“What makes things change-worthy? Sticky? Contagious?” Erin Fischer asked the crowd of students and sales professionals at the 19th Annual Schey Sales Symposium at Ohio University. Fischer, the owner of The Leadership and Training Studio, went on to give attendees six tips on spreading the kind of contagion teams actually want to contract.
Fischer likes to talk about “observable imitation.” She said leaders are the most successful when they show the same kind of behavior they wish employees to demonstrate. Basically, “observable imitation” = walk your talk. “If you want your employees to leave on time, then they need to see you leaving on time,” Fischer told the leaders of the pack. “If it’s important to you that your employees take their vacation time, then you need to take vacation too.” If you want to create and emphasize better work-life balance, and are trying to discourage emailing after hours, then the managers need to stop emailing after hours. If you need your staff to get to work on time, then they must observe their leaders getting to work on time. Fischer said it’s just like wearing the “I voted” stickers. This one little behavior shows that you personally took action and are initiating imitation.
“How can you trigger someone?” she asked. “Through inspiration?” Fischer believes personal inspiration is the key to managing a sales staff more effectively. And do this by making long-term inspiration. “It’s great if you can create short-term inspiration – like losing weight for an upcoming cruise,” Fischer gave as an example. “But it’s even better if you can create long-term inspiration – like losing weight and keeping it off because you want to keep up with your grandkids.” Fischer said managers can create triggers such as allowing jeans on Fridays or having donuts every Friday. Another trigger: the annual review. She recommended turning this one day of dread into a year-long review that is engaging and energizing to each individual instead. She said managers need to make connections with team members and for teams – kind of like how Kit Kat started advertising pairing the candy bar with a cup of coffee (and a break). Kit Kat wants consumers to connect the brand to their coffee breaks – so much so that one can’t be had without the other. Fischer suggests making that kind of connection with your own people.
Most companies try to stay away from emotions. Leadership often regards emotion as risky. Fischer said leaders need to embrace emotion in the workplace in a way that encourages engagement. “People want to feel inspired,” she said. “A change agent is excitement, it’s moving someone, it’s awe, it can even be amusement.” She used Google’s search bar commercial featuring a long-distance relationship from a few years ago to demonstrate the power of emotional connection. And then she showed a series of clips of soldiers returning home and surprising loved ones, which brought the entire room to tears.
Salespeople simply want the basics. They just want to know how to do their jobs well and how to excel within the organization. So give it to them! “People crave the basics,” Fischer said. “Onboard with the basics. Like where the bathroom is, what people usually do for lunch and at what time, when pay day is. Also teach your clients and customers the basics of working with your company, because they want the basics too.”
Use Social Currency
She gave examples of successful social campaigns businesses use to engage customers in their brands. Fischer described how a Burberry Instagram campaign caught on because “regular” people were invited to post photos of themselves wearing the brand’s iconic trench coat, which then might be selected to appear on Burberry’s website.
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to get clients and employees engaged,” Fischer told the audience. It takes a little extra work to help sales staff understand why they are selling what they’re selling, but it’s always worth it.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”