Hear Them Play

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Stereo

I didn’t  expect to break down.  Heck, I didn’t expect anything.

Last Wednesday, I had just walked in the door after work with bag in tow and sunglasses too dark for the basement door I entered through, and saw my son standing next to the old stereo.

“I fixed it” he said.  And he gently put the needle down and a vinyl album began to play.

And I lost it.

I’m not a hugger.  I’m not a crier.   But I remember that stereo.  I remember that sound!  So I did both hug and cry; hanging on to my 17 year old confused and somewhat concerned son.  I held on for a good 2 minutes.  He’s way taller than me and it must have been quite a sight at 6 O’clock at night on a Wednesday in the basement.

That stereo has been sitting in my basement for over a year.  It is more than 50 years old and was my mom’s, who passed away three years ago.   And it was glorious.  I remember it being just about as tall as me though it is not more than 3 feet off the ground.  I remember the music it sang: the operas, the arias, even country and western music and Anne Murray at Christmas.  I remember it all.

But I didn’t quite remember it all like that till I heard it play standing there in that basement last week.     The sound, the crackle of the hi – fidelity speakers, the soft dance and hum of the needle on the record.  It all came back.   And it was too much.  But it was not sadness that made me cry.  It was happiness.  To hear that sound again, to look at that stereo in awe and wonder again like I did as a kid.  To remember in a flash how much time I spent with that stereo through grade school and high school.  It was a good thing to feel.  Wonderful, actually.

I got to thinking about the things we hold on to.  I got to thinking maybe just holding onto things isn’t enough.

I wonder if that old hand carved cribbage board from grandpa needs to be taken from the mantle and put front in center for Friday night game night.   I wonder if that 8 mm camera with the black and white family films needs to be carefully and gently opened and then played for all to see.  I wonder if the dusty photo albums that never get looked at unless someone dies needs to get hoisted out of the crawl space and spread out across the kitchen table offering a backdrop to some great storytelling.

I got to thinking about things we hold onto at work.  I got to thinking maybe just holding on to things there isn’t enough either.

I wonder about that book you’ve had since you were first promoted and that you keep carrying with you from space to space; perhaps that book needs to be pried open and read again as it must have some gems.  I wonder about that dear and trusted relationship with a mentor you always remember fondly, if that needs a rekindling with a phone call or a joyful visit.   I wonder if those memories of the greatest successes you’ve had, faded though they may be, may need your undisturbed and thoughtful review for they have most certainly left lessons worthy to play again.

I’m not sure my son completely understands what happened to his father last week.   I’m not sure I do either.  I know this now for sure;

It’s nice to hold on to things but it’s magnificent to hear them play.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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That Hero Formula

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That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

5 Phrases You’re Not Using Enough

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5 Underrated Phrases

Words matter.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

“Tell me more about that…”  Great at client meetings, great in customer conversations, great in coaching sessions and great at parties!  You don’t lead unnecessarily, you don’t shut someone down and you don’t force anyone down any path they don’t want to go.  You learn and they get to talk and share.  Great sales people know this.  And any of you actors out there know this is the one of the keys to great improv acting—it always keeps the conversation moving and don’t we all want that?

“We love you…”  What is wrong with us?  Do you think your customers give a flying hoot that you “value” them or “appreciate” them or “thank” them?  Blah Blah Blah.   Don’t you really love them? And if not, shouldn’t you?  (Their business puts food on your table).   Use “love“, “adore” or “cherish” in your print materials or email marketing and even those live conversations or voicemails.  There’s nothing wrong with saying “You folks are one of our absolute greatest customers”.  Make it your own—but make it different and real.  Get above the clutter and stand out.

“Let’ me figure out what I can do.”  Who knows why we humans default all the time to what we “can’t” do.  It’s maddening and so hard to break.  But you say the same thing except far better by saying “Let me think about it and come back with what can be done.” Vs “I can’t do this.”   It’s a world of difference be it at work in service, sales and even in your personal relationships.  Positive Resonates; Negative Detonates.

 “Who besides yourself…?”  Add any ending to Who besides yourself as in “has a say in the decision”, “wants to review”, “would like more info”, “would benefit from a demo”?  Too often we push our contacts away (whether we know them well or they just answered your call) instead of protecting them, their contributions and frankly their egos.  Always include, never insult unintentionally by presuming they do not play a role in the next step.

So you’re all set, this will get you (insert pursuit, dream or goal)”:  Easier than it seems but sadly at the end of most meetings, transactions or purchases we limp along and wrap up the pricing, the purchase order or the specifics of the next contact instead of inserting how what just happened is so critical to what the client or the business wants.   They don’t want the copier you’re selling; they want more time to focus on real work.  They don’t want business Facebook page built; they want to get more customers because they’ll be found more easily.  They don’t want to just list out action items for the next meeting; they want to know how what they did today is going to make a difference.  Tie off each meeting or interaction that way no matter what you do—you’ll solidify the value and strengthen the partnership.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Essentialism: Holy Cats!

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One way to make sure no one reads a blog post is to publish it late on a Friday afternoon.

And even better, have that post be an esoteric, academic brain bender.

Check and Check  :)

But before you close this window out, shut down your computer and otherwise skedaddle, take this with you into the weekend.

“In a few hundred years when this history of our time will be written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology is not the internet, is not e-commerce.  It is an unprecedented change in the human condition.   For the first time – literally—in substantial and rapidly growing numbers, people have choices.  For the first time, they will have to manage themselves.  And society is totally unprepared for it.”

Holy Cats that’s deep. (Actually I never say “Holy Cats”.  One of my smart colleagues in Minnesota does though when her mind gets blown, so I thought it was appropriate).

The quote is Peter Drucker as retold in a superb book I am reading by George MeKeown called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Get the book.

  • It’s not about doing less work; it’s about doing the right work.
  • It’s not about just making choices; it’s about making them so nobody else makes them for you.
  • It’s not about process and practice and structure; it’s about valuing time to think, even time to sleep.
  • It’s not about prioritization; it’s about priority.

I don’t do the book content justice in this short post and truthfully, I haven’t even finished reading it ( but it is sooo good) ; suffice to say go get the book and have a Holy Cats moment or two.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now

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Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now

You know it’s true.

You know that when a prospect calls, fills out a web form or pings you with an email these days that they have already and absolutely done research about you, your products and your company.  Like a lot of research.

I’ve read a dozen studies that say most folks are 50% to 75% through the sales process by the time they get to you, the live breathing sales rep.

Well that stinks.  It’s sure not like the old days.

Remember the days when prospects or clients needed you to tell them all about your company, the products, the pricing and the options?  Yeah, I do.  It was like the early 2000’s was the last time that was real life.  But now there is the internet, the websites, the blogs, the reviews and all that good stuff.  What do the prospects need you for?  (Answer: to confirm pricing, terms and other such mundane stuff it seems).

But it doesn’t  have to be that way.   There are three things you should be doing all the time now dear sales person, before and during that time when that phone rings, that load leads or that email arrives.

 

  • Differentiation is Your Lead Story:  If the prospect is contacting you – they already have a need; so ease up on hitting the needs discovery so hard up front for criminy sakes.  Instead, focus on differentiation and do it presumptively.  An old colleague of mine taught me the critical question sales must always answer for prospects; “Why with all the competitive alternatives available to me, should I buy from you?”  OK – you know that is important but you need do this presumptively without being asked.  “Yes, it runs around $60 a month and what makes that unique versus others that may offer the service is….”  Or “My guess is you’ve looked hard at options here, one thing to consider unusual but awesome about how our products delivers is…..”    Your job with differentiation as your lead story is to snap the prospect out of price or terms shopping – that’s where they think they are when they call you – and that is what you must change.

 

  • Teach Existing Customers Something New Every Single Day:   Some of the best sales reps in the world don’t like the leads they get today.  They really don’t.  The leads they get today as I’ve said are often folks who have so much research available to them that by the time they contact you – you’re just a talking head sometimes confirming stuff they already know.   The best sales people create their own leads.  They educate and teach before the need arises or do so in such a way that they create the need and therefore are front and center playing the role of a human (and way more engaging) source of research and information than the web.  And they teach about new products and services for sure but in such a way that they are problems solvers and industry challenge averters and hurdles faced but that help to succeed.    Maybe you’re in the lead generation business in your role, maybe you are in the closing end of it too.  It makes no difference – teach, teach, and then teach some more.

 

  • Be a Story Teller:  You know what doesn’t work all that well on the web?  Customer Testimonials.  They really don’t.  No offense to any of the talented marketing folks who nurture, create and publish testimonials.  Some are effective for sure; some are even emotionally moving videos about using a product.  But by and large, the quotes, the blurbs and the statements supporting the products and services on a website or brochure are let’s be honest, not always believed to be credible to the prospect.  But a story told by a real sales person like you who had a real interaction with a real customer who better yet,  looks a lot like the prospect you are talking to;  A story told well that way – now that has influence!   Get good at telling stories.  You all have them.   You have those real success stories with real customers.  (Bonus tip; Fit your story into the Hero model for greatest impact;  1) the customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck 2) took the leap of faith 3) ran into some unexpected challenges 4) recommitted to the effort 5) achieved mastery and had awesome results!).  Story telling was never part of anyone’s sales training class – that I can assure you; but it darn well should be now!

 

Times change.  Technology changes.  Buying processes change.   Make sure you are too.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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The Luckiest Man In The World

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I’ve said that every year I’ll republish this post on this date.  How can I not?    Nothing’s changed in the last 5 years except for just one thing;  I feel even luckier.   Happy Anniversary Susan.

 

The Luckiest Man In The World

I admit I’m not an expert on marriage and have the track record to prove it.   But my guess is that you’ll be alright if

You marry someone who feels it is more important to be there for others who have less or are in need, than to be there for everyone.

You marry someone who works hard, never misses a day, and defines her performance only by the happiness of her customers.

You marry someone who when she first met your child of 6 years old, knelt down, looked at him eye to eye, said hello and then gave him a big hug.

You marry someone who loves with all her heart, the movies from the 30’s and 40’s because they always have happy endings.

You marry someone who cries tears of joy almost daily just upon hearing that a total stranger had a baby or if she happens to she see two toddlers walking, holding hands.

You marry someone, a single mother who from her teenage years has raised a beautiful person in her daughter with the crazy belief that “I want to raise her not to be like me”.

Susan, your daughter is just like you and it is the greatest gift you have given her.  My son has known you nearly half of his life and I swear, he loves you as much as I do.

Saturday, I get to marry you.

I think we are going to be more than alright.  It’s a trite statement but there is a reason someone came up with it.  Now, I know.

I am the luckiest man in the world.

****

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Originally published June 9th, 2009

Bailey

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Bailey

Life got in the way of today’s post.

The beautiful lady you see here, her name is Bailey.   And this picture was taken by her Dad (my brother) at the beach yesterday afternoon which is her favorite place to be.

Bailey’s struggle is becoming more than she can bear and her suffering ends today.

I see the saddened emails, texts and even tears from the aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and friends this week who know this day is coming.  Bailey has been a part of so many people for so many years.

But we can’t really imagine how hard this is for our brother James.   Please know we love you and are there for you.

It’s cliche and trite to say that Bailey or any loved pet was such a good girl.    But she really was.   Let me share just one thing about her with you.   My brother works in a pretty tough space helping young adults – many who have seen and felt suffering first hand in their young lives.

For years Bailey went to work with him every day and those young people loved her.   She greeted everyone equally.  She never judged or intimidated or abused these kids.   She offered some normalcy, someone to hug or to touch or to just sit quietly next to.

Oh were we to be so good as she.

 

Till Next Time,

Mark