NETWORKING…What’s the big deal?

In my networking efforts, I am consistently meeting those who are far more credentialed than I.  A common sentiment expressed is “I hate this networking.”  I don’t understand this way of thinking.  What could be easier than selling yourself? 

I asked a colleague who expressed great reluctance about networking if she was confident in her professional ability.  Oh yes, certainly so.  However, it’s one thing to be touting my efforts to co-workers and entirely different to be on the outside of an organization knocking on the door to be let in by promoting myself.  How embarassing, or offensive, or any other number of negative sentiments one could attach to this task.

Friends and colleagues, there never was a time of greater unemployment in my career lifetime.  How can this be a personal reflection?  If this were our fault, then scores of qualified managers, directors, C-suite executives and the like are all a bunch of needy job seekers.  This is hardly the case.

Hiring managers want nothing more than to feel confident about choosing you.  Help yourself by promoting your expertise, qualifications and solution offering to them.   If you don’t think you are great, certainly no one else will.

Having had a sales career based on long distance relationships, my success was dependent on my selling through my efforts at every juncture.  If I decided that was simply beneath me, my clients, who held my success or failure in their hands, would cease to have confidence in my ability.  

If I kept telling everyone what I great job I was doing, they believed it, of course with substantiation.  If I stopped communicating, they thought I stopped trying…certain death for a sales type. 

Another possibilty for why some people revolt against networking is perhaps they held a certain status in their former job.  Maybe their identity was wrapped up in that title and their sense of personal worth is now threatened.

This is why I say, if you aren’t feeling your boastful best, take a break.  Work on your toolkit.  Get advice on your targets, your resume, your appearance, your elevator speech.  Seek the input of those that are vested in your success.  Get pumped, get back in the saddle and go for it.

It’s important to always remember, when you reach certain pinnacles in your career, you must never forget the fundamentals you followed to get there.  Those fundamentals NEVER change.  If you stop doing them, you will be replaced by someone more humble, more energetic, more willing to prove themselves. 

Don’t be afraid, nor too proud to sell yourself.  You are your best advocate.  Do this and you will have more followers.

Happy hunting!

SPIN SELLING

This sales philosophy was recently recommended to me so I made it a goal to find out what Spin Selling is. Spin Selling is most effective in large ticket sales.  The four key elements refer to the type of questions asked during the sales process: Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff.

Situation questions are necessary, but must be put to limited use because they risk boring the customer.  Green sellers ask more situation questions.  Examples: do you make buying decisions? what are your annual sales?  how many people work here?

Problem questions are more strongly linked to sales success than Situation questions, but the link is stronger in smaller dollar sales than in large ticket sales.  Examples: is your current equipment difficult to use? is the equipment reliable?

Implication questions are necessary to bridge the gap between identifying your customer’s problems and selling your solution.  Without this bridge, you risk sticker shock, possibly being perceived as know-it-all or otherwise unqualified to meet the customer’s needs.  Most importantly, you are unable to get your customer to relate the seriousness of his problems to the cost of your solution.  Herein lies the key to sales success.  You must demonstrate to your customer that the cost of NOT doing business with you is greater than buying what you are selling.

Decision makers respond better to sellers than uncover implications because their success depends on seeing beyond the immediate problems to bigger picture consequences. Examples: your equipment can only be operated by 3 trained people, so doesn’t that slow down overall production? is your employee turnover rate causing training costs to erode profits?  does the cost you are saving by driving a 10 year old car get outweighed by the inefficiency of operating that car?

Need-Payoff Questions are solution centered. Examples: why do you find this solution so useful? is there any other way this could help you? why is it important for you to control your long distance costs? can you tell me how this system can expedite your process and why that is important to you?

These questions get the customer’s focus on the solution rather than the problem.   Even better, they get the customer telling YOU the benefits.  Need-payoff questions reduce objections because the customer, as expert of his business, tells you what parts of his problems your solution can solve.

Implication questions are problem centered.  Need-payoff questions are solution centered.

Timely is crucial in knowing when to ask Need-Payoff questions.  If asked too early, they put the customer on the defensive.  Also, don’t ask Need-Payoff questions for which you have no solution or you risk sending you customer to your competition.

Know the difference between features (product centric) and benefits (customer centric).  Large ticket sales require benefit focus.  Keep it about the customer.

For the full education, you should probably read the book.  But, I also found great value in the Quantity before Quality teaching method of learning SPIN Selling.  Practice, practice, practice.  And do so in safe environments.  Choose lower level sales situations to employ new techniques.  Don’t try out new behavior on your next huge deal. 

Happy hunting!

We hear what we listen for.

A story is told about two men walking in a crowded urban area.  One comments on the lovely sound of a cricket, but the other, who doesn’t hear it, asks how this can be heard over the urban noise.   The first man then drops a coin on the sidewalk and 12 heads turn in search of the sound. Source: Kermit Long

When I lost my job of 21 years nearly three months ago, the single most uttered comment friends offered to me was “when one door closes, another one opens”.  Probably easy for them to say since they are still employed, however, this turned out to be very true for me. 

Here I was in a job for over two decades, the final 5 years of which were overshadowed by dozens of my peers losing their jobs due to consolidation, automation, efficiency measures, and changes in consumer behavior that shrunk our business.  It became clear to me that my value as a salesperson, my wisdom and my long term relationships, was decreasing and getting replaced with more efficiency.  And what had previous been a long enough sales cycle to actually bring human element to the task (selling of benefits, negotiations, customer education) had shrunk to same day turnaround or less as the radio medium became a commodity sell.  This is not a good thing when you represent Mercedes in a market driven by Hyundai demand. 

There was a time when the fear hit me hard and took control.  The catalyst was realizing that all the contacts I’d made over nearly 3 decades would be useless in securing a new job because they were all unemployed too!  Fortunately, that fear stage didn’t last long.  As soon as I wrote my first resume in over 25 years, I acknowledged to myself it’s time to move forward.

The day I got the news was probably the most liberating day of my life.  To anticipate bad news for several years is soul stealing.  When the inevitable finally happens, survivors know it’s time to move on and not look back.  It took me only 2 hours to pack up 21 years of work, educational materials, awards, personal effects, contact information and my favorite calculator that no one else knows how to use.

It’s been an energizing ride ever since.  After 21 years of sitting at the same desk, I love that every day is now different.  I meet 10-20 valuable professional contacts each week.  Some have become true friends.  Every day I learn at least 1 new thing from a person, 1 new thing from reading, 1 new digital trick and some days 5-10 new things!   

I’ve learned the value of the “Tigger factor”, that overenthusiastic, can do optimism best exemplified by my former boss, John Lawing, who I thought completely misunderstood until he converted me to this way of thinking.  Q:   What’s the opposite of paranoid?  A:  Believing that everyone is part of a plot to enhance your well being.

To my media buddies, it is true, THERE IS LIFE AFTER RADIO.  And I am having a blast finding what it is.  Good luck in your quest my friends.

The importance of ATTITUDE

Yesterday I attended a career networking meeting.  I was a first timer.  This was an invitation only group, so I was there as a trial member.  When I arrived, I enthusiastically greeted the leader, thanked him for allowing me to attend and said I was glad to be there.  He responded by saying, “No you’re not.”  “Actually”, I replied “I am.”

This was an opportunity to meet a roomful of new professional contacts.  Who knew what might be waiting for me in that room?  Maybe a new friend.  Maybe a great new idea.  Maybe a terrific new reading suggestion.  Perhaps even my next boss.  I was eager to make new connections, learn something, practice my elevator speech and exchange contact information with about two dozen new people.

For anyone to assume that simply because you are out of work, you must be a) down on your luck  b) depressed c) feeling dejected or any other number of negative thoughts, is simply presumptive.  And I’m happy to say, in my case, downright false.

I spent the past 21 years in a terrific career that worked out very well for myself and my family.  I made great friends, great business contacts, learned to be a better person and developed lifeskills from being a salesperson that I otherwise never would have.  However, the final 18-24 months of this experience were clouded over by severe job consolidation, unmet budgets, a shrinking business universe and many negative factors that were completely out of my control.  By the time the layoff hit me, it was a tremendous relief because it was the arrival of the inevitable.  I’m very fortunate to have received a severance package that will likely no longer be available for my peers that haven’t been released yet, but likely will be eventually.

If you are unemployed and feeling more unfortunate about that than optimistic about what you might create in your future, perhaps you should skip a networking meeting or two.  You are the source of your inspiration.  Whatever you do, don’t spread negativity among your peers.  They don’t need it and are working their own positive magic to make good things happen in their day, week or month.

Always radiate the positive, even if you have to fake it.  But when you are networking, you are on.  Don’t waste it by spreading negativity.  It’s okay to take a break when you just aren’t feeling up to it.  But when you are there, be present, be positive, be genuine and extend a helpful hand.  Pay it forward.  You will be part of something terrific, even if you never find out exactly who you might have helped, maybe just by sharing your smile.

Don’t be a victim of Top-Grading

Saw Bradley Richardson’s appearance on Fox News promoting his new book “Career Comeback”.  It’s a tough job market out there right now, don’t kid yourself.  And I’m talking to those of you who haven’t been laid off…yet.

Competition is fierce.  Those of us who are currently in the hunt for a job know the pain of the door that won’t open to us.  

What if you are one of the lucky ones who still has their job?  What now, relief followed by complacency?  Better check yourself.  There’s a world of qualified people who are gunning for your job.  Protect your turf by not getting lazy.  Stay sharp, stay educated, follow the trends in your industry, read like you are hungry.

The current environment is ripe for employers to Top Grade their talent, by sloughing off the underperformers and replacing with eager talent that is bursting on the sidelines.

When I lost my job of 21 years two months ago, did I worry that I was joining record numbers of unemployed?  Actually I did not.  Rather I thought, well then, how easily I will stand out from the crowd because I hit the ground running Day 1, working the phones, telling everyone I knew, staying positive, shaking hands and kissing babies. 

That’s all it is folks.  Get out there and show your stuff.  What could be easier than selling yourself?  If you don’t agree, work on your toolkit before you hit the street.  Whether you need a new pair of glasses, lipo, computer lessons or a shrink…take care of business so that you can then…take care of business.

PATIENCE…sorry,no can do…I have a quota to meet

Anyone that has spent time in the hospice setting, one on one with a patient engaged in nearing death awareness, knows there are some basic tenets to honor.  Listen, don’t correct, don’t second guess, don’t transfer your confusion as belonging to the patient.  Listening engages the ears, the heart and the mind.

By keeping open minds and by listening carefully to dying people, we can begin to understand messages they convey through symbol or suggestion.  By becoming more sensitive to these messages, professionals can give better care.  Source: Final Gifts

If you can master understanding the communication of a dying patient, just think what skill that could bring to your communication with your customers in a sales setting.  Active listening…it’s something you do with your ears, your heart and your mind.  Patience is a pre-requisite.

EMPATHY…why so important?

Closing ourselves to other people makes us imbalanced, whereas participating in their lives helps us to be healthier and happier.  Self-attention or self-focus is correlated with greater depression and anxiety.  People who are most concerned with themselves and less with others are more likely to feel fearful or unhappy.

Human beings can thrive only in community.  And that is impossible if they cannot read the emotions and intentions of others.   Empathy is a prerequisite for communication, collaboration and social cohesion.   Source: The Power of Kindness

Can you imagine achieving personal or professional success with possessing basic empathy?  I don’t think that’s possible.