Come back later today to check out my newest blog post: The Authority of Passion.
There are so many ways that I want to end a business meeting and “we have AS GOOD A CHANCE as anybody” doesn’t fall into any of those ways. I make my living in a cold prospecting, hard targeting, get the meeting and push for the close kind of world. It isn’t easy. I have no complaints about being a saleswoman, those of you who have read my other posts know that I love the art of selling, but when you quantify the amount of time it can take to move a cold prospect to a purposeful meeting, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.
Chance for me loses its value become of its interchangeable relationship with luck and I can’t afford to stake my career on the traditional premise of being lucky. Thesaurus.com lists antonyms of chance as: designed, foreseeable, planned, and understood; this short list is the basis of Sales 101! Outside of the inherent traits, most salespeople learn from the beginning to plan, to design your path to success (your approach), to understand as much as possible about your client, target or industry and to forecast the potential outcomes so that you aren’t blindsided with too many unknowns. If you do all of those things, you won’t get left with a “hope” to get the business.
An owner of a firm that I once worked for didn’t like to hear a sales tale or prognostication based on “hope”. He would emphatically state that “hope are prayers unanswered”. It may seem harsh or even a bit cynical but when do you really want to rely on a stroke of good luck? If someone you loved had a pending surgery would you want the prognosis from the surgeon to include “well, if we’re lucky” or “we’ve got as good a chance?” I don’t! I want to hear honesty but I’d like his assessment to be done on the faith in his skill, previous outcomes from practice (planning) and the commitment that he’s going to make to achieve the desired outcome.
Unfortunately the expectation of luck is not a phenomenon. Lately, there has been an influx of tweets and statuses based on the virtue of luck. I find these quotes to be irresponsible when just sent to the masses! Most of the quotes that I’ve seen referencing luck ascribe it to working so hard that you position yourself for the opportunity; this is something that we have a responsibility to emphasize in our professional lives and personally yet there are many people who miss the true message behind the words. Luck is not a motivator nor is it an incentive, as a matter of fact if you have to rely on luck to get what you want you stop believing in the opportunity to be successful. Imagine being in an interview and having a benefit conversation that included, “if you’re lucky you may get a raise”. I’m sure that employer would experience more rejected offers than signed acceptance letters and the acceptance would be from the candidates of last resort, not the rock star.
By the same token, when you work for someone in a sales capacity or otherwise, they didn’t hire you for your ability to get lucky off of a gamble! The best employers want workers that can translate hard work to smart work. Who wants to hire the blind squirrel, happening upon a nut just enough to keep from starving through the winter when you could have the strategic hunter that goes out every day foraging for a better chance of eating well through the winter? Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ant is the equivocation of the person “hoping to get lucky” and the other “creating their path”. The belief in chance only gave the grasshopper false expectations of his outcomes while the ant’s actions offered assurance. Who doesn’t like a sure thing?
For those who put in the legwork, luck will rear its elusive little head from time to time and it will be that much more gratifying because you’ll know that you actually generated it–you will have an appreciation for the moment while the ones who rely on luck will have short-lived gratification as they wait for the next bout to circle around.
My favorite quote regarding chance, circumstance or luck just happens to come from the CEO of Starbucks (go figure):
I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see And pursuing that vision.–Howard Schultz
In tribute to someone who’s had the viral moment of a lifetime while making a little “side jack” (that’s cash for all of you non-sales professionals), I wanted to acknowledge a cool kid.
I’m a huge Jeopardy fan, I hate to miss it so at my house it’s a DVR staple. My teenagers and I watch it regularly with my son and I using pens as clickers and arguing over who the household champion is (I deduct points since he refuses to use the question format at times). This week saw the end of the Teen Tournament and one of my favorite Jeopardy moments, proving that the geeks shall inherit the earth:
You’ve likely seen the video a million times by now and read a few articles about how awesome Leonard’s bad ass moment was. My feeling when I read it was one of appreciation for a few reasons.
1. Intelligence breeds a level of confidence that is often missed. Leopard played the game with his arms crossed in a very relaxed stance for most of the nights that he was on. Nevermind the audience, the revered and rumored caustic host, Alex, or the possibility that he could be the dumbest of the smart people in that situation! You view the geek as the awkward kid in the hallways but he views himself as the one that’s smarter than the bullies; capable of acts that many people are uncomfortable with, from standing in front of a panel of adults in a judged competition (spelling bee alumni raise your hands) to arguing the pro’s and con’s of political viewpoints that may not have impacted him yet (I smile when I remember how seriously my high school debate partner, Holly and I regarded ourselves back then. It spoke volumes for our future potential–although we were far from geeks).
2. You can’t lose what you don’t have. No one understands this more than teenagers. That moment when they seem so blase (Leonard risking a cool $18K and even more, the chance at $75K), is actually an acknowledgement that they may not have truly lost anything in that moment. If you put a teenager or the new graduate in a work environment they are willing to ask the questions or push the envelope that seasoned professionals won’t. To some, it shows a lack of couth or demonstrates a sense of entitlement but I remember this “no risk no reward” feeling. Don’t you? The money wasn’t in his pocket..yet, so what was he really risking except for opportunity. And in doing so, he followed another opportunity…the risk paid off.
3. Being YOU pays off. Leonard’s mother may have been a little perturbed when her son said he wanted to grow an afro. She may have had all of the image concerns that most parents have but she probably chose her battles and focused on how awesomely confident, independent and smart he is. My son has asked for a laundry list of things that have been outside of what I consider the norm…blue hair, ear gauges–yes the earlobe stretching things–and some extravagant purchases–a thousand different musical instruments, a trip to Japan, all in pursuit of who he is now. Who he KNOWS he is. I’ve said “no” to some of those things and “yes” to others. The gauges, no, since he has had engineering aspirations and my experience has taught me that it may not be the best trademark for that career field. The blue hair, maybe, although I’m not sure how that will look for a first chair cellist in the high school orchestra and the trip/instruments, yes. He continues to push and I’m okay with it. He knows who he is. I’ve tried to create the “cooleyhigh” look of sweater vests and bow ties for him while he’s more of a vans and t-shirt kind of guy, staunchly refusing my efforts to prep him up. I like that about him.
4. Success isn’t optional. Leonard’s demeanor when he wagered that large amount of money was one that said “I have no choice”. Commitment to the purpose and forward movement is all you have when you know that you’re an intelligent being with unlimited potential. Enough said.
Leonard Cooper wins the Limitless Award for the week!
Channel your inner Leonard and get moving. Sell Something. Pursue Your Mission. Change Careers. Whatever it is you want to do, is only a wager away.
A good friend and respected colleague contributed to my professional library by providing me with a book that I’ve come to value called, Linchpin: Are you Indispensable by Seth Godin. The book, in a nutshell, discusses the decisions you make, your future, your potential and how you make yourself relevant. That’s a really brief, almost vague nutshell that doesn’t do it justice so GO BUY IT! At the end of the day the book is only as valuable as its impact on each reader and this one had significant impact for me.
One of the major takeaways while reading it was that my Intellectual Property is the thing that makes me valuable everywhere that I go. I have gained more career opportunities and professional experience based on my differences from other potential hires than by how closely I match the job description posted. What great employers come to realize as I go through a hiring process is that my mind is my greatest asset. Once I’m hired if they’re smart they take advantage of it. If they are insecure they attempt to cage me in via micro management and other useless tools of the fearful leader.
Creativity in thought and action has been a major component to my success over the years. While other sales reps relied on high-priced degrees to show their value, I entered the work world without a piece of paper validating that I could read a book and pass a test but competed and frequently surpassed those who were institutionally educated. I don’t say that to argue the value of a degree, I’ll spout my feelings about that in another post, but rather to show that the thing that has made me a “player” is something that can’t be duplicated easily or sometimes at all. By the time a competing salesperson has “pulled my card”, I’ve moved on to another trick or I have so many cards in play simultaneously that I don’t have to worry about being directly replicated.
My Intellectual Property is the thing that galvanizes me when I feel unappreciated or have effectively outgrown my position. It gives me the confidence to efficiently review my successes and determine my value so that I can present it well to others and open new doors. In a recent experience, my IP proved to be the thing that kept an employer from showing me the door when I gave two weeks notice (a rare occurrence in a book of business oriented sales world). Asking me to stay through the two weeks was less about their love for me and proof positive that I was indispensable because of what I knew and even more significant hard to replace.
Ultimately Intellectual Property, if focused on and developed, can offer you a level of assuredness in a world that offers very little job security and shows even less appreciation for the person that can follow directions, manipulate a computer, and tow the corporate line. It should give you the feeling that you are “KING/QUEEN of the world” because it sets you apart. My recommendation, push yourself to the most painful points of honesty and growth so that you can walk into any situation confident that you are truly an individual because of what you can offer. For a person whose IP is acutely developed they can put someone in your chair but you can never be replaced.