What Is Your “Pitch”? How Do You Introduce Your Business?

Anyone who knows Nick Bramley, CEO of IMPACTUS Group me will know that he loves Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle idea. It is an idea so simple, it is brilliant……..

They will also know that we teach this principle when pitching or presenting your business – the journey from the middle to the outer circle……

This IMPACTUS Group decal can be used from a 1 minute pitch to a full blown proposal concept but starting in the middle beats the pedestrian, predictable approach that many take.

When asked “what do you do”, I always start with WHY we exist, namely “Inspiring Performance Excellence for Individuals, Teams and Businesses. The 4 P’s are HOW I do this, the areas I look at, leading to the services I provide in the outer circle, or the WHAT we do. SIMPLE.

The simplicity of this approach is that you only need to remember three cornerstones for ANY presentation – Why / How / What – but most importantly, in that order. If you get this right for your business, you will deliver consistent, impactful conversations, responses and pitches – guaranteed

Now what is your Golden or Inner Circle? What are your WHY / HOW / WHAT Cornerstones?

Professional Sales Impact Podcast

Nick Bramley, CEO of IMPACTUS Group shares his ideas and practical tips on all things connecting your personal branding to your professional sales impact in the second of a two-part podcast looking at Personal Brand, Professional Sales Impact.

Have a listen – hopefully it will inspire some ideas, or that of your team.

Feedback as always, most welcome……  Enjoy!

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Personal Branding Podcast

The Next 100 Days Podcast

Nick Bramley, CEO of IMPACTUS Group shares his ideas and practical tips on all things personal branding related in the first of a two-part podcast looking at Personal Brand, Professional Sales Impact.

Have a listen – hopefully it will inspire some ideas, or that of your team.

Feedback as always, most welcome……  Enjoy!

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The 5 Phases of Effective Pipeline Measurement

An article to challenge your sales pipeline validity by Nick Bramley, Director of Impact (CEO) at IMPACTUS Group 

There are many (conflicting) theories on how to build a sales funnel with many common phrases well known to sales professionals and sales managers.  Phrases such as “suspect” or “prospect”, “qualified” or “80% there” abound in sales offices in all sectors.

This is not an article on how to build a sales pipeline, nor particularly how to manage that pipeline day-to-day, but it is an article about measuring and validating the status of ANY client or proposal on your radar.

There are only 5 key things to establish if you want to up your game in terms of pipeline measurement  and validation and in basic headline form they are as follows;

Yes?

No?

Not Today?

If Not, Why Not?  

When To Re-Engage?

Securing one of the first three is clearly the result of “asking for the order”.  If 30% of our proposals are a straight yes, 30% a firm no, that still leaves 40% in the “undecided” category.   These figures are actually generous as often 60% plus are “undecided” or “not ready” to proceed in many businesses on any given day.

A great sales professional doesn’t have the “impatience” and potential “arrogance” so often aimed at the sector, but understands that managing the undecided group can make a difference between poor, average, decent and even excellent and exceptional results.

If you get a “not today” in whatever form of language is used, that is not a “no” and doesn’t need to be treated as such.  You need to find out what the current blockage or hurdle is that is stopping a positive decision being made in your favour today?  You  then need to find out what they are doing to reduce or remove that blockage or hurdle and crucially, when that means you re-engage?

Sales is simple and timing is one of the keys.  If you have a system that picks out and records key information, key dates and key facts that give you future leverage, and the same systems reminds you when to make that timely next call, your sales will increase significantly.

Effective sales professionals should be busy.  They should have business wins for today and tomorrow, but by understanding and managing the above, they will also have business wins set up for next month, next quarter and even next year……..

 

 

 

Top Tips For Networking Success

A set of practical tips from Nick Bramley, Director of Impact (CEO) at IMPACTUS Group

The following represent top tips for networking success.  They are tried, tested and proven to deliver significant results and confidence improvement at all levels and in all sorts of business environments…..

Which ones would improve your performance?

 Networking is NOT selling………

Don’t go to sell, go to see who you might build an initial relationship with?  Networking is about identifying people who MAY have a common interest and the event should simply be the catalyst to setting up a meeting over a coffee at a later date…….

Before attending any networking event or meeting, make sure you are prepared…..

Ask yourself, do you know the format or structure of the event, who else is attending, what is expected of you, what will I have to do, if anything in the event in terms of speaking, meeting, presenting etc?  All events have some structure or format and forewarned is forearmed………

Most people are on some level, less than comfortable – This is good!

90% of people are not comfortable networking and meeting strangers, including, quite likely, you!  The good news if you approach someone with a line like “do you mind if I join you” is that there is likely no chance of anything other than a positive response….

Fear of not breaking into groups or being left on your own is natural but unrealistic.  Be positive and make the first move…….

Put other people at ease….

Don’t dive straight into business.  Ask about how they found the venue, parking, have they been here before, what brings them here, do they know many people etc.

When you have done some small talk about the venue, parking etc, ask them what they do and then get to a more business focus of the conversation, when both are relaxed…….

Don’t get pre-judged by your “opening”…..

People make assumptions based on things like job titles – “I am a Solicitor, Accountant, Project Manager etc”.  If you introduce yourself by a job title, this can be the danger as they will already have an idea of what you are or do and you may be tarred with a brush that is not accurate.

Try introducing yourself by what you actually do for clients, rather than what your job title is – try, “I help my clients to make more money and be more successful”, “I try to keep the rail network running and help to get people to work on time”, “I am helping my clients to make the most of their assets in the current economic climate”, etc.

Much more interesting and guaranteed to generate a response such as “how do you do that”?  A great conversation starter…….

Use open questions to build a conversation…..

When engaging in conversation, take care to use open questions.  Who, what, where, when, how, why all build conversation and cannot be answered with a clipped or simple yes or no.

Closed questions make for awkward silences and difficult engagement……

Write it down – With permission!

When you have a business card from the other person (get it early when you are discussing the geography of where they work), keep hold of it in visible sight.

Putting it away in your pocket is dismissive and rude.  Also, a business card can be a conversation extender when you see the address, other offices, brand positioning, mission statements etc.

If you have the card and someone makes a relevant or interesting comment, use the card to make a note of it, but only after asking permission.  If you write on the card without permission, this is rude too!

Know the broader business agenda – Have an opinion…..

Don’t be caught out not knowing what the wider business agenda is.  Be well read so you can have an opinion on the current agenda.  Check out www.thebusinessdesk.com for news headlines from across the region and don’t be afraid to express an opinion.

Opinions are memorable and thought provoking…….

Don’t get lumbered – Have a plan for moving around the room…..

 Make sure you have a target for meeting people.  Make sure that you meet this target by always being aware of the time you have spent with a person or group.

Networking conversations should be 10 minutes maximum before deciding to move on.  Don’t leave someone on their own for you to go networking elsewhere, it is rude.

Ask them if they wish to join you – they may decline, but that would be their choice and therefore not rude.

If networking over a formal lunch or dinner – take control

It is easy to talk only to those on either side of you.  If you are sitting around a table, ask those around you if “this is one of those events where we all introduce ourselves”?

Get some momentum for that idea and then engage with the rest of the table to do just that.

When people do their introductions etc, if they are short, using name, rank, serial number only, ask a few questions so that when it is your turn, you can give it a decent shot without making the others look bad.

Better still, volunteer to go first as this will set a decent standard for others to follow and they will appreciate this.  Make sure you come across as self deprecating “I don’t mind, I have done a couple of these before and at least I will get it over with” rather than an aggressive little volunteer.

Wait for the clutter of drinks service, vegetarian service etc to be over before starting!

Where and when to network?

There are literally dozens of places to network.  Check out the ones that meet your requirements.

Who goes, what seniority, what are they likely to be interested in, will I meet the right people?

Don’t go unless you know it will be of value and even then, go twice to check out if this is a typical structure, before committing to anything.

The game plan……..

Have a game plan for your overall networking strategy, including;

  • Arrive Early
  • Plan to Stay a Little Later
  • Be Prepared – Seating Plan / Delegate List
  • Have a Focus
  • Engage Help – The Event Organiser – They Will Introduce You…..
  • Take Your Diary
  • Switch Off Phone
  • Better – Leave it in Car!
  • Be Yourself
  • Go For It……

Finally…….

Go networking with an attitude of “how can I help” and business will come back many times over.  If you go with the attitude of “what can I sell”, you will be seen as shallow and hard……

Good Luck!

 

Top Tips For Outbound Calling Success

A set of practical tips from Nick Bramley, Director of Impact (CEO) at IMPACTUS Group

The following represent top tips for telephone success.  They are tried, tested and proven to deliver significant results and confidence improvement at all levels and in all sorts of business environments…..

Which ones would improve your performance?

 Plan your call activity in “sessions”……

Spur of the moment calls will always be less productive as you are less

Prepared and have no momentum.  Even confident and experienced callers start slowly, so if you only ever conduct a few calls at a time, you will never make any calls when in top form…..

Planning activity also means it will happen!

Create a “do not disturb” mentality…..

Get your colleagues to take inbound calls, ignore the emails and switch off your mobile.  2 hours is all you need to generate 25 – 30 outbound calls and a number of real opportunities.

Letting your colleagues know not to disturb will really help to generate  results!

Remove the temptation to stop…..

Have your drink to hand, have your snack ready, be prepared with pen, notepaper, data, PC etc and go to the loo…..   If you have a bad start to your session, it is easy to look for reasons to leave the desk and the session is effectively over.

Don’t leave the desk on a low!

Separate your call types…..

Success comes from momentum and confidence.  Splitting your call types into first calls, follow up calls, existing customer calls, new research calls, etc and doing them in blocks get you in the right “zone” for each call type and generates better results.

Don’t blow your cover…..

If ringing for research (finding a name, checking an email etc), never engage the prospect in a sales conversation at this time even if put directly through.

You are ill-prepared with your key messages, mentally not ready, likely to mumble and bumble and you will not be as successful as in a first call session.  You will also burn the data for future use.

If you have sent a pre-approach, never mention it!

Never lead with “I recently sent you some information”……

In the game that is telemarketing, they can easily get you off the phone with the response “I did not receive it – can you please send it again”?  This creates work for you, delays the conversation and gives them the upper hand.  If they mention the pre-approach, okay, but you should never do so first…..

Know your strike rate…..

If you know how many calls you need to make to get a result (appointment, sale, piece of information etc), you can work on improving all the time, but also not panic if the session is not going your way.

Confidence comes from how good you know you are or can be and accepting the fact that sometimes a session is just not going well, but that it is not down to your lack of skill!

Lead with a short list of hooks and benefits….

You have 15 seconds or less to grab the attention.  It is what you can do for them, not what you actually do that is important.

Name dropping of like minded customers or references to cost saving, making a job easier, performance improvement etc always work well.

Listen and “drive” the conversation…..

Two ears, one mouth – that is the right proportion.  When needing to drive a conversation, use plenty of open questions and simply listen.

People talk more if you let them….

Welcome objections but cluster them…. 

It is not a game of tennis.  Ask “what are the reasons why we may not be doing business or having that appointment” and once you have checked that you have them all, agree to tackle them all together and knock them over as a group.

Much more powerful and successful and they cannot come back with any further ones if you have already asked for them all and handled them…..

Leaving a message expecting a return call is naïve….

98% of voicemail messages are of no use to you but you must listen all the way through just in case.

Never leave a message (they will not ring you back and they have the upper hand).  Ring back and ask a colleague to confirm the whereabouts of the prospect or that they are the one you need.  Never leave a message with the colleague either…..

Good call notes equal business today, tomorrow and in the future

 Never write “not in” if you know why.  Never write “asked me to call back in January” without a reason why today was no good. 

A strong call note today proves in January that you had the earlier call and you can always exaggerate when they realise this with “you promised me an appointment if I rang back in January”.

You cannot do this if they don’t believe you called initially….. 

There are only 4 reasons for the call…….

To speak to the person you have as a target

To find out where that target is (on holiday, in a meeting, away from desk etc).

To establish a time when the target will be available if they are not?

To re-confirm that the target is the one responsible for decisions on your area of interest (even if a research call confirmed this earlier in the process). You only need to re-confirm once…..

Good Luck & Remain Positive!

Top Tips For Client Meeting Success

 

A set of practical tips from Nick Bramley, Director of Impact (CEO) at IMPACTUS Group

The following represent top tips for meeting success.  They are tried, tested and proven to deliver significant results and confidence improvement at all levels and in all sorts of business environments…..

Which ones would improve your performance?

  •  Before attending any meeting, make sure you are prepared….. 

Have you gone through a checklist of everything you will need in the meeting and done some research on the people and the business you are meeting with?

It is always difficult to rescue a meeting if your lack of preparation is evident.  Winging it only works occasionally and should not become the standard for meeting preparation.

  • If travelling to the meeting, have on some rousing music to increase your enthusiasm and alertness…..

Whatever your musical tastes, loud and rousing is better than mellow ballads……  If meeting at your office, put on some music as you prepare….

  • Don’t provide the other participants with any initial negative impressions….

Make sure you arrive on time (preferably a little early) and don’t come armed with a lot of clutter – the key is to look as if you are there for a functional purpose, not as if you are set to stay all day.

  • If you are going to use a laptop, have it powered and ready in “hibernate” or “standby” mode…..

Watching a laptop warm up can be excruciatingly slow and many people focus on this, rather than on their hosts or guests, to the detriment of initial relationship building.

  • Have an idea of what a successful outcome would be from your meeting?

It may be obtaining a purchase order, but it may equally be getting to the next stage in the process, a request for a proposal, being added to a preferred supplier list or just not being shown the door.

This is your target, and without one, you have little to gauge success (or failure) against.

  • However long or short the meeting, you must take initial control….

You should “signpost” what you expect from the meeting such as its structure, anticipated timings, what outcomes you are seeking and then, most importantly, consult with the other participants to check they agree with the proposed format.

By “signposting” you will not have people unsure of what happens next, where they are in the meeting structure, or looking at their watches instead of listening and participating actively.

  • Never assume that your agenda or even the reason for the meeting is the same for both parties…..

Ask open questions after setting the format as they help clarify the position as all participants see it.  Be prepared to change your initial plan to react to anything that the other party or parties contribute.

Despite some pre-research and possible call notes to accompany the appointment, when face to face, the agenda may well differ from expectations so a flexible approach needs to be adopted.

  • The format of the meeting should ALWAYS be…..

 1 – The other participants go first, answering your open questions and outlining their position

2 – You now present your offering, focusing your presentation on the issues raised in their initial session

3 – Discuss your offering against their position

4 – Handle any objections (see later tip)

5 – Seek agreement

6 – Ask for an output, whether that is a sale or a call to action.  (Many people fail to ask at this crucial time for fear of “spoiling” a good meeting)

7 – Agree next steps, responsibilities and timescales

  • If there are any objections to your proposals or presentation, acknowledge them, but agree to handle them all in a block at the end of your presentation…..

Then think about incorporating some content into your presentation that covers the objections and removes the sting from them.  Objections are to be welcomed, but should not be handled like a tennis match.

  • Never offer a proposal or a report as a standard follow up…..

This will always receive a positive response but will create extra work in cases where there is no need or intent on the other side of the table.

Always ask ‘What happens next’?

If the other participants need or want a proposal or report, that is very different from you simply offering one.  Always agree a realistic timescale for the provision of such reports.

Good Luck!

 

Public Speaking For Introverts

An interesting perspective on and reasons why public speaking is good for introverts from subject matter expert, Emma Taggart, the Leadership Coach for Introverts.

Public speaking – It’s something other people, and we ourselves, often assume introverts can’t do.

Introverts prefer to express themselves in writing and don’t feel any great need to be the focus of attention, so public speaking can make them feel very uncomfortable.

Emma’s goal for the autumn is to master public speaking.  She recently gave the first of what she hopes will be many talks about why introverts’ strengths make them well-placed to lead now.

So, why is she bothering to stretch her comfort zone by learning how to be a better speaker? And why should you?

First, because Emma – and you – have rich thoughts and ideas to share. You can do that in writing but if that’s all you do then people who prefer to listen rather than read are not going to hear.

Second, because leaders need to be able to communicate and it’s not always possible to do that effectively in writing.

Third, because it’s good to learn new skills and expand your view of what’s possible.

Recently a mentor challenged Emma to get back in the public speaking saddle (it’s about three years since she last spoke in public). Surprisingly, speaking turned out to be a natural fit for her and other introverts. Here’s why:

1.    Effective public speaking requires loads of preparation. 

Introverts love to be prepared!  They can write down exactly what they want to say and practise until they are word perfect (but please don’t read from a script unless you want to sound like a robot).

2.    We are the ones doing the talking.

For once, there is no need to fight for air time or try to get a word in edgeways in a room full of talkative people (yes extroverts, Emma is looking at you).

3.    We don’t have to do the dreaded small talk.

Introverts can talk about a subject that they know about and that interests them (and hopefully interests the audience too!). People will ask questions about what is said – no need to talk about what we did on holiday!  Emma’s mentor calls public speaking “hiding at the front of the room”, which is a brilliant description.

Okay, so there are downsides to public speaking, like the nerves that come with being in the spotlight and fear of being asked a question we don’t know the answer to, but those can be dealt with:

  • Try re-framing nerves as excitement. It really works!
  • Use a preference for preparation to anticipate questions and craft answers.
  • If your mind goes blank when put on the spot, it’s fine to promise to get back to people with an answer (but make sure you it within a reasonable time frame).

Has Emma convinced you to give public speaking a go? If so, here are her tips based on recent experience:

  1. Say ‘yes’ when someone invites you to speak, even if you’re terrified – trust that thorough preparation will make it a success.
  2. Consider public speaking an opportunity to indulge your love of thinking and writing – reflect on ideas and scribble them down before translating them into the spoken word.
  3. Get some help – read a book, watch TEDTalks for inspiration and find an experienced speaker to support you – indeed IMPACTUS Support offers Speaker & Presentation Skills Training & Coaching, so why not ask here?

There’s absolutely no reason why introverts can’t be great public speakers.

Don’t do yourself a disservice by buying into the idea that there are some things we just can’t do.  To borrow a well-worn slogan from Emma’s favourite introverted leader, President Obama, ”Yes we can!”.

Does Military Leadership Work Outside of the Military?

An interesting perspective from Ben Williams CMI ILM, Co-Founder at Vanguard Global Solutions – How organisations could learn a thing or two from our battle hardened leaders.

It was hot, sticky and extremely frightening. My first introduction to the Taliban quickly turned me into the commando I had trained tirelessly to become. They say you haven’t become a true soldier until you are engaged by your countries enemy. However, our battle-hardened troop would never have become such an outfit without the leaders within who relentlessly guided us through thick and thin, and often acted way above their pay-grade.

As the bullets snapped branches off trees, peppered the walls and kicked dust off the track, I threw all my training and skills out of the window and jumped head first into a deep stream to avoid the impending danger. My body had subconsciously entered ‘flight’ mode instead of ‘fight’, and I was going against everything I had been trained to do. Had it not been for my leader there and then, I may have stayed in the stream unaware as to what to do next, engulfed in a situation I’d never experienced before.

Peering out of the water I was relieved to see I wasn’t the only one who had jumped in the stream away from the Taliban, unsure of what to do in the life-threatening situation. The Taliban were close, maybe one-hundred and fifty meters away pinning us down with their accurate AK-47’s and PKM weapons. As well as the suppressing enemy fire targeting our location, a Taliban sniper was also taking pot shots at the tree line and ditch we all hid within, desperately trying to make our lives harder. ‘Welcome to Afghanistan’.

Stood on the track unmoved by the danger was our commander firing back at the enemy, completely in the open protecting the men he led who were completely new to such a situation. He was extremely experienced and had spent his entire career on operations throughout war-zones around the world. It took one look from him and minimal encouragement for us to feel inspired and suddenly courageous enough to join him where he stood and enter the fight. It felt natural and our training immediately kicked in. We didn’t want to leave him there, nor had we trained so long and hard to hide. We were commandos, and this is what commandos do; something our commander reminded us of.

This is a leader in the rawest form, they inspire others to follow. On that day we were not poorly trained marines who had bottled at the wrong moment. Far from. We were young Royal Marines who had never experienced such high pressure and violence launched on us in such a way; many miles from our wet and windy training on Dartmoor. We were all highly skilled, highly trained and more determined to take the fight to the Taliban; we just needed a little guidance and encouragement which our leader was there to provide. Our commander inspired, guided, and led us through an extreme and dangerous situation knowing for well the feelings and emotions we were experiencing. He knew the dangers we faced, but a mission needed completing and he needed us for that mission.

From that day we had changed. Our first firefight, and our commander’s leadership had inspired us into a different way of thinking, and within a heartbeat none of us turned our back on the enemy again. We had become a unified team of commandos born from high pressure and shared hardship.

Yet always there is the overhanging question asked, ‘does military leadership fit into, and is it accepted in business, sport and other organisations’. Of course it does, and why not? Bullets, enemies, warzones, searing heat and streams aren’t necessarily required to become a good leader or create cohesive and high-performance teams. The misconception is military leaders own huge moustaches, scream at you in well pressed tunics and own an aggressive approach to discipline. This is far from the truth, with such days almost completely gone. The military leaders of today have moved with the times just as quickly as the newest iPhone updates are released. With their leadership becoming increasingly more effective with every day. Empathy, empowerment, understanding of our cultures and people, and great belief in our values has created a new era of leaders; ‘millennial military leaders’.

Leadership isn’t just about command and authority. Leadership is about being emotionally in tune with those you lead, understanding everything they are going through, listening to opinions and ideas, yet upholding the capability to switch to authoritative leadership to make snap decisions when required; just like our commander on the track.

For the civilian world, huge lessons can be learnt and used by our experienced, professional and inspiring leaders. Exceptional judgement, willpower, integrity and courage are the four words necessary to describe good leadership. Every other word or attribute associated with leadership leads right back to these four, and it is these four words that exceptional leaders must draw from.

Leaders in the military are no different to those within any organisation. We are all human beings leading other human beings within our chosen tribes. Whatever your industry, every organisation is in some form of survival; it is literally that primitive. Survival changes us from someone in a position of command and management, to that of a person who is accountable for their subordinates, and also in turn depend on their own people for their survival; this is leadership, creating a vision and a path whilst in turn creating followers for that vision. The military regularly works in survival situations which is why our leaders are so effective and own great skill in leadership under such high intensity and pressure.

Don’t fall foul to the misconception that military leadership should stay in the military. Embrace it, learn from it and review the way leadership is thought of in our modern world. Remove the camouflage clothing and replace it with a suit means only the apparel has changed. The professional, disciplined and highly experienced leader is still underneath waiting to unleash.