Business

I’m Not Your Friend

I freakin love relationships.  I love people. So why the title? Why the post about not being your friend? Let me paint a picture. (This is the part where if this was a movie it would do a ripple fade to another shot).
It’s a normal Tuesday, early afternoon.  You are just getting back from lunch and diving right back into the project that you had to take a break from. As you look up, you see a mountain of emails filling your inbox, and out of the corner of your eye you see a coworker coming over to talk to you about an issue they wanted your help with.  As all of this is going on, you hear a faint noise coming from your right… its the ring tone of your office phone. You don’t want to be a jerk and ignore it so you reach over and pick it up off of the receiver.
As you greet the other person on the line with a hearty hello and your name, what comes next isn’t unusual, but it is jaw dropping.  “Hey Paul, this is so and so from blank company.  I know its been a couple months or so since I last reached out, so I figured I’d call to see how everything is going and catch up.”  Like I said, not unusual, but it is jaw dropping.
All of us have experienced this, and some of us, myself included, are guilty of doing this jaw dropping action.  The exact words we use ourselves, or hear from the other line, may be a little different, but it all amounts to the same thing.  We have no relationship but  would like to shoot the s#!t and burn 15 of their minutes idly chatting.
Again, I am 100% about relationships, but I have begun to see the importance of being selective with those relationships and who I share my time with.  It’s also not that I don’t want to form new relationships, it’s just that I don’t want to idly chit chat with someone who is a complete stranger.
Whenever we call, whether it is a friend, and especially if it is a new contact, call with intention.  Call with a specific, not general, question in mind and if you can hear stress and frustration in their voice, give them an out.  I know this may seem counterproductive to sales, but if you are always calling and idly chit chatting you are not only wasting their time, but yours as well.  The strongest relationships I have, have started  over the simplest things, but those conversations where had with intention.
Remember, I’m not your friend, at least not yet, so please don’t pretend that we are.  Start calling people with intention and I promise those relationships will form.
Community

Pump The Breaks And Listen

I’m pretty sure it’s a universal law that we all love the sound of our own voice… I mean I know I do.  I love hearing my sweet sweet tumbra as I drone on about things I’m passionate about.  As true as this is, I also realize it is the worst thing for me to do to build relationships and really be able to share in people stories.
I have recently been challenged to shut up and listen, and I’m doing my absolute best to heed this advice.  Side story: One of my greatest fears is to have silence in a conversation. I mean I literally used to pray Proverbs 29:25 “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust in the Lord means safety” over and over again as a mantra.  I would pray that over conversations saying to myself that it is dumb to worry about silence or lack of conversation, and that I could trust that the Lord would bless our time and make it beneficial. I still deal with this fear to this day.
Back to the post:  I have had some great advice given to me that I believe will help me conquer the above mentioned fear and make me a better human being, father, husband, friend, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  To put the advice simply, it is to ask an intriguing question and to shut up and let the other person talk.  If I really want to go one step further, it would be to take a vow of silence for a day, or at a networking event, so I can give the other as much runway as they need to talk.  One last thing that I have started doing is bringing a little notebook and pen that I can jot down thoughts that come into my mind so I don’t have to interrupt.  Please, if we ever have the opportunity to talk, hold me to this.
A couple questions to end on.  Are you a fellow interrupter? Do you equally love the sound of your sweet sultry voice? If so, take up this challenge and start to listen more. Lean into the silence. Create better questions.  Learn to listen, actually listen, and give the other person the gift of hearing their own voice / talking about themselves and what is interesting to them.  When you give them this gift, it’s actually quite amazing how much you learn about them and figure out how you can both benefit from the relationship.
Business

Say No To Networking

Ok ok… this title is kinda click bate because I don’t actually mean you should say no to networking, but that you should say no to the networking events that don’t work for you.
When I started my first job search I felt that I had to go to all the events I could find and talk to as many people trying to show how amazing I was.  As I’ve experienced more and read some interesting books, I realize that that was probably the worst thing I could have done for myself in that season.  When I just went to events and chatted up everyone, I wasn’t comfortable or in my element. Yes, I love people, building relationships and sharing in stories, but I was not in a good place to do that. Every conversation I made it about me, and as wonderful as I think I am… that was a big turn off for others and pushed them away from helping me.
Again, it isn’t about saying no to networking, but just saying no to networking in a way that doesn’t work for you.  That doesn’t mean never getting out of your comfort zone, but it does mean figuring a way to be the most conferrable at those events. Bring a wingman / wingwoman and don’t fly solo.  No reason to take on the sucky world of networking by yourself.  Figure out the events that bring you life. That may mean you say no to the cocktail hour and say yes to a business book club, toastmasters, or local crew you get brunch with and gab about the latest industry trends.
Whatever puts you in the best state of mind and puts you most at ease is what you need to do.  When you are anxious and out of your comfort zone, people sense it and instead of remembering you for something good, they remember to stay away from you and end up never helping. Please, do us all a favor and get to know yourself so you can say no yourself to those opportunities that would do you more harm then good.
Community

A Thank You Note Long Past Due

One of the things I wish I would have realized a long time ago is that life is infinitely better together.  It is amazing how this simple truth escaped me decades ago and how it still seems to be an elusive concept to many who try to do life all on their own.
It was fourth grade and a I wrote a note that my teacher confiscated and brought to the student counselor.  From there my parents were called, my mother came to the school, shocked, and within a day or two I went to another counselor.  I honestly don’t remember much more of the event, probably because I have blocked it out, but one thing I do remember is that I felt so dang alone and empty.
In that loneliness I fell into reading and started devouring books as best I could.  There where a few in particular that really caught my attention and I would constantly go back to.  Those where the books by my favorite author Roald Dahl.  I am so glad I stumbled upon those books because they helped save me from loneliness and isolation.  When I read those books, my imagination would run wild. I would think and dream of characters and lands that were magical and where anything seemed possible.  I would get lost in those books for hours, turning page after page, being filled with wonder and life.  It was these books that brought me into a much better state of mind and that helped form my healthy thirst for creativity and books.
I never ever thought of writing Roald Dahl a letter to thank him until now.  As it turns out though, I wouldn’t have been able to write him one anyway, because by the time I discovered his world and words of wonder, he had already passed away.  Even so, I wanted to immortalize these words and say “Thank you Mr. Dahl.  Your words helped create a since of wonder and creativity and even made me realize that this world is one of pure imagination and full of amazing people with amazing stories.  You helped save me from some dark and lonely times and helped shape who I am today. I am forever grateful.”
Please, take this challenge I am about to give you some serious thought. I challenge you to handwrite a letter to someone who has impacted your life.  Let them know that impact they have had on you. It doesn’t matter if it is someone you have never met in person, just let them know.  If they are no longer on this earth, write a post on the internet letting everyone know what impact they had.  Please, take this challenge and spread some good, and don’t forget to let us know who it was and why you wrote them as well.
Business

So You Didn’t Close The Deal

In a recent community event that I hosted, the topic of “How to hold your customers accountable” was discussed.  I was able to get one of my friends, who has been crushing it in sales for over 15 years and recently had his best year ever, come and share his insights with the group.  Here are some of those insights.
Contract negotiation is all about the relationship.  Most people just try and get facts about the company that will help the deal move forward, but they are missing key elements.  Those key elements are that they need to more fully understand the individual they’re doing business with.  It seems a simple understanding of what that person does and their specific role is sometimes overlooked.  This is a crucial mistake because if you don’t know who you are literally doing business with, there is no way you can best position yourself and the product to meet their needs.
We also need to realize that contract negation and building relationships is a dance.  If you all are not moving in sync, it is felt and problems start to come up.  Stop stepping on their toes, take a breath and get back into the rhythm.  We need to have our eyes open to everything around us so we don’t mess up by doing a line dance while they are doing the Cupid Shuffle or the Fox Trott.  To be a better “dance partner,” go back to the point above and re-read it.  Get to know the other party intimately if you want to know how to best move and grove together.
Most importantly, be you.  Know what you are great at and go into the conversation putting those qualities and characteristics first.  If you are more reserved, don’t come barging in the meeting telling jokes.  If you typically slower in building trust, don’t start with a complex question that goes beyond the surface.  However you are, lead with that gifting.
Now, let’s say you execute what you think is the perfect pitch and you get to know the customer in and out, but for some reason you don’t get the deal.  What in the heck happened?  That is a great question and one you need to ask yourself.  Don’t go blaming the should have been customer or other people on your team.  What you need to be doing is see what you missed.  Where you actually talking to the decision maker or where you interacting with the gatekeeper the entire time?  Did you miss it because someone had an inside track with an executive so they got the business?  If you missed the sale, you need to take the time to look over the whole story and see what fact or issue you overlooked and didn’t clearly answer.
If you didn’t close the deal, it’s not the end of the world.  In fact, it helps you better refine your craft.  Even if you missed the deal for something small, that one thing can be a huge leverage point the next time this opportunity comes around, because lets be clear about one thing… that opportunity to sell is right around the corner.