Archive for the ‘Westfall and Associates LLC’ Category

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Your Career Potential

December 3, 2010

For more information on reaching your potential, consider one of the upcoming seminars in Dallas – featuring career management strategies with Chris Westfall.

December 6 – Career Strategies with Chris Westfall, Westfall and Associates LLC

December 17 – Interview techniques with Chris Westfall, Westfall and Associates, LLC

For more information: Contact Chris Westfall at Westfall and Associates, LLC http://westfallonline.com

214.205.4662

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Professional Development Coaching

October 4, 2010

Chris Westfall talks about “what they don’t teach you in business school” (video)

Are you looking for ways to capitalize on the value of your educational experience?

Produced by Your Online Video, Inc. Dallas, TX  http://youronlinevideo.net

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Fixing Alec Baldwin

September 17, 2010

While “Always be closing” makes for some interesting drama, it’s a recipe for disaster in this economy. Real sales strategies don’t come from Hollywood –  so, how about a plan that you can actually use?

Every sales person, every Alec Baldwin fan, maybe everybody who can read and write, knows the slogan, “Always be closing”. That was the message from his character, Blake, in the classic movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross”.  As much as I enjoy Alec Baldwin as a performer, “Always be Closing” is a recipe for disaster in the current economy. I’m seeing a lot of individuals “go for the close” (and fail) when what they really need to know is: how to go for the sale.  While Web 2.0 tools have opened up new ways of communicating and marketing to customers, there’s still a need to get face to face to close a deal.    If that scenario is something you deal with on a daily basis, then read on, MacDuff.

Here’s a little secret that is the one common characteristic of every successful sales engagement, and every successful sales person. The one most important characteristic of sales success isn’t the killer close, or mental toughness, or a strong forceful personality, or…or whatever.

The best salesperson is ALWAYS the one who is in front of a customer who wants to buy what they are selling. Think about it. Finding a customer that’s buying is the secret ingredient. It’s not some slick closing strategy or verbal kung-fu that forces a sale. If you have the talents of a monkey, and a customer that wants to buy what you’ve got, you are going to close a deal… and be able to pick up objects with your feet. Impressive! Qualifying an opportunity has never been more important. And, opportunities are scarce! So, how do you do when it comes to qualifying opportunities?

Based on my experience, the number one thing you can do to help grow your business -especially if your business is the “business of YOU”: learn how to “always be QUALIFYING”, and the transaction will take care of itself.

Are You Qualified to Drink This?
Questions are a great way to approach an opportunity, because of what is implied behind the curiosity. (And I’m not talking about questions like, “If I can drop the price by 2%, will you buy TODAY?!?”) The questions I’m talking about are the kinds that yield results – a series of “yes” answers that helps you to clearly define the customers needs. Your concern, your caring, your experience, your product knowledge all are conveyed …indirectly. It’s a style shift, and it can be subtle, but the results are huge. The message behind the message is that you are genuinely concerned about the customer’s concerns – and, quite frankly, the mutual fit for your agendas. You go from “telling and selling” to helping your customer to solve a problem. As you help to identify their needs, you tailor your services and solutions for what they want, not just what you can do. The best person to articulate customer needs is always the customer. If there’s no need, there’s no sale.

Of course, there are many more aspects of qualification. What’s the budget? How did you hear about me/my company/my gorilla-like reflexes, etc.? Have you ever seen/used/owned equipment like this before? What is the salary for this position? Etc. etc. All important questions, and all must be asked as part of the needs identification and implementation phase.

You still have to ask for the business. But closing is just the final step in the qualifying process. First, make sure that you’ve got a qualified customer that’s come forward with some real clear needs, and you are almost home. With all due respect to Alec Baldwin, remember to “always be qualifying”… unless, of course, all you want to end up with is a set of steak knives.

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What CEOs Really Want

September 14, 2010

Click the image to see more on this report

Recently, IBM surveyed over 1500 CEOs, to find out their most pressing challenges.  The complexity of the worldwide markets, combined with an increased rate of change, were the top remarks.  In attempting to deal with the challenges of the current economy, business leaders cited one quality above all others that can help employees to make a difference.

Surprisingly, the most-desired quality or characteristic was not technical competence.  It wasn’t loyalty, or communication skills, or financial acumen.  The number-one most important characteristic for business leaders?  Creativity.

Surprising, when you consider the traditional definitions of creativity.  For “creatives”, that word is used as both a description, and an excuse (Ever heard this one? “We can’t/won’t/don’t do that, we’re ‘creative'”).  Under careful consideration, “being creative” is not always a positive and encouraging description.  Where do you find “creative” accountants, for example?  Answer: Jail.

For financial professionals, project managers, executives and other task- or numbers-oriented individuals, the call for creativity seems quite contrary to the training and experiences that form the very foundation of the business world.  “Creative” is a department, or a compartment, reserved for individuals with unique talents that are not particularly commonplace in shipping, accounts payable, or operations.  So, “creativity” is rare, shapeless, often negative, potentially dangerous and certainly counter-intuitive.  Has IBM generated a survey that appeals for an artsy-craftsy approach to business?  Or is there a deeper meaning that this author has carefully chosen to ignore, in an attempt to roll out a few one-liners? (Ah, you caught me….)  This survey actually says that it is time for creativity to turn this economy around.

Creativity, in the context of business, means the power of creation.  Creativity is the way that we harness our imagination to disrupt the status quo, and find new solutions to the same old problems. The global leaders in the IBM survey seek creative solutions to experiment and innovate.  The leaders in the survey identify creativity as the antidote for the status quo, and central to the necessary disruption that is required for our collective marketplace to get unstuck.

CEOs are looking for ways to shake up their portfolios, their business models, and their old ways of addressing challenges in the marketplace.

Business leaders expect complexity to increase, and the need for disruption to follow (perhaps even lead) the advancement.  Creativity is needed, above all else, in order to innovate and lead through this current financial climate.  Why?  Because business must create a new future.  That future must build on the present, but in new and meaningful ways – ways that can only be described as “creative”, because they haven’t been created yet!

Creativity means many things, but at its core, the process of creation begins with an idea.  Based on current information, “what if?” opens the door to imagination – and new solutions can only come from within the realm of new ideas.  As the economy continues to churn and struggle, the leaders of tomorrow are the ones who are open to new concepts, new perspectives and new solutions.  Seeing things as they are is an important skill (awareness), but seeing things as they could be – and then making them that way – well, that takes some creativity.  Don’t you agree?

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“I Only Want the Toughest Customers…”

August 30, 2010

Asking for the toughest customers is like trying to pet a shark, or date a nun – you instantly know that it won’t end up well, so why ask for it? I was out to dinner last night with my friend, BigTime. Surprisingly, he let me know that he only wants the toughest customers. Say what–?

My friend is one of the best salespeople I know – he deals with an ultra-elite clientele in the Big Apple. This guy specializes in the demands of high-net-worth individuals with a skill that is both rare, and easygoing.

His customer logic goes like this: I want only the most difficult customers because, if they even think of shopping me with competitors, I will win every time. The toughest customers will chew up my competition, and disqualify them right out of the gate, because that’s the kind of service and solutions that my company can provide. He’s looking for the clients who are so tough and so demanding that other service providers get scared by their demands, and struggle to prove they can meet them. It’s not a problem for BigTime, and that’s the way he knows a qualified lead.

Also Big Time: Lincoln Center

Interesting perspective. We bounced the idea around some more, and I came away with some additional thoughts.

  1. If you are faced with a tough customer, thank them for helping you to be better. The best antidote for attitude is gratitude (apologies for the terrible rhyme, please judge my ideas – not my poems).
  2. If you are taking a beating over something you did, or your company did, or you are about to do, I have two words of advice: don’t duck.
  3. Here are six more: Face it, take it, fix it. It’s that simple.

Face up to the challenge of the difficult customer, and you will learn what it is that you need to know. For BigTime, he always looks forward to the toughest possible client as the greatest opportunity. He knows that he can offer what others cannot, that’s why he’s BigTime. A demanding client, in his business, means that the competition is out of the mix. The best way to defeat your competition is unequaled customer service. Disqualify your competition by being the one who doesn’t duck the tough stuff. When you resolve the really scary issues, you learn, you grow, and you create customers for life. The only way to know if you have what it takes, is to get started. If you’d like one suggestion on what you could do today, make up your mind to astonish the most difficult customer you know (and yes, the people you work with are internal customers). What can you do to make a difference, and show that when it comes to customer service, you are BigTime?

Difficult times show us what we are made of; difficult customers force us to be better and help our companies to demonstrate competitive advantage.

[ The names in this post have been changed to protect the guilty 😉 ]

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You’ve Made Contact: Now What?

August 27, 2010

New to the game of networking?  MBAs often find themselves holding a stack of business cards but still feeling empty-handed. Sound familiar? Here are some ideas on what to do with a networking contact to get the results you need. Specifically, I’d like to share some strategies I’ve used to create emails that get answers. Networking to the next level requires some clear strategy – especially in this economy.

“Time to Talk?”

That’s the subject of your next email, the one you’ve been wanting to send to your newest VIP contact. “Time to Talk?” is open-ended and non-threatening. It could mean, “Do you have time to talk?” Or, “Is there a time when we could talk?” or even, “Look, it’s time to talk!” The response to that question is, under any interpretation:

“Talk about what?”

Question and response. Hmmm…. you just started a dialogue. The objective of your email is to generate interest, and ultimately, a response. I assume you have something you would like to know about? If you are seeking a new opportunity, you need to approach this message with a clear idea in mind. The objective is to secure a conversation to discuss your idea, and that’s why you need a “time to talk”.

Mrs. Elvis Costello - click on image for more info

“I know a little bit, about a lot of things, but I don’t know enough about you.” -Diana Krall

An initial networking contact is a quest for information. So many folks misinterpret Steven Covey, and begin with the end in mind…instead of seeking first to understand, than to be understood. If your opener is, “So, do you want to buy some of my stuff? Are you the decision-maker? [or even worse] Do you have a job? Do you know someone who has a job?” Yikes, Gunga Din. It’s probably not “time to talk”. My magic will not work for you.

Ask a question before its time, and you will get the wrong answer. It takes time to earn the right to advance, and a time to talk is step 1. Have you proven that this company is a good customer, or somewhere that you want to work? Do you know that your contact is the sole decision maker? Even if your answer is “yes”, you still need to confirm that theory. And you need to know that there is interest in you discussing your personal value proposition before you share it. Come to your contact with a demonstrated knowledge of their business or situation, and ask them to confirm/deny or elaborate on a specific idea or theory.

Confirm/Deny/Elaborate

After a brief one sentence introduction about where you met or how you were referred, you want to identify why you are writing. As you define your purpose (seeking information about a particular topic) ask you contact to confirm/deny/or elaborate on your theme – it must be a specific concept that could help his/her business, or a specific question about the processes within the company. (email me if you want some specific ideas) Your topic should demonstrate a specific knowledge of the company, but require clarification from your contact. After all, you have to have something of value for your contact to confirm/deny/elaborate on. Clear details on a specific question will create trust, and establish you as someone who does their homework. Suggest a time to talk, and offer a specific time when you will follow-up. Stick to your plan and follow up when you say you will – if they haven’t contacted you first.

Demonstrate a knowledge of your subject and request confirmation in a brief (less than 20 minute!) conversation. Stay on topic, gather the information you need, and take that next step.

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The Right Way to Say Goodbye

August 25, 2010

Recently, a business partner who I respect was given an abrupt boot by a manufacturer.  Essentially, the manufacturer “fired” their business, due to lack of performance.  Despite a long history, numbers were down, and a one-sided decision was made to end the relationship. In this economy, there’s a lot more good-byes than good buys, and that conversation is always a difficult one.  Yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle this most difficult and final transaction.  Parting ways with a supplier, vendor or employee is never pleasant, but sometimes necessary.  For executive leaders, it’s not a conversation you have via email, text message or registered letter.

And yes, my friend John recently received a registered letter.  It was his first communication in nine months, and yes, it was a “Dear John” letter.  Is it right for a manufacturer and business partner to simply say goodbye, without as much as a conversation?  In a word, no.

Parting ways is the most difficult kind of conversation, because it always ends with one party wishing for a different outcome.  Even if the decision is a mutual one, and clearly a necessary move for both parties, there is still a sense of regret.  Here are three steps to make sure that the process goes through with dignity for those involved:

  1. Have the conversation – So, a letter (even a registered letter) is not satisfactory.  Painful as it may be, you have to show up for this appointment.  Out of respect for the (business partner, vendor, employee) you should look someone in the eye when you say goodbye.  The phone call is the next best thing, but second place is a looooong way from best practices.  It’s important to say, in person, that the relationship matters, even though it has come to a close.  Life is short and the world can be very small at times – you never know when your paths may cross again.  Face to face is the best way for closure.
  2. Explanations don’t help – Arguing a point after a decision has been made is moot.   When you hear ‘goodbye’, it is a wake-up call for change.  But turning your attention to the future is easier said than done, when you receive difficult news.   On the other side of the table, explaining a decision has little effect; after it has been made, it’s best for both parties to move on.  Still, out of respect for the past, a conversation is the least you can provide.  But ultimately, on both sides of the table: Whether you are seeking an explanation, or offering one, does it really matter?  OK, if it’s possible to take emotions out of the equation: does it really matter?  Rationalizations are not germane to the conversation; but respect and dignity for both parties must be maintained.  The decision is, by nature, one-sided and unilateral – delivering it  in person is the best way to dignify the relationship and the individuals involved.
  3. Anger is a natural reaction – “All progress is change, but not all change is progress” my friend Dean Lindsay likes to say.  Terminating a business relationship is a major change, and causes stress, challenge, and anger –  and all of that happens before, during, and after the decision.  Saying goodbye is a form of progress, but it can feel more like a punch in the stomach.  Or a kick in your favorite glands. There’s no way around it; anger will be in the room.  Best you can do is prepare for it, acknowledge it, and move on…in spite of it.