Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wisdom is the bridge between rational and emotional!!

For ages, people have been struggling in finding a balance between the rational and emotional! Often ones says that emotions should not play a role in business. Do you share that point of vue?
I don't!

The majority of business people do business with their brain. Others with their hart. The remaining ones, the minority, combine both.
Is it good to use only the brain or only the heart? I am not here to judge on that. Fact is that if you do business your own way and if it works for you, just fine!

As we are dealing with people, it is not easy to be rational and not emotional about things. I must say that Dutch people (I am one of them now!) are very good business people. They are known to be excellent diplomatic people. Why?
They have the ability to disconnect or control their emotions and use extensively their rational side in order to take important decisions. People often say that it is difficult to get to see the real one behind the mask.
One day, listened to a programme on the radio and the speaker  talked about the way Dutch people are and the way they do business. He said: "A typical Dutch person is the one going to a funeral, and when going back home, telling to his wife that his proud of himself as he did not cry!!"
You would wonder how can somebody be that strong to control his emotions in such a difficult and emotional situations.

Another story brings us to south of Spain, where I met with a potential customer. The man was so emotional that he could not control himself and got angry when I announced that he would have to pay the goods before shipment. When he heard that, he smashed his glass of water on the table...
He could not accept a supplier would put pressure on him that way as no one did before.
Did he use his brain at that moment? I don't think so :-)

As a French/Dutch citizen I found the balance in combining rational & emotional.

Let's build-up bridges between our brain and heart. Let's cross the bridges from one side to the other.
The wise answer/reaction will probably be in the middle of the bridge.

Hoping you will do business in a wiser way!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

"The Guy in the Glass" by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934


Every single business person should read this wise poem, frame it and look at it several times a week.

Ultimately, Business is a matter of People!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In critical situations: STOP - THINK - DO!!

The word critical is used on purpose! Although we may associate that word with danger and high risk, there are times when companies are facing critical situations. People's life are not in danger but their personal situation can be. What about the credit crisis we are facing since 2008? There are numerous companies and employees who faced critical situations. Companies went bankrupt and employees lost their social position: job, house, ...
What to do in critical situations? How to behave? The first and easy answer would be to say: Don't panic!

What's for you a critical situation is for others a difficult situation. We are not here to define what a critical situation is. The purpose is to define the steps to be taken in order to go through it in the most safely way.

As a diving instructor I learnt from PADI (, the world's largest scuba diving training organization, that in critical situations the golden rule is: STOP - THINK - DO.
Scuba diving is not more risky than other sports, provided people respect the rules. What makes that a diver can face a critical situation is for example if his regulator (breathing device) fails. With continuous training, a trained diver can overcome to be in danger when implementing the STOP - THINK - DO rule.

STOP     - Calm down
THINK   - Evaluate the situation rapidly and think of a plan
DO        - Problem solving in a wise and efficient way
I  faced one day a critical situation during a scuba diving training I was giving to other instructors.
A combination of events (to long and complicated to mention) made that I started drowning at a depth of 35 meters (approx. 115 feet).  The other instructors failed to assist me and so in a few seconds I did implement the STOP - THINK - DO rule. Luckily I did!!
I am so thankful that an organization like PADI did stress how important that basic behaving is.
In many situations, people risk their lives in not applying the 3 steps.
Since my diving accident in 2000, I have been like a messenger explaining people (during coaching & training) how important it is to approach any difficult or critical situations that way.

You may think that business is a total different story. Well, you might be disappointed as it is not!
What about an important discussion with your employees, business partner, manager, supplier or customer, that turns to a major conflict. How would you handle that? You know that if you get angry, the business and/o relationship will be damaged. Will you get angry? or will you wait the other to be angry?
If you STOP - THINK - DO, you'll probably be the one putting water in your wine. You will be the one calming down your 'opponent'.
A conflict is a difficult situation and could become a critical one. What you will say or do will have an impact on the outcome. You can make the difference.

It is so important, regardless how difficult the situation is, to try taking a bit of distance in evaluating the options you have in front of you. Once you have define the best direction to take, just go on in wise way!

We even could add an important step between STOP and THINK that could be BREATH a few times.

Wishing you to behave wisely in future critical situations you may face!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reading books is not the best way to learn how to do business. Reading people is!!

For the ones who learnt to do business at schools or universities, the most of us, we had to read many books about management, marketing, sales, finance, ... you name it!
Once the knowledge out of the books (theory) got into our brain, it was time to put into practice what we had learnt.
Quickly, we realized there was a huge gap between theory and practice. Didn't we?

How was you first business meeting? Mine was not as expected. I has struggling between the present and the past. Let me explain that. The present was my meeting with a potential customer. The past was the theory I learnt at school, the business models, etc..
It was challenging to put in practice what was in the books. Rapidly, I realized that the theory was belonging to the books. 
Every single person I would meet with was so different. I was selling the same product but all sales meeting were so different and challenging. Although I could implement a certain core strategy, I had to adapt it to the person I was talking to.

Ultimately, years of experience proved that the best business school is life experience (practice).  
Don't get me wrong, I am not motivating people not to follow any business studies! What I mean is that real business is to be learnt on the field like other working activities. 
You probably have known teachers who never put into practice what they were teaching.
I remember a short story about a top trouble shooter appointed by a major car manufacturer. The board contracted him in order to reorganize the company as sales were far below budget. The first question the consultant asked the board members was: "Whom from you ever sold a car?". No one from the board had ever sold a car in his life. So the answer was clear: "No one!" The consultant then said:
" I will start cleaning-up and reorganizing your company once each of you will have personally sold a car!" No comments...

The more people I meet with, the better I am be able to understand their behaving, their needs. Even after 20 years of intensive practice, I am still learning.
I started my own personal study over people's behaving during the selling process.
What did I learn?
- to scan people in the first 5 minutes of a meeting (golden minutes!!)
- to listen more and talk less (that was a challenge..)
- to observe every single details
- to understand people's body language
- to learn that Yes can mean NO
- to decode what people would not say
I have learnt to READ PEOPLE!!

It's not about me but about us. If I have been able to learnt that, you can learn it too. It's not a rocket science.

In business, what people say is import, but what people don't say is even more important. Reading people is very much using all human senses in order to get a complete picture. The difficult part and risk is to be judge mental.

To better understand what reading people is, you are invited to read a book written by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius (Ph.D) and Mark Mazzarella "reading people" - ISBN 0-345-42587-1

Again, this is a book and it is up to you to put in practice with your own personality and in specific situations. The good thing is that it is a book written based on people's experiences and not on theory!

By being more conscious and open to your business partner, you'll be able to better understand what's  in his/her mind. By learning reading people, you'll see the real face. The illustration shows a man shaking someone's hand. He has no idea who he is dealing with. Will he be able to see the real face?
This is our common challenge. To do better business, we should spend more time reading people. That's what business is all about!

The exciting thing in reading people is that it is an ongoing process that never stops. 

You comments and experiences are welcome!

 Enjoy reading people!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Empathy is to be able to stand in your customer’s shoes even if the size is not yours!!

To the question: What is empathy? Alvin Goldman answered: "The ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings".

The challenge of doing business is that we have to convince a customer to buy a product/service and to get paid for that.
Business is done by people with people! Every single sales person has a goal to reach, sell his/her product to a potential customer. But the buyer has a goal too. It's up to the you, as a sales person, to identify what he/she exactly wants and how he/she wants it.

Unexperienced sales people are behaving like an elephant in a porcelain shop. They don't listen at all to what the potential has to say and talk without listening. Is it that difficult for a sales person to ask questions and discover what's it is all about? Yes it often seems to be!!
Even experienced sales peoples do the mistake in focusing too much in closing the deal, forgetting the crucial phase of discovering the customer' needs.
Above that, sales people should use their eyes and observe what the customer does mean, not in words but with his/her body language.

One of the most important aspect in a selling process, is to be bale to stand in the customer's shoes for a moment. Don't be judge mental and try to see, smell, feel, hear like him/her.
It's so difficult!! That's right, but the ones having that ability of doing that are the ones who make the difference. Why would you decide to sell a product to someone if you identify that the person you are talking to has very valid reasons not to buy it. Instead of loosing your and his/her time, you should better leave it as it is and move on. The potential customer will respect you for that.

Empathy in business is a quality that not many people have, unfortunately. Nowadays, most sales people are finding challenging to consider what their customers may think. We live in a world where people are more and more individualistic and selfish.

A good sales person is the one with empathy!
So if you are not ready to stand in your customer's shoes even if the size is not yours, you'll never be able to get the complete picture. You may are right in what you say, but he/she too may be right in what he/she says.
The truth might just be in the middle!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

With a smile, one can obtain a lot and it’s free!!

You have probably heard people saying that communication is about action/reaction.
When we look at somebody who is laughing, we tend to laugh to.
Laughter is a way of communication with no words! The power of communication is mostly in the body language than in the words.

Sales people have goals to reach, they are under pressure. When visiting customers, they mostly focus on their sales target. They are mainly acting with their brain (rational) and not with their heart (emotional). What a pity!!
One of the most important aspect of a selling process is the first step when starting a meeting:  to take the temperature, the greetings & to establish a relationship with the customer.
How can that be possible when the sales person is too serious and emotionless??
How can he/she fine-tune with his customer with no empathy? Well, he/she could if he realized that with a smile, the entire process would be easier (for both parties).

Is is difficult to smile? Yes, it is for some of us... but in general it is not. We do it regularly with friends, family. Why not in business?
Well, some people are finding it challenging to be nice to others. They are finding it difficult to smile thinking they might not be taken too seriously.
It is possible to smile and at the same time be serious. Of course one should avoid to be seen as  clown... Business is so great when done in a good and relaxed atmosphere.

In my career, I experienced how crucial it is to smile to others. As communication is action/reaction, people you give a smile will smile in return. And they don't, no worries, you will have created such an atmosphere that it will be hard for them to remain emotionless.

I remember a meeting with 4 buyers from a major hypermarket chain in France. My agent and I entered the room and the buyers were so aggressive, talking like dictators, that my agent was so impressed that he hardly could say anything. I was not impressed at all by their show. I was relaxed with a smile on a face. I would not accept to be treated like a soldier being humiliate by 4 officers...
I kept smiling and realized they were becoming "nicer" and less directive.
Ultimately, we kept on talking and reached a level that we all were acting as adult and not as parents/child relation.
I guess my smile was strong enough to let them see that I was not impressed by their game. They realized the meeting would go nowhere that way. They obviously had not too much choice than to act normally. At the end of the meeting, 3 of them had a smile on their face. When shaking their hands to say goodbye, I could feel how glad they were that we all were ourselves  :-) After the meeting, we evaluated the situation with the agent. He was amazed how powerful a smile could be!

A smile should be the first tool to be used by sales people and business people in general!
It is easy to put in practice...and it is free! A smile is like a magnet with a powerful effect.

So don't forget to SMILE... and take time to read the text below!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Networking is all about giving without expecting something in return!!

Since a few years, our world has drastically changed. Not only are we able to connect to the World Wide Web, but we also connect with each other.
That's what we call networking. for ages people have linked connection with other people. Networking was done via school, sport clubs, social clubs, work, you name it...

We would connect with people who would be introduce to us via family or friends. One used to say: "My friends' friends are my friends!!". Nowadays, we connect with not only friends' friends but with totally unknown people. Social networking platform as LinkedIn enable us to built-up a social/professional network of millions of people. Is that not impressive?

But why do we network? We want to be in picture as we look for a job. We want to be part of a big thing what social networking is. What ever the reason we may have, it looks like we all network.
Is that a trend? I don't think so. It is the way our society evolves.
Most people who network are disappointed to get no results. They think that by linking to 100 new people, they will get results (job offers, feedback to their post, etc...). Nowadays everything goes fast. We are in a roller-coaster that does not stop. We want things now and not tomorrow. We are not patient. WE WANT MORE!!

My vision of networking is that we all contribute to build-up a piece of the net. It takes time!
Each individual brings its own skills and experience. All together, we are part of a great knowledge tank. And from time to time, we may benefit from others' experiences. I am a believer that things happen for a reason and that we can't force events to happen or not to happen. By being ready to give , there is a moment we will receive.
Have you ever seen a farmer putting seeds in the ground and expecting a crop the next day?

I do believe that networking is 80% investment and 20% result. The ones who connect to others in expecting direct results will be more than disappointed.
The seeds I personally put in the ground 2 years ago start to generate contacts now. Did I loose my time in networking? I don't think so!
Ultimately, it is enjoyable to give without expecting something in return. And if I get something back, then it is great.

When I started on LinkedIn, I deliberately chose to become an open networker. I consider that the network I belong to is not mine. I am open to share it with others. I am an open networker as my will is not only to link with people I may need but also with people who may need me. What about students starting their professional career? Are we going to leave them alone as they don't bring any added value to our own business?
My choice is to give them the chance to build their own web in taking advantage of the network I am belonging to.

It is rewarding to give. What I get in return is satisfaction that people linking to me could be helped out by others.

That's my vision of networking...!

What's yours?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Business is all about ethics & integrity!!

When talking business, one thinks money! Indeed, doing business is selling a product / service and get paid accordingly. Money has become so import in our society that people doing business are always looking for making more money. "WE WANT MORE!!" nothing wrong about it as long as people do business in full respect of people they deal with.
A successful business person is not a swindle. Although there are are some walking around, we could assume that the majority of the successful ones have worked very hard in order to reach their goals.
Unfortunately, there are others who see business from a total different angle. They choose not do act with no business ethics or integrity. What counts is MONEY!
Those are the ones not respecting any business rules. Those are the ones damaging the image of business.
I guess business ethics and integrity can't be learnt. You have it yourself or not.

So whether you are the one belonging to the second category of people who choose not respect any basic business ethics and integrity rules, be ware that your business practice has an effect on others businesses.
Like others, I have dealt with such people. In a difficult economical situation, it seems that business is done with less and less ethics and integrity. When money is hard to get, it looks like some people behave a different way. Or have they always behaved that way and it is now becoming obvious who they really are??

One day, a student I coached and I had an interesting and constructive conversation. He was wondering why people would decided to be honest when others are not and earn more money. I was surprised by his view of business and also shocked that a young talent would asked himself whether he should be doing business is an honest way or not. At that point, I simply gave him some examples of what happens when doing business without ethics and integrity. Although he was struggling, he clearly had the answer.

By doing business with ethics & integrity, you will be respected by your business partners.
A business person with a good reputation has already become successful!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A top sales person is not the one who sales ice to Eskimos, but the one who decides not to, knowing Eskimos don't need it!!

Sales people are generally looking for sales... yes that's what they are paid for!
Selling a something to someone is exciting and challenging. Especially when the potential customer is not looking for to buy something. A "normal"salesman will do its utmost to close the sales. Ultimately, it's his job. Have you ever met with a salesman who sales nothing? 
I did! The problem is that they don't work that long for their employer...
In many companies, sales people are rewarded on their sales results with what we call a commission or a bonus. The more they sell, the more they earn.
Would not you be motivated to earn more money? They are!!
Therefore, they will try to sell more and more with the motivation of making more money.

I did it myself when I started more than 20 years ago. My earnings were only commissions on sales.
One time, I did sell an expensive product to a prospect,  knowing he did not need it. At that time, my only motivation was money. A day later, that customer called the office claiming he had made a big mistake buying my expensive product. He stressed that the salesman was so good and convincing that he could not say no and had to sign the contract!
Was I such a good salesman? Sure, I was convinced I was!! 
We finally decided to cancel the sales and refund the customer.

Years later, I was giving a training to young talented sales people. I used the above example as we were talking about talented sales people.
No, I was not such a good salesman in my early years. Although I could sell a lot and was always winning sales contests, I did not always sell the proper way.
I was the one able to sell ice to Eskimos. Not a n ice cube, not a kilo, but tons ice...
With more life experience and wisdom, I quickly realized that selling was not about scoring at all time.
Selling is all about fine tuning to what the customer's needs are and adapt the offer to it.

Ultimately, a top sales person is someone with empathy who really is able to analyse and understand his customer's needs and behaviours. He is a top sales person not only because of the results he/she achieves but much more in the way he/she does business.
A top sales person builds up his/her reputation on: trust, credibility, business ethics, integrity, professionalism, commitment, ... but not on how much he/her is selling.

So don't waste time selling ice to Eskimos!! You should better buy some from them and resell it to the ones who need it...!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A sales process is like climbing a ladder. It’s not possible to go directly from the bottom to the top!!

There are 7 basic steps in a sales process:
  1. Preparing the meeting
  2. Taking the temperature: The greetings & Establishing a relationship with the customer
  3. Qualifying the needs
  4. Presentation, demonstration & information
  5. Transforming "I like" into "I want / I need"
  6. Overcoming objections
  7. Closing the sales
  8. Delivering --> From "Talking the Walk" to Walking the Talk" 
A sales process is like a recipe. All ingredients have to be used at the right moment in the right proportion. It is common to assume that some people are born salesman. Although that statement is true, there is no good salesman without learning sales skills.
I have never met with a salesman who could close a the sales without demonstrating a product or even without mentioning the price of the product!

A sales process is to be compared to a ladder. Our salesman (picture) was maybe too enthusiast and thought he could jump from the first rung to the 7th one (Closing the sales). Unfortunately for him, he hangs on one harm and it is a question of minutes and he will fall on the ground...
He could have climbed the ladder safely if he had taken the time for it and if he had climbed rung by srung. It's all about timing and patience!!

So although you may think your are the best salesman on earth, climb the sales ladder the proper way. You'll then be able to reach the top and enjoy the climb :-)