According to the Kaizen Institute, kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement. Since 1986, when it was introduced to the U.S. by Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success, it has revolutionized a number of industries, both in the manufacturing and service sectors. Kaizen - which combines the Japanese words "kai" (change) and "zen" (good) and means "change for the better" - is more than a technique. For many, it serves almost as a philosophy. It empowers organization’s employees to seek process improvement all the time. In general, both service and product quality in the U.S. are better now than they were in 1986, and it’s not too far-fetched to attribute some of that change to kaizen.
I have been thinking lately about kaizen because of a new technique we introduced in Momentum Selling for Salesforce.com® Users. The interesting thing about training as a process is that you can empower more than the workers to seek improvement. You can empower the product itself. In the broadest sense, the product of a training process is the educated learner, and that’s what I mean when I use the word “product” here.
Our goal was to create a technique for improving the training process on the fly. We weren’t making a conscious effort to implement kaizen when we introduced the ‘Not Dot’, but the result looks a lot like change for the better.
Here’s how it works. At the beginning of the two-day session, the trainer distributes ‘Not Dot’ cards, one to each learner. The ‘Not Dot’ has the word “Not!” in large characters on a red field. While the trainer distributes the cards, she explains their use: “Throughout this course, raise your ‘Not Dot’ when you don’t feel that something is believable, helpful, or is ultimately going to help you grow your sales and we’ll stop and talk about it.”
Learners can often be shy about questioning course content, because they assume they are alone in their questioning and don’t want to appear dense in front of others. But the ‘Not Dot’, with its bright red color, and the playfulness with which we encourage instructors to introduce it, turns questions into more of a game than an exercise in defiance.
Here’s one of the best aspects of the ‘Not Dot’. We’ve gotten rid of the Comment Card at the end of the class. If a participant is questioning something the instructor is saying, then why wait until the end of the class to make a comment about it? We encourage participants to voice any concerns, questions, or comments throughout the two-day class, and the ‘Not Dot’ makes it easy and fun to do so. It also lets us make real-time improvements in the classroom process. If you’ve ever been in a training session and wanted an easy way to stop the class in its tracks, the ‘Not Dot’ is even better than kaizen.
Remember when your parent said "no" to something you wanted to do? You wanted to know why, and the response was, "Just because." You weren't very satisfied, were you?
Sometimes you have to say "no" to your customer. They've asked for something-a feature, special treatment, a really low price-that's not possible for you to give them, or is bad business for you and your company.
When you have to say "no," say it briefly and give a business reason why you can't do what they ask:
"Our product won't give you that result."
"We have a corporate policy for all our customers..."
"That price won't make this deal profitable for us."
Don't blame someone else in your organization. Stand behind your company's policies and decisions. Your customer will respect your reason, even if they don't agree with it. And you'll preserve your relationship with them for another day.
Presenting in a large auditorium can be a challenge for many reasons. One of the biggest challenges is knowing where to stand, especially when the auditorium is dark and your slides are being projected on a screen.
Our advice is...Go to the light! Make sure there's light on you so your audience can see you.
That may sound like something out of a science fiction film, but you're competing with a very bright image for your audience's attention. We know what happens in a dark room: people doze off. If all your audience hears is a voice of doom in the darkness, they may tune you out and focus on your visuals alone, or...risk hearing the snores.
We don't mean that you should stand in middle of your visuals; you'll be seen, but you'll have that very bright image all over you and you'll look a little silly. Ask the technical people for some light on the stage to the right of the screen, and stand there. If you need a microphone and it's attached to a lectern, ask the technical people to make sure there's a spotlight on the lectern and the area around it, so you can be seen. After all, your audience comes to see and hear you present your ideas, and they want to be engaged.
The books and articles that purport to advise you on overcoming anxiety about public speaking say very little about actually overcoming the anxiety. For the most part, they focus on presentation skills and the techniques of effective public speaking. Yeah, and the best way to win a race is to run fast.
Here are five things we cover in Executive Presentation Skills® that you can do to actually reduce your nervousness and anxiety when you give a presentation.
Make Friends. The most important of your presentation skills is the ability to connect with your audience. Why not take it one step further and get to know them personally? Get there before the presentation and greet people as they arrive. Be friendly, and you will make friends with them. Even people who are actually hostile to your purpose will generally respond to an individual overture of friendliness. Giving a presentation to a group of friends is a lot less daunting than giving one to a group of strangers.
Act the Part. Follow the posture, gestures, and expressions of the confident speaker – the presentation skills I blogged about here. If you act confident, some part of your brain will believe you are confident, and you will burn off some of the nervous energy fueling your anxiety. The longer you act that way, the more surely you convince yourself. Breathe from your diaphragm, which will slow your breathing and keep you from hyperventilating. It will also slow your heartbeat and help you to relax.
Control your Brain. One of your most important presentation skills is also a tool for controlling anxiety – gaze control. Don’t scan the room with your eyes. As your presentation gets under way, address yourself to one person in the room at a time. Say a sentence or thought to one person, pause as you shift your gaze to another person, and then say another sentence. Keep doing it that way, one sentence or thought per person. This is more than good delivery technique. One of the biggest reasons for public speaking anxiety is the feeling of being overwhelmed that you get from scanning the audience. If you reduce the visual information overload by speaking to one person at a time, you eliminate the cause of that particular kind of anxiety. Control your eyes, in other words, and you control your brain.
Don’t Share Nervousness. Don’t tell the audience that you feel nervous. It may feel to you like you’re being candid and authentic, but all you’re doing is reinforcing your nervousness. In addition, you should be aware that your complaint puts some of the burden for your nervousness on your audience. They want you to succeed, and they identify with you up there on the platform. Telling them how uncomfortable you are is bound to affect their comfort level, and that lowers their receptivity to your message.
Avoid Catastrophizing. Everyone is nervous about public speaking, but fear is something more than nervousness. Ask yourself what you are afraid of and be honest about answering. Hostile audiences are very, very rare. The people you are addressing want you to succeed. And note that if you have decent presentation skills, you will. I can almost guarantee that your audience members have sat through so many bad presentations that yours will seem the one they’ve been waiting for. If you are afraid of failing because this is a truly high-stakes presentation, get professional help. Communispond offers this kind of help in our Executive Communication Coaching™ program.
You're talking with a customer. They say something intriguing that gives you a hint of an opportunity for you. When they pause to breathe, echo back what they say, and listen to how much elaboration you get.
For example, the customer says, "'We're not sure if we have the right pieces in place to really make this change happen."
You echo, "The right pieces?"
Then listen to how much elaboration you get about what those right pieces are, why they don't have them, what would make the situation better, and what they've tried in the past-all information you need to fully understand the customer's situation the way they see it.
As you begin preparing for your next presentation, ask yourself, "Why am I presenting?"
Think about what you're trying to achieve with your presentation:
And think about what you need your audience to know or do at the end of your presentation. After you finish, what happens for them with the ideas you've just presented?
When you begin your preparation by thinking about what you're trying to achieve and what the outcome is that you're trying to get from your audience, you'll focus on both critical components of a successful presentation - your message and your audience's response. You'll take the first step to choosing what you can do, say and show during your presentation that will get you there.
When he created the Legion of Honour, Napoleon I famously said, "You call these baubles, well, it is with baubles that men are led... Do you think that you would be able to make men fight by reasoning? Never. That is good only for the scholar in his study. The soldier needs glory, distinctions, rewards." A Legion of Honour medal also included a cash award, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that nobody ever sought the medal for the money. Some people are motivated by money, but I personally believe that particular drive is never as powerful as other motivators: achievement, recognition, honor, influence…
And while sales professionals are invariably rewarded with money in some form or other, for most of them, the cash is a lot less important than just winning. I don’t have to go into the psychology of sales to prove to you salespeople are competitive. They just are. Sales people love to win, and that’s one of the reasons that so many organizations use sales contests.
Can you harness that competitive spirit during sales training? At Communispond, we believe you can, which is why we made gamification such a big part of Momentum Selling for Salesforce.com® Users. The course features a game called “The Change Game” that runs throughout its two days. Each learner gets a piggy bank at the start of class, which is the source of a lot of joking and teasing among the learners. But the piggy bank is clear, and learners can easily measure their own progress and that of their classmates simply by glancing at the number of coins in each piggy bank. What starts as a joke quickly becomes a symbol of pride and perhaps a little tension.
The coins are not money. They are a symbol of the “change” the learners make through the course. When a student gets a question right, the instructor awards a gold coin from it for the student’s piggy bank. Every class is a little different, of course. Sometimes students get coins for completing activities, sometimes for demonstrating personal progress, sometimes for trying hard, sometimes just for participating. One of the skills we teach Momentum Selling instructors is how to recognize achievements in context in order to make the best use of the coins.
The movement of coins into the learners’ personal piggy banks is a visual representation of the connection between skill building, application, and sales results.
Studies over the past five years have shown that game-based learning not only increases learner engagement, it can actually eliminate the effects of outside distractions and improve a learner’s ability to retain and apply learning material to the real world. We ask a lot of learners when we demand the personal change of skill acquisition. That’s why it’s important to make the process engaging. The studies show why gamification works as a training strategy. The coins and the piggy banks are what make it fun.
Remember the old adage, "Silence is golden"? It's great advice, especially when selling. We think we're in control of the conversation if we're talking, but we can still control where the conversation is headed by being silent. It's part of the discipline of Socratic Selling.
After you invite your client to talk, give them a chance to respond. Wait silently. Resist the urge to fill the silence with questions or your comments. Give your customer time to switch from listening to speaking mode. Someone's going to fill that silence, and it's better for you if it's the customer. You may hear information you would not otherwise have heard.
The same rule applies when you ask questions. Some salespeople ask a question, then give a long- winded explanation of why they're asking. By the time they finish, no one in the conversation remembers what the original question was. Or they ask multiple questions: "Who will be involved in the new roll-out? Where will it be rolled out? When will it start? Is there a
budget you've earmarked for this, and what about any other initiatives you've got on your plate?" What does the customer answer? Whichever part he remembers, or the part she wants to address, or none of the above.
Ask one question and stop talking. You can always ask another question if the first one doesn't give you the information you want. Remember that Socratic Silence is indeed golden. You'll be more efficient; get better, more accurate information; and make the best use of your customer's time.
When you show a visual to your audience, it's new information to them. They've either not seen it before, or they've not seen it in the context of your presentation. And they're curious.
As you advance your slides and they see your next visual, they automatically ask themselves two questions:
What am I looking at? (or, what is this visual showing?)
Why am I looking at it? (or, what's the point of this visual at this point in her presentation?)
You have two choices:
You can ignore what's happening with your audience and risk losing them as you talk about one thing and they read another off your visual.
We think a better choice is to control their focus and keep them tracking with you. Talk about what they're seeing on your visual using the words you've written on the slide. Keep that information simple so your audience will turn to you for the added value you bring as you elaborate on that content.
That's how you turn their curiosity to your advantage.
Defense contractor L-3 DPA, which provides training simulators, notes on its website, "Training simulators let your trainees experience real-world environments and scenarios in total safety - especially the extreme situations you just can't duplicate in the real world." It's a succinct statement of the benefits of training simulations. If you're training somebody to drive a tank, it makes sense to use a simulator before you put them in front of the controls of a multimillion-dollar vehicle.
But what about if you’re not training people to operate expensive or dangerous machinery? What about if you want to train, say experienced sales professionals to work more productively with your sales cycle? In that case, I suggest you would be wasting time and resources to create “real-world environments” or “extreme situations.”
Training by simulation is inappropriate for some kinds of experienced employees. What is the biggest single complaint competent employees have about training? It takes them away from work time. Create a set of fictitious files for sales professionals to work with in their training sessions, and you are inviting them to see the training as irrelevant. That means the training is much less likely to “take,” and participating in it can undermine employee morale.
The truth is, for many kinds of work, safety doesn’t enter into the equation, and a real-world environment is never preferable to reality itself. This is exactly why we designed Momentum Selling for Salesforce.com® Users, our newest program, to use the trainees’ own work. Trainees work on your organization’s instance of Salesforce.com®, using their own leads and working from their own files. They make actual sales calls, and they grow and populate your company’s customer database. This is one class that is never seen as downtime. Participants finish the program with something to show for the time they have invested: accounts taken to the next step of the sales cycle, new accounts and referrals, and even booked sales!
Momentum Selling is based on your company’s sales cycle, including your process for building and driving sales. Trainees uncover and generate information and they record it in Salesforce.com®. Along the way, they learn (or increase their fluency with) essential selling skills, many of which are derived from our world class Socratic Selling Skills® program. Salespeople learn the key skills of selling while using your own organization’s Salesforce.com® instance and all it entails. There are no made-up cases, no phony customers, no invented situations. Trainees make decisions and sales calls using your organization’s data files, and they never once hear an instructor say, “Your screen won’t look exactly like this one.” Their selling skills and their expertise as Salesforce.com® build on each other.
Participants identify leads for their business, make contact with those leads, and develop value propositions for their current customers. Learners use their own data from Salesforce.com® right from the start. They research Leads, plan calls to Contacts, manage Accounts, and create Opportunities, all while making use of Salesforce.com® to help them manage their work and increase the power of their planning. If you want to know more about how the program works, visit the Momentum Selling website, www.momentumselling.com.