Manage Yourself. Lead Your People.

This week I’ve decided to share a webinar that I delivered for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association on leadership and management. It’s a combination of my own experience as a sales leader, VP of Sales, CEO, and understudy of Jeffrey Gitomer and his latest book, “The Little Book of Leadership: The 12.5 Strengths of Responsible, Reliable, Remarkable Leaders That Create Results, Rewards, and Resilience.”

Here’s a taste of what you’ll get if you watch the entire show, starting at 4:55 & ending at 46:52 (If you’re watching on a Mac, you might need to download Flip4Mac)

The secret to becoming a great leader begins with an understanding of:

  • The difference between compliance and commitment. You may be able to “get someone to do something” but that’s a short-lived win and a telltale sign of poor engagement. I don’t want a bunch of yes men working for me. I want engaged, passionate, dedicated people who are willing to fight for what they believe is right. I don’t want people who comply with my commands – I want people who are committed to doing what’s best for the company and for the customer every time.
  • The difference between a manager and a coach. Managers are needed for supervisory purposes in industries that require remedial tasks. And even that’s a stretch. Nobody really wants or needs a manager. What they need is a coach. Think of the greatest coaches of all time: Vince Lombardi. John Wooden. Pat Riley. Joe Torre. I’ll bet you can name 25 off the top of your head. Now name the greatest managers of all time. Go ahead. Can’t think of one? That’s because managers are forgotten. Coaching and leading leaves a legacy.
  • The difference between motivation and inspiration. Dr. Bob Nelson wrote, “You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.” I couldn’t agree more. Great coaching leads to employees who perform well even when the boss is away. Motivation is temporary; inspiration is forever. And the key is to inspire your people to win for themselves – not for you.
  • The difference between expectation and encouragement. This is the difference between “You better do this or you’re fired” and “I know you can do it…I’m behind you every step of the way.” You’ll get far more out of your people as a result of your support, your help, and your encouragement. People like a little chanting from the crowd. Be their support network, not their taskmaster.
  • The difference between telling and showing. “Do as I say, not as I do” is the oldest and most trite parenting technique in the history of mankind. It’s also the most ridiculous thing you could ever say to your kids. Your kids watch you, they emulate you, they follow you. So do your employees. Lead by example is not just good advice – it’s a standard by which the best coaches and leaders (and parents) live.
  • The difference between negative and positive reinforcement. Both are (sometimes) required. But positive reinforcement should be given publicly, and negative privately. Try catching your people doing something right for a chance. You just might like what happens next – they’ll do more right things more often!
  • The difference between quitting a job and quitting a boss. If you say, “Bill quit,” you’re only one-third right. “Bill quit ME,” is two-thirds right. But the reality is that you were fired by your own employee. People don’t quit jobs. They quit bosses.

Note well: If you understand and agree with what I’ve written above, you’re ready to begin your evolution. Coaching is an action. It’s a process. It’s not a title. It’s an honor that your employees and colleagues bestow upon you. And it only comes after you have established a track record of your own dedication, your own commitment, your own performance, and your ability to bring out the best in everyone.

Ready to get started? Great! Now keep in mind that “Coaching is 90% attitude and 10% technique.” Author Unknown

How’s your attitude? Are you an upper or a downer? What tone do you set when you walk in the door each morning? Let me guess: your attitude is just fine – it’s the people who work for you that have the bad attitudes. They just always seem to ruin your mood. Here’s a hint: you are completely in control of your attitude. And, as a leader, you can influence the attitude of your people (and, therefore, their performance) by creating an environment in which positive attitude is revered and people with negative or toxic attitudes are voted off the island.


Six Secrets of Sales Success

I recently conducted a sales training day for a little over one hundred automotive parts professionals. Two hours in, somebody slipped me a note that read, “What’s the secret to success?”

I responded, “Two words – hard work.”

Somehow I think the audience felt cheated, so I decided to continue.

“Want a more in-depth answer?” I asked. “Work your tail off.”

The reality is that salespeople often look for shortcuts. They want the easiest path to success (aka commission checks).

Here’s the good news: there are no shortcuts. If you want to win, you’ve got 
to be willing to work harder than your competition.

Sure, sometimes luck plays a role. But, as Jeffrey Gitomer often reminds 
me, “Hard work makes luck.”

Success in selling means destroying your quota. It means having a closing 
ratio that exceeds that of your teammates and your competitors. Success in
 selling means becoming your best, earning customer loyalty, and not having 
to cold call.

Success is the reward you get when you think the right thoughts, when you take the right actions, when you bounce back from adversity, when you fully dedicate yourself to your craft, and when you do the hard work it takes to become known as a value provider and resource rather than simply “sales guy.”

I have studied thousands of successful salespeople across hundreds of industries. While many of these salespeople have their own definition for success, most of them agree on what it takes to get there.

Here are the six secrets to sales success:

1. Work hard. Really hard. The world doesn’t owe you anything. Nor does your boss. The only one who owes anyone anything is YOU. You owe it to yourself to skip tomorrow’s episode of Dancing with the Stars and instead make a half-dozen sales calls.

2. Start early, stay late. Don’t worry about how many hours you’re working. Hit your numbers and then look for ways to become more efficient. But first, hit your numbers.

3. If you’re not getting what you want, you’re probably not asking for it. So, ask for it. Ask your customers, your boss, your prospects.

4. Find your passion. Success in selling has more to do with your confidence, your belief system, and your passion than anything else. If you’re not passionate about your company, your product, and your ability to help your customers, you’ll never be successful.

5. Put “sales calls” and “cold calling” in your appointment book. If your iPhone or Droid or PDA doesn’t have an hour blocked for outbound sales efforts each day, you don’t have a shot. You’re not going to ever “get to it” or “squeeze it in.” You’re busy. You’ve got paperwork. You’ve got inbound phone traffic to handle. If you intend to make sales calls, put them in your calendar. Otherwise, get out of sales.

6. Take risks. Playing it safe will ensure that you have a job forever. Taking calculated risks will help you to earn a fortune. Put yourself out there. Take your shot. Reach out and sell something!

Taking a little liberty, I opine that success is a journey, not a destination. It’s a journey through consistent positive action, dedicated effort, and endless pursuit of improvement.

When You Need a New Idea, Often an Old One is Better

I’m an avid reader of sales books. Sometimes, I find a concept that was created hundreds of years ago that just needs a little adjustment before it is relevant in today’s world. And, sometimes, I read something a hundred years old that is just as relevant today as it was when it was written.

I recently re-read Napoleon Hill’s How to Sell Your Way Through Life and was amazed at how on point nearly the entire book seemed. One particular section really spoke to me. I intended to revise and comment on it for this week’s Ark of Sales article, but the more work I put into the process, the less powerful the piece became. And that’s when it hit me: the times may have changed, but salespeople today are making the same excuses that sales people in Napoleon Hill’s day did. Therefore, I’ve decided to share this powerful piece with you as it originally ran.

As you read this, think about your own career, your own habits, and your own personality. Do you have what it takes to succeed in sales?

Here it is, a direct excerpt, from Napoleon Hill’s 1939 classic:

The Major Weaknesses in Personality and Habits of Salesmen

Success in selling is the result of positive qualities that one must possess and use. Failure in selling is the result of negative qualities that should be eliminated. Among the more outstanding negative qualities are the following:

1. The habit of procrastination. There is no substitute for prompt and persistent action.

2. One or more of the six basic fears. The man whose mind is filled with any form of fear cannot sell successfully. The six basic fears are:
a. The fear of poverty
b. The fear of criticism
c. The fear of ill health
d. The fear of loss of love of someone
e. The fear of old age
f. The fear of death

To this list of basic fears should, perhaps, be added fear that the prospective buyer will bite the salesman.

3. Spending too much time making calls instead of sales. A call is not an interview. An interview is not a sale. Some who call themselves salesmen have not learned this truth.

4. Shifting responsibility to the sales manager. The sales manager is not supposed to go with the salesman to make calls. He has not enough hours or legs to do this. His business is to tell the salesman what to do, not to do it for him!

5. Perfection in creating alibis. Explanations do not explain. Orders do! Nothing else does! Don’t forget that!

6. Spending too much time in hotel lobbies. A hotel lobby is a fine place to “park” but the salesman who parks there too long is bound to get walking papers sooner or later.

7. Buying hard-luck stories instead of selling merchandise. The Business Recession is a common topic of discussion, but don’t let the purchasing agent use it to switch your mind from your own story.

8. Imbibing too freely the night before. Parties are exciting, but they do not add to the following day’s business.

9. Depending on the sales manager for prospects. Order takers expect prospective buyers to be hog-tied and held down until they arrive. Master Salesmen catch their own prospects on the wing. This is one of the chief reasons why they are Master Salesmen.

10. Waiting for business conditions to pick up. Business is always good with the robins, but they do not wait for someone to dig the worms out of the ground. Be at least as clever as a robin! Orders are not being slipped under the salesman’s door this year.

11. Hearing the word “no.” This word, to a real salesman, is only a signal to begin fighting. If every buyer said “yes,” salesmen would have no jobs, for they would not be needed.

12. Fearing competition. Henry Ford has plenty of competition, but he apparently does not fear it because he had the courage and ability to turn out an eight-cylinder car at an amazingly low price during a period in which many motor manufacturers were retrenching.

13. Devoting too much time to the “poultry” business. The only sort of chickens that lay eggs are the feathered variety, and they roost on farms, not on Broadway or Main Street!

14. Reading the stock market reports. Let the suckers bite at this bait. You may be smart enough to dodge the hook, but think how the sales manager would feel if you won a fortune on the stock market and quit the house, as 1 out of every 10,000 who play the market do—sometimes!

15. Plain pessimism. The habit of expecting that the prospective buyer will give you the gate is likely to result in your getting it. Life has a queer way of trying to please. It usually gives that which is expected!

Don’t Ask, Don’t Sell

Salespeople often tell me that their biggest frustration is with the seemingly unnecessary time it takes to close a sale. Some salespeople complain that their prospects are “indecisive,” or that their prospects “lead salespeople on, give all the buying signals, but fail to pull the trigger for months and months.” I have yet to meet a single salesperson that does not want to speed up his/her sales cycle.

Customers today are guarding their cash. They’re slower to react than they used to be. And they expect more of you than ever. In today’s economy, all of the power has returned to the customer—and the customer has become impervious to closing techniques. If you’re still “selling through telling,” and you’re finding that your words are not as persuasive as they used to be—you might want to try using your ears.

I ask salespeople regularly, “What’s the most powerful question in sales?” The common response is, “The most powerful question is when you ask for the sale.” Dead wrong. Asking for the sale is the most avoided question in sales, but it is not the most powerful. Salespeople elude asking for the sale out of fear of rejection, out of what they perceive as being polite, out of wishful thinking, out of negligence, but mostly because they’re unprepared.

Actually, there is no one most powerful question in sales. There are, however, specific characteristics of what makes up the most powerful question for your specific sales situation, or a particular sales call. For example, during one call you may use a question to answer a customer’s question. “When can you deliver?” the customer asks. “When do you require delivery?” the perceptive salesperson responds.

On another call, you may choose to use a powerful question to begin the conversation. “Mr. Prospect, how did you get started in this business?” I have yet to meet a single businessperson who does not like to talk about him/herself. If you can get your prospect talking, you will find all the opportunities you need to uncover buying motives.

Uncovering buying motives is best accomplished by asking powerful questions, which must be prepared in advance to be effective. Here are five tips to help you prepare powerful questions for your next sales call:

1. Questions must be open-ended. Anything that would result in a “yes” or “no” answer leaves you doing most of the talking. The goal is to get the customer talking so you can listen for opportunities.

2. Start with friendly, personal questions. Most salespeople foolishly begin with small talk: “How’s the weather? How about those Yankees? How are the kids?” Save the small talk and ask something that will allow your prospect to connect to something on an emotional level. My mentor always begins with “Where did you grow up?”. Take a moment and think about where you grew up. Where was it? I’ve been there! Remember that great restaurant on Main St…? Got it?

3. Facts and figures often go unheard, but questions require thought. There’s a significant difference between the statement, “83.7% of all business professionals fail to properly save for their children’s college education,” and the question, “What are you doing to ensure your child will be able to attend the college of his/her choice?”

4. There is such a thing as a dumb question. Your elementary school teacher lied to you. Actually, she didn’t lie—she simply forgot to qualify the statement. What she should have said is, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question IN SCHOOL. In real life, however, you will be judged by the questions you ask.”

5. Don’t look to uncover the pain; find the opportunity. Instead of asking questions about problems, pains, or challenges, focus on your prospect’s dreams, hopes, and aspirations. Get your prospects to connect with what life would be like if and when they do business with you. “How would my product help you to achieve your goal? How would our software increase your productivity, your efficiency, your profit? What will you do with the additional cash flow my company will provide?”

Here’s the lesson: Invest your time preparing powerful questions, and your customers will spend their money with you. It all boils down to these four words: Don’t Ask, Don’t Sell.

Now it’s your turn: Share your best questions in the comments below. Or, ask for help developing powerful questions for your specific situation and I’ll be happy to respond.

The Stigma of Sales

There are two kinds of people in the world – cat people and dog people. Wait, no. That’s not the point of this article.

There are two other kinds of people in the world – people who love sales and people who hate sales. And, then, there are those who hate salespeople and those who love salespeople. From my own experience, I have found that there are far more Americans who detest salespeople than there are those who love (or even like) salespeople.

You’ve heard all the jokes. “How do you know a salesman is lying? His lips are moving.”

The reason why it’s funny is because it’s true. Salespeople for centuries have given themselves a bad name. Which means, they’ve given you a bad name.

But don’t just take my word for it. Recently, I conducted a survey on Facebook and Twitter with a single question:

 “What one thing do you DISLIKE most about salespeople?”

Here are a few of the nearly 100 responses I received:

  • “They tend to lie…if they don’t outright lie…they can be very misleading.”
  • “The fact that they’re salespeople!! Should be more focused on their clients needs verses their pocket!!”
  • “Focused on their own selfish needs.”
  • “Their utter phoniness.”
  • “The fact that too many of them act like a 20 year-old in Vegas looking for nothing more than a one night stand.”
  • “They don’t listen.”
  • “Telling me what I want to buy and what I need instead of asking me what I am looking for and what my needs are.”
  • “They make assumptions about what I want.”
  • “That they are all liars!”
  • “They’re too pushy!”
  • “You can never find them after the sale is final…unless it’s for another sale.”
  • “Halitosis.”
  • “Transferring call to another person or department to fix a mistake they made, since it is no longer a ‘Sales Call.’”
  • “They are fake and call you ‘partner.’”
  • “Funny you should ask the day I found out a car salesman lied to me – more than once. My answer: Lie.”
  • “The ones that simply tell me they’ll save me money. Those types have no plan for a working relationship.”
  • “They start every call with ‘How are you doing today?’ but they don’t really want to know. They just want me to buy something.”

Hurts, doesn’t it? So, what’s the cure?

You have to create a name (and a title) for yourself. You have to create a perception for yourself.

You’ve got to do whatever it takes to put yourself in a different category. You have to work hard to create perceived value in the mind of the customer or the prospect so that they think of you as anything but a salesperson.

Be a value-provider, not a salesperson. Be a resource, not a salesperson. Be a friend, not a salesperson. Be an assistant-buyer, not a salesperson. Be a customer-advocate, not a salesperson. Be an idea-generator, not a salesperson. Be a trusted-advisor, not a salesperson.

Become perceived as ANYTHING but a salesperson, and you’ll put yourself on a path toward sales success.

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