Monthly Archives: June 2015

I’m a professional, not in sales. How do I do business development?

I’m a professional, not in sales. How do I do business development?

A client called me a couple of weeks ago lamenting the fact that he had just been promoted and was now expected to ‘do’ business development in addition to all of his other tasks. First off, he just didn’t know how but more fundamentally he felt as though ‘sales’ was a sleazy activity, unbecoming to a highly qualified, highly trained professional like himself.

Sleazy_salesmanInterestingly, it’s not just professionals who feel this way, the fact that you have to go out and generate leads and convert them into paying customers seems to shock many small business owners (including me when I first started out). If this is you read on for some help on how to get your head around business development.

We often have a knee jerk reaction to the words ‘sales’ or ‘salesman’. Just think about what words and images you associate with ‘sales’.  I’ll bet most of them aren’t very complimentary and a picture of someone with a shiny suit and a false smile just popped into your head.  But business development is more than just selling.  It’s really about raising awareness of you, your firm and the products and services you offer. It involves providing information to allow potential customers to evaluate options and make the right choice for them and then closing the deal but only when they have decided that they’re ready to buy from you.   It’s not about forcing someone to pay for stuff they don’t want, it’s about helping potential clients to make the right choices for them.  Hmm – doesn’t that sound much more palatable than selling?

Relationships_service_quality

The fact is that many senior positions, or running your own business, will involve building relationships with potential customers and maintaining relationships with existing and past customers. So start by changing how you think about sales: forget the selling bit and focus on developing great relationships and providing great service then, guess what, you’ll also be great at business development.

I’ll be adding some more on business development, networking, building relationships and, yes, selling over the coming weeks so watch out for future blogs, helpsheets and e-books.   In the meantime why not have a free coaching session on me?

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Alchemy A-Z of being in business: M is for management

Alchemy A-Z of being in business: M is for management

i_stock_managementA lot of people make a distinction between leadership and management. You’ll often hear that leadership is about setting the vision, the big picture stuff, inspiring and motivating people while management is about getting things done. I am not so sure that you can separate them so cleanly. Leadership isn’t always glamorous, management isn’t always drudgery. In fact the best managers are able to get things done by inspiring and motivating people; the best leaders of course deliver on what they have promised.

For me the distinction lies in the focus, leaders are looking further ahead; managers are closer to the action and make sure that things get done on time. If a leader is thinking strategically, managers tend to think operationally: how will we actually execute those grand plans?

I have read hundreds of management books and very few deal with getting things done well, on time and on budget so here are my 6 top tips for being a good manager.

  1. Understand the requirements. What is the purpose of the activity or project? What are the timescales and budget you’re working to? What sort of quality is expected? What are the consequences of it going wrong? What are the benefits of getting it right?
  2. Be clear in communicating all of the above to whoever is involved in the activity or project. As I said in my last post, set the overall context as well as the specific requirement so that the team understands where what they’re working on fits in. Make sure people know why they’re being asked to do something. If there isn’t a good reason think about whether you really do need them to do it.
  3. Get buy-in early on in the project. This is closely linked to item 2. If people don’t see the point of what they’re being asked to do, don’t understand it or think it’s a waste of time then guess what? It won’t get done. A good way to get buy-in is to involve people as early as you can, give them a reasonable say in how things will be done and get their advice on the best way of proceeding. It’s those at the sharp end who can quickly identify the flaws in the grand strategy and come up with ways of addressing them.
  4. Have a clear, shared plan. Identify everything that needs to be done, assign the appropriate people to perform the given tasks, make sure they have all of the tools and resources they need and set a clear, realistic deadline by when the given tasks are to be achieved. Everyone involved should come together at key project milestones to review progress, revisit the plan and make sure that everything is still on track. If not, the plan can and should be altered to bring everything back in line.
  5. Leave people to get on with it. Never, ever micro-manage BUT make sure you check in from time to time to make sure that everything is OK. Use open questions when you check in. ‘Is everything OK?’ will usually get a yes, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘What problems are you having?’ will usually lead to a useful discussion about the issues.
  6. Acknowledge achievement and celebrate success. Completing a project, winning a piece of business, hitting targets, finding the perfect person to fill a vacancy and other , perhaps everyday, business milestones are worthy of note. Take the time to thank everyone involved for a job well done and mark the occasion somehow – even making the coffee or bringing in a box of cakes can make the team feel that you appreciate them.

Managing people and getting things done can be tricky, especially if you’re new to it or have never been managed well yourself.  It can be hepful to get a third-party view so why not try one of our free coaching sessions? Just  click on the link below and we’ll be in touch.

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Newly promoted and it’s all a bit weird? Here’s some help

Newly promoted and it’s all a bit weird? Here’s some help

NewbosspissedoffstaffThe first time I got promoted I was clueless; I had a team of four and no management training whatsoever. My predecessor was widely held to have been a good manager so I decided that I would do exactly what she used to do.
One of her quirks was that at about 5pm she would go round the team, ask what they were working on and tell them they could go as soon as they had finished whatever it was they were doing. So at about 5 on my first day as supervisor I went over to the management accountant, asked what she was working on and told her she could go when she was ready. She looked at me with pure contempt, said very sarcastically, ‘Thanks Jackie, I will do’ and turned her back to me. A cold wind blew through the office, our relationship was never quite the same again and I was totally baffled as to what I had done wrong.  The fact is that when you’re starting out in management people do often treat you differently and it’s very easy to make mistakes.  If you’re interested in finding out what to do, read on.

Think about it from your colleagues’ point of view. It’s a big change for you; but it’s also a big change for everyone else.  And while it’s a positive change for you (recognition, advancement, more money and so on) it may not be quite so good for everyone else.  Nobody is sure how it will pan out so there are lots of unanswered questions.  What sort of boss will you be?  Will you change towards them? How will your relationship change (because it will, inevitably)? What will it mean for them? As well as the uncertainty, everyone will be experiencing different emotions. Some people will feel a sense of loss: one of the gang has moved on and that’s sad.  Some people will be pleased for you and want to help in any way they can; others will be envious and do their best to undermine you.  In addition to the individual responses the team as a whole may well be mourning the loss of a good boss and will take time to adjust to the idea of someone else being in charge (that was one of my problems in the example above).

As for you, start by looking at yourself. How has your behaviour changed towards your friends and colleagues?  Maybe you’re being a bit distant and ‘off’, perhaps they think you’re throwing your weight around a bit too much.  (I once asked everyone out for a drink to celebrate my payrise, a well-intentioned gesture but I cringe when I think how I must have come across). If your behaviour is unhelpful ask yourself why you’re acting like that and what you can do about it. Catch yourself if you’re not behaving in any way that helps the team to adjust to the new situation. Above all, don’t try too hard or, worse, try to be someone else (another of my mistakes): you have to develop your own leadership style.

At the heart of it all, as always, is communication – be clear about what you want from the team, and what your expectations are. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. A more experienced manager should be able to mentor you and provide some good advice and support; the team will also be able to help you through those difficult first few weeks if you let them.  However this may well be a time whn you find it useful to work with someone outside your company.  Why not start with a free coaching session us?

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Alchemy A-Z of being in business: L is for leadership

Alchemy A-Z of being in business: L is for leadership

ChefOne of my clients is struggling with her team, she can’t seem to get them to do what she needs them to do and to be honest they are running rings around her, costing her clients, money, time and stressing her out. In one of our sessions I asked when she was going to step up and be a leader. She rolled her eyes and told me that leaders are born not made, and she was not born to lead. I rolled my eyes right back at her and asked her why she was bothering to run her own business then; if she was born to follow (a safe assumption if she was not born to lead) then surely she should go and get a low level job and be told what to do all day every day? There followed a really interesting conversation on who leaders are, why people want to follow them and what great leaders do and she’s now working hard on being a good leader. The truth is that anyone trying to run anything (e.g. a business, a department, a team) is by definition in a leadership role. And it’s also true that while some people are better, more natural leaders than others everyone can become a leader in some way; we can all improve our leadership skills.

I would go so far as to argue that if you’re in charge of anything you are obliged to improve your leadership skills – you owe it to yourself, your team and the project. If your team aren’t doing a good job then it’s safe to assume that you’re doing a lousy job of leading them. There are countless books and articles on becoming a better leader (my current favourite is The Servant Leader by James A. Autry) but here are my top tips:

  • Accept that not everyone will like you. They won’t all like you whether you’re in charge or not so you might as well have their respect if nothing else.
  • Remember that respect is earned through expertise, track record, reputation and the way we treat others. You might still be working on your expertise or track record but we can all treat those around us with kindness and respect.
  • Treating people well doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. Remember some of the great teachers you had at school? They probably set clear boundaries and expectations, the class knew exactly how far they could go and what was expected of them. The best teachers at my school dealt kindly but firmly with any bad behaviour or poor performance but knew when to relax and let us have some fun.   We did well in their classes and enjoyed being taught by them. That approach works well in business too.
  • Become a great communicator. Be clear about what you want, when you want it and why you want it. Set the overall context as well as the specific requirement so that the team understands where what they’re working on fits in. Make sure people know why they’re being asked to do something. If there isn’t a good reason think about whether you do need them to do it.
  • Delegate don’t abdicate. Whatever your team is working on is still your overall responsibility so check in with them regularly and make sure that they’re on track – help them out whenever you can; give them what they need to do a great job for you.
  • Be consistent, there’s nothing worse than a leader who blows hot and cold.

How’s my client doing? Well she’s getting there and her business is reaping the benefit.

For more information on how coaching can help you be a better leader please get in touch for a no-obligation chat. You can do this by calling me on 01235 861 311 or emailing me at info@alchemybusinesscoaching.biz.   I look forward to hearing from you.

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Working long hours? Here’s what to do

Working long hours? Here’s what to do

When we’re newly promoted or get a new job it’s natural to feel that we have to up our game and work harder than ever to prove that we deserve our success. Quite often we end up trying a bit too hard. That might mean that we take too much on because we don’t like saying no or don’t want to ask for help and the upshot is that most of us will end up working very long hours. After all, if we’re putting the hours in then nobody can say that we’re not trying. Right? No,in fact this is an all too common mistake: working 16 hour days does not mean you’re doing a good job, in fact it’s probably the Working long hoursopposite.

50waystotakeabreakIn their book ‘On Form’ Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz point out that most of us treat life as a sprint when actually it’s a marathon. We rush around trying to cram everything in and set ourselves up for failure because we can’t do everything we take on. We also fail to manage our energy which leaves us feeling stressed, exhausted and demotivated. The fact is that nobody can work flat out all day, every day; we all need to rest and recover, we all need time for ourselves as well as for our friends and family. Unfortunately it’s tempting to prioritise the demands of work over our own physical, mental and emotional health and that ends in poor performance, stress and ultimately burnout.

Loehr and Schwartz suggest breaking the cycle by building time into your schedule for renewal. Think about where you get your energy from – is it exercise? Spending time with friends? Painting? Reading? Playing guitar? We all get our energy from different sources, so work out where yours comes from and make time to do whatever helps you to relax.

I heard a great story the other day about someone who was headhunted for a top job in the City. Their package includes time for a siesta between 3 o’clock and 4 every day; no meetings are ever scheduled mid afternoon, they lock the office door, have a snooze and return to work feeling refreshed and ready for anything. That might be a little tricky to negotiate but we can all build time to rest and recover into our day. Here are some tips that should help you manage your energy better:

  • Treat the time you need to rest, exercise or socialise as an appointment and put it in your diary.
  • Take frequent short breaks throughout the day: go for a quick walk around the block or the building, get some fresh air, even a quick stretch at your desk or in the loo will refresh you.
  • Eat healthily with plenty of fruit and vegetables – try not to grab a takeaway or sandwich at your desk every day.
  • Make time for the people close to you – don’t try and cram them in somewhere, allow enough time to and space to really be with them.
  • If you really can’t fit everything you need to do into your working day then look at why. Start with yourself: do you need more training and support? If so, what’s stopping you for asking for the help you need? Talk to your boss or HR about what help and training would be available. If you feel your employer has unreasonable expectations then you definitely need to talk about what is manageable based on your time, skills and resources.
  • Find someone to talk to – a trusted colleague, mentor or coach will help you keep things in perspective and work out what you need to do to stop feeling overwhelmed.

50 ways to take a break image courtesy of Karen Horneffer-Ginter

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Feel like you don’t know enough? Here’s what to do about it

Feel like you don’t know enough? Here’s what to do about it

When I qualified as an accountant rather than being proud of myself I was terrified. I was immediately promoted, given a big pay rise and offered the keys to a company car (even though I couldn’t drive at the time). I was also given much more responsibility and expected to up my game considerably – no more study leave, no more cutting me slack because I was a trainee. ‘Now you’re qualified you should….’ was a sentence opener that I came to dread because it usually led to me feeling very, very stupid and inexperienced.
That piece of paper suddenly cast me as an expert when really I felt like a dunce. It was the same whenever I changed jobs and acquired new responsibilities. What I didn’t know is that many newly promoted people feel the same – they’ve spent years learning how to be good at something but now they’re managers or partners the job is different and they need to develop a whole range of new skills and experiences. If that happens to you read on to find out why and what you can do about it.

Let’s start with why.

When we achieve the holy grail of qualification we’re no longer a junior or a trainee, our charge-out rate goes up and so do expectations – people who were senior to us even start treating us more like equals. But we don’t know any more than we did yesterday when we were still waiting for our results!

Because we’re suddenly expected to do more and know more we tend to become very aware of all the things that we just don’t know. We’ve moved into in a state psychologists call ‘conscious incompetence’ and started to focus on how little we understand rather than how much we know. And it feels horrible. We want unconscious competence, when you can do things naturally and well,l but that seems like a long way off.

How do you fix it?

Firstly, accept it; it happens to everyone. New roles are challenging and unsettling, that’s just a fact (see my helpsheet on coping with change for more info). Remember that it will get easier with time but you can help things along.

1. Think about what skills and experience you need to develop (maybe talk to your boss, someone responsible for talent management or even someone in the year ahead of you) and decide how you’re going to do it. It’s important here to think about what interests you – if you’re rubbish at tax and have zero interest in that area of expertise then don’t go there even if there are opportunities available; instead find something you enjoy and focus on that. Don’t forget that study after study shows that we are more successful and experience less stress when we enjoy what we do. Then ask your firm to provide you with a mentor and help pay for any additional training you need. Don’t wait for appraisal time; be proactive – do it as soon as you are ready. It shows you’re keen to get on.

2. It might help to find a coping mechanism. My nightmare scenario was being at a networking or other meeting and someone asking me a question I couldn’t answer. It happened all the time and I felt so embarrassed and useless. It was the same when I started coaching too. People can usually tell if you’re bluffing so don’t try and bluster your way out of it. In reality there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying you don’t know something; it’s better to be honest yet constructive.

What to say.

Here are some of the lines I’ve used to get me over that awkward ‘I don’t know!’ moment:

‘It would be unprofessional of me to answer that without having much more information. I offer a free initial consultation, shall we find a time for you to come into the office and we can start to explore the issue?’
‘You know tax/VAT/whatever is really complicated and it’s not my area of expertise. Why don’t I get someone from our tax/VAT/whatever department to give you a call?’
‘That sounds tricky! Let me give you a call to arrange a meeting to talk about in more detail. Have you got a card?’
‘We can’t really talk here, why don’t we meet for a coffee and talk about that in more detail?’
‘You know I’m not sure about that. Let me check it out and give you a call in a day or two (or whatever timescale is appropriate).’
Just make sure that you do get back to them! Failing to follow up as promised is much, much worse than not being able to answer a technical question.

3. Get over yourself! We’re all nervous at one time or another and we seldom feel like we know enough about anything. But if you stretch yourself and get away from that comfort zone you’ll find that it gets easier to to deal with new situations and challenges. Why not take a deep breath and just do it?

I hope you find this useful. If you’d like support and advice tailored just for you, our confidential coaching sessions help professionals improve confidence, leadership skills and all-round performance. Book your free coaching session here.

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