Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Anti-Guru Movement

I've read a lot of articles recently that attack the notion of people as gurus, especially in regards to social media and Internet technology. There's a backlash against experts in such fields. "Social media is too new," these cynics are saying, "you can't possibly be an expert." A couple of months back, Chris Brogan, well-known propagator of social media (dare I say 'guru?'), offered a Webinar on Google+ for business at a cost of $40/person. The announcement was met with a great amount of resistance from pundits who claimed Google+ was too new for even Chris Brogan to be an expert on it. Guess who spent $40 on said Webinar? Yes, yours truly. Why? Because I think Chris Brogan is a Google+ guru...and that's okay.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think there is an place for arrogance. Calling yourself a guru can come across as pretentious and it's never beneficial to think you know more than you really do. But, I do think there's something to be said for taking pride in your expertise. Change comes from people who have enough confidence in themselves to make it happen. When we rob subject matter experts of their guru-ness, we diminish that courage which drives positive action. The anti-guru movement discourages innovation. It tells people that they're not good enough, that they're too ordinary, to make a difference.

Expertise is relative. Many people I know think that I'm a coffee guru. (I've got to talk about coffee: today is National Coffee Day). Yes, I know a lot more than the average person. I know the backstories of coffeehouses in cities I've never been to, I've read more books on Starbucks than most people read in a lifetime, and I know what I know about world geography based on my study of coffee growing regions. Compared to some, I'm a guru. But I don't consider myself a guru. Here are some people I consider coffee gurus:
In light of these names and many others, I am an amateur at best. My point? Each of us can be a guru in his own right. I am a coffee guru for the average person. Michael Phillips is a coffee guru for me. Chris Brogan can be a Google+ guru for many who are unfamiliar with the topic. A "social media guru" is a legitimate description of someone with a lot of expertise on the subject, as there are a lot of people still struggling with the concept.

So, here's to being a guru! Don't be afraid to show people what you know and leverage your expertise to make a difference. Being a guru isn't selfish--failing to be one is. The world needs people who will helps us understand things. You can be that person! What can you contribute? What are you a guru about? Pay no mind to the detractors who say you don't know enough. No one knows everything about anything. What do you know? Are you sharing it? That's all that matters. Share something. Be a guru!
featured photo courtesty of Black Vanilla licensed via Creative Commons

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Resource of the Week: Hootsuite

What is it?

Hootsuite is a social media integration platform that enables you to simultaneously post to a variety of different networks. It was founded in November 2008 by Invoke Media (founder and CEO: Ryan Holmes) and has grown into one of the most highly regarded web applications. Social networks that are currently able to be linked are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,, Wordpress, MySpace, Foursquare, and Mixi.

Why I love it

Like its competitors, TweetDeck, Seesmic, etc., Hootsuite enables me to see the feeds from various social networks simultaneously. It's convenient to not have to flip back and forth between Facebook and Twitter in order to keep up with the conversation. Additionally, Hootsuite makes it easy to automate Tweets and status updates. I can set multiple (up to 50) posts for a future date and not have to worry about falling into inactivity in my social networks. It's very useful for posting things like quotes, random facts, and so on. If you want a little break from social media, but you don't want the online world to know you've disappeared, just schedule a few posts for the week and unplug with a good book or some time with the family. It's that easy.

Who uses it?

According to Hootsuite, the application is used by "The White House, Martha Stewart Media, SXSW and Zappos." Additionally, a few of my favorite online personalities that endorse Hootsuite are:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book of the Week: Closing Techniques by Stephan Schiffman

Stephan Schiffman's Closing Techniques was the first book specifically on sales that I ever read. It was being clearanced out at a local bookstore and I thought I'd give it a shot. What a lucky find! This book contains fundamental concepts on treating your customers as people, not using gimmicks and tricks to get people to buy, and simplifying the sales process. It's a quick read (only about 100 pages), it's to the point, and it doesn't repeat itself. I highly recommend it for anyone just getting started in sales. It will make you look like a veteran.

Here are the ten key takeaways from Closing Techniques:
  1. Tricks don't work. Schiffman denounces old school tactics such as listing out pros and cons and handing them a pen and a contract, saying, "You already have the contract in your hand, you might as well sign." According to Schiffman, these tricks only serve to insult the customers and signal that you are not looking out for their interests.
  2. What matters in the portion of opportunities you can control. Schiffman proposes a rule of thirds. One-third of the opporunties you get are going to buy from you no matter what. They simply need what you have and they know it. End of story. Another third of your opportunities are not going to buy from you no matter what. What really counts is what you do with the remaining third. That's where you shine.
  3. Closing should be a natural outgrowth of the sales process. Too often, sales people separate the "close" from the rest of the sales process, as if it's something entirely different. It isn't. It's just the way the sales process should end if you've done everything correctly throughout. "Closing the sale," says Schiffman, "is a natural outgrowth of your earlier work, not a separate conclusion you somehow impose upon your prospect.
  4. The sales interchange is not a contest with the prospect. It's not a battle. It shouldn't be adversarial. Great sales people put themselves on the same side as the customer. They are helping the customers, not trying to outwit them.
  5. Great sales people keep their eyes open for opportunities. Mediocre sales people wait for opportunities to fall into their laps. The good sales people are those who are always on the prowl, looking for people that may benefit from what they have to offer.
  6. You have to believe in what you're selling. Conviction is key. "To begin with," says Schiffman, "you have to be utterly, completely convinced in your own heart that you can offer your prospect the best possible solution to his or her problem." If you don't believe, why should they?
  7. Best way to close: simply ask the prospect what they think. Schiffman's close: "Mr. Prospect, I don't know about you but this program makes a lot of sense to me. I think your company would benefit a lot from working with us. What do you think?" The power of this approach is that, if the prospect says yes, you know it's because you've really built the necessary value to earn the sale. If the prospect says no, the objections that you need to overcome will be revealed.
  8. Treat prospects as people, not the companies they represent. "Establish a relationship between two people," Schiffman says, "not two corporate entitites. Tell your prospect that you want the business, not that your company does." Whether business to business or business to consumer, it's always person to person.
  9. Take leadership for your prospects. Not in the sense that you boss them around, but rather that you take responsbility for the outcomes of the interchange. The leader seizes opportunities for his prospects. The leader shows the propsect how to solve her problems. The leader isn't afraid to take control of the process and make things happen.
  10. Closing isn't static; there are always new developments. Another misconception about closing is that it's the end of the interchange. More often than not, a relationship doesn't (or shouldn't) end with a single close. "Nothing is static," says Schiffman, "as long as there are active relationships, there is some opportunity for you to take the initiative, some next course to pursue. Sales is a continual process, a series of mutual advancements that is most efficient when it benefits both parties."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do Statistics Matter?

The Case for Statistics

I read a book not too long ago that I really enjoyed called Supercrunchers. Essentially, the thesis of the book is that quantitative data is more useful in decision-making than is intuition. Ian Ayres, the author of the book, uses example after example to make a compelling argument for the effectiveness of statistics in making accurate decisions. Ayres argues that we are inherently biased toward intuition, thinking that our "gut" is more reliable than it really is. If we really want a better chance of being right in decisions we make, Ayres argues, we'll crunch numbers.

One of my favorite examples Ayres uses is that of batting averages in baseball. Many professional "scouts" in baseball will go to games and watch players in an effort to get an accurate gauge on how well they perform overall. Ayres suggests that a better way to gauge the performance of players is to look at their batting averages. If a scout goes to see one game, he is getting a very small sample of the player's historical performance. The player may hit three home runs in the game the scout is watching, while never getting a single hit in games prior to or after that game. On the other hand, the player may strike out three times while the scout is present and yet consistently hit home runs in the games the scout does not see. In any situation, the naked eye simply cannot capture the breadth of information that statistics can.

In sales and marketing, we use a lot of metrics for decision-making. We understand that we are more likely to be correct when our decisions are data-driven than when they are based on our hunches. Forecasting isn't perfect but it's better than, "I've got a good feeling that..." When real dollars are at stake, it's much better for us to have hard data and solid, measurable reasons to do the things we do. We aren't interested in a single "at bat" so much as we are the "batting average."

When Statistics Don't Matter

Statistics are great when you're the scout but what about when you are the batter? How do you approach each "at bat?" Does your batting average matter to you? For each "at bat," you're not going to get one-third of a hit if your batting average is .333. No, you're either going to hit the ball or you aren't. Should you be thinking, "The odds are against me. I only get a hit one out of every three times I step up to the plate?" That is the statistically validated truth, but is it really useful to you in that situation? No! I'll tell you what I would be thinking. I would go with my intution. My gut would be telling me that I'm going to knock it out of the park and, every time I swing, I would believe it.

Sales people who are in "slumps" often make the mistake of paying too much attention to their "batting averages" when making sales calls. The "slump," in actuality, is an illusion. Each sales call is a unique opportunity to a hit home run and is only correlated with previous sales calls in as much as the sales rep's attitude enables it to be. Negative self-talk can only decrease the chances of success. It doesn't matter what the historical numbers are; what matters is how you behave in the moment.

In the Stands or at the Plate?

So, which is it? Is data more important or is intuition? Well, I think the key difference here is whether or  not you are involved in the creation of the statistics. The scout has no hand in creating the batting average. She is merely an observer seeking to make a prediction. The batter, on the other hand, creates the statistics. He is in a unique position to affect the way the statistics turn out. The same is true of the sales person as opposed to the business analyst. Someone watching the sales churn does not have the same level of influence as someone actually churning them.

What does all this mean for you and your decision-making? Why have I spent the above paragraphs discussing pros and cons of statistics? Because it's important to realize that, if you are a part of the statistics, you have a tremendous amount of power to change them. "Statistics show that 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first three years." If you are an angel investor for a startup, perhaps this is a statistic you'll want to pay attention to. Yet, if you are the entrepreneur, I would advise you to disregard it with all that is in you! Starting off believing that you have an 80% chance of failing will lead you to a 100% chance of failing. You don't have to be one of the eight. You don't have to lose the sale. You don't have to strike out. When you are part of the statistics, you can change them.

My point? Don't be the statistic; create the statistic. Don't let the numbers define you. Create the numbers for a future that will be defined by them. Statistics come from somewhere. You'll either be the one who makes them or the one who falls vicitm to them. If you aren't in the stands watching the game unfold, don't act like you are. You have power to change the outcome, regardless of what the numbers say.

featured image courtesy of Ben Brown licensed via Creative Commons

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Resource of the Week: Instapaper

What is it?
Instapaper was launched by web developer and solopreneur Marco Arment in January 2008. It is an application that enables you to save articles from the web for later viewing. You can create an account online and sort all of your content into an array of folders. Instapaper is available on smartphones, tablets, and even eReaders.

Why I love it
I use Instapaper for virtually all of my reading. Instapaper has a link that can be saved to your "Favorites" folder and, when you select that link on any given webpage, it will save that content to your Instapaper "Read Later" folder. If I just happen to come across something interesting on the web or follow a link from my Twitter feed, I save it to my Instapaper. Likewise, I pick out what I find interesting from the 100+ blogs that I browse through everyday and save those articles to my Instapaper. Later, I'll go back through, read the articles, and sort them into folders that I have created. Instapaper has literally changed the way I consume content online. I honestly believe I would not be as well-studied today if it weren't for Instapaper. If you don't have it, I highly recommend it. The iPhone App. is only $4.99, but I believe the online account is free.

Who uses it?

I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of readers that use Instapaper (or, at least, there should be) on a day-to-day basis. Here are just a few that I've come across who have had positive things to say and have made Instapaper an integral part of their reading lives:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of September 11, 2011

  1. Dave Brock, "The Meeting" An extensive list of powerhouse questions to prepare for the B2B sales interview.
  2. Don Perkins, "12 Most Transformational Business Insights from the Last 11 Months" Common themes in sales blogs throughout the past year.
  3. Jeff Ogden, "The Fatal Flaw in the Job Description/Resume Process" Experience with failure is an often-overlooked strength in potential employees.
  4. Daniel Newman, "Be the One - Thoughts On Leadership" It all starts with assuming responsibility.
  5. Michael Q. Todd, "9 Ways to Do Better on Klout" Finally, there's a list!
  6. Marcus Sheridan, "B2B Vs. B2C Marketing: It's the Same Thing People" All marketing is P2P (People to People) Marketing.
  7. Scott Ginsberg, "The Cost of Inconsistency" Being inconsistent corrodes trust.
  8. Tibor Shanto, "Commitment" In the end, execution is what really matters.
  9. Tim Tyrell-Smith, "10 Signs You Are Being Lazy On Linked-In" Reminders on how to take advantage of the most important professional network available.
  10. Mike King, "50 Sure-Fire Ways to Be a Humble and Respected Human Being" A great list of ways to just be a nice person.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book of the Week: The Speed of Trust by Stephen MR Covey

Written by Stephen MR Covey, the son of legendary Stephen R Covey (7 Habits), the Speed of Trust is a groundbreaking book on trust for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. It takes trust from the realm of philosophy to the realm of practicality by providing actionable methods of establishing trust and measurable results that trust can bring.

Covey's premise is that, as trust goes up (whether it be in personal relationships, business transactions, or the market as a whole), the speed of the interaction goes up and the cost of the interaction goes down. Trust, according to Covey, is quantifiable and brings better results faster than anything else can. Covey breaks the book into five sections: self trust, relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and societal trust. I could not recommend this book more highly as a fundamental work for personal, business, and societal development.

Here are my top ten takeaways:

  1. The simplest definition of trust is confidence. Trust is the opposite of suspicion. When people trust you or your organization, it essentially means that they believe in you. When they don't, it means they are skeptical. Trust is confidence.
  2. When we break trust, we incur a trust tax. When we keep trust, we receive a trust dividend. Covey uses the example of taxation to explain the quantifiable effect that trust, or lack thereof, has on us. He suggests that, when we behave in a manner that decreases the trust people have in us, they are "taxing" everything that we say and do. We are not getting the complete benefit from the relationship. On the other hand, when people do trust us, the give us "the benefit of the doubt"--a trust dividend, if you will.
  3. Being a trustworthy person means being credible. Can you follow through with your commitments to yourself? Can you keep your commitments to others? That is what trust is all about.
  4. There are four components of being a trustworthy person. Integrity, intentions, capablities, and results. If you are missing any one of these, you cannot be trustworthy. 
  5. Integrity is the root of trust. Without integrity, trust is not sustainable. It involves consistency (of intent and behavior), humility, and courage. Covey uses the example of tennis player Andy Roddick, who once argued in favor of his opponent, causing him to lose a match. Thereafter, however, umpires were much more apt to trust his judgment, because they recognized him as having integrity.
  6. The agenda of a trustworthy person is to seek a mutual benefit. Self-seeking people cannot be trusted. In order to build trust with others, you must be genuinely seeking their good as well. Building trust requires an "abundance" mindset, that there is enough value to go around for everyone. Trust-seekers seek a win-win solution.
  7. Capabilities include TASKS. Talents, Attitude, Skills, Knowledge and Style. Even if you have great intentions and are willing to do the work, if you don't have the right capablities, you can't be trusted to get a job done.
  8. Focus on results, not on activities. Trustworthy people avoid making excuses. They are not content with having simply "tried" to honor a commitment. They do it. They don't make calls; they make sales. They don't go on a diet; they lose weight. Results, not activities, are what build trust.
  9. Speak about others as if they're there. A huge way to destroy trust is to talk about others behind their backs. It destroys trust with the people you are talking about (if they find out) as well as with the people you are talking to (they'll wonder what you say behind their backs). Speak well of people and, if you have to speak ill of them, do it to their faces and not to someone else's.
  10. Make sure that expectations are clear. Broken trust is very often the result of misunderstood expectations--a failure in communication. Covey gives the example of a time that he told his daughter to clean her room. He came home later that day to find it a mess. When he aksed her about it, she insisted that it was clean. She really believed that she had cleaned her room. It turns out that they each simply had different expectations of what a clean room ought to look like. Whenever you're interacting with another person, it's important that both of you know what is expected from the other. If not, trust is bound to suffer.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When to Be Pushy

B2B sales expert Dave Brock wrote a post a couple of weeks ago on why sales people need to be more pushy. Of course, we all say we hate "pushy" sales people, but what we really hate are selfish sales people. When it is clear to us that a sales person has a selfish agenda and does not care at all about what's best for us, we are indignant when he or she tries to influence our decisions. If a sales person, however, recognizes our needs and acts in our best interests, we are much more comfortable taking advice from her. Such a sales person, when pushy, can be likened to a coach or mentor pushing us into certain behaviors for our own good. We, at some level, appreciate this kind of motivation. This kind of pushiness is what I believe Dave is talking about.

And, yet, most of us have more experience with the former sales person than we do with the latter. Or, our perception of sales people in general is so poor that we assume everyone who is selling something to have no greater intentions than does a thief. For the sales person with integrity, who truly wants to create value for his clients, this stigma makes it very hard to know when it is acceptable to be pushy. Sometimes, clients need to be pushed into a decision or they will actually lose money. Yet, if a sales person pushes when the client is resistant, she will lose the business and the client will fail to capture any value that the sales person could have provided. So, the pressing question is this: when should we be pushy?

The easy answer is...when we've earned the right to be. As sales people, we are often unjustly impatient with our customers. We try to prescribe before diagnosing. We know our intentions are good but we are being helplessly naive if we think our prospects are making that assumption. To gain a prospects trust, we must earn it. We must demonstrate genuine concern for them and their problems. Our thinking and all behaviors associated with it should be, "Is there a way I can help this prospect?" rather than, "Is there a way I can collect a commission from this prospect?" We, all too often, search for the "buy button" before locating and pressing the "trust button." We can't build a contract until we've built rapport.

That is why, I think, the perception of B2B sales people is genuinely greater than that of B2C sales people. B2B sales people typically have a longer window to build trust. When a buying decision is made within an hour, trust is harder to establish than it is when a buying decision is made within a month. That's why we hate pushy car salesmen but don't mind so much when an established supplier pushes a deadline. So, what is the guy who sells couches to do? Can he ever be pushy? In general, I think the answer is, "Yes." The problem with most sales people, B2B or B2C, is that they pounce on prospects. The lady selling you a car may push for a credit application within the first 5 minutes of catching your name. For most prospects, this kind of artificial urgency is unforgivable.

A good rule of thumb in knowing when to be pushy is the 80/20 principle: spend the first 80% of your estimated time with the prospect establishing trust and the remaining 20% trying to influence a decision. If you have an hour with a prospect, be as accomodating as you would be for a dinner guest. Spend that time genuinely establishing a relationship, not even giving a thought to closing. Don't push until the last ten minutes. If you have a month, spend the first 24 days building rapport and don't push for a decision until the last week.

True, your estimation of the prospect's buying timeframe may be off. The prospect may leave the showroom in 50 minutes or may go with another supplier in 3 weeks. But you'll without a doubt be more likely to keep the prospect's attention when you are focusing on building trust. They may decide, at this time, not to business with you. So what? Isn't it better to lose a transaction than to lose a prosect? If you focus the majority of your time building trust, one of two things will happen: you will either 1) get a sale or 2) get an opportunity for your future pipeline.

Timing is everything. Don't be pushy until you've enabled your prospect to see your pushiness as genuine concern. Your intentions are irrelevant if you don't have your prospect's trust.

featured image courtesy of jeff_golden licensed by Creative Commons

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Power of Gratitude: a Guest Post by Robert Terson

Epictetus (55 AD-135 AD) said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” I believe the optimum state of mind to accomplish any achievement is gratitude. It doesn’t matter what your status is, what you have or don’t have, there is always something to be grateful for. George Burns, in his mid-90s, said, “At my age, I’m grateful to be still breathing.” For a salesperson, what’s significant about gratitude is that it’s impossible to feel discouraged or sorry for yourself if you’re feeling grateful.

Do you have a spouse you love and who loves you? There are widows and widowers out there who ache for their lost love; I know a few, they’re friends of mine. Do you have children? Are they healthy? Think of the millions of depressed women whose wombs are barren; or the grief-stricken parents of a critically ill child, who desperately go from the ICU to light a candle at church. Are you healthy? My grandmother, born in 1888 on a farm outside of Minsk, used to say, “If you don’t have your health, you have nothing.” Smart woman, my grandmother. Do you have adequate shelter? The homeless do not. Do you have enough to eat? The hungry do not. Were you educated? The illiterate were not.

The things to be grateful for are endless, are they not?

Isn’t it simply a miracle that you and I are alive on this earth, with limitless opportunities to live life to its fullest? Just to have known love was worth the price of admission. It makes me want to get down on my knees and give thanks to the Powers That Be for every day I’ve been blessed with, for all the wonderful people I’ve been blessed with. When I’m told to have a nice day, my standard response is “I woke up this morning; it’s already a nice day.” How about you? Do you appreciate all your blessings or just take them for granted?

Have you ever heard about the man who complained about not having shoes..., until he saw someone in a wheelchair without feet?

Here’s an exercise for you: create a gratitude list; write down everything you’re grateful for. You may stop at a hundred, but go to a thousand if you like. At the top of my own gratitude list are the health of my wife, three children, and three grandchildren. I once made a promise to never take their health for granted. I made that promise on a Saturday morning in February, 1997, in the CAT-scan waiting room at Lutheran General Hospital.

On a Sunday evening six days earlier, I had deplaned in Atlanta, gone to the bathroom and was shocked out of my wits to see blood in my urine. It happened six more times before I headed home Thursday. I have no excuse why I didn’t listen to my wife and immediately go home; not one of my more prudent decisions.

Nicki had set up an appointment with the urologist for Friday, but I went directly from O’Hare Field after my plane landed. The doctor examined me, said there were a number of possibilities, and then sent me to the hospital for an IVP x-ray. When I was done with the x-ray and about to leave, the technician told me the urologist was on the telephone.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” he said, “but I’m afraid I’ve got bad news—it’s kidney cancer, not much doubt about it.” He suggested I return to his office so a surgery date could be set forthwith.

Kidney cancer—it sounded so ominous; I contemplated my mortality.

“Do not ask for whom the bell tolls,” Hemingway wrote, “the bell tolls for thee.”

There was little doubt about the diagnosis, but the urologist wanted a CAT scan to be 100% sure. So that’s how I wound up in the CAT-scan waiting room early Saturday morning. Nicki and I were alone except for a young couple and their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter—a real cutie. They sat directly across from us.

Nicki nervously explained why we were there; the little girl’s mother explained why they were there: their daughter had developed a rare cancer when she was six months old, and periodic CAT scans had become part of their routine.

Six months old! A baby, for God’s sake! I fought back the tears—for both of us, but especially that beautiful child and her beleaguered parents. I ached for them.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the mother and father to cope with such an Ordeal—hell, still were coping with it. How did they manage it? A baby whom you couldn’t communicate with, explain things to; how could they watch her suffer so without going stark-raving mad? I couldn’t do it, I thought. I couldn’t possibly deal with something so devastating. Surely I’d collapse and die.
I felt a surge of gratitude that I had the kidney cancer, not one of my kids. I took that CAT scan feeling like Lou Gehrig—“…the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
There is always something to be grateful for.

It’s impossible to feel discouraged or sorry for yourself if you’re feeling grateful.
There’s magic all around you; take notice of it, never take it for granted.

Smell the roses!

Emerson said it so well:
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
Be grateful and inevitably you’ll have a lot more to be grateful for.

The salesperson who has a heart full of gratitude sells a lot more than the one who doesn’t.

Robert Terson has had 40 years experience in advertising sales and is the author of the forthcoming book, Selling Fearlessly: A Master Salesman's Instruction Manual. He blogs regulary at his website, Selling Fearlessly, and has a passion for helping people overcome their fears and increase their confidence in selling. Follow him on Twitter @RobertTerson.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Resource of the Week: Dropbox

What is it?
Dropbox Inc was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, both graduates of MIT. Dropbox is a web application that you can download to various devices: your PC, your laptop, your smartphone, etc. It enables users to save files (i.e. pictures, videos, presentations, spreadsheets, documents) that can be accessed in the cloud from any device with Internet access. It is free for users who use only up to 2 GB, and there are paid options for 50 GBs, 100 GBs, and 250 GBs (group).

Why I love it
I save all of my most important files to Dropbox, mostly consisting of spreadsheets, documents, and presentations. Just in case something happens to my computer or I don't have access to it for some reason, I can pull up my Dropbox account from anywhere and access those files. It's useful on a day-to-day basis if I need to quickly access a file to update. I make a lot of lists in Excel and, as a writer, type a lot of Documents in Word. If I think of something that I forgot to add once I leave my house, I can pull up by Dropbox account wherever I am and add it to the file.

Dropbox also serves as an alternative for backing up my files. My computer crashed recently (before I had discovered Dropbox) and there were some files that I spent hours updating because I had neglected to save them to my external hard drive frequently enough. Now, every time I use one of these important files, I save them to both my computer and my Dropbox.

Dropbox is slowly becoming one of my favorite web applications. It isn't sexy like some other apps; it's actually quite boring. It just lets you save stuff. But it's incredibly useful and I'm not sure I could live without it at this point.

Who uses it?

As of April 2011, over 25 million users have signed on with Dropbox. It has been named on of the top 10 Apps for the iPhone and Android by leading tech websites Techchrunch and ZDNet, respectively. Its founders have been named among the top young tech entrepreneurs by both Business Week and In other words, Dropbox is no secret. Many of the sales, marketing, and social media experts that I follow use Dropbox in their everyday lives. Here are a few great minds that endorse it:

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Trust Funnel

Trust is HUGE in business.  It is fundamental to even being considered by a prospect. In an age of limitless choices, if you aren't trustworthy, a prospect can always find someone who is. There is no quicker way to scare off a customer than to give the impression that you cannot be trusted. If a prospect senses the least bit of inconsistency in your words or duplicitous intentions in your demeanor, the opportunity is dead. If you can't be trusted, you might as well not even play the game.

But trust is about more than intention, isn't it? If you have the best of intentions but don't follow through with your promises, are you not still untrustworthy? Stephen MR Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust, lays out four components of trust: integrity, intention, capabilities, and results. Yes, customers are not going to want to do business with you if you are a liar (integrity), if you aren't looking out for their best interests (intention), or if you don't have the necessary skills (capabilities) to do the job. But, when it's all said and done, what really matters to the people making a financial investment in you? That's right: the results.

Do you keep your promises? That's the differentiator. Anyone can make a commitment. The difference is actually being able to keep the commitment. If you can't deliver, you aren't trustworthy. Customers, rightly so, want return on investment; not empty promises. You can have great integrity, intentions, and capabilities, but if you aren't producing the results your customers are looking for, you will not be considered trustworthy.

The problem is that, of the four elements Covey points out, results is the only one (assuming you are part of an organization) over which you don't have complete control. You control your integrity. You are the master of your intentions. You are the developer of your own capabilities. And, though you may be responsible for the results, you are not the only contributor to them. Your team (or supplier network) puts the product or service into your hand, and you merely pass it on to the client. To be able to build trust with clients, you have to be able to trust your team. Enter the trust funnel.

The trust funnel consists of everyone who touches the product or service before it gets into your hands. You must have a great amount of trust in the people before you in order to build trust with the people after you. Did engineering design your product appropriately? Did manufacturing assemble your product appropriately? Did marketing advertise your product appropriately? All of these elements contribute to the expectations of your customers when you sell them what you are offering. Whether or not you can be trusted really boils down to whether or not your people can be trusted.

Do you trust your team? Do you trust your suppliers? Do you trust the people putting the product into your hands? If not, I recommend getting out of that organization. Your customers cannot trust you to produce results for them if you cannot trust your team to produce results for you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of September 4, 2011

  1. Anthony Iannarino, "12 Most Essential Attributes of the Best B2B Sales People" This list is golden for anyone who wants to be successful in sales or simply life in general. Worthy of framing and putting on your wall!
  2. Kelley Robertson, "11 Little Things That Make a Big Difference in Sales" 11 small, easy things to remember when selling that can help you make a huge difference in your effectiveness.
  3. Ted Coine, "12 Most Surefire Ways to Rock Leadership" Great list of behaviors a leader engages in to successfully inspire his or her followers
  4. Lisa Barone, "18 Reasons to Use Social Media" Not using social media yet? You now have no excuse.
  5. Jeffrey Gitomer, "What Are the Biggest Mistakes Sales People Make?" Huge errors in thinking that render sales people ineffective.
  6. Joel Brown, "24 Lessons I Have Learnt in the Past 24 Years" 24 small tidbits of wisdom to inspire success in life.
  7. John Jantsch, "More Cheese; Less Whiskers" Instead of trying to scare customers into buying (customers actually run when they're scared), try TEMPTING customers into buying.
  8. Shawn Murphy, "4 Ways to Recover After Being a Jerk" When you screw up with someone, go back and make amends.
  9. Dan Waldschmidt, "The Secret Behind Getting People to Follow You" It's all about love.
  10. Art Sobczak, "To Be a Better Sales Person, Don't SOUND Like a Sales Person" Don't sound like you're pitching something; talk to prospects as you would talk to friends.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book of the Week: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

This book hardly needs an introduction. For most people, when they hear the phrase "self-help," this is the book that comes to mind. But don't let that fool you! This classic work on personal development is not cheesy in the least. More than being about spiritual enlightenment, positive thinking, and other things of a transcendent, abstract nature, 7 Habits is about practical methods of developing principles and character that help you better interact with yourself and others. If you're not much of a reader and you want to read one single book about making you a better person, this book is definitely what I would recommend. If you let it, it can transform the way you think and, consequently, the way you live.

Here are my top ten takeaways from this masterpiece:

  1. Be proactive, not reactive. "Our behavior is a function of our decisions," says Covey, "not our conditions." We tend to see ourselves as victims of circumstance rather than creators of circumstance. Covey encoorages us to take reponsibility ("the ability to choose our response") for our lives, rather than simply letting life happen to us.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Covey proposes a thought experiment in which you sre present at your own funeral, listening to what the people closest to you have to say about your life. What would you want to hear? What do you want your legacy to be? Covey encoursges us to make every decision within that context.
  3. Become your own first creator. Covey suggests that all things are created twice. A house, for example, is designed (first creation) before it is constructed (second creation). Our behavior is the same way. Choices are made internally before they are made externally. The question Covey asks is, "Are we making those choices by design or default. Are we merely choosing out of what been taught by our parents, peers, experiences, etc., or are we consciously design our behavior ourselves. Covey suggests that we should get rid of the scripts for behavior that have been handed to us and, instead, write our own scripts.
  4. Write a personal mission statement. Businesses typically have mission statements to keep themselves focused on their core values. People should be no different. Covey encourages us to develop a through understanding of our principles and to write them down as a reference for the foundation of our decision-making. If we have something concrete to live by, we are less likely to change our values with changing circumstances.
  5. "Without involvement, there is no commitment. Covey tells the story of a hotel that had the best customer service he had ever experienced. When he consults with its owner, he discovers that every member of the staff had a hand in creating the mission statement. The lesson? If you are not heavily invested in what you do, it isn't likely that it will matter to you.
  6. "Organize and execute around priorities." In this section, Covey introduces his classic time management matrix, implying that all tasks can be organized into these four quadrants: I). Urgent and Important. II). Important but not Urgent. III). Urgent but not Important. IV). Not Urgent and not Important.
  7. Make deposits in the emotional bank accounts of others. Covey introduces the concept of the emotional bank account to illustrate how the way we treat others can influence the amount of trust they have in us. "If I make deposits into an emoitonal bank account with you through courtesy, kindess, honesty and keeping commitments, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to."
  8. Integrity is more than just honesty. "Honesty is telling the truth--in other words, comforming our words to reality. Integrity is comforming reality to our words--in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations." Integrity is about following through and keeping commitments.
  9. "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Covey suggests that we should always diagnose before we prescribe. "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand," says Covey, "they listen with the intent to reply." We are offended when a doctor writes a prescription without listening to our interpretation of our symptoms. Why should it be any different in other conversations? Problem-solving is secondary; listening and understanding always come first.
  10. To change our behavior, we must change ourselves. In a nutshell, this is theme of the entire book. "Change--real change--comes from the inside out. It doesn't come from hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior with quick fix personality techniques. It comes from striking at the root--the fabric of our thought, the fundamental essential paradigms, which give definition to our character and create a lens through which we see the world."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are You Seeking Employment or Opportunity?

The Holy Grail That Is Job Security

What is job security? New college graduates are still being trained that "job security" is the holy grail of work. We want to find a job that we'll get to keep no matter what. We've paid our dues. We spent sixty grand and suffered through four years of finals. We should have a job waiting for us on a silver platter. We should get a salary with excellent benefits. We'll work for 30 years and then retire on a ranch. That's the story we're told. That's how it's supposed to be.

Guess what? We've been lied to. That's not the way the world works. None of us, no matter how much we spent or how hard we studied, are entitled to jobs. Employers have little interest in what you know; they are far more interested in what you can do. And seldom does academia prepare us for the demands of the real world. We're trained as scholars but seek employment as workers. There is little wonder, then, that so many graduates find it difficult to find work and so many employers find it difficult to find talent. There is a great divide between what we are taught and what we must do.

What is Education For?

Certainly, I am not attempting to undermine the value of education. Knowledge is, or at least can be, power. The problem, I believe, is the paradigm with which we approach education. We view the knowledge as an end rather than a means. We learn for the sake of learning rather than for the sake of application. Students are training to become professors of future students. In some amount, that paradigm is acceptable. Surely, society has benefited from the men and women who have been paid to think and theorize. The problem is that those students who do not go on to be professors are still entering the job market with a theoretical mindset.

Most college graduates are looking to fill positions, to take on roles, to simply find jobs. This mindset is academic in nature.  It implies that the job (professor) is there because the job-seeker (student) needs something to do. Jobs are "created" as people need them. If there weren't job-seekers, jobs wouldn't be necessary. This view runs counter to reality. Jobs are created from consumer demand. Someone wants something; someone else provides it.

Jobs, therefore, that are "created" artificially and have no purpose, are a drain on society. They produce stuff that no one wants. Far too many people are entering the workforce today, asking for a job for the sake of having a job. The pressure on employers, then, is to fabricate roles that have no end purpose. Employees end up working on a metaphorical assembly line to create a product that is assembled, pacakged, and shipped straight to the city dump. There is no need for said product, no demand, only a necessity to give those workers something to do.

Are You Seeking Employment or Opportunity?

Inane jobs can only exist for so long. So, what if you do find a "role" to fill with your college degree? How long do you think that role can be sustained? Eventually, inefficient employers are either going to get rid of useless jobs or go out of business. When that happens, will you be ready or will you be one of the many victims who "lost their jobs?" Perhaps you can rid yourself of that future headache and decide, right now, to make a shift in your thinking. Maybe it's time to stop looking merely for employment and, instead, seek out opportunity.

Stop seeking a job! Shred your resume. Burn your cover letter. Forget about your skills and qualifications. It's not about you. It's about those who truly create your jobs: the end consumers of whatever product or service you are providing. What opportunity is there to create something meaningful for them? That is the question you must ask yourself. It doesn't matter how qualified you are for a job if that job itself is not qualified for the market. Stop thinking in terms of what you bring to the table and start looking through the lens of what the table is asking you to bring to it.

Are you spending hours scouring Internet search engines to find a means to a paycheck? You are looking in the wrong place. I know; I've been there. Cut out the middle man. Go straight to the ones who will be served by the job you are filling. What benefit can you provide them? What opportunity exists to improve their lives?

If you want to make a great impression on an interviewer, approach the interview with this paradigm in mind. Be indifferent about what your interviewer thinks of you or your qualifications. Focus whole-heartedly on how you can leverage what you know to create value for your interviewer's customers. If that interviewer is put off by your initiative, he or she is not worth working for. Bypass the bureacracy and go straight to the market.

How long will you look merely for employment? Stop trying to fill positions and, instead, start looking to capitalize on opportunities.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Resource of the Week: 12 Most

What is it?

12 Most is a site packed with interesting articles written by a plethora of brilliant people on the web. Every post begins with, "12 Most..." and goes on to list and describe the top 12 for the subject in question. The topics range from business to Internet to lifestyle and more, and the content is ALWAYS top-notch. Founded in June 2011 by Daniel Newman and Sean McGinnis, the site has evolved to include contributions from 50+ writers (myself included) and is currently ranked 28,979 out of all the websites in the world according to Alexa.

Why I love it?

In keeping with the 12 Most tradition, here are the twelve most compelling reasons that I am a 12 Most enthusiast:

1. The topics are are developed by the posters and not assigned by those who run the site. Anyone can submit an article and, as the posts are created organically, the content is that much more creative.

2. The community is highly interactive. Typically, when you comment on a post, you'll get a response within the hour.

3. Some of the most well-known on-line writers contribute to 12 Most. Anthony Iannarino. Chris Westfall. Aaron Biebert. Peggy Fitzpatrick. Steve Woodruff. Just to name a few.

4. The format is consistent. As you become a regular reader, you get used to the format and are able to navigate posts more quickly.

5. The categories are varied: Management. Leadership. Sales. Marketing. Talent. Professional Development. Blogging. Social Media. SEO. Innovation. Technology. Arts. Entertainment. Parenting. Relationships. Travel. Photography. More to come!

6. Posters are socially integrated. You can interact with the writers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Again, very conversational!

7. As mentioned, ANYONE can submit a post. Not anyone with an MBA. Not anyone with 20k followers on Twitter. Anyone. Period. 12 Most strips the bureaucracy out of art and information distribution. If there is something valuable to say, it can be said here.

8. 12 is the perfect number. It's just enough that the you know the topic is important enough to talk about but not so many that you are overwhelmed. I'm a believer. 13 is too many. 11 just isn't quite enough.

9. Authors have pages. If you like a particular author, you can find all of his or her posts by viewing his or her page.

10. "You might also like": At the bottom of each post is a listing of similar articles. If you like what you've read, you can spend hours following a trail of great content.

11. The theme and graphics. Very eye-catching! Each post contains a picture and, on the homepage, a slide show of those pics plays through. The format is very easy to read and not the least bit hard on the eyes.

12. It's free! "Duh!" You may be saying. Most blogs are free. But this content is amazing enough to pay for. Many of the posts are worthy of printing off, laminating, and putting on your refrigerator. Fantastic advice!
Who uses it?
Obviously, being ranked within the top 30k websites within the first 3 months of its existence, A LOT of people read 12 Most. There is always an active comment thread and the contributors are highly involved with their readers. I can't possibly list all of the people who contribute to 12 Most, but here is just a sampling:
Anthony Iannarino
Sam Fiorella
Peggy Fitzpatrick
Chris Westfall
Steve Woodruff
Margie Clayman
Ted Coine
John Boyle
Michele Price
Mark Babbit

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of August 28, 2011

Check out this Week's "Weekly Check-Up" on My YouTube Channel!

And now for your weekly Top 10...
  1. Scott Ginsberg, "What My Nametag Taught Me About Anonymity" - People feel less accountable for their actions when they are anonymous, but take greater responsibility when behavior can be traced to them.
  2. Jim Keenan, "7 Reasons Great Sales People Are Like CEOs" - Sales people are the executives of their own business and similar to CEOs in many ways.
  3. Dave Brock, "Opportunity Solving" - Rather than waiting on a problem to solve, great sales people should help prospective clients identify new opportunities.
  4. Chris Brogan, "Salt and Pepper Simplicity" - The simplest of things can make the most profound difference.
  5. Shennandoah Diaz, "12 Most Imperative Rules of Social Media" - A master list for how to behave in social media.
  6. Jim Domanski, "10 Easy Ways to Instantly Improve Your Cold Call Opening Statement" - Fantastic list of things to keep in mind when making a cold call.
  7. Nancy Bleeke, "5 What NOT To Dos in Sales" - 5  great reasons why customers can't stand sales people.
  8. Paul Castain, "Proof...the Ultimate Skeptic Device" - Sometimes, all it takes to convince a prospect is some good old-fashioned evidence.
  9. Daniel Wood, "Stop Procrastinating by Challenging Perfectionism" - You'll never be perfect, but don't let that hold you back from getting started.
  10. Anthony Iannarino, "Why It's Not the Land, It's the Man (or Woman)" - It's not your territory, it's how you manage it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Book of the Week: How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger

Frank Bettger's How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling is one of the best-known narratives on how to become successful in sales. Published originally in 1947, Bettger tells the story of how he went from a professional baseball player to a well-regarded insurance salesman, sharing his failures and what he learned from them as he matured. The format of the book is highly anecdotal. Betteger tells story after story about his experiences and sales, offering lessons he has gleaned on each occasion. Below are the top 10 takeaways from his enduring classic.

  1. Enthusiasm overcomes fear. Bettger tells the story of how, before he even got into sales, he was fired from one of his baseball teams. His coach had considered him lazy while, in reality, he had just been too scared of failing and making a fool of himself. For his next team, Bettger made up his mind to be enthusiastic about his performance and, consequently, he did outstanding. When he got into sales, he applied the same principle. "When I force myself to act enthusiastic, I become enthusiastic," he says.
  2. Never exaggerate outcomes. Sales people may be tempted from time to time to over-promise, telling a customer that something can be done when, in fact, in cannot. Bettger tells the story of a sale he made simply because he could show that his competitor was clearly being deceptive. Sharing another story in which he was the one doing the deceiving, he warns us about the lost credibility from over-promising. "I shall never again want anything I'm not entitled to; it costs too much!" He says.
  3. Praise your competitors. Slinging mud will never move the sales process forward. Betteger shares the story of how his extensive knowledge and admiration of competitors actually helped him to get a sale. Praising a competitor that a customers is considering (or is currently purchasing from) is, ultimately, praising the customer for his or her wisdom in considering those competitors.
  4. When you're scared, admit it. Hiding fear just makes it worse. Confession is liberation. Bettger tells of an occasion in which he gets, for the first time, to see a very prestigious client. When he finally gets into the man's office, he is visibly terrified. Not knowing what else to do, he admits to the client his fear of speaking with such an important man. The client is flattered and listens attentively to Bettger. His admission enables him to relax and, at the end of the meeting, he gets the sale.
  5. Find out what the other person wants and help him to get it. For Bettger, this statement is what sales is all about. Betteger tells the story of a man who sold magazine subscriptions. His most frequent objection from the business executives he sold to was that they didn't have time to read magazines. At one point, the man decided to alter his pitch. He obtained a referall from a prominent figure, stating that the magazine actually saved him time, giving him all the important information in one short sitting. The man began selling, not magazines, but time, and it turned his sales around.
  6. Be an encouragement to everyone you meet. Bettger tells the story of a group of young businessmen that he met and talked with on one occasion. Though they were depressed at the time due to the economic conditions, he did nothing but praise them for the success they had attained throughout the years they had been in business. They invited him back for another "pep talk." He went back to see them many times over the years and they became some of his most important clients. "Some of the best ideas I've ever learned," says Bettger, "have come from the men I have done business with and the friends I have made. As I profited by their ideas, I have made it a point to tell them about it. I find that people love to hear that they have helped you."
  7. Failure eventually leads to success. Bettger talks of the law of averages. He mentions Babe Ruth, who once said that he was never worried when he striked out. Ruth reasoned that his batting average would prove true in the long run so, each time he struck out, he got closer to hitting a home run. Bettger, applying the concept to sales, says, "Nobody will remember the times you struck out in the early innings if you hit a home run with the bases full in the ninth." It takes many failures to arrive at success; all you have to do is keep swinging.
  8. Become an assistant buyer for your customer. Bettger advises to psychologically sit on your customer's side of the table and act as if you too are making the buying decision. Treat yourself as if you are a member of his organization in charge of buying whatever product it is that you are selling. It will instill confidence and credibility in you as you deliver your pitch.
  9. Unleash the power of why. Bettger gives the most effective way of handling any objecton: simply asking the prospect, "Why?" It turns the objective around and makes the prospect defend his or her position. Bettger tells of an occasion where a customer convinces himself that he needs to buy simply because Bettger had asked him, "Why?" when he had declined. "Instead of launching into a long argument like the other salesmen did, you merely asked, 'Why?' The customer says, "The more I talked, the more I realized that I was on the wrong side of the argument...You didn't sell me. I sold myself."
  10. Use "in addition to that..." to handle objections. Bettger reveals his most common and effective script in handling objections. The first objection the customer raises is rarely the real objection; it's simply one that he feels comfortable discussing. When you say, "in addition to that...," you find out whether or not there is something else that is holding back the sale. More often than not, the customer will reveal the real reason that he or she is hesitant to buy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Losing Interest in Self-Interest

I read a post recently by Molly from Women With Drive, in which she explained the unusual feeling she had as a child in passing another car on the highway and realizing that, in that car, was another family with a whole other set of experiences. I've felt that same surreal feeling my entire life whenever I run into someone new. It's hard to explain, but I'll give it my best shot...

I tend to view the world as if I am the center and all other objects in my experience revolve around me. When I meet other people, I add them as an extension of my world. They are stars in my galaxy. Moons in my atmosphere. Clouds in my sky. The world is mine, and they are merely part of it. Yet, when I stop for a moment and attempt to see my world from their eyes, something earth-shattering happens. My throat dries. My heart stops beating. My universe shifts. Because, when I see their eyes looking back me, I realize I am looking into another world. And in this world:
  • I am the star.
  • I am the moon.
  • I am the cloud.
  • I am the extension.
  • I revolve around them.
Suddenly, something occurs to me: I am not as important as I think I am.

Just over two years ago, I graduated college with a degree in Economics. While in school, I consumed popular economics literature like it was candy. Self-interest became my mantra. Adam Smith's "Butcher-Baker-Brewer" hypothesis became the lens through which I saw the world. All of us, I believed, behave in such a way that maximizes our self-interest.  Life is about the pursuit of our own happiness and fulfilling our own desires. Even when we do seemingly selfless things, we only do them because it gives us greater pleasure than failing to do them.

Self-interest is, therefore, a very difficult worldview to discredit. And I am not sure I am even trying to discredit it. Though I do find it rather simplistic given the complexity of human nature, it certainly has its merit. As human beings, we may very well be nothing more than animals fighting over resources in a more civilized manner. It may be true that we are biologically hardwired for self-preservation and that we are biologically incapable of seeing others as ends rather than means. It may be true. BUT I DON'T CARE. It is impractical.

I am losing interest in self-interest. It's an interesting theory to ponder, but it is not a very good way to live. When I meet another person, worlds collide. I am not encountering an object in my world; I am encountering a subject in another world. My world is but a world among and within other worlds. There exist perspectives other than my own. The mere fact that I can recognize this idea as true is a revolt against my self-interested nature. If I am an animal fighting over resources, I can be civilized only by recognizing that the other animals need those resources just as much as I do. I can rise above my biological predispositions by empathetically recognizing others as ends rather than means. I can see the world through another's eyes.

What about you? What crosses your mind when you run into somebody else? Do you think, "What can I get out of this conversation? How does my hair look? How can this relationship work for me?" Or, are you like me? Are you taken aback by the fact that you're running into another world? When you experience this realization, you'll start asking questions like, "What is this person seeking from our conversation? Does this person feel comfortable with his or her appearance? How can this relationship work for this person?"

Give it a try. Step into another's world. You'll be suprised what you might find.