Playing Nice in the Sand Box

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.

 

The Power of Five-Creating Personal Financial Goals

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.

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.

Passion

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.

Drawing Assumptions Can Kill Ya!

How many times in the last 3 months did you think or begin a sentence with “well I assumed that…”. You know you have you used this phrase or one like it quite a few times. Like a lot of the drivel that comes out of our mouths assumptions can lead to a complete breakdown of communication. Assumptions can lead to profiling, stereotyping, hatred, and even death. Ask the parents of Trayvon Martin whether or not that’s true.

I think it’s about time that we wake up to the realities of 2013. Our country and our lives are undergoing sweeping changes that go far beyond the irrational hatred Jihadists have for America. We have a black man who is president and within the next 3 elections will probably have a woman elected as president. I’m pretty sure that will drive a lot of the remaining chauvinistic, old white guys stark raving mad. To whom I would say-your day has come and gone.

Caucasians will soon be in the minority. More and more gay couples will be raising children. The stream of immigrants will continue because America remains a land of opportunity. The color and gender of our politicians will continue to change hopefully bringing across the aisle common sense back to DC. This is reality without putting any spin on the facts. This is not the 1950’s when every day was pretty much like the previous one and identical to the one that followed. There is a generation of people who say that they would like those days back. That decade represented certainty, consistency, safety, and freedom from most activities that caused people to question who they were and what they believed in.

Let’s not wander too far from the gist of this post-assumptions can do you in. Assumptions are dangerous because they close off options, they narrow how we perceive life and people, they limit beliefs and personal growth. Let’s face it, George Zimmerman would have been better off staying home instead of prowling the neighborhood looking for trouble that wasn’t there. Or if he saw Trayvon he could have said, “hey man I love skittles. Can I have one?” A black guy in a hoodie does not represent a sure thing for trouble. Hey a white guy in a hoodie could mean trouble. Who the hell knows. Best not assume.

About the only thing you can assume is that change will occur. After the massacre in Colorado can you walk into a movie theater and not look around at people wondering if any of them are planning any mayhem? Shouldn’t we all be more alert to the fact that there are nutbags walking around who are mentally wrong? They are out there but that does not mean the person with over the top tats is one of them. I’m not a huge fan of environments that change often and harshly any better than the next person but change is a reality. For the sake of sanity and living a long life here’s a few suggestions.  Don’t assume; treat all people the way you want to be treated; prepare to react to any situation you are in because it could change immediately; enjoy the infusion of diversity; listen hard to other opinions.

Join The 10% Who Do

Jim Rohn was a business philosopher who brought insight to ordinary events, people and principles. According to Mr. Rohn 90% of the people on the planet are not worth following. So, what exactly does that mean? I think Jim and I are on the same page so here is my version of the 90% you do not want to follow. Since I’m weary of looking for the percent sign let’s just say the majority.

The majority of people will say “I should do it” instead of “I’ll make that happen”. No, I am not splitting hairs. Should and will are as different as night is from day. Should implies perhaps I will or it’s on my to-do list or I have to quit procrastinating and get that done; it is by its nature wishy-washy. The word “will” is assertive, it’s can-do, it’s immediate, it’s confident, it’s brimming with “completion”. People who use the word will are people worth following. The will-users sense that time is not on their side, they know that they have priorities in their life, they realize that if they don’t do ______ someone else will get to it first and that will really piss them off! Some people want to excel and they are disappointed when they do not achieve that, for whatever reason.

So, how do you know which person is in a perpetual position of striving and which person is waiting for the moons to align before they make their move? Listen to how they say things. When my daughter and son-in-law had a one pound ten ounce baby boy she turned to her husband and said “we will be Jackson’s advocates”. There was an exclamation point after that statement! Every doctor and nurse in the NICU knew that Jackson’s parents and in particular his mother were to be reckoned with. In other words, do not screw with our kid or there will be hell to pay.

Our son interviewed for a job with a company that he was returning to after an employment misadventure. The CEO asked how badly he wanted to come back. Our son said, “I’ll do anything and if that means cleaning bathrooms I’ll do it”. That is commitment! The point here is not to paint glowing pictures of our kids. The point is these are prime examples of people who you would like to follow, they are the ten percenters who instinctively know what they have to do and say to move toward a goal.

Also watch how people say things. Do they look you in the eye while they talk with conviction? People who look you in the eye while they speak are good people to follow. They are confident but not arrogant, chances are good they want to get a read from your eyes relative to what they are saying, they understand how to communicate and they do not have fear. I’m not going to waffle on these two characteristics. People who have them are the people who lead others, they assume responsibility and in fact they cherish responsibility. They are worth following!

Jim Rohn’s suggestion was to “walk away from the 90% who don’t and join the 10% who do”. There is a lot of room under the don’t umbrella but not much under the do umbrella. Find the “dos”.

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.