Making a Living

Are you a person who makes their living selling or are you a professional salesperson? They are not the same thing, they are not even close.

People who make a living by selling try to make the best of whatever selling circumstances they find themselves in. When business is slow or the market is soft they tend to slow down as well. They accept their fate.

Professional salespeople create their circumstances. When business is slow or the market is soft they work harder to produce excellent results. They do not accept their fate, they create it.

Many people in sales who read this will say it’s BS because many people in sales may make their living at it but they are far from professional. I remember a conversation with a salesperson several years ago where he was lamenting how slow business was. He told me that he could sit on his boat all day and the phone would barely ring. He said all he could do was hope for a turnaround.

He made his living selling, a pretty good living at that, but he was not a professional salesperson.

If he was a professional salesperson his boat would have been docked until HE turned his business around. He would have been making calls, not waiting for calls. He would have been creating opportunities for his customers to buy. He would have been taking advantage of all the salespeople who make their living selling. He woukd have proactively been calling on their customers while they were waiting for their customers to call.

I very recently heard with my own ears a sales manager and the sales manager’s boss tell their sales team “not to worry about the numbers.” They said “if the market isn’t there it isn’t there” and “no one will hold that against you.”

I’m sure they didn’t realize it but what they were telling their sales team was to be unprofessional. They were giving them an out and I’m sad to say that when you give someone who merely makes their living selling an out, they will take it.

The sales team resigned themselves to a bad year and they are now collectively waiting for the business to return.

Salespeople who wait never win. Period.

If you’re a sales leader then you need to find the balance between supporting your people and keeping enough accountability in place to help them be professional about their efforts. Salespeople who are held accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed. We know that’s true because people who are accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed and the last time I checked salespeople are people.

 

Whether or not you’re truly a professional or just making a living at what you do is a good question to ask yourself from time to time regardless of your field of work. Do you want to be okay at what you do or do you want to be recognized as one of the best. The choice as always is up to you.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

I’m a big believer in free speech. It may not seem as free as it used to in the United States but in fact nothing has changed. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, it always has and always will. But that’s about the government. The government isn’t supposed to infringe on your right to say whatever you want.

But your employer, your friends and your family are a completely different story. While no one can stop you from thinking whatever you want they can certainly penalize you for saying it. Friends for example “penalize” you by not being a friend anymore.

Companies terminate people all the time for saying things that are not in line with company policy or culture.

Get over it, it’s always been that way it just seems to get more exposure than it used to.

But here’s the thing, just because you think you have the right to say something doesn’t mean you should say it.

There’s a well known guy who lives in a big White House, government subsidized at that, and he has one of the toughest jobs in the world. Maybe the toughest. Yet he insists on making it even harder than it already is by saying pretty much whatever he wants. Which is entirely his right.

You have that right too. So do I.

Sometimes I say some pretty stupid stuff but not nearly as much stupid stuff as I think. You see not only do I have the right to say whatever I want, I also have the right not to. I have the right to remain silent.

So do you.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I knew I would have been better off NOT saying something about a nano second after I said it. That by the way is often easier said than done.

But I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve also got a long way to go. I’m willing to bet a lot of people reading this post are just like me.

So what if together, we paused for a moment before we say anything and ask ourselves if what we are about to say adds anything of value to anyone. Ask ourselves if what we are about to say improves on our circumstances or the circumstances of the person we’re about to say it to.

On the days I do that successfully I say a whole lot less. I and the people around me are often a whole lot better off because of it. I’m going to work at having more days where I say less so that the things I do say will matter more.

Will you join me?

Are You Listening to Naysayers?

There is a story about a successful Hot Dog vendor in New York City. He had a couple of Hot Dog stands and was successful enough to send his son to college. He continued to grow his  business as his son was earning his business degree.

As his son progressed in school he urged his father to be cautious with his business expansion.  By the time his son had graduated the business had grown to 10 Hot Dog Stands spread around New York City. The business and profits were continuing to grow.

The father was shocked when his son told him that he had made a big mistake growing the business so fast. His son recommended that he downsize the business immediately. Considering his son’s newly minted business degree he decided to follow his advice. He quickly closed two of his stands and laid off several employees. Sure enough, as his son had predicted his revenue began to drop and the father was convinced his son knew what he was talking about.

So the father doubled his efforts and closed even more Hot Dog Stands. As his son had predicted the downward spiral continued.

Eventually the father was back to his original Hot Dog Stands and business stabilized. The father was so grateful to his son for “saving” his business that he couldn’t thank him enough. He commented that he didn’t know where he would be if his son hadn’t returned from college when he did.

You could say both father and son made many mistakes in this story but I’d say the biggest mistake was made by the father. His mistake was that he listened to a naysayer. A well meaning naysayer I’m sure but a naysayer all the same.

The father was literally almost talked out of business.

You will have naysayers show up in your life from time to time. Some will be well intentioned as the son was in this story but others will only be looking to bring you down. Down to their level most likely.

It’s natural to hear what they are saying but listening to their words is a choice. You must choose carefully. If you decide their words have merit then act on them. If you decide they do not then ignore them. Just because something was said, even if it was said by someone who may care about you, doesn’t make it so.

You must judge their motives for saying whatever they say. You must weigh what they think against what you know. You must believe in yourself even when those close to you may not. You must listen with your heart but be sure your head has some say in the matter as well.

There will always be naysayers around when it comes to your success and I wouldn’t waste a minute trying to tell them they are wrong. I’d suggest you invest all of your energy in showing them.

Your Best Investment

The best investment a business can make is an investment in their people. ALL of their people, not only the ones who work for the business but the ones who buy from the business as well.

Most business leaders agree that investing in the development of their people is essential to long-term growth. They see their people as an investment that pays limitless returns. Many of those same business leaders however see their customers as almost an expense. They want more customers but they want them with as little expense attached to them as possible.

When a business sees their customers as an expense they provide the lowest level of service possible without losing the customer. At least that’s their goal.

Businesses that see their customers as an investment do market research to determine what MORE they can do for their customers. Businesses that see their customers as an expense do market research to determine how much LESS they can provide them. Hopefully without losing them.

If you don’t think a business would do that “how much less” type of market research then you have been very lucky in avoiding the need to speak with certain companies that 99% of the population loves to hate. Those companies lead the way in what I would call “negative market research.” They bake a certain amount of customer “churn” into their annual plans with the understanding that’s it is cheaper to lose some customers than it is to invest in them.

If you have a cell phone or cable TV for instance you likely understand exactly what I’m talking about.

If you run a company and you see your customers as an expense then your customers will one day see you as a company too expensive to do business with.

Good companies invest in their customers, better companies invest in their people, great companies invest in both.

Providing consistently excellent service isn’t hard. But it takes constant effort and a realization that you’re never “there.” Even if the majority of your people see your customers as an investment if you have just one or two who don’t, the customers will find them. It’s almost like magic…in a bad way.

Are you investing in your people? All of your people? If not you’re missing an opportunity to grow your business at a much faster rate than you probably are today.

Invest in all of your people, it’s truly the best investment you can make.

Vacuum Packed Decisions

Some decisions are easy to make. Some decisions are harder. Some decisions require a little information to make. Some decisions require a lot of information and some require a lot more than a lot. 

But every decision is a better decision when the information required to make the decision comes from multiple sources. Not all the information will be equally valuable. Some may even be worthless. But considering, if only for a moment, the value of information eventually deemed worthless makes for a more informed decision.

But some people in leadership positions disagree with that philosophy. They believe only their input is required. They believe they have enough experience, enough knowledge and good enough instincts that they don’t need additional viewpoints.

They are wrong. They are wrong even if the decision they made turns out to be right.

When people in leadership positions make decisions in a vacuum they demoralize their teams. They deny them the opportunity to learn how decisions are made. Their teams may begin to believe that vacuum packing decisions are the proper way to make decisions.

When people in leadership positions make decisions in a vacuum they deny themselves access to varying viewpoints and different life experiences. They lose all the experience that the members of their team bring to the organization.

When people in leadership positions make vacuum packed decisions they make poorer decisions. They hinder the growth of their organization and their people.

Authentic Leaders seek advice and consul from a wide variety of sources and people. They combine other people’s experience with their own and they have the courage to admit when someone else’s input makes more sense than their own.

Authentic Leaders make better decisions as a result. Even when the decision is wrong. The extra input and variety of viewpoints provide the Authentic Leader with fallback options when the initial decision goes off the rails.

A decision that provides the decision maker with additional options and alternatives is a great decision.

If you’re in a leadership position ask for input. It is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of courage and strength. And don’t ask for input only from those who think like you. Go after some far out thinking because if it does nothing else it will strengthen your confidence in the decision you ultimately make. But you never know, it may turn out that it’s not so far out after all, maybe it will help you make a much better decision than you otherwise would have.

Vacuums are good for cleaning up. They are not so good at helping someone make a decision. Unseal your brain and let some fresh ideas in now and then. The people affected by your decisions will thank you.

Do You Have Standards?

The legendary Zig Ziglar said that “Success is a personal standard.” He explained that personal standards are like a personal constitution which are based on life principles and core values. 

 

Those personal standard become, or should become, the basis for making daily decisions. 

 

Do have have  personal standards? Can you articulate them when asked? Do you review them periodically to be certain you’re living up to them? Are you using them to guide yourself to the life you want and deserve?

 

If you answered “no” to some or all of those questions then here is one more…how the heck do you make decisions and choices that benefit you and those around you? 

 

Here are a few examples of what personal standards look like from Richard Templers’ best seller “Rules of Work.” 

 

  • I will not knowingly hurt or hinder another human being in the pursuit of my career.
  • I will not knowingly break any laws in the furtherance of my goals.
  • I will have a moral code that I will follow no matter what.
  • I will endeavor to provide a positive contribution to society by what I do for a living.
  • I will always try to give something back.
  • I will pass on freely and openly any skills, knowledge, or experience to anyone who could use them to benefit themselves.
  • I will not be jealous of anyone else’s success in the same industry.
  • I will question the long-term ramifications of what I do constantly.
  • I will play by the rules at all times.
  • I will carefully think things through before agreeing to do them.

Those are just examples. They are not the standards you need to live by but I think a lot of them would be pretty good standards for most anyone. But here is the deal….your standards are just that, YOURS. 

 

YOU have to decide what you will do and what you won’t do. Social norms will play a part. Laws will play a part. But most people know right from wrong without needing society or a judge to tell them. 

 

The bigger question is do you live by your standards? It’s a lot easier to say what your standards are than it is to live by them. But if you can’t even say them then you certainly can’t live by them.


Determining your personal standards takes some real effort and a substantial investment of time. It takes some serious self-reflection. But you’ll discover lifelong value in making that effort. Once you start using those standards to make decisions in your life then people around you will notice that value too.


Disagreements are Perfectly Normal

There are disagreements in every relationship. It makes no difference if we’re talking about a personal relationship or a business relationship people bring their own point of view into the relationship. When those points of view are not in sync then disagreements happen.

 

Most are easily resolved. But sometimes those disagreements can only be overcome by a mutual and conscientious effort to find some kind of common ground. The key here is “mutual” effort. If only one of the parties to the relationship is interested in finding a solution to the disagreement the relationship is unlikely to survive for long. 

     

You are far more likely to be successful in resolving the disagreement if that effort takes place in a non-adversarial environment. If your goal is to resolve the disagreement then you have a chance to strengthen your relationship. If your goal is to “win” the argument then your secondary goal, even if only subconsciously, is to make the other person a loser.

 

How much value do you really place in the relationship if your goal is to make the other person feel as if they have lost something? Before you allow any discussion to become an argument I’d suggest you ask yourself if the relationship is more important to you than proving yourself right. You won’t find too many people who like being in a relationship with someone who makes them feel like a loser.

 

It’s far more productive to think of a dispute as a difference that can be resolved, not a battle you have to win. Even people with conflicting viewpoints should be able to find solutions that work for all parties if they are truly interested in trying.

 

Here are some other ideas to help you with what can be difficult conversations:

       

Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Ask for clarification when you need it. Never guess at what they mean. This ensures that you understand how the other person sees the problem. It also sends the message that you are reasonable and gives others the opportunity to voice their views. Misunderstandings only escalate the disagreement. Again, never guess at what the other person means. 

       

Explain your position clearly, providing clarifications that are requested in a non-emotional way. Everybody needs to be as sure as you are about the point you are making. Do not attempt to provide clarifications as to why something makes you mad while you’re still mad about it. Anger is an emotion that is tough to hide. Let it subside at least a bit before tackling the issue.

       

Figure out why the other person is taking a different position. Get to the heart of the issue and know why a certain outcome is being argued. No matter how unreasonable you may think the other position is don’t forget that if you were that other person you would feel exactly as they do. If your life experiences and history was the same as theirs you would be arguing for them and not with them. 

 

Their viewpoint doesn’t make them a bad person, it makes them a different person than you. 

       

Stay on the subject. You won’t settle one disagreement by rehashing another one. This tactic derails the discussion. It puts the other person on the defensive, making it even harder to reach an agreement.

        

Refrain from verbal cheap shots. Don’t embarrass yourself by suggesting that others are unable to see the big picture or incapable of thinking through the situation. You may not have ever said the word but have no doubt that the other person just heard you call them stupid. 

       

Be fair. I know it’s pretty common for people to want to “win” the argument. But understand that your best hope of successfully overcoming the disagreement is in allowing the other person to maintain their sense of self-worth. When you demonstrate fairness you’ll keep the other person engaged, calm, and open minded.

 

The person on the “other side” of the disagreement is not your opponent. If the relationship is important to you then understand that the disagreement itself is your common opponent. Attack the disagreement, not each other. 


Disagreements can actually strengthen relationships or they can easily destroy them. It’s all about how they are handled. I’d suggest you handle them with care.