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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Overcoming the Barriers to Enterprise Collaboration

Overcoming the Barriers to Enterprise Collaboration

Your organisation has taken the plunge and invested in a shiny new enterprise social media platform. Everyone is talking about the enormous benefits to be had through collaborative working and better employee engagement. At last, you can throw off the shackles of that email inbox and really start to become more productive.

But is this vision we’re being sold by the social technology vendors actually being realised, or is life just a bit more complicated than that? The answer - as usual - lies somewhere in between.
Part of the problem is our increasing reliance on technology, and a belief that it can solve all of our problems. No matter how many times we hear the mantra that ‘it’s not the technology, it’s the people that matter’, the task of implementing social software within the enterprise is - more often than not - addressed as an IT project. But technology doesn’t provide a solution for social interaction and human relationships.
What is becoming increasingly apparent to the early adopters is that the real challenge with introducing social software is not the technology itself, but the introduction of new modes of behaviour. The reality is that the cultural aspects of the social collaboration journey are far more rigorous and require more serious attention than the implementation of technology. It really is the people that matter!
Until and unless organisations treat the implementation of social software as an organisational development (OD) activity, taking a more holistic perspective of culture, education, business processes and technology, they will struggle to gain widespread adoption across the enterprise and only partial realisation of the benefits of a more engaged and collaborative workforce.
In order to address some of these wider OD issues, it helps to understand the potential obstacles and barriers to change that are rooted in the legacy environment. These are the behaviours and conditions that have evolved over time and now rarely questioned or challenged.
They are the ‘norm’ and even new employees will adopt these patterns of behaviour in order to conform. Either that or they will decide to leave the organisation. It’s all part of the corporate survival game. Mavericks are rarely tolerated.

What do we mean by enterprise social media?

It is worth pausing for a moment to examine the flurry of new terms and buzzwords that broadly mean the same thing. The term ‘social media’ continues to divide those who associate it with frivolous use of time, using services such as Facebook or Twitter, and those who recognise the potential value of having a far more connected and engaged society. This will ever be the case, and more of this later when examining the obstacles to collaboration.
What started as personal and consumer-led adoption of tools that enable sharing of ideas and conversations (broadly categorised as ‘web 2.0’) has, over the past several years, become an integral part of new business thinking as increasingly organisations have seen the benefits of having a more joined-up workforce.
‘Enterprise 2.0’, a term first coined in 2006 by Andrew McAfee to describe emergent collaboration technologies, is synonymous with the integration of social media tools and services with the corporate intranet, extranet and business processes. This term is now gradually morphing to ‘social business’, and embraces the technologies and strategies that support collaboration between the workforce, partners and stakeholders.
Enterprise social media is the set of tools, services, policies and protocols that have been integrated into business processes in order to facilitate and encourage engagement, collaboration and knowledge sharing within and across the organisation. These may be free-to-use services, homegrown solutions, or vendor products/applications.
The potential benefits are faster access to experts and knowledge and more agile processes delivered via a people-centred organisation. Adoption of enterprise social media solutions can spur efficiency, productivity and innovation by encouraging employees and other stakeholders to share information and discuss business problems in an open, collaborative setting.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing

Given that one of the many benefits of enterprise social media is to encourage more collaboration and knowledge sharing, it is useful to look at why and how this happens.
If employees are given the right tools and the right environment, will they spontaneously collaborate and share knowledge? Why do some people find it difficult to share and collaborate? If we understand these behaviours we can reinforce the ones that facilitate engagement and sharing, and discourage the ones that do the opposite.

What do we mean by collaboration?

Collaboration is when individuals or groups work together, combining their strengths and negating weaknesses to accomplish a set of goals.
The important point about this definition is that the outcomes are more likely to be amplified when working together as opposed to individually.

Obstacles to collaboration

Understanding the barriers and obstacles is the first step to identifying potential solutions. Individuals acting alone may not be empowered to make the desired changes, but if there is a real desire to collaborate and share knowledge, most if not all of these obstacles can be overcome or circumvented.
The potential obstacles to effective collaboration have been categorised into three groups:
  • Group 1 issues are the hardest to identify and address because they are based on emotion not logic. Persuasion, peer pressure, coaching etc. are all needed in some form.
  • Group 2 is more rational so there will be answers to these questions that can increase motivation and turn it around.
  • Group 3 is a question of investing resources to address the gaps and build the skills. Not always cheap or simple, but logical

1. Emotional: resistance based on real or perceived threats

A. Knowledge is power

Knowledge and information hoarders exist in every organisation. However, their knowledge is likely to be one-dimensional, potentially very specialised and limited to their own small network. This can’t compare to the wealth and dynamic nature of knowledge in social networks. A case of ‘none of us is smarter than all of us’. Specialised and narrowly focused knowledge can soon become out of date and irrelevant, just like the knowledge hoarder

B. Command and control / hierarchy advantages

Some people don’t collaborate because there’s a real or perceived hierarchy in the workplace. Over the years, the leadership may have developed a culture that appears to value one person or group over another. Sharing knowledge with those higher in the hierarchy may not be welcome or valued. Sharing knowledge with those lower in the hierarchy may put you at a disadvantage, so knowledge is hoarded. Communities of Practice and Social Networks will only function effectively if there is no hierarchy, enabling knowledge to flow freely. It’s worth remembering that hyperlinks subvert hierarchy!

C. Sceptical middle management

Sometimes called the ‘marzipan layer’. You may have support from the top (the icing), and bottom-up encouragement (the cake). But middle management acts as a barrier between the two. They are more likely to understand the detailed processes that provide the foundations for how the organisation operates. They are likely to be risk-averse, since any process changes may have unpredictable consequences, and for which they may be ultimately accountable. This can have a dampening effect on the social collaboration advocates, and only persistence and demonstration of the benefits will convince middle management to support the initiative. Accept that middle managers will be the laggards and build a support network of change agents.

D. Fear of rejection

You have something to contribute, but previous experience leads you to believe that your opinion is not valued. Typically seen in hierarchical network.

E. Afraid to ask

Asking for help is a sign of weakness. Most prevalent in hierarchical structures where some perceived loss of credibility or power would results if the person had to ask for help or advice. This would, after all, put them in debt to the person, people or group that they could have consulted. Typical of opaque working practices and can result in missed opportunities for adopting good / best practice.

F. Fear of change

None of us like change. A familiar routine avoids having to think and enables us stay within our comfort zone. A bit like wearing a comfortable pair of slippers. But the reality is we need to change and adapt to the environment, or we don’t survive. Complexity is all around us, and change is happening with increasing velocity.
 Holding back change is a bit like King Canute - with the same outcome! Introducing something which forces change is often the only answer, but the ‘disruption’ needs to be sustained in order to avoid returning to the previous status quo. Integrating social software with established business processes will create the desired change, so be clear about which tools and systems are optional and which are mandatory.
‘If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.’ - General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U. S. Army

2. Rational: Lack of willingness due to current ways of working

A. WIIFM / Lack of clear business case

What’s in it for me? It’s reasonable to seek value in what you do; otherwise you’ll consider your actions as being a waste of time. Sharing knowledge establishes a level of trust and understanding, and it’s more likely that sharing will be reciprocated, and hence reinforcing collaborative behaviour.
B. Lack of support from the top

Bottom-up initiatives will more likely fail to take hold unless there is some support from senior managers and directors. Ideally, collaboration initiatives need to be aligned with business or service goals. 

However, sometimes a degree of subversion may be the only way of gaining the attention of senior managers to the benefits of social collaboration. Freemium services such as Yammer can provide a secure and private external environment for corporate collaboration, and there are a number of examples of how an informal Yammer network started by one person has gained sufficient traction amongst employees to become officially recognised as a corporate asset.

C. Rigid job descriptions

Tightly written and prescriptive job descriptions will create real or perceived boundaries that inhibit initiatives and taking on new responsibilities.

D. Micromanagement

Once assigned a task or objective by a manager, most knowledge workers will just want to get on with it, with a degree of autonomy on how they go about it. Some managers or supervisors feel the need to oversee every small detail, which discourages initiative and dis-incentivises the worker. Collaboration will probably be limited to the constraints set by the manager/supervisor.

E. Dissonance

This happens when managers tell people they want everyone to collaborate. But at the same time, they independently assign tasks, targets and goals to various individuals and teams. Agendas and priorities will vary and can range from complementary to conflicting.

F. Geography

The layout of your workplace can help or hinder collaboration. The greater the distance between colleagues, the greater the chance of miscommunication. This is not just over-reliance on email when face-to-face conversation is needed, but genuine ‘out of sight, out of mind’ lapses that keep smart people out of the brainstorming, decision making or socialising that leads to positive outcomes.

G. Language

Collaboration is always going to be difficult if the parties cannot make themselves understood. Try to be flexible with the communication media available; some people are better able to communicate verbally, others prefer written communication.

H. Culture

Not every culture is open and transparent. Employees need to be aware of rules and protocols that define collaboration with other cultures.

3. Rational: Inability to collaborate due to lack of skills/tools or other structural issues

A. No tools / poor tools / too many tools

To be effective, collaboration has to be made simple. Intuitive tools accelerate user acceptance and can maximise the outcomes. However, tools need to be relevant and optimised to the task(s) to be completed. Too many choices result in cognitive dissonance (confusion on what to use for each task). If no tools (other than email) you belong to a dinosaur organisation. It will eventually become extinct. Decide when to move!

B. Digital divide

Hopefully less of an issue than it used to be, but there is no doubt that anyone not able to connect to the Internet is likely to be at a disadvantage for knowledge and information sharing compared with those who are more digitally networked. Providing access to enterprise collaboration facilities via smartphones and tablets may go some way to narrowing the digital divide.

C. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks

If people are given the appropriate incentives, or they can see some benefit to themselves, they will usually make the desired behaviour change. However, some people will never change. Don’t waste time. Accept it and move on.

D. Information overload / lack of time

Research papers and employee surveys have consistently identified that the two biggest time-consumers are (1) attending meetings and (2) servicing the email inbox. Employees may not have very much control over what meetings they are required to attend, though they can reasonably ask to have input to the agenda and ensure they go fully prepared in order to avoid any time being wasted debating information that has only been partially shared.

Email is a topic in its own right, and will feature in a separate paper. Suffice to say it has evolved to become:
  • a chat-messaging platform (we send an email and get one back right away!)
  • a personal intranet for storing and searching for old information or documents

a broadcast channel for distributing information regardless of topic or relevance
  • asking a question that can’t be answered by the recipients, who then forward the email to their contacts…and so on.
  • a calendaring and event management system where we set up meetings.
  • a note-taking solution, for typing meeting notes and forwarding to yourself for saving in your email folders.
Most people would agree that email is not the best tool for collaboration and knowledge sharing, but it might be the only tool available. It requires discipline about what is shared: does everyone need to know this snippet of information? 
Can people collaborate on a document more effectively if it is placed in a common workspace rather than being sent as an attachment to multiple email accounts? If there is a social software solution then use it for anything other than 1 to 1 communication.
Better still if the social software can be integrated with the email client. Think more critically about using the right tools for the job. If all you have is a hammer, then all you can do is bash, regardless of whether there is a nail there or not!
E. Inadequate training / education / support

Collaboration needs to be recognised as a key workplace skill, and included in personal learning & development plans. It’s not something that can be taught in a pedagogical sense, but can be encouraged through coaching and mentoring. Learn from those around you who freely share knowledge. How do they engage with and grow their networks? What tools do they use?
F. Legal / Compliance / Security

It’s not always possible, or even desirable to have open and transparent discussion. Closed groups or communities can be used in some circumstances, but we have to accept that there are times when wider collaboration is not possible.

Some simple steps to support adoption of enterprise social media

Don’t think of social media as a technology; think of it as a business solution.

Be clear about the purpose and objectives of your social media strategy. What problems will it fix? What opportunities will it unlock?

Don’t assume that users will immediately see the benefits. Adoption is not something that can be forced on people. Adoption occurs when users decide for themselves that the solution provides them with a net benefit. Users very quickly weigh ‘what's in it for me?’ against any perceived pain, such as giving up the comfort of an old way of doing something.

Ensure the solution is intuitive to use and broadly consistent with standards used for web 2.0 services and applications. Love it or hate it, Facebook has educated a whole generation of people on social technology, personal profiles, data privacy etc. An enterprise solution that is unusual or quirky will have difficulty in gaining traction.

Where possible, integrate any new social media solutions with existing technology and business processes. Since employees rely heavily on email, email integration is critical.

Find opportunities to apply collaborative solutions to business challenges where risks are minimal and business value is clear. In cautious and risk-averse organisations, safety trumps business value, so choose low risk over high business value in the early days.

Seek out social media advocates and early adopters. Promote and endorse any successes and quick wins.

Social behaviours develop over time. One successful example of collaboration is not enough. Reinforce and repeat good practice, and give sufficient time for new working practices to emerge.

Don’t give up at the first hurdle. No one ever said this was going to be an easy journey!

Leading People in an Anxious World 06-30

Leading People in an Anxious World
by Karen Firestone  

Safety is now Americans' overriding concern. 
Several years ago, as I sat in a secondary school board meeting, the visiting headmaster of a K-8 school was asked what he considered the highest priority for parents in choosing high schools. I was astounded when he said "safety" rather than, for example, "quality of education." But that was just a hint of how Americans' safety fears would blossom in the years to come. 
We have become the most anxious of nations, fearing terrorists, gun rampage, sexual assault, hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, identity theft, discrimination, and germs, among other things, and not necessarily in that order.
CEOs and managers need to understand what that means to their organizations. Our colleagues at work harbor worries in varying degrees, and management faces the new challenge of non-judgmentally navigating this path to security while recognizing the cost of protection. While we might think that common sense should guide us in evaluating the appropriate action to take about heightened risks, my idea of "reasonable" might be one partner's concept of "reckless."
 I favor encryption when any sensitive numbers or identifying data is sent to clients, but would not safeguard the average email, where a few colleagues might raise our safety bar as high as possible, almost regardless of cost. As a firm, we're debate these issues more now than we ever did before.
When it comes to physical safety, the sensitivity of the topic can make debate feel untouchable. Prior to one of many storms last winter, our governor suggested that people stay off the roads to make way for plows. Even if I felt the directive was alarmist, safety does and should take precedent. In that case, our firm settled on a compromise where people use discretion in their travel to and from work, but the office is open. We can all estimate the cost in wages, rent and even missed opportunities to sit with clients or each other.
This new frontier demands an executive response aimed at making constituents feel secure, first, while also evaluating the cost of any added safeguards. Here are some considerations for managers that have been on my mind:
Recognize that we have widely different thresholds beyond which we begin to feel unsafe.In my financial services company, we have a broad range of attitudes about required security levels for everything from our office entrance, digital encryption, and road safety during severe weather. It is essential to listen and not force our own attitude onto our colleagues and employees.
Try to design policies so that employees feel empowered to make some decisions themselves. For example, if the governor advises residents to avoid driving during a hurricane warning, let people make their own choices about coming to or leaving work. Otherwise, companies run the risk of people being resentful, anxious, or distracted.
Analyze situations carefully in terms of potential costs, liabilities, and benefits. A few years ago, I had a stalker. After this man aggressively charged into our office, running past the security officer and into the elevator, several of my colleagues not surprisingly felt that we needed to create a safer environment. I was less worried, despite being the target of his interest, believing that a night in jail and a severe warning from the judge might have an effect. 
However, we needed to address everyone's anxiety; that required studying access and surveillance systems for doors, elevators, and hallways. We selected a new entry locking system and convinced our building-mates to install access card security in the elevators. While the costs were not extreme, they were still meaningful, but the benefit in terms of everyone's comfort level was worthwhile.
Sometimes it's worth it to take a well-calculated risk.
 On the day of the manhunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, the governor of Massachusetts ordered a "lockdown" in the highest risk towns and advised, but did not order, residents of other communities to stay home from work for the day. I had already driven into work before knowing the extent of the restrictions, having written an email suggesting that my colleagues listen to the news, use discretion, and follow the governor's instructions.
Part of my decision hinged on a meeting planned that day with a client prospect, who, I suspected, might decide to come into Boston that day anyway. I wrote him to say that I was available if, by any chance, he was in the city, but that if not, we should reschedule at his convenience. He was already at work in his office a block away. 
While not the major reason, I believe that one factor in his choice to hire us is that we shared a similar, albeit, contrarian view of the widespread lockdown, and he read something into that about my work ethic and that of a few colleagues who rode bikes, walked or drove into city.
Most importantly, managers must understand that this is a different world where we constantly face challenges related to safety.
 The cost to address security in the physical and digital workplace is simply a larger expense line than in the past, whether because of lost work days or because of the cost of securing computers, digital files, or buildings. I've realized that I must not judge anyone's decision to either come to work on a potentially dangerous day, or to stay home with their families. This is especially true when public transportation has been canceled, or when family dynamics factor into individual decision making.

As managers, we must be sensitive to our employees' fears and anxieties, which themselves reduce productivity and satisfaction, while also being aware of what that means financially. 
So when I suggest that we drive out to Six Flags and ride the roller coaster together as a bonding experience, I am ready to accept a toned down tilt-a-whirl option, predetermined "designated drivers" for the ride home, and pre-screening the amusement park for security protocol. This is our new world.

Don't Draw the Wrong Lessons from Better Place's Bust 06-30

Don't Draw the Wrong Lessons from Better Place's Bust

By Ron Adner – 

The failure last month of green-tech start-up Better Place, which promised to free drivers and nations from oil dependence and revolutionize transportation, has generated both attention and derision.
But a blanket dismissal of its effort is a mistake. For entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers, there is plenty to learn from both the strategy and the outcome.

There was good reason for the attention and funding (over $800 million) that Better Place attracted. While every other player in the electric car space was focused on innovating individual pieces — vehicles, batteries, charge spots — Better Place's strategy was unique in innovating the larger puzzle to deliver an affordable drive-anywhere, anytime solution. Its approach was the first to align the key actors in the ecosystem in a way that addressed the critical shortcomings — range, resale value, grid capacity — that undermine the electric car as a mass-market proposition. (Note to Tesla owners: you are not the mass market).

Better Place's most visible and best-publicized innovation was its switchable battery technology, a novel way to overcome the short-range limits and long recharge times dictated by existing battery technology. Skeptics initially doubted the engineering feasibility of fast battery switches, the ability to roll out infrastructure on a national basis, and the willingness of carmakers to come on board. 

Renault came on board as the first (but ultimately only) car manufacturing partner, and switch stations deployed along major traffic routes successfully offered an almost-instant range extension that held the promise of promoting the electric car from a secondary short-haul vehicle to a primary, and possibly sole, family car.

Less touted but more important than the physical separation of the battery from the car was Better Place's innovation of separating ownership of the battery ownership and the car. EV advocates are quick to note that technology improvements in batteries will one day eliminate the range problem. What they often miss, however, is that these very same improvement will destroy the resale value of used electric cars with older batteries. Since resale value ranks high for mass market buyers, this has all the makings of a deal breaker.

Better Place's solution eliminated this risk. Instead of buying batteries, consumers would buy subscriptions for miles (just as mobile-phone operators sell subscriptions to minutes). Better Place would then use these multi-year contracts to finance its infrastructure investments and battery depreciation.

Finally, adding a service dimension to what had been a pure product sale allowed Better Place to address the final roadblock to mass adoption of electric cars: the generation and distribution of electricity itself. If just 5% of drivers in Los Angeles County were to attempt to charge their batteries at the same time, they would threaten to bring down the power grid, adding a load equivalent to two midsized power plants in an already strained system. Better Place's model, which had the firm intermediating in real time between utilities and drivers, allowed it to control the battery-charging load that would be placed on the system at any given moment.

What Went Wrong?

The shallow answer is not enough customers. Better Place started selling cars in Israel and Denmark in late 2012. By May 2013 it had sold fewer than 3,000 vehicles. A small number, but these are also small markets. In relative market terms, the results looked less than dismal: in May, Better Place sales accounted for 1% of cars sold in Israel, and its single available model, the Renault Fluence ZE, was outselling Toyota's category leading Prius. Moreover, Better Place's customer-satisfaction ratings were off the charts.

The deeper answer is not enough time to get enough customers. The clock, which started ticking in 2007, ran out. Which begs the question of why it took so long to get to market. Part of this time was spent, wisely, in perfecting the technologies (battery switch, network management, in-car intelligence) that would make the system run. Customer satisfaction is the testament to the success of the technology. 

Part of the time was spent in navigating the institutional hurdles that inevitably accompany every attempt at doing something new (zoning rules, insurance). But too much of this time was lost to wasteful efforts to establish toeholds and run pilots in a slew of new geographies (e.g., Australia, the Netherlands, California, Hawaii, Japan, China and Canada) before Better Place's two core markets, Israel and Denmark, had been secured.

When Better Place was founded, its strategy called for initial rollouts in Israel and Denmark. These were inspired choices to prove the viability of its strategy: They are small countries where gasoline is exceptionally expensive and purchase taxes on gasoline-powered cars are very high. They are superior to everyone else's target of California, where the high-end niche of rich environmentalists is attractive but cheap gasoline, vast driving distances, and an incredibly competitive car market undermine the appeal of electric cars for mainstream buyers.

Despite their relatively small populations, the economics in Israel and Denmark were such that even modest market success in just these two markets would have yielded the attractive financial returns critical for investors. Just as importantly, they would have yielded the meaningful sales volumes critical for retaining and attracting partners, most importantly automakers.

But in my conversations with Better Place executives over the course of the past three years, it was clear that the emphasis was shifting from "an idea this novel needs to demonstrate unquestionable economic viability," to "an idea this good needs to be deployed across the world as fast as possible." These were not opposing goals, but prioritizing the latter over the former would have profound implications.

As Better Place pursued new geographies it used up its limited resources: money, management attention, and, most precious of all, the patience of its partners, especially Renault. In early May, Renault announced that it was scaling back its commitment to switchable battery cars and that the long-awaited second model, the Zoe compact that Better Place had counted on to complement the mid-sized Fluence, would not be coming after all. This vote of no confidence would make it infinitely harder for Better Place to line up new car manufacturers, without which it was dead in the water.

In February 2013, after a series of mismanaged leadership transitions including the firing of founder and CEO Shai Agassi, Better Place finally reversed course. It announced its exit from all non-core markets to focus exclusively on Israel and Denmark. Within months of the decision it had captured 1% market share in Israel, but by then it was too late. It declared bankruptcy on May 26.

The tragedy is Better Place delivered on the most novel aspects of its business model, succeeding in both technology development and aligning the interests of the critical actors in the electric-car ecosystem. Its failure lies in its own discipline and execution. Entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers should distinguish between the drivers of the failure and the elements that carry the seeds of (someone else's) future success.

Would Customers Pay for Your Sales Calls? 06-30

Would Customers Pay for Your Sales Calls?
by Scott Edinger  

When I speak to audiences of sales professionals and ask, "How many of you sell value versus price?" everyone raises their hand. But my next question "So how do you do that?" is frequently followed by an uncomfortable silence. Many consider themselves to be value sellers but few are able to articulate what that really means.
In the simple economics 101 definition, value equals benefits minus cost: V=B-C. If you follow the logic of that equation, then, selling value means creating some benefit through the sales process beyond that provided by the product or service itself. My former boss and sales guru Neil Rackhamhas a simple test for this: He asks, "Would your customer write you a check for the sales call?" That is, did your salespeople do something on the call valuable enough for your customers to pay you for?
If they didn't, the only way you can profit from your sales operation is by reducing costs. That's why all my efforts to make sales teams more effective have focused on increasing not just the value of the offering but the value of the sales call itself. To do that I encourage them to move down the continuum from transactional to consultative relationships. Here's how:
Help clients see issues they hadn't considered. 
The best salespeople I've worked with do an extraordinary job of this. And they don't do it simply by lecturing the client about the problems they see. They do it through a process of mutual diagnosis. In these instances, the seller leads a dialogue with the client about her business, offering diagnoses as the conversation progresses.
Help clients examine issues they thought were benign, but aren't.
 When I interview clients about their sales relationships, they frequently tell me that they greatly value the ability of their reps to help them make a case for change. They do that by helping clients see the effect of a problem on the organization. A seller may help a client to see that a morale problem, for instance, which right now is only causing modest employee turnover, is having a tremendously negative impact on recruitment and productivity that will eventually become highly problematic.
 Again, this is not done through lecturing, but rather through the course of conversations in which seller and buyer explore the impact of a given situation together to determine the implications for the business.

Help clients see opportunities they'd missed. 
Sales-training programs rightly focus on finding clients' "pain points." But great salespeople also know there's value in pointing out successes waiting to be exploited. Surely, creating value in the sales process is as much about raising the bar as it is about solving problems.
 In fact, untapped opportunity may be even more important as organizations seek to grow in this perpetually tough economic environment. Jointly discovering such opportunities through the course of back-and-forth conversation makes it less likely that a client will react defensively to something he perhaps should have already known and more likely that he will embrace both the opportunities — and the messenger that helped to uncover them.

Help clients address problems with solutions they hadn't considered. 
Of course, at some point your, products and services have to come into the picture. When they do, the best sellers position them, not as a series of features and benefits, but as solutions that address the expressed needs of the client. 
Positioning products and services as a solution is not a new idea by any stretch, but the key to creating value is to do so in a way that the client has not considered. I bought a new air-conditioning system last year. 
I hadn't considered upgrading the heat pump in my system. But with the help of the representative, I came to realize that the new system wouldn't lower my winter heating bills without one. 
The power of the a-ha moment here can't be understated when the client says, "I hadn't thought about it that way!" Few clients will know everything your offering can do or all its potential applications, so finding a way to uniquely address their expressed need is a powerful thing indeed.
Help clients connect with additional support resources. 
As the old saying goes, "When you sell hammers, every problem looks like a nail." But you can't win 'em all; not every client will actually be a good match with what you're offering right now. Still, that doesn't mean that you can't create additional value for them. 
Perhaps you can provide connections to others in your organization that could help a client think through a complex issue, or make referrals to outsiders who can get her what she truly needs. You'll still get the credit for helping the client — and this can help both of you over time.

At the end of the day, selling is about improving the client's condition with your organization's products and services. The sales professionals who understand how to do that — who help buyers find real value through the selling process using these methods — sell more and command a premium for their offerings. 

Google, Samsung, Microsoft Head A Tech-Dominated List of The Most 'Meaningful' Brands 06-30

Google, Samsung, Microsoft Head A Tech-Dominated List of The Most 'Meaningful' Brands

Technology giants Google , Samsung, and Microsoft head the 2013 Meaningful Brand Index, compiled by Havas Media. The index measures 12 areas of consumer well-being, including health, happiness, and financial. Also among the top five were Nestle and Sony .

To create the Index, Havas Media measured 700 brands and more than 134,000 consumers in 23 countries. Brands were chosen on the basis of global as well as regional significance and ad spend.

Technology companies have gained significance since the last Index was released in 2011, while traditional retailers have surrendered some ground.

“What the results tell us is that tech companies have done some powerful things over the last few years to focus on people’s lives and they’re starting to reap the benefits of that,” said Umair Haque, director of Havas Media Labs. “It’s possible to move up and down these scales pretty radically in a short period of time.”

Havas’ research also indicates that the top 25 meaningful brands outperform stock markets by 120 percent, commensurate with top hedge funds. Haque says that those brands doing best are those understood to be providing the most well-being to shareholders and consumers.

“For every dollar that consumers invest, brands are going to have to deliver more human well-being to them,” said Haque. “In that kind of environment, institutions have to understand that every dollar or euro or pound has to result in more concrete human benefit for people, and if it doesn’t people simply won’t trust those brands anymore.”

Unchanged since 2011 is a prevailing consumer disinterest in the vast majority of brands around the world. The majority of those surveyed worldwide say they wouldn’t care if 73 percent of brands no longer existed tomorrow, and only 20 percent of all brands are viewed as having a positive role in consumers’ lives.

Though distrust prevails globally, consumers in developing markets maintain stronger relationships to brands, with people in Latin America and Asia six times more attached to brands than consumers in the U.S. and Europe.

“In emerging markets, people trust brands more, but they also expect more from them. The challenge for brands is not to go to emerging markets and replicate the same model,” said Haque.  ”If brands don’t get smarter, five years from now, ten years from now we’ll be in a situation where 95 percent of people globally don’t trust brands.”

Ultimately, said Haque, people are responding most strongly to brands that view them as participants rather than consumers.

“People aren’t irrational in what they expect. They don’t want perfect lives—but they do want better lives,” he said. “What we consistently find is that institutions don’t meet their expectations in real human terms. When they do find companies that are willing to benefit them, they’re really happy doing business with them.”