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You won’t hear a Consistently Successful CEO say this

March 31st, 2021

Over the last 25 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of helping over 1000 entrepreneurs become better CEOs.  Many of these business owners are among the most successful in their respective industries. 

Entrepreneurs often ask me “What is the biggest difference between successful owners and those who constantly struggle?” 

While I don’t think the answer to this question is an easy one, many patterns become obvious.  Simply, CEOs who consistently succeed behave differently than most.   

Many studies tell us that our beliefs drive our actions and that our actions drive results.  We also know that the language we use has a huge effect our beliefs.  In other words, if we wish to transform our results, we must transform our language.   This is relatively simple to do. 

Interestingly, there is one comment that I rarely, if ever, hear emerge from the mouths of super-successful CEOs.   The best entrepreneurs understand that success is derived from using their precious time, money and resources effectively and efficiently.   They know it is crucial to prioritize, so do not allow the tyranny of the urgent prevent them from executing their most important activities.  Consequently, you will not hear a consistently successful CEO say… 

  “I don’t have time”     

Great leaders understand that this type of victim-speak can torpedo a CEO’s performance before they leave the gate.  Unfortunately, I hear the phrase frequently from owners who are constantly struggling to keep their head above water. 

Instead of using self-destructive phrases like “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time”, top performing CEOs use different language.  They say things like…: 

·         We ALL have 24 hours in a day, so I DO have time. 

·         I can do anything, but I can’t do everything (and that’s OK!) 

·         I choose to invest my time in the most impactful way possible, aligned with my vision and goals. 

·         In order to “get” more time to do the things that are most important, I must Delegate, Automate, or Eliminate. 

·         I will re-prioritize to make time for any endeavor that will support my growth and goals. 

·         I refuse to work on activities that are below my pay-grade! 

·         I am in complete control of my choices and of how I choose to invest my time. 

How does your language stack up? 

Are you allowing events and activities to control you, or are you flying this plane? 

Do you have a tough time delegating or eliminating, and if so, what are you doing about it today?

Changing your language is one of the simplest ways to improve your performance. 

If you are struggling to do so, there is plenty of help is available.   Get some now, and please don’t say “I don’t have time”

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

ONE THING That Will Dramatically Increase Your Odds of Winning in 2021

December 17th, 2020

2020 will go down in history as a whopper.

Many companies suffered. 

Some failed.

Other owners re-invented their businesses to capture new opportunities leading to record success.

One thing is certain–2021 will be another year filled with uncertainty.

For some, uncertainty creates paralysis.  Consequently, a large percentage of entrepreneurs will attempt to maintain status quo in the coming year.  They will change very little, cling to their antiquated thinking, rigid processes, and sacred cows, adopting a strategy of hope and allowing their default future to dictate their outcome. A very risky approach…

Successful CEOs understand that uncertainty and change can be their greatest asset.  These owners will restructure processes, systems, strategies, and mindset.  They understand that the ability to learn and execute quickly is their singular sustainable strategic advantage.  These leaders will commit to invent a much better future. And they will win.

Which approach will you choose?

Will you live into your default future, or will you invent a more prosperous, rewarding, future?

Do you and your company have a practice to learn and execute quicker?

We’ve all heard the popular adage (often attributed to Albert Einstein) – “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

Similarly, many people believe that doing the same thing will produce the same result.  In 2021, this statement could not be further from the truth. In fact, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that doing the same thing will likely get us STOMPED.  The pandemic made this obvious, but the trend has been developing for decades.  Just one example of proof is that since 2000, fifty-two percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist.  That’s 52% in just 20 years! But let’s cut these companies some slack.  After all, it is no small task to overcome the inertia and change the direction of a big, bureaucratic, multi-billion-dollar ocean liner.

Conversely, 2020 has also taught us that massive opportunities abound for nimble, innovative entrepreneurs who adopt a process of learning and acting faster than their competitors.  As a private business owner, you can easily adopt an agile rapid-learning practice in order to maneuver your speed-boat company to previously unimagined new heights.

If you lead a company that struggled in 2020 and find yourself thinking “I’m too busy and don’t have time to adopt a new practice”, your mindset may have already cost you the race.  Simply, owners who consistently succeed do things that weak owners do not. They make time for the important and delegate the urgent.  They do not live into default.  They invent their own future.

If you are committed to proactively creating a better future, but just don’t know how to start, no worries.  Your business and market may be unique, but the formula to optimize your odds of success is bullet-proof.  It has been used by tens of thousands of successful owners to inform their decision-making, and to learn faster, to rapidly convert that learning into executions, to strengthen their companies, and to win.

I’m so grateful to the thousands of owners, coaches and facilitators in the TAB Community who help me learn faster, keep me on track, and inspire me each and every day.  I’m committed to helping each and every one of you have a record year.

 

Best wishes for an amazing holiday season and to achieving incredible new heights in 2021 and beyond!

 

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Will You Reinvent Yourself in 2021?

November 13th, 2020

For many, 2020 has been a year filled with confusion, pain and uncertainty.  As with most crises, the pandemic has challenged many long-held paradigms, altered sacred-cow perspectives, forced change, and inspired spectacular innovations.  It has even spawned a number of heroes.  While some suffered mightily, others made fortunes because of the crisis.

Most people, including many business owners, spend a great deal of time stuck in a rut of limiting patterns.  They sit in waiting, cemented in limbo until they are forced by a life-changing event to reluctantly leave their comfort zone. Some people become so addicted to their Zone that they actually require a crisis to force them out of their comfortable, performance-diminishing behaviors, mindset, and decision-making. Committed zone-dwellers require a high degree of discomfort in order to change and propel themselves out of mediocrity.

The natural human tendency to cling to the status quo costs some entrepreneurs millions of dollars of profit, considerable frustration, and thousands of hours of stress.

A breakthrough resulting from crisis (aka: an inflection point) can happen quite rapidly. Some common examples of events that lead to inflection points include sudden job termination, divorce, or unfortunate health news. While events like these can be devastating emotionally, they can also serve as a proactivity trigger — a wake-up call to transform performance by replacing destructive habits. An inflection point is a traumatic experience or moment that forces an individual to re-evaluate all their beliefs and behaviors, altering the direction of their life. Unfortunately, some never spot opportunities that can arise from chaos, or take full advantage of dramatic change and uncertainty.  They never experience an inflection point.

Conversely, history is also littered with stories of many heroes who have used the toughest times to ascend to greatness, taking advantage of turbulent events to springboard themselves and the teams they led to new heights. By substituting empowering behaviors for limiting ones, they used pain as fuel to transform their performance and produce amazing results.

Why is it that some people surrender their future to circumstances and “wait for their ship to come in…”, while others take control of their futures and consistently evolve, transform, over-achieve, and win?

Outstanding result-producers are nearly impervious to external events.  During periods of intense turbulence or sustained stability, the most consistent performers commit to continuous improvement and choose to invent a better future, while many others choose to live into their default future.  Your default future is the one you have already written (without even realizing it). It is the future that will likely occur if nothing unexpected comes along to jolt you out of your Comfort Zone—a future that will probably place you squarely in a deep pool of mediocrity.  Is this the future you are seeking to create for yourself?

The highest achievers do not require an inflection point.  These special individuals refuse to surrender themselves or their destiny to a default future.  Instead, they choose to proactively change in order to tip the odds in their favor.  Superior achievers will certainly seek new opportunities that might emerge from a crisis but will never wait for a disaster to pry them out of their Comfort Zone.  Hyper-performers actually train themselves to be most comfortable OUTSIDE of their Comfort Zone, adopting a mindset and using a process that forces them to consistently re-evaluate their habits and behaviors.  Just like brushing their teeth or mowing the lawn, achievers simply make the process part of their routine. This performance-inducing process becomes part of their practice, one that pays huge dividends.  This practice is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Performance Practice includes 4 components — Community, Coaching, Curriculum, and Collaboration.

No special skills are required to adopt these components.  Like most empowering practices, anyone can choose to adopt them, but only a small percentage actually do. With just a bit of discipline, anyone can make the Performance Practice part of their habitual routine. An effective performance practice is not a function of skill, it is a function of will.

While none of us know what 2021 will bring, we can be certain there will be some surprises. 

We may even experience behavior-changing catastrophes, but please don’t wait for an inflection point. 

As you reflect on 2020 and begin your planning to achieve new heights in the new year, take close inventory of your behavioral routine. If you find you are missing one (or more) of the components of the Performance Practice, choose a better routine so you can invent a much better future. Start today.  You will be amazed at the result.

 

 

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Is it OK to discuss Politics and Religion During Sales Conversations?

September 23rd, 2020

I suspect you’ve heard the assertion that “you should never discuss politics or religion!” There is certainly an argument to be made to support this statement. There is also a counterargument.

Do you (or should you) ever discuss sensitive “taboo” subjects like these during sales conversations? Let’s explore the pros and cons:

To say the least, these are interesting times.

Fires, storms, floods, and power-outages are devastating significant swaths of geography across the United States. Stay-at-home policies have destroyed many businesses and frustrated millions of parents. Traditional media, social media, and political activists are whipping people into a frenzy. Emotions are high, tempers are short, a number of cities are burning, crime is on the rise and the nation seems to be more polarized than at any point in recent history.

Unfortunately, many people have stopped listening, closed their minds, and dug into their respective corners. Confirmation bias is rampant.

With all of this upheaval, it might seem insane to broach any potentially emotional subject.

Before we decide to totally avoid these stormy waters during sales conversations, let’s explore selling a bit further and start with some very basic questions.

Why do people really buy?

Why would they buy from you, versus your competitor?

How do (should) you currently differentiate yourself from your competitors?

During sales interviews, what percentage of time do (should) you spend talking and sharing your pitches, benefits, expertise, opinions, demos, and product knowledge versus questioning, listening, understanding, and connecting with decision-makers at both an organizational and personal level?

Fortunately, we know the answers to these questions, backed by many dozens of studies and tons of research. In the interest of keeping this article relatively short, I’ll provide you with a summary of what we know:

Why do people really buy?

First, companies do not buy. People buy. Individual people who represent companies. You may be thinking, “duh, everyone knows that”. But in reality, few salespeople understand it, and even fewer use this reality to gain advantage. Most reps focus on selling to the company, not the decision maker.

Next, people who buy do not buy for intellectual reasons from experts. They buy for personal, emotional reasons from people that they trust. Buyers trust people who make them feel comfortable and connect with them at a feeling level. Some buyers may attempt to justify their purchase intellectually, but they will always ultimately make their purchase decision based upon how they feel. This is another basic fact overlooked by the vast majority of sellers.

Finally, purchase decisions include two primary components — Product and Process. Buyers decide based upon the product you offer and the process of buying (their experience). Most sellers believe that Product is most important, but research proves that the Process a buyer experiences has a much greater influence on their ultimate purchase decision.

 Why would they buy from you, versus your competitor?

Contrary to popular belief, buyers do not buy from people they like. They buy from people they trust, and they trust people they perceive share their values & beliefs. They trust people that they feel connected to from both a tangible (conscious) and from an intangible (subconscious) perspective.

 How do (should) you currently differentiate yourself and your company from your competitors?

If your company is like most, your product or service is not totally unique in the marketplace. If it were, it would sell itself. You likely have serious, tough competitors. Seeking to gain incremental advantages, your competitors probably pay more attention to your features, benefits, and marketing messages than your prospects do. Today, unlike decades ago, innovation and product development occur at lightning speed. In other words, if your product or service currently offers a significant advantage, you can bet that your competitors are working on erasing that advantage right now.

The bottom line here is that the only sustainable way a small to medium sized company can effectively differentiate itself is the manner in which their sales reps interact with their customers and prospects.

During sales interviews, what percentage of time do (should) you spend talking and sharing your pitches, benefits, expertise, opinions, demos, and product knowledge versus questioning, listening, understanding, empathizing, and connecting with decision-makers at both an organizational and personal level?

The correct answer is far less than you are spending today. If a salesperson is opining and presenting more than 15% of the time, they are boring the prospect, probably destroying trust, and rapidly diminishing their chances of success.

Instead, reps should invest their time seeing the picture through the buyer’s lens, not their own, and hopefully facilitating mutual discovery in pursuit of a new, better buying vision. Salespeople should be laser-focused on caring, connecting, infinite curiosity, facilitating discovery, sincere interest, and learning — not only about a buyer’s organizational or technical needs, but also about the personal, emotional, compelling, TRUE buying motives of the decision maker. These feelings and motives will never be revealed via pitches and demos.

Now that we know the answers to these foundational questions, let’s return to exploring whether or not it is prudent or wise to discuss politics or religion during sales conversations.

To review, we understand that people buy from people they trust, people they believe are like themselves, people they perceive to share their beliefs and values. Simon Sinek (and several others) have shared many stories and plenty of data supporting the fact that people buy from companies and people who care about the same things that they do. And it seems most care more today than usual about their respective ideological and political beliefs. With this in mind, do you think it might be advantageous to know how your buyer feels about these ultra-personal issues?

I’m not suggesting here that you start spewing your personal beliefs or ideological and spiritual views upon your prospects. I’m also not suggesting that you begin asking who they are voting for in November. Doing so could be extremely dangerous.

However, knowing about your buyer’s most personal views could be priceless.

So, proceed carefully, but assertively.

Salespeople must always earn the right to explore sensitive issues (like money or decision processes), and remember, questions are always more effective than statements when facilitating discovery. We never learn by telling.

The more you know about your prospect and the things they care about at a visceral level, the greater your chances will be of doing business together.

The more information you have about what your buyer cares about most, the better. Period.

The more a buyer is willing to share with you (about any subject), the better. And the more personal the issue happens to be to the buyer, the better.

In this regard, there should be no “taboo” subjects. The most successful salespeople know that there no good news or bad news, there is only information. And personal, emotional information is the most valuable.

So, the question is not really which subjects you should or should not explore with your buyers.

The crucial thing is the manner in which you explore them.

 

 

 

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Say Goodbye to the 80/20 Rule

July 16th, 2020

The 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto principle) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In recent history, this rule has certainly proven to be true in Sales. For decades, approximately 80% of sales have been produced by 20% of salespeople.

While a very small percentage of owners have addressed this daunting issue and created a more effective team using time-tested sales, sales management, assessment, and sales recruiting best practices, the vast majority of business leaders simply exacerbated the problem by spinning wheels and spending too much time with non-performing reps, while coddling their top performers.

The 80/20 sales ratio is about to change. Here’s why:

  • Buying behavior has changed.
  • Margins are being squeezed.
  • Sales Cycles are becoming much longer.
  • All Sales Teams are now remote. They will remain primarily virtual for the foreseeable future.
  • Many companies are downsizing their salesforces.
  • High unemployment and reduced spending will weed out many of the weak and average salespeople, leaving only the best ones.
  • Unfortunately, most of the “average” or “good” reps will not possess the skills to grow sales, increase market share, and maintain margins. They will flounder.

2017 - 2019 studies indicate than 55% of sales reps produce a negative ROI, and over half of all newly hired reps do not last a full year with their employer; and these studies were conducted during the most prosperous economic times.

In just a few short months, the pendulum has swung 180 degrees from a Seller’s Physical Market to a Buyer’s Virtual Market.

To compound the lack of skills among salespeople, the vast majority of sales managers are unskilled when it comes to effective coaching and managing a virtual workforce.

Despite the fact that some of the most talented salespeople will finally be available and seeking new employment, most companies are still clueless when it comes to effectively locating, landing, and launching the great ones.

We are all now playing a totally different game, one that requires a highly consultative sales process, advanced organizational, listening, and social selling skills, superior mental toughness, and empowering Sales DNA.

Less than 5% of sales reps possess all of these skills.

Before 2020, one-fifth of salespeople generated 80% of the results. Going forward, we can fully expect the 80/20 ratio to look more like 95/5.

Think hard about this. The Top 5% will not win 80% of the profitable business, they will win almost all of it. The top 25% will take some low margin business. The rest will get only the spoils.

If your sales team is currently on fire and setting new records, congratulations! If not, you may want to seriously consider taking a hard look at the skill level and pipeline viability of your salespeople (and managers), and to honestly assessing whether or not they have what it takes to provide your company with a significant ROI. You can then decide whether or not it makes sense to make some adjustments.

Here’s the good news (I know it took a while to get here)…

The combination of predictive science, effective processes, and a very high (and perhaps short-lived) unemployment rate present a very unique, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to rapidly and dramatically upgrade your sales team, allowing you to produce much more with less. 

 

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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