Preparing to Fail is the First Step to Winning

Failure

Some of the most important lessons we learn in life are from our failures.  They serve as proof that we are trying new things, pushing new boundaries, and welcoming the unknown.  John Maxwell, the famous inspirational author, says the quality that distinguishes someone successful from one who is unsuccessful is his “capacity to manage disappointment and loss.” He goes on to say that while we all want to succeed, we should instead train for losses.

From our earliest days as children we learn to accept failure.  We fall while trying to learn how to walk, or ride a bike.  We don’t make the team we try out for, or we do make the team but as second string.  We get accepted by 4 of the 5 colleges we apply to, but that one declination stings.  Failure is everywhere.

Imagine if the world’s greatest inventors refused to fail.  Everything from the light bulb, to air travel, from the television, to the computer would be at risk.  When Thomas Edison was asked about how many times he tried for the light bulb and failed he said, “I didn’t have 1,000 failures.  It simply took 1,000 steps to make the light bulb.” Talk about an optimists attitude.

Our challenge is to rid our mind of the negative stigma associated with failure.  Human beings by nature are curious creatures.  Asking “why” leads to testing new thoughts, ideas, ways of doing things.  In the absence of curiosity we would have never discovered new lands, new civilizations, new technologies, or new medicines to treat and cure disease.  So why is it that people run from failure?

I would submit that some people believe failure shows weakness.  If you knew…you wouldn’t have failed.  Talk about an absurd viewpoint.  The famous management expert, Peter Drucker, said, “I would never promote a person into a high-level job who was not making mistakes…Otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.” Many organizations reward status-quo.  Companies that find themselves on a winning streak become complacent.  Their leadership sits back to relax and enjoy victory.  The problem is, that while you’re sitting back complimenting yourself for being so brilliant, your competition is working feverishly to disrupt your success and pass you by.  It happens every day.

So shift your thinking from having to be an expert at everything to one of a beginner…a learner.  When you’re in a learning mode your mind is open to everything that’s possible.  When you’ve decided you are an expert your subconscious shuts down your critical thinking skills creating tunnel vision.  So open your eyes, let your mind wander, and begin to think of new ways to do things.  As John Maxwell said, “Mistakes are acceptable as long as the damage isn’t too great. It doesn’t matter how much milk you spill as long as you don’t lose your cow!”

Embrace your failures…with each one you’re learning, growing, and becoming better at whatever you’re doing.

 

 

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Salespeople BEWARE: You’re About to be Sensored

ScaredSalesPerson

So you’ve chosen a career in Sales.  You’re excited by the thrill of the hunt, the change of scenery everyday and the opportunity to make as much money as you want. But could Sales be changing in a way that makes all this a distant memory?  You may be at risk of being replaced by a sensor…big data.

In a recent Fortune magazine article on Formula 1 racing authored by Stacey Higginbotham, she writes about how big data has changed the racing sport.  In “less than 300 milliseconds” data can travel from the farthest track in Australia to the UK where it can be analyzed and strategy adjustments can be provided back to the crew at the racetrack.   According to Alan Peasland, head of technical partnerships at Infiniti Red Bull Racing, “Gut-feel decisions just aren’t made.”

Imagine big data eliminating gut-feel decisions in your sales process.  With CRM platforms, marketing automation systems, and a variety of sales enablement tools there is more data than ever providing insight into each sales encounter.  When contact was made, what was discussed, who was present, what the outcome or next step is, or what went wrong.  Crunching all this data and putting it into a useable format might just make the salesperson a thing of the past.

As baby-boomers are overtaken by millennials buying habits are changing quickly.  Millennials rely on mobile devices and testimonials much more than boomers do.  In fact, according to Business Insider, 62% of millennials respond to mobile offers versus 39% of boomers.  Additionally, 82% of millennials favor word-of-mouth from friends and family versus 52% of boomers.  That means marketers must adjust their branding, advertising and sales processes.

Is it possible that in the future the role of the salesperson simply goes away?  What if a company like Amazon was able to aggregate all of your purchases and with great accuracy recommend and predict future consumption…both product type and quantity?  Wait a minute…aren’t they already headed that way?  The Dollar Shave Club is already doing this with great success. Maybe this isn’t as far-fetched as you’d like to think it is.

Sales professionals need to recognize this tectonic shift.  Your ability to survive being replaced by a sensor collecting and analyzing data will only be as good as your capability to adapt and add value.  Reading, researching, and having your own teachable point of view are critical requirements of your survival.  In the absence of any or all of these requirements your sales role today will become a fossil for tomorrow.  Get curious and keep thirsty for new knowledge.

Start Innovating: The One Question to Start the Discussion

Question

Is your business stuck in a rut? Are sales slow, stagnant, or even declining? Is your product commoditized or becoming irrelevant? How should you move forward?

The answer for most companies is obvious…innovate. The problem is not in the what, but in the how. Innovation is a challenge for even the very best and impossible for the newbies to the game of innovation.

Mature companies that produce known products or deliver staple-like services are the most prone to the innovation dilemma. They’ve done what they’ve done for so long that the mere test of time suggests they know what the markets need and what their buyers want. Arrogance and complacency drive their strategies and plans, and often times they are able to putter along treading water, buying time for “things to change”. They are not change leaders but change followers.

Here’s a simple question you can ask those you work with to get an innovation discussion going: What would Amazon or Google do? If Jeff Bezos owned this company, or Sergey Brin, what would they do to change things?

It’s quite possible the owner or other executives will balk and provide sarcastic responses like, “he’d probably dump the business”, or “if we had Amazon’s brand recognition we’d be in the clear”, or even “they’ve got millions to spend to do whatever they want we don’t.” Try to keep them focused. Remind them that each of these companies began as a dream and then moved into the realm of small business. They didn’t start out as the financial behemoths they are today. Each time their businesses got comfortable they broke them and started working on something new…consciously. If you had to break your business today how would you do it and what would you focus on next?

Innovation is not easy. It’s scary, unpredictable, uncertain, risky, and can be terrifying. To not innovate can actually lead to all of the same emotions. So if that’s true isn’t it better to be in control than to be controlled.

Ask that question today.

The Millennial’s New American Dream

millennials

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hearing a key-note speech by Tony Kuczinski, President and CEO of Munich Reinsurance America, at the 2014 MidYear Target Markets conference in Baltimore. His topic addressed how trends in the market will affect everything from how someone buys insurance to how that specific risk is evaluated.

Tony spoke of the major changes in the past 10 years. From social media, to the impact Millennials have on our economy, things around us are most definitely changing. And it’s not whether we believe those changes are good or bad, but it’s what we do to adapt to those changes that will determine our future success and relevancy in the marketplace.

During the week there were many points made about Millennials that impact all sellers of goods and services, whether B2B or B2C. Here are few to consider:
1. Millennials make up 36% of the workforce but represent only 7% of those employed by Fortune 500 companies.
2. Millennials are highly networked individuals focused on working for a company that is a cultural fit while providing meaningful work.  Perhaps a reason why this group tends to lean toward working for smaller companies rather than corporate behemoths.
3. 1.75 billion smart phone users worldwide. 60% will use their phone monthly to surf, research, and shop.  Millennials have created an insatiable appetite for better, faster, more accessible technology and mobile apps.
4. Given the rapid rise and adoption of technology, the Millennial generation requires instant feedback and ongoing communication at work, much like they receive in their personal lives with Facebook, Twitter, and texting.

The final and perhaps most intriguing change is the shift that’s taking place in where Millennials are establishing their homes…their roots. This demographic is a group that is used to, and requires, sharing. Sharing of everything. Pictures, experiences, ideas, emotions. All are shared via the electronic airways in some fashion or another. This need for “sharing” followed by the need for feedback and validation of what’s been shared has influenced the nature of where Millennials are most comfortable living.

The shift is not only apparent but is also a game changer. The traditional American Dream of a house in the suburbs is changing. Millennials are migrating back into, rather than away from, urban areas. City living is at the core of this demographic. The need for connectivity is growing, not just electronic connectivity but personal connectivity and interaction…the need to be a part of something greater.

This shift is something that cannot be ignored. The attitudes and needs of the next generation will be met regardless of your personal beliefs and opinions. It will be those who listen, observe, and respond who will flourish. The rest who dismiss or ignore will become irrelevant.

What will you do?