I’d Rather Be The Lioness (The Lion V. Gazelle Redux)

The anecdote of the Lion and Gazelle has been published (http://bit.ly/1hV6plmnd) enough throughout my career that as I transitioned so has my perspective of its value. I began to feel that it would be ill applied if I merged it, as is, into my sales life. If you currently work in the maze of cubicles and are seeking to advance as a sales professional, there are several areas that I recommend using the technique of the Lioness rather than the Lion:

 lionessstarersz

1) Prospecting: The Lioness is the primary hunter of each pride. She wakes early to identify prey, patrol the perimeter and ultimately provide a meal for all, including the lion that is rarely known to proactively hunt. Becoming a sales leader requires active hunting, recognizing that the opportunities to take part in spoils that you have not won are limited. There is the belief that working harder not smarter but breaking a sweat is a necessity, particularly in the beginning.

2) Territory/Competitor Awareness: A lion’s mane is used to dissuade potential predators or enemies from engaging by adding size to his appearance, I relate it to the established salesperson that has come to rely on the power of inbound calls and relationships to generate revenue, maintain the reputation of his sales prowess, and intimidate his competitors (internally and externally).  A professional life with little challenge can lead to a sense of complacency and an imaginary comfort zone.  Conversely, the lioness is often tested by competitors.  While she is a part of the same family as the King of The Jungle, she is not immediately given the grace of perceived power and therefore must always be alert to any potential threat to her territory. Without a mane as an initial repellant she must command respect based on the work and effort that she puts in continuously.

3) Peer Relationships: A Lioness can seamlessly assimilate into a new pride while the lion is often thought of as “rogue” or threatening when he is forced to strike out alone. You can be the lioness with the proven and quantifiable skill set that is easily marketed to a new company when it’s necessary to move forward, if you’ve done the right things. A solid reputation based on skill and finesse combined with the art of ingratiation will compel your new pride to embrace you, push your development and increase your potential for competitive balance.

4) Practice Management: She is naturally territorial of her young and has learned to enlist others in the nurturing of her cubs only when it is necessary or they have reached an age that she is sure they will continue to thrive. Your prospects and clients are your cubs. If you behave like the lioness you will keep a close and protective eye on them until they have reached a level of maturity (revenue, consistency, rapport) that requires less hand feeding and occasional steering.  When you have to turn them over or receive assistance with them it will only be from a colleague or manager that is as fiercely protective of their own business and who understands the need to maintain your den. A lioness knows that leaving her young (clients/prospects) too soon could lead to their demise. Behave like the lion–killing young (potential or growing business) or forcing relationships within the pride (colleagues or even the industry)–and you could find yourself in the crosshairs.

While there is strategic value to being the visible and beautifully coiffed Lion there is both tactical and strategic advantage to being the lioness that has perfected the craft of eating well and feeding others.  The nature of a workplace environment doesn’t tolerate the behaviors of lions well.  Work ethic, commitment, and strength are more likely to propel you than the simple demonstration of dominance, perhaps a testament to the longevity of the lioness in the wild in comparison to her male counterpart.

 

As a consultative sales partner and brand developer for businesses and individuals, Stephanie Bryant is noted for 100 closed referrals in 30 days, demonstrated talent for taking companies beyond lead generation to overall success through cold prospecting, identification and coaching of trainable sales talent and strategic business development. @madsaleswoman

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A Road Full of Potholes

Each day as I’m making the trek to and from work it ends on a road that is chock full of potholes thanks to the abuse it takes from the commercial trucks making the same journey.  It’s quite interesting to watch all of the 4 wheel vehicles jockeying to avoid the massive potholes that are often side by side, veering into the other lane or snaking along to avoid the risk of a necessary realignment or new tires.  Every now and then they will notice that a new divot has formed but it’s too late to swerve and so the tires sink into this hard bed of disaster…such is life!

That’s right, such is life in the professional world.  Careers are rarely paths of straight, perfectly paved asphalt.  More often they are bending, winding, and pothole filled with a few fender benders along the way.  The difference is how we navigate and the impact that we allow the potholes to have on our vehicle.

There was a movie called, “Why Did I Get Married?” that was fairly popular a few years ago.  The title gives the obvious impression of what you will see for two hours.  Another movie that could easily be made is “Why did I Take This Job?”.  There are few guarantees in life and I would put jobs and companies at the top ten on the low guarantee list.  I often hear and have experienced the feeling of professionals struggling with a career choice made.  Some linger on choice, consistently reflecting on their “mistake”, while I EXPECT it to happen to everyone at least once and think it’s necessary for growth.

A recent graduate questioned his decision to accept a position with one engineering firm over another.  His reasons were numerous and genuine, his quest was the magic feeling that this was a guaranteed “right” decision.  My question was, “how do you know that something is a sure thing?”   His response: “That’s my problem, I never feel ‘sure’.  Maybe he was looking for too much.  The Oprah Aha moment doesn’t come in every situation!  Just about every decision we make is based on a combination of what we know (research, etc.)  with a healthy dose of what we feel: intuition, emotion, gut feeling, an inkling…whatever you want to call it!  The facts that you know are based merely on the information that you have.  When it comes to career decisions, after you’ve read Glassdoor reviews, interviewed the employer, spoken to other employees (a rarity in today’s corporate climate), and weighed your options the finality is based on “your gut”.  You ask for assistance from friends and families and  they will give you advice but more often than not you’ll hear “what’s your gut telling you?” or “go with your gut!”  By the way, going with your gut is obviously popular since the phrase results in 186,000,000 Google results, at press time….just saying.

The decision to study one major over another during college is rarely based on the fact that this is what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life, it’s the fact that it’s something that interests you wrapped in the feeling that you want to do this.  How many of us are actually doing what we planned to do as 17-year-old high school graduates?  Even more interesting is how few of us stick with the major that we chose during our freshmen year….did we panic? For the most part, I would say no.  Our youthful energy and flexibility convinced us that change was okay and we didn’t have to have a sure thing.  Why is that so hard to accept with a career decision?

If you’re struggling with what you want to be when you grow up, BE COMFORTED, at some stage in the game most of us will (or are)–many times over.  We will evaluate and re-evaluate at different stages in our lives, based on our renewed needs and focus.  What works at 21 will not at 35 and again at 50.  Know this and in the meantime:  Take risks, Trust Your Gut, Make Decisions, and Don’t Look Back!  If things don’t pan out as perfectly as you planned…rinse, wash, repeat.

The Mad Journey #1: I Now Understand that People Leave People Not Companies (Pt.1)

I quit

Resigning isn’t an easy thing to do when you like your job.  While salespeople are often though of as easily bought for a dollar, it’s not true.  When you’ve built a strong book of business that recurs, have contacts and relationships in your industry and know that you have reliable commission coming your way because you’ve done the heavy lifting, walking away to something less “sure” is a tough thing to do.  Trust me, I did it!

I walked away from being the top dog.  You don’t go into sales without wanting to be number one or you can’t last, so giving it up when you get there is uncomfortable.  I left, certain only that I was going to have to develop a new book of business in a nearly 100% cold prospecting environment and work without the benefit of immediate commission on a longer sales cycle.  I had a Tina Turner moment, you can keep the money and the territory but I’m walking away with my name!  Crazy? Only if you don’t believe in yourself.

Before leaving I spent time reviewing the why’s, how’s and where’s of it all.  Sales is my career, it’s not a job so I had to be smart.  I reached out to experienced mentors whose opinions I trusted and I weighed their advice.  My long-term plan is to move into the realm of sales consultation and run a major firm but being fully self-employed at this time in my life doesn’t make sense so change had to be good for my current lifestyle and support my future mission.

Needless to say, I did what I needed to do and walked away knowing that I wasn’t running from something but to opportunity.  At least that’s how I kept it initially.  Notice that above I didn’t mention the word “who” in any of my review on why I was leaving.  At the time, it was relevant, not powerful, so I kept it out of my decision making  process.  Today, it’s relevant AND powerful.

Who you leave behind at a job is significant, yet often ignored.  I left a role that I was passionate about because I didn’t trust management with my career.  It had been clearly and repeatedly demonstrated to me that development, encouragement, stimulus and growth were at the bottom of the list of priorities for the people who wanted to be attached to my success.  What I could do for them was paramount.  This could be said for any company in a capitalistic society.  I’m sure some of you are reading and saying, “What’s she complaining about if she was getting paid?”  That could be seen as a reasonable response, if you weren’t speaking to a responsible career woman.   Let’s assume for the sake of this piece that you are.

Every day corporate executives renegotiate their salaries or leave companies to pursue the opportunities that allow them to expand their knowledge base and further their careers as well as make more money while salespeople or support team employees that do the same are thought of as money hungry, disloyal and sometimes irresponsible.

I view myself as the CEO of my career.  My office space within the company is my “practice” and my role is a “contractor”, even if I am   The terminology keeps me on task and helps me to treat my job like a small business so that I focus on driving my success and avoid the pitfalls of being an employee.  I worked for someone who underestimated the importance of this behavior and disregarded the value that I place on my responsibility within a company as mere egotism.

This particular manager, we’ll call him Marshall, had a poor perspective of salespeople.  His best idea was that we all should be non-commissioned, clock punchers and treated like telemarketers (while he purported to understand sales).  Overpaid divas with over inflated expectations, that’s what we were.  To the company’s credit they understood that you couldn’t remove commission structure from current salespeople but I’m sure that any hiring in the future by this “manager” would be under a bonus structure rather than a commission plan.  By nature Marshall was a tactical number cruncher yearning to be a strategic visionary so, of course, true creatives—a  natural trait of successful salespeople–were in his mind “Un’s”….unstructured, unruly and unproductive unless they kept their heads down all day and functioned like robo-dialers.

Long story short, I left him.  Spending months observing Marshall and his behaviors were enough to confirm that people do leave people. I broke this post into two parts to give you time to grab a drink, Marshall’s an interesting character, you’ll need one.