Tracking Leading Indicators

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Today, we want to talk about one of key ways that we motivate and coach people to be their very best: tracking leading indicators.

One of the major challenges that professionals often face in business development is the existence of significant lags between when you start talking to a prospect and the moment when that same client purchases one of your products or services. In expert-driven industries, sometimes it can take years to move from that initial dialogue to closing the deal. From a behavioral perspective, simply keeping yourself motivated throughout that entire time period can be very difficult. A typical indicator of sales success is dollars of business brought in, but this is a lagging indicator that can take months or years to materialize.

To overcome this behavioral science obstacle, we advise our clients to focus on leading indicators.

There are three major characteristics that distinguish leading indicators:

  • They are 100% in our control.
  • They are coachable.
  • They can be accomplished in a short timeframe – typically 1-2 weeks.

If you identify the right leading indicators to track, you can keep yourself motivated over the short-term. Tracking leading indicators will also help you keep your eye on business development in a more consistent fashion. You can dedicate your time to accomplishing short sprints instead of attempting to visualize the full journey to closing. This way, you will generate a feeling of progress that will work to keep morale high, which will also help motivate you to maintain a full pipeline.

From a managerial perspective, it’s easier to coach your team using leading indicators than it is to motivate them around long-term lagging indicators.

Leading indicators provide a meaningful yardstick for progress that can be monitored on an ongoing basis, whereas successfully closing the deal will involve variables that your team will not be able to control.

One of the things that I track myself is the number of Most Important Things (MITs) that I had planned to complete versus tracking the number of random tasks that I accomplished during the week.

Every week, I pick at least three things that I believe that I absolutely need to get done this week. Then, at the end of the week, I review the work done over the prior week to calculate the percentage of MITs completed. The benefit of the method is that I can track my percentages on an ongoing basis, which gives visibility to my performance over the month, quarter, year, or multiple years. In my experience, the weekly review session gives me a burst of activity that helps me to stay on track. Sometimes I realize that I only have one of my three MITs done, which then motivates me to sprint to the end of Friday to get those last couple of things done.

Another good leading indicator is hours spent on business development each week.

In the very cloudy world of doing work and growing a business, it can be difficult to consistently prioritize the “growing the business” part. Clients are asking you questions and giving you deadlines around the “work” part. Hardly anybody asks you about, or gives you deadlines around, creating a bigger pipeline and growing your book of business or practice. If you don’t identify some concrete, short-term targets for yourself or your team, it’s easy to leave the BD work on the back burner.

Another leading indicator that we often suggest that our clients track is offering Give-to-Gets (GTGs). 

Give-to-Gets are part of our overall GrowBIG business development system. Offering proper Give-to-Gets is essential to doing business development the right way. GTGs are little bite size strategic investments in clients. The key to the success of this leading indicator is to measure the act of offering the Give-to-Get. That is much more important than focusing on whether the client accepts the offer or gives you another meeting to discuss the offer in more detail. As mentioned earlier, one key to successfully quantifying leading indicators is ensuring that they are completely within your control. Offering GTGs is 100% in your control.

Another great example of a leading indicator is preparing for meetings.

After GrowBIG Training, one of our clients started using this leading indicator to ensure that his team wasn’t having “random acts of lunch,” as he called them (i.e. generally not preparing for meetings and instead letting happenstances occur, as opposed to being intentional about every major client interaction). In order for this to be a valuable indicator, it is important to set a firm definition for the word ‘preparing’, rather than leaving it up to interpretation. At BIG, we have a specific preparation process called GrowBIG Dynamic Meeting Prep that turns the nebulous term ‘preparation’ into a well-defined exercise with established steps.

A final example of a good leading indicator is requesting the next client interaction during the current one.

We had one of our clients measure this indicator. It encouraged them to be conscientious about what needed to happen next to move the BD process along. As a result, they were prepared in advance to nail down the details for the next meeting. They even began sending out the calendar invite while they were still with the client, rather than waiting to organize it via email after the fact when the planning process can get derailed much more easily.

All of these examples showcase leading indicators that are within the realm of control of the business developer.

For our clients, quantifying and tracking leading indicators has made a significant impact on the growth of their business.

Here’s what you can do to do start using leading indicators.

Think through what your goals are for an entire year, both from a vision and metric standpoint. Then, take a step back and ask yourself, “What behaviors do my team and I have that are 100% in our control? If you can identify these, you can coach your team by measuring those behaviors week to week. You can also quantify their progress over time.

The basic message is that, if you can consistently execute on important leading indicators, you will see the positive results in the lagging indicators (business brought in, etc.) down the road.

As always, I hope this video was helpful. I love to get feedback and welcome your comments. I also appreciate insights around what you all think would be valuable topics for future videos. You can reach me at mo.bunnell@bunnellideagroup.com.

– Mo Bunnell

 

Talking About Money

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Today we are going to talk about a really controversial subject, one that people tend to shy away from all the time.

It’s money.

For whatever reason, many of our clients hesitate to talk about money with their clients. There’s a lot of reasons for it, and I hope today we can change your opinion of talking about money with your clients.

Talking about money should be done openly, and honestly, and early on in the conversation, as many times as possible.

In our world, we’ve found our BIG clients, who are typically experts in very disciplined and professional crafts, are hesitant to talk about money with their clients. These are folks that have sometimes taken decades to become expert enough that they can lead client relationships. This type of professional is the one most hesitant to bring up money with their clients.

We think the reason is because certain types of industries have some degree of variability in the pricing from one client to another. Perhaps you are in the world of big law, or consulting, or architecture, or engineering, or accounting, or some other professional field. There typically is some wiggle room in the price.

Or maybe you are an account manager of a large health care company, or outsourcer, or organization where the pricing changes a little from deal to deal just because they are so darn complicated. In those worlds, where there is a bit of play in the money, for whatever reason, whoever leads the client relationship can hesitate in talking about it, and they can end up messing up their relationship with their clients.

Here’s the secret to success.

If you think of the four major buckets of an engagement with a client – there is the goal, the process, the people, and the finances. We are all comfortable talking about the first three things – the goal, the process, and the people. We’re ready to third party endorse our team and talk about how great our solution is, and how proud we are that we’ve crafted it to achieve the goals of the client. All of the sudden, when it comes to money, we want to hesitate.

Instead, we want you to think of financials and the monetary investment that a client makes as just the quantification of the scope and the value in the other three areas.

Talk about financials just as seamlessly as you would the Gantt chart about getting the work done, or the team bios about the people that are going to interface with the client. When we talk about money just as easily and openly as we talk about these other things, good things happen.

Here is one last story for you to consider regarding talking about money. I love backpacking.

I find myself wandering around REI, the camping goods store, all the time. I absolutely love it. If I am walking around the store and thinking about buying a new coat, I can talk to a salesperson, who is an expert at their craft, about backpacking. I can look at two different coats and one might cost double the other one. The salesperson can guide me through a process to get option A or option B. Here, the discussion of money is easy.  The prices are fixed. They are right there on the tag. There is no room for negotiation. I cannot ask them for a lower price. Because the prices are fixed and because there are trade-offs between the options, it makes it easy for the salesperson to talk to me and help me figure out what is best for me.

If you view your pricing as fixed, it’s perfectly aligned with the goals, the process, and the people, and the solution.

If you view the pricing as fixed, it gets easy to talk about money. If somebody wants to have a lower price, that’s fine, but one of the other three things must move as well.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation. I hope it changes the way that you think about money. I want you to think about it and talk about it openly and honestly with your clients, just like you would with any other aspect of an engagement. When you do that, magic happens, and it can become a great differentiator for you as you help your clients succeed.

As always, we hope you are enjoying these videos.

Secrets of the Science of Teamwork

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In today’s video, we are going to talk about the secrets of the science of teamwork.

What is so interesting about this psychology that we are sharing today is that so few people have heard of it. A lot of times in our GrowBIG classes, we talk about the proper ratio of positive reinforcements to negative reinforcements. Over time, we have discovered that a good rule of thumb is four to one. But some research by Dr. Marcial Losada, at the University of Michigan, has put a finer point on it.

In Dr. Losada’s research, what he found when he studied high performance teams, is that the teams that had a positive vibe and who were very specific about positive events, performed better because they maintained a higher ratio of positive to negative comments.

In his findings, the data pointed to a specific ratio of 5.6 to 1 that he found corresponded to the highest performing teams. These teams were the best at creating a proper, positive environment when giving feedback to somebody else on their team, relative to constructive conversations. Meaning that teams that built people up at a ratio of 5.6 positive comments to one constructive comment tended to perform better. In other words, for every one constructive criticism that should be said, they said 5.6 positive comments. 

Here are three valuable ways that you can use this ratio.

  • The first way is to use it for your own teams.

Your focus here is to be really specific about what people are doing great and maintain a nice ratio of about five or six times that you are positive. Doing this, you will have built up goodwill in the bank for people that report to you, earning yourself the right to give them some constructive criticism should it become necessary. So, that’s one way to use it – for people who report to you.

  • Secondly, you should use it in cross-functional teams.

I think it’s even more powerful for cross-functional teams. It’s one thing to bark out orders to somebody that reports to you. They sort of have to follow you, but cross-functional teams don’t have to follow you. For example, in your typical job, there are specific people that report to you that you regularly interact with day to day. You have time to build up a bank of good will. Cross-functional teams, however, are not the same. You don’t work together day to day. You might not know each other well. Therefore, having the right ratio of positive to constructive comments is even more important for cross-functional teams because you want everyone to be listening and following you every step of the way.

  • The third and most important way you can use this ratio is with your clients.

Yes, with your clients! This may appear contradictory, but, in practice, it makes a lot of sense. If you are always positive with your clients, like so many of us are, eventually the client will stop believing what you have to say. Especially if you are over the top with praise. If everything they are doing is great, they are perfect at everything –  pretty soon the client doesn’t believe you anymore.

They know that not everything they are doing is perfect or great. Conversely, if you’re always beating them down (and hopefully you don’t do this), but if you have the wrong ratio and you’re being too negative with a client, they will likely not be a client for long. When you have too much negativity, telling people, “You didn’t do this right, you didn’t do that right…”, they are probably not going to hire you for anything.

If, instead, you can keep ratio of 5.6 to 1 while remaining very honest, transparent, and authentic about things you think they could do better, then you’ve earned the right and respect to make constructive criticisms. This way, the clients realize that they need you around because you’re not afraid to point out when they are about to make a mistake, while improving your relationship with them even further.

Those are all great ways that you can use the science of teamwork. But to apply them, you must identify the situations that could best benefit from this ratio. To do that, you may want to start by auditing yourself and figuring out what you think your ratios are in these three specific environments that we mentioned today. Then decide whether or not you need to adjust your behavior. Practice deliberately and hold yourself accountable for always being at the highest performing ratio of 5.6 to 1. The end result will be high performing teams and amazing client relationships.

As always with these videos, we’re hoping that we help you help your clients succeed. We hope you enjoyed it!

Footnote: Marcial Francisco Losada (born 1939) is a Chilean psychologist, consultant, and former director of the Center for Advanced Research (CFAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Losada received a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan. He works on developing “high performance teams.”

 

 

Becoming More Unique

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Today I want to talk about being unique.

Being unique is really important, because if you’re not unique, you are a commodity. Uniqueness allows you to stand out from the crowd rather than disappearing among the rest. If you are not able to stand out from everyone around you, then there is pressure on your rates, you don’t win as often, and things can become very difficult.

Becoming unique is all about focusing on a specific issue or solution that you are capable of providing to your clients.

It can difficult to be unique, especially if you are part of a massive organization. This is because the buyer or the client will be comparing your organization to others. Generally, as organizations get bigger, they get more similar. It makes it harder to distinguish your organization from another organization.

How you’re really going to be unique is if you focus on the specific type of work, the specific problem you’re trying to solve for a client, and you figure out three reasons why you’re uniquely qualified to help them. You want to be able to differentiate yourself by presenting three ways you and your services or products will be most valuable to them. These reasons do not need to be long or complex to be memorable for your clients, as shown through the research of several experts. Instead, specifically focusing on three key concepts is the most important thing when you are trying to be memorable. Here’s the research behind why this works best.

According to the research by Jeff Rouder, people remember concepts best when they are presented in threes.

Many people believe that you can best remember things in sevens. That ‘seven things’ research, however, applies to numbers. When we came up with our original phone numbering system, before the addition of area codes, the researchers found that people could remember about seven numbers the best. So they capped the phone numbers at seven.

However, that’s a very different thing than concepts. For concepts, people tend to remember things in threes. Rouder’s research backs this up.

Even more important is the research done by Dr. Suzanne Shu. Dr. Shu found that when we are talking about ourselves, people believe things in threes more often than they believe things in any other tested number grouping.

When we’re talking about ourselves, people believe in threes more often than they believe in one, two, four, or more things. Dr. Shu and her team tested all the way to 10 things. What they tested were product claims to say, “When we say we’re great at X things”, and if that X was one, two, four, five, six, or ten, it was perceived as being less believable than three things. Three is the height of believability when we’re talking about ourselves.

Therefore, if you can boil things down to three simple reasons of why you are uniquely capable of doing that specific type of work for your client, it’ll be more believable and it’ll be more memorable.

So far, we have only really talked theoretically about positioning yourself uniquely for clients. Here is a concrete example that was shared with us that might help this concept come alive for you. One of our clients we worked with came up with three Rs for their three things.

Number one was Reliability. Their team was filled with the best experts in this particular field. No other company their client spoke to would be able to rival their expertise and reliability. They were reliable in the way that they could surefootedly guide the process and the project every step of the way.

The second thing was Relationship. They had been working with the client on some similar things, so both companies already knew each other’s cultures well enough. There was a foundation of faith already. They could say that they would know the nuances of leading this project with this client specifically and be able to pick up on all the little idiosyncrasies of what it is like to do work there.

The third was Risk. They were willing to withhold 20% of their fees to make sure the project went well. That is a bold statement. They said, “We know we can do this and we know we can do it in your culture. We’re willing to withhold some of our fees until the end, and based on a questionnaire you can fill out to say how great we did, then we’ll either give you the fees back, or we’ll keep the fees for ourselves.”

That was fantastic. These three things made a statement about the quality of their work, even adding alliteration to make it even more memorable for their clients.

This is the kind of example I believe really helps bring the concept to life. We hope it did that. Most importantly, we hope you take away from this to try packaging how you are unique in threes. Talking about yourself in threes makes you more memorable, more believable, and will succinctly tell how your company, among all the competition, is the most unique. At the end of the day, it will help you help your clients succeed.

 

 

Give-To-Get Greater Demand

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Today we are going to talk about one of my favorite topics, creating demand.

In our experience, when most people attempt to create demand, they do what is not effective. They have a meeting with a client and talk about only the biggest, sexiest things you have ever worked on. The biggest matters, the biggest solutions, the biggest projects, the biggest engagements. The problem with that is, while it might give you some credibility, it is difficult for the client to make the next incremental step. It is unlikely the client will go from one meeting to buying something that is very large. Instead of that, what we find to be most helpful is doing something we call a Give-to-Get.

A Give-to-Get is a small sliver of your expertise that you give away on your dime, no charge at all.

It lets the client get a taste of the experience of what it is like to work with you, as opposed to talking about it. A Give-to-Get usually takes at most an hour or so of time and it does not even have to be in person, it could be on the phone or a video conference. It is all about solving a client’s problem in some way, so that they get this idea of how great you really are. That is a lot better than simply talking about how great you really are.

If you want to do a Give-to-Get the right way, you do it backwards.

It’s counterintuitive. What you want to do is think, “What is the big thing that I would like to create demand for that might take a month or a year to actually get final approval for?” That goal could take a long time to reach, but figure out what it is. This way, you may align your Give-to-Get with that. You take a step back and ask yourself, when possible, what is one small thing a client can purchase or receive that will push them into alignment with the big thing. You work backwards from that and you think, what Give-to-Get, what one hour or so investment of your time can be given to align with the small one.

Here is how it could look.

Let’s say you are a financial advisor. An important one who is managing all the assets for a high net worth individual. A Give-to-Get might be going out to lunch or dinner and talking about what to do now that they’ve had their first child and they’re figuring out how to save for college. Or perhaps to discuss what do they do when they’re going to have a liquidity event because they’re going to sell their dental practice. You can share how have you helped other dentists figure out exactly what to do when that sale happens. These are easy Give-to-Get that shows your credibility and helps clients think through a pressing issue, a life event change, that naturally lead to something larger.

A Give-to-Get done properly is done with intention, so that the Give-to-Get you offered is aligned to something bigger, but at the step you are at it can be easy to say yes to and it shows you at your best, all while showing a tremendous amount of credibility.

Let me give you a couple examples of Give-to-Get in completely different industries.

First, let’s say that you are the account manager for a big health insurance company. A Give-to-Get here might be an evaluation of how your health care in other local markets would be better than what they have now. You could mention adding dental insurance, which would be a great addition to the various parts of the health and welfare coverages they already purchase from you. A Give-to-Get could be an analysis or an evaluation or a brainstorming session about how these new products could potentially fit, or not fit, with the portfolio they already have.

Or let’s say you are a lawyer, a transactional attorney at a big Am Law 50 firm. What you might do in this situation is offer a  Give-to-Get of evaluating some of their prior buy-sell agreements and making sure a particular clause was in place, ensuring that the buy-sell was constructed properly.

Another example could be that you are an accountant specializing in tax matters. You could perform an evaluation of an organization’s or an individual’s tax returns to figure out whether there are ways to save money which that particular client had not yet thought about doing or implementing.

Give-to-Gets are great because, firstly, you are helping someone else. Secondly, you are showing your expertise. Thirdly, it is aligned with the intention of receiving future paid work.

Lastly, let me share with you the science of why Give-to-Gets work so well.

Dr. Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University has conducted the most research on the power of influence, specifically on what things do and do not influence us as human beings. He came up with six things. He synthesized all the research out there from lots of other Ph. D.s, in addition to his own work, and he found that six things were the most powerful influencers for human beings. Give-to-Gets can trigger every single one of those six influencers. My own experience has shown that no other technique hits all six. This list is useful as it can provide a little check list to make sure you are designing your Give-to-Gets in the most powerful way.

The first thing Cialdini found is reciprocity.

When we give first, people want to repay. The Give-to-Get, by definition, covers this.

The next thing he found was social proof.

People tend to do what other people want them to do, which is very powerful for us as human beings. When you offer your Give-to-Get, make sure all the people involved with a larger buying decision are a part of the Give-to-Get. This allows them to move as one single-minded group, as opposed to you just winning one person over and failing to gather the social proof in the organization. Invite everybody you can to do participate in the Give-to-Get.

The third thing is likability.

If you offer your Give-to-Get in the right way, people are sampling the experience that they will have if they were to work with you. This grants you opportunities improve your likability. And since you’re giving something, there is a high correlation to likability as well.

The fourth thing is commitment.

People typically continue to travel the path they are already on. What a simple, small, free Give-to-Get can do is start that journey. Therefore, it is really important you align your Give-to-Get with where you want to end up.

The fifth thing is authority.

Authority is all about how we tend to trust people that know their stuff. If you are actually doing the work you do, as opposed to talking about doing what you have accomplished, you will get the chance to create that authority. They will get the feeling that you know what you are doing and are skilled at it as you execute on your Give-to-Get.

The sixth and final thing that Cialdini found is scarcity.

We tend to want more of what is scarce. With your Give-to-Get, be very clear with your clients that you can’t offer your services away on your dime all the time. There’s only a few of these you can do per month or per year. Just be honest with them. Tell them that you can’t do what you’re offering for them for everybody. You can do “X” of these per time period. You can say that very honestly and authentically, and that’ll make people want it more. You’ve made your services scarce, which makes it valuable since not everybody gets it. Always be authentic, always be genuine, always be honest about this, but it’s totally appropriate for you to say how special the gift is that you’re giving someone.

If you hit all six of those things, Give-to-Gets really shine because you’re helping your client succeed, while you’re showing them how you can do more work for them, and that’s what creating demand is all about. As always with these videos, we hope that we’re helping you help your clients succeed and we hope that you enjoy them.