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Are You Doing These 5 Unproductive Work Habits?

Jeff Cochran

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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.

How Sleep Deprivation Negatively Affects Your Work

Jeff Cochran

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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

Jeff Cochran

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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?

Jeff Cochran

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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

Jeff Cochran

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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

Jeff Cochran

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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

Navigating Negotiation Stalemates

Jeff Cochran

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Every businessperson has experienced a negotiations stalemate. Compromise has faltered, neither party is willing to budge, and there is nothing more to say. A successful negotiator knows the way out of a stalemate and how to seal the deal.

Stay Professional and Keep the Client

Before trying to get your opposition to budge, think hard about what you are willing to do to keep this client. Make sure you are being smart about considering compromise. What is the smallest concession you are willing to make? Is this concession worth keeping the client? Negotiation isn’t always about getting your way on everything, sometimes to get what you want, you have to know and help them get what they want.

Your tone should remain professional, no matter how heated the negotiations become. Be courteous. Avoid the “buts” – saying, “I understand your point, but …” just tells your opposition that you are rejecting their points. Shift the conversation to finding joint solutions. Ask them, “How can we make this work?” Build relationships is much more profitable in the long run than burning bridges in one deal.

Breaking the Barrier

You’ve made all the concessions you are willing to make. Now is the time to break through your opposition’s objections. The first step is to understand the other person’s stumbling block. Get this information by being honest about your sticking point. This invites them to tell you why they aren’t budging. You will be able to address their concerns from this information.

If you aren’t getting anywhere at the negotiating table, it may be time to shift focus. The key is to change the context of the conversation to something else for a while. Get the client out of the combative mindset by suggesting a break. This allows you to engage with the opposition in a social context and gives them a chance to get to know you on a personal level. You can also talk about future business opportunities your two organizations might share in the future. More important, it gets them out of the adversarial mindset.

Power Moves

Breaking up the negotiations when they have stalled may be your only option. If you have the upper hand at the time, you can suggest a cooling off period. This is a better move to make when you know your opponent wants the deal more than you do. The prospect that you are willing to walk away may be all that is necessary to get the other party to budge.

If you don’t have the advantage in negotiations, it is still possible to shake up the negotiations by buying some time. Telling the opposition that you would like a legal opinion is a card you can always play. Most business-people understand the need for legal advice. This keeps your negotiations open and buys both of you some cooling-down time.

Keep an Ace in the Hole

When all else fails, you should always have a trick up your sleeve. Before you go into negotiations, prepare something you can use to push stalled negotiations over the edge. Use alternatives. A deal, a discount, or a special offer can go a long way to closing the deal.

Six Tips to Nail Your Sales Position Interview

Jeff Cochran

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Interviewing for your dream sales position is no different than making a sales call. Remember that you are your product, and you are making the pitch. Here are six tips to help you close the deal:

1. Dress for the Occasion

You get only one chance to make a first impression, or so the saying goes. It turns out this saying has scientific proof behind it. A study the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology published may surprise you. It found that interviewers take 15 minutes to cut a candidate. What can a candidate do to make a good impression in those 15 minutes? Show up to your interview well groomed and well dressed. Your clothes don’t need to be expensive, but they need to be clean and pressed.

2. Do Your Research

To be a successful salesperson, you need to know your customers’ needs. Before your interview, research the market for your industry. Read industry blogs and study the key players. Do background research about the company with which you are interviewing. You should know the product or service it sells and its customers. Educate yourself about the company’s competition. How does this company measure up against the competition?

3. Show Your Work

You are a salesperson. Now is the time to sell yourself. How was your performance at your previous position? You should have your previous sales numbers ready to show your interviewer. Hiring managers want evidence that you are great at your job. Specific numbers are more impressive than general self-praise.

4. Any Questions?

When the interview is over, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions. It is a grave mistake to say no. This is the time to signal your interest in the position. Prepare a list of questions for the interviewer while researching the company. Your questions should demonstrate that you have done your homework. Make sure your questions include asking about the type of employee the company wants to hire. This creates yet another opportunity to sell yourself.

5. Ask for the Job

Interviewees may talk about their qualifications so much they forget to say they want the job. Remember, this is a sales position. Now is the time to close the deal. Make sure not to pressure your interviewer – you should never ask if you’re hired. Let the interviewer know you want the job by asking about your next steps.

6. Follow Up

Old advice tells us we should send a hand-written thank you note after the interview. That’s good advice, but we live in the digital age. Write the note if you must, but you should also write an email to your interviewer. This shows that you want the job and keeps you on your interviewer’s radar. Don’t just sit at your desk waiting for a response. You are a salesperson – go chase that sale.

Creating a Team-Focused Workplace Culture

Jeff Cochran

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Workplace culture is a crucial element of any industry. Most modern employees don’t just show up to work for a paycheck – they want to be valued and see the effects of their work as part of a bigger picture. As a leader, you need to foster a positive workplace culture that resonates with your brand identity and company mission statement.

 

How Workplace Culture Impacts Your Business

In the workplace, employees want to know they aren’t easily replaceable and that their employers value the work they do. Fostering a positive workplace culture isn’t just a side project – it has a direct effect on your company’s bottom line. Employee satisfaction and retention are big parts of why workplace culture matters. Your business is only as strong as your weakest employee, and employees who are invested emotionally in their work are rarely weak.

Know Your Brand

Today’s market demands that you stay relevant in a sea of competition. If you’ve had an idea, chances are your competitors have, too. If you make a misstep, your competition is going to see it and capitalize on your failure. Your brand identity plays a large role in your workplace culture: the image you convey to your customers has to resonate with your employees. You should always strive to be the company whose customers wish they could work for you.

Keep Your Team Involved

Creating a cohesive and progressive workplace culture means valuing the input your employees have. Some employees may hesitate to criticize their employers for fear of job security, so it’s important that you convey that you value honesty – good or bad – for the sake of the company as a whole. Make it clear that you will never meet honest feedback and constructive criticisms made in good faith with reprimands or disciplinary actions.

Always take the time to ask your employees how they feel about the work they do, the processes involved, and if they can think of ways to improve day-to-day operations. Your employees view your workplace differently than you do, so it’s important to try to adopt their perspectives when you conceptualize a workplace culture.

Recognize Value

Part of your workplace culture depends on how your employees interact. Look for groups or pairs of employees who bring out the best in each other’s work, and foster those relationships. You should always be looking for ways to improve your business. Your employees are your best resource for doing that. Teamwork happens when employees know what you expect of them and what roles they play in your brand. Make sure your workers know they’re valued, and that the company’s success depends on their personal success.

 

Sources:

http://www.inc.com/peter-economy/5-ways-to-build-an-extraordinary-team-culture.html
http://www.lctmag.com/operations/article/107639/how-to-create-a-team-focused-culture
http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2013/10/04/how-to-build-a-great-company-culture/#673b42af3ab2
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/developingandsustaininghigh-performanceworkteams.aspx
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/build-a-positive-and-high_b_3659341.html

How to Influence Without Being Pushy

Sometimes leads are already interested before you start your pitch, but how you attempt to influence them will make or break the deal. There’s a big difference between influencing and selling – your audience is less likely to take your words to heart if you come off as pushy, rehearsed, or “salesy.”

When it comes to influencing people, a few key strategies will lead you to more effective interactions with more positive results. Keep the following in mind.

 

Build Trust

When you have rapport with other people, it’s easier to speak with them. You need to be able to reach people on a personal level while staying professional. Carefully listen to their concerns and address them fully. Try to take your resolution a step beyond what they may expect from you to show them you are acting with their best interests in mind. Find common ground and work from there. You cannot force people to do things. Instead, you should try to persuade them to want what you want.

 

Focus on Positives

Of course, you want to be able to relate to the other party if you want them to see things your way, but it’s important to stick to your guns while staying positive. Instead of sympathizing with their complaints, get them to focus on the positive aspects of your discussion. Demonstrate value and emphasize how they will benefit from the decision you want them to make.

 

Speak Naturally

You may work on your speaking technique in private, but it’s important to be prepared without sounding rehearsed. If you want to influence people, the number one way to fail is to to be unprepared and not know what you are trying to say or sound like you’re selling something or reading from a script. Speak as you would in any other conversation (again, remember to stick to your professional boundaries) and be relaxed. Pay close attention to body language – both the other party’s and your own. Don’t come off as rigid, closed-off, or unapproachable. People will be more willing to converse and be influenced if it feels natural.

 

Generate Enthusiasm

One of the best methods of influencing others to do what you want is to demonstrate what an amazing opportunity they have and make them excited to see it happen. Generating energy and enthusiasm is a great way to get others on board with your vision and get them to see things from your perspective.

 

Be Adaptable

Your conversation style needs to be flexible – you can’t speak with everyone in the same way, and every interaction has unique factors that you need to consider. This is the biggest reason that maintaining a natural demeanor is important – when you lock yourself into a routine, it becomes much harder to deal with the unexpected. To influence the other party, you need to be on your toes and ready to handle any question or concern they have. .

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for your next major conversation. Remember that influencing is all about getting other people to want what you want – not hammering them until they see things your way.