Get On Your Feet

Feet Floor

“Get on your feet. Get up and make it happen.”

Gloria Estefan’s timeless anthem of action and forward motion recently played from my Galaxy. A buddy of mine, in an attempt to get me pumped up for my day, selected that little classic to get me up and at ’em. (After all, sometimes the motivator needs some motivation.) They did the trick that day and I found that song bouncing around my grey matter for the rest of the day.

This morning I faced a slight dilemma. I’ve been going back to the gym, having recently made the decision to pay more attention to my health and make some necessary changes for the better. After a weekend off from the gym, there was one thing on my mind as my alarm music attempted to rouse myself from my sleep:

“No. This bed is soooo comfortable. Just enjoy it for awhile longer. Go ahead, you’ll make it up tomorrow.”

Choices. They tend to get us into trouble. Given the choice of effort or the path of least resistance, we unfortunately tend to gravitate towards the latte. However, this morning I had this thought that hit the override switch on my near choice selection to return to slumber.

“Get on your feet!”

No, it wasn’t Gloria singing to me. Rather, my mind was yelling at me, giving me it’s best barbaric yawlp to motivate me to sit up, put my feet on the floor, get vertical, and begin forward motion. And from there, it was on. Hit the gym, got my sweat on, and left with the feeling of accomplishment that generally comes with a good workout. Mission accomplished.

This same thing applies to life in general. Nothing happens until you get up and get going. Whether it’s in business, education, relationships, spirituality…absolutely nothing can come about with inactivity. When you’re faced with the choice between the proverbial (or actual) snooze alarm and forward motion, your success is contingent on forward motion. Don’t let opportunity pass you by.

QUESTION: What opportunities have you missed out on because you hit the snooze button rather than getting up and moving forward?

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How a 12 Year Old Sees Failure

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I had a conversation this evening with my fiancee’s 12-year old while on our drive home.  We talked about school and we talked about Doctor Who (our household’s latest obsession).  He’s the creative sort that likes to imagine and create, and he’s pretty sharp.  As a trainer at heart, I relish “teaching moments,” so I posed the question:

“Why is failure a good thing?”

Without missing a beat came his answer:

“Because that’s how you know where you have to improve and do better.”

My mind began to immediately race.  Was this something I had shared with him at a previous time, or was this wisdom he picked up elsewhere.  I decided to set my ego aside and bask in the fact that this young kid had grasped the concept that has escaped most adults.

We tend to believe that failure is both fatal and final; that it is something to be feared and is the proof of flaws within ourselves.  The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.   Failure is the world’s built-in mechanism to tell us that something didn’t go right.  The problem for most is that we tend to stop the movie there and shut it off, rather than to rewind and review what went wrong and the to apply critical thinking into what adjustments can be made so that next time it’ll go right.

So as we continued down the road, I pointed out the light bulbs on the buildings and street lights around us.  I asked the boy if he knew how many times it took Edison to invent the light bulb.

“About one thousand.”  He, at least, knew how the story went.

So I ask you this: which will you do when confronted with the notion that something didn’t go as planned.  Will you simply stop the story, or will you rewind and review?

QUESTION: How do you face failure and setbacks?  What could you do differently or better?  Please reply in a comment below.

Resolution…Or Goal?

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Right about this time of year, many folks around the country (if not the world) form one or more “New Year’s Resolutions” to accomplish something or things in the coming year.

I’m going to eat better and lose weight.

I’m going to quit smoking.

I’m going to go to church more often.

I’m going to…(insert well-meaning objective here).

You’ve done them.  I’ve done them.  It’s almost a ritual in our society.  Yet for as many people who actually make them, only 8% are considered successful in achieving their resolutions (according to the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology, December 2012).  Is this fairly low success rate due to lack of commitment?  Maybe, but I’d also like to offer that another reason for such a ridiculous success rate is that people are creating resolutions that are merely great ideas (if not wishes), rather than a concerted, concrete goal to achieve in the coming year.

Rather than create another resolution that, statistically, you’ll most probably bomb on in the next 30 days, try creating a SMART Goal for yourself.  SMART is an acronym that goes something like this:

S – Specific.  Give it some thought…what do you actually, really want to achieve?  Losing weight, ending a bad habit or creating a new, positive habit?  Take a trip to your dream destination?  Throw the most amazing birthday party of your life?  Those are all things you could do, but the first step is to figure out exactly what you want to do.

M – Measureable.  You must have a quantitative measure to know if your goal is a success.  I want to lose weight is not enough, because with that all you have to do is lose an ounce and you’ve technically achieved your goal.  A better goal would say I want to lose 30 pounds.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

A – Attainable.  I had an old boss who used to tell me about my wide-eyed, bushy-tailed goals, “Scott, no ‘pie in the sky’ goals.  You’re setting yourself up for failure.”  He wasn’t being a pessimist…he had just had the experience and worked with enough guys like myself at the time to know that I was shooting myself in the foot.  What’s the point of setting a goal that you can’t reach.  Yes, I’m all for creating stretch goals and really having to work to achieve something truly worth the result.  But don’t put your goal so far out of reach that you end up missing it and discouraging yourself.  I want to lose 30 pounds in the next 30 days. Morale fail.

R – Relevant.  The goal ultimately has to matter to you in some way, shape, or form.  You have to find some kind of benefit to help you realize that the juice was worth the squeeze (as it were).  Whether your success is tangible or intangible, you need to be able to savor the thrill of victory…or the sting of agony if you miss it.  Losing 30 pounds carries all sort of health benefits to me, so it’s very relevant.

T – Timely.  Your goals must have some kind of deadline attached.  I want to lose 30 pounds is a great start, but it lacks any kind of finish line. (Otherwise, if I attain it in 30 years, then technically I’ve succeeded…but let’s face it, if you need to lose 30 pounds, then 30 years probably isn’t a realistic timeframe.)  However, if you say I want to lose 30 pounds in the next six months, then you’re onto something.

One more thing I want to add that’s not a part of this equation…find yourself an accountability partner to keep you honest and on-track to achieve your goals.  Very few of us possesses the discipline to make it happen on our own.  Find someone you can check in with maybe weekly or every other week, and give them permission to ask you the tough questions about your progress.  You just might find yourself crossing the finish line with your New Year’s SMART Goals in 2013.

QUESTION:  What are your SMART Goals for 2013?  Respond in a comment below.

Where’s the Passion?

Hands in pockets.  Shoulders slumped.  Expressionless face.  Closed body language.  Basically, everything about these salespeople was screaming, “If you want to buy my product, that’s fine.  If you don’t that’s fine, too.  Whatever, just follow me on my tour as I tell you stuff.”

Watching these people was a terribly underwhelming experience.  Each and every single sales rep from this company was missing a key ingredient from their sales schtick (I couldn’t quite tell if they were asking questions and matching needs with solutions).  That one ingredient is this…

Where’s the passion?  I’ve written about this idea before, but then I see it happen again and again wherever I go.  Lack of passion is a plague and it’s not showing much, if any, signs of improving.  I’ve heard it suggested a couple of times recently that wages and salary caps are to blame.  (Which, of course, begs the question, At what salary can we expect excellent customer service and effort?)  Lack of incentive might also be a cuplrit (in this economic climate, however, the primary incentive should be receiving a steady paycheck).  I have a different theory personally.

Management.  Pure and simple.

Managers, if you want passionate sales and customer service reps (or all team members in general), you need to do three things:

1.)  Train the passion.  Granted, I can’t give somebody passion as if it’s a Christmas present (though I wish I could).  But I can show my team how to express passion in two words: body language.  Open posture and gestures.  Smiles on faces.  “Yes” phrases instead of “no” phrases.  Genuine interest in a prospective or current client’s questions, and wanting to let them do most of the talking.  Train your team on expressing passion…and you could see an uptick in your closing ratios.

2.)  Foster the passion.  Maybe you can’t pay higher salaries or fat bonuses.  (Of course, if your sales team closed more sales, this might not be an issue.)  But you can do more to encourage people to get jacked up on their jobs.  Contests, incentives (doesn’t always have to be about more money…find your team’s hot buttons and get creative), and other morale boosters can get your team excited about their jobs and give them more reason to come into work each day.  Share your vision, your goals, and how your team members contribute to the success of the company.  Try some transparency and trust that they’ll catch on to what matters.

3.)  Model the passion.  It starts at the top.  There isn’t a manager on the face of the planet who could possibly expect his or her employees to have passion for their work if they, themselves, don’t personally model it.  I tell middle and frontline managers to suck it up and show their direct reports their own passion for their work and company, even if the higher ups don’t do likewise.  But upper level managers, if you’re reading this, believe this to be true…if you’re not doing it, don’t expect your team to do it, either.  They’re watching you and will resent you if you don’t practice your preach.  You want them to model passion?  You be the first to model it.

If your team is currently lacking in the passion department, there is no easy fix or turnaround.  But you can right the course of your vessel if it’s off by following these three principals.  It’ll take some time, but the results will be noticeable.  And profitable.

QUESTION:  How can you best model passion for your team (regardless of your position in the company)?

Why Toastmasters?

Has this ever happened to you?  You’ve been asked to give the presentation of a lifetime for your company.  You’d rather throw yourself out of an airplane with your hair set on fire.  You wonder how in the world you’re going to pull this off.  You get your research on, pulling the information needed for the presentation.  And then comes show time.  You get up in front of the group to present your findings…only to find yourself doing your best Marcel Marceau impersonation.  You can neither speak nor find the words.  Your palms get clammy, while beads of sweat starting to form on your forehead like condensation on a soda can.  And all you can think of is whether it would be better to exit the building either through the front door…or maybe the window right there would be even better.  Yeah, you’re on the third floor, but perhaps the shrubbery at the ground level will break the fall.

Perhaps.  But maybe there’s a better way of handling your extreme reaction to public speaking.  And admittedly, you might have never faced either that scenario or reaction.  But chances are very good at some point in your life you’ve been asked to make a presentation, give some kind of impromptu talk about yourself or what you do for a living, give some kind of critical feedback on somebody else’s work, or asked to serve in a leadership capacity at either your company or a social organization.  If you’ve ever had doubts as to how to go about doing any of those things and, frankly, you do find yourself getting nervous about the prospects and wish you had some resource available to you to help you build your confidence in your communications and leadership, then look no forward than Toastmasters.

Since 1924, Toastmasters has been a force for personal and professional development.  With over a quarter million members worldwide in nearly 13,000 clubs, Toastmasters offers a variety of benefits to its diverse membership.  Everybody has their own reasons for joining a Toastmasters club.  Here are my Top 7 reasons to join Toastmasters…

1.)    Because communication isn’t optional.  That’s one of the marketing mottos of the organization, and few sayings could be truer.  We live in a world that thrives on communication and we all must learn to communication in as clear a way as possible.  Toastmasters provides a regular opportunity (usually either weekly or every other week) to practice and hone your communications skills.

2.)    Recognition.  There are three types of people who like recognition: men, women and children.  Toastmasters features an education program that rewards its members for presenting speeches and serving in a variety of leadership roles within the club and its meetings.  Those levels of achievement are immediately recognizable by all members of the organization.  From attaining Competent Communicator and Leader levels to being presented the coveted Distinguished Toastmaster award, Toastmasters recognizes its members for the efforts made and the work done.

3.)    Camaraderie.  Toastmasters operates within what I call a “mutual benefit society.”  Your fellow Toastmasters want to see you succeed, improve and grow within the organization.  From that, new friendships are formed that often times result in lifelong relationships.

4.)    Competitions.  Every year, Toastmasters conducts several speech contests.  Such competitions include humorous speech, table topics (impromptu speaking), speech evaluations and the famed International Speech Contest.  The winner of the international competition is crowned the World Champion of Public Speaking and becomes part of an elite group of recognized speakers within the organization.  Most people don’t enter Toastmasters for the sake of contests and many are surprised to find how much they enjoy the contests once they get involved.  Whether at the club level or on the world stage, Toastmasters competitions give our members a vehicle for pitting their skills against others.

5.)    Leadership Development.  Most people only think of communications when it comes to Toastmasters.  Leadership, however, is the other critical component of the membership experience.  The world needs leaders.  Our communities, our organizations, our companies, and even our families need leaders.  Toastmasters provides regular opportunities to develop critical leadership skills such as listening, motivating, guiding, planning, and mentoring.  Just as communications is of extreme value in the world in which we live, so is leadership.  Toastmasters is quite possibly the finest organization in the world to develop the leader within each of its members.

6.)    Value.  Communications, public speaking and leadership courses can run hundreds of dollars for a relatively short amount of training or conference time.  Even though you can never truly place a price tag on the ability to develop outstanding communications and leadership skills, it might be nice to find a place where one can attain these skills while not annihilating the ol’ checking account.  Between Toastmasters and club dues and fees, membership in Toastmasters typically runs less than $100 (U.S.) per year.  For the regular meetings, the resources you receive as a member (including introductory speech and leadership manuals for new members), the feedback given on your involvement and the resulting personal and professional growth, you’re never going to find a better return on your investment.  Anywhere.  Period.

7.)    The chance to pay it forward.  As my own involvement has increased, I find myself becoming more and more a (pardon the expression) Toastmasters evangelist.  My personal opinion is that how could somebody not want to become a member of Toastmasters?  For all of the reasons I listed (and a score of reasons more), joining a Toastmasters club is nothing short of a winning proposition.  And when you get immersed in the organization and your club, you want others to be a part of the fun and learning.  They’ll thank you for it and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you contributed something positive and valuable to somebody’s life.

So we come to my own reason for joining Toastmasters.  I walked into my first Toastmasters meeting in early 2009 already having a public speaking background.  I had heard about the organization over the years from teachers and in some of the books by noted sales expert Zig Ziglar.  All I knew was if it was good enough for Zig, it was good enough for me.  I wanted to become a better speaker and I knew Toastmasters would help me do it.  What I didn’t know at the time was that, nearly four years later, I would have served a term as my club’s president and Area Governor, and go on to serve as a Division Governor working with other local clubs, and participate in (and even managed win or place runner-up) a couple of speech and speech evaluation contests.  Along the way I’ve met some amazing people and made wonderful friends.  It’s been one of the best decisions of my life.  I encourage you and yours to look into the same.

You can find out more about Toastmasters at:  www.toastmasters.org .

The Fantastic Four of Sales Book

I do a lot of reading.  A lot.  I’ve been told that the more you read, the more you earn.  I’m still waiting for that paycheck to show up in the mailbox.  Out of the plethora of subjects out there (yes, I went there…a plethora of subjects), I find business reading to be among my favorites.  To whittle that list down further, I particularly enjoy reading books on sales.  Most are written by “experts,” though I’m still unsure what consititutes having that title bestowed upon an author.

But I digress.

Let’s face it, many (if not most) of today’s sales reading consists of re-hashed ideas that are simply rearranged and packaged in brighter and flashier colors.  No offense to any authors is intended, of course. (Especially considering I may one day throw my own hat into the ring.)  Unless it incorporates the concepts and useage of social media (which is now starting to suffer the same ailment of recycled ideas), there really isn’t anything new under the sales sun.

Or is there?

In my reading, I have come across four books that, for one reason or other, seem to stand out among the pantheon of sales authors and their works.  These are the “Fantastic Four” and are truly “must have” selections in your own professional library.  They are:

1.)  “Sell or Be Sold” by Grant Cardone (formerly entitled Sell to Survive, now expanded with new content).  Grant is a sales trainer par excellence whose seminar I have personally attended.  Coming from an auto sales background, Grant has branched out into television, radio, and a series of books.  This book is not typical in the way of “this is how you cold call, this is how you qualify, etc.”  Rather, I would classify this as a “sales philosophy” book as Grant feeds the fuel for being passionate about sales and seeing that sales is an essential activity in everyone’s life, no matter what their vocation, age, or station in life.  It’s hard to not find yourself getting jacked up on selling while reading this book.  Sales is a way of life and everything depends on selling.  This book shows you why.

2.) “Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar.  Zig is THE man when it comes to the practice of sales in the last several decades.  Motivational as well as extremely useful, this book contains more jewels than Buckingham Palace.  This book is great because it offers probably any and all scenarios a sales professional might be faced with, and how to handle those scenarios.  Zig also peppers in his own wit and wisdom throughout the pages.  The word I use to best describe this book is “practical.”  There is nothing crazy or over the top in his thinking…just real practical thinking and execution.  I have several of Zig’s books in my library, but this is my favorite and will always be a classic.

3.) “Little Red Book of Selling”/”Little Red Book of Sales Answers” by Jeffrey Gitomer.  Okay, so I cheated by adding two separate books in this listing.  It’s my blog though, so sue me.  Kidding.  Besides, they’re both the “red books” in his series of sales and professional reading, so it fits.  If you’ve read any of Jeffrey’s books or his weekly “Sales Caffeine” ezine, you know that he’s probably one of the most unique personalities out there.  He’s edgy.  He’s witty.  He’s also one of the few guys (like Grant Cardone) who will actually encourage you to bust up the status quo and do it with no apologies…which is very cool because why, after all, would you want to do what 95% of the sales force out there is doing (and not getting the results they truly want)?  The first of these two books is along the vein of the traditional “how to be the best” sales books, while the second gives his 99.5 answers to the most common sales questions.  The thing that separates these (and his other books) from the rest of the pack is that he presents his information in short, manageable chunks that you can read on the fly without getting bogged down with a lot of other text (which also results in a smaller-sized book that makes it easier to bring around with you).  Straight, direct, and to the point.  Like Jeffrey.

4.) “Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work)” by Stephan Schiffman.  Best. Cold calling.  Book. Ever.  Okay, I’m not really 15 years old, but if I was that’s how I would describe this book.  When I was full-time on the phones and trying to uncover prospective clients, I would struggle for how to present myself in the best way possible in the best amount of time to get the best results.  A stroll through the Barnes and Noble business section led me to this gem a few years ago, and my cold calling was never the same.  I found my cold call – appointment conversion ratio going from around 10% to closer to an average of 50-60%.  Translation: more appointments leading to more sales leading to more cha-ching.  Most sales professionals would prefer a double root canal without the anesthesia than being asked to make a handful of cold calls each day.  If you’ve got a fever for cold calls, the only prescription is this book.  If you commit yourself to learning the techniques Stephan presents (which aren’t rocket science but are also not practiced by a great many sales people, which means you can set yourself apart as a breath of fresh air on the other end of the line), you’re going to find yourself with more sales appointments than you’ll know what to do with.  Which leads to a good problem of trying to figure out how to invest the added income you’ll be generating each month.

I realize there are a plethora (must be the word of the day, kids) of authors in this category out there, and many of those worthy of more than a quick flip through their works at the bookstore.  These are the books, though, that I have personally recommended to other sales professionals in my circle.  I now recommend them to you.  If you call yourself a salesman and want to get a step up on the competition, invest in yourself by adding these books (and others by these authors) to your personal sales library.

QUESTION:  What book(s) would YOU add to this list and why?  Let me know in a reply below.