Learning or Forgetting: Whats more important?

One of the key issues facing business isn’t learning, it’s forgetting; according to some experts. Organizational “learning” (i.e., executive management programs, selling techniques and processes, technical skills, and team building, etc.) is one of the hottest management topics, but some say that “forgetting” (i.e., the old traditional ways of doing things) is far more important.

The enabler for constructive change, whether in business or persona is an ‘eraser’: “You can’t live without an eraser”. Some words of wisdom:

“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old (traditional) ones out.” – Dee Hock

“The greatest difficulty in the world is not for people to accept new ideas, but to make them forget about old (traditional) ideas”. –John Maynard Keynes

The old (traditional) image of the salesperson was as a mere glad-hander, someone whose only skill is “knowing how to talk to folks”. Think of the phases that come to mind when you think of a salesperson and selling. “A good salesperson is born not made”; “Selling is 90% luck”; “A real salesperson can sell ice to an Eskimos”.

Underlying all these adages is the view that it’s personality not understanding; temperament not training; magic not skill; make the top salespersons what they are. For many people in sales, Horatio Alger’s old “luck and pluck” is still the talisman to which we attribute the salesperson success.

In business-to-business selling, the traditional method or old way involves two false assumptions. It assumes, first, that all potential buyers can use your product or service, and second, that if you only “show and tell” the customer about it, they’ll appreciate the “obvious” benefits and rush to buy from you. These assumptions violate a central principle of business interaction: People buy for their own reasons, not yours. Traditional, product-focused selling ignores that fact.

On the other hand, Strategic Selling acknowledges this fact as central, and puts the burden for making the sale on both buyer and seller (it’s a joint-venture). It’s up to both the buyer and seller to move the process forward by mutually encouraging positive information flow. There’s no assumption suggesting that the customer already has a need for the seller’s product or service. On the contrary, the entire interactive process is geared to determine, up front, whether or not there really is a need.

Thus, Strategic Selling follows the natural order of decision-making and involves three distinct but interrelated thinking processes beginning with “cognitive thinking” which is understanding the customer’s concept/need, then “divergent thinking” regarding the available options to satisfy the need, and finally “convergent thinking” which is the selection of the best solution. This concept was developed by J.P. Guilford through his extensive clinical research and documented in his book ‘The Nature of Human Intelligence’.

The immediate benefit of this approach is an alignment between the salesperson and the customer’s decision-making process and gives the salesperson greater control and more flexibility by facilitating the customer’s natural way of thinking and decision-making.  And, in the longer-term, by establishing this constructive dialogue with the customer it enables the concept of No-Sell selling and a Win-Win outcome.

Win-Win means a highly valued and effective solution for the customer, and a long-term, profitable, and reference-able account for the salesperson.

Formula for Success: Really?

A Google search on the word, “Success” brings up more than 78,400,000 sites. Nearly 80 Million!  That says people are interested in success . . . and in having more of it. Regardless of what success means to you, and in what areas (financial, emotional, social, spiritual, physical, etc.), it’s within your reach, and a lot closer than you might think.

In mathematics, a formula is a fact, rule, or principle that is expressed in terms of mathematical symbols. In other words a formula is simple a recipe, thus will always give the same results always when followed properly. In this sense therefore the formula for success should always leads to one thing-SUCCESS. However, it is a well known fact that some people like to take some shortcuts and thus a recipe doesn’t normally produce the same results always.

The quest for success and the search for the golden ring have given us many “formula for success” and a few of the more interesting ones are as follows:

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In an article by Johnny B. Truant, noted blogger and entrepreneur, he writes “I don’t have a formula for success. Folks, there is no magic formula that will work every time. I’ll be blunt: If you believe you can buy some “guru’s” product or my consulting, or any one thing — and be assured of success, you’re in for a rude awakening.” “The internet is filled with promises of; Do what I do and say (and pay my price) and you’re guaranteed riches.” But it’s a lie. It’s all a big lie. “There is one — and only one — true formula for success that actually works. Get your pen ready, because here it comes:”

The one and only one true formula for success

  1. Try.
  2. Repeat step 1 until the desired result is achieved.

“If things you’re currently trying fail, just get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.”

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In the article ‘Formula for Success’ by Tolani Brendan Moseu he writes; “there are some principles of success (success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have) that will always produce the same result when adhered to. My ‘Formula for Success is as follows:

“The formula for success = your human capital (what you know) times your social capital (who you know) times your reputation (who trusts you).”

This formula can be summarized as follows:

      BUSINESS SUCCESS = APPLIED KNOWLEDGE * RELATIONSHIP*TRUST

The following quote explains the formula in a nutshell:

You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. — Zig Ziglar

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In an article ‘Einstein’s Formula for Success’ by Pastor Tim Henry, he writes; “the other day I printed out a paper called Einstein’s Formula for Success by Ron White for my 11 year old son. Einstein has always been kind of a hero for him. People pick different heroes. My son picked Einstein.  And as a result, I have been able to teach him a number of valuable lessons about life by relating (Einstein Humor here!) his life and theories to everyday situations. This morning I found this quote about not trying to be a success…by Albert Einstein.

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein

Einstein has this formula for Success. He had a formula for most everything…except where to find a comb, apparently. And the formula goes like this: Einstein said,

If ‘A’ equals success, then the formula is: A=X+Y+Z. where; X is work, Y is play, Z is keep your mouth shut.”

I know. I Know. It’s algebra. But it’s not quantum physics or anything. We’ll get through it…here…take my hand…. ‘A’ is success. And to get success, ultimately, Einstein said that you needed the sum total of three elements. First, you measure each of the three elements…work;  play;  keep your mouth shut….and you combine them in such a way to produce ‘A’ (success). Easy enough.

99 parts WORK (X) + 1 part PLAY (Y) + 0 parts SILENCE (Z) = A (Success).

See…we’ve done it!  Except…is that Success to you? Working 99 percent of the time…? Never shutting up????  So although Einstein gave us this formula, he didn’t tell us what particular ‘mix’ was right for each of us. 

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In an article ‘The  4+2 Formula For Success’ by Tahl Raz, he  writes: “Why do some succeed while others fail? Author Nitin Nohria says he’s found the answer. The Harvard Business School professor, Nitin Nohria, recently concluded an exhaustive study of 160 companies in 40 different industries over two five-year periods in an attempt to answer the most basic question in business: Why do some companies flourish while others fail?

The answer, he found, is as ‘simple as 4+2’. Success, Nohria and co-authors William Joyce and Bruce Roberson argue in the new book ‘What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success’, requires managers to implement four primary fundamental business practices;

“The 4+2 formula”: strategy, execution, culture, organization; and two of four secondary ones –talent, leadership, innovation, mergers & partnerships.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what macroeconomic circumstances you face: Successful companies, Nohria says, invariably are those that employ the “4+2 formula.”                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In an article ‘Formula To Achieve Success’ by Patric Chan, entrepreneur, he writes; “The formula is simple. When you are working, you must have in mind that ultimately what you want to achieve from your job or business is this: Workless, earn more.  Here’s the formula: 

“Assuming you are working 8 hours a day and you are getting ‘X’ result (X can be any amount of money you are getting now.)  Where most people failed to achieve success is,

they try to earn X + Y (Y can be any amount of extra money you want to get) without finding a way to workless first. In another words, finding a way to work less while still getting ‘X’ result.  In a nutshell;”

First step: Work 8 hours (or whatever your existing working hours are) and get X result. 

Second step:  Find ways to work 6 hours (workless) and still get X result. 

Third step: Work 8 hours again but get X + Y results. 

“Once you achieve this, your next step is to find ways on how to achieve X + Y results by working only 6 hours instead of 8 hours. Once you find that, only than you can think about getting Z result (Z can be any amount of extra money you want to have). So, repeat the whole process: Once you achieve this, congratulations. “

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In an article ‘Success Formula’ by Coach John G. Agno, he writes; “Over the years, I have discovered success is powered by three things: know-how, reputation and a network of contacts. That’s it. That’s the secret.

The formula for success = your human capital (what you know) times your social capital (who you know) times your reputation (who trusts you).

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In an article ‘Formula for Success’ by Brian Tracy, one of the great personal development teachers, he writes “You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you can achieve anything worthwhile.”

Step 1.  Select an Item: Select one of the most important things in your life in which you have a burning desire to be successful. 

Step 2.  Identify the Little Things: Make a list of as many little things as you can think of that will play a role in helping you achieve your desired results.

Step 3.  Get Started: Organize and prioritize your list of these little things. 

Step 4.  Give Your Best: Strive for excellence as you begin to focus on each item on your list. 

Step 5.  Expand Your List: Continue to look for little things you can add to your list.

You can be successful at anything that is important to you, if you will focus on the little things that matter.

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In an article ‘The Formula for Success’ by Keji Giwa, internationally, recognized expert in career and personal success, he writes; “Failure is only a word, how you see it determines its effects on you” Now remember this: Success is always a constant which is equal to 1. Success = 1 (Always a constant). I will prove this to you soon.

The formula for Success is = (Trial – Failure) to the power of ‘e’; Where ‘e’ = Experience!1. Let failure be your compass.
2. Always remember, rejection is not personal, it is direction.
3. If I try today and fail, I am one step closer to my glory because my failed attempts actually count towards my success formula.

“If I told you that it will take a 1000 failed attempts before you became a billionaire, would you stop at the 998th attempt? Change your mind-set today”

“Failure is the best thing that ever happened to me because when I prepare for failure, I avoid it, learn from it, and then succeed!”
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In an article ‘formula for success’ the author writes;  “Playing to your strengths in business is where your profits lie—but how do you focus on those strengths that will make you money? It’s a question that has baffled businesses for hundreds of years until economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto spotted a recurring pattern in his studies in 1906. From his observations he developed a potent business formula that empowers managers to improve the fortunes of their businesses.”

“Like all good rules, it’s short, sharp to the point. It states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our activity.

That’s it! Applying this formula to your business will help you save time, effort, and resources—plus make you money as well.”

Crazy Misconceptions: Fix Weaknesses or Leverage Strengths?

Most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths. Instead, guided by our parents, our teachers, our managers and psychology’s fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected.

“Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer.”Peter Drucker

Most people have the crazy misconception that the way to grow and become the most that you can be is to “fix” your weaknesses. This is a hard framework for many people to adopt. However, the impact of this framework cannot be understated. On further thought you will realize that all you will have is strong weaknesses. And a weakness is a weakness no matter if strong or not.

In spending time and energy working on the weakness you have neglected giving your strength the focus it needs to be really useful. So you end up with weak strengths which are not very helpful.  Instead you should focus as much time, energy and resources on building up your strengths. And learn to manage around your weaknesses.

However, Brad Smart has another view in his article “Ambitious Manager’s Should Work Harder to Fix their Serious Weakness(es) than to Build on their Strengths” where he writes I am frequently asked about the value of working on fixing weaknesses and make the point: for individual contributors, don’t bother trying to fix your weaknesses and instead go with your strengths, but for ambitious managers, fix your serious weakness(es) or your career will plateau!”

Mr. Smart continuing with an example; “Over the years I’ve worked with some super talented people who simply could not control their negative treatment of people. One management executive was given 2 years to improve, but he got worse – publicly humiliating his people and peers, using biting sarcasm, etc. He ran the most profitable division, almost single handedly, but was fired. The CEO said, “Pete, you’re brilliant at running one division, but 16 out of 18 peers told me they’d quit if you are promoted to President. So, you’re fired!””

In the book “Sink, Float or Swim” by Scott Peltin & Jogi Rippel they write: “Know you Strengths. The important thing is that you learn as much about your strengths as you can. Knowing how to use our strengths to your advantage will set you up for success. A key to winning is to know your strengths and then to use them mercilessly against your opponents.”

They give an example: “Martina Navratilova was a brilliant serve and volleyer. It’s not that her ground strokes were awful, but without coming to the net, she probably would have never won most of her Grand Slam titles.  In contrast, Chris Evert recognized that her greatest strength was her amazingly consistent ground strokes from the back of the court. By using this strength, Evert won more than half of the tournaments she entered. These are two outstanding tennis players, two totally different strengths, two legendary successful careers.”

Is it better to Improve Strengths or Fix Weaknesses? Heather Mundell shares her thoughts on where the focus should be in her post “Build Your Strengths rather Than Fix Your Weaknesses”. Heather talks about everyone having skills that don’t come so easily and suggests time be spent working on your strengths because doing this will “attract the people and opportunities you’re seeking.” “Let’s think about this for a minute.  If we focus on things that we are good at, our confidence increases and we are more efficient.  We’ll also have more interest and motivation.  People will start to notice these things!  We can achieve happiness and fulfillment by honing in on our strengths – who doesn’t want that?

Now, I’m not saying we should just pass over our weaknesses and not do anything about them.  We should still find time to work on them but should limit it and not make it our primary focus.  Building our strengths is a much more productive use of our time.

This doesn’t have to be just for us as individuals – this can be extended to your entire company! Encourage employees to work on their strengths, look for opportunities to praise them and steer them towards doing things they are good at. Efficiencies will increase and everyone will be happier. We are not all good at everything but we all have a few things that we are great at.  Let’s put our time and energy into those things – we’ll enjoy our jobs more and it will show.”

Want to lead a life of strength?  Well, what holds you back?  Chances are … you do.  You’ve been trained to focus on your weaknesses.  At school, it’s not how many you got right.  Its how many you got wrong.  At work, chances are you spend more time fixing your weaknesses than growing your strengths.  Want to make the shift? Marcus Buckingham, well known motivational speaker, says: “Focus on your strengths, not weaknesses.”  Buckingham says focus on identifying one’s strengths at an early age and developing the unique traits that every individual possesses.

The transition to Buckingham’s suggested approach has proved to be arduous for corporate America. From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of people who focus on strengths rather than weaknesses only jumped from 41 to 45 percent. The majority still think that “plugging the weaknesses” will help them succeed.

People tend to focus not only on their own weaknesses but also on the weaknesses of others. Parents dwell on a child’s F in algebra rather than praise an A in English. In a one-hour performance review, supervisors spend two minutes discussing strengths and 58 minutes discussing the “areas of opportunity” or weaknesses with employees, Buckingham said.

It may sound elementary, but a quick glance around the business world indicates that many companies have yet to grasp this simple concept of putting people’s strengths to use. That’s because the business world — and the world at large — is obsessed with weaknesses and finding ways to fix them. A recent poll that asked workers whether they felt they could achieve more success through improving on their weaknesses or building on their strengths. Fifty-nine percent picked the former.

Muddling Through Business Strategy: Strategic Shifts…

Although strategy for business direction is important, it can also stifle creativity, especially if it is rigidly enforced. In an uncertain and ambiguous world, fluidity can be more important than a finely tuned strategic compass. When a strategy becomes internalized into a business culture, it can lead to a group mentality. It can also cause an organization to define itself too narrowly. An example of this is marketing myopia.

Strategic shifts are questions of interpreting, and continuously reinterpreting, the possibilities presented by changing circumstances for advancing an organization’s objectives. Doing so requires strategists to think simultaneously about desired objectives, the best approach for achieving them, and the resources implied by the chosen approach. It requires a frame of mind that admits of no boundary between means and ends, it means “muddling through”.

The American political scientist Charles Lindblom published an article in 1959 under the title “The Science of Muddling Through”. Prof. Lindblom contrasted what he called the “root” method of decision-making with the “branch” approach. The root method required comprehensive evaluation of options in the light of defined objectives. The branch method involved building out, step-by-step and by small degrees, from the current situation. Prof. Lindblom claimed “the root method is in fact not usable for complex policy questions”. The practical man must follow the branch approach – the Science of Muddling Through.

An article by Andy Cox, President, Cox Consulting Group, observed: “Have you ever noticed how some people just seem to work their way through some of the most difficult situations, and come out the other side successfully? When asked, these people usually give some “Awe Shucks” kind of answer, and move on to the next thing. Those people know how to muddle – in the best of ways.”

“Mr. Cox continues, “I watched a tree trimmer work on a very overgrown and damaged tree. His work consisted of pruning a little and stepping back a lot. When asked how he approached this task, he stated that he always started with the end in mind – in this case he wanted to make the tree look good, but more importantly, he wanted to improve its ability to survive and prosper. How did he do that?

He said he just stepped into the tree and started taking out branches and growth that he knew wouldn’t contribute to his goals. Then he would step back and look carefully at what he had done as a guide to what he had to do next. As he stayed focused on what he was doing, the decisions as to which limbs to prune became clearer and clearer, until he had completed his work and he could feel satisfied that he had met his goals. I call it effective muddling – letting your actions develop the solution.”

Let’s face it – telling your boss that you’re muddling through as a means of finding a solution or meeting a goal is probably not the brightest thing one can do. But that’s the way countless problems and issues and conditions are wrestled to the ground every day. Successful muddlers know you must get into the problem to see what it’s all about. And the best way to do that is to stick your nose in and go for it. It may be that things become more confusing before they become clearer. But every act results in increased knowledge.

“Brainstorming” and “Ready, Fire, Aim” are two successful muddling techniques – and ones that sound impressive to a boss. Planning and goals are very important parts of success, but that first step into the unknown, having the courage to take that step, is just as important. And to do it without a clear plan – whatever that means, or without clear goals, is the mark of a successful muddler: A “just do it” person. “That’s what Thomas Edison meant when he remarked that each failure to invent the light bulb brought him closer to success. Without muddling through, Edison would not have given himself the opportunity to fail as a means of learning.”

It is tempting to think that the elements of strategic shifts; (i) reaching consensus on business objectives; (ii) developing a plan for achieving the objectives; and (iii) marshalling and allocating the resources required to implement the plan – can be approached sequentially. It would be convenient, in other words, if one could deal first with the noble question of ends, and then address the mundane question of means.

But in the world in which strategies have to be implemented, the three elements are interdependent. Means are as likely to determine ends as ends are to determine means. The objectives that an organization might wish to pursue are limited by the range of feasible approaches to implementation.

And so, although participants in a typical “strategy session” may be asked to do “blue sky” thinking where they pretend that the usual constraints (i.e., resources, acceptability to stakeholders, administrative feasibility) have been lifted, the fact is that it rarely makes sense to divorce oneself from the environment in which a strategy will have to be implemented. It’s probably impossible to think in any meaningful way about strategy in an unconstrained environment.

Our brains can’t process “boundless possibilities”, and the very idea of strategy only has meaning in the context of challenges or obstacles to be overcome. It’s at least as plausible to argue that acute awareness of constraints is the very thing that stimulates creativity by forcing us to constantly reassess both means and ends in light of circumstances.

The key question, then is, “How can individuals, organizations and societies cope as well as possible with … issues too complex to be fully understood, given the fact that actions initiated on the basis of inadequate understanding may lead to significant regret?”

The answer is that the process of developing organizational strategy must be iterative. It involves toggling back and forth (muddling) between questions about objectives, implementation planning and resources. An initial idea about corporate objectives may have to be altered if there is no feasible implementation plan that will meet with a sufficient level of acceptance among the full range of stakeholders, or because the necessary resources are not available, or both.

Even the most talented manager would no doubt agree that “comprehensive analysis is impossible” for complex problems. Formulation and implementation of strategy must thus occur side-by-side rather than sequentially, because strategies are built on assumptions which, in the absence of perfect knowledge, will never be perfectly correct. Strategic shifts are necessarily a “repetitive learning cycle [rather than] a linear progression towards a clearly defined final destination.”

While assumptions can and should be tested in advance, the ultimate test is implementation. You will inevitably need to adjust corporate objectives and/or your approach to pursuing outcomes and/or assumptions about required resources. Thus a strategy will get remade during implementation because “humans rarely can proceed satisfactorily except by learning from experience; and modest probes, serially modified on the basis of feedback, usually are the best method for such learning.”

The essence of being “strategic” thus lies in a capacity for “intelligent trial-and error” and “some might say muddling” rather than linear adherence to finally honed and detailed strategic plans. Strategic shifts will add little value — indeed, it may well do harm — if organizational strategies are designed to be used as a detailed blueprints for managers. Strategy should be seen, rather, as laying out the general path – but not the precise steps – by which an organization intends to create value.

Many people refer to muddling as a process – it is – but attaching that description to it takes away some of the fun of it. Muddling is as much art and attitude as it is process. So the next time you’re faced with a situation and you don’t know where to begin, give yourself permission to muddle – and watch the solution form from the actions that you take. That’s what successful people do more often than not.”

Selling Beyond the Close: Close is Not the Close…

In today’s business environment with salespeople confronting unprecedented pressures from competitors and customers, looking at the order alone is simply not enough. The future belongs to the professionals who can sell beyond the close.

The reason is simple. Today, electronic communications have made Marshall McLuhan’s global village a fact that no business professional can afford to ignore, and evading the consequences of manipulative, or merely thoughtless, selling has become impossible. Burn the buyer, consciously or unconsciously, and within minutes, the news will be showing up on email screens across the global. Fail to heed the long-term effects of your selling and you’ll soon be paying the price in terms of an unsatisfied customer, bad references, and lost business. If you don’t attend to what happens to your customers after the order, sooner or later you will have no business to attend to.

What ‘selling beyond the close’ does mean is that every time you go into a selling encounter, you must keep in mind that this call is only one step in an extended scenario and long-term relationship. More than that: Once you get the order, you must think of that order as part of a much longer selling process. ‘Selling beyond the close’ means constant attention to the care and feeding of that ongoing process… This has to do with understanding two related ideas:

  • Your long-term success is intimately dependent on your individual customer’s success.
  • All good selling, like all good buying, begins with a solution image; the visual concept or mental picture of a solution (or a need to accomplish) in the customer’s mind.

Linking these two ideas, you can say that good selling must always start by understanding the customer’s inner picture or mental image of what he or she needs to accomplish in order to succeed.

Oddly, many sales professionals consider this a radical view. Often when salespeople speak of “need”, they mean their own need for a sale. Traditionally, selling means convincing a potential buyer that they need what you, the salesperson, has to offer. So the goal of the traditionally trained salesperson often gets perilously close to that of a drug pusher: Push your product or service whether the customer needs it or not.

Consider the opposite approach. Consider the notion that the customer may know at least as well as you, and probably much better than you, the nature of the problem that they are facing. However, the customers may not always know the best solution for their problems, and that’s where the salesperson can assist. If you can encourage the customers to confide and explore solutions with you, you have a far better chance of making a quality sale (i.e., Win-Win) then if you simply push your product and try and convince the customer that they need your product or service.

The downside of this customer-driven philosophy is that sometimes you have to do what no self-respecting salesperson ever wants to do; back away from the sale. Sometimes you have to acknowledge, even when the customer doesn’t, that there isn’t a good match between the customer’s needs and your product or service.

Then the wisest strategy in this case is not to push for the close but offer the customer assistance in finding the best solution (even if that means a competitive solution). If this sounds heretical, so be it: If you’re not willing to walk away from a poor match, you’re not really committed to your customer’s success — or, for that matter, to your own success. You’ve got to ensure that both the customers and you feel good about the business relationship. Without that mutuality somebody always loses and the relationship will not last, and you will lose a customer.

The “secret” of “selling beyond the close” is just that simple: A customer relationship built not on inspiration but on selling realities. Every good close must be a step toward the future, and you win only when your customers are successful. It says that success is the predictable result of a logical process; a process where you work with your customers, not against them, to develop solutions both of you can own.

These are the only solutions worth delivering; they are the only ones that build solid, profitable business; business that can last ‘beyond the close’.

“Stuck in a Rut” Selling: A Sales Nightmare…

 “What is this thing that we call a Rut? Is one man’s rut another man’s rapture?”

A few definitions:

  • ‘In a Rut’: Type of habitual behavior. (As when the wheels of a vehicle travel in the ruts worn into the ground by other vehicles making it easiest to go exactly the way all the other vehicles have gone before.)  
  • ‘(Stuck) in a Rut’: Established way of living or working that never changes; a habit; a bad habit; a Rut.                   
  • ‘Be (Stuck) in a Rut’: In a situation where it is impossible to make progress, or doing the same things all the time; a habit, a bad habit; a Rut.

Jeb Blount in his articleBad Habits Die Hard writes: A habit is defined as a pattern of behavior that is followed regularly until it becomes automatic part of our routine. In other words we do things we are comfortable with and we keep doing them. When we do the same thing over and over again an amazing thing happens: “we get the same result over and over again!”  

Kelley Robertson in his articleAre Routines Holding You Back?” writes:  “As a sales professional, you need to recognize that routines can prevent you from achieving your full potential. However, if you persist at incorporating new sales technique into your selling approach, it, too, will become part of your new routine. That’s the great thing about the human spirit and brain, it is very adaptable. The most successful people in business and in sales know that changes to their routine will cause them some discomfort. But, they are also very aware that these changes will become more comfortable and part of their routine if they work at it long enough”.

“Unfortunately, many people become so comfortable with their habits that they will continue the behavior even if that habit is causing them to fail. This is called a bad habit and anyone who has worked to quit smoking or even corrects a poor golf swing, will attest that bad habits die hard. In many ways, failure is just the manifestation of our bad habits.”

“Stepping out of a comfort zone is very difficult and one of the core reasons so many salespeople find themselves moving from company to company and failing time and time again. Despite the training each new company provides, despite the coaching, despite the mentoring from successful sales professionals, eventually these salespeople revert back to their old habits and ultimately failure. The good news is that though difficult, it is possible to break this cycle of failure. But to change your habits, you must first change your thoughts and actions and behavior.”

“People can intrinsically grasp a new concept or principle but experience difficulty trying to actually implement it into the way they sell. That’s why many sales training programs don’t work; you can’t expect to change your behavior or routine immediately. The key is to keep reinforcing the sales process or concept even though it feels uncomfortable and foreign. In fact, in most cases, you will begin to feel comfortable with the new initiative immediately after you experience the greatest frustration and difficulty. Consider learning a new sport, hobby, or task.”

“At first the movements feel uncomfortable. Your moves are not smooth, accurate or natural. And this feeling usually persists for quite some time. However, just when you feel like giving up because it has become too difficult and frustrating, something clicks and the movements start to feel more natural. You have now progressed to the stage of being able to achieve results.”

The same happens when you decide to try something different when selling: Try a new sales process: A well established and systematic sales approach that is customer-focused and embraces the concept that the sales function is a definable, repeatable process that can be tracked, planned, and managed.

Whether you’re stuck in a rut or just a bad habit, it’s worth bearing in mind this quote from well-known author and speaker on personal development, Anthony Robbins: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Another quote; “Whatever got you where you are today is no longer sufficient to keep you there”… Even if you’re been selling for only a few years, the selling environment in which you learned to operate no longer exists. Change in inevitable, and you must change with it to survive. End the Nightmare: “Get Out of the Rut”.

 

Competitive Differentiation: Why its Important?

Buying is an exercise in decision-making. Some buying decisions are made impulsively and almost unconsciously; others are made after long and careful consideration. But all decisions, that is, all logical decisions; are ultimately the end result of a mental selection process by which the buyer converges on a “best” option…

Buyers can perform that selection process in two ways: They can make the selection at random, by throwing dice, drawing straws, or just guessing. Or they can make the selection by differentiating; by acting on a perceived distinction between the available options.

Of these two ways of deciding, differentiation is by far the more “natural” because the more rational process to sort and select one product or service from another. Nobody (well almost nobody) makes a decision, especially a potentially costly buying decision, by random choice unless there is no distinguishable difference between the options.

Think back to the last major purchase you made yourself; your car, an insurance policy, your house. Think about how you came to buy the product or service and the decision-making process that you went through. If you’re like most informed buyers, you did some comparison shopping and researched the options seeking out the distinctive feature or capabilities so that you would make a wise decision. This is typical of intelligent buying.

Now as a sales person you should recognize that this is the exact same process that customers will use to make their buying decisions. In a competitive situation it’s critical that you assist the customer to understand the distinctions between the available options in order to make a decision: This is “differentiation”.  In an article by Dena Waggoner and revised by R. Anthony Inman, they outlined the following:

PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION: Product differentiation is achieved by offering a valued variation of the physical product. The ability to differentiate a product varies greatly along a continuum depending on the specific product. There are some products that do not lend themselves to much differentiation, on the other hand, many (most) can be highly differentiated. In Principles of Marketing (1999), authors Gary Armstrong and Philip Kotler note that differentiation can occur by manipulating many characteristics, including features, performance, style, design, consistency, durability, reliability, or reparability.

SERVICE DIFFERENTIATION: Companies can also differentiate the services that accompany the physical product. Two companies can offer a similar physical product, but the company that offers additional services can charge a premium for the product. A company may offer products that are very similar to those offered by many other companies; but these products are usually accompanied with an informational, instructional training session provided by the consultant. This additional service allows the company to charge more for their product than if they sold the product through more traditional channels.

PEOPLE DIFFERENTIATION: Hiring and training better people than the competitor can become an immeasurable competitive advantage for a company. A company’s employees are often overlooked, but should be given careful consideration. This human resource-based advantage is difficult for a competitor to imitate because the source of the advantage may not be very apparent to an outsider.

As a Money magazine article reported, Herb Kelleher, CEO of Southwest Airlines, explains that the culture, attitudes, beliefs, and actions of his employees constitute his strongest competitive advantage: “The intangibles are more important than the tangibles because you can always imitate the tangibles; you can buy the airplane, you can rent the ticket counter space. But the hardest thing for someone to emulate is the spirit of your people.”

People differentiation is important when customers deal directly with employees. Employees are the frontline defense against waning customer satisfaction. Other companies can differentiate itself by having a recognizable person at the top of the company. A recognizable CEO can make a company stand out. Some CEOs are such charismatic public figures that to the customer, the CEO is the company. If the CEO is considered reputable and is well-liked, it speaks very well for the company, and customers pay attention. National media coverage of CEOs has increased tremendously, jumping 21 percent between 1992 and 1997 (Gaines-Ross).

IMAGE DIFFERENTIATION: Armstrong and Kotler pointed out in Principles of Marketing that when competing products or services are similar, buyers may perceive a difference based on company or brand image. Thus companies should work to establish images that differentiate them from competitors. A favorable brand image takes a significant amount of time to build. Unfortunately, one negative impression can kill the image practically overnight.

QUALITY DIFFERENTIATION: Quality is the idea that something is reliable in the sense that it does the job it is designed to do. When considering competitive advantage, one cannot just view quality as it relates to the product. The quality of the material going into the product and the quality of production operations should also be scrutinized. Materials quality is very important. The manufacturer that can get the best material at a given price will widen the gap between perceived quality and cost. Greater quality materials decrease the number of returns, reworks, and repairs necessary. Quality labor also reduces the costs associated with these three expenses.

INNOVATION DIFFERENTIATION: When people think of innovation, they usually have a narrow view that encompasses only product innovation. Product innovation is very important to remain competitive, but just as important is process innovation. Process innovation is anything new or novel about the way a company operates. Process innovations are important because they often reduce costs, and it may take competitors a significant amount of time to discover and imitate them.

Some process innovations can completely revolutionize the way a product is produced. When the assembly line was first gaining popularity in the early twentieth century, it was an innovation that significantly reduced costs. The first companies to use this innovation had a competitive advantage over the companies that were slow or reluctant to change.

SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: The achievement of competitive advantage is not always permanent or even long lasting. Once a firm establishes itself in an area of advantage, other firms will follow suit in an effort to capitalize on their similarities. A firm is said to have a “sustainable” competitive advantage when its competitors are unable to duplicate the benefits of the firm’s strategy. In order for a firm to attain a “sustainable” competitive advantage, its generic strategy must be grounded in an attribute that meets four criteria. It must be:

  • Valuable—it is of value to customers.
  • Rare—it is not commonplace or easily obtained.
  • Inimitable—it cannot be easily imitated or copied by competitors.
  • Non-substitutable—customers cannot or will not substitute another product or attribute for the one providing the firm with competitive advantage.

SELECTING A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: A company may be lucky enough to identify several potential competitive advantages, and it must be able to determine which are worth pursuing. Not all differentiation is important. Some differences are too subtle, too easily mimicked by competitors, and many are too expensive. A company must be sure the customer wants, understands, and appreciates the difference offered.  A competitive advantage can make or break a firm, so it is crucial that all managers are familiar with competitive advantages and how to create, maintain, and benefit from them.

Subtle Shifts in Business, Leadership, Management, Organization, Strategy, Innovation– Bring Big Results…

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