Confrontation or Learning Experience? Delivering Feedback Effectively

18933836_sIn a previous Huffington Post article , I talked about why it isn’t good enough simply to say “good job” when you’re giving feedback. While it is important to acknowledge performance that is meeting or exceeding expectations, it is imperative to provide corrective feedback when things aren’t going as you’d like.

What happens when your team isn’t delivering as expected – when your expectations go unmet?

Can we just hope for it to change or go away? Not if we want to meet our business objectives without doing all the work ourselves.

Things don’t just change. If we aren’t telling people what they are specifically doing or not doing that is getting in the way of the results we want, nothing will change.

I know it can be uncomfortable. There are so many reasons why we don’t want to give people feedback- we don’t want to have conflict, we are worried what they will say or think, or we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

Yet if we don’t … our team members (or vendors) can’t stop the behavior that is unproductive (or driving us crazy) and everyone ends up frustrated.

A Framework to Deliver Effective Feedback

A simple yet effective model for delivering corrective or constructve feedback effectively is the SBI framework:

  1. Describe the situation where the behavior was observed.
  2. Describe the behavior– be sure to include observable actions or interactions that are specific and factual.
  3. Describe the impact – the effect the behavior had on others, the work activity or results.

Here’s an example showing the SBI model in action:

Situation: Our project deadline was October 1, and we’ve now exceeded that initial date by two weeks.

Behavior: You haven’t provided us with the regular project updates that we originally agreed upon.

Impact: Regular updates are essential to the long-term success of this project, and our team depends on them. The rest of our project team is frustrated by a lack of timely, consistent updates. This lack of communication has led to other delays and is not conducive to good teamwork.

Remember that every situation will be different, but the primary goal is to describe the situation and behavior clearly, staying focused on the facts. Follow up with the impact the behavior had, and close with a question or two that encourages the person to consider what they might do differently going forward.

Ask the Right Questions

As part of the feedback process, asking the right questions can have a significant impact on the outcome. Follow the guidelines below so you know what to include – and what to avoid.

  1. Plan first. Instead of brazenly jumping into the process without thought, take a step back and plan out what you want to say. As you do this, you’ll be able to outline the questions you’ll ask as you deliver feedback.
  1. Make your questions open-ended. Questions that are open-ended often start with “who”, “what”, “how”, “where”, and “when”. Notice “why” was missing from that list…using “why” in an open-ended question as you’re delivering feedback can make the other person feel like they’re being judged.

For instance, instead of asking “Why did you do that?”, try “What was your objective behind doing that?” instead. This sounds less confrontational and accusatory.

  1. Stick to the facts. Avoid making personal judgments or criticisms. In other words, your goal should be focused on providing feedback about a behavior and the impact it had.

Don’t: “Why do you always rush through things? If you weren’t so hasty, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Do: I know you mentioned you have a lot on your plate right now. What would make it easier for you to focus more of your time on this task/activity?

  1. Change up the perspective. As you’re delivering feedback, use thought-provoking questions to guide the other party to see the situation from a fresh perspective.

For instance, if the other person blames the situation on a disagreement she had with a co-worker, direct your questions to help her consider a new perspective.

Instead of following along with the same line of thinking by saying something like, “I can’t believe she said that!”, try asking questions like “I understand where you’re     coming from. What do you think might have led her to say that?” or “What would need to happen for you and her to improve your relationship?”

  1. Involve the other person in the solution. The most effective feedback is a 2-way conversation. It is not your sole responsibility as the business leader to solve everything. Ask the person you are giving feedback to come up with a solution or alternative way of acting. Questions such as “how could you address this differently in the future?” or “what can you do to resolve this issue?” assist the other person in coming up with solutions that she or he can own and commit to.

Remember, knowing what questions to ask can significantly change the outcome of the feedback experience. Instead of the recipient seeing the feedback as a one-sided ambush, the process can actually represent a dynamic learning experience for both parties.

What tips do you have for delivering corrective feedback effectively?

How to Use the Summer Slowdown to Your Advantage

Summer is right around the corner – and if you’re in business, you know what that means…the dreaded summer slowdown. It seems like everyone is on vacation and plans are put on hold until fall.ID-100290315

When it feels like “normal” life as you knew it has slowed to a crawl, it can be pretty challenging to stay motivated and productive. Here’s the good news – summer is a great time to build some serious momentum in your business.

Follow these five tips and you’ll be in the best position to propel forward…

1. Plan in advance.

If you know summer is a slow time for your business, start researching potential clients. You can use social media or in-person networking events to build new business opportunities. And don’t forget about your current clients – just because many of them might be focused on other tasks and taking time off doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to them with a quick call or thoughtful note.

2. Switch up your schedule. 

Who said you had to miss out on lazy summer afternoons and days spent chilling at the beach? Don’t be afraid to switch up your schedule to accommodate fun summertime activities. If you haven’t already, determine when you’re most productive. Then plan key activities during that time to maximize productivity. If you’re a small business owner, it’s pretty likely that one of the reasons you got into business in the first place was to be your own boss. So, grab the reins and take back your schedule!

3. Delegate or outsource more.

If you’re like most business owners, you’re probably working too hard anyway. Summer can offer you an excellent opportunity to delegate some of your work. If you’re finding it a challenge to switch up your schedule to enjoy all that summer has to offer, odds are good that you need to start delegating more. Moreover, delegating will allow you to cross off tasks from your to-do list, freeing up your time to focus on what really matters – like getting some R&R or focusing on new ways to generate revenue, without working so many hours.

4. Put technology to work for you.

Face it – you’ve probably spent hours on end staring at that same old computer screen in your office. What you need is a change of scenery, and since it is 2015, you’ve got all the tools to help you get out into a fresh environment for a while. Smart phones, tablets, and virtually unlimited Wi-Fi make it easier than ever to work outside, at a local cafe, or from a remote location. And who knows, maybe you’ll meet a new prospect out there!

5. Get in on the fun!

If most everyone else is enjoying the sun – why aren’t you?! Business owners can easily get overwhelmed trying to handle the daily grind. If you don’t take a break once in a while, it’s easy to get burned out. If you haven’t already, plan a vacation or a couple weekend getaways to recharge. Unplugging from your business for a few days will help you refresh, and you’ll come back more productive and creative when you return.

If you use the summer slowdown to your advantage, it can actually turn out to be a time of tremendous growth for your small business. With these easy tips, you can turn the dreaded summer slowdown into a summer of success!

Tell me, what are you looking forward to this summer? Share your comments below.

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Transforming ‘No’ to ‘Yes’

Here’s What to Do.

In our last post, we covered the money excuse and the difference between features and benefits. We also touched upon the art of overcoming objections. Now, we’ll continue with more on objections, outcomes, and effective techniques.

The Art of Transforming “No” into “Yes, Please!”

changing no to yesIf you want to overcome the money excuse, you’ll need to adequately define the value you’ll add and what payoffs your client can expect to receive.

This is a subtle technique and there’s absolutely an art to it, but once you master it, you’ll discover it’s easier than ever to transform a “no” into a paying client.

To get started, pretend there are two islands: The Island of Today (where your prospect is at right now) and The Island of Full Potential (where your prospect wants to be). The Island of Full Potential is a representation of what your prospect wants to achieve, create, or become.

Between these two islands is an expansive ocean – and you are the vessel that is going to take your client from one island (Today) to another (Full Potential) – in other words, from where they are now to where they would like to be.

Outcomes Are What Counts

One of the most important factors to remember is that your prospect doesn’t really care what the boat looks like – he just wants to know what the outcomes are:

  • What are the tangible outcomes (more sales, an organized house, a healthier body, etc)?
  • What are the intangible outcomes (higher confidence, less stress, more energy, etc)?

outcomes and resultsAs business owners, we tend to go into the details that don’t matter as much to the prospect as the actual outcomes – we tell him every little detail about how we’ll provide the product or service, but we don’t put outcomes firsthow will that client’s life, business, finances, or relationships transform through working with you?

Of course, it’s important to explain “how” you’ll work together, but it should be a much smaller part of the sales conversation. Remember, your prospect isn’t paying for the “how” – he’s paying for results – the action that is going to get him where he wants to be.

Your prospect doesn’t want to think he’s spending money on things like time, plans or calls – he wants to know what results – what outcomes – he’s paying for.

The Technique in Action

Taking actionRemember to emphasize benefits when you’re speaking with your client, and to avoid using words like “cost”, “fees”, or “price” – these are trigger words for spending and buying. You want your client to see this as an investment in herself – in her dreams, goals, and ambitions.

When you highlight the value you’ll add and the return on investment your client will receive, your services become an investment in your client’s future – not an expense she can live without. This subtle shift will motivate your prospects to see you in an entirely new light – and increase your chances of closing the deal.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter what happens, hearing “no” from your prospects is not a reflection on your value – the value you bring as a human being.

Want some more in-depth insight to help you conquer the “Money Excuse”? Visit the Huffington Post to read my recent article.

 

Share your opinion: If you’ve put the techniques I explained above into action, what results did you see? How do your prospects respond when you approach them more with the benefits and outcomes rather than just a rundown of “how” you’ll provide the product or service?

 

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tired of Hearing “No” from Your Prospects?

Here’s What to Do.

tired of hearing noWhat’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in your business right now? If you said clients who decline to work with you because of financial reasons, you’re not alone.

You know how it goes… you accept being paid less just to be able to work with a client. You charge what you think people will pay – not what the product or service is actually worth. And sometimes (ok, maybe a lot of the time!), you find yourself over-delivering to your clients and giving your time and expertise away for free to “help” your colleagues – without getting much in return.

If this sounds like you, I have good news – a) it doesn’t have to be this way, and b) there is a simple solution that you can begin implementing in your business right away to overcome what I call the “money excuse”.

Ready to start turning prospects that say “no” into paying customers? Let’s begin!

The Money Excuse Explained

Money excusesA prospective client decides not to work with you, citing financial reasons like any of the following:

  • “I’d really like to, but it’s just not within my budget right now.”
  • “That sounds pretty expensive.”
  • “I just can’t afford it.”
  • “Maybe in the future, but right now, I’m saving up for X.”

In each of these examples, the client is declining to work with you because of money. But, is it really about money? Not exactly.

The problem here is that the client is not viewing your services as an investment in themselves and an opportunity to achieve their goals. That client can’t visualize how working with you will deliver added value, so your services are seen more as an expense they can do without.

That’s why I call it the “money excuse” – the client cites money as the reason they aren’t willing or able to work with you, but it’s actually an excuse that’s hiding a much deeper reason.

Features vs. Benefits: What’s the Difference?

Your problem as a business owner is to conquer the “money excuse” – to transform that “no” into a paying client who wants to work with you. The solution starts with an explanation about the differences between features and benefits.

benefits vs featuresMany business owners spend lots of time unnecessarily explaining how they’ll work with their clients – the features – rather than clearly discussing the benefits (or outcomes) the client will receive that will solve their problems.

For example, let’s look at the features of a bicycle vs. the benefits of cycling. A bicycle has two wheels, handle bars, a seat, etc… and no matter how wonderful these features are they may not be a compelling reason for a person to buy a bike. However, when you start by listing the benefits of cycling; burning calories, building endurance, reducing your carbon footprint, reducing fuel costs, etc… The need for a bike is made stronger. Then, you can follow-up with the particular features that make your bike the best.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Sure, it’s nice to hear about the features, but don’t you want to know more about the benefits – what payoffs you’ll get by working together and how the product or service will solve your problem?

The Art of Transforming “No” into “Yes, Please!”

changing no to yesIf you want to overcome the money excuse, you’ll need to adequately define the value you’ll add and what payoffs your client can expect to receive.

Learn more about the art of transformation, outcomes, and putting these and other techniques into action in our next post, Transforming ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.

Want some more in-depth insight to help you conquer the “Money Excuse”? Visit the Huffington Post to read my latest article.

 

Share your opinion: If you’ve put the techniques I explained above into action, what results did you see? How do your prospects respond when you approach them more with the benefits and outcomes rather than just a rundown of “how” you’ll provide the product or service?

 

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Much Did That New Customer Cost You?

33315056_sI was speaking with a new client last week and we were looking at where his clients came from the last 12 months, how much he invested to acquire them and where to focus his time and energy this year to accelerate his sales.

We had such an eye-opening discussion on the whole conversation around cost of acquisition and the effect this was having on the ROI of his time and money.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is the cost associated in persuading a consumer to buy a product or service from you. This cost includes costs associated with product development, marketing, research, and sales.

The reason this is important is so we can measure whether the investment we are putting in to attract and acquire new customers is paying off. It can be very exciting to have a new customer and we sometimes are so focused on looking at the sales that the entire cost is not factored in.

There are some costs that are kind of obvious like Direct Mail campaigns, advertisements, or Pay Per Click.

And there are others that are not so obvious and tend to be forgotten, especially for service based businesses.

Customer Acquisition Cost: A Simple Example

Here’s a way to look at an activity most business owners are involved in- networking. Let’s assume you are in a leads group, chamber or other group where you have a membership. Let’s assume the cost of the membership is $575 per year and you got 3 new clients for total sales of $10, 000. I’ve seen people say yep that’s a great investment. I spent $575 and got $10,000.

Well – maybe.

And here is the trap people fall into – looking only at the financial cost- membership.

Let’s say over the course of the year, you attended 45 meetings and each meeting is one and one-half (1 ½) hours so that’s 67.5 hours of your time.

Let’s say you had a bunch of coffee dates with members of the group to get to know them and share what you do in a deeper way. That’s an additional twenty (20) hours of your time.

Now, I know it is your time, not a physical cost. But your time is worth something, and you are an expert so it is worth a lot!

Just because I like easy math, let’s say an hour of your time for this activity is $100 per hour. So for 87.5 hours that would be $8, 750.00 for the 3 new clients ($2916.67 each). This is a lot more than $575.00.

And it may be worth it (especially after factoring in what they might buy next etc.. but we are not discussing that today).

The point I want you to takeaway is when evaluating where your clients are coming from and what are the best investments of time and money, you have to look at costs in totality. It’s not as simple as looking at sales minus hard expenses.

Items to Consider

So grab a note pad and start looking at where you made investments this past year to acquire new customers so you can identify how much it costs you to acquire a new customer. Ideally, you should account for everything you did to get that new customer so you can have a picture of the true cost so you can monitor it this year. This will also give you a picture of what you need to charge to cover all your costs and be profitable.

Here is a list of the typical costs to include (depending on your type of business):

  • Facebook ads
  • Advertisements in newspapers, journals or online publications
  • Google AdWords
  • Trade shows or vendor events
  • Giveaways like pens or water bottles
  • Direct Mail campaigns
  • Pay Per Click campaigns
  • Cost of meetings, events
  • Networking group costs, membership or dues

Here is a list of “forgotten” costs to include:

  • Time you spend on social media outreach
  • Time spent at networking events
  • Time spent converting a warm lead to a client: if you are in service based business you are most likely offering complimentary consultations- this time also adds up for the cost of client acquisition
  • Time to develop proposals and work through the procurement process if your client is an organization
  • Graphics or logos used in on-line and off-line advertising: development or purchase of
  • The time it takes to move people to your sales pipeline- this could be your time as well as time of team members involved in the sales process
  • Time to create and proof read copy for marketing

After my clients do this exercise, two things become really clear:

  • Prices may need to increase to cover all the costs,
  • Having a strategy to retain these customer’s is an absolute must (for more tips and tools on this, check out the 5 Star Customer Service Summit)

What insights or takeaways did you have after calculating the cost of acquisition for your clients? Share below!

You’re Hired!: Easy Tips to Help You Avoid BIG Hiring Mistakes

One of the big themes in 2015 that I’m seeing with all my clients is building a great team, which I love because no matter what the size of your business – you cannot do it all alone. Well you can, but you’ll be overwhelmed, tired, stressed and not having any fun 🙂

Why Having a Team is Important

Avoid hiring mistakes | Best hiring practicesHaving a team allows you to better leverage your time and talents – and focus on what you do best – so you can support your clients in getting the results they desire (and get paid well for it, too!).

Plus, you can work less so that you can have more time for other things that are important to you. Most importantly, all those tasks on your to-do list that never seem to get done will finally be crossed off your list.

To make this task a little easier for you, I am going to share some of the most common hiring pitfalls and how to avoid them. In my career, I have successfully hired hundreds of people and have encountered a few non-successes as well.

The Biggest Hiring Mistake Is…

What is that old saying- we learn from our mistakes? True, but I prefer to learn from others’ mistakes when possible. Here is a big one to learn from:

The biggest hiring mistake you can make as a business owner: hiring someone because s/he is like you.

I see this over and over – and in full disclosure, have fallen victim to this one myself. Sometimes you’re interviewing someone and she just resonates with you so closely. You find yourself really liking her and thinking you could totally be great friends. In fact, she is so much like you, you are sure this will be a perfect pairing.

What tends to happen is this: since the new hire is like you, she also likes to do the same things and has the same strengths, skills set and personality as you do.

Problem is – there is already one of “you” in the company. You hired that person to do specific tasks, and they are most likely the tasks you either don’t know how to do or don’t like to do.

So, no one is doing those tasks. But you really like the person so it feels bad to tell her that it isn’t going to work out. You think it might get better, so you put those tasks back over on your to-do list.

The result? They…Still…Are…NOT…Getting…Done.

How to Avoid Hiring Blunders

How can you avoid this? These tips below are key whether you are hiring a virtual assistant, a bookkeeper, a sales rep, an intern or a full time employee. Let’s get started:

  1. Know your own strengths and weaknesses so you can focus on finding someone who can complement your skill set. For instance, I know I love to create and I still have a little perfectionism in me. I know I need someone on my team who is more of a taskmaster and is going to push me to get things done – and keep moving forward.
  2. Clearly identify what tasks need to be done by someone other than you. Include the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform them, and the behavioral traits important to succeed in your company. These could be technical such as computer skills, customer service skills, or ability to handle multiple requests and deadlines. You are the boss so you get to decide what is important for your
  3. Write up a job description for the work you need done based on the information created above. It doesn’t have to be fancy or “corporate”- you just need it to share with potential candidates or for posting on various sites.
  4. Create a list of questions for candidates. This helps you get the information you need and enables you to be consistent with everyone you are speaking to.
  5. Look for candidates. This could be posting on job boards, submitting a request on eLance, asking colleagues for referrals, posting on Facebook, or reaching out to college placement offices. Where you look is going to depend on the type of team members you need.
  6. Conduct a formal interview with prepared questions. This can be on the phone, Skype, or in person – whichever works best for your business model. I recommend always having a phone interview before meeting with anyone in person just to make sure they meet the minimum requirements. If the team member is going to be virtual, then stick with the phone or Skype.
  7. Ask these two critical questions:
    1. What do you love doing that you would happily do even if you weren’t getting paid?
      You are listening for 2 things here;

      • You will find out what they are passionate about – THEIR genius zone, and
      • Their responses should coincide with the activities that are outside of YOUR genius zone (the things you don’t know how to do, don’t like to do, or don’t want to do).
    2. What questions do you have for me?
      • If they don’t have any- red flag! No questions = no interest in you – or your company.

Avoid hiring mistakes | Best hiring practices | Keys to hiringYes, these steps will take some of your time initially. However, I can tell you from experience that doing this upfront work will save you time and money in the long run.

You will bring on team members who are aligned with your needs and visions as a business owner, and who have the necessary skills, knowledge and ability to get things done so you can focus on running your business and serving your clients (you know…the reason you went into business in the first place!).

When you do the work up front, it also helps reduce the chances of having to let someone go- directly (“you’re fired”) or indirectly (“no, I don’t have any projects for you this month”).

Tell Me: What issues have you encountered building your team – and what did you do about it?

 

Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

What Will You Say YES To?

Is 2015 going splendidly for you so far?

Set New Year Priorities | What will you say yes to?This is not a post about resolutions or goals (nor is about whether or not you are achieving them).

This is a personal note that’s been weighing on my heart to share. And of course one really amazing tip for your business (you know I can’t help myself!).

Last year at this time I fell on the ice and got a concussion (ouch!). 2 weeks after that, I fell down a flight of stairs, well actually it was more like I went sledding without a sled, and tore my shoulder (double ouch!). It made for an interesting year. Last month, I finally had the shoulder surgery to repair the tears.

Everyone kept telling me that shoulder surgery was the longest and most painful recovery. I fought buying into that story, but I’ve got to say – they were kind of right.

I haven’t been able to drive the past 6-½ weeks. I just recently re-gained the ability to lift my arm up enough to reach the keyboard and type with both hands.

I’d be lying if I told you that the sprinkling of snow or icy pavement doesn’t instill a little fear in my heart.

But I’d also be lying if I didn’t tell you about the gratitude that I’ve experienced and has consumed me.

I am so grateful for my family who has taken care of me when I needed help.

I am grateful for my team, colleagues and mentors who’ve been there to support and encourage me.

I am grateful for my clients who continue to kick business butt on a daily basis and make me feel like a proud mama.

I am grateful for you. Thank you for “liking” my posts, following me on social media, reading and sharing my articles, connecting with me and for being part of my community.

I am especially grateful for something one of my mentors, Jeanna Gabellini, shared with me, which helped me have my personal best business year ever (despite everything that happened).

My YES statement… it goes like this, “I only say ‘yes’ to things that [fill in the blank]”

Here was my personal statement for 2014:

“I only say, “yes” to things that positively impact my time, money and peace”

How to choose your priorities | what to say yes toSimple? – YES.

Easy? – NO.

This was such a great mantra for me last year that I really wanted to share it with you.

My example might not be the most important to you, but it’s easy to change the scenario and the statement to reflect what is.

Write it or print it out and place it where you can see it every day. As business owners we have so much to think about and do. It’s a great reminder to focus on what really matters.

This year as I’ve been recovering from my surgery and reflecting on my goals and the road ahead, I’ve modified it a little.

Here is my personal statement for 2015:

“I only say YES to things that positively impact my time, money, energy and peace of mind”.

(I feel calm and happy just saying it)

As a result, I’ve already said NO to some amazing opportunities because they will take up too much of my time and mental energy. And I’m okay with it because I know that leaving that space open allows what I really want, to show up and get the time, energy and focus it deserves.

So, what will you say YES to this year? I’d love to hear it!

To Your BIG Breakthroughs and BIG Results!

 

Images courtesy of freedigitaldownloads.com