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:

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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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Stopping a Myth In It’s Tracks Pt. 1

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I remember working on a project for my son’s elementary school classroom with the thoughts of both assisting the teacher and being involved a bit more. As a working mother of two with a demanding career and entrepreneurial pursuits, I knew that I was taking on more than I could handle without muddling the project so I decided to engage other mothers for their assistance. Without a moment’s hesitation I pulled out the handy school manual (private school perk) with all of the children in each class, their parents, and contact information including email addresses, office and home numbers. After a long day of work, I sat down and did something that any successful sales executive would do, I began dialing.

One by one, I combed through the names of twenty-eight parents with the goal of reaching them or leaving a message before eight p.m. when it would be too invasive to call a home with school age kids. I also knew that many of the mothers were stay at home moms and if I left an introductory message that was succinct and well-crafted they would call me back. At the very least, I could make a call during the day time while their children were in school and get the task of roping in some volunteers completed. Since I was one of the few working moms in the classroom I wasn’t as well acquainted with the parents as they may have been with my son so I knew that it would require something well within my skill set: baseline cold calling techniques.

I had the names of the parents, their children’s names and enough due diligence to find a warm angle for an otherwise cold call in which I would be asking people to donate time and perhaps money so I began dialing. Within my goal time frame, I had spoken to about 40% of my list and left messages for the remaining 60%. Most parents were happy to speak with me or schedule a better time if I was running into their dinner hour, which I referenced as I introduced myself. A few parents were clear that they routinely donated time and money and were opting out this go round, so I thanked them and built enough rapport to ensure that we could catch up at the next event and certainly that any other calls would be welcome in the future.

Within two days of activating my plan, I had spoken to my entire list of families, made new acquaintances, and scored a pair of tickets to the Florida State vs. Miami (that’s another story). I did all of that and continue to experience career success today because I refuse to believe the annually perpetuated myth that “The cold call is dead”.

If you are a new salesperson, entrepreneur focused on growing your business or a salesperson that has experienced success but is now at a plateau, I would encourage you to reach out to me or a seasoned professional in your network, before you succumb to the irrational fear of or disbelief in the cold call. In the meantime, I will be writing several posts within this series and hope that you visit again as I stop the myth in its tracks by dissecting articles and methodologies.

More Than a Pretty Face

There are some serious misconceptions surrounding the world of sales and so as a part of the “Journal of a Mad Saleswoman” series, I figured I’d tackle them one by one, because while I have lots of things going on in my life, I’m appointing myself keeper of the “sales concepts” keys.  So here goes.

Being pretty, cute, stunning, beautiful, or any other synonym of externally attractive will never be the qualifier for great at your craft.  This may seem like a rant but I find it belittling, as a woman and a salesperson, when I hear people equate the business of selling successfully to the conceptual format and qualification of being Miss Universe (former beauty queens need not write in attempting to justify that beauty isn’t the standard for winning in those environments).  And, lest someone who knows me well calls me out, I’d like to say that this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy dressing for success, purchasing cosmetics and knowledge of the latest trends, however, I’ve NEVER associated my ability to clothe myself or be “well turned out” with my success as a salesperson.  As a matter of fact, I’ve had equal success with inside and outside sales or as I like to say “voice activated or manual”, often having zero face to face interaction with the intended buyer.

I thought the, “so funny”, “so pretty” you should go into sales thing was long over until I saw a tweet from an apparent 20-something stating that her beauty quotient was so high that she was considering a career in sales; the tweet was more like, OMG, I’m so pretty, I’m considering going into salesbut I thought I’d help with the intelligence part. My first thought, well you have enough misguided confidence to take the risk, so there’s that.  My second thought?  Do people really believe that’s what moves product these days?

In the sales world, originally door to door, since that was the means of mass communication, the sales force was identifiable by one word: salesmen. Ironically, while the buying population that these men were targeting were stay at home moms there was no expectation that “beef cake” was doing the promoting but that slick talking, quick-witted men who could handle the “woman of the house” and convince her to buy while the “Mr.” was at work would be the most viable candidate for the role.  So whether it was encyclopedias, pots and pans, or even Kirby vacuums, men dominated the sales work force far longer than many other “office based” fields.   The lopsided perspective of the sexes promoted the belief that an intellectually superior male could sell to a submissive house frau, never mind his appearance.

Based on the concept of male to female sales audience, I guess it’s not surprising that an attractive woman would have an easier time selling to a male buying population but the original saleswomen weren’t selling to men, they were selling to other women.  So, how did the shallow, pretty lil salesgirl mantra, become relevant?  My belief (it’s not a science but I think it makes sense), the original saleswomen were primarily hawking vanity commodities:  makeup and hair products.  Like most products, the best advertisement is from that of the end user so Madame C.J. Walker promoted the value of her pressing comb with the usage on her own coif, no different from Mary Kay Ash extolled the value of her beauty business with a full face.  Rather than the assumption being that women could sell ANY product regardless of look, the beauty product saleswoman became the perception of what all saleswomen in any industry should be.  Just imagine: the doorbell rings at 3pm and the man of the house happens to be home, meeting for the very first time, a saleswoman.  Once he gets past the surprise of a beauty biz rep, he walks away with the original imagery…pretty.  Years later as women began to break down the gender barriers and transition from the secretary role to apply for the Sales Assistant and then Account Executive position, the same man is the hiring authority with his fond memories of the successful, pretty, young, salesgirl, pitching cosmetics to his wife.  As a matter of fact, the “spokesmodel” role, which is more marketing than sales, developed from a hybrid of this position (Clarion Girl circa ’75).

No offense to Mary Kay Ash (kudos to the Queen of MLM and her selling legions) but things have changed.  Women are no longer (solely) selling gender-centric products with shallow intent and little skill.  The divisional MK rep with the Pink Caddy, has to work hard to leverage her sales prowess in a crowded market where cosmetics is easily accessible, women have other means of skin care education (including YouTube) and product prices are competitive and often less expensive.  Being pretty isn’t enough when you’re selling Analytical software to a Fortune 500 CFO or using general sales skills to obtain a job in an employer’s market.  I’m not saying that Angelina Jolie isn’t gaining attention for her position as an Ambassador based on her looks as much as it may be her celebrity but let’s face it, that’s not the norm.

While I don’t doubt that being an attractive, “barn burner” (I’m using my ’50s Sinatra lingo here) is helpful in nabbing a position it’s not the modern-day platform for the average American women that wants to rise through the ranks of the professional workplace, sales or otherwise, where being female is often a hindrance among male counterparts.  Batting eyelashes, pouty lips, and teased hair aren’t how the majority of serious sales professionals get ahead in the new era and if you get in on those coat tails, beware the glass ceiling it can create-albeit unfairly.   The best of “our kind” have the communications skills that others (boys included) lack, the intelligence to engage an audience that may be lesser or better educated (depending on what you sell) and understand that people buy from those they identify with on many levels.  Additionally, great saleswomen know that the buyer is rarely as shallow as the rookie sales mind would think (particularly when you work in a sales environment with a longer sales cycle and higher commissions).

Oh, and one other thing, if breaking into sales is your mission, before you begin practicing your pretty girl moves you may want to remember that the chances of selling to a woman that’s navigated the sales world on a lot more than the power of her YSL lipstick may not only be the buyer, she may be the hiring power, and gaining her respect is going to be even tougher than it would have been to gain that of her 1975 male counterpart.

Authority of Passion

Have you ever been in a love relationship with a person that treats you well, seems to get everything about you, and finishes your sentences but realized that you’re not “in love” with him/her? Everyone questions your reasoning in this scenario. How could you leave such an awesome guy? He’s so great! If you don’t want him, I’ll take him! Since no one seems to understand, you begin to question your own thought process and determine that something is wrong with you so you stick it out. The question is do you go all the way, putting your greatest effort in or do you muddle through?

The relationship that you have with your work, is very similar. Being happy in the workplace takes more than just having perks, the “right” culture, perfect working hours, and a great boss. As a matter of fact, none of those things will matter without passion. Think of a love life filled with flowers, candy, romantic cards, and Tiffany bracelets but no passion; some people will derive temporary satisfaction from the trinkets while others would be mired down by the lack of fulfillment. For my male readers, think of a $100 meal at an upscale restaurant with beautiful presentation but airline portions. A bowl of cereal would be more satisfying. Your career is the meal and you should leave the table everyday with a full belly, having gorged because you just couldn’t seem to get enough.

After writing my last article https://madsaleswoman.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/with-women-like-this-who-needs-men-emies/, I reviewed the many conversations that I have had with individuals who have expressed job dissatisfaction: the barista at the high end coffee shop, the new graduate interning, experienced professionals with industry tenure and realized that all of their unhappiness boiled down to the feeling of emptiness. It may sound like a hippy moment, all of this feeling and necessity to connect but it’s the truth. We all have missions and drivers and when we work outside of them it’s tougher to identify the purpose and remain productive. This could be in regard to your place of employment, career choice, or professional path.

In the “good ole days” people went to work, produced and went home. Work was merely a means of survival and support for most people and that tradition was often passed down through generations. Everyone punched a time clock (they still exist, I know) and reported for duty to their respective departments. Expectations of overwhelming joy or fulfillment were not the prevailing thought of the day. It was about getting the job done for the perceived greater good and if you were lucky, receiving a gold watch and pat on the back (but at least there were corporate pension plans at most levels).

As time moved on specific cultural changes impacted that vision. Increased industrialization transitioned the balance of the workforce from manual based positions and higher education became more accessible, changing the dreamscape. Enter a re-imagining of the work world and in marched the hippies, the yuppies, the wall street fund managers, and ultimately the Silicon Valley innovators with their brand new idea of culture and passion fulfillment. The passion of others continue to directly impact the corporate visions of today. Nick Swinmurn’s idea combined with Tony Hsieh’s leadership, innovation and passion led to the success of Zappos, a company that hires based on commitment, ideas and the energy that an employee can bring to the business at all levels (from customer service to the C-suite).

Yes, things have changed and those same things have crafted the rose colored expectations of today’s professionals, Gen-X and younger–self included. The bulk of the current workforce and those that will run the show over the next 30 years is composed of people who are taught to use education as a way to fulfill a dream and reach the highest level of potential, yet they are viewed as “job hoppers, ungrateful or even irresponsible” for seeking their passions rather than waiting on the gold watch (which I could factually argue no longer exists). This leads to the personal feelings of disappointment that so many professionals feel but can’t identify. My feelings?

There is no authority greater than passion. NONE. While you attempt to avoid the nagging feeling that you should be doing something else, it will hang in the background waiting for the exact moment to tap you on the shoulder. I picture unfulfilled passion as the “mayhem” character from the Allstate commercial, he’s patiently waiting for you to let your guard down . The more you attempt to avoid the understanding that you “should be doing something else”, the more pronounced the thought will become. Passion is an authoritative dictator. It will determine your level of success or failure, impact how people perceive you, and most importantly, Passion will dictate your level of success or failure.. Passion becomes the embodiment of your professional happiness. And it can do all of this without you realizing it!

How do you pay passion the respect it’s due?

     1) Re-evaluate your career often. Taking stock of your career options and opportunities is a required personal responsibility. When looking at your current position it’s important to understand how it plays into your future plans or goal. Reviewing the job you’re in doesn’t make you a disloyal employee it’s make you a competent professional and can actually enhance your performance in your current role. Failing to analyze your career can lead to missteps and prolonged dissatisfaction.

     2) Know the difference between contentment and fulfillment (satisfied/peaceful vs. realized (accomplished). Part of my mission is to have moments of contentment but periods of fulfillment. I can be content with a signed contract, a new prospect or a daily “win” but I refuse to rest on my laurels or languish in the moment. Instead I suggest consistently seeking new paths to travel and challenges to overcome, which will help you determine if you are in the right role/environment or need to make changes.

     3) Understand your brand/who you are. This step requires a unique level of honesty that will be tough but totally self preserving in the end. Be willing to assess where you fit, what you need to change to fit elsewhere, what your strengths are and what you are capable of in the moment. Do this early and often, as they say, and you won’t have to “prepare” an elevator pitch, you’ll always have one handy. Be careful with this step: Self awareness is the best marketing tool but it shouldn’t be the reason that you talk yourself out of following your passion.  It will help you determine what tools you have to get there and what others you’ll need to develop to start or get further.

     4) Be comfortable taking risks. The things that people typically consider their passion is also the thing that they perceive as most risky: starting a business, quitting their job to travel, writing a book, etc. The more time you have put into #3, the easier it will become to embrace chance. Most of us operate in the comfort zone without realizing that not taking a risk is risky in itself. Having prepared yourself will mitigate some of the potential impact and create the self-assured mindset necessary to “jump out there”.

These are just four steps to begin the recognition and pursuit of passion, I’m sure that many spiritualists, gurus and writers have other ideas and I wouldn’t say their wrong but I’ll sum it up with someone who has demonstrated an ability to pursue her mission and redefine herself consistently:  Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.Oprah Winfrey

Dear Journal: I Used To Be A Salesgirl

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Not me…but isn’t she a cutie?

I used to be a sales”girl”.  Way back in the early days of my career.  Youthful and eager.  Yup…eager to please, eager to be liked, and even eager to impress without expectations of ROI.  Youth, I’ve held on to (hence my Hello Kitty creative glasses) but I’ve learned to taper eager.

Am I enthusiastic? Yes!  Do I still embody the idea of bubbly? Absolutely! But the understanding of being more than a sales girl kicked in and I put my personal and professional need to succeed ahead of my need to please others!   As a matter of fact, I can clearly identify the things that I used to do when I was younger girl and what has changed:

1. I struggled with conversations about my paycheck or desired pay raises because my priority, in that area, was being grateful for my job.  My gratitude interfered with my desire to have frank conversations.

2.  I was hindered by FEAR.  The reason that I didn’t ask the questions about MY money is that I was afraid of the reaction and response.  I allowed the same level of fear to keep me from questioning prospects too firmly…maybe I was afraid of a “no”, maybe I was afraid of offending.  Who know’s.  The bottom line was I was afraid!

3.  I allowed things to happen TO and AROUND me.  When things were being changed in regard to process or procedure I would smile and keep silent.  Could the changes negatively affect my results?  Sure, but in my mind I would figure it out so I worked up a smile and kept silent.

4.  I let others determine my value to the company or team.  This is a fault of many women that I come across in the workplace.  I’m sure that it happens to some men as well but let’s focus on the women for this one.  At some point in our career we become happy with the praise that we are receiving and the feeling of being needed.  The companies need for me to produce and the occasional “thanks” was enough for me to keep doing what was necessary to please them and put my professional ambitions on the back burner.  For the people who fall into this trap you will find that they can’t clearly communicate their value when asked on the spot.

5. I gave away my one true power:  control over my career moves.  Early in my life, I believed other’s perception of me instead of understanding my true ability.  After a few disappointments and misdirection, I paired with the RIGHT mentors and became more introspective and honest about my desires and abilities.  I decided that I didn’t just want to be a saleswoman, I wanted to be THE saleswoman, the number one producer..and so I worked toward that.  When I accomplished that mission I didn’t allow it to make me stagnant, I changed course to move into another area of Sales that would use other aspects of my personality and skill set.  When I decided that professional mentoring, writing and sales leadership were also passions, I began my quest with this blog and other ventures.  The key to all of this:  I DECIDED, I MOVED, AND I TOOK RESPONSIBILITY.

6.  I did a lot while expecting very little in return.  My thought was that when you do well, people see it and reward you accordingly.  I learned the hard way that even in sales you must “tactfully toot your own horn”.  It doesn’t mean that you have to stand up in your cube wearing a tiara (I prefer a fascinator) and a I am woman, hear me roar sign, however, there’s nothing wrong with cataloging your successes and knowing when to use them strategically, whether it be to ask for a raise, a promotion, or a change in sales territory.  I often saw that men were allowed to beat their chests and howl at the moon upon closing a contract while women had to be gracious in their successes.  My belief there’s always a dignified yet direct way to howl at the moon!

7.  I bought into the myth of being misunderstood.  I didn’t want the perception of being ungrateful, angry or immature let alone the stereotype of the “angry black woman”–(I still don’t know where that came from) –so I was a notorious tongue biter.  After countless lost opportunities, I decided that I was less worried about being misunderstood and more concerned with being understood.  You would no longer have the opportunity to speak for me or mischaracterize me because I was going to say exactly what I needed to.  I picked my timing, place, tone and battles and moved forward accordingly.   This helped me tremendously.  If at that point a colleague or manager chose to misrepresent my intentions or expectations, I wouldn’t focus on it because it was out of my control.   The upside?  Misunderstandings happened a lot less when I spoke up for myself!

8.  I cried publicly because I was holding in my frustrations.  There is nothing worse than crying at work.  I hate it….but I’ve done (and will again) do it.  I’m emotional and it’s not because I have lady bits.  I’m emotional because I’m competitive, a bit of a sore loser–although I keep it to myself and congratulate others well, passionate about my clients and their needs, and I have an expectation of parity.  When I was younger, and not nearly as wise, “that’s okay” was my favorite phrase.  This was a personal trait that seeped into my professional life.    Commission short by a couple hundred dollars:  that’s okay.  An account that I worked on and developed closes and a slimy sales guy creeps in to fight for the spoils: that’s okay.  Use that phrase often enough and you become a volcano of dissatisfaction sure to burst into tears at the most inopportune moments.  Times have changed, now I address what I need to WHEN I need to.  The occasional tears spring up in frustration but I’m usually balling my fists up prepared for the fight of my life by then and I WILL get what I want.

9.  I allowed someone else to sell me on their intentions where I was concerned.  For a native New Yorker, I was one of the least cynical people I knew.  I had an innate desire to believe that when someone said they wanted the best for me that they truly did.  Unfortunately, there were a few mishaps before I learned that not everyone wants to see you succeed and the sales world can be full of “Mr. Mean #1 Salesreps”.  The nature of an individual sales territory is that you are focused on your results, your money, and your growth.  If you’re not first, someone else will be is usually the name of the game so many salespeople find it hard to encourage each other.  After my experience, I was determined not to be insecure in my wins or losses.  This allowed me to become a salesperson that wanted to help others grow because I knew that their success didn’t have an impact on my own.  There was enough money for all of us!

10.  I didn’t focus on the three things:  Who I spoke to, What I said, and How often I said it.  Sales is a number game, no matter how you look at it.  Instead of dialing as often as I could, asking the proper qualifying questions to get to the decision makers and moving quickly past the “no’s”, I became consumed by contracts that didn’t come in or missed opportunities.  I was a mess.  One of the first sales mentors that I had, Paul, told me “you can’t lose what you don’t have” and it was a lightbulb or Oprah Aha! moment.  I was wasting time putting thought into why I didn’t get the contract when I could pick up the phone and say “NEXT”.  Gratefully, it didn’t take me long to learn to focus on what I could control, say next and rebound quickly from failures…this has been a great key to my success throughout my career.

That’s right, I was in sales”girl” city.  Because of my reluctance to rock the boat, things happened to and around me, not for me.  While others touted the “smarter not harder” mentality, I worked hard with the understanding that it was the only smart way to achieve the results, yet I didn’t get the results that would matter in the long term.  I readily committed to working after hours both for myself and to impress leadership with my commitment, which is exactly what an eager little sales girl would do.

As I gained time and experience, I realized that I wasn’t managing my career, I was allowing others to do it for me.  I met metrics that satisfied the immediate goals for the company and my own small, personal gain but I didn’t set up metrics that would allow me to move beyond the cubicle.  I knew that I wanted to lead but I didn’t let the “powers that be” in on the secret.  I just figured that my hard work, tenacity, obvious commitment, and pace setting would be enough to earn the ultimate reward.

Little did I know that being a sales “girl” didn’t allow me the ability to use production as a means to an end the way that the boys did.  I had to do more.  I had to do things that would be risky.  Instead of producing and silently returning to my cube for the next dial, I had to smoothly announce and celebrate my wins.  Yes, I had to bring them to the attention of the boys that ran the club.

I had to take advantage of my positioning by making it clear that not only was I money motivated, as many great sales people are, but that I had career ambition and aspirations that reached far beyond the gray cloth walls that I lived in.  In one position a CEO told me that he wasn’t sure if “I was ready to lead a team of salespeople”, but acknowledged that colleagues were already coming to me for education and mentorship.  When I referenced the promotion of a freshly minted college graduate with no experience but a collegial affiliation with him, he ignored that statement but noted that if I “just stick around, you know that (sales management role) is a revolving door”.  Just stick around?  That might have worked when I was a salesgirls.

Growing out of a sales girl role required that I determined what role I would fill within a company and what strengths I brought to the table.  I understood after years of being agreeable that I would have to take the risk of politely reminding bosses of the accomplishments and achievements that should have earned me a higher standard.  Sales in a good environment is a perk laden world. It’s the only industry where discussing money isn’t taboo but actually is public measurement of achievement.  Even the most humble individual is looking for a little “scratch” on various levels.  A mentor once told me that the best ways to reward salespeople was “time and money”.  I figure the best reward myself is to make the best use of my career (time) and identify ways to have more resources (money).