Monday, December 17, 2012

8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do

The most successful people in business work differently. See what they do--and why it works.

runner winning race

I'm fortunate to know a number of remarkably successful people. I've described how these people share a set of specific perspectives and beliefs.

They also share a number of habits:

1. They don't create back-up plans.
Back-up plans can help you sleep easier at night. Back-up plans can also create an easy out when times get tough.

You'll work a lot harder and a lot longer if your primary plan simply has to work because there is no other option. Total commitment--without a safety net--will spur you to work harder than you ever imagined possible.

If somehow the worst does happen (and the "worst" is never as bad as you think) trust that you will find a way to rebound. As long as you keep working hard and keep learning from your mistakes, you always will.

2. They do the work...
You can be good with a little effort. You can be really good with a little more effort.
But you can't be great--at anything--unless you put in an incredible amount of focused effort.
Scratch the surface of any person with rare skills and you'll find a person who has put thousands of hours of effort into developing those skills.

There are no shortcuts. There are no overnight successes. Everyone has heard about the 10,000 hours principle but no one follows it... except remarkably successful people.

So start doing the work now. Time is wasting.

3.  ...and they work a lot more.
Forget the Sheryl Sandberg "I leave every day at 5:30" stories. I'm sure she does. But she's not you.
Every extremely successful entrepreneur I know (personally) works more hours than the average person--a lot more. They have long lists of things they want to get done. So they have to put in lots of time.

Better yet, they want to put in lots of time.

If you don't embrace a workload others would consider crazy then your goal doesn't mean that much to you--or it's not particularly difficult to achieve. Either way you won't be remarkably successful.

4. They avoid the crowds.
Conventional wisdom yields conventional results. Joining the crowd--no matter how trendy the crowd or "hot" the opportunity--is a recipe for mediocrity.

Remarkably successful people habitually do what other people won't do. They go where others won't go because there's a lot less competition and a much greater chance for success.

5. They start at the end...
Average success is often based on setting average goals.
Decide what you really want: to be the best, the fastest, the cheapest, the biggest, whatever. Aim for the ultimate. Decide where you want to end up. That is your goal.

Then you can work backwards and lay out every step along the way.
Never start small where goals are concerned. You'll make better decisions--and find it much easier to work a lot harder--when your ultimate goal is ultimate success.

6. ... and they don't stop there.
Achieving a goal--no matter how huge--isn't the finish line for highly successful people. Achieving one huge goal just creates a launching pad for achieving another huge goal.

Maybe you want to create a $100 million business; once you do you can leverage your contacts and influence to create a charitable foundation for a cause you believe in. Then your business and humanitarian success can create a platform for speaking, writing, and thought leadership. Then...

The process of becoming remarkably successful in one field will give you the skills and network to be remarkably successful in many other fields.

Remarkably successful people don't try to win just one race. They expect and plan to win a number of subsequent races.

7. They sell.
I once asked a number of business owners and CEOs to name the one skill they felt contributed the most to their success. Each said the ability to sell.

Keep in mind selling isn't manipulating, pressuring, or cajoling. Selling is explaining the logic and benefits of a decision or position. Selling is convincing other people to work with you. Selling is overcoming objections and roadblocks.

Selling is the foundation of business and personal success: knowing how to negotiate, to deal with "no," to maintain confidence and self-esteem in the face of rejection, to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, to build long-term relationships...

When you truly believe in your idea, or your company, or yourself then you don't need to have a huge ego or a huge personality. You don't need to "sell."

You just need to communicate.

8. They are never too proud.
To admit they made a mistake. To say they are sorry. To have big dreams. To admit they owe their success to others. To poke fun at themselves. To ask for help.
To fail.
And to try again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

6 Ways to Get Customers to YES!

Influence your customers to buy from you using these six easy methods.


I've got some good news, some bad news, and then some even better news.
The good news is that most customers truly want to say yes! The bad news is that, although people love to buy, they hate being sold to.

Finally, here's the even better news: There are six ways to influence a customer to buy without explicitly selling to them, according to Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, author of the bestseller Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion:

1. Make yourself likeable.

Customers are far more likely to say yes if they know and like the person who's selling to them. That's why so many TV commercials use celebrity spokespeople, because consumers like and "know" them.
The true key to being likable is to be genuinely interested in the customers. Never fake friendliness, as in, "Hi, howya doin!?" Instead, cultivate curiosity about the customer and the customer's life.

As you have a conversation, discover characteristics about the customer that you appreciate and respect. As you express those emotions, the customer will naturally echo them back to you.

2. Become a respected authority.

People are more likely to buy from you if they see you as having specialized knowledge or unique credibility. There are many ways to create this impression.
One common method is to sell for a well-known corporate brand, like IBM. Another is to sequester a fancy job title. Some sales groups have dozens of titular vice presidents simply because customers respect the title.
A more honest way to create the impression of expertise is to actually become an expert. This is much easier if you find the subject matter interesting, of course. Hobbyists, for example, often make great salespeople.

3. Get the customer to owe you a favor.

People feel obligated to say yes to people who have already given them something or helped them in some ways. For example, charities double their response rate when they include small but useful gifts in direct mailings.
In the business world, the "gold standard" of such favors is to find a customer for your customer. For example, when I wrote freelance for high-tech trade magazines, I often referred potential advertisers to them. As a result, I was usually first on the list for the plum assignments.

Creating a sense of obligation need not be so explicit, though. Sometimes it's just enough to enter the sales situation with a sincere desire to help (rather than be helped). Customers sense this and respond positively.

4. Position buying as consistent with self-image.

Customers say yes more often if the yes is consistent with a prior statement of their identity. For example: Research firms double survey participation when the first question is: "Are you a helpful person?"
During your conversations with customers, listen for statements that define the customer's identity and sense of self. Then, tie purchasing your product or service to the customer's commitment to fulfill that identity.
For example, if a customer says, "I feel personally responsible for the security of this organization," emphasize those elements of your product that make the organization more secure.

5. Get endorsed by the customer's peers.

Customers are more likely to buy when they know that people "just like them" are also buying. That's why TV infomercials always feature interviews with happy buyers in the target audience.
The same principle applies in business sales, which is why so many companies feature reference accounts and case studies on their website. However, there is a more effective route.

The easiest opportunities to close are always the ones that start with an unsolicited referral from an existing, happy customer. How to manage this all-important technique is described in this (heretofore neglected) post.

6. Make your offering soon-to-be scarce.

Customers value offerings that are rare or dwindling in availability. Classic example: When GM announced the death of Oldsmobile, cars that had been on the lot for months sold in a matter of days.
The reason that so many companies use "limited time offers" is that they work. They work even when companies trot out the similar offers week after week after week!

For business-to-business selling, a more sophisticated way to use this rule is to focus the discussion on the financial loss the customer will incur through a delay in buying your offering. In other words, make the ROI scarce!

Monday, December 3, 2012

How Much Poor Performers Cost You

Chances are, you're spending too much time on employees who don't deliver. Here are seven tips to pull yourself out of the time suck.

poor performers

Ever feel that dealing with underperforming employees is a huge time suck? You're not alone.
In a recent survey of 1,400 chief financial officers by the staffing firm Robert Half International, respondents reported that managers at their companies spent an average of 17% of their time on underperforming employees--nearly one day out of every week.

You don't have to be part of that awful statistic, says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. There's an effective strategy for dealing with a poor performer without letting that employee take over your life or your mental well-being. And it's important to tackle the problem ASAP. "Don't put it off till the performance review in three months," McDonald advises. "Take care of it right now so it doesn't get worse."

To swiftly get the problem under control, he advises following these steps:

1. Plan a face-to-face meeting.
Don't discuss the employee's performance over the phone, and don't criticize him or her publicly, or privately for that matter. "You're not going to take care of the problem till you meet with the person in person," McDonald says.

2. Spend time preparing.
"Don't wing it," McDonald advises. "Have your facts lined up. If you're new to managing, role-play the meeting with an HR professional or a peer, or an outside mentor whom you trust."

3. State the facts clearly.
"Don't sugarcoat the problem," McDonald says. "Be direct, up front, and honest--while trying to maintain a positive, noncriticizing tone."

4. Shut up and listen.
Once you've laid out the problem, don't dominate the conversation, McDonald says. It's time to listen to the employee and try to find out what might be causing the problem. "Is there a situation outside work affecting the person's performance?" McDonald says. "Is the employee overworked and needs some responsibilities reassigned? Discuss your expectations, and offer whatever tools the employee may need to meet those expectations."

5. Write it down.
Create a written record of what was said and what the problems and expectations are. "That's great to do from an HR and legal perspective," McDonald says. "If the person's doing a good job and this is out of the ordinary, it becomes part of his or her file. If the situation does lead to termination, now you have documentation."

6. Use your judgment.
Once you have all the information in hand, you're equipped to make a decision whether to reassign the person, change the parameters of the job, or replace him or her.

7. Recognize improvements.
If after your conversation the employee's performance improves, even just incrementally, make sure to acknowledge that improvement. "History shows that many employers and supervisors often forget when
 there is improvement to give the proverbial pat on the back," McDonald says. But there are real advantages to making note when performance improves, especially if the employee has made progress on any of the metrics you laid out during your meeting.

"Positive morale is a key motivating factor and usually improves productivity and retention rates," McDonald notes. "So by recognizing improvement, you increase the chances that the improvement will continue."