It couldn’t be denied now. It was there in black and white…
For the sixth month in a row, Kiera Johns stared at the monthly sales report and sighed. For the past half year the sales figures had been falling; nothing dramatic, just a gradual slide from good to mediocre.
But this report was different. And she knew she had a big problem on her hands. She took a long sip from her coffee mug, noting with irony the words ‘Hang in there, baby’ printed on its side.
As the sales manager, Kiera knew her staff well. They were a good bunch of people and she’d given them all the training necessary to sell their product in a competitive marketplace. Her team was efficient and motivated and the sales figures of the first year had reflected that.
Yet as she gazed through the glass partition in her office, trying not to look at the sales graph lying on her desk, Kiera knew she had to act. This wasn’t a hiccup in the figures; this slide wasn’t going away. It was her job to find the cause and eliminate it.
Another sip of coffee and she considered the problem…
Maybe it was just motivation. Maybe the troops were tired and un-enthused. Maybe all they needed was some inspiration…
Hang in there, baby.
She flicked open her filofax and pulled out a business card – Rod Matthews – for results.
Kiera shook hands with the Rod Matthews consultant and smiled as she ushered him into the lift. Kiera felt a little overwhelmed at all the new information, but it had been a good meeting.
She’d thought her sales team was just a little tired and in need of some motivation… but that wasn’t the whole story.
Rod Matthews had sent a consultant out on the road with a few of her sales people and then presented her with the report. Motivation wasn’t the problem. Apparently her team was having a hard time differentiating their product from the competition’s. It wasn’t as if they didn’t have the technical knowledge, Kiera had put them through all the usual ‘features and benefits’ training, but they weren’t translating that knowledge into good sales technique.
Plus they were bagging the competitor.
If ever there was a sign that a sales team was struggling it was when they started attacking the competition.
From her own time on the road, Kiera knew that was fatal. All it did was make the customer feel sorry for or even defend the competition. The last thing a salesperson needed.
She looked down at the Rod Matthews report. Loss of motivation was a simple problem compared to what she actually faced.
So she’d given the go-ahead and asked Rod Matthews to design a training program to help her out. She hoped it was enough, in her experience, problems like these were very difficult to sort out…
If you had shares in the PostIt note company, 3M, you would be happy to observe a meeting of Rod Matthews consultants. Squares of yellow, pink and blue stuck to the wall like a multicoloured chequer board; each with a single word or idea emblazoned in bold writing across it.
The three consultants were discussing Kiera’s situation. Every new thought and idea was thrown down onto a PostIt note and plastered up on the wall.
Dreamer, Realist, Critic. That was the process Rod Matthews chose to design Kiera’s solution.
First, all the wild ideas about how Kiera’s sales problems could be solved. While in Dreamer mode, no idea is too weird, no solution too difficult, anything is possible. Some problems require innovative solutions and you need to have the freedom to chart all possibilities.
Then comes the Realist. That’s when all ideas are grouped and what is realistically achievable is explored. This is where solutions start to take form.
Finally; the Critic. This is the evaluation phase. Are the solutions practical? Would they work? Would they get the customer the results required?
The consultants knew Kiera’s problems would take some work, but they also knew Kiera needed some immediate results if she was to arrest the slow downward turn of her sales figures and the loss of morale they generated.
“Let’s give her the world’s best sales line…” It was a suggestion to give her an easy way to begin the process of improving her sales team.
The other consultants nodded. The World’s Best Sales Line… it was a good place to start.
Kiera’s team listened attentively as the consultant said the World’s Best Sales Line again…
It didn’t seem like the World’s Best Sales Line but…
Once he’d said it you really wanted to know more.
Kiera’s sales team smiled to each other as they sat in a circle, the Rod Matthews consultant explaining the exercise to them. It seemed simple enough; the group broke up into pairs, one person being a customer, the other a salesperson.
A consultant then briefed each group separately. All the ‘customers’ had to do was note their response to the salesperson’s approach. The salesperson was then told to use different approaches to make the sale. First up; really bag the competition… And the results were pretty universal. Each pair reported that attacking the competition made the salesperson look aggressive, hostile and unprofessional.
Then the pair swapped roles and Rod Matthews consultant asked the salesperson to throw in the World’s Best Sales Line…
Once again the results were universal. Each person playing a customer reported that they felt the salesperson was authoritative and compelling without being aggressive… And not one of them even recognised that the line had been used.
Kiera watched the game and nodded: this was something she could use, something her team could take on the road, something that was going to make a real difference.
She’d thought all they needed motivation; but advanced knowledge, quality skills and renewed enthusiasm were motivation enough.
Kiera smiled as the Rod Matthews consultant sat down at her desk. He pushed the report over to her but she really didn’t need to read it. It was six months since the training course and he’d just spent some time out on the road with her sales team, checking to see how it was going.
As far as Kiera was concerned the sales figures spoke louder than anything, but she was interested to read Rod Matthews’s follow-up report and recommendations for further reinforcement and deepening of the skills learned.
She offered him a coffee as she stood to fill up her mug at the office urn – Hang in there, baby. Kiera smiled… Didn’t she always?
Information from the Stakeholder Analysis is prepared for use in the Outcome Generation phase of Rod Matthews’s Program Development process. The desired behavioural outcomes are identified, showing what the participants will be doing differently once they have completed the program.
The next process involves charting the Path of Success from the present to the desired state and defining the gap between the two.
Using Rod Matthews’s design expertise, the objective is to plot the easiest success path to the outcome.
This means progression of content, thorough design of the process, and the client’s own resourcing issues are all taken into account. The path is broken down into steps with learning objectives set for each.
Why ‘learning new behaviours’ is much more than simply education
Drawing on a vast storehouse of well-researched content – previous experience, role plays, simulations, activities, scenarios, games and processes – Rod Matthews will assemble the TOTES (or micro-skills) required in the program to ensure the outcome behaviours are practised and rehearsed during the sessions. More than mechanical role-plays, these activities consciously and unconsciously reinforce and install easy paths to desired behaviours. Real skills are transferred in the most efficient and resilient manner.
By orchestrating an individual program design, Rod Matthews ensures that new behaviours are revisited many times by layering in deeper activities that ensure continual practice and rehearsal. Different aspects of the same skill are honed and enhanced. Rod Matthews’s objective is to repeatedly lay down new Mental Maps that become the new default operation, thereby avoiding ineffective rote-style learning.
This means that a program is an enjoyable and cumulative process for participants, whose own BFOs (or Blinding Flashes of the Obvious) are facilitated and encouraged.
And no one argues with their own insights. In fact the ownership of a BFO is automatic… the learning lasts.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) provides a basis for determining the structure of a skill. Any skill demonstrated by a human can be modelled as a strategy. NLP suggests these strategies can be both well formed and poorly formed.
To help participants learn a quality skill, we need to use the well-formed strategy for this skill. NLP offers a set of guidelines to help design well-formed strategies, called the TOTE. model.
A strategy constructed as a TOTE will consist of a Trigger step, an Operate step, a Test step, and finally the Exit step. Skill strategies as TOTEs must be engaged in training programs for new high-quality skills to be learned and behaviours to result.