Why I Go To Prison

Jail picGenerally, it’s a good idea to stay out of prison. But as a socially conscious entrepreneur, a portion of my company’s time and revenues are committed to improving the human condition. In response to this “calling” I go inside at least once a week as a volunteer Assimilation Coach sponsored by a faith-based organization with an empirical goal of helping to reduce the ex-offender recidivism rate. While inside, I lead inmates thru a course based on the book “A Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren and interact with a community of male inmates who are incarcerated in a maximum security correctional facility to address their hurts, habits, and hang-ups BEFORE they return to society.

So you may be asking “What’s this got to do with business, sales, or anything that may matter to me?” Here’s some food for thought:

  • An ex-offender I never met before, positively impacted my business. Four  years ago, I stopped to fill my gas tank after visiting Portsmouth, Virginia and a self-professed, former convict informed me that my left-front headlight had blown out. He proceeded to give me “country” directions (a left turn after crossing the railroad tracks) to an AutoZone where his cousin was the manager, and then used my cell-phone to call him at 8:45PM to inform him I was coming for a halogen bulb for my car. I arrived at AutoZone after the store closed, but the store manager opened up, and in the dark, in 15-degree weather, in an empty parking lot, he installed the bulb… for free.  I then drove 4.5 hours up I-95 and the next morning, I completed a presentation and interviews that netted $110k in business/sales revenue in 12 months.
  • Ex-Offenders often become entrepreneurs and business owners out of necessity because they have difficulty securing a decent-paying job in a job market that discriminates against ex-offenders, and they LOVE freedom. As a business owner or sales professional, you may actually be competing with an ex-offender and you don’t know it; they may be buying your products and services, and you may not know it; many are highly motivated because they’re proud of their transformation and know what “the bottom” looks like.
  • Ex-Offenders are getting out of jail. They won’t always be incarcerated. Some forget that these men are someone’s brother, husband, father, son, uncle, cousin, or your former classmate. We should not forget their offense against society and the necessity to pay the penalty for causing harm. However, these are people we will be living and working with, thus, they cannot be ignored.

The net: whether in business or in life, you may not be able to discern the life-path of everyone you interact with, nor ascertain or even care to know their “story.”  Still, it’s probably wise to treat everyone you encounter with a measure of dignity and respect, irrespective of their current condition or socio-economic status as life is strange. You or someone you know could become one of “those people.” The next time you sit down to map out your business plans or sales strategy ask yourself this: “How can I help improve the human condition?”

Chris Bell 3rd

Kiss My Glass of USA: A Veteran-Owned Business With A Smart Start

1925025_276760475817597_1118171973_nHere’s a BIG shout-out and special congratulations to Chuck Davis, CEO of Kiss My Glass of USA http://kissmyglassofusa.com/ for successfully graduating from Project Opportunity – a 10-week, rigorous course prepared for US Military Veterans who are launching new businesses. Here is a PRESS RELEASE featuring the program and it’s graduates.

In addition to successfully launching his new company, Chuck Davis distinguished himself amongst his peers in the Project Opportunity course by standing up 2 new social media business platforms, authoring a summary of details he’d learned about using social media, and explaining how to apply it in his business after taking on an assignment I’d given that was detailed in a blog post I’d written entitled: “Project Opportunity US Military Veterans and Social Media”.

For going the extra mile, I had the privilege of presenting Mr. Davis with the book “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months” by Melinda Emerson… a friend and feature writer for the New York Times. In 2013, Forbes rated Melinda Emerson as the #1 Most Influential Woman in social media for small businesses.

1148967_276760529150925_157320317_nCongratulations Mr. Davis and Kiss My Glass of USA. We’re going to get the word out about you and your US Military Veteran-Owned company!

Win,

Chris Bell 3rd

Schedule Creativity?

indexIf you’re like most entrepreneurs and people of purpose, your calendar is slammed with appointments, meetings, conference calls, team meetings, interviews, personal care, family time, business socials and you frequently find yourself exhausted. Such is the life of an entrepreneur… or is it?

Remember when you once poured hours of creative energy into your business idea before there even was a business? Do you recall when you were in your “creative zone” and then… that once-in-a-lifetime epiphany of your dreams and glimpses of a future reality collided with your conscience and stoked your passion to launch your business? The fact is, a business formed without a culture for creativity is a business on the way to being out of business. So what do YOU do?

As a leader, you’ve already recognized that creativity can be the secret sauce that helps to keep your company competitively differentiated. But how do you seed, develop and nurture that culture in your organization? Here are few ideas:

  • Make it alright, to be wrong: In fact, reward some bad ideas. Why? Because incremental failure or a not-so-great idea, can be the catalyst for creating great ideas. Editing an idea is easy. Creating a viable idea is hard.
  • Make creativity everybody’s job: Put creativity on job descriptions and delegate assignments that challenge your team to create and optimize existing processes that can impact productivity, market competitiveness, and ultimately… the bottom line.
  • Brain Storm: Surrender or set aside office titles and senior/subordinate rank in brain-storming sessions with your team to fuel a collaborative creative processes. It’s amazing what can be achieved if everyone contributes to framing an exceptional idea that takes form and enhances your business.
  • Schedule Creativity and Make it a Priority: Schedule creative time on your calendar and insist that your team does the same. Why? Your competition already has!

Win,

Chris Bell 3rd

Selling With a Home Field Advantage

Ravens fans at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore MD

Obsolete: the habit of regularly showing up to onsite customer meetings and sales engagements to influence the sales process.  It is a time-consuming, expensive activity that is being usurped by a preference for virtual engagements for every-day business interactions.

Remedy: Change the game and modify your selling process. Instead, focus on the customer’s buying process and determine how and when to strategically insert a single milestone event that can give you an unbeatable edge in close, fierce, competitive scenarios.

Objective: Home Field Advantage. Once an account executive has secured affirmation from his internal team that she’s engaged in a qualified sales opportunity, she should preset expectations with the prospect that an invitation for a small group of their peers (technical influencer, business influencer, executive coach, economic buyer, technical decision-maker)  is forthcoming for them  to meet the teams who are responsible for leading the company, developing the product, successfully implementing the solution, and providing customer support.

Your pitch: “Would you buy a product or solution that can affect your career and your enterprise without knowing or meeting the people you may be consummating an agreement with?  My company is willing to pay the fees for your travel accommodations for a half-day visit to help you mitigate the risk of your pending decision,  if you’re willing to invest the time to show up to personally see how our technology AND our people will exceed your business requirements .”

Result: Competitive Immunity

  • Accelerate Trust: 1:1 Face Offs = CEO with Decision-maker; CFO with Economic Buying Influencer; CTO with technical influencer & evaluator, etc…
  • The Sales Account Manager runs the show – his internal pursuit team works for her thru this milestone event
  • Affirming 3rd Party Reference: An existing customer can share their vendor experiences, selection criteria, use-case, and reason for selection with the Prospect Entourage via online Web-Meeting presentation/discussion while visiting.
  • Huge Potential ROI:  For four-thousand dollars (less than the cost of attending some conferences) a company can secure a car& driver, hotel, lunch/dinner, airline/train tickets for 4 to 5 people in order to initiate a long-term collaborative business relationship with hundreds of thousands of dollars in new sales revenues attached to it.
  • Product Development & Futures Presentation:  Prospects not only buy what you have… but what you’re going to have. Sharing a product development timeline or high-level details of pending releases implies future benefits will be realized for near-term decisions.
  • Allows for the introduction of Value-Based selling:  Today’s buyers are always seeking ways to commoditize the products they buy. Hosting prospects onsite can be advantageous in pricing negotiations and inhibit the need for significant discounting.

Win,

-Christopher Bell, III