Putting Off Taking the Initiative Is the Ultimate Irony

By Jeff Beals

“Success depends in a very large measure upon individual initiative and exertion, and cannot be achieved except by a dint of hard work.” Those words come from Anna Pavlova, a Russian dancer, who as the first ballerina to tour the world, was a superstar in the early 1900s.

The late Steven Covey, one of America’s most famous leadership theorists, once said, “Employers and business leaders need people who can think for themselves – who can take initiative and be the solution to problems.”

Long before Covey’s and Pavlova’s times, one of the greatest Americans in history, Ben Franklin, said, “Plough deep while sluggards sleep.”

History has proven that successful people are always on the move. They get things done when they need to be done. Successful people are not afraid to keep working when less accomplished people are taking time off.

Attaining your definition of success requires you to take the initiative, to be a self-starter. Nobody else can do the heavy lifting required for you to reach the pinnacle of your existence. Sure, you need to delegate and engage the talents of others, but it’s up to you to actually make your goals happen.

Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves to you. That’s too passive. It makes you dependent on other people and external conditions you can’t control. Instead, be assertive. Go out into the world and make your own opportunities. Create your own luck.

In today’s hyperactive world, there is no room for passivity. That’s unfortunate, because most of us have a tendency to procrastinate. How ironic would it be if you put off taking the initiative? Don’t procrastinate. Take the initiative and set yourself up for long-term career and life success.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com.

Visiting a One-of-a-Kind Factory Leaves One Feeling Thankful & Inspired

By Jeff Beals

From the outside, it looks like a thousand other factories, but what happens inside this 1950s-era industrial building is far from ordinary. Once a bottling and canning plant, the 290,000 square foot building is now home to Outlook Nebraska, Inc., the largest employer of blind and visually impaired people in the Omaha metropolitan area.

ONI is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization operating under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act of 1971 and the AbilityOne Program, which mandates the federal government to provide preferred vendor status to agencies such as ONI who employ persons who are blind or have other significant disabilities.

ONI is a tissue-converting business, which means they make toilet paper. Huge rolls of recycled paper fiber come into the plant and leave as packaged toilet paper and paper towels. The products are sold to the federal government and other customers. Much of the product is actually used in federal prisons.

To be completely honest, I had been invited to visit ONI several times but kept putting it off. I always had an excuse, but basically, I was busy and didn’t want to take the time. But John Wick, director of fund development, kept sending me kindly worded invitations, so I eventually took him up on the offer of a tour.

Upon arriving, I found the main office and checked in. To my surprise, many of the front-office employees were visually impaired including Mr. Wick himself, a former health care executive who lost his sight more than 20 years ago due to a rare eye disease. I also met an industrial manager, who is not blind but has substantial visual impairment.

Our first stop was the technology center. Both of ONI’s information technology professionals are blind. All of their computer work is done through sound and touch. In fact, the keyboard buttons at ONI have no letters, numbers or symbols printed on them at all. I watched in awe as the blind IT guys maneuvered computer programs faster than most sighted individuals can. Special software reads aloud the text. You can speed up or slow down the pace of text reading to suit your personal preference. The two IT guys have been using audio text for so long, their ears are highly attuned – they can decipher words at an astounding speed that sounds only like gibberish to me.

While touring the factory, I saw blind and visually impaired employees running machinery, sorting items on an assembly line by touch and deftly packing finished product into boxes. The workers were so efficient I kept forgetting they couldn’t see. Though one of my tour guides was completely blind, he nevertheless knew where everything was located in the plant. He pointed out machines and product storage areas with accuracy as if he were staring right at them with perfectly functioning eyes.

At the end of the tour, I sat down in the conference room with a couple ONI employees. I was the only sighted person in the room, but it never felt that way. I was truly amazed at the adaptations these successful professionals have made.

No pun intended, but this visit was an eye-opener, an experience I will never forget.

I left feeling thankful, comforted and inspired. I was thankful for several reasons. I was thankful for my sight, which I typically take for granted. ONI employees were clearly thriving, but there’s no denying that visually impaired people have a tougher row to hoe than most of us. I was also thankful for the hospitality ONI extended to me and how ONI employees figuratively opened my eyes to a whole new world.

I was comforted knowing that such high-quality resources are available to the visually impaired. Nearly 3 million Americans are visually impaired and almost 1.3 million are legally blind. Unemployment among blind people is a staggering 70 percent. ONI and organizations like it are working hard to change that. Think how rewarding and empowering it must be for someone whose blindness had forced them into years and years of public assistance to finally find a job specially designed for them to succeed.

Most of all, I was inspired. Some of the people I met were born blind. Others became blind later in life. Whatever the reason, nobody at ONI used their disability as an excuse. Nobody complained. Nobody lamented. Nobody shied away from challenges. The organization has a palpable culture of positivity, optimism and can-do attitude. I’m not sure I have ever visited a company that has a healthier feeling in the air.

On this Thanksgiving week, I’m thankful for many things. My visit to ONI is certainly among them.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. You can learn more and follow his “Beals Motivation Blog” at www.JeffBeals.com. Sample videos of Jeff’s speeches are available at http://bit.ly/1gZqcoA

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

How to Teach an Old Brand New Tricks

By Jeff Beals

During a recent hotel visit, I noticed an odd-looking item on the bathroom vanity. It was the bar of complimentary soap in the little box that every hotel provides alongside the vials of shampoo and conditioner. But this hotel soap was different. There was a circular hole cut right through the middle of the box and the bar of soap itself. When I pulled the soap out of the box, it looked like a roll of Scotch tape.

Next, I took a tiny tube of toothpaste out of my travel kit and noticed something unique about it too. It was Colgate MaxFresh “with mini breath strips.” Mini breath strips…What’s that??? Out of curiosity, I closely examined the toothpaste as I squeezed it out and onto the brush. Sure enough, the gel was full of tiny little squares – each about two millimeters squared – that resembled breath strips, those mint-flavored things you put on your tongue and dissolve in your mouth.

The hole in the soap and the nearly microscopic strips in the toothpaste were obviously intended to differentiate these products among a sea of competitors. Consumer products, such as soap and toothpaste, are as mature an industry as you can find. Colgate sold the first commercial toothpaste in 1873, but primitive versions of toothpaste go back thousands of years. Soap has been around since 2,800 B.C.

Makers of mature products must constantly come up with new distinguishing features and benefits.

Such a philosophy should similarly be applied to all of what we do professionally. Whether it’s your job, your personal brand, the products you sell or the company you own, you have to make periodic changes to stave off stagnation.

The trick is to freshen without losing beneficial identities that have taken years and many resources to build. Honor your tradition, be consistent with your established success but find new ways to stand out in a rapidly commoditizing world.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com.

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Sitting Next to Your Future Boss? Building Relationships Before You Need Them

By Jeff Beals

I had the privilege this fall to speak on personal branding at three universities. I normally speak to professionals, so it was a fun and enjoyable change of pace to address so many young people, “future professionals.”

At each of those universities, I asked the students to do me a favor: “Look at the persons sitting on either side of you and memorize their faces,” I said. “There is a chance that one of the two people you just saw could be your boss someday…So you better start kissing up right now!”

Most of the students were sitting next to friends, so they immediately started laughing and giving each other a hard time. The thought of working for and reporting to a college buddy was so crazy to most of them that it was always hard for me to quiet them down, regain control of the room and proceed with the presentation.

Once calm was restored, I told them that one of my closest high school friends hired me for a job 12 years ago and that I still hold that position today. Furthermore, I told the students that I have done business with several people I’ve known since college, high school and even childhood.

What does this story mean for you?

All people and all relationships matter. You never know who will deliver the right opportunity at just the right time. As my good friend Barry Carlson of MidAmerica Speakers Bureau likes to say, “Build the relationship before you need it.”

Sometimes, the person who seemingly can do nothing for you ends up being the person who changes your life.

To get ahead in business and in life, you certainly must build relationships with the “right” people, but you have to be careful. If you become too obsessed with impressing the ostensibly rich and powerful, you might miss out on the many other people who have wonderful things to offer you. After all, those who are tiny in their professions today can grow to become monsters in the future.

The supposedly non-powerful people in your life may have great influence over powerful decision makers. Administrative assistants come to mind. Oftentimes, a salesperson could be so focused on impressing the decision maker in the corner office that he or she brushes past the administrative assistant with barely an acknowledgment. A job candidate could be so focused on impressing the hiring manager in an interview that he or she does the same thing. Both are big mistakes.

As any savvy professional knows, decision makers tend to be very dependent upon their administrative assistants as well as their direct professional reports. If a staff member feels disrespected by a prospective vendor, the staff member will probably sabotage the would-be vendor’s chances of getting the business.

As an outsider, you don’t know the hidden relationships that may exist between the powerful person you want to impress and the staff members surrounding him or her. Treat all people like gold, because your success depends on it.

Even when you’re not in “sales mode” or “job-seeking mode,” it’s worth your while to take a little time for everyone. You never know who could be your boss someday. You never know who could be your client someday. You never know what person at your neighbor’s cocktail party could hook you up with your biggest client ever. Constantly build relationships now to sow the seeds of future opportunity. Any relationship has the potential to bear fruit if you simply tend to it.

Finally, when thinking about building relationships for your professional benefit, don’t forget the people right in your own backyard. Too many times we are tempted to focus solely on those who are far away from us, the hard-to-reach people who we dream of doing business with. In pursuing them, it’s easy to forget about the people already around you. They might know more and could be accomplishing more than you think.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. You can learn more and follow his “Beals Motivation Blog” at www.JeffBeals.com.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Overcoming Objections “Tennessee” Style

By Jeff Beals

(NOTE: This article is adapted from the author’s book, “Selling Saturdays: Blue Chip Sales Tips from Football”)

Several years ago, University of Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer and his assistant coaches were trying to sell Tennessee football to a hotshot high school football star from Dallas. Fulmer and Tennessee were battling several other football powerhouses in the effort to sign the talented young man.

As is often the case, the kid and his parents were concerned about the long distance between home and the university. After all, many 18-year-olds have a hard time leaving home and going to college hundreds of miles away.

The Tennessee coaches anticipated the concern based on past experience.

To comfort the young man and his mom, the coaches printed a list of every daily flight between Dallas and Knoxville, Tennessee to show them just how many were scheduled and how affordable the fares really were.

The best salespersons prepare for and gracefully address objections.

There are three main reasons for objections: one is good, one is neutral, and the third is bad. Fortunately, the vast majority of objections, especially if they occur later in the process, are good.

Bad objections are barriers or roadblocks used by the prospect to get away from the salesperson or to stop the process. Typically, these objections are used to convey that the client is turned off by the product, scared of doing the deal or flat-out uninterested. These are reasons or arguments as to why a person does not want to work with you. When you receive this type of objection, it’s usually rather obvious. These objections are telling you that the deal has a low likelihood of happening and that you may be wasting your time pursuing this client any further.

Sometimes, an objection can sound bad but really isn’t. It’s actually neutral. A prospect might want to delay the decision until a later time for a very legitimate reason. A prospect might be interested in what you are selling but just doesn’t have the time to deal with it right now. They might give you a soft “no” just because they are under too much pressure to deal with you.

Any “no” that comes out of these situations should be taken with a grain of salt. Give the prospect some space by asking when you should meet again. Then be sure to follow up.

The lion’s share of objections are positive. To a sales neophyte, they might look and sound bad on the surface, but they are really quite encouraging. In fact, good objections are so important to the selling process that you ought to be concerned if you don’t receive any. It may be a sign that the prospect is not as interested as you think.

Good objections are actually concerns and questions dressed up as problem statements. Prospects use these objections to make sure they are receiving all the information they need from the sales presenter. They also use them to reassure themselves about a decision they have already made.

In other words, the prospect likes you and your service and believes you can provide value by solving their problems. At that point, prospects just want to be 100 percent sure that they understand exactly what you’ll do. These good objections are last-ditch efforts to verify that everything is as great as they think it is. Assuming the salesperson answers the objections reasonably, it’s a done deal.

Whether the objective is bad, good or neutral, avoid acting annoyed, troubled or irritated by it. Try not to be flustered by the objection. If you are caught off guard, you can always look up the information or bring in a colleague for assistance. Never be patronizing or condescending in your answers. It’s a good idea to prepare for a wide variety of objections and rehearse your responses. Have answers ready to go that can reassure prospects, reverse negative feelings or nudge them across the finish line.

By the way, that star player from Dallas did end up playing for Coach Fulmer at Tennessee. Fulmer knew the kid’s mother wasn’t actually saying, “I don’t want my son going to Tennessee, because it’s too far,” rather she was really saying, “Please tell me he’ll be okay so far from home and that I’ll be able to go see him play.”

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Please forward this article to anyone who would benefit from it.

MINI BLAST – It’s Not Stealing: Borrowing Inspiration from Other Industries

By Jeff Beals

You never know when and where inspiration will come.

The legendary businessman Henry Ford once visited a beef packing plant in Chicago. Ford took great interest in the way workers processed the beef from whole carcasses into small cuts of ready-to-sell meat. As he observed, it occurred to Ford that if the process was reversed, all the cuts would go back together to form a whole steer carcass again. The metaphorical light bulb switched on in Ford’s head. “I can build automobiles this way,” he thought. Ford went back home to Detroit and promptly created the famous assembly line.

Think about that…One of the business world’s greatest manufacturing innovations was conceived after visiting a gruesome slaughtering plant.

As an entrepreneur, salesperson or professional of any other sort, you need to be on the lookout. Instead of “reinventing the wheel,” find inspiration from other professions, different industries and different places. Ask yourself, “How can this idea or process be applied to my industry?” Borrowing from other professions will make your business stronger.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com.