Forgiveness v. Cancel Culture — The First Stone

“It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

–  J.K. Rowling (b. 1965), author of the Harry Potter book series

I wonder if she had a microphone.  I wonder if she dropped it.

It’s not hate to speak the truth.  It’s not hate to make an honest mistake.

Wanna know what’s hateful?

To not forgive.

First, it’s the fundamental element of our Faith, for those of us who have it.

Second, it’s the fundamental element of trusting and long-term relationships, whether we have Faith or not.

My dad said things in the 1960s that would not be ok today.  Maybe they weren’t ok back then.  But my dad would also have given the shirt off his back for anyone in need.  Which thing defines Dick Heston?  That thing he said, or that life he lived?  I’m taking the latter.  If you’re taking the former, you.  Don’t.  Get.  It!

Abraham Lincoln, one could argue did as much for one group of human beings in America as anyone ever could have.  But we’re going to take his name off schools?  Name me one legendary person — JFK, FDR, Winston Churchill — the list could go on and on and on…that doesn’t have dark pages in their story.  Read deeply into any of their backgrounds and something unseemly can be dug up.

It reminds me of a man empowered with casting judgment on a woman convicted of a cancellable offense.  You may remember the story…

John 8:7 — “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…”  That was an admonishment followed by a bunch of idiots dropping their rocks and going home.  Forgiveness is much more powerful than canceling.  Dang near anything you can dream up is more powerful than canceling.  It takes no intelligence, forethought or fortitude to cancel.  It takes character to forgive.  On our tombstone, do we want to be known as a hater or a forgiven?

For those of you canceling — wake up, shut up and grow up.

For some of you being canceled — hang in there.  That video, that voice mail, that note — none of those define who you are.  No one moment defines who anyone is.

Forgiveness is the fundamental element of whatever comes next.

And whatever we do next is all a difference-maker can control.





Spring Has Sprung

“Spring has sprung, Fall has fell, Winter is here and it’s colder than…..usual.”

     –  Dick Heston (1933 – 2002), in one of his reliable “Dad jokes”

I was blessed to spend a few days back in southeast Wisconsin these past few days.  It’s the birthplace of The Three, home to many of our closest friends, and simply one of my favorite places in the USA, especially when the Spring sun is rising over Lake Michigan as I tool along Lake Drive.

On the way up there Friday night, I tooled along Highway 151 through the pastures of southern Wisconsin where I must’ve passed a couple dozen dairy farms.  Dad hated milking cows, which was why we only had beef cattle, but he loved Spring calves — and I bet I saw more than a hundred of them, playing, jumping, and chasing each other across those pastures.  I went back and forth between wishing he was in the car with me, and believing that he was.

Spring is a time of possibility.  Spring is a time of beginnings.  And Spring 2021 carries a ton more expectations for most of us than her sisters who came before.

Whatever baggage we’ve built up these past 13 months, whatever “normal” was, became, or is becoming for us — we owe it to ourselves and those around us to “feel our oats,” as Dad would say about those calves.  We owe it to ourselves to run and play and jump our way forward.

If not literally, then figuratively and imaginatively — to breathe some Spring air into our lungs and focus on possibilities.

2021 will be better — if we let it.  If we count on it.  If we spring forward with hope and belief that what we do next will matter in the crop we’re hoping to harvest at some point down the road.


The Places We Go

I told my doctor, “Doc, I broke my leg in two places!”  He said, “Stop going to those places…”

     –  Henny Youngman (1906 – 1998), iconic American comedian 

Often, the places we go dictate the results we get.

Physically, if we’re going to the wrong places – prospects that won’t buy from us, clients that won’t be loyal to us, trade shows that are poorly attended  (strike that — let’s just say trade shows, end of sentence!), we’ll end up with suboptimal results, lower return on time invested, more frustration, less income, and a less-forecastable business.

Mentally, if we’re going to the wrong places – fear, doubt, second-guessing, over-thinking – we’ll end up with suboptimal results, lower return on time invested, more frustration, less income and a less-than-enjoyable life.  Negative self-talk and negative mindsets are exhausting and worse, debilitating.  Negativity is a slippery slope and there’s no pot of gold at the bottom of that slope.

Given a choice, we ought to go to the right places physically while in the right place mentally.

If the only choice we have is either-or, we ought to choose the right places mentally.  When we’re mentally “right” we won’t go to the wrong places physically.

Here’s more Henny Youngman…we can all use a good laugh…and, I don’t think he’s been canceled, yet…



Efficiency Over Automation

“Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” 

     – Bill Gates (b. 1965), philanthropist and founder of Microsoft

On the surface of every problem, we see and feel the symptoms.

At the root of every problem lies the cause.  Example:  If my back hurts, it’s usually because I’m not getting to the gym, not stretching, not staying hydrated, and usually because I’ve let my weight get above the magic threshold of 210 pounds.  I could wear a back brace, or I could “ibuprofen up” – but the underlying cause of the problem would remain — I’d simply be masking symptoms.

The same is true in our businesses.

I’ve worked with dozens of companies who believe that deploying a CRM software system (Customer Relationship Management) will somehow magically fix their sales problems.  It won’t.  Because the problem isn’t their automation, it’s their process.

Here’s the deal.  If the process fundamentals are not in place, automation will not provide any relief.

Are we calling on the right prospects?  How are we identifying the right prospects?  How thorough is our research and preparation?  What data is important, regardless of how readily available it might be?

Unless we know what problem we’re trying to solve, and unless we’ve dug a few layers deep on whether it’s the real problem, throwing automation at it will add expense, set false expectations and ultimately exacerbate the matter we’re trying to solve.

Efficiency is a decision.  Automation is a magnifier of whatever decisions we make on efficiency — whether those decisions are good or bad.

An apology to subscribers who received a draft copy of this post over the weekend.  My preparation process was inefficient, therefore the automation made it worse, not better!  (I really didn’t plan that…)

Professional Selling Is About…

“You will get what you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want in life.”

–  Zig Ziglar (1926 – 2012), American motivational speaker and “guru” to generations of sales pros

Professional selling is about mutual winning.

It’s about the buyer, first.

It’s about…

…other people.

Zig was always a little light on substance and long on emotion — yet in this case, they sync up perfectly.

It’s why “closing” is the most over-rated skill in sales training.

If we’re helping people get what they want, as a means of getting us and our employer what we want, the event of closing the deal simply becomes the next logical step in the process.

Skills matter.  It’s still persuasion, an argument of sorts, at its base level.

Ultimately, though, professional selling is about other people.  And the more of them we help, the more successful we become, in almost any form of measurement.


Interacting Differently

“It’s not the will to win that matters — everyone has that.  It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

–     Paul “Bear” Bryant, (1913 – 1983), legendary college football coach 

Ultimately, it’s about changing the conversation.  And in order to do that effectively, we have to wrap our heads around the idea that perspectives matter more than facts.  A week ago, Seth Godin summed it up pretty well.  There is so much misinformation out there masquerading as fact that we can’t even have a decent April Fools Day anymore.

I can debate your “facts” with my “facts.”  Anyone with a social media account can spew “facts” without the expectation that they’ll have to prove or stand behind them.  If all we want to do is engage in the same “present-handle objections-close sales” rhetoric that transactional managers still subscribe to, put a fork in us.  We’re done.

To Coach Bryant’s point — it’s about being prepared to win.  Will we spend the time to research the company?  Will we know their ownership structure?  Will we figure out on which side their bread is buttered, or if they’ve settled on margarine in a challenging market?  Will we ask questions more than make pitches?  Will we invest the time to make sure we’re asking questions that will make a difference?

The “pitch” is still a skill worth mastering, especially in the context of yesterday’s post on storytelling.  However, if “the pitch” is just a spiel, a shtick, a stand-up routine designed to misdirect the buyer from their own agenda, it’s not only not gonna work, it’s disingenuous at best and downright harmful at the other end of the spectrum.

B2B selling today is about connecting and understanding a mutually desired outcome — and investing in one another, buyer and seller, to bring it about.  If it ain’t, maybe we’re not selling to, or buying from the right people.

The Currency of Difference Makers

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

          –     Robert McAfee Brown, (1920 – 2001) American theologian and activist 

“Magical thinking is not to be confused with mere exaggeration. Liars and con-men exaggerate. But persuasive storytellers enchant us with magical thinking, stating the obviously impossible as though it is perfectly reasonable.  The next time you need to persuade someone, might it be useful to put them in a frame of mind to consider new and different things? Do you think it might be helpful to entice them into the realm of infinite possibilities, where anything and everything is possible?”

–     Roy H. Williams (b. 1958), “The Wizard of Ads” and one of commerce’s best-ever storytellers

“Professional selling is the passionate transference of belief.”

–     Cornerstone of The Heston Group sales training philosophy, delivered custom for your team by Steve Heston

Ideas are the currency of the difference makers.  Storytelling is their means of transacting and persuading, of passionately transferring belief.  Storytelling requires magical thinking and is “the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.”

The world today seems focused on the sound bite and the exaggeration at the expense of the idea, suspending magical thinking for hyperbole.  The world today tries to draw us to the sensational, at the expense of the important.  The world today wants us to believe that 280 characters are all we need in order to understand and that a snippet on YouTube can stand in for storytelling.  The world today provides ample incentive to take shortcuts, yet the on-ramps to difference-making are rarely short-cuts.

Storytelling makes a difference, because it gives ideas sunlight, water, oxygen, and good soil, so that roots can run deep and hold strong.  Storytelling sets an idea apart, because it allows the idea to become “perfectly reasonable.”  Storytelling enables difference-making because it engages the audience emotionally, “puts them in a frame of mind to consider new and different things,” and helps frame the “obviously impossible as though it is perfectly reasonable.”  (That right there is some powerful stuff from The Wizard!  Just sayin’…)

The anti-storytelling movement is built on blind internet auctions; on closed envelope bids.  The anti-storytelling movement is led by procurement departments who are paid to commoditize offerings that can not and should not be commoditized.  The goal of anti-storytellers is to minimize ideas.  They trade in the currency of fear.  Avoiding blame is their means of transacting.

Ideas are the currency of the difference makers.  And storytelling is their means of transacting.

Find a platform from which to tell your story.  And, tell it like it makes a difference.  Because it does.

Reprised from a series of past posts — but this concept doesn’t change.  Committing to the craft of telling compelling stories is fundamental to success in selling solutions.


Less Often But More Better

“There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when to stop.”

–  Unattributed 

It takes just as long to lose a deal as it does to win one.

So why do we keep selling so long after we know a deal is lost?  Why not cut bait when we know there isn’t a fish in this particular pond, or this particular part of the pond?

Unless we sell a completely commoditized product at a rock bottom price, the concept of the traditional sales funnel — more in the top to get more out of the bottom — has been dead for the better part of twenty years.  Particularly in selling professional services it’s not about playing more often, it’s about “playing less often but more better!”

(Long-time subscribers will remember that at The Heston Group, “more better” is a technical term.)

Here’s the math.

Choice #1:  Engage in 20 pursuits with a legitimate chance to win 10 of them.

Choice #2:  Engage in 40 pursuits with a puncher’s chance to win 15 of them.

Smart money takes #1 every time.  Why?

Let’s say it takes a total of 20 hours per engagement to reach an outcome and for the sake of simplicity that we make $2,000 from each win.

In choice #1, we invest 400 hours to earn $20,000 — $50 per hour.  In choice #2, we invest 800 hours to earn $30,000 — $37.50 per hour.

But that’s not the entire picture, is it?

When we get really good at knowing where and when to engage, that extra 400 hours is also investable toward winnable deals.  And the more frequently we only engage in winnable deals, the more likely our win-rate will get better.  For the sake of this example, though, let’s keep it steady.  The 800 hours now gets us $40,000 and a whole lot less heartache, disappointment and wasted time.

Happy people are more productive.  Winning more often makes us happier.  It ain’t just the math.  Playing less often but more better creates a more better quality of life.

You’re welcome!  🙂

Tomorrow:  Storytelling.

Selling Defined

“The definition of professional selling is “the passionate transference of belief.”

–  Steve Heston 

Is it weird to quote yourself in your own blog, since essentially the whole post is quoting yourself?  But I digress…

There are probably a hundred definitions for sales and / or selling.  This week, we’ll focus on the professional selling of solutions.

Belief Wins

Let me begin with one truth that has been proven out time and time again for anyone who picks up a bag and carries a quota:  Belief trumps dang near anything else.  Why?

At its core, selling begins with a fundamental disagreement.  You think I need to buy what you sell, and I don’t think I need to buy what you sell.  If that weren’t true, no one would need a sales team.  The phone would just ring, the website would just churn out online orders faster than we could fill them and we’d need a couple of armored cars a day to get all our cash to the bank.  Layer on top of that the fact that there are dozens (hundreds?) of people that also sell products and solutions that claim to do the same thing(s) ours does — and it’s difficult to debate the importance of successful selling for any business.

So why is your Buick better than my Lincoln?  Why is your Pfizer vaccine better than my Moderna?  Why is your dental implant better than Sammy Ray’s Discount Dental Implant?  Why is your consulting worth more than ABC’s Consulting?

You tell me.

What do you believe?  And why do you believe it?  What’s better about the way it’s built?  What’s better about the way it’s delivered?  What’s better about the way it’s packaged?  What is undeniably true about what you sell compared to what others sell?

What is the one belief that you must passionately transfer to the buyer in order for them to make the emotional decision to buy?

In order:

  • We have to believe.  Really believe.  With conviction and curiosity to find places to use our belief to help someone else believe what we believe.
  • We have to be passionate about it.  Not loud.  Not demonstrative.  Not stubborn.  (Although some of those might come in handy from time to time…)  Passionate.
  • We have to be willing to learn the skills and hone them so that we can transfer our belief to others.
    • Curiosity.
    • Asking questions.
    • Listening.
    • Persuasion, including handling objections.
    • Wisdom a.k.a. knowing when to quit selling.
  • We have to be willing to help the buyer even if they don’t buy.
    • Enter the conversation with the intent and commitment to leave them better off than you find them.
    • Leave the conversation with the door open, and hopefully with enough relationship equity built up that someday your phone might ring when they need advice.

The passionate transference of belief.

Tomorrow — on “knowing when to play…”


Good Friday Redux #17

“To one who has Faith no explanation is necessary.  To one without Faith no explanation is possible.”

–      St. Thomas Aquinas

It bears repeating.  To one with Faith no explanation is necessary.  To one without Faith no explanation is possible.

To some degree, in our workaday lives, what we believe dictates what we can accomplish.  In the grander scheme of life, what we Believe (upper case “B”) dictates who we are.

A friend of mine and Brother in Belief suggested the Twitter handle “#itisdone” for Easter.  And, he’s right.  It is.

It.  Is.  Done.

No greater gift could ever be given.  No level of appreciation could ever be enough.

Yet we’re not called to appreciate.  And we’re not called to reciprocate.  We’re called to love.  To follow.  To Believe.  To live with the knowledge that with one, incredible, heroic feat borne of love — nothing else matters.

Whether no explanation is necessary, or whether no explanation is possible, it is done.

And no greater difference will ever be made.

#itisdone #Heisrisen

Editor’s Note:  This is the 17th Good Friday that this Daily Difference has posted.  Some minor variations, but pretty much these words in this order every year.  Upper-and-lower case letters matter in this post.  In case any of you think The Diff has been a little Faith-heavy the last ten days — I won’t apologize.  Next week the focus shifts to some straight, professional selling angles.