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Archive for the category “Business”

The Logical Flow of Developing Great Business and the Number One Reason it Stops!

Allow me to preach for a moment to all the sales/business development people out there. But before I do, please let me preface my sermon…

I have been fortunate to be in business for myself for 32 years. I love all it affords. The potential, the flexibility and the opportunities to help others. I have always and will always take the approach that I have much to learn. Any time I can gather any knowledge, concept or an idea that will make me better, I will always be open to it. The minute or even the second I believe that I KNOW IT ALL, is the beginning of my downfall.

There are some things however I have learned and experienced first-hand that I believe to be unconditional truths about business development. One, there is a logical flow to great business development and two, there is one primary reason it stops! Based on that preface and supported evidence from my personal experiences, I’ll begin my sermon.

Basic logic when it comes to developing great business is simple: Grow business and revenue through products/services purchased consistently from loyal customers and clients who are identified through promotion activity.

To grow your business and generate revenue, you must have a product or service that provides and perceives value.

In order to sell your product or service to make revenue, you must have a market. You need customers and clients. Some markets are vast and some are specialized but regardless, you must have enough people willing to consistently purchase what you are offering.

To identify customers and clients, you must promote yourself and what you are offering. For me the very best way to do this is prospecting. I believe regardless of the product or service you provide, regardless of the set up or means of delivering your product or service (that is people coming to you or you going to them), to secure a constant logical flow of business development you MUST prospect!

I’ve seen a lot of different negative approaches and attitudes about prospecting over the years. Here are a few. See if you can identify with them.

  • Prospecting is tough. It can be. The main reason salespeople feel this way is a result of a fear factor of being rejected. No one likes to hear “no” but some get to the point to where they fear it so much, they can’t muster the courage to go again. Remember, when you hear that word, it is not a personal attack on you.
  •   I don’t have any prospects/I’ve run out of prospects. Why not? How? If you have truly exhausted every opportunity to promote yourself, gathered every referral possible, sought out every alternative market or situation and you have no one to talk to and you are not generating the livelihood you want or need, then you need to seek other opportunities. I do not want to be rude but if you have genuinely run out of market, then you need to do something else. Be honest, is that the truth or an excuse? If it is the truth, you need to find another way to generate revenue and enjoy your life!
  •  The economy is bad right now. You still have to eat don’t you? About ten years ago I had a very profitable market that I prospected that went through some major changes. For a period of about one year, when I prospected them I heard the same thing time after time, “No” things are very tight now, budget cuts, etc. Regardless of the reason, I still had to provide for my family.

I’ll admit it was very tough for a while. But the reality was I had to do something. Just because things were not going the way I planned was no excuse for me to quit.  Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that regardless of how your business is flowing, or how the economy is doing, you keep getting things from the electric and phone companies, (to name a few), every thirty days?

The only way to remedy this was to take control of the situation. The only way I knew how to do that, was to turn up the prospecting activity. It was either that or seek other means of earning a living. Since I had poured my life into what I believed and what I loved, there was only ONE option for me…I got productive in prospecting!

My efforts awarded me a new market that I had never worked in. Had I not been in the position I was in, I might not have found this market as quickly as I did. Additionally, after two years, the industry that I lost earlier came back and now I have two markets in my prospecting mix to develop business in!

Over the years, the example above has happened time and time again. External circumstances, economic conditions and other variables out of my control have impacted my business flow, but I have always been able to successfully ride every situation out because I believe in and I know how to prospect.

The number one reason I have found great business flow stops is when prospecting stops. When you stop filling your funnel with potential…your potential stops. It’s simple logic!

Most successful sales people regardless of how long they have been in business will tell you that it’s not difficult making a sale, or building a relationship. If you are professional and offer value to improve the lives of those you serve, closing the deal is an enjoyable experience. It’s the continued, constant process of finding those relationship building situations that requires the most focus.

So there you have it. My experience has shown me there is a logical flow to building and sustaining great business.  A great product or service requires long term loyal customers and the way to find long term loyal customers is to constantly have your funnel full of great prospects. The only way to have a funnel full of great prospects is to…I think you get the idea.

It is my hope that each of you find great business opportunities consistently flowing your way!

Amen.

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’twas the Day Before the Business New Year

’twas the day before the business new year
Opportunities at hand
And me and my laptop were ready
To execute the well thought out plan

Appointments and meetings
Filled every calendar line
I had planned early
And January looked fine

But then my eyes wandered
And I soon became chilled
As I saw weeks in February
That were yet to be filled

So away in my Ford Truck
To the office I flew
It’s all up to me, no excuses
But I knew what to do

On phone calls on emails
On pre-approach letters
Soon appointments were scheduling
And now I felt better

As I looked at my results
A thought entered my head
Never prospect like a passenger
When you can be a driver instead

So as I closed my office door
I said to myself with a grin
“If I will just stay consistent”
This year business will be better, than its ever been!

Four Ways to Avoiding A Business Blindspot

At any given moment, while behind the wheel of your vehicle, you can encounter an event that leaves you with the feeling of complete helplessness.  It is the moment when someone enters the void where you simply can’t see them in your path and unless drastic measures are taken, something could go very wrong.  It is your blind spot.

I try to be a safe driver… seriously I do, but the other day, I was driving back from a meeting on what seemed a fairly empty three lane highway in the town where I live.  I am in the middle lane and I need to move over into the right lane to get on the loop and head to my office. I checked my mirror, no one behind me. I assumed (more about this later), all was clear.  I put on my blinker and proceeded to venture into the right lane when…

BEEP! Out of nowhere a motorcycle begins to swerve into the other lane.  Obviously he was in the lane I was moving into and I never saw it coming.  The driver of the two-wheeler proceeded to remind me of what I had done with a few hand signs and we both moved on much more shaken up than just a few shorts seconds ago.

How many times while driving or while working, do you say to yourself “I never saw it coming” and how often when this occurs does it seem to happen with just a moment’s notice?

The consequences of a blind spot in our business activity can be devastating as well. So here are a few tips on how to avoid them.

Know your market. It is important to know who you are marketing to, what they want, how they want it and also where they get it. Look for changes in perception and adjust accordingly. Also, it is equally important to know that your market is not just your customers it is your competitors too.  It is a great idea to know what they are up to, too…

Be alert. Look both ways.  I believe we can avoid many unfavorable situations if we are paying attention on purpose and look at every angle possible.  Several years ago I developed a software program that I believed to be a great product for senior citizens. This product was developed in the early stages of the Internet.

At that time, a younger more technically savvy market would have no problem logging on the Internet and downloading the software, but, the senior citizens did not share the same confidence. Our research told us this.

We determined that in order for seniors to feel confident, we would offer the software in a CD format.  While it did the same thing as a download, it felt more safe, it was something tangible to them (which we also learned was important then and still is today), and therefore more attractive to our market.

As I look back on those early years, had we just said we don’t care, the Internet is the only way to go and tried to convince them we were right, I fear we would not have been successful at all.  You see we knew are market and alertly paid attention to their needs and wants.

Take a proactive approach. I know this sounds simple but here is the point, don’t let someone or something sneak up on your blind spot.  Don’t get caught off guard. Always take the approach to perform and promote rather than respond and repair.

A great example of a proactive approach is to let customers know what to expect from doing business with you.  It is always beneficial to lay everything out on the table at the beginning, no surprises, than be forced into damage control unnecessarily later on.

Finally assume nothing. Take nothing for granted.  I knew a business owner years ago who was “the only game in town”. He assumed he had no worries, no competitors across the street so why do anything different.  This worked until what he offered could easily be purchased anytime, anywhere on that little box called a computer and using that little thing I referred to earlier; the Internet.   Never assume anything when it comes to your livelihood…can’t be more clear than that.

There you have it, four helpful tips to avoid your business blind spot. In closing I know there are times that you cannot avoid every unforeseen pitfall, But, if you ever experience one, just once, and you get the feeling of complete helplessness along with thoughts of what things might look like had the disaster actually happened, just like me when I almost hit that motorcyclist, you too will do everything within your power to never be put in that situation again. I know that is a feeling we all agree on avoiding!

Three Sticky Resolutions to Lead and Live By

Resolution: A resolve or determination. to make a firm commitment to do something;the mental state of being resolved;firmness of purpose.

At the start of every year, my fitness club is filled with New Year’s resolutions.  So much so, that at times, it is too crowded to get a workout in, and I have to come back..and I do go back!.  But now it is March and what was once a blur of effort has once again become status quo and the only people I see now are the same people that I haves shared stair masters, treadmills and weights with for the past five years.  These are those that stick.

Now I know these others mean well at the beginning, but what happens between the first of January and the first of March that creates this occurrence year after year?  Here are a few thoughts.

First, some people just can’t find the time or won’t make the time to keep coming.  It becomes too difficult to get in the car, let alone spend time exercising. Some stop because they don’t see the results they want quickly enough and give up (I can relate a little).

 Others need someone to encourage them and when their workout buddy quits, it is an open door for their exit too.  Finally some just don’t know what to do. They simply don’t know what needs to be done to sustain results and keep going. Regardless of the reason, these well-intended resolutions just don’t STICK!

As I was thinking about this it reminded me that I need resolve in business and my personal life. I too, have been guilty many a year of setting my sites on something and have fallen short. I have aimed high and missed. But regardless of my failures, I have found three resolutions that simply stick, no matter what.  They have never led me astray or disappointed me. They were the driving force to every success I have experienced and I believe they will lead me to the greatest experience I have yet to encounter.  Here are three sticky resolutions to live and lead by. 

Sticky Resolution 1: ethic of work-be a cultivator. I have a great friend who tells the story of spending many an hour after school as a young man behind the wheel of a tractor. While others were out doing more fun things, he was cultivating the land to prepare for planting. This taught him a valuable lesson that he attributes to the success of his thriving law practice.  I believe it to. I have experienced many times doing “unfun” things that needed to be done in order to get a small business off the ground.  Cultivating is hard work. It requires sacrifice AND, not everyone is willing to do it. In order to reap from any venture, we have to first spend some time behind our own tractor. You know what I mean.

Sticky Resolution 2: Put people first. There is no other commodity on this earth more precious and valuable than being surrounded by good people.  It reminds me of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” when at the end, all the townspeople pitched in to help poor ole’ George Bailey who in reality, was the richest man in town!

Whether a friend, client, co-worker or employee or hey! A member of your family, surround yourself with good people and if you take care of them, they will help take care of everything else.   I don’t have enough paper to share my positive experiences by sticking to this resolution…  I can’t say this with more conviction than that. 

Sticky Resolution 3: Do the right thing everytime. Please, I know this may sound trite but I am sure all of us can reflect back on cross road decisions and the impact felt to this very day on choices made…both good and bad.

I had a client who had an investment mature and we needed to find the best, safest and highest yielding product we could find.  She lived on the income. The investment was a large amount and I was expecting to find a good renewal rate for her, and gain another commission for me.

After much research the best product for her, was an account that paid me nothing.  Here is the deal. My client trusted me and if I had chosen to do so, I could have moved her to another account that would not have paid as much interest, still met her criteria, and paid me a commission. She would have accepted this recommendation…I placed the funds in the zero commission to Tim account and when I did, I never felt better! 

So as you are perhaps refocusing or looking to invest in worthwhile resolutions, please consider these:
Commit to an ethic of work, be a cultivator, prepare for opportunities where you are
Think people first, they are our greatest resource and
 Just do the right thing everytime…period

I’ll admit like many well intended plans, they sound great, they are easy to write about BUT it takes real resolve to make them…stick!

All the best to you and what you do

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.

The Quest for Real Leadership and the Culture of HOPE

There is a scene in the movie “The American President” where Michael Douglas (the President) is having a heated conversation with Michael J. Fox (his domestic advisor) where Mr. Fox states “people are searching for leadership, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone!” While this movie was made in the 90’s could it apply to today?

The key word in the quote above is genuine. That means it is real, it is authentic… period. There is a great difference in real and the imitation brand of anything, particularly in leadership. Just a simple example; I remember when I purchased my first car with real leather seats. There was nothing like it. From the smell when you got in the car, to just the way they made you feel. From that point on, any imitation just would not do. Same with real leadership; once experienced, it becomes the standard.

How do you define genuine leadership? Does it display certain traits? Is there really a visible difference? I believe the answer is yes. Here are two examples of leaders I have been associated with over the past 27 years.

Those that say: This leader feeds you to the sharks. You never really know where you stand with these leader types. Words like “When I did this” or “This is how I did it” yet all you hear are their words and no actions to validate their statements. Other instructions include such things as “it’s out there now go get it!” as they point you to the edge of the plank.

Those that do: This leader will swim in the sharks with you. They dive in first! This leader not only has a conviction about what they do, they show you. There directions are “there is opportunities out there and this is how we will get it, follow me. Both these leader types create a culture inside their organizations that determine how successful or unsuccessful their team will be.

Culture is not fluff: I know this term is used a lot but it is significant. As I stated above, it determines your long term success. Your culture is not so much what you are doing but why you are doing it. People in an energetic culture get things done are more productive and positive. People in a lethargic culture are non-performing, unfocused and live for the 5:00 whistle. People who are acknowledged for great performance will always outperform those who are told they will never measure up. You know exactly what I am talking about. You have been in places where you have witnessed both. Culture can’t be hidden and it begins at the top!

A culture of HOPE: I have recently begun a very strict fitness program. I am getting older and I just need to do this. I have started tracking my efforts and while not easy, I am beginning to see results. It is amazing how one will perform to reach a goal when they are encouraged and are fortunate to live and work in a culture of hope. Hope gives you the belief in what you are doing. It keeps you on the journey. While my progress with my fitness program does not always measure up to my expectations, I continue to pursue the goal because hope keeps me going. I can see the goal and I have a reason to get there!

Early in my sales career and to this day, the driving force to get up and go to work every day is based on the hope and belief I have in what I am doing. It is validated by the people and the business opportunities I discover when HOPE takes over; AND just like my fitness program, sometimes I don’t get everything I expect but that does not change my belief in the journey because I have hope in that there are other opportunities waiting. This is the culture I live in daily. Not a guarantee but promises of opportunity, hope.

A culture of HOPE defined

  1. High in human potential: A HOPE culture realizes unconditionally that the long term success of the organization will be based on how it values its people. They are any organization’s greatest asset. Ask yourself: Do you pay as much attention to your human potential account as your bank account?
  2. Optimistic in approach: Focus on the positive in everything. From work to pursuing opportunities a HOPE culture is one that believes the next opportunity is just around the corner and that each role and responsibility make a difference. Ask yourself: Do you enjoy your work, your co-workers and are you as a leader pursuing and leading to the next great opportunity?
  3. Passionate in performance recognition: Do you truly value your team members, your staff and those who work with you and for you. A HOPE culture passionately recognizes great performance. People are much more inclined to go above and beyond when they know their efforts are noticed. No big ceremonies needed, sometimes just “nice job” or “you made it happen” will do. Ask yourself: Do I consistently recognize those around me when they do a great job or do I take their efforts for granted?
  4. Example led in leadership: As in the illustration above, people will follow you into the sharks if they believe you are genuine. A culture of HOPE is example led from the top. When others see your commitment to the cause, your example, they can’t help but follow…its real! Ask yourself: How well do I provide clear direction and then lead the way?

I believe passionately that we have great leadership potential all around us. From small organizations to huge empires, genuine leadership exists. I am convinced of this every day. There are transparent, sincere individuals among us that people are ready and willing to follow .It is my HOPE you, like me are in high pursuit to be one!

The Million Dollar Question Every Salesperson Should Ask Themselves Everyday Part 2

To begin…a quick review of our question.

“What must I do today, to see enough people favorably to share my story, convince them to do business with me, then tell others about their experience”.

Good. Let’s take a look at the last part of the question and address “share my story”. This is the time to share the compelling presentation of why I as your potential customer have to choose you! Let’s face it; you have put a lot of effort to get to this point. It would be a shame to waste it on a poor unprepared presentation…it must be compelling.

Know before you go. If I’m your prospect, what do you want me to know about you? Are you a long standing company in the community? Do you have something no one else has? Are you famous for your great service and delivery? Tell me! Make your presentation a compelling story that will intrigue your prospects to want to know more.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I have ever had regarding a training presentation has been when someone approaches me after a session and says “It is obvious you know your material” The same applies for you and your sales presentation. Before you go to that precious one-on-one time with your prospect know what you are going to say, know what materials you need (brochures, applications, demonstrations) and know what you want from your prospect and how to ask for it…a very nice segue into the next part of the question!

Convince them to do business with me: By the sheer nature of this part of the question you would think this requires great speeches using words like benefits, features, latest greatest and state of the art etc. Actually this could not be further from the truth. While I am not denying the value of the descriptive process, the less said by you at this point, the more convincing you become! What I mean is this is the time to learn about your prospect. They have heard about you now you need to learn about them. You become much more convincing to a potential customer when they know you care, really care. Once you know what matters, then you can present your features, benefits, products and services because now they are ready see what you’re about!

The final key to convincing is to ask the prospect to take action. Convincing is validating choice and asking to take action. What needs to happen for this deal to take place? What are you going to do and what are they going to do? When your prospects begin to act on your requests they are convinced of their choice and take on an entirely different identity. They are no longer prospect…they are customer!

The final part of the question “tell others about their experience” is by far the most overlooked opportunity in my opinion. People will tell others about you if you ask them to. If you have been in sales very long or if you are just beginning, you will learn that referrals are the lifeblood to your sales practice. You must have them to survive. The “tell others” comes in many shapes and sizes depending on your industry and what you are selling, but regardless of this, the concept is the same. Your new and existing customers can be your greatest source of prospects. They can provide your favorable introductions to others. Isn’t that what the million dollar question asks?

So in conclusion, let me ask you, what is the first thing you are going to ask yourself when you get to work tomorrow and the next day and the next? Your demonstrated response daily holds the key to your career. Happy Selling!

The Million Dollar Question Every Saleperson Should Ask Themselves Everyday Part 1

I’ve been in sales for 26 years now and I no matter how hard I try, there are just some things that do not and will not change. Do you, like me,  find yourself asking questions like; “Is there an easier way to do this?” or “Why is my productivity not where it should be?”. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of self-evaluation and score-keeping. We need to be aware of these things BUT as I stated in my opening sentence, no matter how hard we try to “tweak” the process, the only way to impact our practice is to accept the fact that the process to great selling has never and will never change. Because of this, there is one question, that we as professional sales people need to ask ourselves everyday.

I remember when the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” first aired and seeing individual after individual fall short or reaching the opportunity to hear the million dollar question. They never got the chance to try. Then one day, someone made it; the million dollar question. After a brief pause and a correct answer, BOOM , instant millionaire! That one question changed their life.

Okay, enough of the introduction. I think you get the point. So here it is, the question that if given the opportunity to answer and answered correctly with evidence to support your answer, will change your selling life. Ask yourself everyday…

“What must I do today, to see enough people favorably to share my story, convince them to do business with me, then tell others about their experience”.

That’s it; the million dollar question. Before you make judgments, hear me out. Let’s break this question down.

First of all, the word must is critical. This means it is not an option. It does not need to go through committee. It does not mean try or attempt. Must means it has to happen if it is going to get done.

The next critical word is today. Successful selling is a result of consistent processes. It can be very easy to justify putting off the necessary things until tomorrow, but this mentality will create a hole you might not be able to climb out of. What must I do today means the critical things to do now and everyday of your work week.

What is a “must” thing? Glad you asked. One of the most important things you must do every day is prospect. You know this. Prospecting is a result of your activity. You know this too. But is there more to it than just activity? Yes there is!

Efficient activity is the process of contacting prospects the right way. It is utilizing your resources to determine the most efficient use of your time that creates the most opportunities to gain prospects. Is the personal approach or the telephone the best method to gain a favorable introduction? Do introductory letters or emails open the door more successfully? The key to efficient activity is to determine what works best and focus your time here. This allows more time for the other “must” do part of your day, seeing enough people favorably.

To see enough people favorably…this is the most difficult task at times, getting in front of enough people that are open minded to hear what you have to say. One of the most frustrating things I deal with to this day is not having the opportunity to share my story with more prospects. I believe passionately that what I have to offer provides great value. And to my surprise not everyone feels the same way. Sound familiar? The beauty is that I have the power to do something about it in answering the part of this question “enough people”. To get to whatever this number is, I simply keep doing the right activity everyday and “go figure” more times than not “enough people” seems to take care of itself.

Favorably is a big word. Have you ever heard someone say “You’ll just be wasting your time” Well…don’t waste your time! Favorably means they are ready to learn about what you have to say and listen to your story. Favorable appointments are out there, you just have to know where to find them!

Seeing people favorably is a direct result of efficient activity but it also is impacted by who we are prospecting. Effective prospecting is the key. Answer this: What does your customer look like? Who can benefit the most from hearing your story? This is a critical part selling. This answer comes in many different forms. You may be a generalist that offers services to a wide variety of prospects. For you, your customer takes on many different looks and this is fine as long as you know what you are looking for. A specialist however, may have a more limited marketplace and therefore must really be attentive to where they are and how to approach them. Regardless of where you are, the key is to know who you can help, where you can find them and spend your time here.

Several years ago I met a man with great potential and character. He aspired to be a successful financial services agent. After a few months in the business, he was packing up shop and headed to another adventure. The interesting thing about this is that each week when the new agents shared their numbers, his activity and appointments were through the roof. The problem was that all the folks he was prospecting did not have the need for what he offered nor the wherewithal to pay for it. As a result, his prospecting efforts though valiant, led to the demise of his sales practice. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we should not help people in need, but from a business perspective, you must be working in markets that have a need for what you offer, have the ability to pay and will see you on a favorable basis. This is the definition of effective prospecting. Spending time outside this scope can cost you time and money and even your career.

So there you have the first part of the million dollar question. In my next blog, we will look at “share my story and convince them to do business with me and tell others about their experience”. Didn’t want to give you all of it at one time, you might not read it all and besides…I want you to come back.

It’s About Time: The Productive 24 Part 2

To begin let’s review some of the points of part 1. We talked about how time has become one of our greatest competitors and how we must always pay attention to time. We discussed how time plays no favorites; we are each given the same amount to work with. We looked at how our attitude towards time impacts what we do with time. Remember we make time for the things we love and find time to do the things we dislike. Finally we looked at how time rewards the diligent and punishes the slacker.

Now let’s take a look at four common modes of time management operation. Each has specific symptoms and thankfully a remedy. Here we go…

The first common mode of operation is the FIREFIGHTER.
Symptoms: Everything is an emergency. The minute you walk in the door, you are met with a day of unexpected events. While you had every intention of being productive, you find yourself putting out fires all day long.
Remedy: Allocation
Days like this happen to each of us. What we must understand is that there is NO WAY to handle every task at one given moment. With that said we must prioritize the task and then allocate a specific time or deadline to complete it. Ask yourself, is this something that must be done immediately or can I deal with this when the doors close? Naturally if it truly is an emergency, then you must deal with it first. Prioritization can help with this.
Allocation understands that there is a limited amount of resources so we distribute the tasks accordingly.
The last note on allocation is a deadline. This provides accountability to getting the task done. Without a deadline, you may find yourself never getting it done

The next mode of operation is the JUGGLER
Symptoms: Too many tasks can’t get anything done. Feel like you are constantly juggling tasks and never being able to complete or let one go. A side symptom is that you can never say “NO”
Remedy: Delegation
Delegate means to authorize other resources to help. For example, do you have someone you work with that can assist you in the task or do you have a technology resource that can expedite the process. If so, do you know who and what they are and are they easily accessible? Sometimes the toughest thing about delegation is “letting go”. You think thoughts such as “It will take more time to show you how to do it than doing it myself”. Remember, time is a limited resource, so if you do have access to reliable resources, I strongly suggest you use them!

Next we look at the DISTRACTOR
Symptoms: Tasks get off course unintentionally (this is key). You mean well but other things or other people become more appealing or get in your way.
Remedy: Concentration
This is exactly what it says, intense mental application. No matter how loud the golf course or shopping spree is calling, don’t get distracted. Focus on the task first. Another form is distraction is people. Perhaps you are working on a project with someone and you can’t complete your part until they have completed their part. When this happens you must take action on the distraction before you can focus on the task. Determine if there is anything you can do to assist your co-worker, follow up with them and stress the importance of what they do and how it helps achieve success.

Finally and perhaps the most common mode of operation: The PROCRASTINATOR
Symptoms: This is the “I’ll do it later” approach. Unlike the Distractor discussed above, this symptom displays an intentional approach to putting off the task.
Remedy: Motivation
Discover the potential reward or risk regarding the task. For example, by going to work on a Saturday, I will be able to complete the presentation and therefore have the opportunity to close the deal quicker. Or, if I don’t go to work on Saturday, this presentation will never get finished on time and we will miss a great opportunity. I think you see the BIG picture here. You motivation proves your desire or incentive to get things done.

So here are two daily prescriptions to help. First prioritize your tasks. I know you have heard this before but it is critical. Second, have a real plan of action. Here are some tips for an action plan:
• Have a specific time in your day to prepare for your day. Scheduling, emails, return calls, etc.
• Make sure you are doing the “productive-money making” tasks while the doors are open. This means doing the most important things, not preparing for them
• Find time for you. You must have time to enjoy what you do. If you ignore this part of time, it will severely impact the rest of your time.
• Be sure you keep score and track progress

Let me conclude by saying I am in no way saying that I have all the answers. What I am saying is that in my personal experience, when I pay serious attention to time, when I value it, it pays great dividends and when I don’t, there is nothing more frustrating that trying to get back on schedule.

What I know is this, we choose to do what we do with time. It is my hope this article will help provide assistance to make your 24 hours a day as productive and enjoyable as possible. And by the way…Thanks for taking the TIME to read this!

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