BANTER OR BULLYING?
CHARACTER BUILDING, OR CHARACTER DEMOLISHING?
How important is it for everyone to be resilient, thick-skinned, even hard-nosed?
Life can be hard. Without one or more of these traits we run the risk of being beaten down by the more forceful and ultra-confident types.
To illustrate, let me describe an extreme version of this:
A confident go-getter enjoys ‘banter’ with their colleagues. One colleague is a less confident and seldom joins in with the exchange of ‘winding-up’ and derisory comments. To some, this makes them ideal targets for such banter, and the comments start.
Initially teasing, they are easily shrugged off. But, they continue, and can develop a hint of mocking. Others, wanting to remain with the confident and ‘favoured’ group, will find themselves joining in, sometimes without intending to. Within a short period of time, perhaps a few weeks, one person has become the butt of most of the ‘banter’ going on.
Originators of office/school/group banter will claim it is ‘character building’. They believe they are helping those bearing the brunt of the humour to gain a thicker-skin, to ‘man-up’. The ‘Butt’ may well attempt to join in, but will show their inexperience in making quips and digs and will likely receive more ‘digs’ as a result. Initial banter is usually ignored, but continued and it gradually eats away at the recipient, resulting in lost esteem and confidence.
Life is hard. Perhaps we should encourage this form of banter to help weed-out those not capable of defending themselves and so to form stronger teams.
But, what are we doing if this continues unabated? We are making someone’s life pretty miserable. They will see it as bullying and will find it more and more difficult to become involved, contribute, socialise and engage.
Then there is the other extreme, where we cosset and protect the weak and avoid all banter and ‘wind-ups’. I remember when a boss I had in the mid 90’s apologised to me for swearing. He assumed that, as I didn’t swear, it must be that it offends me. Bless him! Extreme swearing does offend me, but the occasional ‘Anglo-Saxon Derivative’ (as my English teacher used to say) can add richness to the language. The reason I didn’t swear was because I had four young impressionable daughters at home and Dad swearing, even inadvertently, was not the example I wanted to give them.
There is another way. I saw this happen once and it had a great positive impact on me. At one stage in my career, the boss was also the chief source of the office banter. He would rip into anyone, strong or weak and wind them up to a high level. Most of us recognized this and responded in kind (to a lower level; we wanted to stay in good books). There was one chap who did not take this well. He was a really nice guy and had much to contribute to the group. However, it was clear that he was enjoying being at work less and less. His mood changed and his engagement with all of us was less frequent and helpful. He was becoming isolated. This was not the group’s intention, but none recognised it for what it was and no-one wanted to suggest to the boss that he stopped. In the end, the boss sorted it. He was perceptive and understood fully the risks to the team and to our colleague. The boss took him to one side and had a chat with him. The next thing I know, our colleague was smiling, animated and seemingly in awe of the boss! His output increased and his loyalty knew no bounds. He was even seen to join in with the banter occasionally.
What did the boss say? Eventually, my colleague confided in me.
In a nutshell the boss had told him that he was sorry that such actions and comments were upsetting him. He told him how valuable and valued he was, how he should ignore anything that offended and to regard it as immature behavior on their part. He wanted my colleague to come to him and tell him at any time if anything was bugging or upsetting him, because he wanted him to be happy in his work and to enjoy his time. The boss, even said he regretted the way he behaved but that it was now expected of him and he was worried that any change would be regarded as a weakness.
In showing humanity and humility, the boss had succeeded in turning round the whole situation.
Perhaps this is the best approach when such ‘banter’ risks getting out of hand; risks losing a colleague, or worst of all, demolishes someone’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
There is no easy answer. But, taking account of people’s feelings can result in stronger teams, stronger relationships, and stronger leadership.
Some rules of emailing, yes, we’re still making the same mistakes.
How often do you receive and email and have objected to the contents? The objection may be mild, it may be significant or it may be something in between? Too many times
How many of us have written one straight back, assuming our interpretation is correct, and damaged that relationship? Too many of us.
They say that the art of letter writing is being lost due to the convenience and speed of texting, emailing and the like. Speed and convenience is a strong incentive to use these modes of communicating, however, make it too fast and it can be dangerous to your business.
- ‘Hearing’ a tone of voice that changes the interpretation
- Making a sarcastic comment that is either inappropriate or taken literally
- Sending something which no-one has proof-read; which is poorly spelt and constructed
- Only answering one question and ignoring the other three
- Assuming familiarity and making it too informal for the contact
Some simple rules which should overcome these dangers and pitfalls:
- If it reads as though it was written with attitude, leave it and come back later. Try and read it with a smile on your face, it can sound so different! THEN respond accordingly.
- PROOF READ everything. Poor spelling, grammar, or punctuation can suggest you are not thorough or professional.
- Avoid humour, particularly sarcasm. If you want to include levity, an exclamation mark could help to signpost this.
- Read everything received more than once and you will find other things which need a response.
- Read everything before you send it, to avoid these classic blunders, and others.
- Why not pick up the ‘phone?! It is more efficient and effective; you can cover more points in less time; you can build better business relationships. Then summarise and confirm by email. This is far more effective and professional than a rushed email or text.
Avoid the traps of fast texting or emailing and build professional relationships; use the ‘phone, or, even better, meet them face to face.
KICKING THE HABIT – and adopting a better one
“Old habits die hard”. Very true that one.
Another, which is one of my favourite quotes, is known as:
Einstein’s definition of insanity: ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.
This is very true when it comes to training or coaching. I’ll explain:
When training and coaching, we show the delegate(s) how they can do things more easily and more effectively, helping them to be more productive and successful. We encourage the delegate(s) to embrace the new ideas and embed them in their daily routine.
They say it takes at least 28 days of daily repetition for the new skills to embed and to fully replace the ‘old habits’.
So, the concern of every good trainer is that, over time, old habits will creep back into regular use. As expected, success obtained with the new skills starts to decline. With the year following any training or coaching, the poor delegate is back to square one. At this point it is not unheard of for the delegate or company involved to suggest that the training was ineffective, or even a waste of money!
Luckily, I have not received such feedback.
This is why the best trainers or coaches offer ‘refreshers’ on a regular basis, perhaps every 3-6 months, to help maintain the focus and to fully embed the new skills and techniques. As an alternative, I also offer the Salient Mentoring Programme; a monthly re-focus and target management system that keeps people on track, motivated and successful.
Unfortunately, not everyone goes for more than the single, deep plunge they get from dipping into Salient expertise. They feel that the short-term fix is all they need and for some this has indeed worked. Some have grasped many of the new ideas and skills and applied them with tenacity. These companies are seeing a marked difference in their sales results.
Glib though it may be, the saying that holds true in all these cases is simply:
‘If you want things to change, you have to make some changes’.
…and not let old habits undermine those successful changes.
- Those on a diet do not stop as soon as they reach their ideal weight; they work hard to maintain it.
- You may spend weeks or months achieving peak fitness. If you stop there it only takes a short time to return to ‘couch potato’ status!
- The best mentors have their own mentors to help keep them at the top of their game. Sales people not at the top of their game will lose focus, and lose business.
Get to the top of your game and learn how to STAY THERE by refreshing and adding to your skills!
STEERING THROUGH CHOPPY SEAS
- There are some people out there who just simply do not get what you are doing in business.
- There are those out there who will show interest in your products, services, and in you, but they will then drop from the radar and not respond to any of your approaches.
- There are those those who insist you drop the price or they will go elsewhere.
- There are those who use you to put pressure on their present supplier and, in reality, have no intention of buying from you.
“If you have been affected in any way by the content of the above four statements…...”
Seriously, there are many reasons that people will NOT place business with you, all of which can be overcome with careful application of recognised skills and techniques.
HOWEVER, political developments have added another issue to this list. We are to leave the EU. What comes next? No-one really knows, and because no-one knows, many businesses will cut back on their spending, buying only the ‘necessities’. If you do not sell their ‘necessities’, you are less likely, even unlikely to sell to them.
PROSPECTING AND SECURING NEW OPPORTUNITIES ARE LIKELY TO BECOME MORE DIFFICULT during the coming months.
More difficult, but not impossible. Certainly, we will need to work smarter and have plans which are carefully constructed, timed and focused. We will need contingency plans now more than ever, as we plough on into the political unknown.
To make sales; to make MORE sales in a difficult market requires new strategies, extra skills and techniques, contingencies, but most of all, it needs careful planning.
I have planned for this! I have a coaching programme called ‘2020 Vision for Business’ (what else?!) In this, we will work on sales and marketing plans, strategies and contingencies, taking sales to the next level and ‘scaling-up’ your business; to be the best while others may flounder.
Whether or not you book on the programme, you will need plans and contingencies for growing your business next year. Don’t leave your success to chance.
Plan and prepare now, to grow your business, despite political and market forces.
Whether you like or loathe the man, and there seems to be little middle ground Boris has always had a very focussed approach to Brexit. He has a plan and a strategy, rightly or wrongly.
Comparing this withe Sales Process, and there are many prarallels, he is attempting to obtain the best deal for the UK from the EU.
In every sale, the backstop; the very last option has to be a no-deal. In other words, ‘I am prepared to walk away and neither of us benefits from this relationship’. But to make that a useful negotiating tool, it must be an option available to you. If you are not prepared to walk away, no matter how much you want the deal, then the opposition will use this to their great advantage and to your disadvantage.
If they know that you are not allowed the option to walk away, the ‘no-deal’, then they will find it much easier to impose their needs and wishes over yours. It gives you a weak position from which to negotiate because they know that in the end, you will have to accept a deal that favours their needs.
Unfortunately, parliament do not understand this, or, they feel that the risk of ending up with no deal is too great. So, Boris’s hands were tied.
This point is similar to that discussed in my blog of March 2019 where the delegate was not allowed to walk away without the order. Here as well, his negotiating power was weakened and the customer had, and played the advantage.
This is not an easy line to follow. It may result in bluff and counter-bluff and a cool head is needed. However, simply believing that you have the power to walk away from the deal (even if you have no real intention to do so) may be enough to help strengthen your position.
Make sure they believe you have the choice, and then secure a better deal.
Three essentials needed by those selling into technical markets:
1/ Technical knowledge
2/ Training/Coaching in Technical Sales
3/ Motivation & self-belief
Why is technical sales training and coaching so essential?
Managers will notice a lack of confidence in those new to technical sales, and sometimes even in those who have been selling in technical markets for some time.
Lack of confidence results in reduced motivation. Less motivated salespeople will under-perform. Under-performance limits success, reducing self-belief, and so confidence dips further. This results in reduced productivity and profitability.
Likewise, the converse is true. Help in the form of training and coaching in technical knowledge and selling skills for technical markets will boost confidence, motivate and ensure more and faster success.
I remember clearly the time when I was a new sales engineer. I knew that my technical knowledge was good, but not yet complete. My confidence in selling was very low, likewise my self-belief that I was any good at selling (although I never let on!). Clearly, my bosses had seen more in me than I had; they had more belief and confidence that I would be successful. If I had thought of this I may have grown more quickly in the job.
A little sales training was offered and taken, but this was very general and did not address the specific issues met when selling in technical markets. My technical knowledge was built on the job with frequent returns to the engineering lab for help and advice. Mostly, I learned on the job.
The perceived wisdom is that for any new salesperson it would take at least a year, possibly two to become cost effective and profitable.
What if you could reduce that ‘delayed profitability’ significantly? What if it took just a few months rather than a year or two? Wouldn’t that result in more profitable sales, and faster?
Reducing the delay by nine months to a year would make a substantial difference to the number and value of the sales achieved. What extra value would that be? An extra 20 or 30% of sales from that person? It could be more. Put a value on that percentage. Would it not make sense to invest a little now to reap faster and larger turnover?
They say that the average time that a good salesperson stays with one company is no more than 2-3 years. Without training or coaching, the time when experience starts to make them profitable can be 18 months to 2 years. They may just have become profitable to you when they decide to move on. With good, tailored training, you could extend that profitable time by up to a year. Now THAT IS worth the investment!
Motivation, self-belief and self-confidence come from experience and from support. Experience takes time, but support in the form of training and coaching makes a significant difference by shortening personal development and bringing forward success.
Training and coaching result in more knowledge, skills and confidence. And hence more sales.