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Don’t Close That Sale!

Salespeople need to sell, that much is certain. In business nothing much happens until somebody sells something. That’s one reason I have so much respect for professional salespeople, they are the engine that drives much of a company’s success.

Please note that I said I have much respect for PROFESSIONAL salespeople. The hacks out there who will do anything to separate a prospect from their money… not so much. 

If you’ve been is sales for any length of time you’ve likely heard the old axiom known as ABC or  “Always be closing.” That little sentiment has ruined many sales careers. I have a better one, it not only lengthens sales careers it tends to make them highly profitable as well. 

Here’s mine: NBC or NEVER be closing. That’s right, NEVER! In case you’re confused let me repeat that in a more succinct way… NEVER close a sale, never, never, never!

Salespeople who live with a goal of closing a sale, or closing business or closing a deal are looking at the sales process exactly the opposite of how their prospect looks at the buying process. 

Limited salespeople believe that when the prospect says yes the deal is done. The prospect believes that when they say yes the deal, and the relationship, is just beginning. 

The term “closing” is one of the most negative and limiting words in sales. It says something is over, done with, and it’s time to move on. If you’re purely a transactional salespeople who will never need or want a repeat customer then go ahead and close. 

If you’re a sales professional who wants a long-term career in sales, with lots of returning customers and golden referrals then don’t think of “closing” the sale. Think instead of “earning” the customer’s business and opening a new, mutually beneficial relationship. I absolutely want you to ask for the order but only after you’ve earned the right. You earn the right to ask for the order by determining how your product or service can help your prospect and then presenting a solution that makes sense to them.

That change in mindset will change the way you sell. It will change the way your prospect looks at you. It will change your outlook on what you do for a living. You’ll no longer have a sales “job” you’ll have a career in sales. 

You’ll no longer simply be chasing the deal, you’ll be searching for solutions that will help your prospects and customers reach their goals. You’ll enjoy what you do for a living far more than your “closing” colleagues.

Oh and one more thing… you’ll sell more and if you’re compensated on your results you’ll earn more money too!

 
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The Sacrifice of Authentic Leadership

Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness. – Napoleon Hill

There is a myth about leadership that many people in leadership positions believe. John Maxwell calls it the Freedom Myth. The freedom myth says that when an individual achieves a position of leadership they are also “freed” from certain rules and responsibilities that encumber their followers.  

When someone in a leadership position says something foolish like “I’m the boss and I’ve earned the right to come and go as I please” then you know they have bought into the freedom myth. 

Total freedom is a leadership myth. Here’s a leadership fact: leaders haven’t earned anything but the right to be the example of success that their people need.

Most ordinary people simply don’t know how to succeed. Some people will learn to succeed just by being told what to do but the vast majority of people need someone to show them. Someone who can and will “model” successful behavior. That someone is most often a leader.

Authentic Leaders help ordinary people produce extraordinary results. 

Authentic Leaders know that leading is a privilege. They also know that it does not make them privileged. In fact, Authentic Leaders sacrifice freedoms and privileges everyday in the pursuit of true leadership. 

They make these sacrifices willingly, they make them to help their people succeed. They sacrifice in order to have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those they would lead.

If you are a leader who somehow believes that their position or title brings with it certain privileges that are not available to their followers then you are a leader who has separated themselves from those same followers. 

Your building a wall between yourself and the people who need you to show them how to succeed. The longer you take or accept those privileges the higher the wall becomes. When it gets high enough you’re not leading anymore because your people will refuse to climb the wall. 

Some leaders see their position as an opportunity to better their OWN life. Authentic Leaders, especially Authentic Servant Leaders see their position as an opportunity to better the lives of OTHERS.

When you buy into the Freedom Myth you develop a mindset of “I’ve arrived, I’m it! Serve me!” When you disavow the concept that your position somehow makes you better or more valuable than your people then your mindset can be one of “I may have arrived but I’m not it, you are and I’m just here to help.” 

Are you willing to sacrifice in order to make a difference in the lives of those you lead? Like everything else in life it is a choice…. will you make it?

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Should You Quit Your Job?

I’m tempted to make this post very short and say to quit your job the moment it begins to feel like work….but I know that not everyone is blessed with a job that they love.

When to quit your job is a big, difficult decision for many people. It should be, it’s a life altering decision. Younger people tend to quit their job too soon, they jump ship before they realize that what they don’t like about their job may be themselves. They get to their new place of employment and there they are; and many of their problems came with them. Older people sometimes stay too long, they “hang on” and overstay their usefulness instead of moving on to somewhere else where they might make a real difference.

Of course one of the biggest differences between younger and older employees is this: for younger people work is something they do; for older people work is some place they go. Younger employees work is “portable” but older employees work is located at a place filled with familiarity and that can be tough to leave.

So, when should you quit your job? My recommendation is to leave your job when it stops providing you the opportunity and environment where you can be happy. Now I want you to read that last sentence very carefully. It says stops providing you “the opportunity and environment”  to be happy. 

Do not expect your job or company to make you happy. It is not a requirement for your employer to make you happy. Companies that want to retain employees will however provide an environment where happiness and fulfillment are possible.

But your happiness is your responsibility. It is also your choice. When you allow others, your boss, your company or whatever, to determine your level of happiness then you give up a pretty important choice.

Successful people accept responsibility for all aspects of their life, including their happiness. 

Companies that provide that opportunity and environment have several things in common, here are a few of them:

They have trusted leadership. It’s tough to be happy when you’re looking over your shoulder.

They provide opportunities for advancement. Now once again let me point out that word “opportunity.” Opportunity does not mean a constant string of raises and promotions, it merely means the possibility for both exist when you EARN them.

They provide the opportunity for self-development. Companies are either developing their employees or they are using them. If you’re feeling used it will be nearly impossible to be truly happy. However, if your company offers you educational opportunities and you decline to accept them then you’re not being used. You’re just cheating yourself out of self-development that could lead to greater success.

Success to me is about much more than making a living, it’s about making a life. To make a life I believe that you must make a difference. 

If the place that you work does not allow you to make a difference then find some place that does. You of course do not have to make a life at the same place that you make a living. I might even encourage you to have more than one “place” in your life.

One more thing… if you do choose to stay at your job then you MUST do the job to the absolute best of your ability whether you like it or not. Failing to do so isn’t a whole lot different than stealing. If you accept the compensation then accept the work as well.

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The Importance of Recognition

People crave recognition. They crave recognition almost as much as they crave air to breath or water to drink. In fact people NEED recognition to carry them through the difficult times that all humans will eventually face.

Needing recognition is not a weakness, it is just a part of life.

I know lots of people who say they don’t need recognition. They are “self-fulfilled.” Well they may need a bit less recognition than other people but they are kidding themselves if they don’t think they need any recognition from anyone ever. 

Humans have this thing known as an ego. If you have a pulse then you have an ego. It’s not bad to have an ego so long as you keep it under control but it is a problem when we fail to recognize that everyone else has an ego too. 

What many people forget is that an ego sometimes needs to be fed in order to stay healthy. One of a leader’s primary responsibilities is to feed the ego of their people. Just like with a real human diet, small consistent “feedings” are far more healthy than binge feeding once in a great while and then starving for nourishment in between. 

Those small consistent feedings are called compliments, feedback, and coaching. If you’re a leader who starves your people of ego food then you are missing a big piece of leading. 

None of this is new for experienced leaders; they know their people need recognition and feedback. The mistake they make is believing they can provide that recognition and feedback when “they have an extra moment” or in their “free time.” 

Look at your calendar, go ahead, look right now. Exactly when is that “extra moment” or “free time” on your calendar?

Most leaders don’t have extra time or free time in their day. That means the time required to provide recognition and feedback must be baked into their schedule. It must be planned and intentional. It needs to be more than “once in a while” because a “while” can be a very long time when you’re a busy leader.

If you really desire to grow your people then you need to give them the recognition they NEED in order to  grow. When was the last time you purposely stopped what you were doing to give well deserved recognition or feedback. If you don’t know the date and time then I would submit to you that it’s been too long. 

Your team’s collective ego is hungry… feed them!  

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Do You Own Your Smartphone?

Do you own your smartphone … or does your smartphone own you? If your smartphone is really smart it would tell you when to put it down and pay attention to the world around you. 

This “post” is almost as much of a rant as it is a post and it comes from something I saw just a few days ago. Now don’t get me wrong, I really really like my smartphone. I am what Apple would consider a “power user,” I have 257 apps (I just counted) on my iPhone and I even use it as an actual phone too. Some apps I use way more than others but they are all useful in some way.

As much as I use my phone I really try to NOT let it come between me and human interaction. I own it specifically to help me stay connected to other human beings. There are times and places I simply refuse to use it. I will not use it while dining, I will not use it while standing in line at a checkout counter in a store. (unless I’m using Apple Pay)

I will not use it anytime in a group where I would be even slightly annoyed if someone else were using their phone. I will not even glance at it in a movie theater. I will NOT TEXT or email while driving a car. As useful as a smartphone can be there is a time and place to use it. The time is NOT always and the place is NOT everywhere. 

Common sense still applies and so do common human relations principles. It seems however that those two things are not so common anymore. 

So, a few days ago I stopped by my usual gas station store to pick up a 52oz Diet Coke. (yes, I’ve heard that Diet Coke isn’t good for me) When I walked into the store I could see there was a line at the soda fountain machine. That is beyond unusual, there is never a line. As I got closer I saw the reason for the delay: there was a person at the soda machine on their smartphone gabbing away. Others were waiting their turn behind the person even though the person was not filling a soda cup, they were just talking on the phone. 

When the woman immediately behind the person on the phone kindly asked them to step aside the person on the phone interrupted their call long enough to tell the person behind them to “wait their turn,” then they continued talking.

I’d only been in line 10 or 15 seconds but this was just too much for me. I went around the line and told the person on the phone to take the call outside and get out of the way. I’ll admit I didn’t say it pleasantly and it wasn’t said as a suggestion but come on. I don’t care how important the call was it does not allow for a complete and utter lack of common sense.

This uncommon occurrence is becoming all too common. Smartphones have become a two-edged sword, they can save time and they can make a person look inconsiderate and rude. Or maybe, just maybe, the person using it IS inconsiderate and rude and the smartphone just exposes those traits.

Smartphones are really only smart when the people using them are smart enough to know when NOT to use them. No matter how nice your smartphone is, no matter how much time it saves you, no matter how good a picture it takes you still need to make sure that you own it and that it’s not the other way around.

 
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The Lunacy of Lying

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Lies are lies. If it’s not the truth it’s a lie, no matter how much you want to believe it. When you tell a lie you damage your credibility, credibility that you need in order to lead. 

Let’s begin with some incredible research findings about deception. 

  • Humans are lied to as many as 200 times a day. 
  • Humans detect lies with only 54% accuracy. 
  • Of the lies we tell 25% are for someone else’s sake. 
  • Children begin deceiving as early as 6 months of age. 
  • Avoiding eye contact is the most presumed sign of lying around the world—even though it’s false.
  • People engaged in normal honest conversation only make direct eye contact 30-60% of the time.
  • Law enforcement officials—including FBI agents, customs agents and judges— performed no better than the average person in detecting deception.

The research suggests it’s harder to tell when someone is lying than we think it is and that around half the lies told go undetected. 

That’s all kinda bad news but it pales in comparison to this absolute truth: the lies we tell ourselves do immeasurably more harm to our ability to lead than the lies we tell others. That’s true because when we lie to ourselves, when we convince ourselves that fiction is fact, we will surely share that lie with others. 

Once you master lying to yourself you will lie to anyone, whether you intend to or not. You actually can become unsure of what the truth really is. It is possible that you don’t even consider an untruth to be a lie. Deception simply becomes a tool you use to manipulate others.

Leading people has nothing to do with manipulating them. Leading requires a relationship of sorts between the leader and the follower. When people feel manipulated they do not trust the manipulator. Absent trust, there can be no relationship. 

Not only does lying damage the ability of others to trust you, it damages YOUR ability to trust others. People who are untrustworthy have major issues trusting other people too.

The people you lead NEED to know they can believe what you say. They need to know that they can trust you. Once, yes once, you’re caught in a lie you make it much harder for your people to follow you.

But I’m betting that you don’t consider yourself a liar. You’re an honest person who maybe just “withholds some details,” or doesn’t exactly tell the “whole truth” in order to allow someone to save face. 

I get that but here’s what you need to get: The absence of truth is a lie. Withholding even part of the truth is lying. You need to be very very careful with the first lie because the first lie very often leads to telling a second lie to protect the truth from the first lie. Lying is the leading cause of more lying. 

Some people excuse themselves for lying with the statement that “the truth hurts.” Well telling someone the truth is like pulling a band-aid off quickly, telling a lie is like pulling it off slowly. The fact is, lies hurt too, they just hurt longer.

Lying is lunacy, it always burns the liar in the end. Even if no one else catches you in the lie, you know that you lied and if you’re a normal person, that in itself will eventually burn you.

Lies almost never work out, the truth almost always does….play the odds, tell the truth! 

 
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Why You Need a Mentor

I am darn near perfect. The only thing that keeps me from just outright declaring my perfection is that I am also very humble. If other people could see my perfection the world would indeed be a better place!

I remain perfect pretty much right up to the time someone who cares about me talks some sense into me… then I see a little different me.

You don’t see yourself the way others see you. You may not think you’re perfect but because you’re human you likely hold yourself to a somewhat different standard than you hold others. It is much easier to state your principles than it is to live them.

The person that talks some sense into me is called a mentor. (or my wife but that’s a different post) They are a truth teller. They see my world from the outside, without the fog of ego, defensiveness, shame, and the need to be liked.

They see me the way others see me and they paint me a picture so I can see it too. 

That helps me be a better me. If you want to be a better you then you need a mentor. If you don’t want to call them a mentor then call them a coach. You can call them whatever you like but they need to care enough about you to invest in your growth by being honest with you. Even when “honest” hurts. It’s okay to be friendly with them but they don’t necessarily have to be a friend, it might be better if they weren’t. 

You can hire a professional coach or select someone that you admire and that most people see as successful… however you define successful. Whether your coach/mentor is paid or not that best way to repay them is by following their advice. Listen, REALLY LISTEN, to what they have to say, linger on their words until they sink in. If you’ve picked the right mentor then they are telling you the truth. If they are telling you the truth then you NEED to listen. 

Regardless of your current level of success you will be better off with a mentor. Even if you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career you will be better off with a trusted sounding board. 

A coach or mentor will not tell you what your principles are, they just help you live them.