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October 2009

Success Is the Choice between the Power of Positive and Negative Thinking

Test your ability to think positively:

Rating scale: Give yourself 10 points for each yes and no points for each no. Add the total.

1. Do you think you are a happy and lucky person? [] Yes [] No
2. Have you experienced positive thoughts today? [] Yes [] No
3. Have you smiled at a stranger today for no reason? [] Yes [] No
4. Are you able to maintain a positive attitude even when you are with negative people? [] Yes [] No
5. Have you read, listened to, or watched a positive story within the past 24 hours? [] Yes [] No
6. Have you decided this morning to have a great day? [] Yes [] No
7. Do you believe in your positive qualities enough to expand on them? [] Yes [] No
8. Do you believe that every problem contains the seed to its own solution? [] Yes [] No
9. Do you believe that a positive state of mind has a positive impact on your health? [] Yes [] No
10. Do you use the power of positive praise daily in your work? [] Yes [] No
11. Do you seek out positive people? [] Yes [] No
12. Do you plan to fill your free time with positive experiences? [] Yes [] No

Total your score. A score of 100 or more means that your ability to approach life from a positive perspective is helping you win. Get back to work; you don’t need to read more. If you scored lower than 100, it means that you have many opportunities to learn more about the power of positive thinking. Get Dr. Peale’s best-selling book; it’s your first step to a more positive life.

Lessons I learned about positive thinking from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

Peale When I first started Selling Power magazine in 1981, I wasn't too confident our publication would make it through the first year. Then I learned about the humble beginnings of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's career and requested an interview with the author of the worldwide best seller The Power of Positive Thinking. The book was first published in 1952 and sold more than 20 million copies in 41 languages. What impressed me most was the fact that he was very familiar with the challenges of selling.

First, for one summer he sold aluminumware kitchen utensils, a house-to-house canvassing job. He learned early how to deal with rejection, reluctant prospects, and call reluctance. Second, he sold people on the power of positive thinking in a negative world.

I recall reading every article and 16 of the books he had written before calling his office. I also remember worrying and saying to myself, "He'll never take the time to talk to a little guy like me." But I was surprised that he was only too happy to visit with me in his New York office on Fifth Avenue.

I recall sitting in the elegant waiting room going over my questions and wondering, "What if I don't get any new information from him because I am not really trained to interview people?" I was wrong again, because Dr. Peale's enthusiasm was contagious. He answered all of my questions thoughtfully, and his reassuring voice wiped away my own negative thoughts.

Dr. Peale explained that our thoughts and images are mainly responsible for how we feel. He suggested, "You can make yourself sick with your thoughts, and you can make yourself well with them. A positive emotion is created by positive thoughts and images. You can say, 'This is a great day. I am fortunate to sell a wonderful product. I look forward to meeting many interesting people today. I'll be able to help some of these people, and I look forward to learning a great deal today.' You see, thinking and talking that way adds to your enthusiasm and vitality. Your mind is expanding, and all this contributes to your well-being."

Dr. Peale shared examples of people who wore themselves out by the debilitating quality of their thoughts. He explained that many people take a dim view of enthusiasm, and some of them show real pride when their negative views begin to irritate other people. I asked Dr. Peale about those people who confuse negative thinking with realistic thinking. He answered, "When most people say that they are being 'realistic,' they actually delude themselves, for they are simply being negative. These people don't realize that if you put yourself down mentally, you are reducing the vitality of your system."

I asked Dr. Peale how salespeople can be more successful in dealing with problems. He answered, "A problem is a concentrated opportunity. The only people that I ever have known to have no problems are in the cemetery. The more problems you have, the more alive you are. Every problem contains the seeds of its own solution. I often say, when the Lord wants to give you the greatest value in this world, he doesn't wrap it in a sophisticated package and hand it to you on a silver platter. He is too subtle, too adroit, for that. He takes this big value and buries it at the heart of a big, tough problem. How he must watch you with delight when you've got what it takes to break that problem apart and find at its heart what the Bible calls 'the pearl of great price.' Everybody I've ever known who succeeded in a big way in life has done so by breaking problems apart and finding the value that was there."

Many people often wondered how Dr. Peale developed all this energy for a healthy, creative, purposeful and meaningful life – a life that included lectures and worldwide travels, even past his 90th birthday! (He passed away at age 95.) Dr. Peale once said, "Successful old age is built on earlier years lived right. In old age you will be just about the kind of person you are now, only more so. If you are positive and enthusiastic at thirty, you will be that way when you are eighty. If you are a grouch and negative at thirty, imagine what you will be when you grow old."

He and his wife, Ruth, practiced a healthy, positive lifestyle, and they enjoyed going on regular walks together. Dr. Peale said, "Walking activates blood circulation. It tones up the system and refreshes the mind. Walking also activates your enthusiasm. It shakes down worries and increases our capacity to exercise faith."

Dr. Peale helped me realize that I needed to change my tendency to predict negative results. On several occasions he sent a friendly note of encouragement, complimenting us on the positive qualities of Selling Power magazine. Over time I learned how to silence the "misfortune-teller" within me, and I found Dr. Peale's techniques for positive thinking to be a very practical, successful, and meaningful way of managing a business and enjoying life.

More on that subject:

Watch this interesting interview with Dr. Alex Pattakos, the author of the best-selling book Prisoners of Our Thoughts. In less than three minutes you’ll learn how to apply the power of your thoughts to improve your attitude.

Prisoners of Our Thoughts is a great self-help book that contains powerful insights about leading a successful and meaningful life.


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Hit The “Pause” Button and Daydream on Your Way to Greater Achievement

During a VIP dinner at our last Sales Leadership Conference in Chicago, I asked senior sales leaders what they have done to reward themselves and find relief from the stress caused by tough economic challenges. One executive revealed that he has treated himself to classical guitar lessons. As a child he dreamed of learning the instrument but never found the time to act on his dream. His journey into the world of artistic expression has opened his mind to a state of bliss that he is able to apply to his business, which enhances his performance. He explained how the serenity of music helps him stay calmer during days filled with chaos.

While some reluctantly admitted that stress has eroded their personal productivity, others carve out time to play and spend more time with family. One VP of sales rewards himself by going to the gym more often while traveling. He said, “It gives me the energy I need to drive business forward. In a sluggish economy, I can’t afford a sluggish body.”

One of the most interesting ideas for rewarding oneself came from a sales executive who decided to spend more time daydreaming. He realized that we live in a culture obsessed with efficiency, where we fill every waking moment with work. He cited a recent article that explained how daydreaming can lead to epiphanies, valuable insights, and creative problem solving. I did some research and discovered that daydreams can turn into a powerful achievement tool. While daydreaming is not recommended while we’re engaged in conversation, for example, it pays to let the conscious mind shift into neutral. Many scientists argue that daydreaming has a purpose; it is a productive, cognitive event that plays a critical role in creativity.

Albert Einstein found that when he allowed himself to disengage from the confines of disciplined study, his thoughts became unbounded, which helped him refine the Theory of Relativity. Such successful actors as Harvey Keitel and Meg Ryan have incorporated dream work into their careers, which allows them to perform with greater authenticity.

Meg Ryan once said that inspiration doesn’t always come from the outside; it can come from going inside our minds. The French filmmaker Louis Malle once described how he engaged in a series of daydreams that led him to create a script for a new movie. Such creative business leaders as Sir Richard Branson daydream in order to leapfrog their daily preoccupations and create mental bridges to new possibilities.

It appears that daydreaming is a great way of rewarding ourselves with a break from the rational world. It allows our brain to explore its inner landscape and return with new insights that can lead us to greater success. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suggested, “Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.”

More on that subject: Secrets of Entrepreneurs: The Power of Silence. A nine-minute course on how successful business leaders use the power of silence to get ahead in business.

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The Ten Causes of Sales and Marketing Misalignment

Every year CSO Insights surveys more than 1,800 sales organizations, and every year the survey indicates that many sales and marketing organizations are operating in separate silos. Here are the 10 obstacles that stand in the way of sales and marketing alignment:

1. The CEO who does not insist on unified reporting on the company’s sales pipeline. Why? Because most CEOs don’t know that CRM technology offers pipeline visibility and marketing software offers a clear insight into the results of each marketing campaign. The best part is that the marketing software can be seamlessly integrated with CRM.

2. Salespeople who complain that the sales leads generated from marketing are useless. Why? Because their sales manager is unwilling or unable to diagnose the root of the problem. Many companies have cured this problem with simple solutions such as A) have marketing people spend a day in the field with salespeople, and B) have sales and marketing people spend one hour together to define the word “prospect.”

3. Marketing people who believe that they know what’s best for the sales force. Why? Because some marketing managers are proud of their analytical faculties. They trust their “instincts” and therefore believe that they know best how to fill the top of the funnel and why leads get dropped from the pipeline. The solution: Collaborate with sales and establish a shared responsibility model for pipeline dynamics.

4. Salespeople try to reduce complexity; marketing people tend to move in the opposite direction. Why? At the end of a series of engagements, salespeople want their prospects to say one word: yes. Marketing people want to find many different ways to presell prospects through a complex arrangement of stories and messages that resonate in the carefully targeted prospect’s mind. The simple solution: Let your customers tell the story in person, online, through social media, on video, in virtual reality.

5. Sales and marketing can’t agree on the barriers they face in the market. Why? In many instances the barriers are self-imposed. For example, in one large company, a strategic decision made at the top called for a bundling of solutions. Marketing launched a massive advertising campaign, salespeople received new playbooks and training, yet the campaign failed, since salespeople sold individual units that earned them higher commissions. The solution: Create a premortem analysis prior to large initiatives.

6. Both sales and marketing lose track of how customers buy. Why? Because sales managers cling to sales models that worked in the past, and marketing managers feed into the established (but obsolete) sales process. The solution: Align the sales process with the customer’s buying process.

7. No clarity about the value proposition. Why? When you have few customers, it is hard to define what your customers value. When you have many customers, it can become more difficult, since each market segment values your solution differently. The solution: Ask your customers, “How are we doing?” Spending a day with customers leads to more clarity than spending a week studying market-research reports.

8. Inability to speak the same language. Why? Salespeople are concerned with closing deals; marketing managers are concerned with opening opportunities. Salespeople believe that a lead is a prospect who has a need, a budget, the authority to buy, and is willing to buy within a short time frame. Marketing believes that a lead is someone who is supposed to buy based on marketing research and demographic information.

9. Inability to agree on the best tactics and strategies to win in this economy. Why? Nobody can figure out where the economy is headed. Chief sales officers are preoccupied with getting better leads into the pipeline so they can drive up sales. Marketing managers get often sidetracked by shiny objects, such as new marketing software, building online communities, new advertising messages, analyzing the competition, creating a social-media strategy, etc. The solution: Create a monthly review system for the simple purpose of aligning priorities.

10. Sales and Marketing managers tend to forget their mission. Why? In the heat of the battle for higher sales and greater market share, we forget the noble purpose of our company. Peter Drucker once said, “The purpose of business is to create a customer.” Without a customer we don’t have a business. The solution to sales and marketing alignment is to remember who signs our paychecks: the customer. This is a good enough reason to take the initiative today, reach out to your counterpart, and align sales and marketing around your company’s original mission and vision.

More solutions: Sam Reese, CEO of Miller Heiman on the subject of alignment. It’s only five minutes, but these ideas could be worth five million.

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Question: What ideas would you like to share from your extensive experience with sales and marketing alignment? Please contribute. Click on comments and share your thoughts now.

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Never Let Anxiety Stand in Your Way of a Sale

At our recent Sales Leadership Conference, best-selling author Neil Rackham told 200 sales leaders in the audience, “The three deadly sins of salespeople in this economy are chasing more opportunities, negotiating rather than selling, and selling price rather than safety.” What impels salespeople to commit these sins is anxiety. It’s the anxiety of not making their goals that drives many salespeople to half-selling twice as many prospects. Extensive psychological research shows that feelings of anxiety, fear, or worry are the key reasons why prospects put off purchasing decisions and why salespeople don’t like making cold calls. In tough economic times, it is natural to worry a little, but excessive worry makes salespeople less productive as they spin their wheels with nonessential sales activities, overprepare for low-priority tasks, and overlook opportunities that would call for a focused and in-depth effort. Feelings of anxiety, fear, or worry don’t go away with age, money, higher positions, or more prestige. Muhammad Ali was never afraid of any opponent, yet he experienced anxiety when flying. And even the most confident speakers worry before addressing their audience. While some allow anxious thoughts to float unchecked into their stream of consciousness, others catch these thoughts early and transform them into positive energy.

Buyers experience a stream of anxious thoughts related to their purchases. It is not hard to read a customer’s feelings of anxiety. When customers express vague, incomplete, or disjointed ideas, or if they keep repeating the same concern over and over, you can tell that anxious thoughts are interfering with their ability to think clearly. Some prospects discuss trivial issues to avoid discussing a sales proposal. It is not surprising that anxious customers often pass the buck and blame someone else for dragging his or her feet.

To ease a prospect’s anxiety, it is helpful to adopt a mind-set of acceptance. It’s a good idea to temporarily suspend the preoccupation with advancing the sale and slip into the role of a patient, understanding, and confident friend. Slow your speech down and ask a series of open-ended questions prefaced with such phrases as, “Help me to understand,” or “It would be helpful for me to know more about…” Consciously relax your body and communicate in a confident voice. If the prospect is agitated, suggest moving to a calmer environment. If necessary, reschedule the meeting. Use words to lower the prospect’s defenses. Say, “I have good news for you,” or “My goal is to put your mind at ease,” or even, “We’ll come back with an idea that will make your CEO very happy.”

If customers sound like a broken record, you might say, “I am glad you brought that to my attention. Let me make a note of this.” Then, if the customer continues to bring up the same issue, pick up your note and say, “It seems we’ve discussed this a few times today. What do we need to do to put this issue to rest?” One VP of sales used a quote from the Bible and told a worried prospect, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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How Long Would it Take to Read Everything Google Shows about “Success”?

“Print is dead!” has become the battle cry of the digerati. When I speak to Silicon Valley executives, they tell me that “salespeople don’t read, and print advertising has migrated to the Web, so move all your information online.”

If we go online and Google “success,” we’ll find 312 million entries. If we searched for 100 years and worked eight hours a day reading one article per minute, we’d be able to look at only 5.4 percent of what we could find about success today. Google opens a door to an infinite universe that defies comprehension. The Internet offers us access to excess information, which often leads us to more searching – which leaves less time for work, which in turn drains productivity.

Revolutions tend to create a curious inversion of perception that’s similar to looking through the wrong end of binoculars. What was once big appears ridiculously small. While the old economies are disintegrating and every business hops on the giant information highway, I want to stand up and say, “Not so fast!” For every person who tells me that print is dead, I hear three people saying, “I love your magazine. It helps me as a professional because it makes me think about how to improve.”

Who says that online information has been a great teacher to salespeople? Does the Internet turn salespeople into better listeners? No! Does the Internet turn average salespeople into peak performers? I don’t think so.

I believe the Internet has a few disadvantages over a good magazine, one disadvantage being that the Internet doesn’t have a back cover. When you’ve finished reading a magazine, you know you have reached the end. When you are searching online, you don’t see a stop sign that reads, “You’ve reached the end of what you need to know, now get back to work!”

The magic of online is that it opens doors to worlds we didn’t know existed. With each click, curiosity moves us forward, but the pleasure of discovery goes hand-in-hand with the nagging feeling that there is no closure.

Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message,” meaning that the medium by which a message is delivered becomes part of the message, and it influences how the message is perceived. Online media is perceived as more urgent; it urges us to choose what to read next, and it seduces us to travel further on the information highway so that we sometimes forget what we were looking for.

On the other hand, when we’ve finished reading a good book or a great magazine article, the hidden message is, “I accomplished something. I got a meaningful return on my time investment, and I am at peace with myself.” Closure creates meaning.

To many salespeople, the Internet has become a place to forget themselves rather than improve themselves. I believe that Selling Power magazine is a better place for sales improvement than the Internet. If you disagree, we’ve covered our bets; you can also get the magazine online.

Click here to obtain more information about receiving the Selling Power magazine in print or online.


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P.S. Tripp Braden just left this comment on Facebook about this post: I believe that readership leads to leadership. Many leaders I've known have learned to balance reading with execution. Reading is a start but knowing when to stop is the secret of success. My response: Spot on!

It’s Friday – Has Rationality Prevailed in Your Mind All Week?

A few years ago I traveled through Morocco, where it is common to see people riding on donkeys, pushing handcarts, or sitting in a corner of the Kasbah manufacturing shoes using hand tools. This made me wonder: Why is it that in some societies, nobody has a watch, but everybody has time? But in other, more modern societies, nobody has time, and everybody has a watch.

Information and time are like inseparable twins that move together in a paradoxical way

Do you ever wonder where the time that we gain by moving information faster goes? The answer: The more time we gain, the more we fill our days consuming and generating information. The big questions are, what do we really gain by moving faster, and is it possible that a faster flow of information shrinks our ability to think and act rationally?

Time fragmentation decreases rationality

As we split our time into ever-smaller fragments, we begin to feel like a juggler who adds more and more balls to the ones that are already in the air. As a result, we begin to look for better ways to juggle all the balls that come our way. Since the number of balls we juggle is limited by the available time, we reach our upper limit more often. In juggling terms, we begin to drop more balls. In terms of human capacity, we begin to act in irrational ways.

Herbert Simon, the 1978 Nobel Prize winner in Economics, first coined the term “bounded rationality,” which states that our rationality is limited by three factors: A) the information we have, B) the cognitive limitations of our mind, and C) the finite amount of time we have to make a decision. Since we have less time available to decide on problems that are more complex, the chances of making irrational decisions go up at a steady pace.

Complexity drives up risk

Even the brightest people in business are often stumped by the complexities of the two business drivers: finance and technology. Case in point: This week, Harvard University’s top financial officers had to explain a $1.8 billion loss in its investment portfolio. Yesterday, the Harvard Gazette reported that a stunning $500 million went down the drain in connection with interest exchange agreements, or “credit swaps.” The “rational” explanation offered was, “This was a once-in-a-lifetime, hundred-year-storm kind of event.” A more rational voice would have reminded these eggheads that when it comes to investing, the return on investment should take a back seat to the return of the investment.

When it comes to investments in technology, decision makers run up against two complex problems. One problem involves the objective appraisal of current systems, and the other involves the appraisal of the “new and improved” technology solution. Decision makers have high expectations, but at the same time they face time constraints, financial constraints, lack of domain expertise, and the inability to invest enough time to control the project from start to finish. No wonder a high percentage of CRM projects fail. Technology vendors rarely take the blame. They make “bounded rationality” part of their sales and marketing. Smart vendors know that buyer ignorance is an invitation for exploitation.

It reminds me of the famous line in the movie Trading Places, in which the Duke brothers tell Billy Ray Valentine (played by Eddie Murphy) “the good part”: “The good part is that no matter whether our clients make money or lose money, Duke & Duke get the commissions.”

Makes you wonder how long it will take until technology buyers begin to wake up, and instead of “buying” ROI promises, demand guaranteed results. Where is the rationality of top executives who would personally never buy a $100,000 car without a warranty, yet they are willing to spend $1 million on a software system for their companies based on a PPT slide that shows an ROI projection? Wouldn’t it be more rational to hold technology vendors’ feet to the fire? Instead of using complexity as an excuse, we should go back to the basics and not invest in anything we don’t fully understand.

Being smart stops at 110 bits per second

Herbert Simon also discovered that human beings cannot absorb more information than 110 bits per second. In a speech at a TED conference, Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explained that listening to another person requires about 60 bits per second, which explains why it becomes impossible for us to listen to two people talking at the same time.

Some people believe that they can push beyond normal limits, especially when it comes to multitasking. Neuroscientist Earl Miller said in an NPR interview, "People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves,” And he continued, "The brain is very good at deluding itself."

What should we learn from this? First, we need to relearn how to focus on one person at a time so we can clearly understand what our customers are saying and create more value for them. Second, we need to stop deluding ourselves that we can run 100 meters in 10 seconds while we’re texting or updating our Facebook page. Remember the saying that someone who chases after two hares won’t catch even one.

Getting lost in a sea of information

Some people say that information overload is not the chief problem. The real problem is that we don’t have enough information filters. That’s like saying the problem isn’t that there is too much rain flooding the river, it’s that we don’t have enough boats and umbrellas.

How many times a day are we getting lost surfing online? The analogy with surfing is misleading since in real life, surfers ride a wave that leads to the shore while online surfing only leads us away from the shore into the deeper ocean, from where it will take us a longer time to return.

How many people start their day without clear priorities and objectives? How many managers accept unscheduled meetings or phone calls? How many salespeople call on unqualified prospects? How many show up underprepared?

The first step toward a more rational and successful life comes from our ability to recognize

a) the limits of our ability to absorb more information (It takes time to listen.)
b) the limits of our ability to act rationally (It takes time to think.)
c) our brain’s delusions of competence (We don’t gain time by multitasking.)
d) the illusion that we have enough time to solve highly complex problems effectively (It takes time to find the best solution.)
e) that we get lost easily while surfing online (It takes effort to manage our time better.)

As Clint Eastwood said in his role as Inspector Harry Callahan, “A man has got to know his limitations.” We cannot change the growing ocean of information, but we can improve the way we invest the shrinking amount of time.

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What Attitude Do You Need to Succeed?

Attitude is a word with many meanings.

To a market researcher, it is a preference toward one brand or another. To a psychologist, it is the cause of a particular behavior. To a salesperson, it can often mean the difference between a call made or a call avoided.

The best definition of a positive attitude I have ever heard comes from a little-known story Zig Ziglar used to tell years ago. He had just come home from a series of seminars and was quite excited about the trip. When his wife picked him up at the airport, she brought their daughter Suzan and her friend along for the ride.

As Zig shared his excitement about the seminars with his wife, he overheard the following conversation from the back of the car:

"What does your daddy do?" asked Suzan’s friend.

Suzan, who was 10 years old at the time, answered, "Oh, that positive-thinking stuff."


"What is positive thinking?" Another pause.

"Oh,” Suzan responded, “you know, that's what makes you feel real good, even when you feel real bad."

This little story raises an interesting question: If 10-year-olds know that positive thinking can change the way we feel by improving our feelings and attitudes, why is it that so few adults use it?

1. Impact of attitude on performance

A number of studies suggest that attitude has a much more significant impact on job performance than most people suspect. More than 50 years ago, Harvard University pioneered one of the first studies on the influence of attitude on job security based on the experiences of 4,375 people who had lost their jobs because they failed to perform their duties to their employers' satisfaction. The study concluded that only one-third failed because of a lack of knowledge or skills, while a staggering two-thirds failed because of attitude problems alone.

Dr. Martin Seligman, a noted psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, is known as the father of positive psychology. He is the author of a worldwide best seller, entitled Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.

Dr. Seligman’s research indicates that attitude influences both job turnover and sales commission. Dr. Seligman studied the entire Pennsylvania region sales force of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company . The research report, originally published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, explains that the way in which agents explained their failures to make a sale made the difference between their becoming top sales achievers or their quitting the company.

"Individuals with a vulnerable explanatory style (i.e., the way a person explains an event and the particular slant he or she gives to the facts) will tend to explain the cause of their failure as more internal (“I'm a loser”), stable (“I will never do anything right”), and global (“I never will succeed”)," reported Seligman. "They will therefore blame themselves and expect failure to recur over a longer period of time and in more situations. Consequently, they will suffer more self-esteem deficits." In insurance sales, this translates into fewer sales attempts, less persistence and, ultimately, quitting altogether. The study concludes that those salespeople who had a more optimistic outlook sold 37 percent more insurance in their first year than did those with a pessimistic view.

During the last decade, a flurry of new reports indicates that positive attitudes not only add to a healthier income, but also lead to healthier lives.

2. Attitude and health

Dr. Christopher Peterson, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, found that a confirmed pessimist is twice as likely to experience minor illnesses - the flu or a sore throat, for instance - as an unabashed optimist. Dr. Peterson noted that pessimists tend to abuse their bodies more, smoke more, drink more, and get less sleep than optimists.

Another researcher, Dr. Winston Parris of Vanderbilt University, studied women undergoing minor surgery. Women with positive attitudes were less likely to experience minor postoperative pain, nausea, vomiting, and other complications requiring an overnight hospital stay.

Schering-Plough's Research Institute of Molecular Biology in Palo Alto, CA, reported that a team of scientists found a link between brain activity and the activity of lymphocytes (the white blood cells that defend against infection), suggesting that a good mental attitude can help the body fight off disease.

How can we develop new and better attitudes that lead to better health, higher income, more secure employment, higher career satisfaction, and a greater level of success? The answer is simple: one attitude at a time. It appears the more accurate we are in pinpointing our attitude needs, the easier it becomes for us to build more productive attitudes. Like a building begins with a foundation, the foundation for a new attitude is awareness.

The following attitude-awareness quiz has been developed to help you pinpoint your current attitude-building needs.

3. Attitude awareness quiz

Please check yes or no for each question and date your questionnaire. As you will see, every no represents an opportunity to change your attitude. Look up the solutions following the quiz and work on your attitude once a week. Repeat this attitude checkup every week until you can answer the 10 questions with an enthusiastic yes!

1. Is my current mood free from any negative experience from the past? Yes ( ) No ( )

2. Is my current mood hopeful and optimistic in anticipation of the future? Yes ( ) No ( )

3. Do I currently feel that I am in control of my life? Yes ( ) No ( )

4. Do I feel that the problems I am currently facing are really stimulating challenges? Yes ( ) No ( )

5. Do I feel free from self-abuse, such as overeating, drinking, or using drugs? Yes ( ) No ( )

6. Do I currently pursue a realistic and challenging goal? Yes ( ) No ( )

7. Am I committed to an ongoing exercise program? Yes ( ) No ( )

8. Are my family relationships a source of love, pride, and support? Yes ( ) No ( )

9. Do I consider myself a success? Yes ( ) No ( )

10. Are my thoughts stimulated by positive people, books, videos, and personal role models? Yes ( ) No ( )

11. Do I seek out challenges that are in line with my present potential? Yes ( ) No ( )

12. Do I automatically look for the positive in every situation? Yes ( ) No ( )

Rating scale:
10-12 yes answers: Congratulations! Your positive attitude is helping you win.
6-9 yes answers: Several negative attitudes are inhibiting your performance. Begin your personal attitude-improvement program. Seek out positive people, find a mentor, read self-help books.
5 or fewer yes answers: Seek professional help.

Concluding thought: "As every cell in your body is constantly being made new, why not put new thoughts, new life, into your old cells and not drag along with you all the old skeletons of the past?" - Orison Swett Marden (1920)

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10 Tough Challenges Salespeople Face Today and What to Do About It

Selling Power recently conducted a survey of sales managers to determine what challenges they are currently facing. Of the 420 responses, here are the 10 most frequently mentioned challenges. These challenges are not in any particular order.

The purpose of this post is to explore a methodology for handling sales challenges quickly and effectively during your next sales meeting. It is common for sales managers to quickly jump from a problem to a solution and then to sell the solution to everybody on the team; however, this shortcut in thinking and precipitous action is not often rewarded with success. Someone once said that “thinking is an experiential form of action.” Thinking is cheap, but action is expensive.

It may be a good idea for you, the sales leader, to create your own list of sales challenges and bring it to your next sales meeting. Ask your salespeople to cocreate new solutions. Instead of handing out your solutions, put their minds to work and encourage them to create at least five solutions to each challenge. Next, implement the solutions and discuss the results in your next sales meetings.

Sales Challenges Management Questions Creative Solutions
1. Longer decision time frames What are the causes? What would accelerate the lead pipeline? Create a more attractive selling proposition. Improve lead scoring and prospect engagement. Create a lead-nuturing process. Accelerate lead flow.
2. Need to win more proposals What technology can cut proposal writing time? What process can improve win rates? Explore such vendors as Big Machines and Sant.
3. Competing with a lower-priced competitor whose promises won't hold up over time How can we educate customers to justify an investment in quality? How do our best salespeople sell value over price? Collect authentic customer testimonials that focus on value. Ask independent expert to create a white paper. Use social networking to promote long-term value.
4. Finding more qualified leads How do we define a qualified lead? What are our best lead sources? What new lead sources can we tap into? Explore online lead sources, such as Inside View, ZoomInfo, Hoovers, Jigsaw, LeadDogs. Explore outsourcing lead qualification. Check out , InsideSales, and ConnectAndSell.
5. Weathering budget cuts What are our customers buying today? How can we encourage them to consider fresh ideas? What impact can we have on our customers' bottom lines? Price more aggressively. Allow customers to defer payments. Alternate financing options. Explore high cost of doing nothing. Better justify ROI.
6. Deals lost to delays How do we transform our sales funnel into a buy-cycle funnel? How well do we understand how our customers buy? Review the lead-scoring process. Improve the sales process to gain a specific commitment at the conclusion of every call. Gain commitment at a higher level.
7. Too many competitors What is the best way to differentiate our solution? How can we improve our sales message? How can we deliver more value? Improve the quality of each customer interaction. Improve the collaboration between sales and marketing, and create integrated social-media campaigns. Present more customer testimonials.
8. Little customer interest in our add-on services What changed? How do customers think about our product? What are the top three customer priorities? Bring the customer’s voice back into the company. Align customer priorities with product development and marketing.
9. Fewer staff members to help hit sales targets How can we improve our sales support? What are the underserved needs of our sales team? Invest more time in training sales support. Streamline the sales process. Create better metrics to understand what really drives productivity.
10. Getting through to the C-level decision makers What is the current process? How do we train our team? What is our big-game hunting strategy? Train and coach salespeople on C-level selling techniques. Read Whale Hunting by Tom Searcy. Set up CEO-to-CEO calls.

Key takeaway: Problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity.

Question: How do you respond to these tough sales challenges? Please feel free to share your thoughts!

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Do You Have the Mindset of a Winner?

As I travel across the country, I hear a number of sales managers complaining about how hard it is to make quota, how difficult it has become to motivate their salespeople, and how challenging it is to keep a sense of balance in their lives. People work crazy hours. Some get up at 5:00 a.m. to check emails, and others take their BlackBerrys to bed, firing off messages past midnight. The sad part is that these overworked executives are no longer enjoying work, the quality of their lives has declined, and their mediocre results do not reflect their true capabilities.

The recession has changed people’s definition of success, and in many cases it has pushed people into a mind-set of mediocrity. In my view, mediocrity is not the result of atrophied capabilities, but the result of a mind-set that clings to the success models of the past that have stopped working years ago.

Winners reject mediocrity in all parts of their lives

You have probably heard of Seth Godin, a best-selling author, a spellbinding keynote speaker and a thought leader in the field of social media, marketing, and leadership. Seth wrote remarkable books such as The Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), and All Marketers are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. In this five-minute video, Seth explains how salespeople are conditioned to embrace mediocrity by trying to fit in with everybody else. One of Seth’s keen observations is that salespeople are working too hard trying to persuade prospects who are not really listening to them. Seth believes that prospects are increasingly indifferent, especially when they have not been pre-sold on the salesperson through a personal social-media connection or interaction.

Don’t ignore social media, embrace it. It makes selling a lot easier.

Since the video with Seth Godin aired, Nielsen Online reported that social networking has overtaken email in terms of global reach. If your selling model is still limited to email blasts, you probably noticed that your response rates have gone down steadily. What you may not have realized is that your prospects are spending less time reading your emails and more time reading other people’s comments on your competitor’s product or service on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Godin was right: Salespeople who want to win need to spend more time pre-selling customers. Is the pre-sales process a missing link in your company? If so, close the gap and mediocrity will vanish.

Your takeaway:

The person with a winner’s mind-set continually adapts to what works, while one with a mind-set of mediocrity continually complains about what doesn’t work.

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The Magic of the Power Presenter

What happens when people ask you to address a group of people to persuade them to take action on an idea? Chances are that you suddenly become aware of your heartbeat, your throat may become dry, you nervously take a sip of water, stand up, and then notice that all eyeballs in the room are focused on you. In one short moment you may have experienced a surge of anxiety that you are trying to mask with a smile that has a hard time sticking to your face.

How should you prepare for a speech

In the past five years I have learned more about giving presentations than I learned in the 20 years before that. Each year I conduct three sales leadership conferences and three Sales 2.0 conferences that attract a total of more than 1,800 people. In the beginning I wrote my own speeches word for word. A 45-minute speech translates into about 4,000 words, or about 10 pages of type. I would spend the entire weekend writing the speech, editing it through the night, and changing it again the next morning. After a couple of practice rounds, I would find a better way to express my ideas and edit the speech again. I found that there is an inevitable struggle between expressing an idea in your head and translating the idea into words on paper.

When I was on stage, I found myself looking at my notes very infrequently. Why? I wanted to connect with my audience. But as I focused on the audience, I found myself wanting to get back to my speech. This was a different struggle. On one hand I wanted to read my speech; on the other, I wanted to address the audience.

Finding the courage to speak what’s on your mind

Over time I discovered that it was helpful to create a pictorial road map for my speech. Instead of stringing together words and sentences, I strung together 10 to 20 key ideas. I would create a PowerPoint slide to illustrate each idea. I found arresting images for each idea and used very little text on each slide. This method immediately solved the problem with the structure of my presentation. The slides reminded me of the subjects, and I could pay more attention to the audience.

The first time around I still wrote a complete speech using the new structure. But when I started my talk, I realized that I didn’t look at my notes. I left the script at the podium and never lost eye contact with my audience. I felt at ease, and I felt a true connection with the audience.

Power presenters follow a planned process

My next learning experience came while working with Jerry Weissman, a former producer of CBS TV shows, executive presentation coach and CEO of Power Presentations Ltd. Weissman Jerry is also the author of the new book The Power Presenter. I had the privilege of interviewing him in his Silicon Valley office. He taught me a number of secrets that he has shared in the video interview below. Here is one that I will never forget: Most speakers are not aware that they are not establishing a full connection with their audience. Their eyes dart from one person to the next, without focusing on anyone. Jerry taught me a great process. Let’s say you want to make an important point. Pick someone at random in the audience and focus on that person until you have complete eye contact. (Jerry calls this “eye connect.”) Act as if you are speaking just to that person in the room, and continue to address that person until you see by the person’s body language (e.g., head nodding) that he or she is completely tuned in to you. After you’ve finished making your point, pick someone at the other side of the stage and speak to that person. Over time, the audience will see that you are taking a personal interest in everyone, and as a result your impact on the audience will be far greater.

A historic presentation lesson: John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon

In the 18-minute video below, you will find the world-famous TV debate between the two presidential candidates. Watch Kennedy’s body language and compare his confidence level to that of Nixon. Kennedy appears poised and confident. Nixon slouches from one side to another; he clutches the lectern, all signs of insecurity.

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Lessons learned

Jerry Weissman shares a three-part formula for creating natural and confident presentation. First, connect with your audience members’ eyes. Don’t speak to the crowd, but speak to one person at a time.

Second, reach out to your audience with open gestures. (You’ll see Jerry modeling this key gesture).

Third, use animation. Instead of describing the art of being lively, Jerry shows a video of General Norman Schwarzkopf holding a press conference. Products tend to become commodities and personalities tend to become dull over time, but as this video clearly shows, when you follow Jerry’s three-part formula, you’ll become more powerful and more persuasive. This formula got Obama into the White House, and it can help you get to a much higher level of success.

Note: If you want to see some of the leading presenters in the field of sales and sales management, sign up for our Sales Leadership Conference in Miami on November 9th.

Question: What’s your best-kept power presentation secret? Please feel free to share it!

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