Author Archives: sparker-admin
It is with sadness and excitement that I write this final blog: Sadness because it is the last one I’ll publish, and excitement because I am entering a new phase in my own growth. Recovering from total knee replacement has left me a lot of time to think—I hope clearly, although I admit there are pain killers involved. I’ve looked at all I’ve learned and experienced since that life-changing day in 1978 when I decided to become a sales person. I’ve enjoyed a good income, satisfying work, and the knowledge that what I do helps others be successful in achieving their goals. Most importantly, though, I’ve been privileged to meet and work with exceptional people. How do I define exceptional?
Exceptional people are those who are curious, hungry for knowledge, and eager to make themselves better, whether it’s at their job, their hobby, their partnering and parenting skills or any other area where they choose to challenge themselves. They constantly strive to do better and to be better for themselves and the other people in their lives.
I’m not suggesting we give up time for leisure or reflection. It’s important to regularly have those quiet moments where we just sit and feel grateful for all we have in our lives. I am saying there is a big difference between those times of thankful stillness and just sitting still, giving up on our amazing abilities to grow and change and renew ourselves. There are people who believe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or that they’ve done enough, learned enough, and can now just rest on their laurels. The truth is in nature there is no rest. To stop moving forward is to begin the slide backward. To not use it is to lose it. Even in the middle of winter when the earth appears to be asleep, growth is constant just beneath the surface and its beautiful result bursts forth in the spring in green and blossom.
The last twelve years of teaching and consulting have been a glorious gift to me, a chance to do what I always wanted to do and to do it in my own way. The travel was wearing but the work was my passion and the people I met and worked with were a source of joy.
I’m starting a new chapter of my life now, one focused on family, travel purely for fun and exploration, music, and continuing lifelong learning. I won’t be publishing a newsletter any longer but I will keep my website up for another year. You all know how to reach me and I would love to hear from you any time. I wish you all health, joy, and the blessing of love in your lives. So here, as my sign-off, is a republishing of the last chapter of my book. Enjoy
Final thoughts from Selling with Soul:
“Every time you suppress some part of yourself or allow others to play you small, you are in essence ignoring the owner’s manual your creator gave you and destroying your design.” Oprah Winfrey
Every day is a new opportunity to live a life we are proud of, and to show by our choices what we value most. Old habits die hard. As important as taking care of our bodies by choosing nourishing food and exercising regularly is keeping our spiritual health on our agenda. If we aspire to “Bob’s Balance,” we need to remind ourselves to differentiate the important from the urgent. We need to practice the qualities of selling with soul shared in chapter one and throughout this book:
- Enjoying a balanced life
- Recognizing the importance of empathy
- Respecting yourself and your customer
- Practicing persistence and patience
- Listening to yourself and others with sensitivity and patience
- Avoiding rationalization
- Embracing change
- Being a lifelong learner
- Achieving philosophical alignment
We need to develop new habits and new rituals. Finding the ones that work for you is an essential part of living and selling with soul. Some of the rituals for daily renewal that work for me–when I work them– and that have helped others I know to be their best are offered here to get you started thinking of your own.
Daily prayer and meditation.
Reading inspirational texts.
Writing a gratitude list at the end of the day of five things you’re thankful for.
Writing a goal for each day or week and posting it on your mirror.
Taking five minutes each morning to think about what you most want to accomplish that day.
Writing in your day planner what is most important to you so you can do what matters most.
Making sure your goals include personal and family goals, not just business goals.
Finding some regular time to visit with, or to talk with, your spiritual mentor or coach.
Finding a support network of people who share your principles and values.
Practicing forgiveness of people who have hurt you or disappointed you.
Making amends to people you have hurt or disappointed.
Regularly asking for guidance when you face challenges and obstacles, whether you go inside yourself or to your God or to a Higher Power you trust.
Regularly giving thanks for all the blessings in your life.
As you take each step in your journey, I wish you all love and success and spiritual growth. May each day be a blessing.
Most people start the new year tired and a few pounds heavier than they were before the holidays. That fuels us to make resolutions to be better, to be healthier, to be more successful. For most of us resolutions disappear from our consciousness faster than a plate of cookies disappears from my kitchen. So are they even worth it? Probably not.
Resolutions are not the same as goals, however. Goals have some important qualities that can help us change our behaviors. They include a realistic timeline, action plan, and vision of what the results will bring. Most of us know the acronym S.M.A.R.T. for setting goals: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based. More important than these, however, is the vision. You need to have an honest answer to the question: why do I care? What will be different in your life if you achieve the goal? What will your life look like if you don’t? If there is no compelling vision of what you will gain, the status quo will look a lot more attractive than the pain of change.
This is the same process our customers go through when they look at our offerings. You may offer lots of attractive (to you) features and benefits, but if we don’t help them develop a vision, they don’t have a compelling reason to act. They need to be able to close their eyes and see their people using our stuff to make life better if they are going to give up the status quo and the comfort of the familiar for a painful transition to something new.
Next, you have to keep the goal in front of you. Review it every day. Keep it front-of-mind. Pay attention.
Finally, sharing your goal with someone you trust can help you be more committed and can increase your odds for success.
It’s a lot of work. Is it worth it? Research has proven that people with goals are consistently happier than people without them—even if they don’t achieve them. Why? Perhaps it’s that the human heart needs hope and aspirations. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that working our goals, unlike making resolutions, can make us better people living happier lives.
Wishing you happiness, health, and success in 2016.
The year is ending. The days are short. The world feels cold. Our hearts ache from the news that bombards us: terrorist attacks, starving refugees, hate crimes and random shootings. All around us we see violence fed by hate and bitterness. How do we hold on to our beliefs? How do we maintain hope?
The answers to our suffering are not found in the speeches of politicians. The peace we crave is not found in shopping for the best gifts at the lowest prices. There is only one known antidote to hate, and that is love.
At the base of every religion is love; love for a higher power and love for our human family. More unites us than separates us. The Christmas season is called the season of love. Hannukah is the festival of light and celebration of miracles. Muslims revere Mary and Jesus just as Christians do. We need to remember that Jihadists are to true Muslims what the KKK is to Christianity: a forsaking of the principles of love and peace and a glorification of hatred.
Yes, I know I’m preaching. And what does this have to do with selling anyway? Selling that is based on principles of honesty and respect for both parties is what I teach and I believe that when we are our best selves on the job we have an effect on everyone we touch. Like a small candle, we light the corners where we work and live and with our actions, we lift the darkness that is fed by stereotypes and distrust and hatred. So this season no matter how tired you may be, no matter how bleak the world looks, remember that you are a light. You can make a difference. Every time you practice honesty, kindness, compassion you make it easier for someone else to do the same. Your example matters. You matter. We all do.
How do you stay motivated?
We all know there is only one way to reach a goal: actionable steps and a persistent effort that move us forward.
But the road to our goals is never easy, darn it. If it was we would all be fit and rich and happy. Like many of the actual roads here in Oregon, there are ups and downs and potholes and detours and unforeseen obstacles. How do we keep from just giving up and settling where we are?
Here are several suggestions to consider and I hope one or more of them prove useful to you:
Keep the GOAL in sight and make it specific. Write it down and post it in a place you see everyday or make it into a mantra that you repeat every morning. The goal must be something you can visualize and, even more importantly, something you can see benefit from. If you can’t answer the questions of WHY you want to achieve this goal, the chances are poor that you will make the necessary effort. How will your life be better once you achieve it? What consequences will you face if you don’t achieve it? Fill out the whole picture and keep it close at hand.
Figure out HOW, or what steps you need to take to achieve your goal, and schedule them, but recognize there will be days when you push those steps off and procrastinate. When that lethargy sets in, ask yourself this key question: “What is the smallest step I can take today that will maintain momentum?” For example, if you want to exercise regularly to keep your mind and body sharp, there will be days when you don’t want to do that and some days when it’s a big effort just to get dressed. None of us are “on” all the time. If you decide you can do just 5 minutes of stretching, do that. It may mean you want to continue and get your full workout in, or it may be all you really can do that day. Either way, you are moving forward.
How do you recommit after a setback? Say you lost a big sale you were counting on and now it feels like you will never make your quota. Give yourself a little time to feel sorry for yourself or angry that you were out-sold or disappointed not to be chosen by your customer, but then re-evaluate your action steps in light of this new development. What do you have to add or change to get back to a realistic shot at quota? Do you need to take a whole day just to prospect your customers for new business? Or to follow up on stalled proposals? Whatever it is you need to do, identify it, schedule it, and then it’s business as usual.
When we are walking on a road that has many hills and valleys it is tempting to see valleys as setbacks and to feel like giving up, even though the valleys are just part of the road and you are still moving forward. It is also tempting to reach the top of a hill and decide to settle, but if that hill is not your final goal, you must keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach it. Congratulate yourself on the climb, take a minute to enjoy the view, and move on to your goal and all the good things that will come with accomplishing it.
Wishing you the joy of achieving your goals,
Qualification is a continuum, not an event. Qualification is actually a series of milestones that, when each one is passed, an opportunity gets better and better qualified.
Frank Visgatis, CEO, CustomerCentric Selling
Were you taught to qualify an opportunity by asking traditional questions about budget, timing, and decision maker? Once you have a “qualified” opportunity, do you have trouble recognizing changes? Or even letting it go?
In CustomerCentric Selling® we teach qualifying an opportunity as an ongoing activity and at each stage of the buying process we look for behavioral indicators of whether we are truly in a position to win. Nothing is harder to face than investing 6 months or more in an opportunity only to lose in the end.
They milestones we use in the continuum are the same ones we teach you to help you manage your pipeline and they are based on our core concepts.
First, of course, is the goal. Is the customer willing to share it? Are they willing to help you understand the current situation and the cost of leaving it unchanged? Remember no goal, no prospect.
Are they willing to work with you on diagnosing the current situation in order to identify the costs involved? Human beings only change when they see considerably more benefit in changing than in remaining the same.
Are they willing to answer your vision/value questions? When you ask them your Event-Question-Player-Action questions to test whether your capabilities can make a difference, will they help you assess the value of those capabilities?
Will they introduce you to others, especially above the power line, to help you get different perspectives and goals? Will they discuss their buying process?
Remember the Project Timeline or Sequence of Events? Are they willing to sign up for that with you in order to make sure nothing gets missed along the way to a successful implementation?
Remember, at any point your status may change. The best way to know that is to watch their behavior. Are you still preferred? Or are you being outsold? You always have the option to walk away rather than beating your head against a customer’s door hoping they will reward your persistence. They won’t . Thy will make the best business decision they can. And at the end, wouldn’t you rather win than be relieved that you lost and the pain has finally stopped?
My resolution this year, on top of the usual get fit and healthy, etc. is to practice my skill at listening. I’m using an acronym that I find helpful: W.A.I.T. This stands for “Why am I talking?”
If you feel compelled to talk when the customer stops speaking, ask yourself why. If you fail to comment on what was just said, what might happen? If you don’t speak, perhaps they will add additional information. If you take a note instead of commenting, perhaps they will see you as more serious and business-like than most sales people If you nod your head but say nothing, perhaps they will feel heard and acknowledged and you will have avoided the potential trap of “fixing” the customer or “should-ing” them about their concerns.
So often I find myself talking or commenting on what someone says because I think it will show my empathy for their situation. I sometimes even say something dumb like “I know just how you feel” No, I don’t. Unless we are in someone’s identical situation, we don’t know exactly how they feel. We can only guess, and we may miss the mark completely. Remember we are all different in our core personalities and styles even though we are all human beings wired to form preferences emotionally before we apply logic and to doubt statements thrown our way.
If I have a legitimate reason for talking, I know I will get better results from asking a question, either for clarification or to begin exploring possible ways to help the customer achieve their desired outcome (like EQPA or useage questions). Questions invite conversation. Filling in the silence with comments or stories about your own “similar” experiences may just result in the customer feeling you are minimizing their concerns or being insincere.
So I am sharing this W.A.I.T. acronym with you and hope you and I all become better listeners as a result of asking ourselves: Why Am I Talking?
Happy New Year to all! May yours be healthy, happy, and successful.
“There are only two ways of spreading light–to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
This is the season of light, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, or even hark back to the bonfires that marked winter solstice. This is the season we fill with sparkle and glitter, candles and strings of lights. This is the time when we think of family and friends whether near by or far away or, sadly, long departed.
In the middle of the winter, we stop and pause and reflect on the Light of Love. We share gifts and memories and look for opportunities to show others how much we appreciate them with words, gifts, or acts of kindness.
This year, remember that you are a light. Every time you do your business with ethics and integrity instead of the way “everyone else does it, “you are bringing light to a world too full of hustle and short-cuts. Every time you do what’s right instead of what’s easy, you are bringing light to others by your shining example. Every time you wipe off your worried, hurried, knitted brow and choose to smile, you are creating light in your face and the faces of others. You are the candle and others will mirror your attitude.
Being grateful for our many blessings is a fundamental start to living lives guided by love, but reflecting that gratitude and love outwardly in our words and deeds can truly make the world a better place. We can light our own little corner of work and family even if we can’t be players on the world stage. And that, truly, is a gift worth giving.
I wish you all health, happiness, and love this holiday season.
A recent blogger on My Fitness Pal wrote the following (excerpted):
When I was a young a Marine Corps Officer Candidate…the Master Sergeant would ask us one question about the rest of our day. “What are you going to do to make your life better today?” The Master Sergeant didn’t ask us what we did yesterday, or so far that day—that was the past and didn’t matter anymore. And he didn’t want us to make promises or predictions about distant days in the future, either. He cared about how we were going to use that day –today—to reach our goals.
I found the story to be a good reminder that we don’t change in huge leaps. We change in small steps, repeated daily or at least increasing in frequency until we overcome the inertia that binds us to our old patterns. Self-defeating thoughts keep us from our goals in many ways:
- They whisper in our ears that if we make one slip we might as well give up trying.
- They tell us it takes too long to do it the new way and we’re under so much pressure we’d better just do it the old way for now.
- They tell us we’re too old to change.
- They tell us we’ve tried before and failed so might as well not try.
Taking the approach of changing just for today is the antidote to self-defeatism. Programs like AA have demonstrated since the thirties that “one day at a time” works miracles. We can do anything for 24 hours unless we psyche ourselves out by moaning that we will have to do it every single day from now on and for the rest of our lives and thereby invite inertia to once again pin us to the mat.
So ask yourself:
- Just for today can you make three prospecting calls before noon?
- Just for today can you ask a customer for a referral?
- Just for today can you re-examine your diagnosis questions to see if you can make them more about the customer and not whether there is a big opportunity?
- Just for today can you refine your favorite statements about your products and services and see if you can turn them into questions that stress how they are used and paint a picture in the customer’s mind?
Change is hard, but rewarding, and it is the only thing that gets us to the satisfaction of achieving our goals. So as this wise blogger also said in his post, “Have the courage to aim low, but often.”
One of my favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama is this one:
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
Many of us don’t do the little things that make a difference in how our customers regard us. Things like sending a follow-up that actually summarizes a conversation. Or taking notes in a call and asking clarifying questions to make sure you understood. Or remembering to listen attentively and to keep your mind from wandering. It’s these little grace notes that differentiate us from the average sales person’s trite tune.
Learning the basics skill set is crucial, of course, and a fundamental understanding of the buying cycle from the customer’s perspective is essential. But as in so many things in life, it’s the people who go one step beyond the expected who are most successful.
When you are reaching out for new business, making that one extra contact can be the effort that finally uncovers the opportunity as it rewards you in the prospect’s mind for persistence and follow-up. Checking your notes to make sure you and your customer are both clear on next steps and who is responsible for what by when instead of trusting your memory shows professionalism. Sending a written thank you for an order shows good manners. What other little things do you do or have you done in the past that you feel made a difference?
Remember that people buy from people and maintaining trust and respect between two people often is no more than paying attention to the little things. And like the mosquito that can keep you awake, anxious, and annoyed, failing to pay attention to the little things can drop you right back into the category of anxious, annoying salesman instead of a respected business professional.
Wishing you good selling!
Do your demos leave them convinced your capabilities are the ones they need?
Forget the old saw “demo first and last.” The guiding principle instead is “demo what they care about.”
If you’ve done a good job of discovering the goals and issues that are driving them to consider the pain of change, then you are prepared to do a convincing demo that leaves them certain that your capabilities are the ones they need to achieve their desired outcome. If you haven’t done a good job of discovery and are hoping the demo will create interest by shotgunning them with everything in your sales arsenal until their eyes light up, then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Once you have reached the second stage of buying and the requirements are well-identified, your job is to show that they can be met with your offering. The best way to do this is to follow a few well-proven steps.
1. Before beginning the demo, review the goals of the attendees and confirm that those are still primary. Write them on a whiteboard or flip chart so that at the end of the demo you can confirm that they saw the capabilities they believe will help them achieve their goal.
2. Stick to the point! Focus on the client’s goals and not the features you think are cool.
3. Ask confirming questions along the way such as, “Does this look like it fits your needs? With this capability do you think you can achieve your goals? etc.”
4. At the end of the demo, schedule the next step.
5 Follow up with a confirming letter including a summary of what they stated as their goals in the beginning, what you showed them, and how they said those capabilities would help.
Also, avoid doing a demo for just one person unless the company is so small that he/she is the decision maker and technical recommender also.
I hope these tips help you leave your demos with a feeling of confidence that you are, in fact, Column A and the preferred supplier. It’s very much like the EQPA (Event, Question, Person, Action) question format except that instead of painting a visual with words we are actually showing them the capability.
Good luck and good selling!