Healthy Marriages Make for Good Business

annie-spratt-wgivdx9dBdQ-unsplashThere’s an old saying: if momma’s not happy, nobody’s happy. If you applied this concept in the workplace, you might say if a spouse isn’t happy, their boss and colleagues may not be happy. Would you agree? If you’re married or ever been in a serious relationship, think about how productive you were the day after a fight or disagreement? Have you ever suffered from chronic marriage fatigue and realized how it sapped your energy at work? Now think about the times when your marriage or relationships were on cloud nine. I bet you did some of your best work: fast, efficient, and high quality. You probably even got more praise and positive feedback from your boss and colleagues.

Productivity Stats

Marital and relationship problems divide employees’ attention, because it’s hard to focus on work when your marriage isn’t well (Patrick, 2019). Bowcott (2015) found that 9% of employees left their job because of a divorce or separation, and 15% of survey respondents said separation and divorce negatively impacted productivity. On the other hand, studies show that increased happiness on the job translates into upwards of 20% higher productivity (Addady, 2015), and strong marriages do just that—contribute to employees’ happiness.

The Missing Piece: Social Wellness Program

Employers commonly provide for their employees’ well-being by offering them health insurance, so they can get the treatment they need and get back to work quickly. Companies also encourage employees to take advantage of preventative health initiatives, and some even offer free or discounted gym memberships as part of promoting wellness. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are more common for those employees who need support for a personal crisis. Why do companies offer these services? Because it makes good business sense. Get employees the help they need, so they can be more productive.

Perhaps it’s been you or someone you know who’s been physically present in the office but mentally checked out or at best distracted. What’s got the employee mentally consumed? Troubles with a partner relationship? If companies are financially motivated to help employees be more productive, what’s missing from the equation? I propose a social wellness program (SWP). Companies could improve their bottom line by offering their employees coaching services to strengthen specific areas of life. A SWP could act like an EAP plan, where employees get a maximum number of coaching sessions per year.

“It’s just good business for a company to offer marriage or relationship coaching for its employees.” — Sandra Dillon

The Case for Coaching

Happier marriages mean more productive employees. How do I support this claim? By the research and my own client stories. As a business coach, I’ve worked with a number of clients on work-related performance goals, which later led into marriage coaching with the coachee and his or her spouse. Having coached these couples on marriage visioning, missioning, personality and gender preferences, financial stewardship, love/respect, communication, and conflict resolution, I’ve seen firsthand how a stronger and happier marriage has translated into higher job performance and career development.

Let’s be clear—coaching isn’t counseling. Counseling is covered by your health insurance or EAP. Coaching on the other hand allows people to help themselves and their marriages.

Next Steps

If you have the responsibility and accountability to help your employees, will you offer marriage coaching to your team? If you’re a small business owner, will you pay for a few marriage coaching sessions, so your employees can be more productive? It’s just makes good business sense!

If you’re an individual who doesn’t have employee access to coaching, will you find a coach who can help you strengthen your marriage? Ultimately, we are all 100% responsible for 50% of any relationship, and the responsibility to do better resides within each one of us.


References

Addady, M. (2015). Study: Being happy at work really makes you more productive. Retrieved from https://fortune.com/2015/10/29/happy-productivity-work/

Bowcott, O. (2014). Relationship breakdowns have negative impact on business. productivity. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/26/relationship-breakdowns-business-productivity-employees-divorce-separation

Patrick, M. (2019). Top problems that affect employee productivity. Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/top-problems-affect-employee-productivity-17947.html


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, business consulting, and marriage coaching. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting www.shinecrossings.com

 

Assess Yourself on 13 Critical Selling Activities

Sales DialYou may have read or heard of the book Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Many people don’t appreciate the difference between negotiating and selling with some thinking that selling is telling customers why they should buy, highlighting the features, benefits, and great value, whereas negotiating is the fine art of coming to an agreement on terms. I propose that selling is a process that encompasses 13 activities that drive customers to say “yes” over and over again and is much bigger than negotiating.

All sales people have limitations in their selling abilities and strengths. Even if they’re strong in most areas, they only have 24 hours in a day like everyone else. What salespeople should understand are the critical factors for selling success, self-evaluating themselves across those parameters, and finding ways to cover weaknesses within the defined boundaries of work-life balance. Those 13 critical selling activities are:

  1. Defining the competitive landscape
  2. Prospecting
  3. Qualifying leads/customers
  4. Planning calls
  5. Building relationships
  6. Identifying customer needs
  7. Presenting value
  8. Managing customers objections
  9. Negotiating
  10. Closing the sale
  11. Managing accounts
  12. Managing sales portfolio
  13. Developing a customer pipeline

Sometimes a sales coach can provide perspective and tools to organize, prioritize, and help strengthen these selling areas. Sales coaches can be a resource in brainstorming techniques in specific sales situations and markets. They can help you self-assess your impact and work as a partner toward improving skills while providing a non-biased and safe relationship. Dial in your sales success by investing in a sales coach.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business coaching. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Negotiation: What Questions Are You Asking? And Why?

questions

I’m a business, sales, and leadership coach, so I ask a lot of questions. Why? Because it’s my profession, and I get paid to ask questions. In all seriousness, I find people spend more time assuming, telling, and trying to convince as opposed to asking the right questions. You might ask, “Would you tell me more?” If so, you’re now getting the hang of it.

What do questions have to do with good negotiating? Their value is delivered in the answers, the insights and information, the other person shares that helps your negotiation strategy.

What are good questions to ask? There are different types appropriate for different stages of the negotiating process. General open-ended questions give you valuable information, because they allow the other party to express his or her opinions.

  1. What’s been your experience with…[insert product, service, supplier, etc.]?
  2. What do you think of…?
  3. How do you feel about…?

Depending on the answers, you may follow with more direct questions to pinpoint specific information such as dates, money, etc. These questions may include:

  1. Who is involved in the decision-making process?
  2. When will the decision be made?
  3. What budget range did you have for this project?

The conversation can be brought full circle when you use paraphrasing questions that help ensure agreement in your understanding.

  1. You believe you could decide by [insert date], if I provide the product specifications and price by [insert date]?
  2. You could issue a purchase order, if our price proposal was in the [insert price range]?
  3. You believe the product will work in this application, if we can get it to [insert performance criteria]?

Questions are powerful tools to help the negotiating process move forward. I’ve observed some salespeople make a pitch, pause, and wait for the customer to say something without a question even being asked.

If asking questions is not one of your refined skills or in your comfort zone, try practicing in other areas of your life and let it carry over into your work. Go to a party, introduce yourself to people you don’t know, and make a point to ask questions. Use the 80/20 rule. Use 80% of your words for asking questions and only 20% for answering someone else’s questions.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

What Role Do Men Have in Women’s Movements?

D&I 2

Today’s business world flutters with the buzzword of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). Based on my career experience as a female chemical engineer coming of age in the early 1980’s, I have a few thoughts on this topic. Today’s D&I movement is gaining momentum, likely due to the MeToo movement, and I’m thankful some attention has been directed toward this issue. D&I affects everyone—men, women, and people of all ages and ethnicities; however, I’m not convinced we’re solving the problem, because we’re not including the right people in the conversation.

What I see in many male-dominated industries is the formation of all-female groups chartered to bring awareness, support, and advancement of more qualified women at all levels. This single approach appears not to fully embrace diversity and inclusion, because its gender stratification creates silos of women within a predominantly male population. I believe these all-women groups have the best intentions and do provide internal support for its members, yet likely they have minimal impact in changing the status quo.

Human studies show people don’t care as much or are as committed to a cause if they aren’t invited to participate and included in the dialogue. Men are a vital part of growing D&I in male-dominated industries, because they can be called upon to make changes through their decisions as opposed to watching all-female groups from the sidelines who are grappling with this initiative.

If you’re part of an all-female group wanting to hold greater presence and power in a predominantly all-male industry, I encourage you to invite men into your organization. Ask for their support. Ask men to contribute in measurable ways. Challenge them to be part of the change. Don’t hold one more meeting without experiencing what men can and want to contribute to your cause.

What happens when you turn away men’s support? I share a male colleague’s story regarding his experience with D&I. Joe [not his real name] works in a male-dominated industry. Sanctioned by the national industry association, a local women’s chapter was formed with the purpose of advancing and promoting women in his industry. Joe learned of an upcoming chapter lunch and assumed anyone was welcome. He re-scheduled a few meetings to attend this lunch. At the last minute, he asked for the location details and was told he was not allowed to attend, because it was for women only. This women’s group lost out, because Joe’s stature in the industry would have given its charter credibility and influence. Joe was turned away.

How successful do you believe this women’s chapter will be in advancing its charter? My guess is it will struggle to get traction and may eventually morph into a women’s social networking group as opposed as to a force to create change. I encourage women’s groups to practice inclusion and diversity in order to live out what they seek out.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Sales Negotiation: How to Close the Deal

shaking hands 3

If you’ve read Sales Negotiation: Set Yourself Up for Success and Sales Negotiation: Action Strategies, you should have some powerful tools to successfully negotiate your next contract or purchase. However, the best negotiators don’t stop when the handshake closes the deal. They leave the other party feeling like he or she was a strong negotiator who got the best deal out of you.

Have you ever negotiated for a souvenir in a third world market and wondered whether the seller would have taken less than you paid even though you were comfortable with the price you paid? People want validation that they made a wise decision regardless of its price. It doesn’t matter whether the item was a trinket or a car. This human need drives many people to continue comparison shopping after they’ve agreed to a deal and can’t back out.

As a best-in-class negotiator, you want the other party to believe he or she struck a good deal and that you wouldn’t have settled for anything less. Why should this be a priority? You never know when you might have to negotiate with them again, and besides, it’s just the right thing to do—leaving them with peace and confidence in the outcome. Below are a few remarks you can share when you ink the deal.

  • I’m glad we could strike a deal. I have to say that you’re one of the toughest negotiators I’ve dealt with in a long time.
  • You negotiated well. I wasn’t planning on giving away so much.
  • You drove a hard bargain. I hope I don’t have to negotiate with you again.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Sales Negotiation: Action Strategies

negotiation-skills1

Few want to play a game they have no chance of winning, and the same concept holds true for negotiating. Most people dread situations that require them to negotiate for a salary or even a purchase; hence, the opportunity for the likes of Saturn, the car manufacturer, to successfully enter the car market by offering a firm sticker price.

For those who find themselves unable to avoid negotiation, don’t fret, because you can improve their negotiation skills—perhaps to the point you believe negotiating is fun. I share some strategies for when you find yourself in the thick of it.

Key Negotiation Strategies

In the business world, negotiation is about finding common ground that is acceptable to both parties. I have a lawyer friend who once said, “A good deal is when both parties strike a deal in which each is just mildly disgruntled with the outcome.” I interpreted this to mean both got most of what they wanted but wished they’d gotten more. If you want to strike a deal and get more, keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Check your bravado and intelligence at the door. This is code for play dumb, so the other party underestimates you and comes to the negotiating table less prepared. Have you read Sales Negotiation: Set Yourself Up for Success?
  2. Always agree with people. Agreement always keeps the negotiation moving and allows you the opportunity to redirect the discussion toward what you want. For example, you are a new car salesman and have explicit instructions not to sell a car for less than $30,000. You have an interested buyer who tells you he can’t pay a penny more than $28,000. What do you say? Instead of responding, “Sorry, but I couldn’t possibly sell it for less than $30,000,” you might consider saying, “Since you are interested in the car, I’m motivated to find a way to get you into the car today at a price you are comfortable and can afford.” This can be followed with a series of questions that allows one to understand why the limit and how to work around it with other options such as lease, car trade-in, extended payment terms, etc. You want to avoid putting the other party on the defensive.
  3. Flinch at the first offer. When people are put into the position of making the first offer, they are attuned to watch for a reaction as a means of gauging whether their offer was good or not so good. Regardless of whether the offer meets your expectations, make sure you flinch—indicating that it is far from what you expected. This signal of your body language will notify the other party he or she must come lower if you’re going to make a deal.
  4. Position yourself to account to a higher authority. Most salespeople want permission to negotiate a deal from beginning to end without having to check back with management. Although you may have the skills to negotiate the best deal, you shouldn’t underestimate the value in saying, “I’ll have to go back and check with my manager. I’m not sure he’ll agree with it, but I will fight for you.” Indicating you need to check in with leadership puts more pressure on the other party to concede and allows you to play the infamous good cop/bad. Taking a pause also helps you gain perspective before continuing the negotiations.

I know some people who seem to negotiate everything. Negotiation is not for every situation. As a servant leader, I frequently give away what I could have easily negotiated. I think of it as an offering of good will and relationship building. Because these strategies are powerful, the best leaders know when to hold them and when to fold them.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Salary Negotiation: How to Avoid Divulging Your Current Salary

salary 1

Although I recognize that some employers and employees take advantage of each other, I’m passionate about fair pay for fair work. In the case of fair pay, the negotiating advantage usually goes to businesses, because they routinely have access to knowledge that employees don’t such as (1) what others in the organization are paid for similar work and (2) industry compensation data. Hence, it’s no surprise that many of my career coaching clients are anxious and frustrated by the thought of negotiating a salary with a new employer. They dread the thought of being asked what they currently make, believing their current salary shouldn’t have any bearing on what the new employer offers and unsure how to handle that question.

Although company culture, benefits, career advancement, commute, working from home options, and other attributes factor into a decision to join a new company, most employers try to offer prospects just enough pay increase to entice them to resign and work for them. Over the years, the workforce has come to expect offers that are 10-15% more than what a candidate currently makes regardless of whether he is underpaid for his given responsibilities and performance.

During the hiring process, prospective employers are keen to understand the current salary of job applicants in order to shape their offers. Although I understand businesses are driven to minimize labor costs, I believe it’s short-sighted to underpay candidates, who may take the job out of necessity and still feel taken advantage of.  For candidates who don’t want to divulge their salary, there are conversation strategies that can help.

Salary Expectation Conversation

Employer: “What salary are you expecting for this job?”

Candidate: “I’m only expecting to be competitively paid for the job responsibilities? What range have you earmarked for this position?”

Employer: “We have some flexibility for the right candidate. What do you make today?’

Candidate: “I’m seriously interested in the position and glad to hear you have flexibility. I don’t have access to the most recent competitive salaries like you do, so what range are you prepared to offer for the right candidate?”

Or how about ….

Salary Offer Conversation

Employer: “How much are you currently making?”

Candidate: “I’m curious. Why do you need this information?”

Employer: “We need the information, so we can make you a job offer?”

Candidate: “I’m confused how my current salary is relevant to the compensation for this job? I’d welcome an offer. What are you be willing to pay for the job responsibilities and performance criteria we discussed?”

You’ll notice in both scenarios that the candidate answered each question with a question. These two conversations can be difficult for candidates, who don’t believe they hold power in the negotiation. Don’t be fooled. Businesses are desperate for good talent. If you know you are a performer, you hold more power at the negotiating table than you might think.

If you’d like to strategize on a salary negotiation for a new position or more pay for additional responsibilities at your current company, let’s schedule a coaching session. You can reach out to me at 281.793.3741 or coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Sales Negotiation: Set Yourself Up for Success

negotiation 1

The 80/20 rules applies to many situations and negotiation may be no exception. Sales negotiation can be thought of as a three-step process: (1) preparation, (2) engagement, and (3) deal agreement. Some people may say that 80% of negotiation success is in the preparation, which may or may not be overstated. However, it does beg the question: what are you doing to set yourself for success before going into a negotiation?

Key Negotiation Prep Factors

Although the objective of a negotiation should be to reach a win-win, it pays to be smart, and smart usually means being prepared. In my business tenure, I’ve negotiated long-term deals that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, so I know a few things about negotiating, including some learned the hard way—through the experience of trial and error. I do believe success is heavily influenced by the degree of preparation and a few of my favorite preps include:

  1. Be prepared to walk away. The only way that most negotiators are prepared to walk away is if they know their drop-dead minimum and why it’s their drop-dead. Is it margin, risk, or some other variable? What’s the alternative value of the resources or asset utilization? Many people think they have a minimum position, but when the negotiating gets intense, the minimum usually moves to a lower position. When negotiators have thoroughly thought out their position, the minimum doesn’t move, and it becomes easier to confidently walk away.
  2. Brainstorm things to offer and concede. When entering into a negotiation, people aren’t necessarily wanting the same thing nor assigning the same priority to certain items. Knowing that a negotiation will likely mean trading off and giving positions to the other party, a savvy negotiator will make a list of things to ask for that can easily be conceded, because they don’t hold much value.
  3. Position yourself so you don’t make the first offer. The party that makes the first offer takes on more risk of leaving value on the table. Is the first offer significantly below what the other party was willing to pay? On the other hand, if the first offerer asks for too much, he could position himself out of the negotiation. Always think of a strategy and questions to ask that will get the other party to make the first offer. If asked to make the first offer, an experienced negotiator will answer with a question that puts the other into a position of offering first.

Many people are at least slightly intimidated by the negotiating process. What many don’t realize is they are negotiating daily with their coworkers, boss, family, friends, and kids. Any time you got your way, you negotiated. Negotiation is a skill and just like a muscle can be strengthened when intentionally exercised.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Where Are Your Best Conversations?

ConversationsYou’ve likely heard the real estate advice that the three most important factors in deciding which home to buy are location, location, and location. In Bob Goff’s book Everybody Always he discusses the impact that location can have on the quality of our conversations with people. He asserts that “location drives content, [and] if you have the right conversation at the right place, you just had the right conversation” (Goff, 2018, p. 182).

Reflecting on this concept, perhaps I should emphasize more the location where I coach, do ministry, and have work-related conversations. Perhaps I should be as choosy in where I have a conversation as I am on what we plan to discuss. Location can calm or excite, stimulate creativity, or increase nervousness. Next time you plan a meeting or conversation, select a location that supports what you want to achieve. If you’re limited on venues, how else could you change the environment to make it more conducive to the conversation?

I know a salesman who loves to bring a variety of ice creams to his customer meetings held in formal conference rooms when he wants to break the ice and have fun. He stores a freezer bag in his trunk and stops at the local grocery store to pick up Nutty Buddies, Klondike bars, and Good Humor variety packs. He delights when his customers struggle on what colorful ice cream goodie they want and reminisce about the last time they had a Strawberry Shortcake on a stick as they lick their ice cream. You get the picture. He has everyone sharing stories and smiling—creating connection in the room—countering the formalness of the location.

Bob Goff has a lot of creative conversations, so where do you think he holds office hours? Read the book and find out.

Reference

Goff, B. (2018). Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

What’s Your Story? How Well Does It Sell?

storytelling storyselling

Who doesn’t like a good story? When you think of the times you were most wrapped up in a conversation, I’d bet you were listening intently to someone unfolding a good story. Why? Because a good story connects people like a common and universal language.

The power of a good story was brought home while I was reading Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. The book focuses on why developing a story that puts the customer as the hero of his/her own story is a powerful marketing strategy. Miller (2017) shares that every successful story has specific elements and events: (1) a character, (2) a problem, (3) character meets guide, (4) guide gives plan, (5) character is inspired to action, and (6) success results or failure is avoided. Blockbusters have proved this theme to be true over and over again as exemplified in such movies as Star Wars and Hunger Games.

What makes for a good story? A good story answers three specific questions: (1) What the hero wants? (2) Who or what is opposing the hero of getting it? and (3) What the hero’s life will look like if he or she gets it? If you’re marketing your business, you need to answer those questions and answer them fast with the least amount of noise.

Miller (2017) asserts that successful businesses have developed websites and marketing materials that within 5 seconds of looking at them, potential customers can answer:

  • What the business offers?
  • How the product or service will make their life better?
  • What they need to do to buy it?

How do your marketing materials stand up to the storyline test? Do they clearly and succinctly communicate what problem you solve and the impact to the customer? Do they challenge the customer to act? If the answer is not a resounding “yes” to all these questions, perhaps you should revamp your marketing and advertising. You’ll be happy you did but be forewarned that making these changes will be harder than you think. Most people are not conditioned to think in this way when designing marketing materials.

Reference

Miller, D. (2017). Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. Nashville, TN: HarperCollins.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com