FEAR

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.

When Are We Going To Grow!!!!!

I don’t know about you but I believe that the title of this post will be repeated thousands of times this week! I also believe that the size of the company will not make a difference as to whether that line is used. It might sound different, like maybe “our sales are flat” or “we are not consistent, one month we’re up the next month flat…”. Per usual this has a lot to do with sales or the lack thereof.

Sales is kind of funny. You own a company or are the CEO of the company and you make the assumption that the sales organization is in decent shape. The VP of sales or sales manager seems to know what they’re doing. He or she has been in the industry and/or with the company for a number of years and growth has been OK. If the company is smaller then the owner manages the salespeople he or she inherited. Maybe the owner has even hired several sales reps and things have moved along decently. Regardless of the situation the sales are flat lining.

So, what do you do? For sure one thing not to do is panic and jump into drastic changes. Oh brother, that happens a lot. Why? Because whomever has the power needs to look like they are doing something about the problem. Like my battalion commander once said to me after I had royally screwed up during a people problem I witnessed. He delivered his advice loudly enough so brigade headquarters heard it “take action even if it’s not the right action”. Good advice but will the advice work for the leader? Not necessarily if the actions are drastic. The theory that “for every action there is a reaction” applies. The more drastic the action the more emotional and haphazard the reaction.

K.I.S.S. Do you have the right salesperson or salespeople? Do they really know how to sell? Are they seeing the right people? Do they have a territory plan? Are they doing the right sales behaviors? Do they have a sales process? How are they being managed? Are they mentally and emotionally tough?

There are many questions within those questions that need answers but the answers are available if the owner/CEO/leader pursues the answers in a constructive and  organized manner. And each of those questions can be fixed if they are broken.

Adversity Is The Forge of Courage

I am a voracious reader. For more than a few years I did not admit to many people that science fiction was my genre of choice. What can I say, I grew up on Robert Heinlein and once you’ve read him the addiction to SF is entrenched. The adage above came from a book I’m currently reading. The saying stopped me cold because it so aptly connects to almost every part of life.

But like so many of these sayings I run across it needs to be altered a bit. It could just as well read “Adversity Is The Forge Of Success.” How many times has adversity affected you? And how many times has something good come from it? Adversity is defined as a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress. Doesn’t adversity forge many of the best characteristics in people-leadership, knowledge, experience, achievement, fortitude, patience, mental toughness etc.? Working through misfortune or any other obstacle builds toughness.

Do you ever know how really good you are without some version of adversity? Prior to going into the army in 1968 I had experienced little in the way of adversity, other than flunking out of a couple of schools. Did I have the right stuff to survive? Basic training, advanced infantry training, OCS, airborne, Ranger schools, and a year in southeast Asia did the job of “forging” an individual who understood how adversity prepares you to not just survive but grow! I was able to learn about leadership, thinking on your feet, risking, examining options, preparation, courage and much more.

I learned perhaps the most significant lessons low crawling through the red clay of Fort Benning, Georgia. What is a mistake other than choosing the wrong option? So you fail? Making bad decisions can lead to adversity but people can survive adversity. What’s worse than adversity? Never putting yourself under the gun making important decisions or executing tough business decisions. How will anyone know what they’re made of if they don’t put themselves in the way of adversity?

I want to take just a minute to thank all of the people who serve our country, many of whom are in harm’s way. Recently a Chinook helicopter went down in Afghanistan with 30 soldiers aboard. Their deaths left a trail of sorrow across the country. The men and women in the armed services are true heroes. Often times their version of adversity will leave them mentally or physically challenged or dead! Keep them and their families in your prayers. Thanks!

Cut To The Chase….

I had an ex-marine sales manager who loved this phrase. Not hard to believe considering his military background. You don’t hear this phrase much anymore , which is too bad because it would probably shorten the life of a lot of politicians, salespeople, heads of companies.

In the military (I was in the Army) there is a reason for cut to the chase. In combat you don’t have time to screw around with long-winded explanations. When a senior commanding officer dresses down a junior officer the CO is not looking for a dissertation on why the Lieutenant screwed up. There are too many people in this world that are verbally boring. Their theory is why not use 1000 words to explain something vs. 100. They’re after nuances, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by being too abrupt, they want to make sure that the listener is clear about their meaning. (You can be just as clear with two sentences vs. twenty.)

If you have the stomach for it listen to congressional hearings and you will be rewarded with the verbal dancing between the senators and those being questioned. And if you want another stomach turner think back to Clinton’s verbal charade when answering questions about Monica Lewinski. (Republicans are just as bad, lest you think I’m picking on the liberals.)

Here is one man’s reason why cutting to the chase has become extinct. No one wants to be ACCOUNTABLE! When was the last time you heard “I screwed up.” Or, “I wasn’t clear enough with my instructions and that’s why….” And if you don’t have the faintest clue why something got screwed up just say “I don’t know but I’ll find out.”

I’d like to see the following words or phrases removed from all communication:

  • Maybe
  • It all depends
  • I wasn’t responsible
  • If at all possible
  • There were other factors involved
  • I wasn’t aware

There are hundreds of these phrases that confuse and needlessly lengthen the time it takes to  communicate. Regardless of who is communicating-be succinct, to the point, and truthful. (Wouldn’t it be nice if someone from the BP rig came forward with the truth?)

As a country we have forgotten how to be forthright with our questions, statements, and answers. Political correctness has become the rule for communication. Don’t you think it’s time to temper the PC concept a bit? I’m not suggesting that we verbally maim, disabuse, or cut people to shreds. But let’s call an event or situation what it is and not do the verbal two-step.

Speak openly, be clear, tell it like it is.

Get Your Head In The Game-Now!!!

Can’t tell you how many times I said that as a coach of 12-13 year old boys playing little league baseball. Well, maybe not with that intensity but the kids got the idea that if you signed up to play then why not actually participate in the game vs. just showing up. I actually benched my own kid once. (Not much of a post-game celebration there.)

I’ve seen one company owner spend hours updating face-book; I’ve seen another owner miss a business opportunity 5 miles from his office because he refused to get out into the field or hire a salesperson locally. Then there are the owners who understand that they need help or advice in areas where they are not strong and take action when the moves suggested by an outsider make business sense.

Act vs. not act, move vs. sit, create goals vs. wander, prospect vs. hoping for the phone to ring. There are so many distractions in our world that it requires a tremendous effort to focus on anything. The number of bad distractions have to outweigh the good distractions by a healthy margin. But we do have a choice. I’m pretty sure (dripping sarcasm here) the dim wits in the government who spent our tax money surfing for porn sites had a choice to do something else.

OK, so here’s the kicker. Why don’t we nail people to the wall when they refuse to get their head into what they are supposed to be doing? A couple of reasons. People have forgotten what it means to have their head in the game. They are not being held accountable for their time or achievements-or lack thereof. There is tremendous fear of speaking out against an individual who is lazy or incompetent. Pure, unadulterated selfishness. (See past stories about Wall street.)

The incompetence starts in Washington D.C. travels through every government office and many, many companies and ends up dying a slow death in California. Don’t you think it’s time to start holding people accountable? Maybe it’s also time to take a hard look at political correctness and ask ourselves how PC affects the way we do business. Halt the short cuts and the stop gaps and do business the right way. If people can’t deal with taking action and executing those actions correctly then remove them!

It is about time to stand firm on certain principles that make personal, business, ethical sense. If you don’t, paralysis is just around the corner.

Note to self: Locate the two sales managers who fired me back in the day and thank them for giving me a wake-up call.

Sales Management Issue: How Do You Motivate A Lazy Salesperson? Part 2

Earlier this week I wrote about one of the issues that every sales manager faces-motivating a salesperson that is either lazy or has poor work habits. It’s possible that some reps have never learned the right way to work a territory or to work productively. Statistically it is possible but, from this ancient mariner’s eyes, I would say that the number of reps who never learned to work a territory are minuscule. There are too many books, blog sites, coaches, peers and good sales managers available to help people.

So what do you do with a bonafide lazy salesperson? The “benefit of the doubt” will serve most sales managers well-up to a point. The first thing I always do in these situations is sit down with a rep one on one and away from the office. Having a beer is not a bad idea! Why not. I’m not talking a world class drunk here, just a few beers to get a person loosened up. I wouldn’t start right in on the main issue either. Work up to it by talking about specific accounts in the rep’s territory, something going on at the office, family etc.

This is an approach that will work out 90% of the time. I will say to the rep something like this. ” Jim, I like to sit down with reps in a more casual setting and give them what I call an “off the record” summary of my observations about them. Are you game”? Several things happen here. One, the reps knows that you are not going to do this just with them. The word casual indicates that the rep is not going to get a major league reaming. The phrase “off the record” means that the comments probably won’t make it on the more formal review.

I’m going to come back to this topic next week but I want to leave you with this thought. Way too many managers think that they can salvage a salesperson no matter what his or her issues are. I’ve done it and so have most managers. Do not get trapped into the “hero mentality” where you think that with a little more effort you can bring a rep back from the brink of hell. It won’t work and the effort will sap you of energy.

The Final Thought: A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” Elbert Hubbard

Sales Management Issue: How Do You Motivate A Lazy Salesperson?

Maybe the better question is, can you motivate a salesperson who has a lousy work ethic? And then, where do you start the coaching process? From experience I can tell you that the hard-nosed approach will not miraculously cure the sales rep that likes to quit at 2:30PM and head for the driving range. Discovering why a salesperson is lazy is a decent first step. Why are some salespeople lazy:

  1. It’s in the gene pool or they never saw or learned from anyone what hard work looks like.
  2. They are satisfied at a certain income level and don’t see any reason to work any harder or smarter.
  3. They’re working two jobs or double-dipping.
  4. No one ever taught the rep how to write a plan and work it.
  5. The rep should not be in sales.
  6. The sales culture is lousy and the rep fits that culture. (Hard to believe but it could be true.)

The sales management position requires a fair amount of psychoanalyzing. People think and act based on certain triggers in their brain. If you can figure out the triggers then you have gone a long way in finding out what motivates people. When I managed salespeople I believed in having  “off the record”  one-on-ones. These conversations and what came from them did not make it on the annual review nor did they make it up the chain of command. There are times  in managing when “come to Jesus” meetings should stay between just two people.

I’ll follow up this post with a second installment later this week.

The Final Thought: LAZINESS, n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.” Ambrose Bierce