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September 2009

Five Ways to Deal with Worried Prospects

In this tough economy, it is no surprise that prospects worry about spending money. It is for this reason we need to get better at putting our prospects at ease every time we speak to them. Help your prospects to stop worrying and start selling more. Here are five ways:

  1. Speak in a calming, reassuring voice. How? Lower your tone of voice, slow down your rate of speech, speak softly and deliberately. Your quiet confidence will generate confidence in others.

  2. Shift your body language. Research shows that a simple shift from negative to positive body language is followed by a shift from a negative mood to a positive one. Next time you become aware that your prospect is worried, try a body-language shift. Don’t mirror your prospect’s negative body language (self-touching gestures, nervous glances, shoulders raised, frowning, etc.). Positively accent your words with frequent smiles and slow head nods. Keep your arms uncrossed, hands relaxed, and palms open. Sit up straight, legs uncrossed, and slow down your movements. If necessary, change the environment. Lead your prospect to a quiet area, such as a private conference room.

  3. Worried prospects have a hard time focusing on one issue. It is your job to lead a worried mind to a calming mental image. Start by saying, “There are a few ideas that may help you feel a lot more confident with this plan…” Or, “You’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of alternatives…” Another great idea is to bring comfort food, such as cookies, to a meeting, or discuss business over lunch. Food has a calming effect on people’s fears.

  4. Use more “anti-worry” words and phrases. Here are examples: “We are in harmony on this point.” Or, “I think I can put your mind at ease.” Or, “Here is a way to make you feel more comfortable.” Choose such words as “certain,” “safe,” “sure,” “quiet,” “satisfied,” “content,” “agreeable,” and “acceptable.” Avoid talking about money, timetables, or decisions. Never try to close a worried prospect. Always welcome objections with, “I am so glad you brought that up. You will be pleased to know that…” Don’t say, “There is nothing to worry about.”

  5. Change the conversation to more pleasing subjects. Talk about the success your existing customers have enjoyed. Paint a positive picture of the future. One top sales producer told me, “I am in the transportation business. I move my prospect’s mind from a state of desperation to a state of positive anticipation.”
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Think Rationally, Act Confidently, and Sell Provocatively

Warning: Don’t share this post with your competition.

Let’s begin with a discussion about the mind-set that is threatening our ability to sell more effectively. Here are the facts:

  1. We are in the worst recession we have seen since the Great Depression.
  2. Many companies have cut budgets to absurd levels. Just last week I had a VP of sales tell me that he can no longer subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. Last year his budget authority was $1 million; this year he can’t approve anything over $10,000 without getting his president and CFO to approve a purchase.
  3. Even the best companies have shifted into “slow pay” mode, sitting on their cash as long as they possibly can. For example, a $6 billion company that failed to pay its bill after 180 days asked our CFO for a 5 percent cash discount.
  4. More decision makers have left their companies. The result: Their projects have been canceled, and the investment in the relationship with the customers has vanished.
The bottom line: We are all working harder, and we are all getting a lower return on our time and money investments. According to a recent online survey at www.sellingpower.com, about 2/3 of all sales executives are stressed out or seriously concerned about the economic situation.

Are you giving in to worry?

How do you stop worrying given all the negative news? Worry is a result of our self-talk. What we silently say to ourselves triggers our emotions. Example: You are reading a news story that explains that unemployment is headed toward double-digit levels. College students can’t get jobs. Those who got laid off are running out of unemployment benefits. People send out 500 resumes and don’t get a single interview. Poverty is on the rise. You may tell yourself, “This is a terrible situation. What if I lost my job?”

Worry is a misuse of the imagination. Think rationally. If you got a job, find ways to do it even better. Your job security lies in your ability to perform. Worry does the exact opposite. Worry and fear SHRINK our awareness to the point that we fail to recognize opportunities, such as opportunities to improve, to create more value for our customers, to connect with new prospects, and to create better selling ideas.

Is worry causing you to make fewer calls?

In a recession, companies need about 25 to 35 percent more prospects just to stay even. In many companies, sales are down by about 20 to 30 percent compared to last year. Why? Because customers have stopped buying, and companies have been unable to replace that business with new clients. Why are these sales organizations not making more calls?

Chances are that fear is causing salespeople to divert their focus from calling new prospects to doing busywork, such as prospect research, sending hundreds of emails, talking to other sales reps, calling existing clients, or making service calls. Call reluctance is a sign that these salespeople have lost their hunting instincts. They’re hungry for business, they want more sales, but they don’t want to experience the discomfort that comes from the following:
  • not reaching prospects on the phone (Salespeople may dial 80-100 prospects a day and reach only 7 or 8.), and
  • hearing “no budget,” “no need,” “no decision,” “no authority to buy,” “can’t get approval” eight times a day, which creates job stress, frustration, and worry
Worry is a silent thief that robs companies of their ability to create new customers. Worry inhibits creativity, stifles innovation, and wastes human resources.

Think rationally

Let’s focus on what we really want to achieve in this tough economy. We all want to win. The rules of the game have changed in three fundamental ways:
  • The top of our sales funnel has narrowed. We need more leads.
  • The speed of our funneling has slowed. We need to speed up our process.
  • Our USP (unique selling proposition) is no longer working. We need to change our selling strategy.
We need to realize that if we continue to do what we have been doing in the past, our sales will continue to decline, and the layoffs we feared have a greater chance of becoming reality. (If you want to skip ahead to a more rational and more effective sales approach, scroll down to “Sell provocatively” below.)

Act confidently

Self-confidence sells. It shows that you believe in yourself, your company, your ability to solve problems, your determination to create value for your customer, and that you can make a positive difference in your prospect’s business. If you are suffering from a deflated ego, begin with reviewing your past successes. Refocus on your strengths. You can also use a proven acting technique called “as if”: Act as if you were the most confident person in the room. Actor For more on that subject, get this time-tested, classic book An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski. This book, first published in 1936, contains more ideas on the art of selling than any book on selling.

The best way to persuade others in a climate of fear is to act with confidence. You may remember the opening line in the movie Patton where George C. Scott addressed his troops with, “Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” The actor not only shows supreme confidence in his speech, he also uses a technique called “reversal” to get his point across. The following sales strategy is based on a similar concept. Instead of going to your prospect with proof that your product represents a profitable investment proposition – which, in effect, is a threat to his or her budget plans – you turn the tables and provoke the prospect’s thinking by showing how his or her business and its survival is threatened by not examining (and adopting) your solution.

Sell provocatively

In an economic downturn, solution selling may not be the most effective approach. Solution selling begins with a technical proof and then builds a business case. Example: “This is a proven product that has helped deliver 100 percent ROI in six months in ten Fortune 500 companies.” The typical response: “We don’t have a budget.” Provocation-based selling begins with a compelling business case and then offers technical proof. Provocation-based selling was first described in the March 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review. If you want to get a quick overview of this material, I recommend you view this excellent slide show below. It may contain that ray of hope that your sales team needs to move confidently ahead of your competition.

Mark Wilson, VP of sales at Sybase Inc., has applied this technique, which was described in Selling Power magazine’s September 2009 issue, with great success. Mark has agreed to share his methodology at the Selling Power Sales Leadership Conference on November 9, 2009, at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, FL.

Please share your feedback on this post. If you have created an innovative sales process in your organization, please click on “comments” below.

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10 Best Practice Ideas for Creating a Proud and Winning Sales Team

The Russian general Alexander Suvorov was one of the few generals in history Survovov1 who never lost a battle. He became famous for his manual, The Science of Victory, and his motto, “Train hard and fight easy.” Suvorov became a legendary leader.

At a recent Sales leadership Conference, I had the opportunity to conduct a short interview with Sharon Daniels, president and CEO of Achieve Global, one of the leading sales and leadership training companies.


Watch the 7-minute video then review the questions below:

Daniels

Ten Ideas for Sales Leaders for Creating a Proud and Winning Sales Team

1. Sales leaders need to assume three roles: the strategist, the coach, and the communicator.
Question: How much time do you spend coaching salespeople compared to the time you spend taking over the role of the supersalesperson?

2. If you want to help improve performance, start with objective measurements.
Question: Do your salespeople know their pipeline volume? Do you help them prioritize opportunities? Do you offer feedback on close ratios?

3. Identify your salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses.
Question: Do you have a method for capturing the skills and techniques applied by your top performers? Do you share the best practices across the sales organization?

4. Go on joint calls with salespeople and offer feedback.
Question: How many times do you take the reins during a call? How much time do you spend reviewing and analyzing what happened during a joint sales call?

5. Focus on the developmental needs of the salesperson during every coaching call.
Question: To what degree to you act as a cheerleader for your salespeople vs. acting as a performance coach?

6. Pull in other experts to help a salesperson with a particular challenge.
Question: Do you act as the all-knowing sales expert, or do you ask others to chip in when a problem arises that you may not be able to resolve on your own?

7. Deploy the best available resources within your organization to help your salespeople win.
Question: What can you do to get other departments – marketing, for example – more engaged with your sales team to enhance productivity?

8. Create an effective sales process, and coach people to follow that process.
Question: If a salesperson is above quota, do you care if he or she doesn’t follow the prescribed process?

9. Match the right selling skills to the right process to optimize results.
Question: Have you established a culture of measurement where salespeople know what performance levels are required to reach their sales quota? Do your salespeople know exactly what skills are expected of them? Do you inspect what you expect?

10. Focus on the challenges that your customers experience in this tough economy.
Question: What improvements have you made in your sales process to capture the voice of your customer? What adjustments have you made to accelerate sales to make up for the economic slowdown?

Action step 1: Select the three top ideas and apply them today.

Action step 2: If you want to learn from America’s top sales leaders, join our next Sales Leadership Conference on November 9, 2009 in Miami, FL.

Actions step 3: If you want to share your best practice idea, please click on “comments” below.

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10 Fresh Ideas for Selling More in This Tough Economy

I recently sat down with Howard Stevens, CEO of HR Chally, to discuss how sales executives can adapt better strategies and tactics to win in this tough economy. Howard has studied successful salespeople for decades and lectured around the globe (Europe, India, and China) helping sales leaders build a more effective sales organization. Howard is also the founder of the University Sales Education Foundation.

Watch this 5-minute video now, and then review the questions below.

Gerhard Blog Preview Image

Review these 10 ideas and think about how they can help you win

Below you’ll find the key ideas that you will learn in this short video. To help you turn these ideas into action, review the question below each idea.

1. Expand your service to existing customers.
Question: Have you expanded your service, or cut it down?

2. Change your mind-set and redefine what success means to you.
Question: Who has a greater chance of becoming successful, those who spend time defining what success means to them, or those who don’t have a clear definition of success?

3. Differentiate yourself and provide more value to your customers.
Question: How are you different from all the other solution providers that compete for your prospect’s budget?

4. Review your entire sales process. Learn more and innovate so you can sell more and earn more.
Question: How long has it been since you checked your sales process for efficiency leaks?

5. Look for mentors who can help you put things into perspective. Mentors can have a calming influence and help you restore confidence.
Question: Do you believe in tapping into the sagacity of seasoned executives?

6. Use technology to accelerate your sales activities. Start with a better social-networking strategy.
Question: What’s holding you back from expanding your social-networking assets?

7. Review your sales funnel and explore Sales 2.0 tools that can improve your sales process.
Question: Do you spend at least one hour each week shopping for new Sales 2.0 tools that can accelerate your sales funnel?

8. Set aside more time to think each day so you can act more effectively. Thinking is an experiential form of action. Acting impulsively is often unproductive and expensive.
Question: Do you review your sales strategy before each call, or do you make it up as you go?

9. Rediscover your assets that have helped you before. You can build greater success by focusing on your strengths than by trying to eliminate your weaknesses.
Question: What are your three fundamental strengths that have helped you get where you are today?

10. Times of adversity are a great opportunity for self-discovery and refocusing on what you want to get out of life.
Question: Can you define the gap between what you want to get out of life and where you are today?

Action step 1: Select the three top ideas and apply them today.

Action step 2: If these ideas helped you, share them with others. Spread the wealth to create more wealth for others.

Actions step 3: If you want to share your best idea, please click on “comments” below.

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It’s Wednesday – Is This the Best Day for Calling on Leads? NO!

Every salesperson schedules prospecting calls. If you have a choice, what day of the week is more productive than others? In a study sponsored by InsideSales.com and conducted by Dr. James Olroyd of MIT, Thursday is the best day of the week to call new prospects.

Chart1

Tuesday is the worst day to call. In fact, calling on Thursday will give you a 49.7 percent better chance of reaching a prospect when compared to calling on Tuesday. Dr. Olroyd examined three years’ of data provided by six companies that generated and responded to more than 15,000 Web leads and more than 100,000 phone calls.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF THE DAY TO CALL A PROSPECT?

Calling early and calling late in the day is more productive than calling during the dull period between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The research showed the best times to call: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Chart2

What’s interesting is that the early bird who calls between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. doesn’t get through to the prospect, but staying after 5 p.m. and calling until 6 p.m. will give you a definite edge over your competition.

How fast should you respond to Web leads?

Here is the best part of the research: The faster you respond to online leads, the more chances you’ll have of converting the lead into a qualified prospect.

Chart3

The odds of contacting a lead decrease by more than 10 times in the first hour. The lesson: Call online leads within the first five minutes. Why? The prospect’s mind is still connected to your information universe. After an hour has passed, the prospect’s mind is already focused on other tasks.

The lesson: You snooze, you lose. Speed is the ultimate competitive advantage for turning leads into opportunities. For more interesting research sponsored by InsideSales.com, go to http://www.insidesales.com/research_papers.php

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How Well Are You Served by Those You Decided to Follow on Twitter?

Who we follow on Twitter can expand our awareness of the world.

I started tweeting only a few months ago. In the beginning I thought it would be a waste of time, since half of the information is trivial. But the other half is vital. Here is how I get the best information from the greatest minds who share their insights on Twitter. Every time I want to learn something new, I search for the leading experts in the field, and I follow them.

For example, Tom Peters or Jack Welch are great to follow if you want to know more about leadership. If you want to increase your motivation, you may want to follow Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins. If you get tired of their tweets, no problem; just click "unfollow." Twitter delivers wisdom on demand in real time.

Follow a mastermind group of experts

If you want to increase your social media IQ, here is a list of my top 25 Social Media gurus that you can follow on Twitter.

If you want to increase your understanding of Sales 2.0, here is my list of the top Sales 2.0 experts part I to follow. Since I've published that list, I've received a number of calls from people who I have not included, which prompted me to create the top Sales 2.0 experts part II. Check it out now and decide whom you want to follow.

Jill Konrath recently created a group of her favorite sales authors. Here is a blogger who created a list of the top 100 Social Media books ever created. Here is a list of analysts you may want to follow on Twitter. You can create your own mastermind group at www.tweepml.org and share it on Twitter. The benefit: Many of the people you add to the list will likely retweet your list, and this will likely increase the number of people who will follow you.

Social Media vs. the Old Media

As the number of social media tools increase, we will see a rising tide of more useful information spreading across the Internet. What is the impact on the old media? How will that influence newspapers, broadcast media and magazines?

Here is an interesting report: Unity's 2009 Layoff Tracker Report shows that journalism jobs have been hit three times harder in this recession than other job categories. Newspapers and broadcast and digital news media have shed more than 35,800 jobs since September 15, 2008. The great majority of jobs lost were in newspaper production and other print journalism. The Internet is slowly picking out the middle man. People want to get the news they want instantly, in short bursts, online.

What has more impact on our success, print or online?

As the publisher of Selling Power magazine I still see a large number of people who prefer to get their information from a printed page. For every person who says, "Print is dead," I hear three people saying, "I love the magazine. I learned so much from it. I take it with me when I travel." Reading print has a different feel. Opening a book or a magazine creates a certain intimacy and mental focus that stimulates the imagination. Print has always been the medium of reflection. It opens doors to our inner universe, and what we read enriches us.

The magic of online is that it opens doors to worlds we didn't know existed. Online is the medium of action. With each click our focus moves forward. In a way, the pleasure of discovery goes hand in hand with the faint feeling that there is no closure.

We always know when a book or a magazine is finished, but the Internet has no back cover. There is no stop sign that says, "You've come to the end of what we know."

In the end, what counts is the question, How well are we served by what we read in print or online? Does it lead us where we want to go?

Question: Please share how much time you invest per week reading print media vs. social media. (blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)

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How To Create A Leading Brand With A Common Product

(This is also a story for people who love to sell quality and believe that nothing should be taken more seriously than the pleasure that comes from the best food.)

More than 110 years ago, a farmer who lived by the sea near La Rochelle in western France decided to quit raising cattle and began cultivating oysters. Henri Gillardeau could not read or write, but he could count, and he made enough money to build a large house opposite City Hall in the village that he called "Ça m’Suffit "(“That’s enough for me”).

Today the Gillardeau family is still cultivating oysters in a small town where nearly everyone is in the oyster business. While everyone has access to the same basic resources, Gillardeau oysters are world famous, while the others are not. Gillardeau has improved the process that involves 59 steps from hatching to harvesting – spread out over four years. Gillardeau only produces the highest-grade oysters, called spéciales. They are fleshier, tender yet almost crunchy, and they offer a delicate taste that some describe as “nutty sweet and salty, like sea air.” These top-of-the-line oysters sell for a higher price ($50 a dozen) in such fancy Parisian restaurants as Prunier, or such brasseries as Le Bofinger. For a complete list of restaurants that serve these oysters, click here.

Oyster1

(“The taste of happiness – yesterday, today, always…the oyster, wisdom and memory.”)

For the past 15 years, sales have increased by an average of 20 percent each year. The company employs 100 workers, who produce 2,000 tons of oysters, which represents a market share of only 1.5 percent. While many cultivators have industrialized their production (and turned out a commodity with a somewhat bland taste), Gillardeau continually improved the customer experience (better quality, better taste, and better service) and the brand. What added to his sales success is complete control over the distribution channel. The company knows exactly where its oysters are sold through tight control over the wholesale channel. Today, Gillardeau is the leading oyster brand in France and as renowned as Hermès ties.

The oyster has become their world.

This sales success story caught my attention for several reasons.

Oyster2

First, it’s a story about building an exclusive brand that demands a premium on the market. Second, it’s a story about how a family can increase the value of a business over five generations through a fierce commitment to continuous improvement. Third, the original founder’s motto, “That’s enough for me,” is an unusual philosophy that few people write or think about. The philosophy of more tends to drive people to accumulate more, work more, consume more, and stress more. The philosophy of enough allows people to keep their life and business within the boundaries of happiness. I think that the Gillardeau story contains a great lesson from an illiterate yet wise farmer who cultivated oysters and discovered within his oyster business a precious pearl of wisdom: Defining “enough” contains the secret to a more meaningful life.

For foodies who speak French: a Gillardeau recipe.

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15 Things Salespeople And Sales Managers Should Put On Their Not-To-Do List

Elmer Leterman once wrote, "Human beings in any line of work could double their productive capacity overnight if they began right now to do all the things they know they should do and stop doing all the things they know they should not do." Leterman suggests that we're all standing in our own way on the road to success.

What’s holding us back is that we all love to improvise instead of rely on proven skills and act on what we know is the right course of action.

15 things salespeople should have on their daily not-to-do list:

Don’t waste time chasing unprofitable leads.
Don’t show up late for the call.
Don’t make a call without a plan and preparation.
Don’t pretend to listen; stay focused.
Don’t talk about politics, religion or sex.
Don’t talk about what you like, talk about what the prospect likes.
Don’t talk about features without explaining the benefits.
Don’t quote price before establishing value.
Don’t skip steps in the sales process, stay on track.
Don’t forget to up-sell and cross-sell.
Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.
Don’t lie; build trust.
Don’t under-dress or over-dress.
Don’t drink prior to a call; look your best.
Don’t flirt with the staff; be charming.

15 things sales managers should have on their daily not-to-do list:

Don’t make hiring decisions based on your gut instincts alone.
Don’t slip back into the role of the super-salesperson.
Don’t claim you made a sale that you helped create.
Don’t play favorites; be fair to everyone.
Don’t accept incompetence; set the bar high.
Don’t resist change, embrace it.
Don’t reject technology because you don’t understand it.
Don’t mistake sales increases with profitability.
Don’t think that sales training is unnecessary.
Don’t allow salespeople to put their monkeys on your back.
Don’t criticize in public; offer performance feedback in a private setting.
Don’t assign a $10-an-hour job to a $120,000-a-year sales executive.
Don’t push your salespeople to success; lead them by example.
Don’t think that your sales process is perfect; it needs to be renovated all the time.
Don’t hide in your office, crunching numbers; delegate and invigorate yourself.

The magic of the not-to-do list

Think of your to-do list. It takes a lot of work to get things done. Chances are that you are starting the day with 7-10 major action items, and you are lucky if you are able to cross off the first three items by the end of the day. Start a fresh to-do list every day. Don’t agonize, prioritize.

The not-to-do list doesn’t change every day. This list doesn’t take more work on your part; it creates less work for you. It helps you recognize new patterns. It helps you prevent self-defeating actions. Like Michelangelo chipped away all the unnecessary marble from a gigantic block to create a masterpiece, your not-to-do list will bring out the best in you.

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How To Manage What We Don’t Know That We Don’t Know

Imagine sitting in front of a table eight feet in diameter. Place a dime in the middle. Roundtable Then imagine that the dime represents what we know, and the rest of the table represents what we don’t know. We all know that what we do know is the basis of the many decisions we make in our business. We also know that the field represents the unknown (but knowable to us) is huge. We have a hunch that if we invested more time, we could increase our knowledge base and get smarter about many things.

Let’s assume for a moment that over the next 20 years we’ll read twice as many books and magazines. Let’s assume that we will visit twice as many Websites and learn from twice as many people who possess more knowledge we have acquired. What will happen 20 years from today is that the dime may have increased to the size of a quarter, and all we’ve done is increase the circumference of our ignorance.

But while we’ve doubled our learning capacity for 20 years, we know that the size of the table (what is knowable) will have increased to the size of the state of Montana. In other words, what we don’t know that we don’t know has increased exponentially.

Are we getting smarter, or are we becoming more ignorant?

How should we think about this? Is information technology a blessing that benefits us all? Or are we creating a society that will be progressively more ignorant as we create more information and knowledge?

Here is another paradox: As the available knowledge increases, so does our ability to access the available knowledge. In the past our pain was associated with a lack of access to knowledge. We knew less, but the information we needed was hidden in libraries and the brains of hard-to-access experts. Today we know a lot more, and everyone can access a great deal of the world’s knowledge, and we experience the pain that comes from excess.

Internet technology offers promising solutions. Jimmy Wales inspired people around the world to co-create 13 million articles in 262 languages for Wikipedia. This monumental, living universe of knowledge allows us rapid access to it, which is a huge step forward. But knowledge repositories can’t fix the ignorance that comes from not knowing what we don’t know.

Knowledge is no longer power

As we survey the large field of knowledge that we can access from our browsers, we realize that knowledge is no longer power. Everybody can access knowledge with a few keystrokes. We live in a world of excess of information, and everybody has access to excess. The power has shifted from the ability to access knowledge to the ability to ask the right questions. Success today depends on asking better questions so we can tap into what we don’t know that we don’t know.

Are questions more important than knowledge?

Picasso once said, “Computers are useless. They only can give you answers.” Voltaire suggested, “Judge others by their questions, rather than by their answers.” Ignorance is like playing a game of hide-and-seek. We are blindfolded, but we know that the blinders only remove our vision, not reality itself. Reality is always there, but our awareness tends to lag behind. Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg framed the issue succinctly by stating, “Nature does not reveal its secrets. It only responds to our method of questioning.”

We are part of a system that collaborates autonomously

Each of our body systems is interconnected and dependent on one another. Science suggests that all of nature is a communication channel; it transmits the past to the future by storing information in the present and handing it off to the next generation, along with the code that insures survival and improvement. In other words, we all carry a vast knowledge universe that’s highly adaptive and capable of ensuring progress. While nature’s systems are designed to work autonomously, the human capacity to think leads to choices that either enhance or interfere with natures’ work. That creates the conversation platform for human values, morality, and ethics.

Intuition generates thoughts that fuel our curiosity

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant once said that “all thought must, directly or indirectly, by way of certain characters, relate ultimately to intuitions, and therefore, with us, to sensibility, because in no other way can an object be given to us.” Let’s think about that quote in the context of the 8-feet-wide table and our dime that we want to increase to the size of a quarter. We know what we know, and we know that what we don’t know is knowable, but we are not aware of what we don’t know. Our intuition tells us that there are knowable areas that we can seek out, question, and examine. The idea that our intuition is a source of knowledge goes back to the French philosopher Descartes, who wrote in his doctrine Veracitas Dei that our intuition does not deceive us because God is truthful and will not deceive us.

Do we know more than we think or think more than we know?

Here is the beautiful part: We are all a lot more knowledgeable than we think we are, because our present moment is a function of our awareness and intuition. As we move into a new moment, our brain will organize its computing power (generate more questions and search for more answers) according to the challenges involved in the new task at hand. The punch line belongs to Kant: “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”

Isn’t it reasonable to say that we need to co-create new models of collaboration so we can advance society by uncovering, exploring, and questioning what we don’t know that we don’t know?

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How Do We Keep Things in “Perspective”?

In these turbulent times, it has become difficult to gain a healthy perspective so we that can invest our energy in productive pursuits. In order to gain perspective on things that matter, it may help to understand what “perspective” really means.

Perspective as we know it today has evolved from the architectural drawings of two Italian architects, Filippo Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti, who lived in Italy in the early 1400s. These noted architects developed a practical method of creating the illusion of depth on a flat surface.

To gain perspective, we need to understand a few of its essential elements. The first is our vantage point, or the fixed point from which we view a scene.

  Statue

The second is our horizon line, or the point at which the land meets the sky. For example, if we go up in a helicopter, the horizon line gets pushed back and we begin to see more ground and less sky.

Horizon

The third element, the vanishing point, is a point where lines that are parallel to one another appear to meet at the horizon line. For example, railroad tracks appear to meet at one point at the horizon.

Tracks

What’s interesting about perspective is that it allows us to create the illusion of depth on a flat piece of paper. What’s even more interesting is that the rules of perspective also apply to how we view our world that, in turn, influences how we view opportunities. Perspective allows us to translate our vision of the world into a set of rules for dealing with the world more successfully. Here are a few examples.

1. A single vantage point limits our understanding of the world. Objects appear very different when we view them from a different position. The moment we move from our vantage point, everything changes. That’s why people who don’t move mentally have difficulties imagining new possibilities. They can see life only from their point of view, and they can’t see new challenges. Good salespeople help prospects discover new vantage points so they can see the world from a different perspective.

2. Without a horizon line our images become distorted. As we look into the future from multiple vantage points, we often ignore the horizon line and make mountains out of molehills. Fear tends to magnify difficulties and often prevents us from seeing genuine opportunities. Fear shrinks the panorama of possibilities. Great salespeople help prospects distinguish mountains from molehills by helping them recognize differences they could not see previously.

3. Imagination influences our perspective. To see things as they are, we must open our eyes. To see things as better than they are, we must close our eyes and imagine new possibilities. People who accept the horizon line as their natural boundary will never go far. In companies where employees are encouraged to imagine and build a more successful company, increased sales become the norm, not the exception. Great sales leaders help salespeople deploy more innovative tools, create more innovative processes, and inject more imagination into each customer conversation.

4. All horizon lines are artificial limitations. Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” How we see the economy today does not matter. What matters is that the horizon line we see will shape our future. The role of a visionary leader is to always push the horizon line back so that people can realize how much further they can go. Good salespeople get their customers to see the horizon line; great salespeople get their customers to follow them around the world.

5. All progress hinges on our perspective. The German poet Schiller wrote, “If you want to study yourself -- look into the hearts of other people. If you want to study other people -- look into your own heart.” To grow in selling and in life, we need to find the right vantage point (so we can find the best point from which to view our opportunities), and recognize that the horizon line is always artificial. We must never mistake outer limitation with our inner potential. There are few limits to how far we can go.

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