How to Self Extract and Succeed-5 Ways

self restraintWhen was the last time you sat back and observed as others spun themselves round and round an issue or task?

We all have phases of greater and lesser relaxation or confidence.  Sometimes we feel in a steep growth curve, or have something to prove to someone. At times like this, it’s challenging to sit back and let go. But often, it is the best plan of action.

You know when things are in flow. When you feel this, it is easy to sit back and listen more than speak. You know you learn more when you listen and observe than during those times when you are so focused on your angle that you can’t possibly take anything in.

The best leaders know when to listen. They intuitively know when to offer advice and when to just hang back until the message is more likely to be heard.

5 Ways to Curb Your Urge to Overdo

Breathe – When I get focused on a mission, whether it’s a task, an idea or a relationship pursuit, I tend to get singularly focused. When channeled properly, this is tenacity.  When untethered, it can be annoying or even offensive. Best executions happen when things are allowed to marinate first, then proceed at a measured pace.

Business moves at the speed of trust – Human relationships are at the heart of every successful venture, whether personal or professional. Great things aren’t done alone. It takes time to build that trust and things need to move forward at a natural pace. Natural varies by individual. Hang back and learn what feels natural to others rather than rush.

Ready isn’t until it is – Just because you are ready, doesn’t mean the team is. Stand back and observe. Listen more than speak before launching ahead of what works for all involved.

Stop convincing – Persuasion is the result of character, not attempts to convince. If you consistently demonstrate empathy, hard work, insightful value, partnership, openness – then people will start to follow your lead without your asking for it.

You are not the axis of the universe – Some days it might feel this way. You might be the most invested in a project. You might know the most about it, may have invested the most time and feel most responsible for the outcome. However, we are all truly replaceable. If you get sick, or have to tend to a family member, or become unavailable for any reason, the world will keep turning and work will still get done. Maybe not your way and maybe that’s okay.


“Just because you’re not coming, doesn’t mean you’re not paying.”

MillennialsMy son said this when he was about 18 years old.

Much has been said about the attitudes, behaviors and work ethics of millennials.  I’d like to spend a moment thinking about the positives of the perspectives of our millennial generation.

I happen to know 2 in particular that have great work ethics.  They are my children. They have more energy than me, a far more elastic memory, greater exposure to young minds and activities.  Add all of that up and, when channeled properly, great results can happen.

5 Advantages of a Millennial Perspective

  1. Sky’s the limit. Someone who is at an earlier stage of their career and their life often has a cleaner slate than not.  They haven’t yet failed as much. They haven’t been told, “You can’t”, as much. Simply stated, they have less baggage.
  2. You don’t know what you don’t know. It can be humbling sometimes to have less knowledge. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, unharnessed, it can sometimes be paralyzing. Those at an earlier stage can often be more likely to try something new – make a suggestion of change at work, leave an inspiring job, begin a new relationship.
  3. No tech fear. This generation grew up with technology. They know that pressing a button won’t make the sky fall. They were raised to click and touch in order to learn.
  4. Curiosity. While curiosity can be age agnostic, I’d wager it’s more prevalent among youth. The more things we’ve tried, the more pre-conceived notions we tend to own, generally speaking. Curiosity will drive more change, resourcefulness and innovation than not.
  5. Appropriate entitlement. This one deserves a lengthier explanation, because it tends to be the most common single word associated with the negatives of the millennial generation.

I recently read a post from someone who was interviewing for a job, made it to the second interview and the hiring manager was talking about the comp package in too rushed of a way for the applicant to digest. Therefore, she asked for a written explanation of the comp package. Upon doing so, she noticed the body language of the hiring manager was not positive.  It was the last she heard from him, as well. Her reaction was that she’d been disrespected for having spent 3+ hours of her time over the course of 2 interviews, plus the amount of time she’d spent filling out some application forms.

When is it appropriate to ask for a written explanation of the compensation package – before or after receiving an offer? It is not desirable to ask for the comp package for a job you haven’t been offered.  You have zero leverage until receiving an offer.

Would you ask to see someone’s financials before they propose? You could, but I’d not respond well to that.

By the way, 3 hours is a very small time investment to make toward an association that could last for decades. Especially if that association could mean the difference between being independent or not.

Small investment indeed.

Give Me the Reason, Or Gimme 5

FiveQ: What’s your valid business reason for seeking my time and attention?

A: You’d better be able to answer this clearly and concisely before you ask.

The valid business reason will only sound as good as you believe it to be. For a time, I worked as a commission only appointment setter.  I became skilled at establishing a valid business reason to take a meeting and being able to communicate that very quickly, over the phone, to the C suite. Those skills have served me well since then, now that I’m selling long term, high ticket solutions to upper management types.

The art of converting ambiguity to substance is worth a lot. You only get a maximum of 1 chance to make a bad first impression by delivering a wasteful meeting experience.

But what happens in order to secure that meeting is critical first. Of the many ways that come to mind, here are FIVE:

Know your prospect. Do the research. Prepare a written brief if you have to. Take the time. Search them online in general and in social media specifically.

Don’t small talk. Last night I got a call from an unknown number to my cell. It was the blood care folks asking me to donate. After getting me to pick up an unknown caller, then asking me how I am, the caller then asked me about the weather. I wanted to hang up, except that I actually was interested in donating blood. Please know when to stop.

Reference a success with another customer. Recently, a project of mine got some media coverage.  Boy was it easy to get meetings after that happened. All I had to do was reference the story verbally or forward the article via email. Instant meeting closed.

Use a trigger. Is there a deadline approaching for them or for you? A new product release? A change in personnel that might invite a training opportunity or simply a cause for change? Where are we in the budget year – does it need to be spent before lost? Have they had a competitive change or a change of market position?

Always know your value. If you truly have the BEST, or the ONLY, or the MOST efficient solution, make it known upfront concisely enough to hook a distracted mind. Is this the only chance for the customer to get an audience with your upper management, in turn, a direct line of communication to a higher level decision maker at your organization?

These suggestions tend to work for me.


Selling is a 7 Layer Dip

7-layer-dip-recipe-combo-69-pI’ve heard it said that it takes an average of 7 interactions, or contact attempts might be a better description, to make a sale.  Obviously, this varies widely depending on many variables – length of sales cycle, transactional vs. solution oriented, ticket size, etc.

But in the context of this estimate of the 7 touch points rule, I’ve also heard it said that most sellers give up after only 2 unsuccessful attempts. Those that hang in for longer are separated from the masses. They are above the norm in persistence, thus, one significant reason for their success.

I’ve learned this to be true first hand. It takes a layering approach to break through someone’s habits and attention span.  It takes more layering to isolate the need and yet more layering to establish the value to respond to that need.

The universe has become far more fragmented, along with the channels of communication. I try to employ several of them – land line, cell, email, text, social media, blogging – to increase my likelihood of adding another touch point, possibly even while I’m sleeping.  Hey, I don’t decide when you get online.

With the 7 point rule in mind, here’s a list I came across years ago that I keep taped to my monitor where I see it every day. Not sure where I got it, nor who wrote it, but you can adjust to your own situation as needed.  It helps me having a methodical approach.  I like roadmaps.

  • Day 1 – Start by sending an email and attach a testimonial or case study. Mention that you will call at a specific date and time.
  • Day 3 – Call at the time you said you would call and be prepared to leave a voicemail. Follow up by sending your personal marketing resume.
  • Day 6 – Make another call and this time have some research ready to share.
  • Day 7 – Send a letter and restate your valid business reason to meet.
  • Day 11 – Send another email and this time speak to the process you follow to help people to get results.
  • Day 12 – Call again and let the prospect know that if you don’t hear from them soon, you will need to bring your ideas to others.
  • Day 16 – Send one last email.  Give them a few times they can reach out to you.

What is described above in roughly 2 weeks would play out over possibly 2 years in my world, but you get the gist. Personally, I wouldn’t do the Day 12 suggestion, but here’s something that did work for me recently…

A prospect that had ignored my attempts over a 2 year period finally responded to me.  The only thing I did differently was to tell her that it would be my final attempt to seek a meeting with her.  It worked.

How to Present Your Message – 7 Tips

Preso XBA month ago, I had the opportunity to speak before a large group at an internal sales conference.  I was nervous, as I knew less than half of those in the room and there was quite a bit riding on my ability to make a good impression before my boss, his boss, that guy’s boss and scores of other executives across business units. Last week, I finally received the video of the presentation and I’m pleased with how it actually transpired.

Here’s what I learned.

Take care of yourself first. I had about a month to prepare for my talk, but about a week prior, I was sent specific corporate guidelines detailing what the visual presentation needed to look like with sample templates in a 16 page document.  There were specifically suggested graphics to choose from, company sanctioned icons, none of which appeared to match my message nor my vision of how I intended to present. Since I missed the whole “tech” thing in college because it hadn’t been discovered yet, this pretty much threw me into a tailspin at a time that I should have been feeling great about the honor of being chosen to represent.

I was prepared. I had notes online and on notecards. I rehearsed plenty. But, by the time the presentation was approaching, I was exhausted and functioning on little sleep.  I checked out of conference programming for the afternoon and took a nap.  That was the timeout my mind and body both needed to come out on stage, before a ballroom full of colleagues, and appear fresh, rested and on point.

If you think you fit in, you fit in. I was chosen to sit on a panel with 4 other colleagues. The day before the talk, I discovered I was the only panelist over the age of 25.   I’m significantly over the age of 25. My daughter will see 25 before too long. At first, I was slightly mortified.  But, that quickly turned to pride, as I knew I was there because I belonged there. I had something of great value to share and that’s why I was chosen to present.

One of my fellow panelists said that her greatest takeaway from her success story is that you don’t need to have a big title to have a big win. The context was that, about a year ago, she was a college student, and now she’s presenting a case study of her successful sale before a large group of colleagues at all levels. When I heard her remarks, it occurred to me, in the context of my relative age on the panel, you don’t have to be considered young in order to do fresh things in fresh ways.

Smile and breathe. Always helps to build credibility. Nothing sells like confidence. Nothing comes close.

Control your body language. If you are sitting on a panel, sit up straight and don’t swivel if you’re in a swivel chair. Your message to the audience will be lost in that motion.  You also won’t like how it looks if you have the chance to view it again on video.

Water and lozenges within reach are useful. Plan ahead. Have them on hand.

Have a conversation. Don’t talk at the audience. Have a conversation with them. It’s a practiced thing, but no one likes being talked at, while most everyone enjoys a good conversation. Statements like, “I’m going to tell you guys something and it is SO simple” or “You know, we really saw dollar signs when we got to this part of the project” or “Just start somewhere and here’s what you are looking for” are some conversational ways to share your ideas.

Isolate only 1-2 points. There’s something magical about narrowing the focus to only 1 or 2 key takeaways. It helps the speaker focus; it helps the audience absorb and retain. Use this as a guide, when you can, for your prepared remarks.  And for Q&A afterward, minimize your response to an open ended question by choosing the 1-2 key things that come to mind as soon as you hear that question. A laundry list would send both speaker and audience into the black hole.


Be Kind Always – 10 Ways

kindnessPeople are watching you.

Every day, we are confronted with opportunities to interact with others.  Whether ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks, dropping off your dry cleaning, checking out your groceries, booking a hotel room, greeting a receptionist, presenting to a prospect, paying a bill, etc. How we choose to present ourselves is exactly that – a choice.

Here are 10 Ways to Practice Kindness Right Now

  1. Speak gently in public.
  2. Don’t use your cell phone in a restroom of any kind.
  3. Offer your extra snacks to a fellow passenger.
  4. If the creamer sits in front of you, pass it around when coffee is served.
  5. Use your inside voice on all cell calls.
  6. Never honk your horn unless safety is at risk.
  7. Give blood.
  8. Smile first.  Don’t wait for the other guy.
  9. Do not tailgate.
  10. Send written thank you notes – to family, to business contacts and to anyone who has helped you be who you are today.

Rate Integrity or Greed?

My employer has an unpopular business model.  It includes asking for and getting automatic annual escalators in rate. As you may imagine, it earns us more enemies than friends, on the surface.

However, sales success depends upon the ability to deliver value. If you aren’t able to help a customer solve a problem, you won’t keep that customer for long.

Delivering value requires a relationship of trust and exchange of information. You must be able to extract the right insights from a customer in order to impart effective solutions to them.

I help my customers make money. If I didn’t, they wouldn’t remain my customers. While most of them actually do like me, that’s not the reason they buy me. They buy me because my services give them solutions to important business needs of theirs.

I’ve spent an entire career selling an intangible. This requires the ability to demonstrate value.

Here are 2 reasons a provider can easily justify a rate increase:

  1. They invest in their service offering in order to provide increased value to customers
  2. They preserve rate integrity, which can help to preserve value within the industry

Stagnation is death in business. I’d challenge anyone who tells me that their business, regardless of vertical, hasn’t changed significantly in the past 5 years. And, if it hasn’t, surely the environment around them has changed.

The need to stay current and evolve in business is constant and expensive. Research and development into new technologies, consumer habits, competitive threats, greater efficiencies, automation where feasible – these all cost money. But they enable businesses to provide better and more effective solutions to their customers. Someone has to pay for that.

As to the other concept – preserving value within an industry category – this one is far less tangible. Some people aren’t going to agree with me on this one. Much has been written about the members of the radio industry being their own worst enemy. Fear of change, increased consumer choice, increased competition, new delivery systems for entertainment, ever more consolidation, and reduced transactional business inflowing all contribute to this phenomenon. Not to mention, the pervasive small minded approach that the radio competitor down the street is the enemy, rather than, say, the growth of digital media. This thinking prevents operators in my industry to collaborate rather than take a divided-we-fall approach.

This same narrow thinking contributes to a pattern to lower the floor on price. That’s a slippery slope. Where exactly does that lead?

Just like you can’t cut your way to growth, as it relates to controlling costs, you cannot grow revenues while continuing to lower your rates. It’s a risk you take to raise your rate, but when ever was a solution sale a One Size Fits All? It’s not and never was.