One Tiny Change.

If swapping out just a single word in your vocabulary would create enormous positive change in you and those around you – massively shift attitudes and perspective for the better – would you do it?  It will take discipline and consistency to normalize the new word, and it will feel awkward at first.  So…would you make the change?

You just need to start using the word for in place of other prepositions like in and to.

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For example, when composing your team or company mission, you might be tempted to write something like “Our goal is to be the best digital marketing company in the world.”  This may sound positive, but inherently it says there is a contest out there that we will win…we will be recognized…. we will be respected.  Being the best in the world….is about you.

But with one tiny change, your goal becomes being the best digital marketing company for the world.  It becomes about them.  It morphs from self-aggrandizement and recognition to generosity and service.

All day long, sales teams and the in-house marketing, technology and client service folks who support them focus on building and delivering the things that we can sell to the customer.  Small wonder that so many sellers feel a sense of creeping unease in their customer relationships; who wants to be thought of as a seller when selling seems to mean taking?

With the same tiny language change, we turn the whole thing around.  Instead of selling to the customer, we’re selling for the customer…. building for the customer… creating for the customer.  The relationship is no longer a transaction we hope to win, no longer a beauty contest in which we hope to end up with the crown.  It becomes about the work.  About deserving the client’s trust, respect and – ultimately — their investment.

In an age of ubiquitous video and visual overkill, this focus on words may seem dated. But words matter.  And in the culture you’re aiming to create and the career you are aspiring to enjoy, your words will either work against you…or they will work for you.

This Drift was inspired by my good friend Charlie Thomas, legendary seller and digital sales executive who has always been a great source of inspiration and ideas. 

Just Three Things.

just-three-thingsOne of the real pleasures of my job – and what makes my job possible – is that I get to speak candidly and personally to a few hundred salespeople every year.  It’s in those conversations that I have come to understand the qualities that all the great ones seem to share.

As you might imagine there are dozens of behaviors, approaches and beliefs that one could point to.  But in the end it seems to come down to a very short list of just three things.  And if I were building a sales team today and could hire only three qualities, I’d pay for these:

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Curiosity.  To truly sell means to persuade another person – or group – to do something significant.  In this quest, curiosity is a superpower.  The curious are always looking to understand more about the work and life and issues of the customer.  Their curiosity helps them learn how the customer’s business works, and why it sometimes doesn’t.  And it makes the customer feel deeply interesting and attended to.  In this environment, change and commitment become truly possible.

Generosity.  The old stereotype of the slick seller busily counting his commission would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetically misguided.  Great sellers rarely wait for the cash register to ring and always leave something on the table.  They are also generous with their time and attention…and with credit when something goes well.  Because they give, others want to give to them….support, loyalty, commitment.

Paranoia.  Yes, this one sounds odd by comparison.  But the touch of paranoia afflicting the great seller makes her always do one more thing…check one more detail…meet one more person…make one more phone call.  When a deal is 95% certain, the great seller dwells in the 5% that’s not…turning every bolt, checking every circuit.  His curiosity and generosity are what bring business to the table; his paranoia is what finishes the sale and drives the success of his company.

Please. Give.

Please GiveThere’s a paradox about what makes great sellers truly great.  Stereotypically, they are portrayed as those who always want more – more material wealth, more victories and more awards.  But the truly great seller is something few really expect:   Generous.

It may be a little jarring to consider, but generosity is the key that unlocks a tremendous array of human achievement, including great sales accomplishment.  The great ones don’t want to be the very best sellers in their industry; they want to be the best sellers for their company, for their customers and for their craft.  Every day they give.  And it makes them rich.

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Average and even moderately successful sellers may end up talking about their customers as grifters talk about their marks:  they are targets to be reached, budgets to be emptied, sheep to be sheared.  But the truly elite – whether because of innate character, maturation or positive influence – never even go there.  They quickly get to a place where they ask themselves what they can do for this customer.  What can they help create?  What can they give?

Generosity is a quality that roots you in the present.  It’s pretty much impossible to do or create something for someone and not stay connected with them in the moment.  The generous are better listeners, better analysts, and better resources. People are naturally attracted to them and want to do business with them.

If you’ve gotten this far and think this post sounds like so much new age hugging, I understand your position.  But let me give you a little gift – a strategy – that you’ll find very useful very soon.

The next time you are looking at an impossible client situation or a towering sales goal and feel paralyzed by the tasks in front of you, put down your work and take ten minutes to give something away.  Write a LinkedIn recommendation for someone; call back that college student who’s looking for advice; introduce two business friends who you think can help each other.  Don’t stop to calculate what you’re going to get back…just give.

Now turn back to the tasks at hand and you will find fresh energy and a clear head.  You’ll now frame the issues around what you’ll build, solve, grow and empower – all generous verbs.  You’ll let go of the outcome, release the pressure and start doing for your customer.

You’ll give.  And you’ll succeed.