Get Your Risk Management Assessment
“I will live this day as if it is my last. …I will waste not a moment mourning yesterday’s misfortunes, Yesterday’s defeats, yesterday’s aches of the heart, for why should I throw good after bad?”
I will live this day as if it is my last. This day is all I have and these hours are now my eternity. I greet this sunrise with cries of joy as a prisoner who is reprieved from death. I lift mine arms with thanks for this priceless gift of a new day. So too, I will beat upon my heart with gratitude as I consider all who greeted yesterday’s sunrise who are no longer with the living today. I am indeed a fortunate man and today’s hours are but a bonus, undeserved. Why have I been allowed to live this extra day when others, far better than I, have departed? Is it that they have accomplished their purpose while mine is yet to be achieved? Is this another opportunity for me to become the man I know I can be?”
― Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman In The World
My partner calls me 3 weeks ago and advises she just spoke to a salesperson and that I needed to follow up. “I” needed to follow up because between my partner and I, I’m the tech guy that manages all the sales, marketing, and technology. She does the soft stuff like people management, details, and makes sure we have fuel in the tank so we can get to our destination.
I sent and email asking the young man to call me. He did and I found out that this was an industry cloud based marketing and business development tool. Since our agency is going through a transition, now is the time to analyze these types of products and services. I agreed to meet the local representative with my partner at a local Starbucks.
Yesterday we met with “Alan”. Alan was a nice young man of about 35. Dressed in a nice polo and khaki’s he greeted us with a smile and had great bonding and rapport. After about 10 minutes of small talk he said today we’re going to find out if we’re a good fit for you guys. I love this opening, this typically indicates that he will ask us questions and determine what they have that matches our needs (new school sales…).
Instead, after he made that statement he flew into the following rant “Our Company has 4 buckets. Bucket one is for marketing and sales, there is an email drip program that is amazing. We have over 3000…. at this point I tuned out. I don’t care, this meeting is not about him, and it’s about me.
After about 20 minutes of sales vomit, I said, “let me save you some time”. Our company just “demerged from a much larger organization” and we’re in the process of a major software upgrade. I’m not sure your product or service is a good fit for us at this time. He pressed on and at the end of the meeting I agree to “take an email” and ponder the fit for our company. I’m pretty sure; we will pass on this system.
So sales managers what should Alan have done? In my world, Alan would have opened after his excellent bonding and rapport with “Why in the hell am I here?” Or maybe “So you have an interest in our program, may I ask why?”.
If you are a sales person and you spend your time vomiting on your prospect, you will be an average to below average income earner. If you can figure out that sales is NOT about YOU, but ABOUT the PROSPECT, you will earn more money that you will know what to do with.
If you are in sales, talk 30% of the time, shut up! Prospects don’t care if you have 3000 affiliates, 4 buckets, or 8 lawyers on staff. Until you identify what your prospect needs, you are wasting your and the prospects time.
New school sales are all about asking questions. I say new school, this has been going on for about a century, but 92% of the people that try to sell me anything don’t ask me questions, they vomit on me about themselves or their company.
Start a revolution and don’t tell people about you or your company. They don’t care. Start asking about them, why they would even take the time to meet with you and take an interest in them and their business. You just might find out that they have pain that you can easily heal thus earning a long time client and sometimes a friend.
As we were leaving the meeting I handed Alan a toothbrush and when he said, “what’s this for?” I stated, after I vomit, I usually brush my teeth”. Alan looked confused, laughed, and got back into his car. My partner looked at me like only she can and shook her head. What…What!
One of the most interesting things about this story is that after we left the meeting my partner and I were chatting on the phone and I ask her, why did we meet with these guys? She said, the guy that called me said something that grabbed me. I said, “What did he say…” She thought for a moment and said, his opening line was “I saw you in the Indiana Business Journal”. We both laughed.
The “cold caller” took an interest in my partner and was able to get us to the table. The outside sales person blew the opportunity by losing the interest in her and focusing the interest back on himself.
Woddy Allen once stated “In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people’s home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm!”
I was born in 1969. Therefore I have never thought that my “retirement” would resemble that of previous generations. I have never once thought that at some poiint in my life, I would get a watch and spend the rest of my days on a porch, sipping lemonaide, doing crosswords, that “dream” is more of a nightmare.
For the above reasons and the fact that we now live in 2012, I’m redesigning my retirement. I’m going to retire today. Opting for short bursts of freedom and pleasure while I’m still young and vibrant. My life moving forward will be a mix of intense business accomplishments, working with my partner to guide our company to maxium profitablity, but having the freedom to travel while making this goal a reality.
Instead of spending “hopefully” 30 years doing “nothing” after I’ve given my heart and soul to my company, . I’m goiing to take that 30 years and break it up into month long sabaticals in other countries. With technology, we can travel, still remain in close contact with our staff and respective offices, but also experience all that life has to offer.
We have already started this lifestyle by traveling about once a month for a few days at a time. This allows for our “testing” of our retirement life. The next major phase will begin in 3 years when all 3 children are in college and we can begin leaving for a month at a time. If technology allows this freedom today, I’m juiced to see what the future holds.
Argentina, Cost Rica, Africa, and all parts of Europe are all on our agenda. Prior to arriving in our respective foreign land, we will be taking some basic language classes to help us navigate our way around, but I’m sure as in the past, my hand gestures will allow for acceptable communication.
In 3 years, I’ll be 45 years old. My plan is to live to 85 at which time I will die performing some weird extreme sport that goes terribly array. All things being equal, that is 40 years of travel, bliss, and happiness.
If you are 30, 40, 50, or 60, do not wait to begin living the life that you can live today. Traditional retirement is a gone, rethink your life and retire today.
Remember the last time you had sex. I’ll wait a moment. If you can’t remember, I’m sorry. But if you can remember, focus on the intensity, the passion, and the amazing connection with the person you were with. Again, I’ll wait. If there was not intensity, passion, or connection, I’m sorry, but if you have ever had that sexual experience I just described, imagine having that same feeling with society.
Too much you say? Maybe, but there are few things in life that get us totally consumed and connected with another human being. Taking that same approach with life can make a big difference in your success and failure.
Take for example learning. A quick review of a text can give you some knowledge, but listening to that same text, studying that same text, and then applying that knowledge to the teaching of others those concepts can be not just knowledge addition, but enlightenment.
The next time you are in a social situation, think of the sex analogy and have intense conversation with someone you don’t know. What the hell am I talking about? Well, focus on one of their eyes, do not talk about yourself, only “reversing” every statement they make forcing them to lead the conversation. When they say, “what do you do”, reply with “not much…. how about you?”. Each statement from them should be batted back like a tennis ball as quick as you can get them to talk. At the end of the conversation, they will think either you are plum crazy or that you were a great listener and someone they might want to get to know.
Prospect like you are making love. Take it slow, focus on the prospect, it does NOT matter what your needs are. It is ALL about them. Why did they make the choice for the provider of your service before? When their current provider had there last meeting, what did they discuss, was it memorable or a waste of time. What’s the one thing that their current provider is not doing that they should be doing?
Sex, if you are a good partner, is all about making the other party “happy”. Focusing on others in teaching, networking, or prospecting will make all the difference in the world. You just might learn that at the end of the “session” you are more fulfilled than ever before.
Have sex with society, you might just like it.
Last Friday I went to my new favorite website IVAA.org. With all the changes going on at our company, my website needed some massive updating, but my internal Rock Star Dakota is tied up with other projects. I visited the site and created an RFP that outlined what I needed to accomplish.
Yesterday morning I received an email from Holly. Holly is a cyber guru from Minnesota that not only will help me with my update, but also manage my email marketing and social media presence.
The more we talked, the more I liked what I heard. Finally I said, “So how do we start?” Her reply, we’ll we start with a date. We try each other out for a month and see how our relationship develops, if it works, we keep dating, if it stinks, we break up. I like that!
I then received a paypal request from Holly that charged me for 10 hours of her very reasonable wage. We will use that time to get the site updated and launch at least one new email campaign.
We will also expand our already decent social media presence. At the end of the 10 hours, I can tell Holly, you were great, but we’re just not a fit. Holly can say the same to me and if we use that option, Dakota will be in a much better position to begin using the tools that Holly provides us and get back to his “social media work”.
My thought is that I’m going to really like working with Holly and that Dakota can be freed up to do some higher level projects in our company.
I also just emailed my first ever Virtual Assistant (VA) about doing some application for Minority Business Status. Janet was fantastic at producing a great press release and now we might engage her to do this next “major ‘project”.
I’m thinking that there are many other things that I might be able to outsource. Every day I wake up I try and think, what is one thing I can have a VA do for me this week? If you think about all the mundane “stuff” that you need done, but never get to, that is a perfect task for a VA.
Make a list of the top 10 things that you have not been able to complete in the last few weeks and see if a VA could accomplish the task. It might take an interview with you over the phone to collect some information, but in the end the task will be done.
The cost of outsourcing to other countries can be as low as $4.00 an hour. At this point all of my tasks needed excellent communication and at $4.00 an hour, my thought is that language might be an issue. I am very confident that in the next 30 days, I’ll begin using a foreign VA and I look forward to that experience.
One of the biggest problems that many sales people face is the long sales cycle. Their inability to determine if in fact they have a prospect versus a suspect causes them much trouble. One question I like to ask salespeople is, would you rather know the first day upon meeting a suspect or a prospect if you’re going to get the business or do you want to goes through the sales cycle only to learn that you didn’t win.
It’s interested to me there’s almost two schools of thought when it comes to prospecting and working. One school of thought is that if you go in and you do a good job, even if you don’t win, you are going to maybe set that position up for the client that when they do want to switch vendors, you will be the one that they choose. That’s a good concept. It’s a lot of work to work on accounts you pretty much you’re not going to get, but it might work for you. The other option that I see happening in the sales world today and my preferred way is to identify truly what prospects or suspects will actually choose to do business with you and then only working on those thus being very very selective.
So, how does one become selective versus a generalist or a person with a large pipeline? A person with a large pipeline has a lot of activity and they are wasting in fact a lot of people’s time. If you look at all the people that have to touch a new piece of business, whether you are in manufacturing or insurance and banking, only to learn that you didn’t actually get the deal, you can see where thousands and thousands of dollars spent wasting people’s time. But if you can reduce those and only start the process with those people that are truly buyers and eliminate and get your hit ratio up, your acquisition cost of each and every new account goes dramatically down. How do you reduce the acquisition costs? How do you get a fast failure? How do you reduce the acquisition cost of each account? Well, you eliminate the slow failure. You actually try to get failure quicker. So how do you do that? One of the biggest keys of getting fast failure is using an up front contract.
An up front contract or an up front agreement is very rarely used in today’s sales world. As a CEO of a company I get called upon by many many salespeople and very rarely do they set the stage for exactly what will happen in that meeting. In our company we use a nine-step sales process or a nine-step up front contract. The nine steps are:
1. Thank them for inviting you in.
2. Reaffirm the amount of time you have for that specific appointment.
3. Identify that they’ll have questions and you’ll be happy to answer them.
4. Identify that you’ll have questions and confirm that they are OK to answer those questions.
5. Indentify the fact that you have an agenda.
6. But their agenda is most important and that before you begin, can they identify the most important points they would like to discuss.
7. Advise them that at the end of the meeting, you might tell them that you cannot help them.
8. Also let them know that you would appreciate them telling you that they do not want your help.
9. Finally, let them know that you could mutually agree to move forward and at that point you must clearly define what “moving forward” means for that meeting.
By using an up front contract in each and every step of the sales process, you can eliminate the long sales cycle. You can reduce your pipeline and you can ultimately get fast failure versus slow failure. Slow failure is one of the biggest issues that most salespeople face today.
When you’re in sales there are rocks that you pick up every day. There are pebbles, there normal rocks, and then there are boulders. What you choose to build your sales wall with differs on what equipment you might need.
For example if you were to build your sales wall with pebbles, pretty much anyone can pick up pebbles. What I’m talking about when I talk about pebbles are the little $500, $1,000 revenue type accounts. If you were to build your wall with pebbles that’s’ a good wall. It’s a wall made up of many many many tiny pebbles. And if you lose a pebble the wall is still strong. But it takes a lot of work to build a wall of pebbles.
If you choose to use normal size rocks, and build your wall of sales with a rock and maybe the definition of revenue here might be $1,000 to $5,000 of revenue per sale. Your rock wall will be stronger than the pebble wall. But when you lose one of the rocks, then it does weaken the wall a little bit more than the pebble wall.
Finally if you’re to build your sales wall of boulders, the large $50,000 to $100,000 or $200,000 revenue accounts then you are going to have the strongest wall possible. However, if a boulder falls out of the all it’s going to weaken the wall dramatically.
So what do most people do? Most people build their sales wall with a couple boulders, a few rocks, and a lot of pebbles. If you look at the landscape of any sales culture, for the most part most people have a client base that consists of two or three boulders, many many small rocks, and many many many small pebbles. Some people tend to focus on the larger boulders but for the most part, it’s a collection of different size rocks.
So why is this important? It’s important to understand that if you go out and try to move a boulder it’s a lot bigger job than if you were going to move a pebble. You can pick up a pebble, but you can’t pick up a boulder.
It always amazes me how some people try to harvest their pebbles using heavy, heavy equipment. But if they use heavy equipment to pick up the pebbles they’re wasting time and money and in most cases they’re losing money.
Remember it is possible to gain a customer but lose money. Just remember as you’re building you’re sales wall to make sure you use the right equipment when picking up the pebbles rocks and boulders, and that you understand how your wall was built.
One exercise I recommend to all sales people is you try to get a visualization of your sales wall. What does it look like? How many boulders, rocks and pebbles do you have? And once you get that visualization you can see what you need to add to it then make your sales rock wall complete.
About 4 years ago when the economy was tanking and the end of the world was near, I wrote the following blog. I just ran across this and thought it was still a good message.
Once a month, I have the fortune of meeting with 10 other CEO’s of companies from various industries. During these meetings we talk about the issues facing our companies and offer suggestions as to what our options are with respects to those issues. Last week, the facilitator of our group asked the question, “What the hell’s going on?” To which we all replied, what do you mean? He replied, we’ve never been in this situation before. The amount of uncertainty with the economy is historical, there’s just so many things going wrong. What should WE be doing? This question prompted a very heated discussion about all the different things that could be done or should be done in today’s society. We talked about our roles as CEO’s and what could we do to have an impact in these uncertain times.
One of the issues we discussed was the fact that so many people are losing their jobs, and so many people’s attitude is that since they have lost their job their only option is to get another job. We talked about the current state of the job market and acknowledged that the number of jobs is decreasing and thus there are going to be many more displaced people than job opportunities moving forward. The collective thought in our group was that the time is now to be innovative and to instead of getting a job, making a job. The basis of that conversation was the fact that every individual, every human being, has a certain set of skills. My skills are different that Steve’s skills, and Steve’s skills are far different than Mary’s skills. But, understanding what your skill set is, that allows you to offer something of value to business owners, or businesses. The thought today is, what is needed in society is a change of thought from, I’m going to have to go get a job, to, and I want to make a job.
The economy is changing such that outsourcing is now going to be a primary way that we get things done. As a business owner myself, I would much rather outsource responsibilities than hire additional employees. Why? Well, employees are expensive. Employees bring with them attitudes and a host of management issues. Along with those issues, not only do you have a cost with the employee of their salary, but you also have such things as benefits, and you have FICA, and all these things that go with employees. Speaking from my company’s perspective, I’ve got a great group of employees, but the thought of adding an additional player does not excite me. The thought of outsourcing a new responsibility, as a growing company, seems a much better option in these evolving times.
The world is changing to a point where gone are the days of the big businesses. We are all aware of the woes of the big 3 automotive companies, large financial institutions, and retail companies. I think moving forward; we are going to be a collection of smaller businesses. Now more than ever, innovation is going to happen. You can choose as an employee of a company that has been riffed to try to get another job and make less money, or, take the skills that God gave you and create a business. Many people that get riffed are given a severance. Take that severance and use that as seed money to start your own business. Some will succeed; some will fail, but use this time now to create that stream of revenues from an outsourcing standpoint, based upon your God given skill set.
The other day I attended an insurance event and met two swash buckling producers. Full of questions, they began asking me about our agency. Question “So how big is your agency”, my answer “they don’t tell me such things”. Next question, so how many employees to you have? My answer “today, I don’t know people are always quitting”.
After a few of these tennis volleys, I asked my first question “do you guys have computers”? After a few snickers from swash number one, they answered, “why yes we have computers, do you have computers?” My response, no, but we’re looking into those. We did get a fax last year, but I’m not sure it’s used very much.
“Are you paperless?” they asked, I replied, yeah right. Who’s your biggest carrier? We are doing great with Progressive! What kind of insurance do you guys sell? We’ll, we write a lot of FAIR plan, but our main product is sub standard auto. We are cheaper than anyone! A few moments later, the swash bucklers moved on to the next target knowing that they would never have to compete against me.
If you know anything about my agency, we’re pretty tech heavy, have very low turnover, and have a consistent message of finding pain, healing pain, and showing love. We’re a commercial insurance driven shop that is selective in our bringing on of new clients choosing to focus on our existing profitable book of business. We are very aggressive, but tell many prospects; they are just not a great fit for our agency’s approach to business. It’s always intriguing when my competition goes on fishing expeditions only to catch some pretty big fish tales.
If I know the agency, I’ll shoot straight, if I don’t or have very little respect for their work, the exchange above is common.
There is an old sales adage “don’t spill your candy in the lobby”. The way I interpret this message is never give away all your special sauce in the first meeting and definitely don’t give any sauce away before getting paid.
This too applies when dealing with your competition. Many folks ask me questions that they are just not entitled to the correct answer. I think this mental jousting is a fun exercise for both of us, but I enjoy the banter and being creative with my answers.
My friend that was with me that day said, “did you just completely lie to those guys?” If lying is telling you’re 2 year old there is a Santa Clause, I lied. If lying is telling your wife she looks great in that dress even though if wore your favorite little black dress, she’d look like a beauty queen, I lied.
You don’t have to answer every question that is posed to you nor should you answer every answer from a competitor with complete accuracy. I am an actor and the world is my stage. Never spill your candy in the lobby.
I’m not sure of the day, but let’s just say day 7 of Anson Ross Thompson’s unplugged experiment. No email to phone, no twitter, I thought I would go crazy, but I’m thinking this is the most liberating thing I’ve done in years.
The goal initially was to only check email twice a day, I have failed at this task. It is so easy to open up outlook and shoot out responses to questions that could be answered later. My focus today is to NOT open outlook until after 5:00 tonight.
My other area of “cheat” has been damn Facebook. Facebook is a time waster for sure, but I like to post humorous tid bits and I look at my ability to post via my phone as a necessary evil. So, Sunday night, after a 4 day hiatus, Facebook was back, but I’m not checking it near as much as I used to. .
I just had a meeting with a client / friend that was intrigued by my “new life”, but he has tried this and failed miserably. He indicated that his email was his life line and that it was almost like a drug he could not live with out. I think I’ll stick with my passion for wine and let him continue his addiction to email.
Since cutting the cord, I’ve written more than I have in years. My blog, as you can see, is being populated by words that might have an impact on one person, maybe not, but writing to me has always been therapy and my writing has helped me expand my thoughts.
The Virtual Assistant experiment continues with my posting of my third task today. The first task is near completion, the second is “out to bid” and the third is awaiting interested parties to begin giving me their vision of how they might complete the task.
I hate to say that I have not picked up my IPAD 3 in days, I don’t really use it anymore. I used to use it for content consumption, but since I no longer review the daily news, check who is ahead in the pools (who cares and what impact can I have…), and am reading an old fashion book, my “cool tech toy” is left in it’s leather bag to wonder “where’s my owner”?
Exercise is back to being a daily activity, the free time I now have from not being a slave to email and social media is used much more effectively running 2 miles or swimming a ½ mile. I’ll get back to weight training soon, for now, I’m enjoying my renewed energy level and clear mind.
Advice from this Ninja, unplug today. Try it a week, change your life and instead of being a slave, be free to focus on what is really important in life…YOU, your family, your friends, and the monkey in the closet from Family Guy.
I first learned about Virtual Assistants when reading the book “4 hour work week” by Tim Ferriss. The concept is simple, we all have things that don’t seem to get done, so you get online and find someone that can complete the task for a small amount of money. I’ve been pretty intrigued about this whole concept and so last Friday I visited IVAA.com and posted an RFP to provide me a press release about the recent changes in our company. I can write a press release, but I wanted to see how the process of hiring a “VA” worked.
Within a few days I received 3 responses. All were professional and one person even sent a PDF of a book she had written about how to be effective when using a “VA”. I told the first responder to call me at 5:32 EST. Why 5:32, it was a small test to see if she could follow directions. She did call me at 5:32 (Verizon time) and we had a very nice conversation. My approach was to tell her what I wanted which included the writing of a press release, the placing of that press release in our area newspapers, and finally generating some buzz with some national women’s magazine about our new female CEO.
After I explained the project, she stated her retainer was $350.00 and that she bill $85.00 an hour and her thought was that this “project” would take 12 hours. I then stated, “so we’re on the same page, you would like me to pay you $1200 or so dollars for a press release?” Yes was the response and thus I advised I was just kicking tires and I would let her know if I would like to proceed.
The second call came from email sender number two. This is the person that included an E-book about how to work effectively with a “VA”. She was very kind on the phone and explained that for $35.00, she would write the press release, but recommended that I place with the news papers in that it was usually more effective if it came from the owner of the business. In addition, she will be sending out the release to major women’s magazines around the country.
I got a third email, but based upon the conversation with email number 2, I feel comfortable that this task will be completed in an effective manner.
Once this task was started I began thinking about how else I could use a “VA”. Since we are a minority owned business, I want to apply to help our clients tap into a bevy of public and private sector programs. The message I posted to the IVAA web site read, “Our Company recently went through a transition and set up a new LLC that has our new CEO as the majority owner. We are an independent insurance agency located in Indiana and would like to file for minority owned business status. If you have completed a similar project before, that would be swell! Thank you!
I’ll get a few responses, pick my favorite and get this task accomplished. I will continually look for tasks that can be accomplished by a “VA” and have them helped me change the world.
We've been featured! Check out our Spot On Insurance podcast! #showthelove ... more »
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." — C... more »
Attention Technology Companies “Houston… we have a PROBLEM.” "You n... more »