By Failing to Prepare, You Are Indeed Preparing to Fail

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How many of you have heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail?”

If this is your first time seeing it, read it again. I cannot stress the importance of these wise words enough. People often talk about how they are waiting for their big break or that if they were just given the opportunity, they would take it and run with it.

But would they really? That would mean that they have to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself, and unfortunately, the majority are simply not. A really bad habit to get into is talking more about what you would do given the opportunity — than actually working to create that reality.

Those who are proactive about their possibilities know that they can create opportunities for themselves, and in that process, prime themselves for success. If you feel there is not enough opportunity knocking, ask yourself if you are preparing for it as much as you are talking about it.

One thing I’ve learned from being both unprepared and prepared at pivotal times in my life is that life presents us with limited windows of opportunity. These windows may never come again. Many are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. There are windows that will swing open, and if you’re not ready at that moment, you have to bite the bullet and accept it as a missed opportunity.

In high school, I was a baseball standout. I had MLB scouts coming to watch me play, and because I got involved in delinquent behavior, I was kicked off my baseball team. I wasn’t mentally prepared. I had all the talent in the world — but that wasn’t enough. I had to reluctantly accept it as a major loss, and understand that only I was to blame.

It is important that no matter how skilled, talented or knowledgeable you are in your respective field, you must spend time every day preparing. Prepare for the next step, the next goal, the next big moment when it arises — because you never know when it will come. I’ve found that the biggest regrets come from individuals who had a window of opportunity that they weren’t prepared for. Whether it was the job interview that they tried to wing, or the endorsement that they lost. There is nothing worse than the feeling of your dreams being close enough to touch and them slipping through your fingertips, never to return.

Whether I look at my life as an athlete or in the business-arena, preparation makes all the difference. Preparing for a game and studying your opponent is necessary in order to win. If you don’t know your opponents’ strengths, you’re going to come out blindly hoping that your skill level will outplay theirs. True champions do more than that. They don’t gamble on their skill level. They combine it with diligent preparation.

Going into a meeting looking for a capital investment for your start-up and relying on your knowledge and passion is simply not enough. True successors combine their passion and knowledge with meticulous research and preparation. You need to know who your investors are before you can convince them how valuable this investment is for them, not you.

Before a keynote, I don’t just go on stage and give a blanket speech on performance, leadership or sales. I study the organization I’m speaking to, crunch their numbers, address their challenges, and cater content specifically to them. This preparation makes all the difference and will set you apart from the people just going with the motions.

It’s often obvious to tell those who are prepared or not. Whether it’s the start-up pitch, the keynote speaker or the athlete taking the field, preparation is not a concept you can throw together quick. You cannot “fake it ‘til you make it,” and you can’t wing it.

It takes time, discipline, thought, effort, research, organization and even some meditation. It’s an investment in yourself, your product and your business, and those who are prepared are noticed. If you want to create possibilities, prime yourself for success, and capitalize on opportunity. You must simply begin to prepare as such.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Stop Comparing Yourself to Competitors. Start Perfecting Your Craft.

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We’re hard on ourselves professionally. Competition is fierce in the business world. We compare ourselves to the competition every chance we get.

But I’m here to tell you to stop. Stop the comparisons. They’re doing nothing to your competition. Much like disliking a person that doesn’t know you exist, it only hurts you.

Emotional energy is what makes us great. It is the blood, sweat and tears that we experience when pursuing our deepest passions and dreams. The smile that comes when you get the sale or the tarnished ego that ensues when you don’t. It’s the yearning desire to want more and to keep pushing.

It can also be very draining and damaging if you don’t focus on the necessity of positive emotional energy. Do not sabotage yourself by draining your emotional energy on what everyone else is doing better than you. Your craft needs that emotional energy much more than your competition. Your craft needs your passion, your fire and your creative genius to push forward. Your competition is draining you of your competitive edge, and they’re not losing sleep over it — you are.

Yes, it’s important to know your market well and the others competing in your space, but keep it there. Have a concrete knowledge, but don’t worry about their quarterly sales, their new endorsements, how big their holiday party was, what media slots they are securing or what new clients they’ve gotten. The reality is that there is enough business out there for everyone. If you don’t believe so, ask yourself — how you are going to solicit a larger consumer base?

They are out there. This is where your energies need to be spent. This is where focusing on your craft comes in. Focus on the value that you, your product or your service brings to the industry. Spend time listening to what your loyal customers and clients are saying so that you can consistently perfect what you do. Focus on innovative marketing strategies, closing sales, satisfaction guarantees and new business outreach.

Most importantly, undergo the positive mind shift that is needed to protect your emotional energies. An attitude of gratitude is a foundation to win. Seeing the glass half full is half the battle. Think about what you do have and what you do exceptionally well. Focus on the consumers that already love what you do, and show them how much you appreciate them.

One thing I decided to do in the professional speaking world is that I reached out to everyone else in my industry that does what I do. Both new comers and heavy hitters. It definitely takes some guts to do. It’s very humbling, but it’s worthwhile. I introduced myself, congratulated them on their success and asked for a phone call at their convenience.

A few actually went on to become mentors to me. I strongly advise others to do the same. It is worth the time to reach out to people who have been there. You would be shocked at how many people will extend a hand to you. Your competition is curious about you as well.

Think about my alternative option. I could have spent the same, if not more, amount of energy on looking at everyone in my industry and assessing how I can beat them, surpass them or solicit their business. This idea would not have allowed me the important guidance and advice I received along the way. It also makes you a bigger target to take out. In business, you must strive to build bridges to success — not barriers to opportunity.

Because of this outreach, I’ve been invited to events to hear my mentors speak where I could learn valuable insights to incorporate into my own business. I have also had speakers who were unavailable to give a certain keynote due to prior bookings, refer me as the person to take their spot.

It doesn’t matter what industry you occupy — focus on what you do well. There is enough business to be had by all. Focus on forming allies and perfecting your craft rather than overthrowing your competition. Your craft needs your energy much more than your competition.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Southwest Is the Only Major Airline to Not Charge for Luggage Check. What Is It That Only You Can Provide Your Customers?

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Whether you just launched a business or you’ve been at it for a decade, it is imperative that you continually ask yourself this one question: What separates you from everyone else in your industry? The answer cannot be your work ethic or your passion. It cannot be because you believe your products or services are the best. Why? Because we all share those same sentiments about ourselves, our products and our services. It is that very principle and unwavering belief in ourselves, our talents and abilities that have led us down the path of entrepreneurship.

So again I ask, what truly separates you from everyone else in your industry? If you cannot answer this question without hesitation or conviction, chances are, you will eventually be in trouble. It is time you stop what you’re doing and begin distinguishing this: In an ever-changing, option-saturated market full of steep competition, people need to know — why you?

You must not only identify your “Only We…” clause, but you must begin to lead with it. The “Only We…” clause is the thing, the item, the promise that only you, only your company, only your services, only your products provide.

One of my favorite “Only We” companies is Southwest Airlines. They have made it boldly apparent by splashing their “Only We” message across the front page of their website, “Bags Fly Free.” They are the only major airline that does not charge an additional fee to check your luggage. They use their “Only We” concept to differentiate them from other major airlines. It has created many lifelong customers, including myself.

Something I do for all the keynotes I give is I offer a risk-reversal guarantee. Meaning, if for some reason a client was not 100 percent satisfied with the keynote they received, my speaking fee is fully refunded to them. This does a few different things. It gives the client the assurance that I will add tremendous value, and the keynote will be a knockout success without taking a financial risk. It also gives me a never-ending incentive to be a master of my craft and provide value, every single time. It’s important to set a standard that you have to constantly live up to.

It’s easy to get comfortable, stop preparing and rely solely on your talents to get you through, but your customers and your clients deserve the very best. If you aren’t doing it, someone else will gladly come along and sweep up the business you couldn’t finish.

You should be able to lead your business with the answer to the question, “What makes you different? Your consumers must know what separates you. They are paying for your promise as much as they are paying for your product or service.

Remember, in an ever-changing world of endless options, fierce competition and undecided consumers, it is important to differentiate who you are by offering something that they can get only from you.

The “Only We” clause is a necessity to your business success, because we live in a world of endless options. Whether you want to buy a new car or a new computer, try a new salon, a new gym or a new service, the reality is that people suffer from too many options. There are millions of options to choose from. If people can’t find what they want in a storefront, they can find it online for cheaper.

Sites like Amazon will even have it delivered to your doorstep by the end of the day if you join their subscription service. Competition is fierce for businesses trying to survive. Today’s consumers can become quickly overwhelmed with options. Consumers, however, love options — when they can distinguish between them.

This is why your “Only We…” clause needs to be easily identified. If people don’t know immediately what separates you, they will go for the product or service that offers what they perceive as the most value. That could be the vehicle with the 10-year warranty, the hotel room with the lowest price guarantee, a service with a money-back guarantee or an airline ticket with free cancelation. It is because of assurance that allows the consumer to risk the sale with you in the first place. It is completely worth the time and risk-reversal hassle to establish this for yourself.

People are often willing to look beyond the most economical option if they know that the difference is worth the added value. Sometimes, all a consumer needs is the assurance. I’m certain you’ve purchased something with the above attached clause, and even if you never used the assurance guarantee, there was a sense of security by knowing that just in case, you are covered.

Sometimes, you have to face your own product or services as a consumer. How do you know which one to choose when you’re faced with so many options? What resonates with you? What assurance do you need before making a purchase? And more importantly, why should someone choose you? If you don’t know, they won’t either — and they will opt for the one who does.

Companies that know their “Only We,” lead their sale with a promise. If anything goes wrong, they will replace it. If you are unsatisfied, they will give you your money back. People love options, when they can differentiate between them. There is trust, there is no risk — there is, however, a guarantee of satisfaction. People want to know what they are going to get, every singe time. Consistency is key. Knowing that they can get the same experience, the same product every single time and or have the situation rectified is what creates a lifelong customer.

How many places have you went one time to and never returned? When there are other options, you will utilize them. For this reason, first impressions are everything. Knowing that customers have options, it’s important to exceed expectations. You can differentiate yourself with your “Only We” clause, but then it’s extremely important to lead with it in almost everything that you do.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Want to Be Like Apple, Disney or the New England Patriots? You Need a Stellar Company Culture.

20150223161651-apple-store-5th-ave-new-yorkImage credit: Reuters | Brendan McDermid

Creating a distinct culture within your organization is everything. Whether in sports or business, you must set a concrete foundation and an understanding as to what your culture is — and it must be identifiable in all that you do.

Have you ever stayed at a 5-star hotel chain that made you feel like you were their most important guest? Have you ever visited a store or dined at a restaurant, where the customer-service level far exceeded your expectations? Have you ever wondered how a sports franchise is in the playoffs seemingly every year?

Sure, some people are just good at what they do, and when you gather a bunch of talented people together, you’re bound for success, right? Wrong. It has everything to do with a culture that is easily identifiable, attainable and respected by everyone working within the organization. Whether your culture revolves around creating a 5-star service standard, a family environment, a winning-culture, a customer-is-always-right culture, you must have one — and it must be clear — before your employees can buy in.

Although we often hear about the importance of culture, I still find that so many overlook how vitally important it really is. A weak culture, or one that is never established, can completely diminish performance levels within an organization, even if that organization possesses the best strategies, products or talent. On the other hand, a distinct and thriving culture can certainly make up the difference for just average strategy and talent.

Please don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say don’t try to create the best strategies and recruit the best talent for your company, but understand that all of that is just a byproduct to what really matters most — the culture you create.

I have witnessed the incredible importance of culture in my own life. During my time as an athlete, I was on teams that didn’t have the most talented players in the world, but we still got the job done and won games as the underdogs. That came from the result of leadership instilling a phenomenal culture from day one.

I have also been on teams that had extreme talent, but the results on the field were mediocre at best. That same team lacked a presence of culture. Leadership wasn’t setting the tone or expectation as a whole, so it was each man for himself. In sports, of course, the main objective is to win, but if there is no set process outside of individual talent, no set standard for all to buy into and no leadership driving it, a star-studded roster means nothing.

In my world as a speaker now, I get the wonderful opportunity to travel all over and sit down with leaders from all different industries. Prior to each speaking engagement, I sit down with the leadership of the organization, and I spend time taking a closer look at the culture of the organization and where I can add the most value. During this time, I usually find one of two things. The first one is a leader who is incredibly passionate about creating a dominant, healthy and strong culture. These are the organizations that have a great employee retention and morale.

The leaders who aren’t as passionate about building and nurturing a strong and powerful culture unfortunately end up falling into the trap of directing all of their focus on outcomes and results. The major problem with all of this is that the presence of culture is what largely drives results. By completely neglecting the importance of building and nurturing a strong culture while focusing solely on outcomes and results, the process ends up backfiring somewhere down the line and being counterproductive.

I’m not telling you how to run your organization, but I do want to share with you that the results speak for themselves when it comes to organizations that focus on culture compared to the one’s who don’t. If you take a very close look at the New England Patriots, Disney, Apple or any other organization for that matter that dominate their market or craft, you will begin to see that they are crystal clear on the culture that they demand from their people.

All of the championships have great strategy and talent behind them, and the sales milestones have great products and value behind them, but the culture that leadership instills and demands throughout the whole organization is what actually drives results.

Culture is and will always be vitally important when it comes to your organization’s growth, success and longevity. It’s my hope as a leader that you make it a major priority to create a crystal clear culture that your employees are proud to show up and be a part of everyday.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

We Are All Salespeople. Use These 3 Techniques to Become a Better One.

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You may not have the title of a salesperson, but it’s imperative that you polish up on your skills and become a better communicator to win in business and in life. Whether you run your own company or currently employed by one, there is a good chance that at some point throughout the day you are spending time doing sales related work. All of us, regardless of job title or influence, do some type of sales on almost a daily basis.

Parents spend a significant time trying to sell their children on to make their bed, do the chores and study for the upcoming test. A startup entrepreneur spends a significant time trying to sell their idea and newly founded organization to investors and other key players that can help them to advance the process of growth.

A CEO or leader of a big organization is constantly spending a significant time trying to sell the company’s vision to employees. An employee who works for a company is spending a significant amount of time trying to sell their skill set so they can land a promotion and move up the corporate ladder.

Sales is the oxygen to your business growth and success. Without it, there will eventually be no business. It’s impossible to grow anything without sales.

 

Here are three ways to become a more polished salesperson.

1. Always lead with questions.

Some of the best communicators that I have ever come across would always lead with questions. I have written a lot about the importance of questions, and it also certainly applies to becoming a better communicator and salesperson as well.

In your next sales meeting or interaction with someone, try to lead the conversation with great questions. Do your research and come prepared with great questions ready to be asked.

When you ask good questions, you are doing two things that will help you in the long run. Number one, you display a sense of humility that will always serve you in a positive way. Number two, you will start to receive key answers that you would normally not have been able to find out. There is nothing more powerful on both sides when great questions are asked. Lead with questions during every interaction from here on out.

2. Change your perception about sales. 

I can’t tell you how many people I have encountered that had nothing good to say about sales. They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do such a thing, or that being in sales meant that you couldn’t find a job anywhere else.

To succeed in sales, you must first change your perception about sales. Instead of looking at it as a negative, start viewing it in a totally different light. Sales is all about serving and helping others get to where they want to go. In sales, you only succeed when you help others succeed.

It’s quite difficult to succeed in sales and successfully sell your product or service if you keep telling yourself how much you hate sales and never try to change your negative perception of what sales really stands for.

 

3. Be obsessed about being a master at solving problems.

This one can be a total game-changer. Become obsessed about solving problems and providing real value in the marketplace that makes you different and unique from everyone else. The most successful salespeople don’t look at it as a sale, they look at it as an opportunity to solve a problem. They are completely obsessed about becoming a master at solving problems.

Look for ways to double the value you are bringing forth into the marketplace and to your prospects, and then direct all of your time and energy towards solving real problems. When you start to solve problems and become known by being a problem solver before someone labels you a salesperson, your business and life will transform.

Becoming a more polished salesperson and working on your communication skills will help you a whole lot more than just succeeding in business. Even though you may not have the title of a salesperson, we are all in sales to an extent.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Dare Great in Order to Be Great

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I gave a keynote a few weeks ago at an Entrepreneurship conference, and when I opened up for Q&A, I received a question that had me thinking long and hard. The question was, “How do you become an entrepreneur if you hate to take risks?”

My answer was short and simple. I said, “I’m sorry ma’am but it’s not possible.” I didn’t want to sound rude or negative. I had just finished motivating and inspiring a crowd of 600 people on how absolutely nothing is impossible, yet just answered a question saying the exact opposite.

There was just no other way to put it. Not only do you need to take risks as an entrepreneur, but you must absolutely get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to be great.

How many people do you know personally who have missed opportunities because they were too scared to move past their comfort zone and away from their safety net? I bet you can come up with a few without even thinking long and hard about it. Heck, you may even start to look at your own life and realize how many incredible opportunities were left to die, simply because you never acted and decided to take a risk.

Please understand me on this. I am not telling you to be irresponsible or to run blindly into the abyss of extreme risk without thinking it through and weighing the pros and cons. What I am telling you however, is that after you have done all of that — just get going! Not only do most people not take risks, but they over think and talk themselves out of it when they’re on the verge of moving forward.

A quote that I have lived by when it comes to taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone is this one by Abraham Maslow, “You will either step forward into growth or step back into safety.” I absolutely love those words and find it to be a question that we should ask ourselves every single day of our lives.

We are either moving forward and growing or stepping backwards to what we are comfortable with. The only possible way that we can become all that we are destined to be in life and in business is to get uncomfortable and take risks. In everything that we do, the decision is up to us. Are we going to play it safe, or take risks to go after what it is we want?

Not only are great entrepreneurs risk-takers, but any man or woman who has left their place in history and done anything of significance during their time here on earth is. You simply can’t be great by staying in your comfort zone just because it feels good. Staying in your comfort zone and not living a courageous and daring life may feel good at the moment, but over time it will turn into regret and a life filled with “What if’s.”

I encourage you to take a long and close look at how courageously you have been living. Where do you stand? We all could benefit from making the decision to step away from our comfort zone more often. It turns out that the popular saying, “Better to be safe than sorry,” isn’t always applicable. Instead, let the words “Dare great in order to be great” guide your life from here on out.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Effort Is an Overlooked But Major Key to Success

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If you had to rate your effort on a scale from one to 10 and how much you give of it every single day, what would your score be? If you aren’t where you want to be or seeing the results that you want to see, then chances are a lack of effort over long periods of time may be the reason why.

Effort isn’t the only thing needed in order for you need to be successful and get to where you want to go, but it sure is an absolute must and something that lacks in a whole lot of people who desire massive amounts of success. If you followed around 10 people who were highly dissatisfied with their station in life, I can bet their effort wouldn’t even come close to someone who is doing the exact same thing they are doing except on a much higher level. Effort is the missing link.

 

The fact of the matter is this, anything and everything that you want to achieve this year has a price tag on it. You must give up something in order to get something, but the rewards and fulfillment that comes from true success are well worth the effort and fight every day.

As each day passes, we pay our lives for that day. As each month passes, we pay our lives for that month. As each year passes, we pay our lives for that year. We don’t get those days, months and years back, and the only thing that we have to show for it comes down to what kind of effort we gave throughout those days, months and years.

An often-overlooked but major key to success is to give an incredible and ridiculous amount of effort — the one thing that each and every one of us controls on a daily basis over long periods of time. That’s where the confusion enters in for most. Those who complain about their lot in life and how unlucky they have been are the same ones who only give maximum effort when they feel like it or when the timing seems to be right for them.

My good friend and bestselling author Rory Vaden said, “Success is never owned; it is only rented — and the rent is due every day.” That’s one of my favorite quotes and speaks volumes on the amount of effort and work that is required to be great and separate yourself from the pack of mediocrity. You don’t only give maximum effort when you feel good or the timing feels right. Champions give maximum effort every day of their life, even when they don’t feel like it. They pay their rent over and over, year after year, regardless of how much is in their bank account or what hardship they may be currently experiencing.

You will have different seasons in your life and business, no doubt about it. There will be times where great things will happen. There will be times where bad things will happen as well. But the one constant thing that you have the opportunity to control throughout everything that happens is your effort.

I think a lot of people look at some of the greatest athletes, executives and entrepreneurs in the world and automatically think to themselves how wonderful it must be to be in their shoes. What they don’t know is the sacrifice, work, and most importantly, the insane amount of effort that was required for 20-plus years, every day of their lives to get where they currently are at.

Orison Marden summed it all up perfectly when said, “What keeps so many people back is simply unwillingness to pay the price, to make the exertion, the effort to sacrifice their ease and comfort.”

You can learn all of the latest and best strategies in the world, but if you lack in effort, you will only get so far. It may not be the sexiest word or topic to talk about, but the one thing that effort does is produce results. Without it, 2016 will be a very long and average year.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

High-Performance in Any Profession Is Rooted in Physiology

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For decades, scientists believed that once we reached adulthood, our brain was incapable of any change beyond than the negative alterations associated with disease and aging. We now know that the brain is incredibly dynamic, with a potentially unlimited ability to change throughout our entire lifespan. At any age, new neural pathways can be created and refined, and our gray matter can actually be thickened.

The brain’s plasticity is an infinitely precious quality that we can harness to move from habitual negative-feeling states, including depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — to an expanded experience of emotional well-being and happiness in our daily lives.

When you realize that what’s really driving our behavior is our thinking, then the next realization is that our thoughts are largely determined by our feelings — and these are driven by our emotions. Our physiology is made up of our feelings and thoughts. It’s really simple when you think about it.

This is one reason that many athletes, students, entrepreneurs and businesspeople lose time and time again and experience numerous failures that completely wipe them out — and why many give up after only one or two big failures. They let their feelings and emotions control their thoughts, and their thoughts control their actions. If they don’t learn how to change their emotions and feelings and turn their failures into success, then they will repeat them over and over again.

Sometimes, people will settle for second best or for mediocre lives because of their physiology. Their emotions. Their thoughts. They lose their drive and inspiration, and when they start feeling this way, this is going to affect their thoughts. Their thoughts may then lead to poor decisions or lack of decisions, which could ultimately cost them numerous breakthroughs, opportunities and financial rewards.

On the football field, when a player does not function at his best, part of that is because he doesn’t understand and integrate the complex internal and external systems and processes that need to be working harmoniously together to consistently perform better — i.e., being in the flow. And we’re not talking about physical injuries that limit a person from achieving his best — we’re talking about the emotional and mental processes.

When a player and his team lose a game, it’s important for the coaches and team members to take all of the bad plays, rethink the processes and create plans on how they can turn them into positives. This same physiological process can be applied to every walk of life, no matter if you’re a businessperson, a student, an athlete or a stay-at-home parent.

Being an athlete and having studied high performance for a great majority of my life, I am intrigued with the physiology and biology of my physical makeup, which has spurred a lot my research. I was fascinated with the thought that we as human beings are these giant computer systems operating on physiological data.

Physiology is just data or information streams like the data that is processed in a computer program. Your body is like a computer, and your information streams comprise your physiology. According to the online encyclopedia, a bit stream is a contiguous sequence of bits, representing a stream of data, transmitted continuously over a communications path, serially (one at a time). These vast streams of data are continually being sent and received from one physiological body system to another in the form of electrical signals, electromagnetic signals, chemical signals, pressure and sound and heat waves.

Everything is energy. Just like a computer, the human body is the ultimate performance machine, which is why it’s so important to take care of this body with good thoughts, good programming and good nutritious food and exercise. It doesn’t require different apps or an instruction booklet. It runs its physiological program whether we are aware of it or not.

At first, I didn’t fully understand the impact of physiological information flowing around our body 24/7. Very few people do. We all go about life existing — almost like robots — and some of us are more zombie-like than others. But the fact is, we exist almost on autopilot. We breathe, we eat, we think, we feel, we act, we love, we get angry, we get happy, we sleep, we dream. We experience highs and lows, successes, setbacks, heartbreaks and failures. Sometimes, we get up, dust ourselves off, and continue onward, doing the best we can and oftentimes, screwing up more than we succeed over and over again.

We seldom break down any one failure — or success, even — and try to figure out the components of the situation, let alone think about the data flow of information that comprises our systems and helps or deters us from the best performance possible. But if you’re anything like the high performers in the world, then you want to be the best. You’re not going to settle for seconds or thirds.

And once you reach the top, you’ll climb to the next plateau, higher and higher, over and over again. That’s the core makeup of high-performance individuals, and it’s all rooted in our physiology.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

The Amazing Evolution and Power of Inside Sales

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Entrepreneurs, especially at those early-stage startups considering the best way to sell their products and services, should strive to know the power of inside sales, and how much the process has changed over the years due to the advent of virtual tools and technologies.

The role of virtually-based inside sales professionals has evolved into the fastest growing and most widely embraced selling channel across the globe. Outpacing traditional field sales by 300 percent in terms of job growth, many progressive organizations are either shifting resources from the field or just growing these inside positions altogether.

Here are three trends companies of all sizes need to truly consider when determining their best go-to-market sales strategy.

1. Sales has become digital.

Today’s buyers require immediately accessible information and sales interactions on their own terms. They want the option of a comprehensive and valuable sales engagement without the need for face-to-face interaction.

Research by CEB indicates 60 percent of the buying cycle has been completed digitally by decision-makers before they reach out to a sales rep. It also indicates that more and more complex, big-ticket sales are completed through a virtual sales exchange. The days of the face-to-face “dog and pony show” are long gone.

“The digital revolution is changing the way buying decisions are made and commerce is transacted,” said Bruno Di Leo, senior vice president of sales and distribution at IBM. “What individuals are experiencing as consumers is changing what they expect from IBM as an enterprise client. They want us to know them and understand their preferences, and get value from our expertise in new ways and on their own terms. … In other words, digital is central — not secondary.”

Simply put, most decision-makers these days prefer engaging virtually when making purchasing decisions. Whether it’s research on the web, a demonstration through screen sharing and/or video or the use of social media, busy buyers want information quickly and easily, in the comfort of their offices or via smartphones as they commute.

2. Digital has become the primary sales channel.

The digital and virtual way of doing business has arrived and is here to stay. In fact, traditional field salespeople have adopted some of the same strategies and tactics that inside salespeople have been using for years. This is because buyers demand it.

Extensive research in 2013 and again in 2014 by the AA-ISP (a global association dedicated to the advancement of inside sales) has shown that 95 percent of companies above $20 million in annual revenue have adopted the expertise of inside sales as a critical sales channel. Further, AA-ISP research indicates a significant shift from inside sales simply supporting field reps to carrying a discrete quota and responsibility over a set of accounts.

From 2010 to 2014, companies moving inside sales from a teamed support role into a “discrete” quota-carrying model rose from 32 percent to more than 50 percent. Research by ZS Associates and Reality Works in the fall of 2014 indicated that 40 percent of large companies (greater than $1 billion in annual revenue) in the technology space are specifically shifting headcount from the field to inside sales.

Finally, U.S. Dept of Labor statistics, combined with research by InsideSales.com, indicates that 750,000 net new inside sales jobs will be added from 2013 to 2020 — nearly three times the job creation rate compared to that of traditional field sales. Simply stated, virtual sales is alive and thriving. Face-to-face is on the decline. Inside sales has arrived as a true profession. In addition to having a global association (AA-ISP) dedicated to advancing their profession, both inside sales reps and leaders have their own virtual sales accreditation called the CISP (Certified Inside Sales Professional) and AISM (Accredited Inside Sales Manager).

3. Technology will continue to feed inside sales.

Those who earn a living selling virtually know only too well how technology has improved their sales results. Software-as-a-service companies have been launched in recent years to cater specifically to this digital sales revolution. These cloud-based service providers and their software applications help put an already efficient virtual process on “selling steroids.”

The potential for inside sales to produce revenue continues to grow, due in part to the advent of these tools and technologies. The 2014 study by ZS Associates and Reality Works indicates that the mean inside sales quota responsibility is $2.1 million for large enterprise companies and more than $1 million for small and medium businesses.

Easy-to-use software applications are helping reps in a variety of areas such as data analytics, sales acceleration, screen-to-screen selling and pre-call research. To keep these two-screen, wireless-headset on, always-in-their-cube reps motivated, gamification is deployed as a way to keep money- and status-motivated players on the hunt and engaged. Many inside sales organizations place large-screen TVs around their offices to highlight sales leader boards.

With all these great technologies comes a new set of skill requirements and a new way of selling. Traditional sales training, although valuable in many ways, is also changing. Many training firms are providing once unavailable deep tactical training on the how-to’s around the new set of virtual selling standards, such as enhanced pre-call research, email, social media, remote presentations and more.

The digital sales revolution will continue to adapt to meet the requirements of today’s virtually connected decision-makers. Entrepreneurs and business owners in all industries need to consider the best way to harness its power.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Listening Is an Art, and Mastering it Will Make You a Great Leader

1402674864-small-talk-could-have-big-benefits-for-your-careerImage credit: shutterstock

Wise businesspeople and leaders listen carefully. They listen to their peers, they listen to their staffs and they listen to their friends and family.

Carefully listening is especially important during business meetings. Many managers and leaders act as though they’re listening to their teams when they’re not. Often, the words spoken in meetings fall on deaf ears.

Listening is an art, after all, and not everyone knows how to do it properly. But if you can master the art of listening, you’ll improve your leadership and business skills.

A wise business leader knows how to listen and actually hear what others are saying. Epictetus, the Greek philosopher wrote: “We have two ears and one mouth — for a good reason.” It’s more important to listen than it is to talk most of the time. How else can you learn about what needs to be done to improve a situation? No one ever stops growing and evolving in his or her business and one of the ways to learn is by listening to others.

Ask yourself these questions: Should I be concerned with how people listen to my messages? How can I improve my listening skills? How do I know if people are truly listening to me? Am I listening to them?

A powerful listener is someone who is able to focus on what another person is saying without getting distracted with their ego or personal agenda. Being a powerful listener is critical for a leader because listening can be a powerful tool. In addition, leaders lead through conversations and a call to action. If you’re not a good listener, then there is a greater chance this won’t happen.

What do effective, powerful listeners do? Here are some examples:

  • They refuse to be distracted by their own egos and personal agendas. They ask questions and then listen to the answers. Wise leaders focus on their teams, employees and peers.
  • When interacting one on one, they direct all their attention and focus on the other person. They put their cell phones on “mute” and stop looking at it to see if they have any messages. They’re “present,” instead of daydreaming or thinking about who is texting them. Think about your own feelings when you’re in a conversation. Have you noticed how rewarding it is when someone listens to your ideas and thoughts? Likewise, if you focus and listen to someone, that person will feel validated and know his or her input is valuable.

I have learned that most people do not listen well. In this day when everyone carries around an smartphone or tablet, people don’t focus on each other when they’re together. Unfortunately, this holds true for businesspeople and leaders. Listening requires putting our own egos aside to listen to someone else.

A powerful listener acknowledges that the person speaking will welcome the opportunity to be heard. A wise listener and leader will validate anyone who is speaking.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie quoted a man speaking of Sigmund Freud: “It struck me so forcibly that I shall never forget him. His eyes were mild and genial. His voice was low and kind. His gestures were few. But the attention he gave me, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary. You’ve no idea what it meant to be listened to like that.”

This story about Freud shows how powerful it is to listen and give someone your full attention. You never know what kind of influence you have upon another person.

It may seem small and not that important, but some of the best leaders of our time have mastered the art of listening. The art of listening truly can take not only your leadership ability to the next level, but also your success and likability as well, all of which help to create a healthy culture and peak performance.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

 

 

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