially have a negative effect on the performance of employees. If employees have a more relaxed mindset and laid-back attitude, this could hinder their motivation to complete projects and reach goals within their position. In strict work environments, serious attitudes are crucial in getting work done. There can also be negative effects, depending on the environment you work in. A family friend who I spoke to about this topic works as a funeral director. His opinion was that he feels he needs to always be dressed completely professional at all times. He works with clients and families going through a hard time on an everyday basis. To him and his other employees, proper dress code, including a suit and tie is required. If the dress code was different at his company, his business would be affected negatively. Generally, when working in an industry where you will be meeting with professionals or clients often, professional attire should be necessary. If you are mostly working online, or in an office, where you rarely work with clients or the general public, there can be less restrictions on how you dress.

There are many different opinions to the conversation of whether Millennials are becoming too casual, or if this is a new outlook that can lead to a better work environment for the next generations. It is important to access your clientele, audience and decide how conservative your company is. Decide on what company culture goals are for your brand and for your employees as well. Do employees want to not be distracted by uncomfortable clothing and can work diligently in casual attire? Or do they believe that dressing to impress is a good mentality where they need to look polished and professional at all times? Dress code defines your brand and message to your audience, and it is important to choose wisely what message you want to portray. Once you have reached this decision, it can positively impact your company and its long- term success!

Best Practices Growth Leadership Personal Development

Making Decisions Outside Your Comfort Zone

Business leaders must become aware of their cognitive biases in how they make and execute on their decisions. These decisions can affect their teams, the growth of their organizations, and the future potential gains, and losses, that the business receives.

Loss aversion is the cognitive bias where people naturally lose a more significant amount of satisfaction from a loss than they receive from a similarly valued gain. This bias manifests in two distinct patterns, in anticipation, and in framing a particular loss or gain.

Anticipation can become a crucial component of this bias, and affect decision makers based on how they have experienced gains or losses in the past. Decision-makers who have historically faced a weighty loss may become more hesitant to enter similar situations. This hesitation can lead to lost opportunities or undue delay in moving forward on projects. For example, hiring managers who have felt that a number of their poor hires have come from a particular generation may be hesitant in hiring similar candidates. Just the same, those decision-makers who have beaten the odds in the past may have a skewed sense of their success and take more significant risks in the future. Every financial prospectus explains this flawlessly, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Framing the risk, and explaining the loss in different terms may also affect how decision-makers approach a solution. Objectively, gaining a discount or avoiding a surcharge is the same. However, both situations elicit different emotional responses. Based on their past deals, and how they approach situations, this opt-in versus opt-out can skew behavior and allow for poor decision making towards critical business matters. Managers who are facing cutting expenses from a budget may overlook opportunities to raise revenue because their focus is only on the expense column.

Ultimately business leaders must remain objective in their decisions.

Extensive subjectivity or emotional involvement in the subject matter can allow for leaders to become irrational and not make the best decisions with the data and information present. Business leaders must be able to look past the data and see it in context. One data point, however it may be framed, is still a single data point. The more considerable power of data is in being able to view it in context, either to other similar points, or trends over time.
Similarly, managers must be able to see the upside of choices and understand that the most significant gains lie in the outliers. If all of our decisions must be satisfied within six standard deviations, then it will become impossible to progress and make the necessary leaps for remaining competitive in today’s dynamic market environment.

Every day business leaders are forced to expand their comfort zones. Remaining knowledgeable on this common cognitive bias can help ensure that they are making the best decisions in leaving their safe space and exploring how they can expand, especially in incremental ways.