Tag Archives: marketing

Why You’re Not Getting the Most from Your Training Dollars and How to Start Getting a Better Return

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie

Each year, organizations waste thousands of dollars on training that doesn’t deliver what the people who bought it thought it would. Consequently, many of those remorseful purchasers determine that either training has no value to their employees, the training facilitators don’t know what they’re doing, the program designers are out of touch with reality, or all three.

If only the root causes of training failures were as simple as those. Even with willing learners, great content, and strong facilitation, you can still encounter a host of problems that will keep you from realizing strong returns on your training investment. If your training isn’t delivering what you think it should, you may be suffering from one of three major problems that plague organizations big and small.

Problem One: Training isn’t part of a larger learning ecosystem.

Just because people participate in a workshop, it doesn’t mean they will change their behavior back on the job. In fact, even if while in class they demonstrate an ability and willingness to do whatever is being taught, all may be lost once participants exit the classroom.
Why does this happen? Good workshops usually fail to deliver because they are treated as a training solution instead of a component of one. In other words, a workshop isn’t the answer in itself; rather, it should be part of a larger apparatus or ecosystem.

Think about the incentives you can put in place to encourage behavior change and the barriers you need to remove to encourage success. Click To Tweet

Solution: Creating a strong learning ecosystem is an ongoing and often complex endeavor. It takes time to build a holistic structure that supports continuous development. That said, start small. For example, ask yourself:

  • Prior to training, do managers explain to people why they will attend a course and how they are expected to use what’s learned after the session?
  • Will someone with authority (other than the facilitator) launch the session by explaining how the workshop ties into the bigger picture?
  • Are there check-in opportunities after training to ensure that participants are implementing new behaviors?

If you answer “no” to any of those basics, do what you need to do to shift those answers to “yes.”

Next, think about the incentives you can put in place to encourage behavior change and the barriers you need to remove to encourage success, and the corrective action you will take if what’s happening in the classroom isn’t replicated on the job.

Once you start thinking holistically and view courses and workshops as a component of learning versus learning in its entirety, you will have taken the first step in getting the most out of your training dollars.

Problem Two: Continuous learning isn’t part of the culture, and training isn’t treated as a priority.

You have great content, you have a skilled facilitator in place, and half the people scheduled to attend the course don’t attend because training isn’t a priority.

When training occupies a position of “nice to have” and not “need to have,” getting the most from it becomes problematic. This most often happens when people are survival mode instead of on a growth trajectory. In other words, they are scrambling to get through the work instead of thinking mindfully about the work they’re completing and how they’re completing it.

In practical terms, if people are always putting out fires and don’t regularly ask “what have we learned” and “how can we improve,” why should they care about learning new skills?

Solution: Shifting from a reactive culture to one that is deliberate about its activities takes months or even years. However, it’s not difficult to make big strides over time when you begin by asking the right questions up, down, and across an organization.

Start the improvement conversation at multiple levels and at different times. Frequently ask, “what have we learned,” “what do we need to do better next time,” “what do we wish we’d known earlier,” and other such questions after projects, meetings, presentations, and so forth. In the rare instances when something goes perfectly, remember there are still questions to ask: “How can we replicate what we just did,” “why did that work well,” “is there any reason this approach won’t work again in the future,” and so on.

When questioning becomes the norm, the solutions offered via training should have stronger importance and value. For example, if turnover is an issue, a learning organization wants to know why and may ask several questions: “Are we hiring the wrong people,” “are we expecting too much,” “is there something better for the same money somewhere else,” “do our managers not manage well,” “do we need to provide people with better tools,” and so on.

Then, when learning and improvement are a priority, you’ll hear such things as, “Today is a training day for me. I’ll be unavailable until 4:00. If you have an emergency, please see my supervisor Melissa. The workshop I’m attending is of top importance and part of my effort to reduce the turnover in our department.”

Who can argue with that? The logic sounds right and ties into big-picture improvement goals.

To get larger returns from training, use questioning to drive improvement. The answers will help people connect the dots and understand why training is a priority and not just something they do because Outlook tells them to show up in a classroom.

Problem Three: Few annual development plans exist.

The world doesn’t stagnate, and your employees shouldn’t either. If they’re doing their work the same way they were five years ago, and nobody is encouraging or demanding change, why should they care about training or think you care about them?

Solution: Regardless of level, every employee should have a development plan and some learning and growth goals that connect to the big picture and enhance their skills.

“I want to improve XYZ skill to drive ABC result, and 123 is how I plan to grow,” is a quick and easy format to follow when setting development goals and three to five goals is a good number for most people.

Better still, if you can tie those goals to performance reviews, you’ll be amazed at the interest people develop in improvement, training, and implementing new skills.

As with the other two solutions, start small. If your company, for example, has no development plans, choose a department and pilot them.

Act Now

Whether you suffer from one, two, or all three of the problems described, take action now. When thoughtful goals and development plans are put in place throughout an organization, people are conditioned to ask the right questions and drive toward improvement, and a strong learning ecosystem supports learning, it is almost impossible not to realize a stronger return on your training dollars.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

Understanding the Importance of Decision Triggers In Selling to Your Prospects

By Jill J. Johnson, MBA

Jill Johnson-decision triggers

A key component of effective target marketing involves developing deep insight into the decision-making process influencing how your customers make their purchasing choices. For organizations working with diverse customer needs, moving your prospects from, “I’m interested,” to “I’ll buy,” is a highly complex process. What is significant and how this will impact each of your prospects in their buying decision can vary.

This buying decision might involve a need to consolidate their vendor list enabling you to become their sole source or among their most trusted resource providers. Their decision may also impact how they view the value of buying additional services or other resources you offer.

Understanding how your target market makes decisions is fundamental to more effectively promoting your products and services. It is essential for you to understand your prospect’s decision-making process and what triggers their buying decisions to more quickly move your sales to a “yes.” Insight into what triggers your prospects in their decision-making process allows you to adapt your messages to highlight the unique characteristics of concern to your customers. Adapt your sales approach to their needs rather than using a “cookie cutter” approach. By tailoring your promotional strategies, you can enhance your opportunities to win the sale or deepen your relationship with your potential customer. You can use this insight to carefully craft your sales approach to meet their unique needs and concerns.

Each Prospect Has Unique Decision Triggers

Knowing what will move your prospects forward in a sale is just as important as knowing what is holding them back from saying “yes.” Decision Triggers can range from stress about the costs of your product or service and not understanding the value-add you offer, to believing they need support for the decision from a trusted member of their leadership team. In your sales approach, you need to utilize probing questions to isolate how they will make their decision about investing in buying a product or service from you. You must also uncover and understand the motives of who else is involved in making the decision.

Do the work to understand what Decision Triggers are at play with your prospective customers and with the other key stakeholders they rely on for support. Knowing how to activate or neutralize these triggers will provide you with vital insight on how to adjust your sales messaging tactics. Once you understand their Decision Triggers, you can determine what you should provide your prospect so they can move forward with their decision to buy from you.

Once you understand the Decision Triggers driving your sales prospects, then you can tie it to the rest of your promotional strategy. Click To Tweet

Navigate the Decision Continuum

As you move your prospective customers through their Decision Continuum, consider what your goals are each step of the way. If they reach out to you via your website or email, your goal is to get them to talk with you in person. If they ask you for information, determine what information they really need and what you can follow-up with if the sale is going to take longer than one interaction. Your goal is to keep them engaged with you and moving forward toward completing the sale and getting them to join your customer ranks—both now and long-term.

Understanding how to navigate a prospect along their Decision Continuum requires you to probe them carefully about what is important to them and their key stakeholders. In this process, you are identifying what their critical Decision Triggers are while gaining an understanding of how you need to incorporate this insight into your sales approach.

All too often when a company or organization has been around a long time, the manner in which sales are made to prospects becomes somewhat stagnant. Use decision insight to make sure your messaging is fresh, unique, and clearly matched to the evolving needs of your prospect. It might be time to reassess and revise your messaging to ensure you are hitting the hot buttons of your prospects and matching your approach to what they are most concerned about. This approach will get them to buy and stay with you beyond the initial sale.

Decision Triggers Drive Sales and Promotional Strategy

Listen carefully to the words your prospective customers use and how they describe their needs and concerns. This insight can help you shape your sales messaging back to them in ways that mirror their words. As you match your sales messaging to where they are on their Decision Continuum, you will have a better understanding of how to highlight key product or service features or benefits. This approach leverages the Decision Triggers to your target market to match what matters most to them. By specifically tailoring your messages to your prospect’s Decision Triggers, you can significantly increase the potential for achieving the sale. What you offer only matters if it matters to your prospective customers.

Once you understand the Decision Triggers driving your sales prospects, then you can tie it to the rest of your promotional strategy. You can incorporate your deep customer insight into all of your collateral materials, advertising, public relations stories, video clips, website and social media. These communications messages can reinforce how you want your prospective customers to respond to your sales messages. If there is a disconnect anywhere in the Decision Continuum, you are at risk of not being able to achieve the sales success you desire.

Final Thoughts

By incorporating insight about your prospective customer’s Decision Triggers, you can help your prospect gain confidence that the product or service you are trying to sell to them will truly benefit them and make a difference in their lives or businesses. They will have more confidence in buying from you because you will have tied your presentation to their concerns. As a result, your prospective customers can be reassured your products or services can and will effectively meet their needs. Leveraging your prospect’s Decision Triggers will make your sales cycle more efficient. It will result in more sales, help you build superior customer relationships, and will boost customer satisfaction when you deliver on what you promised.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

10 Commandments for the Inspirational Leader: The Foundation of Business Solutions

By Michele Wierzgac, MSEd

Michele-your personal brand

There are so many theories in leadership ranging from vision to self-awareness to service. The simplest way to develop your leadership skills is to have a work ethic mixed with a solid foundation of core values.

Inspirational leaders have commandments they work and live by. Commandments, or guidelines, lay the critical foundation for the development of leadership and business solutions.

All of you have your own commandments that you work and live by. These Ten Commandments will work as a guidebook to inspire your staff, increase workplace morale, and lay the foundation for a successful company.

1. Be truthful

Any leader aspiring to greatness must do two things all the time—listen and tell the truth. Inspirational leaders own up to their mistakes and correct them as soon as possible. Do not blame others for your error. And when someone comes up with a brilliant idea, give credit where credit is due. Do not take credit for the idea. You will be respected by your team.

2. Be consistent

Leaders are always performing like an actor on a stage. You must consistently and authentically act out your part in front of your audiences. You must lead with high energy, all day, every day. You must protect your personal brand.

3.Be empathetic

To start using empathy more effectively, put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Then validate the other person’s perspective and examine your own attitude. Perhaps you are more concerned with being right rather than finding a solution or accepting others as they are. Listen with your heart to determine what the other person feels.

4.Be generous

Business and personal relationships are everything. Every relationship needs to be a two-way street. However, before a relationship can be formed, you need to give with zero expectation of receiving anything.

5. Be strong

Inspirational leaders bring a light to someone’s life. You become the message of hope and encouragement to your staff. Encouragement comes from focusing on the strength of another person to drive their motivation and perform at a higher level which adds value to the organization and your personal brand.

6.Be articulate

Effective leaders put words together based on the thoughts and needs of others. You must create the whole story out of words you have collected. Inspirational leaders are able to articulate and clarify what many of us have been thinking on the subject for a long time. Inspirational leaders seek and inspire excellence, not perfectionism. Go out there and learn so that you can return to your team members and inspire a culture of learning and accountability.

7. Be approachable

Are you accessible? Do you have appropriate body language? How you appear to others is key to being an inspirational leader. Some people have a fear of authority, but it is your responsibility to remove the barriers and establish an environment of trust. By using proper verbal communication and listening skills, you will become much more approachable and inspirational. You are in control of how approachable you are.

Your name can open and close doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority. Click To Tweet

8. Be a brand champion

If you are passionate about a common interest, you create a very attractive personal style of interaction, and inspire your team to become involved and take an interest in you. They become a brand champion, a supporter, and a cheerleader of sorts for you. In return, you become a brand champion for them. Because we share a bond, we naturally support one another no matter the situation because of our passion. Remember, passionate people are attuned to the five senses, taste, touch, scent, sound, and sight. Passion for a common purpose brings people and ignites warmth.

9. Be a genuine spirit

Talk to people—listen to what they have to say and what they actually mean. Sometimes those two can be completely different things. There is a beautiful story in everyone, so listen intently with an open mind; try to add value to the conversation wherever you can. Everyone has a gift—bring the best out of everyone. Among many other lessons of the heart, Leo Buscaglia reminds us “love is open arms. If you close your arms about love you will find that you are left holding only yourself.” Remember, some people are unreasonable and self-centered….love them anyway. Inspire them. Bring the best out of them.

10. Be credible

Reputation is about earning credibility, not expecting it. You must work hard at building credibility so others are confident about doing business with you. One way to earn credibility is to keep your promises. Another way is to be honest. Actions speak louder than words. If you are credible and honest, your personal brand will sell naturally. So make your brand work for you. Most people agree that there is a direct correlation between a person’s reputation and his or her success. How effectively you represent yourself in public often determines what you will accomplish in your life. Your name can open….and close….doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority.

As an inspirational leader do you have commandments that you work and live by? What do they look like?

Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Ass Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks For Success. With her high energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation. She promises her audience that they will leave her solution-driven keynotes and workshops with at least one passionate, life transforming leadership tool. For more information on bringing in Michele Wierzgac for your next event, please visit: https://micheleandco.com.

5 Website Features That May Be Working Against You

By Molly Yurick

Molly Yurick-website feature working against you

Contrary to popular belief, your website is not about the products you sell, the services you provide, or the information you share. It’s actually about the people who visit it and their needs. As a website owner, your job is to turn those visitors into paying clients. But before you can do that, you have to keep visitors on your website for long enough to pique their interest. And that means not scaring off your prospects with features that are annoying or—even worse—that could make you look unprofessional.

With all the web-design elements available today, it’s easy to lose sight of what will work best for your target audience. However, once you shift your focus to serving your visitors instead of your own needs, avoiding these features becomes much easier.

Your website is not about the products you sell, the services you provide, or the information you share. It’s actually about the people who visit it and their needs. Click To Tweet

Here are five website features that may be working against you:

1) Aggressive pop-ups

Pop-ups come in all shapes and sizes. Some are intended to persuade visitors to interact with your call-to-action (“Sign up for our newsletter” or “Take our survey”), while others are paid advertisements to bring in some extra income. But, let’s be honest, pop-ups are quite bothersome, especially if they appear repeatedly. Expect to lose visitors if they have to spend more time closing pop-up windows than exploring your content. If you feel you need to include pop-ups on your site, make sure you do your homework, place them well, and use them wisely.

2) Translation plug-in

Translating your website into other languages is a smart business move if you are looking to expand internationally. It makes your products or services available to more people in more places and may very well increase your sales and online success. While it may seem like a translation plug-in or machine translation service will save you time and money, think twice before taking action. Machine translation systems are great at getting the gist of a text, but often skew the meaning. For example, in some languages, a popular machine translation tool translated “US President” as “Bush” well into the Obama administration. To avoid embarrassing mistakes that scare off global customers, make sure you hire a professional translator who can perfectly craft your message for your audiences abroad.

3) Autoplay video

It’s happened to every Internet surfer out there. They arrive at a new website and an unfamiliar voice or loud music blasts through their speakers. They frantically stop the video, rub their sore ears, shake their fist at the screen and close the tab. Video may be all the rage right now, but the secret lies in knowing how to use it effectively. Autoplay videos—whether for informational purposes or to bring in revenue from advertisers—are annoying and will often push visitors away from your site. If you plan on using video on your website, add a prominent play button instead of having it autoplay. Let users decide whether they want to watch the video instead of deciding for them.

4) A dysfunctional mobile version of your website

Mobile Internet usage now surpasses computer usage. This means that you must have a mobile-friendly version of your website that maintains all the same key functions as the desktop version. If visitors do not have a positive experience when they land on your mobile site, you may drive away a huge portion of potential traffic. So, make sure your website is responsive. Responsive websites include all the same content and information on any device used to access them, but the display changes automatically based on the size of the viewer’s screen.

5) Infinite-scrolling home page

Infinite scrolling is a design technique in which content continuously populates at the bottom of the screen as the user scrolls down the page. This technique can be very effective for certain types of sites, but for most, an infinitely long home page can be distracting and confusing. It increases load time, makes navigation and linking messy, and hides or eliminates the highly valuable website footer. Users often search the footer for contact information, social media links, and privacy or security notices. If you’re not sure what type of home page will work best for you, consult a web-design professional to learn what works best with your target audience.

Whether you are a freelancer or you own a multi-million-dollar company, all you have to remember is this: make your website for them, not for you.

Molly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in tourism, hospitality and airline industry translations. She is also an active volunteer for the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. For more information on ATA and to hire a translation or interpreting professional, please visit www.atanet.org.

Stalled Sales? 

Get Unstuck by Engaging in a Strategic Market Analysis

Jill Johnson-target market

By Jill J. Johnson

If you are struggling with sluggish sales, there are two critical areas you must review to address the situation. The first is determining if the slowdown is due to changes in your target market. The second is determining if your sales and promotional approaches are ineffective. While there may be complicating factors beyond your control, most of the time a sales slowdown can be attributed to one or both issues. This type of analysis reviews your demographics, competitors and the effectiveness of your marketing messages to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the demand potential for your business. When combined with a marketing audit, you have a powerful opportunity to turnaround your sales.

Strategic Market Analysis is a powerful approach to uncovering the true reasons for your revenue slowdown. Click To Tweet

Conduct a Demographic Analysis

A demographic assessment is the foundation of determining if your products or services remain feasible. Understanding your target market demographics provides insight regarding the impact of any changes in market volume. A demographic review can help you determine if you are in a short-term sales slump or if a more significant market decline is expected over a longer time horizon. All too often the cause for a revenue decline is evident in the demographic data. The key is to allow the data to show you objectively what is going on in your market.

A well-executed demographic analysis evaluates shifts in the variables of your consumer’s age, gender, income and other economic variables impacting the market you sell to and identifies potential market risks impacting your business survival. Business client demographics include company age, revenue, number of employees, or number of locations.

Be careful in defining your market area boundaries. Too many businesses use wider geographic areas for their market than they realistically serve. Overly optimistic boundaries will overstate your market potential. Think of your customer demographics as you would a doctor looking at your vital signs. Demographics will help identify new opportunities. Or they will confirm your market has shrunk to a level where you should re-consider your offerings.

Conduct Market Interviews

Some organizations conduct probing interviews of customers, employees, key community leaders, industry associations, and vendors to gain insight on what is changing within their marketplace. Interviews provide you with insights into what makes your competitors tick or help you understand what your key target audiences really think. Interviews can help you understand what is going on and provide you with insight to refine your marketing messages to improve sales.

Study Your Competitors

While the Internet has made it easier to gather basic information on competitors, competitive intelligence involves deeper methods. Look at what products and services they are promoting. Evaluate how they are positioning these resources including how they address pain points to meet customer needs. You can use primary research techniques including networking with industry experts, customers, suppliers, key referral sources and even competitors to better understand your market environment. Combine this information with the use of secondary research sources such as news media or subscription databases to help you gain additional insight. Researching your competitors will provide you with a deeper awareness of opportunities or the need to revamp your offerings. Competitor insight also can help you develop more effective strategies to address the impact they might be having on shaping your consumer attitudes or restricting your market area.  

Secret Shop Your Sales Team

Secret shopping allows you to better understand how effective your salespeople are at sharing your brand message with your target audience. You can assess their conversation approaches, closing techniques and positioning efforts when responding to contacts from a prospective customer. You can combine this approach with secret shopping your key competitors. Secret shopping your team and competitors will give you greater insight into identifying opportunities for improvement and enhancing sales effectiveness.  

Complete a Marketing Audit

Effective marketing strategies balance the critical interrelationships of the elements of the marketing mix with your organization’s strategic plan to reach identified target markets and generate desired sales results. A marketing audit evaluates the effectiveness of your marketing and promotional tactics to identify what needs to be maintained or improved to support your organization’s strategic vision and plan. This would include a review of your website and sales approaches (phone, drop-in, Internet, etc.). Review all of your marketing collateral materials to assess improvements to enhance consumer decision-making. Carefully evaluate how you utilize your social media channels to identify more effective tactics for sharing your marketing message and engaging with your prospects or key referral sources.

Provide Sales Coaching to Your Team

Sometimes your team needs outside support to review their sales approaches to improve overall performance. It is not uncommon for novice sales people to be given a few books and some sales manuals with the expectation they will intuitively figure out how to sell. Closing deals, whether to a consumer or a commercial client, can be a much more complicated effort, especially if it involves a complex sale. Complex sales do not resolve in a single interaction and they often involve multiple decision points before the final decision to buy. Sales professionals often have to tweak how they converse with prospects. Developing better skills and questions for probing prospects can help isolate decision criteria and move the sale forward.

Final Thoughts

Engaging in a Strategic Market Analysis is a powerful approach to uncovering the true reasons for your revenue slowdown. The goal is to determine if your marketing approaches or your lack of a viable market is the cause of your situation. If it is your marketing, you can adjust your sales and marketing messages to better align with your customers and their decision triggers. If it is the market, you can review your pricing strategy and geographic market area boundaries to better optimize those elements impacting your target market.

Sifting through the data you gather will help you reassess your market trends, growth factors and competitive dynamics. You gain an understanding of the implications of this information relative to your organization, as well as an assessment of how well you are positioned for long-term success.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.