Article 1

Needs, Notes, Activity, Results

by 
Byron G. Sabol 

(This article was published in Professional Marketing Magazine)

You have seen this scenario before. A well intended thoughtful new business development session is held. You can feel the energy in the air as the participants listen intently to the session leader. Upon conclusion, the participants leave the room enthusiastic about the prospects developed during the day' s session. And then reality comes into play. A few weeks go by and the enthusiasm wanes; there is little follow-up and what was intended as a successful new business program slips into a mysterious black hole. No enthusiasm, no follow-up; no new business.

There is hope. Building enthusiasm is important; sustaining that enthusiasm and managing the effort are crucial to marketing success. lndustry-specific marketing - fee earners form one or more practice specialties jointly focusing on a specific industry - can be a very productive method for identifying new business opportunities.

This approach can be easily administered through the use of a spreadsheet - Lotus Notes or another information base - which contains key categories of information. The vertical column contains the names of the largest (top 25 or 50) companies within a segment of the specific industry and the top companies or organizations within each industry segment are identified.

Moving from left to right, each page of the spreadsheet contains nine categories of information :

  • Client (yes or no);
  • If a client, identification of the service firm's principal contact (client partner);
  • Sales;
  • Number of employees;
  • Professional advisers servicing this company.
  • Service needs;
  • Notes;
  • Target activity.
  • Results.

That' s it. You do not need additional categories of information to implement and manage an industry-specific program.

Prior to the first meeting, the firm's marketing staff enters onto the spreadsheet as much information as possible, such as whether or not the company is a client, number of employees, etc. The more information completed in advance of the initial meeting, the more productive the first meeting will be.

Keeping in mind that the four categories at the far right of the spreadsheet are crucial to the success of this effort (Needs; Notes; Activity, Results), the team meets for the first time to accomplish the following:

  • Review each company or organization in each industry segment to identify those companies to target for a marketing effort;
  • Identify team members who are to communicate with the firm's primary partner for every targeted company for the purpose of determining the partner's understanding of the service needs of the company. This becomes
  • a target activity for those team members, which is entered into the spreadsheet.

The team member informs the spreadsheet administrator of the result of the target activity based on communication the team member had with the primary partner.

The team member should discretely probe the partner's understanding of that client (or of the targeted non-client) by asking questions such as: "What is your understanding of the company's [legal/accounting, etc.] needs both within your practice area and outside of your practice areas". "Can you tell me something about major issues affecting this company's industry?"; "Do you know how any of these issues affect the company's industry?"; "Do you believe there are any opportunities for additional business from this company?"; "If not, why not?". Responses to these and other questions are noted in the Notes column of the spreadsheet. Action to be taken is entered in the Activity column; when the action is complete it is entered in the Results column.

While enthusiasm is important, follow-through produces results. As the team of fee earners completes tasks in the four categories on the spreadsheet, priorities will be set, opportunities will be identified, and new business will be obtained. You now have the format to manage a successful new business effort.

Article 2

Adjusting Your Style Improves Communication With Difficult and Challenging Personalities

by 
Byron G. Sabol 

[From Byron’s book, Taming The Beast: Success With Difficult People]

Management retreats are held regularly with agendas designed to educate and inspire staff to excel in their daily routines. How many agendas include a segment to educate those same individuals on how to communicate and deal with difficult people? Those who can afford it, and perhaps a few who cannot, pay to have a personal trainer make certain they get out of bed in the morning to work out and stay physically fit. But how many of those individuals think of investing a little time and energy to learn how to deal with people who cause stress at their workplace? Knowing how to communicate with difficult and challenging personalities may not reduce your waist size, nor trim your thighs, but it can make work more productive and more personally rewarding.

Those who manage others often face the daunting task of communicating and dealing with a variety of personalities that can deplete the manager's time and energy. The following, based partially on my having tested the communications styles of some 2,000 professionals in seven countries, is intended to provide helpful hints when communicating face-to-face with difficult and challenging personalities.

Managers have a variety of choices in how they communicate and deal with the difficult person. They can do nothing and hope things will get better - not a sign of great leadership. They can anticipate that the difficult and challenging person will see weakness in his ways and will seek a means to amend his attitude and behavior. My advice: don’t count on it! Managers cannot rely on difficult people to create change for the better. Why would difficult people change their attitude or their behavior if their communications and actions have for years gone unchecked? Difficult people are not motivated to make a manager's life easier or his career more enjoyable.

Managers must take the lead to make things better. You are the remedy for what ails your relations with problem people. No one but you is going to make the irritants of communicating and dealing with the challenging person go away. The following will assist you to create a more harmonious atmosphere for yourself and for co-workers.

Look in the mirror. Before pointing fingers and seeking a solution to any perceived communications or coping challenges, it is important to begin with a thorough self-examination. Are you certain that the source of the communications challenges or behavioral problems you experience is the other person, and not you? What is your mirror telling you?

Does a pattern exist for you in your interaction with co-workers? Do you recognize that you have hot buttons that are easily pushed? – We all have them. If your answer is yes, your mirror is telling you of a need to solve your personal issues before seeking a resolution with the other person.

Listen and understand first: Those who are effective in communicating with difficult people make it their goal to listen and understand before attempting to be heard and understood. Do you create an environment conducive for effective communications by focusing your attention and your energy on the other person? When you assist the other person to express himself completely, you increase the potential for him to hear you. When the other person is convinced that you are seriously hearing and responding objectively to what he is saying, he is inclined to lower those barriers that impede communications between the two of you. Are you truly listening to what the other person has to say?

Effective listening becomes all the more important when we realize it is the first step in transforming the challenging personality into a collaborative colleague. Active, empathetic, and responsive listening takes place when we genuinely care about what the other person is trying to tell us and actively reach out with questions, tone, voice, and body language. When people feel that they have not been heard, it only adds to their frustration and anger adding fuel to the difficult person’s combustible personality.

While most of us realize the value of listening skills, few, in my experience, have done anything about it. I have asked over 1,000 professionals how many have taken a course, read a book, listened to an audio tape, or viewed a videotape on listening skills. The response was a deafening two percent. Most of those responding were college graduates, some with post-graduate degrees.

Adjust your communications style: If those who lead others are committed to creating effective communications with the challenging person, then understanding communications style is a priceless asset. Understanding an individual’s personality and communications style allows a leader to more effectively communicate and to persuade others to his or her point of view. Through your knowledge of communication styles, you are in a position to defuse many communication and personality conflicts.

The study of the four personality types is not an attempt to “pigeon hole” anyone into a specific quadrant, but rather to provide information that will assist a person to align his or her communication with the communication style of the other person. The goal, then, is to assist us to be on the same “wave length” as the other person. The following will help you recognize each of these communications styles and assist you to present your message so that it will be acceptable to the other person.

Controller – The controller is a doer and often the driving force within an organization. This person leads others. He is characterized by emphasis on action and results. This person thrives on getting things done here and now. Just as the alpha dog must lead the pack, the controller must be first and must lead. Because he places high standards on himself and others, he is likely to be seen as constructively impatient and a tireless worker.

When communicating or when working with the typical controller, be prepared to move fast and to be tested. Expect the controller to argue, interrupt, disagree, raise her voice, and challenge your thoughts. Keep in mind that this behavior is not an attack on you. The controller’s communications is not personal; it is just the way he or she is.

Analyzer – He is characterized by analysis, details, logic, and systematic inquiry, and being a bit stiff. This person functions in a steady, tenacious manner, finding great satisfaction in identifying a problem, weighing options carefully, and testing them to determine the best possible solution. The analyzer is of great value as a logical thinker who provides objectivity to a complex problem. Don’t expect him to be the life of the party, but he will show up on time!

When communicating with or when working with analyzers, be well organized, have details lined up, and plan each meeting carefully. Speak slowly as she processes information more carefully than most. Pause as you speak and ask questions to make sure you are both on the same page of your topic of discussion. One of the surest means for creating a communication barrier with the analyzer is to generalize. Remember: think specifics when communicating with the analyzer.

Supporter – A concern for people dominates the thinking and behavior of the supporter style. He is often sought out for his ability to empathize and for his patience with others during a time of crisis. An understanding listener, he can identify change in ways that reduce conflicting forces and increase the likelihood of cooperation and teamwork. A weakness among supporters is their tendency to become emotional, which may be viewed as a substitution for taking action. Of the four personality types, the supporter is the most likely to flinch – to back away – in a time of conflict.

Effective communication with the supporter is best achieved through an informal, open and personalized approach. Your face-to-face communications should be somewhat guarded. Maintain ample physical space between yourself and the supporter type. While you can be enthusiastic, even somewhat aggressive when communicating with the controller, the supporter will balk at signs of aggressive communications.

Promoter – The big picture person has just arrived. The promoter style is characterized by heavy emphasis on ideas, innovation, concepts, and long-range thinking. The promoter will challenge you – not because she is hostile – but because she has learned the value of constant probing to uncover new ideas. A fast and deep thinker, she questions herself and others. She is not inclined to take things for granted. The promoter is seen as a leader and a visionary capable of seeing new possibilities that others do not sense. This is a person with a strong ego who can come across as “superior” and can be condescending in her communications. Quick thinking and a quick wit are characteristics of the promoter.

When communicating with the promoter, probe for her ideas and concepts. Ask questions of this person. Because so much of this individual’s ego is invested in what she does and how she does it, communicate your awareness of her ideas, plans, and most of all, her vision. Promoters love to talk about their plans. Let them have at it. Sit back and absorb.

Word Choices That Stimulate Positive Responses Each communication style responds differently to different words. Here are a few words that normally stimulate positive responses. Use these words to enhance communications with the challenging personality:
Controller
Planned
Completed
Mission
Objective
Return on Investment
Competitive Advantage

Analyzer
Experience
Factual
Proven
Principles





Supporter
Consensus
Flexible
Adaptable
Reliable
Dependable
Precedent
Promoter
Possible
Doable
Hunches
Innovative
Ingenious

Take ownership in the quality of work relationships –
When you take the initiative and create change for the better with challenging personalities, great things can happen. You set a positive example for others to follow who may have challenges similar to yours. You create a more harmonious atmosphere for yourself and for co-workers. Anne Frank captured the essence of this issue when she said: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” While changing the world may not be your goal, you can take pride knowing that through your knowledge of how to effectively communicate and deal with challenging personalities, your status as a manager and as a leader will be all the more productive and enjoyable.

Article 3

The "Need" For Needs Analysis

by 
Byron G. Sabol 

(This article was published in Professional Marketing Magazine)

Byron Sabol comments that there is no reason why service professionals should not be able to conduct a meaningful conversation beyond their own practice. Not long ago I asked a partner of a client firm if there was any new business to be generated from a particular large company - a company with whom he was quite familiar. He responded that there was no work opportunity there. I then asked another partner in the same firm if she was aware any work opportunities and she proceeded to inform me of several opportunities within two different locations of that same company. The first partner fell into the typical trap that many professional service providers fall into - looking for work only in their own specific practice area. The second partner is an example of looking beyond her own specific practice area to understand the broad landscape of work opportunities within a company. Knowing how to effectively conduct a meeting on client needs is an important ingredient in securing new business for one's own practice and in the cross marketing of firm services.

One of the reasons service professionals fail to look beyond their own practice is their fear of not having ample knowledge to carry on a meaningful conversation with a client or prospect. That fear, I suggest, is not justified. There is no reason why a service professional should not be able to conduct a meaningful conversation on client needs. The first step in overcoming the fear is to realize that you do not have to be an expert in areas of practice outside your own area in order to conduct a conversation on the client's business and strategic direction. The goal of conducting a needs analysis is to obtain information - not to provide solutions. If the client seeks solutions to a problem, the service professional can provide the solutions if it is within his or her specialty - if not, his role is to introduce the client to the appropriate service provider. Knowing how to effectively conduct a needs analysis will assist the professional to identify opportunities within and outside of his practice.

Knowing the type of information to obtain and the questions to ask are important. The following information may not be obtained in an initial meeting with prospects. Professionals should approach needs analysis as an ongoing process that may require several face-to-face meetings with the qualified prospect.

Information to Obtain

Mission or Strategic Plan - Is the company expanding, downsizing, raising money, in an acquisition mode, etc.? This will tell much about potential new business opportunities. A recent study commissioned by a UK professional service firm determined that its clients considered knowing the mission as the most important element that the client looks for in an outside provider.

Organization Chart - Knowing the names of individuals and their responsibility within the prospect company can be passed on to the appropriate service provider for appropriate follow-up. That follow-up and future meetings need to satisfy the criteria of a valid business reason. The valid business reason must answer the question: "Why should I give up my time to meet with a lawyer, accountant, etc."

The more one knows about a prospective company and the challenges its leaders face, the easier it is to identify meaningful reasons to meet.

Points-Of-Purchase - Knowing the individuals who make the decision to retain outside services is important. All too often service providers invest time and energy talking to someone who does not have the authority to engage outside services.

Current and Projected Needs - This is the focal point of needs analysis. If you have established a favorable relationship with a prospect, this information will be available to you.

Other - Additional vital information includes:

· Criteria the prospect uses in selecting providers

· Financial condition of the company

· The perception of the challenges the prospect faces

· Environmental issues

· The prospect's view of the competition his/her company faces

Questions To Ask

· What issues are currently affecting your industry?

· How do these issues effect your company?

· What do you enjoy the most about your position?

· What business issues keep you up at night?

· What are the biggest problems you face in running your business/department?

· Have you utilized the services of an accountant, lawyers et ?

· What worked (and what did not work) well in that relationship?

· What do you look for in an accountant, lawyer etc.

· What do you see outside counsel/provider accomplishing for you

· Are there any important concerns or issues haven't we discussed?

Asking the right questions of qualified prospects produces information important for identifying prospect needs. After all, isn't that what marketing is really about?