Tag Archives: management

Present perfect

Present perfect

There is one thing that many companies, especially there smaller ones, don’t spend enough time on: training their people to present. Sales people and managers are expected to deliver presentations at various levels. Some present on a daily basis, others not so often but there comes an inevitable time in a professional’s life when he or she has to stand up in front of somebody else and talk about something. If there is a natural flair, fair enough. Actually still not enough. Even if you are good at presenting to begin with you still need to hone and fine tune your skills so that you are not presenting nicely but effectively.

I make an incorrect assumption that there is at least a basic understanding of power point as this is the de facto tool most people trapped in the business world use. If there is no such knowledge it must be acquired. Do it in house or use self study, ask a savvy colleague. Sorry, ppt trainers out there but this is not the time to spend money on watching slides pasted from help files (disclaimer: there are a few trainers that make it worth while).

Start from the audience.  To whom are you presenting? A client? The boss? The BIG boss? This should mean something to you. If it doesn’t, WAKE UP! You can’t present the same thing to different people even if it is the same thing. Does that make sense? Think about explaining the facts of life to different age groups: it’s the same thing but you can’t use the same extent of detail, graphical descriptions and illustrations with a seven year old and a colleague (yes there’s always one). So think about who will be taking in what you will be dishing out. Think of the recipients as clients. What are their needs? If you are presenting to clients think of their needs not only in terms of what you are selling but also in terms of how you are presenting it. Are they pressed for time? When are you presenting? Early in the morning? Late in the evening? Over the weekend? Everything counts. You may need to adjust your presentation, even if it is simply in terms of enthusiasm and pace, depending on who is sitting in front of you and where and when you are presenting. Irrespective of the subject.

Dos and don’ts:

Do rework your presentation until it has flow and contains all the necessary information. Not data, information. Don’t put up a slide stuffed full of numbers that you spent a month putting together and expect people to make the connections you have.

Do use images and graphs. Do use a pointer. Do get a good rest the night before. Do use transition/animation effects. Do rehearse over and over so that you are speaking while clicking the next point without having to consult the screen. Do make sure you know everything related to whatever it is you are presenting. Do maintain control of the audience at all times.

Don’t overdo it on the animation and transition effects. The “appear” function is enough in most cases. Don’t use those horrible sound effects (unless you are presenting to kids). Don’t make people dizzy by turning the laser pointer into a laser show. You don’t have to draw squiggles on the screen. The dot at the right place will suffice. It should make people focus, not dizzy. Don’t talk about things you don’t know about. Don’t let attendees upstage you. Don’t wander off in tangents. Don’t get side tracked least the train of though you are trying to build become lost in the wilderness (you are trying to build a train of thought in your listeners’ minds right?). Don’t ever, ever, ever (did I mention ever?) go unprepared. No matter who is the receiver; your boss, your employees, your clients, the public. This is the presenter’s equivalent of cutting your hand, jumping into the shark tank and splashing around (no, all those documentaries about how wonderful and misunderstood sharks are have still not removed the image “Jaws” created. There, I broke the train of thought. Now I have to use another sentence to get you guys back on track). NEVER go unprepared. You will lose credibility and the interest of your audience instantly and irreversibly. You will also make sure they don’t attend your next presentation and tell their friends no to either-let’s get a beer instead.

Even if it turns out that they are not interested in buying whatever it is you were presenting, they should always have something positive to say about the way you presented it. Even if the numbers you are presenting are bad, you can still deliver professionally. In short, you will make an impression every time you get up to present. Make sure it is a positive one.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 16/12/2012 in Management tips


Tags: , , , ,

Training: getting the best out of your people without permanent damage

Make sure to keep it genuine

In my post on recruitment (Recruitment is everything, Aug 29) I refer to the importance of getting the right people on board. If your basic building blocks aren’t high quality material, you can train until you are blue in the face but you can’t turn lead into gold (the physics involved cost too much). Having said this, even the best of people need training unless you are running a business which sells something people are born to. Some of these are illegal in most countries but I am sure that even in these more specialized areas training comes into the equation at some point.

Sales and customer satisfaction are, in my mind, directly correlated to the level of training provided by a company. You should train your people for everything: how to answer the phone, what to say to customers, what not to say, how to handle or escalate complaints, how to sell, how to dress, how to negotiate, how to compare your offering with that of your competitors, how to comment on competitors – you get the picture. This ensures that you are projecting your company to the outside world as you have strategically decided to do so. Leave nothing to luck and, God forbid, common sense.  Also training, when done correctly, can be very motivating as demonstrated by today’s image.

Training manifests itself in various forms. Let’s look at three common manifestations:

1. Training: Sit everybody in a room and talk at them about how to assemble a PC. With diagrams.

2. Mentoring: “I’m great at what I do! Come, little Grasshopper, see how I do it”

3. Coaching: “We hired you because we believe you are suitable for the job. Let’s see how we can aim you in the right direction. Oh, and by the way, here are some tools”.

Horrifying as it may seem, I believe you can’t avoid any of these three types. “Let’s discuss the processor speed of the new tablet we launched. How fast do you think it may be?” You sometimes need to sit people down and brief them. But you can make it interesting and fun. With chocolate prizes for the ones that stay awake. It is, of course, necessary to let people watch the experts at work. And it is crucial to develop a coaching program. This is where you support intelligent people (the ones you correctly recruited, remember?) to develop their skills and knowledge so that they can fly solo. My apologies to the control freaks reading this.

Whatever the mix you choose, your people need to receive training, even for the basics. You need to massage them into the company culture. You don’t have to spend huge amounts. If you run a small business you may even run some sessions yourself on a Saturday. You will probably also do most of the coaching. Throw in lunch. This is especially important for sales people (the coaching bit, not the lunch). In these days of crisis I would go as far to say that on a typical coaching ride (you sit back and observe the neophyte at work and then go back to the office and talk about it) it may even be ok to breach coaching etiquette and step in if the rookie is about to blow the 100K deal.

By the way, having trained your people, you can be very specific about what is expected of them.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 26/09/2012 in Managing people


Tags: , , , , ,

Know your enemy

Competitors: Make no mistake – they are your enemy

Competitor analysis is a hot MBA topic. We learn lots of nice tools. Then we forget about them. The truth is that most small business owners and managers don’t dedicate half as much time as they should be to monitoring competition. Why? The ever present, ever invalid excuse of being too busy.

There are several reasons to know what your competitors are up to. Lets name three:

  1. You want to gain business from them
  2. They want to gain business from you
  3. You want to gain business from them


The oxymoron here is that in the case of small and medium organizations it is so much easier for the top brass to be close to the market, the customer, the staff.  I asked one manager during a workshop, “Why don’t you devote part of your time to analyzing competition?” He responded, somewhat aggressively, “I spend most of my time in meetings with customers!” Yet another offended attendee asked me if I had any idea what it was like trying to run a sales force. So, think for a moment. If you take away the BS from competitor analysis and put it into context for your business, what it really means is knowing what the other guys are doing. In a perfect world, you have “people to do these things”. In real life, you need to be talking to your customers, talking to your people and keeping an ear permanently to the market. If your competitors are other small medium sized companies, The Journal or Forbes may possibly not be running a feature on them. So it boils down to street savvy. And, by the way, do you really think that a colleague stuck with drawing up a competitor analysis report along with 246 other tasks is actually going to supply intel you can work with?

If you spend all your time in meetings with customers or talking to the sales force, then you have more than enough to go on. You just need to fine tune the receivers a bit. You, your sales people and everybody else in the company should be gathering information on competition. What are they charging? What is their structure? What are they paying? Are they making targets? Do they have targets? You will of course need a repository for this information, somewhere to store it in an organized manner. Find a simple way to consolidate. Then integrate competitor analysis into the sales meetings. This way it is alive. Does your sales rep know which competitor sales rep visits his top customer? The truth is out there. Ask the right questions. Run a dedicated competitor analysis workshop every quarter. Use an easy tool such as SWOT analysis. Caveat: SWOT analysis, unless the facilitator is disciplined (you) tends to yield BS outputs such as (under our strengths) “We have an excellent set up”. “We have a good sales force”. “Our service is fantastic”. And so the BS continues. Stick to numbers and facts. What can you measure? What can you compare, apples with apples. What can you action to enhance your competitive advantage?

If you were asked why don’t you live a bit, would you answer “because I’m so busy breathing”? Turn on the receivers and fine tune them. You will be surprised at how much you can learn.

1 Comment

Posted by on 24/09/2012 in Management tips


Tags: , , , , ,

The power of “?”

Everything is a Trade-off. Always.

How do we learn? By asking questions. This holds true for every aspect and stage of our life. Never underestimate the ability to ask the right questions. This is the only way to arrive at the right answers. The good student is the one that continuously bombards teachers with a barrage of questions. Good interview candidates ask good questions. Bright children ask intelligent questions. The best scientists ask the best questions. The sales people with the highest close ratios are the ones that base the sales process on specific types of question. There is no reason why an entrepreneur or a manager should be an exception. If you don’t ask questions you will end up with teams that aren’t geared towards having the right answers. Even worse, you will lose touch with your business/people/industry etc.

One of the most powerful questions a manager can ask is also childishly simple: “Why?”

Question everything. Remember, we are living in a rapidly changing reality. What was a good call three months ago may have disastrous results two months down the line.

Sit back and take a third eye look at your routine. Does it still make sense? Objectively and unemotionally? Did your ego shoot down somebody else’s idea? Are you avoiding meeting with a prospect for personal reasons? Are you not firing somebody when you should have done it six months ago? Are you still selling to a client that is no longer paying as agreed?

Question everything. Ask why you do this and not that. Question your sales reps’ results. Question the efficiency figures. Keep on asking until the answers you get make sense and satisfy you. You are the boss. It’s your job.

Train your people to answer questions directly. In most cases, especially if something has gone bad, you will ask what color and get an answer referring to taste… Don’t be afraid to say, “that’s not what I asked” until you sound like a broken record. Don’t be afraid to show your discontent after the second attempt to get a straight answer. The person sitting across the desk may not even be trying to avoid the question. It is a sign of professionalism to answer questions completely and accurately and for most people it is a skill to be acquired. Help your teams develop this skill. It will make for a much more efficient organization and should also help enhance the sense of responsibility of your people.

And of course don’t forget that other very powerful question: “Why not?”. This also gets the mind wondering why certain things are not done? You will be surprised by the number of cases in which the reason is emotional rather than rational.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 19/08/2012 in Management tips


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: