Business Owners need to be change agents

Even though the economy has forced many to re-evaluate business models, I find that some business owners still have their head in the sand when it comes to change. Evidence of that comes from declining revenue with no attention to what customers are actually buying.

I’m reminded of the story of the hole in the wall–in the 50’s, someone suggested that a burger joint cut a hole in the wall and start selling food to people through the window so the customer wouldn’t even have to get out of their car. At the time, people scoffed at the idea, but I’m pretty sure you realize where that’s taken us today.

So what’s your hole in the wall? If you’re doing things the same way and you’re struggling, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Simon Sinek does a good job of demonstrating this in this video where he talks about drawing a bulls eye to determine where the customer’s pain truly is. If the customer doesn’t have some sort of pain, he or she is not going to pay you X hundreds or thousands of dollars–it’s that simple.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to be a change agent, which means that you need to get all of the people affected by the company and projects involved to ensure their support and commitment.

Here’s a few qualities that change agents have:

1. They live in the future, not the present. It’s important to have a vision of what could be or should be the dictates the actions.

2. They have passion and inspire people to do great things. Change is difficult, even though it’s always occurring. Many people in your organization may be resistant, and therefore managing change comes with instilling inspiration, and ensuring that people are passionate about making the change.

3. They are self-motivated. The change agent needs to find the motivation to keep the ball rolling on a day-to-day basis. Validation may come at a future date, and the risk is being misunderstood in the short term, and even pulled off course.

4. They have a high degree of emotional intelligence. It’s very important to understand people and human interaction, and developing a high degree of emotional intelligence is paramount. You must have the ability to communicate effectively and take into account all of the opinions and doubts of others.

The Blue Sky Prospecting List

I’m a big believer in developing systems, and nowhere is this more important that in the sales cycle. It’s not rocket science–but at the same time, I have yet to encounter a business owner that can truly articulate the number of suspects needed to generate prospects, and then how many prospects they need to close deals.

In fact, when you talk to sales people about their pipeline, you get a lot of “blue sky” answers–which ultimately means that many are misplacing suspects in the prospect category when they haven’t actually earned the right to move them over.

Using a CRM such as Salesforce.com won’t solve this issue either. I’ve seen many companies that use these systems effectively across the organization with wide variances in revenue growth. This is usually because different departments are using different data points that determine if this is a suspect or a prospect with no real accountability.

This process is completely predictable if you’re inputing the right data consistently.

The question that needs to be asked at each stage is “what have we done for a suspect that qualifies them to be put on the prospect list?” Salespeople need to ensure that they have had discussions with the actual decision maker and have a good understanding of the customer’s procurement process.

Most of all, we (both you and your salespeople) need to be honest about what qualifies a suspect to be moved over to the prospect list. Using agreed upon data points, triggers or gates will create a significant improvement in predictability, and help you determine where you need to intercede in the process.

Book Review: QBQ! The Question Behind the Question

I recently read QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John G. Miller and I recommend it to eradicate “blame, complaining, and procrastination” from the workplace.

The biggest takeaway for me was Miller’s assumption that today’s business culture lacks personal accountability, and that many people blame others for their own problems and conflicts.

Instead, we should ask, “What can I do to improve the situation?” And only by being able to ask this “question behind the question” can we truly take ownership of the problem and start working towards a solution.

The essence of the book is to make better choices by asking better questions–such as how can this affect your life? Would you actually have more of your desired results?

We face choices every day, and indecision is what leads to much procrastination.

Miller offer three simple guidelines for asking better questions:
begin with “What” or “How” (not “Why,” “When,” or “Who”)
contain an “I” (not “they,” “them,” “we,” or “you”)
Focus on action

By asking the questions behind the questions, we move away from victim mentality into controlled responses–in other words, we stop waiting for something to happen and we make things happen.