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MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference

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This past month, SNI’s Master Facilitator, Jeff Cochran delivered a keynote speech to Medical Group Management Associates at the 2017 MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference is highly regarded and attended by medical practice professionals that go to enhance their financial education to advance the profession of medical practice management. Jeff’s keynote was entitled Negotiating: Strategies for Success. Since 1926, MGMA has created successful medical practices that provide the highest level of patient care through member benefits, education, resources, news, information, advocacy, and networking opportunities.

 

 

SNI’s approach to negotiations challenges traditional perceptions of approaching deals. Jeff spoke on the foundational teaching of Shapiro Negotiations Institute- The 3 P’s systematic method to managing negotiations: Prepare, Probe, and Propose. Through an interactive role play, Jeff taught attendees to cultivate long-lasting relationships with their counterparts by utilizing the 3 P’s correctly. The reactions from the conference attendees exhibit not only the charismatic delivery of Jeff, but, more importantly, how beneficial SNI’s Systematic Approach to Negotiating can be.

 

(Photo from https://twitter.com/MGMA)

 

We value all of the training feedback we recieve and were happy to hear from Kelly Mattingly, the Director of Contracting and Credentialing at Practice Velocity about her experience at MGMA:

 “I thought your talk was the most valuable session of the conference. You were entertaining, the topic was very relevant, and the hands on aspect was engaging. In my opinion negotiating is all about doing your research and finding your (and your opponent’s) strengths and weaknesses, knowing when to play your cards, and understanding who you are dealing with on the other end (because in my opinion…that may change my strategy entirely). I work in an industry where our negotiating leverage is pretty minuscule to non-existent. I was reminded to treat each negotiation as if I had more leverage than the last. I think sometimes when we are defeated often, we forget to reset …gain our confidence, and give the next negotiating opportunity an A+ effort. I won’t underestimate my strengths again, and I won’t talk myself down before I sit at the negotiation table. I look forward to hearing you speak again in the near future.”

 

Thanks again to MGMA for the great opportunity! 

Retail Sales Training: What it Takes to Succeed in Retail Sales

Cameron Johnson

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Working as a salesperson in retail has evolved into a very unusual profession. When people walk into a store, it’s a fair assumption that they would like to buy something. Otherwise, they wouldn’t really have any reason to enter the store. Ironically enough, though, many people will do everything in their power to avoid engaging a salesperson. They will avoid eye contact, “casually” wander into a different part of the store, or sometimes, just turn around and walk right back out the door.

It turns out that people typically do want to buy something when they enter a store—but they don’t want to be sold to. For centuries people have been bombarded with images and stories of the crooked salesman. And, even the salespeople that don’t have shady intentions, are portrayed as being a “hassle.” How often do you go into a clothing store looking for something in particular and tell the salesperson you are “just looking” in response to his/her offer to help you?

So how does a good salesperson succeed? How can you sell something to someone who doesn’t want to be sold to? What can sales workers do to go beyond the negative stereotypes and help their customers to walk out the door satisfied with their purchase?

While some parts of finding success in retail sales come naturally, there are other skills that can be taught and honed through retail sales training. Our team at Shapiro Negotiations can help you and your team to develop these skills and so that not only will you be able to make the sale—your customer will be happy with their purchase.

So what are some of the skills your team will want to develop to be really successful in sales?

Sincere Customer Service

One of the most important skills any retail salesperson can develop is customer service. After years of distrust, most customers are wary of salespeople. In some instances, they see the salesperson as their adversary, someone who is trying to sell them something that they don’t want to buy.

Part of a salesperson’s job is to convince the customer that they are not, in fact, an adversary who is trying to convince them to buy something they never wanted. Instead, the salesperson is an ally and a facilitator. The salesperson is there to help them buy something they do want. Considering the fact that they have already taken the first step of walking through the door, this is a fair assumption.

When working with customers, be sincere. The minute a customer suspects that a salesperson is trying to manipulate them, they will snap a wall into place. Once this happens, any potential sale essentially becomes a lost cause.

Communication

When we are trying to convince someone of a point, the natural tendency is to talk more. After all, the more a salesperson talks, the more of a positive impression they can give of their product. If the salesperson talks enough, the customer is sure to by, right?

Hardly. A successful salesperson listens more than talks. In order to better determine what the customer wants, it is important for them to ask sincere, probing questions. As it becomes clear what the customer is looking for, the salesperson can then help to guide them to an appropriate choice. Dale Carnegie put it best with a short couplet in his 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

SNI’s retail sales training is based upon our founder Ron Shapiro’s book, The Power of Nice.  The goal is to find a situation where everyone wins. After all, if a customer walks out the door satisfied with the purchase he has made, he’s much less likely to regret the purchase and return it. Meanwhile, he is more likely to return and even recommend the store to others.

Product Knowledge

In order to convince someone that a particular product will meet their needs, a salesperson should have a solid working knowledge of that product. The salesperson serves as an expert on the product and should be able to answer any questions the customer asks. If a salesperson demonstrates that they are unfamiliar with the product they are pushing, it can seriously damage their credibility in the customer’s eyes. After all, if a salesperson doesn’t know anything about the product they are selling, then how can they honestly know that it will do the job the customer needs?

A good salesperson must be able to identify and capture the value that their product will deliver to the customer. To do so, they need to know the product backwards and forwards. The customer will naturally have objections, and a salesperson will need to overcome those objections. SNI’s trainers can instruct sales teams just how to do so through a five step process and help them to develop answers to some of the most common objections in our clients’ fields.

Industry Knowledge

A salesperson’s knowledge should go beyond just the individual products they are trying to sell. Knowledge of the industry is important as well.

By knowing about recent innovations in the industry, a salesperson can make recommendations to a customer, sometimes even beyond those that they have available to sell (see Sincere Customer Service above). SNI’s trainers can teach your team to discern what exactly a potential customer is looking for and then apply industry knowledge to direct them to products they may not even know about.

All of these skills can be significant assets when negotiating with a customer or helping to direct them to the right product. Also, keep in mind that many customers will come in seeking to use their own set of tactics to negotiate a lower price. As part of our training, SNI can teach your sales team how to recognize and respond to these tactics. For more information, contact us, and we will help you to determine how best to train your sales team so they can achieve the best results possible.

Super Bowl 2017: X Lessons in Sales From the Best Commercials

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With another Super Bowl in the books, the world can once again analyze some viewers’ favorite part – the commercials. Your sales team can benefit the most from looking back on the failures and successes of this year’s Super Bowl advertisements to more effectively reach customers.

 

Understanding the Weight of Super Bowl Ads
One thing that’s important to understand is just how much most of these companies risk with their advertising techniques. Each 30-second ad costs a whopping $4.5 million, and, of course, longer ads run an even higher tab. The successes are extremely powerful and the flops hit exceptionally hard, so every reaction should be seriously considered.

DO: Make a Powerful Statement

The best Super Bowl commercials this year (such as Budweiser and #LikeAGirl) have one thing in common – they make a statement. They’re bold, unabashed, and ready to add a lot of power behind their message. Whether it’s your own commercial or a mission statement, you have to figure out the power behind your company and run with it. Be bold and powerful about what you’re doing or what your company offers, and don’t let anyone stand in the way.

DON’T: Use Advertising Without a Plan

You can’t just throw up commercials or sales pitches without purpose. If you’re talking just for the sake of talking, it will only devalue your brand and its benefits. Always lean on having a purpose. If you don’t have a clear one, wait until you figure it out before pushing further.

DO: Make Your Brand Memorable

People remember things that are unique. You must make your products and services stand out against a host of competitors. Figure out what it is that sets you apart and cling to it. Different might be a bit intimidating, but it can definitely be a golden ticket.

DON’T: Go Too Far

Uniqueness and memorability are vital, but you must remember to keep things in line with your company beliefs. Often, things like excessive vulgarity may help potential customers remember you, but in a negative way. Salespeople should never tarnish or devalue brand promises just to make a deal. Find your purpose and pursue it, but don’t go too far.

DO: Back Up Every Claim or Pitch

If you’ve been spending time saying you’re the best, make sure you’re ready to prove it. Whatever your purpose, you need to have skill and passion to follow up your claims. Some of the biggest Super Bowl flops are those in which the commercial was better than the brand itself.

A Year in Review: 2016 Training Industry Report

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On average, negotiations training and other training expenditures increased for both small and large companies in 2016, while remaining consistent for midsize companies. Seems like good news, right? Underneath this seemingly bright information for companies that specialize in training and consulting, is the raw truth that businesses are spending more on training because they have more employees.  They are spending about 10% of their budgets on training, which is down significantly from last year…

What does this mean? As training becomes less focused on in-person facilitation, and more focused on online learning tools, training and influencing companies have begun to offer products that reflect the market. Companies are looking to train the largest number of employees for the least amount of money. There is little evidence that online training is as successful or impactful as in-person facilitation but, none-the-less, the shift towards mass, online training is underway.

Personal facilitation is still a relatively big part of training budgets, but the use of blended learning techniques is rising significantly, as the combination of instructor-led classroom training, virtual classroom/webcast training, online and computer based training, mobile device training, and social learning becomes more readily available. These blended learning techniques are often delivered in one of two ways: learning management systems (e-learning) or virtual classroom/webcasting. Why? Overall, technology use among companies is rising, meaning their sales or negotiations training programs are beginning to mirror this.

Looking ahead at 2017, training and influencing companies need to understand the current and adjust accordingly. Outsourced training programs are likely to be more successful in small (100-999 employees) and midsize (1,000-9999 employees) companies, which will be looking to invest in the programs with the best blend of innovative learning techniques.

Cheers to a new way of training and to a profitable year!

Are You Doing These 5 Unproductive Work Habits?

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We often get stuck in a rut of doing things a certain way at the office without realizing how harmful that can be to our productivity. Are you in charge of training or sales at your company? Then you know that time is money – and that every minute counts. See if any of these examples resonate with you. If so, take steps to eliminate them and watch your productivity soar!

  1. Water-cooler overload. Mondays should be the day when we grab the week by the horns and set our priorities. Instead, many Monday mornings are spent catching up on other’s weekends, finding out who won the big game, sharing the details of your favorite TV show, etc. A more damaging variation on this theme is how easily harmless talk can morph into gossip. Not only is that highly unproductive, but it is also unprofessional and damaging to relationships. Keep your small talk just that: Small.
  1. Email mismanagement. Not utilizing the tools at your disposal to organize incoming and archived email will kill your momentum. Most email programs have excellent filtering options that you can use to avoid that unwanted company-wide potluck from disrupting your flow. Also, turn off the audible notifications. Set times to check your email throughout the day, and unless it is urgent, don’t check it except at those times. It is better to respond during your “email hours” to all the emails you have rather than flagging them and letting them pile up for later.

 

  1. Meetings. This is probably the biggest time-thief on the list. In today’s connected world, meetings are largely counterproductive. There are great groupthink and project management apps and software out there (like Basecamp and Asana) that allow employees to remain at their desks or in the field while staying connected and on the same page.
  1. The Internet. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… Who hasn’t fallen victim to the pull of a midday surf session only to look up and realize that two hours have gone by – and you still have a project due by the end of the day? If you can’t trust yourself not to get sucked in, there are browser add-ons like StayFocusd that will only allow a certain amount of browsing per day or block the sites completely.
  1. Your phone. Twenty years ago, when you went into the office, you were only reachable by the phone at your desk. Now our phones keep us tethered to the outside world. Sadly, the temptation of distraction is often too great. Turn off all notifications while at work, and set your phone’s profile settings to only allow calls from a close family member or friend in case of an emergency. Use an auto-reply on your texts to alert messengers that you are at the office and have limited availability. And keep your devices in your pocket or purse instead of on your desk.

With a little initiative, you can reclaim hours easily lost due to distractions, poorly optimized tools, and unproductive meetings. Follow these tips and enjoy the results as your to-do list dwindles.

4 Tips for Answering Influence Skills Questions in Interviews

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We’ve all been on that interview where a prospective employer asks you to “Give me an example of a time when…” It often feels as though the interviewer is just reading off a list of prepared questions. Well, he or she most likely is.

But what does the prospective employer really want to know?

These questions, also known as competency-based or behavioral interview questions, are designed to discover how you may respond in real-world situations. They’re useful for helping hiring managers weed out applicants who look good on paper from the ones who will deliver the results that they need.

Some examples of influence skills questions are:

  • Tell us about a major challenge you encountered in your current position. How did you adapt and overcome?
  • How do you handle projects that require a lot of initiative and team work?
  • What is your approach to dealing with an angry customer? Can you tell us about a specific time when you solved this type of situation?
  • How do you contribute to your organization’s long- and short-term goals?

Even though this style of interviewing has become increasingly popular, questions like these can still throw you for a loop. Here are four tips for answering these questions that will help ensure you project competence and highlight your value.

 

Reach for the STAR

The challenge with influence skills questions usually isn’t thinking of an example; it’s organizing your thoughts efficiently and communicating them powerfully. The STAR acronym outlines four steps to breaking down an influence skills question – no matter how complex it may seem. Keep this in mind when a hiring manager lobs one your way.

  1. Situation. Describe the situation or context of the example. For instance, “We were far behind our projected sales goals and had lost two key members of our team.”
  1. Task. What goal were you trying to meet? What obstacles were you trying to overcome? “We had three weeks to make up 50% of the difference.”
  1. Action you took. Take ownership and use “I” statements frequently. Remember, they are interviewing you – not your former coworkers. “I pulled some long hours running numbers and I discovered missed opportunities…” Also, specifics are crucial here. Try to use actual facts and figures instead of generalizations. “I analyzed three months of account revenue and found 30–40 instances of missed opportunities.”
  1. Results. Again, using “I” statements and specific facts, sum it all up. Example: “I restructured the working hours of the staff to allow for more coverage during high-volume times, resulting in a 35% increase in our closing rate and an additional $500,000 in revenue. My department ended up exceeding our goal by $10,000–$15,000.”

Follow STAR and the other tips outlined above. The next time an interviewer tries to surprise you with an influence skills question, you’ll be more than prepared.

How Sleep Deprivation Negatively Affects Your Work

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It’s widely known that sleep deprivation negatively impacts a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our ability to focus, handle stress, and think clearly are all at stake. No matter what your profession, not getting enough sleep has a negative impact on your performance. But when you are a sales professional or a training manager, it doesn’t just affect you – it affects your whole team.

Here are some of the results of sleep deprivation:

* High blood pressure

* Heart attack

* Stroke

* Obesity

* Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders

* Mental impairment

* Poor quality of life

For your health and your team’s, follow these critical steps to make sleep a priority.

Set a Bedtime Routine and Stick to It—Even on the Weekends

Prepping for bed starts early. Try to begin the process at the same time each evening. Follow these guidelines for a greater chance of success:

* Prohibit alcohol and caffeine consumption within several hours of your desired bedtime

* Exclude screen time one hour before bed

* Don’t do any exercise within three hours of when you want to sleep

* Wake up at the same time each day; don’t sleep in on weekends

Create a Restful Space

Cluttered bedrooms lead to cluttered (and restless) minds. Take some time to create a peaceful, tidy space in which to sleep. Invest in a good mattress and linens. After all, we spend about a third of our lives in bed – which justifies a more substantial investment into that part of our homes!

Consider Incorporating a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness and meditation practices can lead to falling asleep more quickly and having better quality sleep. By managing stress and keeping you focused throughout the day, mindfulness can also improve performance in other areas.

It’s safe to say that sleep is one of the most influential factors in our daily performance. There’s no such thing as making up for lost sleep, so prioritizing it is crucial. For those in high-pressure sales jobs or people in charge of training programs, it’s even more important to take care of this easy to neglect need.

Ensure that you’re firing on all cylinders and aren’t running the risk of blowing a gasket when things get heated in the office – or when deadlines are looming. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your team. Follow the tips above, and work your way toward more restful nights and more productive days.

3 Ways to Become a Better Active Listener

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Being an active listener is important, whether it is in a meeting with the perfect client or in a negotiation with a raging lunatic. It encourages trust by showing that you care about what the other party is saying. Listening shows that you are not simply hearing what they are saying, but actually processing the information and taking it seriously. And it may preempt misunderstandings before they create problems. Here are 3 ways to become a better active listener.

  1. Put the technology away

It’s hard to disconnect, especially during work hours. But it is essential to minimize distractions during conversations to ensure that the people you are meeting with know that you value their time and opinions. By putting the technology away, you increase the likelihood of giving the other party 100% of your attention. Instead of using a computer or notebook to take notes, try using pen and paper to decrease distractions. If a computer is necessary, store necessary files on the desktop and turn the internet off to avoid the temptation of checking that new email or answering a lingering text.

  1. Repeat important statements in your own words

Repeating important concepts or statements in your own words serves multiple purposes. If the other party agrees with your reiteration, it shows that you are engaged in the conversation and received the message as intended. If the other party notes a discrepancy in what was said and what you said, it may help preempt miscommunications before they turn into problems by showing that something was lost in translation.

For example, if a client says “I would take $4 million for two,” you should repeat the statement as you understood it by saying, “So you would like $2 million for each.” If the intention was to get $4 million for each of the two, getting clarification could help avoid a huge misstep.

  1. Ask questions

Besides the obvious goal of getting answers, asking questions serves similar purposes as restating important messages. It shows that you are listening to the speaker and want to make sure you understood what they said. And it gives you the opportunity to clear up any discrepancies before they become full-blown misunderstandings. When an answer is given, it may help to repeat it in your own words to make sure that it cleared up any lingering questions.

Similar to the previous example, if a client says, “I would take $4 million for two,” you could ask, “Is that $4 million for each or $2 million for each equaling $4 million?” Again, this will clarify the client’s goal and avoid a mistake moving forward.

 

For more on how to become an active listener, check out The Power of Nice, which discusses how to participate, engage, and personalize to become a better negotiator, faster.

Should you listen to a Devil’s Advocate?

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Why would we encourage someone to tell us we are wrong and that our ideas aren’t clear? Sometimes it could be the push we need to be better, to do more, or to make more. John Adams, the second President of the United States, relied on his wife Abigail for advice and critiques to lead our country. With that said, taking the extra hour to script your pitch for a meeting or to hand off your proposal to a co-worker might not only be the remedy to miscommunication, but the key to success. So, do you have a devil’s advocate, someone you can turn to for guidance? Who is your Abigail Adams?

If you’re the drafter…

The tried and true process of putting pen to paper allows us to work through our thoughts and uncover our real goals. We have drafted our proposals and scripted our speeches And, now that you know what you want to say, and think you have said it clearly, hand it to the one person you know won’t be biased or go easy on you. When he or she brings you back your draft with red marks and arrows, go and redraft the script. Do it again and again until your devil’s advocate has run out of recommendations. In this case, third time may not be the charm. It may be the fourth or fifth or tenth. But when all is said and done, you will have a script that is clear and concise.

If you’re the devil’s advocate….

Maybe you are sitting at your desk when a co-worker hands you their latest proposal. They ask you to read it over, make suggestions, and be brutally honest. How can you be a good devil’s advocate? Here are a few key things to consider.

Is the intended demand or request clear? What can you change to make it more apparent?

Are the facts there, or does the proposal sound too personal?

Is the proposal concise and specific? What type of language do they use?

Take-aways: Take your time with a proposal. Get your ideas down on paper and don’t be afraid to redraft until it is right.  Be someone’s Abigail Adams and let someone be yours. You will be more successful in the long run if you’re not afraid to ask for advice.

The Importance of Personal Relationships in Negotiations

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Experienced negotiators know the importance of building a personal relationship before going into business negotiations. A negotiation involves two parties trying to come to a deal when both sides may want different things. An overly heated atmosphere and anger can unravel the most carefully planned deal. You can avoid many problems when you establish a personal relationship with the people who will be on the other side of the negotiating table. 

You Are Working Together

A personal relationship with the person or people against whom you will be negotiating prevents an adversarial relationship from souring the deal before it starts. If negotiators see themselves as adversaries in a confrontation, both sides tend to become defensive and reactive with each other. In this situation, asking for even a small concession is seen as an encroachment or an attempt to take advantage of the other party. However, if the parties share a personal relationship, it is easier to put these give-and-take dealings in the context of building consensus. If your opponent believes that you are genuinely looking for a mutually beneficial deal, he or she is far more likely to make a concession. 

Focus on Business

Remember that business is business. If both parties didn’t have divergent needs, there would be no need for negotiations. Both parties will be asking the other to give up something. This can create a difficult atmosphere if you’re not careful. Never make personal attacks or attribute any combative exchange to malice on the part of your opponent. When things are getting tense, suggest a break. Taking some time away from the negotiating table can help you steer the conversation back to your personal relationship. Remember to not take things personally. 

Know Your Opponent

A good negotiator will build a personal relationship with the person against whom they will be negotiating before they even get to the table. This means making those important social calls to your opponent. The key is to frame yourself as a friend first and a negotiator second, which transforms your relationship from competitors to cooperators. This can provide a positive perspective on the person with whom you will be negotiating. Understanding what they want, can also help you get what you want.

Building personal relationships between negotiators is an essential part of reaching a deal. Remember to not only get to know the positions from the other side, but the people with whom you are negotiating as well. Focusing on your cooperation can be the element that closes the deal.