Entitlement Schmitlement

“Here’s the deal:  The more you think you’re entitled to, the less you will be grateful for.”

–     John Ortberg, in his book “Soul Keeping; Caring For The Most Important Part of You

This is not a political commentary or a summary view of kids these days.  (Dad always said, “Kids these days!” as if we were every bit as dopey as we were….but I digress…)

It’s about having a spirit of thankfulness.  Of gratitude.

It’s about seeing the silver lining in the darkest cloud.  It’s about realizing that this side of the grass is, for the most part, better than the other — although since Ortberg is a Presbyterian Pastor, an argument could be made that the good stuff comes….oh, never mind….  It’s about being positive, even in a Twitter™-based world of haters and “experts” who don’t know much at all…

Being grateful might be as simple as looking at the glass as half full and the water as crystal clear.  Ortberg is a great, conversational author, and his books have had an impact on millions.  This one “take,” though, most likely trumps his other perspectives.

The world owes me nothing.  The closer I stay in tune with that fact, the more grateful I will be, even in times of ickiness.

Make it a great weekend.

When It Rains…

“Momentum begets momentum, and the best way to start is to start.”

–     Gil Penchina (b. 1969), former CEO of Wikia, current business advisor and leader

In the Midwest, it has rained.  A lot.  When it rains, it pours, so the old cliche holds true.  For those affected by storms and flooding, and for the farmers who may not get a crop this year, prayers are with you.

It’s true in other areas of life and business.

When it rains…

Some people say things “come in threes.”  Good things.  Bad things.  Lucky breaks.  Unlucky breaks.

I don’t know if that’s true, but starting really is the best way to start.

If we’re on a roll, start something extra to stay on the roll.  “Shooters shoot,” as my high school basketball coach said.  “Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot!”

If we’re down on our luck, start something different, start a new habit or break an old one.

It’s easy to get paralyzed by momentum.  “I can’t catch a break,” or “I can’t miss!  I’ll just keep on keepin’ on!”

As fickle as momentum can be, the best way to get it is to start.  The best way to change it is to start something different.

We can’t control the rain.  We can control what we do…next.

Add Some Value

“Add some value!”

–     Gary Domke (1962 – 2019), my late friend, not-so-subtle philosopher and “speaker of truths”

My friend, Gary Domke, or “O” as we knew him, passed a couple months ago, as noted in this post.

Sunday night, a memorial service was held in the western Chicago suburbs, and dozens, if not hundreds of “O” stories were shared.

Gary never missed a sporting event of his kids, and he admonished them repeatedly during games to “add some value.”

He used the line with all of us, as well.

I won’t recount the man who was Gary, it’s covered in the post, linked above.

But as his daughter and her twin siblings related the “add some value” stories, it occurred to me that if our goal is to make a difference, that’s a great place to start.

Late on Sunday night, as we began to go our separate ways, there were hugs, a few tears, a lot of laughter and, over and over again, shouts to “add some value.”

It’s enough for me that Gary will appreciate us using that reminder more frequently.  It’ll be enough in our workaday lives if we make it our primary goal for each day.

Make a difference?  Add some value!

So long, O!  You added value, my friend…

After Further Review…

“Prior to the snap, false start, everybody but the center…”

–     Walt Anderson, NFL referee, in one of the funniest moments in sports officiating

Instant replay.  Like it?  Hate it?

In sports, it’s not going away.  The NFL owners spent most of yesterday figuring out how to get it closer to right without adding time to already-too-long games.

In business, we ought to use it more, and more frequently.

We don’t (and shouldn’t) have multi-camera, super-slo-motion replays of our meetings and presentations, but the exercise of re-playing is perhaps even more important in what we do than it is in what those big dudes do in helmets and pads.

Why?  Because what we do puts groceries on our tables, those of our teammates and our clients.  What we do educates our kids and their kids.  What we do makes a difference for people we see every day in our towns, churches, parks and grocery stores.

Yet often, we miss the opportunity to “watch the replay.”

“That was a great meeting!” we often hear or say.  “That was a train wreck,” we moan when the meeting went off track (pun intended).  Was it?  Was it great or awful? Was it seen, felt experienced the same way by all participants?

Yes, no or maybe, no surprise here, the key is to drive to “Why?”

Doing a review of every client interaction and every meaningful internal interaction is important if our goal is to get better every day.

It’s especially important at the end of a sales cycle.  A win review captures the reasons we get deals, and then we can socialize and document those drivers for the benefit of other teammates.  A loss review captures the reason we lose business, and might be even more important — because if we can correct it and when we do, we move the needle, perhaps dramatically.

One word of caution on loss reviews.  I’m winging it here, but in my 35 years of leading sales professionals, 87.8% of them have told me, on first review, that we lost on price.  Um, no, we probably didn’t.  It’s another reason the replay is so important — if we start changing, dropping or becoming inconsistent on pricing as a first defense when we lose, we’re eroding the very base of our business.

It’s also why the sales person probably shouldn’t conduct the loss or win review.  While this exercise may ultimately be about growing their skill set, it’s about dispassionately getting to the reason the deal happened or didn’t happen, and removing the ego and emotional engagement of the person selling the deal is important to get accurate, unbiased feedback.

Loss Review questions, a partial list:  “What question should we have asked?  What question should we have asked sooner?  What piece of information did we not know but should have known?  Did we validate “BAIT?” (Budget, Authority, Intent and Timeline).  Did we listen, learning where their pain really was, or did we just prescribe our “antibiotic,” hoping they’d feel better and give us some credit?

Win Review questions, a partial list:  “If you had to break down this decision to one reason, what was it that made you choose us?”  “You considered five different providers.  What was it that made you confident we were the correct choice for you?”  “Thank you for the business.  What concerns do you have with your choice, so that we can make sure we handle those, in addition to delivering what you bought?”  “Do you have friends, colleagues, people in your network that are facing these same challenges?  Would you feel good introducing us to them?”

Internal meeting questions, a partial list, including one to begin with:  “What is it that you want to have at the end of this meeting that you don’t have now, that will have made it a great use of your time?”  Then, after the meeting, “Did you get ________?”  “On a scale of 1-10, how productive a use of your time was this meeting?  How could we have made it better?”  “Is everyone clear with the next steps and to-do’s that we established, and committed to the timelines we agreed to?”  “What do you need to make this meeting immediately actionable in your part of the team?”

Long post.  Sue me.  And, I’d apologize if it wasn’t really important stuff.

“Looking at the replay,” whether it’s under the hood in front of 70,000 in a stadium and a few million on TV, or whether it’s just with our partner or client, face-to-face or on the phone, helps us get better, correct mistakes, and avoid repeating them.  Looking at the replay will make a difference.

After further review — we’ll get better.  Each and every time.

The Power of The Story

“There’s nothing more powerful than a good story.”

–     Tyrion Lannister, one of the lead characters in the recently-ended HBO series, “Game of Thrones”

In Westeros, in life, business-in-general and certainly in professional selling there is nothing more powerful than a good story.  There’s also nothing more important.

Our story is all we have.

Funny thing about widgets, they’re all, in the end, widgets.  It’s our story that makes our widget less-widgety.  It’s our story that connects with the reason a buyer buys.  It’s our story that helps them attach our cure to their pain.

We’ve touched on this multiple times before, too.  If we have a story, we must commit to telling it skillfully and compellingly, with purpose and with intent to do good.  It might take a few days or a couple weeks to figure out what our story is.  It’s a career-long commitment to telling it flawlessly that turns the power to super-power.


Arranging Our Days

“You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

          –     Dallas Willard, as quoted by John Ortberg in his book “Soul Keeping”

My “dream foursome” in golf, or at a dinner party might now include Dallas Willard, as I draw toward the end of Ortberg’s book.  The book is my first exposure to Willard’s teachings, his approach to life and his calm, focused, intensely quiet energy — all channeled in one direction.  It’s pretty awe-inspiring stuff…

For those of you more comfortable without the reference to God at the end of Dallas’ point here…..if we focus on the verb of arranging our days, and the activities that bring us joy, deep contentment and confidence, won’t that have an effect on our ability to make a difference?

Let’s give it a go…



GOT, Archie Bunker and What Comes Next

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

–     Lyric from “Closing Time,” by Semisonic 

“Anything that causes people to talk and think and wonder and imagine and delight is making inroads for the human species.”

–     96-year-old Norman Lear, creator of the great, cutting-edge sitcoms of the early 1970’s, quoted in an interview in today’s Wall Street Journal

A TV theme for today.

Game of Thrones ended last night.  Masterful story-telling and sensational production effects.  No spoilers here, other than to say it was not what I expected.

All in The Family and The Jeffersons will be aired on ABC Wednesday night with new casts playing the old roles (Archie, Edith, George, “Weezie,” et al…).

These shows were the trend setters of the their times, at markedly different ends of the entertainment spectrum and in markedly different times in our society’s evolution.

And that’s where the Semisonic lyric comes in.  Something ends.  Something new begins.  The key is what will we find in the new beginning that may break the patterns, at least the ones we want to break.

What can be found West of our Westeros?  Does peace and rest for the soul await in the North?  Will we learn from the way we react to someone different moving into or out of the house next door, or the argument with our “Meathead” son-in-law, like Archie Bunker?  What will we do?  Next?

Every event has a beginning and an end.  Every day has a beginning and an end.  Every one of those beginnings comes from yesterday’s beginning’s end.

We have to be in the moment, but we can’t get so wrapped up in the moment that we lose sight of the fact that it will be followed by another moment, another day.  Until it’s not.  Until then, all we can do is think, wonder, imagine and delight, while we try to get it closer and closer to right.

What are today’s beginnings, and from what ends did they arise?  Let’s see what we can make of them, and how much of a difference that approach makes.

Relevance is The Holy Grail

“Nobody cares about you, your brand, or your company. You’re irrelevant…until proven otherwise.”

–     Steve Woodruff, “Clarity Consultant” and best-selling author

Sad, but true.  The proliferation of choice and apathy in most markets today, and the general risk-averse nature of most procurement processes means that proving relevance takes precedent to proving value.

Brands still matter, but only if they find a way to matter.

Sales pros still matter, but establishing relevance and trust are the entry points to mattering.

That ___________ we sell?  Someone else sells a very similar ___________, or if they don’t now, they will, soon.  To compete and win, we need to first be relevant to multiple constituencies.

First, we have to be relevant to our team members.  We can’t just provide jobs and income and benefits, we have to make meaning for our teams.

Second, we have to be relevant to our suppliers and partners.  If we treat them like commodities, they’ll treat us like….well, like we deserve to be treated.

Third, we have to be relevant to our clients and customers.  We need to make it difficult for them to imagine each day without us in it.

Finally, we have to help our clients and customers be relevant to their clients and customers.  Sometimes it’ll be the ___________ we sell.  More often, it will be the questions we ask, the engagement we bring and the commitment we show, while delivering the best _________ we can.

Empathy in Professional Selling

“Empathy is the ability to step outside your own bubble and into the bubble of other people.”

–     C. JoyBell C., author

As sales pros, we’re paid to get the best deal for our employer.  As owners, we’re incentivized to get the best deal, the best return on our equity or capital.  Negotiating skills training has often focused on how to get what we want at the expense of what the buyer wants.

That.  Doesn’t.  Work.

Buyers have too many choices these days.  It’s like TV networks when I was growing up.  We had three choices, plus public TV.  Today, there are channels about channels about topics on channels.  Buyers have similarly wide options for most of the goods and / or services we sell.

That means table-stakes for us is getting out of our bubbles.  Positioning what we sell in the best possible way for the intended beneficiary of the service.

We might have to give up some margin.  We might have to choose different terms or assume more responsibility for the ultimate outcome.

Or, perhaps we just need to write our story from within their bubble.  Empathy is about seeing through others’ eyes, hearing through others’ ears and feeling with others’ hearts.  In professional selling, it’s about seeing the value we provide in the manner in which they receive it.

We might not have to give up some margin.  We might not have to choose different terms or assume more responsibility for the ultimate outcome.  We might simply need to see the value they way they see it and position it accordingly.

Transactional vs Sustainable

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts…”

–     Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), Greek philosopher

In professional selling, solution selling is sustainable, transactional selling is tenuous.

Of course there are places where transactional selling still works — the floor of the exchange and the auction house to name a couple.

If professional selling however, the whole must equal more than the sum of its parts.

Professional solution selling involves the solving of problems.  It involves understanding the “why” behind the “what,” and it involves the concept that even after the currency changes hands, the value still needs to flow both ways.

If what we’re selling is a one-and-done, “off we go, our separate ways” engagement, that’s transactional.

If what we’re selling means that how the buyer feels about it matters, and our ongoing success depends on seeing that buyer again, and seeing that buyers counterparts again, we need to find a way for the buyer to genuinely believe that thing we sell to be more than just that thing that we sell.