Winning and Losing to Win… Again.

IMG_0002We’re not strangers to these stories: The world-class athlete who experiences an epic defeat in the arena who is seldom heard or seen again; the business mogul who has experienced extraordinary success and is blindsided by competitive forces who has to shut down his business to retire almost broke; the company’s top sales performer with an enviable lifestyle, ideal family, luxury home and big boy toys… suddenly laid off and watching his life being transformed into an episode of Jerry Springer; or the highly respected, battle-tested military officer who was entrusted with life & death daily decisions over hundreds of men or women, who is now unable to find credible employment in the civilian world.

What’s really brutal is this: struggling and paying the price to win, overcoming adversity, tasting success, and then losing it all or becoming broke after being recognized as one the best. This painful sequence of events breaks the hearts of winners and while winning is a habit (an addiction of sorts)… so is losing. It also explains why many are tempted to comprise their moral values just to get an edge on the competition.

The habits of a winner are unlike that of the common man or woman and when a habitual winner is taken out of their game or profession… it can get ugly for everyone within their sphere of influence because they aren’t able to express their authentic best selves. Winners and high performers are like lions – instinctual hunters who when at their best are free, resent being kept, caged, domesticated, or dependent on others to be fed.

So what do you do when you’ve already experienced success, but maybe you’ve been out of the game for a while and you feel stuck? Because winners never really quit, they purpose themselves to find a new game in which to play and compete so that their instincts to win (though repressed) can be authentically expressed.

So, if you or someone you know has ever stood on a podium to receive a medal, worn a championship ring, had a trophy or plaque presented to them, coached or taught others how to win, or if you’ve ever been publicly recognized for exceptional performance and achievement, we should talk. My name is Christopher Bell, III and I’m here to tell you… It ain’t over. You CAN win… again – CONTACT ME

Win,

~Chris Bell

10 Tips To Transition Into Technology Sales

The Technology Sales Arena is where the elite of the sales profession compete to deliver solutions that transform and improve businesses and governments and they are commonly rewarded with six-figure annual income opportunities. Most are professionals… not peddlers. So how does one begin or transition their career into technology sales?  Here’s an update of some tips I recently discussed with a group last week, that I initially authored and posted a few years ago.

1. Avoid going in thru the front door via human resources. Traditional hiring processes are exclusionary, meaning they’re designed to keep people out. HR personnel can only say “No” they can’t say “Yes” to a potential hire. Leverage HR after you’ve connected with the hiring manager. If you can’t connect with a real decision-maker to personally present your value, then you’re not ready for a technology sales career transition. The best senior sales executives in the competitive and lucrative tech sales business are hunting for candidates with equal measures of competency, professionalism, and tenacity.

2. Talk with people in the niche you wish to work to ascertain what’s hot, relevant, and what’s keeping those in the know up at night. Read their blogs, attend their virtual webinars and follow subject matter experts on social media networks. There is a strong connection that can be developed by discussing the highlights of another person’s interests and having insight into their subject matter expertise.

3. Do your homework. Study a lot. Read trade periodicals to become familiar with the general language and buzz words of a specific technical field of interest; Download white papers and brochures; Go undercover “Geek” and attend free Meetups and conferences to become familiar with local industry influencers, experts, and icons.

4. Leverage LinkedIn and social media platforms. Follow a few companies you’d really want to work with and aggregate compelling info and job postings to understand their business priorities. If they’re publicly listed, dial into their quarterly call, and read their 10-k. These activities will detail the latest news, opportunities, wins, and concerns of the company.

5. When contacting a decision-maker ask them for their help and advice (everyone wants to help someone.) Get to know their executive assistant or secretary and ask them to setup an informal 20-minute introduction at their local coffee shop before business hours, or setup an invitation for a quick sandwich and informal lunch at a local deli.

6. To schedule a meeting you should be prepared to restate some of the quotes in public documents, discuss recent news from their press releases, or paraphrase statements made on the company’s quarterly report. Always leave the person you’re speaking with the impression you know as much or more about their company, than they do!

7. Memorize the salient points of a company’s summary product brochure or website word-for-word so that by the time you get a face-to-face meeting, the person you’re meeting can visualize you as fellow colleague or employee.

8. Success in sales is about your track record. Winners want to be around winners and winning (like losing) is a habit. Always be prepared to be your own best advocate by sharing where have you won before in life and in your career. Be quick to give kudos to those who helped you to achieve #1 status in previous endeavors. Humility and gratitude will empower you to ask: “If you were in my shoes, what would be your next best step?”

9. Present a professional business card. The best tips and insights I’ve ever heard regarding the development and use of business cards were offered by an associate of mine, Steve Fisher in a presentation he did entitled: 10 Rules for Killer Business Cards. http://www.slideshare.net/stevenfisher/10-rules-for-killer-business-cards-slideshare

10. On employee skills testing“there will never be, and there has never been a test that can prove the heart of winner”Art Williams. Don’t be intimidated by the technology verbiage, acronyms, and the “geek factor” you will undoubtedly encounter. Most disciplines and specialties are intentionally, superficially, and deceptively presented as being complex to enhance the reputations and certifications of their practitioners. The net: This stuff isn’t that hard. You’ll get training and your focus will be on solving business problems.

Win,

Christopher Bell, III

 

Don’t Jump, It’s Temporary – A Sales Recovery Scenario

I recently received a call from a colleague whom I’ve sold with and coached regularly. He was sending me his sales plan and recent revenue numbers for us to discuss together.  With a new job and in his first quarter with a new employer, one of the best revenue producers I’d known found himself bearing witness to the atrophy of his initial revenue forecast commitment.  The Result:  embarrassment, frustration and disgust at the thought of being at the bottom of a sales leader board. (Note – this was also a déjà vu moment for me.)

After listening to 10-minutes of venting, I asked: “Are you finished yet?”  He laughed when realizing his Type-A, hyper-competitive personality was both an asset and a curse… if it wasn’t kept in check. This scenario also provoked me to spend time in introspection as I asked myself “Do I sound like that too?”

Here are the Top 5 Actions we agreed to implement to change the view from the bottom of the leader board.

 Take a humility pill: step away from the ledge, and don’t jump!  You’re good – not God.  The view from the bottom is usually temporary and in transitional scenarios such as this, finger-pointing can be dangerous and self-condemnation is premature.  Share your perspectives with a supportive manager and winners on the team to leverage their experience for guidance.

Practice a Flawless Opening:  It’s true – first impressions count.  Be prepared and be certain you have articulated or presented clear, concise, and compelling business reasons for them to remain engaged with you… again. An acceptance for a meeting invitation is nothing. The question is, are you being invited back?

Think Big, Be Big: You’ll work just as hard for a $5,000 deal as you will a $50,000 deal… and won’t achieve your quota objectives. Re-prioritize your focus to invest 80% of your the time and energy doing those things that matters most, with contacts who are ready, willing, and able to buy.  Delegate non-revenue generating activities and engage in those activities that will make a BIG difference quickly.

Network with your peers & recruit new partners:  This company’s largest previous deal came from a lead which was supplied by a partner. Replicate success and recruit other partners who have ongoing access to the hottest projects, understand the latest trends and have executive-level access to the clients you want to do business with.

 Up-sell Existing Customers & Revisit Lost Deals: The fastest path to new revenue has always been thru an existing customer. Initiate account reviews to ascertain what’s changed, discuss new capabilities and ask for referrals.

Win,

Chris Bel, III

Another Reason for Excellence

Fighting in Afghanistan

I just finished spending the weekend with The National Society of Pershing Rifles Alumni Association (NSPRAA) at our annual Royal Blue & White Weekend celebration at Morgan State. More than a few of these guys are commissioned officers in the US armed forces just back from “The Sandbox” (Iraq/Afghanistan) and some are going back for their 2nd and 3rd deployments.

A few of us were talking about a “brother” who was hit by an IED in Afghanistan,  and the severity of  his wounds, when someone asked me “Bell, how’s it going with you?” I decided to make my response pretty brief because when I think about what I do, and then think about the sacrifice those in uniform are making on a day-to-day basis… my business and professional transition issues seemed fairly petty.  Here’s what I said:

“My business  is in transition, growing, and in this climate of fiscal constraint and layoffs… I’m doubly blessed to also have a well-paying  job that I love.  Look for a complete business website makeover in 10 days.”  Then, I shut up.  They wouldn’t want to hear about my hiring a virtual assistant and operations specialist who proactively manage most day-to-day business requirements nor hear the benefit of being able to stay focused and productive in a full-time, W-2 position as a Solutions Strategist.

After this weekend, it’s no longer business-as-usual for me. I was reminded that people I know, respect, and care about are paying a heavy price in foreign lands so that I can follow my dreams at home.  I owe them my best. What about you?

Win, Chris

Going Solo?

Although I do my own writing and blogging, I felt it was time to offer my readership access to diverse perspectives which may enhance their own businesses and careers. As such, I’m pleased to post my first GUEST ARTICLE: How to Succeed in the Age of Going Solo by Richard Greenwald. For those of us who are new to running a small consultancy or for those who are thinking about launching out on their own, this article offers some great tips.

Dr. Greenwald is a professor and dean of the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University in Madison, N.J. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com

Win,

Chris Bell

The Cost of Obsolete Sales Management Tactics

All of my company’s clients are owners, investors, and sales executives in small, growing technology companies. One of the more exciting benefits of my work is that on a daily basis, I’m ushered into the presence of their genius, vision, and levels of energy that can fuel and inspire all but the dead. While personalities and corporate cultures differ, most of the executives and sales leaders I encounter share a genuine passion for the pursuit of excellence coupled with sincere care and respect for their colleagues, employees, customers, vendors, and suppliers. Just as importantly, this attitude is infectious and permeates the can-do positive disposition in their sales and marketing organizations which support the monetary lifeline for the company’s growth and survival.

However, nothing is 100%. I’ve also spoken with and met a few owners and sales executives who after being frustrated with sub-standard sales performance results, adopted a corporate culture that’s fueled by old-school fear and intimidation and it works!  (It just doesn’t work that long.) All people are drawn to that which increases them, and move away from that which they believe diminishes their value.

Do you remember when your last salesperson quit? Now add on 3 months.  A sales reps letter of resignation is generally an official belated expression of a decision they made months ago. So now you’re looking at: a limited pipeline in a barely-worked open territory, a sales forecast short on revenue, personal time you’ve got to commit for new-hire interviews, and still more time necessary to have a new rep appropriately trained and oriented in the new territory before they can generate new revenue.  Now you are in deep @#%^!!!

Lesson: old-school, macho, profane, hair-on-fire, sleazy, peddler intimidation tactics are obsolete in good technology sales organizations. Even in this climate of fiscal restraint and high unemployment, good business development specialists and sales professionals simply won�t be treated like commodities without penalty.

The net: If you’re an investor, business owner, sales executive, or even an account manager and want to know how to stop the madness while also increasing your sales revenue production, contact me to setup a brief, confidential appointment. I promise it’ll be time well-spent.

Win,

Christopher Bell, III

It’s Not Just the Money

At one point in my career, I was fortunate enough to be a member of a regional sales team where everyone had simply slaughtered their annual revenue goals. Shortly after that milestone event, our CEO came to our regional office arriving with great fanfare escorted by a small executive entourage, and a professional photographer. Our egos were so overly-inflated at the time that we naturally assumed they were there to interview us and that we’d be taking pictures with the executive team. Man, were we wrong.

After rendering his heart-felt gratitude speech,our senior executive reached into a big cardboard box and pulled out T-shirts in various sizes. On the front of each t-shirt was a huge red heart with the words emblazoned “Heart of a Winner.” He then personally handed out the t-shirts (and envelopes with $200 in cash) to eight people in the office. The recipients of the t-shirts and cash were employees who may or may not have been part of the sales organization, but had shown character, pushed thru adversity, sacrificed when it mattered, all while contributing to an overall sales team win.

Result:

  1. An office with one 45-year old male grieving because there wasn’t a competition for the t-shirts (and if there was, he was confident he’d have won it.)
  2. 135 people present in that regional office meeting whose lives were un-expectedly and positively changed forever because they saw some of their colleagues securing public appreciation for their efforts and walking around wearing $12.00  Heart of a Winner t-shirts that people wanted, but couldn’t win nor buy.

Lesson:

Irrespective of title, role, position, influence, or income… everyone wants to feel appreciated. You don’t have to do much, say much, or pay much to make a positive difference. Be a people builder, promote positivity, help others win, and when given an opportunity, deliberately make a point to show your appreciation and say thank you.

Win,

-Chris

You’re Right. You Can’t Do What We Do!

Last weekend I was hanging out with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a few years and of course we both started talking about what we did for a living, the state of the economy, the velocity of change that’s taking place around us, politics, war, and religion. Again… this is a friend.

Well, after watching a football game in which the Ravens had clearly shown themselves to be superior to the Patriots on the gridiron (go Ravens!!!) my buddy said something that I was totally unprepared for. In a tone of condescension he said: “I could never do what you do for a living.” If thoughts were visible, mine would have looked like an M1-Abrams tank crushing the compact car of his arrogance. Still, this was a friend so I calmly asked him to explain and he said, you know, selling and asking people to spend money with you. Here’ss the politically correct version of my response:

You’re right  you can’t do what people like me do.” In fact, there are very few people in the world who do what sales athletes do, love doing what we do, and most that try to do what we do either quit or fail. Sales athletes that embrace their profession accept that:

  • What they produce may determine how others define and judge them.
  • “FAIR” is a privilege, not an entitlement.
  • They will have to handle hardcore rejection from strangers every working day.
  • They will compete in a marketplace against say-anything desperate peddlers.
  • They will fight to maintain moral integrity as others discard it for a dollar.
  • They have to commit to continuing education and ongoing training to remain credible.
  • and…even if they don’t have the best or most appealing products they still have to win.
  • They may have to live out of a suitcase every now and then.
  • What they do may impact and influence careers, families, and society.

Professional sales athletes know these things. And when we’re successful we’ll be able to earn a better-than-average living, positively contribute to society, and enjoy the quiet satisfaction of knowing that that you’re right – most people could never do what we do.

Win,

-Chris

Because, The Customer Isn’t Always Right

SSI0009639_PThere isn’t one successful professional salesperson or business development specialist who hasn’t found themselves at the moral crossroads of having to make a decision to be silent, or to speak the truth to a business decision-maker and possibly put a deal at risk. The safest position in these cases has been to adhere to the code: “The customer is always right.”

The fact is, most buyers and sellers know the truth: sometimes customers do get it wrong, it’s just their being wrong may not necessitate comment and the prospect of them spending their money with you (or someone else) makes them “right.” If you’re a sales or business development professional and you feel conflicted in this scenario, congratulations! Your conscience and moral foundation are in fine operating condition.  Sometimes moral standards and financial issues do come into conflict.

The Customer is Always Right is a powerful lie. What’s interesting is that over the years after hearing this same statement repeated over and over again from the mouths of intelligent, well-meaning business owners and executives, we should be impressed with the longevity and power of this falsehood. Why? Because ironically, there’sa contradictory but viable measure of wisdom that professional sales andbusiness development specialists understand:

  • Customers have a right to be wrong. Be quiet and let them be wrong UNLESS the consequences would cause harm or injury.
  • You’re not in the “Business Prevention” business and you probably don’t work for a non-profit organization. You’re in sales.
  • When doing the morally right thing means it’s the wrong for your client OR your employer’s business… surrender the business opportunity – don’t do the deal and/or pass it on to a supervisor. There’s power in a clean conscience, and prosperity without peace-of-mind… is hell on earth.

Win,

Christopher Bell, III

5 Appetizers for the Whiners in Sales

Assorted appetizersThis week I was invited to meet with a small gathering of so-called sales and business development professionals at a local Maryland bar and grill.  I attended the event hoping to get a lift and a laugh by listening to exaggerated stories of success, big deals being closed, and the conflict of deciding the next vacation destination (Maui or Bali?) Instead, what I stumbled into were two dull, disillusioned, whiners, and adult cry-babies with six-figure incomes and attitudes of entitlement so large they should have their own zip code who were clearly affecting the larger group’s attitude.

To keep the peace (and my sanity) I muted my thoughts until the persistence of a few to “share your perspective” overcame my ability to resist. I’m not sure I’ll be invited back, but these are the 5 verbal appetizers I served up before the main course was served:

  1. One of the few things you can control in life is your attitude. If you can�t get this right you�re in the wrong profession and a quota is the least of your worries.
  2. You don’t have a right to be successful, and SECURITY is an illusion – anything you have can be taken or lost in an instant. Be grateful and act like it.
  3. No” is one word, two letters, and has one syllable so don’t make it more than what it is. Learn to manage rejection, as it eliminates amateurs and most of the average competitors in our profession.
  4. We’re not paid well because our clients say “yes.”  We’re paid well to handle more rejection (than most people can) until we can get to “yes.”
  5. If you’re encountering potential clients with big problems, celebrate!!! Then continue to make it your mission to look for trouble. Your total compensation will be in proportion to the size or seriousness of the problems you can solve for others. Big problems and pain = big income opportunities.

Bon appetit, 🙂

Christopher Bell, III

The Law of “Retraction”

Clouds of WarIn T.D. Jakes book,  How to Reposition Yourself he uses the imagery of an archer, bow, and arrow to illustrate the fact that just before the moment of release, an arrow is pulled backward (or should I say “retracted”) and lays at rest as the bowstring is pulled taught and the bow bends under stress and tension. To further paraphrase the words of this prolific author, all of this is necessary to ensure that power and long flight are enabled upon release and that sometimes the life experiences of people are quite similar. I personally call this: The Law of Retraction.

Have you ever talked to, or met with someone you’ve known for years and walked away from the dialogue blown away by their transformation or growth from what you perceived as a point of failure or tough circumstances? How did they seem to move from “zero-to-hero”? One plausible explanation is the “Law of Retraction.”

Quite often, an exceptional achievement is preceded by a circumstance or event that forces one to move backwards and wait in a state of temporary tension and stress as change for the better takes place. For some, this holding period  is a matter of days and yet for others it could be a lifetime. While the posture is uncomfortable for all, the personal pressure of life’s demands, society’s expectations for short-term gain or relief and past recollections of previous success… may seem unbearable for the one who is in a state of retraction. The result? Compromise and the trade-off of a bigger long-term gain for small, temporary relief.

It may be wise for us to get better at discerning our position and to refrain from cursing every situation that may be holding us where we are. Examine your plans and quietly test them in preparation for a well-positioned and powerful release that will take you further, faster, and far beyond what could have ever happened without… The Law of Retraction.

Win,

~Chris

No Heroics, Just Limited Choices

At some point in time, a life event will affect you personally and by default professionally count on it.  However, I see nothing heroic or virtuous about being diagnosed with cancer, recovering from surgery, and working to regain ones physical health. For me the effort was self-centered and I personally had no choice as no-decision would have been a painfully slow terminal decision. Reality check: the extraordinary person was my wife. She was the one who had to work a demanding and stressful full-time job while also attending to my physical care. Is it relates to another event: there’s nothing heroic about pushing thru the unexpected death of a loved one that’s what we’re supposed to do. But watching the people you love grieve thru loss and supporting them thru their grief in some ways is worse than cancer. Surgery can cure a disease but how do you cure a broken heart? It’s a callous cliche but it’s true: Life goes on and people cope in their own way. Last but not least… yes, it kinda sucked to be unexpectedly terminated asan employee less than 90 days after returning to work after recovering from cancer surgery but so what? Millions of Americans can tell a similar story and mine is just one of them.

The unexpected benefit of dealing with major life events which converged in a 6-month period is that it forced the exercise of faith, patience, and planning which also brought clarity to logical next-steps. There’s power in the wake of pain. ChrisBell3rd & Company actually launched as a low risk, high benefit endeavor(what’s to lose?) I played it safe and had one (admittedly awesome client) paying me consistently for a period of months BEFORE substantively investing my time, seeking the advice of a mentor, and leveraging my talents to begin planning for business growth. When small, incremental success becomes evident, and one has the support of a community that’s willing to pay for your services, it provides a glimpse into the future of potential possibilities. Who then, wouldn’t strive to better leverage the situation? The net: there’s nothing heroic about my professional transition though I certainly wish the path had been peronally less painful.

9 Tips to Transition into the Technical Sales Arena

A few months ago I attended the GrowSmallBiz conference hosted by Network Solutions in Washington, DC and during one of the breaks I was speaking to a polished, intelligent, articulate, and enthusiastic professional who had years of experience selling copier products, but wanted to know how to break into the technology sales and business development field. What’s coincidental is that it was the second time in the last few weeks I’ve been asked the very same question, so I thought I’d offer a few tips for competent professionals who are honestly interested in pursuing this kind of career change:

1. Avoid going in thru front door via human resources. Traditional hiring processes are exclusionary, meaning they’re designed to keep people out. HR personnel can only say “No” they can’t say “Yes” to a potential hire. If you can’t connect with a real decision-maker to whom you would personally present your value, then you’re not ready for a technology sales career transition.

2. Talk with people in the niche you wish to work to ascertain what’s hot, relevant, and what’s keeping those in the know up at night. Read their blogs, attend their virtual webinars and follow them on social media networks. There is a strong connection that can be developed by discussing the highlights of another person’s interests.

3. Do your homework. Study – a lot. Go to the library and read the trade periodicals to become familiar with the general language and buzz words of the field you’re interested in. Download white papers and brochures.

4. Follow a few companies you’d really want to work with. If they’re publicly listed, dial into their quarterly call, and read their 10-k. These activities will detail the latest news, opportunities, wins, and concerns of the company.

5. When contacting a decision-maker or business influencer, ask them for their help and advice (everyone wants to help someone.) Get to know their executive assistant or secretary and ask them to setup an informal 20-minute introduction at their local coffee shop before business hours, or setup an invitation for a quick sandwich and informal lunch at a local deli.

6. To schedule a meeting you should be prepared to restate some of the quotes in their press releases or paraphrase statements made on the company’s quarterly report. Always leave the person you’re speaking with the impression you know as much or more about their company, than they do!

7. Memorize the salient points of a company’s summary product brochure word-for-word so that by the time you get a face-to-face meeting, the person you’re meeting already sees you as fellow colleague or employee.

8. Success in sales is about your track record. Be prepared to be your own best advocate and articulate where have you won before in life and your career, who helped you get there, and what it took for you to become #1? Ask them “If you were in my shoes, what ‘s your next best step?” Personally hand them your resume and references and then ask them for their sponsorship.

9. On employee skills testing – there will never be, and there has never been a test that can prove the heart of winner – Art Williams.

There are lots of career-changers out there who could use your help. Are there any tips you might add?