What’s Your Company’s Social Capital Footprint? Part 2

Last week, I talked about how a couple of merchants in a little medieval town created an unanticipated social capital footprint. Their decisions to uphold and propagate standards of honest weights, excellent service, and integrity had far-reaching consequences for themselves and their community and the world.

It is little surprise, then, that out of that unintended stock of positive social capital grew a flourishing trade that yielded the fruit of leaders who made London into the center of banking and commerce for a growing empire.

Conversely, what does a shrinking social capital base look like?

Consider how (more…)

What’s Your Company’s Social Capital Footprint? Part 2 was originally published to American Business Advisors


Can Your Sales Team Make You into a Top Quartile/25% Company?

Three out of four companies you know are not in the top quartile. By definition they are underperforming. Over the next few Insiders, we will provide tools to help you to assess whether or not your sales team has the capacity to help you grow your business into a top 25% company.

One of the keys to becoming a top quartile company is having consistent and growing revenue. Revenue growth depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of your sales channels. While creating and cultivating your online presence is certainly a key part of supporting sales efforts, most of our clients depend on having sales people who are experts at cultivating client relationships.

According to The Sales Board research, there are five factors that most positively impact sales performance.  This data set was compiled over 20 years and tabulates the results from over 400,000 salespeople from over 3,500 companies in a broad range of industries.

Best of all, the research shows that the top five skills can be taught and do not depend on talents, personality traits or luck. The five critical skills are:

  1. The Buyer/Seller Relationship
  2. Sales Call Planning
  3. Questioning/Listening
  4. Presentation Skills
  5. Gaining Commitment

This week, we’ll help you understand the value of The Buyer/Seller Relationship and Sales Call Planning skills.

On the surface, creating the Buyer/Seller relationship seems like it should be straight forward. Isn’t that what salespeople do? But if you were to talk to most people involved in sales, they could not tell you exactly what they are doing to develop that relationship.

Every buyer makes five critical decisions along the path of coming to a buying decision. But did you know that these decisions come in a certain order? At the core of building a solid Buyer/Seller Relationship is knowing and following the client’s readiness to walk the five critical decisions—in the right order!—along the way to making a buying decision. Following this order is key to building a successful relationship.

The second critical skill salespeople need is Sales Call Planning. Unless the salesperson knows where a potential client is in the five step decision-making process, s/he cannot successfully do Sales Call Planning.

The sales person must first have a certain knowledge of the science of the five essential selling skills critical to success. And, most importantly, using that knowledge, applying those skills on the job is, of course, the only way to improve actual sales performance and insure revenue growth.

In the chart below, the two bars on the left indicate Knowledge measurement. The two bars on the right indicate Application measurement. The blue bars indicate average assessment scores prior to training. The green bars indicate assessment scores post-training.


The Power of Growing the Sales Call Planning Skill:

Before training, salespeople had a reasonable amount of knowledge (64%), but the ability to apply sales-call planning skills was surprisingly low (37%). Salespeople are powerful problem-solvers with a rich set of people skills but they are generally poor planners.

Post-training salespeople saw their Knowledge scores rise to 83% and their post-training Application scores of 82%. These percentages show that salespeople, when they return to the job, actually use nearly all of the skills they learned. Salespeople are outcome-driven: they don’t get paid until the sale is completed. Therefore, once they make the connection that planning can be the key to their success, they are very motivated to master this skill in setting the right kind of objectives for each sales call.

Note that the 121% Skill Gain in Sales Call Planning. No other skill in the research posted such a high gain. This suggests that it is the No. 1 high payoff skill to focus upon in training.

Look for future Insiders when we’ll be discussing how salespeople improving their Questioning/Listening, Presentation and Gaining Commitment skills can help your company move into the top 25%.


Contact us if you’d like to learn what the five critical buying decisions are.

Can Your Sales Team Make You into a Top Quartile/25% Company? was first published to http://abadvisors.com/

[People Puzzle II] Why You Need to Empower Your Team Now

Want To Solve The People Puzzle? Give “Power To The People!”

In our last ABA Insider, we began giving you tips for recession-proofing your company by solving the people puzzle. Our first tip on using your team as the most effective tool you have in your arsenal for outwitting the competition, was to find new ways to increase their level of engagement at their job. We pointed out three key attitudes they need to adopt for this to happen.

Our second tip is to find more and more ways to empower everyone on the team. The key to having a strong team that multiplies your personal effectiveness is to find ways to equip and empower them. Only when they are prepared with the tools they need to take on additional responsibility, can they successfully do so. But, once they are prepared, they also must feel the confidence and belief in them by their immediate supervisor. This is demonstrated by having already determined what additional tasks you want to delegate to them and meeting with them to “set up” that process. Remember, you will have to take your “hands off” while keeping your “eyes on.” As a manager, you need to think, and have your management team think of how your actions are (or are not) empowering those below you to share the heavy load of tasks and responsibility you carry.

The ABA Insider is published by American Business Advisors, Inc. to provide business and personal improvement information and ideas. All material is presented to provide general and broad information only. The information found in this publication does not constitute business, tax, financial, or legal advice and should not be acted upon without seeking the counsel of professional advisor.

Photo by Search Engine People Blog

[People Puzzle II] Why You Need to Empower Your Team Now Read more on: http://www.abadvisors.com/

Making Your 2016 Successful: Help Us Help You

Take our Survey

Some of you are new to our weekly online Journal, have been reading the monthly Strategic Edge or come to us from reading Jon Hokama’s “Liminal Dimensions” weekly blog. By filling out this survey, you will help us understand YOUR top questions and concerns as business owners (or as those who work with business owners).

Please click here and record your (anonymous) responses today. This survey will take you only 2-3 minutes to fill out. It will remain open until Sunday, January 17, 2016 at Midnight (when we Bronco fans expect to be celebrating our Wild Card victory!).

We will share with you the results about who your fellow readers are and what top interests you share. Best of all, we will provide content during 2016 that will address your key questions about running, managing or passing along a business.

Have a great week in this new year!


You get to help us serve you better by filling out this brief survey:

Thanks again!

Photo by albertogp123 american business advisors survey

The post Making Your 2016 Successful: Help Us Help You was originally published to American Business Advisors

A Liminal Truth: Money Doesn’t Matter

I learned about an idea that could not only save you and your business enormous sums of money but also minimize your frustrations this week. Interested?

Having worked with sales organizations for years, I used to subscribe to the unflattering notion that salespeople are “coin-operated”— motivated primarily by pay. I had been taught that the way to incentivize more sales is to pay salespeople for a piece of the action, especially through structured bonuses with accelerators, stock options and trips.

While recovering from minor knee surgery, I read Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I realized, through my reading, that like most of us, I like having a casual relationship with Truth: I’ll take her out when she’s arm candy, but I wouldn’t bring her home to Mom! Well, this weekend, Pink not only dropped off  Truth and me at Mom’s doorstep, but he rang the doorbell, ran off, and he left me to explain this shocking newcomer, dressed in her best Lady Gaga plumage!!

The truths from Pink led me to reflect on why the unconventional approaches to sales compensation for two sample mid-tier businesses “makes sense”/works for them. Both seemed to ignore the “Truth” of what motivates salespeople. One company took its sales team off commission and paid above-market wages —unheard of in that industry. Another chose to pay its staff above market-rate commissions.

So if these business owners were to use pay incentives to elicit heuristic (discovery-based) behaviors involving creative problem solving, that incentive would quickly extinguish creativity. Pink calls this the [Tom] Sawyer Effect: Rewards turn play into work (p.226). “Pay for performance” would end up killing the very global skill set they’re trying to deliver to their customers! Aren’t these business owners foolishly increasing their overhead and reducing the upside for their business?

Benefits of motivational forces beyond money

Here’s why they are not. (See my earlier blog on the topic) These business owners took the issue of money off the table for their salespeople. The sales force no longer worries about paying the mortgage or putting food on the table. Instead, they are rewarded for exercising their creativity and passion to develop long-term relationships with customers: the outcome the owners care about.

Both owners sought heuristic behaviors from their sales staff by charging them with delighting their customers. For example, how does one measure and reward a salesperson for “doing the right thing?” What actions does the salesperson take to keep the customer buying again and again? A heuristic task requires personal judgment, creativity, and initiative but no clear algorithmic, formulaic path of action.

My epiphany on motivation is causing me to reevaluate my professional mindset. How should you reward heuristic behaviors?

Next week I will share ways to encourage heuristic behaviors by cultivating autonomy, mastery and purpose.


Would you like to take Truth out for a spin? See if you look at the world from a heuristic (Type I) or algorithmic (Type X) orientation. Take Daniel Pink’s free survey. Afterwards, comment here on your orientation results!

Photo by mathplourde

A Liminal Truth: Money Doesn’t Matter is republished from American Business Advisors Blog

21st Century Fiscal/Monetary Blacksmithing: Part 3

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at real consequences of the government’s fiscal rigor mortis. We’ve also explored Modern Monetary Theory’s argument that the result of deficit spending is a public good—reduced unemployment and increased GDP growth.

This week, I’d like to give you a penny—no, a $1Trillion coin(!)—for your thoughts. (more…)

The following article 21st Century Fiscal/Monetary Blacksmithing: Part 3 was originally published on http://www.abadvisors.com

Liminal Dimensions: Grit and Beauty

As I talk with business owners, the common thread to the discussion is that “grit”—passion and perseverance for long-term goals—is the key to their success. Why do so many of us think working with grit is easier said than done? I’d like to suggest that beauty has something to do with it.

What do I mean by beauty?

In my teens, I aspired to be like Yo-Yo Ma on cello. But I realized around age 19 that while I had great passion and relative skill to perform as a professional cellist—beauty!—I  did not possess the necessary grit.

I am forever grateful for the years and hours spent becoming a cellist. That experience taught me much about the technology of mastery. “Technology” is literally the story of an art or technique. I learned one needs both grit and beauty to master the cello, tennis, or any anything worth doing.

Want to see grit in action?

Watch this video of Joshua Bell, one of the premier violinists of his generation, playing like a common street musician in the DC Metro:

Joshua Bell is a virtuoso violinist who commands thousands of dollars per MINUTE in Carnegie Hall performances. He plays an 18th-century Gibson Stradivarius worth tens of millions. When interviewed about his Metro experience, he reported, sheepishly, that he was at times even embarrassed at the indifference of hundreds who passed him by during his 43-minute performance. But oh, how beauty echoed through the Metro that day!

Click HERE for another way to describe the union of grit and beauty in a fabulous PBS special, “The Two Gentlemen from Cremona.”

Bell relates a story about what happens to him on the days he doesn’t want to practice. As he’s contemplating not practicing, he looks at his Gibson Stradivarius. He is drawn to the beauty of his Strad, sitting in her case, and cannot keep himself from lifting her gently from the case, raising her to his chin and…beginning to play. The hours of practice are the grit behind mastery. But both the beauty of the instrument itself and his inner commitment to continue toward that illusive asymptotic level of mastery keep him moving forward.

I have come to realize that my art is empowering others to be great “artists” at what they do—crafting “technology” businesses that reflect their unique genius and personality, despite the ongoing disruptions of the last decade. In the spirit of my art, please comment below to tell me if the tool below helps you become a better business owner.

Jon Hokama is the Principal and Founder of Jon Hokama and Associates, LLC.
Jon Hokama is the Principal and Founder of Jon Hokama and Associates, LLC.


Here’s a practical application of putting grit and beauty to work. Ask yourself these simple questions and take action now:

  1. Is the subject of my current complaint within my control? Can I actually change it? If so, see #2. If not, take out the head trash and don’t waste time on it!
  2. If it is within my control, when do I need to deal with it? If now, see #3. If later, schedule a date to address it and tell a friend or trusted advisor who will hold you accountable to this task.
  3. If I need to take immediate action upon this issue, what single next step do I take? How will doing this help me experience beauty?

What keeps you up at night? How do you know if it’s 1, 2 or 3 above?

Share with us the beauty that keeps you going!

Liminal Dimensions: Grit and Beauty was first published on American Business Advisors Small Business Consulting Firm