What’s your focus and what’s your theme for the new year?

tiny_party_favor_celebrationHope your new year is off to a fabulous start and that you’re building momentum to make it your best year yet.

We all know about making resolutions — resolving to do something new or do things differently — but a trend that social media maven Mari Smith is credited with starting is identifying one word as a theme for the year.

I’ve made just a couple of resolutions (summed up by “take better care of myself”) and my theme for the year is “reach” because I want to grow my business and grow my contacts and communities.

So if you had to find one word that would be a good over-arcing theme for you what would it be?

They’re not employees…they’re your brand.

No Sale Sign on Cash RegisterWhen I need to print something that’s likely to bleed my print cartridges I send it over to my local Staples, which is less than a half mile away.

I’m there on a pretty regular basis…generally several times a month…sometimes a few times a week.

They manage to screw up my order on a regular basis.

It’s either not ready when I expect it to be, or they can’t find it when I get there, or — the latest excuse — they didn’t get the email I sent.

Even though their system sent ME a confirming message.

As a former recruiter in high turnover industries, I certainly understand how hard it is to find good employees for minimum wage jobs.

Especially jobs that require a high level of emotional intelligence. Which seems to be in mighty short supply these days.

But you’re not actually hiring employees.

You’re hiring brand ambassadors.

Think about your own experiences. Employees ARE the brand to us when we’re buyers, so it’s no different when buyers deal with OUR companies.

Other than the decision to actually go into business, I don’t think there’s a decision with greater impact than who to hire.

I know it’s time consuming, frustrating, and a little scary; but’s also critical to the growth of your business.

As you grow the business, you’ve got to take off the hats you wear and give away the tasks that don’t require you.

But hiring them isn’t where it stops.

You’ve go to invest in them by providing them with the training and ongoing development they need. Especially if you’re going to choose a person who doesn’t have all of the skills needed to perform the job successfully.

You need to help them understand they’re the brand in the marketplace and help them understand the impact they have on the business. Help them understand the power they wield.

Teach them the skills they don’t have, help them polish the skills they do have.

And never forget that customer-facing jobs are stressful. Help employees manage their stress. Don’t expect them to know how.

At a minimum, encourage them to recognize when their stress level is getting a bit high and understand how to manage that stress level so they don’t take it out on their fellow workers or on the next customer they deal with.

As their leader, take the time to understand each staffer as an individual and understand what motivates each one of them.

This means understanding what your customers expect and hire people who can deliver on that expectation.

Play “what if” with your staff members. One of the great problems in service industries in general is getting employees to be comfortable thinking on their feet to effectively deal with a problem. The best way to develop that skill is by asking them what they would do “if” a situation like X occurred. Then coach them on their response.

Since the brain doesn’t really understand the difference between practice and reality it will help the employee subconsciously feel more confident in dealing with challenging situations.

The employee I dealt with yesterday at Staples looked as though he was trying not to yawn when I was talking to him about my problem. And his response to my statement that I was unhappy and frustrated was “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Really? NOTHING you can do about it?

Wrong answer.

At a bare minimum he should have had enough sense to recognize he had an unhappy customer and he didn’t know how to handle it.

I proceeded to post about the situation on Facebook and generated somewhere around 20 responses. Most complaining about Staples and agreeing their copy center staff is terrible.

Here are 4 quick tips to take BEFORE you start hiring or before you hire your next staffer:

1. Identify the soft skills critical for success. These are the skills their parents, teachers, or guardians should have instilled in them. Face it. You do NOT want to teach someone how to be nice. They need to KNOW that. They need to BE nice. Ask them questions to tell you about a time that really tried their patience.

2. Identify what a successful employee acts like and what type of experience that person needs to have in their history. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior since most people don’t. (Yes, I know they CAN. Think about it though. Most people really DON’T change.) . People who thrive in customer facing positions tend to have experience in them. If you’re hiring an inexperienced workforce then ask them about activities they’ve been in. Ask about situations that are at least similar to the situations they’ll face working for you.  If they can’t give you examples of relatively similar experiences then find better candidates.

3. Be clear on performance standards. From technical performance to emotional intelligence, you must be clear about what you expect. Don’t assume they’ll know. No, they won’t. And when you’re in the habit of telling everyone the same thing, you can be confident that they’re all clear on the same points.

4. Lead and manage. Don’t just complain about a staffer’s performance. Talk to them about it with no emotion in your voice. You’re not attacking them personally. You’re pointing out a performance issue. Be clear on what happened, what’s unacceptable about it, and what needs to happen instead. At home, it’s easy to engage in dysfunctional behavior thinking a family member should be able to read your mind and know what they did wrong or know what you want. Don’t do it in your business. You’ll be miserable. Your staff will be miserable. And believe me, your customers will be miserable.

Time and effort you invest in selecting, educating, and developing your staff will have a huge payoff to the business. Take that time.

7 Strategies to Stop Taking Sales Rejection Personally

Blond Boy CryingWhen I first started working with service-based entrepreneurs, one client burst into tears while discussing the challenges she faced in sales.

She admitted she took every “no” very personally.

“I feel like every person who turns me down is rejecting ME,” she said.

It’s hard not to feel that way, isn’t it? Especially if you’re a solo professional or owner of a small professional services firm and YOU deliver the services.

There’s the old adage, that people do business with those they know, like, and trust.

So if someone tells you they don’t want what you’re selling, are they telling you they don’t know, like, or trust you enough to buy from you?

How can you not take that personally?

If they decide not to hire you or not to work with you it can mean any one of several things…

• They aren’t ready for what you offer
• What you offer isn’t right for them
• An unseen or unknown influencer nixed the purchase
• Their priorities have changed
• They don’t see the value of what you offer
• They don’t have enough information to feel confident enough to give you the job
• They were confused or overwhelmed in the process

And yes…you just might rub them the wrong way.

There are only 3  or 4 of those points that you have any significant opportunity to influence.

You can only directly control yourself. So the things you have the most impact on in the marketing and sales process are skill-based things that have to do with how you communicated and / or packaged what you offer.

While it’s disappointing and frustrating to lose a sale, it does not mean you’re a bad person. It does not mean you’re stupid. Your friends, family, and God still love you. YOU should still love you.

The problem entrepreneurs run into is when our self-image and self-worth are attached to every sale.

When you look outside of yourself for validation of your worth you will always be disappointed. Worth – and worthiness – comes from within.

When you were born, the Divine blessed you with seeds of greatness. Everything you would need to fulfill your potential was planted right inside you.

In his classic book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the reader to “detach from the outcome.”

I must have read that book 10 times before I began to fully understand what it means to “detach from the outcome.” I thought it was impossible to do.

What Hill was saying is your identity — nor your value as a person — are connected to the outcome of the sale.

Once you fully realize that and truly embrace your worth, taking rejection becomes much easier.

So here are 7 strategies to help you stop taking things – especially sales rejections – personally.

Have a healthy personal life. That might seem like a blinding flash of the obvious but as a business owner it can be incredibly hard to separate your personal life from your professional one. Working at home, working with your spouse or children, being connected to technology 24/7 can all contribute to feeling as though work never ends. Create clear boundaries to give yourself time to recover from the demands of work.

Practice compassionate self-care. Listen to what you say to yourself throughout the day, but especially after a selling discussion doesn’t go your way. If you’re engaging in any sort of negative self-talk, you’re feeding the bad feelings. Do something that makes you smile. Even looking at positive images has been proven to improve mood. Go for a walk around the block. Put on upbeat music. Or take 2 minutes to leverage your body language and tap into your inner super hero.

Learn the skills and language of modern selling. Old-school sales was all about convincing someone that your offering was best. It’s why sales training emphasized ridiculously convoluted strategies that seemed designed to trick people. Modern selling and today’s client-focused, conscious entrepreneur is focused on sharing information that educates the potential client and helps them make the best choice among a host of options. It starts with being clear about and only talking to Ideal Clients so you’re preaching to the choir as it were.

When learning and developing your skills, be sure you’re studying with someone whose philosophy you share.

Then be sure you’re spending time to reflect on what you’re doing and modify it as needed. But please don’t beat yourself up.

Talking to Ideal Clients who you understand well, then creating a process that helps them make a decision are critical foundations to the process.

Create a process that helps potential clients decide. This starts with doing a good job of attracting and screening prospects so you’re only sharing your message with those who are most interested. When there’s more than one person involved in the decision process, do your best to present to all parties at the same time. Be sure to create simple, yet powerful leave-behind materials that reinforce what you said and help the parties involved become your internal sales team. You’re not actually doing the selling. They are.

Manage your ego. An attendee at a conference I presented at asked me to critique her process right in front of the class. She then started telling me what she covered in her presentation. She spent the first 10 minutes giving her and her company’s bio. I said, “You’ve lost them right there. That stuff got you in the door already. They don’t want to hear it again. Your ego wants to prove how smart you are. It’s looking for applause. You’re wasting their time.”

This doesn’t mean you need to underplay your brilliance, but it means you have to understand – especially when you sell to bigger small businesses or mid-sized company’s – those people are always concerned about someone making them look bad.

Make sure your offer is truly high value. This doesn’t mean undervalue yourself. It means to be sure you’re creating and communicating your offers so the value is clearly apparent to prospective clients and what you offer is connected to the outcome they want. Remember, nobody wants a hammer. They want to hang a picture to make their home beautiful and relaxing. The hammer helps them do that. Communicate with value-laden language and help them see how working with you will support them in achieving their goals. Or not. If they don’t think you’re right for them be glad they decided not to work with you.

Wish them the best. Oh this is hard. I know it can seem like they must be morons for not wanting to hire you. They’re not. They have their own issues. Reflect on what you could do differently the next time, wish them well (sometimes that means praying they get emotionally healthy), and let it go. There’s a difference between ruminating – making yourself feel badly by thinking about it over and over – and reflecting (considering what happened and determining how to grow from it). Always reflect. Never ruminate.

If you find yourself really struggling to detach from the outcome, ask yourself what emotional needs you have that are getting in the way. Typically, a need to be liked will trump the desire to get the business. You’re in business to provide a service that makes a difference in people’s lives. You’re not in business to be liked. That’s what you have friends for.

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