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A New Message for the New Year

For those of you that know me or have read or listened to my work, you know that the core of my work is about focusing in on how individuals and organizations define themselves in relations to others. I focus on self-definitions, and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves—again, both individually and organizationally.

It has always been difficult for me to explain to those who aren’t familiar with my work how what I do is different from how most consultants work. While my processes are fairly consistent, each client is unique and therefore must be approached differently.

I have finally culled the essential and critical aspects of the process I bring to my clients in the simplest manner yet. I’m excited to share this with everyone who is interested, as I believe it is the reason my consulting work has succeeded so consistently with so many different clients regardless of their respective challenges.

We have decided to devote an entire page on the website to explain the intricate and inextricable human sequence that drives all individual and organizational behavior. It is the key to changing outcomes because it focuses first on meaning and definition, literally changing hearts and minds, before it provides solutions and recommends changes.

This is the key: Self-definition drives perception. Perception helps create what something means. We then behave to what we’ve defined, the way we define it.

My work starts in the beginning of this sequence, which I believe distinguishes it from what most consultants provide. Once definitions and meaning shift, people naturally behave according to the new understanding. Trying to change people’s behavior without changing the way they understand things will only bring a modicum of success, or more likely continuing frustration.

To learn more, feel free to check out the page on the Caruso Leadership website: http://www.carusoleadership.com/about/

I am opening up comments for this blog post, as I hope to constantly improve the message. I wish all of you a very happy 2010 – make it an undeniable year!

Sales Tips: Switch to warm calling.

Most sales people I know hate making cold calls as much as any of us hate receiving them. Every year, companies invest millions of dollars on adopting better ways to prospect and sell in a cold calling model. I see cold calling as inefficient, ineffective and outdated.

Tip #5: If you want more bang for your buck on the front end of the sales process, then convert cold calling to warm calling. This is more than just a cute play on words. It is a critical distinction that can yield more business per 100 calls by more than you might believe.

For the sake of simplicity, I will use business-to-business rather than business-to-individuals as examples. The process of cold calling goes something like this: a low-paid phone jockey is given a script and a list of potential customers. They plow through the names and numbers racking up a very small number of successful calls. This is more expensive than most businesses realize because the list of names and numbers the caller was given have often already been vetted and identified to have a high potential for a need for their particular product or service. What a waste of opportunity!

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Sales Tips: Create Sales Opportunities

Tip #4: Turn customer service into sales opportunities.

If you compare the cost of obtaining new customers to the cost of maintaining existing customers, you probably know that it pays to work for a high customer retention rate. If you are pro-actively measuring customer satisfaction and using the information to make improvements and keep clients happy, then I applaud your foresight.

More often than not, however, companies lose more customers due to poor customer service than they gain, which is completely backwards.It reflects a reactive Customer Service team and is frankly bad business.Customer Service Managers should be trained on up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, and should be remunerated for their efforts.They should also be highly aligned with the marketing team to be asking the right questions of their customers and collecting feedback for new product or service opportunities.

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Psychology of the Sale: It’s All About Them

Tip #3: Don’t let your personality get in the way of profit.  The sale is all about them, not you, so tune in to your customer.

What do I mean by this? First of all, it is important to understand that a highly trained sales person tunes into the three elements that occur during the sales process:

  •  Obvious elements: spoken words, body language
  •  Nuanced elements: word choices, the sequence of the process
  •  Invisible elements: the conscious strategies or feelings that drive the verbal and emotional aspects of the communication. I also call this the “why behind the what.”

This heightened awareness of the customer allows the sales person to go beyond creating the rapport that the potential buyer dictates, but further, to sense the fears, attractions, or proclivities that are steering the buyer’s behavior. Armed with this information, the sales person lays out a roadmap, a path of least resistance, to closing the deal: what to sell, how to sell it, and when and how to close it. So a sales person who checks their ego and tunes into the customer gleans powerful knowledge from obvious, nuanced and invisible elements.

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The One That Got Away: Understanding the Psychology of the Sale

Now, more than ever, we have to maximize our sales costs and efforts by doing everything we can to land the sales opportunities we get. Believe it or not, most sales people today are insufficiently trained to do so. It’s not enough to merely know your market, your product and services, and a few sales techniques. Before I will call a salesperson “highly trained”, they have to be able to read the personality style of the potential customer within the first minute of meeting them. Yes,this is possible! Learning how to read and react to the psychology of the sale is the most important training a sales person can have to be highly effective in any economic climate.

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So What’s A Company To Do?

While the prices of some goods and services are lower than we’ve seen them in a long time, don’t let it fool you. Doing business in today’s economy is more expensive and more treacherous than this country has seen in decades.

So what is a business to do? What most businesses are doing is the basic act of reducing overhead and the cost of goods and services. They are operating leaner and asking their people to do more with less. And, because of the high unemployment figures, most of America’s workers are working harder this year for less money.

But this kind of leaner, meaner approach to today’s economic conditions is not going to be enough. “Doing more better” will only allow you the right to keep struggling. The fact is, you can only cut so much and people can only become so productive. So what’s a business to do?

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Company Evolution: Does your company believe in their change or crisis plan?

Recent headlines have shown us that really tough economic times are an equal opportunity event, with the propensity to take out the 800-pound gorilla almost as easily as it can the fairly younger or smaller companies. In fact, sometimes the bigger and more evolved companies have a harder time making the necessary changes in time that would allow them to survive and evolve through the crisis themselves. The good news is that the Seven Missing Links that ensure successful corporate evolution (see my last blog) can be applied by any size organization. It is critical, however, that the evolution or crisis plan is understood and embraced by those who will have to implement it.

While all of the missing links rely on people to make changes and transition, it should be noted that the last link is far from being considered the least link, and should not be underestimated:

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Company Evolution: The Seven Missing Links

Company Evolution, or Stagnation?

“Most businesses get to the top, and stay there, because of their ability to anticipate and respond to change.”

More than half of today’s successful Fortune 500 companies were started during a bear market or a recession, according to a report released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation[1]. No matter when or how your organization started, this study suggests that opportunity indeed exists in difficult economic times, and your organization’s ability to respond to challenging market conditions is paramount to your longevity and success.

When business climates change radically companies can’t afford to merely “redouble their efforts” or “try to do more with less” (two sayings I hear way too often). Radical changes in markets require that companies learn to evolve. Organizations that fail to evolve eventually die out.

What do businesses need to do in order to evolve and survive radical change? Why do some survive and even thrive in tough economic times while others die off?

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Now Is the Time for a Revaluation of Strengths and Weaknesses

I have the opportunity to talk with dozens of organizational leaders every week, and often the topics of strengths and weaknesses will come up.  Lately, I’ve been noticing a theme of denial that I haven’t seen the likes of before.  People are tending to tout and rely on strengths that no longer serve them like they used to as they completely underestimate the costs of their weaknesses.

“Individually and organizationally, we know the value of our strengths much more than we know the costs of our weaknesses.”  — Joe Caruso

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Winning in Today’s Economic Climate

If the world economic crisis is negatively affecting you and/or your business, I have some advice for you…stop worrying about it. There’s next to nothing you can do to fix it, and worrying about it certainly isn’t going to help anything. If you really want to help yourself and your business, there’s another crisis you should be focusing on. It’s one that nobody is talking about and yet nearly everyone is suffering from. It’s also a crisis that you can actually do something about–and by doing so–you can help yourself fare better in these challenging economic times. Believe it or not, it’s called an Identity Crisis.


What does an identity crisis have to do with you, especially during these turbulent economic times? Let’s start by shedding some light on what an identity crisis actually is. Erik Erikson, the ground-breaking developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, said that people experience an identity crisis when they lose “a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity”. Further, only those who fully address this crisis and find a way to see themselves differently and in a way that is more congruent with the new and different world they find themselves in will survive and thrive.

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