The 4 Secrets of Leadership

Can you name the one or two best sales managers, or business owners you ever worked for? If so, how did they make you feel? What qualities or traits did they have in common, or which ones do you most try to emulate in your own company?

I work with a lot of business owners and managers, and I can tell you that the most successful ones all have at least four core characters in common. Many of them possess other qualities as well, but these four “Secrets” as I call them are always at the center of their power and charisma.

As you read through them, ask yourself which ones you currently have, which ones you’d like to strengthen, or which ones you can develop. Once you master them all, you will be able to lead any team and any company to greatness.

Here they are:

#1: Unbounded Optimism. Ask any great leader to describe the future, and they will always tell you it’s a wonderful place. Leaders are extremely goal oriented, have clearly identified what it is they want and what they are willing to sacrifice to get there, and they radiate an optimistic glow because they already live there in their mind’s eye.

Because people want to feel good about themselves and their futures, they naturally gravitate to winners. People want to work for and, in fact, work harder for people who are optimistic. Plus, optimism is contagious. A great leader can often turn an organization full of negativity around, and the excitement they inspire can result in greater morale and greater results.

If you’re in a position of authority, ask yourself if you’d want others to catch your attitude. If not, then focus on ways to become optimistic – you’ll be a much more effective leader when you are.

#2: Rock Solid Confidence. Great leaders are convinced they can do anything they set their minds to. I love a saying of Napoleon Bonaparte’s : “The improbable we’ll do at once. The impossible will take a little longer.” A leader’s attitude is: Whatever the challenge, we’ll find a way to overcome it.

Confident also leaders create confident followers, and a company, family, or team with an “I Can” attitude is unstoppable. The confidence of a great leader always inspires the best performance of his/her employees, and their team’s success just adds to and confirms the leader’s confidence.

#3: Integrity. In a recent survey about what qualities employees wanted from the managers and business owners they worked for, integrity was the most desired trait people picked. Integrity, including honesty, fairness and consistency of attitude and action, are traits that build confidence in a leader and that build loyalty in the people who report to them.

Leaders with integrity genuinely care about the company they are building or the job they are doing, and this helps everybody feel as if their work has meaning and makes a difference in people’s lives. Most people spend a third of their lives at their jobs, and while we go to work for a pay check it’s the intrinsic satisfaction someone gets from their work that allows them to feel fulfilled. Leaders with a high degree of integrity help foster this feeling by setting the example.

#4: Decisiveness: All great leaders are decisive and committed to the actions they take. This doesn’t mean they act capriciously, on the contrary, they fully weigh out and think through their options, but the key characteristic is that they aren’t afraid to make a decision and implement a plan of action.

Most employees tell many tales of bosses who are afraid of making a decision, or who frequently go back on them, and this habit of hesitation undermines their authority and the confidence of everyone in the organization. Leaders, on the other hand, may not always make the right decision, but they can be counted on to make a well thought out one, and then to take action on it. If facts change or results warrant it, they are flexible enough to reevaluate and make another decision.

If you’re in a leadership role, don’t shy away from decisions. Evaluate the data at the time and the relative need of making a decision and then choose the best course of action and commit. Making a decision – even if it’s the wrong decision – is better than making no decision at all.

If you are in a position of authority and wish to become an effective leader, then find ways of developing or strengthening these four characteristics in yourself. Remember, everyone is counting on you for guidance, and it is your ability to lead that will determine the ultimate result in your team or company.

I Agree With Jeffrey Gitomer About These Two Things

Now, let me just say for the record that I agree with a lot more than just these two things that Jeffrey says, but these are things I’ve known for many, many years. I hope they resonate with you, too.

So here’s the scene: Large corporate sales convention in the company’s training center, over 250 sales reps flown in from all over the country; Sales directors, V.P.s, sales managers all running around stressing over the schedule, quotas, current sales, etc.

I’m speaking to the entire group (owners, board members in the audience, too), and after the training portion of my presentation, I ask the question that gets the managers and directors to shift uneasily in their seats: “What are the two most important determining factors in making sales and exceeding quotas?”

The reps raise their hands and start firing away, “Leads,” “The economy,” “The price of the product,” “Territory,” they yell out. The managers and directors are now sweating, and the owners and board members look irritated and even a little angry.

“While those things all play a part, the problem with them is that you have no control over them. So for that reason alone, they don’t qualify as being the most important things.” I tell them.

“There are only two things you CAN control and those happen to be the most important factors affecting your success. And they always will be,” I say. And what are those two things?

Your attitude and your actions.

Everything else flows from those two things. And the good news is that both of those things are directly under your control and when you learn to develop and maintain an expectant and enthusiastic attitude, and you take smart, consistent actions, you will always get the results you plan for.”

After I delivered this (and the rest of my talk), the managers and directors, V.P.’s and owners were all smiles. And so were the Top 20%, because they know the truth.

Ask any top performer this question, and you will get the same answer, albeit, in a different way. Some will say it’s how hard they work; others will say it’s their mental preparation, and still others will attribute their success to visualizing a win. But it all comes down to the same thing.

A winner will always take 100% responsibility for their results, while the other 80% will blame it on things outside their control. And that’s why winners will always eventually win, and the rest of the players will lose and make excuses.

It’s like my friend Jeffrey Gitomer once said, “Your boss can’t stop you; your co-workers can’t stop you; your territory can’t stop you; the economy can’t stop you. Only YOU can permanently stop you.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.)

In today’s business environment of social media, product reviews, so many Internet options to buy, etc., it’s crucially important that you develop, feed, and maintain a positive, expectant attitude of success. No matter what you’re going through right now, circumstances will change, and they WILL get better. The question is, what extra actions are you taking right now to ensure your success? Are you working harder AND smarter? Are you coming in early and leaving late? Are you going that extra mile every day including Fridays? Are you visualizing your success?

The bottom line is that if you focus on and take care of the two things you can control – your attitude and your actions – then nothing will stop you from reaching your goals.

That was a message all 250 sales reps in needed to hear, and I know that 20% of them already knew it and were already practicing it.

How about you?

The Three “Real”’ Secrets of Hiring Top Sales Reps

Ask any manager, V.P. or business owner what one of the biggest challenges they face in making their revenue numbers and they’ll tell you it’s in identifying, hiring and retaining good sales reps. If you are familiar with my management philosophy, then you’ve heard me talk about the 80/20 rule in sales, and all you have to do is look at your own company or industry to know it’s still true – 80% of the sales and revenue are made by the Top 20%.

So how do you identify who the Top 20% are BEFORE you spend all that time and money on hiring, training and then hoping they perform? There are many ways to try to identify the characteristics in advance, and in fact a whole industry of profiling and assessment testing has sprouted up to help you make the right choice. I have used some of these tests and have found them to be quite accurate and valuable.

I have also found an easier way to identify who the potential top producers are, and I’ve boiled it down into three “Real Secrets.” If you are responsible for identifying and hiring sales reps in your company, then I recommend you use these techniques to help you find the right sales reps before you spend all that time and energy training, managing and hoping you’ve made the right choice.

Real Secret #1) The best predictor of future behavior and performance is past behavior and performance. This is a well known fact in psychology, and it’s one you can use to predict how a new sales rep is likely to perform for you. The bottom line is that however much your candidate earned in income in their last job, and the job before that, is mostly likely the amount they are going to earn working for you as well.

What you must determine is exactly how much money that was. Ask your candidate to provide you with pay stubs or verification of income for the last 6 months, and, in addition, ask them what they earned in income each of the last three years. Find a way to verify this.

Finally, determine how much of your product or service your candidate would have to sell to generate that kind of income again, and ask yourself if you would be happy with that level of performance – because that’s most likely what you’re going to get.

Real Secret #2) Determine what is really motivating your candidate. What we exposed in the first real secret was your candidate’s comfort zone. We all have comfort zones, and sales reps in particular will always live up to – and most likely down to – their comfort zone especially in terms of income.

So if your candidate is really looking to your company and opportunity to better themselves and earn more money, find out what is driving this need and desire for more money. Have their life circumstances changed? For example, have they recently gotten married, had a child, purchased a home? If so, then they may have a real motivation to work harder, make more money and enlarge their comfort zone.

If their situation hasn’t changed, then you can be pretty sure that they will not be motivated to work harder, learn more skills, and make more sales. In essence, they will continue to live down to their current comfort level and you may once again be hiring another 80% producer.

Real Secret #3) Access their sales skills and previous training. This is one of my favorites. During the interview, I ask my candidates how they think they would do selling my product. They all say, “I’d do great!” I then do two things:

1) I ask them to sell me on the product. What I’m looking for is for them to ask me qualifying questions rather than just start pitching. Those who just dive right in and start pitching reveal themselves as middle to low 80% producers. Top 20% producers, on the other hand, start asking me questions and gathering information. They are the ones I’m interested in.
2) Next I give them a couple of objections and watch and listen to how they handle them. You can immediately tell how much training someone has had, and how successful they were, by listening to them handle age old objections like “The price is too high,” and “I’ll have to talk to someone else first.”

These techniques have saved me hundreds of hours of poor hires, and they have often revealed who the real top producers were. Use them, and you’ll love how they will work for you as well.

The Five Things I Learned From Training

A few months ago I was in Las Vegas training at a very large company’s sales summit. I love these events because I not only get to train wonderful groups of sales professionals, but because I always learn so much myself. Below is an example of five things I learned from one of the regional sales managers during one of his sessions to the group. They are in no particular order, but you’ll see there is a ton of tried and true wisdom and experience in each one.

#1: “Prospecting is a lot like panning for gold – you’re going to find a lot more dirt than gold.”

I loved this the moment I heard it. And how true it is! Just think of the old gold prospectors who toiled in the hills and caves and rivers panning for gold. They went through a lot more dirt than they did gold, didn’t they? And isn’t it interesting that the term for cold calling is now called prospecting….

Bottom line is that you still need to do a lot of work and make a lot of calls before you find your gold – a qualified client who buys.

#2: “Most sales reps who call prospects and have ‘commission breath.’”

Another gem! I’m sure you know just what that means. The secret to becoming a better sales person is to concentrate on listening to your prospects rather than pitching and begging a deal. Your goal should be to uncover buyers, not force unqualified leads into your pipeline so you can hound them and chase them with “commission breath.”

For some great techniques and word for word scripts to help you avoid commission breath, visit my blog here.

#3: “Don’t let the exceptions dictate the rule.”
I can’t tell you the number of times bad sales reps encounter one situation once and then base their whole approach on either avoiding or preparing for that situation again. And when they do, they throw away all the best practices and proven methods that work in the 90% of other situations. In other words, they let the one exception (“Well, back in ’83 someone said…”) and that hurts them their entire career.

What Top Sales Reps do is follow the fundamentals and practice perfection on each call. Whatever you do, don’t ‘let the exception dictate the rule.’

#4: “Use Bingo to make calling fun!” For all of you sales managers who missed my article on how to use the game of Bingo to make calling fun and rewarding, visit my blog here.

#5: “Telemarketing training doesn’t exist anymore.” Another brilliant and right on comment. Back in the day (the eighties) when the word “inside sales” didn’t exist, there were true “telemarketing” rooms. And in these rooms, there was a ton of structure, scripts, recording and training. These rooms were mightily successful and helped build giant companies that are around today.

But along the way something happened. Telemarketing became a bad word, and as it was tossed out, so was all the great structured training and skill sets. This regional manager was right: ‘Telemarketing training doesn’t exist anymore,’ – but I’ll add – for the most part. There are still a few masters around who know how to build multi-million dollar inside sales teams, and luckily, you’re reading one right now.

If you’d like to learn more about how these proven techniques can help you do the same, then visit here.

Hope you enjoyed the article!