MGW #12: “Cultivating a Business Improviser’s Mindset” with Greg Towne and Aaron Schmookler

Today, a departure from our usual format. Instead of host, today I’m the guest on another podcast. The host of the “Go Time” podcast, Greg Towne of Greg Towne Training invited me to be his guest. I enjoyed the conversation so much that we’ve decided to share it with you.

 

Today, instead of the interviewer, I’m the interviewed. And I’ll be talking about what makes for effective training, why accountability is not a  burden, but a great grace, and the way having a kid has shaped my career.

 

Thanks to Greg and Go Time for having me on their show, and allowing us to share our conversation with you.

 

Dreading failure leads to mediocrity.

 

Celebrating failure can make you less self-conscious, more flexible in thinking, and more willing to take risks.

 

“I can’t” and “That’s not my personality.” are crutches to protect us from facing fear. They help us feel safe. And they prevent us from being effective. It’s not necessary to rip those crutches out of people’s hands. Whatever people (yourself included) throw your way to excuse a lack of accountability, simply deny the applicability of the crutch. And insist gently but firmly on performance.

 

Taking unreasonable accountability for reaching your goals and performing exceptionally gives you access to success. Gives your people access to success.

 

Any success without unreasonable accountability is luck.

 

Asking for help is called employing resources. If you’re not using resources at your disposal because of pride, you’re cheating yourself (and your organization) out of success potential. And there’s no lost pride. It’s just smart. It’s resource management.

 

I speak about a client’s success in turning things around on his team. Here’s a link to a case study.

 

Training that’s information transfer is ineffective because people go into auto-pilot, especially under stress. When training is habit-forming, it creates change, even in people who may be reluctant or resistant trainees.

 

Work is more and more about experience, community, affinity. Work is more and more the place where we get those things, instead of other gathering places of communities in the past.

Work is built on relationship. The stronger the relationships, the stronger the work.

 

Accountability can be a pleasure — when you’re striving to perpetually become better.

 

Perfection is impossible to reach Striving is worthwhile. It’s enlivening. It gets people up in the morning to go to work. It’s uncomfortable, but rewarding.

 

“That’s just the way things are,” “That’s not me,” “We’ve always done it this way?” Those phrases are a death knell.

 

Comfort and complacency are tempting, but boring.

 

Managers, supervisors, leaders who invite and inspire us into the roller-coaster of striving are the people whom we most appreciate.

 

Thanks again to Greg Towne for hosting me, and for allowing me to share our conversation with you.

 

http://www.gregttraining.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregtowne/
Check out this episode!


MGW #11: Lee Cockerell - Build Self Awareness

GUEST: Lee Cockerell – Executive Vice President, Disney World

 

Lee’s website – www.leecockerell.com

Time Management Magic Course – www.timemagiccourse.com

 

Lee Cockerell has had a long and storied career in Hospitality, starting as a banquet waiter for Hilton, later helping put Marriott on the map, and eventually retiring after 10 years as Executive Vice President of Disney World.

 

Now, Lee’s professional life is dedicated to sharing the wisdom he’s gathered over the years. Lee, you’re conducting workshops, delivering keynotes, doing a podcast of your own with our mutual friend, Jody Maberry, and consulting with leaders who care enough to become great.

 

So I’m really glad to have Lee Cockerell on our show, dedicated to helping you create Mighty Good Work.

 

Here are a few notes from our conversation.

 

When you’re the boss, your behavior can have a profound effect on the people who work for you.

 

Intimidation behaviors stem from low self-confidence. If you’re finding people intimidated by you? check your own confidence level.

 

Consider your authority and status when interacting with people.

 

Ask yourself, “Who am I?” Do people trust you?

 

Success boosts your confidence level.

 

“The world needs less big, bad bosses, and we need more teachers? Role-modeling is a gigantic responsibility.” Don’t underestimate the power of it.

 

Management is defined as the act of controlling. Keeping important aspects of business on track requires a great deal of organization.

 

With better organization, most people could get 50% more done.

 

Train, test the effectiveness of your training, and respect the responsibility of being a role-model.

 

Management is what to do. Leadership is how to be. How to be there for people. How to be a person of honesty and integrity. To be a person who can have the hard conversations. We can be more respectful, and more respectable.

 

What can I do, and how can I improve my behavior?

 

Have people in your life who will tell you the truth about how you’re doing and who you’re being.

 

We do not see ourselves the way other people see us.

Take a good look at the things you believe. Don’t believe everything your parents told you. Don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t believe everything your culture has led you to believe.

 

Treat people as individuals. Not as a group.

 

People only change in two ways: Education or crisis. Make it easy for your boss to tell you the hard truths — so you can learn by education rather than through crisis.

 

The people who are close to you can give you great feedback about even your professional life. Listen. Give them credence.

 

Life is all connected. Physical health, family health, emotional health? These all affect your performance throughout your life including at work. You can’t have one personality at home, and a different one at work.

 

Take stock on a regular basis. Strive consistently.

 

Change is tough. It takes time. There are setbacks.

 

People will tell you the truth if you’re consistent about setting the environment where people are not afraid of you one bit.

 

Plan your day for effectiveness, not by default.

 

Look to the future. Start putting things on your calendar, and have it before you need it. Do it now so the things that come up later have space, and your life doesn’t get out of control.

 

Your personality must not conflict with your responsibilities. Effectiveness has requirements.

 

Be careful what you say and do. People are making meaning from everything they observe of you.

 

Culture starts at the top, and it affects attitudes.

 

Don’t stay in a job that’s changing you for the worse. Move on.

 

Three things that make the difference: 1) Hire the right people. 2) Train people. Test the training. Enforce the training. Train them so well their confidence skyrockets. 3) Create a culture where people know they’re valued, and they want to come to work.

 

You can’t find the time. You must make time.

 

Books by Lee:

http://www.leecockerell.com/books.cfm

The Customer Rules

Creating Magic

Career Magic

Time Management Magic

 

Lee’s website – www.leecockerell.com

Time Management Magic Course – www.timemagiccourse.com
Check out this episode!


MGW #10: “Get S#!t done. Have fun.” with BitTitan’s Culture Team

GUESTS: Darci Lee – Director of Talent and Culture and Kate Butcher – Manager of Culture from BitTitan

 

https://www.bittitan.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/darcilee/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-butcher-47262a3/

 

Stay active to keep your energy up.

 

Find great people. Onboard them well.

A common thread in our conversations on Mighty Good Work. “It starts at the top. Culture is established and reinforced by leadership.

 

Find your core values at the beginning.

 

“Get shit done. Have fun.” Cut to the chase.

 

If you don’t have integrity, you’re not going to be here.

 

“We used to tout flat management and limited process? With 200 people, now, we have to have some management, and we have to have some procedures? The right procedures.”

 

Procedures must be streamlined.

 

Guidelines are more effective than limiting procedures.


No-one wants to go see HR. That’s why we have talent and culture. “People come to us to get our guidance about how to have fun.”

 

We’re in a new business model and a new environment. We move so quickly, you have to be who you are. It’s so liberating.

 

Celebrate failure. “Yay! I failed.” Failure is not an end, it’s an inflection point. A time of learning and change.

 

We’re not tied to a ship date. We’re not tied to a product launch.


We “dog food” our products here before we got to market.

 

We tell our engineers that you can just try stuff. Not all your work has to go to market. That’s part of creating an innovative culture.

 

We’re willing to put something out into the market — and if it’s not right, pull it back. That’s something that’s true throughout the company. It’s external — and internal as well. Policies are tried, and adjusted, and changed whole-cloth.

 

People need time-off. Mental health is served by a change of venue, a relief from pressure. Your people work better when they’ve had a break to reset.

“A big part of our job is, how can we help people destress and get out of the office?”

 

Policies have long been in place in corporate culture to try to create the trailing result of performance and results. When you enlist and inspire people to accomplish goals — when you give them your trust, faith, and feedback — you’ll be amazed at their motivation and drive.

 

We invest in coaching for our people because they want to do good work — and they will if they have the tools.

 

Work-life balance is a fool’s errand. That’s a false dichotomy. Work is a part of life. Live a balanced life.

 

People at BitTitan know they need to bring their full-self to work.

 

Notice whether your people seek guidance from one another. Do people seek coaching, advice, help from HR, from their peers, from their managers? If not, how can you create a company culture in which people make the most of the resources available to them?

 

Make sure in recruiting that what candidates see is what they’ll get when they come on board. Bait and switch is a recipe for losing people to resentment and mistrust.

 

Your people need someone to talk to who isn’t their direct colleague, and who isn’t their line-manager.

 

People we hire are willing to do the work.

 

We provide a kind of “concierge service” to make things easy for people. The work is hard. Being able to do the work should be easy. We orient people as well as we can, and give them the tools they need to do the job.

 

We have reverse engineered some of what we do from the folks out there who were already winning best place to work awards. That’s how we learn what people truly want in our sector.

 

Look for the subtle cues that people aren’t being entirely themselves, and instead of ignoring those signs, probe into that — their changes — with kindness and care. We want people in the right place at the right time.

 

How do you plan for succession? The most important thing is to hire the right people. People who have passion, integrity, and a sense of impeccability.

 

Fun is a more effective motivator than fear or compensation. Not forced fun? Levity. Everybody has a different definition of fun.

 

The names of things — job titles, initiative names, etc — carry information. Stuffy names lead to stuffy attitudes about and receptions of those things.

 

ID high potential employees. Empower them to select their picks as well. Form a team of those folks to develop their leadership — by giving them real leadership work to do, and autonomy.

 

We’re people first, and workers second. If you don’t care for the person — yourself included — then the worker isn’t going to be at their best.

 

Introversion is not the same thing as social anxiety.

 

At the end of the day, we need to treat people as individuals.

 

QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

By Susan Cain

BitTitan is HIRING! Getting up to 400 employees this year — doubling in size. If you’re looking for a great place to work, get in touch with Darci and Kate.

Check out this episode!


Sales - A Noble Profession with Bill Caskey - MGW #9

SHOW NOTES:

Sales – A Noble Profession with Bill Caskey – MGW #9

GUEST: Bill Caskey

Sales Trainer, Coach, and Podcast Host

https://advancedsellingpodcast.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/billcaskey/

 

Professionals in sales are looked down upon in some quarters, and some sales pros even look down on their own professions. So we’ve brought Bill Caskey onto the show to help those of us who are in sales to practice the trade in such a way that we can all feel great about sales and selling.

Here are a few notes from the conversation:

 

Anyone can become a great salesperson as long as you’re willing to think differently about yourself.

 

A lot of salespeople think they need to wear a persona. We’re not powerful when we’re wearing armor. We’re powerful when we don’t wear a mask.

 

Sales can be a very noble profession if we think about in the right way.

 

I’m not in sales. That’s not an accurate depiction of what we do in 2017. A salesperson creates an environment where a prospect can share about their problems or goals, and discover together whether the salesperson can help solve those problems or reach goals.

 

Sales is not about convincing. Taking that off the table helps eliminate the fear of failure, fear of rejection.

 

Avoid hyperbole. Don’t get ahead of the prospect. Don’t be more eager and enthusiastic than the client.

 

Find detachment. If you’re attached to the outcome, you’re less likely to make the sale.

 

Don’t work to “mirror” your prospect. When you imitate someone else, you lose yourself. When you practice sales gimmicks, you become a manipulator, and you feel the lack of integrity.

 

People will tell you what they want if you’ve established trust, and you’re not pitching, and conniving, and contorting.

 

If you’re faking it, pushing, pitching, and convincing, you’ll make sales in the short-run. But the sales will collapse as you build a reputation for poor service and poor sales qualification.

 

Create. Create something useful for your prospects and clients. Articles, videos? Provide resources. Publish, write, produce, curate.

 

That connects you to your work more, and separates you in the marketplace.

Position yourself as an expert.

 

If you bring value to my business, even outside of the products you sell, I’m going to be glad every time you ring my phone.

 

Your product or service may be a commodity. A connector — connecting people, resources, etc. — will never be a commodity.

 

There is a loneliness in sales. Sales leaders have to find ways to require working together. Sales reps somehow team up. Share what’s working. Listen in on calls, and give feedback.

 

Compete together with the past, with the industry trends? Less competition within the team.

 

Top performers are curious about what works. They’re hungry to learn new best practices. And they reach out to get the information. Ego interferes with lower performers’ willingness to ask for help, advice, and training.

 

Don’t buy into the idea, “How I am, others are.”
You need a coach to help you recognize what you’re doing, to reflect your actions, to help you shape what you’re going to do.
Check out this episode!


Principles Lead with Luke Hartsock - MGW #8

GUEST: Luke Hartsock — Founder and CEO of Decisive Data

 

http://www.decisivedata.net/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukehartsock/

 

The Guiding Principles of Decisive Data:

  1. Create Customer Value: I do work that clearly satisfies my customer. The primary beneficiary of my effort is my customer.

  2. Be Original: I have a unique combination of skills, character, and history that no one else does.

  3. Serve Others: I put the needs of others first. Service is an attitude and way of being.

  4. Have Grit: I see challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. I am not defeated by setbacks and choose to endure and overcome.

  5. Pursue Excellence: I continuously improve my knowledge, tools, and expertise. The quality of my work is a representation of who I am.

  6. Have Fun: I foster an environment of laughter, joy, and friendship.

 

Points of Wisdom from our Conversation:

 

Culture starts with who we let into our company.

 

Everything important gets codified. Even the oral tradition that is organically created, gets codified and written down, in order to ensure that as the company grows, it stays true to its core.

 

Authority is effective when it can influence without having to control. And it’s effective when it can serve without demanding service in return.

 

Transitions are hard. Change is hard. The transitions that people go through before and after a project are often overlooked to the detriment of the individual and the organization.

 

Be aware of and beware the switching costs of moving from one area of focus to another, even briefly. Make sure to protect (and that your people are protecting) expanses of productivity time.

 

We’ve got to move past the distractibility to really lead well.

 

Behind distraction and lack of flow, avoidance in a real issue that hampers effective leadership. Note what you need to do — and face it.

 

Results are accomplished through behaviors. Request, measure, drive behaviors.

 

Take what you want to build, and magnify that vision by 10X — then you’ve got a vision that will really drive results. Method without vision has no capacity to guide or inspire.

 

At Decisive Data, there’s a motto: Every decision informed by data.

 

You can’t gather data if you’re not paying attention.

 

Referenced Resources:

 

Manager vs. Maker — http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html

Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” — http://calnewport.com/books/deep-work/

 

At Decisive Data our mission is: Help people use data to realize better outcomes.

Our vision is: Every decision informed by data

 

http://www.decisivedata.net/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukehartsock/

 

And, we’re They Yes Works — Helping to make work good for people, and make people good for work.

 

www.TheYesWorks.com
Check out this episode!


Collaboration Made Simple in 1 Step

Ok. Here it is. The single step you need to take for world-class collaboration:

Always move the action forward. (Repeat.)

If it’s immediately clear to you how this sentence applies to collaboration, then thanks for reading. If you’ve got an eyebrow raised, allow me to elaborate.

An Adeptability Collaboration Guide

Though we all collaborate every day, in many small ways, some of us are better collaborators than others. What’s better mean? It means making contributions that get us closer to a shared objective together. And some people are more effective  than others at working together to close the distance between us and our objectives.

Take meeting setting for instance. It’s easier to set a meeting with some people than it is with others. And it’s not just because of full calendars. Sometimes it’s about collaboration skills.

Setting a meeting with someone can take a whole lot more time and effort than it should. Just trying to set a coffee meeting between two people can seem like planning a mission to Mars for all the effort and the number of emails it may take. And scheduling coffee is about as simple as a collaboration can get.

Improvisers — people who create theatrical performances together by finding inspiration from each moment (with no advance planning or scripting) — have something to offer on this score. It’s a principle of Adeptability that can truly enhance all business communication.

According to legend, Rabbi Hillel was asked to sum up the whole of God’s teaching while standing on one leg. Pardon me while I stand up from my chair to sum up the whole of collaboration.

“ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD.”

Let me give you couple of examples of failing to employ this principle that may clarify. Warning: This may hit a little too close to home.

EXAMPLE ONE – NOT GOOD:

At a networking event, you meet someone new, or encounter an existing contact where there’s promise of mutual benefit in the relationship. You say, “We should get coffee sometime.” They respond, “Yeah! We totally should.” You both mean it. And then you go your separate ways.

Months go by, and you never go to coffee. No one took any action. Without action, there’s no forward movement.

EXAMPLE TWO – MARGINAL IMPROVEMENT:

You send an email to a colleague in another firm you’re preparing to do business with. You’d like to get together to discuss the details of the engagement. It’s coming up fast and time is of the essence. You write:

Hey Janet,

Let’s get together next week over coffee to discuss the joint venture we’re launching next month.

Janet responds:

Great idea. Let’s do it.

You:

Great. When are you available?

Janet:

Name a time.

You:

How about Tuesday at 3PM?

Janet:

Sorry. That’s the only day I can’t do. I’m out of the office all day, Tuesday.

You:

Ok. Monday then? How about Monday at noon?

Janet:

Yeah. That’s great. See you then.

You:

Terrific. See you then. But I just realized, we didn’t set a location. Where would you like to meet?

Janet:

Name a spot.

Uncle! Ok, that’s enough. I’m ready to stick my head in a toilet, just to get away from this torture. We’re ten emails in, and we still don’t have enough information to actually get together.

Obviously, this is an extreme case, maybe even cartoonish. But dollars to donuts, you’ve almost certainly got threads in your email or chat history that bear some resemblance.

Let’s see what happens if you take ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD as far as you can… Even if Janet doesn’t do likewise.

EXAMPLE 3 – BETTER:

You:

Hey Janet,

Let’s get together next week over coffee to discuss the joint venture we’re launching next month.

I propose Tuesday, 3PM, Mulligan’s Do-Over Coffee House on Main St.

Janet:

Sorry. Can’t do Tuesday. All booked up.

You:

Ok. Monday at noon or Wednesday at 10:30? Either way, at Mulligan’s?

Janet:

Either one.

You:

I’ll see you at Mulligan’s on Monday at noon. Please confirm.

Janet:

Yes.

 

That’s a lot better. Six emails, and it’s set and confirmed. Even without Janet’s help.

But what if both correspondents employ ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD?

EXAMPLE 4 – EFFECTIVE:

You:

Hey Janet,

Let’s get together next week over coffee to discuss the joint venture we’re launching next month.

I propose Tuesday at 3PM, Mulligan’s Do-Over Coffee House on Main St.

Janet:

Mulligan’s is great, but I can’t do Tuesday.

How about Monday at noon or Wednesday at 10:30?

You:

Mulligan’s on Monday at noon! Done. See you there.

If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume that still works for you. No need to confirm.

Three emails, and done!

This principle, this tool, ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD, applies to any collaborative project. Scheduling is just one arena.

ANOTHER ILLUSTRATION:

You:

Let’s turn this project over to Cathy. She’s a wiz at simplifying this kind of complexity.

OPTION 1: Janet could respond:

No, not Cathy. She’s good with complexity. You’re right about that. But she lacks the diplomacy to handle the client’s personality, and it’ll be a disaster.

OPTION 2: Or Janet could respond:

Cathy is good with complexity, and she’s likely to clash with the client. Barry’s almost as good with complexity, and he’ll keep his cool with a difficult client.

Which message would you rather receive from Janet? Which one moves you closer to your objective of staffing the project?

Collaboration Wrap:

This principle –ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD — implies that the following do not suffice for effective collaboration. Alone, they don’t move the action forward.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
  • I like it.
  • Great.
  • Terrible.

This sort of response isn’t enough information for effective collaboration. If you’re committed to moving things forward, if you want to contribute to progress, take the next step. Add to the momentum.

And don’t worry. You don’t need to build the whole thing by yourself. Because…

Collaboration Bonus:

Here’s a freebee. A bonus Adeptability principle borrowed from improvisers:

DON’T BRING A CATHEDRAL. BRING A BRICK.

It can be daunting to try to solve any single problem on your own, in one fell swoop. But one idea, even a piece of an idea is enough to MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD, or as the case may be… BUILD THE CATHEDRAL. In other words, you don’t have to solve the problem. Even the smallest idea might be the lynch-pin to the final answer. Even if your idea ends up on the cutting room floor, it might be just the trigger a fellow collaborator needs in order to discover the big idea that solves it all.

As Lao Tzu — world famous improviser — said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And in collaboration, you’re not the only one stepping.

 

_________

As G.I. Joe used to tell me at the end of each episode… “Knowing is half the battle.” If you’d like to build Adeptability culture in your company, click to book a call.


Set Expectations Like an Improviser

Are you in sales? Do you have a boss or have people working for you? Got people working with you? Do you work with people? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, there are people who expect things from you.

The question is, are their expectations consistent with the reality you are prepared to deliver? Will you meet their expectations, or will you disappoint?

Half the answer lies in what you deliver. The other half lies in what they expect.

THE INCOMPLETE SET

Last month, I placed an order with a marketing company. They told me, “Your marketing product will go live in no more than 30 days. Maybe sooner.”

That’s expectation setting. They gave me an expectation about timeline.

They also told me that I’d have a “success manager” assigned to me and my marketing efforts, and that I’d hear from that manager to get my input along the way.

They gave me specific time when I should expect completion, but no specifics about when I’d hear from the “success manager.” Because they left a gap in setting expectations for me, I filled the gap with my own expectations about what the interim timeline would look like. Because I set my own expectations about their service, they set us both up for confusion, disappointment, and anxiety.

Indeed, two weeks later, when I hadn’t heard from anyone, I touched base with the sales rep who brought me on board to ask how things were progressing. “The holidays have created a backlog. I’m sure you’re still on target. You’ll hear from someone soon.”

Cool. Reassuring. A little bit.

When I called again a week after that, I heard, “There’s a bit of a backlog because of the holidays, but I’m sure your release will happen on time.”

Less reassuring. Kind of vague.

When I heard from his colleague that same day, “I received your search landing page today, and you’ll see it for review in about an hour,” that truly reassured me.

Why?

THE COMFORT OF SPECIFICITY

Was it the tangible progress that reassured me? Because someone had seen actual work done on my project…?

Well, that was part of it.

A bigger part of it, however, is that the info they gave me was specific. It was not a general assurance like, “I’m sure you’re still on target.” Or, “You’ll hear from someone soon.”

I heard instead, “I’m currently looking at this specific aspect of our deliverables to you.” She said, “You’ll see it in one hour.”

It was nice that I’d see it so quickly. But, “tomorrow morning by 10AM,” would have been almost as good. It’s the level of specificity that gave me something to hold on to. My worries are gone. And I know when I should start worrying. I can directly compare the reality on the ground with the expectation they set for me.

IMPROV’S LESSON FOR SETTING EXPECTATIONS

What I’d like to impart to you is a bit of wisdom I learned by training as an improviser…

The more specific you are with others in your life — those who work with you, live with you, depend on you, employ you, work for you, buy from you, sell to you… whatever — the more specific you are with others, the more comfortable they will be.

And guess what, the less likely they are to irritate you as well. I think I got under my vendor’s skin a bit, by writing a few times to ask about the status of my order.

What would have saved me the worry that my order would be late? What would have saved my vendor the irritation of my, “Are we there yet?”

One thing would have saved us both the stress — practicing the improviser’s tool, “Be Specific.” Had they been specific, not only about the deadline for the finished product, but about the timeline of every deliverable along the way, I’d have rested comfortably and left them to do their work.

BE SPECIFIC

So, dear reader, the next time you find yourself in a situation where someone else is looking to you for answers about what to expect:

  • When will you…?
  • What will X look like?
  • How will costs be calculated?
  • What do you like about…?
  • What are the metrics for success?
  • Where can I find X?
  • How can I attain X results?

Be as specific as you possibly can.

Expectations are like bowling. When you’ve got a seven-ten split, you can’t expect to knock down both pins by simply rolling the ball down the alley “that way.” You’ve got to hit the seven pin just so, in order to send it spinning into the ten. That’s a specific task.

So is communication. You’ll be rewarded for your specificity.


2 Ways to Sell Anything -- Sales Strategy

There are essentially two ways to go about selling anything. Either sales strategy can work if we define “work” as “lead to a sale.” One way will leave you and your client happier, more satisfied, and with a stronger relationship. The other will not.

To illustrate this, let me tell you the stories of my last two visits to a car lot and the sales strategies they reflect.

WAY #1: HOW TO MAYBE MAKE A SALE & CERTAINLY ALIENATE YOUR PROSPECT

Yesterday, I visited a car dealership for my first test-drives as I consider buying my next car. I’ll be buying very soon.

The sales rep (Bret) who approached me as I peered in some car windows was a young guy, inexperienced, but pleasant. Brought me some keys, accompanied me as I drove two cars, chatted me up, and learned about me and my life. He missed a few opportunities to dig into my purchase plans, but overall, a pleasant experience. So far, so good.

When he learned that I train sales teams, he said, “I want to introduce you to my sales manager.” That’s where things took a turn for the worse.

WHAT THE SALES MANAGER DID TO ALIENATE ME

Mr. Manager said, “Tell me how Bret did. Just a second,” and he tried to get me to leave Bret in the lobby while we went outside. He wanted me to critique Bret’s sales performance where only he could hear. I refused to leave Bret anxious and alone in the lobby.

Mr. Sales Manager went on to:

  • Express frustration about the state of one of the cars I drove — not from empathy for me, but because he himself was angry that it wasn’t up to his standards.
  • Chastise an employee of his in front of me and in front of other employees.
  • Tell me of a customer he’d asked to leave his lot because she was rude to his employees, berating his staff.  (“Good,” I thought.) Then he said, “I told her she’d be happier somewhere else.” (He lied to her.)
  • Tell me repeatedly, “I’d really like to sell you a car,” even after I said, “I’ve got to go pick up my daughter.

He accomplished all this in under 10 minutes.

HOW MR. MANAGER COULD HAVE DONE BETTER

He could have:

  • Said, “Bret’s a new sales rep. He’s been working hard. Would you tell Bret what he’s done well as your salesman?” Then, “How could he improve?” He could have acted in Bret’s interest to develop his skill instead of only to get some evaluation without building Bret up.
  • Thought and framed his disappointment about the car’s condition not being up to snuff from a standpoint of empathy for me. “I’m sorry we didn’t meet our own standards. I’d have liked for you to have a better experience. I’d have liked for you to see our best work.”
  • Held his criticism for his employee for a time they were alone, without customers and other staff around. There was nothing urgent going on.
  • Told that rude woman who was berating his staff, “I don’t need your money. I understand you’re angry. I don’t want anyone to talk to my staff that way. Please either apologize, or look for a car at another dealership.”
  • Heard and respected that I needed to leave to pick up my daughter.
  • Focused his thinking and speaking on helping me instead of being self-centered. “I want to sell you a car,” is none of my business. To be blunt, it’s not my job to care about his sales goals.
  • Come from a standpoint of service. “I want to be sure you get a car that’s going to really serve your needs.” Or, “I want to make the often obnoxious experience of buying a car easy, efficient, and pleasant for you. I hope that will win your business.”

Your customers are not there to serve you with a purchase. Rather, they’re expecting your service in exchange for their purchase.

To be fair, I was probably never going to purchase a car from Bret or his manager.

Because I’m loyal to Steve.

I stopped at Bret’s dealership because I’ve just started looking, and I like to see what’s out there, drive a few cars. The dealership was convenient at a time when I had an hour.

Two years ago, when I was shopping for a car, I knew just the car I wanted: a 2012 Jetta Sportwagen. I called one dealership that had one, and I was directed to Steve. (You can find Steve at this link. This is not a paid advert. Steve earned my appreciation and loyalty.)

WAY #2: HOW TO MAYBE MAKE THE SALE & CERTAINLY PLEASE PEOPLE

When I arrived at Steve’s two years ago, he greeted me like a guest, went out of his way to make me comfortable, and didn’t try to sell me anything. I’ve been telling the story and recommending Steve ever since.

HOW STEVE WON MY LOYALTY

  • Steve let me run my car buying process.
  • On the phone I said, “I’d like to drive the car on your lot, then I’m going to drive another car in the next town over. Then I’m going to weigh my options, and make a purchase.” Steve said, “Ok. Great.”
  • When I arrived to drive the car, Steve greeted me warmly, humanly, authentically without any sign of a forced smile.
  • He had the car running and the seat warmer on already. It was a cold day.
  • He spoke a little, but mostly let me listen to the car and do my thing as he rode along with me on the test drive.
  • When I said, “Thanks. I’m going to drive the other one tomorrow, and you may hear back from me,” he did not reply, “How can I put you in a car today?”
  • When I called the following afternoon and asked to drive the car again, Steve was warm again, not annoyed at my request.
  • Steve usually sells new Lexuses. But when I arrived, Steve had done a bunch of research into how to sync my phone with the car’s bluetooth. He showed me how. He went out of his way to make everything easy and pleasant for me.
  • He called me a week after I bought the car and asked how it was treating me.
  • He called a year later and said, “Happy anniversary.”

TO SUM UP — A Pushy Way, and a Helpful Way

In short, “Way 1”, focusing on yourself and the sale, pushing your will on the buyer may lead to a sale — once. And it will almost always alienate people, even if they buy.

“Way 2”, focusing on your prospect and seeking to serve them, looking at things from the perspective of their interests, will often lead to a sale — if it’s good for the buyer. And it will almost always make you friends and fans who’ll come back and refer others.

Bret’s manager was all about Bret’s manager. Steve was all about me. I’m sure Steve is acting strategically at some level to maximize the likelihood of a sale. But his strategy is about how to give me the best experience with no pressure.

Pressure will sometimes win a sale, but it will not win anyone’s heart. Stepping into a prospect’s life with the intention of helping to improve it if you can — that wins hearts. Steve won my heart, so I’ve referred business to him. And I’ve called him again to tell him what I’m looking for in my next car. He sold me a car once. He did it right. And now he’s got my business anytime I need a car.

Don’t be like Bret’s manager. Be like Steve.


6 Ways to Speed Up During Year-End Slowdown

It’s natural to slow down this time of year. The days are shorter, and we’re biologically programmed to slow down. There’s a break from Christmas through new years when many businesses all but shut down. We’re all thinking about family and friends — as we should. And we’re surrounded by so many messages about ending, that it’s hard to think about what’s continuing and what’s starting anew.

The holiday season is a full time. Good cheer, family, vacation, celebrations, feasting. Many of us look back at the year that’s ending and evaluate where we are compared to our dreams for ourselves and our companies. Many look forward to the coming year and start to resolve to change.

Unless you’re in retail, business tends to slow down, too. Productivity slows. Sales slump, especially B2B sales. The pace of everything seems to wind down along with the year as if preparing for a hibernation. And after New Year’s, many businesses take a while to gear back up to their usual operating pace.

After the holidays, people stumble back in from their family trips and too many cookies. They look around the office as though it’s a familiar location from long ago. They blink in the fluorescent light, and they’re just not sure how to get started again.

Sound familiar?

Diminished productivity and lost momentum add up to lost revenue potential. Can’t cancel the holidays. Wouldn’t want to. So I hope my improviser’s mindset can help you and your team enjoy the holidays fully, and keep and even accelerate the speed of business.

Here are 6 things you can do over the next few weeks to keep the pace up now, hit the ground running in the new year, and improve the vitality of your team all at once. Improvisers look for opportunities to keep the action moving.

1. Express gratitude

In keeping with the season’s traditions, thank people for their work. To have the greatest impact, Be Specific.

  • Name specific behaviors. Like this, “Carla, when you go out of your way to help a client…”
  • Name specific events as examples. “Frank, you took the initiative to call Jerry over at ACME Widgets because you’d heard through the grapevine that they were having trouble with…”
  • Name specific results. “Beth,we keep happy clients and get more referral business because you…”
  • Name a specific desired future. “Thank you, Alan. Please keep doing that.”

If you do nothing else on this list, express gratitude this way. Gratitude is a prime motivator, and boosts engagement and productivity all by itself.

2. Shore up relationships

If sales and service activities are slowing down because of year-end, you and your team can reach out to clients, vendors, peers, competitors, colleagues. Reach out to anyone who’s important in your business, and express care (including gratitude). Have lunch or coffee. Attend holiday parties, and go deeper than typical small-talk.. Connect with people on things that matter to them — family, career, dreams, hobbies. Strengthen relationships, and reap the rewards in the new year.

3. Survey what you’ve built

Your team has accomplished a lot this year. Often, though, we just keep plowing forward, looking to the next project and the next task. Take a moment. Take a whole meeting. Look at what you’ve done together, and give each other a pat on the back. Even if you’ve taken a beating this year, you’re still standing. Take pride. If you can’t take pride, give pride to one another. A sense of accomplishment can bolster resolve and accelerate growth.

4. Plan for next year

If you haven’t begun this already, you’re behind. Plan for next year. What are your goals and targets? What are your metrics for success? How will you reach them? Be specific about actions you and your team will need to take. Begin to make assignments and map out responsibilities. Include your team in the planning process. Rather than allowing big goals to intimidate you and your team, frame the plan as an inspiration. And let people begin to take action.

5. Plan for the first week of January

Before everyone leaves for Christmas, gather your team to plan for your return. Set deadlines for the first Thursday that people are back. Include activities that require collaboration and accountability. Give people some work they find fun to jump into when everyone’s back. That way, when January 2nd rolls around, people will come in bright-eyed, eager to work. Gather very briefly on the morning of the 2nd to give people a high-spirited reminder of the plan. Then connect that plan with intrinsic motivators like pride in their work and the gratitude of their colleagues and clients.

6. Express Gratitude

Did I mention that already? This is something trained improvisers do easily and readily. They notice resources, structures, and people that support them. They acknowledge people who have their back.

Improvisers know that constant feedback drives behavior. Feedback is the material that all relationships are built from.