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Volkmar Völzke's BLOG

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Which fields do you occupy?

There is one person who is in the driving seat for public perception and thus an entire industry: Elon Musk. His latest announcement is about revolutionizing the entire automotive production process by making the body only consist of four parts instead of 80. This will massively reduce costs.

Well, with Musk's announcements, the question is always which of these will be implemented at all and by when. But that's not what it's all about.

People like Elon Musk do not usually make concrete promises with their statements, but rather create and occupy domains of opinion in public perception - and the opinion of experts.

As a result, as soon as such ideas become reality, they are directly linked to the person who occupied the area. This usually results in a dramatic increase in reputation - with direct consequences for market leadership.

Another expert in this field was Steve Jobs: Whom do you associate with pioneering smartphones, mobile music enjoyment, emotionally loaded computers and...

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Report from the customer frontlines

Here are some thoughts that can help you improve your customer service - for internal and external customers.

In the morning, from time to time, I go to a café to work. I love to have a little life around me when I want to concentrate on my tasks. And something always happens there that inspires me, like this one:

I’m at a hotel with a small terrace in front of it. Since it is already warm in the morning, I take a seat at one of the tables and order a coffee with croissant (the usual "breakfast" in French-speaking Switzerland). So far so good.

What I notice: The hotel guests are obviously all sitting in the dark interior to have their breakfast. When one of the hotel guests takes a seat on the terrace, he is clearly instructed by the waitress that hotel guests must sit inside. The guest is visibly "not amused," but, in the end, he complies (after all, we are in Switzerland). I doubt whether he will stay again in this hotel.

What happened here will most likely happen to...

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What's at the front of the buffet?

The other day, I read about an exciting study that shows that 75% of the people at a breakfast buffet take the first item, regardless of what is there. Two thirds of all items chosen come from the first three items on the buffet, no matter how long the buffet is.

This confirms an old wisdom from sales: people often just buy what is in front of them.

That's why good marketers put in first place the products you want to sell the most (which is why it is still a mystery to me that in restaurants on wine lists the expensive wines almost always come at the end). 

Of course, this correlation applies not only to sales but also to any kind of influence, so it is essential for successful leadership. 

Here are three specific applications - outside of sales - where you should reverse the order if you want to achieve more with others: 
  1. Presentations. Most of the presentations I see in leadership are more like a sequence of facts. My recommendation: turn that around! Start with...
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Do you swim naked?

leadership Aug 06, 2020

"Only when the tide is out will you know who was swimming naked," Warren E. Buffett once said so aptly. 

We live in times that have not been seen in this form for at least the last 70 years. Who knows today where we will be in 3, 6 or 9 months… in every respect? And just like in earlier, even more uncertain times (just think of 1914 to 1948), it will show who the winner will be in the end.

Ultimately, every crisis shows who "swims naked" and who has the right prerequisites to achieve sustainable success. The good news is that you have this in your own hands, because there are always just a few typical factors that make people, teams and companies successful - almost regardless of the circumstances. And you can influence these factors.

The difficulty for every organization is that even in easy and "good" times, you must not unlearn these qualities and practice them continuously.

Here are three levers, which, from my experience with various companies, have the greatest...
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Nobody needs consulting or training!

leadership Jul 30, 2020

Today, I want to mention a topic that I have noticed time and again as a clear deficit in the thinking of leaders, but which is hardly ever mentioned: the confusion of results with measures. 

One example: Whenever someone says that he/she does not need training or consulting, he/she thinks in terms of measures. If someone wants to carry out a "strategy offsite," it is about measures. Budgeting new headcounts is also a measure.

Of course, measures have to be implemented to achieve results. But all too often the measures have a life of their own that is decoupled from the possible results: Training is carried out because it is budgeted, not because you want to achieve concrete results. The annual strategy meeting is a tradition, regardless of the need to create a new strategy. And so on. 

Top leaders think the other way around and are therefore much more successful. They first discuss the results and then the possible measures.

Here are three test questions that show whether...
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Why we systematically make wrong decisions

leadership Jul 23, 2020

In the last 10 weeks, I have had 3 potential customers who have put off their own investments to better serve the performance of their sales team. The most important reason: the current uncertainty due to the consequences of COVID-19. 

I find this fascinating. After all, we are not talking about amounts that hit the company's cash reserves: The monthly salaries far exceed the one-off investments. And especially in sales, the probable ROI is significant (usually a few additional sales or a higher price here and there is enough for a factor of 1:10).

My point is this: it has long been scientifically proven in various studies (Daniel Kahneman and others) that we make highly irrational decisions, even when we believe we are rational: we weigh direct losses significantly higher than probable gains, even if these losses are irrelevant to our well-being.

This is precisely why too many companies and teams are stagnating: they tend to value even manageable risks more heavily than the...

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How to double your sales

marketing & sales Jul 21, 2020

One of the business areas in which I never lacked a flood of good and bad examples is marketing and sales. I find it continuously remarkable how many opportunities for revenue and profit are missed out, ignored and sometimes even actively turned down. 

Let’s get directly to the point. Here are three practices for growing your revenue and profit instantly.

The key: They are not extremely difficult to understand and implement. Most leaders nod their head when I present them at my workshops. 

However, as the saying goes, what is easy to do is also easy not to do. And this is what I see in most businesses: a gap between understanding and implementing. OK, here are my tips, ready to be implemented: 

  1. Follow up. I am constantly stunned about the lack of follow-up at most businesses. I don’t even need to cite the well-known examples at restaurants and hotels where I never ever get any personal and creative offers and invitations after staying with them. No, all...
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What an amazing change!

leadership Jul 16, 2020

Let me be honest: If I had predicted a year ago that people from the USA would no longer be allowed to enter the EU, that we would only be allowed on trains with masks on or that it is clear that no one knows where we will stand economically at the end of the year, would you have believed me?

Well, now we're in the middle of it - and you're probably feeling the same way as me: Somehow, things are progressing nevertheless - in some cases, not even badly. And what was unimaginable yesterday is now the new normal.

And this is exactly the reason why we, as a human species, despite very unfavorable physical conditions, have made it this far (for better or worse): We are collectively and consciously extremely adaptable.

Here comes the point for you as a leader or CEO: We are good at adapting to constraints, but we are bad at anticipating change. That's the problem with any culture change: If people don't FEEL the absolute necessity, they won't change anything.

Here are three areas in...
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The success of small steps

leadership productivity Jul 14, 2020

I’m sure you know the answer to the old question “How do you eat an elephant?”. Here it is: “One bite at a time!” 

As simple as this sounds, very few people – and in particular business leaders – get the reverse meaning in this answer:

By taking small steps in the right direction, you will ultimately achieve big results – no matter your goals. 

Let me give you some examples: If you learn a new sales technique every day, you will ultimately become better at sales. If you do a workout once week, you will become healthier. 

This sounds easy, right? Why, then, are so few people applying this method of small step improvements? The reason is three common traps: 

  1. Slow progress initially. Yes, it’s true, after the first few steps, you will hardly see any progress. It’s tough for everybody to stay on course without clear, positive feedback in terms of results.
  2. Out of the comfort zone. Many activities for...
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Full responsibility!

leadership Jul 09, 2020

No, it's really not easy. And occasionally unfair. And sometimes most of us feel that we'd rather not do it.

What am I talking about? Maybe you guessed: taking responsibility.

If I had to name one single lever that makes the biggest difference between sustainable success and mediocrity, it would be precisely this: the best people take full responsibility, even for what they cannot do anything about, while some wait or blame others - or both.

Here is the point: We can only act fully responsibly if we first take full ownership for the situation - whether we can do anything about it or not.

In my experience, there are 3 levels of responsibility-culture in companies of all kinds. Your success is largely determined by which level you are at. So, you better know where you stand. 

Here are the 3 levels of responsibility:

Level 1: Inner denial. Here, we even have problems with people coming to meetings on time and prepared and keeping promises. This is the lowest level, because...

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