Successful business strategies are the backbone of thriving businesses and highly successful business people. Here are 10 random, yet essential business takeaways that have me thinking as we approach our 18th year in business and I reflect on this past year.
- Nothing is more powerful than what you can CONTROL in your business. Take inventory of what those ”controllables” are and focus on executing them to the fullest in the New Year.
- Nothing is more frustrating than what you can’t CONTROL in your business. Always work on making that list smaller.
- Your existing customer is always your best one! Take incredibly good care of them.
- In every situation, every challenge and opportunity, look for the win-win … there is always one there.
- A strong ego is a great driver for success. A big ego is the inevitable downfall of so many business leaders.
- Always have an open mind and listen to varying opinions, then distill them to come up with the best solution that fits your needs.
- Capitalize on your strengths and what you like and do best. Do the same with those around you.
- Fully develop and execute the 3 drivers of team performance; compensation, recognition, and accountability.
- An effective “sales engine” in your business is incredibly hopeful and rewarding. Focus on putting it in overdrive in 2011.
- Thinking in terms of logic and common sense always makes the most sense! Always consider things from the other point of view. Accept that for things to work over a period of time they have to always add up and make sense.
As you ponder these points I think you will agree, you don’t have to be a business owner to adopt them as principles. In fact, embracing these strategies is among the best ways to catapult your career in your own business or the business you work in. They will help you capitalize on the outstanding opportunities that exist today and pave the way for a most successful future.
Ziad Khoury – Founder and President, Frontline Performance Group
Frontline Performance Group (www.frontlineperformancegroup.com) recently partnered with Auto Rental News (www.autorentalnews.com) in conducting a groundbreaking study of the perceptions of rental car customers and the frontline staff who serve them. The results showed some rental sales perception gaps that were not anticipated.
Orlando, Florida (October 13, 2011) – Frontline Performance Group and Auto Rental News conducted a webinar for many leading auto rental companies where they released the findings of their auto rental sales perceptions study. A few key highlights:
• 51% percent of customers do not have a preferred brand compared to the frontline associates who over value the customer’s brand loyalty by 9 percentage points
• Over 60% of customers using a discounted internet site to book on an Opaque website like Priceline.com or Hotwire.com have a household income of $60,000 – $100,000
• Over 50% of frontline associates surveyed believed that Opaque customers come from an income level below $60,000 per year
• 25% of eligible renters had ZERO products presented to them while only 51% of Associates monitor their sales performance on a daily basis
According to Ken Stellon, Managing Partner for Frontline, “There is a clear need to train the frontline staff and better inform the auto rental consumer. The revenue opportunities presented by these findings are staggering.” Never before has this type of information been available to rental companies.
This study was designed and performed by Frontline Performance Group over the course of the third quarter of this year. Because of Frontline’s engagement with a wide variety of rental companies, both national and international players and regional independents, they are uniquely positioned to obtain information from a true cross section of the rental marketplace. The study surveyed frontline sales associates and rental car customers representing seven major brands in over thirty major markets across the United States, Canada and Latin America.
“Now that the ground work is laid we expect to conduct studies of various aspects of the auto rental sales dynamic on a global basis. We will continue to drive thought leadership in the rental car industry as we have done for the last eighteen years.” Said Ziad Khoury, CEO and Founder of Frontline, Thursday evening. “There is no other firm in the world as intimately involved in the auto rental marketplace as we are.”
Frontline is publishing the complete findings in a white paper that will be available on their website and through Auto Rental News sometime in early November.
Frontline Performance Group specializes in creating sales cultures for any business with a frontline profit opportunity. Since its founding in 1993 FPG has served a variety of industries with particular focus on Auto Rental. For companies who seek to maximize the value of their direct interactions with the consumer there is no better partner than FPG who have generated over $1 billion of additional revenue for their customers. Reach FPG at www.frontlineperformancegroup.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ask any number of truly successful leaders of today and they will tell you, their success does not come from marking time. They are always in motion – thinking, doing, and leading change for their organizations, their teams and themselves. At the forefront of a successful business leader’s efforts are their company’s vision and acute awareness of how their actions affect that vision.
If you are looking to improve your change leadership skills, perhaps it’s time to get your act together!
Begin by making a regular habit of assessing your own act(ions); take a close look at a day/week/month in the life of you! Make a list of specific actions you have taken that support the vision. Then, bring it into focus – analyze your list to determine:
- What gaps are evident?
- What actions have I taken (will I take) to close those gaps?
- What areas warrant more focus?
- Who can I turn to? – What actions do I perform/oversee regularly can be delegated and to whom can they be assigned?
-Which actions prove strongest in moving our vision forward?
-Where is the proof that these actions have impact?
-What benefits (or setbacks) have been (will be) realized as a result of these actions?
-How will I hold myself accountable?
Be agile, use this exercise to stay ahead of the flow – adapt the plans and strategies that keep you and your team moving toward the vision.
Lynda Fleming – Director of Learning & Development, Frontline Performance Group
I have asked a lot of people, what does a good company culture look like? The most common response I receive is: “you know it when you see it”. Frankly, I think this is a very accurate answer. However, what is it that we see that makes us respond in this manner?
I think one reason why we may respond in that fashion is all these organization have something that cannot be tracked, written or heard. The best company cultures are felt. The energy in the room immediately picks up your emotional state to a better one the second you are in the same room. You see smiling faces and energetic activity towards the task at hand. No one seems to be just going through the motions and you immediately feel a sense of belonging. It is that sense which gets those people up every day to go to work, not their alarm clocks.
How do you create that in a sales environment? It all starts with your leadership. You could hire “A” players all day and fail with a bad company culture. Sales driven organizations with excellent company cultures often have sales managers out on the floor with their reps. These managers are very up-beat, carry a positive disposition and communicate constantly with their team. Recognition is at a high and they lead by example. They are never afraid to get their hands dirty and do not let their title get in the way. They’ll excuse themselves from a conversation to go introduce themselves to someone they don’t know and find out then if it is a customer, prospect or potential new hire. They make their employees feel good everyday and it may be as simple as never being too uptight.
Take this for example; would you tell your sales reps to take a nap if they felt tired? Yes, allow them to sleep on the job for a half hour and pay them. Some studies have actually shown napping increases productivity! When those employees talk about their organization and reference taking a nap to friends and family, that message is probably delivered in a positive manner. While most people in life will not work in an environment where “sleeping on the job” is allowed, it is important to recognize the metaphorical message it sends. It makes that employee feel special, valued and trusted, a few of the many things that may give them that sense of belonging … being an integral part of a greater whole.
The next time you walk into any organization and the phrase “you know it when you see it” comes to mind about good company culture, pay attention to what is happening. What is it that you feel and what is it you suppose the employees feel? What are their actions? What is different and can any of it be applied to your place of work? It will take a lot more than allowing naps to create the right culture, but be prepared to get outside conventional corporate comfort zones.
Matthew Pietzak – Area Performance Manager, Frontline Performance Group
Think about the last team you were on where you really felt like everybody was on the same page headed towards a common goal…Whether it be a sports related team, group project at school, or your everyday work environment there’s a reason why you felt like it was a team. Most likely there was a leader of the group; a manager, coach, team lead; that identified what the expectations or goals were of the particular task at hand. Although it sounds like a no brainer, many employees come to work day in and day out without a clear sense of direction.
So why do people follow their leaders?
If I’m going to follow anyone, I’m going to make certain that the person I am following knows where he/she is going. The easiest rule of management should be to know where you are going and to ensure your team members are aware of it as well. The most successful leaders have a vision and they are an inspiration to their team members. If your team doesn’t believe you know where you are headed can you blame them for not following?
Lead by Example/Walking the Walk
Most managers have gotten to where they are by having the ability to do the job or jobs they are managing. The best coach doesn’t have to be the best player but they do need to lead by example when they are called upon. There’s nothing worse than having a manager tell you one thing then lose all credibility by doing something completely different.
Plain and simple, if I don’t trust the person I am supposed to be following I’ll be sure to be 10 steps behind the leader so I can proceed with caution. Managers/Leaders need to build a sense of trust and confidence with their team members over time. It’s not given…it’s earned…so prove it. Being transparent and relying on your team member’s strengths will get you one step closer to earning it.
Think about your team…who’s on the roster? If you turn around is anyone there? If you don’t see your people following it’s not too late to change. Identify the reasons why and start over-communicating expectations and performance standards. Remember that the 1st step in serving your customers is serving your employees.
If you are leading others and you’re lonely, then you’re not doing it right. Think about it. If you’re all alone, that means nobody is following you. And if nobody is following you, then you’re not really leading. ~John Maxwell
Daniel Park – Director of Consulting Services, Frontline Performance Group
Remember last time we talked about kids playing football on a playground? Well now it’s time to put even more “explicit” detail to how those basic principles apply to organizational success. Sometimes with the fast pace of our modern business climate, it’s not always easy for managers to find time to do the things they really should be doing – getting results with and through the organizational team. Instead of always worrying about “fires” or seemingly endless “crisis” that occur, a focus on these things will create both more time and more productivity for company leaders. Here are five tips to take your organization to a new level of success…
1) Define the playing field within your organization. What are people expected to do on a daily basis? Make sure you explicitly define –
Conditions of Employment (Things that people are expected to abide by like no stealing company property, having the ability to get to and from work, possibility of working overtime etc.) Conditions of Employment are those “no-brainer” kinds of things that many times get ignored because the assumption is that “intelligent people are just supposed to know that already.”
Minimum Standards of Performance (The exact expectation of productivity and results that must be consistently achieved in order to maintain employment)
Operational Boundaries (Not being late, getting reports done on time, being responsive to communication such as calls, e-mails and texts etc.)
2) Define what high performance looks like for every specific job within the company. In order to create more buy-in from your team, do this as an exercise where you have everyone write their definition of high performance and then collaboratively put them together in order come up with a succinct statement. This creates lots of energy within the group and people are excited to be a part of defining their role and what the expectations are for them to succeed. This really defines what needs to be done and how it needs to be done every day. These definitions of high performance for every job need to be posted on the wall. Again, they should be clear statements that everyone understands – not amorphous “academic speak” that nobody gets or even cares about.
3) Once the definition of high performance has been laid out, then accountability needs to be created AND communicated. Everyone needs to understand what the consequences will be for “exceeding the boundaries” or for poor performance. They also need to understand what the possible rewards and recognition will be for achieving high performance and/or going above and beyond the call of duty. Explicitly communicate both the consequences and the rewards so everyone knows exactly what to expect.
4) Define the goals for the company as a whole and for each department and then communicate these goals with passion. Don’t imply what the goals are because that creates ambiguity. Be explicitly clear what the goals are and talk about them daily in short, five to ten minute “huddles” within each department. These “huddles” should talk about the company vision, mission, values and goals. Pick a value each day to discuss and talk about wins, misses and solutions on the road to achieving the goals.
5) Make sure that, as a manager, you are consistent with your message. This consistency will make or break your “personal power” within the organization. Personal power is the level of respect and credibility that you earn from employees. Remember that when someone exceeds the boundaries or is performing poorly, they have to be accountable. The number one de-motivator for people in every industry is having to pick up the slack for a poor performer. Be consistent and passionate about communicating the goals, working on the playing field for success and making sure you are “explicit” and not just “implicit”.
So the next time you see some kids playing football in a park, think about the organizational lessons they already know at such a young age. Many times we learn things when we’re young and just forget the basic principles for success. The good news is, we can always re-learn what we’ve lost and, in many cases, the principles are still there. We just have to decide to slow down, think about what works and then actually do it.
Michael Stahl – Senior Performance Manager, Frontline Performance Group
“Good morning Rose” I said to the sales associate as she was opening her register in preparation for the store’s opening an hour from now. Rose looked at me with an expression that was a combination of bewilderment and shock. “Great” I thought, “first day at my new store and I’m running around talking to people with my fly open”! I checked; no, that wasn’t it. “Is there money missing from your register?” I asked Rose. “No, I just can’t believe you remembered my name” she replied. I told her that a pretty name like Rose was hard to forget and then wished her a great day. As I left Rose and started to walk over to Wanda I thought, in this instance, cheating was the right thing to do. Let me explain….
A week prior to assuming responsibility for this new location, I spent part of the day with the V.P. I was replacing; she too was moving to a new location. As she introduced me to the members of, what would soon be my new team, I decided at that moment that I was going to do all I could to remember the name of everyone I met. I’d always considered myself to be pretty good at remembering names, but I wanted to make an extra effort to nail this one. After concluding my tour of the store I logged on to the Human Resources system to review the employee listing for the store and tried to associate the face that went with the name of each person I met. Fast forward back to my first morning at my new store…..before I left my office to greet my new team I reviewed the schedules, by department, for the day. Once again, I looked for those associates that I met the week prior to ensure I remembered their names.
Why did I put forth so much effort to remember the names of a few dozen employees? As he writes in his blog Fearless Selling, Kelley Robertson asks “What’s the sweetest sound someone can hear (other than a baby cooing)? Their own name, of course!” One’s name is important. It stays with us from birth to death. We work hard to protect “our good name”. Unfortunately, many leaders invest little, if any time in quickly learning the names of the associates they are relying on for their success as well as the success of their organization. How often have you heard the excuse “I’m not good with names”? When I hear that it’s like nails on a chalkboard (if you don’t know what a chalkboard is, ask your parents). What the person is really saying is I don’t have the listening skills, or the patience, to remember people’s names. Remembering someone’s name show’s you care; you believe they are important. Whether you are assuming a new position in your current company, like I was, or starting a new job with a new company, building employee engagement is critical to your success.
In my earlier post “Your Customer’s Must Come Second” I sited the Gallup organization’s work on employee engagement. They identified one of the key tenets of employee engagement; “My supervisor….seems to care about me as a person”. Before you can show people “you care” in other ways, start with learning their name.
I confess; I’m not some guru that has an innate gift of extraordinary memory. By looking at employee name lists and schedules I guess you can say I cheated. So what? The ends clearly justify the means in this instance. I’m giving you permission to cheat too.
Lee Silverstein – Managing Partner, Frontline Performance Group
As it is with many firms, ours is made-up of individuals from diverse backgrounds with exceptional talents. We have a singular goal, that is to guide organizations to creating, and sustaining profitable service based sales cultures. However, as we grow our practice in types of industries, number of clients and staff, so grows our diversities. In fact, one of the few constants in our organization is a principle practice model we call the KPE (Khoury Performance Equation); it is our business blueprint designed to optimize sales and service performance through three primary areas of actionable focus:
- Creating The Right Environment
- Ensuring The Right Personnel Fit
- Executing The Right Action
A few years ago, I embarked on a mission to aid our team in developing more synergy in the area of application of that blueprint. The mantra for this initiative … Synergetic Diversity. This tenet, Synergetic Diversity, can be defined as being a system of “pooling” differences (i.e. cultures, economies, industries, experiences, etc) to act as a whole toward one common goal. When well practiced, it creates cohesive movement – it becomes a structured yet fluid dance.
Regardless of your industry, products, staff experiences or customer base, a synergistic approach to key tasks and initiatives brings a unified fluidity to your team’s efforts, maximizies performance and bottom-line results.
Below is a quick exercise to ensure your business initiatives remain on task.
- Make a list of a few critical principles or practices that should exist across all verticals.
- What are some of the diversities that are affecting your objective, “total installation” of those principles or practices in our organization and/or with your clients?
- What synergies in behavior (performance) among your team and/or your clients must exist to ensure success of the objective?
- If there are critical synergies that do not currently exist, what is you action plan to address them?
Diversity is a component of success in today’s global business community. Use this exercise to gauge the synergy of your team’s efforts toward sustainable profit and growth.
Lynda Fleming – Director of Learning & Development, Frontline Performance Group
Most every frontline sales manager will agree that keeping staff encouraged when they have very price sensitive customers can be challenging. It becomes quite easy to fall into the trap of believing that by in large, customers are cheap. But here is the reality; customers are not cheap. They are value driven and want to know that they are receiving the best price and service available for their hard earned money. Understanding and focusing on their need for value will allow for the message to be heard and more sales to be made.
Here are a few of the many successful techniques to help your team command the attention of value driven customers:
- When presenting a product or service, always focus first on the benefits of what the customer is getting, prior to quoting the price. All too often the price is presented first and then the customer shuts down their listening skills.
- Focus on the value of what they are getting vs. the price they are paying. People remember most, whatever they hear last so when presenting a sale price, highlight the “savings”. For example: “It can sell for as much as $99, today it’s only $69, that’s a savings of $30!”
- DO NOT PREJUDGE!!!! Only assume every customer deserves the very best product or service you have to offer.
- People buy from those they like. Focus on connecting with the customer and delivering a presentation centered on enhancing their experience – with you, the company and the products/services you represent.
Most importantly, bear in mind that a salesperson’s perception of their customers will affect the presentation and ultimately, influence buying decisions. It is critical that frontline managers do not “buy into” the same perceptions that can distract and dissuade their sales team. How a salesperson feels about their customers and the sales opportunities determines how well those customers will receive their message. Encouraging your frontline to focus their energies on ways to vary their presentation for the value driven customers instead of dismissing the opportunity will increase sales opportunities and generate more revenue.
Ken Stellon – Senior Vice President, Frontline Performance Group
Some of the best customer service comes from one word, awareness.
Too often new employees are told to provide excellent customer service and only given the old catchphrases when they come aboard. They are given philosophies like “the customer is always right” or “treat customers how you would like to be treated”. While these are good philosophies, if this is all an employee is given it does not mean they will be able to provide excellent customer service. As a matter a fact, many opportunities to deliver great customer service will be missed if an employee is solely focused on these philosophies.
In a service and sales environment, awareness is your action plan; it is a level of discernment that best positions your staff to make win-win decisions for themselves and their customers. Employees that keep awareness top-of-mind will stay sharp and always have a better feel for the pulse of the environment they are in. Having a great sense of awareness may be the single most important factor in their ability to deliver great customer service and optimizing their performance potential. Awareness can reach beyond those old philosophies and in many cases it is awareness that allows them to deliver on those philosophies.
So, how do you train awareness? It all starts by analyzing your environment and giving your employees examples of awareness. When you are sharing examples try replacing the words “great customer service” with awareness. Why? Ultimately, it is not your employee that will decide if they delivered great customer service; it is the perceptions of your customers that will determine whether the service they received was poor, mediocre or great!
Great customer service is the destination, awareness is the map. When you take a long road trip, do you focus on your destination or do you focus on how to get there? Awareness, being focused on the journey to great customer service, can create an efficient environment that feels seamless to customers even though every action has a purpose.
Think about a busy hair salon with customers waiting and two stylists finish with their customers at the same time. Since they have only one cash register, one stylist allows the other to go first, utilizes that time to double check their work and finds a few spots to touch up. The touch up lasts a few minutes and the customer appreciates the extra attention to detail. Once completed, the customer proceeds to pay their bill, the register is free and the transaction feels very fluid. This quick awareness action created a positive final moment of experience for that customer. Without awareness, perhaps that additional wait time and the lost opportunity for that added sense of appreciation for detail would have resulted in that customer’s overall experience to change from a 10 to an 8.5.
Challenge yourself to look for how people use awareness at every customer touch point in their place of business and how it works for them. Even look for opportunities where better awareness would have created a better experience. Think outside the box … challenge your team to do the same and discuss them in your weekly meetings. Make it fun because after all, you are creating awareness to look for awareness.
Matthew Pietzak – Area Performance Manager, Frontline Performance Group