When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have good conversations. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. “Go out, talk to people, listen to people,” she says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.” Watch this delightful video below and I hope you have better conversations.
Every day you make choices. Those choices create your actions. Your actions become your habits. And your habits define your life.
Below are some wonderful suggestions to get you started in developing good habits in your daily life, and to kick start positive change. You can always start any day, any time, a new habit. After all each moment in your life is new.
- Turn off your phone after hours – or one day per week. Let the important people know what you are doing, and ways to contact you in an emergency.
- Check your emails only twice daily and let people know this in your email signature. This is what I do!
- Have a clear agenda for all meetings, and set a time frame, both of which you communicate to the other participants. Practice this, until it works for you.
- Have all participants turn off their mobiles so the focus stays on the meeting.
- Start having “walking meetings”, especially when discussing a difficult topic – you’d be surprised how much easier it is to walk and talk, and the effect it can have on your relationships.
- Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Make first thing in the morning your productive time, and switch off at night for a better sleep. Plan your emails taking this into account.
- Turn off your mobile phone when out with friends – and get your friends to do the same. The focus should be on your time together.
- Say “no” when something doesn’t suit or you don’t have the time to commit. Do it thoughtfully and offer alternatives.
- Spend 30 minutes a day doing something for you – walking, reading a book, listening to music, whatever makes you feel good. Let everyone else know this is your time and you are not to be disturbed.
- Start a gratitude journal – and write three things per day that you are grateful for.
- De-clutter your life: select one task a week and do it! Do a before and after review to be clear in your mind what you have achieved.
Do you have difficulty creating new habits and sticking with your goals? Click here to get a complimentary one-on-one coaching session. This is limited to the first 5 people who book.
When I came across the results of this survey I did not know whether to cry or laugh. Instead I remembered a saying my father used to say: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” And stay the same they have. These results are similar to survey results I had over 20 years ago. What am I talking about?
Held in conjunction with ‘AccountantsDaily’ earlier this year, My Business surveyed over 647 SMEs across Australia to get their take on what they saw as growth barriers to their businesses. Most (58%) said that they have been operating their businesses for 11+ years. We can say then that these businesses have been around a while.
So what were the top three barriers?
1. Attracting new Customers – 34.2%
2. Availability of skilled staff or experienced managers – 14.9%
3. Competition – 10.5%
Each of these relates to the market or competitive environment. None of these are internal issues. If nearly 60% of your growth barriers are external why is it that business executives are so internally focused?
What does this say about the quality of strategic planning, marketplace knowledge and competitive thinking? Want to lower your barriers to growth? Then take the time to understand your competitive environment. Or you could give us a call.
A wonderful article about Competitive Intelligence by my friend and colleague Ben Gilad & Magnus Hoppe was published recently in the Harvard Business Review. Here is a brief overview of the article.
While mistakes allow individuals to learn and grow, they can also be very costly to any company. You may recall the Maggi’s Noodle Crisis in 2015 in India, which resulted in a loss of $277 million in sales, a five-month ban on Maggi and a cost of $70 million in the recall. The damage to the brand name was even larger – half a billion dollars. Paul Buckle, Nestle’s CEO, was quoted by Fortune as saying, “This is the case where you can be so right and yet so wrong… We live in an ambiguous world. We have to be able to cope with that.”
Nestle was not able to cope with that – but a competitor was.
Baba Ramdev, owner of the fastest growing local consumer goods company in India, took advantage of Nestle’s mistake by launching a product advertised as ‘healthier’ and at a lower price point than Maggi.
The really frustrating thing about the story above, is that so few companies learn from such mistakes.
So what can you do to avoid similar mistakes in the future?
According to Gilad and Hoppe, “we must start to think differently about how business, management, and strategic intelligence works. What companies today need isn’t meticulous plans, but to constantly reassess the business and its markets and competitors.“
How often do you reassess your business environment? How can different areas of management work together on creating insights that have real competitive implications?
Below are four radical changes that will get the ball rolling for you:
- Manage talent differently – recruit different mindsets. Self-hiring is indeed most dangerous in an ambiguous world.
- Use competitive intelligence differently – think of it as a process for organisational thinking to outsmart competitors in an ambiguous world.
- Work together – with decision makers for better outcomes
- Study personal use of intelligence – understand how intelligence is used to enhance organizational learning
Want to read the full article: https://hbr.org/2016/06/the-right-way-to-use-analytics-isnt-for-planning
How are you coping with ambiguity?
Why did we lose?
It’s the first question you ask when business goes to a competitor. So… Are you really focused on improving your business, or do you simply move on and try again with the same sales approach and techniques?
Conducting win/loss analysis is one of the best ways of generating the insights you need to increase revenue and grow your business. So why aren’t you doing it?
Win/Loss Analysis (WLA) is a cost-effective, insightful, and ethical method for gathering and analyzing information about your market, customers, and competitors. WLA identifies your customer’s perceptions of specific sales situations and how you compare to your competitors. It provides a window as to why a customer is buying or not buying your products and/or services. The analysis provides information about the performance of both your firm and your competitors. The insights can then be actively used to focus sales staff more effectively in the marketplace and also to inform research and development of products.
The Benefits of WLA:
- Understand why you win and lose business
- Learn which clients are or are not good prospect
- Focus on product features customers value most
- Improve implementation, training and services
- Improve quality of customer testimonials
- Improve sales professionalism
TOP 7 QUESTIONS TO GET YOU STARTED
Answering these questions is the foundation to get the process moving in a fruitful direction.
1. What were the reasons we won/lost the last sales competition for… (a big client)?
2. Was our RFP response as effective as it could have been?
3. Are our prices truly non-competitive with our rivals? Or are other factors impacting client retention decisions?
4. How/ why can a rival keep beating us on bids for regional clients?
5. Are there opportunities to gain clients that we are not capitalizing on?
6. What operational changes do we need to make to better satisfy existing clients?
7. What changes can we make that will best empower our sales force in their daily efforts to win customers out in the field?
I have been involved with WLA since the mid 1990’s and have written about the subject since 2006. To this day, I do not understand why more companies aren’t conducting win/loss interviews, analyzing results and implementing lessons learned.
When WLA is done properly, companies gain valuable insights and are able to implement initiatives that helps them increase revenue and grow their business. It really is a win-win all around.
We know that companies who place a greater emphasis on information content in their business decisions will be those that face fewer surprises. In fact, getting the right information will be a key success factor for companies in the 21st century.
So why do so many businesses shy away from investing in some research about a new product idea, an acquisition, or business expansion opportunity, but will happily plunge ahead with a scheme and rack up million dollar losses when it turns out to be a dud! Why is it that so many companies keep making costly mistakes?
Competitive, data-savvy companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix have learned that data analysis alone doesn’t always produce optimum results. In this talk, data scientist Sebastian Wernicke breaks down what goes wrong when we make decisions based purely on data — and suggests a brainier way to use it. This wonderful video addresses the difference between successful decision-making and unsuccessful decision-making — with data. I highly recommend this video.
In my experience, most companies and organisations tend to track what their competitors are currently doing. However you can’t really make a sound business decision about the future intentions of a competitor based on what has occurred in the past or on what they are currently doing. We all know that the way we operate today is not the same as how we operated a year ago – so why should a competitor be any different?
We need to uncover where they plan to go in the future. Will you be taking sales from them or will they be taking sales from you – next quarter, next year or even two years from now?
To get a good grasp on your competitors’ real intentions, you need to delve a little more deeply.
SO HERE ARE SEVEN TIPS TO HELP YOU MONITOR YOUR COMPETITORS:
1. BUY THEIR PRODUCT
Always buy your competitor’s product, if possible, to determine their sales process and get on their mailing list to see future promotions. The relatively small price you pay for their product will pay for itself many times over in the knowledge you gain by finding out what they are doing and how they are doing it.
2. AUDIT THEIR WEBSITE
Drop by your competitors’ websites and compare their sites to your own. To go the extra mile, select Tools from the Microsoft Internet Explorer toolbar (if you are using Microsoft) and then “Show Related Links”. Here, you may uncover other companies, doing the same thing or in the same business. Changes to a website can also say a lot about a company. TimelyWeb, by EldoS (www.eldos.org), has several ways of notifying you when page changes occur, including via e-mail.
3. GET THEIR GOSSIP FROM YOUR SALES PEOPLE, DISCUSSION GROUPS, ETC.
Numerous discussion groups are the bars and pubs of the internet, where individuals meet online by sending emails to like-minded people. One of the popular ways to hunt through newsgroups is with Google Groups. Simply type in the subject you are interested in to sort through the web’s 20,000 Usenet discussion groups. LinkedIn is also pretty good. And remember to speak to your sales people, customers, distributors, suppliers, industry consultants, industry associations, journalists – to just name a few.
4. CHECK OUT THE CLASSIFIEDS
Is your competitor expanding? Is he or she going in a new direction? You might get a clue through help-wanted advertising. These listings can tell you more about what your competitor is planning.
5. READ UP ON PLANS AND FINANCES
Drop by your industry association’s Internet site. You may find additional information about a member who is your competitor. Perhaps they were interviewed for the association’s website or publication. If your competitor is a large publicly listed organisation, it is required under Australian law to file quarterly and annual financial reports and announce any activities that are likely to be of investor interest (that is have an influence on the share price).
6. ENGAGE A MONITORING SERVICE
By paying for an online monitoring service, such as eWatch, you can outsource the hassle of monitoring domain names, URLs, newsgroups, and websites for activity by your competitors. However, it will cost. Most online companies offer free trials so you can compare them before you commit. Clipping services, such as Media Monitors, provide a daily fax-stream of articles on chosen companies (or search terms).
7. HIRE A ‘BIG GUN’
With so much information available, competitive intelligence consultancies can help a company define what information will genuinely assist their business objectives. They can provide strategies to help a company collect, monitor and, most importantly, analyse information to deliver the necessary insights/intelligence.
Understanding what your competitors intend to do in your market is not hard. It may cost you time, effort and budget in the first instance…….or you could compare that cost to potential market share loss, sales lost and customer shrinkage. Can you afford not to understand your competitors?
Strategy is the domain of leaders and getting everyone on board is a critical element for strategic success. However for a strategy to influence action, it must be remembered. To be remembered, it must be understood, To be understood a strategy must be simple. This wonderful video addresses how to simply strategy.
Donald Dull from Harvard poses three questions to break down complex strategies in actionable steps. I highly recommend this video.
I came across a wonderful suggestion recently from my friend and colleague Leanne Buttrose. I asked her to write a little note about this.
Thought you would enjoy it as our Monthly Monday Motivation for May.
“How to change your energy and everyone around you by changing one little word!
In the year 2000 I was introduced to a simple and yet incredibly powerful change in my life. I removed the word “BUT” from my vocabulary. At the time when I learned this, I didn’t realise what this change would mean to me, and literally hundreds of people I have shared this concept with.
The greatest challenge was to not replace it with a “but” in disguise. We know these words as – however, although, nonetheless – just to begin with. You would know many others I’m sure.
“But” simply means; everything I said before this word is null and void. For example, the party was great but the food could have been better. So was the party great or not?
I found I became very conscious of my sentences and that “but” was my way to buy time and think. It was what I used instead of a pause or full stop in a conversation or when presenting.
The most profound discovery was in my written words. I used “but” in emails, documents and papers and it gave them a negative overtone when that was not my intention. I used it in sales pitches and PowerPoint presentations when trying to make a point. I was a “but-aholic”!
So how did I change this? I replaced the word “but” with “and”. While at first it felt grammatically incorrect, it forced me to stop and think about why I even wanted to say the word.
I found in conversations I started to pause, think and then continue without using the word. In written communication, it forced me to rethink the whole sentence because when you remove the use of ‘but’ you often have to phrase the entire sentence very differently.
Here’s an example: ” I’m sorry I didn’t finish the report, but I received your email too late.”
Instead you might say: “I’m sorry I didn’t finish the report. I received your email too late, and I will do my best to finalise it by the end of this week.”
Leaders that I have shared this with now write their messages to their customers and staff coming from the “Yes… and” perspective. They have found it easier to create a more positive energy through their communications.”
WOW! To think removing just three little letters from our vocabulary can hold that much wonderful power.
A great way to make sure you’re following “Yes… and” is to exercise self-awareness. Self-awareness is the secret weapon for lasting habit change.
Startups and small businesses are at greater risk for competitive failure than large businesses. They have no “fat” to cushion a competitive threat or to recover from a serious blunder. Entrepreneurs (especially early-stage ones) need to take the competition seriously.
For starters, I am not YFS (Young, Fabulous & Self-Employed). I am OCS (Old, Cranky & Self-employed).
My entrepreneurial venture has been successful for 26 years now. In the world of small business, this is close to an eternity. And being at this juncture, I hate to see entrepreneurs fail simply because they didn’t pay the right type of attention to competition. If I save one business owner from going under because he or she didn’t ask the right questions, it was worth writing this article.
Many entrepreneurs are bad at competitive intelligence
My business is dedicated to teaching managers and executives about competitive intelligence which is the method by which companies unmask opportunities and threats in the market. Through the years I have trained thousands of business people in the world’s most successful companies. I’ve also seen entrepreneurs cherish being first to market with their brilliant idea or product, but forgetting that first move advantage is not enough. It happened to me too. After almost a decade of glorious loneliness at the top, competition entered my space as well. I actually trained my own competitors!
C’est la vie .
Do I keep a 30,000 feet overview of what’s happening in my competitive space? You bet. Do I follow those competitors closely, analyze traffic on their websites, compare their products, prices, keywords, AdWords, page load time, linking roots domain, changing text, quality of photos, mobile optimization, or zillion other minutia to mine, and obsess over social network chats about them and us?
Not for one minute .
The pundits’ advice is often bad advice
Go on LinkedIn, and a horde of consultants advise entrepreneurs to keep a close eye on competitors by watching social media like a hawk, tracking competitors’ online moves, analyzing site traffic patterns, and many other magical tricks.
This is simply bad advice.
If you want to stay in business, you can’t obsess about competitors.
Knowing what to look for, what is crucial, and what to ignore as a waste of time and resources. Web intelligence and web analytics are not competitive intelligence. Not by a mile. It’s a toy that makes it easy to “spy” on competitors, right from your desk, compiling tons of useless data.
If you are serious about your company’s long-term success, you don’t want to bring a toy gun to a real gun fight.
The real competitive questions worth asking
Real competitive intelligence answers the following very hard questions:
- What do I offer that’s unique and who can truly benefit?
- What are the activities that are crucial to this uniqueness? Which are the strongest links in delivering the offering? Who or what pose the real competitive threat to you?
- How do I stop competitors from imitating quickly?
- What are the strategic risks and opportunities opening up for us as the market changes?
The problem with relying heavily on web analytics and other online intelligence tools is that they replace strategic thinking with hyped up statistics or meaningless noise. This is a sure way to lose sight of the competition.
Internet trolling and social media obsession haven’t delivered one iota of better performance to anyone but the vendors supplying the tools.
For professionals like us who’ve been analyzing competition for decades for the Fortune 500, the hype surrounding web intelligence tools borders on the hilarious; its serious consequences, however, can lead to your company’s early demise.
Best advice ever: never follow competitors
Best advice #1: Never follow competitors.
Competitive intelligence is about competing, not chasing the tail of your competition, direct or indirect. Sometime, the best way to compete is actually to ignore competitors. That’s why Harvard Business School never succumbed to the wave of MOOCs free courses and cheap online education. The bankruptcy of now-defunct for-profit education chain Corinthian College is testament to the value of competitive perspective over foolishly following others.
Best advice # 2: A channel is just a channel.
Never forget that your company website is just a channel. What will make you win is what you offer on it and who needs it. If you don’t fill a real need you’d disappear, together with your fast-loading, button-happy, feature-rich mobile site with all the right SEO-grabbing keywords in place, state of the art technology just like everyone else.
Digital marketing is not strategic insight. Continuous alertness to possible market evolution requires the discipline to say “No!” That’s where strategic minds win.
There are dozens of companies today offering free or low-cost subscription web intelligence services (e.g., Alexa, Compete, HitWise, Google Trends, SimilarWeb and Tregia are just a small sample). Any of them a clear winner over the others? The same companies that allow you to “spy” on your competitors’ traffic and analyze their data to death can’t even win their own competitive race.
Technology is not a substitute for strategy
Best advice #3: Tech is no substitute for thinking.
This is the the third lesson I teach my high tech startup audience. If you are ready for hard work, it is worth it.
The realm of competitive intelligence is the realm of “standing out.” Do not obsess over competitors’ minutia. Obsesses over your strategy and its underlying competitive perspective. It is a magnitude harder than collecting web noise, but it will pay off if you get into the habit of answering strategic questions with real competitive intelligence.
Leave web analytics for the kids who get excited with toy guns. Don’t be young, foolish and self-employed.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Benjamin Gilad is the co-founder and president of the FGH-Academy of Competitive Intelligence, the leading institution that pioneered the training and certification of competitive intelligence professionals (CIP™) world-wide. He is a former strategy professor at Rutgers University’s School of Management, and author of three books on competitive intelligence’s role in companies’ success.