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Friday, February 15, 2013
Volume 18 | # 426
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Praise can be your most valuable asset as long as you don't aim it at yourself. » Orlando A. Battista

A Cultural Exchange

A recent email request to speak at a financial institution’s company-wide event had me smiling as I responded. They will be announcing (their words) a “conversion to a sales and service culture.”

One of the reasons I was smiling was how familiar the term is to me. I’ve had scores of bankers through the years talk to me about creating a “sales and service” culture.

I’ve kidded with many of them that “sales and service” is what we call it because we’re afraid of just how panicked our teams will be if you say you’re creating a “sales culture.”

I’ve also asked many, “What’s your service like now?” They usually tell me things like, “really strong” or “great.”

To which I kid, “So that’s not really the part you’re looking at me to tackle.”

I don’t make those jokes to minimize the challenges in changing anything about an organization’s established culture. Once behaviors and habits are in place, many folks will doggedly defend the status quo whether or not proposed changes are wise, timely, and necessary.

I also think the tendency to always attach “and service” to that moniker is the widely-held belief is that if you focus on sales, service will suffer.

What I continually try to get across to folks is that instilling the right kind of sales culture solidifies, and even improves, a bank’s service. This is because we end up having more and better conversations than before.

Real conversations improve our knowledge of what customers want and why they choose – or yet may choose- to do business with us.

Smart sales people and organizations know that the key to success lies more in learning about customers than in forcing them to hear about you.

The idea that creating a sales culture means that our people must turn customer interactions into product-pushing sales pitches is widespread… and wrong.

When asked respectfully, people actually enjoy telling you about themselves. Usually, we just have to ask, give them time to respond… and actually listen. 

A productive sales culture involves more listening than lecturing.

Ask your teams if there was anything new and interesting at all that they learned about a customer or potential customer today.

People with healthy sales cultures are constantly learning more. People with product-pushing approaches seldom learn much at all.

Which will your team be this week?

Leading Indicators

As a general rule, some of my least favorite people are the loud cell phone talkers in public places. Airport clubs are some of the worst places for this as you’re surrounded by a bunch of business folks not exactly using their “indoor voices.”

One idiot (that’s a term I learned in business school) a while back had his phone set to speaker on the desk next to me as he read a newspaper during a conference call.

Manners are apparently overrated.

This week, I thought I was going to be treated to hearing another annoying conversation that I wanted no part of. But as it turned out, the guy in the work area adjacent to me gave pretty good advice.

(I wasn’t eavesdropping. He was broadcasting.)

As best I could tell he was a senior manager being debriefed by one of his subordinates. They were talking about a new initiative.

After a short silence on his end, my temporary neighbor said to his subordinate, “Why in the world did you bring marketing into this already? You can’t possibly know what you want yet.”

Apparently, the guy on the other end was charged with taking on a project, and he immediately brought their marketing department into the mix.

After more silence, the senior manager said, “You bring in support if and when it’s needed. Now you’re letting them set strategy. You were put in the job to lead and get their help when needed. But, you aren’t steering now. You’re following their lead.”

The subordinate on the other side pleaded his case a little more, and my guy responded, “Here’s the deal. Whether you know it or not, you turned over leadership on your project to 4 or 5 other people who know far less than you about the project. But they won’t be managing it and aren’t ultimately going to be held accountable for the results. You are.”

During their (still loud) and friendlier small-talk afterwards, it was obvious the boss wasn’t going to strip the other guy of authority (yet), and he was going to step in for a “reset” on the project.

But his point was made. When a person or organization puts you in a leadership position… they’re expecting you to, well… lead.

Effective leaders seek outside advice when appropriate.

And they delegate when and where necessary.

But they realize that they were entrusted to make decisions and, yes…lead.

Are you being the leader your company is expecting you to be today?

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. » Ralph Nichols

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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