Pinnacleceo's Take

Experiences put to paper…

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Happy Leap Year! Celebrate 24 Hours of Opportunity

Happy Leap Year! Okay when was the last time someone said that to you? Can you imagine looking forward to February 29th with the same enthusiasm as your favorite holiday? I mean we should never think of celebrating this one extra day that comes around every four years…or should we.

Every four years we are given an extra day of which we must account for. My question for you and me is; what are we going to do with it? It is an extra day to discover an opportunity? Is it a day to perhaps learn something new or make someone else’s day a little better OR, is it a day which you must justify the expense? Here are a few thoughts to consider how to celebrate your extra day.

Get started early. Even if you are an early starter, for today get up a little earlier to take full advantage of your extra 24. You can spend a little extra time for yourself, with your family or just get productive a little bit earlier.
Make an extra business call. If you are contacting prospective customers, or have existing clients to follow up on take this opportunity to make just one more call than you had planned or drop in on one more prospect before you call it a day.
Do something for someone else just because. Since when does there have to be a reason to do something for someone else. Ask a colleague to go to lunch or if you are really brave, drop by your child’s school and take them to lunch. I used to do this when my kids were young and their eyes never lit up brighter than when I would show up…well except for Christmas, but that’s another story.
Read an article about something you have interest in. Believe it or not, I have been reading a lot of other writer’s blogs on a variety of topics. There are some great ideas and concepts out there that I have utilized to help me become a better business man. Whether it for business or a hobby you are passionate about, take some time to learn something new or get better at something old.
Contact a friend or loved one and encourage them. Make someone’s day by wishing them well. I contacted an old friend of mine the other day just to see how they were doing. I discovered they were going through a rough time. I simply told them to hang in there, shared a few of my personal experiences and let him know that if there was anything I could do, just let me know. I meant it. At the conclusion of our conversation he stated how much he appreciated my call and how much it helped him when he really needed it. To be honest, I think it helped me as much or more!

Here is the point. Do something positive with your extra day. Something that will be of benefit or add value to you and to others. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just has to be on purpose. Do it now.

Don’t wait for someone to wish you a Happy Leap Year to remind you of your upcoming opportunity.

I believe that by maximizing your extra day it will lay a foundation on how you look at things for the rest of the year. Your little extra action may develop the habits that create a new way of looking at your business and your life.

I know, I know, not everything is always positive. I must admit there have been times that truly the extra day was another allotment of time that adversely affected my plans, prolonged an invoice going out, or another day that added to the bottom line expense, but I learned something from this ; and thankfully I learned it early.

The extra day was inevitable. No matter how much I wanted the day to end, it played out its entire 24 hour cycle! A few times I tried to simply ignore the day and when I did, the day NEVER ended. So I decided to make the most of my time, and when I did, the day went much faster and I was even surprised at what I could accomplish.

Let me conclude with this. If you are on board with this article, make it happen. Determine right now what you are going to do to make this year’s extra day something to remember. And, for those of you not too sure, let me challenge you to take the LEAP (get it) with the rest of us.

Oh… Happy Leap Year!

Lessons From the Tee

Ahhh, baseball season is just around the corner.  This is one of my favorite times of the year for it brings back great memories of coaching both my sons’ baseball teams. During those years, while I was supposed to be doing the teaching, I learned a very valuable lesson about business and life from one simple batting practice tool.

Every March, baseball hopefuls bundle up in winter clothes and head out the door to meet up with their new found team mates ready to take on yet another little league baseball season. It is quite a site seeing these future all stars show up on a chilly 40 degree day wearing so much protective gear (I’m sure their mother’s dressed them), they can barely move.  Nonetheless, with bats in hand, each is ready to take their turn at doing what they have waited what seems a lifetime to do…step up to the plate and hit away!

At the first practice, after all introductions, and coaching philosophies have been motivationally expressed, it is time to break up in groups to make assessments of the team we are to become. As we are about to break huddle, I am given the task of assigning hitting stations. One station will have a coach throwing to the boys; one station, a dad will be loading a pitching machine and it will hurl the ball to the batter at various speeds; and one station will be me with a batting tee.

Now it is a good thing that I am not too sensitive about this ritual for you see, when a player is assigned to either of the first two stations, their eyes light up and they cant wait to start, BUT, when a player finds out their first quest of the young season with their new $400.00 bat is going to the tee with  me, you would think that I had just crushed them for life. WHY?…

Everybody loves the first two stations because it’s action-packed. They can see the results of their efforts as the ball soars gloriously into the outfield. The tee is boring, it is not fun at all.  Think about it, using the tee, all you do is hit a ball that sits motionless on a stick, into a fence that is about 10 feet away…that’s it.  How much fun can that be?

One particular participant when it was his time to hit from the tee, made the comment, “This is for little kids”.  Quite a statement coming from a nine year old.  This was my chance for a great coaching moment.

I asked him who his favorite major league baseball player was and he told me.  (Being from Texas, he named a Texas Ranger).  I told him that every spring training when A-Rod goes to camp, one of the first things he does to get ready to become the hitter he will be, is a trip to the tee.  Well, when I informed him of this, while still not what he wanted to do, he proceeded with his turn at the tee.

The tee is a great learning tool because it is one of the only times you can break down a swing while actually swinging.  You can tell if your hitting all the ball, swinging up, chopping down, you can see if the batter is lifting their head too early and not keeping their eye on the ball.  The tee is where you find your strentghs and your weaknesses. IT IS  WHERE YOU GET BETTER.  The tee is the ultimate test of your hitting skills on the fundamentals!

The lesson I learned from this exercise that took place every March for at least 10 years of my life is this.  The fundamentals never changed in business or life. No matter how big or strong the kids, got…no matter how they matured or their skills developed, the way they became the best player they could be was based on how seriously they took to mastering the fundamentals.

What ever industry or business you are in, there are fundamentals.  I know what they are for me.You know what they are for you, if you don’t, find a mentor or a coach that can help.  I challenge you to consistenty go back and master your fundamentals.  I know that no matter how many more years I am fortunate to add to my business career, I will never be too good that the fundamentals will be beneath me.  It is my hope that you will feel the same way too. And, should you ever become complacent about this topic…please take a few swings at the tee!

A Successful Prospecting Experiment. The Conclusion

Welcome back to the conclusion of “A Successful Prospecting Experiment”.  Let’s take a look at the variables and how we apply the controllables to them to impact results.

Every morning before I start my prospecting, I take out a devise that works like a crystal ball.  It tells me who I should call, when I should call to make certain they are there; It also predicts which prospects are going to schedule an appointment, which ones will cancel on me an hour before the meeting, it tells me which prospect is going to say “yes” and which ones are going to say “no” and finally it tells me how many referrals each person is going to give me!  I am sure every one of you reading this has that same devise right…No?

Wouldn’t it be great if the above scenario were the case? We could know for certain who to call and spend all our time there.  Unfortunately this is not the case.  All the items I mentioned above are VARIABLES to the prospecting experiment.  We will not know until we apply a controllable application to each of them, what the result will be.

Each of the A’s we control (Attitude, Activity, Accountability, Assessments and Adjustments) have a specific application that is applied to each of the variables mentioned above.  What we are going to do now is grab our beaker and mix the controllables and variables together to produce our outcome.

Variable: Contacting a prospect. Controllable Application: Make the call

It can be very easy to try to convince yourself as to why you should not call.  I have heard things like, “It’s Friday and they are probably off for the weekend” or “Today is President’s Day” (actually at the time of this writing, Monday really is President’s Day).  The point is, while you can do your homework in evaluating the best time to call someone, we are not guaranteed we will reach them. But we can guarantee an opportunity to talk with them by controlling our action and making the call or knocking on the door.

In my early days, I must confess that I tried to talk myself out of making a call, especially when I was stepping out of my comfort zone and entering a more sophisticated market.  To combat this, I made it mandatory that once I picked up the phone, I dialed the number. I had reached the point of no return and could not sit the phone back down until I talked to someone or heard the voicemail. It worked.

Variable: Appointment cancels. Controllable Application: Schedule another

I touched on this in an early writing. No one likes it, but there are times when the big one you have worked on, that you are counting on, cancels or reschedules. What you do after that really says a lot about what kind of career you have in front of you.  Hard as it may be, the best thing you can do, is start finding a replacement right away.  I have seen this scenario happen to good salespeople and it frustrates them so, that they cannot function until the next day or until after a long weekend.  C’mon. I know it’s tough, I’ve been there but remember who’s in control. Pick up the phone and go again.

Variable: Prospects response. Controllable Application: Seek the “yes”

I had an agent once who was given a referral to a very prominent figure in our community.  Everyone knows him and he fit the profile of a great client.  Instead of getting excited about the meeting, the agent remarked that “every agent in this town has probably contacted him and he already has all he needs”.  Really? How did he know that? The point is he will never know if he doesn’t ask. The only thing we can control is when we have the opportunity to share our story, we ask for the business.  How many opportunities do you miss personally by trying to “predict” what someone will say?  Seeking the yes is within your control!

Variable: Getting a referral. Controllable Application: Ask after you earn

Referrals are the life blood to a sales career period; yet for some reason they are often overlooked.  Why?  See if you can identify with this: Forget to ask. You get caught up in the moment of the sale and you just simply forget. How about this: Not sure it’s a good idea. You are right if you presentation is high pressure, and unprofessional BUT, if you believe what you offer has value and if you have proven that to a potential prospect, whether they become a client or not, you have earned the right to ask for a favorable introduction to others.  It may be simply “who do you know that I can approach in the same way I approached you” or “If you know anyone looking for a great business experience, tell them about me!” Either way or any way you choose to do it, the key again is you are in charge of the asking.

Okay, so here is the BIG point to this part of the experiment. Ready…FOCUS YOUR TIME ON CONTROLLING THE CONTROLLABLES NOT GUESSING ON A VARIABLE! Don’t waste your time trying to control a variable.  You can’t. If you will spend your time controlling what you can control, you will influence the variables to favorably impact your results.

The Results: The undeniable outcome of our efforts

Now that we have mixed it all together, let’s see what we have created. The key here is that what you see is what you get. The results are undeniable.  Do you like what you see? If yes congratulations, keep it up.  If not go back immediately to the controllables.

By effectively utilizing this formula for prospecting, you can be assured of one key result and that is a consistent flow of business opportunities.  That is all we can ask for…an opportunity to show value of what we do.

So there is your experiment.  I hope your results are what you want them to be and they can be if you stay in control.  Happy Prospecting!

A Successful Prospecting Experiment Part 1

Regardless of where you are in your business career, if you need customers, you will always have the need to be your best at prospecting. Here is a simple yet proven approach to a very important part of your workday!

Remember when you took chemistry back in high school or junior high? If you were like me, you loved to mix things up and see what kind of mess you could make, I mean the bigger the explosion the better…right? With that being said I want to take you back to the lab so to speak with that same enthusiasm and conduct a prospecting experiment that if handled correctly can create positive long term results but, if handled incorrectly, can produce a mess that may become too big to clean up. Grab your lab coat and let’s go!

The Controllables, The Variables and The Results

As with all experiments, I recall that there are specific components to the process. There are the “controllables”; the things we are in charge of completely. There are the variables; the things we don’t know until we apply the controllables; and finally, the results; the undeniable outcome of our efforts.

The Controllables

Let’s look at the controllables (Okay I know this is not a real word, but just go with it). In the prospecting process, what are the things we control? Here are five A’s for you to consider:

First is our attitude. Do you look forward to making the call, sending the letter, knocking on the door? When you do these things are your expectations as such that you believe your best customer is just around the corner or do you believe another rejection looms. I know you read about the importance of your attitude all the time, but it simply cannot be overstated. Your attitude will determine when and if you prospect…even more so your urgency to keep it under control.

You control your activity. This is not your sales manager’s job or your associate’s job…it’s yours. You are in charge of keeping your funnel full. If your sales are down, or if your appointments aren’t where you want them to be, guess who controls how to change it? The economy, the market, or any other circumstances should not decide when you should pick up the phone. Regardless of any of these things, if you’re in sales and live on commissions or fees, I’m sure you will agree, you still have to eat in any economic environment!

Accountability: Personal ownership of the results. I hope each of us has a measure to what we are doing and a timeline in which to gage performance. Accountability should not be something our manager or supervisor forces us to do every Friday. It should be something we choose to do for ourselves. Control!

We determine how we evaluate or performance. We control assessments. While accountability is critical to success, how we assess our performance measures is of equal importance. For example: are you making enough calls? Are you calling the right people? Is there a better way or time to approach? Without proper attention to assessments you may find yourself on the business treadmill; getting a workout but the view never changes…I think you get the picture so let’s move on.

The final controllable is adjustments. Adjustments are actions on purpose. They are intentionally done to impact results. Adjustments are clear, identifiable steps to change the results in your favor. More calls between specific times, more letters to a specific neighborhood to be sent out on Tuesday for the next 4 weeks. These are identifiable steps you can track. And speaking of tracking, Have you ever said “the next time…” or “I’ll start doing that when… only to discover that those dates become an obscure idea that may one day actually show up on your calendar. When you identify the next move forward, implement it right away. Don’t wait for a sign, remember who is in control!

In part 2 of “A Prospecting Experiment” we will address the variables and how we mix them with what we control to provide consistent, positive prospecting results.

A Table In Maria’s Section

I’ve been writing quite a bit lately, but I am about to get busy and hit the road again. So, before I do, I wanted to share this article with you in hope that it will inspire you like it did me.  Enjoy.

I found this great little home-owned café in my town a few months ago that makes a great breakfast.  It’s one of those places you can smell the aroma from the parking lot.  It is just as you would imagine; checkered cloths on the tables and a stack of extra chairs are located against the wall, just in case they are needed (they usually are!).  The only contemporary event that takes place, is that you must wait to be seated. 

 On my first visit, I was waiting in line for my turn to be seated, when the couple in front of me asked if they could be seated in Maria’s section.  I did not think much of it at the time until my next visit when the same thing happened again.  A gentleman asked if there were any tables in Maria’s section.  Now I was curious…what was so special about Maria’s section?  Did it have a better view, was the room nicer; what?  I had to find out so when it was my turn, I too asked if there were any tables in Maria’s section…there were.

 As I glanced at the menu to look at all the options (although I already had my mind made up) I looked up and coming into our section of the café, was the biggest smile carrying a coffee pot I had ever seen!  She walked up and down the aisle, filling coffee cups, asking if there was anything she could do and conversing with folks like she had known them her entire life.  As she approached me she said “Good Morning” My name is Maria and I am happy you stopped in our café for breakfast.  May I start you with some coffee?” 

Keep in mind that her job description probably did not require her to tell me her name, afterall it was right there on her badge. And she probably was not required to tell me she was happy to see me…but you could tell she genuinely was! The entire time she was waiting on customers, she had this heir about her that she really loved what she was doing.  Whether it was delivering hot plates or clearing dirty ones, she did each task with a purpose and an attitude of how much she enjoyed her job!

 Needless to say, when I left that day, I too felt as if I had known Maria my entire life.  There is just something about a person with a positive, welcoming approach to life and to work, that draws you to them.  Maria like all of us, has the ability to make the best or the worst of what we do day after day.  I don’t know if Maria’s goal in life is to be a waitress, if it is, she will make the hall of fame.  If she wants to pursue other aspirations, I can’t help but believe the doors will be wide open.

 Here is the point.  We need to make our customers feel like they are sitting in Maria’s section every day. Waiting in line so to speak to do business with you!  We need to enjoy and be thankful for our opportunities and make the most of our day.  Regardless of what you do, if you are fortunate to get up tomorrow morning and go to work, you are blessed.  

 Now hold on; I know things aren’t always going to run smoothly.  I am sure there were days that Maria may not have felt like being so outgoing, and perhaps just before she came down the aisle to refill all those empty coffee cups, she may have had an encounter with a disgruntled customer.  The point is that if she did, you never knew it.  She never showed it.  She just kept making the most of her day.  I learned a lot about running my business and my life from the events I witnessed in this cozy little café.

 So as I draw this writing to a close, it is my hope is that you too will learn a valuable lesson from a waitress named Maria; to be thankful and make the most of every day; to make each customer feel like a welcomed friend.

 Tomorrow has a new opportunity for me.  I think I’ll start off with a good breakfast…hope there’s a table in Maria’s section!

Learn to Listen to Stories About Cows

I’ve been asked over and over again to share this story and since I have been blogging quite regularly, I thought now would be a great time to do so. The event I am about to share with you happened over twenty years ago, yet still serves as a driving force to how I conduct my business today…It is a story about cows.

The first thing you may say is “wait a minute, where could there possibly be a learning moment in that?” Cows? Really? Yep..cows. Here you go.

I had recently graduated from college and found myself in my small farming community home town opening up shop on my very own financial services practice. I had a great natural market because everyone knew my family and I represented a company with an extremely great reputation.

One of the first things I was taught was to establish great reference centers. For those who are not familiar with this term, a reference center is someone or something that values what you do enough to send folks your way. I had a great one with a local bank.

When I began my practice, banks were just getting into offering financial services and since I was operating in a small community, this concept had not made it to our fair city, therefore a great opportunity lay before me.

One particular day, a nice elderly farmer came into my office. I could tell he had just come in from the fields because his boots were still muddy. He walked in, sat down at my desk and stated that he was here to see me about a retirement account because his banker told him to do so. Great I thought to myself, this is what a reference center relationship is all about”.

After a little education on retirement plans, Mr. G. wrote me a check for $2000.00 and we completed the paperwork and the deal was done. However, the meeting was not. For the next 45 minutes or so, Mr. G. began his on education program on a topic of which I had absolutely no interest in…cows.

With his very slow southern-drawn accent, he proceeded to tell me that cattle prices were bad, feed costs were high and it was just too dry! I tried my best to engage him but the task was too difficult and 45 minutes seemed like 4.5 hours. You may say, “Why did you try to engage him. Did you not feel stupid?” I did, but I was trying to build a practice and although this transaction put sixteen dollars in my pocket, he was a client, PLUS, I wanted to take care of the referral from my reference center. Honestly I was grateful when the ordeal concluded.

The next year, this same sequence of events took place. This time, I was ready. I had read up on cattle prices and was able to have a somewhat intelligent conversation with him. He seemed pleased as he wrote me another check for $2000.00. Same commission, but I felt much better.

The following year, it was time for Mr. G to visit again only this time he did not come in. His son did. He wanted to talk about what he needed to do about his father’s IRA because Mr. G. had recently passed away. I was sad to hear the news. Then he said something to me that rings as clear to me today as it did then.

“Tim, I wanted to also come here today and talk to you about investing some of the money my dad left me, because he always enjoyed coming to town and talking with you about his cows” (You should have chills now).

I learned Mr. G was worth much more than an IRA for on the same land he raised cows, he also pumped oil. I earned the biggest account I would earn for the next five years. You see, this event took place because three years earlier, I came to a crossroad. I could have very easily scooted Mr. G. out the door at our very first meeting, but I chose not to. I chose to value the opportunity.

This event changed my life in many ways. First of all ,it catapulted me to an income level never experience before and it qualified me for our top sales conference that allowed me to sit on a “panel of experts” to share my secrets of success. I’ll never forget, sitting on that stage, listening to my peers share their secrets in 3 steps formulas. I became a bit nervous when it was my time to speak. I mean, I’m 27 years old and I can only share what I experienced, what could I say?

Then it happened; my turn. When the question was asked; “Tell us your secret to success” all I could think to say was: “I learned to listen to stories about cows”. That’s it. No big, complex system, just learning to value every client as if they are the most important entry in my sales book.

The other thing I learned is to not overlook the bread and butter sales; the ones that sustain you. I want the homerun sale just like everybody else but I need to hit the singles everyday while I am pursuing it.

So here is my challenge to you. Value every opportunity you have, never take anything for granted. Your personal cow story may be just around the corner waiting for you. While listening to it unfold may not always get the BIG account , you will get a client that will stay with you forever, give you first shot at all their needs and tell others how great you are…that’s a pretty good deal if you ask me!

A “Yes” Can Make Your Day…A “No” Can Make You Strong

On a typical selling day, anything can happen. I have preached endlessly about doing all you can to control your day, and I will support that effort forever, BUT, we live in a world that provides us the unexpected every day both good and bad.  Obviously it is easy to finish out the day when the unexpected is a favorable event but what do we do when the unexpected brings us a great letdown…hmmm.

Imagine this: It is a beautiful Tuesday morning and you are on the phone with what you believe to be the biggest potential client of your life! You can just see the $$$. The prospect agrees to meet with you this upcoming Friday at 11:00 a.m. BOOM, you’re in.  You confirm the appoint, hang up the phone and you are so excited about the conversation you can’t wait to get on the phone and call someone else. You say to yourself “That was easy, let’s do it again” and the rest of your day regardless of what happens next is filled with anticipation because Friday at 11:00 a.m. is on the way!

Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. your phone rings…It’s the BIG one telling you something has come up and they must put you off. Again BOOM, only this time BOOM rattles you to your core.  You have been counting on this for three days now you are not sure it will happen at all. Now what?

This scenario can happen at any time, but it is what you do after this letdown that will define your sales practice. To take this scene a step further, you may have put in a great deal of time working with someone on a deal and at the last minute for whatever reason you hear that dreaded word “NO”  I capitalize it for a reason.  It is one of the biggest words a salesperson will ever hear. I have heard it many times and I am confident as long as I stay in the “asking” business, I will hear it many more times.  To be quite frank, now that I look back this word has probably had more impact on where I am today than any other word.  For you see, a “yes” can make your day but what you do with the “No” can make you strong.

Many times when a salesperson gets the “No” it saps the very life right out of them.  They become useless for the rest of the day or even the work week! I’ve seen it.  I have heard comments like “What difference does it make-I’ll start my calls again next week, I’m outta here”. When the BIG one gets away, don’t quit, look for another one.  There is no gain in a “what’s the use” approach.  In fact if this attitude is sustained for a long period of time, the phone collects dust, the “I’ll start my calls next week” never happens and the inevitable occurs, another one bites the dust.

Here is the point.  Make the “NO” an ally not an enemy.  You may think this next statement is more absurd than the latter but try this:  Look for as many “No’s” as you can!  Seek them out for when you do, strength will occur.  First you will realize that “No” is part of your sales career and that it really isnt so bad afterall.  Don’t take it personal. You will see that when you hear “No” you can handle it.  But the beauty of seeking the “No” is that in the midst of all of this you will find that nugget every one of us is searching for, a “yes”.

Your positive approach to what you do after the “No’s” in your life can make you strong.  They can define you instead of defeat you.  You will discover that this word is not so big after all. In fact, it becomes the driving force for you to call or contact again and again. Through all the things  salespeople deal with every day, with the right attitude, the next make-your-day “yes” is waiting… if you are strong enough to find it.  Happy selling.

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