Creating Permanent Success

As a very young salesperson I had some early success. I had no idea why but I enjoyed what I was doing and as far as I knew, I was selling.

I had an engineering degree and fell into sales completely by accident. That by the way is how a great many salespeople enter the profession of selling. Not too long into my sales career some of the Corporate big shots came to town and scheduled rides with our sales team. I was less than pleased when I discovered that on 3 consecutive days I’d have one of the big shots with me.

I assumed it wouldn’t take someone as smart as these guys claimed to be to figure out that despite my early success I really had no idea what I was doing. I apparently figured wrong.

In their report they said I was the best salesperson they had ever worked with. One of them made a comment that I could sell ice to an Eskimo. So my Sales Manager starting asking me questions about what I did when the big shots were with me.

I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary stuff I did every day and I had no clue as to why they said what they said about me. Then some smart guy asked me exactly what I would do to sell ice to an Eskimo.

I thought for a minute and then it began to dawn on me why I might be having some of that early success.

My answer was I wouldn’t sell ice to an Eskimo in the first place because they didn’t need any.

To this day that philosophy is what has helped separate me from common salespeople. I get the financial aspects of selling crap to people that they don’t need. But selling something to someone who doesn’t need it is not a sustainable strategy for success in sales.

Manipulating someone for your benefit at the cost of their wellbeing, be it financial or otherwise is not a sustainable strategy for success in life.

When I finally figured out what was helping me succeed in sales I became more intentional about building relationships, trust and friendships. That required that I find out exactly how my product could help people. It required that I know enough about a particular customer to know precisely how my product could help them.

That caused me to walk away from a good many potential sales and while I lost a few sales I never lost a customer. Helping your customers, being honest with them at all times, having the courage to occasionally disagree with them and always keeping their best interests in mind are the keys to long-term, sustainable sales success.

If anyone tells you otherwise they do not have your best interests in mind.

“Selling by helping” is the sales philosophy I’ve taught for a long time. I started doing training for two reasons, one was to help more people have better buying experiences with the salespeople they dealt with. The other was to help more salespeople have long-term success and make lots of money doing it.

The selling professional can be very rewarding, “selling by helping” increases those rewards ten-fold. It is also the certain path to permanent sales success.

If This, Then That, If That, Then This

The problem with making a plan is that the plan often fails. Some unforeseen “thing” happens and the whole plan falls apart.

That’s why I never make a plan. Instead, I make plans. My plans take on the look of a flow chart. It is full of one contingency after another. If this happens then I’ll do that. If that happens then I’ll do this…and on it goes. It is like having plans within your plans.

I review those plans on a regular basis and rewrite them as necessary at the beginning of each New Year. There is no better stress reducer than preparation and that has never been truer than in this particular year.

My “if this, then that” plans could never have foreseen what is happening in the world right now. But the combinations of my “if this, then that” plans do in fact account for nearly every single change and related consequences we’ve seen so far. And for me, as for many of you, some of those have been whoppers.

The whole “if this, then that” strategy comes from a single principle from a life changing book by Dale Carnegie. The title of that book is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It is far from Mr. Carnegie’s most famous work. But people who have also read his legendary “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would give the edge to what Carnegie folks call “The Worry Book.”

The principle says to “Consider the worst that can happen. Accept the worst. Try to improve upon the worst.” I don’t suppose Mr. Carnegie realized it at the time but that translates pretty well into “if that happens I’ll do this, if this happens I’ll do that.

Knowing what you’ll do in difficult circumstances offers you great peace of mind when those circumstances arrive. Making big decisions before they need to be made allows you to make much better decisions.

I guess I’m supposed to be stressed out by all that’s going on around me but I’ve reviewed every single “if this, then that” in my plans. I can’t find a single one that says “be stressed” so there is no stress to be found.

There is no stress because my wife and I are implementing plans we made 25 years ago. Frankly we are a little farther into the “if this, then that” scenarios than we would like to be but that’s fine because we are in complete control of our futures. No one else gets to decide them for us.

You can have that same authority over your life IF you make plans that contemplate every possible outcome. This type of planning takes a pretty serious investment of time but the return on that investment is peace of mind and that my friends is priceless.

I may not get to decide all of my circumstances but I have complete control over how I respond to them. You too can have complete control over the circumstances of your life if you’re willing to make the effort before you need to.

As for me, I’ll just follow my plans because I know exactly where they lead.

Creating Your Personal Reality

It’s very likely that you are far more powerful than you think. So powerful in fact that you have the ability to create your own reality.

How do I know that about you? Well because you’re human. Every human has the ability to create their own reality. Not only do they have the ability, they in fact DO create their own reality. Every person on earth creates their own reality out of their thoughts.

What you think you become. What others think of you matters very little when compared to what you think of yourself. Negative thoughts about yourself linger for a long long time. Self-doubt kills more dreams than all other obstacles combined. Yes, even more than lack of money. Actually, lack of money isn’t much of an obstacle at all, far more dreams are killed by lack of effort than lack of money.

You attract people to you who are often identical to the person you believe you are. If you think you’re a loser than you’ll invite losers into your life. Now the term loser isn’t very nice but I can’t think of a more apt description. Misery indeed loves company and if you think you can’t succeed you’ll attract people who think the same as you.

Since we are all basically a compilation of the five people we spend the most time with you want to make certain your five people build you up. If those 5 people tell you often enough that you can succeed you may start to wonder if they could possibly be right…and that can be the start of something magical.

Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

You have to be so careful about what you think. Your thoughts become your words and your words become your actions and your actions become your reality.

You’re creating your reality this very day. Everything you think, say and do plays a part in the future you’re creating for yourself. If you master the discipline of controlling your thoughts there won’t be much else in life you can’t master.

My recommendation is to start EVERY day with five minutes of positive self-talk. Those might be the most vital 5 minutes of your day. Those five minutes will set the tone for the next 1435 minutes of your day.

Those five minutes could very well change your life. Now that’s reality!

Not Everyone Will Like You

There are few things in life I’m more sure of than this…not everyone likes me. I think I’ve always been fine with that fact. If there was a time it bothered me it was so long ago that I can’t remember.

I’d would much rather be unliked by some and happy than be liked by everyone and miserable because I can’t just be me. I suppose somewhere in the world there might be somebody who is universally liked and happy too but I’ve not yet met them. And I’ve met a whole lotta people.

I want to urge you to resist the temptation of thinking it’s bad when someone doesn’t like you. I strongly urge you to ignore that little voice in your head telling you that it’s your fault they don’t like you.

There is no fault. Some people will love you, some people will like you and some people won’t like you. That’s neither good or bad, it simply is what it is.

You should pay attention to the advice you receive from the people who love you. They may not, in fact they will not, always say the nicest things to you. But if they love you they will have your best interests in mind, so consider everything they say to you, whether you want to hear it or not.

When it comes to the people who like you I’d advise being very cautious about listening too closely to what they say. You may disagree agree with this but “friends” don’t always have your best interests in mind. Unlike the people who love you, their motives may be questionable. I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s friends, I’m only saying to be aware.

But what about the people who don’t like you? Well this may surprise you but you can learn a lot from those people. Their “advice” is often not meant to be advice. It may be delivered in a hostile manner or even through a third party behind your back.

But you would be wise to give it serious consideration because if one person sees a possible flaw in you others may see it too. Maybe not but maybe. The most successful people are willing to consider even the harshest criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow. People who don’t like you may in fact be more honest with you than the people who do like you.

Their intention may be to hurt you but that’s their problem. You still have the potential to strengthen and improve yourself with the very words that were intended to do you harm.

Or, you may determine, as I often do, that their words carry no merit and you can dismiss them. But DO NOT dismiss them without a pretty healthy dose of HONEST self-reflection. You will be better for it.

There’s enough people in the world who don’t like me that if I failed to learn from them I might not learn very much at all. It might be the same for you…just a little something to consider.

Moving Heaven and Earth

My mom used to say that she would move Heaven and Earth to help “you boys” (that would be me and my brothers) any way she could. I was too young to understand what that meant the first couple hundred times I heard it but I came to understand that it meant our well-being was the most important thing in the world to her.

She would, and frequently did, do everything in her power to protect us, even when that sometimes meant not protecting us at all.

Her priorities were crystal clear. She didn’t have to tell anyone what they were, they were completely visible to anyone who cared to look. Her family mattered above all else. That fact was reflected in everything she said and did. Always.

I share that with you as a set-up to a question I want to ask you…

Can people SEE the priorities in your life or do you have to keep telling them what’s important to you? I ask that because the fact is, people DO see the priorities in your life, you show them every day.

What you say are your priorities may or may not be. But what you do in your life are your real your priorities.

People get frustrated with my response when they tell me “they don’t have enough time in the day.” They get frustrated because I tell them that they absolutely do.

What they don’t have are identifiable priorities. They act as if everything in their life is so important when in actuality it is merely urgent.

The most successful people understand that what is urgent is seldom important and what is important is seldom urgent. People who don’t understand that do urgent things that won’t matter two weeks from now at the expense of truly important things that could be life altering.

When you act according to your priorities you’ll discover that you do have enough time to accomplish everything that is important to you.

If I followed you around for a week I could tell you exactly what your priorities are. In most cases you would disagree with me and argue that your actual priorities are different. But they are not.

I know many people reading this won’t like this but you SAY what you want your priorities to be. You DO what your priorities actually are.

For skilled, disciplined and successful people what they say and what they do are one and the same.

What exactly are your priorities? Not what you say they are but what you would truly move heaven and earth to achieve. Watch yourself and you’ll soon find out. If you don’t like what you see then either change what you say or change what you do. When you align your actions with your words you’ll accomplish more than you ever thought possible…with time left over.

You may not get all those urgent things accomplished but that’s okay because urgent things are only urgent for a short time. You can make a darn good living by focusing on those urgent things. If however you want to make a fulfilling life you’re gonna need to start focusing on the important stuff too.

The Death of Customer Service

I’ve written about this topic before but “new” concepts in Customer Service keep popping up so I have to keep smacking them down.

One of the newest says that customers aren’t really customers….they are personas that have to be “dealt with.”

Wow, that really sounds like the right mindset for providing decent customer service to the people who buy your products so that you can stay in business so that you can feed your family and have a roof over your head.

Those “personas” are the people who pay for everything a business AND their employees own. When a company forgets that the customers, those pesky people who the company exists to serve, tend to go away.

And go away is exactly what they should do!

If you are in business then you are in the people business. If you refuse to acknowledge people are human beings and insist on calling them baggage, personas, problem causers, or whatever else you want to call them you’ll be out of business soon enough. The sad thing is how many people you’ll have frustrated along the way.

If you’re in business stop throwing money away on the latest Customer Service fad. Start treating your customers with the same decency and respect that you expect when you’re a customer.

It’s really that easy. Remember, you are in business to serve your customer. You are in business to help your customers. You are in business to solve problems for your customers. Are you getting this yet…you are in business for your customer’s benefit.

Your business is ALL ABOUT your customers.

Yes, you need to make money but if that’s your primary focus you can’t last. If you treat customers, every customer, with dignity and respect they will tell people about it. Those people will beat a path to your door. You will be making more money than you ever imagined.

You cannot go wrong taking care, showing care, and truly caring for your customer.

If some “professional” Customer Service Training Company tries to sell you or your company on the latest “fad” in customer service don’t even talk to them unless the customer, the real customers who keep your business in business, is at the center of that training.

If that so called training company calls a customer by any name other than customer you don’t need that kind of help. A customer by any other name will not feel valued the way they should.

Your people don’t need tricks, fads, or buzz words to help your customers. They need Human Relations Skills, also known as People Skills, because if you’re in business then you’re in the people business.

The day you forget that isn’t only the day your Customer Service dies, it’s also the day you start going out of business.

The Danger of a Defensive Mind

But.

That single word has prevented more learning than all other words. Whatever language you speak as your primary language there is a word comparable to “but” and that word is just as destructive.

But is a defensive word. When you’re in a conversation with someone and your response begins with but, or any form of but like “however” then you have likely not actually been listening to the other person. You’re only waiting for your chance to respond.

“But” indicates a defensiveness to your reply. And that’s almost never good.

Because a defensive mind is closed to possibilities.

Many people in leadership positions fail for the simple reason that they have a defensive mind. They somehow came to the conclusion that they can’t be wrong because they are at the top of the org chart or because they head up their department.

As a young engineer in my twenties I was already considered one of the brightest minds in the new field of Electronic Currency Validation. Some even said I was the best.

I made a terrible mistake when I decided to listen to those who said I was the best. Since I knew more than anyone else I had nothing to learn from anyone. That meant that when someone came up with a new idea that I hadn’t already thought of they must be wrong.

The company I worked for created a new position called “Sales Engineer.” They decided that I should do it because I could explain new and challenging technology better than most.

The “sales” part was very humbling at the beginning because people didn’t respond with the clarity of a microchip or voltage regulator. I learned very quickly that no matter how much I knew that I could be wrong about anything at anytime.

I learned I had a defensive mind and I was using it to prove I knew more than other people. Of course, I thought that required me to prove them wrong in which I took great delight.

Unfortunately it prevented me from learning essential sales and leadership skills like empathy. I mean, why try to see anything from the other person’s point of view when they are so completely wrong.

Fortunately for me along came this woman named Vicki who til this very day is willing to point out to me exactly why and where I’m wrong. Which it turns out is pretty often. 🥴

What about you? How many of your responses in a conversation begin with a “yes but?” If even a few of your responses have a “but” near the front of them I can almost guarantee that you’re listening with a defensive mind rather than an open one.

And defensive minds have a much smaller opportunity to learn.

So before you even begin a conversation with someone set a goal to learn something new from it. This is critically important in conversations with customers or the people you lead.

I’ve grown comfortable with being wrong. It’s actually developed into one of my greatest strengths. Even though I’m comfortable being wrong I hate it. The good thing is that it forces me to learn so I’m not wrong about the same thing again and again. Sometimes, I’m even able to compassionately show someone I was right after all.

That’s far easier to do with an open mind than it is with a defensive mind.

I can’t think of a single good thing that comes from being defensive. It lulls you into thinking you know more than you do. It prevents you from learning. It stops empathy in its tracks.

There is nothing wrong with listening to different thoughts and opinions. There is nothing bad about discovering you may be wrong.

I have seen a hundred times over that there are people who don’t know as much as me but are still smarter than me. And thank heavens for them because they are my only hope of learning new things.