Haven’t we all heard from a very early age that you have to play nice with others? Parents, teachers, sibs, bosses, even your own kids make it pretty plain that being nice to others is the way to go. But aren’t there some times when you’d like to take that little bit of wisdom and chuck it? Oh my, wouldn’t it be awesome to tell the boss that he/she is about the dumbest excuse for a leader since the Ayatollah? But in business doing that can be and probably will be hazardous to your future. Burning bridges and all that kind of stuff.
However, there does come a time when I question whether playing nice does much good. Here is one example with others to follow over the next few posts.
Take the owner of a small plastic molding company. They put out quality product but the place was filthy-walls needed painting, floors were caked with grease, old parts and past molds were laying in dirt three inches thick. I’ll never forget two potential customers who visited the facility. They peaked in my office, looked out my window on the manufacturing floor and shook their heads in unison. It was over before it began. They were kind enough to carry through with the discussion but I never heard from them again.
I decided that being nice in this situation would do absolutely no good so I let the owner have it and hard. He agreed with my feedback. So, not playing nice paid off-the owner painted the walls himself and did a lousy job. Sometimes it makes no difference how you play, some people just don’t get it.
Here is an obvious bit of advice for company owners. Look at your company the way a prospect or customer would look at it. Better yet, invite your best customer in for an honest appraisal (no holds barred) of how you do business. Then change how you do business.
In the world of sales you don’t hear many people talking about or discussing ‘personal financial goals’. Know why? Sales managers don’t cover it, companies don’t understand the importance of those goals and salespeople themselves would rather not because of that pesky word accountability. Personal financial goals is one of the 5 basic elements of sales success. Without PFG’s how do salespeople know how much they need to sell? What their sales activities need to be? I can make a strong case that PFGs are the key to success in sales.
Another way to look at this is to ask yourself this question: “How much does it cost you to wake up every day?” Ah, well let’s see. Exactly. Did I ever do this when I was a sales cub? No! My financial goals were usually dictated by the ‘sales targets’ the company set for me. If the target was a million dollars in sales and my commission was 6% on all sales then my income was $60,000 for that year. (That was some decent lettuce in the 70’s folks!) Depending on my tax bracket I knew the approximate net and that was what I had to spend on the basics to keep the family from food stamps.
In a naïve way I guess this makes sense. From a logical, long-term, financially secure perspective this makes no sense. Personal financial goals consist of two ingredients. One is the monthly costs to live. Two is what it costs to bring your dreams to life. Dreams do not include a Lamborghini parked in the driveway. OK, they could include it but it would be way down the list of common sense dreams. Translate dreams to: short-term (5 years) financial goals and long-term financial security. This is the easy part.
Translating these to daily sales activities and then into dollars requires intimate knowledge of planning, your market place, the products you sell, competition, prospecting methods, sales metrics, average revenue per sale, and a sales process. Several of these will appear in later posts over the next several weeks.
Between the ages of 22 and 30 very little of this registers on the conscious mind of a salesperson. Some of it begins to trickle in during the 30’s and that is a mistake. Here’s why. Around a salesperson’s mid thirties is when many salespeople begin to make some serious money. (I don’t see a distinction on gender here. I could probably make a case that women get there faster than men.) That will continue into the 40’s until around age 45. Call it a ten-year window of high earning potential. Does it end after that? No, but other things occur concurrently. Child raising, schools, sports, short-term goals (requiring money) and thoughts about funding college or part of it. Pesky thoughts of mortality may even enter into the mental mix. What people do with their money in this time frame is extremely important. Might as well say critical!
Creating personal financial goals therefore becomes a path to success both in the short-term as well as the long-term. This is not just a ten minute conversation with yourself in the shower. “Let’s see, for 2014 I need to earn around $90K give or take.” That WILL NOT CUT IT! Do yourself a favor and spend a day thinking about this topic. Start to wrap some numbers around your sales activities and goals. When you’re rounding age 60 entering the final glide you will be happy you spent the time pondering.
I was asked to give a talk on sales not long ago. There are so many topics relative to sales that it is difficult to choose one that will appeal to everyone. Out of nowhere came The Power of Five. The five topics I covered were:
- Define Markets
- Create Personal Financial Goals
- Build a Prospecting Plan
- Own a Sales Process
- Get a Coach
I maintain that these 5 are the foundation of sales success. Are there others? I’m sure they are out there but for October 21st these will do.
Market definition, who buys from you, who you should prospect for, what does a perfect client look like are all pretty much the same thing at least in a general way. I started with this one because it helps to know who you need to sell to before you put together a prospecting plan. When I work with clients whether they are individuals or companies I ask that they profile existing accounts to determine if there are common characteristics among them. Again, not rocket science.
Here are a few characteristics:
- Products they buy from you
- Company size
- Why the customer buys from you
- How did you get them as customers
- How often so they buy
- Do they buy an assortment of products or services
The other important question to ask is: What are You Good at? This has tremendous implications on market definition. What you are good at doing and who you sell to are flip sides of the same coin. Through trial and error (probably more errors than are necessary) I discovered that I am at my best when I work in a small company environment. That has played out over the last 10 years as I morphed from pure sales training to helping smaller companies grow their business. What I am good at also relates to what I like to do. Very large on my list of ‘likes’ is seeing people grow their talents. Nothing makes me happier than to see a salesperson or a company moves past obstacles that previously held them in check. And frankly, it is not about me! Providing the knowledge and experience and showing someone why that knowledge can propel them past their current level of mediocrity is more than enough for me.
Also, be wary of trying to be all things to all people! It is tempting to say “I can do that” when a prospect asks if you can provide specific expertise in an area you are not particularly familiar with. Dollar signs trump experience! My advice is don’t do it. Broadening your markets may mean that you are diluting your efforts and losing opportunities in your main market. And if you don’t succeed in a new market what does that do for your reputation and confidence?
Here’s the last question worth asking yourself: What are the Characteristics of What You do That Appeal to Potential Clients? It really comes down to the more you know about yourself, what you do and who your best clients/customers are.
I’ve had fear and it is not fun. A lot of people will tell you that fear can be a learning experience, one that will sear itself into your brain and be easy to recall years down the road. Can’t argue that. Learning about fear and what causes it changes people, it changes the way they deal with life and I suppose that can be both negative and positive.
I don’t think fear is such a bad thing but that might be because I’m 67 and there have been times when my sphincter was so tight with fear you couldn’t have wedged a toothpick in there. I survived. Maybe God has some plans for me down the road that I’m not privy to and that’s why I’m still here. I’ve been fearful enough times in my life to know that there are ways to deal with it. And let’s face it they don’t always work. If you’re sitting in a movie theater and some nut bag 2 rows in front of you opens up with a gun you may not have time to execute a way to deal with it.
Fear is nature’s way of telling you that you were not prepared! I’ve talked with clients who have a mortal fear of calling someone on the phone to schedule a sales meeting. There is a pretty simple reason why they feel the way they do. They have no earthly idea of how to sound professional when asking for 10 minutes of someone’s time who never heard of them. About how I felt prior to asking out a girl for the first time. Of course I stuttered my through that one but did manage to close the deal.
Ya just can’t wing things that cause fear. It does not work and I should know because I spent most of my life “winging it”. A good solid plan helps deal with and avoid much of the emotion of fear. Don’t we already know those things that emotionally paralyze us? So think about them and come up with options on what you’re going to do when the paralyzing situation surfaces. Think of several ways to deal with the situation and role-play them in your head or with someone else. The more you work through the language or the actions the more comfortable you will become in the sphincter closing moment.
Then there is the second thing you’ll want to think about. Let’s assume you’re not in the movie theater! How bad will it be if you screw something up royally? Or if your worst nightmare materializes? What is the worst thing that can happen if you should experience a fearful event? Anger? Embarrassment? A royal chewing out? Chances are pretty good that you will live to review the moment. And that is really the secret of fear. Reviewing the moment. How did the event happen and what can I do to deal with a similar event down the road because the event or one like it will happen again.
Exactly what kinds of experiences award an individual entrance into the wisdom club? Now there’s a question that stops the creative process with the finality of the word end on the last page of a book. So, where to from here? According to Wikipedia wisdom in the Western tradition is one of the cardinal virtues. As a virtue, it is a habit or disposition to perform the right action under given circumstances. This translation I like better. Wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to right actions. A decent synonym is insight. (According to this my 7-year-old grandson has wisdom. He looked at me the other day and said, “Grandpa you have big ears”! Thanks kid. Always good to have the ego stroked. ;)
Usually, parents have wisdom. My father did not necessarily prove that out. In all the years I knew him he gave me one bit of sage advice, which was ‘go into sales’. As it turned out that was a brilliant bit of truth that came at the right time. But that was it. Apparently, Harry decided that he wasn’t going to offer any other truths; he wanted to offer one humdinger of a truth and then rest on his laurels. Harry was also a shy individual who did not want to impose his will on anyone. My mother would disagree but that’s for another day and venue.
Whatever shortage of wisdom my father offered I made up for in spades by offering more than people needed. That’s where ego and wisdom intersect. If people think they are wise and they have a larger than required ego they believe that they need to dispense their wisdom freely to everyone. Really a bad idea! I don’t think that I fell into that category although my kids and wife may disagree. How you deliver wisdom, when you do it and to whom are the real keys to this virtue.
I freely dispensed (some might say dictated) suggestions under the guise of wisdom. There was a better way to do it. Making a query as in “Mind if I share an opinion on….” is better. My intentions were good but the delivery sucked. When you offer wisdom (if it really is that) non-stop people get really annoyed and before you know it they tune you out. Kids tend to model their parents anyway so if the modeling is good then how much ‘wisdom’ needs to be dispensed? Probably not as much as most parents think.
One of my bosses offered this pearl to me when I became a first time manager. “If you need help or have questions give me a call”. Okay. The sign on his desk could have read Wisdom will be dispensed upon request. His theory was that if I had a problem or question I was smart enough to know that I needed help and that he was a phone call away. Either that or he didn’t know what to tell me because no one had ever taught him how to manage. He basically winged life anyway and I suspect that’s how he handled sales management.
Past the age of 16 (my own very arbitrary number) wisdom should be delivered with some finesse as in a tactful, diplomatic maneuver. Why the touchy feely approach? Maybe the person already knows the best way to approach a problem. Maybe they have already proven they can handle tough situations. Maybe they enjoy the process of learning from their own mistakes. Maybe they’re stubborn SOB’s. Maybe they’re tired of listening to you. Regardless, not everyone is anxiously awaiting the next pearl to escape your frontal lobe. Offering wisdom that might actually have a lasting impact on a person or situation should be offered upon request, humorously, in a metaphor mixed with humor, with permission or to sell a book. ;) And isn’t wisdom akin to advice?
George Carlin was one of the funniest humans on the planet. He had a classic one liner jam-packed with wisdom. Don’t let your ego write a check your body can’t cash! Or something like that. Not a bad bit of wisdom.
I’m a fan of Jim Rohn’s. Here are a couple of his quotes relative to change. “Disgust and resolve are two of the great emotions that lead to change” And. “It is our philosophical set of the sail that determines the course of our lives. To change our current direction, we have to change our philosophy not our circumstances.”
In a general way I have embraced change throughout my life but unfortunately some of those changes led to dire consequences. Dire hardly even covers it! More than a few of my worse changes came because of the influence of liquor. I can’t say that liquor was the exact cause but liquor has a way of altering how we think about our actions. Can you visualize ‘downward spiral’? So disgust is a pretty strong motivation for change but the disgust has to be harsh and deeply felt, coinciding with potentially disastrous end results.
The flip side of disgust is resolve. It’s the more positive spin to change but that’s as far as the positivity goes. Resolve can be a serious motivator when the failure to change leads to dire consequences down the road. This is why I think Change is Hell. When I was given the opportunity while in the Army to jump out of airplanes or do KP for three weeks I chose Airborne after initially choosing kitchen patrol. However, this logic left a jet contrail in my brain. Airborne has to be reasonably safe or no one would volunteer for it. I haven’t read anything discouraging people from going Airborne due to poor training, faulty chutes, or bad planes. Peeling potatoes sucks! I get paid more if I’m a jumper. Besides, I’m a tough guy, I can handle it. The decision to change in this situation was easy because the consequences were kind of shrouded in mystery. And let’s face it I just could not imagine dying at 23.
Quitting smoking (my wife and I completed 6 months today) was not that different; I could visualize the dire consequences of lung disease and I was beginning to feel the effects of cigarettes even though I was down to 2 a day. My wife’s stroke was the cold-water-in-the-face dose of reality that was the final nail in the coffin (so to speak) indicating that we had no choice in the matter.
Resolve is defined as ‘to come to a definite or earnest decision about’. Definite and earnest are two hard-core words that do not invite equivocation. Resolving to change is not easy unless you can visualize the epic downside if you keep doing the same behaviors. For me personally this is how I change. I won’t claim it’s the best way. Ideally it is better to see an outcome that you want to achieve and then take the steps necessary to change. I guess either way yields the same result. One involves a smack up side the head, the other involves an idyllic approach.
Angela Ahrendts, the CEO at Burberry, created the following thought. The message of the quote got to me, so much so that I just kept on reading it over and over. ‘Passionate, positive human energy can provide a counterbalance to the disruptive negative forces of an age of unprecedented change. Through it comes confidence, inspiration and the power to transform things for the better.’
There is so much power in this statement that you wonder where most of the power dwells. Confidence? Inspiration? Transformation? Your head starts to spin when you think of what is the most important component. Let’s face it, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all component that is the base upon which the rest of the statement sits. The beauty of Ahrendt’s comment is that every person can pick out the important factor that means the most to them.
Mine? Passion! I’ve been spending a significant amount of time thinking about how I want to spend the next 5 years of my life and how much money I want to generate within that time. The process seemed almost painful. Ever passed a stone? That painful! Then I read this quote and whacked my forehead with the heel of my hand. Duh! What’s my passion? Easy. Developing people.
How many people are buried in jobs that don’t challenge them, don’t pay crap, and leave them exhausted every night? I’d wager to say that over 60% of today’s workers. How many of that number know what their passion is? I’d say over half. If my math is correct we’re looking at 30% as the number of people sucking in air who know what their passion is.
Does everyone find their passion at the same time? No. A good friend of mine became passionate about “quality” in the workplace in his middle years. Now he practically sleeps with the Malcolm Baldridge award. A one-time client of mine found real estate sales and she routinely brings in over $300K annually. Don’t get her into a discussion on the topic unless you want to spend the day.
What is your passion and how can you bring it front and center in your life? Are you too fearful to even give it life? Have you really thought through what it will take to breathe life into the passion? Do you want to be on your death-bed, look back on your life and regret that you did not give your passion free rein? Don’t let it happen.