Today’s Effort Determines Tomorrow’s Success

Many times towards the end of a year salespeople sort of “coast” their way towards the New Year.

In times of uncertainty many salespeople do the same thing, they take their foot off the gas and stop selling. It’s a mistake at the end of a year and it’s a mistake in these times of uncertainty.

“Sales” are different right now than they are in more normal times. But different does not mean impossible. “Sales” in their current state might also not mean making a sale. It may be, and likely is, more about being available to your customers. It most definitely is about staying in touch and keeping your lines of communication open.

Whatever secondary methods of communication you used to communicate with your customers prior to our current situation are now most likely your primary methods. By secondary I mean texts, email and phone calls. Your primary method was face-to-face and in most cases that’s not possible at the moment.

If you somehow can make face-to-face calls and both you and your customer are comfortable with it then I guess that’s fine….so long as it is SAFE FOR OTHERS AND IN NO VIOLATION OF CURRENT LOCAL, STATE, AND FEDERAL GUIDELINES.

How ever you do it, you must stay visible to your customers. You must remain a resource to whatever extent you can. You must remain willing to help. In fact, I’d recommend each communication include that very question; “How can I help?” Or “What can I do for you right now?”

Beyond some sort of personal contact with your customer there are many other sales activities you can undertake. Many many salespeople had things, productive things, that they were going to do “someday.” We’ll guess what, someday has arrived!

You know the stuff you were going to do “someday” but never had the time to do. Things likes reviewing notes from accounts that haven’t purchased from you in a long time, or maybe ever. While “someday” is still going on review those notes to determine what you will do differently to earn that customer’s business when personal selling becomes possible again.

Now is also a great time to prepare and practice responses to your most common objections. And by the way, the most professional and prosperous salespeople practice those responses out loud.

We should talk a bit about prospecting. I am not an expert like Mark Hunter @thesaleshunter is. But I’m thinking if you’re going to attempt to prospect right now you must tread very lightly. It just seems almost inappropriate to me. But like I said, others know far more about this topic in times like these than I do so I could of course be wrong…but I don’t think so.

That doesn’t mean however that you can’t prepare new prospecting materials. Prospecting emails, letters, leave behind materials and phone scripts. You can even practice your phone presentation so it doesn’t sound scripted. Just so you know, if you ever call me and it sounds like you’re reading a script, I will never buy from you. Most people are like me, they won’t either.

I have been in and around sales a very long time. I don’t believe we have ever experienced anything like this. With other major disruptions we have faced we could see or at least predict what the end might look like. Not so much this time.

Many things are unlikely to go back to exactly the way they were but it’s my guess that sooner rather than later sales will return to pretty much normal. What you do in these abnormal times will determine your level of success and how fast you’re personally back to normal when the “ab” in abnormal is gone.

Stay in the game and keep selling. Take the long view and realize your activities today will shape the curve of your personal comeback later. That is most certainly not the curve you want to flatten!

The Best of Times

There are not too many people, okay, maybe nobody, who would describe these as the best of times. People all over the world are confined to their homes….or far worse. When you consider the alternative being confined to the comforts of home for a couple of weeks isn’t so bad.

But a lot of how “bad” it is, a lot of how bad anything is, is determined by your choice of attitude. And yes I would tell you that even in these times, even in times worse than these, YOUR attitude remains YOUR choice.

The opportunity to choose your attitude has been described as “the last of the human freedoms.” That freedom can’t be taken from us by any person, any circumstance, any organization, any government, or any illness.

You ALWAYS have the choice of a positive attitude. You ALWAYS have the choice to look on the bright side of any situation. Sometimes you have to look harder, sometimes a lot harder, to find the bright side but it is ALWAYS there. It’s simply a choice.

While it is simply a choice it is not a simple choice. It is a choice that must be consciously made. If you do not intentionally choose a positive attitude then other people and circumstances will choose your attitude for you…and it’s unlikely to be positive.

It’s easy to find things to ruin our attitude. But it’s also pretty easy, when we make the conscious effort, to find things to keep youself in a positive frame of mind. Maybe it’s a grandchild’s giggle on a FaceTime call, maybe it’s the perfect blue sky, heck, maybe it’s even that you have toilet paper.

Whatever it is, if you look I promise you’ll find a bright side. I am certain there are reasons in your life to be optimistic. But is must be an intentional choice. It must be made daily or even multiple times everyday.

I have this mindfulness thing on my AppleWatch that reminds to me to take a breath several times a day. I turned it off almost as soon as Apple added to the watch. I’ve turned it back on now, not because I can’t remember to breathe. I use it as a reminder to look around at all the fantastic things going on around me and in my own life.

I might be stuck at home but I refuse to be stuck in a rut. There are two sides to a coin, two sides to a story and two sides to every situation, the dark side and the bright side. Will you join me in looking for the bright side?

Take a look around and share what you find in the comments section. Sharing your bright side might even help others find their own!

Interesting Times

As I write this I’m at our Arizona home which is a couple of miles from many of Major League Baseballs’ Spring Training Ballparks. It’s a Saturday and it would ordinarily be a great day to take in a ballgame. But there are no ballgames to take in.

I guess I’ll watch a NBA game on TV instead. Oh wait, there are no NBA games. There are no hockey games either. There are no games at all.

That’s very interesting.

I did go to Walmart at 7:00am this morning…I was confused at first because it seemed a lot like a Black Friday. The place was packed. What was different from a Black Friday however was that the shelves were mostly empty.

I remember shopping at a surplus store years ago in my hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota. They had a slogan that said “if we don’t have it then you don’t need it.” One of the Walmart employees said a good rule of thumb for these times was that “if you need it then it’s most likely that we don’t have it.” That’s more than interesting.

We certainly do live in interesting times.

“May you always live in interesting times” is an English expression which purports to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is normally used ironically; life is better in “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquility than in “interesting” ones, which are usually times of trouble.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that interesting times can be less trouble than they otherwise might be if we work together to limit the trouble. I had a 40 year old guy say to me “I’m not affected by the virus so what the hell do I care.” Well now he’s out of toilet paper and you would think the world is coming to an end.

We are ALL affected by the challenge facing the world today. We can limit the trouble traveling around the world by ALL sticking together. The best way to keep the world healthy is to keep yourself healthy. There have been about a billion warnings to wash your hands regularly (I now have an hourly reminder on my phone) and to stop touching your face. (Easier said than done)

Pay attention to that advice. In fact, pay attention period. You’re pretty safe if you’re in your twenties but you know what? You are about the most likely age group to pass an illness on to the age groups who most certainly are not safe. So pay attention. Take the same precautions as if the virus is a serious threat to you.

All the experts say this is likely to get worse before it gets better. Together we can limit how much worse. Let’s remember the together part.

So for the next while help other people a little more. If you do choose to go out to dinner then tip a little more. If you’re going to the store then offer to pick something up for a neighbor. Check in on people over the phone more often.

Since it’s likely you’ll be around home more often take advantage of the time to complete those projects you’ve been putting off. And how about this for a crazy idea, put down that stupid Smartphone and talk to people the old fashioned way.

There is a lot of fake information and rumors out there. Remember the ONLY official source of information is CoronaVirus.gov Point your browser there for the latest accurate information on these most interesting of times.

I’m pretty sure that the best way to get through interesting times is to be more interested in others and less interested in ourselves. As Mr. Spock once told Captain Kirk, “The good of the many must outweigh the good of the one.”

It’s only by working together that can we truly flatten the curve.

A Plan for Life

Research shows that the average person will spend 40 hours planning a two-week vacation. That is 40 hours more then they invest in planning the rest of their lives.

Goals are the plan for your life.

Most everyone claims to believe that goals are important. Somewhere around 10% of those people actually have goals that are written down. A very small handful of that 10% have a formal plan for how they intend to achieve those goals.

If you’re in that vast majority of people who don’t have a formal goal achieving plan then I have some shocking news for you. YOU are an unproductive person!

If you didn’t do something to intentionally get closer to at least one of your goals today then no matter how busy you may feel you were not productive. That means that if you don’t have formal goals along with a written plan on how you’re going to achieve them then you cannot be productive…not matter how busy you might be.

But having true goals and a plan to achieve them goes way beyond making you productive. True goals gives a purpose to everything you do. When your actions have purpose then your life has passion. If you’ve ever felt as if you’re sleepwalking through life then you NEED true goals. If you not certain why you’re doing what you’re doing then you NEED true goals.

If you want to live a purpose driven life then you NEED true goals. If you want a reason to push yourself to reach your potential then you NEED true goals.

I won’t kid you, developing meaningful goals takes time, likely more time than it would take you to plan your next two-week vacation. It requires serious reflection about what’s most important to you. You’ll need a vision for your life and what you want it to look like in a year, 3 years and 5 years and beyond.

If you don’t currently have true goals and a written plan for how you’re going to achieve them then it’s likely you lack discipline as well. If your goals are meaningful enough and your plan is thorough enough they will drive a new discipline within you. That’s the power of true goals.

President Abraham Lincoln said “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” If you want to wonder what the future holds for you then you don’t need to do a thing. Just keep floating along through life. If however you want to control your future and shape what’s in store for you down the road then you’ll need to get serious about setting true goals.

There isn’t a much better life than a life lived on purpose for a purpose. Purpose comes from knowing where you’re going and having a map to get there.

Do you know your purpose?

Are you Determined to Learn?

If you’re not willing to learn then no one can help you. If however you are determined to learn then no one can stop you. Learning is a choice. The decision to improve your lot in life through education is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I have never met a very successful person who hasn’t at some point in their life made the decision to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year and it shouldn’t stop when you’re handed a degree. It’s never been easier to learn. If you’re a bit careful where you look there is a wealth of great learning opportunities to be found on the internet.

There isn’t anyone alive you can’t learn from. Heck, thanks to that same internet you can even learn from dead people. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

People who you wouldn’t normally hang out with can teach you something. People who look and sound different than you also know things that you don’t. If you’re willing to push the limits of your comfort zone a bit and take a chance you can learn from them too.

Think for a moment about your typical conversations with people. Are you doing most of the talking? Are you talking mostly about yourself? Are you asking questions about the other person and what’s new with them?

Most people don’t ask enough questions. I suppose that’s because they don’t want to look or sound dumb. Successful people know that a person who asks what may seem to be an ill informed question might sound dumb for a moment. But the person who is too embarrassed to even ask remains ill informed for a long long time.

You’ll never learn a thing by talking to someone. What you can learn from them is limitless if only you’ll listen to them. So ask three people who know you well what you can do to be a better listener. Then DO what they tell you. You don’t have to agree with them, you do however have to follow their advice. At least if you want to be a better listener.

When a person decides that they will never stop learning their potential grows right along with their knowledge bank. But learning begins with the decision to try. If you think you already know enough then you’re really no better off than the person who thinks they know it all.

And this much we all know….no one likes a know it all.

You Haven’t and You Won’t Because You Can’t

Almost every business professes at least the desire to provide the highest caliber of customer service possible.

They name their customer support departments things like customer “care.” They talk about improving the customer “experience” all while failing to invest in the people who might actually care for those customers. The people who work for that business that professes the desire to “care” for their customers.

If you’re running a business that professes the desire to provide your customers with excellent customer service then you need to know that if you’re not caring for your own employees then you can’t provide a high level of service to your customers.

And if you’re not currently providing your employees with the tools and training they need to take care of your customers then you won’t be providing a high level of customer service anytime soon.

You can’t provide a high level of customer service if your employees feel undervalued, under appreciated and unprepared for the task.

I maybe haven’t said this in like an hour so let me repeat it. 100% of your employees are people. By an amazing coincidence 100% of your customers are people too. If your employees are unhappy and feel unsupported then you can bet your last dollar that your customers will be too.

If that situation persists you’ll be down to that last dollar a lot sooner than you think.

You simply cannot create happy customers by placing them in contact with unhappy employees. The fastest way to create an unhappy employee is by trying to manage them instead of leading them.

When I ask the owner of a business about their people I listen for how they describe them. When I hear a bunch of buzzwords like “our team members” or our “guest support staff” or my personal favorite “customer experience managers” I start to be concerned.

What I’m hoping to hear is about the PEOPLE of the organization. A solid, firm unmistakable understanding that the people who are expected to create happy customers are human beings. Human beings who have stuff going on in their life outside of work. Human beings who have goals and hopes and dreams just like a real person.

Human beings who need to be led because trying to manage another human being causes nothing but problems for the manager trying to manage them. You have not and you will not have a fully productive and engaged human being working for you if you’re trying to manage them instead of lead them. Because you can’t manage a human being. It’s just not possible.

Stop trying to create a great customer service department and start creating a great customer service culture. That culture begins with happy, supported and valued employees. That culture is only possible if you lead your people rather than manage them.

I’ll write a lot in the coming weeks on the difference between managing people and leading them. In the meantime consider investing less in the latest “new thing” in customer service. Invest instead in your people because only people have the ability to truly care for another person…like your customers for instance.

Problematic PowerPoint

There really isn’t a problem with PowerPoint. The problem is with how so many people use it.

PowerPoint was never intended to be used as a shield for uncomfortable or inexperienced presenters to hide behind. PowerPoint was not developed to be an entertainment tool or act as “filler” for an incomplete presentation. It also was most certainly not designed to be a presenter’s notes.

PowerPoint was developed to enhance a well thought out professional presentation. It is intended to help a speaker present complex concepts where a visual is indeed worth a thousand words.

PowerPoint when used as intended adds to a presentation, it is not the entire presentation.

If you’re playing peek-a-boo with your audience by turning your back on them to read slides then you’re misusing the tool. If you put up a slide and your first words are “I know you can’t see this but….” then you’re misusing the tool.

If you spend more time prettying up your slides then you invest in strengthening your presentation then you’re doing a great disservice to your audience.

If you can’t make an outstanding presentation without your PowerPoint slides then you might not be prepared to make a presentation. If your presentation can’t continue because a light bulb burns out on a projector then you might be using PowerPoint as a crutch.

I’ve seen hundreds of post meeting surveys. I’ve never once seen a speaker receive feedback that said their presentation was terrible but their slides were awesome. PowerPoint will not save a poorly prepared presentation.

Practice your presentation without your slides. Once you’re comfortable with your content and you’re able to explain your key points without assistance then you’re ready to prepare your visuals. That’s the surest way to ensure that your slides are not your presentation but only an enhancement to it.

We’ve all sat through “death by PowerPoint” presentations, the next time you’re in front of a group make sure you’re not the one doing the killing.