2015 Women’s Business Leadership Forum Summary

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ASPPA’s 2015 Women Business Leaders Forum wrapped up last week in Charleston, South Carolina. The focus at this year’s forum was on communications, and how the position you’re in, whether you’re talking to your own employee or a prospective client, directly affects the message you’re sending. Below, I have summarized a few of my takeaways and the lessons I hope to put into practice.

Gail Alofsin, the first in the all-star lineup of speakers, covered the power of negotiation. Negotiation, according to Gail, is most powerful when you are genuinely interested in building a partnership and communicating what’s truly “in it for them.” To do this, you must first hone your communication and listening skills.

People pay attention to your personal brand. Your brand is not what you think of yourself, but what people think of you. So, how do you and your employees communicate your brand or what you’re offering? 55% of our communication is body language, 38% is tone and only 7% of communication happens in words. If your primary communication avenue is email, you may be losing 93% of communication, and missing out on your opportunity to listen.

By scheduling meetings or lunch and learns and listening, by writing things down instead of interrupting, you can find your client’s true interests, wants or needs.

“To be interesting, be interested” goes along with another important point Gail made. Involving yourself in the community and attending events WITHOUT talking about business, you show up in the community as more than a business owner and you can make yourself available to new verticals at the same time.

Todd Cohen, our keynote speaker, discussed building a successful sales culture. The key, Todd said, is to take advantage of every day interactions. Each interaction is a selling moment. Each person you employ can be a sales person for you and every conversation they have is an opportunity to sell.

When you first meet someone, the most common question they’ll ask you is “what do you do?” During first impressions, people are making decisions on you in 11 seconds. How do you make a lasting impression in so little time, and with such a broad question? More importantly, what kind of impression are your employees making when asked what they do for a living? If they don’t understand that what they do counts, their impression will be minimal and possibly even negative. Assure each of your employees understands how their job affects customer experience.

Thinking differently about what we do builds a sales culture. What we do is help the customer, and help the client say yes. Instead of changing what you do, change the way you think about it. Once an employee understands their role in customer experience, they can help to paint the picture of how your business (and what they do) impacts the client’s business.

What kills sales culture, and, by association, sales? Apologizing for selling, being complacent in sales and assuming that because your job is outside of sales or seems small to you, it’s irrelevant. To combat this way of thinking, assure everyone in your company has a view into the company and how they help. Give them transparency and they have a platform to sell from.

Deborah Bright, our second Wednesday speaker, covered the positive power of criticism. Have you ever offered a critique to a friend only to have it blow up in your face? That’s most likely because no one’s ever given you any kind of training on how to provide criticism. Even when it’s the most well-meaning critique, criticism isn’t easy to receive, and it’s even harder to deliver correctly.

According to Dr. Bright, criticism should serve the purpose of helping someone learn and grow, personally or professionally, or to push them toward a goal. The most important step in offering a critique is to get the receiver to want to change. To do this, think before you speak. Assess the message you’re sending. Also, know how to approach the receiver. Remember what I mentioned about language being mostly body language and tone? That especially applies here.

Also, know what result you want to see. If you don’t have a goal in mind, your message may be diminished.

The final speaker, Ron Baker, started an interesting conversation on buying decisions and profitability. When pricing a product or service, there are two laws to follow in the value of pricing. The first is that value is subjective and determined by the customer. The second is that prices are contextual, and based on what we are comparing them to.

As far as the steps to get you there, you have to start the conversation with your current customers to find out what’s valuable to them, and what that value looks like in terms of dollar amount. Price according to the customer, not the service, and provide options. If a customer has options to choose from, the conversation turns from “if I choose to do business with you” to “how I choose to do business with you.” Assure your presentation of those options is effective and once you have set your prices for your options, ask for it up front.

Overall, the forum was a huge success and each speaker brought a smart and savvy presentation to the table. At this link, you will find some of the round table questions associated with each speaker’s topic. Let’s keep the conversation going!

If you’d like more details on the forum or the discussions, email us at shannon@tristarpension.com

Can’t wait until next year!

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