Tag Archives: life

How to succeed when your life life kicks the @$%*# out of your sales life

beat-up-faceSometimes life throws you a curve ball.

Things blow up…. bad.

You get beaten up in your personal life and it starts to affect your chances at closing deals.

You have opportunities that demand finesse, skill, and talent — and you feel defeated and ready to quit.

Winning is more than about a notch on the belt. It pays the bills.  Not succeeding is something you don’t want to consider….

So, what do you do?  How do you put your life back together while not missing a career beat?

  1. Recognize that life dealt you a black eye.  There is no use denying the obvious.
  2. Try to solve solvable life problems as soon as possible.  Let go of your ego.
  3. Spend time “grinding” through the sales steps you know you need to get done.  Send emails.  Return calls.
  4. Set aside a few special minutes a day to focus on your sales goals.  Focus on your dreams.
  5. Write down your scattered sales strategy thoughts throughout the days.  Your mind has a lot going on so take the time to store your half-finished ideas on paper.
  6. Write your daily goals on a calendar and don’t let time commitments slide.  Don’t let things that used to take 5 minutes take 30 minutes.
  7. Talk to someone that you trust and get the bad stuff out of your head.  Telling yourself that you suck is not a super way to build confidence.
  8. Challenge yourself in a favorite hobby or through physical exercise.  Take time for mastery.
  9. Take the first step toward your sales goal that day. Then another. Then another.  Build momentum.
  10. Learn from the experience — about yourself, about how your customer might be feeling.  Build empathy.

There’s probably more to this list than the points I have included.  In fact, I am sure there is more to consider.  The point is that life happens — and it hurts.  You want the world to stop so you can heal and it won’t.  It just runs you over again.  Use these basic steps to stay “in the game” while your world works itself out.

Winning is not about removing problems that you can not control but about continuing in spite of them…

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And a special event for The DEW View! community.  Join me November 19th for a Masterclass about “Edgy Conversations: An Explosion of Opportunities

Ever wonder how some sales executives land big deals with big players and you feel stuck chatting up the small guys about opportunities that will probably never happen.  Do you want to get the attention of the right people?  Do you want to see the number of opportunities you are working on explode?  Learn how to have “Edgy Conversations”.  Learn how to have conversations that matter….

I hope we can share a few minutes together…

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Myth: Thinking Actually Helps

myth

High-performers in the world of “deal making” share the universal quality of self-assessment. It’s an internal process of strategically measuring the inputs and outputs of a process or idea (or just “what went down…”) and deciding if it could be done better.  And that’s all good.  It’s more than good — it’s necessary.

But it’s probably not good enough to make you an ALL-STAR (the stuff of legends)

You work better when you work with gut instinct.  At this stage in your deal process, you generally know what NOT to do (which is 2/3 of the learning process) and WHERE you need to head.  But to be the best, you have to be extraordinary — and that requires a different, new, or abstractly innovative idea.  Everything that your boss won’t probably agree with…. because it’s not safe.

But there’s actually science to prove that you do make better decisions from gut instinct rather than thinking too much.

“Whether evaluating abstract objects (Chinese ideograms) or actual consumer items (paintings, apartments, and jellybeans), people who deliberated on their preferences were less consistent than those who made non-deliberative judgments,” write authors Loran F. Nordgren (Northwestern University) and Ap Dijksterhuis (Radboud University, The Netherlands).”

And check this out.  The science gets even more compelling.  After 5 different independent studies, the authors found that “the more complex the decision, the less useful deliberation became.”

That means that less “thought-manship” and more gut instinct is the key to outrageous deal success.

P.S.  Ever wonder why outrageous success is so hard to predict (i.e. there’s no formula)?  It’s because you’re thinking too hard about it.  As you move with gut instinct you see enough of the distance to move around obstacles to get to the finish line.  And, like running at the North Pole, you don’t really need to look over your shoulder because your competition is slim…. (and that’s where I like to play)

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Taking a Gut Punch

gutpunchUnderstanding “why” is a frustrating part of life and more specifically your sales negotiations. You can work your ass off, do a lot of things right, and still not get a deal done.

It’s a punch in the gut!

I have had deal-makers get transferred, get sick, get laid off, get fired, get demoted, get married, get retired, get bored and a million other bad and “unplanned” things that kill a deal.

It’s always tough to handle — especially since it almost always unforeseen.

The danger is that you lose motivation trying to dissect something that is too random to really be valuable.  There is nothing there.  Life sucks!  Move on!

Don’t stop to assess, plan, re-strategize, over-think or anything else labeled “the logical” next step.  The truth is that you are punch-drunk — like Rocky in the 11th round.  You can’t trust your logic or your emotions.  What you do next has to be something that is practiced and un-emotional:

  1. Keep your head up — You can’t “suck wind” and get energized with your chin tucked in…
  2. Keep your hands up — You still need to “protect your chin” with your other prospects…
  3. Keep your legs up — You need to push farther and faster now that that you are “behind”…
  4. Keep your eyes up — You need to believe in your vision now more than ever…

You can take a gut punch and hit the mat or keep moving…

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Social Media is Crap

Sorry.  Can I just get that off my chest?  (of course I can, I write this thing)  🙂

Isn’t media by nature social?

  • a VHS tape when passed hand-to-hand is now social media….
  • a letter when delivered at the hand of the postman is suddenly social media….

Google wisdom says that media is: “the storage and transmission tools used to store and deliver information or data”.  Sounds pretty social to me.  How about you?

What do you think?

I know that we need to put a label on this interactive world we call life.  Why can’t we just call it a conversation.  Why can’t I have a conversation with you in a lot of different ways where Facebook, LinkedIn, BrightKite, Twitter, and WordPress are all channels to keep us talking — not labeled platforms.

Aren’t you tired of the labels?  Of the nonsense around how important this idea of social media is?

Why can’t we just talk and see where we fit together…  Maybe I am losing my mind, but it seems like having meaningful conversations makes the most sense.

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By the way, check out this incredible discusion by Fred Wilson at #140Conf about Twitter and the monetization of social media:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2260233&dest=-1]

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Focus on priorities

What would you be doing if today were the last day for you to be alive?

Would you work harder, take the day off, or just spend the day with regrets?

For the vast majority of us, there will be more days than today, but there won’t be a way to get back the time you spent today NOT focusing on your priorities.

Focus on your priorities for today like tomorrow might never come.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish with the proper perspective…

P.S  Don’t worry about getting it wrong as long as you are willing to keep trying…

Joe Learns, Joe Kicks Ass…

Joe Learns to Kick Ass!
Joe Learns to Kick Ass!

If you happen to need a good real estate agent or more importantly, really want (or need) to sell your home, then Joe is my recommendation to you.  He handles my personal business because someone “kicking ass” for me is what I need.

Who is Joe? And why does he matter?  He’s a modern success story that you need to hear about…… and my friend.

Joe Blackton, (who you can find on twitter as @JoeBlackton) just sent me a letter a few days by email that I wanted to share with you.  Joe is a real estate agent that I recruited to work at ACCESS when I was CEO there.  I was constantly looking for junior sales talent that could be transformed into All-Stars (still am looking for more), and Joe certainly has become an All-Star — after leaving ACCESS!

I was first introduced to Joe by a long time friend that I went to High School with.  My friend told me that there was this guy “Joe” who was working really hard and was a great sales guy – so I picked up the phone and called him.  Two weeks later, Joe started working with me learning the ropes on a completely new vertical — the legal industry.  Instead of tackling homeowners, Joe was talking with attorneys and often working with my own personal list of more than 3,000 clients — most of which were in the Washington, DC area.  He did a super job, especially when you consider all the obstacles that he faced:

  1. The company was in the process of being sold and the chief sales-dude, ME, was not so available for training like I used to be…
  2. The process of “shopping the company” had created uncertainty within the firm, making it difficult for newcomers to adjust…
  3. Joe was completely new and trying to work with brand-new lingo, law firms, and internal technology teams was brutal…

In spite of this, Joe demonstrated class and talent and was well on his way to becoming a leading sales executive with us.  I was quietly impressed.

Here’s the kicker: On the first day that the buyers of our company took over officially, JOE WAS FIRED!  No warning!  No Discussion! No 90-day Goal Period!  Nothing!  Just a pink slip.

And you would think that Joe was crushed — many people would be!  He wasn’t.  Pissed off sure, but when he called to tell me that he had been fired (I didn’t know at the time) and that he had to think about things, he mentioned that he would probably be going back to his real estate roots.  And that’s where the story really starts.

Read his letter first to me and then I’ll tell you the rest of the story:

Dan,

I know you’re a busy man so I will keep this short and sweet.  I just wanted to take a brief moment of your time to thank you.  You thoroughly changed my entire view point and perspective in this ever changing sales industry.  You taught me that technology is the key factor in not only generating leads but turning the majority of those leads into clients with a “WOW Factor”.

Witty remarks and a down to earth demeanor placed you a step above the rest in my book immediately in addition to your reputation of success.  My respect level was immediate as I found that you were a twenty nine year old CEO of a multimillion dollar industry in Washington DC and after working with you I could not have been more impressed.  With the extreme multi-tasking and technology proficiency you possessed it was as if these were common prerequisites that EVERYBODY had perfected.    I have always been an avid believer that if I see somebody attain a goal that seems nearly impossible with such ease; then there is NO reason why I cannot achieve these same accomplishments in my field or practice.

You have been a true mentor to me in the past year and I felt a thank you letter was in order.  I enjoy our brain storming and networking strategy session phone calls.  Whatever my increase in sales are this year, a better part of it will be contributed to the man that positioned me a step above the rest.

It has been a pleasure, Sir,

Joe Blackton
Avery Hess Realtors
Direct: 571-437-7285
Office: 702-802-8200
www.joeblacktonsellshomes.com

Getting a letter like this is emotionally rewarding and an ego boost — but it’s really a HUGE credo to JOE!

What did Joe do?

The first clue is to take a look at Joe’s website (www.JoeBlacktonSellsHomes.com).  It’s his first one and get’s him between 55-100 emails and phone calls a day – every day.  It’s a simple website!  Nothing crazy.  In fact, you might even criticize the soft tones (Joe is a tough “fitness nut”) and all the information that he provides directly without you having to call him.  According to the leading sales and negotiation books, you aren’t supposed to provide that  service without getting something in return.  It’s supposed to NOT work!

But something seems to be working, because in a “down turn” economy Joe is busy all hours of the day!  We actually played “phone tag” for a few days until I actually reached him last week around 8PM on my drive home from the office.  Joe is doing the impossible — selling homes in Northern Virginia while  everyone else seems to be having a problem doing that.

So what is Joe doing? AHHHHH!  Now that this is $64,000 question.

Better yet, what is Joe doing that you should be doing?

  • Joe is using technology to find, track, and manage his clients.  Joe uses some pretty sophisticated technology to match up his sellers with buyers out there and provide value to both.  That enables him to sell homes faster and with both sides feeling great about the process.  It’s fun to hear about…
  • Joe is following EVERY lead and clue until it falls apart completely.  Instead of hiding in the corner, Joe is offering advice (like his website) to people who aren’t even selling their homes right now.  He is working with entrepreneurs who want to get into the “buy and sell game” and talking to banks who want to unload foreclosures.  He is everywhere twice as fast as the competition…
  • Joe is passionate about his own success.  Joe went from angry and pissed off to completely focused back into his old business of selling homes and he is doing 10x better than he was in the upswing economy days!  WHAT?  Joe is purely passionate about selling homes for his clients and providing value that no one else is taking the time for.
  • Joe is learning.  I like that sentence in the letter where he says: “I have always been an avid believer that if I see somebody attain a goal that seems nearly impossible with such ease; then there is NO reason why I cannot achieve these same accomplishments in my field or practice.” Learning from the bad things that happen to us is more powerful that learning from our successes.  Joe learned a little from me.  But more importantly, Joe IS LEARNING from himself and life.

You can be a “Joe” too. Follow the same steps that he did and you’ll be “kicking ass” too…

———-

KUDOS to you, Joe, when you happen to read this blog post!  Thanks for the letter.  I am excited to see you put into place the things that we talked about.  I am sure that you will be a high performer this year for Avery Hess and you deserve the awards that are coming to you.  Keep “Kicking Ass”…. and keep learning!

Fail Fast!

I seem to always have subscribed to the “Fail Fast so You Have More Time to Work on Being Successful” mantra of life.  I used to be afraid of making the wrong decision and then I realized that I had only to fear not LEARNING from past mistakes.

Living and learning are part of both failure and success. I have failed quite often over the past 30 years of my life and I have had some amazing successes.  Sometimes it feels like the failures outweigh the successes, but that needs to be put into perspective…

Alexander Muse wrote an amazing article on his personal failure called “How I lost $20,000,000+ in 18 months!” which I have attached below…

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If I had to come up with a single reason I started this blog it was to share my own ’startup’ experiences; the most cathartic of which was a post I wrote in 2005 titled “LayerOne: My Biggest Failure!“  Around 1,000 people read the post back then, but my readership has grown in the last three years to between 50,000 and 75,000 unique people; readers who never heard the story.  I believe some of the most important lessons one can learn are taught by failure and failure is something I have an MBA in.  I thought it might be valuable for those of you who haven’t heard the story to take a peak into my dirty laundry:

I was interviewing a candidate for Big in Japan and I asked him what his biggest failure was. He answered the question thoughtfully and at the end of the interview, as I always do, I asked the candidate if he had any questions for me. His first question, “what was your biggest failure.”

Most of us (well mainly me) have a hard time talking about our failures. I had to think for a minute and then the answer was obvious. In 1999 I founded a telecom company called LayerOne. It was the hieght of the private equity – venture capital funding wave and I caught one of the last waves. The idea was to create pooling points of local haul, local and internet connectivity and charge carriers for connecting between each other. I ran around the country (Sandhill Road, New York, Austin and of course Dallas) looking for private equity. Almost 100 venture capital and private equity groups were not interested in my idea…

I was only 28 years old so I had no idea how bad the odds were that I could raise the money to fund my idea so I rented a loft near downtown Dallas right above the Genesis Hair Salon (you could smell women getting permanents in the afternoons). I polished off my business plan and hired a lawyer from the Austin office of Wilson Sonsini and a secretary. Finally I found a group of investors willing to fund my idea. My series A was $11,000,000.00 on a $22,000,000.00 premoney valuation (not bad for a first time CEO with a business plan and a loft). The round was led by Crest Communications with additional investments from Soros Private Equity, Cabletron, and ADC Telecom. Soon I was off to the races hiring a team to help me build my dream. One of my key hires was detailed in Money Magazine here. I found a small, under funded competitor that was willing to sell and jump started our rollout.

I made every mistake in the book (I had a lot of help making the mistakes). By the summer of 2001 we were well on our way to meeting our goals for the completed ‘pooling points’ but we had not been able to raise the second round that would enable us to complete our nationwide buildout. We had leases across the United States (even a few options on spaces in Europe), but not enough money to build them out. Our original investors were trying to raise their second fund (a fund they never closed) and everyone was scared of the telecom space. We managed to raise another $9,000,000.00 to ‘bridge’ us to the ‘big’ round. Our lead investor, Crest Communications, had a relationship with First Union and suggested that we use their bankers to help us raise our second round. Their effort was extensive (scores of meetings in New York, Chicago and San Francisco), but ultimately unsuccessful.

So I reverted back to my old strategy, call everyone myself and set meetings. Most everyone turned us down, but finally we got a term sheet from TL Ventures for $40MM ($60MM short of the total amount we would need to get to break even). Everything looked like it was going to work out. But soon it became apparent that there was a big catch in our term sheet? TL would need to find (actually I would need to find) other investors to fund $30MM of the $40MM. Our existing investors would come up with $10MM bringing our total to $20MM, but finding the other $20MM seemed impossible. Nortel blew up in the summer and of course Enron crumbling did not help. We were in big trouble. Neither TL or us could find the last $20MM needed to close the round (and no they would not close without the total $40MM).

El Paso Energy had started a telecom business and talked to us about acquiring the company. It seemed like a good option should the fund raising effort fail – something I was getting more and more worried about. We received a term sheet from El Paso that would return 100% of the paid-in equity our investors had made and provide jobs and options to the management team (i.e. me). This was not a great option, but as we would be out of cash by July it seemed like the prudent thing to do. Our investors (Crest) decided that the deal was unacceptable and that we should pursue other options (including the TL deal still on the table). Next, we were contacted by Universal Access about a potential acquisition. We finally came to terms, but the deal did not make sense to us. The deal was for stock (UAXS was traded on the NASDAQ) worth around $5MM and out of the money warrants valued with Black Schoals at something like $20MM. It seemed to me that the warrants would NEVER be worth anything, but on paper this deal looked better than the cash deal offered by El Paso. We signed the deal and Universal Access covered our payroll in June. The deal never closed. By the time the deal was dead El Paso was out of the market – they were paralyzed by the Enron debacle.

So the only option seemed to be Chapter 11. Ug! I was sick to my stomach – bankruptcy was not a good thing to have on your resume. So I started running around looking for capital to fund a reorg. I found two groups who were interested in the deal. We figured it would take $2MM to buy the business in a 363 asset sale and $2MM to get it to break even. We were going to take the sites that were cash flow positive (or near positive) and a reduced staff 12-15 employees and run the business. By the end of August 2001 we had the sale and successfully bought the business out of Chapter 11. We were in bankruptcy for around 30 days – one of the quickest in the history of our jurisdiction. So on September 11th 2001 I was headed to Hughes and Luce to sign the closing documents with our investors so the money could be transferred to the court for the sale. You might recall that the most deadly terrorist attack on our country happened on that day. I figured the deal was dead… But the next day we closed and LayerOne II was born.

The impact? Most of our investors (only three stayed in the new deal) lost everything – $20MM down the drain. LOTS of employees hated me (I assume they still hate me). This was the lowest point in my life. I was able to salvage the business for our clients, a few original investors, a few key employees and my family – but the majority of our investors and vendors paid the price of MY failure. I can blame a lot of folks, but ultimately it was my failure. How did it turn out?

Actually, fairly well. We were able to turn a profit in a few months and grew profits by around $20-30K per month for a couple of years. By 2003 we had made several investments outside of LayerOne and I made the decision (with more than a little help from our investors) to take over operation of Architel and LayerOne was positioned for sale. It took about a year, but LayerOne sold to Switch & Data for a 600% return for the investors ($4MM to $22MM in less than four years). It wasn’t Google but it was a big swing for me. I learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes and ultimately became a better businessman and hopefully a better person as a result.