Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2012

It's that time of year again when many publications take a look back over the past 12 months and designate their top news stories, trends, movies, albums, etc. In the same spirit, I offer my list of the top 10 posts on this blog, based not on my judgment, but my readers. Here are my most popular posts of 2012:

1. Making the Compelling Case for Change. Change is inevitable in these tumultuous times, but that doesn't mean it's any more popular among employees. Successful corporate change initiatives still must start by making the convincing case for change. This post, topping 2,200 page views within a few weeks, obviously struck a chord. Or it demonstrated the power of Twitter. My tweet announcing this post was retweeted by @SBLeaders to their over 10,000 followers.

2. Why Negative Reinforcement Seems to Work. While most agree that positive reinforcement is a better way to influence employee behavior, negative reinforcement prevails in most firms. Why? It works, although not nearly as well as positive reinforcement, as this post explains. The whole topic of reinforcing employee behavior is a fascinating one to me, but I never expected that this post would become my second most popular for the year.

3. Is Solution Selling Dead? I had never used the term "solution selling" until I read an article about it on the HBR blog. It inspired this post, which in turn became one of my most popular. The gist of the HBR article (and others like it) is that customers have become too smart to rely on sellers to help solve their problems. I've heard similar complaints in our industry. But I suggest that the genesis of this trend started with us, not with clients who supposedly no longer value our insights.

4. Six Steps to Effective Change. This post draws both on my experience as a change leader and the research of Harvard Business School professor John Kotter. Actually, my experience has been substantially shaped by applying the concepts from his seminal book Leading Change. That's one of the marketing advantages of the internet: You can attract a substantial audience by writing about someone else's work!

5. Cultivating Client Focus. This has long been a favorite subject of mine, and it's encouraging to see more A/E firms giving it emphasis. Tough economic times, combined with the maturation of our business, have made it harder than ever to differentiate. Many are concluding, as I did years ago, that superior client service is one of the last unexploited opportunities for distinguishing your company in a me-too marketplace. 

6. 5 Business Development Goals for 2012. Prior to the recession, the A/E industry enjoyed a season of unparalleled prosperity. Most firms were growing because markets were growing. Now growth at pre-recession levels likely will require taking market share from competitors. Few firms are prepared to do this. It demands an uncommon measure of business development savvy. These goals, still relevant for 2013, are a good starting place.

7. Managing the Sales Funnel: Updated. The Sales Funnel has been part of the sales lexicon for decades, but most don't think of it as a useful management tool. This post, an update of a 2008 post, briefly explains how to use it to organize and analyze your sales effort. Key questions: How effective are your sellers at each stage of the Funnel? Are you spending enough time in each? Do you have the right people working at each stage?

8. What's Wrong with Your Proposals? Given our long history of writing proposals to win new work, you'd think we'd have it mastered by now. But the vast majority of proposals I review are mediocre at best, as is reflected in their firm's win rate. In this post, I summarize the most common shortcomings I see in proposals. Addressing these can help you distinguish your submittals from those of your competitors. 

9. Thinking Rightly About Time. Your most precious corporate asset is your time; you can't do anything without it. When my clients have polled managers and project managers about their training preferences, time management has routinely come out on top. Yet I never hear firms identify time management as a strategic priority. To see this post land in the top 10 is encouraging, and a bit of a surprise. But given that most of us have more things to do than time to do them, maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

10. Engage People Through Stories. There's ample evidence that stories are a powerful form of communication. But when I wrote this, I wondered if the topic was a bit "soft" for my technically oriented audience. Apparently not. Just this week, I ran across an article from the field of neuroscience that describes how our brains are wired for responding to stories. Want to improve communication at your firm? Consider how to better incorporate storytelling.

Readership for my blog has increased by about 40% in recent months. Whether you're a long-time follower or a recent one, you've contributed to that growth. I deeply appreciate your support. It's exciting to hear from people who have been following my blog for some time—unbeknownst to me—often sharing posts with colleagues and friends. It's also a thrill to know that people from all over the world are reading my blog.

Hopefully I can continue to create content that you find helpful. If you'd like to see me address a particular topic, let me know. And, of course, your comments to my posts are always welcome. Have a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous new year!

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