Blog Articles

How to get to the gym

Two of my friends have made resolutions to go to the gym regularly in 2017.

One of them, let’s say Sam, has been a member of a gym for 2 years but seldom attends as it’s too far from his route between home and work. He has committed to go more often this year.

The other, let’s say Lucy, has had exactly the same issue. She has now committed to clear targets, to improve her general fitness and to train for some competitive runs throughout the year. She has joined a different gym, closer to home. She has taken on a personal trainer who has designed an exercise routine which she enjoys and which will help her achieve her goals. Her trainer will meet her regularly throughout the year.

So, who stands the better chance of success?

Our experience of changing behaviours suggests that Lucy has taken some key steps that will give her a much higher chance of sticking to her resolution. In particular:

  • she is likely to be highly engaged in making this change as it is clearly linked to a wider set of personal goals
  • she has identified and removed some of the ‘blockers’ that might get in the way, for example by joining a different gym
  • she has developed a ‘solution’ that is relevant and practical and enjoyable
  • by setting up regular meetings with a personal trainer throughout the year she has put a programme in place to ‘embed’ the changes that she’s looking to achieve

Your business plans for 2017 probably require your teams and managers to behave differently in some way. Maybe to present a different proposition, or to engage differently with customers, or just to sell more effectively.

The same lessons will apply.

Changing behaviour is about much more than making commitments or just training new skills. Your people will need to be highly engaged and understand exactly what is happening, why and how it will benefit them. Barriers need to be identified and addressed. The ‘solution’ needs to be tailored and relevant. And, most importantly in our experience, there needs to be a programme in place to embed new behaviours and prevent people from drifting back to ‘old ways.’

If you want to change behaviours, start a conversation with us…

7 steps to changing your team

The chances are that your company is currently going through some change that will require your teams to interact differently with customers or colleagues.

For example, an insurance company or mortgage lender that moves into more complex and higher risk markets may need their underwriters to ask more searching questions or to negotiate more effectively. A company experiencing increased price competition may want to focus much more on customer service as a differentiator.

So, as a leader, how can you ensure that your teams adopt the new skills and behaviours that are required?

We’ve helped many organisations to successfully transform the way in which their teams behave, and from our experience there are 7 key steps that leaders should take:

1.) Be clear on exactly what you’re trying to achieve as a business. People are more likely to change if they see a clear business case, with clear and measurable outcomes.

2.) Identify the specific behaviours that are required in order to deliver those outcomes.

3.) Explain exactly what happens next and why. Change is less threatening if everyone understands the plan, what they need to do and the benefits to them and to the business.

4.) Take some time to analyse how your teams currently behave. Identify the biggest gaps in performance and the areas you need to focus on in order to achieve the biggest impact.

5.) Understand what drives current behaviours and what might help or get in the way of change. For example, is your management culture or performance scorecard encouraging the ‘right’ behaviours?

6.) Give people an opportunity to practice new behaviours. In particular, any training needs to be interactive as most people learn best by doing.

7.) Embed. New behaviours need to be reinforced. Ask teams to report back on what they’ve done, what’s worked and what’s been difficult. Ensure that managers actively lead, coach and reinforce new behaviours through team meetings and 1:1’s. Give the initiative a high profile. Celebrate successes.

We’ve  developed our approach over many years and achieved some stunning results. Start a conversation with us

The 6 Habits of Really Successful Underwriters

6 habits of really successful underwriters

Good lawyers are technically competent professionals. But some great lawyers are also ‘rainmakers.’

Does the same apply to underwriters, and if so, what makes the difference?

We’ve trained over 1000 underwriters in commercial skills. In our view, all underwriters have to have good technical knowledge and skills and be able to assess and price risk, but some really successful underwriters are also great traders. They bridge the gap between business development and pure, technical underwriting. So what are the skills and behaviours that enable some underwriters to really stand out as great traders? Based on our experience, here are our top 6.

1.) They ask good questions and listen. They really seek to understand what the broker and the end customer want and need.

2.) They shape solutions. They really understand their own organisation and their broader value proposition and work effectively with colleagues to develop propositions that meet the real needs and priorities of the customer and the broker.

3.) They build rapport and trust. They understand different personality preferences and adapt their style to communicate effectively with different types of people.

4.) They present solutions in a way that’s distinct, relevant and compelling, adding value through their views and advice.

5.) They negotiate effectively. They understand all the variables and negotiate based on value rather than price. They deal with objections and close deals effectively.

6.) They spot opportunities. They understand that it’s about establishing and developing relationships, cross selling and gaining referrals rather than just completing a one off piece of business.

The role of underwriters varies enormously across different sectors, markets and products but these key ingredients in some way or another seem to make the difference between good and outstanding. If you see an opportunity to improve how your team interact with your customers and brokers, start a conversation with us…

Selling: Putting the back office at the forefront

Some of your best sales people may not have ‘sales’ in their job title.
In some sectors, this has always been recognised. It seems however, that many more organisations are beginning to fully comprehend the part that their ‘technical experts’ can play in building closer customer relationships and in securing profitable new business.
As a result, some ‘technical’ roles are rapidly evolving and this seems to apply to a multitude of sectors impacting, for example, underwriters, lawyers, loss adjusters and consultants.
The industry professional who once worked behind a salesperson is increasingly expected to play a ‘frontline’ role. More businesses are likely to expect these people to have much more than technical expertise in the future; these expectations will come with further demands, they’ll need to: understand and practice consultative selling; really recognise customers and their needs; identify and adapt to different customers’ styles; develop relationships and rapport; present solutions clearly and distinctly and to negotiate effectively.

There seem to be a number of catalysts for this change:

• Increased customer demand for access to knowledgeable decision makers
• Organisations seeking to set themselves apart in crowded markets by fielding experts who can really engage with their customers
• Changes in the role of business development managers – with more focus on managing the interface between ‘technical experts’ and customers rather than being the sole point of contact

Newcomers to a technical role may find this transition attractive, and a chance to broaden their skill sets.
Some, however, will struggle with this transformation. We’ve seen many senior ‘technical experts’ resist their baptism into what they may perceive to be the world of ‘selling.’

So what’s required to enable this metamorphosis?

Learning new skills is probably the easy bit. From our experience the more difficult challenges are likely to be centred around three things:

• How technical specialists feel about taking on a broader, more commercial role
• How this can be anticipated and managed
• How to change well rooted habits that may have served team members well for most of their careers

We’ve developed a lot of experience in helping our clients get the best from their people by developing programmes that go beyond training, and which are designed to embed new commercial skills and behaviours.

Let us know if you’d like to start a conversation….

If you want to transform performance, don’t (just) buy training

Have you ever bought training?

If so, think back to what you wanted to achieve at the time and whether you really achieved it.

The chances are that what you actually wanted was for your team to change the way they do things. Like the insurer that wants underwriters to trade more effectively or the distribution director who wants a team to develop deeper relationships with customers, or the functional leader who wants technical experts to make more of their customer contact.

But if all you do is provide training, then your programme isn’t likely to make a lasting impact. How many leaders have seen people attend a great training course and then return to doing things in the same way they did them before?

Great training is obviously critical to ensure that your team has the knowledge and skills to do what’s required. But we aim to do more than that. We help companies successfully deliver better results by making long term changes to the way their teams interact with customers. Here’s some of the thinking that shapes our approach:

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Who do your customers really want to speak to?

Do customers prefer to talk to someone else rather than a sales person?

Sales people aren’t the only people your customers speak to.  A growing number of companies are focusing on how they can ensure that a wider range of people have the right skills to make the most of their contact with customers.

Underwriters, operational teams, consultants, lawyers, project managers and other highly technical staff probably know your customers at least as well – or in some cases even better – than anyone. Often when a customer is looking for some advice, or another perspective their first port of call is often a ‘technical expert’.

Technical experts also need commercial skills

So do these technical experts have the commercial skills and demonstrate the right behaviours when engaging and interacting with your customers? And what’s driving the need to upskill these people?

Well, we are seeing the following trends…

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So you think you’re customer focused, but what does that actually mean?

A lot of companies claim to be ‘customer centric’ or ‘customer focused’ or to ‘put customers at the heart of their business’ and yet few companies really seem to stand out in this way.

If you asked a number of people which companies they think are truly customer centric, chances are the responses will be the same – John Lewis, First Direct and Apple.

So how should companies go about achieving this winning formula?

Here are a few questions to consider:

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Challenges managing a multicultural team

Recognising the differences

Managing a team of individuals can be rewarding and equally, challenging. Within multicultural teams, differences can result in misunderstandings and sometimes conflict.

Often there is an assumption that cultural differences may lead to different expectations and ways of working. But how many of these differences can be attributed to cultural diversity and how many are simply the personalities of the individual?

It could be your team is made up of individuals situated in one location or spread across the world with different cultures, the fact remains we are all different.

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Broadening your customers’ perceptions of your business

Missed opportunities

Imagine how disappointed you’d feel if you found your client had engaged a different supplier, because they didn’t know that you also offered that service.

If you have a broad range of services it can be a danger that you are only known for a tiny percentage of what you can actually deliver.

If you become pigeon holed and known only for the current services you are providing, you are likely to be missing out on a massive opportunity to introduce your other equally valuable services.

This problem generally arises when an organisation is large and the business is complex. It can be difficult to describe the broad spectrum of your offering. Your message needs to be clearly conveyed in a manner that is easily understood and remembered.

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