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Buck the System

Buck the System

Systems don’t always work. Sometimes systems are broken and a complete makeover is necessary before it kills your business. Sometimes years of experience can be wrong. Sometimes, your superiors are just comfortable with their way and don’t want you to upset the apple cart. Maybe you are a follower and want to go along with a system just because you are told to. Maybe you are working in a sales factory that suppresses your creativity and is holding you down. (more…)

Office Trust Falls

Office Trust Falls

This week we were talking about team building. In the office, Lacy does a great job making sure we are always on track. Sam jokingly suggested we should do some trust falls. I don’t think he meant it. I thought it was an excellent idea. The video shows our team building activity from three different camera angles. (more…)

Body Language

Body Language

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series The Follow Up.

You are judgmental, and so are your prospects. Whether you want to believe it or not, you make decisions about new people you meet within minutes and sometimes seconds of the introduction. We judge people favorably or negatively based upon a whole litany of criteria, and words are rarely what we base our whole judgment upon. Your body language can tell people far more about what you are thinking than your words.

Even for those people who are untrained in body language meanings, contradictions in body and words have a negative affect. When a person is saying one thing with their mouth and another with their body, the conversation feels awkward and insincere.  Awkward conversations will crush any perceived trust, and will doom any chance of a sale or follow up. For those trained in body language meanings, words are secondary to the message being sent by the body. When you study body language, you will be able to see clear contradictions between what a prospect is saying with their mouth and their body.

In many sales and prospecting meetings, the inexperienced salesperson or networker leaves a meeting with a prospect completely pumped about getting the sale because the prospect was saying all the right things. In reality, the only positive thing the prospective was saying was coming from his or her mouth. The prospect just wanted to get rid of the annoyance in front of her by feigning interest. The insincere words spoken by the prospect deceived the inexperienced salesperson, but with training, the salesperson could see that the prospect’s legs and arms were crossed, one hand was covering a portion of her mouth and the prospect was never able to look the perceived annoyance in the eye. An experienced salesperson and student of body language would have seen these warning signs and stopped the sales pitch to get to the bottom of the real problem or doubt. An experienced body language reader would have known that if the person did not begin to open up, this sale was doomed and a follow up would never have resulted in a sale, no matter how many times the salesperson followed up.

In The Definitive Book of Body Language we learn, “Body language is an outward reflection of a person’s emotional condition. Each gesture or movement can be a valuable key to an emotion a person may be feeling at the time.” If you begin to watch, your prospects will be telling you far more with their gestures and body then with words.

I pride myself in being able to connect with people and create enjoyable environments for productivity, but I have made some big mistakes addressing body language. I have had experiences with a person who could not stand me and it was evident whenever we met. My meetings with this person were never very comfortable no matter what I tried. In two of my meetings I made the big mistake of pointing out that the person’s arms and legs were folded and one of his hands was covering a portion of his mouth; all signals that this person did not trust me and or disliked me very much. The meetings were very uncomfortable and discomfort is a unproductive setting when you are trying to get things done. In our business dealings, this person definitely felt himself my superior, and he hated me trying to get to the bottom of his feelings during our meetings no matter how big of an impediment I felt it was toward a resolution. In fact my reads infuriated him and he was quick to remind me. I learned quickly that when a person feels he or she is your superior, be very careful pointing out that they do not look physically comfortable with how the conversation is going. Read the body language and do your best to address the problem with a different direction in the conversation. Not until you feel very comfortable with the person sitting across from you, do you point out that avoidance of eye contact and other body signals are causing a problem in the conversation.

Successful follow up meetings can be critical to your business. You owe it to yourself to avoid leaving a meeting thinking that you are further ahead than you really are. If you understand basic body signals, you will have a good idea of how the follow up will go before you even leave your first meeting. When you understand the basics, you can save yourself weeks of fruitless follow up.

Following Up Without Being a Pain In the Neck

Following Up Without Being a Pain In the Neck

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series The Follow Up.

You know the drill, you had a great meeting with a prospect and everything looked and felt great during the meeting. But, a week has gone by and you have not heard back from the prospect and you are wondering what to do. Questions begin to enter you mind:

  • How long should you wait before you contact your prospect after a meeting?
  • What did I do wrong they were so interested?
  • Am I cut out for this?

Anybody who has ever read a book on sales etiquette or has experience in sales knows that the follow up is just as important as the meeting itself. As entrepreneurs enter the 21st century is it ok to email or text the prospect, or should you just call? Even more important than how you get back with the prospect is when should you get back to the prospect? I have compiled a list of answers from some of the world’s best entrepreneurs in an attempt to give answers to when you should get back to your prospects without worrying if you are acting out of place or being a pest.

We’ll start this series of posts off with one of my personal favorites, Jeffrey Gitomer. In his book, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, Gitomer asks, “Are you a sales leader or a sales chaser?”

“Chasing your prospect too hard? People not calling you back? Pushing too hard for orders? Try running the other way – let the prospect chase you. It’s the best follow-up technique I’ve ever experienced.”

“If prospects are not returning your call, whose fault is that? You’re chasing too hard. They’re running away. You couldn’t get their interest. You couldn’t get them to chase you.

Here are some tell-tale symptoms the chase is going the wrong way:

  • You’ve followed up a few times, and now you’re searching for a reason to call them – but you can’t think of one.
  • You are uncomfortable about calling, you are unprepared, you have not established the needs of the prospect, you are unsure of their status, or you don’t have much rapport with the prospect (or some of each).
  • You call, get their voice mai, and hang up.
  • You left your best message and they didn’t call you back.
  • They told you a decision would be made Tuesday, and Tuesday has come and gone.
  • The prospect is giving you a bunch of lame excuses. And you are accepting them!
  • And the worst symptom of all – you are blaming the prospect for you inability to generate enough interest, create enough value, or for not having a solid reason to call you back.”

If you have never read any of Gitomer’s books and you are an entrepreneur, it is time to invest in your education. The guy is funny and he can cut right through the bologna. His books are short and easy to read. If you want to learn more from one of the masters on how to get prospects’ attention and more on how to follow up with your prospects, he is a must read.

The Intelligent Entrepreneur

The Intelligent Entrepreneur

I was recently told, “You must be stupid to be an entrepreneur in this economy!” I would say, if you aren’t an intelligent entrepreneur, then yes, you would be stupid to be an entrepreneur in this economy. Succeeding in business takes smarts, both intellectual and emotional intelligence. I believe that the right entrepreneur can succeed in any type of economic times.

I follow many different business writers on their blogs. It is no secret, I love to read Seth Godin. However, I also love to read the posts of Marc Cenedella, CEO of TheLadders.com. In his most recent post he spoke about “The Intelligent Entrepreneur”, a new book out from author Bill Murphy. In the book, Murphy distills 10 rules of successful entrepreneurship from the stories of several Harvard Business School graduates.

Much of Cenedella’s post is below:

As I read through the stories, and looked at Bill’s rules, it struck me that there are similarities between the successful entrepreneur and the successful job-seeker. You’re both trying to create something new — a new company or a new position for yourself. You’re both faced with the emotional challenges that go with any new endeavor. There are plenty of setbacks along the way in starting a company and getting a job. And success is dependent on sticking to it and seeing it through.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d share five of Bill’s 10 rules with you and show how they apply to your job search.

#2 Find a problem, then solve it.

It’s not enough in the 21st century to simply describe yourself to future employers as “I’m a finance guy” or “I’m a saleswoman.” Particularly in this difficult economic environment, you need to let your future boss know what kind of problem you can solve for him or her. So be specific about what you bring to the table: “I’m a finance professional who specializes in Sarbanes-Oxley and really enjoys working with internationally headquartered companies to meet American regulatory requirements” or “I’m a sales professional who loves working with biotech start-ups as they go from pre-revenue to $10 mm in sales.”

Find a problem, and then let your future boss know how you will solve it.

#4 You can’t do it alone.

The job search can be a lonely endeavor and you can’t possibly make it alone. You’ll need the support of your family and friends, and being honest with them about the trials and tribulations you’re experiencing is an important part of your emotional well-being during the search. You’ll also need to rely on your colleagues and contacts, and have them on the lookout for you during your job search. (See my advice last week on this topic: “Ask for a reference, not a job.”)

Enlisting the aid of the people you know for support, advice, and connections is the way to your next great job.

#5 You must do it alone.

But as much as you’ll need to rely on family, friends and colleagues, it is ultimately going to depend on you. You’ll need to make the calls, you’ll need to do the follow-up, and you’ll need to be prepared for the interviews. When it’s 10:17 a.m. on Tuesday morning and you’re staring at the phone thinking about making that follow-up call, it’s up to you, and you alone, to pick up the phone and dial the digits. Nobody else can do it for you.

Understanding that you’ll need to make the commitment, set aside the appropriate amount of time, and then fight through our natural tendency to procrastination, is key to your success.

#8 Learn to sell.

Take your annual earnings and multiply by five. That’s the value of the product you are selling — the next five years of your labor. It’s the most important sales job you’re going to have, and you need to learn how to sell. You need to qualify the buyer — make sure they need an expensive product like you — and then explain to them the benefits they’ll get by purchasing — how you’ll help solve the problems they’re facing in their business.

Too often we can allow ourselves to slip into focusing on what I need out of the job hunt. You have to remember that it’s not about you, it’s about what your future employer needs. And you need to sell them on how you fulfill those needs better than any other candidate.

#9 Persist, persevere, prevail.

The job hunt is filled with twists and turns — moments of hope and days of despair. That’s normal. Even the most successful, polished, high-priced executives and professionals that we work with here at TheLadders have those weeks when the phone is not ringing, emails go unanswered, and the creeping doubts seem to loom larger.

It’s all part of the job-seeking process, and in order to be successful, you’ll need to overcome those difficulties. It is only persistence and perseverance that will see you through the bad days and the tough interviews. Anybody who has started a company, and everybody who goes through the job search, experience tough times. Stick to it, know that you are valuable, and you will make it through to success!

To learn the other five rules of successful entrepreneurship, I’d recommend you go pick up “The Intelligent Entrepreneur” today.

Level 5 Leadership

Level 5 Leadership

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Building a Smarter Team.

A smart team starts with its leader. If a team is failing, you typically have to look no further than its leader. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins believes the top leadership level a person can achieve is what he calls Level 5 Leadership.

“Level 5 refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities, with Level 5 at the top. Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.”

One of the most advantageous aspects of writing about leadership and team building is how much I continue to learn about myself. As I analyze myself compared to the great leaders that researchers study, I am not sure if I am more like the bumbling self-absorbed Michael Scott from NBC’s the office or if I have a shot at becoming a Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark who turned a failing company into a Wall Street darling. Will I be Michael and buy myself a coffee mug declaring myself the “World’s Best Boss,” or will I be ferociously dedicated to my companies’ success with the humility of Smith when he said, “I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job”?

As Collins writes, “Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious-but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”

A couple of years ago I spoke to a person who had taken over a flailing company. I was excited about her vision for the company and how she intended on motivating its depressed sales force and confused employees. I was impressed with the plan, it was innovative and superbly thought out. However, I became disheartened in the future of her plan when she told me, “Besides, if it fails, I will make a nice stack of cash trying.” Ouch.

In a fast-food world, we are applying principles of convenient and disposable to our careers and our companies. Often times jobs are looked at as simply a stepping stone to pad the resume for the next big thing. No wonder our teams are uninspired and transient.

Good to Great found that Level 4 leaders often put their ambition and legacy ahead of the business. “In over three quarters of the comparison companies (underperforming companies), we found executives who set their successors up for failure or chose weak successors, or both.” How many people are truly more concerned about their legacy instead of the true health of the company? How many business Pharaohs are more concerned about building their personal Sphinx that will last longer than the kingdom?

Building a smarter team is not easy. Becoming a Level 5 leader is even harder. Something I do know, it is imperative that we take the attitude of Darwin Smith and constantly try to learn our position better. The minute you think you have it all figured out is when your foundation will begin to crumble.