Thursday, July 30, 2009

Are You A Commodity? - Part 1

Most individuals & organizations confidently state that their products, services & solutions are not commodities… (as if just saying it makes it so). However, when asked to prove it… most of them have no idea what to say or do.

This is the core of what I call the #1 Rule of Value. It is a ‘simple’ concept that could be the one thing standing between you and your quest for Value Justification. Here it is:

“If you cannot understand and prove your Value… you have no Value!”

Value justification can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Understand your Value – Know in quantifiable terms how you have helped & how you can help your customers be more profitable, effective, efficient and productive.
  2. Articulate your Value - Have the ability to conduct an effective consultative discussion with someone to learn (in quantifiable terms) what they are trying to achieve
  3. Prompt your customer to say it back to you - (because his words are the only ones that count)

Can you understand & prove your Value?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How NOT To Ask Questions

We see examples of how NOT to ask questions every single day. Tragically, most of those bad examples come from individuals who should know better… people whose jobs rely on their ability to effectively uncover the truth (news reporters / sales people / senate committee members, etc.). Here is a brief list of what NOT to do when asking questions:

  • Ask leading questions (that have the expected answer in the question itself)
  • Ask multiple questions without taking a breath (diluting the importance of each question and making it feel like the Spanish Inquisition)
  • Ask questions, and then ignore the answers (by not asking follow-up questions or clarifying what was heard)
  • Ask questions that are not questions (They’re actually nothing more than statements)
  • Ask questions, then (rudely) interrupt in the middle of the answer.
  • Ask mean-spirited questions (to embarrass, inflame or anger)

When done properly, questioning is one of the most powerful forms of communication. Never abuse that power!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Definition of 'Family'

Most people in this world would say that they believe ‘Family’ to be very important… maybe the most important thing in their lives. However, one of the biggest reasons why this world is full of War & Conflict instead of Peace & Harmony is our varying & limited definitions of ‘Family’… because everything that we do is determined by that.

Here are some of today’s most common definitions of ‘Family’:

  • Relatives (nuclear, blood, extended)
  • Geography (street, neighborhood, community, city, state, country)
  • Beliefs (religion, political party, cause)
  • Economic Status (rich, middle class, poor, uninsured)
  • Education (high school, college, graduate school, academic level)
  • Profession (position, department, district, division, region, business unit, company, industry)
  • Hobby (team, sport, instrument, toy)
  • Health Status (condition, ailment, pain, disease type, disease status)
  • Miscellaneous (gang, cell block, prison, vehicle, airline, vacation spot, restaurant, favorite beverage, etc.)

Imagine what would happen if we e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d our definition of ‘Family’… to include a larger, more diverse group (up to and including everyone on the planet)… The World would immediately become a better, safer place to life & prosper.

Who is in your ‘Family’?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Super Heroes

If you could become any Super Hero, which one would you choose? That is the seemingly silly question that one of my friends challenged me to answer today. Instinctively, I thought of my childhood favorite – Superman! With his ability to fly… unparalleled strength… x-ray vision how could I go wrong? Then I realized something – Superman is so 20th Century! Which Super Hero should I be today? My choice?

Achieving Excellence Man! Achieving Excellence Man has three abilities: 1) The ability to Inspire everyone in his presence with the desire to achieve Excellence at their chosen skill… 2) The ability to give everyone the Discipline to work hard & sacrifice to achieve those skills… and 3) The ability to instill Compassion in everyone so that they will apply their new skills to help others.

While becoming Superman is an unattainable fantasy…each & every one of us does have the opportunity (or it is the obligation?) to become some type of Super Hero who can make the world a better place. You could be:

  • Positivity Man… with the power to make everyone optimistic.
  • Mother Nature… who can create environmental abundance wherever she travels.
  • D.I.Y. Guy… who empowers others to do things themselves.
  • Peace Maker… She resolves every conflict and disagreement

The only thing preventing you from becoming a real Super Hero who can improve the world… is your belief that it’s possible… and your decision to make it happen. Which Super Hero will you become?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Fear!

Imagine what would happen if you had the power to make your biggest FEAR disappear forever!

You know the one that I’m writing about - the FEAR that is preventing you from achieving your goals. The one that has been standing right between what you should be doing… and what you have been doing.

Maybe it’s:

  • The FEAR of initiating meaningful conversations with new prospects
  • The FEAR of asking for commitment
  • The FEAR of making a commitment
  • The FEAR of standing up for yourself
  • The FEAR of taking control of your own destiny
  • The FEAR of public speaking
  • The FEAR of looking silly
  • The FEAR of making a mistake
  • The FEAR of failure

What if you could make that FEAR go away? What would you do differently? How could your Life change?

While you might not yet believe that you already have the power to conquer your biggest FEAR… I challenge you to believe that you have the next best thing… The Power to Pretend. Most adults have been wasting their Power to Pretend for most of their lives. Identify that one FEAR that is holding you back…, then pretend that it doesn’t exist. It sounds simple because it is… Even though we all know that “simple” does not necessarily mean “easy”… Try it anyway!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Take The Break-thru Challenge!

"I am only physically able to do 100 sit-ups. That is a fact!" I have had a ‘bad back’ since I stopped playing competitive tennis, and my muscles begin to spasm around sit-up # 80. Therefore, my proven limitation is 100!

At least, that was the lie I told myself for many years. Recently, I challenged myself to see what would happen if I pretended that limitation did not exist. "What if more is possible?" I asked myself. "What was the worst that could happen? I'm pretty confident that I won't die. Maybe my back will just hurt a little more than normal."

Amazingly, I did 150 sit-ups during my first personal challenge (a 50% improvement!). Immediately after realizing what was possible, my new ‘limitation’ became 150. Since that time, I have been pushing past various physical ‘limitations’ on a regular basis, and my current personal best is 351 sit-ups..

Whether it is a physical activity like sit-ups… an academic activity like reading... or an emotional activity like granting forgiveness, what self-imposed ‘limitations’ are holding you back? Take the Break-thru Challenge, and pretend (at least once) that more IS possible… and see what happens!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Weakest Link

Once again, I saw proof of the “Weakest Link” theory. It came in the form of a fully stocked drink vending machine. The bottles had been put into the machine with total disregard of the direction of the labels… making it impossible to identify 80% of the product for sale.

I tried to imagine all of the manpower & resources invested by that multi-billion dollar company to get that product where it was: executives… managers… sales reps… legal teams… marketing plans… negotiations, etc… all ruined by one careless delivery person.

We experience similar situations almost every day… where the action (or inaction) of a single company representative prevents us from being satisfied, loyal customers. Even the ‘greatest’ organizations on the planet are no better than their worst team member on his/her worst day.

What are you doing to ensure that your organization has a Culture of Excellence every minute of every day?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bring Your 'A' Game!

During a coaching session with a person whom I am mentoring, the sales professional admitted to me the obvious – he had a less than stellar sales call with a new prospect. I had monitored that call, so I had already come to the same conclusion. “I just wasn’t feeling it!” He told me in a matter-of-fact tone. Moments later, he shared with me that he did have a “much better” call with another prospect later that same day.

Why does that happen with so many people? They can have a great customer interaction… that is immediately followed by a terrible one. Many sales professionals (and even their managers) try to give me lame excuses like: “That customer was just in a bad mood!”… or “The competition is fierce!”… or “It’s just that damn economy!” But, I never let anyone get away with those irresponsible claims… because they’re trying to assign the blame on someone or something else.

As a sales professional… consultant… mentor… coach… teacher… parent… or leader, it is your responsibility to generate the positive energy, excitement and interest in your idea, product, service or solution. Every customer must be treated like your best customer… Every interaction (face-to-face, phone, e-mail or text) must be treated like your most important interaction. Speaking with a qualified prospect is not an opportunity… it’s a privilege. Bring your ‘A’ game every time… or don’t play at all!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Talking to Everyone = Talking with No One

It was not long ago when communicating with another human being required some effort. You needed to invest at least one visit… letter… phone call… or fax for each contact. Today, we have the power to communicate with more people for less than ever… Less time / Less Money / Less Effort. As a result, countless people abuse this Power of Communication by contacting as many people as frequently as possible.

When you are in a store, and you hear someone announcing, “All available cashiers to the front!” what happens? Either every cashier comes up or no cashiers come up… because the request was too generic. Many of us recently received “Happy 4th of July to all of my friends!” messages. They were nice (at least someone cared enough to copy & paste our names into an e-mail blast)… The ones that meant the most to me were the one or two messages that simply read, “Stephen, Happy 4th of July!” because they were personalized for me.

The only thing worse than receiving generic messages from strangers… is receiving them from ‘friends’.

Challenge: The next time you plan to treat everyone in your address book with equal indifference… decide which people deserve something better.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

practice vs. Dedicated Practice

There is a difference between practice... and Dedicated Practice
  • practice you do alone…
    • Dedicated Practice you do with a coach (or coaches)
  • practice you do occasionally…
    • Dedicated Practice you do regularly
  • practice you do only when you want to…
    • Dedicated Practice you do especially when you don’t want to
  • practice you do without a plan…
    • Dedicated Practice you do with specific goals in mind
  • practice you reach a point of completion…
    • Dedicated Practice you continue as long as you’re breathing
  • practice keeps you in your comfort zone…
    • Dedicated Practice pushes you to higher heights
  • practice discourages criticism…
    • Dedicated Practice welcomes feedback
  • practice gives you a false sense of accomplishment…
    • Dedicated Practice gives you quantifiable results
  • Practice drives you to competence…
    • Dedicated Practice drives you to excellence

Which kind of practice do you do?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Nothing beats the excitement of Opening Day in sports. Every member of every team (from the back office staff… to the coaches… to the players… and even including the fans) is ready for the ‘new’ season to begin. Whether you have trophies on your mantle or lingering memories of disappointment, the slate of the past has been wiped clean. And, (theoretically) you are on equal ground with your competition… at least with regards to the score for that one day.

In business, we have a similar moment in time - the first day of the new fiscal period. Whether it is the start of your new year or just a new quarter, the scoreboard flashes “0”. Some individuals & organizations view that day as a perfect time to evaluate where there are and how they’re doing. They capture last year’s best practices and integrate them into this year’s expected behavior. They realize that they have the opportunity (the obligation) to achieve excellence.

Punch line: Most individuals & organizations treat it like just any other day.
Bonus Punch Line: The real winners approach EVERY day with the passion and optimism of Opening Day.

What will you do to make this a Happy New Year?