What Is The One Thing To Focus On When Trying To Improve Your Process?


Sunday, 8.29pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough. – Mario Andretti

Every once in a while you come across people who take their time to get things done.

One place you’ll find them is in a public service – where it’s important for your career not to get things wrong.

If you get things right you’ll get more work and fail to be recognised – and your boss will probably take the credit.

If you get it wrong, you might get fired.

So there really is no point in taking a risk, pushing for change, making a noise – unless you’re certain you won’t be criticised.

Then there are others who take their time in the private sector – doing their jobs as set out in their contracts.

But they’re probably not very high up in their business – and if they keep taking their time they’re not going to get any higher.

Perhaps they’re fine with that – but what do you do if you’re not?

What you’ve got to think about is speed – how do you do what needs to be done faster and faster.

Speed matters, because in many cases it provides a competitive advantage that is hard to beat.

Let’s say you’re in the business of delivering a consultancy service.

The way you get business is to go into a prospect’s company and offer a free review – you study what they’re doing and produce a report showing how they could do better – and how hiring you will make them money.

Let’s say you budget for three days to do this – one day to travel to see them and sell them your free review, another day to go down, interview them and look around and one more day to prepare and present your report.

That’s three days of free consultancy.

A consultant usually needs to hit a certain number of paying days to stay in business – typically around a hundred.

If your typical client takes a five day engagement from you, then you need to make twenty sales to hit your number.

And that’s at least 60 days of free consultancy to win those – at three days a pop.

But you don’t win all your pitches – let’s say you get one in three.

That’s 180 days spent pitching to win 100 days of business.

And now you have to work 280 days in a year.

At which point you might decide that it’s all a waste of time and you should go back and get a real job.

So what can you do to improve things?

Well – the first thing is to get faster at every step that’s involved in the process.

Do you have to go and meet people face to face – should you first qualify every prospect with a phone call.

Do you have to do your review on site – can’t you collect material from their website and documentation, or run a session using videoconferencing?

Does your report take a day to create – how much can you automate and speed up what you’re doing?

People sometimes equate time with quality and that’s just not the case.

Or even if it is, there is a problem with that approach.

The question is whether that quality is worth paying for.

Let’s take blogging as an example.

There are lots of people who create their content with care – who spend four or five hours on each post.

They interact with the WordPress editor, curate their images and sort out every last detail perfectly.

And maybe that matters in some sectors, and maybe it doesn’t in others.

For example, I don’t have four or five hours to write my posts.

I give myself an hour to an hour and a half every day to pick a topic, do research, draw a picture and write these words.

It’s not perfect – but it’s a process that works for me – and one that helps me create content most days in a year.

And that helps in other ways – as I learn more about the topics that interest me and get better and elements of the work.

Recently, I thought I’d try my hand at explaining what I do professionally by creating a comic

My first attempt tried to bring together various elements that go into the design of a comic.

One quite important element is the layout of panels – the boxes in which you put your text and images.

Now, you could draw them in a graphics editor using a mouse.

But I am not a big fan of anything that requires manual intervention – so I used the PIC programming language to lay out a set of boxes and create functions that could be called quickly.

It’s geeky – but it means you can create a page of panels set out with the right gaps in a matter of minutes – and that works for me because the one thing I don’t have is lots of time.

And you’ll find areas in your business where the things you take a lot of time doing manually can be done faster – but you might have to learn how.

And the beauty of doing as much of the process as fast as you can is that you then create the time to spend on what you really want to do.

If the small things, the details that take up your time are no longer an issue, you can then focus on using your time to add value – something that makes the most of your knowledge and skills.

The kind of value that is best added when you take your time.


Karthik Suresh

Is This Sales Model One That Could Help You In Your Business?


Saturday, 8.33pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life. – Mary Kay Ash

When you think of a “model” what comes to mind?

Is it something like a physical scale model of a building – the kind of thing an architect might build?

Is it a set of equations that describe a relationship between things, maybe even a cause and effect one – the kind of thing you could build in a spreadsheet?

Or perhaps it’s a framework, a matrix of possibilities or a collection of ideas that seem to work well together.

But perhaps what’s more important than what a model “is” is what it helps you to do.

A model should help you look at a situation where there’s a lot going on and focus on the key elements that are important – from that particular point of view.

This is harder than it sounds.

Take the last point – the one about a point of view.

The same situation will be seen differently by an engineer and an accountant, by an employee and her manager, by the shareholders of a company and a group opposed to what the company makes.

There is a tendency in some places to think of sales as an exercise in positioning and pushing product.

Set it up right and then hammer a message home until a buyer gets it.

This approach works in some situations – ones where the product is easy to describe, easy to compare and where there is a market that needs to get it.

Like insurance, for example – getting you to buy insurance now is all about share of mind – you will have certain websites in mind that make it easy for you to check options, select the cheapest and go ahead.

It doesn’t work that well in service businesses that are harder to describe and compare.

In those situations you still need someone doing the selling – and that’s where the LAT sales model comes in.

I’ve made this model up, so I should probably explain why quickly.

Often when I read about a model I’m not sure how it was created.

The chances are that there was some science at work – people like to quantify things.

Maybe they did some surveys, looked at data and came up with correlations – and then put it all together in a neat package and presented it as a model.

But in social situations numbers are not always the most useful way to look at things.

Sometimes you need to actually spend some time in the situation, looking at what is going on, grounding yourself in the reality that is in front of you and then generating theory – which might make its way into a model.

Which is where the LAT model comes from – it’s an attempt to simplify some of the things I’m seeing when doing sales these days.

How would you use this model when thinking through your own sales process?

The first element here is to Listen.

What I mean by that is to shut up and only say something to ask a question or clarify your understanding of a point.

All too often sales people spend their time with a prospect explaining everything about their product.

They might start by asking the customer what he or she needs but as soon as there is some hint that what they’re selling could come in, they jump into the conversation to talk about themselves.

I think that’s an issue.

When you simply listen and ask questions, forcing yourself to stay quiet even when you know exactly how to solve the problem being described, what you’re giving the prospect a chance to do is work through everything that’s in their heads with you.

When they finish doing that – when they’ve said everything they have to say – and look at you to ask what you think – that’s the point where you start to talk about yourself.

What happens if you do this is that you should understand much more about what their problem is and zero in on the areas where you can help.

What you’ve got to do is Agree that you and your prospect have the same problem in mind – the same image of what needs to be done.

All too often salespeople think that you have to change the mind of the prospect with your pitch.

Instead, what you need to do is put yourself in their shoes, look at things from their point of view and see what they’re seeing.

And then you can talk about what you would do to make things better – and you’ll get a more positive response because you’re both talking about the same thing.

At this point there is still one more thing to do.

You both need to Tell a story.

The chances are that you are both now clear on what needs to happen next – but you probably need to get agreement from a larger decision making group.

They don’t need all the detail, all the hard work you’ve done to listen and see things from the prospect’s point of view – the work that’s gone in to making sure you’re aligned.

But they do need to be comfortable with the plan that’s being put forward and to do that you need to tell them the story of why it’s the right thing to do.

You need to take them from being negative or neutral to being positive and supportive – because that’s how you’ll get your contract signed.

And this takes work because you might think that your existing material – the deck you have is just fine – and it may be.

But you’re better off telling a story in a way that will engage an audience rather than describing things from your point of view – which is what most presentations do.

They talk about things that are important to you and the audience dozes off.

Your presentation should be all about them – about what they’re going to get, how they’re going to get it, and how you’re going to take away all the risk because you know exactly what you’re doing.

Now, this is a simple model on the surface but there is a lot of depth to it.

Many salespeople operate using a model that seems to follow a Talk, Pressure, Whine model.

They talk about themselves to a prospect, try to pressure them to make a decision and then whine about how ungrateful the prospect is.

In their minds they’re the most important people in the room.

But you know that person is your prospect.

So start by taking the time to listen to them.


Karthik Suresh

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