Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his best-selling book "The Tipping Point", a yawn is one of the most contagious things on this planet. Seeing someone yawn... hearing someone yawn... reading the word "yawn"... or even just thinking about a yawn... will prompt most people to yawn. (Have you yawned yet since starting this paragraph?)

There are other actions & behaviors that are equally contagious (good and bad). We have all had our spirits raised by the positive attitudes of others. Unfortunately, we have also experienced people cause the opposite effect.

What type of attitude do you want to spread (with your words, mindset and behavior)?

Optimism... happiness... confidence... respect...? You have the ability to improve the lives of family, friends, strangers, co-workers, customers, etc. simply by the way you behave... or you can just as easily drag them down. The choice is yours.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Stop... Start! - Part 2

Stop passing the time... Start living!

Stop following the rules... Start making the rules!

Stop reading your to-do list... Start doing your to-do list!

Stop praising yourself... Start praising others!

Stop blaming others... Start accepting responsibility!

Stop paying... Start investing!

Stop recruiting talent... Start attracting talent!

Stop being black or white... Start being purple! (Thanks Seth)

Stop wasting... Start conserving!

Stop taking... Start giving!

Stop being ordinary... Start being exceptional!

Stop asking for permission... Start asking for forgiveness!

Stop going thru life... Start learning thru life!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What Day Are You On?

It is a common belief that it takes at least 21 consecutive days of doing something (good or bad) for it to have a chance of becoming a habit.  My definition of a habit is "a behavior that is done consistently and automatically without thought or provocation".  What habits are you striving to develop?  

Whether they are personal, professional or spiritual... there are certain behaviors that we want to have... or need to have... and the only thing usually standing in our way... is CHOICE.

More importantly, what day are you on?  How many consecutive days have you done what you decided to do?  Exercising... Eating properly... Spending time with your family... Calling new prospects...  Practicing...  Reading... Praying...  Not drinking... Not smoking...  Not getting angry...

Of course, it will probably take more than 21 days for something to become a habit.  But, it will never become a habit if you can't make it to 21.  One day at a time... one decision at a time... we choose whether or not to take another step toward the first checkpoint on our journey to creating a habit: Day 21.

What day are you on?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Headline

Early this morning, while I waited for the rest of my family to wake up, I searched for the meaning of Christmas... (on the internet, of course!)  The following mini-headline caught my eye: 

"Recession Resulting in Crappiest Presents Ever"

I immediately thought to myself, "Well, that's one way of looking at it..."  My view of the situation is completely opposite...  Later today, I will be surrounded by family (and extended family) celebrating and appreciating another blessing of being together.  Here's my headline:

"Recession Helping The World Appreciate What's Really Important In Life"

What is your headline?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thank Everybody - Part 1

When was the last time that you contacted every one of your customers... for the sole purpose of thanking them for their support and patronage?

I have asked that question to countless sales professionals all over the world, and almost 100% of the time the answer I hear is either "Never" or "I don't know" (which translates to "never"). Before the avalanche of excuses starts to fall ("That's impossible"... "I have too many accounts"... "I'm too busy!"... etc.), answer this question:

If you could earn a $100,000 Customer Satisfaction Bonus (tax free) for thanking every one of your accounts within a 30-day period, would you get paid at the end of the month?

Of course, you would! So, never again say or even think that it's not possible... Most sales professionals don't even know how many accounts they have. Do you? Imagine that you have 150 'active' accounts (a number much higher than average). You could still interact with every one of them within 22 business days by contacting seven customers per day. You could send four e-mails in the morning, and leave three voice messages in the afternoon. Estimated total time required per day: 15 minutes.

Here's a radical idea: Thank your customers if you truly appreciate their business. (Please note: If you think that I am suggesting that you send out mass generic e-mail blasts... or "Dear Loyal Customer..." junk mail... go back to sleep!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Who Can We Blame???

I hear and see it every single day... people, organizations & countries... frustrated with their current situation... and desperate to assign the blame.  They express themselves with different words and actions, but all of it translates into something like this:
  • "My life sucks!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My marriage sucks!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My personal finances suck!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My attitude sucks!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My job sucks!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My company sucks!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My boss sucks!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My staff sucks!... Who can I blame?"
  • "My co-workers suck!... Who can I blame?"
  • "Our revenue sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our profitability sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our pipeline sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our customer service sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our sales force sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our value proposition sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our industry sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our government sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our economy sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our educational system sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our health care system sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our infrastructure sucks!... Who can we blame?"
  • "Our environment sucks!... Who can we blame?"
There is no disputing the value of holding other people accountable for what they are supposed to do.  Is it more productive to spend our time, resources and focus on blaming others or is it better to accept our share of the responsibility... and Make Things Better?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

60 Seconds

What would you do if you only had 60 seconds to make your point?

That happenned to me the other day... I was among a group of speakers at a meeting where a very important decision was to be made. However, due to the number of speakers and time available, we were each given a total of 60 seconds to make our points. I easily had ten minutes of comments that I thought I 'needed' to make.

I am accustomed to conducting training workshops that typically last between one and five days. When I give keynote addresses, I usually have up to an hour... But, 60 seconds??? How much can be said in that amount of time? You might be surprised... as I was.

That situation forced me to filter out every piece of unnecessary information possible... all of the excess... all of the elaboration... all of the fluff... so that I could accomplish my goal without going over time. Despite only having 60 seconds, I gave an introduction... involved the audience... made my main point... and concluded with a strong call to action. A friend once gave me the following advice:

"Make it as long as necessary, but not a word longer."

The next time that you have a point to make, think about all of the things you would cut out if you had to fit everything into one minute. And, then decide if you really need as much time (and as many words) as you originally thought. Sixty seconds can be a 'lifetime'.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stop... Start!!! - Part 1

Stop watching the news... Start making the news!!!

Stop talking... Start listening!!!

Stop selling... Start teaching!!!

Stop guessing... Start testing!!!

Stop fearing... Start doing!!!

Stop whining... Start solving!!!

Stop following... Start leading!!!

Stop repeating... Start inventing!!!

Stop dividing... Start unifying!!!

Stop ignoring... Start noticing!!!

Stop working... Start having fun!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

'Tis The Season To Build Pipeline...

As sales professionals around the world finish out this historic year... and continue to receive pressure from 'above' to focus on closing every last business opportunity possible, we cannot forget where those potential sales come from... Pipeline.

Without pipeline we have no prospects... Without pipeline we have no meetings or proposals... Without pipeline we have nothing to Close.

How much pipeline is enough? The amount of pipeline that every sales professional and organization must have is different, but it can be easily determined by following these simple steps:
  1. Out of every 10 'qualified' leads you have, take the average number that result in a closed sale. Divide that number by 10 to get your Average Close Rate. (Example: 2 divided by 10 = .20 or a 20% Close Rate.)

  2. Divide 100 by your Average Close Rate to get your Budget Multiplier (Example: 100 divided by 20 = 5)

  3. Multiply your Revenue Target by your Budget Multiplier to get the amount of pipeline you need in order to have a chance at achieving your goal (Example: $500K revenue target x 5 = $2.5 million of necessary pipeline)

(Note: This can also be used to calculate necessary Pipeline to generate new members, new jobs offers, etc.)

Whether or not you know your Average Close Rate... is what it is... Therefore, you basically have three options: 1) Improve your Close Rate, 2) Grow your Pipeline and/or 3) Continue to guess whether or not you'll hit your numbers this period.

Pipeline is the fuel that must constantly be put into our Sales Engine to drive revenue growth. Regardless of how fast we are going now, without fuel we will come to a grinding halt.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stop 'Just' Doing Things!

I hear it countless times every week as I observe and coach the skills & behavior of sales professionals: "Mr. Customer, I just called to say..."  "Boss, I just wanted to ask..."  "Um, I just wanted to see if..."  "I was just doing..."

While there are several meanings for the word "just", the most common are "only" or "merely".  Compare these two statements: 
  • "Mr. Customer, I just called to make an appointment with you."  
  • "Mr. Customer, I called to make an appointment with you to determine if I could help your company increase bottom-line profits the way I have helped other leaders in your industry."
Which statement do you think would more likely result in an appointment?

When did we stop doing things... and start 'just' doing them?  Why do we think it's justified to take up someone's precious time to 'merely' say or do something?...  

Here are three suggestions to strengthen your messages:
  1. Stop or minimize your use of the word "just".  It serves no purpose other than to weaken your point.  (You don't even have to replace it with another word.  Simply remove it.)
  2. Make sure that you articulate the Value of your words and actions.
  3. If you don't plan on articulating your Value (or even worse, if you provide no real Value), stop wasting people's time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Side Effects

Definition: "Problems that occur when treatment goes beyond the desired effect... or problems that occur in addition to the desired therapeutic effect."

Have you paid attention to 'side effects' lately?

The most obvious ones that we see every day are hidden in the advertisements of pharmaceutical companies... One major drug currently on the market created to "offer relief from symptoms of depression" shows the following possible side effects:
  • Cardiac disorders / Eye & ear disorders / Gastrointestinal disorders / Nervous system disorders / Psychiatric disorders (including the urge to commit suicide) / Renal & urinary disorders / Reproductive disorders...

That is by no means the complete list, but you get the point... or do you?

Everything that we do or don't do has 'side effects': Cutting our investment in training and skills development, laying off sales & support staff, buying more than we can afford, not spending enough time raising, teaching & mentoring the younger generation...

If the possible 'side effects' far outnumber or far outweigh the possible benefits... isn't it time to reconsider what we are doing or not doing?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wall-to-Wall Customers Isn't What It Used To Be

I remember the scene like it was yesterday. November 23, 2006 (Thanksgiving night)...

I was returning home from a family gathering, and I noticed something strange off in the distance. It was a parking lot full of cars and activity. This didn't make sense! Everything was supposed to be closed. But, one retailer (Comp USA) decided to 'break the rules' and open for a few hours when all of its competition was still at home eating turkey, and waiting for Black Friday to officially begin. The tactic seemed brilliant (on the surface).

After finally finding a parking space, and waiting in a line that originally extended around the building, I was in the middle of what most people would think was Retail Bliss: wall-to-wall customers buying the best deals of the year...

Fast forward three months... I was standing in that exact same store, but this time the scene was a 'little' different. Parking spaces were abundant, there were few customers or even merchandise in the store. This time, the only things I was surrounded by were "Going Out of Business" signs. What happened??? How can a store (more accurately, a franchise) go from Retail Bliss to non-existence so quickly? Why is this story repeated year after year by others?

Moral of the story: Wall-to-wall customers isn't what it used to be (Translation: Giving cool stuff away below cost is easy, but it's not a tactic to drive a long-term strategy.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pick a Skill... Any Skill!

If you could develop one skill that would help you be more successful, which one would it be?

A few years ago, I chose Communication. I decided that I wanted to become a great communicator. Of course, wanting something or hoping for something is never enough, so I decided to actually do something.

I joined Toastmasters ( and started to speak in public... and seek out feedback... and watch great speakers... and step up to leadership positions... and video tape my presentations... and read as much as possible... and practice, practice practice.

A mentor once taught me that it doesn't matter how great of an idea, message, company, organization, product, solution or service that you have... nothing happens until you tell somebody.

If you could improve your ability to initiate conversations, quickly build credibility & trust, understand what others are trying to achieve, present solutions, gain commitment and handle objections, what impact would that have on your personal and professional life?

Here's the bonus question... What are you doing every day to improve your communication skills? What could you be doing?

As a result of my investment in Brand ME, I am positioning myself to achieve great things. I have come a very long way... I still have far to go, but I know I'm on the right track.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Land of Accountability

Once upon a time... we had valid excuses for not being able to achieve something.

Typically, those excuses focused on our lack of sufficient access or resources necessary to Learn or Do... Now, our excuses for not learning something... not doing something... or not being somebody have essentially disappeared.

With access to public libraries (with their books and free internet access), bookstores (with their comfortable chairs and coffee shops) and the internet, we have the opportunity to learn almost anything imaginable... for FREE! Therefore, the only real questions that remain to be answered are these: What do we want to learn or do? And, what are we waiting for?

The Land of Accountability can be a scary place... mostly because there is nowhere to hide and nobody to blame (OK, maybe there's one person to blame, but we already know who that is). The Land of Accountability can also be the most excited place to be because there are virtually no limits to what is possible.

Times are hard... There is less time and less money than ever before. That's why the choices that we make regarding how we invest our time and money are of even greater importance. Here's an easy way to get started: Write down your answers to the following questions:
  • What do I need or want to learn to be more successful?
  • What skills could I develop to help me achieve my personal & professional goals?
  • Where is that information available?
  • How many minutes each week will I commit to acquiring that knowledge and developing those skills?
  • What day this week will I begin?

Or, you could just do nothing different... and see how that works out. The choice is yours.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"You can't deposit all of your money"

I like to save quarters... Whenever I 'break' a dollar and have quarters left over, I will diligently put them in a tin piggy bank next to my bed... After about 10 months, my bank will be filled to the rim with about $150 of coins. Typically, I will use that money to buy something for my wife, but this year I will use it for a special Christmas present.

Today was the day that I went down to the local branch of my bank, and attempted to deposit my nicely rolled coins into my account. After swiping my ATM card so that the teller could verify that I was a loyal customer (for over 30 years!) with multiple accounts (including a mortgage and car note), the teller said to me, "I'm sorry, but you can't deposit all of your money." I looked at her with a confused expression on my face and said, "Excuse me?"

She proceeded to explain that it was policy to accept no more than $100 of coins per customer per day because that satellite branch (located in a supermarket) did not have enough space in the safe for any more. There were several anxious customers in line behind me... it was the end of a long day... and I was so stunned that my bank since the 1970's was refusing my money, I simply deposited my $100 limit and walked away.

That was the second time today that an employee went out of his/her way to disappoint me by adhering to a policy that could have been easily adapted without hurting anyone. I could have asked for an exception to be made... I could have asked if the safe was really full at that moment... I could have asked to see the manager... or I could have used the "Do you realize that I have been a loyal customer for over 30 years?" card... But, I didn't. I just walked away with another example of how a front-line employee let down her organization by not doing the 'right' thing.