Being “Title Blind” in The Sales Game: Learn From Sunshine

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There are a few things that won’t ever get old in business (or life).  Many times, they are painfully simple and don’t cost a nickle.

  • A smile

  • A pat on the back

  • “Please”

  • “Thank You”

  • Atta Boy!  Atta Girl!

  • I appreciate you!

You know what can get messy?

When you treat people dramatically different, or are BEING TREATED dramatically different once your title/role/position authority is understood.  The entire game is changed.

A brief story…

While sitting at the desk with an office staff all away from the desk, the office phone (remember those things?) rings.  I pick it up:

Me:  “LM Foods?”
Caller:  “Hi, Mr. X please.”
Me:  “Sorry, Mr. X is tied up in the plant, been a crazy week, how can I help you?  Where you calling from?”
Caller:  “Calling from company Y.  When is Mr. X Available?”
Me:  “Hard to tell, it’s a plant and he’s putting out fires, tell me what company Y does?”
Caller:  “Sir, I’m one of Mr. X’s vendors, why don’t I just call back at another time when Mr. X may be available!”
Me:  “What kind of business have we done with you in the past?”
Caller:  “I’m one of Mr. X’s Vendors, but you buy product A from us if you need to know and you bought it in January?”
Me:  “Interesting and thanks for sharing that, but Mr. X is not the person that can help you with that?”
Caller:  “I used to deal with Harry, he’s no longer there and someone told me to talk to Mr. X!”
Me:  “Why don’t you send me a brief e-mail with a short description of your company, how we’ve done business and if I have that context I’d be happy to get you to the right person so your not so frustrated?”
Caller:  “What is it that you do?”
Me:  “Well I own the company, on a good day!”

What do you think our caller did next?

  • First (after a long pause) the tone softened dramatically!
  • Than an apology for the short/terse conversation.
  • Then I counseled the caller that I felt a little bit of pressure when all I’m trying to do is help, “and to be honest the tone/vibe shouldn’t change when you learn of my position which is what I’m feeling right now.”

 

Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for the follow up email.

Sometimes helping sales people (or anyone) can only happen when they want to help themselves.

This little story reminded me of “the old days” and a former team member of mine.  I used to work with someone who earned one of the great nicknames that can be given to a human being:

“SUNSHINE”

Nicknames only matter when they stick.  Sunshine earned her nickname.  That’s what I felt when I interacted with her.  As did everyone around her.  Sunshine is human like all of us, had her bad days like all of us had.  But like the real sun, she rose each day.  And whether you were the owner of a company, or whether you were the janitor, she treats everyone like they are the most important person in the room, and status never got in the way of her basic, warm approach to human interaction.

At the end of the day, sales is about people connection.  Forming a bond with humans.  So is leadership.  So is doing a good job if you are a factory worker, a delivery person.

I believe most humans NOTICE when behavior changes on a dime, and whether they know it or not, they can spot the trigger of that change a mile away.  Those are the moments a connection is made, but all too often, it is LOST.

If a person’s behavior IMPROVES as the person recognizes a person title, when that title has some “status” watch out.

If a person’s behavior is great all the time, but ESPECIALLY thoughtful to the people at the lower rungs of the ladder, watch closely here as well.  That person may have a gift.  That could be a nose for sales.  Or an ability to lead or inspire.

Or maybe, that person just has a component of Sunshine?  One thing I’m fairly certain:  Every company needs a little Sunshine.

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2 Warning Signs in Talent Selection

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One of the hardest areas in business to consistently get right is “picking winners.”  Great talent that makes an impact is a game changer for any business.  Of course, picking winners is easier said than done.

I’ve written on some recruiting challenges in the past….

The Talent Hunt:  Where’s the Will To Win?

Where Job Candidates Fail:  Articulating GBE

Talent Selection:  Skills or Values? 

Picking the winners is flat out hard, no matter how sophisticated the process.  Many people try different methods to increase their batting average:

  • Personality Profiles
  • “Case Study” Presentations – Give the candidate an assignment, have them present results to a panel
  • Extensive reference checking
  • Skill screening tests (especially for technical areas)

All methods provide insights/data points to increase the odds of success.  Unfortunately, I have yet to see a combination of methods that increases the odds over time.

However, I HAVE seen a couple of warning signs that DECREASE the odds of the candidates success:

  • A real hard charging focus on up-front salary negotiation  
  • A greater than “average” concern for a particular title, one that looks good on the resume’ or provides a degree of “prestige.”

Let’s take the first one, the hard charge towards maximizing the starting base salary.  I get it, I love the hustle, the ambition and the fight for what a candidate perceives to be their fair market “value.”  Salary is one of the most sensitive areas of business, it’s a black and white number that tends to be compared, analyzed and too much self worth wrapped up in that one number.  It’s one of the ultimate barometers of business.  There’s a problem however with the hard charging negotiation for candidates that have been extended an offer/invitation to join a company….

By definition, a job candidate that has been extended an offer has not accomplished one thing.  What they have demonstrated is an impressive showing BEFORE the bell rings.  

Their pitch on value is all related to potential, or their past track record.

Some level of negotiation could be considered “expected.”  However…

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a candidate completely confident in their ability to produce great results and say “why don’t we go with YOUR number, than lets sit down in 90 days when you actually see me action?”  Do you think that candidate would stand out while simultaneously showing they are willing to let their performance do the talking? [Continue Reading…]

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April Fool’s Day Matters

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Today, I knocked out a post on my company blog on April Fools day:

http://lmfoods.com/blog/april-fools-day-laughter-matters

April Fool's Day

Here’s the gist of it….

People at work flat out don’t laugh enough.  I mean REAL laugh, that takes oxygen, makes the ab muscles hurt.  With other co-workers.  That’s a crying shame.

I’ve often wondered why WORK is a viewed as a 4-letter word in way too many places.  Maybe, because far too many companies….

  • Value results over people, when people actually DRIVE the results.

  • Have cultures that value rules/process/protocol over individuals and diversity of thought.

  • Maybe they don’t value results at all, but value face time, politics and the people that conform to a certain mold?

Regardless of the reasons, April Fool’s Day is a reminder to not take oneself TOO seriously.

When you think of your most trusted, approachable people you’ve dealt with in business, do they take themselves SERIOUSLY, or not so much?  

I would argue the people that play lose, both with themselves and others tend to have an extra bounce in their step.  They become magnets for people to confide in, to trust.  Other functions in an organization seek them out over time.  

And dare I use a political metaphor, but people will “cross party lines” to be around those that don’t take themselves too seriously.  

April Fool’s day is a reminder to take it easy.

But everyday is an opportunity to Laugh.  To laugh hard, and laugh often.  At the very least, life is too short not too.

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Standing Up: If Not Now, When?

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There’s something about running a business and all the different twists and turns that can cause you to think.  Combine that with 3 strong cups of black coffee, the last day of 2015 (the day of turning 42!) and a look to the future and voila, a couple of thoughts.

I think of a great quality of life in terms of “Standing UP.”  Deciding what really matters in life.  Being true to yourself.  Being Real.  Making the tough call when needed.  What appears to be a tough call on the surface really is not……you’ve already determined what matters.    

So some real world examples….

One of the areas of business that I find fascinating are STAKEHOLDERS, how they are managed and IF/HOW one is more important than the others.

  • Employees.
  • Customers
  • Vendors
  • Owners/Shareholders
  • Debtors/Lending Institutions

Interests between stakeholders can sometimes appear to be in conflict.  Good leaders make them all co-exist together.  GREAT leaders will clearly articulate how they view stakeholders, talk openly about each, and back up their words with real actions.  They communicate their beliefs in ADVANCE any decisions that can be construed as conflict.  They welcome debate.  But when a decision needs to be made, it’s the leaders job to STAND UP.

My company, like many is financed by a combination of Debt and Investor Equity.  The Debt Piece I’ve found fascinating for a couple of reasons.

One smart banker called money “the ultimate commodity.”  I never thought of money that way before, and still have trouble getting my head around it.

A small lesson here:  The more smart people you come into contact with, the more challenges you will have to your world view, and that creates growth.

Rarely, will Debt be given without a hefty sum of collateral.  Want to mortgage anything?  There better be an asset in place.  And most times, that may not be enough, SOMEBODY will need to stand up and PERSONALLY guarantee the loan is safe and will be watched after.

The Personal Guarantee.  “PG.”  It’s a big one.  It’s a real test for an entrepreneur’s stomach, confidence, character and ability.

If money is indeed the ultimate commodity, than a PG is what stands between the money and the deal itself.  It’s a banks test.  Employees don’t have to deal with it.  Shareholders have risk, but its usually limited to their investment.  When $’s loaned > entreprenur’s net worth?  That’s a real test.  Many aren’t cut out for it.

The PG is one small example of STANDING UP.  Most will never experience it.

But STANDING UP (or not), happens everyday, and it happens to all of us.  There are choices that are made that move people forward, or keep them stuck.  People make choices everyday, based on their values, what matters, what doesn’t.

What can be the most stressful in life?  When people don’t clearly know what is important to begin with.

They aren’t “All in.”  They spread themselves like peanut butter, evenly across the landscape.  They either try and please everyone while the people and things that matter most aren’t clearly defined in their own mind.  People that try to please everyone usually end up pleasing nobody.  

When I look back on 2015, one of the most memorable and important moments came when a friend told me he was “all in” despite a character defining difficult decision that many would have been tempted by.  These are the people you go to war with.  And if your lucky, you grow old with these people.  They have their values front and center, and when they need to STAND UP, they do.

If people can stand up for THEMSELVES, they will eventually be able to stand up for OTHERS, and that matters even more.  Leaders ultimately fight for other people.  

2015 is in the books.  People everywhere will write their resolutions, some small, some big.  Many will dream big dreams, which is great.

What is NOT great, is when dreams of a better future happen with ZERO behavior change.  New, different, better ACTION.

Hustle happens to be verb.  A great life that you imagine takes real, intense action.

But hustle without understanding what’s important in life can be chaos.

Thinking through values matters.  It will allow you to be one step closer to STANDING UP.  That’s the first step towards action.  

So happy new year.  Wishing everyone the best, and thank you for listening.

It is hard to believe Hustle Or Bust has been kicking for 3 years now.  I thank my wife for kicking me in the rear to start this labor of love.

Actually, in many ways hustle or bust has been kicking for 42 years!

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Hustle Case Study: Pitbull

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Education is not only about IF and where you have a degree from, it’s about lifelong learning, and more learning happens OUTSIDE the classroom than inside of it.   

You also don’t need a semester to gain great inspiration and new knowledge, 10 minutes can do the trick. 

Here are 2 Great Talents:  Ryan Seacrest and Pitbull.  A 7 minute interview, and great lessons.

Para-phrasing (Of Course)

  • “Where does the energy come from?”  It’s all about motivation!
  • My mom raised me off Anthony Robins.  I would sit in the car and listen to his lessons.
  • There’s no success without failure.  No success without losing.
  • Does your Hustle and your ability to outwork help?  ABSOLUTELY.  It’s 90% business, 10% talent.
  • On Jennifer Lopez:  She’s a pro.  She show’s up on time, gets the job done and moves on to the next thing.
  • Who makes your suits?  It doesn’t matter what you wear, it’s how you wear it!
  • The only real thing in my life, is real people, so I’m very protective of them.
  • Ryan:  I like to meet friends, greet friends and KEEP friends!
  • What are your other priorities?  Vodka, schools, slam (sports, leadership, management), branding the city with Pit Bull, finding a way to grow and put the puzzle together!
  • I love the Hustle.  Fall.  Get right back up.   

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Little Tests of Integrity: The Choice to do the RIGHT Thing

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Integrity, nobody's watching

A minor event happened recently that I didn’t give much thought at the time.

A supplier billed us for goods received.  But there was an honest mistake in that they billed us for an amount that was a few thousand SHORT of what it should have been.  We brought it to their attention right away and had them re-bill for the higher/correct amount.  It was second nature, as it should have been.

But I do wonder:  Would this have been “automatic” for all businesses?  Or would they have paid the lower amount and looked the other way?

I have no idea what % would fall into each side of the issue.  But here’s  what I DO know:

  • If MY business made the same mistake, I would hope that my customer would alert me and allow me to fix it.  This certainly beats the awkward situation of catching our own mistake than bringing it to THEIR attention and asking to re-bill.  And that assumes we would actually catch it.

Doesn’t this sound like the “golden rule” principle for dealing with partners?  

The golden rule extends beyond how you “treat” people, it goes to the level of candor and honesty you have in your actual business practices.  The day to day grind of paying bills, receiving money, and communicating openly and honestly vs. playing your cards very close to the vest.

This can be considered a slant on “Old School vs. New School.”  I can certainly make the case that customer and supplier relationships in the ’90’s were more combative than today.

Businesses are starting to realize that joint success, collaboration and integrity are not “choices” if you intend to have long-term strategic relationships.  The key word of course is LONG-term.  

Back to my original question:  What % would NOT “do the right thing?.”  Lets suppose that this # approaches double digits and it likely does.

If that’s the case, than wouldn’t operating the RIGHT way be a competititve advantage?  I think so….

The business case for doing things the right way is simple.  Many do not.  If you DO, you create an intangible difference.  Positive differences tilt the deck in your favor.

For me however, I would just rather sleep well at night.

I would also like to know who I’m dealing with that wouldn’t do the right thing.  Life is short and business is too competitive to worry about these little things, that end up being big things.

There are lots of things to worry about in business.

Getting beat for integrity lapses (or pouncing on someone else’s mistakes) should never be one of them.

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A Leadership Challenge: Stay Humble. Hustle Hard

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Have you ever met a great leader that doesn’t exude confidence?  Probably not.

But sometimes, like all great strengths, confidence can be over-played and it can creep into…

  • Confidence’s twin evil brother:  Arrogance

  • Confidence’s twin evil cousin:   Cockiness

I would venture to guess that Confidence, Arrogance, Cockiness are adjectives that are somewhat common among C-suite leaders in the eyes of those that matter most:  The people they are supposed to lead.  Ask anyone that has gone through a formal self assessment where peers weigh into various leadership characteristics and they can tell you how humbling the process can be.

Which brings me to another great graphic a friend shared with me recently.

stay humble hustle hard

 

If you believe that TRUST is critical to sound relationships, than what better characteristic could describe a leader than…

HUMBLE

Not the typical word you hear when your thinking about titans of industry right?

But it IS possible to be humble, and also a driver with a healthy dose of confidence.

The great Tom Peters has 2 great concepts that inject a dose of humility in every leader

  • WDYT:   Ask What do you think?  Then shut up and listen.

  • MBWA:  Management by wandering around.  Get out of the ivory tower.

If both aren’t done daily, it will never become part of the leader’s DNA.

I’ll take this concept one step further.

How many mistakes does a leader make in a given month?  I’m not talking about simple “errors.”  I’m talking about real mistakes, that if we had the chance to go back in time and un-wind a decision or series of events, a better outcome would have resulted.  If you are in the business of growth and pushing the envelope, then there should be a handful by definition.

Team “Contact” Drill:
  • Pull your management team into a lessons learned session of the mistake.
  • Take responsibility, OWN it.  Explain what the person in the mirror could have personally done differently to create a better outcome.
  • Ask the team for their feedback, agreement, disagreement, other perspectives.
  • Ask the team for their thoughts, ideas, concerns on the road ahead.
  • Make some commitments
  • Follow-through

There’s no magic formula.  But it’s a fact that leaders don’t do enough listening.  That’s unfortunate, and it creates an environment that does not get the most of their teams talent.

There’s a thing about listening:  It’s a skill.  It takes practice.

Leadership is a CONTACT SPORT.  However, sometimes the “contact” is not outward, it needs to be directed to yourself, with the people you lead.  Thick skin optional, open mind mandatory. 

The great Jim Collins has written extensively about this trait and he describes it as “Level 5 Leadership” in Good to Great.  Here’s a great HBR primer on the topic:

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve

https://hbr.org/2005/07/level-5-leadership-the-triumph-of-humility-and-fierce-resolve

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Too Blunt? REALLY? Campaign Season & Style

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Talking Politics is always a potential hornets nest, but there’s a ton to learn from campaign season.  Candidates try and differentiate themselves from the pack, and the pundits critique their every move.  I wouldn’t wish that scrutiny on anyone!

This weekend I caught a glimpse of the Iowa Freedom Summit where republicans made their speeches.  I was particular stumped by NJ Governor Chris Christie, in particular his opening…

“I have heard and read the conventional wisdom that somehow a guy from New Jersey would not be welcomed or understood at the Iowa Freedom Summit,” he said. “That somehow I’m too loud, that I’m too blunt and I’m too direct.”

Perhaps I pay closer attention to Christie being a NJ guy, and my style that I would consider more Direct vs. “Polished.”  But when a candidate needs to overcome “directness” to play on a national level, it is worth reflecting on what works and does not in the Leadership game.

I’m clearly biased and have written plenty on the topic of Leadership Style

Old School Leader:  Dirt Under the Nails Required, Polish Optional
Charisma:  A Dangerous Word in Leadership

In short, I value the straight shooter over the slick, even if the straight shooter makes me pause and hits a “sensitive” nerve.  Business moves at light speed…..breaking through layers of polish to know where you stand takes energy.

I suspect however that my bias is in the minority if a candidate like Chris Christie needs to spend a fair amount of time explaining his leadership style.

In business, I view Leadership “style” like I view a product’s Packaging:  A critical component, but it’s not the PRODUCT itself.  The product in the leadership game is the person, the results they can produce for business and for developing people.     

The “Blunt” topic of Leadership style should force us to ask ourselves some basic questions:

  • How important is style?  Critical?
  • How is trust formed?
  • How do you connect with strangers?
  • What role does style play in the final analysis?  Getting Results

One other interesting tidbit I picked up from the Iowa Summit?  An idea that came from the entertaining (to some) Donald Trump:  Let’s get rid of the following:

Teleprompter

I couldn’t agree more.  I respect and admire the great speech.  But it is refreshing to see the few go off the cuff and speak from the heart.

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Career Warning Sign: A Hustle Tank on “E”

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HUSTLE is core to everything I think about, talk about, practice and study.  It’s a borderline obsession and why my blog is named “Hustle or BUST!”

3 reasons come to mind why it’s the cornerstone of my philosophy:

  1. It’s one of life’s massive difference makers.
    • People of “average” ability that outwork someone with tremendous NATURAL talents, will flat out level the playing field.
    • Give me a factor you are competing with, HUSTLE can play a massive role squaring up the so called “disadvantage.”
  2. It’s 100% controllable.   Like attitude, it is a choice.
  3. Massive Hustle is really not that common.
    • Hustle is not just “working hard” as many people can claim that.  It’s about working hard on things that make a real difference, that generate results.  Than MASSIVELY out-working people in those areas.
    • Many waste time on things that if they stopped, no difference would be felt.  Think 80/20.

In short, Hustle is within everyones reach, and as they embrace and craft it, life improves.

The reverse is also true.  People’s “Hustle Factor” is not a constant level.  It ebbs and flows, especially in the workplace.

If one’s HUSTLE comes into question in the workplace, they have entered a very real career DANGER ZONE.

Hustle is a vital organ of your career.  Think of it as your career HEART.

When the heart stops beating……blood and oxygen stop going to other vital organs.

The problem with the metaphor however is the TIME factor.  In real life, your heart can’t stop beating for long, or death is imminent.  In careers, when hearts slow (or stop completely), death can be quick, or it can be painfully slow.

Slow and painful deaths are never fun, especially when you can control it by recognizing warning signs and taking immediate and deliberate action.

Warning Signs- Hustle on

Warning Signs:  When Your Hustle Indicator is on “E.”

  • The clock seems to consistently move slower.  Each day…

  • When you leave more tired from the same effort

  • You fail the Optimism test I learned from my 7 year old waking up each day.

  • You spend significant time thinking:  Does my effort create tangible results?

  • When more energy goes into politics/drama vs. generating results, serving customers, or helping people over extended periods of time.

  • When you feel like your on auto-pilot, have “leveled off” on your development.  You’re not GROWING.

  • When people stop seeking you out to solve problems.  Especially one’s that used to in the past, and your not thrilled with those changes.  You don’t ask why, because you’re afraid of the answer.  

  • When there’s a body part that seems to be getting sore:  Your heels, because you are always on them, playing defense.

This list is not exhaustive.  And the key point?  The Blue are internal to how YOU Feel, the RED are external to OTHERs recognizing you are on E. RED warning signs are therefore more critical.  

People are human.  We all go through valleys where we can answer along the lines of “E” on the above warning signs.  Recognizing what’s a valley that you will pull out from vs. a permanent “E” with little chance of replenishing is key.

But make no mistake:  Having a Hustle Indicator on “E” can’t last very long.  Recognize your warning signs….

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Training: Step 1 is to Prime The Pump For Results

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Training, like most words in business conjures up various images:

  • Class Rooms
  • Work-books
  • Certifications
  • Boot Camps
  • Lectures

I think of training in 2 buckets:

1)  Formal

2)  In-formal

The bullet points above are formal.

Formal, structured training certainly has its place in business.  There’s a tendency for senior management to expect immediate results or a “spike” in productivity, like some type of sales promotion increasing sales in the short-term.

In-formal training is where the action is.  It happens off the cuff.  Spontaneous.  Un-predictable.  Free-flowing.  Back and forth.  Sounds a bit like everyday life doesn’t it?

If you want to know how the lion lives, don't go to the zoo, go to the jungle.

 

The purpose of any training program needs to be about growing people, and then as a result, business growth becomes easier.[Continue Reading…]

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