Being nice does not mean being a doormat

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I’m not aggressive and I have to get it done. I’m a nice guy, but while I tend to see the best in other people, I know I also get walked on by vendors, customers and sometimes even employees. How do I find the balance?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Think about what makes you call yourself a “nice guy.” Hone skills that are synonymous with leadership. Make sure you’re clear about where you want to go with the company. Make asking for input a sign of strength, not weakness.

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Brace yourselves, growth is coming


A major referral source for us is gearing up for a big summer push. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are worried if we can we keep up. This is a great problem to have, but we need to solve it. How do we assure them that we can meet their needs? This will be a big leap forward for us.

Thoughts of the day: First, make sure you want the influx. Assuming you do want the work, build plans to gear up and assign people to implement those plans. Put someone in charge of monitoring workflow and quality. Meet with your staff to fill them in on what’s expected. Build in time to celebrate successes and let off steam.

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Think like a detective when it comes to sales


When it comes to selling, I’m figuring out that I have to think like a detective and not a typical salesperson. Do you have any suggestions on how to best do that?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Decide on who is your best customer, then go get more of them. Work through a list of best customer suspects. Figure out where your targets hang out. Find out if you really are talking to qualified suspects. Have a way to circle back to the suspects who don’t seem to fit initially. Get prospects to turn themselves into clients.

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Building Tomorrow’s Leadership Team

We’re not going to drive this company forward if we don’t have a management team that understands and can drive performance. My employees look to me for direction, wait for me to make a decision. It can’t all sit on my shoulders anymore. I know I’m probably at fault, with the way I manage and have trained my people. What do I do to turn this around?

Thoughts of the Day: A self-reliant management team is essential for a thriving, growing company. Think about each area of the business and who can step forward. Define skills needed to get to the next level. Make contracts with employees about what they willing to do to become leaders. Set team goals and meet regularly to practice working as a group to accomplish the company’s mission.

The company can’t rest on one or two peoples’ shoulders and be successful long term. Responsibilities need to be divided up. People need to train their backups who can be ready to step in, in case something happens to the primary person in charge. Imagine the company in units of no more than 6-8 people, each unit reporting to a manager, supervisor or team leader.

Go through a checklist of each area of the business: finance, sales, marketing, operations, IT, human resources. Who is in charge? For areas that are handled by outside firms, who do those firms report to? Who makes plans for each area of the business, and considers themselves accountable for the outcomes?

Building teams to share the management load takes a lot of weight off of the owners’ shoulders. It also tends to result in happier employees who feel more engaged in taking the company forward. It also makes it easier to identify people who may no longer be a fit, or who may not be able to keep up.

Don’t confuse money with responsibility initiative. Don’t feel that you have to offer more money right off the bat to get people to step up. If funds are tight, offer people a chance to learn more, to grow their influence in the firm, and make an agreement that they’ll share in the profits when plans come to fruition.

Review each manager candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Go through a review discussion, asking each manager to honestly assess his or her ability to play a leadership role, and his or her skill at taking the company forward in his or her area of responsibility.

Ask each manager candidate to step up to the challenge, and respect people’s right to decline. But don’t stop there. If the person you selected doesn’t want to step up, find someone else. Look inside the company first, and build a training program to get your candidate up to speed. If necessary, search outside the company. Make a decision as to how you will realign jobs and reduce existing staff to stay within budget as you move people around.

For each manager you’ve selected to join the management team, make a contract. Spell out expectations for increasing job skill and leadership ability. Agree on each person’s responsibility for attending classes. Monitor individual progress monthly, with specific results that each person agrees to work towards producing. Make sure each person has signed a specific growth plan that has specific dates of when they will accomplish each part of the plan. Review each person’s plan at least quarterly.

Work with your management team to brainstorm company-wide goals. Lay out non-negotiable parameters, such as 10-15% growth in revenue, increase in both gross and net profit, increased reserve funds to match the company’s increased spending obligations. Ask the group to turn these parameters into goals for the company overall as well as for their specific departments. Meet weekly to give each department an opportunity to talk about what they’ve accomplished, what’s next, and to get feedback and help from the group.

It will take practice for you, as owner, to step back and give your people room to lead. Take time off regularly to get out of the way and see how the group does without you. Resist the temptation to mandate. Work on building your listening and coaching skills.

Looking for a good book? Team Building: How to Build & Manage Teams That Will Get Things Done, by William Wyatt.

Build a Tip-Top Sales Team

48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect, 25% make the second contact and stop, only 12% of sales people make more than 3 contacts. 80% of sales are made of the 5th to 12th contact.

I’m trying to get my sales force into shape. One of my people is not a tigress at prospecting; another will call on existing contacts and referrals, but if I send him to a networking event, he might leave without picking up any contacts or business cards. We need qualified leads and it’s taking too much time, trial and error to learn how to get them.


Thoughts of the Day: Make it clear what’s expected. Build a complimentary team. Make sure marketing is doing its part to deliver opportunity. Review results and get people into the right jobs.

Lay out expectations from day one. With existing personnel assigned to sales, go over the basics. Develop a weekly report that people have to complete and talk about.

We use an excel spreadsheet, with rows for the activities expected, and columns for the weeks. Rows include networking, cold calling, sales class, intro letters sent, intro calls made, weekly sales lead group, referral meetings, trade shows. We have 2 rows for each: the first row is to check off if they did the activity. The second row is to record contacts uncovered through those activities. The bottom of the report is where they recap the number of leads identified, qualified, moved into the sales process, and closed.

We show this report to prospective sales people. Existing sales people review it weekly in our staff meetings. Making it clear what’s expected, and that activity, or lack of activity will be visible, helps people who want to be in sales know this is a serious opportunity.

Try to get a mix of people, and get them working together. Include people in operations, who will be talking to customers all the time. On the team you want some people who are good at opening doors, effective networkers: picking up contacts and information about where work is likely to come from. Others on the team should be good at follow up and closing. Consider putting someone from the back office on the job of keeping track of a database of prospects, and review progress weekly.

Check on the number of leads that the company produces for the sales people to follow up on. If it’s very limited, put some more dollars into marketing. The most expensive part of sales is usually door opening. Try to reduce the cost of making new contacts by investing in programs that will identify warm prospects. Letter and mail campaigns, outside vendors assigned to make calls, booths at trade shows, etc. are all ways to get warm leads for the sales people to work on.

Take a look at the spreadsheet after it’s been in use for a couple months. Look at who has been effective at various activities. Make sure you have people assigned to work in the right part of the sales funnel. Someone who’s always going to networking events but never identifying leads either needs training, or needs to spend time doing something more productive. Someone with a lot of leads and very few closes may also need training, or may benefit from being teamed up with a closer to learn how to make things happen more quickly.

Keep in mind that everyone seems to run through hot and cold spells. If someone has low results for a couple of weeks, don’t panic. Take time to talk about what’s going on, and see if there’s some other activity that can be added to the mix that will lead to more results. Give it another couple weeks to take hold. If a drop in results persists, check to see if it’s a warning sign about the viability of the market the person is calling on. Or, is this person just souring on sales altogether, in which case it may time to make a change.

You job as manager is to step back from the action and keep an overview of what’s going on. Move people around. Push up on marketing efforts. Make sure that new activity is flowing steadily through the pipeline. Learn to read the reports to see what’s going on.


Looking for a good book? Talk Less, Say More: Three Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen, by Connie Dieken


PDF Version:Ask Andi – Build a Tip-Top Sales Team