This One Strategy Could Save You 100+ Hours a Year

 

We teach thousands of people every year various strategies to help them manage their time. Time management seems to be a ubiquitous problem. How do I segment my day to maximize my productivity? What can I do to feel like I control my time rather than letting the tasks that come across my desk control it? How do I help my clients respect that my time, like theirs, is finite?

 

Master of the Day

 

 

As professionals we often misplace value, focusing most of our time on business development and revenue growth. The reality is there is only one thing of true value, our time. We can’t buy time, we can’t negotiate for more time, and once it’s gone there is nothing we can do to get it back. When the concepts and strategies for 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers were taking shape, this theme of time and how the participants perceived, manipulated, and used time was an apparent differentiator for their success. They all saw time in a uniquely flexible way. The participants understood that, although they’ve always been told time was linear, it wasn’t that simple. Rather than look at their time as a rigid straight line ticking by one calendar planning block at a time, they looked at it as more flexible, like a rubber band. It could be stretched, flexed, compressed, and manipulated in a way that best suits their needs. These great salespeople didn’t abuse their time. It isn’t as if they said, “It’s my time and I’m going to spend it however I want.” Rather they troubleshoot various techniques to control it, discarding those that had a negative or neutral impact and incorporating those that had a positive outcome.

There is no cookie cutter model we can provide that will work for everyone. Not everyone is dealing with the same products, services, or clientele. Nor are all people most productive at the same time of day. Some people do their best and deepest work at 5:00 am and others hit their grove at 2:00 pm. Let’s not forget those night owls who toil away in the dark and produce their best work while others are counting sheep. There are, however, time vampires that exist in all of our professional lives. One of the biggest time suckers is the dreaded email inbox. Here is a solid breakdown of the data. 

 

The Culprit: Email

 

 

We can be deep in the flow of productive work and hear the ‘ding’ of a new message and have our attention immediately pulled away from what we’re doing. Trying to get back to that state of deep work is futile. Like Keyser Soze, it’s in the wind. I get why we do it, email is a source of new revenue, client communication, internal updates, and so on. I also know how important speed is when it comes to winning new deals and clients, but at Creative Ventures, we have a few guiding principles. One is that speed should never outweigh thought. If we step back and think rather than react to that alert in our inboxes, we can see how detrimental it is to lack an email strategy.

When looking to share strategies that have a direct impact on our readers, clients, and partners it’s always a good idea to focus your efforts on issues that they all mutually share. We discovered various techniques from the top producers we interviewed and worked to find ways to share them in their most simple terms. My favorite, the one I immediately implemented, is the idea of creating boundary constraints to manage communication expectations. For me, this means not reacting to email. I answer my email three times a day. That’s it. Crazy, right? No, this is how I control my time and provides me the opportunity to analyze when I’m most productive. This doesn’t work for everyone but you might be surprised how it could work for you.

 

Try This

 

Here are a couple of steps you can take to test this strategy in your business.

 

 

Understand your most productive time: Everyone does their best work at different times of the day. These are the times where the world kind of fades away and you’re completely wrapped up in deep and valuable work. Cal Newport talks a lot about the value of deep work and we couldn’t agree more. Deep work can be elusive if you don’t create opportunities for it. What’s worse is, once we get to that space, we voluntarily give it up on a whim to check that email inbox. Don’t do that. Create and value the time when you do the best work. This means getting rid of distractions like email. Once you’ve defined that time you can plan your communication around it.

 

 

Commit to your Constraints – My constraints are 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, 6:00 pm. I check my email every day at those three times. I use that time to respond to clients and co-workers, prospect, and prepare to attack the new tasks that arise from those communications. These are the times that work more me. Your task is to create space around that time. Define the times you intend to dedicate to email and be steadfast in your commitment to them. If you go down this path, and dedicate time and effort to this strategy, but are undisciplined in its application, this exercise will be nothing more than another time vampire.

 

 

Set Expectations – Communication is key. Most people don’t have set email times. People won’t necessarily immediately warm up to the idea. On top of that, most clients/coworkers/managers want an all-access pass to your time. It is your responsibility to set these boundaries. For existing clients, let them know about your new strategy and why. For new business, inform them of the constraints from the get-go. If you set the expectations from the beginning it is just the reality of doing business with you rather than some wild idea. What if I need to get a hold of you immediately? What if something goes wrong? This is why the phone exists.

 

This isn’t an all-encompassing communication strategy, it is only an email strategy. This is one thing that you can do to take back your time. If done correctly the effects will surprise you.

And in the words of my friend Greg McKeown,

 

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

 

We’ll share some more strategies on how you can Master Your Day soon!

2 Proven Strategies to Keep Your Whale Clients Engaged

 

Earth is a water planet. 71% of Earth’s surface is water with 96.5% of all our water contained in the oceans. There, in the hostile open sea, lives the leviathan of our planet, the great blue whale. Averaging over 110 ft. in length, weighing 209 tons and living 80-90 years, they are the largest known animal to ever exist. That kind of size is hard to imagine. Heck, their hearts are the size of an automobile! They have scale.

 

In sales, scalability is a critical factor. In 1869 Vilfredo Pareto’s ideas became Pareto’s Law or the Law of the Vital Few, a true POWER LAW. You probably know it as the 80/20 rule. Simply stated 80% of the effects are created by only 20% of the causes. In sales, 80% of your sales are generated by 20% of your clients. For this example, your 20% is the same scale as the Great Blue Whale. They are big and dominant in your world and deserve to be treated differently.

 

This is not an exercise in client equality; it’s a proven strategy of success.  

 

The Whale Treatment

 

 

I love my whale treatment when I get it.  

Travel is a big part of our job so the airline of my choice gives me preferred seating and first-class upgrades. I go to the movies every week and the theater of my choice knows this. They give me discounts on popcorn and Dr. Pepper and let me buy tickets to blockbuster movies way in advance. This place even knows my favorite seat locations. I stay at a LOT of hotels and they all know me. “Here is your free bottle of water and would you like an upgrade.”

NICE!

Loyalty and rewards for being a good customer is nothing new. It impacts our choices and is a core strategy for elite sales professionals.

I first heard the term “whales” associated with elite clients when I had the honor of being part of a team designing a marketing plan to lure these big targets to one of the Class A hotels on the Las Vegas strip. We worked for a week on an elaborate idea, specialty customized packages created to bring high rollers to this specific property. This was about creating the “royal treatment” and why not, this elite group of gamblers would think nothing about risking $100,000 on a roll of the dice. It wasn’t about comping them elaborate suites or free meals, every casino or hotel did that. This was about making them feel special, like they hung the moon, and was a great project!

Every sales professional has their own whales and to treat them extra special is to help assure they stay buying their products and services from you. The key is what is special?”

 

Try This

 

Here are a few ideas from the pinnacle sales professionals that were interviewed for the book.

 

SET THE STANDARD  

 

 

I treat clients with a standard of service and attention that marks a relationship as special.  I know how hard it is to establish a client relationship, a relationship where it’s not about one transaction but about a series of opportunities where I can meet my client’s needs”. That’s what Angela, a top-flight commercial leasing agent told me.  She then said, “BUT I treat my repeat clients, people who are special to my book of business differently.  They deserve it. They come back as their needs grow. It is the highest honor I can have and I want them to know it!”

With Angela, it’s about a high bar at the beginning, but as you grow as a client so does the way you are treated. She creates custom newsletters every quarter where the clients business and industry take center stage. She personalizes everything for them, even using their pictures (a very personal touch) in the mast title. That’s a nice ROYAL touch.

 

EVERY WHALE STARTS AS A CALF 

 

 

It’s hard to imagine that a baby blue whale emerges into the world after a year’s gestation at 25 ft. long and weighing about 3 tons. Heck, they gain 200 lbs. a day for their first year! Every royal customer started as a first-time buyer. You seldom stumble on your first whale. This is an important point and it supports Angela’s idea about setting a strong standard of service but it also falls into Marco’s “build a whale strategy”. Marco is an art dealer. He was an outlier in my study as I stumbled upon him.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t in the 7 major industries I studied and didn’t make the book. He sells a lot of very expensive art, a field I know little or nothing about except I love Van Gogh. I loved his strategy which was to build a clientele of whales. His strategy: first, know EVERYTHING about your current whales.  It doesn’t matter if you are selling peanut butter he told me, just know the model. When you know the model you can duplicate the model. You can clone your next whale. He knows the characteristics and looks for them, INTENTIONALLY. When we teach this particular secret we call it THE IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE. Ideal clients become whales and a filter/profile will tell you the chances of that happening. So, spend some time learning the DNA of your top clients and simply go looking for those other potential clients that match that DNA.

 

I heard one of my interviewees tell me; “Know where your bread is buttered”. That’s good whale advice.

3 Key Strategies to Build Successful Sales Partnerships

 

What does a salesperson, a producer, and a sales professional all have in common? They are all singular nouns. The perception of their universe is that it centers on the individual and in many of the top sales professionals featured in The 21 SECRETS OF MILLION DOLLAR SELLERS, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The idea of the “lone wolf” salesperson is common and many of those interviewed in the book fit this model at some point during their early careers, but as these alpha performers were developing their sales careers they started to learn something besides how to close a sale.  They learned how to develop a connected process, a set of pieces, that when constructed properly, would allow them more time to do what they do best – SELL.

 

 

Any sales organization has layers of needed actions that accompany a successful transaction. Everything from stacks of paperwork, data entry, key forms needing signatures and a variety of follow up needs construct the totality of a sales process. Sales need connected steps in order to make sure the final elements of a transaction take place. I’s need to be dotted, T’s need to be crossed, marketing materials need to be sent and key follow-up dates need to be set.  

For all of this to happen, especially in the complexity of relationship-driven sales, it is nice to have a team. In fact, nothing can help assure sales success like a team. Even though the craft often appears to be in the purview of individual superstars, it really is about a team effort.

 

 

According to a recent study in Forbes, a well-structured team can increase sales conversions by 5%-25% (that’s an interesting spread). They can create stronger client retention by formalizing contact points, assuring follow-ups and adding speed to responses. Teams allow for things to continue moving when the sales professional is out on calls. They free the key producer to produce.

 

Don’t Waste Good

Secret # 18 is about not wasting good, the idea of leveraging even the smallest of positive outcomes. Teams corral the idea of what they do well and keep it moving forward, the essence of sales momentum. Somewhere in your sales career you will be part of or lead a sales team. Think about this:

Common Goal

The best sales teams we saw all had a firm understanding of the big picture. They shared a goal and the goal was very specific. Everyone knew what the bullseye was and that target was directly tied into economic reward. When the team’s sales went well they all profited.  Successful sales revenue was shared among the team. Common should mean “shared by” in every aspect of the goal.

Tools

You can’t build a house with a tuna.  Hammer and nails are essential. A team’s performance is often directly related to the tools they use. Teams need communication structures and rules. They need tracking elements that allow them to know what part of the sales cycle every transaction is in. From CRM’s to Excel spreadsheets, a team’s success is enhanced when the tools meet not only the needs of the team but the needs of the client. That’s the successful tool filter; meet the needs of the team while simultaneously meeting the needs of the clients.

Players Needs

Sales professionals often get so wrapped up in their primal sales needs, the often quoted “we only eat what we kill” mentality, that they often forget the key needs of their teams and soon discover they are often left looking to replace key members for those who have just “had enough”. We heard this over and over so here is the formula to keep in mind. People leave jobs for two very clear and distinct reasons:

    • LACK OF VALUE:  They simply cannot find value in what they do.  They get trapped in the activities and lose sight of their worth in their job. In a sales team, it is the job of the producer to consistently let everyone know how valuable they are in making the team work. It might not seem all that important, but when you lose track of your people, you lose track of your goals!
    • GROWTH:  To some, a job is simply an occupation. It involves waking up, heading to the office and going home in a very repeatable cycle. That’s OK, but great team members want to know they have the ability to grow within the team. This can amount to additional responsibilities or new training opportunities. It can be a lot of things, but you will see a lot of behinds walking out the door if they don’t see the chance to get better.

 

Building the right team that runs on the grease of shared goals, the right tools, and a significant sales culture can be the difference between selling and building a true sales career.

The Role of Email in Your Sales Cycle

 

OK, let’s start with this truth – there is no avoiding email.  In our electronic age, email is as real as gravity and despite the impact of text mail and instant messaging, in the sales cycle, email is still king.

There are about 124 billion emails sent each day and an executive can expect to get 150 – 250 every single day.  So, if you love email as part of your sales process, you might want to re-think about its overall impact. It’s just part of the communication map and it’s up to you where to place it in the journey of your sales activity.

 

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Emails

 

When we started talking about communications and building relationships with million dollar sales professionals we heard about how they think about every form of communication they use, including email.  Their answers, behaviors, and perspectives about communicating formed Secret # 9 – SELL SMART. Here are some things that could help you, a link to a podcast we did on the subject, and some helpful statistics for you to take a peek at. 

 

 

AT THE BEGINNING 

Pinnacle sales performers know the value of the “beginning” of building a relationship.  They set the table when the sales process/relationship building starts. The key question is; tell me how you like to communicate? Let the client open the door for your sales communication strategy.  If the answer is email, a million dollar producer might ask; you must receive hundreds of emails a day, is there anything I can do to gain your attention?  Can I add something to the subject line?  Let the client help design the communication approach.

 

KNOW THE GOAL

In a well-laid plan, every piece has its place. Email fits that description. Email has its place. Think like a million dollar seller; what is the goal of this communication? What is the desired outcome?  Is it a “please do this” or an “ask” for something communique? Think of it as strong and weak actions.  Strong actions probably are best served in person or on the phone, but a weak push, like sending support material can be best served by an email.  Sales professionals THINK, they PLAN and choose the right communication tool to serve the object of the interaction.

 

THE ENERGY OF THE PLACE

A good sales process is about energy and momentum.  Each part of a sale process generates a form of force.  Force can change momentum. It can affect the magnitude and direction of the action.   Email can play a key role in the level of energy you find the relationship developing. Email is a great tool for touching base, checking on an action item or just following up during the sales cycle.  It’s low on the energy scale and can, at times, carry momentum, but it’s really hard for an email to generate momentum. So place your use of email in-line with the momentum of the sale’s progression. Here is a simple rule –  three unanswered emails, pick up the phone or get in the car.


 

The key is not to allow yourself to simply default to an email and consider it a full next step in procuring a sale. An email is simply a communication tool. Million dollar producers have a lot of tools in their toolbox and you won’t find them looking for the easy way through a sale!

Dealing with Objections and the Parade of “No’s”

 

Every great sales person knows this – there is space between cause and effect, between the starting of a sale and the closing of a sale. In essence, this is why it’s called a “sales process.” This is about getting to YES and that space between cause and effect is often separated by a parade of NO’S.

The idea of facing buyer objections is as integrated into any sale and is as common to the profession as the morning coffee. Great producers are all over the idea of NO.

 

Secret #14: Embrace the Dark Side

 

EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE is all about the attitude and behaviors surrounding this core aspect of the sales profession – objections and how top professionals embrace it.

Here is the interesting part, sales people know the types of objections they will face are well ahead of trying to make the sale. Most receive specific training around them.  It’s not a secret or some type of unexpected detour designed to throw you off your game. These are known elements in the sales process and great sales people focus on known elements.

 

The Big 3

 

  • Price: Every pro is ready for this. It’s the start of the classic haggle process. Great sales pros don’t fight their battles here. It’s a losing game. They shift the conversation to defining the objection around value. Here is what makes them million dollar producers; they are subtle about this shift. They LISTEN, before they move the conversation to value. When positioned with the right knowledge, value will win over price. 
  • Complacency:  This is the shoulder shrug. Great producers in the book could see this coming from a mile away. The potential buyer likes the way things are. This is about their current reality. Million dollar producers love using a buyers’ current reality. It allows them to paint a picture of a different future, a future where their product or service will create an impact. Establishing a current reality provides a shared starting point between buyer and seller. It is an opportunity to tell stories of other successes and gives them something REAL to build a sales story around.
  • Fear of Change:  This is a tightly held rope often connected to complacency. It is what the buyer’s shoulders have to bear, accountability for the purchase. It’s the responsibility for rocking the boat and the potential for blame. It’s fear of making the wrong choice. A pinnacle sales performer loves the fear of change. The buyer thinks of themselves as all alone, as an island of possible fault. A million dollar seller immediately creates the shared burden of the deal. Many sales people in the study called this their – “we are in this together” moment. This shared moment forms the foundation of what will become a relationship. The sales person becomes a partner!

 

 


 

If NO is the worst thing you can hear and it stops you in your sales tracks, remember that NO creates strategies for a million dollar sellers. It’s not a stop sign but an opportunity to prove their worth, create a relationship, and gather critical data that can be applied to future objections.

Secret # 14, EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE, is about the power that million dollar sellers have discovered in the leverage of NO.

 

Are you a true Professional?

It was a San Francisco elevator ride that started me thinking. I was hired to work with eight different sales teams for a client.  They were scattered around the country and the project was going to take a full three months to get done.  I was in the heart of research that would become my book, The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers.  Each office had three levels of salespeople (my nicknames):

 

  • Up and Comers:  They were young and were just starting to build a book of business.  They were Tier 3 with production numbers in the $250,000 to $400,000.  They were hungry and eager to learn, plus they were under pressure to make the next Tier.  There were also veteran sales folks comfortable in the amount of work and revenue at this level.
  • Solid as a Rock:  These Tier 2 producers were in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.  They were seasoned salespeople and the company hoped they were working hard to make Tier 3.
  • Pinnacle Performers:  These were the elite sales kings and queens.  They were million dollar plus producers and most often industry leaders.

I had the opportunity to work with all three tiers in eight different districts.

OK, back to the elevator.  I was working with a Tier 2 salesperson that so resembled Brad Pitt that I’m sure people asked him for autographs.  We were heading to the offices of an oil and gas executive that the salesman had met at a party. I asked him about his first-time interaction strategy.  He told me; “I work it out on the ride up.” WHAT? “I’ve done this a thousand times.” How many times have you met with this potential client? “First time.” WHAT?

 

What a True Professional Looks Like

 

There are dozens and dozens of definitions of professional and I’m pretty sure a 90 second level of preparation isn’t in any of them.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith are the original Broadway stars of the epic hit Wicked (my second favorite musical of all time, next to Les Mis).  Between 2003 and 2005 they did almost 1,000 performances and hundreds of rehearsals. Each performance had to be brilliant. Why? Despite the number of times they sang the same songs, recited the same lines, stood in the same correct spot they knew their jobs;

“ All we ever have is just the next performance.  We aren’t promised anything more. To us, EVERYONE in that audience is seeing Wicked for the first time.  We owe them spectacular.”

Professionals see the big picture and understand the potential of their impact.  They hold themselves personally accountable for their performance. They are constantly building themselves into something better.

That elevator ride pointed me in the prime direction of what is and is not professional. It was an interaction that helped me search for the patterns of pinnacle performers and define what separates and differentiates sales professionalism.   Maybe he was overconfident? Maybe he was on cruise control? Here’s what I immediately knew, Tier 3 was a million miles away!

Stan Lee and Me

When I was 10 years old I had a paper route and delivered the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Twice a month I would go door to door collecting the subscription fees from my customers. Many would provide a young business kid with a tip. I would pocket those coins and head down to a neighborhood grocery store, these have gone the way of the dinosaurs, but Whites Market was a big piece of where I lived. There, at the front of the store was a wire rack and in its slots were comic books. I would peruse the week’s offerings, make my selections, part with some hard earned coins, jump on my Schwinn Sting-Ray bike and head home to lose myself in story.

 

I saw a skinny kid, whose dream was to serve his country only to be turned down because he was so weak he could hardly carry a rifle. He was just a kid, who readily volunteered for an experimental program that would, if successful, get him into the Army. Successful it was and Captain America was born.\

 

 

I saw a brilliant and rich engineer who had a piece of shrapnel so close to his heart that the slightest movement could have ended his life. He invented a device that would keep that piece of metal at bay and Iron Man was born. I saw a nerdy teenager bitten by a radioactive spider gain untold power but struggle with how to use it until his dying Uncle gave him a now worldly famous sentence of advice – “With great power comes great responsibility.” From those words, Spiderman was born.

An arrogant surgeon with a god-like ego gets into a car accident and his hands are damaged beyond repair. He lost the only thing that gave his life value. While searching for a way to regain his steady hands he stumbles into a Tibetan monastery where he learns that magic is real and trains to become the Sorcerer Supreme. Dr. Strange is born.

Stan Lee the father of Marvel Comics just passed away and though there is always some controversy around who created what, Stan Lee has always been my pusher and provided my weekly comic fix. The sheer volume of the character mythology he was involved in creating boggles the imaginative mind. Just to give you a small feel, let’s isolate the impact on movies:

  • Stan Lee-related characters have appeared in approximately 44 different movies.
  • The adjusted global box office take on those movies is $33,067,097,585.00!

 

Comics are a unique form of literature. They are sequential visual art and provide a rich canvas for storytelling. They captured my imagination and taught me the application of what I would later learn was the narrative arc. This might explain the soft spot in my movie-going heart for superhero genre flicks.

One of my favorite comic writers is the great Warren Ellis who recently described comics:

Comics, at their best, have a purity of intent. There is no visual narrative form that has so few people between the creator and the audience. What you always get is what the creators wanted to say to you.”

I am a comic book fan and for over 50 years I have looked forward to Wednesdays, the traditional day of new comic book releases. Though my eyes have gone weak and I have to enjoy my comic reading via digital downloads, I remain a ten-year-old boy, every Wednesday.

Thanks, Stan. . . .    EXCELSIOR.

 

The ‘That’s OK’ Economy

 

I recently wrote about how companies can provide small, unexpected surprises, based on their normal business practices, to create ‘WOW!’ moments for their clients. Of course, the opposite is true at the other end of the client’s experience spectrum, when you ignore the impact of your daily interactions you can plunge your customers into head-shaking reactions.

 

 

Example

I was at a bakery to buy a loaf of sourdough bread (really good sourdough bread). I waited in a long line for about 15 minutes, an eternity in the right-now-reality of today. Part of the reason, of the three registers, only one was being manned despite the obvious backup of customers (the line was 12 deep). But, the bread was worth it. Even though I had to listen to the customers around me complain about the ridiculous wait, it was worth it. As my turn approached I asked for a loaf of sourdough, thickly sliced. She gave me a legitimate blank stare. I waited and then politely repeated my order. She turned to the racks of bread loaves and asked, “Which one is sourdough?”

Uh Oh! The one with the little beautifully calligraphic sign that said, you guessed it, sourdough. “Can I get it THICKLY sliced?” “Sure.” As she put the properly identified loaf into one of two slicers, I recognized that she put it in the thin slice machine. I said, “No, no, the thick slice machine.” She corrected me, “This IS the thick slice machine.” Though I don’t work for this purveyor of carbohydrates, I could tell by the width of the cutting template which machine was which, but too late to correct. The deed was done and I had a thinly sliced loaf of bread. Oh, by the way, it was the last loaf of sourdough. She apologized and I said, “That’s alright,” and went on my way.

 

 

Example

At the movies, I ordered a medium Diet Coke. That will be $4.11. I gave her a fiver and she counted out the change. She thanked me and said’ “I hope you enjoy the movie.” I stood there and she asked, “Would you like something else?” “No, but I would like my Diet Coke.” What? I gave you the money and you didn’t give me my Diet Coke, thus the transaction is incomplete. She looked at me blankly. We all, unfortunately, are getting used to that look. I politely waited for a reaction and receiving none, I repeated the order of events until she finally perceived that she had yet to complete the transaction. She passed over the drink and as I had a sip on the way to the theater discovered it was a regular coke. “That’s alright,” I figured.

 

 

 

What’s the Problem

We immediately retreat from our expectations into the realm of ‘that’s alright.’ Neither of these incidents was world-changing, but both were evidence of a lack of face to face attention. This spells a lack of training and it is the core reason for our commonplace low expectations. The basics are a big deal and the basics should be the basics. If it is client facing, it’s NOT basic, it’s fundamentally critical to your desired outcome. Front facing is the empirical identity of your brand.

Check out how you’re greeted by the front facing folks at Chick-Fil-A or the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award winning teams at Rudy’s BBQ (when you’re in Texas). They make you feel like family and they know their stuff because they are well trained.

We expect things to go wrong, for the service to breakdown, for the ‘that’s alright’ experience.

So, if you are looking for WOW moments, look no farther than how your phone is answered, how your receptionist greets someone entering your office, how well those that are your front line warriors represent YOU.  You know what’s important and you can stop the dipped shoulders of a customer saying, “THAT”S ALRIGHT!”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, AND A JOYOUS NEW YEAR!

 

Every December, Laura and I enter our time machine.  It has been stored for a year in the depths of our garage. Surprisingly, it’s contained in a series of plastic interlocking boxes, lighter than one would expect from such a piece of chronological technology.

There is a ceremony that pushes back the pages of our lives and for an evening allows us to journey backward through our years.

The tree is up, the lights are strung and slowly we begin a smile and tear-laced exercise in time travel.

Ornaments are pulled from their protected confines and the strategic placing upon the tree begins.  It is not a haphazard exercise but instead one of planning, reflection, and joy. With a gleam in our eyes and soft smiles on our face we begin.  

“Remember when Colin brought this home from school?”

 

 

“Here is Dylan’s with his sh__eating grin.  Just like his dad.”

 

 

“Oh, our first Christmas together.”  Could that date be right?

 

 

Out comes a silly snowman my dad had made in the 1960s and it still held together.

 

 

Memories flood our living room like the beams of a warm sunrise.

This season is always a special time in any year.  It reminds us of how we became who we are. It locks in the connection we have with family, those here and those who have moved on.   It also provides us a promise of something yet to come, something that should be filled with hope.

Andy tells his friend Red in the film; The Shawshank Redemption;

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.”

The New Year gives us an opening for us to think about.  We all come with an expiration date and new chances and hope make us reach for the most we can in the time we have.

 

I hope the memories you build this year will find a special place in your time machine.

 

From all of us to all of you, 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND A JOYFUL AND HOPE FILLED NEW YEAR.

Put Your Focus on These 2 Things

Simple drives the universe.  It’s a fact. At the top of the periodic table (you remember that chart from high school chemistry that organizes all the elements we’ve discovered) are two simple elements.  In the first place holder is Hydrogen. It is the lightest of all the elements and has just one proton in its nucleus. Despite its humble structure, Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical substance in the universe, representing 75% of its mass.  Right next to Hydrogen is Helium with an atomic number of 2 (two protons in its nucleus) and it is the second most abundant element in the known universe at about 24%. Simple dominates the known material in the known universe.

 

The idea that simple can be a dominant player in everything from strategy to system and process development has been the foundational principle of Creative Ventures for over 32 years.  We build our platforms and models around a maximum number of three parts. For us, three marks the outside boundary of simple. This takes incrediblediscipline and focus. We also know that if it can be done in two parts, well, that’s exponentially better than three. And, if you’re somehow smart enough to find a way to do something in one step, CONGRATULATIONS, you have a light switch and everyone understands a light switch.

In the recent bestseller by author Lee Child, his hero, Jack Reacher, was in a fight.  A witness told Reacher; “You really were harsh with that guy.” To which Reacher responded; “I only hit him once.  That’s the minimum number of hits.” That’s the Hydrogen of fisticuffs. I love the simplicity of Jack Reachers worldview!

 

I was sitting in a client meeting where we were helping design the curriculum for a series of five regional sales meetings.  I was astounded at the amount of stuff they were trying to jam into a two-day meeting. Every second was accounted for and the volume of content had my head spinning.  It would be a challenge for anyone participating in the meeting to weed through the density of content to discover real learning value. What information, knowledge or skills could a sales professional grab to improve their performance?  That was one of the main goals of these meetings, to provide the kind of programming that would make their sales force better. I get it, you need to introduce the new software package and that the recent shifts in compliance issues need to be addressed.  I know that an update on how things are going is a good piece, but no one was thinking about THE BIG TWO.

 

Within the apparent infinite amount of stuff on the agenda, no one considered the ONLY TWO THINGS any sales professional can actually control, the two things directly in their sphere of influence.  They can’t impact product mix or development. They can’t impact corporate resource allocation. They can’t impact governmental regulations.  So the question is; what can they impact? What can help them get better? There are ONLY TWO THINGS:

 

  1. How good are you at what you do?  This is about skill sets. What skills can make you better?  What existing skills can you hone to a fine edge?  You want to get better, add new skills and improve your existing skills.
  2. How do you treat your customers/clients?  You are the delivery service for the client experience.  This aspect of what you do is probably your top player is distinguishing you from everyone else.  In a commoditized world, the client experience reigns supreme.

You cannot provide enough of these two fundamental sales elements at any meeting.  If the idea is that your attendees will leave the meeting BETTER than they were when they arrived, then give the right amount of focus to THE TWO.   Teach them great sales skills and provide them innovative, unique, value-driven ideas to create a client experience that creates WOW moments. Hit your sales professionals with a focus on what they CAN control and you will hit your goal. A strong learning experience that makes your sales force better.

The universe treats simple as a dominant force, so should you!