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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.

The Art of Persuasion: 3 Ways Women Can Negotiate Better in the Workplace

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We may not realize it, but we spend part of every workday negotiating. Whether it’s asking for a raise, closing a sales deal, pushing for better assignments, requesting more resources, or seeking more flexibility, we use our negotiation skills on a daily basis. However, women appear to be at a disadvantage in this regard.

Research shows that men are often the better negotiators, but Audrey Nelson, Ph.D. believes this is mostly due to cultural stereotypes rather than actual gender differences. A common misconception is that men are typically more direct whereas women are more relational in their style of communication. With these beliefs, women may fail to tap into their true potential. Here are some helpful ways for women to sharpen their negotiating skills and get what they want.

  1. Start Strong

Women are more often shy and more likely to apologize, whereas men say what’s on their minds. Don’t be afraid to cut the small talk and be direct. It may take practice, but the more you do it, the more empowered you’ll feel. Plus, since a direct approach may not be expected, it will give you the upper hand right out of the gate.

  1. Communicate Value

This is a strategy that builds upon a woman’s natural inclination to think globally versus a man’s more linear method. Simplify the desired end result in your mind, but use that as a starting point to map out the ways that goal is beneficial for everyone involved.

For example: You’re a top performer in sales and want to negotiate for a higher compensation package. Communicate your desire clearly at the start of the meeting, and then highlight your contributions to the company. Don’t think of this as bragging – managers are often so busy with other things that they don’t notice the value of their team members.

  1. Know Your Facts

It’s widely known that men tend to be more fact-centered while women tune into feelings. Before you begin your negotiation, do your research! Find out the median salary for your position. Bring hard data to the table (e.g., “In 2016, our department increased revenue by $500,000 while cutting expenses by $100,000”). Know the actual market value of that car or home you’re trying to purchase. Numbers don’t lie, and the more information you have, the more legitimate your end goal will seem to others.

Above all, remember that you’re worth what you’re asking for. Self-confidence provides the foundation upon which all great negotiation is built!

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.

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.

3 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary

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Many people avoid asking for higher pay for fear of sounding pushy or entitled. However, if you know your work is valuable to your organization and worth more than you’re receiving, you should be able to argue your case effectively. Remember preparation is the only aspect of a negotiation you can control.

First, you need to know you have a solid case for higher pay. Everyone wants to believe their work is worth more than what they’re paid – but you need to know it before you bring up the subject. Once you do, it’s time to decide how to approach your supervisor.

Pick Your Battles

When you choose to initiate the conversation about your pay is as important as deciding to do it in the first place. Although our emotions shouldn’t affect our performance at work, things rarely play out this way, so you need to assess your superior’s state of mind before broaching the subject.

Typically, the best time to ask for more money is when the company has been doing well for a noticeable amount of time. A small rebound after a slow or difficult season isn’t ideal. Wait until the company is posting gains rapidly or after a particularly good year. Also, never forget that your time spent working for the company is a crucial part of your conversation. A good rule of thumb is to avoid asking for more pay for at least a year in your role, unless you are churning out extraordinary work on a regular basis that’s above and beyond expectations.

Know What You’re Worth

Once you think it’s time to have the talk about more money, you need to check your ammo and understand any precedents. Not only do you need a strong portfolio of work that displays your value as an employee and contributions to the company’s success, you also need to have a figure in mind. Do some research on professionals in your field and find a number that sounds reasonable. If you approach your supervisor with a precise number, you’re more likely to get what you want, as your supervisor will assume you’ve done your homework and know your value.

Special Tips for On-boarding

Salary negotiations are a bit easier when you have history with a company. Things get a bit trickier when you’re negotiating a starting salary during the interview and on-boarding process. Keep the following tips in mind for negotiating your starting salary:

• Let the interviewer bring up money first. Once the salary talk begins, never be the first to name a number. Let the interviewer give you a starting point and you’ll be in the power position once negotiations start. If you offer a number first, you run the risk of low-balling yourself with what you consider a lofty figure when the company was prepared to offer more.

• Know your value and aim high, just don’t be surprised if you are shot down. As long as you demonstrate value, the company will recognize your value. If it doesn’t, you may be better off looking elsewhere.

• Don’t bring up your salary at your previous job. This isn’t a benchmark and it’s not a great figure to reference when you’re joining a new company.

 

Sources:
http://www.employmentspot.com/employment-articles/salary-negotiation-learn-how-to-negotiate-for-a-higher-salary/
https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-negotiate-salary-37-tips-you-need-to-know
http://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/how-to-negotiate-a-higher-salary.html
http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2014/03/31/job-seekers-8-tips-to-negotiate-your-starting-salary/#4453b77d548d
http://www.businessinsider.com/6-tips-for-negotiating-a-pay-raise-2013-10

Making Workplace Conflict Work for Your Team

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Workplace conflicts arise often. It’s important to know how to handle them and to recognize the opportunities within them. It’s easy to work past a conflict and then pretend nothing ever happened, but you may be missing valuable opportunities to fine tune your employees’ communication skills and grow your business.

Identify the Conflict

First, you need to know the source of the disruption. Workplace conflicts happen between employees and their superiors, between coworkers, and between employees and customers. The final type requires the most careful attention: you need to be able to defuse a conflict without alienating anyone. One of the golden rules of salesmanship is that it’s okay to lose a sale but not a customer.

Gain an understanding of the situation – often you’ll find that you can defuse a conflict easily if it arose from miscommunication or a small discrepancy.

Pinpoint the Cause

In the sales industry, conflicts arise most often from miscommunication. The wording of a return policy or product specification is ambiguous, an employee misspoke, or something else was lost in translation. It’s important to recognize what type of conflict is happening, but it’s more important to acknowledge why it happened.

When customers complain, they can sometimes pinpoint issues within your business you may have overlooked. Although this is frustrating, ultimately these situations are good things for both the company and its customers. Once you identify the source of a conflict, you can remedy the situation so the customer leaves happy and willing to return, and then you can address the underlying issue to prevent future occurrences.

Ask for Solutions

When two parties butt heads, one of your first steps to resolving the issue should be to ask each party what they want to see happen. When it comes to arguments or disagreements between employees, sitting down with the employees involved can uncover issues you may have overlooked, and then everyone benefits from mediation.

When you’re dealing with customer conflicts, you’ll typically need to make up for their frustrations in some way. This may come in the form of an extra coupon for a future visit, a one-time discount to make up for their lost time, or another similar measure. It’s important to stand your ground in the face of unreasonable customers, but do so respectfully. Even the most grating and disrespectful customers can be boons to your business if you know how to approach them.

Work Toward a Resolution

Once you’ve identified what’s happening, who is involved, and what each party wants to see happen, you can work toward resolving the conflict. Every situation is different, so you’ll have to use your judgment to determine the best course of action. Once you do, make clear each party’s responsibilities going forward.

Workplace conflicts happen all the time in every industry. It’s important that you approach them with a clear head and calm demeanor. Sometimes you’ll solve more than just the immediate problem, and fix a newly discovered issue you never knew you had.
Sources:
http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/The-Five-Steps-to-Conflict-Resolution.aspx

6 Steps to Conflict Resolution in the Workplace


http://www.learningpeace.com/pages/LP_04.htm
http://www.mediate.com/articles/bermanlj3.cfm
http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/BUS208-5.3.6-Steps-to-Resolve-Workplace-Conflict-FINAL.pdf

When Taking Care of Yourself Is Good Business

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It’s never pleasant to work when you’re exhausted, but it’s a common concept that losing sleep in pursuit of pushing yourself is better for business. Despite the number of people who live by this idea, it’s not true. Mental fatigue does more harm than good.

Exhaustion Physically Changes the Brain

Scientists have found that a lack of sleep slows metabolism in several regions of your brain. Cells create energy at a slower rate, and in turn leave less and less energy to work with. In addition, blood flow lessens in the same sections. Cutting corners on sleep means your brain is literally running low on stamina.

The Frontal Cortex Suffers the Worst

This section is essentially the part of the brain that makes us human. The physiological constructs of memory, perception, and diverse cognitive processes all rely on the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Lack of sleep affects the area most strongly. It becomes harder to maintain complex thinking, and the analytical sections of the mind defer to more reflexive processes. The result is over-thinking and autonomous repetition without progression. In essence, you keep doing the work, but you get less accomplished.

When to Throw in the Towel

Each person is different, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for most adults. Listen to your body and the signs it gives you, and adjust accordingly. Daytime drowsiness is the most common symptom of sleep loss. A depressed mood, inability to concentrate, and memory troubles can also signal the need for some rest. It may be better to put off extra work for the next day and give your brain a chance to recharge.

Lots of people also interfere with their natural sleep cycles with stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, and external lights. Taking time away from screens and reducing caffeine intake can help your body rest more efficiently when you do sleep. Remember that overworking yourself is counterproductive in the long run. A few minutes unwinding could equal a few hours of better rest.

How to Ensure Your Employees Are Well Rested

  • Be involved. Speaking to your employees can help you catch signs of sleep loss and puts you in a better position to approach them with concern.
  • Encourage healthier lifestyles. Something as simple as a weekly newsletter can teach employees about balancing work and life.
  • Provide training. You can tack a simple rundown of sleep loss symptoms and their effects on health and productivity onto any regular meaning. It’ll show employees that you care and keep them conscious about their well-being.

While instinct may tell you to keep pushing through, exhaustion will only make you less productive. Be conscious about the signs and symptoms, and make sure you and your employees are getting the rest needed to be your very best on and off the clock.