Selling The South Pole

Early in 1914, 100 years ago to this day, Ernest Shackleton and the 27 crew members of the Endurance expedition were stranded in the Weddell Sea.  Their ship was hopelessly locked in the icepack, preventing them from reaching shore, where they would begin what Shackleton called, “The Last Great Journey On Earth.”  Their goal was to send a group of the 27 men across the entire continent on foot-some 1,800 miles!  A journey of this magnitude had never been though of or attempted by anyone else, ever.

Shackleton was no stranger to Polar exploration, as he was a member of the Discovery Expedition of 1902, led by Robert F Scott.  That expedition was the first serious attempt to reach the South Pole.  They failed in that attempt.  A few years later, Shackleton decided to form his own team, launching the Nimrod Expedition in 1907.  Amazingly, Shackleton and his three comrades, got within 97.5 nautical miles of the South Pole, when he made the difficult decision to turn back due to supplies running short.  His decision to put the needs of the men ahead of what he wanted and needed speaks volumes about his character.  Just a couple years later, there was a very famous “race to the South Pole” between Robert Scott (England) and Roald Amundsen (Norwegian).  Both teams made it to the pole, with the Norwegians arriving first in December, 1911.  The British arrived a few weeks later in January, 1912.  On the return journey, the Norwegian team ran like clockwork, arriving one day after Amundsen had predicted.  Sadly, all members of the British party perished, three of them just 11 miles from a depot box they had set for themselves on the way down.

Now that Shackleton has been beaten to the pole, he ups the ante significantly in 1914 when he launched the Endurance Expedition.  This was the adventure that he called, “The Last Great Journey On Earth.”  In order to see this through, Shackleton had to sell the dream.  He needed investors, crew members and others to help him launch the expedition.  Here is the copy of the ad he ran in London to recruit members for the expedition:

MEN WANTED

“For hazardous journey.  Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

How many people do you think responded to this?  5,000 people raised their hand, from one degree to another.  Shackleton had to sell the mission.  What about this do you think made it work?  More importantly, as a sales person, what does this tell you about how you can be more effective in 2015 as you set out on a new year ahead?  Here are a few practical take-aways that sales people can profit from:

1.  The Power of Being Different: If you look at an ad like this compared to others, one of the reasons it was so effective was because it stood out.  Often in sales, it’s not the biggest, best, fastest, strongest, etc that wins the deal.  More often than you may think it’s the person or company that is most remembered by a prospective customer.  Being different has so many benefits, standing out being one of them.  You’ve likely heard the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  If this is true, then my question is what are you doing in 2015 that is different?  Take hiring as an example.  Every good sales leader is always actively recruiting, or should be.  As you think about how to attract the very best people, how can you stand out from the competition?  How can you grab the attention of passive candidates who are not looking for a different opportunity?  What will grab them and cause them to call you?  One of the keynotes that I am asked to deliver quite often is how to develop compelling company stories for recruiting purposes.  The power of the stories that are currently within your company are much more powerful than you may realize.  Stories from current employees, customers, vendors, partners, and others associated with you, are very powerful-if they are harnessed and told right.  Go to YouTube and look at stories from Westjet, Dollar Shave Club and others who have showcased themselves in a very unique way.  How can you do this?

2.  The Power of Thinking BIG: Shackleton’s goal to cross the continent was big, really big-almost too big.  For 2015, what is something that you’ve never accomplished in your career that you’d really like to?  For example, what are the top 10 accounts that you know are a good fit for what you sell, but you’ve never called on them because you’re afraid.  Come on, every sales person has particular people and accounts that they would love to have and are likely a good fit for what they do; for some reason, fear has stopped you from picking up the phone or showing up at their door.  Make a list of just 10 of them, create a different plan, and go after them this year.  What questions can you ask prospective customers that are different?  How can you create a different experience for a prospective customer than they’ve likely seen from all the other sales people in your industry who have called on them?  What value can you bring them that nobody ever has before?  This takes some thought and creativity.  The payoff is much bigger than you think.

These are just two examples of many that can be learned from Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and how we can be better sales people.  Remember this: the key to generating better results, is to be better.  The question for you is, “What will you do in 2015 to be better, to stand out from the competition, and to achieve bigger and more difficult things than you have in years past?”

I welcome your calls, comments and suggestions.  For more on this, here’s a link to a great overview of the story:

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To Get More Business, Don’t Ask For It

I was standing in line today at Chicago’s Midway Airport before boarding a flight. I asked the woman standing in front of me if she was traveling for business or for fun. She told me she was going to her second home in San Diego to have some fun, as she resides in Chicago. We got into a conversation about what we do for a living and I came to find out that she hires people like me, professional speakers. I said to her, “put me in your shoes for a minute. Do you get a lot of calls and emails from speakers like me who are pitching themselves to you?” Her response was, “All the time.” I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was not happy with this. She proceeded to tell me that she is inundated by speakers. She then said, “The fact that they are calling me and selling themselves tells me I probably shouldn’t hire them. Shouldn’t I be calling them?”

This makes total sense. You probably have heard the expression “people love to buy but hate to be sold to.” This woman is a classic example of this. She loves to hire great speakers but does not want them to sell her. Those of you reading this probably love to buy but hate to be sold to. Last year was the best year I’ve ever had in the speaking business, as I delivered more than 100 programs in 38 states and 4 countries. Now that I think back on it, I can’t remember any one of those events being one that I “pitched to someone who didn’t know me.” True professionals in any industry who not only become successful, but stay successful, are those who build momentum in their business, develop a reputation and continue to deliver value to their customers, putting their needs well behind those of others. What happens very quickly is their reputation works harder and smarter than their own direct efforts. Think about this. Is your reputation and the word of others working harder and smarter than your own direct efforts? Is the activity of others producing more business than you are on your own? If the answer is not a resounding yes to both these questions, something is out of alignment. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be proactive. On the contrary, if you’re not proactive in your business, it will die quickly. Rather, the issue is how are you being proactive? What are you proactively telling people, sending people and what are you delivering to people proactively? It is is all about you and you’re littering the earth with blind emails and brochures that nobody wants, your reputation will not work for you, but rather against you.

As 2015 rolls forward, make a dedicated commitment to reestablishing yourself as a true professional by proactively meeting new people and creating business activity that truly puts the need of others first. Deliver value to people FIRST, build trust and then they will open doors for you. Probably lots of them.

Hiring Right in 2015

As we go into the 2015, many companies I do business with are ramping up hiring.  Whether it’s to replace people who are not performing, or to add new people to the team, the search for people who are really top caliber is not easy.  Too many hiring managers blame the economy, lack of people in the pool or other circumstances instead of looking in the mirror and asking themselves, “What can I do differently to hire the very best people?”  I’ve learned many things since getting into the hiring business nearly 20 years ago, and the more things change, the more certain things stay the same.  Here are a couple of tips I’d offer that are reflective of things that don’t change:

1.  Create A More Compelling Opportunity:  When you look at how your company showcases itself and the opportunity that candidates see, what is the impression you’re creating in the eyes of top performing people that you’d really like to hire?  Put yourself in their shoes for a minute.  Good chance that they are now working for someone else and doing a great job.  The question is this: is what you put in front of them compelling enough to move the needle of interest to the point where they can’t wait to speak with you?  What value are you offering to these people?  What compelling reason are you giving them to pick up the phone and call you?  In my opinion, one of the very best ways to showcase your opportunity in a way that is unique, compelling and one that sings with value, is to tell your story.  Get your team members, customers, vendors, partners and others associated with your company to put forth the collection of stories that tell why they work for you, buy from you and partner with you.  Stories are the most powerful communication vehicle on earth because they connect emotionally with people.  Capture these stories on video and put them in places where people will see them and bring them to specific people that you want to reach.

2.  Don’t Sell Your Opportunity; Make Them Want It: There is an old saying that will be true forever more: People want what they can’t have.  In sales language, you may have heard it this way: people don’t want to be sold to, but they love to buy.  Set your standards of performance high and don’t compromise.  Get the candidates to earn the right to compete for your opportunity.  Let them know where the bar sits and ask them questions that gets them talking about how they can clear that bar.  Pit candidates against each other.  Make sure that you keep the discussion focused on what the candidates have done and how this will translate into what they will do for you.  Also, you need to litmus test their level of interest and figure out WHY they are interested.  Digging to these levels requires great questions, and better listening on the part of the hiring team.  Don’t settle for people who have lower standards.  It’s OK to walk people, just don’t burn the bridge.

If I can be of further help, please contact me and I’d be glad to get into discussion.  Thank you and hope 2015 is your best year yet!

Smashville: A Model of Business Excellence

This past week, I had the good fortune to travel to Nashville, TN to meet the NHL hockey team and speak to them.  I was introduced to coach Barry Trotz several months ago when I spoke to the staff of the Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators.  Sean Henry and Marty Mulford of the executive team had heard me speak previously at a business conference several months back.

The Nashville Predators were an expansion team in the NHL who came to Nashville fifteen years ago.  Their start was rocky and the team experienced a change of ownership and operations a few years later.  Jeff Cogan, CEO, Sean Henry, President, and Marty Mulford, Executive Vice President of ticket sales, took over the daily operations of the business.  What a turnaround these guys have created.

Not only do the Predators sell out most of their games, the Bridgestone arena is one of the most profitable and popular venues in the United States, hosting more than 135 events annually, not just hockey games.

What’s their secret sauce?  I witnessed a taste of it yesterday.  The hockey team was to play a game Saturday night at 7pm.  Coach Barry Trotz invited my wife Angela and I to attend their practice at 10am that morning.  I arrived at the arena and watched the guys practice until about 11:30am.  On my way out, I noticed a seminar going on with a couple of hundred people in attendance.  It was a career fair put on by the Bridgestone arena helping college graduates understand how to start a career in the sports industry.  In attendance and speaking were Jeff Cogen, Sean Henry and Marty Mulford.  I asked Marty, “what’s in this for the arena and the Predators?”  His reply was, “nothing.  We just like to do stuff like this for our community.”  This is just one example of how dedicated the executive team is to doing business at what I call “the fan level.”  What I mean is that they make themselves available to the public in many ways.  They give out their business cards freely, which has all their contact information including direct dial numbers and cell numbers.  They are constantly involved in charities, speaking engagements and other community events where they personally show up and give their time.

I travel and speak to businesses all across the US and Canada non stop.  I have seen very few businesses where the executives give so much of themselves: their time, money, heart and so much more.  No wonder their is a strong emotional connection to the fans and residents of Nashville.  Whoever thought that an NHL team would not only survive, but thrive in the deep south of Nashville, music capital of the world.  The answer is simple.  The leader give of themselves like few are willing to do.  Well done Jeff, Sean, Marty and your entire team!  You’re a great role model and example for all of us to follow!

Raven Industries: A Model Of Excellence

Today, I had the privilege of speaking at the Raven Industries 2013 annual leadership conference.  This is a model company in so many ways.  They are led by a guy named Dan Rykhus, who is one of the best servant leaders among CEO’s that you’ll ever run across.  The conference really focused on one element of leadership, that of providing great service.  At Raven Industries, service is so much more than you think.  We all know that many companies say, “we provide great service” and unfortunately, it’s become a cliche without much meat on the bone.  Not at Raven.  From the top leaders and throughout the organization, service is redefined.  At Raven, service is not an occasional home run where the customer goes wow!  Rather, service is a daily part of the character and make up of the employees, interacting among themselves and the customers they serve.  They are constantly pushing the envelope on what’s possible, putting their customers and others ahead of themselves.

One of the speakers today was a four year customer of Raven’s.  His company is all about creating manufactured containers to produce food and other byproducts that can be used for alternative fuel sources.  Raven Industries supplies not only the engineered films to produce the chemical reaction to start the process, but the folks at Raven have partnered with his company to introduce other vendors to make the business cost effective and affordable for folks.  This guy several times during the course of his thirty minute program was thanking the people of Raven profusely.  It was obvious that Raven was much more than a vendor to this company owner.  They were a true business partner.

The last thing I’ll mention is that the conference today was completely interrupted by a severe ice storm.  If you’ve been following the news, the upper midwest was hit with a major blizzard and series of ice storms.  Today in Sioux Falls, much of the town was without power, all the schools and many businesses were closed and during my keynote speech, we experienced a complete blackout.  Nobody from Raven panicked.  The event went on as planned, as we all gathered in the lobby of the building while I spoke from the stairs.  The natural light from the windows was all we needed.  Nothing went as planned, yet the conference was a huge success because it provided an opportunity to learn to operate when things don’t go as planned.  It was a litmus test of character and the folks at Raven Industries passed with flying colors.  No wonder they are growing, profitable and a great place to work, as they really are solving great challenges and making a significant impact on our farmers to feed the world, on our military to protect us and on engineering companies to take our technologies to new levels that we’ve never seen.  Hats off to the folks at Raven Industries!

Mastering Your Online Presence: It’s EASY!

I grew up in Allentown, PA and attended college in Boulder, CO at the Univ of Colorado.  I remember the day I applied to college as a high school senior.  When filling out the app, I remember coming to the list of school choices within the university that I had to select from.  Music, liberal arts, business, etc.  When it came to the selection of engineering, I instinctively thought “nope, not for me.  I’m not driving a train.”  That gives you a very quick insight into how non-technical I am.

When it comes to web stuff, be it web sites, blogs, social media, etc, my knee jerk reaction is, “not for me, as I’m the guy who did not want to be an engineer because I did not want to drive a train.”  To my surprise, much of effective online activity is not that complicated.  Even a guy who does not want to drive a train can do it.  This blog is an example.

Yesterday, I attended a Vistage seminar led by a guy named Mike Richardson.  The guest presenter was Jason Lavin, CEO of a company called Golden Comm.  I have to tell you that this was one of the best business seminars I’ve attended in years.  Jason showed about 20 people how easy, inexpensive and effective making small changes in your online presence is.  He made online marketing and social media easy.  Trust me, it was not brain surgery.  And this is coming from a guy who did not want to drive a train.  If I got it, you’ll get.  Trust me.  Jason has a lot to offer.  Get to know him!

Antarctic Mike

2013 Goals That Will Really Stick

Happy New Years!  Another year has just begun.  This is the time of year when many resolutions are made, the gyms are full of new members with ambitious health goals, and people have specific goals in mind that they would like to see come true.  If this year is like most, then why will much of the new year’s fire die quickly and most people will not see the things come true that they are thinking of today?  The answer is easy to identify and hard to implement.  It all comes down to a few simple things that most of already know, but don’t put into practice.  Here are three things that will help you to keep on track during 2013.

1.  Pick Just Solid Goal:  Think back to the last time you were at a seminar where a really great speaker gave you so many ideas, that you took notes at a feverish pace.  You filled the front and back of the pages with ideas and things you wanted to change.  How many of those items really changed and became habit?  For most people, the answer is not much.  Why?  Because it is too overwhelming.  You’d be better off to pick one thing and focus specifics on a consistent basis to see it through to completion.  The same is true of goals.  Pick one that is really on your mind and very important to you.

2.  Write It Down And Hold Yourself Accountable:  Take time to note specifically what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish this and when you plan to have it completed.  The why and when are really important.  The why is the fuel that the fire will continually need.  Keeping your definition of the gold medal in front of you consistently at a conscious level of thinking is important, especially when the work load gets more difficult.  The when is critical because it forces you to keep on track.  Otherwise you’ll procrastinate over and over.  Lastly, share this with a couple of people you know and trust.  Make sure that they ask you about your progress toward your finish line.

3.  Stay Consistent In Your Activity:  Consistency of activity is the yeast in the bread.  Even if you only spend 5 minutes on a particular day or two, that is OK.  You are much better off to stay consistent so that your habits and paradigm are changed permanently.  Keeping your level of thinking about what you’re shooting for at a consistently conscious level is a must.  Just like an athlete training for a race, conditioning is everything.  Whether your goal is athletic in nature or not, the need for conditioning does not change.  People often drop “out of their race” because they don’t have the stamina to continue.

 

Keep Conquering!

 

Antarctic Mike