No. 2 Idea of Five Ideas to Jump Your Professionalism Right Now

The first idea was Read--read for an hour (at least an hour) in the morning on something related to your field--whether it's sales, consulting, leadership, management, project management, innovating, etc.

We are on to the second idea. Work every day from a To-Do list. You may be screaming, "Is that it???? Are you kidding me?

Yes that is it. No, I am not kidding you.

This one idea will transform what you in different ways so positively that your personality and your image and your ability to be reliable and get things done. It will make you the "go-to" person and best-in-class.

Big Mistakes
Our biggest mistakes around time management and getting things done are as follows:

  1. Treating every activity the same as all the other activities. 
  2. Not understanding what you were hired to do and therefore not doing what needs to be done.
  3. Not setting priorities on your work and activities.
  4. Not writing things down on paper, that is, believing you will remember everything that needs to be done.
  5. Not following through on what you committed to get done.
  6. Feeling overwhelmed because you believe you can remember it all
One of the biggest lessons to learn is prioritization. You can't do everything but you can do the important things. Understanding what is important takes some time to get into your head. One of the tools to use was made famous by Stephen Covey and it looks like this diagram below.

This is a simple chart. It breaks up the important, urgent, not important and not urgent. As simple as this next sentence sounds, it also sound contradictory. Focus on the important (Quadrant 2 in the diagram above) and allow everything else to slide. Yes, that's right. Skip the Urgent (where possible) and skip anything Not Important either all the time or all the time (yes, I said that on purpose). 

There should be very little if anything in the Important & Urgent Quadrant. Of course if there is, you must get that work done now. But remember this: you can be tricked into thinking or believing that the urgent is important--when in fact it's not. Urgency or the urgent creates a feeling that this item is important and therefore, that where you should be spending your time. Don't be tricked into this. The urgent is seldom important. And important is seldom urgent. This is why we allow the important to slide.

Examples In Prioritizing
Here's an example we all can relate to. You know exercise is important. You read about it, to hear it on the news, and even your body craves it. Yet, it's hardly ever urgent. So it's easy to skip if you believe you should be focused on doing the urgent. Does that make sense? 

Now let's talk about Urgent & Important and how it pertains to work. Here's an example: A client is ticked off--something failed. It's urgent that you get this addressed, because the client's network is down and no one there can work. Now this is a great example of important-- and also urgent. You have got to get the client's network up and running again--now--or as soon as now as possible. Now that make it urgent. It's now, now, now. 

What makes it important is that your reputation is on the line. It is your client after all. They entrusted you with their network. They have repeat business. Other prospective clients may hear about the disaster. Are you with me? Often we blend urgent and important. It is key we start separating why the two are different.

If on the other hand, the client's invoice is incorrect, and someone from accounting is calling you saying, "This is urgent to get fixed" and they are almost screaming "It's important"--you may feel compelled to fix it now. That is, you may feel compelled to drop your important stuff to do theirs. 

It feels important and it feel urgent. Certainly someone from accounting is pushing you. However, if instead you ask the person in accounting if this has to be done now this very second, or even today, the person--if she or he is calm and rational and isn't trying to create a mountain out of a molehill, will probably say, "No, you don't have to get it done today. But I have to send out new invoices Friday, can you get it done by Thursday?" Now you have something that is important to the person in accounting and they are relying on you--and of course you are a person who can be counted on--but it doesn't bubble up to a crisis and it's not that important. So you can fit it into a slot on your To-Do list or calendar when you have "downtime." Or said another way, when you have time on your calendar rather than dropping everything else you have to do. 

By the way, if you have the accounting person's action "fix the invoice" and the client's issue "their network is down"--which one is a higher priority? Of course, the network. However, unless you are the network technician, once you have gotten the best and brightest addressing the client's network there is little else you can do. Except to go over and reassure the client you understand the critical nature of their network being down. This means you can fret and wait or you can get on doing other things you need to be done. Opt for the later.

Memorize the Diagram-And Focus On Quadrant 2
The diagram below goes into more detail and provides you a guideline as to how to approach this concept of focus, manage, avoid and limit. Take a look and mentally absorb this concept right now into your mind.

Now this is very important: We typically avoid Quadrant 2 because the important is seldom urgent and it hardly ever feels fun and exciting to do. In fact, things like going to lunch fits into Quadrants 3 and 4--depending on how you justify lunch with colleagues. We can even make it fit into 1 or 2--with a bit of rationalization can't we? 

Or how about the one like picking up our dry cleaning. We can make that one fit any one of the Quadrants. "I have no shirts to wear tomorrow" makes this seem urgent and important. We can fool ourselves by going to the dry cleaners in the middle of the day and we drop everything else because we apparently don't have anything to wear tomorrow. Have you been there? 

What Were You Hired To Do?
This is where we get into: What were you hired to do in the first place? If you aren't sure, go back to your job description. Or go ask your boss. It might freak her out if you ask, "What was I hired to do?" It might freak her out because she may ask, "What the heck have you been doing for the past four years?" Or she may say, "I can't remember. Why are you here?" Or worse, she may make something up on the fly and not give much thought to it. 

So let's try and talk this through for a minute. Why are you here?

I am going to take the role of sales person as my example. You know a sales person has to sell. Selling is the life blood of the organization. No sales equals no business. No business equals no revenues. No revenues equals no way to cover costs. And guess who is a cost? I am sorry, it's you. You are a cost. You are on the P&L as a cost. You are lumped into a little line item with all the other "costs." You, therefore, may be in jeopardy of losing your job, if there is no revenue to offset you an your friends. This is simple organizational economics. As scary as this sounds. And by the way, no one ever explains it to you when you are interviewing. Now that you understand this you are as smart as most MBAs. So congratulations, you are an MBA now. Well, maybe not quite. Sorry MBAs.

So back to the sales person role example. What do you think a sales person does, besides goof off, fly to exotic places, eat big meals, and back slap a lot? If you are a sales person what are the activities you have to perform to be successful? Let's look at the list below. Are these what a sales person was hired to perform?
  1. Cold call to get appointments.
  2. Present products and solutions.
  3. Get accounts receivable invoices corrected.
  4. Build proposals.
  5. Deliver customer satisfaction reports.
  6. Pick up dry cleaning to have clothes in order to look sharp.
  7. Eat lunch with your buddies at work.
  8. Meet with various people in the client account to understand their issues and needs.
  9. Go to day care and meet with the teachers because your child is throwing spaghetti-o's at other little kids.
  10. Understand how the client buys and provide a winning solution to seal the deal.
Okay. If you are in sales-can you see what items you were not hired to do? Even if you are not in sales, can you see what a sales person should not be doing

Yes, I see you have to check out your child at day care. I get that this is important. But is that what you were hired to do? The answer is a resounding no. 

If you grab the items above that you should not be doing, the list left over are a list of things that fall into the Quadrant 2 work--the things you were hired to do. Items 1, 2, 4, 8, 10 are what you were hired to do. For those of you who are not in sales you may think that these things are easy to get done. This is absolutely incorrect. A lot of work is required prior to actually doing these items. For example, in order to do item 8, you have to figure out who are the important people to meet with. Then asking for appointments doesn't occur with one phone call or email. It takes sometimes a dozen calls and emails to get hold of someone and convince them to meet. And that's just the beginning. Once they get the appointment, the client reschedules, invites others into the meeting and asks questions that are off-topic. Meaning: getting prepared for a meeting takes a lot of prep work and planning. 

So when you are wondering why the sales person can't get an account receivable item straight--it's because they have a hard job. Also a poor sales person will jump on this activity--the activity of getting accounts receivable straight--because it is tangible and it is not as difficult as the other things they have to do. It's a mistake to give sales people these "easy" and not-on-their important things to do list; but this is an entirely different point and I could take this off topic.

Everything else? Those fit into 3 and 4 Quadrants. This sounds cold--so what about thing like eating with your buddies (item 7)? This item is not important and not urgent. What about dry cleaning on the list? Not important and certainly not urgent. And just because you have the time and freedom (yes, you are out and about) doesn't make it important. 

And if you have your To-Do's done today--don't start doing unimportant stuff. Work all the time you are at work. There's a novel concept for some of you. To keep you on track and keep you from straying into doing stuff you aren't being paid for, allow me to reintroduce the "To-Do" list.

The Power of a To-Do List
From this moment forward--I want you to write down everything you have to do. In fact, write down on a piece of paper everything you have to do. Everything. Do this now. I truly mean it; stop and write down everything you can possibly think of you have to do.

Did you do it? Probably not. But do this after you complete this reading then. I will go into why in a few moments. I want you to create a main list, a "Master List" of everything you have to get done. Everything large and small. Things you have to do at home and at work. This is where you capture everything you have to get done. You can capture it and should capture it on clean piece of paper. Don't use our laptop. Write everything you believe you need to do down on this paper. It may take several sheets. Include things like picking up the laundry and meeting the teachers at day care. Everything.

When you write things down, even the urgent, things--activities--requests, all things tend to lose their sense or feeling of urgency. You can look at these items on paper, things feel more rational, they lose their potency most of the time because they are out of your head attached to emotions of fear, dread, and urgency. When you look at your list from the lens of Quadrants 1, 2, 3, or 4--you can see the urgent is not the important. 

Prioritizing the To-Do List-Jump Starting Your Career
A simple way to help you fit these things into a prioritization is the method I learned from an author who wrote a book that is about 80 pages long. It was a great little book: If You Haven't Got the Time to Do It Right, When Will You Find the Time to Do It, by Jeffrey Mayer.

He suggests taking the list of your things to do and examine each item. On the items that are going  to take longer to do, place the number "1" next to each item. On the items that take a medium amount of time place a "2" next to the item. On the items that take a short period of time to do place a "3" next to those items.

So a phone call may have a 3 next to it--if it's a relatively short call - say five or ten minutes. Since it takes a short period of time to do and get done--that activity earns a 3. A report may have a 2 or a 1 next to it. A report takes time--the amount of time depends on the complexity of the report, who you have to get your information from, and the length of the report. 

Are you with me so far? So, picking up your dry cleaning gets a 1, possibly a 2. Why? Because it takes a lot of time to drive across town to do this. Unless of course you are on your way home and you pass by the cleaners. But it still takes time. So perhaps it becomes a 3 (not much time at all), but more than likely it will get a 2 (it will take some medium amount of time). 

Remember the first labels of 1, 2, and 3 is the amount of time it takes to accomplish.

Now, after you've gone through your list and placed a 1, 2 or 3 you are going to do another 1, 2, 3 type thing. It might seem weird--but stay with me.

Place a 1, 2 or 3 next to the items you've already labeled. A "1" in this case means this is critical to your job.  It is extremely important. A "2" means that this is somewhat important and a "3" it means it is not important or hardly important to your job. 

Picking up laundry is a what? It is a number "3." So picking up laundry would have a label next to the line item on your To-Do List of "3-1." A 3-1 says: it's not important and takes a lot of time. Are you with me?

Let me say this at this time. You may be wondering why not just A, B, C the list instead of 1, 2, 3? That's right--it's pretty similar. If you prefer A, B, C--I am not the one in control, you are. If that works for you, then do it. The key words there are "do it." You don't need anyone's permission to do something different. The problem with most people, including me, is sticking to something and making it work. 

The Power of This Concept Will Blow YOU and Your Colleagues Away
This idea of a listing out all your "to-do's" in this manner is so powerful, that it will turn your life inside out, upside down, and then right side up. You won't recognize what happened once you get into the habit. And this is not hyperbole.

You will find that you are so focused that you cannot believe how laser like you are in your activities and results oriented you are. People will take notice, which is not what you are after, other people noticing that you have your act together is a by-product of having your act together. This is another topic by the way. The word "this" being "image management." This is more about psychology and our dependency on others and wanting their approval and recognition. But let's skip that one for now.

Priorities Become More Clear--and You Become More Focused 
As you capture everything you have to do on this piece of paper, your list will grow. And your priorities will actually lessen. In other words, all those things that were so very pressing and important, are actually not as important as you thought. And you want to capture everything on this paper until the point you have multiple pieces of paper with activities that are prioritized.

What happens when you complete an activity? You draw a single line through it. One line please and not several. You want to be able to go back to the list again if necessary to see the activity in case you need a phone number or recall what the activity was about. 

When I say capture everything--I do mean everything.

The Master List and the Daily List
Another note: you will have a daily to-do list. This is where some people freak. "Two lists??" they cry. Yes-two. You copy over from your large list--the Master List--to your daily list those things you need done today. Yep. A little writing and seemingly redundant. However another powerful way to focus your attention on matters that are truly important. 

Here is the Master List and what it may look like:

Now here is what the Daily To-Do List looks like:

Note that the Master List is on a piece of lined paper. Nothing spectacular. Also note that this is not my To-Do list for real. So any interpretations and judgments are not required--the same for my Daily To-Do List.

The list keeps what I have to do in front of me--so I don't become someone else's priority. I focus on what I need to get done--what I was hired to do. I don't put this on my iPhone, my iPad, or my laptop. I am not trying to get too fancy or too automated and there are a couple of reasons. I want to be able to carry my Daily To-Do list with me wherever I go. 

The Daily List
You will note that this list--the Daily List is on a nice leather case. And it is on a Daily Calendar from Day-Timers. It is small enough to place on the restaurant table if I go to lunch with a client so I can take notes. The notes are on the flip side of the page where my To-Do's are. It looks professional, neat, and it appears (here it comes) that I have my act together. I am a serious student of the business world. People get that and have said, "I am one of the most organized people they have seen." My response: if they only knew. Staying disciplined, takes discipline and practice. I do drift off course every so often. I am what they call "human"--for the most part.

Other Ideas On The Daily List
I like to create my Daily To-Do List in the morning. I keep it by my side when I am reading so if I have as stray thought I can capture it then and there. Others like to the do the list the night before. I have found when I rewrite my Daily To-Do list in the morning it energizes me and refocused my attention on the important matters. It makes me rethink what is to do first.

What to do first? Do as many "1's" as possible. The 1's I am referring to here are the important critical to the job 1's. I may do a number of 1-3's first to kick start things. Or I do the 1-1's first--which truly tend to be more important than the 1-2's and the 1-3's. I eat the frog first thing in the morning. I get the important out of the way.

Also--I batch my tasks. This means, if I have a number of things that are similar, I batch them together and do them. Here's what I mean: I batch all the phone calls together and I make them. I batch all the emails together and I write them.

Make Other Get On Your List--Get Off Theirs. Their Priority Is Not Your Priority
This leads me to another thing. Emails. What a nightmare. People want to write rather than talk. But that's the way of the world and rather than fight it and criticize it--I need to learn how to manage it and use it to my advantage. So I can allow email to dominate my life--and we all know how many we get--as I am not as fortunate as some of the politicians who don't write any or who have only written two in their entire life--I live and die by emails in my company. So, I sort through them at different times during the day. This doesn't mean I don't check my emails to see who sent what. But it does mean I don't have to read them at that moment. I do read clients' emails right away, my boss's emails right away, and my boss's boss's email right away. Others? I leave until later. I am not going to be on someone else's To-Do list. I have my own dependencies and I have my own work to do. This may sound harsh--but I am here to say--I have serious work to do.

I am going to place a stop here for now. There are many other things I can tell you like:

  1. Keep your Master To-Do List in front of you on your desk
  1. Carry your Daily To-Do List wherever you go.
  1. Schedule blocks of time on your calendar (laptop) and block the time out from others in order to work on your Daily To-Do's and long term projects.
  1. Block out time for exercise - a daily routine that you need to make a 1-1.
  1. Get into the habit of making this work for you. It will feel unnatural to capture everything on your Master To-Do List. It will feel even more unnatural to rewrite your activities on your Daily To-Do list and it will feel as if you are wasting your time. You are not. I can assure you of that.
  1. Don't fall prey to technology. Trying to automate this will actually make it more complex than it needs to be. And as I have said before, writing to power to the brain and to the process of thinking, which few people do any more. When was the last time you left your iPhone or Droid device at home? Or in the trunk of your car?
  1. Do first things first, second things hardly ever. In other words, do those things that have a "1" in front of them. Remember the "1's" are the first for a reason. Also the 1-1's are perhaps the most important to do and require blocks of time which require you to block out those blocks on your calendar.

Good Luck.

Five Ideas To Jump Your Professionalism Right Now

I'm sitting here in my kitchen drinking my second cup of coffee, reflecting. I am thinking about the one or two things that seriously changed my life--both professionally and personally--that I did what looks like a long time ago.

As I am reflecting about these things, I am thinking, no, I am wondering, why no one else does them. Perhaps it is because people don't know about these things. To me, today, they are obvious. That's because time has created a habit, a universal law for me, that tricks my mind into believing that these things are too basic and that everyone knows about them.

What time has also done--and I mention time here twice for an important reason--is it has created an accumulation effect. Like muscle, it has allowed the action to build upon itself day after day creating momentum, like a little snowball rolling down a long mountain picking up speed and more snow until the little snowball is massive. Except this snowball is rolling down a mountain that goes on forever, or until you die or stop doing the action. Time has allowed knowledge to build upon knowledge upon more knowledge.

With that let me introduce the first of five things that I know will change your life.

First Idea: 
Get up every morning an hour earlier than you normally get up--before anyone in your house gets up and do this one thing: read a book. Not just any book, but a book that is related to your field. If you are in the field of management, pick up a book on management, leadership, or motivation theory. If you are in sales--read sales books. If you are a programmer--well you get the idea.

Read for this one hour. Lean into your book. And don't do anything else--(except what I tell you later below).

This one simple idea is perhaps the easiest thing to do that you will not recognize or believe the benefits that comes along with this little exercise. One hour a day every day for the rest of your life. When you get up don't turn on the radio, or the TV, or look at the news on your iPad. Make coffee of course, but open the book and read. Reading is to the brain like exercise is to the body.

Even if you were not a good reader in High School or College, you will be learning how to read better just by reading overtime.

You will become better at your job. You will know after some time reading in your field, the right things to do immediately at work when events call for action, because you have used your brain to not only learn what someone else has written, but because your brain is able to project or play out events in your mind before they actually occur, because of your reading.

You see, if you are truly reading, you are creating images in your head and playing the images out, like actors in a play. Your brain becomes wired (because of the neural paths created from thinking) to do the actions advised in these books because of the reading.

You will know the positives and negatives of such actions that others before you had. You will learn about other options, choices you have that you haven't considered, and you will feel more inspired, aligned to your work and your profession and feel compelled to be the best you could possibly be--over time.

When I learned this (I learned this from Brian Tracy and I owe him a lot) I put this idea into action immediately. It blew me away. I felt better before I went to work because the information was positive. It also made me feel better because I felt like I was on a path to somewhere--instead of drifting. I was learning from others who had gone before me and used their words as a positive coach. I want to add the word "positive"--because most good books have a positive tone through them. Any book that has a negative tone that you pick up--put it aside. This hour of the day is too very important for you to feed your mind with anything other than something inspirational, positive, or something motivational.

I added a couple of things to this idea. I went to the library and started pulling a lot of books from the shelves on leadership, management, sales, and consulting. I started there--the library first because I couldn't afford to buy the books. Later I could afford to buy the books and I did. Except my house became flooded with books. I was able to buy a bigger house (I became more successful with reading and acting upon the ideas) and built a library for all my books. Now, I am considering to go back to the public library because I have way too many books. And because of something else that made the books somewhat obsolete after I read them. By the way, the books had highlighting all the way through them. But the important thing I did was that I started taking notes. Taking notes jumped my reading, it accelerated my learning.

Accelerate Your Learning
Buy a notebook and take notes. Even if you aren't sure what to copy into your notebook do not be concerned. Start with copying whole paragraphs, even pages from the book you are reading into your notebook. This is your notebook and it acts a vehicle to cement the ideas into your brain faster and more permanently than just ordinary reading. When you take notes or copy passages, you are using
multiple senses. First, you are visually reading the material. Second, you are sub-vocalizing (auditory). And third, you are writing (kinetically). You have three modalities that are being used in concert to drive this information into your brain.

Warning: Your Mind Is Lazy and Wants To Trick You
A warning: your mind is a little lazy because you have probably not disciplined it. It will say, "Hey, why are you rewriting this material? Isn't that a little ridiculous?" Then the mind will answer it's own question: "Yes it is ridiculous. Just read, don't take notes. Besides you're wasting paper and time." Then your mind will say: "Look, over there. Isn't that the TV? Turn it on. Let's see what they are saying on the news." And soon, it will be all over.

Say to your mind, "Sure I get it. But after awhile, you'll see a difference and we will have a good new positive habit." Keep on saying this until your mind obeys.

The beauty of rewriting passages is you won't believe the difference in the meaning of a few words when you read them, and the meaning when you write them. If you read something and then copy it into the notebook, you will gain huge insights you never would have gotten by just reading the passage. This was and still is startling to me. I am often surprised and amazed what I thought the writer was intending and then later how deep her thoughts and ideas were when I rewrote them.

By the way, there is no law in rereading books. This same thing occurs later in life as you grow in your knowledge and ability. You may have skipped an entire passage earlier, but now, some time later, you will say to yourself, "This one concept is so important, how did I miss it?" That's the beauty of going back to great books.

Another advantage is you can carry notebooks as you travel and reread your notes. You can accumulate notebooks--and these become reference points over time.

I know what you may be thinking. I have an iPad, a Nook, a Kindle or some other smart device. I get that. I am not a luddite. Well maybe I am. I have two iPads and I carry them around with me when i travel as well. But to me, a book is a book is a book. Perhaps you can get the information to your notebook through you smart device--and if so--good for you.

The important thing I can tell you this one idea--reading for one hour, every morning, will blow you away. It was, and is so important that when I first heard of it I couldn't believe it. Yet, I tried it. I figured I had nothing to lose. And it set me on fire. I learned psychology and what makes people tick. I learned how to present to clients. I learned the order in which people take in information based upon the words they used. I learned that not all people think the same way I do--and that if I wanted to be more effective with colleagues, bosses, and clients, I had better become better at communicating with them. I learned leadership concepts and I learned who was full of crudola as authors and avoided them. I learned who the great thinkers were and who were the great practioners who weren't inventing things to put in a book in order to say they wrote a book.

I was so excited by this one idea that I started getting up two hours earlier than normal in order to read and study. This one idea turned my life and career around. I was heading down a path of mediocrity because where I came from no one worked too hard. Where I came from no one "made it." Success was for the other people--not us. But, I learned that others, like me, made it on their own through hard work, by not sleeping late, and doing little things, incrementally over time that made them successful. Steve Jobs didn't just one day wake up and say, "Let's make the iPhone." He too, had his trials in life. By reading, you will find everyone had their down moments and you will find they have many of the characteristics you have in them. In other words, you can do anything you put your mind to.

Try this one thing today (okay this morning is over--so try it tomorrow) and it will--I guarantee it--blow you away.

PS - I said "five things" as part of this title. Stay tuned for more of these later . . .

The Question Isn't Who's Bigger. It's Who's Better.

Being an underdog has a lot to do with the size of the organization backing you. being smaller is not necessarily the main issue in clients' decision making if you know how to overcome being smaller.

My 25-year study of asking clients why
they chose one firm and solution over
all the others
. The answer will
amaze you.
In almost 30 years of asking clients why they choose one firm over another I have found there are
several critical elements that you as a professional can do to change the tide and influence clients' decisions by demonstrating it's not the size of the organization, but who is better.

The elements that are critical to demonstrating you are better are what I call the six A's. These are your agility, acumen, alignment, ability, accuracy and affects.

  1. Agility is how quickly you are able to respond to the client's needs.
  2. Acumen is how relevant you are to the client's needs.
  3. Alignment is getting to the right decision makers in the client's organization.
  4. Ability is how well the client understands your skills and strengths.
  5. Accuracy is the ability to pinpoint the client's problem.
  6. Affects is understanding the client's problem and its ramifications to the organization and the people who are impacted the most.

All of these are under your control. These are for the most part perceptual elements--influenced by how well you work in the framework of the client. These six A's are critical to the science and art when working with clients. Keep these six A's in mind when working with clients. They change order (time) and importance (weight) at various points along the continuum, as well as, with different people in the client's organization as well as from client to client.

The importance and the ordering of the six A's has to do a lot with things beyond your control. These includes such things as the economy, pressure from shareholders or manager, and customers. Be alert to these and think through which of the six A's is most important now with this person in the client account you are dealing with and you will improve your chances of winning business and creating a client for life no matter if you are a one-person operation or a 12,000-person operation up against a 200,000 person operation.

One guy says, "You're good, but you can't close." I say, "Don't listen to that guy-he's living in the 1960s."

Today if you want to win and keep a customer and turn him (or her) into a client, one of things you cannot do--is try and close him.

That's right. Don't try to close the deal. Closing used to work in the 1960s. It doesn't work any more. And if you are being told by your manager or anyone else to close the deal, that person is wrong. Absolutely, unequivocally, irrevocably wrong.
Closing the deal. When you think close the deal,
think instead: allow the customer (client)
to buy. One is about you. The other is
about the customer.


To close is to manipulate. To close is to trick. To close is to pressure. To close is one-sided, an all-about-me approach to working with customers.

I used to say, "Unless you are selling cars." But I changed my mind. Even if you are selling cars, you don't close.

Books to Avoid
You have to be smarter than that. You can no longer be buying books on how to close. Here are some titles for you to avoid:

  • Closing Techniques (as soon as you hear techniques in selling, think manipulation)
  • One Call Closing (What are you selling shoes?)
  • Secrets of Closing the Sale (There are no secrets)
Here's an appropriate title: Car Sharks and Closers. I don't even need to add my comments. This title says it all.

Do you get the picture yet? You are closing if you are trying to force the customer to buy and the customer isn't ready. This is a pitiful way to win business. What's worse is the customer is smart and he (or she) knows you are closing them. And you are going to piss them off.

Here's a Form of Selling to Avoid
Here's an example: "Here. Put this suit on. Do you like the color? It fits perfectly. Brown looks good on you. Don't worry, you'll grow into it."

"The style? It's a style that's coming back."

"Do you want alterations? I can throw that in the deal if you will buy it now."

Pu-leeeez. Are you kidding me? As soon as someone says to me the sale will end tomorrow--so you want to hurry and make your decision before end of day tomorrow, that's when I actually slow down. I think this is God's way of telling me something isn't quite right. And this is when I start asking myself questions: Why do they need a sale in order to sell it? Is it not moving? Are others not buying this for some reason I am not aware of?

To Close or To Allow the Customer to Buy
Here's my answer to closing. Don't close; Allow the customer to decide to buy. Allow the customer to ease on into the transaction. Put all the power into their hands when making the decision.

My Story on Pressure Tactics
I had a boss once--a very smart boss--and he was getting a lot of pressure from his boss--to sell a large mainframe computer system. The pressure was so intense that my boss, a very calm and cool individual said: "When you meet with them (the prospect), you must convey a sense of urgency. But you cannot make them panic." As he said, you must convey a sense of urgency. But you cannot make them panic he started pounding the desk with his fist harder and harder. I remember, easing backwards out of his office, saying, "Sure Bill. I won't convey a sense of panic. I will convey a sense of urgency."

A few hours later I walked back into my boss's office and he was calmer. He said, "Just go down and meet with the customer and see what they want to do."

He didn't emphasize the words "see what they want to do" -- but I will to you. You see, as soon as you convey a sense of urgency, you are conveying a sense of panic. Closing the deal is about you--not the prospect or the customer. When you close or attempt to close, you are widening the gap between you and the prospect. You are not--excuse me for saying this--closing the gap between you and the prospect.

A Smarter, Wiser, More Confident Approach
You are more confident when you know that you have a good product, service or combination. You are basically saying, "You can buy from me, but if you don't someone else will, and that's okay." It's not that you don't care--it's you are not in a panic. Panic doesn't sell. It tells people to get their life jackets on and get into the life raft. Panic tells people the plane is about to crash, bury your head between your knees and kiss certain parts of your body goodbye.
Instead of selling the prospect, educate the prospect. The prospect has
choices. But they really don't always know which choice is best.
If you don't have knowledge, and a competent manner to express that
knowledge you can't win the client's business.
You have to have knowledge, experience, and confidence.
You only have confidence through competence.
Confidence without competence is dangerous.

So instead of closing, be smarter than that. Educate the customer. Explain to the customer he has options: He can do this, add that, and have this by the end of the week. No rush. But let's instead talk through the options and variations. Let me tell you Mr. Customer what some of our other customers experienced when they did this--both the positive and the negative. Then we can make an informed decision.

A Good Laugh with My Boss--Later (after the customer bought)
After my meeting with Bill (the first meeting when he was pounding the desk)--I went back in--and I explained he was pounding the desk and I repeated what he had said. He looked at me in astonishment. He could not believe he had done or said that. It became a running joke between us. He was under pressure. And when you are under pressure you do stupid things--like trying to close the customer who isn't ready to buy.

The Bottom Line
Never close. Be smart enough and do the right things that gets the customer to want to do business with you and ALLOW the customer to buy.

Dear Starbucks, Love Your Coffee but Can You Stop Doing This????

First off, I love Starbucks. I love the people and the coffee and the whole sit down and work thing. Free wifi. Free music in the background. The whole bit. I think the whole concept is genius.

Who would say, "Let's sell coffee, charge 2 bucks for it, sell some crazy drinks that make a sentence longer and more complex and harder to remember than E=MC2; charge 4 bucks for those,  allow people to sit down and work--forever and not chase the people out, open two or three of these coffee shops within a one-mile radius and all of them still be busy, and come up with crazy names for small, medium and large (I still cannot say grande for a medium coffee)--who? Certainly this idea for a business would never pass the Shark Tank test.

My Phobia Only?
So, what's my point? Before I get to my point I must admit I am a "germa-phobe." I am the guy who carries multiple bottles of GermX in the car and backpack when I travel. I try to pour some on my hands after each encounter with human beings. I do not want to get sick--perhaps I have sick-phobia. You must know this first before I explain my point--which is next . . .

Please Starbucks--tell your people to stop spreading germs.

I get to the cash register. I sometimes pay with cash--dollar bills.  I sometimes pay with credit cards--touched by hotel clerks, retaurant staff, store cashiers, and I am sure others that I cannot quickly recall, and sometimes I pay with my Starbucks card. We all know that cash, credit cards and payment cards carry germs or something foreign we all would prefer to stay foreign (read: out of our bodies).

So the cashier takes my order and takes my payment. Grabs the card and swipes it through that thing that swipes cards and debits my account or charges my credit card.

Then the cashier turns around and grabs the coffee cup with his (or her) fingers by the lip and fills the cup with coffee. Then he picks up the coffee cup by placing his fingers around the top of the cup (again touching the lip of cup) and places that cardboard cupholder around it and passes my coffee back to me.

What has happened in these few seconds is I have 1,000 people's germs on the lip of the cup where I am going to place my mouth. He has passed from his fingers all the cash he touched previously, all the cedit cards he touched previosuly and all the coffee refills he refilled previosuly (watch them refill coffee someday) and passed those germs to my coffee lip.

I wrote Starbucks a few months ago to complain and received a response that said essentailly, that yes that is disgusting -- and we will address it. Except it's not one Starbucks that's doing this -- it's all the Starbucks that are doing this.

Do People Not Think?
I don't know about you, but I am a little particular where I put my mouth. I don't like licking peoples hands or fingers. And I am sure the people behind the counter at Starbucks don't like doing licking people's hands or fingers either. So why don't the people take more care when getting cups and passing them to customers?

I am not sure. But again it happened. It happened this morning. The guy--a smart guy I think--picked up my cup by the lips with his entire hand (placed over and around the cup) in order to slide that cardboard sleeve shield on. I watched him do this and I said to myself, enough.

I asked, nicely, "I am sorry to say this. But you placed your entire hand around the lip of my cup--that's where I drink from. Can you pour me another cup?" He was very nice, and said "Yes, sorry." He was careful this time.

Well here I am--now making this part of my story--my blog, my venting. I still love Starbucks. I hope I don't get sick. Where's that GermX bottle?

PS - please don't say pour GermX into your hand and wipe the rim of your cup before you drink. That's ridiculous. And besides, I have already tried that. It makes the rim (or lip) of the cup soggy. I think the alcohol breaks down the elements of the cardboard cup.


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