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Your Real Business; Your Real Job

By Jeff Beals

Nordstrom is a chain of upscale department stores based in downtown Seattle, the chic and sophisticated hub of the Northwest.

Wal-Mart is the world’s biggest discount retailer and is based in Bentonville, a town of 36,000 people tucked away in northwest Arkansas.

At first glance, you might think these two businesses could not be more different, but a closer look reveals they are very much alike.  Both enjoy huge, rabidly loyal followings.  Their customers love them and go back again and again.  Millions of families live almost exclusively on affordable products purchased from Wal-Mart.  Nordstrom customers are known to travel hundreds of miles to visit their favorite department store.

These two similar-but-different retailers have been successful over many years, because they know their real business.  They know what they really do as opposed to what it appears they do.

Wal-Mart is not in the grocery-and-general merchandise business. Instead, it’s in the “saving-people-money-so-they-can-live-better” business.  Nordstrom isn’t in the garment retailing business.  It’s in the “make-you-look-and-feel-special” business.  The experiences and feelings Nordstrom provide are, to many customers, even more valuable than the apparel and accessories themselves.

The key word for both companies’ success is “value.”

No matter what you do for a living, success ultimately comes down to your ability to deliver great value for the money your clients invest.

But how do you define value?

You don’t.

Value is determined by the client. Value exists in the client’s head. By making your clients feel truly special, you make it easier for them to see the great value you can provide.

The greatest leaders, entrepreneurs, marketers and sales professionals understand that value is critical.

The most successful real estate agents are in the “help-you-get-your-dream-house” business. Insurance brokers are in the “keep- you-safe-and-secure” business. Financial advisors are in the “make-you-wealthy” business. Professional consultants are in the “keep-your-company-solvent” business. Risk managers are in the “keep-your-butt-out-of-court” business.

Clients feel most special when their service providers prove that it’s all about client. The successful person is the one who is in business to make someone else’s dreams come true.

As the legendary Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart once said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody, by spending his money somewhere else.”

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

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.

Selling Sawdust to a Lumber Mill – How to Be Persuasive

By Jeff Beals

We all know that certain kind of person who is so persuasive, he could sell sawdust to a lumber mill, charm wallpaper off a wall or convince a starving lion to embrace a vegan lifestyle.

Some people are so persuasive they can seemingly talk anybody into anything.  How do they do that?  It helps to possess good looks and charisma, but persuasive people tend to employ certain techniques, things we can all use to make our personal and professional lives more successful.

Back in the 1930s, Professor Alan Monroe of Purdue University married the art of presentation with the psychology of persuasion.

The result of his scholarly work became known as Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, a concept that is still pertinent for today’s professionals. The concept was originally intended to help orators structure persuasive speeches, but it’s equally applicable for a variety of other purposes – making a sales presentation, pitching a proposal or trying to talk your boss into making a certain decision.

Whether you’re addressing a large group or an audience of a single decision maker, keep Monroe in mind as you plot your sales presentations. Monroe’s Motivated Sequence advises presenters to build their case using five distinct steps completed in exact order.

First comes the attention-getter in which you introduce a problem by jolting the audience with something bold and unexpected—a story, quote, disturbing statistic or a big “bet-you-didn’t-know” statement.

Step two is need. This is where you prove the problem is significant and worthy of the listener’s attention. You also want to cast the need as something that won’t be solved without the right approach by the right person or organization.

Monroe’s third step is known as satisfaction. Here you prove that you have the solution to the previously mentioned problem.

In step four, visualization, you paint a picture of how wonderful life will look in the future if they accept and implement your solution. You also portray how terrible things will be if they ignore your recommendations.

Finally, in step five, you tell the audience what action they should take. This is the big finish, where you powerfully and motivationally tell them to go do it!

Think about the presentations, pitches and proposals you make.  Ask yourself how they fit into Monroe’s outline. Are you skipping a step or two?  Many salespersons start with step three, the solution, without making the case strongly enough that a solution is necessary in the first place. Structure your persuasive pitch in such a way that makes the targeted listener more acquiescent to what you are pitching. Make them yearn for your solution intensely before you tell them about it.

Your pitches and sales presentations must follow a logical format that feels right to the listener and syncs with their sense of order. The approach needs to build a persuasive case efficiently and effectively. Persuasive presentations must conform to human nature, which has remained static for ages. If you use human nature in your favor, the presentation is more likely to be successful. If you fight human nature, you’re engaging in futility.

As the late Zig Ziglar once said, “People do things for their reasons, not yours.” Focus on what the listener values during the presentation and take time to draw them in by asking clarifying questions and tying things back to what they told you during earlier communications.

In the end, being persuasive really isn’t a matter of “selling ice to an Eskimo” or “talking a bird out of a tree,” rather it’s about finding what people value and then using the right techniques to convince them that you’re capable of delivering that value.

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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

You Better Get to Know “Spot!” How to Climb the Relationship Depth Chart

By Jeff Beals

The philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.”

The novelist Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

Trust.  It can be difficult to achieve, but it is essential for long-term success in today’s fast-paced, ultra-competitive world.

Trust facilitates decision making. Trust makes your work easier and more fulfilling. When trust exists, deal-making is simply more fun, because participants endure far less stress and tension. In his 2008 book Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey shows us that even the most complicated business transactions can move quickly and freely if trust is present. Huge purchases are still sometimes made verbally and sealed with a handshake when both parties trust each other without reservation.

Legendary football coach Hayden Fry is best known for his work at the University of Iowa, where he led the Hawkeyes to three Big 10 Championships. He retired in 1998 after amassing 232 wins and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.  When he coached at Southern Methodist University back in the mid-1960s, Fry recruited Jerry LeVias, the first African-American player to receive a scholarship in the history of the Southwest Conference. LeVias had other scholarship offers, so it was quite a coup to attract him to a school that had such an entrenched culture of racial exclusion.

So how did Hayden Fry convince Jerry LeVias to join a school in a conference that never before had signed black players? The answer is simple: Trust.

“I never even mentioned football to Jerry,” Fry said. “We talked about his educational objectives. What he would become after graduation. We talked about personal things. It was obvious he was a great football player, so there was no need to talk about football.”

Fry signed LeVias because he built a trusting relationship with him.

When trust exists, you don’t have to “sell” anything; you don’t have to talk people into doing things.  When you are a trusted provider who keeps the best interests of others in mind, you get the benefit of the doubt.  You get opportunities that other people never know about.

In order to build trust, you must climb the “relationship depth chart.” At the bottom of the chart, is rapport, which leads to the second level-a relationship. After that, trust blossoms, ultimately leading to an agreement, a deal or an opportunity. With each person you meet, start at the bottom of the relationship depth chart and work your way up.

When Hayden Fry was recruiting players for his football team, he climbed the relationship depth chart by listening to prospective players, empathizing with them and getting to know the important people in their lives.

“I instructed my coaching staff that if the young man they were recruiting had a dog named Spot, then you better get to know Spot,” Fry said. “In other words, you needed to know the family, their background, their goals in life, religious beliefs.”

The relationship depth chart is sequential and therefore must be followed in exact order. First, seek to establish rapport. This simply means that after acquaintance is made, mutual affection exists between two people-I like you, and you like me. We have found some commonality and our personalities jibe. Once rapport is in place, you can proceed to a relationship, which is a deeper commonality that implies a longer-term friendship, mutual respect, empathy and loyalty. When two people have a healthy interpersonal relationship between them, they tend to enjoy reciprocating-that is, giving each other items of value and doing nice deeds for one another.

Once the relationship is firmly in place, trust springs forth naturally. The stronger that trust, and the longer it has been in place, the more likely the two parties-buyer and seller, convincer and convincee, recruiter and recruit – can come to a deal. Strong levels of trust lead to enduring professional relationships, which can be almost impossible for an outsider to break.

Constantly climb the relationship depth chart with everyone you encounter. Wherever you are with any given person at any given time on the depth chart, the focus is only on advancing to the next highest rung. Your goal is to move every prospect to the top of the chart, but focus on one step at a time. In other words, you’re unlikely to have trust if you skip the relationship part. You’re unlikely to sign a deal when you haven’t passed the rapport stage.

Trust is a two-way street. Not only does it make your work easier, it frankly makes it worthwhile.  Put a premium on people around you.  Elite professionals are in business to serve others. Ordinary ones serve themselves.

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

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.

Winning Tradition: Building a Brand People Want to Buy

By Jeff Beals

“Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are going wrong, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”

These words were made famous in the 1940 Warner Brothers film Knute Rockne, All American, starring Ronald Reagan among others. The movie tells the story of the legendary Knute Rockne, who coached Notre Dame from 1918 to 1930 during which time he became the most successful coach in history in terms of winning percentage. Reagan played George “the Gipper” Gipp, a player on one of Rockne’s teams who ended up dying from an infection while he was an otherwise healthy young man in 1920. Gipp struggled to utter those words to Rockne while he was lying on his death bed.

In 1928, Rockne’s Fighting Irish team was not playing up to his usual standards. After posting a 4-2 record in the first six games, Notre Dame prepared to take on undefeated Army. Finding his team trailing at halftime, Rockne delivered his “Win One for the Gipper” speech in the locker room. Those eminently motivational words inspired the team to go back out on the field and play their hearts out, upsetting Army 12-6.

Not only did the film give the future U.S. president his lifelong nickname, it immortalized Rockne and further cemented Notre Dame’s widely respected and nationally recognized “brand.” Sure, Notre Dame enjoyed tremendous success and a big following before the 1940 film, but after millions of moviegoers saw the Notre Dame mystique on the silver screen, the brand was bolstered. Just think of the iconic images and words that are now universally known to be associated with Notre Dame – “Four Horsemen,” “Golden Dome,” “Wake up the echoes.”

For years after that film, Notre Dame enjoyed top-of-mind brand status. That made it easier for the Irish to sign blue-chip players. In fact, during Coach Frank Leahy’s tenure, 1941 to 1953, Notre Dame won four Associated Press national championships and registered six undefeated seasons. Since Leahy, Notre Dame has won national championships under Ara Parseghian (1966, 1973), Dan Devine (1977) and Lou Holtz (1988).

Notre Dame is enjoying a great deal of success so far this year, but even when the Irish suffer through a lackluster season, games are still broadcast nationally on NBC. Notre Dame Stadium is still full on Saturdays, and the team generally puts together highly rated recruiting classes each year on National Signing Day.

The reason Notre Dame continues selling itself successfully each year is simple: it has a phenomenal brand. When you have a great brand that many people covet and desire, you sell more of whatever you’re trying to sell. An organization that has achieved great brand status has convinced a significant portion of its target audience that it is the ONLY brand worthy of attention. Loyal customers believe in the brand so strongly, that no other provider measures up.

What’s your organization’s brand? People have a deep desire to associate with organizations and people, who have highly respected and widely recognized brands. Take advantage of your unique selling points, both internal and external, and build a brand people want to buy.  

***

If you like this story, you can read hundreds more like it in Jeff’s brand-new book, Selling Saturdays: Blue Chip Sales Tips from College Football.  Order copies at www.SellingSaturdays.com.

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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

 

So Much More than Free Booze & Appetizers

By Jeff Beals

Most professionals know they must network in order to achieve long-term business success. It’s critically important to participate in the public arena and interact with the people who could become your clients, provide you with valuable information or help you further your causes and beliefs.

While they understand the importance of networking, many professionals do a lousy job of it. It’s easy to show up at an event, grab a drink, eat some free hors d’oeuvres, say “hi” to a couple people, then go home and pat yourself on the back for being involved in the community.

Unfortunately, that’s not networking. It’s merely socializing.

There’s nothing wrong with socializing. In fact, it’s generally a good thing, but it’s not efficient. In order to convert socializing into networking, you need to have a three-tiered goal planted in your mind before you even enter the venue where networking will take place.

I call it “goal-based networking,” and here’s how it works:

Goal #1

“I will get a direct opportunity”

This could be a new client, an invitation to join a prestigious organization, a job offer, a promise to donate money to your pet cause. While Goal #1 is ideal, it unfortunately doesn’t happen at most networking events.

Goal #2

“I will get a solid lead on a direct opportunity”

This is almost as good as the first goal, because it moves you closer to what you really want. Goal #2 should happen at the vast majority of networking events you attend. If it doesn’t, you’re not meeting enough people or not asking the right questions.

Goal #3

“I will meet new people and learn valuable information”

This is the bare-bones minimum goal that you should achieve at every single networking event you attend.

Make a commitment to network more and remember to think about these three goals before walking into your next networking event. Setting these goals consistently over a long period of time will maximize the return from your investments in networking. That means you increase your public profile, connect with the right people and become that person who always seems to know about business happenings long before your colleagues do.

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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

I See You Everywhere

By Jeff Beals

The American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “I went to the woods, because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to love deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” I love that passage, and while I’m not hiding out on Walden Pond, I try to follow that philosophy.

As professionals we need “to suck out the marrow” of our business lives. We have to lead active, deliberate careers that are at least somewhat externally focused. That means you turn off the laptop, step out of your cubical and get involved outside the office.

As long as you don’t over-commit yourself – burning the candle at both ends, so to speak – being involved actually makes you better at your core work.

People who join professional associations, who get involved in their place of worship, or who engage in community service learn more and meet more prospective clients. Many of the people you meet during involvement opportunities are members of your personal target audience.

In any given office, there is at least one person who is active in the community and seemingly knows everyone. It is no coincidence that such a person brings in a lot of business, finds great publicity opportunities for the organization and, in turn, gets a lot of job promotions.

Simply put, involvement leads to success. Personal brandng is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year obligation. It does not end until your career ends. You must be out there seeing and being seen. You have to do it perpetually, so that your personal target audience remembers you.

An acquaintance of mine called me one afternoon and said, “I just have to tell you – you are everywhere!” She was impressed with how I was building name recognition within my profession. I told her it was just part of my job. By the way, I wasn’t telling her anything she didn’t already know, because she too did a great job being “everywhere.”

Use your time wisely. If you have family or other commitments in the evening, use your lunch hour for networking and other self marketing activities. Ambitious professionals should not eat lunch by themselves more than once or twice a week; it’s simply too important of a networking opportunity to waste.

The fact is, in order to stand out, you need to be everywhere. As much as you may desire to go home and watch television after work, you need to spend a little more time working, showing up at events. While you don’t have to drink until your liver gives out, you do need to be a man or woman about town. Sometimes you have to stay out late at a cocktail party where important prospects have gathered. Sometimes you need to get up early and meet a member of your personal target audience for coffee before you both start work.

It’s not easy, and it comes with a price, but successful professionals are seemingly “everywhere.”

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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

Who Cares?!!? It’s All about Them

By Jeff Beals

When Pam Lontos was a 15-year-old growing up in Texas, she took a one-hundred-percent commission job selling shoes at a local department store. In her early twenties, after a stint she describes as “a depressed, overweight housewife,” she took a job selling health club memberships. In both positions, she excelled, surprising the bosses with her tremendous performance and production.

That success led to a long career in sales, marketing and coaching others to be successful.

Lontos went on to work in radio sales, breaking sales records despite her station’s tiny Arbitron ratings. The ownership eventually promoted her to a management role, and she promptly increased sales 500 percent even though the station’s ratings never improved. That led to a national job as vice president of sales for Disney’s Shamrock Broadcasting where she similarly boosted sales 500 percent.

After being invited to speak in front of thousands of broadcasting professionals, she wound up becoming a motivational speaker and author, so she could share her abilities with others. She recently sold a publicity firm she founded and now coaches professional speakers and authors on how to do more business.

So what’s her secret? Why has Lontos been so successful in her sales and marketing work?

Admittedly, some of her success can be attributed to an engaging personality, but most of it is due to proper technique: Build rapport. Ask questions. Gear your presentation to their wants. Don’t give your credentials until they tell you what they want. Think to yourself, “Who cares?!!?”

“All people care about is what’s in it for them,” Lontos said.

Professionals who market or sell products and services must constantly ask themselves, “Who cares?!!?” When Lontos led sales training seminars, she would have an audience member stand up and say one attribute of his company or product. She would then have the rest of the audience shout, “Who cares?!!?”

“Our product outsells the competition two-to-one.”  “Who cares?!!?”

“We doubled our company’s revenue growth last year.”  “Who cares?!!?”

“We offer cutting-edge financial management solutions.”  “Who cares?!!?”

Too many marketers and sales professionals focus on features and benefits instead of discovering what the prospective buyer really wants and then customizing what they offer to satisfy what prospects truly value.

Lontos realized the importance of focusing on customer values early in her job selling fitness club memberships.

“Let’s say someone comes into the club, because they just found out they’re going on a corporate trip with colleagues to Acapulco later that summer,” Lontos said. “They put on their bikini, look in the mirror and realize they have four months to get rid of those flabby thighs.” Some salespersons could hear that story and totally ignore it, instead focusing on the rehearsed script, saying something like, “You’ll want to work out three times per week. This will improve your cardio-vascular fitness, so you’ll avoid a heart attack.”

Such a response would be an absolute failure if you’re trying to sell the woman worrying about the upcoming business junket.

“At that point in time, she’s not thinking about heart attacks,” Lontos said. “She doesn’t care about heart attacks. She’s worried about flabby thighs. You sell her by saying, ‘Your co-workers will say you look fantastic in that bikini.’ Right now, that’s all she cares about.”

Don’t talk about your features and benefits until you know exactly what the prospect cares about, what matters to them. People make monetary decisions based on personal and often self-serving emotions. No offense, but prospective customers ultimately don’t care about you or what you’re selling. They care about how it satisfies their needs and wants (especially the “wants”).

Now, Lontos is not alone in preaching the “Who cares?!!” doctrine. Many sales experts recommend a similar approach. Given that, why do so many professionals try to sell, market or convince people using an approach that turns people off?

“Because they think they’re so knowledgeable,” Lontos said. “People gravitate to something they like to sell. They gravitate to jobs that interest them, but just because you’re enthralled with something doesn’t mean others are.”

In other words, professionals can easily get so wrapped up in their profession that they fail to see it from an outsider’s perspective. Frankly, the more talented, educated and experienced you are in your profession, the more vulnerable you are to making assumptions about clients. Even if you are the most brilliant and seasoned person in your organization, remember, it’s about them. Chances are they don’t care about the things you care about.

By the way, Lontos is author of the book, I See Your Name Everywhere: Leverage the Power of the Media to Grow your Fame, Wealth and Success available on Amazon.com. You can contact Lontos and learn more about her at PamLontos.com.

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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

Make Your Voice Mail Stand Out in the Sea of Sameness

By Jeff Beals

Because of the rapidly increasing clutter and excessive communication in today’s marketplace, the world is now suffering a serious epidemic. It’s the highly contagious disease of blowing off and completely ignoring voice mails and emails.

Are you frustrated about the lack of messages you leave that are never returned? If so, you’re not alone.

According to Brian Sullivan, author of the book, 20 Days to the Top, prospects only return five to 10 percent of all voicemails. Despite the shockingly low response rate, Sullivan believes you must keep leaving those recorded messages. In fact, many of the most successful professionals in the world regularly leave voice mail after voice mail until they finally get the client to call back, or they actually manage to catch him or her live on the phone.

According to Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, many professionals are having to leave 10 or more voice mails before receiving a call-back from a c-level executive. Konrath doesn’t believe this is a function of executive-level rudeness, rather it’s the fact that these people are “crazy-busy” and simply can’t get back to calls that don’t fall into the “emergency” category.

Clients and prospective clients are more likely to return your voice mails if you make them interesting. First of all, Konrath recommends you never say you’re calling to “touch base” or “check in.” Those are useless reasons to waste a prospect’s time. Always say something of value. Remember that the prospect you are calling defines what is valuable, not you. How do you know what they value? Sullivan recommends you do a little research on the person and reference something unique about them. Doing so will show that you cared enough to learn about the person and will grab their attention because you’re talking their language.

Next, Sullivan advises that you hint what benefit the person will receive if they return your call. Then spark their curiosity, saying you have something to share with them that they will find valuable or interesting. If appropriate, you might want to offer a gift, something for free, such as a free report, counseling session, market advice, etc. Then follow up with the close, encouraging them to call you back.

After all that, you still might not hear from them. When that’s the case, leave another message and be prepared to keep doing so. Because everyone has become frenzied in our cluttered communication environment, it has sadly become acceptable to delete voice mails without returning the call, because the prospect assumes you’ll just call back. If you don’t follow through and keep calling back, you’ll probably never catch the person. When dialing for dollars on the phone, you have to keep dialing. Don’t stop. Be assertive, because rarely do would-be clients call and volunteer to give you money.

While big-name business titans like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet and Oprah Winfrey usually succeed in catching a person’s attention when they call, lesser known professionals have a harder time. “John Smith” and “Jane Doe” need to make their messages stand out in the sea of sameness.

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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

Tons of Room at the Top: The Attitude & Altitude of Success

By Jeff Beals

Psychologist Abraham Maslow changed the social sciences forever when he developed his hierarchy of personal needs. Maslow argued that in order for a person to achieve greatness, or full potential, he or she must have certain needs met. The needs can be ranked or organized into a hierarchical pyramid.

At the base of the pyramid are the very basic needs, called “physiological” needs, which are required for a human being to stay alive. Among these needs are food, water, air, shelter, sleep, pain avoidance and sexuality.

Once you have satisfied these basic needs, Maslow believes you can progress to the next level of the hierarchy: safety and security needs. These include stability, safety and security. The third ranking, social needs, includes companionship, affection and friendship. This is sometimes referred to as the “love-and-belonging” level. Because of these needs, we are motivated to marry someone or join a club. It’s the tribal instinct that all cultures share.

Once the three lowest levels are met, a person then has the luxury of operating at higher levels. At the fourth ranking, we reach the esteem needs. These include ego, self-esteem, the need for recognition and the desire to achieve a lofty status in life. Feelings such as confidence, competence, achievement, mastery, independence, and freedom are implied at this level.

Finally, if a person has satisfied all of the first four levels, he or she is ready to pursue self-actualization, the pinnacle of human existence. Self-actualized people pursue intellectual curiosities. They are focused on personal growth, achievement and advancement. They constantly seek new challenges and although they thoroughly enjoy their victories, the joy of success only motivates them to conquer something grander.

Most successful professionals reach a plateau at the fourth level. That’s a good place to be, but they’re missing out on something more. They are denying themselves the joy of self-actualization. Maslow claimed that true self actualization is very rare and that no more than 2 percent of the world’s population ever reaches it.

Don’t deny yourself the heady experience of self-actualization. It takes work, dedication, and deliberate planning, but almost any professional can reach the hierarchical peak of the pyramid.

Although achieving self-actualization isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, there is a clear path to it. As you contemplate how you can become self-actualized, or perhaps more self-actualized, there are several encouraging things to consider.

First, you have total control of the process. You have the freedom and the right to be self-actualized. You don’t have to ask permission, and you don’t have to wait for someone else to do it for you.

Second, there’s no limit to the number of people who can enjoy operating at the peak of human existence. As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “People think that at the top there isn’t much room. They tend to think of it as an Everest. My message is that there is tons of room at the top.”

But how do you get to the top of Mt. Everest? Start with initiative. Benjamin Franklin advised, “Plough deep while sluggards sleep.” Successful people are always on the move and don’t behave passively. Be the ultimate self-starter.

Perhaps even more important, avoid victimhood and blaming at all costs. It’s never somebody else’s fault. The highest-performing people accept blame when appropriate, and they also accept credit when it’s due.

This message is a liberating one. Self-actualization, or however else you may define success, is always within your grasp. You can manufacture it out of seemingly nothing. To reach Maslow’s pinnacle, you need to adopt certain behaviors and beliefs and make them part of your daily life. You have total control of your life. Success starts with you and ends with you.

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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

Put Big Mama’s Picture on the Business Card

By Jeff Beals

When Patricia Barron first became a grandmother, she wasn’t ready to be called “grandma” or “granny.”  Such labels were way too old fashioned for her.  After all, she still felt young and had a lot of dreams left to pursue. 

In some African-American families, the name “Big Mama” is affectionately used to describe a grandmother, but more than that, it’s a title of honor given to the family matriarch.  Such was the case in Barron’s family.  Once she became “Big Mama,” the name stuck, and there was no going back. 

When you meet her today, it’s as if she has always been Big Mama. Everyone calls her that whether they’re related to her or not.  With her charming personality, welcoming nature and motherly persona, you immediately feel comfortable using such a friendly, informal title.

After a 30-year career working for the telephone company, Big Mama retired from Ma Bell and was ready to start the next chapter of her life.  It was time to pursue a lifelong dream: to be a restaurateur and owner of her own restaurant. 

She developed a love of cooking as a little girl observing her grandmother prepare Sunday dinners.  In her early twenties, she studied culinary arts.  As her family grew, Big Mama loved preparing large meals for relatives and friends.  It wasn’t uncommon for 30 or 40 people to come over for dinner.  As she says, “I love to feed people.” 

It only made sense that Big Mama would consider opening a restaurant upon her retirement. But she didn’t want to open just any restaurant.  She wanted to bring her grandmother’s old recipes to life – oven-fried chicken, collard greens, stir-fried cabbage and sweet potato pie.  What’s more, she wanted to open her business in economically challenged north Omaha, an urban, predominantly African-American quadrant of Omaha, Nebraska.  Big Mama hoped her restaurant would help breathe new life into the neighborhood and provide needed jobs for workers who could use a second chance.

While it was an exciting concept and a noble idea, it was not an easy sell to reluctant lenders, who had no confidence in funding a restaurant business in north Omaha.  Perhaps more surprising, lenders were hesitant, because Big Mama was 65 years old.  How long would she run the business?  Could they count on her staying healthy?

“I had experienced discrimination in my life, because I was black and because I was a woman,” Big Mama told me, “but I had never been discriminated against because I was old!”

Undeterred, she gathered her resources, relied on her faith and leaned on her network of friends/family to open Big Mama’s Kitchen at 3223 North 45th Street on a youth services campus that was once a state school for deaf children.  It was hard work, but she did it.

Five years later, her restaurant is doing well.  She is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week.  Her famous sweet potato ice cream is now stocked on local grocery store shelves. At age 70, Big Mama is loving life as an entrepreneur and plans to keep feeding people until she’s 100.  She now makes a living doing what she loves, and at the same time, she’s doing her part to help rebuild a community that has experienced so much disappointment. 

Right about now, you’re probably thinking this story feels good, but it’s actually about to get even better. 

You see, Big Mama’s story is not just motivational, it’s highly instructive.  Big Mama offers many lessons for those who wish to succeed in business. 

Regular readers of this column know that I believe in the power of personal branding and what it can do to build businesses and strengthen organizations.  When people who work inside an organization become “famous,” the whole organization benefits. 

Big Mama’s Kitchen has great food and great service, but much of its success is due to the owner’s personality and the personal brand she has built. 

Awhile back, she sought the counsel of a marketing firm.  It turned out to be money well spent, as the consultant gave her a great piece of advice: “Big Mama, put your picture on the restaurant’s logo. Put your picture on your business card.”

At first, the modest Big Mama wasn’t comfortable with the idea, but she eventually agreed to give it a try. 

The new logo is brilliant.  For one thing, Big Mama believes it’s good for African-American customers to see her face.   They can see that an African-American woman is running a soul food restaurant.  But a very large percentage of her customers are white, and most of them drive many miles to dine in her restaurant.  Her image resonates with those white customers too.  She is the personification of a “Big Mama.”  She is the face of her business. 

Big Mama’s personal branding efforts are paying off as she has become a celebrity.  She is the local queen of soul food. Her restaurant has been featured on The Food Channel, The Travel Channel and the Sundance Channel.  People have been known to board an airplane, fly into town, eat at Big Mama’s and fly home the same day.  Her spicy “Afro Burger” was front-and-center on the popular television show Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.

People who visit the restaurant come for the food, but you can see it on their faces when they walk in – they look around the room hoping to catch a glimpse of Big Mama, the woman who embodies the restaurant. 

Granted, if the food and service weren’t great, the restaurant wouldn’t still be here.  But quality alone is often not enough.  There’s so much competition in this world.  There are so many ways a business can fail.  By building a personal brand and attaching it to your company, you benefit.  Everyone benefits.  People are the portals of profit.  We are much more comfortable doing business with someone than something

Like Big Mama, your widely recognized and highly respected personal brand can set you apart from your competitors. 

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. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

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