Sales Management: The One Metric That Matters Most

Greetings from Chicago! I’m here this week presenting at the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) Leadership Summit. If you’re attending the Summit, then make sure and say hello to me.

And if you’re in the city, then stop by and join the breakout session I’m giving tomorrow, Wednesday, at 4:15 pm in the Mayfair room, entitled: The Sales Manager: Seven Crucial Skills Every Inside Sales Leaders Needs Now.

If you’re in sales leadership or in a direct sales management role, you’ll learn a ton of useful strategies and tools to help your team produce more and be more confident. I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.

One of the “Seven Crucial Skills” I’ll be speaking on has to do with metrics. And the one metric I’ll be speaking about is the one that is the most important one for driving sales and making revenues. I wonder if you can guess what it is?

If you’re in management, then there are lots of metrics to choose from. Companies measure all kinds of things these days—number of phone calls, connect rates, presentations set, leads in the funnel, etc. With technology the way it is, there is no shortage of ways to break processes down and measure them.

But are you measuring the most important one? As you’ll learn today (and I’ll go into more detail tomorrow in my presentation), if you’re not measuring exactly how your reps are performing on the phones during their calls with prospects and clients, then you’re missing out on the most important metric of all.

When I say measuring how your reps are performing, I mean, of course, grading each part of both their prospecting call and/or their presentation calls. You do this by listening to their recordings and literally grading adherence to your best practice, scripted approach. For example, on the prospecting or cold call, did your rep:

  • Handle the gatekeeper professionally and get put through to the decision maker?
  • Make a connection with the decision maker and build instant rapport?
  • Deal with any resistance blow off statements with a best practice approach?
  • Give a quick value statement and give the prospect a chance to interact?
  • Engage the prospect so they didn’t feel pitched at?
  • Qualify the prospect thoroughly, discovering things like buying motive, decision process, timeline, etc.?
  • Set a specific follow up call and a follow up action?
  • Fill out a qualifying checklist?

As you can see, many of the regular metrics (listed previously) don’t drill down to this level of detail, but it is preciously this level of detail that determines how successful a rep will be in making a sale.

If you’d like to know more about how to get this information, and how to measure it, then either attend my breakout tomorrow, or reach out to me for coaching.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you tomorrow!

Why People Hate Cold Calling – And What to Do About It

The words “cold calling” still make sales people sweat.

I was on the phone with a client just a moment ago, while writing this, and he told me the biggest problem with his sales team is call reluctance. When I asked him why they won’t make more calls, he said they hated being rejected.

Here are two things you can do about cold calling to instantly make you, and your team, more effective at overcoming the “objections” they get:

Number One: Recognize that objections while cold calling aren’t really objections – they are just resistance statements.

It’s like when you go into a store and are asked, “Can I help you?” and you automatically reply, “No, just looking.” You aren’t really just looking—you’re usually looking for something specific (why else would you be there?). But you don’t want to deal with a sales rep so you give them resistance.

This usually makes them go away, but when you can’t find something, you seek them out – just like your clients do when they need you.

Number Two: Script out effective ways to deal with this resistance so you can get around it and start qualifying.

Here are some effective ways to do that with the resistance statement: “I’m/we’re not interested.”

If you make “warm” calls to someone who has filled out a web lead and you have to call them back and get “Not Interested” then say: 

“That’s perfectly okay, _________, you’ve probably forgotten that you (filled in a form, requested info, etc.) so I don’t expect you to be interested in what you must think is a cold call.

“But just to remind you – on (date/time) you (visited our website/dropped by our booth/filled out a form, etc.)—just out of curiosity, what were you looking for at that time?”

For inactive accounts or people you’ve not spoken to in a while:

“I’m not interested”

Response:

“That’s fine _________, and I’m simply calling to update your account information for our records. Quick question: Are you still the right contact person who handles ordering the ________ for your company?”

Or

“Oh that’s okay, I’m not calling to sell you anything today. Just want to make sure you still know we’re here in case you do need something down the road. By the way, do you guys still carry/use/order ________?”

For cold calling or prospecting calls:

“I’m not interested”

Response:

“Quick question: Does that mean you’re not interested at this moment, but in a few months things could change, and I should keep in touch?”

Or

“I’m with you—quick question though: are you the right contact for this, or is there another department (or person) I should check with?”

Or

“I understand. What would have to change for you to be more open to something like this in the future?”

This is how you get better at cold calling (or prospecting or whatever you call it). You will be much more confident if you take the time to prepare yourself for the resistance statements you get over and over again. Once you do, and once you begin getting past your prospect’s defensive barriers, you – and your team – will make more calls and begin closing more deals.

Building Rapport – It’s the Little Things That Matter Most

We’ve all been there: you’re in the middle of something and your phone rings and it’s a sales person calling. You know instantly how the call is going to go just based on the first few sentences the sales rep utters. And if you listen for just 2 minutes longer, your hunch is confirmed – it’s either a “good” call or a “used car salesman” call. And unfortunately, many calls these days sound like the latter.

So what can you do to instantly make your calls better? It all starts with focusing on building rapport. Rapport is simply defined as making a true connection with the person you are speaking with, rather than treating them as a prospect you can sell your product or services to. Ultimately, it’s about treating your prospect with respect, you know, the way you would like to be treated.

So how do you do it? It’s easier than you think if you concentrate on the little things. Below you’ll find a quick list of things that may not seem that important, but that make a giant difference in the way you are perceived as a caller. As you read through the list, ask yourself how many of these things you do regularly, and what you can begin doing better on your next call.

Working with the gatekeeper: The most important thing you can do when speaking with the gatekeeper or receptionist, is to be pleasant and courteous. I always recommend that you keep a mirror on your desk, and when the receptionist answers the phone, you look into it and check your facial expression. Are you smiling? Are you frowning? Are you wincing? Your attitude will be written on your face, and that attitude will be conveyed across the phone.

And the gatekeeper feeds off your attitude. If you’re bright and cheerful, it will pick him/her up, too. If you’re not – well, you probably already know how that goes. So concentrate this week on making sure that your attitude is contagious – because it is. And by the way, this goes for when you reach the decision maker as well.

Next, be courteous. I’ve written about this before, so just a quick reminder: Use please and thank you, and if you ask how their day is going, make sure and comment on it before you rush into what you’re calling about. Don’t just ask as a formality – that’s phony and the receptionist can tell. And, as always, use an instructional statement rather than a closed ended question at the end.

Working with the decision maker: All of the tips above apply here, too, but here’s something specific: If you ask the DM how they are doing, or how their afternoon is, or if it’s still raining (or hot) there, then if they ask how you are, always reply with, “Thanks for asking, I’m…” In other words, answer them back and engage them a bit. You don’t have to rush into your pitch—in fact, it’s much better if you don’t. Building this little bit of rapport will get you much further. So take a few seconds to interact, respond, and be polite.

Next, before you give your value statement or reason for the call, preface what you’re about to say with a softening statement. So many reps just barge right in and that’s an immediate turn off. It’s much better to say something like, “I know you’re busy so I’ll be brief,” or “We haven’t spoken yet, so I’ll respect your time today,” or “I just have a quick question for you…” and then ask it. Again, build rapport by softening your pitch, and then give your prospect a chance to engage with you.

And here’s the last little tip today: keep your value statement short. I’m talking no longer than two sentences. After you do, get to a question immediately! Doing so will allow your prospect to engage and start talking, and when they are talking, you are learning. Plus, if it’s not a good time—or if they want to blow you off—this will give them an opportunity to say so. If it’s not a good time, you can qualify quickly and set a better time, and if they try to blow you off, you can use a good rebuttal.

Either way, giving your prospect a chance to interact with you builds rapport and lets them know you’re not going to be a used car salesperson, rather, you’re there to interact, make a connection, and truly listen to what they have to say. And isn’t that the kind of person you’d like to speak to?

Try these little tips this week and see how many more people you get to have meaningful conversations with. There will be more than you might think.

The Proper Way to Follow Up on a Lead

In my book, Power Phone Scripts, I reveal the secret of sales: 90% of selling situations are recurring selling situations, which means if you want to become a superstar sales person, then you have to take the time to script out a best practice response to them.

And that means you have to stop ad-libbing your way through your sales career.

Think about it: you wouldn’t want a dentist to make it up as he goes along, would you? Of course not! You count on your dentist to be prepared and trained on the up to date, best practices for handling your dental situation.

The same is true in sales.

And one of the most recurring situations is calling back prospects three or four months later. You’d think this would be a simple, straight forward situation, right? It is, but people still get it wrong.

I was listening to a recording of a client making call backs to prospects, and he opened his call this way:

“Just following up with you. We spoke last December and you told me that wasn’t a good time and that you had a lot going on. I’m hoping that you’re more settled now and perhaps we could talk about your advertising needs?”

Obviously, this isn’t a best practice approach. First, why would you lead with the previous blow off objection she gave you in December? It’s like you’re supplying her with the new blow off she’s going to use right now.

Second, why “hope” she’s more settled right now, and why “ask” if “perhaps” you can talk about her needs now?

Here’s the proper way to follow up on a lead:

“Hi {first name}, this is {your first & last name} calling with {your company}. We spoke in December, and you asked me to reach back out to you here in March – and it’s a good thing you did, because we’ve got some great programs going right now for our summer issue!

“Let me ask you…” [And go into a qualifying/engaging question to get their attention…]

The difference here is that now you’re being proactive, assumptive, and enthusiastic. And you’re leading with a reason for this person to become engaged. This is much more effective than the previous technique—or one you may be using now.

Adapt this script to your own personality and product or sale. And then open all follow up calls with a great big smile in your voice, and be enthusiastic and assumptive. You’ll not only be more effective, but you’ll feel better as well.

If you’d like more (like over 500 more) ways to be more effective, then check out my bestselling book: Power Phone Scripts. It’ll be the best $20 you’ll ever spend on yourself (or your sales team!).

Is This a Good Time to Speak?

How do you feel about this opening? People either love it or hate it. Some sales people think it’s a more courteous way of speaking to a new prospect, that it shows respect and separates you from all the other salespeople who are barging in and delivering a monologue. Other people are against using this opening believing that it gives the prospect control of the call and an easy way to get rid of them. So which way is right?

The answer is the latter—but with some qualifiers.

First, the intent of the technique is right in that it gives someone the chance to tell you that they may be in the middle of something and that right now isn’t a good time. The problem is, you don’t want to lead with this as many prospects will simply use this to get rid of you. There is a better way.

What we want to do instead is to establish a little bit of rapport, give a softening statement, a quick value statement, and then give our prospect an opportunity to tell us if they are too busy to take the call right now. Let’s first look at an example, and then we’ll break it down and show you why it’s effective.

When you get a prospect on the line, a best practice opening would be something like:

“Hi {first name}, hope your day is going well so far?

“{first name}, I’m sure you’re busy so I’ll be brief. I’m with XYZ company and the reason for the call is to see if what we do (you can spell out your value prop here) would be a good fit for you, as well. Let me quickly ask you…(as a qualifying question here).”

OR

“{first name}, we haven’t yet spoken so I’ll be brief. I’m with XYZ company and the reason for the call is to see if what we do (you can spell out your value prop here) would be a good fit for you, as well. Let me quickly ask you…(as a qualifying question here).”

Breaking this down, first you’ll see that we’re letting the prospect know that we recognize their time is valuable, that we may not know them yet, and that they might be busy. All this shows respect for their time.

What we’re doing next is asking a question quickly (this is crucial). In other words, we are not delivering a monologue. We are giving our prospect a chance to engage with us, and it is during this break—after we’ve identified ourselves and given a quick value statement—that the prospect has a chance to tell us whether this is a good time or not. I have always found this the most effective way of doing this.

At this point, we are also in a better position to deal with any blow off or resistance statements, because we’ve been able to deliver our value statement and allowed our prospect to interact with us early on.

If you have been “leading with the chin,” as they say in boxing, by asking “Is this a good time,” then try using the above scripting instead and I’ll bet you’ll get further than you are now. Plus, you’ll still be using a more courteous approach rather than just delivering a two-paragraph pitch (which is always annoying).

One last note: feel free to adapt the scripts above to match your own personality. Make it your own, and you’re likely to use it a lot more.

I Doubled My Income in 90 Days Using This Technique

Seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? I mean, who can double their income in just 90 days?!

Those were my thoughts when I first heard the top inside sales trainer at the time, Stan Billue, claim that if you followed this one technique, you would do just that. I was struggling at the time, and out of 25 sales reps in my company, I was 23. Life wasn’t very good back then. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, so when I heard Stan make this claim, I was all in.

He also said something else: He said that even though this was a simple and proven technique, 90% of sales rep would not follow through and do it. I thought that was just crazy. Who wouldn’t want to double their income in 90 days? And secretly, I thought, if I increase my sales by just 50% it would be worth it. What I’ve come to find out in my long sales career is that he was right—most sales people don’t follow this powerful technique.

Here’s what it is: Make a commitment today to record your calls each and every day for 90 days, and listen to some of them, analyze them, and make a commitment to improving each and every day in the areas you hear need improvement in.

When I first started doing this, it was pretty painful listening to myself, and listening to all the things I was doing wrong. Here is a brief list of what I learned:

  • I talked over prospects.
  • I sounded like a salesman.
  • I didn’t build any real rapport.
  • I completely mishandled the gatekeeper (it was no wonder I rarely got through).
  • I didn’t listen to my prospect’s tone or to whether they were open or annoyed—I just barreled on.
  • I wasn’t following any kind of script; I was adlibbing it big time and it sounded like it.
  • I didn’t sound professional at all – too many ums, and uhs, etc.!
  • I didn’t qualify my prospects and instead just set unqualified appointments, and I wondered later why they didn’t close.
  • I didn’t set a scheduled appointment for the next call, nor did I set an expectation for that call on the rare occasions when I did set one.

And these were just some of the things I found wrong! What I also realized was that if I kept performing this way, I would never improve my results. And what I’ve found in 30 years in sales leadership and consulting is that the majority of sales reps and sales teams are making these same fundamental errors over and over again, and that’s why they continue to struggle.

To illustrate this, just last week I was asked to be a guest coach with a company called ExecVision (a call recording software company) on a webinar called, “Call Camp.” During this webinar, I listened to and critiqued sales rep’s actual calls. I highly suggest you listen to the recording of this webinar. Listen to the Call Camp recording here.

As you’ll see, the sales reps are making many of the errors I used to make. As you listen to the program, ask yourself: How many of these errors are you or your team making?

So, what to do about it? Take Stan’s advice above. Start recording and critiquing your calls today. If you need help recording your calls, for instance, if your phone system doesn’t allow you to record calls, or if you’re making calls using a cell phone, then here is a great solution to help you record all your calls easily: See the recording program here.

If you have questions about the legality of recording calls for your state, then check this article out by Steve Richard of ExecVision. You’ll learn everything you need to know.

Bottom line, you now have no reason not to record your calls. And if you do, you’ll put yourself in a position to double your income within 90 days. The only question now is whether or not you’re in the 10% group of motivated, committed closers who will do this.

If you are, get ready to earn more money – a lot more.

Three Ways to Handle the Price is Too High Objection

Are you still ad-libbing a response to the “your price is too high,” objection?

This is perhaps the oldest objection in the world, I mean think about it: In ancient Egypt (4,000+ years ago), at the open markets with all the vendors at their stalls selling everything from food to clothing to pots and pans, when a buyer asked how much an item was and was told the price, what do you think he/she automatically said?

“That’s way too much money for that!”

Sound familiar? Let’s face it, buyers have been using this objection way before you or your father or great grandfather got into sales, and you’d think that by now we’d all know how to effectively handle it. Some do, but with all the calls I listen to, there are still plenty of sales reps and companies that don’t…

So here are the best practice responses to the age old budget question or objection. Write these down, customize them so you are comfortable with them, and start moving past this objection once and for all.

Technique One: Avoid this objection from every coming up. What, you didn’t qualify for budget on your first call? This is a rookie mistake, and one that you need to fix right away. If you’re still getting the price objection when you’re presenting your product or solution, then that’s on you.

What you need to do is find a natural way to prequalify for budget as part of your qualifying questions. You know, the questions about decision making process, timeline, etc. Here are a few ways to do that:

“And {first name}, our solution ranges from $4,000 to $15,000 depending on the options you want. Is that range within a budget you have – again, if you like what you see?”

OR

“{first name}, I’m assuming you have a budget for this type of thing – if you feel that this will help you (do whatever it is your product or service does), right?

“And most of our new customers go for our premium package at $25,000 – is that something you could fit into your budget if this were a fit for you?”

There are many, many other ways to qualify for budget – if you need more, search this blog or pick up one of my books of phone scripts.

Technique Two: This is one of the easiest rebuttals to use, and I’m continually surprised more reps don’t automatically use it. The technique both challenges your prospect and helps you learn more about their buying process (and your possible competition) at the same time. It goes like this:

“Compared to what?”

And then hit your mute button and let them talk and reveal the way back into the close…

Technique Three: Here’s a way to isolate the price objection to make sure it’s the real and only objection there is. Nothing is more discouraging than overcoming it and then being told there are three more reasons they won’t buy.

“And besides price, what else would stop you from moving forward today?”

This is designed to draw out other objections. You can make it more positive by asking:

“And if the price were exactly where you’d want it, is everything else about our (product or service) okay? I mean, would you feel comfortable enough to take advantage of it today?”

As many of you know, I’m big on being prepared for the repeatable selling situations and objections you get day in and day out. This is what separates the top producers from everyone else, and it’s what makes sales easy and even enjoyable.

And let’s face it, an objection that has been around 4,000+ years is definitely a repeatable one.

Cold Calling: Stop Pitching the Gatekeeper

Note on today’s blog post: Due to the many requests I have received for more scripts on selling techniques, I am postponing my series on motivation and awareness. I hope you enjoy today’s cold calling tip.

I was talking with a client last week about some of his new employees. He told me that some of them are struggling to get through to decision makers, and he thought it was because they were “pitching the gatekeeper.” I listened to some of his calls, and he was right!

Here is the mistake: Many sales reps have never been taught the proper way to deal with gatekeepers, so after being screened out by them, they take the attitude that “If only they (the gatekeeper) knew how much this would benefit the (decision maker), then they’d put me through!” So they start pitching them….

How wrong that is…

Let’s recap the role of the receptionist/gatekeeper: The receptionist’s job is to answer calls and route them to the right person. They are trained to gather the information needed to give to the person they are transferring the call to, things like, name, company name, and sometimes, what the call is about.

Now here is something many sales reps misunderstand: The receptionist’s role is not to pry and grill and interrogate people who call in. They will only do this if the caller telegraphs him/herself as a salesperson. And many frustrated reps signal this by:

  • Only giving your first name and trying to trick the receptionist by pretending to be a “friend” of the person you’re trying to reach.
  • Not giving your company name. (May reps try to hide the fact they are calling from a company. This only arouses suspicion and raises a Red Flag.)
  • Not having a scripted approach to the question: “Will he/she know what this call is about?”
  • Not being polite and using the magic words: “Please” and “Thank You”
  • Not using an instructional statement.

Let me say this again: for the most part, receptionists, gatekeepers, etc., are not there to screen you out. They are there to capture basic information and then pass the call through. Notice I said, “for the most part.” There are certainly exceptions (in small offices, etc.) where they make it their job to screen you out, but you can still get past many of them as well if you use the best practice approach below.

Here is the script I was using as recently as last week to get through to some high powered decision makers. It works:

Gatekeeper: “XYZ company, how can I help you?”

YOU: “Hi, may I speak with {first name}, please?” (Say this with a bright, warm smile in your voice. Be confident and friendly.

Gatekeeper: “And what is your name please?”

YOU: “Please, tell him that {Your first & last name} is calling, please.”

Gatekeeper: “And may I tell him the company you are calling from?”

YOU: “Yes, please! Please tell him {Your first & last name again} with the {Your company name} is holding please.”

Again, smile, be friendly and confident. If you follow this exact script, you’ll get through 60% of the time without any further screening.

If they ask: “And what is this call regarding?”

YOU respond: “Please tell him/her it’s about {whatever your call is about – ‘His/her lead flow’}, and I’m happy to hold, please…”

Did you notice the “pleases”? How about the instructional statements? Did you notice the exact order?

These techniques will get you past the gatekeeper – without any further screening – over 75% of the time. Don’t believe me? Try it for a week (not just one or two calls!).

What doesn’t work is pitching the gatekeeper. That only identifies you as a sales person, and in many cases you start begging them to put you through. And that’s the last person they will put through – a begging sales person.

So, make a commitment to yourself this week and begin using this proven technique. You’ll be surprised by how many decision makers you begin getting through to.

Why Motivation Isn’t Enough

As the next week rolled around, I was very motivated to meet with my boss and find out what the missing ingredient to performance was. I had spent a few weeks identifying all the things I could do – that I had the ability and potential to do – if I choose to. And during the last week, I explored many areas where I had a lot more knowledge, and even training, than my results in those areas showed. I now had a strong desire to learn what was holding me back, and, as I said, I was motivated to finally learn how to use more of what I had.

This led me to think I knew what was missing: motivation. I obviously had lacked the proper motivation or a strong enough desire to put my ability and knowledge to use. I couldn’t wait to meet with him again, and that meeting took place on the following Monday. As usual, he asked me how my week’s experiment had gone. I told him I’d found that I knew a lot more about things than I was using. He smiled that smile again, and this time I smiled back. He asked me what I was thinking and I told him:

“What’s missing,” I announced proudly, “Was motivation! Obviously I just don’t want it badly enough, and so I lack the necessary desire to make it happen.” I rested my case and waited for his response. As usual, he started by asking me a question.

He asked, “Mike, do you now believe that you have the ability, the potential, that if you wanted to, you could get into good enough shape whereby you could complete a marathon?”

“Absolutely!” I said.

“And do you believe you know more about good fitness and proper diet than what your current weight, exercise, and eating habits would show?”

“Unfortunately, yes again,” I answered.

“Okay. Now let me ask you this. Have you ever joined a gym with the desire to get into top physical shape before?”

“Ah, yeah. I belong to a gym right now,” I said.

“And why do you belong to a gym?” he asked.

“Because I want to be in good shape and take care of myself,” I said.

“So in other words, you already have a desire to be fit?”

“Well sure. I think about eating better each time I order a meal, and I’m always thinking about getting back to the gym and starting working out again. In fact, each time my belt feels tighter, I’m really motivated to start working out again,” I said.

“And last question. Are you at your peak physical fitness level right now?” he asked me.

“Far from it, I’m afraid,” came my sorry answer.

“So, here we are,” he continued. “You have the ability, you have the knowledge, in other words you know what to do and even belong to a gym, and you have the desire to be in good physical shape. Am I right?”

He had me there. “Right,” I agreed.

“So the real question, Mike, is where is the follow through, the effectiveness? Why aren’t the results there in your life if you seem to have everything you need? What’s stopping you from achieving the performance and the result you truly want?”

We then went over a few other areas in my life where I seemed to have everything I needed as well. The biggest area was my performance in sales. I had to admit that, again, I had the ability, and I certainly had the training and I knew more than I was using. On top of that, each month I set a goal with my sales manager to achieve my numbers. We laid out how many calls I needed to make, and how many leads and presentations I needed to schedule.

Next, my sales manager laid out the compensation plan and we went over what achieving each additional level would mean to me. My manager even went so far as to show me what I could buy with the extra commission money I would make. After each goal planning session, I was pumped! But then the month began, and the calls got tough, and soon I was back where I secretly knew I would end up: in the bottom 25% of the sales team.

At this point, I threw up my hands and surrendered. I actually felt pretty down because I was convinced that I had everything I needed to perform better in my life, but for some unknown reason, I seemed destined to mediocrity. I started thinking about my family and wondered if underperformance was genetic…

My boss, sensing my despair, came to my rescue. He told me, “Mike, what I’m going to teach you over the next few weeks is not only why you haven’t reached more of your potential, training, and desire, but I’m going to show you exactly what you can start doing to change that. I’m going to give you proven methods and techniques for releasing more of what you have, more of what you know, and more of what you want.

“In fact,” he continued, “What you are going to learn is that it is actually easy to increase your effectiveness in any area of your life if you just understand the laws governing behavior and performance. And I guarantee that once you get in alignment with these laws of performance, you will be able to set and achieve any goal that has meaning to you. And you’ll be able to achieve it easily and enjoyably.”

Well, that sounded too good to be true. I had set goals before – especially at the beginning of each year (New Year’s resolutions). And while I continued them for a month or so, I soon gave up and went back to the old me. I even brought this up in terms of setting goals around getting into physical shape. I told him my willpower would last for a few weeks, but then I would falter, stop going to the gym, and then I would beat myself up each time I slipped and had a donut at the office.

He raised his eyebrows and said, “That’s actually a good example. In fact, did you ever notice that in January and February the parking lots of gyms around the city are full?” I agreed they were. “But by March and April, they go back to where were in November and December, and they stay that way the rest of year.” It was true, I had to agree.

He asked me how that dieting process was for me in the beginning of the year. I told him I had to gather all my willpower and determination and that for the first couple of weeks it worked. But after a while, I felt denied the tasty foods, and that despite how much I wanted to stay on my diet, soon I was back in the break room in the morning gorging on bagels and cream cheese. Soon I wondered where all my good intentions and willpower had gone to.

He said, “Mike, you’re not alone. Making changes by using lots and lots of willpower is how most people do it, but it rarely works for long. In fact, willpower is essentially useless for making long term changes. Trying hard never works for long. It just exhausts you, and it usually makes those around you annoyed.

“What you are going to learn is that trying hard to overcome your abiding, subconscious picture will never work for long term changes. There is a better way to make easier, life-long changes that are in alignment with the potential and ability you already have.”

He paused and let that sink in. He could see the many questions I was thinking and he continued, “Here’s the thing. Think of your subconscious mind, and all of your ability and potential, as an iceberg. Your current performance and results are simply the tip of the iceberg, but your potential, of course, is immense.

“I like to compare the human mind to a computer. A computer has lots and lots of programs and potential, but we use only a very small portion of them. Even the word processing program, Microsoft Word, has thousands of features, but most of us just know how to open a new document, type some copy, and then save it. But there are endless editing features, amazing templates and document options, even language translation features we don’t use or know much about. The totality of the program is the iceberg, and what we use is just the tip.

“So how do we expose more of that iceberg? How do we use more of what we already have in abundance? The answer is that we must find out what is holding us back, what is limiting our natural ability and potential. What are the limiting attitudes, and habits and blocks that keep much of that iceberg underwater?

“And, more importantly, how can we release more of our potential? How can we do it in a natural, easy, and empowering way? A way that doesn’t cause stress, and doesn’t require constant willpower and energy? In other words, how can we creatively, enjoyably, and consistently produce the results we’ve already acknowledged we are capable of? How do we achieve performance we see others enjoying regularly, easily, naturally?

“And, most importantly, how can we make these changes permanent?”

He paused and let that sink in. I said, ‘I don’t know, how do we?”

“That’s what I’m going to teach you. And once you learn it, it will change your life, just as it has mine and countless others. And we’re going to start next week by exploring the concept of awareness. We’re going to begin looking at your habits, your unconscious ways of thinking and feeling, and the default actions you take as a result. We’re going to look at where you have unconsciously placed limits on yourself, and, through your awareness, we’re going to begin challenging and changing them.

“What you’ll soon learn is that although you have immense potential, you’ll never be able to use all of it. Instead, you’ll only be able raise or lower the limits – that are self-imposed – on your potential and ability. And that’s why athletes and top producers realize that they are never competing against anyone else except their own, current, best versions of themselves.”

He paused briefly and continued, “Mike, you’re about to go on a journey of self-discovery, one that will forever change how you think about yourself, the world, and what’s possible for you and others. And if you follow the truth I’m about to lay out for you, you will achieve things you never imagined possible for yourself. Your life will keep changing, evolving, and expanding. You’ll begin achieving more and more, and as you do, you’ll keep raising the bar for your performance and exposing more of that iceberg of potential.

“Your life will become a self-fulfilling prophesy – as it always was – but the dreams you will begin to dream will go far beyond what you’ve ever imagined possible.”

Needless to say, I was inspired and excited to learn more. I hope you are, too.

Until next week….

Knowledge is Power – Or Is It?

The week after my first session with my boss was very interesting. I took his advice and began asking myself if I could do a variety of things. Could I actually become the top producer at the company? Could I go back to school and get my PhD? Could I write a bestselling book? Could I get into ideal physical shape and run that marathon one day, and many other things. Perhaps the most revealing aspect of this exercise was listening to my self-talk as my initial answers came.

For example, when I asked myself if I could write a bestselling book, my automatic self-talk was, NO! I was amazed by the flurry of supporting thoughts – and by how quickly they came – as to why I couldn’t. Things like I had never written a book before; It was really who you know, not how well you can write; And I even thought that there are many, many other writers better than I was who never wrote a bestselling book.

After this initial onslaught of negativity, I then decided to do some research on authors whose first books did become bestsellers. The obvious example was John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, published in 1988. It took him four years to write that book, and not only did it become a bestseller, but he is one of only three authors to sell 2 million copies of a first printing. As I continued to look, there were others whose first books became bestsellers as well.

So suddenly, I had to grudgingly admit that I had the ability and potential to write a bestselling book, but what I obviously lacked was the knowledge and training (writing experience) to do so. As I thought more about this, I was pretty certain that my next meeting with my mentor would be about learning what I was sure was the missing link to unleashing more of my ability and potential: knowledge and training.

When we next got together, we reviewed my experience with asking myself the “can I?” questions, and he pointed out how important my initial internal reactions were and especially my self-talk. He said we would be getting back to that in an upcoming session. When I told him my ‘aha’ moment about knowledge and training, he smiled again and asked me another question:

“Mike, what do you know about the importance of eating a lot of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet?”

Well, that was easy! I told him all about the studies I’d heard and read about emphasizing the importance of fruits and vegetables. I told him about the essential vitamins and minerals found in green leafy vegetables, about the disease-fighting phytochemicals found only in these foods. I then told him about the importance of dietary fiber which was crucial to maintaining a healthy intestinal track and, of course, and to preventing constipation and even reducing the risk of bowel cancer. I was prepared to go on even more until he stopped me and asked me another question:

“Mike, how many servings of fruits and vegetables did you have yesterday?”

I hesitated as I reviewed my eating that day. For breakfast I had bacon and eggs over easy with hash browns and white toast (lots of butter of course). I went out for Chinese food for lunch and had the lunch special of chicken fried rice. For dinner I had a steak sandwich with garlic mashed potatoes. Oh, and there was some broccoli as a side that I pushed around with my fork but ultimately ignored.

He then said, “So Mike, is it a fair assessment to say that you already have more knowledge about good eating habits than you’re using?” He had me there. He then went down the list. He asked me if I knew more about physical exercise than my daily workout routine (what daily workout routine?) would indicate? Yes. Did I know more about good organization habits than my garage at home or my closet might indicate? Yes. He asked about when I was in college if I knew more about good study habits and homework habits than I had practiced? Yes again!

And that’s when he lowered the boom on me. He said, “Mike, just like it isn’t about how much ability you have that determines your results, it’s also not about how much you know that determines your results either. Just like with potential, people have a lot more knowledge than their actions and results would indicate.”

So I brought up training. I told him that maybe if I had more training – essentially more knowledge – than maybe I’d use more of it. He immediately reminded me of the sales training I went through when I was first hired. He reminded me of all the phone scripts and proven techniques I had been given. He asked me how many of them I used on a daily basis. (Not many – I was still winging it.) He asked me where my script playbook was at that moment? Was it on my desk, opened up to the rebuttals I would need for my next call? No, I had to admit, it was in the middle drawer of my desk, under a pile of other neglected paperwork.

He asked me another question: He said, “Mike, do you know more about the importance of good qualifying techniques and skills than your last few sales lead calls might indicate?” Gee, this was getting annoying. YES! “Do you know more about closing skills and proper objection handling than your last few closes might indicate?” Okay, I surrender. I admitted right then that, yes, I knew more about most things than I my actions, behavior, and my results showed.

He told me that while knowledge and training were important, they were not drivers of actions nor of results. They were not what made someone more successful than someone else. He told me that knowledge was crucial, and that we could always use more training, but by themselves, they were not going to cause me to use more of the potential and ability that I already agreed I had. He told me that it’s not what I know, rather, it’s what I do with what I know that makes the difference.

All right, so how do I get motivated to use more of that I already know and to use more of my potential and ability? I was suddenly convinced the missing piece was motivation, right? When he heard me say this, that same little smile, now a smirk, I was sure, crept across his face. He told me we’d dive into that subject next week.

In the meantime, he challenged me again – and I’m going to challenge you – to come up with areas in my life where I wanted to achieve more, and then he asked me to begin making a list of the things I already knew in those areas and whether or not I was using my knowledge and training to maximize results in those areas. Whether or not that knowledge was influencing my behavior or allowing me to use more of my ability and potential.

It was the start of an interesting exercise, and I highly recommend you try it for yourself this week. Pick an area – as many areas as you choose – and ask yourself if you know more than you use. If fact, ask yourself how much, or how little, of the current knowledge you have in that area that you’re using. The answers for me were revealing, and I think they will be for you, too.