The Lowest Scorer Is The Winner – Not A Golf Story

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending time with a long lost colleague whom I have Facebook to thank for helping me to re-connect. She & I only worked together for a couple of years about 20 years ago, but some people leave a permanent mark and for a reason.

She is, first and foremost, a ball of fun, and who doesn’t need to be reminded of the need for fun? But she is also very wise and I love to learn.  Yesterday, she reminded me of the need to prioritize, which sometimes includes eliminating volume. 

She told me that her Facebook friend rule is that she has only 111 FB friends.  In order to get onto her list, she has to remove someone to create real estate.  Now, this is someone who really enjoys life; the kind of person you would expect to possibly have 1111 friends, but no, she has only 111, by design.  That is a strategy I identify with. 

Some areas where I’ve learned a similar strategy:

Friendships – You can have too many.  The real kind require care and attention and are worth it.  Keep relationships that are mutually beneficial.  Evaluate those that aren’t.

Goals – Very important to have, but only if you are working them.  Having goals that you don’t make a priority can actually make you feel worse.  Some people avoid making New Year’s resolutions for this reason.

Boundaries – Establish them in your personal and your professional life.  Only commit to what you can complete.  Always better to under promise and over deliver.

Limitations – Know yours and honor yourself by heeding them. Before I took this job, I sought the advice of a colleague who’d had it previously.  She warned me that some nights she’d be up until 2am on the road working on a presentation to deliver 6 hours later.  It scared me at first, but then I realized I would never do that to myself.  After 10pm, the only thing I can do productively is sleep.

Physical capacity – Another limitation, but so important, it deserves elaboration.  In middle age, your body will not perform the same way it once did.  Honor that.  If you can no longer run, find something lower impact.  If you can no longer drink, order 1 and make it last the night.  Rebounding takes too long and you have better ways to spend your time.


Mentors vs. Venters – 6 Tips for Mentorship

Today’s post is inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In.  This book is helpful to understand the differences between men and women in the workplace and, specifically, the obstacles women face that are both internal and external.

Sandberg tells of a mentee of hers, someone she’s helped over time by providing guidance, who returns the favor by lamenting that, “I sure wish I had a mentor.”  Sanderg is stumped because that’s exactly how she sees her relationship with this younger colleague, so she asks her to define what a mentor is to her.  The reply is “someone I can talk to for an hour each week.”  For Sandberg, that’s the definition of a therapist.

Here are some ways to describe a successful mentorship:

Business relationship – A mentorship is a business relationship first.  A friendship might grow out of a mentor relationship, but the primary reasn it exists is as a business relationship.  Venting is appropriate to do with a friend, but not with your mentor.  If your mentor is someone you can really learn from, chances are they are busy juggling challenges of their own.  Respect that and use your time together more wisely.

Reciprocal – Successful mentor relationships are mutual.  Compensation is personally defined.  A good mentor receives satisfaction from helping someone and watching them grow.  If you are sincerely trying to listen and learn, the relationship is more likely to work.

My husband is a moderator of a career networking group.  He teaches basics, like make yourself easy to be found by always including contact information in an email.  And, ditch the email address you may have made in college because borntoparty@yahoo doesn’t inspire the best response from a potential employer.  If he gets a LinkedIn invitation from someone with a cartoon for a profile photo, as 1 example, he will ignore it.

Organic – The best mentor relationships occur naturally, just like other relationships.  Asking someone to be your mentor will produce less positive results than asking a thoughtful question to someone from whom you have something to learn.

Progress dependent – A good mentor will be motivated by observing your progress and seeing evidence that you respect their time by taking their advice.  So only seek it if you intend to use it.

Plan ahead – In the example above, where I describe how asking a thoughtful question can launch a mentorship, obviously that takes some degree of forethought.  Do your homework before asking someone to help you.  Learn what you can about the subject matter and, when you get to the stumping point, that’s when you seek help.

Mentors are not sponsors – This is important for career progress.  Mentors give you guidance, but sponsors advocate for your advancement.  Men are traditionally better at seeking out sponsors and, as a result, progress more easily up the corporate chain.  Women are more comfortable seeking advice, helpful to find a mentor, but not a sponsor.



More Tina Fey Than Cinderella

I just learned about the “tiara syndrome.” It’s a valuable business lesson and it actually has a name.

The founders of Negotiating Inc., describe the Tiara Syndrome this way: “Women expect that, if they keep doing their job well, someone will notice them and place a tiara on their head.”

Wow, this is a gender problem? That’s even more disturbing.

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you know that self-advocacy is a faster way to recognition than silence and hope. This is a personality trait, not a gender issue. But, I suppose, if women are far less likely to self-advocate than men, now we have a gender issue, not just a personality trait.

However, can women self-advocate the same way that men do and achieve the same result? Now there’s a loaded question.

Think about what it takes to self-advocate. Boldness, articulation, self-assuredness and confidence all come to mind. These traditionally are traits that are rewarded in men and perceived differently in women. That’s not a judgement. It’s an observation of fact.

Frequently, but unintentionally, I illicit friction from others merely by being myself. I tend to have more confidence than average, articulate more, am naturally more direct and blaringly honest. This is a summary of my strengths and also my weaknesses.

I move at a fast pace mentally, and when I’m rushing, I take shortcuts that might be efficient, but frequently aren’t effective. Not when interacting with people. That requires care and patience. For me it also often requires overcompensation.

Everyone has room to improve. Trying to over correct is a great way to find middle ground.

In an effort to be awesome, sometimes I try too hard. When I get excited, maybe I get too verbal. Effusiveness and energy can be welcome. But telling 1 too many jokes, or interrupting someone because you want fast clarification can backfire on a relationship.

I’ve noticed that others tend to say “sorry” more often than I do. I don’t mean apologizing for wrong doing; I’m very quick to apologize for wrong doing. It’s more of a manner of interpersonal communication. For example, you notice someone is in your assigned seat on the plane, you say “I’m sorry, but I believe that is my seat.” Or, “I’m sorry, I ordered the tilapia, not the chicken that I was served.”

A lot can be gained from a “Give to Get” manner. Parents give responsibility to a child and get respect in return. Negotiators give a concession to get one in return. Supervisors give a perk to subordinates and gain a happy and productive worker. Give trust to receive it.

More to come, still learning.

I Couldn’t Care Less

RIP Relationship Sales. Challenge is the new value statement.

The basic premise of relationship selling is, “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Demonstrate your interest in a relationship with me and I’m more likely to buy from you.

This used to be a success tactic. It gave good results. Then the cheese was moved and it stopped working. What happened?

The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon, explores this question with illuminating findings.

Prior to the crash of 2008-09, generally speaking, things were humming along. Business was good and growing. If you worked hard and smart, could communicate well and connect with people, you could earn a decent living in sales. But this book explores why, after the crash, one particular type of seller smoked the rest, and it wasn’t who we thought it would be.

Also surprising was the fact that this sales style is 200%+ more effective than second best regardless of economic conditions. The book asserts that sellers who can effectively challenge their customers are 200%+ more effective at goal achievement irrespective of economic climate.
That is the premise of solution based selling.

Transactions, conversely, can thrive through relationship selling. The customer has a need, you fulfill it. Simple. If you have a good paying transactional sales job, that’s great. Enjoy it while you can, because many transactions can be automated eventually.

But selling a solution requires, at the very least, a thorough client needs analysis before you even have a shot at creating demand for your service. If you don’t already have a relationship with the customer, it’s very difficult to establish one today because of time constraints. Everyone is doing the job of 2.5 people or more. How do you get the data dump, the back story, the juice, from a stranger whose ass is on fire all day long?

The answer lies in being able to demonstrate some intellectual property. What might I know about your business that you struggle to understand? (I’ve been doing this a while, maybe longer than you, and my outside perspective comes with a side of coffee, if you like.) What do I know about your competition? (I talk to them as often as I do to you.) What do I know about your industry’s top performers? (I talk to them, too.)

I won’t ask you dumb questions like what keeps you up at night. I need only look at my research and I know that.

A fun day for me is when I meet a new client who reluctantly granted the meeting, gives me a clip greeting, and starts off our meeting while reading emails on his cell phone. Within a couple of minutes, the phone disappears, the room tension relaxes, and he’s suddenly so eager to hear what I have to say that I have to slow things down, because I’m still learning my gig.

The lesson here is, “They don’t care what you know, until they KNOW what you KNOW.” That is the foundation for relationship in the current market.

Busy executives don’t need you to remember their birthday. Facebook will give them 100 wishes – do they need 101?

Busy executives need information, answers, solutions. Fast and free, at first. How did Facebook hook you to begin with? Free at first, now you need it like crack, so you gotta sift through ads. What about Pandora? Free at first, now they cut you off at a cap, unless you subscribe.

If you are selling a big ticket, make sure when your customer invests his time to meet with you, you give him his money’s worth. Do it every time to ensure there will be a next time.

What’s in Your Wallet? 5 Tips

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve started a new job and am embedded in an intense learning curve. Adding travel to my work routine has been a big change for me and organization tips are evolving and ever important.

How do you stay organized when you are very busy, keeping up with wall to wall meetings across area codes and time zones? What little things make this easier? Here are some things that work for me, without sacrificing key components of Sales and Networking Wisdom.

Ditch non-essentials. I no longer carry a wallet. That had to go when I stopped carrying a purse. I do still need a small walking bag or flat clutch, but loose cash and only vital plastic cards fit in it. Reward club numbers are stored in my phone, along with anything else that can be – boarding pass, calendar, blog posts in progress, Kindle, etc.

A formative mentor early in my sales career told me that she never attends a business meeting carrying a briefcase AND a purse. Her limit is 1 carryon; small, yet not insignificant tip. She ALWAYS has her right hand available for a warm greeting, to open a door for someone, you get the idea.

Remove fumbling risks. Another advantage of the Less is More strategy. Simplify and you will be streamlined. Your composure will be streamlined. Just like you wouldn’t go into a vital meeting with your briefcase contents in total disarray, don’t bring along extra baggage – physical or mental.

Clear your head. We all have noise in our heads. Apparently, women have more, unfortuantely. Clear it out before you interact with customers. Work out, listen to favorite music, text something sweet to your loved ones – whatever works for you.

Use fewer words. Steamlining your communication is a delicate balance. As a seller, you always have to be prepared to match the communication needs of your customer. Sometimes that means talking more upfront while they settle into the space and get ready to join the conversation. Sometimes it means saying hello and then shutting up for the next 60 minutes. Just read the room.

Do carry extras that make sense. An advocate for less cargo should not be confused with less customer service. I’ve ditched my wallet, but when meeting a customer by car, I always have an extra umbrella on a rainy day. A little gesture that makes a lasting impression.