I wonder what it is in someone’s mind that makes them decide to be successful. Not just to survive in business, but to achieve greatness. What IS greatness? I’ve been in the industry for almost 33 years, most of that in a sales role, and finding people who really achieve greatness is rare. Possibly you know of someone who has. Maybe you are one of them. If you are, I’m here to tell you that you are unique.
Over my career, I’ve noticed that those who seek the highest level of success seem to do so in every aspect of their life: in business, in their personal lives and in every relationship. They put themselves out there for all to see, and you seldom wonder who they really are or what they want. They’re not a puzzle that you have to piece together; they’re real and caring. They’re admirable and someone you might strive to be like. You’d think they’d have thousands of friends, but my observation has been that they have great family relationships and mostly a small circle of friends. These aren’t surface friends; these are deep-down friendships, friends that would do anything when called upon.
The deeper you examine the “DNA of greatness” the more you may wonder why anyone would strive for less. People who’ve achieve greatness are honorable and trustworthy in everything they do and courageous as well. That term isn’t often used to describe people in today’s business world, but it takes courage to risk everything, everyday. Why do they do it? With the speed of business today and the risks attached to every decision one makes, why not just dance through life safe and secure like many others? I’m convinced that greatness is truly a pedigree, because you don’t find it in every person.
Have you ever noticed that great leaders also pull the greatness out of the people they work with? In other words, it’s contagious. I remember when I first entered my career in sales. I needed help in choosing suitable business attire. I had learned of a clothier whom many had recommended and went in to discuss my requirements. There I met a man named David, and he began to help me as if I were the only person on earth. He listened and helped me understand what type of buyer I was, and you know what, when I tried on the suits he recommended, I felt like a million bucks. After we took care of the fitting and setting up my account, he said, “I’d like to introduce you to John, he is the person who will help you as you continue to build your wardrobe.” That experience was greatness! I really didn’t know much about clothes and was a bit worried about getting the right attire for business. They made it so easy. I continued to purchase clothing from them for many years, regardless of sales or discounts available elsewhere. I felt powerful when I wore the suits from that establishment. Clothed in their suits, each time I walked into any room, I was prepared in every way and was equal to the task that lay ahead.
David was the owner of that clothing store. The fact is, he had just walked into his own store about five minutes before me and noticed that everyone was busy. Immediately, he turned around and began to help me as if it was his first day and he was at the beginning of his career and needed every sale. I felt important! John told me that David was a great leader and often jumped in to help clients when his team was busy. He said that most of his training came from just watching David, and he had decided early on to mirror everything David did. David attracted high quality leaders because he was one. And they recognized his greatness, as he was a master at business, sales and relationships. David had figured out the formula.
Within each of the resellers and dealerships I’ve engaged with through the years, I’ve found a zillion company cultures and climates. Some great, others not so great, some who bent to the pressures and competition and let stress take center stage. We all say “I sell quality” and yet few actually get past a “what’s your price” type of deal. It’s about where you want to end up in life and your career.
Not only was David the owner of the clothier store, he was also its number one salesman at almost 70 years old. He enjoyed his life and helping others achieve greatness and success. It didn’t seem like work to him; it was evident that this was a joy to him. He was always improving the customer experience and his methods for helping his clients become more successful. How is that so different than the office technology world? His greatness was outflowing: it touched everyone he came in contact with. Few walked away without feeling it.
Some might ask, what does this have to do with the office equipment industry? The actions taken by David are very connected to the “transformation” that most dealerships believe they must have. The transformation from mediocre to relevant, from selling widgets to selling solutions, and from transactional to contractual sales—they all start with intention. David’s success began when he made a DECISION to clearly define what he wanted out of his career. He developed his strategy and then executed it to perfection.
David was focused, practiced and had perfected his delivery of value. By showing what success looked like, his entire team could emulate his behavior and process to achieve success for themselves. This is so opposite to what I find in our industry. Sales reps aren’t led to success: they’re pushed out the door. I’ve yet to see anyone do market research for anything or to develop a strategy that prepares their team for success. Transforming your company’s abilities should be tested and tweaked from the top. As success comes, lead your team to best practice, best results. Many so-called “sales leaders” don’t have the ability to lead anyone. And if you are the owner, you should be the best at articulating your values and the path to success. If you’re not, you should have someone in your employ who is.
So successful transformation has to answer these questions: what do you want, when do you want it, how will you get it, what does success look like, who wants your deliverables and most importantly, why do they want them?
The second great lesson to take from David was that he was in it for his client’s success. When he helped a client become successful, he benefited, so his motivation and values were all about the client. That seems to be missing in today’s world. In many cases it’s a rep’s quota that drives their month. The fact is that if you help your client be successful, it’s easier to secure deep, high value, loyal relationships. But if your comp plan pays a sales rep only to turn the next deal, you could fail.
To reach true transformational success, you have to really understand what success is for your client. They define success. There are as many definitions of success as there are clients out there. Success is way more than getting their old MFPs out to get yours in. The phrase “trusted advisor” is way over used, very often by some who have no idea what it really means. A trusted advisor often shares value that they aren’t paid for. Is that you? Do people say you’re an expert? Are your sales reps reaching that level of expertise?
Every month I hear from someone who wants the magic pill that creates superior sales results. It’s a little harder than that, but not much. If you train your sales team to identify success for the client and teach them how to articulate how you mitigate issues, you’ll create a significant advantage over your competitors. Every sale isn’t about saving your client money. Decisions are mostly made around improving the value and performance of your client’s company.
I’m often asked what is the secret in creating success in business. I think it’s pretty simple. It’s not a short-term play, but you do have to step on the field. Early in David’s career HE MADE A DECISION to succeed. Many business owners have yet to make any decision about their company’s success. Do YOU want to be successful? Is it evident? In most engagements, we start with that very question: “What do you want?” It’s amazing, but some people who seem to have “made it big” can’t answer that question. Inside the walls of their business it is a whirlwind of chaos, with a revolving door and constant cash-flow issues. Why? David’s secret isn’t that amazing; it started with a DECISION to be successful, and his commitment to follow through with that decision.
Defining success isn’t a one-time process. Your definition of success will change as your career advances. Also, your company’s definition of success shouldn’t be defined by anyone else. It must come from a current-day, real-time review of your business and its future success objectives.
The great news is that it’s never too late to set this in motion. Ask yourself, is my business as successful as my largest competitor? Don’t let pride get in the way of this review; give credit where credit is due. If a competitor is more successful and you would like to change your trajectory upward, then you must identify and repair those failure points, implement the changes that need to be made and saddle up.
One final step: remember to take time to visit with your employees and ask them for their ideas for increasing success within your company. You might be pleasantly surprised by their input. Don’t let pride keep you from seeking outside help either; it often shortens your ramp-up timeframe. The good news is that once YOU MAKE THE DECISION to be great and successful, you’re halfway there!