New and veteran salespeople will benefit from reading Terri Sjodin‘s latest book, Presentation Ready: Improve Your Sales Presentation Outcomes & Avoid the Twelve Most Common Mistakes.

Backed by recent research, Sjodin shares the 12 most common mistakes – along with relatable case studies and practical methods to overcome each mistake.

The 12 most common mistakes are:


1. Winging it
2. Being overly informative vs. persuasive
3. Providing inadequate support
4. Failing to close the sale
5. Misusing the allotted time
6. Being boring, boring, boring
7. Ineffectively using visual aids
8. Failure to create connection with listeners
9. Distracting gestures and body language
10. Dressing inappropriately or unprofessionally
11. Technology or demonstration failures
12. Verbal misteps

I don’t know about you, but I have either 1. made every single one of these mistakes in a big way or 2. seen someone make one of these mistakes. The big ones are memorable; however, even the small instances deter your potential client from buying your product or service.

I believe this is a great book to give to your sales team. Read a chapter (1 mistake) and then debrief the mistake, the instances where they saw that specific mistake affect the outcome, lessons learned, and go-forward strategy as a team. Using this book as a basis of discussion is a powerful tool to upskill your sales teams!

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This team building activity is a great tool for demonstrating the value of teamwork. This exercise is ideal for groups of three to six people and requires 20 to 25 minutes. The materials you will need to have on hand are:

  • One box of straight straws (not flexible) for each group
  • Paper clips that fit snugly into the straws

Assemble the team members in a space large enough for the team to separate into smaller groups.

Begin by introducing the purpose of the exercise: to demonstrate the value of teamwork.

Explain the desired results of the exercise: to build a free-standing tower using only the materials provided in fifteen minutes.

The criteria for success are:

(1) the tower is free-standing (not attached to the floor, walls, etc.)

(2) the tower must be at least five feet tall

(3) the tower must be able to survive a moderate wind

For an added bit of fun, ask for the “measurers” – someone who knows what “free-standing” is; someone who is at least five feet tall, and someone who can blow a moderate wind! You will then use these folks to verify the success of each tower.

Ask if there are any questions and if they all understand the process – then let ’em go!

After fifteen minutes, ask the groups to gather all around the center of the room, bringing the towers!

Have each measurer check each tower. Typically, most of the towers succeed.

Debrief and Summarize

Debrief what worked and what the teams could have done better, and tie it into the team learning points.

  • What did you like most about this activity?
  • What made the team successful?
  • What process, if any, did you use to “design” the tower?
  • Who emerged as the group leader(s)? What characteristics did the leader(s) display?
  • Did everyone participate? If not, why not?
  • Describe the group dynamic.
  • How did individual team members help each other?
  • How did you make decisions?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • How might you apply these lessons to our team’s work?

Variation

Change the criteria for success to include a competitive edge, (e.g., tallest, strongest, most creative, most functional, etc.).

If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!

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We all go through business and personal pivots, reinventions, and transformations.  Some are big, some are relatively small.   Yet the process is fairly predictable as outlined in Next! The Power of Reinvention in Life and Work by Wall Street Journalist Joanne Lipman. 

Lipman illuminates the process of reinvention with tons of stories of famous and not-so-famous people reinventing themselves.  As I was reading the book, I harkened back to several “pivots” and “reinventions” in my own life and kept thinking “oh, THAT’s what was going on!”  Hindsight is helpful….

Yet the real gold in this book is to help you NOW.  Especially in this post-COVID world, many of us are in transition.  From here to where?  This book will help you.  Perhaps you know your destination but are struggling.  This book will help you.  Or maybe you are ready to give up your dream.  This book will help inspire you (or give you some ideas about when you need to stop).  

I loved reading the book and didn’t want to put it down.  If you are in transition, this book will be one of your “expert companions.”

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I’m a big fan of using ground rules as a proactive, preventive strategy to keep the team’s work focused and on track.

Imagine my delight to hear that even the U.S. Supreme Court uses some ground rules when they deliberate their cases!

In a panel discussion at George Washington University this week, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett explained the justices’ rules for their conferences when deliberating cases in a panel with Justice Sonia Sotomayor and chief executive of Citizen University Eric Liu.

Justice Barrett was quoted in the Gazette as saying:

“We don’t speak in a hot way at our conferences,” Barrett said. “We don’t raise our voices no matter how hot-button the case. We always speak with respect…There’s a norm for how we speak, Chief Justice begins because he’s the most senior, and you go around in a circle. Most senior down to most junior, and you say what you think about the case, and the norm is that you cannot interrupt the other person… So we hear everybody out and it’s not until everybody has spoken that there then can be some back and forth. We do not interrupt one another, and we never raise voices.”

Justice Sotomayer agreed with Justice Barrett’s assessment and also explained how the justices deal with a breach of the norms:

“Generally, one of our senior colleagues will call the person who was perceived to maybe have gotten a little close and tell them, maybe you should think of an apology or patching it up a little bit,” Sotomayor said. “It happens in writing. Occasionally, someone writes something that an individual feels is offensive — and not just explanatory…All of these things are ways to manage emotion without losing respect for one another and without losing an understanding that each of us is operating in good faith. And I think the public discourse has lost some of that.”

Despite ruling on several divisive issues, the justices have long maintained they are civil and get along well despite the fierce disagreements. Why? Because even the U.S. Supreme Court has ground rules!

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I had a recent conversation with a colleague, Marilyn Sherman about the power of curiosity. (Check out the story that prompted the discussion here).

Sherman said, “It doesn’t take much to connect to others which has proven to increase trust. Simply be genuinely curious. You’d be surprised how quickly you can connect with another human being with seemingly nothing in common with you. THAT’S how you make an impact on the world, one connection at a time.”

When it comes to teams, curiosity is a powerful quality that inspires connection and conversation.  While some people might think it’s a “trait” where some people are simply more curious than others, I think it’s a skill you can build…and even cultivate within your team.

Ways to Cultivate Curiosity in Your Team

Here are strategies to cultivate curiosity in your team, organized for clarity and action:

Communicate the Importance of Curiosity

  1. Encourage Questions.  Regularly ask open-ended questions to stimulate thinking and exploration.
  2. Share Learning.  Encourage team members to share what they’ve learned from successes, failures, and everything in between.
  3. Set Learning Goals.  Alongside traditional performance goals, include objectives related to learning and exploration. Reward not just outcomes, but the process of inquiry and discovery.
  4. Access to Information.  Offer subscriptions to journals, databases, and other resources. Allow time for team members to explore these resources.
  5. Training Opportunities.  Share (and fund!) upcoming workshops or courses on creative thinking, critical analysis, and other skills that bolster curiosity.
  6. Challenges.  Regularly present your team with challenges that require them to seek out new knowledge or come up with innovative solutions.

Model Your Own Curious Behavior

  1. Lead by Example.  Demonstrate your own curiosity by asking questions, seeking feedback, and showing a genuine interest in learning from others.
  2. Share Your Learning Process. Talk about what you’re reading, experiments you’re interested in, or recent learnings, showing that curiosity is a continuous, valued process.
  3. Normalize Setbacks.  Emphasize that failure is part of learning and an opportunity for growth. Share your own failures and what you learned from them to destigmatize not having all the answers.
  4. Debate and Discussion Sessions.  Organize regular sessions where team members can discuss topics relevant to their work or industry trends, constructively challenging each other’s thinking.

Reinforce Others’ Curious Behaviors

  1. Recognize Curiosity.  Publicly acknowledge instances where curiosity led to positive outcomes, reinforcing its value.
  2. Cross-functional Collaboration.  Mix teams from different departments or backgrounds to solve problems, bringing varied perspectives and encouraging curiosity about different aspects of the business.
  3. Time for Exploration.  Allocate time for team members to pursue projects or research areas they’re curious about, even if they’re not directly related to their current tasks.

A simple yet powerful question to ask your teammates is “What are you working on today and what’s getting in the way?”  It’s a question that sparks conversation without judgment and provides an opening for brainstorming ideas to overcome challenges – or even an offer of help.

By cultivating curiosity in your team, you are creating an environment that values questions, encourages diverse thinking, and sees failure as a learning opportunity.  Building curiosity as a skill within a team can significantly enhance problem-solving, innovation, and adaptability.

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