There are 3 objections that must be overcome to get somebody to buy:

1. why buy anything
2. why buy from me
3. why buy now

Why buy anything?

The first objection is showing that not taking action is not a viable option. The problem must be made explicit and brought to the full attention of the man with the money.

Why buy from me?

So, pain is clear. I want a cure. Now, I need to know that you truly understand my situation and that your motives as a salesman are about helping me, not helping yourself to the commission.

Why buy now?

My MacBook Pro has been dying for the last 2 years. It has been getting slower and slower and ssssllllllooooowwwwweeeeerrrrr… In fact I need to watch someone else use my laptop to realize how truly clunky the machine has become. In all this time I have had many moments where I knew I needed to take action… But I didn’t. Until now. My battery has less than 10 minutes of autonomy. I bought a new MacBook Pro this week.

Why did I wait so long? It is normal. We don’t act until we have to. We will not buy until we have to. As a salesman I have seen this so many times. My potential client has a problem. We have a decent relationship. We have a proposal on the table. It looks good. But no signature. “After the summer”, “when everybody gets back”, “we have an urgent priority at the moment”…

It is only when the battery dies that I replace my slowly dying computer.

Painful problem + trust + urgency

What is your painful problem to solve?

Sales is not about describing your product, your process or your friends. It is about explaining to the buyer a problem that they have, and giving them a glimpse of a world where that problem has gone away.

What would it feel like to live in a world where that problem has gone away? What would it feel like to have your boss think you are a top performer? What would it feel like to have your kids proud of you? What would it feel like to see your body looking fit? What would it feel like to take your t-shirt off at the beach with pride?

What is your painful problem to solve?

By the way, you don’t get to talk to someone about their problem until you have a relationship of trust with that person. You can’t just dive in and say “we’ll make your pain go away!”. You have to begin a relationship of trust.

The best first step? Generosity. What can you give this person that they need? Often, it is your undivided, non-judgemental listening to what they have to say. Make them feel like they truly exist for you.

Everyone wants to be Bruce Lee, but few want to put in the 10,000 (or more) hours of practice and preparation.  It is only when the bar is held high that we can consistently put in the practice and push our skills to the highest levels.

What makes for an ‘A’ Player?

Resilience
Resilience

The simplest possible definition is “somebody you would enthusiastically re-hire”.  Imagine you got to re-hire your team each morning.  Who would be the first people chosen?  These are your “A players”.

What attracts “A” Players?  Two things – other “A” Players and a meaningful challenge.

How do you create a culture of “A” Players?  There is only one path: Zero tolerance of mediocrity.  At the end of this post I describe this leadership attitude.

I was inspired to put this post together by an article on “Learning from the Catalysts at Goldman Sachs”.

I speak in depth about leading A players in the past post “Leading Teams: The 5 Styles of Managing People

The 6 Characteristics of ‘A’ Players

  1. Positive AttitudeResilient; life gives us all blows… some keep moving, some get knocked down.  A players keep moving.
  2. Adaptable – Open to Change, Flexible; what was right yesterday may be wrong today, what worked well yesterday may be ineffective today.
  3. Reliable – write things down, get things done, relentless follow through, do what needs to be done
  4. Big Picture – they know where they and their team are going, they have a personal sense of why they are doing the work that they are doing; building skills not just for today, but for where they want to be tomorrow.
  5. Connected and Influential – Plays well with others, listens actively, open to being influenced and capable of shaping the perspectives and attitudes of others.
  6. Always Learning – reading books, attending seminars, open to culture

 

How to run your talent program like FC Barcelona

At a conference at IESE Business School in 2011, Geoff Smart spoke to the audience about how to source, select and attract top talent to your organization.  He asked “has anyone ever hired someone who looked great on paper, only to find out weeks or months later that it was a terrible decision?”  Many hands were raised in the air.

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, says that the very first step of leaders who create massive success in their businesses is “get the right people on the bus”…  and the corollary…  get the wrong people off the bus.

There are 4 parts to hiring well.

  1. Know clearly what you want the person to achieve. Go beyond vague descriptions of skills. eg. “Analytical Thought Process” develop further to “Distinguishes key facts from secondary factors; can follow a progressive thought process from idea to idea; makes sound observations.”
  2. Go to where the best people are. Where are the best people? They are not looking at job adverts.  They are not spending their weekend reading job websites.  They are passionate about their current role.  It is unlikely that those who are actively searching through non-personal channels are top performers.  The top performers are still doing well in their current jobs. How to find the best people? There is only one way: Network. If you want talent: ask who the best people are, get to industry events, meet people at conferences. Watch people in action, know them through their activity, read their books, their tweets, their Quora profiles, their blogs.
  3. Selecting the A players: focus on the past, not the future. Don’t ever ask “how would you solve the problem?”.  Ask “tell me about a time when you solved a similar problem?” Everyone can tell you a great story about what they would do.  The top performers are not smarter, don’t have better to-do list systems, better technology.  The differentiator is that they have found the way to overcome procrastination.  They actually do the things that they say they will do. Give them a present problem and ask them to solve it. See their creative thinking, not necessarily the solution. Look for performance, don’t ask for opinions.
  4. Selling the opportunity, building the culture. Selling the opportunity to an A player does not mean “be their friend”; it means sell them on the personal growth, the professional growth the opportunity to impact the world on a massive scale.  This is what great people want.  Not more friends. They want to be pushed and demanded and be allowed to change the world for the better. Jonathan Davis says that culture is hard to build and easy to destroy. Jonathan turned down a hiring contract recently with a big company.  He told the CEO “You cannot be client of ours.  I’ll tell you why. Your VP of sales is a !@#$%^!. He won’t waste an opportunity to tell you how awesome he is.  We can help you recruit a great employee, but he will leave.” It is the culture that you build that will really attract and keep the top talent.  If you create a great culture, you don’t need to pay employees to bring people in…  they will bring their ambitious, high performing friends in.  The online shoe retailer Zappos pay $2000 for people to leave.

Finding, Recruiting and Retaining Talent is Hard Work

How do you do this without any effort?  You don’t.  Good talent doesn’t just happen because you are showing up.  One of the hardest things in business life is removing a loyal but mediocre performer from your team.  There may be bonds of friendship, there may be many good shared experiences in the past, feelings of connection.  However, the continued presence of mediocrity in your team is a cancer that will eat away at your ability to achieve important goals.  One way to reduce the pain of having to let go of mediocre performers is to get very good at only hiring star performers into your team.

Leadership sometimes means Letting People Go

My father once told me that the greatest service you can do for an unhappy, under performing employee is to let them go – it frees them to search and find a place where they can contribute and find greater meaning.  They won’t thank you in the moment, but this is the service of a leader – it is not about giving – it is about serving; it is not about the easy answers, it is about the right answers.

Highly Demanding, with Love

How would you get Leo Messi to play for your football team?  It would help if you had 3 of the top 5 footballers in the world already on the team.  How do you attract the top talent to your team?  Build a culture of high performance around you.

This starts with a zero tolerance of mediocrity.

A participant on my course last year began his speech “I have often wondered whether it is better as a parent to be permissive or authoritarian.  Which is better?  At a conference a few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the world guru’s on child development.  I went up to him after his talk.  I congratulated him.  I asked him the question: ‘is it better for a parent to be permissive or authoritarian?’

The guru smiled and said ‘highly demanding with love’.”

It is the same as a leader – can you be highly demanding, with love.  Expect the best from those around you and they rise to the challenge.  Accept the worst, and they will coast in comfort.

Rory Sutherland tells some wonderful stories about the power of framing.  If you want to be persuasive, you must get good at framing the argument.  Good framing shifts the argument to a playing field where you can achieve your ends and the other can feel that they have gotten a good deal.

Prices are not expensive or inexpensive in abstract, only in relative terms.  If I say that “this watch costs €100” – I have allowed you to frame your perspective on expensive or cheap.  If I say “other watches in this very category sell for over €1,000; this watch costs €100” – I have started to provide my own framing for the situation.

Compared to what?

Rory talks about small shifts in framing have a powerful impact.  He gives the example from car sales that it is far better to give a rebate of €3000 on top of trade in valuation versus giving €3000 off the full purchase price.  The framing of a trade-in price of €7000 plus €3000 is much more impactful than offering €3000 reduction on the full price of €22,000.  It is the same €3000 in cash, but it is not the same €3000 from a psychological point of view.

This framing also works for selling expensive cars at plane and boat shows – context shifts way we see the price.  A €300,000 car seems expensive when seen in a showroom of €50,000 cars…  but it feels more reasonable when placed next to €1.2M boats or €6M private jets.

Here’s Rory’s talk at Zeitgeist:

I came across this paragraph in a blog post by sales professional Grant Cardone.

“No one buys a $57,000 watch to tell time. People buy things to solve problems. The cost of the item isn’t what matters. Once the buyer is able to see the problem the product solves, their decision becomes much easier to resolve. Get to the “why” and the sale will follow.” Grant Cardone (original article at Entrepreneur magazine)

How do you get someone to buy something that they do not need?

Cheap Casio Watch, Photo Credit: yeniceri via Compfight cc
Cheap Casio Watch, Photo Credit: yeniceri

Just as nobody really buys a $57,000 watch to solve the problem of “what time is it”, nobody does an expensive MBA just because they want to know more about business.  Nobody hires an expensive consultant just because they need to finish a simple project.  Nobody hires an expensive coach just because they need help with discipline.

Cheap watches tell the time.  Cheap MBAs teach you about business.  Cheap consultants can get projects finished.  Cheap coaches can help you with discipline.

A casio watch can be bought for €2.99.  It tells the time as well as the $57,000 watch.  Why are they different?  The casio watch has 8 functions.  The $57,000 watch tells the time, and the date.  The casio watch allows me to change the time.  The $57,000 watch requires a trained technician to move the clock forward an hour.

Why does someone pay the $56,997.01 difference (and get less functionality)?

There is something else we are buying when we buy.

“Bread and Water. Everything else is marketing.” Tony Anagor

I did an interview with Tony Anagor, one of the coaches who works with my Leadership Communications courses at IESE Business School.  Tony said “Bread and water.  Everything else is marketing.”

What did he mean?

Once I have food and shelter, I can survive.  I don’t need anything else to survive.  I want other things, but I don’t need them.

If I say “I need friends, I would die without my friends”: it is not literally true.  I want friends.  They make my life worth living.  They add to my life.  They are not needs in the way of food and shelter.  I wouldn’t value highly a lonely life, without friends.

If I say “I need an iPad.  All of my friends have an iPad.”: not true.  I really, really want an iPad.  However, the reason that I want it is the important thing for a salesman to find.  Why do I so need an iPad?

I want it because it might remove the anguish of feeling left out.  I want it because it might give me a sense of importance in having an “in-demand” item.  I want it because I like playing with new technology.  I want it because my friends are playing some online game and I am less connected because I am not involved.

Take a moment and think about the people you know well.  

Who is the most psychologically resilient of your friends or family?  

Who would cope the best with major setbacks?  

Who would be able to keep their heads while all about them are losing theirs?

Resilience, my own photo (that’s my thumb…)

Dealing with Failure: Resilience

I was at the FC Barcelona football game last night with 2 friends, Jordi & Andre.  Barca beat Getafe 4-0.  Leo Messi made his return from injury.  He played for 20 minutes, and scored 2 impressive goals.

My friend Andre was excited because he has just published a book.  It is available in spanish.

His book is called “He fracasado, y que?”  In english: “I have failed, so what?”  He writes about his life as an entrepreneur, his ups (big) and his downs (big) in the journey of the last 20 years building businesses.

Andre is resilient.  He remains himself, independent of the challenges of the moment.  I have known him as he sold a business for €7M and I have known him in the worst moments of watching servidores.com fall into bankruptcy.  He brings the same energy and discipline to each day, independent of the challenges of the day.  What is it that he does to allow this resilience?

Here’s a short list of Personal Habits of Resilient People, based on my personal experience of meeting many of them, interviewing them and writing about them:

Personal Habits of Resilient People

  1. Constantly Building Relationships – they care about others and how others are doing.  They listen deeply because they have a curiosity for learning about life in all its ways.  Victor Frankl spoke about this in “Man’s Search for Meaning” – living to serve others is a mission that allowed survival of Nazi concentration camps.
  2. Never Share Victim Stories – there are hero stories (I am responsible for the situation, I must change if I want the situation to change) and victim stories (“the traffic made me late”, “my boss won’t let me”, “nobody listens to me when I speak”).  I don’t hear many Victim Stories from resilient people.
  3. Forgive Themselves Quickly – they understand that the “me” of 2 years ago took the best decisions that the “me” of 2 years ago was capable of taking – I didn’t know then what I know now.
  4. Forgive Others Quickly – they understand that everyone is on a difficult journey of their own and face challenges that I am not aware of.  Often someone angry at me may have a sick parent, or a tough financial situation.
  5. Take Decisions Quickly – they don’t wait for perfect information. They take a decent decision with the information available and move on.  They understand that you can take another decision tomorrow – even reverse today’s decision if necessary.
  6. “Thank you” – to waiters, to investors, to toll-booth staff, to teachers, to cleaners…
  7. Reframe Constantly – They reflect upon their life and re-examine past experiences based upon today’s wisdom.  I find that my view of my childhood and 20s changes because I see frustrations, challenges and hard work differently now than I did when I was 25.  Back then I thought “I am gifted and I deserve success”, now I think “all meaningful work requires suffering”
  8. Forward Looking – the first instinct is to ask “what can we do now?” when faced with a setback, rather than “who’s fault is this?”
  9. 5 Pillars in Life – Pillars in life can be work, family, tennis, teaching, gardening, writing…  Resilient people have multiple deep interests.  They don’t live 100% for work or 100% for family.
  10. Separate “State” and “Person” – They understand that the state does not make the person – a state of bankruptcy is not a failed person – it is a momentary point on the journey.  Charles Barrington, the Irish climber who first summited the Eiger mountain in 1858 – was at the lowest point of the mountain at 3am and on the summit at midday – he was the same person at 3am and midday.  A resilient person understands that climbing mountains is not always uphill.

Read more on Resilience & Mental Strength

What else works for you?  What else do you see in the people who you would call “resilient” around you?

This, or a version of it, arrives a few times a week:

“Dear Conor
I need to talk to you. Can I have some time?
X”

By the way, its not from my girlfriend, or my daughter. They get a yes. My mum, dad, brothers, sister – they get a yes. However, generally these emails come from people that I am not deeply connected to.

Photo Credit: daveynin via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: daveynin via Compfight cc

What do I know from this email?

You don’t care about my time enough to set out an agenda, let me know how I can be prepared, help me with something that you know I want (its all on my blog!).

I think I can predict the success or failure of a startup based upon the quality of the “asking for a meeting” emails that the founders tend to write. This is entirely speculative and based upon zero empirical study, but a lot of emotional certainty.

What is a good email?

Do you have any examples?

What is your experience?  Are you successful in getting people to say yes to your requests via email?

If someone asked you, “What is your job?”, what would your response be?  Go ahead, take a minute to think about your answer.  I asked a similar question a few weeks ago in my post Become Indispensable: Solve Interesting Problems)

Professor Fred Kofman tells a story about a question that changed his outlook on this question.

Did you say that you’re a coach? Entrepreneur? Do you manage operations? Maybe CEO?  Well, as Fred points out, what you think is your job is not actually your job.

Your Job is Not Your Job

Here is Fred’s presentation:

How do you answer now?

Did Fred change your mind?  (Fred’s full presentation is available here on youtube)

How do you respond when a person says “Tell me about yourself?”

Photo Credit: just.Luc
“Tell me about yourself?”, Photo Credit: just.Luc

It might be called confidence, it might be called belief – do you let others see the best version of you, or do they see a dull, low-intensity, passionless version of yourself?

Why do we find it difficult to sell ourselves?

I spent the first 3 years of my entrepreneurial career selling insurance over the telephone in the spanish language. I picked up the phone 20 times each day and worked through my script. 3 years of this taught me 2 things: the spanish language, and zero fear of a “No”.

I got to practice hundreds of times how I present myself.  I got pretty instant feedback whether my way of presenting myself engaged the other person into a conversation, or got a quick hang up on the telephone.  Time and time again I learnt that “Hello, I’m Conor” was not a great start (to somebody who doesn’t know Conor).

At an Entrepreneurs’ Organisation retreat last month, the facilitator asked everybody to introduce themselves following a specific structure:

  1. What I want you to know about me is _________
  2. What I expect from these days is _________
  3. My biggest dream for myself is ________
  4. My name is ________

It made such a difference to the standard introductions.  The standard version that I hear day after day is something along the lines of: “My name is John…  from London.  I’m glad to be here.  I work as a lawyer.  Ahh…  I guess that’s it…   Oh yeah…  I am married.  We have 2 kids.  Yeah, that’s all.”

By the time John has finished, he has managed to bore himself about his own life.  He certainly won’t be someone I’d think of asking questions about life, business or his hobbies.

On my online course, Speaking as a Leader, the first big lesson is about how to answer the question “Tell me about yourself?”.  (You can sign up for the free course here).  You will hear this question hundreds of times.  Instead of John’s response, what would be the 100% version of your potential version?

What’s your answer to “Tell me about yourself?”

Global Entrepreneurship Week

It is Global Entrepreneurship Week on 18 November through 23 November.  There are events all over the world.  The overall organisation website is: www.unleashingideas.org. You can find out more following twitter hashtags #GEW, #GEWSpain, #IESEGEW.  There will be plenty of events in your city led by Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, The Kauffman Foundation and many more local entrepreneurship groups.  Get involved!

Here is a post inspired by the Global Entrepreneurship Week.  What questions must you ask of yourself and your idea before moving into execution?

The 12 Vital Questions for Any New Business

Are you an entrepreneur?  Are you a corporate leader?  Do you have an idea and have thought about turning it into a business?  Here is a list of 12 questions that you must answer (and why):

  1. Why do we exist? (purpose)
  2. What is our aspiration (vision)
  3. Exactly what problem will this solve? (value proposition)
  4. For whom do we solve that problem? (target segment)
  5. How big is the opportunity? (market size)
  6. What alternatives are out there? (competitive landscape)
  7. Why are we best suited to pursue this? (our differentiator)
  8. Why now? (market window)
  9. How will we get this solution to market? (go-to-market strategy)
  10. How will we measure success? (KPIs)
  11. What factors are critical to success? (CSFs)
  12. Can we succeed – is this viable and sustainable? (go or no-go)

This comes from Ramanathan’s answer to What should you do as an Entrepreneur if you have no background in business over at Quora.

Pitching Your Idea

As a bonus, once you’ve got those 12 answers cracked… you now need to be able to share the answers in a way that others can get excited, get involved and make it happen with you.  You need to pitch.

What is the best pitch:

“The best pitch decks don’t feel like they were created for the benefit of venture capitalists. They feel like an outgrowth of the work the startup is already doing.” Michael Wolfe

Pablo Villalba pitching Teambox
Pablo Villalba pitching Teambox

The best pitch decks portray:

  • This is what we are doing.
  • This is how we are going to do it.
  • We can do it better if we get some money in.
  • This thing is going to happen with or without you.
  • Are you in or are you out?

That comes from Michael Wolfe’s answer to What should be in a Pitch Deck also at Quora.

Further Reading