This article was originally published at Forbes.com
To attain and sustain success, one must become skilled at the art of persuasion.
When I first entered the sales force at the early age of 19, I learned that I must master the art of persuasion to attain my goal of becoming the top-ranked salesperson. My gut reaction was that learning to become persuasive would mean I’d have to become disingenuous. And there wasn’t anything in the world that could incentivize or induce me to become a fake or a fibber. I wasn’t going to become one of those unethical salespeople you hear about who will say or do anything to get the sale. I shrugged off the advice and went about doing it my way. I’ve always been a hardcore values-driven person, and honesty has always been my No. 1 value. I proceeded to go on sales calls with my hardline honesty approach and though people did appreciate my honesty, I wasn’t closing many deals.
The turning point came for me when quite by accident (or as fate would have it), I came across Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is a basic sales primer, but what enticed me was the book’s description. It promised that the principles contained in the book would teach readers how to make people feel important and appreciated. That resonated with me. Upon further reading, I learned that Carnegie believed that success in life can be attributed to how well one learns to effectively deal with people. As noted in a now out-of-print report, he also believed 85% of a person’s job success can be attributed to interpersonal skills, while the remaining 15% is a result of technical knowledge. These ideas instantly ignited a passion and enthusiasm in me. I set my intention to become adept at the power of persuasion while staying true to myself, and I set a goal to become an inspiring, well-liked and respected top-ranked sales professional.
Over the course of the next decade of my sales career, I achieved my goals well beyond my expectations. In the process, I identified my personal top seven pillars of persuasion that helped me achieve and exceed my goals — including becoming a self-sustaining entrepreneur and self-made millionaire while staying true to my values:
Do prospect research. Gather as much intel as possible prior to the first contact with your prospect. Too many businesspeople neglect to get to know their prospective client or customer, which leaves too much room for creating a barrier right from the start. Having a clear picture of who they are, what they invest in, their company’s core values and any outside interests can help quicken your path to a successful outcome.
Build rapport. Be likable. The art of being likable includes being on time and well-groomed, smiling, looking directly at the person you’re talking to, not over- or under-talking, and looking for and expressing the commonalities between you.
Ask the two most important questions. The answers to these two questions will give you valuable information to become more persuasive. They’ll also make you stand out over your competition and help you achieve your client’s goals, which is the most important aspect of sustainable success. First, what is the most imminent and critical thing for you to achieve? Second, what is the one thing that others have been unable or unwilling to accomplish for you?
Be an active listener. Too many salespeople are stuck in their own heads because they’re trying to remember the facts, figures and presentations that they want to deliver. Remember, it’s more important to build rapport, ask questions and really hear what your prospect is saying than to remember every detail of your pitch. You may find that some of it becomes unnecessary or needs amending so it’s tailored to what you’re hearing. Canned pitches leave prospects feeling unmotivated, like a number, and like they’re not perceived or valued as unique individuals.
Perform a soft close. Do a soft close by asking if you’ve been able to provide them with everything they need to decide today. If they say no, ask them what else you can provide them to help — not only to reach a decision about doing business with you but also to help them in their business going forward. Let them know your goal is to earn the privilege of developing a long-term relationship. Be prepared to go the extra mile and give them some freebies.
Overcome objections non-aggressively. Overcoming objections must be done in a personalized and compassionate way by using the information you gained from actively listening to their hopes, dreams and goals. Using a soft tone of voice, take one objection at a time and illustrate what you personally can do to overcome it. Explain why it’s important to their own success to allow you to do this on their behalf. And, if there truly isn’t a fair or reasonable way to give them what they want, present the facts that illustrate how their objection is preventing them from achieving their goal. Inform them about the payoff of letting go of the objection.
Discern hard-close timing. A hard close doesn’t happen on your timeline. Instead, it should happen when you believe your prospect is fully informed, ready and able, but is delaying their decision. Too many entrepreneurs hold on to their own timelines too tightly to meet a sales quota or out of a sense of desperation. Remember, it’s not about you — it’s about their success.
The art of powerful persuasion begins and ends with always putting your prospects’ best interests and success ahead of yours by being willing to go the extra mile to earn their trust and to make them feel honored, respected and uniquely special. In so doing, their success becomes your success.
There is only one strategy that works to continuously grow your success and that’s through consistently evolving yourself.
As one rises to ever-increasing levels of success, one’s life becomes more complex. There simply are far more decisions that need to be made, new strategies to learn, more demands placed on your time and energy, more people pursuing you, and more energy spent on how to keep one’s life in balance and not lose one’s self in the process.
There is only one asset that one can’t afford to lose and that’s oneself. How then does one, amid the crush of the overwhelming tidal wave of increasing success, ensure that they keep themselves from diminishing themselves thereby diminishing their success or compromising their #1 asset which is themselves? The answer is to have a set of questions that you can routinely ask yourself that will reliably give you an accurate assessment if you are stagnating or growing your success.
“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”
The Top 6 Success Growth Hack Questions to Routinely Ask Yourself:
1. Am I primarily focusing on having more or becoming more?
Example: You are not spending any time on inner growth, self-reflection or investing in personal development.
2. What can I do to evolve myself to the next level right now?
Example: An honest realization of a character defect that is preventing you from self-growth exhibited through a bad habit.
3. Am I striving daily to maintain a balanced achievement of both wealth and well-being?
Example: Are you taking time to nourish your body, mind, spirit, relationships and effectively managing your money.
4. If I’m being 100% honest with myself, one bad habit I have that keeps me from expanding my wealth and well-being is?
Example: Expecting or allowing others to do for you what you should be doing for yourself.
5. What New habit can I start right now that will get me outside of my current rut and into taking new action to achieve my next level of success?
Example: Stop isolating and get out to new events and meet new people.
6. Am I being honest and true to myself or am I compromising myself and my values to get ahead or get along?
Example: Not being honest or forthright in fear of losing something or someone.
There are two ways to grow. Either you initiate it or outside forces will foist it upon you. By being proactive in routinely growing yourself, when unexpected challenges present themselves, you will be optimally equipped to handle them with grace, dignity, strength and personal power. Most importantly, you will be rock solid in remaining true to yourself while adeptly converting any challenge into an opportunity to grow yourself, your wealth and well-being.
In Closing My Shocking Confession: It’s so easy to blame, point fingers, get frustrated and angry and think the problem is somebody else. And, maybe it is a problem within the other person. But one day, I realized that if I can’t unhook from allowing myself to get so frustrated that it disrupts my peace of mind, then who am I to cast judgement on someone else’s character if I lack self-control? I decided right then and there to practice not getting angry. As silly as it sounds, I had a goal not to swear or get angry before noon each day. I failed a lot. I saw 1st hand how easy it was to trigger my emotions. Did I take out these feelings of anger on the other person? No. And, for a long time, I thought that was good enough. But, I realized that to grow myself, I had to control myself to the next highest level.
This article originally published on Forbes.com
Entrepreneurs are faced with an endless array of daily decision making. And, if not handled with conscious control and discernment, it can lead to decision fatigue, causing a decrease in productivity, effectiveness and ability to achieve and sustain success.
As a veteran entrepreneur who has conducted business worldwide, I’ve been directly involved in extensive decision making processes, both on my own behalf and as agent for others. I’ve had the opportunity to witness decision making habits of executives of private and publicly traded companies, Fortune 50 company executives (including their legal counsel and primary partners) and solopreneurs.
Through decades of that direct personal experience, I’ve discovered a pattern of what works to deliver the minimum amount of decision making stress and strain possible and the maximum successful outcome.
1. Eliminate and/or minimize daily, nonessential decision making. When it comes to your daily agenda, use self-control to focus only on what is essential. This keeps your mind fresh and sharp, enabling it to think optimally to achieve the highest outcomes.
2. Avoid polarization. When it comes to business agreements, seek out the core values of the company or person you’re making a decision about. Make sure those values are compatible with yours. When core values are in alignment, communication, problem-solving and shared responsibility flow more easily and effortlessly. When they are not aligned, there is a predisposition toward roadblocks, delays or even failure to achieve success.
3. Avoid people-pleasing. There is a natural human tendency to engage in people-pleasing with the people we like as opposed to those we don’t. Liking someone makes it more challenging to say no or to set a boundary when it’s required and can lead to poor decision making. No matter how much you like another person, don’t lower your standards when it comes to doing your homework. It’s business.
4. Assess personality compatibility. If you don’t like someone yet choose to do business with them anyway, you add extra stress, strain and fatigue to the business relationship and can diminish positive returns. Find someone you have more synergy with.
5. Don’t feel pressured to make decisions on someone else’s “need-by” timeline. Rushing your decision making process to accommodate someone else’s timeline is never a good idea. If the timeline can’t be negotiated to match your needs, it’s a sign that it’s not a good match and will lead to other hard-lining behavior in the future.
6. When in any doubt, don’t make a final decision. Making a final decision in spite of lingering doubts is allowing an unconscious or conscious fear to drive your decision. This is an emotional decision, not a rational one, and it often leads to making poor choices. Wait until you are free from doubt.
7. Don’t rush your contract negotiations for any reason. Rushing negotiations is often a sign of being too hungry for success. It means that you are coming from a place of fear or desperation, which will not net you the positive returns you’re seeking. This will only cause a delay in achieving the success that you want or need.
8. Get references, no matter how renowned or grand the recommendation. It’s imperative, in every circumstance, to do your due diligence to make the wisest, risk-averse decision as possible. You need to hear firsthand the answers to your specific questions. Assuming the answers is a risky proposition.
9. Don’t allow fear to rule your decision making process. Fear is an irrational feeling, and not a rational thought. An irrational mindset leads to mistake-making. Take the time to do all the research, investigation and rational analysis prior to making a decision so fear doesn’t override your rational judgment.
10. Get advice, trust your gut and make your own final decisions. Nobody knows your goals, values, wants, needs or point of view like you do. Not even the most seasoned expert is likely coming from the same position as you, which can lead you astray. It’s important to get expert advice, but it’s imperative to make your own decisions to achieve the outcomes that you want and need.
Getting mired in too much decision making can lead to decision fatigue, and therefore, failure. Both Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg know this all too well. That’s why they eliminate all the nonessential decisions. When Obama was president, he chose to only wear blue or grey suits every day. “I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he said in an interview. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Similarly, Mark Zuckerberg almost always wears a grey T-shirt and jeans for the same reason. “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. And there’s actually a bunch of psychology theory that even making small decisions around what you wear, or what you eat for breakfast, or things like that, they kind of make you tired and consume your energy.”
If not made carefully, every decision, big or small, can deplete your time and energy. By consciously and consistently abiding by the top 10 tenets of successful decision making, you’ll optimally be conditioned to avert decision fatigue and achieve maximum returns and success on your energy spent making decisions.
Everyone wants to achieve unending success. Entrepreneurs and solopreneurs work endlessly to keep their pipelines filled with new clients, customers, new marketing strategies and new opportunities. And, while all this activity is good for building your success, it can cause you to burn up and out, unless you do this one very important thing….
Make taking care of your existing customers top priority. If you don’t, your competitors certainly will, and you will lose your biggest asset (your loyal customer base) and your opportunity for unending success.
I’m an extremely loyal person in all my affairs, including business. I seek to make and keep long-lasting relationships. If I’m your client, you’ll have me forever unless you royally f-up. And, unfortunately, I encounter this far too frequently. It’s truly an inconvenient truth. Worse than delivering this truth is the inconvenience of the time, energy, and money that it costs us loyal customers when our trusted contractors drop the ball. But, out of the wreckage of a company who can’t or won’t make servicing and valuing their customers a top priority, is the foregone conclusion that the customer will always find someone to replace the company that drops the ball.
Unending success is a simple math equation. A company that can’t keep a customer happy, will burn up and out no matter how many customers they add. And, the company who can, achieves sustainable success.
The Top 5 Non-Negotiables to Ensure Your Never-Ending Success:
- See Your Clients as Cash in Your Bank Account:
Realize that every time you drop the ball on going the extra mile to service their needs or to make sure they’re satisfied and happy will automatically withdraw cash from your account until it’s eventually wiped out. But, if you go the extra mile, the balance keeps getting higher.
- Consistently and Continuously Ask Yourself “How Can I Serve My Clients Better:
This includes how you can make it easier for customers to continue to do business with you. If your competitors are making it easier than you are, you’re going to lose market share.
- Always Maintain Good Relations:
Even when and if you lose a client, it’s important not to end on a bad note. Keep the door open.
- Don’t Make Doing Business Difficult:
Do what you say you’re going to do and deliver it in the time frame you promise. And, make communications easy and effortless.
- Go the Extra Mile:
Show your clients that you value them by never taking them for granted. A simple personalized token of appreciation always returns 10x above what it may cost in time or money. Send a simple handwritten note or gift or make a check-in phone call. Routinely ask your customers if there is anything that you can do to make things easier or better for them.
The true art of doing business is found in the art of taking care of your customers.
Commit yourself to being a brilliant artist who can show a wide array of brilliant colors that wow your patrons. If you do, you’ll be amazed how much more success you will attain and sustain.
In Conclusion My Shocking Confession: I admit, I got real bitchy y’all! I wanted to do a big-time upgrade to one of my operating systems in one of my buildings. I had been using the same company for over a decade. So, naturally, I called them and gave them the “come get me” speech. Told them I wanted it asap. Well, after a decade of being a paying customer with virtually not a single complaint or issue on my account, began the series of dropping the ball. The events went like this: It took them forever to send account rep; he came and stayed forever to “run out the clock” at work; he lost his notes; gave me a price that later the manager confirmed, then the manager changed his mind and added 25% more; account rep while visiting cut off existing service and didn’t realize it; company’s system didn’t detect it; continued to charge me for service which non-operation left my building exposed to harm. And, lastly, when I had no recourse but to reach out to their competitor to get new service, former co. made it ridiculously difficult and burdensome to close my account and insisted that I pay for the period of non-service! Bridge burned… never going back. I love my new company 😊
The word “boundary” has a negative connotation these days. And yet, it is a key concept that defines how to achieve successful relationships of every kind. Every person has limits. Each person’s limits are different based upon many factors. There is no one-size fits all personal or professional boundary. This is what can make relationships risky.
Entering into any type of relationship, agreement, partnership or contract requires a lot of due diligence and even when due diligence has been performed at the highest levels, there is always inherent risk present. You just don’t know what the other person is capable of doing when faced with challenges that might arise during the engagement. Even in the absence of challenges, the other party may fail to perform.
I’ve been an entrepreneur all my adult life and have conducted business all over the world with small, mid-sized, fortune 500 companies and solopreneurs. The risk is all the same, but the damages that can occur as a result of not knowing, setting and honoring your own boundaries can vary from minor to catastrophic. The bigger the fish, the greater the potential loss. But, regardless of the size of the fish, the sheer waste of time and energy expended to correct the breach is a drain financially, mentally, emotionally and physically.
The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything. ~Warren Buffett
Here’s How to Know, Set and Honor Your Boundaries to Maximize Your Success and Minimize Your Losses:
1. Know Yourself and Your Values. What behaviors are unacceptable to you? What’s you rule about 2nd chances? Do you allow 1 strike, 2 strikes, or none? What’s your #1 core value that if someone can’t abide, you walk away?
2. Don’t Violate Your Own Values. If you can’t honor your core values than you can expect nobody else will and it is the surest way to fail.
3. Walk Your Talk. If your behavior isn’t consistent with your promises or in general is inconsistent, the weakness will be noted and capitalized upon.
4. Clearly Communicate Your Requirements and Expectations. Take the time and make the effort to clearly set forth your requirements. This is an area where I see many companies and solopreneurs fail which causes them loss and hardship which could have been avoided.
5. Don’t Bluff. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you set a clear boundary with a promise to seek remedy, then follow through. Making false threats only escalates the problem, is a character trait of a poor leader and set’s you up for potentially even greater losses.
6. Fearlessly Set Your Boundaries. Learn to say no. Don’t let fear make your decisions for you. If you’ve been wronged, harmed or damaged by wrongful behavior of another party, then step out of fear and into action. Nonaction or delaying action can cause you to suffer far greater consequences than standing up for yourself early on.
In Closing My Shocking Confession: A CFO of a major national bank had just committed perjury against me in a take-over attempt to seize everything I owned! WTF!?? Even my well-seasoned attorneys couldn’t believe it. My very expensive team of attorneys immediately told me I’d get crushed and lose everything if I tried to go up against the giant with the truth. They told me to cut my losses and payout the huge amount of money and hand over the assets that they were demanding. I was exhausted after months and months of court proceedings. I was about to throw in the towel, when I thought about how my letting this guy get away with this was going to give him the confidence to keep doing this to others. I had to take the risk and honor my core values which included honesty and having a social conscience. Exhausted, I dug deep, sorted through mountains of data and correspondence and found the one bit of evidence that confirmed his fraud. Fearlessly, I reported the individual to the appropriate authorities and sent the evidence along with a letter to the founder of the bank (against all attorney advice). He immediately fired the CFO and dropped the claim. I later received a thank you letter from an executive within the bank stating that both the employees and customers had endured years of abuse from this man.