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How to Become a Five Percenter

September 24th, 2018

People often ask me “Are there a set of critical factors that distinguish the Top Performers from those that just can’t seem to get there?”

 

Over the past several decades, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with many thousands of entrepreneurs and salespeople.   The performance of these individuals can be separated into three primary groups.   A very small percentage consistently over-achieve.   Let’s call them The Masters or Five Percenters.   Opposite The Masters are a fairly large percentage (over 50%) of business owners and salespeople that consistently fail.   Unfortunate, but true.   Most entrepreneurs struggle for survival or fail.   Most salespeople rarely make quota.   Yikes.   They simply do not get it.

 

Most of the remaining owners and salespeople try continually to break out of the pack.  Few succeed.  Many of these execs work extremely hard.  A significant percentage of them believe themselves to always be “really busy”.  Unfortunately, their busy-ness never seems to produce the results they seek.  If they could only find “more time”, they feel like they could right the ship, but they somehow never get around to effectively prioritizing their time.

 

Many well-intentioned execs struggle to break through.  They try many different approaches, reacting to urgency after urgency and often looking for a quick fix, magic pill, or silver bullet.  Quite a few of them of them are prone to chasing shiny objects, the next big thing that will propel them out of mediocrity and transform their performance.   As society continues to move in the direction of rapid-response and instant gratification, I’ve noticed this group has been growing.

 

If you happen to be a CEO, owner, or executive seeking superior performance, I have bad news and good news.  The bad news is that there are NO quick fixes.  The good news is that ANYONE can achieve mastery and become a Five Percenter.

 

Master business performers possess a very distinct, limited (and amazingly simple) set of attributes that separate them from the masses, independent of whether their goal is to become an elite salesperson or an elite CEO.    Although Masters come in all shapes and sizes, they all possess the following common attributes..:

 

1.    They are UnConditionally Committed to Personal Development.  They never rest on their laurels and always strive to be the best person possible.  They are committed to mastery.  No matter how “busy” they might feel, they ALWAYS allocate time and energy to improving their skills, knowledge, and ability to become a better person and leader.

 

2.    They constantly Seek to Learn.  5 Percenters possess the humility to understand that there is always much more that they do not know than that they do know.  Masters understand that they often don’t have the best answer, and very often don’t even have the right question.

 

3.    They take advantage of Universal Truths.   I’m often amazed at how many executives struggle because that they choose to ignore many universal truths and laws.   What goes up, must come down.  Gravity exists.  So do Key Human Attributes and Key Relationship Attributes.   These are Universal.  We all have only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.  Even the most disruptive, innovative companies in the world succeed by virtue of exploiting Universal Truths.  Ignore these truths at your peril.

 

4.    They insist upon giving more than they gain.   Masters clearly understand the Law of Reciprocity and the fact that they will never get there alone.  Masters are both Generous and Grateful.

 

5.    They understand the Path to Mastery.   Whether you wish to improve your performance as a CEO, salesperson, athlete, musician, or parent, the Path to Mastery will always include these three basic components:

 

a.     Skills Development:  To learn HOW to become a top performer in the pursuit of your choice.

 

b.     Peer Learning:   To develop new insights & possibilities, to recognize personal and organizational blindspots, to avoid potential risks and potholes, to help you develop the right questions, to keep you motivated, to help you effectively prioritize, to help you know what you don’t know, to learn to use your time wisely, to make better decisions, and much more…

 

c.     Coaching:   To help keep you on track in making skillful choices (e.g.:  how to invest your time wisely) and taking skillful actions in accordance with your vision and intentions.

 

Attempting to achieve peak performance without taking advantage of all three legs of the Path is like running a marathon in wet sand.  You might get there (one day), but it will take much longer, you’ll have to work much harder, and your journey is going to hurt a lot more than necessary.

 

It is rare for any performer to fail because of the hard stuff.   They sometimes fail because they do not choose to do the right stuff, but they mostly fail simply due to a lack of Discipline.

 

While the attributes above are important, one will never achieve Mastery in the absence of Self-Discipline (aka:  doing the EASY things on a consistent basis).   A good coach can help enormously here.  

 

If you’d like to share other Critical Attributes of Mastery, or would like to discuss any I’ve listed here, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Enjoy the Journey!

 

Joe

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

The Astronomical Cost of Being Busy

August 8th, 2018

Do you need to do more, or to focus on less?

 

Every month, I meet with dozens of business owners.   Over the last 20 years, I’ve visited with thousands of them.   After a while, obvious patterns begin to emerge.   It has become obvious that owners fall into 2 primary categories—BUSY and PRODUCTIVE.

 

A significant percentage of the owners I meet live in a constant state of overwhelm.   They never seem to have enough time and feel like they are always “Busy”.   It is relatively easy to spot a Busy Owner.   When you ask them how they are doing, they will often choose to tell you right away how busy they are.   Some try to convey busy-ness as a badge of honor as if it is a good thing.   Perhaps they actually think it is, but their results prove otherwise.

 

Busy Owners constantly struggle to prioritize and re-prioritize their schedules and activities but find doing so to be an exercise in futility.  The massive influx of productivity tools, social media, and technologies only seem to exacerbate their problem instead of helping.   By adding new priorities and goals each month, some live in a constant state of over-commitment.  It is not uncommon for these owners to drop balls, become forgetful, miss appointments, lose trust, and damage their personal and company reputations.  They fall short on most of their goals due to lack of focus.   Many Busy Owners haven’t taken a real vacation in years and when they do, they are unable to peel away from their emails, texts, and voicemails.  They are truly busy but mostly ineffective and unproductive.

 

An interesting thing about Busy Owners is that their busy-ness usually leads to more busy-ness.   For them, being busy is like pumping more wood into a fire.  The fire may temporarily get larger and feel like progress, but the end result is simply a larger pile of ash.

 

Conversely, the most successful owners focus intensely upon productivity. Productive Owners rarely seem to be busy.  Although all businesses have occasional issues that may require additional attention from the CEO, the Productive Owner is typically relaxed, thoughtful, curious, and balanced.   They appear to have a great deal of control over their words, thoughts, calendars, and decisions.  They keep appointments and are proactive instead of reactive.  Rather than adding more goals, strategies, and activities, which tend to disperse focus, these successful owners invest an appropriate portion of their business and personal planning deciding what NOT to do (the most challenging, but important part of planning).  Productive Owners can always find time to focus ON (versus in) their businesses and their lives.  

 

The Busy Owner “never has the time” to do this.  There is just too much “important stuff” to get done.

 

The most successful entrepreneurs understand that there is no more powerful force than focused energy.  So instead of investing exorbitant time creating and trying to execute their To-Do list, Productive Owners devote extra effort to creating and managing their To-Don’t lists.    Doing so helps them to invest their limited, valuable time, energy, and resources in the most effective way possible and to focus only on those activities at or above their pay grade.  Instead of striving to be busy, these owners strive to be productive.   

 

Productive Owners outperform Busy Owners by a landslide in every imaginable category including growth, profit, valuation, vacation, sleep, happiness and more.

 

I love entrepreneurs, and it kills me to see some of them waste their time and energy on the Busy-ness Hamster Wheel.  

 

So if you are a Busy Owner who wants to become a Productive Owner, here are a few steps to get you started..:

 

1.     DECIDE and DECLARE that you will no longer be Busy.

 

2.    CHOOSE Productivity over Busy-ness in all things you do for 90 days.   By then, Productivity will become a habit and busy-ness will taste like poison.

 

3.    BLOCK OUT a minimum of 8 hours each month into your calendar to devote to becoming a Productive Owner.  Don’t tell me you’re too busy.   Do it right now!  

 

4.     LOCATE an Accountability Partner or Productivity Coach to keep you on track.

 

5.     JOIN a CEO Peer Group like the Alternative Board to help you make more skillful choices with regard to how to invest your precious time, money, energy and resources.

 

 

If you have any questions at all, please email me at joe@zthree.com.  I’m on a mission to eradicate busy-ness from the entrepreneurial community.

I’d love to hear from you.

 

Joe

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

Change Your Mindset to Eliminate Buyer Objections (Forever)

February 28th, 2018

Salespeople who try to overcome objections always shoot themselves in the foot. 

 

They are actually adding insane, unnecessary complexity to an otherwise simple conversation, wasting tons of time, likely destroying trust, and moving further away from a successful transaction.

 

In fact, there is no such thing as an objection.  Like so many problems that detract from effectiveness in sales conversations, the “objection problem” lies squarely between the ears of the salesperson.   Sales effectiveness begins with a correct mindset and an understanding of buyer psychology (AND seller psychology).   Your personal sales success emerges primarily from the conversation you have with yourself.

 

Before getting too deeply into your head, let me share a few things you should know about objections…:

 

            Overcoming an objection will increase a buyer’s resistance.

 

Objections tend to increase as a salesperson gets closer to the end of a sale.

 

The objection is rarely the real problem.

 

If there are two people in the room, only one of them can be the expert.

 

Buyers want to be the expert.

 

You’ll never score points by correcting a buyer (aka:  overcoming their objections).

 

If you handle one objection, you’ll almost always get another.

 

A buyer can only object if you give them something they can object to.

 

If you believe my assertions, you may be wondering…  “So what the heck am I supposed to do now?”

 

First things first: If you never get an objection, you don’t need to worry about how to handle them.   

 

From a tactical standpoint, buyers will not object to your questions, curiosities, sincere interest, empathy, or understanding.    They only object to statements, presentations, proposals, pitches, closing techniques, manipulations, and other forms of Premature Satisfaction.   They object to being sold.  So if you’ll stop throwing up all over them and exercise just a bit of patience, you will quickly see buyer objections evaporate. 

 

There are many other ways to create an objection-free zone, but the best place to start is with your self-conversation.   When most salespeople “hear” an objection, common sense makes them hear “bad news”.  As their emotions and blood pressure begin to race, they typically try to overcome the objection so they can begin breathing again.   Conversely, superior UnCommon Sense salespeople never hear good news or bad news.  Great salespeople never hear objections.  They only hear information and opinions.   Consequently, they do not become emotionally involved or lose control.  They remain 100% present in the conversation and are viewed by buyers as differentiated value-adders instead of sales reps.

 

Rather than overcoming an “objection”, an effective salesperson will simply learn more about the buyer’s “opinion”.   In response to a buyer’s opinion, they can choose to listen, learn and create a new opportunity instead of a talking, telling, dancing and handling a problem.  They might learn things like…:

 

            Why does the buyer feel that way?

 

            What do they think should happen to resolve it?

 

            When did these feelings start?

 

            What have they tried so far?

 

            And much, much more.

 

By simply changing their self-talk to eliminate objections, an effective salesperson can help a qualified buyer transform their opinions into a new, better future and buying vision.

 

If you decide to try these simple solutions, I’d love to hear from you about your results…

 

Continued Success,

 

Joe

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

Ask a Better Question

November 17th, 2017

 

 

All business owners would like their salespeople to close more sales, consistently blow away quota, and create more predictable, profitable growth.  Most would also like to interject scale into their business.

 

Every week business owners and sales leaders ask me questions like “can you train our salespeople to sell more?” and “how can we find sales candidates that can actually sell?”

 

While we are always more than happy to provide the training and coaching required to address these questions in order to improve selling and sales recruiting effectiveness, there are at least 2 questions that could likely unleash an even better return and value.

 

Before I share these golden questions, let me share some facts…

 

1.     Sales training IS important and you certainly cannot win a race with a team slow horses, so choose wisely.  

 

2.     Study after study reveals that approximately 75% of all salespeople fail consistently.  I’ve written extensively on the reasons and solutions to these problems, so won’t go into them here.

 

3.     The vast majority of salespeople have never had an ounce of effective, formal sales training.   Pilots, accountants, engineers, cops, and fireman all train.  Most salespeople just wing it… 

 

4.      Most sales managers are former salespeople.

 

5.     Most sales managers don’t have a clue about what effective sales management entails.

 

6.     Effective sales management and leadership is a major force multiplier.

 

7.     Although most organizations invest little in sales training, sales management training is the area that is addressed with the least frequency. 

 

 

In light of these facts, you may have already concluded that Sales Management and Leadership lie at the core of building a consistent, predictable, scalable sales effort.

In the absence of competent sales management, your strategy is simply one of hope.

 

Your best salespeople require effective management and coaching in order to optimize results and ensure growth.   Weaker salespeople are guaranteed to fail without it.

 

A proficient sales manager will coach, hold salespeople accountable, reinforce training, and improve the results of all your salespeople.  They will swiftly release non-performers and will motivate and develop your A-players, creating a dramatic improvement in your company’s revenue, profit performance, and scalability, leading to a much stronger company.

 

An effective sales manager will also direct a productive sales-recruiting process and continuous improvement of the team.

 

Effective sales management changes everything.

 

Sales training is an essential part of any sales improvement initiative, but you will likely find the investment in developing sales managers to carry a much greater ROI.

 

So the next time you look to upgrade your sales organization, you might start by asking…:

 

“How can we develop our sales management and leadership?”

 

or

 

“What steps can we take to build a world-class sales organization?”

 

 

 

Continued Success!!!

Joe

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

Are You Stifling Innovation?

July 21st, 2017

If you own or direct a small or medium sized business, you likely know that one of your greatest assets is your ability to act and react much quicker than your larger, bureaucratic competitors.    You drive a speedboat, while they attempt to navigate ocean liners.   You can turn on a dime, they have significant embedded inertia that prevents any type of rapid change.

 

As a consequence, your potential to innovate can be a tremendous advantage.   In fact, innovation may actually be the most powerful weapon in your entire arsenal.  Whether you choose to access this potential or not is entirely up to you - a very simple decision.   Unfortunately, a majority of private business owners do not inspire, but actively stifle innovation, squelching huge opportunity and prosperity in the process.   Some simply don’t understand the unbridled power their companies possess, others are limited by their egos.

 

I’ve constructed a list of some of the most popular innovation-stiflers.   These stiflers are described in the first person in an effort to make it easier for those who would like to honestly assess themselves to determine if they inspire or stifle…:

 

1.      I demand trust from others before I trust them FIRST.  If you do this, you are guaranteed to create a culture of Blame, Silos, and We versus They.

2.      I Champion the Status Quo.   I surround myself with a group of “yes-men” and “yes-women” to make myself feel better and validated.  I emphasize continuous compliance in lieu of diverse views.  People who challenge my views don’t last long around here.  I don’t like when people disagree with me.  They frustrate me.

3.      I blame problems, especially chronic problems, on my staff and stakeholders.  If things aren’t working swimmingly, it must be due to their incompetence, their poor work ethic, their weak skills, and their lack of accountability.   It is much easier for me to point the finger at others than at myself.

4.      I spend more time managing than leading, and I encourage my executive team to do the same.   I stress compliance and intense micro-management.   (Hint:  This pervasive behavior diminishes creativity and critical thinking and makes people feel stupid.   A real killer…)

5.      I confine discussion of strategies and plans to my small, inner circle of trusted, time-tested advisors.    After decisions are made, I typically announce them in a grandiose fashion.   (This ensures that no one will start anything new because they never know what new directives might soon come down from the top.)

6.      Instead of truly listening, I wait to speak.   After all, who knows more about this company than I do?

7.      We embrace sacred cows and remain committed to the problem-solving methodologies we’ve used for years.

8.      I’m not a big fan of delegation, especially when it comes to major decisions.   I’ll sometimes delegate menial tasks and grunt-work, but I must be personally involved in the formulation, discussion, and final decision of anything that is important.   After all, I usually have a very good idea of the best solution to a problem before it is ever presented to others for discussion.   In fact, I almost always know the best answer before we even present the question.  I am also very reluctant to delegate authority.

9.      We count, measure and monitor everything that can be counted, and do it as often as possible.  

10.  I promote, admire, and provide accolades to those that closely conform to our rules and regulations.   People need not think, they simply need to do as they are told.

11.  I tend to emphasize historical information more than future trends and opportunities.  Things like last year’s data, trends, and conversion factors are primary determinants of all future decisions and company presentations.   This fact is crystal clear to our employees.

12.  We keep people really busy.  If they have free time, we load them up with more “real work”, the stuff that I think is important.   I know better than they do how they should spend their time.

Private company leaders that inspire innovation consistently beat the pants off their competitors.   Effective owners of these firms make their employees feel smarter.  Their actions motivate an entrepreneurial mindset among employees, leading to much higher levels of productivity, growth, and profit.

 

Creating a culture of innovation is not difficult to do.   But as with any type of significant organizational transformation, it requires the leader’s choice to change, so the decision requires personal courage.

 

For most owners, the transformation begins with a commitment to change one’s mindset and to take an honest look in the mirror.  In severe cases, it may also require the courage to face some ego issues.

 

Innovative leaders look ahead, not behind.  They encourage new ideas from all levels of their organization.  They understand the importance of systems, processes, measurement, and management, but they use these as a basis for continuous improvement, informed risk-taking, trusting communication, personal development, mutual respect, inspiration and learning instead of using them for compliance, CYA, and “I told you so…”.

 

Finally, don’t be afraid to THINK BIG.    You can do it and innovation can get you there.

 

Enjoy the journey….

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

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