Warning! – Here comes the word you don’t want to hear

Here in New Zealand there is a word that is rarely spoken during Sales meetings.

It is not a rude word, nor is it an ambiguous word which is difficult to pronounce.

In fact, it slips off the tongue quite easily and is likely one of the first words that we learn as young children from our parents.

Salespeople fear hearing it from their customers and when they do, they will hide it from their colleagues out of shame.

The word is so powerful, that sales people will pretend to be its friend, much like the groupies around a school yard bully, egging the bully on towards their next victim, so as not have the wrath directed towards them.

Have you guessed what it is yet?

NO

That’s right, these two little letters put together in that specific order strike fear into the heart of all salespeople.

Why?

Because we’re emotive, sensitive and fundamentally we are human beings before we are sales people.

This article is aimed at helping salespeople try and overcome that feeling of hearing the word, as having been a sales person for close to 18 years, I hold some experience of hearing it more than once and have learnt that I cannot stop feeling what I feel, but I can manage the way I respond to the feeling.

Let me start by telling you an anecdote about a ‘friend’ of mine, who we shall call ‘Karl’

An 18 year old Karl used to work part time at a market research agency in the UK, along with some of his mates.  During his shifts, he had to call a certain number of households trying to get them to complete a 20 minute survey.  Karl was not very good at this, as most of the people told Karl to “get f***ed”.  Karl used to get sad about being told to “get f***ed” (which I’ll simplify to a ‘no’ moving forward), so Karl decided to pretend to make calls, speak to people who weren’t really on the other end of the phone and fulfil his targets; all because he was afraid of hearing ‘no’.  After a few days Karl got called into a HR meeting by his team leader, who proceeded to play audio of Karl speaking to himself (recorded for training purposes).   Karl felt pretty embarrassed as he was escorted from the building, with his mates laughing loudly as he went.   

The moral of this story is that in Sales you cannot run away from the word ‘no’, because it will always find you.

As I…oops I meant Karl found out!

All sales people will have to face the feeling generated by the word ‘no’; the feeling we commonly label as ‘fear of rejection’.

Good sales people still experience the same feeling as everyone else and it still disappoints them to hear it, but they do not get debilitated by hearing it and instead challenge themselves to persevere.

Poor sales people shy away from situations where they have a higher probability to hear the word, because they get debilitated by hearing it and it has them making their excuses and looking for the next role on Seek.

Here comes the cliche; I manage a rejection, by labelling it as an opportunity to learn how to overcome that objection in the future, not as a reflection of my personal ability.

Hear me out before you lose interest.

Of course I feel gutted hearing it, I’d be lying otherwise, but I accept that I am not a sales god.

Sales is about providing a solution and like other professions that involve trying to diagnose a problem such as Doctors or IT Technicians, it is a process of elimination from the experiences and knowledge that they’ve learnt from in the past.

Other professions don’t just stop trying to solve the problem at the first hurdle they come across.

They learn each time they tackle a new problem and the expectation they have on themselves and others have on them, isn’t that they will always get it right first time.

I don’t shy away from making the next business development call, or organising the next client meeting, just because I didn’t convert the customer the last time I tried.

That’s why you too should stop labelling an unconverted customer as a ‘failure’, as you will never convert every customer, just like every other profession doesn’t get it right first time.

Instead label it as an ‘opportunity’ to understand, preempt and eliminate an objection that could come up again in the future.

High expectations of oneself are perfect for Sales, unrealistic expectations are not.

I cannot be expected to know it all, but I can be expected to learn from it all – Kalv Hayer 2018 (whilst sitting on his sofa drinking a tasteless green tea)

For those of you who regularly read my articles, I have to apologise as I will only be posting them every fortnight from now on, as opposed to weekly.

The reason is that I am trying to balance new business development requirements, client delivery commitments and all the other aspects of being a business owner, with carving out time to share my voice with you all.

Right now, I can only do this by freeing up my finger tapping time.

For those of you who are absolutely gutted about this (I’m sure there’s at least one of you out there), feel free to read my previous catalogue of articles here.

Sell me this article

Future U.S. President Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has a new movie coming out and it’s called Skyscraper.

I know this, not because I will be lining up to see it, but because there have been quite a few articles being written about the movie’s poster on social media, questioning the physics of The Rock being able to jump the distance the poster suggests.

The debate this generated got my attention, as many people were stating it’s a movie, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt, whilst others were trying to strengthen their opinions with scientific research.

Admittedly, most of the content is written with tongue firmly in cheek, but it reminded me of my biggest obstacle that I had to overcome prior to starting RevUp, which was accepting that I was a real salesperson and not someone pretending to be a salesperson and in particular the part Hollywood had in this.

As a child growing up in the 80’s and 90’s era of VHS, Blockbuster Video and Sky Box Office, I have readily consumed a 40 year long diet of Hollywood movies, which has resulted in some positive influences such as the training montages from the Rocky films, which never fail to get me pumped prior to a workout (I know it’s sad), to Neo facing Agent Smith in The Matrix and the importance of self-belief in the pursuit of a goal.

But like life in general, you have to tackle negative influences as well as the positive ones.

For many, Hollywood has negatively influenced their self-esteem with unrealistic expectations being projected in regards to body shape or relationship goals, but although these have also had an impact on me, perhaps the hardest influence I have had to overcome professionally is the warped sense of what a salesperson looks and behaves like.

18 years ago, I hadn’t planned to start a career in Sales, and instead, like many people in their twenties I just wanted to earn some money to pay for my next overseas trip, or beer down the pub, so didn’t pay much attention to my professional development.

In my thirties, as the weight got heavier on my shoulders; my role titles got fancier and the payroll got bigger, but if I’m honest, I still didn’t see myself as a salesperson, because when I talked to the successful sales people around me, I didn’t see common experience amongst them that I shared (or that they shared with each other).

This earlier lack of personal investment in my professional life and the later lack of observed validation of my sales capability meant that I always felt like an imposter in Sales.

When I looked for external influences to answer whether I was actually a sales person, I of course looked to the medium that answered all of my life questions up to that point, Hollywood.

“Hollywood.  Am I a sales person?  Please help” I asked.

The answers were not great for my self-esteem.

‘Sell me this pen’ was one of the responses from my memory bank.

Another was ‘Greed is good’.

For those of you who don’t know, these lines are from the movies ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘Wall Street’ respectively.

Both these movies represent Sales as a profession that is unethical, transactional and reliant on pressuring customers into a purchase.

These words were not ones that I related to in my experience of sales and so, I felt that I wasn’t a ‘real’ sales person and instead I must have just been lucky, or been in the right place at the right time throughout my career up to that point.

After much existential pondering, I discovered that comparing myself to fictional or stylised versions of real characters from Hollywood movies was not a healthy way to decide on whether to continue my Sales career in New Zealand beyond my thirties.

This was because of two main reasons;

1) The most obvious reason is that it’s HOLLYWOOD!  It’s not real! ‘Real’ doesn’t shift movie tickets.  Showing Jordan Belfort make 20 cold calls before he closed a deal wouldn’t make an entertaining watch on the big screen.

2) The second reason is that New Zealand isn’t America.  America has 325M people, whilst New Zealand has 4.6M.  America also has a geographical area of 9.8 million km2 to New Zealand’s 750,000 km2.  America has over 10 cities with populations greater than 1 million, whilst New Zealand has one.  This means the way we do business is different; relationship building Vs cold calling, face to face selling Vs telephone based and value based Vs transactional.

Once I had come to the realisation that the Hollywood Sales image wasn’t real and relevant to the market in which I was operating, I then looked at things more objectively and this time when I looked at a common theme amongst the good sales people I knew in New Zealand, I recognised it was strong professional ethics, investment in long term relationships and above all, authenticity.

Now these were traits that I could relate to.

Thankfully, I have never been a shiny faced, pinstriped suited ‘boiler room’ sales person who could supposedly close every deal on the phone; by balancing the perfect sales script with just the right amount of pressure exerted on my prey, oops I meant customer.

But now instead of feeling that I need to cover that up with excuses or denial, I can be proud to call myself a salesperson in New Zealand, because that isn’t what Sales in New Zealand is all about.

Sales in New Zealand, is about many things, but the main three are;

Respect in your customer’s ability to recognise the value in the solution your product or service is providing, rather than trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

Building trust through long term relationships.  Not just expecting them to sign on the dotted line because they were on your call cycle and you bought them a coffee once.

Being authentic in the way you are as a sales person.  Sales people think that they can read people, but good sales people understand that they too are being read.  The best way to manage that is to be genuine all the way.

So, to conclude my article and hopefully tie up any loose ends, I need to circle around to where the article all began, which is whether Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson can achieve what appears to be an impossible feat for any mere mortal, which is to save a group of people stuck in a helpless situation, by taking a leap of faith reliant solely on his own ability (and some camera trickery), whilst also ignoring all the doubters along the way.

Well, I guess many Americans will find out on 3rd December 2020 (Presidential Election results).

But if you can’t wait that long, then the Skyscraper movie comes out in July this year.

Many thanks for reading all and I look forward to sharing my next article with you in 7 days.

Sales Negotiation – Know when to let go

Most B2B sales people in New Zealand are not selling a proprietary product or service and are therefore operating within a competitive marketplace, which increasingly means that their customers are focused on extracting value from them as suppliers during contract negotiations.

There are many aspects to a negotiation, but one of the most fundamental factors of a successful negotiation is to know what your walkaway point is.

Each party will have a walkaway point; the customer will have one and you as a supplier need to enter into a negotiation being very clear on what yours is.

The walkaway point is your line in the sand, the point where the customer is asking for something during the negotiations, that you (as a representative of your company) are not willing or able to give them and instead are left with the only option of walking away from the negotiation.

This isn’t just about the price of the product or service; it’s also the aspects of the supply agreement that is of importance to you as a supplier and them as a customer.

Examples may include; delivery frequency, performance guarantees or payment terms.

These are all dependent on your business, your customer and your industry.

Most sales people will enter into negotiations not knowing what their walkaway point is, which means they walk into a game of Poker, not knowing what cards they are playing with, but only how much money they could win/lose.

I don’t gamble, but if I did, I’d like to know what hand I was playing with.

Wouldn’t you?

Well this article is aimed at helping salespeople understand the benefits of having a walkaway point and the importance of planning their walkway point in a negotiation, all with the ultimate goal of giving them greater control during contract discussions.

To make it easier to remember and because I am old school, I have conveniently labelled these under the acronym C.R.A.V.E.

 

Confidence, Respect, Aim, Value, Efficiency

 

Confidence

If you’re sitting across the negotiating table from the customer not knowing what you can agree to, or what your company is not willing to trade, then you are not empowered to make decisions.

As a sales person, if you are not empowered to come to an agreement with a customer without going back and forth seeking approval for a customer’s latest demand, then that means your business doesn’t have confidence in you, your customer will lose confidence in your capability to make a decision and you will in turn lose self-confidence in your ability.

When you enter into a negotiation where you’re not 100% confident in your position, then you’re not in a position of control.

Having a predetermined walkaway point will give you greater confidence when playing your hand.

Respect

This could easily be swapped out for reputation, but in essence I’m talking about the impact of not having a walkaway point defined prior to a negotiation on the perception of you as a sales person, with both your customer and within your own business.

Many sales people (quite rightly) take ownership of a sales negotiation, but they fail to engage key stakeholders in their own business on discussions around what the walkaway point should be; they ‘go it alone’.

This approach is risky on two fronts;

1) If you don’t secure the deal because the customer wanted to go past a predetermined walkaway point (which you haven’t communicated internally), you are then seen as having personally failed to win the deal.  If you engaged others to be part of the discussion, any decision was based on agreed business strategy, as opposed to a personal salesperson failing.

2) If you secure the deal without going to your walkaway point (which again you haven’t communicated), the extra value you’ve negotiated or not given up is not recognised by your business and heightens the risk of you unfairly being seen as ‘having given away the farm’.

From the perspective of the customer; New Zealand being the small market it is and with many sales/procurement people staying within industry, the chances are that your paths with the person you are negotiating with will cross again in the future.

Having a walkaway point (win or lose) will indirectly show that you’re a professional and demonstrates that you had a limit to being pushed and didn’t just roll over to secure any deal; you have set a precedent for the next negotiation.

Aim

I know that as a salesperson you want to win, but some new business is more hassle than its worth in the long run.

It’s important to understand the aim or purpose of winning this particular deal other than just the dollars.

Perhaps it’s strategically important to the business, as it will mean access to another sector or open doors to other product or service offerings.

The walkaway point helps you and your business truly define the purpose of the negotiation, which will clarify whether this is a deal you, need to win, or just want to win.     

The perception is that sales people like doing any monetary deals, when the reality is that good sales people like to know the deal they are doing actually means something to the company they are working for, other than just the dollars it brings in – Recognition

Isn’t it better to know what this is before the negotiation, rather than afterwards?

I do, as I feel it will make you hungrier to succeed.

Value

Probably the most obvious reason to have a walkaway point in the first place prior to any negotiation, is to know what the value of any deal is worth to your company.

Not just the profit your company will make by winning the business, but also the cost to your business in not winning the deal.

If you know what value you want to achieve at a minimum to make it worthwhile business, factoring in all the other variables such as risk, cost to service and projected growth etc. then you are in a clearer headspace going into a negotiation.

Many companies try and keep their sales people in the dark around what their company walkaway point is and will add a buffer into the walkaway point, worried that the sales person will go directly to that point and relying on the opportunity to submit a revised counter offer.

The problem there is that if you as a salesperson aren’t going into a deal knowing what your company knows, then you not united and are thus weaker in the negotiation.

You and your company must have done the due diligence on the value in the walkaway point and be transparent on the approach in the negotiation.

United you stand, divided you fall.

Efficiency

The last of the 5 important reasons to have a walkaway point in a negotiation is efficiency; efficiency of your own, your company’s and your customer’s resources.

Rather than negotiating on the back foot and in a reactive manner, you should have done all the planning or upfront investment beforehand, so that you aren’t wasting energy, time or money on relaying requests for approval from management, more information from customers or pricing updates from Finance.

Don’t be the ball between your business’ and the customer’s racquet.

Planning and preparation may indeed take time, but at least you can do it at your pace, without the emotional and time pressures that occur during contract negotiations.

You’ll take better control of the game.

If you have a walkaway point ready beforehand, then you’ll waste less of the most valuable resource you have as a sales person which is energy.

 

So to summarise;

Knowing your walkaway point before beginning negotiations and being aligned with your own business on the what, why and when, will keep the pressure on the other party and give you some much needed control at the negotiating table.

As a real B2B sales person, you should C.R.A.V.E. a walkaway point prior to any negotiation.

Many thanks again for reading this article.

See you next week.

One shot: A guide to turning coffee into sales

You only get one shot at a first impression.  And in sales, that means that you can very easily miss out on new opportunities, if you don’t get that initial coffee meeting with a new customer right first time.

Here’s how.

Kiwis love coffee and although I can’t easily find solid stats around the numbers, estimates suggest that we spend in the range of $1bn-$2bn a year in New Zealand café’s, which is a shedload of dollars.

In conjunction with that info, according to a Canstarblue survey, around 20% of all business meetings in Auckland and Wellington are held in coffee shops.

Now, even being conservative in my estimates, I would say that at least half of those meetings had a sales focus, which means that there are lots of businesses who are investing a large amount of their limited sales resources into a cup of coffee, hoping that it will in turn lead to new business.

Sales people themselves actually prefer to have their first new customer meeting in a coffee shop (as opposed to on a client’s site), because of the perceived higher probability of truly connecting with the customer in the more informal environment of a café setting and which will hopefully lead to actual new business, (rather than just another tick on their KPI score in their monthly performance review).

Having been in Sales for over 18 years, I’ve realised that relying on ‘hope’ isn’t going to help you sell.  It demonstrates you have a desire to sell something, but to actually achieve tangible results; you also need a plan of action.

Unsuccessful sales people don’t like a plan of action, because it means they are taking personal responsibility for making something happen, whereas ‘hope’ keeps that responsibility externalised, thus protecting their own ego.  (Wow, that’s deep!)

Truly successful sales people realise they need to take control of the sales process.

The ‘Business to Business’ sales process won’t all be completed at the first meeting and you will likely need to have a number of sales meetings over a period of time, to actually convert an opportunity into an actual sale.

That’s why it’s important to understand the purpose of the meeting at each stage along that process.

The following guide is aimed at providing some assistance around purpose and structure to your first customer coffee meeting, so that businesses and sales people who want to make the most of the hard work they have already done in getting a meeting with a new customer, improve their chances of turning that $10 coffee investment into an eventual sale.

 

Purpose

The first meeting (especially in NZ) is about building trust.

It isn’t about getting commitment to buy your product or service, or a chance to pitch for their business, because in their eyes you haven’t earned the right to do that yet.

The customer has already demonstrated that they have a need, because they are making time to meet with you, as they feel you could possibly help them provide a solution to that need.

You have your own reasons for having the meeting in a coffee shop, but they agreed to meet you in a coffee shop away from their business, because they want to know they can trust you before inviting you into their professional home.

This first meeting is about them trusting you enough to share with you what their need is and your aim is to demonstrate that both you and the business you represent, is trustworthy and credible enough for them to feel comfortable to open up to you.

How you go about developing that trust and credibility is a whole separate article in itself, but it’s an ever changing recipe of ingredients such as empathy, body language, listening, questioning and storytelling.

 

Structure

As a sales person, you in all likelihood asked for the meeting, which means you have to provide the structure to it.

Use 3 stages to better structure your first meeting with a new customer.

This 3 stage approach is in line with both the expectations of many (if not all) of the customers that you will meet, as well as the traditional format of a 45 minute meeting in a café.

Stage 1 – Trust in you

Whilst ordering and waiting for the coffee.

This should take up approximately the first 15 minutes of the meeting.

This stage is about you building a personal rapport and connection with the customer sitting across the table from you.

People don’t buy from people; they buy from people they like, so they need to like you.

Be yourself, be genuine and be personable.

Stage 2 – Trust in who you represent

Whilst drinking the coffee.

This should take up approximately the next 25 minutes of the meeting.

This stage is about you building your own and your company’s professional credibility in the eyes of the customer.

It’s not just pitching the services you offer, but a demonstration that you (and your company) know what you are doing, that you have the ability to solve a problem and have successfully done so many times beforehand.

You can demonstrate this not only by talking of your own experiences, but by asking the right questions that show the person that you are an subject matter expert and have an understanding of their world.

Stage 3 – Trust in your vision

Whilst winding down the meeting and saying goodbye.

This should take up approximately the last 5 minutes of the meeting.

This stage is about you allowing your customer to picture working with you, so that they can come to the desired conclusion themselves.

You shouldn’t get desperate and grasp at the sale, but instead it’s always better when a sale is mutually beneficial and especially in high value B2B sales; the customer needs the space to be comfortable that they are making the best decision.

Of course you can suggest what next steps could look like if they were interested and you should definitely tell them what they can expect from you in regards to follow up communication after the meeting, but don’t undo all the hard work you have done by scaring them off by being pushy.

Remember, the meeting wasn’t about closing the deal, but was a step along the process in providing a solution to their need.

 

Top 10 Tips

 

  1. Confirm – Double check attendance with the customer a day before, because this helps qualify whether they really have a pressing business need for your product/service. Some sales people don’t do this in case the customer pulls out, but if they pull out then you’re not important to them and they would have wasted your time anyway.  Remember, good sales people want a sale, not a tick on a KPI scorecard.
  2. Be on time – It shows that you’re organised in your day to day activities and respectful of their time, which demonstrates personal stability and empathy with their needs.
  3. Be first – You called the meeting, your responsible for welcoming them to it and making sure they are comfortable. You wouldn’t invite someone to your house for dinner and then make them wait outside until you got home would you?
  4. Wait to order – Don’t worry about looking like ‘Billy no mates’ and react by ordering a coffee before they get there. Make sure you both order at the same time.  This way you can keep greater control of meeting by pacing when it finishes.
  5. Turn off your phone – If you need me to explain this one, I’m wasting my time.
  6. Don’t look at your watch – You may want to know how long you’ve got before your next meeting, but getting caught looking at your watch can be interpreted as you being bored of what they are saying. It’s not worth the risk.
  7. Stand up – If you’re there first, stand up when you greet them. It shows you’re not an arrogant prick.
  8. The right café – Choose a café where you can actually hold a conversation, not one that is too loud or too crowded.
  9. Take notes – If the customer is sharing something of importance with you, show them that you can be trusted to know its worth, by writing it down. Don’t take notes if the information is of a sensitive nature.
  10. Pay the bill – They may indeed offer, but as you called the meeting and you want their business (and they know it), be polite and pay the bill.

Many thanks for reading my first article of 2018 and I know it’s a long one, but I’ve had 4 weeks to reflect, reenergise and to RevUp.

New year’s resolution: Stop being a crab

I hate being afraid of other people’s success, just as I hate being afraid of my own failure.

Let me explain what I mean.

There’s been plenty written on LinkedIn and elsewhere around overcoming one’s personal fear of failure, but I think many of us in Sales (as well as other professions) are just as afraid of other people’s success, (unfortunately) it’s just more socially accepted to be so, because we don’t label it as fear.

I’m referring to the crab mentality.

Recently, a good friend of mine, who is also in sales, won his and his company’s biggest new customer after close to 3 years of effort.

I was one of the first people that he shared this great news with, likely because he felt I would appreciate the effort that had gone into it and also because he was proud of his achievement and just wanted to share it with those close to him whom he trusted.

Instead of immediately feeling happy for him, I felt a sense of envy.

Probably because I was having a bad day and I wasn’t feeling particularly good about myself, I internally took on the role of victim, so as to protect my own ego.

Although, I believe I have a good Poker face, being the intuitive guy he is, he sensed my mood and changed his tack to one which is more commonly used in business settings where a person doesn’t publicly take direct credit for an achievement, so as to not offend the sensitivity of others.

I’ve gotta say though, a lot of people helped get it across the line” he said.

At that moment, I felt angry at myself for making him embarrassed of sharing his success and for pulling him down.

Many of us already have to acknowledge others who have supposedly helped us on our way, or play false modesty with comments such as ‘I couldn’t have done it without you guys’ or ‘it was a team effort’.

Well you know what? sometimes it wasn’t a team effort.

Sometimes it was just YOU and you should be able to celebrate your success.

I think we need to stop being afraid of what others will do or think if you stand tall, be proud and be the tall poppy.

I was inadvertently a crab in that situation, because I pulled someone down from advancing their personal journey.

Stand up to the crab in yourself and in others.

Right from those teen movies we all watched growing up, where the rich, popular girl is a bitch to everyone, or the best sportsman in high school was a jerk to all the geeky kids, it’s suggested that success should come with some innate feeling of guilt, as it isn’t possible without standing on the heads of others.

We all need to stop aligning to this stereotype of success being riddled with gain from unfair advantage.

In my experience just because someone is doing well, doesn’t mean they must be an unscrupulous person.

Yes I’ve met successful assholes who are not the kind of people you want to put your trust in, but I’ve also met plenty of unsuccessful assholes.

In my life I believe that you’ll only be successful when you stop pulling others down and actually encourage them to pursue their goals and celebrate their achievements, because only then can you focus your energies on advancing in your own journey.

We can be successful and good people at the same time, the two are not mutually or morally exclusive.

In 2018;

  • I’m not going to reinforce the stereotype that successful people must have stood on others to get where they are.
  • I’m going to stand tall and be proud that any success I have, came from my own efforts and not at the expense of others.
  • I’m going to celebrate the success that others have and acknowledge that any feelings of envy are my issues alone and not the fault of others.
  • I’m going to help others be more successful when and where I can, but only if they chose to take the first step in that journey themselves.

After all, personal success comes from pulling yourself up, not from pulling others down.

 

This is my last article for 2017 and I’ll be back in January 2018 to share my voice with you all again.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you.

2018 Horoscope – Thinking about a new Sales role?

It’s that time of year again when we look for a higher power to guide us on a potential new career journey.

Having heard one too many people complain about their job over the past year and still not do anything to change it, I have decided to channel my F.F.S. mutterings into a (hopefully) more helpful list of 12 signs that you need a change of role in 2018.

Also, because many people want assurances that they will make the right decision, I have decided to label them under the ‘always reliable, never wrong’ 12 signs of the Zodiac, so as to mitigate the risks of you changing job;

 

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

You have always loved to learn from people who were smarter than you.

Learning something you didn’t know from your colleagues meant you were growing and becoming better than you were.

Now you’re not learning from others in the room, meaning the chances are you’re now the smartest in the room.

If you’re the smartest in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

Get out Aquarius.

 

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Sundays used to go so swimmingly didn’t they Pisces?

Most people hate Monday mornings, whether because of the inevitable “How was your weekend?” questions, or the feeling of stress as the cortisol increases in your body, it’s a common feeling.

Now that Venus has entered Neptune, it is when you start to realise that you hate Sundays too.

You hate them because you have already started thinking about tomorrow.

When you’re looking at the clock on Sunday hoping it slows down, that’s a sign from the Universe telling you to change.

 

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Where did the optimistic Aries we all know and love go?

You started in the company with such positivity and high hopes, not to mention a seemingly never ending supply of energy.

Now you’re in meetings thinking ‘that won’t work’ or ‘yeah, I’ve heard that before’.

What happened?

Only you know and more importantly, only you can change it.

 

Taurus (April 20 –May 20)

Wow Taurus, you’re on top!

The stars are in your favour.

Problem is; there is only one way to go from here.

If there isn’t another internal mountain to climb, you’ll need to jump ship and follow the night stars to your next port of call.

No Bull Taurus, it’s time to set sail.

 

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Where did it all go wrong for you two Gemini?

If Taurus is on top of the mountain, you’re both at the bottom and you can’t see a way up to the peak.

You’ve both been struggling to get any traction for a while now and have run out of ideas.

It’s time to let the other twin take control; you know the one, the one who knows the difference between perseverance and banging your heads against a brick wall

 

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

You’re known as the homely type Cancer and for good reason.

Everyone in your industry knows you and they love you for always being there for them.

Like the furniture at your mum and dad’s house, you make it all so…comfortable.

If you’re totally at home at all your industry functions, then maybe you’ve outstayed your welcome.

“Hey homebody, a padded room is comfortable, but it doesn’t mean you want to be there”.

 

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

From being a cowardly lion, to the fearless king of the jungle, no one has you rattled.

That’s the problem in your stars Leo, you have forgotten that fear gave you drive to achieve more.

You’re no longer afraid of failing and losing it all.

And, if you’re not fearful of failing, it means you’re not pushing the boundaries of your kingdom hard enough anymore.

It’s a matter of time before a hungrier cat pounces and claims your turf.

Explore a new jungle and be that hungry cat.

 

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

I remember the first time too, and the second and the third.

But now you’re no longer exploring new territories or re-signing customers you haven’t won before.

You’ve been here before Virgo and the thrill of the chase has gone.

Your next goal was accomplished already once before.

Uranus tells me that it’s time for your star to shine elsewhere and for another star to shine here.

 

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Some things are better left unsaid.

You used to know that, but the Moon tide is making you point out the ‘elephant in the room’ at every meeting and opportunity.

No matter how hard you try, the moonlight has empowered you to be the spokesperson for everyone’s collective ignorance of what the ‘real’ problem is and what needs to be done to solve it.

“Why won’t they listen?” you ask.

Breaking News – They all know and now you’ve embarrassed everybody.

Leave quietly.

 

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Remember when you were the new guy in town?

You were new to the dream team and together you achieved such great things.

Collectively, you and your close peers were a constellation of shooting stars within both your business and the industry as a whole.

Now those same people have moved on, either up the ranks or on to greener pastures.

Not you though, you’re the last one standing, watching newbies coming and going too.

It stings doesn’t it?

 

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Do you know how many sick days you have left?

If you answered no, stay where you are.

If you answered yes, it’s time to find another job in 2018.

Much like your sister Pisces, you are not present.

You have taken too many sick days off because you didn’t want to be at work and now you’re conscious of the fact that others may know what you’re up to.

Get off the back foot and front foot it out of there.

 

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

 

The Astrological forces have been saving the best sign that you’re ready to move to a new role until last.

It’s your time of year Capricorn, I’m not ‘kidding’ (that was a goat reference there by the way)

How do I know you ask?

Because you’re reading an astrological themed article on LinkedIn, from a middle aged guy you haven’t met living in New Zealand, looking for answers on whether YOU should get out of your current sales role or not.

I don’t think you need to look to the stars for your answer.

 

Next week will be my last article for the 2017 year, so please come back to check it out.

5 sales lessons from Tony ‘Scarface’ Montana

Whilst working our way through a good few Heinekens and a bottle of Appleton Estate Rum, a few good friends and I recently ended up watching Brian De Palma’s 1983 classic gangster movie ‘Scarface’ starring Al Pacino.

As the end credits rolled and the synthesiser infused soundtrack kicked in, one of the guys I was with, turned around, looked me straight in my face and dared me to write an article relating the protagonist’s life in the movie, with life as I saw it in Sales for my next article.

Now normally, I would not take the bait of such adolescent behaviour, but; as I had drank a few too many drinks that night, he dared me to do it and I agreed, I now present to you the following article, which is my attempt at aligning 5 moral lessons learnt from a fictional criminal Cuban refugee called Tony Montana, who went from washing dishes to running a Cocaine empire in Miami, to a life in Sales here in New Zealand.

To begin with, many of you may not have seen the movie, or indeed have any desire to do so, but, if you’re keen to judge if I successfully achieved my task with this article, have a read of the movie synopsis here, or better still watch it before reading.

#1 – Take every opportunity

Say what you like about Tony Montana’s moral compass, but one thing you couldn’t accuse him of was failing in recognising and seizing the opportunities presented to him.

Whether it is; jumping on a boat to a foreign land that wasn’t exactly welcoming to him, agreeing to assassinate a political Cuban figure in exchange for a green card, or shaking hands on a deal with a Columbian drug lord, without running it by his own boss first, he always threw caution to the wind when it came to embracing opportunity.

In today’s increasingly risk adverse world of business, where many of us lose out on sales because we didn’t recognise the new opportunity in front of us and were instead busy with our heads down doing what we have always done, or trying to obtain endless guarantees for governance focused internal stakeholders, we shouldn’t be afraid to say “yes” and work out some of the finer details a little later.

#2 – Know your limits

“All I have in this world is my balls and my word…and I don’t break ‘em for no one”.   Tony Montana

I’ve said many times before that Sales is about pushing boundaries in innovative thinking, customer expectations and new solutions.

But, If you couple this with the continuous push for business growth, there are times when sales people are operating for long periods of time in grey areas, which is why it’s important to know (and stick to) your own personal morals and also time spent on the job, as opposed to at home with family.

Protecting your reputation and not ‘burning out’ is essential in Sales, even more so in New Zealand, being as it is a relatively small marketplace and word on poor performance can travel fast.

He may have put it an unrefined way, but Tony Montana’s quote pretty succinctly sums up what I’m trying to say.

#3 – Know your competition

“Don’t underestimate the other guy’s greed!”  Frank Lopez

Before Tony Montana was the head honcho in the movie, he worked as an enforcer for a guy called Frank Lopez.

Although many considered him soft, one of Frank’s endearing pearls of wisdom (shared over a late night drinking session in a neon lit Miami nightclub) was this quote.

His point was that there is always someone who is potentially better than you and you should always keep an ear to the ground on what is happening on the streets.

This is one of the most common mistakes I have seen in both big and small businesses here in New Zealand; failing to invest in understanding competitor activity and behaviour.

One of the simplest successes my team had in a previous role was recognising the new product launch cycle of our main competitor and disrupting it with consumer promotions.  It wasn’t rocket science, but it achieved what it needed to; protecting market share.

Make time to monitor your competition.  Don’t let them fundamentally change your strategy, but don’t let them unexpectedly impact it either.

#4 – Look at your offering from your customer’s perspective

“Don’t get high on your own supply”.   Frank Lopez

Another lesson from Tony’s old boss Frank here (he turned out to be quite a wise old sage didn’t he).

For those of you who have seen the movie, perhaps the most memorable image is seeing Tony sit at his desk, with a big pile of white powder laid out in front of him (it’s been recreated in the image that accompanies this article).  As he wasn’t into baking cakes, even those who haven’t seen the movie can deduce that it was Cocaine.

A major contributor to his ultimate downfall was Tony’s increasing use of the product he sold, which meant that his judgement was more and more clouded as the story progressed.

Hopefully, none of my readers are in the same trade as the protagonist, but we all sell something that we value or believe in.

The reminder here is, just because you value something, doesn’t mean the customer does.  And that’s who matters.

As sales people, any sale should start from the customer’s point of view and not just yours.

This way you can anticipate likely objections, match features and benefits and truly understand customer needs.

#5 – Remember your purpose

[Spoiler alert]

At the end of the movie, as Tony lies dead in the water fountain at the bottom of his spiral staircase, the words wrapped around a large metal globe above his bullet ridden corpse read, ‘The World is Yours’.

These 4 words encompass both his unbridled ambition to obtain the material riches of the American dream and also; the inevitable outcome of such an empty pursuit.

There is certainly nothing wrong with targeting more out of life, in fact I am personally a strong advocate of ambitious behaviour to gain desired creature comforts or experiences, just as long as it is not at the detriment of others, or if it is seen as only the end of a life journey, as opposed to the means to a more fulfilling end; a purpose beyond a material measure.

Long term successful sales people I know are ambitious and enjoy life’s pleasures, but they know the value of what they have, not just it’s price.

RevUp readers are the ultimate judges as to whether I successfully completed this dare, but I’m pretty happy with the article, so I’m going to consider this a resounding win for me in the ‘adolescent male masquerading as business professional’ stakes.

Artificial Intelligence – Stop worrying and start dreaming

Before A.I. – ‘I think, therefore I am’ – Rene Descartes

September 1996 was when I started university in the UK and its crazy to think that this was 21 years ago, because a lot has happened since that time, for me personally and also from a technological perspective.

Much like many of you reading this article, I recall being excited about moving to a new city from a small town to study for a degree and I remember day dreaming about my career choices once I left, which is why I was a little taken aback when I attended a breakfast function here in Auckland this week.

The event was for future entrepreneurs and many of the attendees were local university Masters Students, who had ideas which they wanted to validate and potentially commercialise.

These guys (generic term, not gender specific) were smart, passionate and driven.

I’ve got to admit that at times during the discussions; I experienced feelings of jealousy, inadequacy and insecurity, which were all born out of my own ignorance of the massive technological changes that are happening all around me and the awareness that there were people born after I started university who were more knowledgeable than me on these important subjects e.g. Blockchain.

I had FOMO, because here was a whole generation of young people, who were potentially more suited to operate in the business world of the future.

During the course of the event (and after my cortisol levels had dropped), the question of A.I. arose and what impact it will have on the workforce of tomorrow.

A postgrad student who had been relatively quiet up to that point, voiced his concerns that A.I. is a huge threat to his future job prospects and that he is fearful of what value he would have in the future.

His concerns were shared by pretty much everyone else in that room.

Here was a representative group of a generation that, moments before I was insecure about taking away my contribution in a future society, themselves feeling insecure about another generational change (A.I.) taking away their chance to contribute in their future.

The irony struck me straight away and I immediately was reminded that change wasn’t something to be afraid of, as long as you were willing to; not only keep learning, but also have the courage to apply that learned knowledge in new innovative ways.

As the eldest in the room :), I was eventually asked my thoughts on A.I. and whether I was concerned about its potential impact.

“I’m not at all concerned about A.I. as long as it stands for ‘Artificial Intelligence’.  As soon as it stands for ‘Artificial Imagination’ I think that’s when I’ll start to worry”

In my limited experience, the most valuable employees, sales people or businesses are the ones that can develop new ideas, can picture things that haven’t come before and have the confidence to explore possibilities that haven’t been mapped out already.

They are the ones that value imagination – dreamers.

If something has already been done, then it lends itself to be replicated and in turn commoditised.

This is ultimately what A.I. represents to me, the commoditisation of applied knowledge in known environments.

What I mean by this is A.I. will eventually be able to replace any roles in businesses and organisations, as long as those roles are operating within a defined framework, where they have a clear beginning and an end – Transactional.

Let me give you a Sales example; If I am an Account Manager who is transactional and going through the motions of ‘selling’ such as submitting RFP’s for contract renewals every two years, or solving supply issues in a reactive manner, then eventually I will be replaced by A.I. because the principles of what I am doing has been done before and a machine can replicate this via algorithms etc., just like a human brain can develop synapses over time by repeating behaviour (muscle memory).

Many Account Managers do this now, moving from one company to another, repeating the same things they learnt in Company A and applying this in Company B, whilst never investing, either through fear or laziness, in new approaches or ways of doing things.  They have stopped dreaming.

Eventually, a piece of technology will replace them, just like a millennial could replace me.

Unless of course, I, as a sales person am doing something that hasn’t been done before, then I am not being transactional, but instead I would be adding real value to the business or organisation I am in.

But in order to do something that hasn’t been done before, you have to first imagine it, and you have to be a dreamer.

As sales people, you have to do more than you (or your predecessor) have done in the past.  You have to imagine new possibilities and use all your skills to turn those possibilities into tangible opportunities for growth. Only then will you be of true value.

Sales, much like entrepreneurship isn’t about transactions, it’s about converting imagination into reality.

That is what the best sales people do and that is why the best sales people are also entrepreneurial by nature.

If you’re concerned about A.I., Millennials or something else taking your job, my advice would be to stop worrying about what you can do to stop it from happening (because you can’t stop progress) and instead concentrate on imagining what more you can do in your role – Start dreaming.

After A.I. – Somnio ergo sum’ – I dream, therefore I exist

Your haircut could be losing you $$$

Most of the sales guys I know get a haircut every 3 weeks and the general consensus on the reasoning behind this timeframe is;

Week 1 – After getting our hair cut a little shorter than we would normally walk around with, this first week we feel pretty good about ourselves.  We’re confident, energetic and I’d describe it as feeling ‘fresh’.

Week 2 – Our hair is now the perfect length and we’re not in any way conscious of it.  We’re comfortable and go through the motions in our morning routine when styling it.  Life is ‘all good’ and we’re working our way through the week with no real disruption to our flow.

Week 3 – This week we start having to use a little more styling wax than we feel comfortable with and are acutely aware that our hair is not sitting or falling as it should and we’re not looking our best.  We’re at the greatest risk of being on the back foot with customers and colleagues during this week.  All because we’re been trying to save money.

Now the reason I’m sharing this with you is because this morning, I decided that I’m going to disrupt this 3 week hair cycle; a cycle which has been in place for the last 18 years of my life and I’m going to suggest that if you’re in a sales role or own your own business, you too should consider doing this.

I have decided to get my haircut every 2 weeks, because the frugality of a 3 week hair cycle has all in likelihood just cost me a new customer worth thousands of dollars.

I’d gone to see this potential new customer yesterday morning with my hair longer than I was comfortable with and I wasn’t on top of my game.

Although I had prepared for the meeting and been to the gym, self-doubt had still kicked in on the way to their offices.  I then couldn’t find a parking space nearby; had to run about 500m to ensure I wasn’t late and then realised I’d left my trusted notebook and pen in the car.

When I met with the Director of the business, I was flustered, fidgety and ultimately didn’t bring my ‘A’ game.

It was all the fault of my hair.

Well actually it wasn’t the fault of my hair.

My perception of myself (represented in this instance by my hair) was actually at fault.

By trying to save $243 a year by having my hair cut over three weeks, as opposed to 2 weeks, I had put myself into a situation whereby the slightest external factor (hair style) I had interpreted negatively as opposed to positively.

This all culminated in me losing self- confidence and ultimately; control over the meeting itself (I’m still yet to find out if I have lost the customer).

If you feel good about yourself, you will find that the world will conspire to bring good things to you, but when you feel like shit, you’ll find that things just don’t go your way.

You can put this down to positive vibes, karma, glass half full/half empty or any other of a hundred interpretations or beliefs, but one thing I’ve learnt in my life that I know to be true, is that waiting for the tide to turn positively in your favour is a waste of time, because nothing or no one person is going to change things for you, you have to do it yourself.

Positive changes have to start with you and then the world around you will fall into place, not because the world has drastically changed, but because you view such changes as positive due to your more positive state of mind.

The haircut anecdote I’m sharing with you acted not only as a reminder to invest in the future of my business and not be fearful of failure by focusing on frugality (that’s a lot of ‘f’ words in one sentence), but also revealed to me that negativity was still present in my day to day working week.

Changing from my former 3 week cycle is now no longer going to be seen as a missed cost saving initiative, but instead I’m going to see the additional $243 a year spent moving to a 2 week hair cut cycle as an investment in my business’ future success.

Whether it’s a haircut, dry cleaning your suits or buying a new car, make sure you invest in yourself, because as sales people and business owners, that’s possibly the best investment you can make to ensure you are always on top of your game.

Stop monkeying around; beanbags are not the answer.

I’ve always been a huge movie buff, ever since the TV was used as a rainy weekend babysitter in our house growing up, and as I grew up in the UK, this meant we were baby sat by the TV a lot.

It was on such a drizzly Saturday afternoon recently that I defaulted to this approach with my own kids by sitting them down to (selfishly) watching an old school sci-fi classic.  A movie with arguably the best twist ending ever, Planet of the Apes (1968)

I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t seen it, but it triggered a conversation in our house, which ended with the discovery that there is/was a proposed Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast of America to balance the Statue of Liberty found on the East coast.

Being the inquisitive person (geek) I am, this concept intrigued me and I read a little more about the idea and then how I think this applies to some of the issues we’re seeing in business, in particular when we talk about creating the perfect workplace culture.  (Stick with me, it’ll make sense I promise)

Many businesses here in Auckland are making dramatic changes by increasing the freedoms available to employees at work; be they flexible hours, casual clothing policies or beanbag breakout areas, all in the pursuit of a ‘better’ workplace culture, which will (hopefully) stimulate; collaboration between departments, product innovation and ultimately unlock revenue growth.

The anecdotal evidence I have suggests that in many cases, these ‘Google’ type changes have uplifted and disrupted people in equal measure, but have not brought about a better working culture in business.

Why?

After reading about the reason behind the proposed ‘Statue of Responsibility’, I believe it’s because something is missing to balance out the influx of beanbags into the CBD.

The psychologist and Holocaust survivor Victor E. Frankl (who was the first to envision a ‘Statue of Responsibility’) talks of responsibility being the positive counter to Freedom (represented by the Statue of Liberty), without which Freedom is merely an arbitrary action lacking any clear purpose.

This brings me nicely onto purpose in the workplace (Simon Sinek would be proud).

Without purpose and meaning at work, we will not be content with where we are and what we do and it is this which results in a poor workplace culture, irrespective of the number of beanbags in the office.

To be content, all of us as human beings must feel a sense of achievement and to achieve, we must set or be set a goal.

Which is why; we save money, run marathons or collect stamps.  A sense of achievement obtained through setting ourselves a goal.

Now, when it comes to financial growth, it is the role of business leaders to set goals and it is your responsibility as employees to take the appropriate actions to achieve them.

The same it is when it comes to workplace culture.

Businesses have generally set a clear goal on what they want in regards to a positive workplace culture; better team communication, increased interdepartmental collaboration and individual ownership, so it is now over to you to take responsibility to build that positive environment for yourself.

How?

1) Control your role – Take ownership of what you do every day, don’t be afraid to make decisions and if you make a mistake, fix it, put in a process to ensure it doesn’t happen again and most importantly, communicate it with those that need to know.  If that’s not enough for the business you’re in, then you’re in the wrong business.

2) Be ‘that’ guy – Always smile and say “Good Morning” to your colleagues as you walk into the office.  If you’re looking to others to kick start your day, you’ll be waiting a long time, instead get on with it and kick start your own.  After a while you’ll see that your colleagues just needed someone to show them the way.

3) Social Club 101 – If you want an office environment where people head to the local bar on a Friday afternoon for a couple of cold beers (but currently all quietly disappear to join the traffic on State Highway 1), then be the one to organise it.  Make sending out a weekly invite a habit; accept that initial numbers will be low, but persevere, because positive changes do not happen overnight.

4) Break down walls – This one could be scary for some of you, but what if one day you took an interest in something someone was doing in another department in your business.  You could start it by saying something along the lines of “I’ve walked past this way for weeks and have no idea what you guys do” or “Apologies for disturbing you, but what does this whiteboard diagram mean?”  It doesn’t really matter what you say, what matters is that you connect to others in your business.

5) Stamp your mark – Don’t be afraid to be you and not your role at work.  You’re a person, not a corporate imposter and as we all know, people connect with people, not roles.  Stop behaving in the way you think your role should behave and instead be you, because that’s who was hired.

Culture comes from people not beanbags.

Your personal changes alone probably won’t lead to a positive workplace culture, but much like a statue, they symbolise to others your passion to create a positive workplace culture and they can act as a beacon of inspiration to others who want the same thing as you.

As always, if you like what you read, pat me on the back and reinforce my insecurities by liking or sharing this article.

If you want to read more totally amazing, thought provoking and dare I say it, life altering articles from this most humble of authors, feel free to click here.