Set Aside Time “Off the Top” for Learning

By Jeff Beals

Days were growing longer and the flowering trees of late April were in full bloom across the campus.  The spring semester was nearing its end, and even as a part-time, “adjunct” faculty member, who only taught one course, the end of the school year always brought a sense of excitement.

In the early 2000s, I taught juniors and seniors in the business college at my local university.  I used to get a kick out of the things students would say in our after-class discussions especially as the spring semester waned.

“I can’t wait for graduation,” said one burned-out senior, “so I never have to study again.”

I chuckled a little to myself when I heard that comment.  Not wanting to burst her bubble, I said nothing, allowing her to enjoy the excitement of her approaching graduation.  It wasn’t the right time to tell her that her education was actually just beginning.

In order to succeed in a competitive marketplace, learning never ends.  You must be a lifelong learner if you want to be a high-achiever or top producer.

Your continual learning is both formal and informal.  If you have a deficiency in your formal education, now is the time to correct it.  If you are no longer interested in pursuing degrees, you should still find yourself in a classroom periodically just to keep up with the fast-moving, hyper-competitive economy in which we work.

Lifelong learning prepares you for unanticipated happenings.  We never know what business or career opportunity might come our way.  By learning all you possibly can now, you set yourself up for unforeseen opportunities and increase the likelihood that you will respond appropriately to those opportunities.

If you are an entrepreneur, lifelong learning allows you to continually hone your craft.  You will become better at operationalizing new innovations.  You will be a better manager, more innovative and more likely to be on the cutting edge.  You will learn more effective ways to sell your products and services.

Lifelong learning allows you to prepare for a polarized reality of today’s workplace.  On one hand, you need to have a specialty – something that you do very well that few others can.  On the other hand, you need to be a generalist – someone with a diversity of professional skills and experiences.  Shape your educational and intellectual pursuits in such a way as to pursue both of these seemingly dichotomous realities.

Regardless of your line of work, it is healthy to assume that all your competitors are vigorously trying to improve themselves.  You need to continue educating yourself just to keep up, let alone to get ahead.  Carve out time for your own self development.

Continuing education is like investing.  Just as you should set aside investment money before you pay bills and spend on entertainment, you need to set aside time “off the top” for learning.  No matter how successful you already are or may someday become, you can always go further if you make a commitment to never stop learning.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

You Can’t Escape the System of Reliabilities

By Jeff Beals

There was a time, back in feudal England, when taking a dispute to court was generally considered a bad idea.

The final decision depended on the king’s interpretation of the conflict. That interpretation could be influenced by the king’s mood, how closely he paid attention the arguments and whatever preexisting biases he may have possessed.

And here’s the really bad part: the losing party was sometimes accused of perjury and occasionally put to death. Going to court was a high-stakes endeavor.

Suffice it to say that Medieval English merchants figured out it was better to resolve disputes amongst themselves rather than risk the king’s wrath. That eventually led to the use of contracts in the English legal system.

I once attended a contract law seminar in order to earn continuing education credits, and I’ll always remember how interesting the instructor was. I’m a history buff, so I enjoyed hearing the instructor explain the historical underpinnings of modern contract law at the start of the class. He used one term in particular that caught my attention and stuck with me: “system of reliabilities.”

In order for our modern, contract-dependent society to work, we operate within a system of reliabilities, meaning we have a reasonable expectation that the people around us can be counted on to carry out their obligations. As a simple example, the instructor said when you drive an automobile, you’re participating in a system of reliabilities – you have a reasonable expectation that other drivers will stay in their lanes and yield the right of way as appropriate.

The more I thought about the concept, “system of reliabilities,” the more intrigued I became. Regardless of what you do for a living, you participate in a system of reliabilities every day as you do your work.  If you work in a large organization, you depend heavily on your colleagues. Even if your business is merely a one-entrepreneur shop, you still depend on your vendors and clients.

Since there is no escaping the system of reliabilities in which we live and work, it’s a good idea to assess whether we are adequately doing our parts, playing our roles. A healthy economy and vibrant marketplace depend upon a system of reliabilities working properly. When it comes to our personal obligations, here are a few key components of the professionals’ system of reliabilities:

  • Ethical decision-making and behavior
  • Following laws and abiding by organizational rules and regulations
  • Being sensitive to institutional norms and expectations and behaving in accordance to them
  • A willingness to accept responsibility and to hold yourself accountable for your words and actions
  • Detailed and thorough communication so everyone is on the same page
  • Completing projects and tasks properly and on time
  • Empathy and understanding
  • Teaching, training and mentoring
  • A commitment to education – A society is more prosperous when its members continually learn
  • Forgiveness – helping others recover from their mistakes and transgressions
  • Charity for those who need help
  • Bravery – so you can stand up to evil

Those are some of the things that come to my mind. I’m sure I could think of a hundred more if I tried, because in order for us to be successful, we need our fellow people to meet a lot of obligations.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

The Power of Teaming in Sales

By Jeff Beals

Generally speaking, we learn better and develop better ideas when we work in groups.  Human beings are social creatures.  Our ability to team up has allowed our species to build amazing structures and advance once-unimaginable technologies.

When two or more people put their heads together and tackle challenging problems, we often end up with amazing innovations.  Teams beat individuals.

But those of us who have chosen a career in sales tend to be individualists.  Some of us are even considered “lone wolves.”

Now, there are benefits to behaving like an individual when you work in sales.  Our profession requires quick thinking and the ability to confidently make decisions when you’re out on the road far away from the office.  Salespeople typically live on commission, which requires you to have tolerance for risk and a great deal of self-confidence.

The key is to combine the individualism that is necessary for success in sales with the human desire to be part of an advanced social organization.

If you roll your eyes anytime someone talks about your sales organization working as a team, take a look at these examples of when teaming up produces positive results for sales professionals:

1. Message Development

Prospecting is much more difficult than it was 10 or 20 years ago especially when you’re approaching new, cold prospects.  In such an environment, business acumen is critically important.

That means we have cutting-edge messages that engage and challenge prospects in ways that are meaningful for them.  In other words, you can no longer call a prospect and say, “I’d like to stop by your office and pick your brain.”  Instead, you need a compelling message that stands out in the sea of communication sameness.

Developing these messages is a great teamwork opportunity.  When a company invites me to their office to conduct a prospecting workshop, I challenge the sales reps to develop a series of compelling email, social, telephone and voicemail messages they can use to engage cold prospects.  If we have time, we do this as part of the workshop; if we don’t, I assign it as a homework project.

Here’s how it works:  Each member of the sales team develops a certain number of effective prospecting messages and then we share all the messages with the group.  All the sales reps can share in the creative bounty and start using the best messages right away

2. Professional Development

Albert Einstein said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

Indeed it is critical that sales professionals constantly learn.  Some of that learning can be individual – reading, watching webinars, personal research – but we tend to learn more and retain more of that knowledge when we learn together.

That’s why it’s useful to do in-house sales training, watch sales training videos as a team or go to conferences as a group.  Once a group of sales professionals is exposed to some form of education, it’s a good idea to talk about it together after the training takes place and try out some of the ideas as a team.

3. On-Boarding

Lately, I’ve been thinking about on-boarding quite a bit.  It came up as a conversation within the past two weeks in both of the mastermind groups I lead. Many sales leaders struggle finding the best ways to bring new sales reps up to speed and quickly maximize their talents.

Well, you can use the collective power of the current sales team to shrink the learning curve for new sales professionals.  Have each experienced member of your team sit down and think of all the most common objections they receive during meetings with prospects.  Then have each of them write down how they overcome those objections.

Similarly, have them list all the issues that pop up during price-and-terms negotiations and how they successfully handle those.

You can do this with other parts of the selling process as well.  The collective knowledge and experience of the group is a great teacher and prevents you from trying to reinvent the wheel every time a new person joins your team.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

Sales Is Something You Do for Someone Special

By Jeff Beals

“Sales isn’t something you do to someone,” said the late great Zig Ziglar. “It’s something you do for someone.”

Most people think of Zig as motivational speaker and inspirational author, and he indeed was both of those things, but Zig was first and foremost a sales guy.

He started teaching salespeople how succeed back in the 1960s, and even after he became a mainstream motivational speaker, he was always a resource for those of us who have to sell things for a living.

Zig nailed it when he said sales is something you do for people instead of to people.

People love to buy but they hate being sold.

Buyers are less satisfied with decisions that are made under pressure.

Old-style, high-pressure sales tactics are the reason some people have a negative view of sales and why some sales professionals are actually embarrassed to be working in sales.

So how do you act like Zig Ziglar and help people happily buy something instead of shoving a product down their throats?

Focus on what prospects value!

The world’s most successful salespersons don’t sell products and services. They sell VALUE:

Delivery – Consistently deliver outstanding results. With so much competition in the world, clients have the right to assume that all providers are competent. Make sure you are more than competent in your operations.

Interpersonal Communication – You will have a hard time determining what the client values if you don’t communicate thoroughly and listen carefully.

Relationships and Trust – Do what it takes to build a strong bond with your clients.  If the relationship is strong enough, you can trust your clients to tell them what they need to hear as opposed to what they want to hear. Even if the client gets mad, your relationship is so strong, that he or she won’t leave you.

Don’t Assume – Just because you are an expert in what you do for a living and the product or service your company provides, doesn’t necessarily mean you know what is best for your client.  Only your client determines what is valuable.  Do what it takes to find out exactly want the prospect values without any ambiguity.

Once you know what the prospect values, sell only that.  Make sure your solutions meet the prospect’s value and solve his or her problems.  If you do that, you will be a trusted adviser, a person who does something FOR a client instead of TO a client

Ultimately, you are not in the product- or service-selling business. You’re in the results-selling business. The right results, along with a trusting relationship are what your clients truly value.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.