What Your Dog Can Teach You About Sales

In the dog-eat-dog world of business, there are many factors that impact your ability to be successful. Luckily, you can learn some fairly useful lessons from man’s best friend to make you stand out in the pack.

1.  A dog is only a dog.  There is an abundance of costumes available for your pet, and you can dress him up to suit whatever whimsical fancy crosses your mind. At the end of the day, your dog is still a dog regardless of how realistic his Ewok outfit looks. Follow your dog’s example and be yourself all of the time. Your ability to develop long lasting relationships is directly impacted by how genuine you are. If your customer asks if you like the Greenbay Packers and you are rightly a die-hard Atlanta Falcons fan, tell them honestly that you respect their right to be grossly wrong. They’ll appreciate your honesty (maybe not your comment.)

2. Leave your mark on the world. Fido is constantly exploring new territory and frequently urinating on everything. He is letting the canine world know that he’s been there and they are inside his domain. Do the same in your professional life. Be adventurous and memorable. Do something different tomorrow. Strive to expand your world and take your customer along for the ride. Do NOT pee on the CFO’s desk though.

3.  Sniff a lot of butts. Obviously this is not literal advice, but it is an analogy to get outside of your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to everyone. That smelly lady in procurement might seem like a choice candidate to avoid, but there is no way of knowing if she will become the gatekeeper of your next big deal. Your best relationships can often come from the people you would least expect.

4.  Get rid of fleas. You see your dog scratching furiously and biting at himself. He’s picked up fleas from his last half day jaunt around the neighborhood after jumping the fence. As a dog owner, you know if you fail to treat him quickly that a few fleas will turn into an infestation. Fleas suck and at times so will numerous things in your sales career- customers will lie to you, quotas will become unreasonable, and various other items that will prevent you from meeting your business goals. Find a way around, over, under, or through these challenges quickly before you find yourself slipping into an unproductive rut.

5. Be loyal. You can forget your dog while he is outside in the rain, and he’ll still come up and shower you with love. He’ll protect you from strangers, and even on your worst day, try to make everything better by grabbing a toy for an impromptu tug-of-war match making you forget whatever was troubling you in the first place. Loyalty is important. Be loyal to your customers. Buy their products. Find them jobs if there are layoffs. Drive them home after a happy hour turns into a happy night because you genuinely care about them as people and not just a paycheck. Your success relies upon their commitment not to pickup the phone when your competitors are calling. Be loyal to your colleagues. Send kudos to their management when a support team member goes above and beyond for you. If you know your inside sales counterpart makes crappy money but they were instrumental in closing your last deal, take some of your commission and send them a token of appreciation.


6. Don’t be a bad dog. You come home to find your couch cushion lying in foam chunks throughout the house. The water bowl is upside down,  and there are sufficient puddles to make you wonder if a gremlin erupted from it at midnight. Your dog immediately tucks his tail between his legs and knows you are upset. He’s been a bad dog. Learn from his example and do not make the same mistakes. Do not be a bad salesperson. Do not pressure your customer when they are not ready to buy. Call your customer after the sale and especially when they are out of their buying cycle. Let them know that you care as much about them and their business when they are not spending money as when they are. Don’t yell at your order processing folks because they forgot to book a deal. Understand they are people too and sometimes make mistakes. Be a good dog and a good salesperson!

I am certain you are aware of many of the above analogies, but as a sales professional we often forget that as any professional, constant reinforcement and practice is required to become great. The next time you look at your dog, maybe you will see other characteristics that will help you sell better and live happier.

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Take The Bricks Off Your Head

bricks

It doesn’t matter if you worked 60 hours last week, you stayed late at the office everyday, or you are doing all that you can, sometimes your 100% is not good enough.  Here’s a simple test: if you are a business or sales leader, do you want someone who produces 100% of target with 40% of the effort or 40% of their target with 100% effort?  The answer is simple.

So how do you get the bricks off of your head and become more productive?  How do you balance work and life while still meeting or exceed expectations in business?  Why are other people moving forward while you are still doing the same thing and expecting different results?

Use my wheelbarrow approach.

wheelbarrow

  1. Find the optimal load.  You can stack your workload to the sun in a wheelbarrow if you are the Minecraft king/queen of the universe, but that does not mean you’ll be able to accomplish your goal of getting your load to its destination.  Instead, find the perfect balance between what you can lift and the path you need to travel in the time you have to get there.  Think of the bricks as tasks of various size due to complexity.  If you try to pile too many unfamiliar workloads into your wheelbarrow, you are probably going to take 3x as long to get there or wind up dumping the load.
  2. The key is balance.  On the wheelbarrow, you need to balance between the left and the right arm to keep from tipping over.  This is akin to work and life in the real world.  Too much of either will keep your from being successful at both.  Strive for a happy medium.
  3. Walk do not run.  At least until you get the hang of it.  I see many people jumping in extremely eager with no idea of the plan to get there.  Spend time looking at the overall goal and focus on the low-hanging fruit first.  It’s amazing what you’ll accomplish and build your confidence for the more strenuous endeavors.
  4. Plan for the front tire.  You, like the front tire on the wheelbarrow, are a single point of failure for getting the job done.  Develop a contingency.  Keep someone informed of your progress and make notes in case something comes up that takes you away from the task.  Think of this as the spare tire you’d need for your wheelbarrow.
  5. A wheelbarrow is not a dump truck. Set expectations.  If your leadership wants the job done in 8 weeks and you are certain it will take 12 weeks, then communicate that you will aim for the goal but commit to the realistic time frame.  Working like a dump truck while being a wheelbarrow will lead to you broken, unhappy, and unproductive.
  6. Sometimes it’s easier to pull than push.  Going up a large incline in a wheelbarrow if often easier by reversing grip and pulling the wheelbarrow up the hill.  Do not push when you should pull.  Try new approaches in business as you would any other task.  Do not believe there is one way to do everything and be open to understanding that the tasks rarely change, only the way you accomplish them.

If all else fails, you can always snap off the handles of the wheelbarrow and beat someone with them.  Okay, that’s definitely not good advice, but I had to check to see if you read the entire article.

I would appreciate your comments or feedback.

Good luck and happy selling!

Do Not Be Afraid of CHANGE

  

There are many types of change you will encounter in your life, but change in the workplace should not scare a seasoned business professional, especially in sales. Embrace it, hold onto it, and OWN it. 

When a new, C-level executive comes into your client, quickly reach out and offer to give him an outside perspective of the organization. If you were him, what would you do?  Where are problem areas, what silos exist that shouldn’t, where are there inefficiencies, are there people he should be wary of, etc…  Become his trusted advisor and protect the people with whom you’ve built your book of business. In 60 minutes, you can jumpstart his understanding of the organizational politics, history, and current state more so than any of his direct reports. 

You are a powerbroker. You control your partners, your company’s brand with your client, and your actions command respect. You have years invested in your intimate knowledge of your customer and many more years practicing to refine your methodology and business acumen. Act like an executive regardless of your title and change if you must!

Change in your company? Look for areas of growth. Carpe Diem!  Why is the company changing?  Maybe you can be a change agent too and move up the ladder. Stick it out and put your fears aside. Execute and focus on your line of business. Be successful irrespective of everything even if it falls apart around you. 

I love being a Client Executive. I have control over my income and my destiny, and you should own every aspect of your ecosphere. Think there will be a negative impact? Then act. Promote your brand to your new leadership. Simple Sales 101 exercised on your internal organization and away you go on the path to wherever you want to be. 

On a side note, I couldn’t resist the picture of my son where his hair is the only thing with color. It’s too perfect and reminds me of the reason why I pickup and carry a bag every day. 

Good luck and happy selling!
John

Why Job Openings Matter at Your Client

jobs

If you are a seasoned sales professional, you are aware that placing a friendly person with an established relationship in a decision making or technical influencer role at a prospective client will help you break in and capture new business.  Monitoring job openings at your target and existing customers is important for the above reasons, but do you know the additional value in keeping track of headcount needs?  The job postings can give you valuable business intelligence and identify areas where you can fill an immediate need for your client.

If you work for a technology company, scan the IT jobs listed.  Do you see a need for a DBA?  Do you see multiple postings for a certain technology?  You can make a few educated assumptions that there is growth in that field or problems, either way, it’s an opportunity for you to probe the organization for the reason they are hiring.  If you know nothing about their existing environment, you can often find out a lot of their existing hardware and software install base.  Are they searching for senior IT leadership?… perhaps they are having execution issues.

Practice makes perfect with this exercise and the more you do it, the better your assumptions will match reality.  Try this exercise with a client that one of your associates or a friend knows extremely well.  How close were your educated guesses?

I utilize the above methodology with success frequently.  Please feel free to leave a comment below with your story or comments.

Good luck and happy selling!

Invest in your clients…SERIOUSLY invest in your clients

handshake

You tell your clients’ business leaders that you have the best solution to their business problems.  You bring in all the resources at your disposal to persuade them that your solution is X times better than the competitors.  You wrap this up in a financial summary that shows a return-on-investment, a decreased payback period, and illustrate how your answer to their business pain is the best thing since sliced bread.  Perhaps you have worked with this client for years, or perhaps, you are the long-shot and this is your first truly qualified opportunity to shine.  Here’s my advice: Invest in your client!

If your client is a publicly traded company, buy their stock.  You are now personally impacted to the success of their business.  Are you certain your solution will provide a positive impact to the company?  You will find yourself adding their stock ticker to your mobile device to track the success of the company.  Your retirement will depend upon it.  Let the client know that you are in it with their company for the long haul, and much like their executive team, your success is mutually aligned.

If your client is privately-held, then you need to get creative.  Offer to reinvest a percentage of your profits into their business in the form of additional services or tangible goods (after approval from your company’s leadership of course and make it something you do not sell.)  Perhaps, they would appreciate a donation to their charity of choice or a sponsorship of their next corporate function.  It doesn’t matter.  Get personally involved in their success and their corporate brand.

In my current role, I work on strengthening my company’s strategic partnership with a global beverage manufacturer.  Not only do I own their stock, but I do not drink competitive products.  I buy their bottled water, my children drink their dairy items, and I treat them as I want to be treated.  I do not want them consuming my competitive alternatives, so I lead by example in my personal life – and my children know which company is contributing to their college funds as well.

Conversely, business executives need to start asking their sales professionals what investment they are making in their business.  Many people imagine a mutually beneficial relationship, but it is rare that it is measurable and clearly defined.

Good luck and happy selling!