Friday, July 29, 2011

The Meaning and Value of Sacrifice

In Mark 12, Jesus teaches His disciples a profound lesson about sacrifice. He is watching wealthy people donate large sums of money into the treasury when notices a single poor widow offer too small copper coins (a modern day cent). He then calls His disciples to Himself and makes the statement, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."As human beings, we value sacrifice. When we think of sacrifice, we often think of the men and women who have laid down their lives in battle. Why are we so enamored by these fallen heroes and heroins of war? Because they gave up everything they had for our freedom. The message of Christianity is so powerful, because it involves at its very core a sacrifice being made. But, it isn't just that some guy died on a cross for the salvation of mankind; it's that the Son of God gave up the splendor and majesty of the heavens for the harshness and cruelty of earth. A sacrifice, in baseball, occurs when a batter deliberately takes an "out" so that another of his teammates may advance a base. The batter himself loses his chance for individual recognition for the sake of his team.

What is the point of all these illustrations? Sacrifice isn't about the aboslute value of how much you give up; it's about how hard it is for you to give up what you do. If it doesn't hurt, then it isn't sacrfice. If it isn't every cent that you have, you aren't sacrificing. If it isn't your very life, you aren't sacrificing. Sacrifice requires you to give everything up. This begs the question: why would anyone want to make a sacrifice? The answer is simple: a sacrifice is made when a person values what someone else is getting more than what that person is giving up. Veterans value our freedom more. Jesus values our salvation more. The batter values his team's victory more. That is what sacrifice is all about.

What about your mission? What are you willing to sacrifice to succeed at what is most important to you in life? Just remember, if it doesn't hurt, then it isn't sacrifice. If it's easy, then you aren't really giving anything up. Are you willing to sacrifice:

Sleep to get up and exercise?
TV to review a presentation?
Cookies to stick to your diet?
Partying to focus on the project you have going on for work?
Vacation to service an important client?
Income to purse the career of your dreams?

What are you willing to give up? How much does it hurt? King David says in 2 Samuel 24:24, "...I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing." Do you value your goals and dreams enough to pay whatever it costs to seem them realized? If you are serious about living your mission, you have to be willing to hurt. It's going to be painful to become the best you that you can be. The question is, do you value that destiny more than your own comfort? Is your mission worth the sacrifice? I think you know the answer. Don't let anything stand in the way of your success: recognize the value of sacrifice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cold Calling is Dead

Cold calling is dead. With a statement such as this, I expect to raise both protests from defenders of traditional propsecting methods and amens from proponents of "Sales 2.0." But let me clarify what I mean. By "cold calling," I am not talking about using the telephone intead of social media. Nor am I necessarily referring to an attempt to contact a prospect for the first time without being solicited. What I am talking about is creating a personal brand that supercedes the initial sales call, such that the prospect has at least heard of you when you try to open up the relationship. In other words, it isn't the "calling" that is dead; it is the "cold."

I believe in prospecting. You cannot call yourself a salesperson if you are not proactively seeking out new business. Being able to initiate sales relationships sets you apart from those who are simply taking orders. Salespeople who do not prospect aren't really salespeople; they are merely cashiers. And, for salespeople who just sit back and wait for business, you might want to reconsider your habits. Salespeople are paid to generate revenue; not to collect it. All that being said, I simply don't think prospects today are as easy to get in with as they once were.

Think of it from your prospect's perspective. Decision-makers today are far too busy to risk their time listening to salespeople they don't know. Sure, they are interested if you can truly help improve their lives and businesses, but the risk involved in answering your phone call is often just too great to waste their time giving you a chance. There is no script they haven't heard before, no tactic that hasn't been tried on them. If they don't know you, they don't have time for you. It's a simple as that.

So, what's a salesperson to do? Make yourself known! Write a blog and promote it like it's your religion! Follow your prospects on Twitter ("Retweet" and "Reply" are powerful gateways to a prospect's heart)! Make a name for yourself. When a prospect thinks of a salesperson in such and such industry, you want them to think of you. I'm not saying to wait for them to call you; I'm saying to give them a reason to answer your call. Brand yourself such that, when the prospect receives a "cold call" from you, it actually isn't so "cold." She will be willing to listen because she has already seen the commercial; she is familiar with you. You're not just another John Smith from ABC Company: you have a name.

How cold are your "cold calls?" You might want to consider warming them up a little. There are too many other salespeople calling on your prospect and your prospect doesn't have time for any of you. What are you doing to set yourself apart before you even pick up the phone? Prospecting starts way before prospecting. It starts with your personal marketing. What kind of name are you making for yourself in your prospect's industry? Are you memorable? Are you engaged? Are you influential? Don't stop making calls! But try being the name that the voice on the other end actually recognizes. It's a surefire way to get you in.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Don't Take It Out on the Customer!

Sometimes, life is frustrating. Problems follow you wherever you go. They get under your skin and you can't shake them. You're irritated--angry, even. And this can greatly affect your work in sales. It's one thing to say you'll leave you're baggage at the doorstep when you go in to meet with a client, but it's another thing to do it. Our frustrations come out in our demeanor, in poor language choices, or even in downright outbursts. No matter what, though, we must keep in mind that it is not the customer's fault. Whatever is going on in our lives has nothing to do with the person we are sitting in front of. We must never take it out on the customer!Are you frustrated with your family? Don't take it out on the customer. The customer has a family too. Surely they have problems, but they are not letting that get in the way of doing business. You shouldn't either. Be professional. The person sitting in front of you deserves it for giving you their time. They have nothing to do with your difficulties at home. Don't treat them like they do.

Are you frustrated with your colleagues? Don't take it out on the customer. The people around you are supposed to be your team. Regardless of the department they are in, they represent the company you are striving to get business for. They should support you. But the reality is that they often don't. It's frustrating, but it's not your customer's fault. Don't make excuses to your customer about who didn't provide you with what when. They don't care. It's not their problem.

Are you frustrated with the economy? Don't take it out on the customer. Times are tough right now, but the last thing you want to do is upset a customer with your cynicism. Show your customer that you are greatful for their business and that you are going to do everything humanly possible to earn it. Don't make them feel unimportant by going on and on about how down business is right now. They feel like they are paying a great amount for your product or service. Let them know you are appreciative, not despairing.

Are you frustrated with yourself? Don't take it out on the customer. When you're in front of the client, it's time to put the self-help book away and focus. Sure, you want to be more confident, more knowledgeable, and a better communicator, but save it for your down time. When you are engaged with a customer, it's not about you. It's about them. Stop freaking out about how bad of a salesperson you are and focus on how good of a customer they are. Focus on their needs at the moment; you can deal with yourself later.

Are you frustrated with your customers? Don't take it out on the customer. All buyers are liars. A customer is a customer is a customer. FALSE. Just because many of your customers are jerks and frankly not good fits for your company, that does not mean that the person sitting in front of you fits that mold. Do not treat them like they are bad customers until they give you a reason to. Begin every relationship with a customer assuming that the customer is someone worth creating value for. When you're in front of a single customer, none of the other customers matter. That customer is your only customer for the moment.

Sales is not a profession for displaced aggression. Customers are our life. We are there to serve them. No matter what weight is on our shoulders, there is none greater than letting them down. When we fail our customers, we fail ourselves. We cease to be value creators. We rob our customers of the value we could contribute if we were focused on them rather than on ourselves. And we rob ourselves of the opportunity to be the people who create that value. What's going on in your life? Whatever it is, save it for the therapist. When it comes to the customer, you are there for them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What If Plankton DID Get the Secret Recipe?

I love Spongebob Squarepants! Is it unprofessional to admit that? I don't care. It's an insanely hilarious cartoon. I don't have kids, but I still bought the box sets. If you are unfamiliar with this engaging program, the show is essentially about a sponge (Spongebob) and his interactions with all of his friends who live with him in the ocean. Spongebob works at a fast food restaurant called the Krusty Krab, owned by a crab named Mr. Krabs. The competitor, a tiny restaurant called the Chum Bucket, is owned by Mr. Krabs' arch-rival, a plankton named Plankton. The Chum Bucket can never get any business and Plankton is constantly attempting to steal the recipe for the Krabby Patty, the Krusty Krab's award-winning sandwich. His efforts, though, are always thwarted and Mr. Krabs emerges triumphant as the dominant fast food operator in Bikini Bottom.
I was watching an episode the other day in which Plankton got closer than he had ever gotten to getting the secret recipe for the Krabby Patty. They had me. I really thought that he would get it. As I was watching, the thought occurred to me, even if he had the recipe, would he be able to recreate it? What does a recipe consists of? Ingredients and directions. Anyone can replicate the ingredients if they are numerous enough. But the directions, that's where it gets tricky...

Beat vigorously. Spread gently. Stir evenly. Sprinkle lightly. The art lies in these adverbs. A recipe can be mimicked, but it cannot necessarily be recreated. Anyone can put the right ingredients in and in the right amounts but the way in which the ingredients are blended is the point of differentiation. Some people just know how to cook. It's not the recipe. It's them. It's what they add throughout the cooking process that makes it taste so great.

This post isn't about Krabby Patties. This post is about creating something meaningful and profitable in an age of commoditization. Due to the superfluity of technology and information, almost everything today can be copied. It's tough, therefore, to create something sustainably unique and profitable. There are no secret recipes left. Everyone can use what you are using and with the same measurements. How can you survive when you cannot differentiate?

But you can differentiate. Apple is different. Facebook is different. Amazon is different. Starbucks is different. But are they really? They are using the same inputs and formats as their competitors. Computer hardware. Social networks. Online retailing. Coffee beans. Yet, there is something distinct about the way they provide their offerings. Same recipes. Different cooks. Apple does computer hardware beautifully. Facebook does social networking masterfully. Amazon does online retailing seamlessly. Starbucks does coffee aromatically. The art--the differentiation--is in the adverbs. It's not in the brush. It's in the brushstrokes.

What business are you in? It doesn't matter. You can still differentiate! Let Plankton steal the recipe to your Krabby Patty because, try as he may, he will not be able to make it like you do. The art dies with the artist. No one can do what you do like you do it. You are the most essential ingredient in your recipe. Go out and prove it to the world. Refuse to be commoditized!

Monday, July 18, 2011

There's a Reason It's Called, 'Prospecting'

In sales, we refer to the activity of searching for new business as "prospecting." A potential customer is a "prospective" customer, so we call that customer a "prospect" and, hence, the activity of seeking out that customer, "prospecting."

Not too long ago, I decided to look up some information online about prospecting. Naturally, I consulted the all-knowing Wikipedia. I did find a page on prospecting...but what I found was not exactly what I was looking for. It turns out there is another form of prospecting that predates its contemporary sales connotation. According to Wikipedia, prospecting is, "the physical search for minerals, fossils, precious metals, or mineral specimens."

When I first came across this page, the image of Yukon Cornelius from "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer" popped into my head. Then I thought of the famous "gold rushes" throughout history that I had read about. It occurred to me, then, that this form of prospecting is what most people outside of the sales profession think of when they hear the word. Then I got to thinking...maybe "prospecting" in sales isn't so different as the "prospecting" I found on Wikipedia. Here are a few similarities between these two forms of prospecting, similarities between digging for gold and digging for customers:

  1. Prospecting is about finding something valuable. Prospectors aren't searching for gravel. They aren't interested in common stones. They are looking for something of value: gold, silver, precious minerals. What they find must be worth the shovel they dug it up with. That is why, in the gold rushes, people left everything behind to pursue this activity. There was a lot of value to be uncovered. Isn't that what we're doing when we prospect as salespeople: digging for something valuable? Aren't we involved in our own sort of gold rush? Customers are our gold. They are worth the journey, worth the effort, worth everything to uncover. We dig for customers, because they are of tremendous value to us. That is really what prospecting in sales is all about.

  2. Propsecting is hard work. There's no doubt about it, these people who went to work excavating for valuable commodities beneath the surface were not lazy. Often, the terrain would be rough and the gold would be deep. Digging a hole deep and wide enough to see if there was even anything to discover could take weeks or even months. In sales, we should be prepared for the same level of commitment to prospecting. Much of our efforts will be in vain. We will spend time cultivating opportunities that will turn out to be "fool's gold." But that's just part of the game. We have to be willing to be persistent with the hope that we might turn something up. We might not find anything if we start digging, but we will definitely not find anything if we never pick up a shovel.

  3. Prospecting involves staking claims. According to Wikipedia, those will wish to "prospect" a certain area must stake a claim to that area by putting posts on the four corners of the area in which she plans to dig. That reserves the area for that particular prospector and enables her to focus her efforts on that area exclusively. In sales, we don't have the luxury of staking claims in the sense that we can legally keep competitors out. However, we should select an exclusive "area" from which we expect to dig for customers. The world is too big and the markets too varied to search everywhere for customers. We aren't looking for anyone anywhere who buys anything. We are looking for customers that our solutions can benefit. We must erect the posts and stake claims in our own niche. That way, we are able to narrow our focus and be sure to find customers if there be any to find.

  4. Prospecting has changed. The Yukon Corneliuses of prospecting have come and gone. As with many professions, technology has greatly improved prospecting methods. Metal detectors and magnetic separators are routinely used and most propsectors today are experts in geology. Prospecting in sales has changed too. Technology has made prospecting a lot easier. There's traditional cold calling, but there's also emailing, social media, CRM, smartphones, etc. Tools are abundant for use in prospecting. Expectations of salespeople, therefore, have also changed. Machines do the grunt work. Modern prospectors are experts in the landscape. Salespeople must be as well. A good pitch no longer suffices. Business acumen is a must for prospecting in sales today. If you are not an expert, you are not worth listening to.

There you have it. Now, get a shovel and start digging. There is gold to uncover!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of July 10, 2011

  1. Steve Woodruff, "12 Most Vital Questions About Your Sales Message"

  2. Demian Farworth, "10 Ways to Beat Online Obscurity"

  3. Geoffrey James, "How to Create a Personal Brand"

  4. Liz Strauss, "7 Key Steps to Being Seen as the Best in Your Field"

  5. John Jantsch, "5 Ways That Content Marketing Has Changed the Art of Selling Forever"

  6. Scott Ginsberg, "11 Words That Don't Matter Anymore"

  7. Kelley Robertson, "If Only I Had Known"

  8. Dan Waldschmidt, "You Need Conviction"

  9. Anthony Iannarino, "5 Signs That You Are an Order-Taker"

  10. Don Perkins, "How to Hit More Sales Targets with Ordinary Bullets"

Bonus Guest Post: Doug Rice, "Selling to People: How to be the Value Not a Necessary Evil"

Quote of the Week: "Professional is just a word for people who seek sanitize the soul out of business. Instead of delivering emotionless, forgettable non-service, bring your humanity to the moment." - Scott Ginsberg

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Philosophy of the Snooze Button

Don't get me wrong. I love sleep. Who doesn't? There's nothing like a good night's rest. It is refreshing and rejuvenating. It feels good. And yet, as much as I love sleeping, I hate wasting time. Time is all I've got. I am conscious of every waking hour that slips away. The later I get up, therefore, the more of my life I am giving away. I don't want to spend my entire life unconscious. And yet, every morning when my alarm goes off, my arch-enemy is sitting there right beside me, telling me I should just go back to sleep. "You don't need to get up, Doug. Is it really that important? Come on, just a few more minutes." Who is this enemy, whispering these seductive words in my ear: it is none other than the snooze button.

Again, I want to express how much I enjoy sleeping. It is truly quite wonderful. Yet, I believe that the purose of life isn't to get better sleep. The purpose of sleep is to live a fuller life. The snooze button may seem like your friend but it is really the great tempter luring you into oblvion. The snooze button is holding you back. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. You are losing time. This is obvious. It's exactly what I've been talking about. Every time I hit the snooze button, 9 minutes is gone from my life. GONE! 9 minutes doesn't seem that long but, if I really think about it, the greatest experiences of my life have probably occured within a span of 9 minutes. It's awfully tempting to justify sleeping another 9 minutes but 9 quickly turns to 18, which turns to 27, which turns to 36, which turns to 45. When it's all said and done, will you ever regret not having slept in an extra 27 minutes? No, probably not. You will more likely regret not having prepared for that presentation or not having read the newspaper or not having stopped for breakfast with a friend. Simply put, life is too short for the snooze button.

  2. You are hurting your self-cofidence. Really? Am I taking this a little too far? I don't think so. Think about it. Every time you set your alarm for a certain time and you don't get up at that time, you are going back on a commitment you've made to yourself. 'I will get up this early. I will do this, that, and the other,' you tell yourself. But, instead, you sleep in. You are lying to yourself. Sooner or later, this behavior will start to take its toll psychologically. You will begin questions yourself and the commitments you make in other aspects of your life. You'll doubt your ability to follow through on your promises. You will lose faith in yourself...and all for another 9 minutes of sleep.

  3. You are expressing how you feel about life. When you hit snooze, you are telling yourself that sleep is more important to you than life. If you really love your life, your sleep will be an inconvenience to you. You will jump out the sound of your alarm, because it will mean the start of another glorious day. Can you imagine living with such passion that you can't wait to get up in the morning? Maybe it seems a little far-fetched. But doesn't it sound better than dreading your day? Regardless of how you feel about your work or the people you will encounter throughout the day, hitting snoozes reinforces that life is a pain rather than a pleasure.

You snooze, you lose. Any way you slice it, the snooze button is bad for you. My advice? Get rid of it. Take a knife and pop it off. Put a few layers of duct tape over it. Buy an alarm clock without a snooze button (do they even make them?) Do whatever it takes to rid yourself of this relentless evil. Life is just too important to tolerate it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lessons From a Bad Therapist

A friend of mine has been seeing a therapist periodically over the past few years. She has told me on several occasions about her frustrations regarding this particular therapist and a recent encounter caused her to decide not to go back. Here's the story:

The therapist arrived late and spend the first fifteen mintues organizing her desk right in front of my friend. While arranging her stuff, the therapist talked to my friend about her life and the things that she'd been doing over the past weeks. Whenever my friend got a chance to interject, the therapist would use my friend's comment as a springboard to further talk about herself. Midway through the conversation, the therapist got a phone call...and she answered it! Right in front of a client, she answered it. It was her grandson. She spoke to him for a few minutes and then hung up. She offered no apology but instead spent the remainder of the session telling my friend about her grandchildren. When the session was over, the therapist asked my friend when she would like to schedule the next session. My friend politely said that she would have to look at her calendar and get back to her. But my friend told me the truth: she's never going back!

This blog is about the philosophy of helping people in sales. As salespeople, we are very much like therapists. We help people sold through their market issues and come viable solutions. And, just like some therapists, we can be extremely bad at our jobs. The therapist in the scenario above may have wasted my friend's time, money, and mental energy. But she provides a great set of lessons for us as salespeople who seek to act as therapist for our clients. Here are a few things we can learn from this bad therapist:

  1. Don't be late. The therapist was late. Her customer was on time. Being late sends a signal to your customer that you do not value her time. It really isn't an issue as to whether or not you are late; it's an issue as to whether or not you care. And, if you're not there when you say you will be, your customer comes to believe that you really don't care about her. Leave early. It's much better to have to wait on your customer than to leave your customer waiting on you. Your customer's time is her most precious asset; do not take it for granted.

  2. Focus exclusively on the client. Obviously, don't answer the phone when you are in front of your customer. But, it's more than that. Turn off your phone. Don't glance at your watch, or your iPad, or your notes, or the diploma hanging on your customer's wall. When he is talking, your eyes should be on the eyes of your customer. At that moment, he is the center of your universe. Forget your grandkids. Forget your next appointment. Forget your quota. Focus on that customer.

  3. Listen more than you talk. For salespeople, this is easier said than done. The blogosphere is littered with advice on active listening but, when push comes to shove, how many of us actually keep our mouths shut? On the surface, your customer may say they just want you to give your pitch. But what they really want is for you to understand them. My friend may have asked her therapist for a solution to her problems, but my friend told me that she really just wanted someone to listen. Are you someone that your clients can talk to...or can you not shut up long enough for them to get a word in? Don't rush the sale. Don't rush the solution. Always listen first. Always listen more. Besides, the more you listen to your client, the more likely your client will be to listen to you.

  4. When you do talk, don't talk about yourself. My friend told me that her recent encounter with her therapist caused her to wonder who was the therapist and who was the patient. The therapist had spend the entire time talking about her grandkids and vacation plans. My friend should have been billing her therapist! Are we like that as salespeople? Do we talk too much about ourselves or is our conversation tailored toward the client? Your client doesn't care about you or your company. He cares about himself and his company. Talk about what your client cares about. It's not, "we have a great product..." It's, "you seem like you could use some help in this department..." It's not, "we're having a difficult time staying on budget..." It's, "Wow, your budget seems to be stretched pretty thin..." It's not about our problems. It's not even about our solutions. It's about the client's problems and how our solutions can help solve them. You know it's true; now talk to your client like you believe it's true.

  5. Don't be so naive about what your client thinks of you. This is a big one. My friend has no intentions of ever going back to her therapist...and the therapist has no idea. How many times as salespeople have we been secretly fired? We are making a ridiculous assumption of we think that, just because the client doesn't say she isn't going to buy, we are still in the running. Don't make assumptions. Feel your client out. Ask about her future intentions with you and your company. Know where she stands. You could be either wasting your time on someone who isn't going to buy or, more likely, doing something that is turning the client off to you or your company. But you will never know unless you ask. When in doubt, ask. When not in doubt, ask anyway. Never be left in the dark.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to Not Be Defensive

Defensiveness destroys communication. When we are confronted by another person and react defensively, the conversation goes sour fast. Sometimes, another person will say hurtful, accusatory things to us and we'll push back in protest. Other times, we'll be merely asked an innocent question by another person and we'll fly off the handle, because we feel like we're being attacked. In either case, our defensiveness sets us up an enemy to the person confronting us. If they thought us an enemy before confronting us, we are now the arch-enemy.None of us want to make enemies. Sure, we want to stick up for ourselves. We don't want to be taken advantage of. But, many times, we can settle a conflict and forge a friendship simply by changing our posture. When we behave defensively, we often cause greater conflict where there doesn't need to be any. So, how can we prevent ourselves from becoming defensive? What can we change about our orientation toward the other person?

The opposite of defensiveness is empathy. Empathy seeks to understand the issue from the other person's point of view. It removes the focus from ourselves and places it on the other person. Do you see how adopting a posture of empathy can keep us from becoming defensive? If our goal is to understand the feelings of the other person, we won't even be considering our own feelings. If we are focusing on the issue as it relates to the other person, we won't even realize that we are being attacked. It will not matter. Because it isn't about us. It's about the other person.

What about you? Do you find yourself becoming defensive in conversations with people? Do you constantly feel attacked? Maybe you're thinking too much about yourself and not enough about the person speaking to you. Adopt an attitude of empathy; it will revolutionalize your conversations.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to Sell Junk

I recall a scene from the movie, "Matilda." The father, Danny Devito's character, is trying to teach his son the "family business" of selling used cars. He points out to his son a "clunker" he bought for $100. He readily admits that the transmission is shot, the front bumper is detached, and the odomer reads 120,000. No problem. He "super super glue"s the front bumper on, rolls back the odometer, and I believe the imlication is that he somehow gets the car to run without replacing the transmission. Matilda, the daughter, interupts the father-son moment and says, "People need good cars. Why can't you sell good cars, Daddy?"

I would answer the question differently than Danny Devito's character does. I would say to Matilda, "Sure, people need good cars, but not everyone can afford good cars." There is nothing wrong with selling junk. As a matter of fact, you are doing a service to people with limited budgets when you are willing to sell products of less than perfect quality. The problem isn't that Danny Devito's character was selling a bad car; the problem is that he was masquerading it as a good car. He was misrepresenting what he was selling; that is what made him a bad businessman, not simply that he was selling it.

I recently heard another story about a printer salesman that went on a sales call with his sales manager. The client had a very low budget to work with and the salesperson knew this. During the interview, the client asked the salesperson about the quality of the pritner that he was considering. To his sales manager's horror, the salesman said, "It's a piece of crap." A slight pause and then, "But it's the best piece of crap that will fit your budget." The client turned to the sales manager and said, "See, that's why I like this guy. He's honest." The client bought a batch of printers.

What's the lesson for salespeople? The key to selling junk is selling it to people who can afford nothing else. Most people understand that they will get what they pay for. One man's trash is another man's treasure. It isn't junk to them. It fulfills their needs. Most importantly, though, always be honest about what your product or service can do. If it can't do something that your client wants it to do, perhaps you are selling to the wrong customer. In short, sell bad cars to people with bad car budgets and good cars to people with good car budgets; but never say that a car is good when really it is bad.

The customer who bought the car from Danny Devito's character was not happy. And, as it turns out, she was a beefed-up Olympian with quite the temper. Remember, your customers don't go away after the sale. No matter what you are selling, they can always come back to complain. Make sure you are a straight-shooter.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Your Mission is Too Important...

My last post was about your personal mission in life. Whether or not you've actually written one down and whether or not you've even thought about it, you do have a mission. It encompasses all you strive to do and be. It is your implicit purpose. It carries your values, dreams, and goals. It is what you are here for. You are your mission. Sometimes, though, you find yourself falling short of living your mission. Things get in the way of you being all that you can be. You know what you want to do and what you should do in life, but certain obstacles stand in your way and prevent you from living up to your full potential. It's one thing to have mission; it's another to live it. Living your mission is hard.

But guess what? That is no excuse. Yes, life is difficult and circumstances will slow you down. But you're mission is too important for you to let the roadblocks hinder you. Your success is more important than anything that could deter you from it. Once you realize this fact, nothing else will matter. You will be unstoppable. If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it. How bad do you want to be successful in your mission? How important is your mission to you? That is what you must ask yourself. Is your mission too important for.....

  • Fear? Do you want to be successful more than you want to be safe and secure? Writer and musician Ambrose Redmoon once said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." Fear is your psychological default. When are you scared to make a decision, engage in a conversation, start a project, or whatever it may be, your natural reaction is to not do that thing. But guess what? More than likely, your mission is to get it done. The question is, "Which will triumph, your fear of life or your passion for it?" Is your mission too important for you to be held back by fear?

  • Laziness? Are you willing to work hard enough to accomplish your mission? If you have set your goals high enough, they will not be easy too attain. It will take a lot of sweath, a lot of mental anguish. You have to be willing to persist. You cannot get sluggish or apathetic. Your mission will not fulfill itself? Are you willing to put the work into it? Are you willing to work long hours and have difficult conversations to be the person you want to be you? Are you up for the relentless striving it takes to be successful? Is your mission important enough to work up a sweat?

  • Discouragement? Is your mission too important for you to give up when you fail? And you will fail. You will falter. You will be the person you don't want to be, say the things you don't want to say, and live the way that you don't want to live. You will let yourself down. You will break your own promises to yourself. But, is your mission more important than self-pity? Is it too important for you to wallow in shame and regret? Is it important enough for you to get back up and try again as if you are numb to the pain of failure? Persevering through failure is often the only road to success. Are you will to fail? Are you willing to try again? Is your mission to important for surrender?

  • Complacency? Is your mission too important for you to stand still? If you ever reach the point at which you can say, "I've succeeded enough," you are abandoning your mission. Life is a journey. Being true to your mission isn't reaching the destination; it's making the journey. It's crossing the bridges, climbing the rocks, and wading through the rivers. If you stop and settle down on the hillside, you have failed. Are you willing to keep improving? Are you willing to strive constantly for the eternal better? People who live faithfully to their missions do not retire. They are always living, always growing, always getting better. Is your mission too important for you to settle down?

Your mission is too important. Do not think otherwise. When you ask yourself, "Why am I here?" Can you really be content with answers such as, "to stay safe and get by without incident" or "to avoid work and do as little as possible." Certainly, there are people who live this way. But they are wasting their lives. Fear, laziness, discouragement, complacency. This is not an exhaustive list. The obstacles are numerous that prevent us from living up to what we are capable of. The question really boils down to this: "Will we use the obstacles as an excuse as to why we can't accomplish our mission or will we use our mission as an excuse as to why we cannot let those obstacles hold us back?" How important is your mission to you?

Monday, July 4, 2011

What is Your Personal Mission?

I found a really cool website the other day. Leadership organization FranklinCovey offers an online "Personal Mission Statement Builder." Basically, it asks you questions about your values, skills, and goals in life. It then frames them in a "mission statement" format, so that you can read it back to yourself as a reminder of where you are heading in your life. It's a really good idea; you should check it out!A mission statement is incredibly important to have. For a business, it provides focus to keep executives from spreading resources too thin or in the wrong direction. Each business exists for a specific purpose, to serve certain customers. When it strays away from its purpose, it loses its customers. A mission keeps a business grounded and focused. A personal mission is the same way: it keeps us focused on what we are trying to accomplish in our lives. We may not be in the same job forever, but we will want to stay true to who we are and what we value throughout our careers and our lives. A personal mission helps us do just that. A personal mission statement adds validity to our mission. It spells it out. Below is a copy of the "personal mission statement" I built on FranklinCovey's site:

I am at my best when I follow through with my promises..
I will try to prevent times when I feel lazy, fearful, or uninspired..
I will enjoy my work by finding employment where I can make a positive difference in a customer's life..
I will find enjoyment in my personal life through making my wife happy..
I will find opportunities to use my natural talents and gifts such as resourcefulness, humor, and empathy..
I can do anything I set my mind to. I will write good quality content and share it with others..
My life's journey is to lead my wife with confidence, live out my faith with certainty, and improve the lives of everyone I encounter..
I will be a person who has mentored and positively influenced the lives of others so that they will continue to be successful and make positive contributions after I'm gone..
My most important future contribution to others will be to make them feel like I've set them up to be successful..
I will stop procrastinating and start working on:

•Being more consistent.
•Being less fearful.
•Paying more attention to life.

I will strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life:

•Sales acumen
•Unapologetic faith
•Intellectual curiousity

I will constantly renew myself by focusing on the four dimensions of my life:

•Getting cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis.
•Maintaining a daily prayer life and engaging in Scriptural reflection.
•Reading about sales and self-improvment.
•Initiating conversations and interacting with people.

My personal mission statement says a lot about my career goals, but it isn't only about my career goals. It expresses the values I have for my wife, my faith, my acquisition of knowledge, etc. It is a statement of what I think it means to be the best me that I can be. I'll continue to tweak it as life goes on and I gain further insight into who I am and what purpose I serve in this world. But, all in all, my mission is something to which I want to stay true. It is mine and mine alone. If I don't accomplish this mission, who will?

What's your mission? Have you thought about it? Have you written it down? Now is the time. Determine for yourself who you are and why you are here. Then, live faithfully to that purpose.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Tone of a Successful Meeting

I know someone who works in the service industry. Just about every other Tuesday, a special meeting is called for all of the employees. During the meeting, my friend's manager goes down a bulleted list of things that the team is doing wrong and yells at them about it. My friend mentioned to me recently how much she hates these meetings and how discouraged she feels after leaving them. I wonder if my friend's manager knows that she is creating such discouraged workers through her ever-so-important meetings. I wonder if she even cares.
What are meetings for? What is the purpose of a sales meeting? Sometimes, there are specific issues that need to be addressed. Other times, the topic seems to be more general in nature. Regardless, though, what can we say is really accomplished by having meetings? I can tell you this: whatever my friend's manager in the scenario above was trying to motivate her team to accomplish, it was not going to happen. Meetings should not discourage workers; they shouldn't make them care less about their jobs. On the contrary, meetings should be inspiring.

Sometimes, a particular employee needs to be criticized. Even more seldom, an entire team will need to be called out. But, more often than not, the team is probably doing fairly well and can only use some improvement. How do you motivate improvement? By chewing out people for their inadequacies? Yeah, let me know how that one goes! No, I have a suggestion for my friend's manager: try inspiration instead of criticsm.

Make your workforce want to be more successful. Thank them for what they've done and encourage them to do better. Make them feel as if they are a part of your mission and their success is their success just as much as it is yours. It really boils down to the question of which results you want: do you want to feel better about asserting your dominance or do you want your team to improve its performance? My guess is that your overall goal is to get better results from your team. You don't do that by yelling at them; you do it by cheering them on.

The tone of a successful meeting is one of inspiration. It is one in which the team members feel motivated intrinsically to do a better job. Fear of the master's whip will only work when the master is looking. Don't be a slave-driver; be a cheerleader. The job is their job just as much as it is yours. They should want to be successful for their own sakes. Lead meetings that make them feel that way.