Don’t be afraid to take charge: 5 Steps for preparing to lead

Movies can move the human spirit.  Scenes such as the speech in Miracle where Kirt Russell plays Coach Brooks addressing his 1980 Olympic Hockey team before the game of their lives move and inspire.  Who can forget Al Pacino inspiring his football team to fight and claw toward victory? And of course, Mel Gibson as William Wallace inspiring an outnumbered army to fight for freedom.    These scenes, and many more like them have a common thread.  These speeches were given by men who faced whatever fear they had and took charge.  Most of us won’t be leading Scottland toward war and freedom.  We do, however, lead our companies, our teams, and our homes toward success…or failure.

Last July I was summons to Jury Duty. Click here to read the leadership lessons I learned from this experience.  I was selected and voted unanimously as the foreperson. It was hardly an electoral victory, as no one else wanted to do it. Why is it that when real life kicks in, so many people take a step back rather than a step forward?
Leader Of The Pack

Leader Of The Pack (Photo credit: Property#1)

It is a lack of knowledge and preparation  holding many would-be leaders from emerging.

Whether you plan on overtly leading a team (such as being a CEO or manager) or leading from within (a peer leader or project leader), you must prepare yourself.  Here is list of five things to consider as you begin to prepare:
1.  Be The Industry Expert.  What is happening in and around your company, companion companies and competitors.  This is so important.  If you aren’t in tune with what matters most to your company, market, and industry, how can you add value?
2.  Stay up to date on what’s happening in the world.  Last year’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing was all that anyone talked about for well over a week.  ObammaCare, Fiscal Cliff, or Dancing with the Stars.  Whatever is big to your customers and to those you lead is an opportunity to connect.  Don’t forget to be sincere.  No need to binge on 50 episodes of Breaking Bad before your next meeting, but find common ground and stay in tune.  Also, world events are very real, and impact many people beyond just the work place.
3.  Read diverse material.  I have met many people who are shocked that I read 30-40 books per year.  Many people tell me they don’t like to read or they don’t have the time.  That is ridiculous.  Audible has a 15$/month membership where you get one book per month, and the library is free (minus my mounting late fees).  Listen while you drive or excersise.  Don’t just read, read diverse topics.  I read about sports, business, faith, biographies, and many other topics.  Not only are you smarter, you are more interesting as you read more.
4.  Network.  This is another “no kidding” mention.  It’s imperative that you reach out to colloegues in and around your industry.  All to often we are locked in our little silo.  Some perspective of the outside world keeps reality a lot closer.
5.  Practice.  Whether you are in sales pitching products all day long, management, observing these pitches, or executive leadership developing strategy, you must be intentional in finding time to practice in a safe environment.  My organization usually takes us out of the field 3 or 4 times per year to practice our messaging and strategy.  Make sure you are doing this.
Leadership is not easy, but its necessary for success.  Whether you are a bona fide “titled” leader or someone who leads through action on a project basis, fear not.  You are on a quest for to find your awesomeness.  Be intentional in all of these areas and you will grow in you leadership and your success.
Challenge:  Go to your local library and get a free library card and check out 2 books and start reading.

Coffee Is Still for Closers: Rules of Engagement for Closing the Sale

A few years ago, I answered a knock on the  door to find a young woman ready to solve a problem of mine.  We had off- white carpet that was getting dingy and I needed to bring it back to life.  It was like the voices of the carpet cleaning Gods had spoken and sent me Cindy.  Cindy was eager to help me and even offered to clean one room for free.  This was great.  I figured she would do one room and I would pay her to do the other two.  A couple of hundred bucks and I would be good, Cindy would have a  sale, and voila…  Later in the evening, Cindy showed up, ALONE.  No crew, just her and a fancy vacuum cleaner.  She was knee deep in vacuuming my couch before I figured out that I had invited the dreaded Kirby sales rep into my house. This wasn’t going to solve my carpet cleaning issues.  However, I wanted to see what this machine could do.  Although I was duped into the sales pitch, I figured it would be fun. Two hours and a lot of buckets of dirty water later, I was ready to buy the thing.  She kept the suspense by not revealing the price.  I figured it would be six or seven hundred dollars.  Maybe a bit much, but was still interested.  After a four-thousand dollar quote and a half hour of pushy sales tactics, I was ready to call the police. No need to worry, Cindy finally left, and my seventy-five dollar Walmart vacuum still works fine.

Cup of Coffee with Spices

Cup of Coffee with Spices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Kirby sales tactic is as old and dusty as that green couch Cindy cleaned for me. I recently wrote a post about risky marketing strategies and the consequences of making customers angry. Being unclear and inauthentic about intentions is not a great way to build a relationship of trust that is needed to drive a sustainable sales effort.  Today’s consumer is busy, savvy, and perhaps a bit jaded. This is great news for professional sales person who know their customer, their product, and most importantly, the rules of engagement:
Rule#1:  Be authentic
Buying customers have a need the sales rep can provide for.  Many times, this need is below the surface and not very clear.  So many times I see that the customer doesn’t know he has the need.  Through an open and honest approach, I share my purpose with the customer and contract for their valuable time. Customer’s don’t care if the pest control guy happened to have an appointment down the street that cancelled.  Customers are much more likely to listen if pest control guy uncovers a need such as a spike in the Black Widow population, or growing ant colonies in the neighborhood.  The customer will give of his time if the need is compelling, not because the Jones’ down the street no-showed for his last appointment.
Rule#2: You are not friends with 99% of your customers.
Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson have turned the relationship selling model on its head with their book The Challenger Sale.  They challenge the notion that the best sales reps are “relationship builders”.  They categorize sales reps into one of five categories (Hard worker, challenger, relationship builder, lone wolf, and reactive problem solver).  They found that the top performing reps are nearly 7 times more likely to be challengers  than relationship builders.  Successful reps teach customers how be successful while using the products they sell.  This may be as simple as Cindy teaching me how to be successful at keeping a safe and healthy home by cleaning it better using a Kirby.  Today’s sales rep doesn’t teach their message alone.  According to Dixon, the rep must tailor his message to his customer and the customer’s specific needs.  This takes effort and a good sense of the market by the sales rep.  This takes an intentional approach to preparing for the sale. Showing up with a “cookie-cutter” presentation is old and tired. The successful rep takes control of the sales process because his efforts have unlocked a solution that he has tailored to the specific customer.
Rule#3:  Coffee is still for closers!
Alec Baldwin’s ruthless character in the 1992 Glengary GlenRoss reminds the sales rep what his ultimate job is.  With a tailored message to the appropriate customer, taking control and closing the sale without Glengary Glen Ross pushy tactics is possible and much better. Ultimately it’s not about asking for the sale, but actually getting the sale that sets the awesome sales rep apart from the “ex-sales rep”.
A few simple rules of engagement to become an awesome sales rep in the new era of selling. This is not only effective, but exciting and engaging.  Rolling up your sleeves to improve your customer’s business while increasing yours is awesome and rewarding.
What is the worst sales tactic you have seen this year?  What changes would be needed to make it the BEST?
Rocco De Leo

Master Time Management By Turning Down the Noise

Your To do list is running your life and perhaps ruining your life. Mundane after mundane task with a sprinkle of useful tasks marks a typical day in your life. Amazon shows over 120, 000 books on time management. With so many resources out there, why are many American’s failing to complete a simple to do list? We are a nation of people with too much to do and usually too much of the wrong stuff. One answer is that you spend way too much time listening to “noise ” in your daily life. Noise is all the stuff that doesn’t matter to your overall plan and purpose. Distractions. Stephen Pressfield, best selling author of The Art of War refers to resistance as what gets in your way of getting things done to be great. I am suggesting that your resistance tells you to listen to the noise. How much noise do you listen to?:

1. Facebook: constantly browsing, posting irrelevant comments, and looking for the little red number at the top. This is fine if its part of what you are attempting to do, but you better be honest with yourself. Do you need to be doing this to complete your to do list?
2. Texting: How many conversations do you have going during the day? Can you manage a single train of thought, or make one trip to the store without stopping to text someone? How about at a red light?
3. Internet surfing: Unless this is a specific task on your to do list, this is a time waster. Blindly surfing the internet without a purpose just to “peak” your interest is like floating on a life raft hoping you’ll land in Hawaii. The only place you’ll end up is with the sharks.
4. Sleeping in: Sleep is important, and sleeping in is nice when your to do list isn’t holding you back. Beyond the to list host Erik Fisher asks his guests questions about productivity. They all get up early in the morning and most find this time the most productive and creative time of the day. I personally prefer the 5:30-6:30 hour to read.

This is not an exhaustive list, there are plenty of other ways to waste your time. Turn down the volume. Eliminating these things is not feasible, and is ridiculous. You work hard and probably enjoy these things. Here are a few suggestions to help move the needle on your to do list:

1. Facebook: Use these instructionsto adjust the notifications on your facebook. The constant ping of your facebook is very distracting and can derail any train of thought and get you off task. Or you can simply take facebook off your mobile devices and access only from a desktop (that may require some detox).
2. Texting: Let people know you are in the middle of something. Tell them you will call them later. Keep the texts short and purposeful. Avoid texting too many people. Once people know you are a “texter”, they will want to use that as a primary communication method. This has its own problems we will address in another article.
3. Internet surfing: Have a purpose. Look up something and move on. Wandering around aimlessly is a waste of time. If you are truly interested in research a topic on the internet, assess how much time you think you need and schedule some time to do this. Don’t, however, use this a break from your to do list.
4. Sleeping in: Make and agreement with yourself and those you are accountable to on the days you want to sleep in. Be reasonable here, you don’t get those hours back. If you are going to sleep in, make it count. Make sure you actually get to sleep in and not get interrupted by other noise.

How has noise affected you? Share with me some tools you use to turn this noise off. I am particulary interested in numbers one and two, but share with me any type of noise you have dealt with and a solution or two in the comments section.