Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 31, 2013

The Myth of the Nobility of Failure

I’m a failure.  I’ve had two failed businesses in the past.  I agonized over them.  I lost lots of money trying to build and eventually save them.  I lost sleep over them.  I lost self respect over them.  My failure hurt other people—people who worked for me or whose business my business helped support. 

I learned a great deal from those experiences—although my initial lessons learned were false lessons.

Friends, family, acquaintances, and business “gurus” assured me that my efforts to build something were quite noble and that I really hadn’t failed, I simply came up a bit short of my goal.

I was told that I should take pride in my effort as I was one of the few who had the courage to take the risk–and that itself was a magnificent reward.

I was told that failure wasn’t my fault—I was a victim of the marketplace, seeking to compete against a system that was stacked against the little guy where I could only succeed through luck.

I was told to shrug it off as simply a learning experience; that the only failure was failure to learn.

At the time, I bought into that BS.  Because I wanted to believe it.  Because I didn’t want to admit that I had failed. 

Because I wanted—needed—reassurance that I still had value, that I wasn’t worthless. 

Over time I came to realize a painful truth, one that to some extent is still a bit difficult to admit—I failed.

And there’s nothing noble about failing.

There’s no magnificent reward in failure.

I wasn’t a victim of the system—I failed because I didn’t do the right things.

My failure wasn’t someone else’s fault or the economy’s fault or the “man’s” fault or my employee’s fault.  It rested completely and totally on my shoulders.

While buying into all of the excuses provided me for failing, I believed I had learned a good deal from those failures.

It wasn’t until after I came to the realization that all of those supposed reasons for my failure were nothing other than feel good excuses did I really learn some valuable lessons from my failures.

Only after I was willing to take responsibility for what happened and recognize how I was the architect of my failure did I learn the real lessons to be learned.

We live in an era where there’s a great deal of excuse making for failure.  When you fail there are people everywhere willing to give you a reason why it wasn’t your fault.  In today’s culture—even our business culture—everyone is given the victim excuse.

When you fail—and you will, whether it be big or small—don’t allow yourself the luxury of being fooled by family, friends, and supposed gurus.  They’ll try to make you feel better by letting you off the hook.  It’s an attractive but deceptive lie.  It’s a lie that will prevent you from learning the real lessons to be learned from failure.  It’s a lie that will set you up for further failure.

Rather than falling for the kind lie, face up to the harsh truth of your responsibility for your failure. 

There is no nobility in failure.

You weren’t a victim of anything other than yourself.

Failure isn’t a reward in itself.

Yes, it’s much harder than the alternative.

The weight of that realization is far greater than when others try to lift the weight of failure through their lies.

But the lessons learned will serve you well—and most importantly, wage war against future failure.

 

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January 14, 2013

Are You Really The One Being Qualified?

Every seller is concerned about qualifying their prospects.  We all want to be in front of prospects who can buy—that is, who not only have a need or desire but also the means to consummate the purchase.  Qualifying a prospect can be simple or complex depending on how many criteria a suspect must meet in order to be classified as a quality prospect. 

Consequently we sellers try to use as many tools at our disposal as possible to learn about and quality those we think could be quality prospects for us.  And one of the most important and oft used tools is the question, open ended, probing questions in particular.

Unfortunately we seldom, if ever, consider that the prospect is doing exactly the same thing to us—they are actively trying to determine if we are someone they would buy from.    

Many of us have been taught that our sequence of events should be: qualify, present, close, answer objections, close again.  This sequence has a number of variations, some quite complex, but in the end, this is the format a great many of use have been taught.

Although we view our questions as important discovery questions, we tend to view the prospect’s questions as either worrisome objections or diversions that are nothing but a smokescreen or are out-n-out buying signals. For many of us, the questions and actions of the prospect are either those of an enemy or those of someone telling us they are ready to buy.

What if neither of those choices is true?

What if all of those questions and the statements by the prospect, instead of being obstacles to our sale or indications of their desire to consummate the purchase, are simply questions and statements to help them qualify us and our offering?

What if they are doing the same to us as we are doing to them?

If that is the case, then that means we’re neither dealing with an enemy to be overcome nor are we dealing with someone asking us to close them. Instead we’re dealing with a human being who wants to know whether or not we’re trustworthy, whether or not our offering is appropriate for them, whether or not we’re wasting their time.

In other words, they are in the process of qualifying us just as much as we’re qualifying them. When we qualify a prospect we ask questions and probe to discover who we’re dealing with and what we might be able to do for them. When we’re asking questions we’re not trying to play the ‘gotcha’ game. Most of us aren’t trying to trap them into a sale. We’re honestly seeking information that allows us to know whether or not we are in front of a real prospect with a real need that we can help solve in a way that produces real value for them.

The prospect is going through the same process with us. Whether they are conscious of it or not, they’re trying to determine whether or not we are someone they want to do business with and then, whether or not our product/service/company presents any real solid worthwhile value for them.

The traditional terms sellers think in—overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.—tend to set up an adversarial relationship where we are on the lookout for the dreaded objection and the opportunity to pounce with the closing question.

However, if we recognize that the sales process involves both parties qualifying one another and that the qualifying process involves the investigation and questioning of each party, we can relax and begin to address the prospect’s questions for what they really are—a legitimate desire to find out who we are and whether or not we are someone they want to work with.

Recognize an honest qualifying question for what it is.  Maybe those questions you are trying to overcome, especially about price or quantity or delivery or usage, aren’t objections or buying signals at all but are just honest discovery questions.

Go forth and qualify—and let yourself be qualified. It’s a whole lot more fun to sell when you’re working with a prospect to mutually qualify one another than it is to try to out fox and overcome an adversary.

 

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January 10, 2013

Guest Article: “Why It Is Important To Have An Open Credit Account,” by Chrissy Hoey

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:15 am

As the economy slowly improves and many who have seen their incomes and credit suffer over the past years begin to recover, I’ve included a series of articles designed give some information on how to expidite the process of getting your economic life back in order.  Here is another in that series:

Why It Is Important To Have An Open Credit Account
By Chrissy Hoey

Debt is bad; everyone knows that, right? And that means that getting rid of any outstanding credit can only be a good thing surely?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and an increasing number of individuals are getting caught by the same trap.

The global recession has taken its toll and more people than ever before are struggling to keep up with their financial commitments. And with the economic climate still looking very uncertain, getting rid of debt is a priority for many households keen to lower outgoings, in case their income suddenly drops.

However, this single action which may sound like common sense, is causing all kinds of problems for those who want to borrow money again in the future.

The majority of companies are famously tight-lipped about how they score any applications for credit but one thing which is known is that your past history plays a big part. Credit reference agencies will hold details of what you borrowed and how much you repaid, including whether you were on time or were late with each repayment.

And as a general rule, the more recent entries and transactions carry more weight, making a significant difference to your overall credit score. And herein lies the problem.

For individuals trying to clear what they owe, or for those who allow their accounts to be passed to a debt collection agency, their credit score could be viewed as less than favourable by a firm considering offering finance.

Whilst this may be understandable if you have defaulted on your debts, it may be less so if the amount you owe has actually reduced.

But the reason for the unwillingness of firms to extend more credit could be simply due to the fact that they cannot judge your current financial circumstances.

When a company carries out a credit check, they are looking to establish how you are coping with your finances at the moment. And if you have paid off all of your debts, whilst that is never a bad thing, it means that you will have no monthly repayments to show that you are solvent and creditworthy.

Of course, this creates a dilemma. On one hand you want to clear your debts to make sure you are not paying any more interest than you have to and are in a good position in case one of you loses your job, but on the other hand, you don’t want to exclude yourselves from mainstream credit option.

Of course, no-one is suggesting that you hang on to expensive debts rather than pay them off, but closing all your credit cards won’t necessarily help your credit score.

One of the ways you can resolve this is by taking out a credit card which you use every month for an existing expense, such as shopping or petrol. You don’t need to take out a new credit card to do this, using an existing account will work just as well.

You use this credit facility in order to pay for goods, rather than using your debit card and then at the end of the month – and this is the crucial part – you pay the bill off in full. This ensures that you do not have to shell out unnecessarily on interest charges. However, it will show that you meet your repayments every month and will help to add positive scores onto your credit rating, boosting your chances of getting finance.

Unfortunately, prepaid cards do not achieve the same effect, as you are not actually borrowing any cash. The only exception is if the card offers an insurance which you have to repay every month; some lenders mark this as a repayment and borrowing.

If you are in a position to pay off or get rid of your debts, then that’s great news. However, before you close all your old accounts to prevent the balances from creeping up again, stop and think for a moment about whether you are likely to need to access finance again, to buy a car for example.

If so, to make sure you are offered the most competitive interest rate available and aren’t forced into high-interest borrowing only, keep at least one credit card open .

Chrissy Hoey is with Baines and Ernst, a credit management company in the UK.

January 8, 2013

Is There a Dehumanizing Impact From Social Media?

Filed under: Communication,Sales 2.0,technology — Paul McCord @ 12:37 pm
Tags: , ,

Last week I wrote a post about the many emails I get from sales trainers asking me to post their articles on my blog but who, rather than recognizing that they are in a sales situation, take a completely self-centered approach to making the request.  These are presumably smart individuals that have simply forgotten what they know about sales and make the most basic selling mistake possible—making it all about themselves.

But I’ve noticed this “all about me” attitude is creeping into many other places such as responses to blog posts, on forums, and in Facebook and Twitter discussions.  Worse, I’ve noticed a gradual coarsening of language.

Certainly much of the above has existed for quite some time in the realm of political and sports discourse on social media, but slowly over time this self-centeredness and rudeness seems to be creeping into the normal everyday discourse including, on occasion, sales discourse—and not just between sellers but with customers or potential customers also.

With this observation comes the natural question of what’s the cause and remedy?

Is the cause a callusing of our culture?  Is it the impersonal nature of the technology?  Or as the world becomes more hectic and our lives become more demanding are we simply unconsciously reacting by becoming more self-centered?

I can certainly see that any or all of the above could be a catalyst for the obnoxious behavior we are seeing more of on social media—as well as other technology such as email, text messaging, and such.

I suspect the majority of the behavior and the attitude the behavior emanates from comes primarily from the dehumanizing impact of the technology itself.  More and more we find ourselves interacting with machines rather than people—and it is easy to divorce ourselves from the human on the other and focus on the medium; and once we start talking to the medium instead of a person it isn’t that difficult to toss aside the normal rules of human interaction, for after all, we are no longer dealing with a person but an impersonal, unfeeling machine.

Or maybe it is a sense that we have virtually the freedom of anonymity as we often know little or nothing about the other person or persons we are addressing; they aren’t people but just disembodied words that show up on a forum, a text message, a tweet, or an email..

Certainly we don’t encounter the above behavior on a regular basis—at least not at this point.

But I am concerned.

Technology is a very useful tool—but simply a tool, not a replacement for human interaction.  More than once I’ve been visiting with a salesperson who texted their manager or another seller who was no more than 10 feet away.  Slowly face-to-face or even phone interaction is being replace with the idea that a text message is quicker—and who wants to get into a conversation when a question can be asked and answered in seconds rather than minutes?

While visiting with one seller, she sent an email to her manager asking a rather detailed question.  I asked her why she just didn’t pick up the phone and get the answer without having to wait for a response to her email.  She said that if she called her manager she’d have to answer questions about this prospect or that deal and she just didn’t like having to answer all those questions–and email and text messaging kept her boss away—it was a very real insulator from having to interact with another human..

Are the rules of interaction changing due to technology?  Are we slowly losing our human-ness, at least as we’ve known it?  Is there really a dehumanizing impact to social media and communication technology?

I would love to see a solution, but based on the history of social media in other areas I suspect the trend will continue.  Possibly the most I can hope for is that the trend be slow.  The good news is that there will always be a segment of users who will not forget that the technology is nothing more than the medium and that the real focus is the other person.  Hopefully that segment will always be the vast majority.  In the long run, I’m not sure it will be.

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January 3, 2013

Book Review: The Social Media Sales Revolution

social-media-sales-revolution-bookWhen was the last time you read a book that you both loved and hated?  I have such a book in front of me now, The Social Media Sales Revolution: The New Rules for Finding Customers, Building Relationships, and Closing More Sales Through Online Marketing (McGraw Hill:  2012), by Landy Chase and Kevin Knebl.

First, the good:  the book is an excellent primer for the business use of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogging, as well as how to promote your presence online.  Chase and Knebl take the most popular social media platforms and discuss in detail how to get the most out of each.

Whether you are completely new to using social media or would consider yourself a fairly proficient user, The Social Media Revolution will probably add real value to your online efforts.  Of particular import for anyone wanting to learn how to maximize their impact on social media is the advice on how to conduct yourself on line and how to reach out and influence others.

Each of the chapters that deal with a particular platform such as Facebook or LinkedIn go beyond the platform itself and includes discussions on complementary applications that can enhance your presence and effectiveness on the platform itself.

Now, the bad:  Despite how helpful the book is regarding building your presence using the basic foundations of social media, the authors have gone overboard in their buy-in to social media’s effectiveness. In fact I almost didn’t write this review of the book because of their first rule of what they refer to as The Six Rules—abandon traditional prospecting.

That is probably the dumbest piece of sales advice anyone could give.  Sometimes when new technologies come along they appear so attractive and so “special” that it is easy to overestimate their effectiveness and impact.  Business is full of “revolutionary” technologies such as the phone, fax, copier, and others that were supposed to completely change how business is conducted (only to prove to be nothing more that highly useful time saving tools, not the world changers it was thought they would be).  So it is with social media for Chase and Knebl.  Their contention is that traditional prospecting is fast becoming an outdated skill due to email, voice mail and the ability to connect through social media.

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of The Social Media Sales Revolution and take to heart the discussions of how to use the platforms discussed and implement the methods presented to expand your relationships and your sphere of influence.  I would also encourage you to beware the false god of prospecting panacea of social media—social media isn’t it, it’s nothing but a useful tool to supplement and complement your existing traditional prospecting activities.

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January 2, 2013

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Filed under: sales,sales training,selling,success,team development — Paul McCord @ 11:53 am
Tags: , ,

Virtually every business day I receive at least one, and often as many as four, unsolicited requests to post blog articles on my blog from sales trainers I do not know and most often have never heard of before receiving their email.  What I have learned from these requests is both disappointing and disturbing.

It is more than reasonable to assume that sales trainers not only know how to generate sales but that they also practice what they preach.

Based on the requests I receive to help sales trainers expand their reach and influence more people by posting their articles on my blog the concept of practicing what one preaches is foreign to a good segment of the sales training community.

One of the fundamentals of sales is to concentrate on your prospect rather than on yourself.  As sellers we have to have a message that appeals to our prospect, that is, it meets a need the prospect has or it fulfills a desire or want.  At the least we need to put our offer in a format that answers the most basic prospect question of “what’s in it for me?”

It would be absurd to approach a prospect with a proposal that totally focused on our needs and totally ignores the prospect.

But that is exactly how sales trainers who should know better approach requesting help from someone they do not know and who does not know them.

Why is this issue one that should concern you?

I think it is a reflection of the state of the sales training industry.  Let me point out a few of the more glaring issues with sales trainers—and very possibly the training they provide—the above reveals:

  1.  They don’t recognize a sales situation when they are in one.  How a trainer approaches me tells me a great deal about them.  I don’t need nor do I expect a trainer to do anything for me in order for me to post their article—if it is good I’ll post it.  But the trainer who is requesting my help can’t make that assumption.  When they approach me or anyone else to solicit our help they must recognize that they are in a selling situation and therefore must act accordingly.
  2. They don’t practice the fundamentals of selling.  As noted above, one of the fundamentals of selling is to focus on the prospect, not on oneself.  But in most cases the solicitation email I receive is totally focused on what I can do for them without so much as a thank you for your time.
  3. They can’t effectively teach what they don’t practice.  In many respects selling is similar to sports—consistent, effective practice is the foundation for success.  Although we might be able to mouth the right words, if we aren’t actively practicing what we preach we really can’t be effective teachers.  Like sellers, sales trainers need to be immersed in sales and that means actively practicing selling.  Sales training is more than simply saying the right things, it is demonstrating through practice what works; it is turning words into actions.  If one cannot turn words into actions in their own life how can they expect to effectively help others do what they can’t?

I attach a great deal of importance to how a sales trainer solicits me to post an article they’ve written as I believe it tells me a great deal about them as a seller and thus as a sales trainer.  If they aren’t demonstrating the fundamentals of selling I ignore their request.  The fact that so many fail that simple test isn’t surprising but it is very disappointing and disconcerting.

Whether you’re a seller seeking a sales training coach or a sales leader looking to hire someone to do training for your team, find out how they sell, it will tell you a great deal about what to expect from them—and don’t be surprised if their real message is “do as I say, not as I do.”

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