Blacksocks.com

Blacksocks.com

These guys claim to have shipped 3 million socks since 1999 and to have 60,000 current customers. I guess I make 60,001. I ordered a starter pack of 10 pair of their Urban Comfort socks, dubbed “Sporty business socks made from organic cotton.” My life has never been better. Well, at least the part of my life where I used to spend a ton of time trying to find a pair of matching socks. As a result, I signed up for a “sockscription” of three new pair every three months. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to get socks in the mail. And, they come from Zurich, Switzerland!

Check out www.blacksocks.com for three reasons:

1. You need a sockscription (their invention) to ensure you always have high quality – and matching – socks in your drawer. Trust me. You’ll love it.
2. This is a great example of a company that built its business around a very niched product line by putting an unbelievable amount of passion and energy into what I’ve previously considered a commodity.
3. I’ll bet you have a great idea for a business up your sleeve that’s so obvious you’re wondering why nobody else has done it. Read about blacksocks.com, get inspired, and get started on your next business.

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Fish Stink from the Head

My father-in-law, Sam, is known within his industry for his many insightful and pithy statements. In fact, we’ve come to dub his statements “Sam-isms.”

One of Sam’s most frequent reminders to leaders is that “fish stink from the head.” What Sam means is that the worst smelling part of a dead fish is its head. But what Sam really means is that most problems within a company can be traced back to its leadership. Since you’re reading this, odds are that you’re a leader within your company. Odds are, I’m talking about (and to) YOU.

When you’re evaluating a problem within your business, it’s easy to blame everyone around you. It’s easy to point your finger at your peer, at your manager, at your assistant…pretty much at anyone. The hardest thing is to ask (and answer) why the problem truly exists. Often, your employees’ actions are a symptom of a greater problem. And, often, that greater problem is, well, you.

I’ll clarify:
Your people are a reflection of you.
Your people are a reflection of your work ethic.
Your people are a reflection of your attitude.
Your people are a reflection of your encouragement (or discouragement).
Your people are a reflection of your example.

You may not realize it, but you’re being watched. Your employees look at you, they look to you, and (sometimes) they look up to you. No matter how they feel about you, however, they emulate you. You set the standard.

Don’t tell them what to do, show them how it’s done.

Ask yourself:
▪ “How’s my attitude?”
▪ “How do I react to stressful situations?”
▪ “How do I treat customers?”
▪ “Do I always get to work on time?”
▪ “Do I follow my own rules and policies?”
▪ “How often do I praise my employees for doing things right?”
▪ “Do I always deliver on my promises?”
▪ “How well do I listen to my employees?”
▪ “Have I provided my employees with adequate training – both in technical skills and personal development skills?”
▪ “Am I living (and leading) by example?”

Those are tough questions. Well, actually they’re easy questions that result in tough answers and tough work should you need to make changes in yourself.

But the results are worth it.

The bottom line: Be who and what you want your employees to be.

Bonus questions: If you were your own employee, how would you stack up? Would you hire you? Would you fire you?

Why I Didn’t Hire You

I’m an easy interview, but a tough judge. I don’t use personality or behavioral tests – I’ve tried them all, and I do see some value there, but I’ve also relied on them for hiring decisions, which I later came to regret.

I don’t call your references. It’s a waste of my time and theirs. You’d never give me a reference that would say anything other than the most amazing and wonderful things about you anyway.Why I Didn't Hire You

I do call your customers. I can count on them to tell me what I need to know about you.

I ask you unique and powerful questions that give me an understanding of your thought process and your philosophies.

I give you a tour of our offices, and I introduce you to everyone. How you engage and interact with my people means everything to me.

I give you every opportunity to ask me smart questions and to uncover how you can help us the most.

I laugh a lot and I have fun. I expect you to do the same.

I make quick decisions.

If I like you and I think you’ll win here, I’ll call you quickly and I’ll set up a time for you to come in and shadow some of my people for a few hours. I want you to see what it’s like here from the inside out. I want you to meet people and to decide for yourself if you’re a good fit.

If I don’t ask you to come back, I won’t send you a letter.

I just won’t call. Sorry in advance if that frustrates you.

Perhaps you would have appreciated the letter below, as this is the letter I’ve always wanted to send to applicants who I did not hire:

Dear Applicant,

If you are reading this letter it is because I have decided against hiring you. You deserve to know the truth. You deserve to know so that you can:
a. Stop wondering if I’m ever going to call you back.
b. Focus on your other opportunities.
c. Improve yourself before your next interview.

Basically, I didn’t hire you because some or all of the following are true:
• You dressed poorly.
• You came late.
• You showed up empty-handed.
• You didn’t send me a follow-up note or email.
• You didn’t fit in or you didn’t stand out.
• You didn’t take notes.
• You were rude or aloof with my people.
• You failed to bring me an idea or a question that demonstrated you were prepared for the interview in terms of me.
• You asked me about vacation time, holiday pay, or other cushy benefits way too early in the process.
• You have never visited my company website, Facebook page, or YouTube channel.
• You spent $500 creating your resume, you can recite your accomplishments line-for-line, but can’t tell me one thing you learned during your previous employment.
• You said or did something that made me question your honesty, your integrity, or your character.
• You do not have a single ounce of Google-juice.
• Your Facebook account is full of hundreds of pictures of you drinking beer, smoking dope, and wearing nothing but a jock strap.
• You told me, quite emphatically, that you left your last three jobs because your boss was an idiot, the people you worked with had the worst attitudes, and/or because you were treated unfairly.
• I asked you about the last business book you read and you couldn’t remember the name.
• You did not ask me a single question.
• You reeked of “what’s in it for me?” rather than “how can we win together?”

Don’t feel bad. That’s not my intention. You’re going to be a big success. You’ll just need to be successful somewhere else.

It’s possible, though unlikely, that I am wrong about you. You may be the best thing for our business. You may be the answer to all of our prayers.

If you are, and you believe in your heart that you can help us and that you will be fulfilled and happy doing so, then prove me wrong.

Show me the real you, and I’ll show you a real opportunity.

Personality At Work

At the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento,the front desk employees each put their profiles on the counter during their shift.

The profile is a great conversation starter and a very personal touch. I witnessed many guests reading and talking about them. Check out Michelle’s profile and think about how you might incorporate a piece of your personality into your work. Citizen Hotel…you’re fRickun Cool!

The Citizen Hotel

 

 

13 Ways to Overcome the Stigma of Sales

In a recent article, I shared insight into the stigma of sales. I gave a grim overview of how salespeople are perceived by their prospects and customers. I hinted at how you can succeed despite and in spite of the negative reputation salespeople have earned themselves. And, I promised that I would give you a few ideas about how to overcome the odds and put yourself on a path toward sales success by becoming perceived as anything but a salesperson. I make good on my promise below:

The goal is to transform your prospect or customer’s perception of you from salesperson to:
▪ Value Provider
▪ Assistant Buyer
▪ Valuable Resource
▪ Customer Advocate
▪ Idea Generator
▪ Trusted Advisor

Those are just a few of the titles you must aspire to earn. Pay attention to the word earn. You can put whatever you want on your business card, but what really matters is how your prospects and customers think of you. If you put down that you’re a “Value Provider” and they think of you as “Slimy Salesguy,” well…you lose.

Here’s how to earn the respect, the trust, and the sale:

1. Start out by changing your philosophy. It’s not, “How do I sell as much of my stuff as possible?” It’s, “How does my prospect win by buying and using my stuff?”

2. Never try to sell something that you would not buy yourself were you in a similar position as your prospect.

3. Bring a new idea (or three) to your first meeting. Yep, your first meeting. Show up prepared. The idea has to be something of value – something your prospect can use to become more profitable, more efficient, or more secure. Don’t worry about whether your idea is connected in any way to your product or service. Focus on connecting the idea to their business.

4. Do not ask anything about fishing or hunting or “how they’re doing” until after you’ve shown some value. You think you’re qualifying your prospect during your initial meeting or phone call – when in reality, they’re qualifying you.

5. Ask great questions. Don’t be winging it. Show up with a list of 10 great questions that get your prospect talking and thinking.

6. Come to your prospect by way of referrals from their peers. A great recommendation changes the game to your favor before you walk in the door.

7. Bring them a referral. If you show up with a new prospect for your prospect, they’ll take your meeting. And, they’ll “owe you one.” Not every prospect will repay you, but most will. The more you can connect your customers to one another (unless, of course, they happen to be direct competitors), the more business you will earn for yourself.

8. Offer to work in their business for day. Tell them that before you make a decision about whether your product or service can help them, you’d first like to fully understand what they do, how they do it, and why. Spend a day in their shoes and they’ll spend their money with you.

9. Leave your brochures and PowerPoint presentation behind. Make the first interaction all about them. Tell them you’ll give them the full dog and pony show by their request only. Don’t be surprised if they never ask.

10. Be prepared to walk away. Sometimes during a meeting or a phone call, you’ll realize that you’re not the best fit for your prospect. Walk away. Fast. Tell them you do not think that you can help them but you’ll be back one day if and when their needs (or your service offerings) change. You will earn their respect and, perhaps, their future business.

11. Read everything you can about your prospect – their company, their industry, their competitors, their announcements, their social media posts, etc. – and send your prospect “clippings” of the most relevant and insightful pieces. Add your own comments when appropriate.

12. Follow-up and follow-through. Do what you say you’re going to do…when you say you’re going to do it. Send them a cool gift (gifts are “cool” because of their thoughtfulness and their usefulness – not because you spent $50 on them). Hint: relevant business books that provide ideas and answers to your prospect’s most burning questions are the best possible gifts. Inscribe them with a personal note. Even if your prospect never reads the book, they’ll put it on their bookshelf and they’ll always know where it came from. If they do read the book – you’ll have something to talk about (at great length) next time.

13. Read a few books yourself. You’ll find more ideas and inspiration than you’ve ever dreamed of. While you’re reading, ask “How can I adapt this to my business? How can I use this in my situation? And…why the heck didn’t I read more books before!?!

Note: Your mileage may vary. Not every strategy will work for you. Pick a few that fit you well and get to work.

Note well: The first sale you have to make is to yourself. If you think of yourself as “just as salesperson,” your prospect will do the same. Make a list of everything that you actually do for your customers. Things that you do for them (rather than yourself), on their behalf, and for their benefit. The longer that list is, the easier it will be to prove to yourself (and, eventually, your prospect) that you belong in a different kind of category. The kind of category that deserves and earns the business.

Sales Blog