4 Fiercely Ferocious Pay It Forward Principles

It requires strength and self-assurance to help others. You can't be insecure because you're instead choosing to take yourself out of competition with everyone. To do that, you have to believe and know that you've already succeeded. Ultimately, it's one unified team, not a feeding frenzy. Paying it forward is the ultimate expression of self-esteem because you're placing yourself on a different plane. It's very challenging to be kind to people that you feel are infringing on your territory.

If you're helping to build people up even when thy operate in the same space, you clearly feel confident that you own the space that you're in. Here are some ways to help 'pay it forward' in your marketplace:

  1. Teaching your success principles to other people. Not only do you learn them better, it cements your own knowledge and it's a nice thing to do. If I'm buying something and I notice the person selling it to me says they're new at their job – if they ask for my help – I always enjoy helping them. After I get the deal that I want, it only takes a few moments of my time to tell them some of the things that have helped me along the way. It's wonderful to know that I can leave a transaction with what I want and they got something positive out of it as well. Too frequently in beginning sales jobs, nobody is teaching you, so every bit of advice is useful. Good advice is incredibly rare. Trying to be thoughtful about the advice you give is a very kind thing to do. It shouldn't be all sales people against each other. It should be all sales people building each other up – professional selling is a tough game. Why would you want to climb over each other when you can just walk next to each other? If everyone is elevated, it doesn't mean that the pyramid's getting smaller. And if it is, you might be in a pyramid scheme...
  2. Trusting other people enough to delegate to them. If you're not micromanaging someone, you're showing that you believe in them and you're giving them a chance to succeed on their own. This allows you to believe in your own leadership enough to believe in them. You have to be an excellent communicator to tell someone something once and be able to get that thing done. Not only is it draining for you to ride someone, it doesn't inspire anyone to be their best if you're assuming they're being their worst. John W. Nordstrom only has one rule in the employee handbook: 'Use good judgment in all situations.' You don't want to be the one person who's judgment doesn't fit into that category. Having such a broad sweeping rule encourages people to be their best.
  3. Praise other people randomly and genuinely - This practice is nice and good for morale. It helps build self-esteem and that feeds on itself energetically; something highly undervalued that doesn't happen very often in modern society. Acknowledge others without expectation of return. If you notice someone putting out a lot of effort on a project that isn't being acknowledged, praise their effort. It doesn't have to be a huge sale to have been a ton of work. How about a co-worker who is wonderful to her family? Colleagues take time to make their desk space look nice, with pictures and flair. People have weird hobbies, so never hesitate to ask, especially in interviews when they ask if you have any final questions: "What do you do for fun?" Take the time to be genuinely interested in others. Everyone is so accustomed to having no one be interested – it's a treat when someone really cares. A lot of people are lonely, so genuinely caring about their well-being is a kind thing to do. You might be the only one that is interested. There's so much rejection in sales that just being generally kind to those around you might be the one light in their day. Kindness is very important. If you can be that for one person, wouldn't it be nice if that happened for you as well. I think eventually if you do that enough, being thoughtful toward other people can feel as good as people being thoughtful toward you. You can generate this any time. The Dalai Lama can sit in front of a vast audience and still take an active interest in every single person. His listeners truly feel that he cares about them as human beings... because he does!
  4. Genuinely care for the success of people that are frequently overlooked. To empower people who are disenfranchised breathes new life into situations that have grown old and stale. You're all of a sudden able to see something that you've only seen from one perspective in an entirely new one. Take the CEO interacting with people at all levels of her organization which allows her to see things that she may have overlooked from the top. Rather than be frustrated with team members who aren't winning sales awards, why not help them find their area where they'll shine within the organization? Especially if they're genuinely trying to contribute. Someone who cares about the success of your business is extremely hard to find, so working to place them in the optimal role in your organization will ultimately bring your team more value.

One of the most important things is that you're wholeheartedly enjoying helping others. If it doesn't come from a pure place, it just feels like mandatory community service. No one wants to feel like they're participating in forced charity on either end. The purity of your heart makes it kind and tolerant. You could do something very small and if it means a lot to you and that person, it can be much bigger than an empty grand gesture.

I began that 'pay it forward' became trendy a long time ago and people want to feel like the kid in the movie but don't actually care about what they're doing. It's a paradox. If you don't care about someone you're helping, you're not helping them. It takes a lot of maturity to care about someone you might not know very well. If you really allow yourself to care about others, then they're not random acts of kindness, it's just about how you live your life.

You shouldn't be patting yourself on the back because you're helping someone less fortunate. You should just want to be kind to everyone who's around you. Rather than seeing people around you as less fortunate, just see that they are in a different situation than you are, because nobody wants to be looked down on. In the words of Ian MacLaren: "Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden."

If your world-view is healthy; you won't judge people's stations in life, you won't walk around feeling better than others but you also won't walk around feeling worse than others. It will allow you to interact with everyone that you meet more purely which is something people really appreciate when it happens to them. In this day and age, there's so much tooting of each others horns but rarely done with sincerity.

The idea of only calling back the important people is very belittling to pretty much everyone. How do you really know who's important when you barely know them? When you take everyone's perspective in, you can learn a great deal more. When you're trying to do a deal, taking in feedback from someone on a lower organizational level can still help you. No one knows more or less than anyone else; they just know different things. Everyone's wise in their own way. Education and 'station in life' don't dictate knowledge or value.

If you treat everyone with authentic kindness, not only will it be returned to you ten fold but you'll have a much better perspective on the world around you. When most get into power, they're suddenly around people that kiss-up to them and it's so easy to lose perspective on the world that way. If you value everyone's opinion, you won't get stuck in a glass house with the people you love outside wanting to throw rocks at you. It's better to build the house together with all those rocks into a nice, sturdy stone castle.

The technology industry has such a reputation of being soulless. It would be nice to change that. Wouldn't it be nice if it was computers and humans not just humans trying to be like computers? They are both part of the equation. The main thing that humans have that computers don't is empathy; why try and lose that? Why not embrace how we're different than computers?

Social media has such a reputation for being tragically soulless. Why not spend that time and our brain power encouraging each other? It takes less energy to do something positive than to do something negative. Stating this the opposite is a cop out. I personally think that refueling to build-up those around you rather than to tear them down is less exhausting. If you have the option to feel better or worse by using the internet, why not choose to feel better? Sometimes it can be easier to participate in slanderous gossip but it's never going to make you actually feel like a better person. Do you really want to be following everyone that's jumping off the gossip cliff? Lemmings don't generally have the best life expectancy.

When Tony Hsieh would interview new hires, he'd keep in touch with the driver that picked them up at the airport in Vegas. He would ask the driver how he was treated by the candidate. I think the message is: It doesn't matter how you act when you think you're being watched. It matters who you are all the time. Everyone's well behaved when they think that their livelihood is on the line. If how you treat those around you matters enough to dictate hiring, it clearly should be valued as much as how you appear on paper in your curriculum vitae. Needless to say that Tony Hsieh did not hire anyone who was arrogant or rude to the driver.

No matter how well you think you're presenting yourself, if your whole life is self involved, you'll never truly succeed. The thing that shows through and wins in the end is that you care a lot about yourself and others. Let's face it, Mother Teresa is probably much more likely to get hired anywhere over Kim Kardashian. The wicked queen in Snow White probably didn't have a lot of Twitter followers.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Mikael Tigerström

Suicide & The Workplace — Sales Career Truth

Natasha David worked for me ten years ago as Marketing Manager in a technology company where I was Managing Director. One morning I received a call... her husband had died and was in his late twenties. "I'm so, so sorry Tash... what happened?" an awkward silence followed. How do you talk about a loved one who commits suicide? How do you cope with the feelings of guilt about failing to save them or not being close enough to recognize what was about to happen? I felt paralyzed but we did our best to give her all the space and time she needed to be able to manage.

One in five people will suffer from mental illness this year... all of us work with people who suffer from depression, anxiety or other disorders.

Many questions and emotions swam around in my head in the months following this experience. Two years earlier in the same company where Natasha lost her husband, our Professional Services Manager lost his 20 year old son to Leukemia. There was a dramatic relapse just days from the twelve month anniversary of cancer treatment when he would be officially pronounced as being in remission. It was heart wrenching to witness let alone live through. We also supported him by removing all work pressure and providing complete flexibility on full pay for as long as he needed. Without any fuss, his team rallied and covered all work demands. He slowly re-joined work and we were able to tentatively talk about his son with him. There would be stilted conversations and tears but it was okay... all part of the process of creating a meaningful life without his beloved son as well as honoring his son’s memory.

For friends and colleagues, what is the boundary between showing care and prying into someone's personal life when they suffer loss or are seeking to deal with their own demons of depression or other mental illness? Is the workplace somewhere the grieving person goes to escape or can it be a place of healing? Is the workplace where those with invisible disabilities come to hide and deny or can they be accepted and respected?

Suicide seems to be different... a social taboo with stigma attached to the death of a loved one. I never did manage to have a conversation with Natasha; just a few hugs and as much workplace support as I could provide. She withdrew and coped in her own way... I did the same when I lost my mother at 25 – it was at times a dark lonely place. After losing her husband to suicide Natasha was pulled into a dark void and checked herself into hospital where she had a profound realization that can save lives …

The Life Saving Truth: "Suicide only transfers the pain to everyone else."

This something we should all share with anyone we think is in a bad place with depression or other mental health issues. Natasha is one of the most courageous people I have met and she is about to publish her book, Marrying Bipolar. It provides amazing insight for anyone wanting to understand mental illness. Winston Churchill described depression as the black dog but it is far more complex than applying labels.

Natasha decided that if she was to push on, she would make it the best life she could live. She has done exactly that and her book will make a difference in many lives. I'll be at Natasha's book launch at Dymocks in Sydney on April 1st (no joke) and you can sign up for the event here or pre-register for her book, Marrying Bipolar, here.

Natasha's story shows the devastating impact for those around someone suffering from mental illness but what if you are directly managing or working with someone who has a mental illness? I've managed sales people for many years and I am sensitive to the tell-tale signs. I have a personal experience with mental illness as the son and then the business partner of a bi-polar father. Others in my family also suffer from mental illness but I thank God not my wife, children or me.

Professional selling is brutal... it is not for the faint-hearted. High levels of emotional intelligence (EQ), business acumen, strong work ethic and resilience are all essential. I've seen sales people battle through massive highs and devastating lows, damaging the very relationships they need to succeed, going troppo on drugs and alcohol, going missing for days until they emerge from their dark fog.

All this raises two important questions for sales leadership:

  1. Does selling attract those who are inadequately equipped to cope with the demands of the role?
  2. What can sales leaders do to help and manage those in their teams that suffer from a mental illness?

1. Does selling attract people who are poorly equipped psychologically?

The research has evidenced that mental illness does not discriminate by ethnicity, age, gender or career choice (Meadows, Farhall, Fossey, Grigg, McDermott & Singh, 2012). Throughout my professional career, the most common mental condition I have encountered in sales people is bi-polar. This term used to be identified as manic-depression and both are apt descriptions for the huge mood swings that can damage relationships with clients, staff and partners. On top of this they require persistent, consistent management therefore consuming disproportionate amounts of a manager's time and energy. Although anyone with a disability ̶ physical or mental ̶ can be a productive and valued member of a team, they need to find the right job position, have a supportive manager and work environment.

The biggest mistake a manager can make is to hire the wrong person and the second biggest mistake they make is holding onto staff that need to be moved on.

This sounds very harsh but it's a truth all managers must face. The best way to do so is with empathy and compassion in seeking to help people work in roles that best suit them. A lack of compassion combined with relentless pressure and judgment exacerbates the risks and highlights a sales manger’s poor values or interpersonal skills.

Selling is one of the toughest jobs; for anyone to sustain success they need the following attributes:

  • Resilience: The ability to cope with rejection and disappointment amidst relentless pressure to perform and deliver results
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The ability to truly understand your personal strengths and weaknesses while being able to read people and politics
  • Good work ethic: The discipline and ethos of doing what it takes rather than your best by committing the required time and energy in paying attention to every detail
  • Curiosity and intelligence: Beyond being smart, this is also being obsessed about the customer's world, how results can be delivered and how risks can be managed
  • Insight and domain knowledge: Specialization in an area that matters to the customer with you being able to provide genuine insight to the people who make decisions.

Track record, qualifications and work history are easy to validate. Every hiring manager needs to go beyond these and be clear about what defines a 'cultural fit' for sales people by evaluating candidates against the above criteria.

2. What can we do to fulfill our duty of care for those who are struggling?

Make no mistake; leadership carries a burden both morally and legally. We have a duty of care to those we employ and to those with whom we share our lives. We need to create person-centered cultures rather than toxic performance-based furnaces. I've written previously about two contrasting corporate cultures (love vs greed) and we need to create environments where work has purpose, value and respect for those around us.

A healthy workplace is a community where employees are valued members of a team rather than mere units of production. Where relationships are real and the corporate values play out in the positive behavior of the leaders.

We need to ask people if they are okay and really mean it. The best way to create a high performance culture is to be authentic about delivering value for clients and building relationships of trust and respect. Executing this requires leaders who are the real deal and able to rally people to their cause; yet becoming a great leader in an inside job rather than projecting a persona.

Capitalism without compassion is commerce without a soul. We all want to make a positive different in the lives of others but not everyone can be a winner who stands on the podium in first place. Great leaders embrace diversity and leverage individual strengths within teams. As a leader, seek balance and value individuals as people who have their own fears and shortcomings as they pursue their aspirations. Have the courage to talk with an employee or colleague about how they are really going with genuine empathy.

Ask 'how are you going... really?' Then listen like you've never listened before. Everyone needs to be heard. Everyone needs someone who cares and believes in them.

For more on this important topic, please read The Darker Side of Selling by my good friend Bernadette McClelland. She provides three examples of the unhealthy pressure and destructive behaviors that plague many sales environments.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Reference: Meadows, G., Farrell, J., Fossey, E., Grigg, M., McDermott, F., & Singh, B. (2012). Mental Health in Australia: Collaborative community practice (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Jo Christian Oterhals My heart burns there too

Will Artificial Intelligence Protect Sales Jobs?

I've written about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to create a sales career apocalypse but not everyone agrees with me. I took the time to meet with Matt Michalewicz who is a global leader in applying AI to create opportunities and drive the productivity of sales people. His perspectives are thought provoking and profound.

Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation is going to displace many people in current jobs, including white collar professions,  AI can also make certain jobs more productive. Matt believes that AI can actually make some jobs so much more productive that they will be protected from becoming extinct. I asked Matt to elaborate in the context of business-to-business (B2B) sales roles and here is his response (in italics).

The 'salesperson' job category is predicted to suffer significant job losses in the decade ahead but these predictions are based on a number of factors:

  • The growing sophistication of AI technology
  • The continuing move by consumers to online, self-service consumption models
  • The deteriorating return on investment metrics of many sales jobs (especially “in field” jobs)

Just look at what happened to the salespeople that sold vacuum cleaners, insurance, and encyclopedias on a door-to-door basis. Their demise stemmed from too much cost (salary, travel expenses, commissions, etc.), and not enough yield (too few sales to justify the cost). The same also happened to B2B sales people selling fax machines, radio paging and other technologies that became common-place.

Sales roles in B2B selling are at risk, especially with commoditized products such as liquor, food, carpet, electronics, paint, hardware, among many others (where the average sale size is low, but the costs of keeping reps on the road is high). Unless these companies can increase the yield and sales effectiveness of the in-field reps, they will suffer a similar fate as those that sold vacuum cleaners, insurance, and encyclopaedias. In other words, these sales job types need to become more productive to stay viable from a business (cost/benefit) perspective

But then Matt took the conversation in a surprisingly positive direction.

"Imagine if you had a digital assistant who did your research and created the insights you can take to customers to create value."

All B2B sales people need to lead with insight as their key point of differentiation. I've been following IBM's Watson closely but Matt has founded his own company,  Complexica, focused on the application of Artificial Intelligence to help organizations capture both profit and productivity gains. The application of his technology can change the game for those in B2B selling, especially where there are huge amount of data that can be analyzed. Matt and his team of AI “lifers” have worked in the area of Artificial Intelligence for more than 20 years, written dozens of books on the topic, and Complexica is their 3rd AI company (with their previous being acquired by Schneider Electric in 2012).

Complexica’s core product – an AI-based software robot called “Larry, the Digital Analyst” – has been specifically designed to make sales people more productive. How? By using advanced AI to automatically capture and analyze countless data sets (both internal and external), to determine:

  • The most promising customers and prospective customers to visit (where the wallet share potential is the greatest)
  • Value-adding insights that can be shared with the specific customer or prospective customer (such as “businesses just like yours are doing/buying/selling xyz at the moment” or “this is what’s selling well in your area” and so on)
  • The exact offer to be made to each customer or prospective customer (based on analysis of similar customers and transactions)
  • The exact price (again, based on analysis of similar customers and transactions)

Where IBM's Watson is currently focused on medical diagnosis (after winning Jeopardy against the best people on the planet), Complexica began life with a different approach.

Matt explains that Complexica's Larryhas been designed from the very beginning to enhance the value that sales people provide their customers while dramatically improving their efficiency. “We observed that huge productivity gains could be achieved if we could just tell sales reps where the most promising opportunities are, arm them with research and value-adding insights for each visit, and suggest the best combination of products, services, and price for each sales conversation. If we provided this information automatically and simultaneously to hundreds of in-field reps and telesales operators, they would immediately become more productivity and their yield would increase, because they would be targeting better opportunities, with the right products at the right price. From that initial observation, the idea of building an AI-based software robot was born, so we could automate all the complex data analysis to provide right the insight, to the right person, at the right time, without any of the complexity for the end user. That was the moment Larry, the Digital Analyst was conceived.”

Matt Michalewicz is a global leader in AI and the video interview with Sky News makes for fascinating viewing (Click this or the image below to view)

While technology and automation can destroy jobs it can also enhance sales careers and the value being provided to customers. Those sellers who embrace technology to create the necessary value to fund them in their roles will be the ones who prosper.

Matt Michalewicz is co-founder and Managing Director of Complexica.  

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Sean Davis

Leadership: The Power Of Believing In Someone

My dad passed away on Christmas Eve two years ago. He was a committed atheist who taught me the power of belief.

Every word from your lips has the power to build or destroy. Your words can be precious gifts that help change lives because behind their façade of confidence is usually someone secretly feeling that they’re an impostor. Inside the shy or reserved is often someone great who just needs a little encouragement to break-out.

My parents divorced when I was age 9 and Dad moved interstate. He was a workaholic and not around very much so I really only got to know him well in my late teens when I moved to live near him. I then joined him in business and wow, what a ride. Dad was Mensa level genius, bipolar (manic-depressive) and an alcoholic... what a combination. He had a break-down and was hospitalized, and I was thrown in the deep-end to manage the business. My dad was difficult to work with, to say the least, and I was young and judgmental.

But months later, over dinner with just him and me – I asked him to tell me his life story. Judgment gave way to compassion and I started to become aware of the greatest gift we can give to another person... believing in them.

Dad had an unconventional childhood where he lived with various foster parents, estranged relatives, in convents and boarding schools. By the age of 12 he had lived in 16 different places. This was because his fatherwas an Air Force officer during World War II and raised him as a single parent. His mother, Winifred, incredibly beautiful, suffered from postnatal depression and was subjected to electroshock treatment – she descended into severe mental illness and, as was the custom of the day, was institutionalized and never spoken of. Dad only discovered that his real mother existed when he obtained a birth certificate as part of applying for his driver’s license at age 22. He was told that she had died giving birth to him – but this was not true and I was there when he finally met her for the first time, shortly before she died in her eighties.

From birth through to joining the Australian Air Force in 1952, Dad’s childhood was as far removed from normal as one could imagine. He had no real sense of belonging or being loved. To compound his childhood problem of being relentlessly moved from situation to situation, Dad suffered from a severe speech impediment – chronic stuttering. He was always the loner, the outsider, and the target of bullying and sexual abuse.

I asked Dad how in the world he had managed to survive and why he wasn’t a bitter person (Dad was a pacifist and never sought revenge). He answered by telling me about Ms. Beatrice Ternan, a speech therapist, who had the biggest positive impact on him as a child. His stuttering affliction was debilitating and he was sent to Ms. Ternan several times a week for speech therapy exercises. Once she got to know Dad, she let him sit and read, no speech exercises. She would quietly do paperwork and then take him to her home for biscuits and lemonade where he was then collected by his father. She told him that his stuttering was something that would simply pass and she showed him a kindness that he had never experienced. She gave my Dad the gift of believing in him. Beatrice also taught Dad two principles that stayed with him for life:

“To be interesting you must be interested. Give your time generously to others and you will be rewarded many fold.”

As my Dad and I hugged that night he whispered into my ear: “Son, all you need to make it in life is someone who’ll believe in you.” He was that person for me and I became that person for him.

As you embark on your journey in 2016, think also about giving something to others that can change their lives – the gift of believing in them; the gift of encouragement; the gift of speaking positively into their future. There are people in your life that need you to believe in them– your children, your partner, your employees... even your boss.

Bindi Irwin lost her dad when she was young but Steve's belief in her continues to this day beyond the grave. Terri, her Mother, has done an incredible job in raising her children without Steve and keeping them grounded in reality and purpose (environmentalism) rather than destroyed by the lure of narcissistic celebrity. Bindi recently won America's Dancing With The Stars. These two clips say it all.

For those in sales, notice how dancing masterfully is all about telling a story and transferring emotion. Singing, selling, leading in any way requires the same ability and, like Bindi and Derek, with authentic belief in what you're doing.

Here’s the biggest thing I’ve learned about leadership: ‘It all about you but it’s not about you.’ Leadership is an inside job where you believe in others and become the person worthy of serving them.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by: Getty Images: Steve and Bindi Irwin

Lead and Sell By Getting Out Of The Way!

The Human condition can drive us toward success or failure. As legendary Aussie rocker Crissy Amphlett once said: "There's a fine line between pleasure and pain" and also success and catastrophe. We need ambition and self-confidence to propel us yet our passion must be for the cause and people we serve. We need real belief in the value we offer as we seek to convert others to our view of the world and it needs to be all about creating value for them rather than extracting something for us. But this is an unnatural approach.

We're wired to talk about ourselves, what we do and how we do it. We must instead lead with why a conversation matters by talking about the results can we help them deliver and the risks we can help them manage.

The above statement is what is at the heart of modernizing leadership and professional selling. We must lead with insight rather than a pitch; we must make it about them rather than us. Our approach must be dosed with humility and genuine interest in others if we are to gain traction and make a difference. Why should they invest time in meeting us to reading our material? Are we clear about the insights we provide and the value we create? Don't even think about going to market with your sales and marketing teams until you have compelling answers to these questions.

All great musicians know that 'less is more'. Too much clutter results in the important being lost amidst all the noise. Those who perform masterfully on stage or in the boardroom know that genuine belief in what they do is the foundation of their success. And this sincere passion has a wonderful byproduct... it is how we find purpose and meaning is what we do.

Building trust and creating value is at the heart of professional selling. But no-one is motivated by our promises or pitch and information does not inspire or differentiate. Facts and data do not equate to insight. The art of selling is in helping people have an epiphany that you personally – before your company, product, service or solution – are what they need. People have always bought from those they like and trust, but success for sales people requires one more ingredient today – value through insight.

Telling is not selling. This is because people are best motivated by reasons that they themselves discover

The very best sales people are not warriors of persuasion, but rather engineers of value. They are naturally curious and obsessively focused on the customer’s world. I used to wrongly believe that the best sales people were the ones selling ‘unique’ solutions… how wrong I was! The best sales people are actually those selling commodities; because the only way they can effectively differentiate is in the way they sell.

Here’s a revelation that will change you sales career – everything is a commodity in the eyes of the buyer; except you and the way you engage your customer. The way we sell is more important than what we sell. You personally are the solution and your insights come from being fascinated and consumed by your customer's probems and opportunities . Think like you’re an extension of your customer’s organization and talk the language of leadership: delivering outcomes and managing risk.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Ricardo Shuck Follow Laundry time

Lack Of Emotion Kills Sales. Why Facts Paralyse

Anthony Robbins teaches that selling is about changing someone's emotional state. I agree and add that selling is first and foremost about the transference of belief. Another sales legend, Zig Zigar, passed away in 2012 and he taught me that logic and facts makes people think but emotion is what makes them act.

Professional selling can be compared with being a musician... endless personal rejection requiring a deep well of determination and you have to give your all to be successful... no holding back! At the heart of success is an authentic passion for making a positive difference in how we communicate and make a positive difference in the lives of our customers.

Passionate belief is the foundation on which success is built for entrepreneurs, sales people and those in the performing arts

We've all seen it on American Idol or Australia's Got Talent or The Voice – Keith Urban telling the contestant that they "didn't really sell it" or Simon Cowell on X Factor saying: "I didn't believe you." The greatest songs take us somewhere emotionally because they tell a story of love, tragedy, redemption... they reach in and tear our hearts out or lift us to heaven with happiness.

Johnny Cash is an amazing example of being authentic and he learned his lesson about being authentic during his first and only record company audition. He was performing gospel music but didn't really believe in the lyrics he was singing. It was disingenuous and the record company executive challenged him to sing about what he really believed. The darkness that tempered his belief in God was one the reasons that Johnny Cash dressed in black. This scene starring Joaquin Phoenix portrays exactly what happened. Watch the transformation...

We don't need to be all 'sunshine and light' to cause people to act. Numbers and facts are important for supporting a decision and building a business case but too much information simply causes the person say 'let me think about it'. The music video below has had >65,000,000 views and presents important facts in a way that evokes emotion. Watch this and shed a tear... another performance will lift your spirits at the end of this post.

Emotion has far more impact than 'production values' in any performance. Passion takes you further than mere professionalism. Yes, you've got to be able entertain and sing pitch-perfect... but that's just the ticket to the dance concert. It's ability to tell powerful true stories and transfer emotion that creates Grammy winners and sales legends.

You've got to believe in yourself, especially when others don't. Don't let the song inside you go unsung or as Wayne Dyer profoundly puts it: "Don't die with your music still inside of you." Stop telling and start selling what you passionately believe. Show it and dare to wear your heart on your sleeve!

As you put emotion into your message be sure to lead with why your audience should care. Have purpose in what you do by Leading with insight, building relationships of trust and creating real value

We must stop leading with who we are, what we do and how we do it and instead "lead with why". Simon Sinek masterfully communicates the importance of this, even with bad sound equipment. 

Why should someone meet with you? What do you believe and why should it be important to them?  What's the difference you you can make in their life or business?

Pharrell is another performer who gets the concept of building in a unique differentiator and it won him a Grammy in 2015. His productions with N.E.R.D. cemented his prowess as a producer blending rock, funk and hip hop. He didn't sound like anybody else that came before: the hybrid synergy created an 'original' sound. Differentiating your product and service in sales is paramount. You can differentiate your own selling style by pulling from old school and new school approaches.

Pharrell understands the Ogilvy "one-word" brand equity. Just check out his signature hat by Los Angeles hat designer Nick Fouquet. The hat has become an icon as has his sound. Some sales people I know wear a pocket square or rock a theme color for their company. I'm not suggesting a gimmick but if it's an authentic point of flair it may make sense. In no case am I the arbiter of business fashion but I can equate his hat to something that makes you say: 'wow, how cool'! What part of your solution, product or service stands out from the crowd? How can you work to uniquely differentiate yourself in the marketplace?

The last piece that makes Pharrell a master salesperson and performer is his ability to be a super networker. He is one of the most connected men in the entire music industry. His productions were in such hot demand because he helped pioneer a new technology called Reason by PropellerHead software that made tapestries of sound against canvases and mash-ups all digitally emulating analogue capabilities. He pushed the software to the limit and everyone wanted one of his tracks as a backdrop. You need to become a super networker in your industry, test out cutting edge software for B2B lead generation, trigger event tracking, drip campaigns and marketing automation and push the envelope as a B2B content marketer with LinkedIn Publisher. Think to yourself: What would Pharrell do here? How might he innovate?

Now it's your turn: What's your song inside? What metaphorical music is dying to get out? What other parallels do you see between music and selling?  How do you embrace positive emotion to cause others to act?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Dima Doskoch - Souls reflection (Autoportrait)

Nine Conversations For Sales Leaders

I first met Bernadette McClelland online as a result of the LinkedIn experiment I was undergoing by posting a blog a day for 90 days. We had a couple of conversations and she followed up by sending me a copy of Seth Godin’s book ‘What To Do When It’s Your Turn’.  That engagement resulted in us being part of a collaborative effort to elevate the profession of selling here in Australia through the formation of the Sales Masterminds Australasia with John Smibert.

Shortly afterwards I read Bernadette’s published book, ’The Art of Commercial Conversations - When It’s Your Turn To Make A Difference’ and what struck me is that it addresses nine (9) commercial conversations that all salespeople, business owners and sales leaders must have, not just with their customers, but also with themselves.

Her book is based on the innovative and trailblazing ‘Conscious Selling Model’ - a model that has been designed based on us now being in the Connection Economy and we know we are all deserving of a new discussion that helps us better adapt and align. 

Her model highlights three areas of leadership needed today for all salespeople - Personal Leadership and the approach to market salespeople need to take, Thought Leadership and the focus of commercial conversations and Sales Leadership which peels back the layers on what a salesperson’s intention must be to become a cutting edge modern day seller.

What I thought was extremely beneficial for my readers was the following ‘Manifesto for Conscious Sellers’ based on her nine commercial conversations.

  • CONVICTION - The Art of Rebellion - It’s more than loving what we do. It’s having the courage to be seen, to rebel, to take our turn, to change our rules, to step outside our fears and love what we bring to the table.
  • CONNECT - The Art of Mindfulness - It’s more than kumbaya and yogis. It’s the opportunity to centre ourselves in a busy and noisy world so we can stand grounded and confident and be present to our buyer.
  • CONTACT - The Art of Social - It’s more than a playground where we go to play. It’s the auditorium where we have the opportunity to team up, play our hearts out and be seen by those who will pay to see us.
  • CONTENT - The Art of Story - It’s more than features, advantages and benefits. It’s the ability to tell a story that captivates, and spread that story to the world through messages that create value.
  • CONSULT - The Art of Tension - It’s more than asking questions. It’s creating a space to get personal, to be bold, to push the boundaries for all the right reasons and to create change in our clients’ worlds.
  • CONTEXT - The Art of Meaning - It’s not about what you think it’s about. Its essence is in interpretation, variation, listening for understanding and being prepared to get it wrong.
  • CONTRACT - The Art of The Ask - It’s not about closing the deal. It’s about learning to say yes and learning to say no, and understanding the magic that happens in between.
  • CONSPIRE - The Art of Collaboration - It’s not about keeping in touch, customer service or moments of truth. It’s about working together, joint ventures and collaboration.
  • CONTRIBUTE - The Art of The Start - It’s not about the money or the profits or shareholders. It’s about the meaning and the purpose and the stakeholders.

To finish up, Bernadette also adds by asking this question: 

'How Relevant Are You?

Just like anything in nature, if something is not growing and contributing, then it is dying. Business is no different. Business is a living organism and anyone who thinks differently will die the death of a thousand extinct sellers. Just like Willy Loman in ‘Death of a Salesman’, if you aren’t making change happen, developing personally, or being self motivated, people won’t believe in you. It’s not as simple as Willy thought, “about being likeable through fakery, looking good, charming people and cracking jokes.” People know when you are faking it. People buy people. If you’re not for real, they won’t buy you. People want the real deal and the human element.'

Today, it’s all about measuring your relevance in the market through ideas you have for your customer’s growth, in addition to the level of connection you have with your buyers. But more than that, it’s about contribution - to your customers and for your customers, and the five word formula found in the intention of one simple question, ‘How Can I Help You?’

Bernadette McClelland leads the conversation around Conscious Selling. She successfully works with SMB’s and sales teams around the world to help them differentiate themselves when they don’t know how or when they’re not making their numbers and they don’t know why. You can visit her website here  orpurchase a copy of her book here.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by: Bernadette McClelland

Warrior of Persuasion or Engineer of Value?

The world of sales is tough and seems to be getting tougher.  I recently had a conversation with John Smibert, the most influential person in professional selling in Australia, concerning the emerging challenges facing B2B sellers in 2016 and I provide recommendations on how we need to respond in order to succeed.

The global economy will continue to be flat for years to come and the lack of economic confidence, combined with significant changes in the way buyers execute their procurement research and vendor engagement, means that sellers must continually adapt the way they sell. 

Warriors of Persuasion must learn to become Engineers of Value.

The challenges we face in 2016 and beyond include the fact that the customer are becoming more risk adverse - they are applying committee based decision-making to achieve consensus. Average deal sizes are also getting smaller which means sellers must figure out how drive greater efficiency to achieve sales quota. Other factors include the need for sales and marketing to come together to create superb 'buyer experience' mapped against the buyer's journey with fewer sales people and better uses of technology.

Watch or read the full interview below. This will be of value to the CEO, CFO, CSO, CMO, sales leaders and their teams in order to build and execute their sales and revenue strategy.

Interview Transcript

John: Tony, it’s early in the year of 2016 - you've talked a lot about challenges through 2015, and how the B2B sales world is changing and there’s more and more challenges. What do you see as the key challenges we’re going to face in the next 12 months?

Tony: Well, I think economically the economy, the Western world economy is going to be pretty tough for the next few years, maybe as long as five to seven years. I don’t think there’s going to be a big recession or anything, but I just think every purchasing decision inside an organisation is going to get scrutinised.

John: It’s just limping along, the economy, isn’t it?

Tony: It is. When you combine that with some other trends that are just remaining with us, buyers tend to be very risk-averse and sceptical of the claims made by sellers. Increasingly inside organisations they’re also looking for consensus, and the reality is there’s more than five people or five buying groups in big organisations involved in every decision.

John: Well, The Challenger Sale research indicates 5.4 is the average, right, in medium to large corporates.

Tony: Yes, it’s true. And it’s not 5.4 people, it’s 5.4 committees or bunches of people with competing agendas. And increasingly what happens is that the old model of selling, where you track down those individual buyer personas and craft and tailor your message to them, so that when they all sit around that boardroom table at a later date, they go “Yes, we know this supplier, we’re comfortable – let’s go ahead.” That’s not the case today. They may know us, but they can’t reach agreement internally, they can’t achieve consensus internally, they don’t want to cross-fund each other’s initiatives with who’s deriving the greatest benefits.

John: That’s the key message coming out of The Challenger Customer book that I’ve just read.

Tony: Exactly, which actually is a really brilliant book. Consensus based decision-making, distrust of ROI, all of those things are making it incredibly difficult to sell. The thing we need to do is we need to modernise our whole approach and get focused on leading with insight and value. People have known this for ages, but we need to make it a reality for salespeople so that they can help customers focus on outcomes and managing risk as the way of differentiating in how they sell.

John:  And from my understanding, we need to get very good at helping organisations make a decision by working with them in a collaborative way and understanding how those decisions are made inside organisations.

Tony:  Yes, it’s true.

John: Dealing with the right people that are going to make it happen internally.

Tony:  Correct. Well - in Corporate Executive Board Challenger speak - it’s look for the mobiliser, look for the change agent inside the buyer organisation, but help them build a compelling business case that can achieve consensus within the group internally. It’s not so much about being a warrior of persuasion in selling, we need to be engineers of value and do the engineering and partnership with the customer.

John: So, you see that as a key change in the way we approach the B2B business of selling in the next 12 months.

Tony: Yes. And in many, many instances we’re just going to have to get over the fact that average deal sizes are going to be smaller, and that we need to invest in longer-term relationships with our customers, that those revenues will come over the medium and long term; we’re not going to get huge revenue hits upfront with people anymore. That’s part of how the delivery of cloud software is changing things as well.

John: Yes, I understand that, and I think that’s going to apply not just in software but in lots of different industries.

Tony: Yes. And the last thing is we need to get good at creating customer experience that supports buyer journey, so sales and marketing need to finally, finally come together and start to think about that. I think there’ll be fewer field salespeople, but there’ll be lots of different sales roles inside organisations, as we make sure that we map how the buyer is evaluating and going to market and looking.

John: So, the alliance or collaboration or whatever you call it between sales and marketing is going to become more and more critical is what you’re saying, around that buyer journey.

Tony: Very much so, yes.

John:  Okay. Good advice. It’s going to be interesting for a lot of people out there, to work out how they change their strategy and adapt to be able to work in that environment. I look forward to learning more from you as we all go through that process.

Tony: Thanks, John!

John:  Thanks, Tony!

This article appears here within one of the planet's top 50 blogs on sales and marketing and the only top 50 blog within LinkedIn. Thanks John Smibert for the video interview and transcript which can also be found on on the Strategic Selling Group website where he interviews sales thought leaders from around the world. 

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Hans Splinter - Viking