How to be a Good Leader – Listen – Value Diversity – Avoid Prejudice

Good leadership often involves good listening skills. Listening involves a number of key skills including reserving ones own judgement, not jumping to conclusions and  avoiding prejudging individuals and situations. Good leaders when facing difficult situations are able to put to one side preconceived ideas and find a number of solutions by using the skills and experiences of those around them.

In the late eighties I learned a valuable lesson from a very young man in Zambia. I was travelling in the copperbelt of Zambia with Chris my then Sales Director. We were in Zambia as I had been given the responsibility for sales development in the country and Chris was handing over the reigns. We had just spent a productive day in Chingola  and  were on the way back to Kitwe, our resting place for the evening.

Thirty minutes into the journey we heard a loud bang and the car started to sway from side to side. Our driver managed to bring the car safely to a halt. We climbed out of the car to find the rear passenger side tyre was as flat as a pancake. Our driver quickly moved to reassure us by saying.

No worries Bwana, Have spare tyre. Will change now now.

As the driver opened the boot to get tools and the spare tyre, a number of locals, no older than seven years of age came out of the bush offering to sell us all kinds of things. We politely refused most of the trinkets but very happily bought a couple of Cokes to cool us down in the heat of the African summer.

As we watched the driver slowly raise the car via the jack we heard an almighty crack. The jack broke and the car fell heavily back onto the road. What were we to do now? There we were in the middle of nowhere, with a car on three wheels with no way to change a tyre. At this point the engineer in Chris and I kicked into gear. We were working out the best way to change the tyre as quickly as possible. After all we did not want to be on the road in the dark. Many locals had died in crashes on the roads at night. We only had around thirty minutes of daylight left so needed to act quickly.

We went into the bush and collected some stones that we could use as a support. We then used manpower to lift the car via the wheel arch and put the stones under the vehicle as a substitute for the jack. Sadly the travel in the shock absorber meant that we could not gain sufficient height to remove the wheel. We then had a flash of brilliance – let the air out of the tyre. We confirmed with the driver that he had an air pump. We quickly started to let the air out of the tyre at which point a young barefooted boy wearing only a loincloth came toward us with hand-held out palm side up and said.

Can do Dollar

Chris and I both looked at each other. We wondered how someone in the bush with little or no clothes can do a better job than two engineers with more combined qualifications than a Nobel peace prize winner. We brushed aside the young boy and forged ahead. As we slowly removed the air from the tyre we eventually realised that we still did not have enough clearance to replace the tyre.

Again the boy approached.

Can do, Dollar

Once again we brushed him aside despite having around 200 dollars in my pocket. Chris and I went into a sweaty and flustered huddle. Time was now passing us by. We now had quite a crowd of locals gathered around somewhat bemused by the failed efforts of these two wise and worldly men’s attempts to change a tyre. Chris spotted that one of the observers had a machete. We asked if we could borrow it and went into the bush to cut some bamboo to use as a lever.

Again the young boy came across and hand-held out said,

Can do Bwana, Dollar!

Again we chose to go with our training and instinct. We tried to use the bamboo as a lever but the car shifted and came crashing to the ground with the stones scattering in all directions. We were now in a worse position than when we started. To make things worse we had consumed much time meaning we would now be travelling on the road at night with all the risk that entailed. Not a great result.

At this point Chris and I looked at each other and admitted defeat. Exhausted by the heat and frustration of our failed attempts We beckoned the young boy towards us and handed him one of the dollars that till now had been kept safely in my pocket. We was greeted by a warm and beautiful smile and instant action.

The boy called a number of his friends from the bush. They lifted the vehicle up a few inches and placed stones under the wheel axel. They then began to dig down into the road with their bare hands! One thing we had not thought of was digging down! Why would we? Roads in the UK are made of tarmac – not clay. Three minutes later the wheel was changed and we were on our way.

On our way back we began to reflect on our performance as educated and wise men! What would we do differently in future. After all our actions had put us at risk as we were now travelling on roads where many dangers lurked in the dark of the night. Thankfully we reached Kitwe safely.

On the way back home we agreed we had learnt many a lesson that day in Zambia. Here are a few of them.

  1. We do not always have all the right answers (despite our qualifications and experience). Others with different points of view given the chance can and often do come up with answers that we would never think about.
  2. Listen. If someone says they can do something then let them do it. You might be pleasantly surprised.
  3. Learn not to prejudice a situation or an individual. I am not proud to say that at this time I did brush the boy aside as I felt that someone of that age and background could not offer me anything. How wrong I was!
  4. Judge people by what they say and do. Not by how they look!

Now when I find myself jumping to conclusions or prejuding individuals or situations, I remind myself about my Zambian experience.  This life experience has taught me how to be a better leader of both myself and others.


Four Ways to Grow Your Business!

Want to grow your business but unsure how to go about it?

In the late fifties a gentleman called Igor Ansoff created his now well known matrix, which highlighted four specific ways in which a business could develop strategies for growth. Now that sounds nice and simple when put that way, but is it really as simple as that?

Ansoff’s matrix was first seen in the late fifties in the Harvard Business review and is regularly used today by marketers to provide a structured way of developing a range of strategic choices by which to grow a business. The matrix, offers four potential strategic directions for growth. The matrix takes into account the ability to grow a business by leveraging new or existing products via new or existing markets. Ansoff named these four strategic directions as follows;

  1. Market Penetration
  2. Product Development
  3. Market Development
  4. Diversification


Present Market/Present Products= Market Penetration

This is the most simple of the four strategies. In this situation there would be no change to product or the markets the organisations is targeting. Ansoff suggests that to grow under these circumstances would require a market penetration strategy.

This would mean increasing market share at the expense of your competitors. In a static market you would gain share at the expense of your competitors. This could result in a price war. Do you have the capability and commitment to defend such a situation? Typical ways of increasing market share would involve a mix of increased advertising, price discounting and using push (direct ) selling strategies into existing and clearly defined markets.

New Market/Present Products = Market Development

Here we are involved in marketing existing products to new markets. Typical new markets could be simply geographic expansion; exporting for instance. It could be a new use for an old product. For example water-soluble polymers (product) originally designed for rapid control of urine capture in babies nappies were marketed as an additive for potted plants that needed a constant source of water. This is an example of an existing product in a new market.

Present Market/New Products = Product Development

This is where we would market new products to existing markets. The motor industry is a classical example where product development is used to gain a competitive advantage in an existing market. Motor companies develop new products on regular basis to keep ahead of the market. Product development involves an amount of risk due to the time and effort spent on developing a new product and marketing before you create revenue. However the rewards are there if you get it right! It is also less risky in following a strategy of product development as opposed to market diversification.

Two great examples of product development include quartz watches and digital cameras. These products changed their markets dramatically. Kodak have since the evolution of digital cameras decided to stop making traditional film cameras.

New Markets/New Products = Market Diversification

This would be where we would market new products to new markets. This is termed Market Diversification.

There are two types of diversification; related and unrelated. For example the brewing industry and manufactures of crisps are different markets but can be considered related (food Industry). On the other hand should the brewing company decide to manufacture cars then this would be considered unrelated diversification.

Market Diversification is the highest risk area in developing marketing strategies for growth. Getting it wrong here can be expensive. However many companies have been successful in pursuing a market diversification strategy. As an example supermarket chains in the UK and overseas have diversified into non food related products such as insurance and banking with a degree of success.

To be successful in this strategic growth arena you must show a real commitment to the program or you will have an increased chance of failure. The supermarket chains who went on a market diversification strategy also had the advantage of a large and mainly loyal existing customer base who went on to buy products that were outside of the supermarkets normal scope of supply. Being able to easily access customers when following a market diversification strategy can significantly minimise the downside risk of failure.

How do you grow your business?

Well how you go about it is entirely up to you. You can choose to develop plans in all four strategic arenas or mix and match depending on your overall capability to manage a varied strategic growth plan. Think about how you are planning to grow your business through products and markets. Complete the Ansoff matrix and see if you have sufficient plans in place that will ensure your business continues to grow and proposer.

If you need any help in developing growth in your business then contact us and we will be pleased to help you think and develop growth!

Develop a Keep In Touch Strategy For Sales Growth

Research shows that approx 50% of all sales are made on or after four points of contact.

How do you keep in touch (KIT) with your clients? Do you have a KIT strategy?

Most clients  only buy when the sales person or selling organisation has established a degree of trust and empathy that instils sufficient confidence in the buyers mind to part with cash. Building trust and empathy with clients does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort. In some situations you will have to “touch” the client many times before you make a sale.

Developing and implementing an effective strategy to keep in touch with clients is therefore essential if you want to see your sales grow.

So how do we keep in touch? There are two principle means of keeping in touch with clients.

  1. Face to Face
  2. Indirect

Face to face encounters include meetings, exhibitions, association meetings, general networking etc.

Networking is a powerful part of a keep in touch strategy. Networking allows you to meet existing and potential clients in a friendly and non threatening atmosphere. Over several weeks clients will come to recognise you and begin to build trust in you as an individual. Trust and sales performance go hand in hand. Regular contact is an essential part of developing trust.

So where should I carry out my networking?

Most industries have a trade association which host networking events. Join at least one trade association and resolve to meet as many people as possible. Always follow up chance meetings with a phone call or at least a “Nice to meet you” e-mail.

Check out your local chamber of commerce. They hold regular network events where you can meet other business people and assess whether or not there may be potential to do business. The Institute of Directors in another member  association who hold regular networking and briefing meetings for directors.

Check out your local university and colleges who often hold network events for local businesses. Local newspapers post regular business briefings and also announce local business network meetings.

Sign up to relevant trade association newsletters. These often provide invaluable information on forthcoming events, industry statistics and often have a spotlight briefing on a successful business story. They can be a good source of leads too.

Social media is in fashion. Networking over the internet is becoming more acceptable. LinkedIn is a good example of a free social media service where you can connect with other industry professionals and decision makers.

Finding creative ways to keep in touch is a key skill for any professional sales person. The more points of contact you have with a prospect the more likely you are to develop a ongoing sales relationship.

What should I do when I meet someone at a networking or association event?

When meeting someone at a networking meeting or exhibition ensure you keep to the following guidelines;

• Show interest in the other party and their organisation by asking relevant open ended questions.

• Do not try to sell them something at the first point of contact.

• Moreover establish if it would be appropriate for you to meet them later to discuss exploring opportunities to work together.

• Exchange details if appropriate.

• Follow up with a telephone call or e-mail within a relatively short period.

Indirect Methods

A newsletter is an excellent way of keeping in touch with existing and prospective clients. Make sure that your newsletter contains a variety of topics that will keep your clients interested. Use it to demonstrate your level of expertise in your chosen field and not as a “buy from us today” communique. That way the client will look forward to receiving the newsletter and when they are next in need of your products,or expertise you will be at the forefront of their mind.

Set up a google alert so you can track what is happening in the clients world. Drop them a letter of congratulations when you hear of good news. Maybe they have just won a new contract or opened a new office. Whatever it is find a way to let them know you are still interested in them.

Subscribe to industry specific journals. This provides you with up to date information on your clients. You may even consider advertising in journals where they advertise.

If you are exhibiting at a conference why not invite prospects and existing clients to visit your stand to bring them up to date about your new products etc.

Invite them to a company open day.

There are lots of different ways to keep in touch. Be creative. You might just be pleased with the result.

Work at keeping in touch. In the end it will pay dividends!

Presentation Skills – Handling Tough Questions

We have all been there. We have just given a perfect presentation to an audience who have responded with a warm round of applause. We are feeling pretty chuffed as everything has gone so well. However all presenters have one final hurdle to overcome. Taking questions after a presentation.

Answer questions confidently and succinctly and you are home and dry. Knowing how to answer questions after a presentation is part and parcel of being an effective presenter.

Any questions? You cheerfully ask

At this point you hope that some kindly soul asks a straight forward question to which you have a well crafted response –  it might have been wise to have “planted” a few easy questions with a friendly colleague who is in the audience to get the first question under your belt.

However today is not that day.  Unfortunately someone has decided that they disagree with some of your comments/content and they are about to let you know by asking a challenging question that puts you right on the spot. Even worse the nature of the question is such that you are unsure how to respond and at the same time you want to limit any damage to your reputation as an effective presenter and subject matter expert.

There are a significant number of techniques to effectively handle tough questions from the audience. When I am faced with this situation I simply think of “who wants to be a millionaire” as an aide memoir to a number of possible techniques one could use to remedy the situation.

What has “who wants to be a millionaire” got to do with handling difficult questions after a presentation I hear you say? Well when a participant on the TV show does not know the answer to a tough question they are given three options. These are……….

  1. Ask the audience
  2. Phone a friend
  3. 50/50

However prior to launching into one of the millionaire techniques above it is recommended that presenters follow the sequence of events below.

  1. Thank the delegate for their question/comment.
  2. Be sure you understand the question – Seek clarification by paraphrasing.
  3. Then use one of the “millionaire techniques”
  4. Thank the delegate for their question/sharing their experiences with the audience.
  5. Next question.

Thank you for your question

Can I just check that I have understood you correctly. What you said is you would like to know………

Have I understood you correctly?

This should at least create some rapport with the questioner in the sense that you are taking their question seriously and want to understand their concern before you respond. This technique creates time and space for you to think and ultimately decide the best course of action to take to handle/diffuse the situation.

Having given yourself the time in which to think, here are the three “millionaire” options you can use to get things back on track.

Option I – Ask the Audience

One option would be to ask the audience if they have any experience of the subject matter?

Many thanks for your question. Sadly I do not have any experience or knowledge of the numbers you are quoting. I wonder if there is anyone in the audience who could respond and add some clarity to our colleagues question?

At this point someone in the audience may actually answer the question on your behalf and you can then thank the questioner and participant for sharing their experience with the audience.

Option 2 – Phone a Friend

This would be where you simply are unable to provide an answer to the question and rather than bluff your way, a better course of action would be to use “phone a friend”.

Many thanks but I cannot provide an answer to your question/concern right now. However I am confident that some of my colleagues will be able provide valuable comment/input. Could we get together after the presentation concludes and exchange details. I will then ask a number of my colleagues who may be in a better position than myself to answer your question.

That way we can get back to you with a response. Is that OK?

Option 3 – 50/50

What I am alluding to here is that there could be two possible correct answers. It is possible that both presenter and questioner could be right as they both are looking at the subject matter from different perspectives. As a consequence they could have opposing views.

Getting into a public debate about who is right and who is wrong would be ill-advised. On the face of it this can be the most difficult situation to handle as both parties want to be seen to be right. To make things worse all of this is being played out in front of an audience.

In this situation you could respond along the following lines;

Many thanks for your question and sharing your point of view with the audience. My viewpoint is based entirely upon my experience of the subject matter to date and I stand by my assertions/findings.

However I would be interested in learning more about your experiences and explore how this might impact on both our points of view. Could we get together in the break and exchange details and find out how we could share our experience. Would that be OK? Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts and I look forward to meeting you in the break.

Do we have any other questions from the audience?

There are many other techniques to handle difficult questions. If you have a great technique for handling difficult questions then why not add them via the comments box.

Happy presenting.

Motivational Behaviour – Three Types – How to influence them

Being able to recognise what motivates people to action is a great skill for any leader, manager or sales person. Being able to recognise and pull the triggers that motivates an individual to action is the first step in being an effective leader. Being able to “communicate” on the same “wavelength” with the other party increases our chances of building rapport and increases our chances of having a motivated and productive relationship with others.

David McClelland through his work on human motivation, identified three primary motivational needs in Humans. He categorised these needs as follows;

  1. Need to Achieve (n Ach)
  2. Need of Authority/Influence or Power (n Pow)
  3. Need for Affiliation (n Afill)

How to recognise the behaviour types

McClelland stated that most people exhibit a combination of these three needs. However some people have a strong bias to one need and this impacts on their personal behaviour when interacting with others.

n Power

A person who has a high (n Pow) experiences high levels of motivation when they are in a position to exert influence or power over proceedings. A person with high (n Pow) exhibits the following behavioural characteristics.

  1. They like to take control.
  2. They want others to listen
  3. They take an active role in committees and organisational politics.
  4. They are firm and direct and are largely unconcerned  about others feelings.
  5. There is a strong need for their ideas to prevail over others.

n Achieve

A person who has a high (n Ach) seeks achievement wherever they can. Levels of motivation are at their highest when they can see an opportunity to achieve/make progress. A person with high (n Ach) exhibits the following personal characteristics.

  1. They like challenges and enjoy getting things done.
  2. They do not like close supervision.
  3. They like to set goals by which they and team are measured.
  4. They keep to time.
  5. They are interested in facts and figures.
  6. They are not overly friendly and may be perceived as cold and calculating.
  7. Can be sporty and like to measure progress against targets.

n Affiliation

Someone who has a high need for affiliation likes to work in situations where they can be seen to foster a supportive and caring environment bringing out the best in everyone. A person with a high (n Affil) exhibits the following personal characteristics.

  1. They enjoy the company of others – social animal.
  2. Will often talk about family and friends.
  3. They tend not to like silence.
  4. They look to find new ways of meeting and making friends.
  5. They seek approval and welcome feedback.
  6. Time is of lesser importance than the well-being of the team.
  7. They like to be held in high regard by others.
  8. Talks team and not I

Whether we are working in a leadership or sales capacity it is inevitable we will meet people whose  primary needs for motivation will differ. Clearly it makes sense for us to tap into the motivational needs of the other person if we are to improve our chances of having a successful and productive relationship. Here are some tips on how to flex our personal style to build and develop rapport with the three personality types already discussed.

How best to handle interactions with (n Power) types

  1. Find ways to let them believe any ideas was theirs – even if it was not.
  2. Provide them with options – they like to be seen to take decisions.
  3. Ask them for advice – they will love you for this.
  4. Do not put them in a position where they lose face.
  5. Introduce them to other “important players”
  6. Acknowledge their status. (Mr Captain, Mr Chairman, Sir Etc)

How best to handle interactions with (n Achieve) types

  1. Talk facts and figures
  2. Keep to time
  3. Be factual
  4. Provide a challenge
  5. Show how they can be number one.
  6. Focus on the task more than the relationship
  7. Avoid time-wasting and ambiguity
  8. Provide ongoing reports on progress
  9. Focus on results
  10. Do not miss a commitment

How best to handle interactions with (n Affiliation) types

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Focus on the relationship. Smile
  3. Be interested in non work related communication
  4. Remember names and events
  5. Show how your ideas or suggestions improve team work and co-ordination
  6. Talk about team and not I
  7. Introduce to other affiliators

Not sure which type you are?

If you often hear your self say;

Nobody seems to listen around here!

I wonder what Jimmy is doing right now?

No one seems to be giving me the recognition I deserve!

suggests you are probably a (n Pow) type.

If you often hear your self say;

If only others would put in the effort

I am fed up with others missing deadlines

Why don’t they just enjoy work and get on with it!

People round here lack focus

It is likely that you are a (n Ach) type

If you often hear your self say;

We need to get the team working more effectively

There is insufficient communication taking place

Why does no one want to go for a beer after work?

this suggests that your primary motivation is (n Affil) type.

Five Simple Steps to Problem Solving

We all encouPuzzlenter problems in our day-to-day life. How we handle these problems can mean the difference between success and failure and ongoing stress.

Often we spend far too much time trying to resolve problems such that we forget to carry out our normal day-to-day activities which simply creates more problems and less time to get things done. Taking a long time to come up with solutions to problems only makes things worse, resulting in increased levels of stress and frustration, making problem solving more difficult than needs be.

I leant a simple five stage process early in my career which allowed me to solve problems in as short a time frame as possible. This process can be seen below.

The five simple steps to problem solving are;

  1. Define the problem.
  2. What are the root causes of the problem.
  3. Develop several possible solutions.
  4. Decide which is the best solution or combination of solutions.
  5. Implement the solution.

It is essential to define and agree the problem before moving on to the next stage. All to often people jump around the first three stages and lack the focus and clarity required to be able to come up with possible solutions and ultimately agreeing the best way forward and implementing the agreed solution.

It is much easier to come up with solutions if one has a clear definition of the problem. In carefully managing the process, time is saved by the group focussing on one stage at a time and then and only then moving on the next stage.

Jumping around the process usually results in debate with little agreement taking place. When this happens one is likely to meet statements like;

That can’t possibly work.

You are wrong!

We have tried that before.

We can’ do that! etc.

Follow the five steps in sequence and I will guarantee that not only will you solve more problems but you will also save time along the way.

If after stage three you were fortunate enough to generate lots of possible solutions to the problem in view, this can make stage four time consuming and fraught with difficulty as debates ensue as to the best way forward. If this happens to be the case, I would recommend taking a look at the business opportunity matrix which should help clarify the most appropriate course of course of action to take and save time and arguments on the best solution allowing the process to be brought back on track.

Give it a go.

Quick Negotiating Tip

In any negotiation parties will almost certainly enter a bargaining phase at some point. This is when either parties ask for something that is in their own interest.

For example can you give me 10% off and we have a deal. This can put a lot of external pressure on you to agree to the discount in order to secure the business.

But what do you do if you cannot drop your price by 10%? Do you simply say no and risk losing the business or be seen as confrontational?

When responding to a request like this, there are a number of things one can do. Here is one negotiation technique that is worthy of consideration.

Offer Vague and Ask Specific

In the event that you have been asked the question:

Drop your price by 10% and we have a deal.

Respond with the formula “Ask Vague, Offer Specific”. Say something like this:

We may be able to consider discounts (vague) but we would need to increase the order by at least 30% in order to do that (specific). Would that be possible?


OK we may be able to look at our discount structure (vague) however we would need to agree a two year term in return (specific). Would that be possible?

You can play around with this “formula” by changing what it is that would be of interest to you. Hope you have found this negotiating tip useful.