Coaching, Cooperation and Confidence

October 30, 2014

One of the finest moments in the life of a parent, and one of the most decisive moments in the life of a child is when he is better at something than his father or mother. For fathers is often a sport, and when it comes to football that moment is near for me. Sometimes we bring that moment closer by letting our kids win a game, but they don’t really believe. It does make them happy for a moment, but for their confidence it does not do much.

 

In companies it is often the other way around: the managers are usually afraid that their staff, or others in the company, will become better at something than they are. Sometimes they already are. They keep their team on a short leash and take a position of seniority by instructing their staff which method to use, and thereby create a dependency, because they are the experts. This serves no other purpose than boosting the ego and amplifying the senior position of the expert manager to confirm the power-relation. These people emphasize their own interest in an organization by claiming successes that should be attributed to others.

 

Leaders who hire people who are better than they are quite rare. Perhaps out of fear of being irrelevant.

 

This is a pity of course, because the organization will be weaker rather than stronger, and the full potential of the organization is not utilized. Moreover it is quite frustrating and demotivating when someone hijacks your successes to secure his own position. It will lead to conflicts. And: “Internal conflict is like an autoimmune disease: the technical cause of death may be pneumonia, but the real cause remains and hidden from plain view.” Negative circle …

 

We have a tendency to instruct. People working with me might recognize that. We think we know how things should be done; we give the order and request an update on the results a week later. In an environment with a lot of educated content experts this is not surprising: since our schooldays this is how we acquired knowledge: the teacher instructed us, we did our homework, and then she tested whether we had done well.

 

It may work, but this may not be the most motivating method.

 

There is also much talk about the “Master-Apprentice” principle. The Master passes his knowledge and experience on to the Apprentice, who goes to work right away, is continuously instructed and corrected and sometimes gets assignments to figure something out for himself. I would call this mentoring.

Mentoring comes from Greek mythology, where Odysseus, when he left for Troy, entrusted his home and the education of his son Telemachus to his friend Mentor, with the command: “Teach him everything you know.”

 

mentor

 

 

 

 

 

Still a lot like the schooldays.

For those who have no insecurities about their own position and relevance, and who dare to look at the potential of people rather than just their current performance, there is a third way: coaching.

If we create a coaching culture and use a management style that focuses a bit more on coaching instead of directly diving into the facts and methods, we could cooperate in such a way that our coworkers become aware of the possibilities for working smarter, and for removing obstacles to success, without handing over the responsibility for their work and their own accomplishments. Then everyone can claim his or her own success.

Success builds confidence, confident people to take personal responsibility, and so on. Positive circle!

 

Let’s help each other so, instead of trying to outsmart one another.

Not that this is exactly easy. John Whitmore, of whom more later, said: “It maybe harder to give up instructing than it is to learn to coach”.

 

My own first experience with coaching was not entirely voluntary. I will explain why. With one of my best friends I have a deal to learn something new together every year. We do this mainly because we’re both busy and otherwise we might spend too little time with each other, but also because new things are interesting. It was not easy to agree on what is interesting enough to learn, though. We looked at twenty weeks of furniture making, at ten days cooking course at Le Gordon Blue in Paris, at a curriculum at Harvard, and at some other things, but consensus was not reached. Therefore, the deal was adjusted: one year he decides, the next year I will. My choice for example was to follow a curriculum of Art History at The Hermitage. Ten weeks, one evening per week. For me a nice and safe option, with a classical education, and a history as a gallery owner in Amsterdam. Maybe I wanted to start my learning experience as an expert, and not feel inadequate or look like a schoolboy. When his turn came up last year he got back at me and opted for a course in Professional Coaching” I guess because he knew that I would otherwise never do that. I’ve already written about this before, and I am very glad we did it. Incidentally, as my revenge, next year we will follow a training course in Skydiving. This was my choice, because a long time ago he was selected to train as an F16 fighter pilot. He had to parachute jump, too. For some reason, after two jumps, he did not dare to jump out of a plane anymore. Dream gone, and replaced by a career in e-commerce, which turned out rather well. But still, this fear has always bothered him, and now he has to get over it.

 

jump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes we need a bit of external help and pressure to make you us aware of what we do not know or what we can do but are not doing. In the end, it remains our own responsibility what we do with it.


How to build a business – focus

January 9, 2014

POPA new year, that means resolutions, plans and budgets. This is a confusing process, both personally and professionally, since it has to do with choices. In business of course the first choice of course is: are we going to choose – and thus focus – or are we going to diversify – and thus have more opportunities and less risk? Then there is a multitude of related choices: Clients Satisfaction first, or Employee Engagement; Command and Control or Self Steering teams, Cash or Value?

 

 

Undecided, you read a book under the Christmas tree – thank you Santa – and you stumble across the immortal quote: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”. Admittedly it was not Seneca or Socrates who said that, and not even Jim Collins or Michael Porter. It was Harry Potter. He did not do too badly for himself, did he? So that is decided. We choose. We choose why we do things, and what we do. And on a personal level how we do them. Professionally we let others decide how they do the things they are supposed to do. Or we should, if we can resist the urge to manage, or at least: to micro-manage. There we go again. More choices: do we Strategize, do we Lead, or do we Manage? Zappos gets rid of managers this year  but not of all hierarchy, and it might work for them. We tried it at Qhuba, too, last year but were not too happy with the results. A lot of time got wasted on… making choices. Time that could have been spent on clients, or on communication, or on learning, or on employee engagement, building trust and celebrating successes.

 

The answer of course is: we need to do a lot, for different purposes, and at the same time we need to focus and filter out the distractions.

 

As a Business we will focus on what we do best and where we can make a real difference: Business Technology Management. If there is no Technology component we won’t do it. Better to build on an established reputation, network and organisation than trying to establish new ones. Saras Sarasvathy  would probably call this the Bird in Hand principle. A treat she recognized in expert entrepreneurs.

 

As Leaders we will focus our attention, too. That seems easy enough, but after some searching, researching and soul-searching, this is also a subject with several dimensions. Most things come in three’s (even airline crashes). In this case: focus on yourself, focus on others, and focus on the wider world.

 

The inward focus, usually associated with authenticity, self-awareness and self-control (or: willpower) is an important characteristic for leaders, if in balance with the focus on others.

 

The focus on others does not come natural to all. It is usually associated with the term Empathy, which is often misunderstood as “being overly sympathetic”, “soft” or “compassionate”. It is none of those, but has more to do with (of course) three things: how we can explain ourselves to others and understand how they perceive us (cognitive empathy), being able to understand how other people feel (emotional empathy) and being able to sense what other people need from you (empathic concern). Being able to do all that, and especially in emotional empathy some of us, including myself, could still learn a thing or two, enable us to decide if we want to meet the other person’s need. And hopefully that is a deliberate, and sometimes tough, decision.

 

The focus on the outside world – and this is where the distraction lurks in the shadows – is a balance between focus on the job at hand: taking advantage of what we have and what is working now (exploitation), and all the people, information and opportunities out there, that might be crucial for your future success (exploitation). The problem is that there is so much out there, and the minds of the curious easily wander off. Or maybe exploration is just much more fun than exploitation. Still, more is not always better, and more than forty years ago we have been warned that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. The original text of Herbert Simon’s “Designing organizations for an information-rich world”   is fun and gives an interesting perspective on where we came from, if you can spare the time and attention.

 

 

And as a person? Well: get back to the my New Year’s resolution:

Focus your attention, pick your battles, plan your travels and pop your bottles.

Oh yes and I have just sent in my registration for a coaching course. Questioning, ok. Listening: to be improved. Emotional empathy: might need some work. Happy New Year.

 

POP with Power


How to build a business – Strategy Execution Cycle

August 3, 2013

Building a Business starts with an idea, which is then converted into action.

Simple and straightforward, but not always enough to be successful. Libraries can be filled with books about how this conversion is done, and usually the terms Strategy and Management are introduced on the first page. It is not always clear what is meant by the terms, and the explaining usually involves many more terms, like mission, vision, leadership. Once you are sufficiently confused you are lucky if you can understand where the author is taking you. Bullshit Bingo is never far away.

What is a Strategy really: is it a statement, or a plan, or just a hypothesis about value creation?

And what about Management? Sometimes you are introduced to the world of let it all run it’s course, your people will know what to do, the collective will manage itself (as Ricardo Semmler does), and sometimes to give every single employee a specific responsibility and task, and constantly measure how the task is performed, with Key Performance Indicators (Robert Kaplan).

Unless you want to turn into a one-man show, it is important is to be able to share your idea with others: Why do you want to do it, what do you want to do and for whom. And how will you be successful: Can you identify what the success-factors are, decide which of the underlying activities are vital and are you able to measure if they are performed up to the standard you have set for yourself and your business?

There is no single truth of course: are we talking about a bar in Berlin, a multi-national enterprise run from the United States, or a Production Plant in China? Hardly the same thing. Where you do it matters a lot: Context is crucial.

Equally important is who you have around you. Can you inspire them and share your vision and some of your responsibilities with them, delegate some of the vital activities to them? Time to get organized.

This requires planning and probably money. Decisions are needed on what initiatives have priority are and how they are funded.

Once you are in business the execution of your idea needs constant evaluation and adjustment, just like a hypothesis needs testing and change.

We believe these are five steps that not only reflect common sense but are also universally crucial to bring a business idea to fruition. We have called this approach SCOPE. An acronym where each letter represents a stage in the process of Strategy Execution:

Strategy – Context – Organisation – Planning – Execution

For Qhuba and its clients we have taken the “buffet approach”. You will pass all the five stations, but what you use from the process and the templates depends on your needs and appetite. The full cycle looks like this:

Slide2

In the middle the basic templates for communication:

  1. The Business Blueprint, which describes the building blocks behind the idea: the values, and the vision, the words you want to own and the x-factor you think you have. In short: the success-factors
  2. The Strategy Map, which describes the value creating activities through series of cause and effect linkages, clustered per success-factor
  3. The Scorecard, which describe the objectives per activity per success-factor.

Nothing is new here, nothing is revolutionary. The Plane, the Crew with the Flight Plan and the Cockpit, if you like analogies.

The only aim is to make a clearly defined approach with unequivocal terms and definitions and some practical tools available for all.

In five short articles we will describe the five steps, as well as the three tools, and then we will go through the whole sequence for our own company.

If you like the approach you might want to do the same for yours.


How to build a business – Agility and Innovation

March 24, 2013

Recently someone drew my attention to the report NL2030, published by BCG. The authors believe that in the Netherlands, to enable further growth of our prosperity and wellbeing we need to adopt a radically new business model. That raises some interesting questions, such as “Does something like  Dutch business model even exist?”, “what would it be based on?”, and: “why does it need to change?”.

The premise of the argument of the authors seems to be that country specific advantages that we used to have in the past, such as geographical location, infrastructure, and the associated foreign language skills and commercial spirit, no longer give us a any benefits. Thus, we are dependent on business benefits.

The World is flat

Ok. What do companies have to deal with? They are faced with an accelerating speed of change, mostly through technological innovations, with customers who have more and more specific wishes, and with a world that becomes flatter. I assume the authors are referring to Friedman’s idea of a global marketplace and almost realtime access to data, information and ideas from virtually anywhere

At first sight it seems to me that those are circumstances in which good companies could flourish.

The final step in the reasoning of BCG: If changes take place faster and faster we need innovation talent and social adaptability. People that love change and a society that facilitates it. And unfortunately – says BCG – those are not qualities that The Netherlands excels in.

The World Economic Forum, by the way, does not agree. In their “Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013” they rank The Netherlands in the top ten, and they say: ”

The Netherlands continues to progress in the rankings, moving up to 5th place this year. The improvement reflects a continued strengthening of its innovative capacity as well as the heightened efficiency and stability of its financial markets. Overall, Dutch businesses are highly sophisticated (4th) and innovative (9th), and the country is rapidly and aggressively harnessing new technologies for productivity improvements (9th). Its excellent educational system (ranked 5th for health and primary education and 6th for its higher education and training) and efficient markets—especially its goods market (6th)—are highly supportive of business activity. And although the country has registered fiscal deficits in recent years (5.0 percent of GDP in 2011), its macroeconomic environment is more stable than that of a number of other advanced economies. Last but not least, the quality of its infrastructure is among the best in the world, reflecting excellent facilities for maritime, air, and railroad transport, ranked 1st, 4th, and 9th, respectively.”

WEF Framework

For this ranking the WEF not only considers the traditional country-specific conditions such as infrastructure and education, but also markets as well as “Business Sophistication and Innovation”.

True or not, BCG makes a number of recommendations that are valuable, such as: Find opportunities in international niches, instead of catering with a broad portfolio of products or services, exclusively for the domestic market. And another one that makes sense: Based on expertise, focus on process orchestration (from design to production to sales and distribution) and not on performing all the activities yourself.

Finally they sketch the agenda for the Dutch government, and frankly I got a little confused here. Of course, good education is important, and of course we must educate scientists to conduct fundamental research. And naturally talent should be encouraged, and for some students we need to accommodate more generic international courses such as those offered by University Colleges. But how is that different from what our education system offers already and why not leave those choices up to young people? They will choose what they want, and what the market needs.

The labor market will become more flexible much faster than the government can take measures to stimulate this. Professionals trade historic rights for autonomy, relevance and networks of peers. Unions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

The government should just step back. Buy-in from society, changing laws and regulating the labor market? No idea how that would help anyone. De-regulation would help, but if making laws is core business, what can we expect from a government.

Companies can orchestrate processes, but the government cannot orchestrate businesses. Entrepreneurs will.

The most useful recommendation is perhaps: to use more English as business language. The size of our own market is the limiting factor, but now the world becomes easily accessible; many markets are global, technologies enable shorter go-to-market times, and there is no reason why we should address these opportunities as a country, or why companies should be chauvinistic. And we don’t. In our company we have been communicating in English from day one. We have employed people from the US, South Africa, Australia and other countries.  Starting a business in The Netherlands is not difficult, and many of the best-educated and most innovative people are independent, or are willing to accept positions in those companies where their talents are appreciated and developed.

Business Sophistication and Innovation are the key enablers for success in a rapidly changing world: Agility as a strategy. Most large companies have been mainly striving for efficiencies, and cannot adapt or adopt change.

So, that brings us back to Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat) and John Kotter’s article in the Harvard Business Review (“Accelerate“).

This last article has received quite a bit of attention in the industry. Kotter explains why change is unnatural to large hierarchical organizations, and why a better approach, which he calls a dual operating system, is needed to be both agile and efficient.

He proposes the creation of a volunteer (self steering) tribe drawn from people from all corners of the organization, at all levels. These people will form a network that works in parallel with the existing hierarchical structures.

The two entities form a Dual Operating System, each contributing to the vitality and viability of the organization in a different and complementary way. The network’s task is to propose and co-creation the strategies of the future, while the hierarchy continues to operate as efficiently as possible. Exploration and exploitation as two sides to the same coin. Highly aligned, but loosely coupled.

The network strategy will involve no additional costs or overheads, as staff are invited to volunteer their time, knowledge and ideas to contribute to the future of the organization in a capacity that differs from the date-to-day work.

Good companies in the Netherlands and in other countries understand that besides Exploitation Exploration is crucial. That changes are opportunities and not always threats. For years we have been calling this the power of the Network, of Intrapreneurship and of Effectuation – and we have never needed the Government (or BCG) to help us with it.


How to build a business – demotions

March 14, 2013

There has been a lot of publicity lately about demotions and salary cuts for older employees in IT Services companies like Capgemini, whose market value does no longer justify their salaries.

 

Like they did not see that one coming.

 

What is this fuss all about?

 

Of course people are aware that the number of years you are with the company and the number of times you had your salary raised has no correlation to the value you will bring to the clients. Many years with the company? Maybe that has given you insights in the internal organization, or maybe you can manage or coach younger colleagues. That is not very interesting for a client, who wants practical knowledge, results and tangible benefits.

 

 

Especially now, with a much more dynamic and flexible labour market, clients are much more critical and service providers see rates that feel the pressure of the crisis. So how could they have put themselves in this situation? Probably everyone has always been focused on the short-term, because collective labour agreements have dictated that salaries be raised every year, because clients were never the most important stakeholder in companies like this?

In The Netherlands we have almost four hundred collective labour agreements. In only six of them demotion as an instrument is part of the agreement. Unions, whose members are to be found under the older employees, have every intention to keep treating demotions as a taboo.

 

The whole idea of demotion is not new of course. In 2000 the Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid published a report suggesting that “the salary profile and the productivity profile” are getting out of sync. Their solution: more flexibility in salaries, no automatic correlation between age and salary increases, and ultimately demotion.

 

So what is the alternative and how could they have prevented this?

 

First of all, is seems more logical to correlate pay directly to productivity or market value. This can be done by paying basic salaries, plus additional components for both individual market value (measured through billable revenues) and company performance.

 

The question both companies and their employees will have to start asking themselves is how they can influence revenues per employee. Market value is determined by what clients are willing to pay based on the perceived benefits – although most people seem to think rates are determined by smart sales people. The employee feels he has limited influence on his market value. This of course is not true.

It can be increased by development though experience, training and smart matching. The first two are up to the professional. Matching – placing the professional on the assignments where he or she can add most value – is usually done by sales people. Unfortunately usually the match is made based on competences in CV’s and not on Character, Values, Culture and soft skills.

 

Our solution: make groups of professionals responsible for their own success and value. Self Steering teams determine what kind of professional education and training they need, and they are stimulated to build a network of clients. With some commercial training they are able to help the sales people not only with leads and opportunities, but also with better matches for proper rates.

The budget available for salaries and other compensation has a direct correlation with the revenues generated. The team members together determine their  own salaries. Demotion: a concept of the past.


How to build a business – Net Promoter Score

January 30, 2013

Two things have always been crucial in the assignments we do for our clients: what are the benefits we create (expressed in Economic Value or Cash Value Added) and are they truly excited and delighted by what we do. Over qualified resources, continuous support by peers and validation of the results are key in accomplishing this. But at least as important: are we able to measure and prove it? benefits Management has developed into something of a specialism, especially if you do not only measure in financial or quantitative terms, but also in areas like Risk, Scalability, Agility, Motivation.

Customer satisfaction, or even Client Delight is another challenge. Luckily this topic has been addressed some twenty years ago, by Fred Reichheld, a consultant from Bain & Company. He spent years researching enthusiasm, loyalty and commitment in customer relationships. Surveys did not seem to provide the answers he was looking for, partly because the answers from dissatisfied, undifferentiated and enthusiastic customers were so different that they could not drive any management decisions on improvement.
For answers he focussed on the happy customers only and decided to measure their enthusiasm by asking them one question, that he thought related directly to their loyalty: how willing were they to recommend the firm. We see this unpaid marketing department at work every day, nowadays through recommendations on the internet, and more than anything else, by the Like button of Facebook.

Like

Back then, it was a new concept, which he called Net Promoter Score, or NPS. More than the financial benefits our clients have, and definitely more than the revenue we generate, the level of loyalty created is key to success, and yes it is similarly important to measure the level of frustration and disappointment of those who might become active detractors.

With growth come more formalized processes, more dashboards and reports. close relations and intuition alone is no longer enough to keep track of our performance, and the time has come to also implement this process: Basically all that is required are three steps

Step 1.: ask each and every client one question: “How likely are you to recommend us?”, and have them score the likelihood on an eleven-point scale from 0 to 10

Step 2: Break the results up in three categories: those  that gave ratings from 0 to 6 are “Detractors”, the one that logged a 7 or 8 are “passively satisfied”, and only the score of 9 and 10 represent the “Promoters”.

Step 3: Compute the score by only looking at the difference between the Detractors and promoters: %Promoters – %Detractors = %Net Promoters.

NPS

So far so good. That is to say: there is potentially a lot wrong with NPS. A 0 score and a 6  have the same impact on the score, but from the client’s perspective there is probably a large difference. Also 0% detractors and 60% promoters gives the same result as 20% detractors and 80% promoters. So we want more: we want to know what are the reasons behind the score, and we want to be able to act on specific cases if there is reason. It is a one-question-only thing some say. If you do not understand the data you cannot act others argue. It seemed so simple

Now, three decisions need to be taken. Do we ask this question only, or do we ask more to find out what drove the score? Do we ask the questions ourselves, or do we get more honest answers if someone else asks them, and do we ask face-to-face, by phone, or by mail/online?

More discussions. We asked for advice. The specialists gave us options. One question, a few questions, many questions. Open questions, closed questions. Damn.

We asked more advice. some of the reactions were outspoken, almost emotional:

On line surveys are no more effective than written… only difference is the envelope.

The problems with written/on-lines include…

  •  Only outliers are motivated to respond… those who are very happy or very unhappy… so you get skewed results.
  • You don’t know who actually responded (the VP’s emo-punk daughter? An Admin? The dog?
  • The spontaneity (and any associated honesty) is lost.

Why in the world would anyone follow-up by phone to a written survey?

Respondents should NEVER be “followed-up” on unless they specifically request it.

Even if their responses are negative!

No respondent wants to justify their response or discuss it further… unless they ask for it.

The right way to do it is to be sure you ask enough open-ended questions in the survey to get the info you need without follow-up.

When you follow-up (and especially if you quiz them on any response), you bias or destroy their future cooperation.

Phone is best, 3rd party, brief is good.

Okay, we got the message.

So this is what our survey looks like. Two questions, preceded by an e-mail, asked by phone, by someone the client does not have a personal relation with:

1. Based on the work Qhuba did for you, how likely is it that you would recommend Qhuba, on a scale from 0 tot 10?

2. What factor had the most impact on your answer

  • the character and behavior of the resource (like integrity, cooperation)
  • the competences of the resource (knowledge, execution power)
  • the benefits realised versus the cost
  • the cooperation with other people in our firm
  • the relation and connection you have with our network
  • something else

Now I have one last question: How likely do you think it is that the NPS score we log and the answers to these questions will help us create more value for happier clients?


How to build a business – Conversations

January 27, 2013

In the KLM lounge of Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, waiting for my return flight to Amsterdam, I  am going through my notes. The last two days were good: lots of conversations with people in charge of Telecom Operators in both Turkey and Saudi Arabia. This involved multiple diners and lunches, and real exchanges on personal, business, political and cultural subjects. In Europe, a meeting usually lasts exactly one hour, involves one cup of coffee and one topic. For people in sales chances are they want to pitch something, hoping this is a solution to the problem they assume their client has. If so: deal. If not: off you go.

In our business, we believe finding the problem, or the opportunity is more important than solving it. So we want to listen, ask questions and find out what is driving who, and why.

Now I am going back to the first pages of my notebook, and find scribblings I made last summer. I think I turned them into another blog posting already:

In our search for what is cooking in our network and in the world of Strategy Execution we have organized What’s Qooking events: a combination of content and cooking in a workshop format. With small groups of twelve to fifteen people we have listened, cooked, discussed and eaten. To take this one level higher – and because cooking with a group involves quite a few concession in timing and results – we have decided to look for top chefs to do the cooking for us. Where to find the chefs?

Looking for a book called ‘In search of the stars”, about all he sixty-eight three star restaurants in Europe, I went to a bookstore and guess what: the clerk was a foody too. High class cooking, but lately mostly with insects. The new world: as nutritious, and much less of a burden on the environment.  I was not immediately enthusiastic, but he invited me for a workshop anyway. For this, he had chartered a local chef to cook in the bookstore. 

Now this chef had once had a very talented sous-chef, who became a freelance home-cook, and was looking for new clients. Introductions were made.

This is the point: you go somewhere to buy something. A simple transaction. But when you have the time and the curiosity to turn a transaction into interaction you will discover the Power of Conversations.

So, this is how we got to know a very enthousiastic young cook, who now cooks at home every month, for a group of ten to fourteen people, who do not have to participate in peeling the potatoes and cutting the onions, but can spend an evening having conversations. We call them the Third Thursday diners and believe me, everyone is looking forward to What’s Qooking this month.

And something else about questions and conversations: they are not only the key to finding things out, and getting to know people, they are the key to sales as well.

Sales has for a long time been our biggest challenge. Not because we could not sell, but because we did not want to.

In our network, where prospects or clients can be tomorrow’s staff or partners, we prefer interaction over transaction. Actually we want someone we are having a conversation with to clearly indicate that he wants to be a client for a while, instead of us telling him we want to be a supplier.

This posed two problems: our partners, who felt this way, were reluctant to show commercial behavior, and our commercial people, who did not have this reluctance, did not have peer-to-peer conversations.

The conversations of course serve many purposes (relationship, interest and curiosity) as well as finding the issues that keep our clients from sleeping at night, or from implementing their strategies. So finding the problem is not the issue, positioning ourselves to solve the problem is.

Traditionally, the ABC of sales people was: “Always Be Closing”.

Daniel Pink, in his recent book “To sell is human” proposes to replace this with a new ABC: Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity.

Attunement: Bringing yourself in harmony with individuals, groups and contexts. This takes a bit more humility and curiosity than most people can muster. If you do not connect, and if you do not both inspect (ask questions) and respond (listen to the answers and do something with the information provided) you will not sell.

Buoyancy: Dealing with an ocean of rejection

Clarity: the capacity to make sense of murky situations, as Daniel Pink says. Identifying and framing problems takes two long-standing skills and turns them upside down. First in the past salespeople were adept at accessing information. Today they must be skilled at curating it – sorting through the massive troves of data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces. Second, in the past, the best salespeople were skilled at answering questions. Today, they must to be good at asking questions – uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues and finding unexpected problems.

Big words. Not sure if they will stick. We are not sure if they cover the whole approach we have to sales either. Our way is CCCCC: Connections, Confidentiality, Conversations, Clarity, Cooperation. We hope they are so obvious  they don’t require a book to explain them.