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Category Archive: Latest News

Top tips for successful outbound calls

Posted: June 10, 2021 3:22 pm

Getting your outbound calls strategy right can help to set you up for success. Some simple planning and preparation can give you the insight and confidence to take the right approach and get the results that you’re looking for. Any good outbound calls strategy will consider the planning stages, as well as the call itself and what to do after the call has finished. These are our top tips for taking all this into account to enjoy more successful outbound calls.

Define your strategy well in advance

This isn’t something that you can do as you go along, you need to get clear and confident with your strategy before you even pick up the phone. This starts by looking at the end goals and outcomes that you’re hoping to achieve with the outbound calls. Is your goal to make a sale or to get someone to complete a survey, for example. You’ll also need to establish a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you can use to measure whether or not your outbound calls strategy is actually working. Some of the KPIs that can come in useful here include the amount of time you’re spending on the phone and the percentage of first call closes that you achieve. It might also be valuable to use conversion rates as a metric.

Fill your call lists with qualified leads

If you don’t want to waste your time and energy then it’s going to be essential to make sure that your call lists are efficiently filled with qualified leads. These are leads that have already been nurtured as a result of prior marketing and which are more likely to convert. This can involve some investment in lead tracking and generation, from using a CRM to ensuring that you do plenty of research before the calls so that you know about the industry, pain points and needs as well as the name of the person that you’re going to be speaking to.

Decide whether or not to use a script

Scripts can ensure that information is being consistently delivered but surveys have found that an unscripted conversation can be more effective and enjoyable for customers. A good script should provide enough structure to make sure that the basics are covered but also offer the freedom to improvise and be authentic and genuine.

Get it right on the call

Even if you have a fantastic list of leads, a sound strategy and a solid script, it’s still possible to have a bad call. Key to getting the call right will be ensuring that you’re mindful of the person’s time and you keep things concise, that you’ve found a way to grab attention from the start of the call and know how to make this person feel valued. Avoid making promises you know you can’t keep but do try to schedule another interaction in the future before the call ends.

Follow up on the call

This isn’t just about following up with the customer but also individual performance, whether that is self-evaluation or feedback from a manager.

A successful approach to outbound calls can be transformative. These are our tips on how to achieve that. Find out more by booking onto our Customer Care - Incoming and Outgoing Calls training course...

Project management guide for non-project managers

Posted: May 24, 2021 3:53 pm

Even if you’re not a project manager it’s likely that you will come up against the need to project manage at some point in your career. This is increasingly the way that organisations seek to improve effectiveness and productivity so it’s an essential skill to learn. Project management can involve a whole range of responsibilities, from putting a team together to handling budgets and timelines. If you’re a non-project manager then this is what you need to know about approaching this vital business function:

●      Focus on the finish line when you’re at the start. If you have a clear idea of your goal when you first begin the project then you’ll be able to stay focused, avoid distractions and ensure that you don’t accidentally get off track.

●      Spend some time getting to know the goal. There is often time pressure in a project management situation and you may be tempted to just dive in and get started. However, it’s essential to make sure that you understand the goal and why it’s necessary before you begin, as this will influence everything that follows.

●      Educate yourself on some project management methodologies. These are the tools, techniques, processes, and best practices that can help you to improve where project management is concerned.

●      Remember the need for work-life balance. If you’re working to a deadline then everything else - family and friends, health and wellbeing - can end up being sacrificed. It’s essential that you don’t do this. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance even during the pressure of project management will ensure that you stay effective throughout and don't end up burned out at the end.

●      Be fully across the risks. It’s key to have a solid understanding of the risks involved and to develop a risk response strategy that you can put into place if things don’t go the way that you’d hoped they would.

●      Avoid the tendency to focus on perfection. Success is going to be determined by meeting the goals for the project and also the expectations for stakeholders. Getting weighed down by every single little detail and trying to make everything perfect could not only cause tensions with others on the project but also slow everything down.

●      Multi-tasking doesn’t work. In fact it can cause a 40% drop in productivity. Instead, focus on one task at a time and work as efficiently as possible.

●      Use project management tools to make things easier. A whole range of apps and software exist to help you in this - start by analysing your needs and then find the tools that are going to meet those best.

●      Time management is a big factor in success. That applies to the way that you manage your own time, as well as the timelines for the project. It will be essential to have a clearly defined project plan in place to ensure that you keep to the timelines you’ve set. Remember to factor in communication with stakeholders, as this can be a big factor in slowing a project down (e.g. if they need to be involved in decision-making).

 

Project management is a skill that anyone can learn with the right resources. Find out more by booking onto our Introduction to Project Management training course…

Our top rules for phone etiquette

Posted: February 26, 2021 9:25 am

Especially right now when we are all socially distanced from one another, the contact that we have over the phone can be vital. It’s as important for professional and customer facing relationships as it is for individuals so getting the basics right is essential. When you’re approaching phone contact there are some key rules for etiquette that it’s important to have covered.

 

  • Provide basic information when you pick up the phone. The most effective way to answer the phone is with your name and your company - then follow this up with a question, such as “how can I help.”
  • Be available. When it comes to being professional about phone contact ensure that you’re available and try to pick up within three rings. This shouldn’t be difficult to do and will mean that customers or clients don’t ever feel like they’re being kept waiting.
  • Use your voice as a tool. Remember that when you’re on the phone the other person can’t see your eyes or body language so you only have your voice to work with as a tool. Make sure you’re coming across clearly and without hesitation - a strong, confident voice can have a great impact.
  • Practice active listening. Being able to listen well is just as important as the way that you come across. Actually listen to what’s being said to you rather than sitting and waiting for a gap in the conversation so that you can respond. Take notes if it will help you to be more engaged.
  • Opt for the optimistic. Even if a customer is irate or unhappy try to stay measured and positive and remember that it’s not about you. We don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives and they could be having a really bad day that you’re getting the brunt of. If you can’t turn the call around - or they are crossing the line and being rude or aggressive - then politely offer to continue the conversation at a later date.
  • Don’t fall into the speakerphone trap. When we put the other person on speakerphone there is often a temptation to do other things as we’re not using our hands to hold the phone. You may also find yourself shouting or missing something that has been said. Effective phone etiquette means giving the call your full attention and if speakerphone is going to detract from that then don’t do it.
  • Stick to professional language. Being too formal on the phone can be off-putting as it makes people feel distanced from you. However, language that is too informal - such as swearing - can instantly shut down trust and connection.
  • If you’re not sure then just say so. There’s nothing that damages credibility more than being able to hear hesitation in the voice of someone who is insisting they know what they’re talking about. So, if you don’t know the answer then just admit this and say you’ll go and get that information. This is a much better option than fudging your response or, worse, lying.

 

These are our top rules when it comes to phone etiquette in 2021. Find out more by booking onto our Telephone Techniques - Incoming & Outgoing Calls training course...

You have to behave differently to how you feel

Posted: December 17, 2020 1:18 pm
Change is a process that many of us struggle with but it’s an essential component in personal development. Creating growth and lasting change often means shifting what we believe (sometimes even about ourselves) as well as how we think, then integrating those changes into behaviour, skills or competence. This two stage approach to change - starting with thinking and beliefs and then integrating this into behaviour - doesn’t always go in the same order. In fact, sometimes behavioural change needs to come first or at the same time - that’s the idea of “fake it until you make it.” However, we approach change it’s never easy but it is doable, especially with the right perspective in place.

Focusing on habits

A large amount of what we do every day is habitual. We may consciously learn something, such as how to drive a car, and then practice that skill so that it feels automatic. We tend to surround ourselves with habits that we have perfected over time so that the daily routine can feel comfortable and easy. Change tends to disrupt this and that’s why it feels so unnerving. At that point we might be at the edge of our comfort zone and it’s here that emotions can often kick in to try and persuade us to take a step back inside. Comfort zones often feel safe and unchallenging but they are not where growth and development take place, which is why getting outside of them is essential. The emotions that try to keep us there can be powerful which is why there is an argument for taking steps to behave differently to how those emotions are making you feel when you’re teetering on the edge of your comfort zone.

Finding the momentum for change

Tackling the emotions that can try to keep us stuck requires an energy for change. This often comes from being clear about your ‘why’ i.e. why you’re looking to change and what the benefits of that are going to be. It’s essential that this is focused on the individual, not on what the business or the senior management may see as a good reason to grow. Once we have a clear idea of the reasons why we’re going into a situation the goals can become clear and that’s when the momentum for change really starts to grow. When you have this positive, powerful energy it can be a key tool in processing the emotions that might be trying to stop you from emerging from your comfort zone. While emotions are powerful they are always temporary. The idea that ignoring or suppressing your emotions can ever be successful has now been thoroughly debunked but there are plenty of tools you can use to feel and process emotions so that they don’t have the hold over you that they might if you were trying to resist them. Combine this with that positive energy for change and implementing new thinking and habits and the results could be outstanding. As Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.” Find out more by booking onto our Managing Change training course…

Working at home 2

Posted: December 10, 2020 1:17 pm
With a second lockdown now under way, working at home has once again become a reality for many people. As mentioned in the first of these blogs, the foundation for any working lifestyle is the routines and habits that you create and do on a daily basis. If you’ve been pushed back into working from home mode then these may have been tipped off balance once again. So, how can you establish a working from home approach that works for you?

How do you like to work?

There are two ways to approach any working day: one is with plenty of structure and routines that are predefined and the other is with spontaneity. Very few of us are either one or the other of these and most will incorporate elements of the two. This can throw up a number of factors that you might want to consider when it comes to shaping a new working from home approach:
  • Wear what you feel comfortable in. For some people this will be exactly what they’d wear to the office and for others it will be yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Don’t feel guilty about your choice as, for most of us, it’s not going to affect the quality of your work. The only exception is a video meeting which might require a certain standard of dress.
  • Create a routine - or don’t. If you want to keep the same structured day that you’d have in the office then get up and shower, have breakfast and dress then start work at 9am. Take your coffee break at 10.30, lunch at 12.30 and give yourself time to stop for tea in the afternoon. If you prefer something more fluid then the great news is that you can create this for yourself in these conditions. Although you might need to bear in mind any contractual requirements on you to be available at certain hours, outside of this you can work at the times that suit you the best.
  • Where do you usually get your energy? This may come from the outside world, from other people, situations or things - or it could be that your energy comes from your own inside world, recharging on your own and spending time in your own company. It could also be a combination of the two. It’s essential that you keep feeding whichever energy source works the best for you. For external stimulation get involved on social media, go outside for regular breaks, set up a Whatsapp group discussion or have the TV on when you feel like you need some company. Go easy on yourself if you don’t get as much done as you normally would because the usual sources of stimulation aren't there. If you get your energy from internal sources you may already be feeling quite good - use the time to decide how, and when, you want to connect with other people in a way that feels comfortable to you.
  • Do you miss your commute? Believe it or not, you might. If moving around to different locations is something you miss then try integrating a short drive into your day, a jog or walk or sit outside in the garden, weather permitting.
In addition to the above, working from home in a situation you’re not used to can require some extra self-awareness. Make sure you monitor your feelings and see how lockdown is affecting your mood. Journaling is a great way to just write down how you’re feeling or you can look at the way you’re responding to other people - are you calm and accommodating or short tempered and impatient? Working from home can be a great opportunity to find new ways to work and enjoy a different experience - for many of us it will be temporary but that doesn’t mean we can’t get the most from it while it lasts. Find out more by booking onto our by booking onto our Well-Being While Working Full or Partly from Home training course.

Tired, Fatigued, Exhausted?

Posted: November 19, 2020 12:09 pm
The past year has been challenging and draining and has left many people feeling less energised and motivated than they might under ‘normal’ conditions. We often tend to use words such as tired, fatigued and exhausted interchangeably but actually each one has very different implications. Could you recognise these conditions in yourself if one was happening to you? What would you need to look out for in colleagues or those working for you if it looked like they were heading into these waters?

Tiredness

If you’re experiencing tiredness then this is usually the result of something physical. It could be poor sleep, not eating enough or overdoing the exercise. Being tired is probably the simplest of the three to recover effectively from - you can start by identifying what’s causing the tiredness and then take steps to tackle it. If you’re not sleeping then try changing your routine and going to bed earlier. Maybe you need a more varied diet, more water, or less sugar. Or it may simply be that you need to take some time out to physically rest. A lack of energy, physical aches and soreness are all symptoms where tiredness is concerned.

Fatigue

The origin of fatigue is often partly physical but predominantly a mentally and emotionally driven condition. It may not be something that a good sleep and a change in diet can correct. Fatigue often manifests itself as being unable to make decisions, feeling like your emotions are up and down, feeling drained, listless and unmotivated. Fatigue is frequently the result of being in a situation where you are under a lot of pressure over a sustained period of time and this pressure just becomes too much to bear. You can help to relieve fatigue by creating moments where the pressure is off - time when you’re doing activities that are just for you and which you know will help to restore you. It’s important that you don’t think about whatever is causing the fatigue during that time so that you get a proper break from it. Fatigue is often the result of feeling like a situation is out of your control and that you don’t have the resources to change things. So, it can be worth using tools such as coaching, therapy, upskilling and stress management techniques to help strengthen self confidence and resolve.

Exhaustion

If you don’t deal with fatigue then exhaustion is often where this will end up. Exhaustion is predominantly a feeling that you just don’t have the energy - not for the issue that you’re dealing with, the situation you’re in or even to just carry on. It can be very alarming to experience and if you - or someone you work with - is going through it then it’s important to seek help. Sometimes exhaustion requires a complete break from whatever has put you into that state in the first place. This can provide the opportunity to rethink things and perhaps start making plans for a new approach. Tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion are all signs that something needs to change - taking any action, however small, is sometimes all you need to do as a first step. Find out more by booking onto our Mindfullness: How to Handle the Pressure with Ease training course...

Working at Home 1

Posted: November 5, 2020 12:09 pm
Flexible working has increasingly become a part of life in recent years but not to the extent that we have seen in the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, remote working may not be a choice for everyone but it is, nevertheless, a lifestyle that we need to adapt to - and to be able to continue to thrive within. These tips are designed to help make working from home a positive and proactive way of life for all of those currently trying to adapt to it.

Check your habits

When you are entirely in charge of your own day you can create your own routines. This presents a real opportunity for some positive habits to develop but can also be a challenge. We are often not aware of the daily habits that we’ve fallen into in the workplace - the commuting route we take, the time we start and finish work, when we eat lunch, who we spend time with - and when this structure is removed it can make the day feel quite unwieldy. So, the first step to establishing yourself in a positive work from home structure is to think about the habits that you’ve always had, those that you want to have now and any bad habits you’ve already fallen into that you don’t really want to sustain.

Create your new daily routine

New circumstances are a prime opportunity for a new routine and creating this proactively can be powerful in terms of day-to-day experience. Some key questions to answer include:
  • When are you going to get up and what time do you need to start work?
  • When does the day officially finish? Make sure you switch off completely at this point as there is a temptation when you’re working from home just to keep going.
  • What do you want your new pre-work routine to look like - just a shower and breakfast or a run around the block and some meditation time too?
  • How can you make the most of a lunch break? If you don’t have work colleagues to socialise with could you have a call with friends or go outside and get some fresh air?
  • What routines would bring comfort? E.g. walking the dog twice a day or doing a bit of gardening.

Allow yourself some leeway

You may find that you have a lot of excess energy if you’re being more sedentary than usual and this could lead to feeling grumpy and out of sorts. Allow that this is just a normal part of processing this change in circumstances and try to find ways to deal with it, such as a short burst of cardio or even singing to the radio. If you feel unsettled and anxious then channel your energy into something positive - such as reading or creating - rather than resorting to watching Netflix or going down an Instagram hole.

Exercise, diet and sleep

These are the three factors most likely to be thrown off by a change in working circumstances - and probably the most important when it comes to getting yourself back on track.
  • You might find that you’re eating more while working from home - or comfort eating because of all the current uncertainty. Switching to healthier food and reducing snacks can help you to better manage your energy levels and also help you focus.
  • Introducing more exercise into your day can help with motivation, weight management and energy levels. Opt for something that feels do-able - such as a walk or a short jog, a gentle yoga session or a HIIT workout. Avoid an overly-ambitious new exercise regime that you give up on within a week.
  • Especially if you’re anxious, getting a good night’s sleep can be hard to do. A positive evening routine can help with sleep - give yourself at least an hour before bed where you’re not looking at a screen and try to turn your light out a few minutes earlier.
Adjusting to working at home may take time but many people grow to love it. Find out more by booking onto our Well-Being While Working Fully or Partly from Home training course...

Motivating Others - Did Einstein have the answers?

Posted: October 29, 2020 1:49 pm
The question of how to motivate others is one that every manager comes to at some point. Often it’s when many ‘tried and tested’ techniques, such as money, incentives, praise, resources etc just haven’t worked. In terms of what might actually be effective it’s always worth exploring new ideas and one of those potentially comes from celebrated big brain Albert Einstein. He is quoted as once saying that if he had one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes finding the solution. So does this idea hold the answer to motivating other people?

Exploring Einstein’s idea

Einstein’s approach would shift the focus when it comes to motivating people. Instead of looking at how to do this you would ideally spend the bulk of your time on any problems that might be preventing motivation instead. First, define what motivation means to you – if you’re thinking about your own this could be the energy to take action but when it comes to other people’s is it more like a willingness to work to the criteria of others? It’s also worth looking at the impetus in an individual situation, as motivation can drive people to move away from an uncomfortable situation or towards a better one. When the goal is achieved in either of these the motivation will often disappear.

Away or towards?

When you’re motivating people it’s important to work out whether you’re intending to use the ‘away’ method or the ‘towards’ method. If you’re using the wrong one that could be the problem you need to spend time on. Many managers opt for ‘away’ when it comes to getting staff to do what they want. However, because we often use KPIs and SMART goals to generate more motivation many managers believe that they are in the ‘towards’ mode. There is no one single answer for this – whether a goal has the impact of being ‘away’ or ‘towards’ will depend on the individual and their circumstances, as well as how it is phrased. That’s why motivating people requires individual attention if you really want to get it right.

It’s not about you

In some management situations any movement at all – whether away or towards - will be welcomed. However, you’re going to be at your most effective if you’re delivering motivation in a way that moves the person you’re working with in the way that you want them to move. So, it’s not about you – not what would motivate you to achieve the goal that you’re setting with that person – but taking the time to understand them. Are they more likely to be motivated by the idea of missing out on opportunities, ideas, promotions, inclusion in projects (the ‘away’ motivators) or language that is framed in the reverse e.g. gaining a promotion, reward or being included on a team (the ‘towards’ language). If you’ve been struggling to motivate effectively then Einstein’s idea of focusing more on the problem could provide a way forward. The issue might be something as simple as the wrong type of motivator being used. Swap that and you could change everything.

How to effectively manage your time

Posted: October 15, 2020 1:44 pm
Time is the one thing that most of us feel that we never have enough of. Why is it that some people manage to get so much more out of the time available than others? The answer to this is time management. If you’re not currently doing this effectively then you’re likely to feel that you never have enough time and your To Do list just seems to roll over from one day to the next. So, how can you improve?

How do you spend your time?

Carry out a quick audit of how you already spend your time so that you can get an idea of whether or not this is productive. Do you waste hours on social media? Are you spending your lunch hour online shopping when you could be exercising? It can be eye opening to look back over your day and see where your time has actually gone.

Invest in technology

There is a lot of great technology out there to help you effectively manage your time, from monitoring your daily processes to organising and planning. Pick the one with the interface that feels the most user friendly so that you won’t have to waste time getting to grips with it.

Limit the time you spend on tasks

An actual time limit can be motivational and ensure that you don’t waste time – allocate time limits for key tasks and then make sure you stay within them.

Organise your tasks in order of difficulty

Schedule the tasks that you’re least looking forward to first so that you know they’re going to get done. Otherwise it’s very simple to push everything you don’t really want to tackle to the end of the day and then leave it until the morning.

Look ahead

It’s very easy to waste time if you’re not really focused on what’s coming next so plan ahead if you really want to become more effective. Planning ahead by a week – or even a day – can mean that you’re better prepared and ready to tackle what comes next.

Learn how to delegate

This is an essential skill because it ensures that you’re spending your time on the most valuable tasks and not wasting it doing anything that should be handled by someone more junior.

Don’t multi-task

Although there are lots of different theories out there on whether humans really are capable of multi-tasking there is evidence to suggest that we actually do better when we just focus on one job at a time. When you start something make sure you see it through and don’t stop half way to completion to start working on something else.

Get to know you

We are all different and we are more productive at some moments in the day than others. When do you usually feel the most energised? Make sure you’re optimising this moment to get the most done. Being able to effectively manage your time is the key to a successful – and satisfying – professional life. Find out more by booking onto our Time Management training course...

How to speed read

Posted: September 17, 2020 1:12 pm
Speed reading can be a really effective way to quickly absorb high level information when you don’t have the luxury of time. It’s a skill that is easy to develop and can give you many more options if you’re looking for new ways to deal with data under time pressure. When you’re speed reading, rather than looking at each individual word you are instead focusing on phrases or sentences on a page. Most of us read at a pace of about 250 words per minute but if you’re able to develop speed reading skills then you could double this.

When is speed reading a good idea?

It’s a very effective tool if you need to absorb information from a document, such as the conclusions presented or the basic arguments. When we speed read we tend to take in less information so this may not always be an appropriate technique. For example, if you have a technically complex document that you need to absorb and understand then this may simply be something that you need to take more time over. If you’re looking to memorise something then speed reading won’t work for this either as studies have found that you would need to be reading at 100 words per minute or less in order to achieve this. However, for a swift understanding of the essentials speed reading is ideal.

How do you speed read?

Speed reading is switching from essentially pronouncing every single word in your head to skimming the lines on the page. You focus on blocks of words instead of individual words and expand your gaze so that you’re looking at paragraphs as a whole as opposed to each individual word or sentence. There are three methods that can come in useful when you’re looking to improve speed reading skills:
  1. The Pointer Method. Use your finger and sweep it quickly along the page as you read. You can also use a bookmark or card and move it down line by line.
  2. The Tracker-and-Pacer Method. Take a pen with the lid still on and underline each line on the page, allowing your eyes to sweep across the paragraph with the pen. Spend no more than a second on each line.
  3. This approach involves moving your eyes down the centre of the page and simply focusing on key words and phrases, names and numbers as you go.
It’s a good idea to start practicing your speed reading with something easy, such as a novel, so that you can improve your skills without getting frustrated. Make sure there are no distractions and give yourself time and space to improve. Especially if you’re using the skimming method it can be key to make sure you know what you want from the text you’re going to read before you start reading it. Speed reading is a great skill that can make it much easier to identify information and reduce the amount of time that you spend on individual documents. It’s simple to learn and very effective too. Find out more by booking onto our Speed Reading & Information Management Training Course…

How to learn anything quickly

Posted: September 3, 2020 12:20 pm
Learning is the key to growth and development. From acquiring new language skills to picking up coding, being able to drive or embracing new thoughts, ideas and programmes that could help advance a career, having the capacity to learn quickly is essential. If you don’t feel like you’re a particularly effective learner right now these tips could help to improve the speed at which you’re able to do this.

Time your learning sessions.

We all learn differently but the one thing we have in common is the length of time that tends to be effective for learning. A 30-minute burst is often too short to really get to grips with a subject but anything after 50 minutes and our brains tend to switch off.

Take on a teaching role.

Research has found that we engage with subject matter in a different way when we’re preparing to teach it than if we’re just learning to pass a test. If you have to teach content to someone else then you’re likely to engage with it much more fully, create your own cohesive structure for it and be quick to identify the key points.<

Use a pen and paper

If you’re taking notes then it can be tempting to do it with a phone or laptop or even just to record the session. However, a study by researchers at Princeton University and UCLA identified that taking notes by hand encouraged more active listening and meant more engagement with the topic. Devices not only mean that you can switch off but also provide more potential for distraction, such as emails or games.

Space out your learning – and repeat it.

Rather than learning for 120 minutes once a week, schedule your learning for three sessions of 40 minutes. It’s also been found to be beneficial to go back over what you’ve learned so that it really embeds in your brain. Review the information one or two days after studying it, as repeating information like this sends a strong signal to the brain that this is information that should be retained.

Use different techniques in your learning

For example, if your goal is to learn a new motor skill then practising that skill in different ways can give you an advantage when it comes to learning it more quickly. Studies have found that those who used an original learning technique followed by a modified learning technique picked skills up faster than those who just stuck with the same technique throughout.

Get enough rest.

We need to be in good physical condition to be able to learn effectively, especially when it comes to rest and sleep. In fact, one study established that slotting in sleep in between learning sessions (e.g. learning one morning, sleeping that night and then continuing learning the next day) created a twofold advantage in terms of relearning and long term retention.   Being able to learn quickly is a skill that can benefit all of us and these are some of the simplest ways to enhance your current approach.   Find out more by booking onto our How to Learn Anything Quicker Training Course…

How to be a successful pa

Posted: August 20, 2020 8:58 am
A PA plays a crucial role within a business and provides the opportunity for an incredibly satisfying career with the potential for plenty of advancement. Great PAs are highly valued within organisations and often prioritised where recruitment strategy is concerned. If you’re keen to get ahead as a PA then there are some simple ways to ensure that you make a success of this as your chosen career.

Effective communication is essential

Almost every task that is involved in being a PA will require strong communication skills. You may be dealing with people right across the organisation and need to be confident in communicating with others outside of the business at all levels. Clear communication is essential to help ensure that you’re able to do your job well, to avoid misunderstandings or anything getting lost in translation and to facilitate effectively. That could be face-to-face communication or it might be written, via email or messaging.

Organisation is key

While every business does things differently internally, having strong and adaptable organisational skills is essential for a successful PA. You must be able to effectively organise the work and life of your executive and that means managing your own time efficiently and being able to stay on top of scheduling, changes and the demands that others may be putting on their time, as well as your own.

Embrace the variety

Being a PA requires plenty of adaptability and this is one of the reasons why many people value someone who can do this role well so highly. For example, you may need to act as a travel organiser one day or event planner the next. The variety of the PA role can shift at any moment and the most effective PAs are those who are flexible enough to be able to move with this. Organisations value flexible PAs who are agile and adaptable enough to go with the flow, whether that means accommodating different hours or the changing needs of the job.

Be proactive

If you’re able to see what needs to be done in advance and anticipate potential requirements then you’ll always be a step ahead and viewed as a highly effective PA. It’s essential to make sure you’re proactive if you want to get ahead in this career – not only will this make your executive’s life easier but it will also ensure that you’re prepared for most eventualities too.

A positive attitude goes a long way

Businesses want PAs who say yes and are able to find solutions and opportunities, rather than those who are hesitant or resistant. A positive outlook and ‘can do’ attitude are highly valued in PAs today, especially if this is supported by genuine enthusiasm for the job and the business that you’re working for. Becoming a PA offers a wealth of opportunities, whether you’re looking to travel, learn or just get ahead in your career. Being proactive and adaptable, organised and a great communicator are all essential to ensuring that you make a success of the role. Find out more by booking onto our Developing Your PA Potential to Ensure Success training course…

Tips for making a persuasive presentation

Posted: August 7, 2020 8:55 am
Effective presentation skills can help you to achieve a lot. Whether you’re looking for a promotion, to win new work or obtain financing for a business, being able to deliver a persuasive presentation can get you a long way towards where you’re looking to go. These are our top tips for ensuring that you can deliver consistently and effectively when you really need to.
  • Start strong. It’s important to get the audience’s attention from the start – one of the simplest ways to do this is often to begin with a compelling story.
  • Make sure you know who you’re speaking to. Spending some time researching your audience can ensure that your presentation is pitched just right. Do you know what the values of those in your audience are, what they care about and where their objectives sit? This kind of insight will enable you to tailor a presentation in a way that makes your audience feel like you’re speaking directly to them.
  • Keep it simple. Identify one or two objectives for your presentation and build it around that. Any more and your message might get lost and your audience simply end up feeling confused.
  • Practice and ask for feedback. Every time you practice a presentation you’ll notice something else that could be tightened up or improved. Ask others to listen to you practice and their feedback could help you to make what you say even more effective.
  • Where are the mental blocks likely to be? If you’ve researched your audience then you’ll have an idea of where there is most likely to be resistance to the content of your presentation. This is an opportunity to deal with those potential obstacles in your presentation – do this proactively and knowledgeably as opposed to being aggressive or making fun.
  • Don’t read your presentation. You’ll find it difficult to engage with your audience if you’re reading, whether that’s off cards or a screen. It’s much more effective to make sure that you can keep eye contact, whether that means memorising what you want to say or just working with short, simple prompts.
  • Avoid rushing. Especially if you’re nervous you might find yourself dashing through your presentation just keen to get to the end of it. You will ruin the impact of what you have to say in doing this – it’s much more effective to be slow and measured, to make time for pauses and to allow yourself to repeat the most important points so everyone is clear on your objectives.
  • Be ready for feedback. You might get questions after your presentation so be prepared to answer these and to be gracious if there is criticism or challenge to deal with.
  • Finish well. It’s important to go out with a bang and not a whimper so make sure you’ve prepared a strong closing statement.
A persuasive presentation is a powerful tool that can be used for any number of different goals. Whether you’re keen to get ahead in an office or looking to kick off your own enterprise, developing these skills is essential. Find out more by booking onto our Masterclass in Preparing and Delivering Persuasive Presentations training course…

Our top 10 tips for effective telephone prospecting

Posted: July 9, 2020 10:13 am
If you’d like to be more effective when it comes to telephone prospecting then there are some simple ways to do it. These are our top 10 tips for getting more from the effort that you put in.
  • Prepare a range of responses. Each call will either go to voicemail, be answered by the prospect or someone who handles the prospect’s calls. You need to have the right response prepared for each one of these scenarios so that you don’t waste time or opportunities.
  • Find the right time of day. The more you experiment with call times the more likely you are to see patterns. The reality is that you may have a higher chance of success with some prospects before 9am and with others after 5pm. Experiment as you gain experience so that you have more of an idea of what is likely to work with each one.
  • If you don’t believe in yourself why should they? Self-belief is essential if you want to get better at telephone prospecting. If you sound positive, energised and like you’re backing your own words then it’s likely your prospect will too.
  • Focus on who you’re speaking to. If all you’re doing on the call is talking about yourself or the product you’ll struggle. Instead, focus on the prospect, what their needs are and what information they will find valuable.
  • If you’re leaving a voicemail, be brief. Make sure you know what to say on a voicemail in advance of the call so that you don’t waffle. Keep it to 15 seconds and be succinct.
  • Vary your approach. If you don’t get through on one day make sure that the next call is a different time on a different day otherwise you’re effectively just duplicating effort. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t leave the same voicemail twice so keep a record of what you’ve said, and when.
  • Free up your hands. We are usually much more effective at being convincing if we’re able to use our hands expressively while talking. Even if the prospect can’t see you, being hands free can make you more compelling. That may require you to wear a headset.
  • You may not get through straight away. It can take multiple attempts to break through to a prospect so if this doesn’t happen immediately that’s no reason to just give up. Plan for 4-6 contacts and if nothing is achieved after that then back off for a month or so and try again.
  • Think about the other person’s schedule. For example, most meetings start on the hour so if you call five minutes before you might just be able to catch them.
  • Stay the course. Telephone prospecting is very effective but persistence is essential – be ready to keep trying to achieve those exciting breakthroughs.
These are just some of the ways that you can be more effective when it comes to what you can achieve with telephone prospecting. Find out more by booking onto our Advanced Telephone Prospecting Training Course…

How to become a better project manager

Posted: July 2, 2020 10:45 am
Becoming a great project manager is possible for anyone. No one starts out with exactly the right skill set and there are always opportunities to improve and do better. If you’re keen to evolve as a project manager then these are some of the simplest ways to do it.
  • Be a consistent and effective communicator. This means ensuring that communication is maintained for all parties, from stakeholders to managers, and keeping lines of communication open. Use all the tools at your disposal to do this, from video conferencing platforms to email and face-to-face meetings where practical.
  • Learn how to listen. Many of us listen to others while thinking or doing something else and, as a result, we can miss subtle emotional signs or behavioural cues. Being able to listen actively means being fully present with the speaker and learning how to empathise with their perspective and see what they’re saying from their point of view.
  • Be clear about next steps. Every time a meeting takes place make sure that everyone walking away from it knows what they need to do next and when that needs to happen by.
  • Be transparent and authentic. If you’re using access to information as a means of control then you’re likely to end up in a sticky situation because other people talk. Instead, be transparent if you want to build trust and work on your own authenticity – aligning who you present yourself to be with what you say and do.
  • Deal with issues quickly. Establish a simple, routine project control cycle so that any issues that arise are being tackled as soon as they are identified and are not left to escalate.
  • Work on self awareness. It’s easy to get set in your ways as a project manager. However, the best opportunities for improvement often arise from working on self awareness and through the constructive criticism of others.
  • Always look for the problem you’re trying to solve. If you’re struggling to identify the end objective for a project then look at it from the perspective of the issue that it exists to solve. If you take the time to define this clearly then everyone involved will understand the goal.
  • Use technology and templates. Both can save on time and standardise processes across the project.
  • Stay on top of the process. It’s essential that parts of the project don’t end up without observation. Setting soft and hard deadlines can be a simple way to ensure that progress is measurable and everyone remains motivated. Regularly looking for project ‘gaps’ by checking in with time, cost, objectives etc will ensure that these don’t have the opportunity to become voids.
  • Review and learn. Take the time, either within the project cycle or when it’s finished, to review recent progress and work out whether anything could have been done better.
Becoming a better project manager requires a series of small shifts in the way that you approach and steer people and project cycles. Find out more by booking onto our Project Management training course…

How to develop resilience

Posted: June 25, 2020 9:46 am
Resilience is basically the ability to recover when something in life goes wrong. The more resilient you become the less likely you are to dwell on failures or feel defeated by adversity. Instead, you’re much more able to learn from situations and to move forward whatever happens in life. If you’re looking to develop more resilience for life there are some key steps involved.

The fundamental qualities of resilient people

According to research there are a number of key qualities that set resilient people apart from those who are less likely to bounce back in the face of adversity.
  • Being able to reframe the problem. If you’re resilient then when something goes wrong you can view this as a challenge as opposed to an immovable obstacle.
  • A commitment to life. Resilient people tend to be fully committed to achieving goals and to everything, from career to friends – there are no half measures.
  • Directing energy to the right places. Being able to determine what can be controlled and what can’t, and to channel energy where it can have the biggest impact, is a key quality of a resilient person.
  • Protecting self worth. When something goes wrong resilient people don’t blame themselves but see the situation as the reason, thereby protecting their self worth.
  • It won’t last forever. Resilient people view setbacks as temporary and know that obstacles can be overcome. They are also much more likely to restrict negativity to a single issue (e.g. I didn’t do well on that project) than their entire being (e.g. I never do well on any project) which makes progress seem a more achievable goal.

How to develop resilience

  • Get the basics right. To give yourself a fighting chance at resilience make sure you get enough sleep, eat well and spend time away from the office.
  • Observe how you speak to yourself. Our internal chatter can have a big impact on how well we cope with the world. If you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re not enough or that you can’t cope then this will eat away at your potential to be more resilient.
  • Reframe the hard things. For example you can use cognitive restructuring to develop a different view on issues and problems when they arise.
  • Look for the lesson. If you make a mistake or experience a setback look for something to learn from the experience rather than engaging in self-hatred or blame.
  • Focus on improving self-confidence. Resilient people know deep down that they will succeed eventually and this requires confidence in your abilities and approach. Developing confidence will nurture your sense of self and ensure that you have your own back.
  • Be flexible and allow for change. One of the easiest ways to develop resilience is to work on a mindset that accepts uncertainty and the fact that everything changes all the time.
  • Maintain perspective. Being able to see the bigger picture means that you won’t get dragged down by individual issues or crises.
Resilience is crucial to getting ahead today and these are just some of the ways that you can start to develop it. Find out more by booking onto our Introduction to Building Personal Resilience Training Course…

Our top 10 tips for project management success

Posted: June 18, 2020 9:43 am
In any sector and at any stage there are challenges when it comes to project management. These are our top 10 tips for driving momentum and ensuring the eventual outcome is success.
  1. Get to grips with the project. Be clear about who the clients and stakeholders are and where each of their interests lie. What are the goals and objectives for the project and what plan is in place to ensure that these are achieved?
  2. Create the right team. Once you have a plan in place you can start to identify how to resource the project. Identify a team, define roles and make sure you have all expertise requirements covered.
  3. Work with individual strengths and weaknesses. When you’re leading any team you will always get more from people if you focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Tap into the strengths of every team member so that each is tasked in the area where they can contribute the most.
  4. Identify the milestones. In order to keep a project on track you need to have a clear pathway to success with specific milestones marked along it. What needs to happen at each stage of initiation, planning, execution and close?
  5. Make sure that someone is steering the project. It’s crucial to have a clear leader in project management – collaboration is important at every stage but there needs to be a project manager who will take control and responsibility where necessary.
  6. Ensure that channels of communication remain open. Whether it’s among team members or between stakeholders and managers, poor communication can mean negative project outcomes. It’s essential to ensure everyone remains informed and has the opportunity to ask questions where necessary.
  7. Use technology. In particular, project management software can make it much easier to deliver a successful outcome. It’s a great way to ensure that everyone has access to information, to facilitate collaboration and to help to make sure that momentum is maintained.
  8. Get familiar with the risks. The risk component in any project can be off-putting and it might be tempting to ignore it and hope it goes away. However, effective risk management is crucial to project management success. Go through the process of identifying potential risks in advance and then putting contingencies in place in case these do actually arise. The reality may be that you never have to deal with them but you’ll be ready to take action if you do.
  9. Test, test, test. Every time you reach a critical milestone test your deliverables. This is the clearest way to see whether the project is on track or not.
  10. Review the project afterwards. Whether you achieved success or not, post-project review is essential. If there have been mistakes and failures then these present a chance to learn and this is also a good opportunity to embed those actions or initiatives that worked particularly well.
Project management success depends on a number of different factors – these top 10 tips provide a great place to start. Find out more by booking on to our Introduction to Project Management training course…

How to manage people without them knowing

Posted: June 11, 2020 9:40 am
Learning to manage people without them knowing may sound Machiavellian. However, the intention behind this is simply to start managing people in a way that allows them to effectively manage themselves. It can take time and effort to get to a stage where your team is able to be autonomous where necessary, own their decisions and be creative about problem solving but it is possible to get there. These are some of the key steps involved.

Be clear about when you need to be part of the process

Most managers want to steer clear of a micro-managing approach and this rarely suits teams either. However, it’s difficult to achieve this if there are no clear guidelines on what needs your input and when an issue or decision is something that staff should be handling on their own. The first simple step to managing people effectively is setting out unambiguously when you should be involved before the team makes a move. Once this is in place it should mean that you’re not constantly being asked for input but also provide reassurance to everyone that it’s clear when you need to be consulted.

Don’t deviate from the path you’ve designed

Particularly if you’ve been overly involved in every single decision for some time it might be difficult for your team to give up asking for your input on everything. You might still need to make contributions in unprecedented situations or help junior – or new – staff but on the whole you should stick to the new path that you’ve designed and what you’ve put in place about when you need to be involved and when the team needs to make their own decisions. One simple tactic to deal with staff who are repeatedly returning to ask for your input on every single thing is to turn the tables on them. Next time they come to you with a question try asking them “what do you think?” It means that they may come up with their own solution and will get them into the habit of starting to tap their own internal resources first.

Stay in touch

When management style changes there is always a danger that the team may feel like they are being ignored or abandoned. To avoid this, schedule in regular meetings – face to face or via video chat – so that there is the opportunity for them to ask questions and talk things through. This approach may also encourage them to save questions for the weekly chat rather than constantly bombarding you with them.

Give your team the opportunity to shine

Instead of solving problems on behalf of your team, when an issue arises give them a chance to do it themselves. For example, if there is a process that currently requires your input to complete but could actually be effectively done without you could a template be designed to facilitate this? Instead of designing this yourself put the problem to the team and let them come up with a solution – it’s likely that they will be more creative and come up with something much more appropriate as it will be designed by those who use it most. There is an art to managing people without them knowing and it starts with clear communication and a willingness to trust. Find out more by booking onto our Managing People on Projects training course…

Top tips for world-class customer service

Posted: June 4, 2020 9:03 am
Customer service has always been a foundation of business growth. Recent events have made achieving positive customer service more challenging but not impossible. As brand reputation continues to have a key role to play in whether or not consumers choose your business over another it’s becoming increasingly crucial to make world-class customer service a priority.
  • Give your team the right tools. In the current situation that often equates to technology. Whether that’s an effective CRM, upgrades to accounting or billing systems or marketing automation, the right tools can make it much easier for your customer service team to excel at what they do.
  • Clear and honest communication is essential. Most people don’t respond well to being patronised or overloaded with information and almost all will switch off if they feel they aren’t entirely being told the truth. It’s crucial to train staff to communicate clearly and honestly with customers, to avoid platitudes and practice authenticity.
  • Make sure you have a system in place to handle complaints. When customers aren’t happy it’s important to take note of this. Although it may not always be a sign that there’s an issue you have to resolve it’s always worth making space for the complaint so that the customer feels heard. Train your team to acknowledge the complaint and act so as to control the situation and refocus the discussion on a more positive outcome. Problem solving is essential in a complaint situation as it enables a customer to potentially walk away happy.
  • Avoid rushing customers. Most consumers can sense when they are being pushed hard towards a goal and will resist if this is done in a clumsy way. Customer service teams shouldn’t be clock watching and should avoid being pushy to drive customers towards their goals too quickly. On the flip side, most consumers today don’t want to waste precious time on business interactions so it’s also important to make customer service communication concise.
  • Learning the art of closing is essential. Whether this is closing a sale or simply a conversation, when it is done right it will leave the customer with a sense that the business cares about getting it right – is focused on whatever the customer thinks ‘right’ is – and isn’t going to try and force a conclusion.
  • Learning how to say thank you is key. Gratitude can create some serious ROI and leave a positive impression on customers. Most businesses rely on customers to evolve and grow and expressing thanks for this regularly can be enormously beneficial.
  • Invest in a good team. Exceptional customer service people can have a huge impact on how well the business does overall when it comes to interactions with consumers. Customer service will never be better than the quality of the people delivering it so it’s worth taking the time to find great people, to train them well and to provide opportunities for learning and growth that benefit individuals and the business as a whole.
These top tips for customer service will enable any business to make an impact on key variables such as brand perception and audience size. Find out more by booking onto our Outstanding Customer Service Skills training course…

How to improve your employees listening skills

Posted: May 28, 2020 9:38 am
Listening is a crucial component in positive communication, which provides a strong foundation for effective business practices. Becoming an active listener can enable an employee to be more productive and make fewer mistakes and means less time is wasted asking the wrong questions. It can create an open and positive atmosphere in the office and make people across the business feel genuinely valued. So, what steps can you take to help employees improve the listening skills they are already have?

Parrot style can be a good approach

While we don’t recommend employees parrot everything that is said to them, repeating what someone else has said to ensure that you have it right can be a useful listening technique. It will ensure that employees are genuinely listening and also means that comments or questions can be posed straight away. This technique demonstrates to the speaker that they are being heard and can help to avoid miscommunication.

No interruptions

This may seem obvious and yet so many of us don’t let people finish before we start talking. Proactive listening isn’t about waiting for the opportunity to speak but actually sitting and taking in what is being said without looking for a chance to interrupt. Interrupting is learned behaviour frequently seen where junior staff or female staff are speaking so it’s important to emphasise how key it is to listen well and wait for the speaker – whoever they are - to finish before providing a response.

Opting for objectivity

Emotions and feelings are natural but when it comes to listening they can cloud the situation. Encouraging employees to listen actively and without judgment will make it much easier to open channels of clear communication. Empathy is crucial in a listener as it will enable them to identify with the speaker and perhaps see issues or complaints from their perspective. Encourage employees to listen and react as professionally as possible to improve basic listening skills.

Ask your employees to use nonverbal cues

These can be very useful in encouraging the person speaking and ensuring that they know that they are being heard. Eye contact and the occasional nod of the head demonstrate that the person speaking has the full attention of the listener and that they are taking in what is being said. Slouching, yawning, fiddling with pens or standing with hands in pockets can give negative signals to the person speaking and damage communication as a result.

Distractions mean poor listening

There are a lot of distractions in an office that can interrupt good listening. From a phone screen lighting up to the sound of an email arriving in an inbox, an open window or being to close to a break out area, all can detract from the conversation. Especially for important conversations, advise employees to choose the right location and put away devices etc that could interrupt. Being a good listener can improve employee career prospects and help individuals to interact more positively with each other. It’s a skill that all employees should be encouraged to develop.  
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