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Lost A Big Client? Be an Action Hero!

I’VE JUST LOST MY BIGGEST CLIENT! Edwin, a management consultant I coached many years ago, blurted out on the phone one day.  “What am I going to do now?”

Edwin’s one client provided him with half of his six-figure income. The loss was, he told me, through no fault of his own and at the “worst possible time”. He spent the next few minutes moaning about how he wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and how difficult it would be in this economy to replace a client like that one. Finally, he asked me for coaching.

I could relate to Ed’s situation personally. Throughout that decade, most of my own work time was being devoted to training and coaching for one financial services company with more than fifty offices and hundreds of associates throughout the country. Most of my income was coming from this work and my time for anyone else was extremely limited.

Edwin viewed the loss of his largest client as a cause for panic. It showed foresight that he had retained me as his coach to help him grow the other half of his business just a month before this, telling me that he had a sense he had become “too comfortable”. It may have been simply that he’d had a sense that his relationship with that one large client was coming to an end. But now that it had actually happened, he was moaning woefully about being without that income and having no way to immediately replace it.

“It may be true that you have no way to immediately replace it,” I agreed, “But do you believe you will eventually replace it?”
“Well…yes, eventually,” was his reply.“What has to happen for that income to be replaced?” I asked.
“Obviously, I have to get out and get more clients,” he responded, and he began to talk about all of the things we had put in place already, and about new ideas to get his practice growing. By the end of that year, he had come very close to matching his income from the previous year.

Action Hero

Events in the story of your life often turn out differently than you hoped they will. When they do, you have a choice: You can either take on the role of Victim and rant against the cruel powers that brought you to this terrible place, or you can choose to be an Action Hero, creating ways to solve the puzzle with which fate has presented you.

Edwin started out that phone call playing the Victim, but ended our conversation as an Action Hero.

A few years after that, I parted ways with the investment company that had provided the bulk of my income and to which I had given so much of my time for so many years. I instantly thought of that conversation with Edwin. I never liked the Victim role–even though I’ve occasionally played it extremely well–so, in my story, I chose to play the Action Hero right then and there. All I had to do was focus on what I had and what I wanted, and keep REACHING…

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Don’t Throw the “Quit Switch”

At the beginning of his classic self-help book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the story of R. U. Darby and his uncle, who went out to Colorado from their homes in Maryland to strike it rich digging for gold.

After finding a carload of ore, their mine ran dry.  They dug on for a few more weeks and then quit, selling their rights, their equipment, and their maps to a junk man.

The junk man consulted an engineer to take a look at the maps, and after digging another three feet, struck one of the richest veins of gold in Colorado history.

In their book, 100 Ways To Motivate Others, Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson call what Darby and his uncle did throwing the “Quit Switch”.  The gold-diggers threw the switch just three feet away from incredible wealth.

Every day, I speak with professionals who have either thrown the Quit Switch or have one in hand.

throw switch

Asking for referrals never worked for me.”
“I tried doing seminars a few times, but they never did anything.”
“I tried running my own practice, but it was just too hard.”
“You can’t make a living as a [financial advisor, insurance agent, small town attorney, realtor—you insert the category]…Well, I know some people do, but I can’t.”

It was difficult, or it wasn’t instantly successful…throw the Quit Switch!
It was going along, but too slowly…throw the Quit Switch!

NFL Coach George Allen said, Most people succeed because they are determined to.  People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit.”

If your career or practice isn’t where you want it to be, stop thinking that you know when to quit.  You may be only three feet away from your vein of gold.  Don’t throw the Quit Switch.

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One of the points Napoleon Hill makes in his story about Darby is that the junk man was smart enough (or humble enough) to call in an engineer (an expert) to look at the mining maps.  That option was always open to Darby and his uncle, but they either didn’t think of it or they ignored it, and they chose to stop digging instead.

The only real question is: Do you want to be successful in this career or not?  If you do, get the help you need to succeed.  Don’t wait until you feel it’s hopeless and you already believe you have no choice but to give it all up.

In other words, if you really want it, swallow your pride, and keep REACHING…

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Even a DOG Can Do It…

My fellow coach Amir Karkouti shared a story with some of his colleagues recently that I want to share with you now:

Some time ago, a team of scientists took a dog and put him in a cage where the floor had a very mild electric current running through it—just enough to make the dog a little uneasy.

As soon as the dog was put in and felt the current, he bolted out of the cage through the open door.

They returned the dog to the cage and this time shut the door.  A week later, when they opened the door again, the dog had no interest in leaving.  He had become accustomed to the discomforting cage.

Stuck 

While the dog stayed sitting there, with the electric current running through the floor, the scientists brought in another dog, and opened an adjacent cage with an electrified floor.  As had originally happened with the first dog, as soon as the second dog felt the current, he jumped right out.

Here’s the fascinating part: Seeing the second dog bolt, the first one suddenly realized that he, too, could leave the dissatisfying space he was in and, after a few seconds, again ran through the open door.

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Only after seeing the second dog escape did the first dog remember that he didn’t have to stay in that less-than-happy place.

Most professionals find themselves in a dissatisfying cage of their own: not earning enough money, being overwhelmed by work, being otherwise unhappy in their situation.  But, like the first dog in the study, after awhile they become “comfortable” with being uncomfortable, and they make no big moves to change the current.

In my book, The High Diving Board, I refer to what most people call the “comfort zone” as the “safe neighborhood”.  Staying where you are is not necessarily “comfortable”.  Sometimes it’s downright UNcomfortable.  But it is familiar.  And because the unknown—stepping up your game, hiring a coach, etc.—might be more uncomfortable, you stay where you are.

With humans, even seeing someone escape from his or her cage doesn’t always inspire us to leave our own.  That requires a decision—the decision to get out.  Once you’ve made the decision, knowing what to do becomes much easier.

If you’re in a cage of your own making, or feel that you’ve ended up in someone else’s, don’t wait until you’re in so much pain that there’s no choice but to leave, or be there forever.  Make the decision to do it now, and then find the help you need to run free.

Hey, even a DOG can do it.  So if you’ve been stuck, pick a new direction, and just keep REACHING…

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Don’t Forget the Most Important Person

If you’re like most people, you found yourself juggling all of the things you had to do this past month, including social obligations and gifts galore, and you may have left someone very important off of your list by mistake…YOU!  If you could have anything in 2014, what would it be?  And why don’t you have it yet?

When we don’t have what we want, we tell ourselves stories about why we don’t.  These stories usually involve our circumstances: Not enough time, not enough money, not enough education, the wrong kind of education, etc.  Or, they involve the people in our lives: Friends who don’t understand us, spouses who are overbearing, children who are demanding, sick parents, etc., etc., etc.

I often upset my workshop attendees and clients by calling the people or circumstances we blame for holding us back exactly what they are—excuses.  Not having money, time, or training may make getting what you want more difficult, but people whose circumstances are far worse than yours have overcome these obstacles by the sheer force of their commitment.

Make Time

A simple “resolution” you can keep this month is to commit to giving yourself an hour’s worth of time to figure out what you want and what’s keeping you from having it.  During that time, ask yourself these Five Questions as part of a “SWOT” Analysis:

1. If you and I were to meet three years from now, what is the absolute minimum that will have to have happened in order to allow you to say your life is terrific?

2. What strengths do you already have that you could leverage to get you there?

3. What weaknesses will you have to acknowledge?

4. What opportunities can you take advantage of that will help you along the way?

5. What are the hardships and obstacles you’ll need to overcome to get to that point?

If you do this analysis before the end of the month, you can make plans you will keep for the New Year.  Make time for yourself, and you’ll be able to maintain your holiday spirit all year round, even as you work hard to keep REACHING…

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A TALE OF TWO ADVISORS

A favorite hypothetical of mine:

Let’s imagine two professionals in the same field.  We’ll call them Advisor A and Advisor B.

We’ll give them the same educational background, the same training, the same resources and connections, and even similar personalities and work ethic.

But when we put them out in the field, I can promise you that one—let’s say, Advisor A—will do better than the other—our unfortunate Advisor B.

If we made them practically identical in every aspect, the only factor that could account for the difference in their performances is that Advisor A would be taking more of the kind of action he needs to take than Advisor B is taking.

But if their work ethic were the same, how could their actions be any different?

The simplest explanation is that for each, the way his world is occurring to him will be different: the way he views his work, the way he views the people he interacts with, and, of course, the way he views himself.

Advisor A might see his work as being important to the people he works with—something they need in their lives.

He might see the world as a safe and friendly place where what he has to offer is welcome.

He might see clients and prospective clients as open and interested in doing what they need to do for their families.  And he might see the people he works with as good people, who are there to support him.

Advisor B—the less successful advisor—might have a different view of his world:

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Maybe it’s a difficult, unfriendly place, where you have to struggle to succeed.

Maybe he sees himself as a “salesperson”, who “bothers” people.

Perhaps he sees clients and prospects as closed and deceitful, and he sees the people he works with as being there to make his life difficult.

When Advisor B feels he is not succeeding, he tries to imitate what Advisor A is doing, or he enrolls in yet another course to learn another way to do what he already knows how to do.  He experiments with the latest and most advanced strategies and language nuances, and finds that none of it works for him.

Of course it doesn’t.  All of his effort is like trying to take the apples off of someone else’s tree and tape them to his own, withering tree stump.  It’s not the same, and it won’t yield any new, ripe fruit.

If you identify with Advisor B in this hypothetical, you should understand that it is a mistake to try to solve your work performance problems with more information.  You already know enough to succeed.  What you need is a transformation—an alteration in how your world is occurring for you.  Your “inner game” needs fixing, not your “outer game”.

Strategies and language nuances may help a little, but until you view the world as a place where taking action is easy and fun, you will continue to struggle.

If you’re not taking enough action because you are uncomfortable or overwhelmed, don’t spend your time, energy, and money on another course to learn new ways of doing the same thing.  Instead, get to work on your view of your world.

How different would your practice be if you believed that finding new prospects is easy?  That people are grateful for the help you offer?  That it’s OK to tell them what you believe, even if it might upset them?  That you bring value to everyone you speak with?

Change your inner game and you automatically change your results—but only always.

I always believe in game-changers, so contact me if you’re in need of one.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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Beating THE “BUT” MONSTER

You know the feeling: You gave the presentation of your life!  You were “on fire”.  Every question was met with a dazzling, intelligent, emotional, cogent, coherent answer.  Every idea that you could share with your clients or prospective clients found its way into your head and flowed bountifully into your words.  But…

As you’re driving home, you’re not so sure.  They seemed to love the first feature you spoke about, but there was something about their comparison of your second feature to the competitor’s that might have indicated a preference for the competitor’s services…
And then, there were those few awkward seconds when your attempt at humor went right over their heads…
And those few moments when you remember feeling you were a bit “salesy” or sounded a little too desperate.
And a piece of food from lunch was stuck in your teeth!…and your tie was on, but it was sticking out from under your shirt collar…and the stain you failed to notice until now…

Growing your network, giving presentations, interviewing for clients—or for work—definitely has its ups and downs.  When the adrenaline rush starts to dissipate, the self-doubts to which we are all susceptible come flooding in.  We begin to analyze everything we’ve done, finding fault with enough things to replace all the confidence we had a few moments before with an empty, aching feeling that we’ve somehow botched the whole endeavor.

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It’s The “But” Monster at work.  In my book, The High Diving Board, I talk about this creature whose original purpose was to prevent you from roaming out into the streets, or beyond the borders of your “safe neighborhood“.  As you grew and expanded that “neighborhood”, however, The “But” Monster learned to hide better, but grew with you.  Now, when he pops up out of nowhere, he’s huge, and he’s angry that you got past him in the first place to make that important call or presentation.

So, he welcomes you back home to him with the doubts that should have kept you from venturing out in the first place.  He tells you, “Yes, you wanted to fly, BUT…you’re really out of your league here.”  Or, “Sure it was a good presentation, BUT…you don’t really know that much and your competition is probably much better, anyway.”  Or, “It was a good presentation, BUT…they were probably stuck staring at that food in your teeth.”

“Why don’t you just stay here where it’s safe?” he urges.  And he could be speaking powerfully enough to keep you wallowing in that self-doubt, and causing you to avoid the next venture altogether.

BUT…don’t let The But Monster beat you!!!  Here are some ideas that might help:

a)  You can’t stop the negative feelings from arising, so let them.  Your lifelong gatekeeper is strong, immortal, and immutable.  The one thing you can do is let him rattle on, but recognize that the doubts he raises are a natural reaction to your choice to go beyond your safe neighborhood.  If you’ve accepted the concept that it’s okay to be afraid in the pursuit of your goals, then accept this corollary: You can’t stop the self-doubts, but you can decide not to let them slow you down.

b)  It doesn’t matter, anyway.  No deal, no presentation, and no single event should matter so much that actually “blowing it” could possibly destroy your life or career.  Get over your doubts about this one by jumping right into the next one.  Hey—if nothing else, you’ll have a new disaster to worry about!

c)  Let go of your outcomes.  Set your goals, do the things you need to do to reach those goals, and then stop worrying about how an individual situation works out.  For every call or presentation you actually mess up, there will be another you get right.

If you need help changing your attitude toward the bumps in the road to your success, and toward your very own incidental “But” Monster, contact me.  Or hone this outlook and other skills by joining me for my Mastering Client Referrals Workshop on Saturday, October 19th.

In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PERFORMANCE

Two advisors start their careers with similar backgrounds—the same education and training—and similar connections and people skills.  Within two years, one of them is extremely successful, and the other is struggling.

Maybe “the other” isn’t bringing in enough clients, or the right kinds of clients.  Maybe he is working so hard that he has no life.  Maybe he’s just unhappy.

The struggling advisor sees that he has fallen behind, so he seeks out more training, more advice, more strategies…but his world gets no better.

Too many professionals are seeking descriptions of someone else’s successful behaviors and strategies that they can apply to their own businesses.  But descriptions of someone else’s successful behaviors and performance don’t usually give you access to that same level of performance.

There is only one thing that accounts for the difference in the level of performance of these two advisors, and it’s not that one has more ideas and strategies.  Access to the higher performance is based on ACTION!  The successful advisor is taking massive action to create what he needs.  The struggling advisor isn’t.

Study any top professional and you’ll see the same thing.  What distinguishes his or her performance is his or her level of ACTION.

But why doesn’t the weaker-performing advisor access the same level of action?  It’s not because he doesn’t have enough information or strategies.  His performance level is lower because the way the world is occurring to him—and the way he is occurring to himself—is perfect for the level he has attained.  His level of action matches how the world occurs to him perfectly.

Here’s how the world might be occurring to the successful advisor:

I am the best advisor in the state.  The prospects I meet are godsends.  They are people I can serve who will appreciate what I do for them and want me to help everyone they care about.  I can be who I want to be because the world is a safe place and the people that matter will respond to me positively.

Here’s how the less successful advisor might be viewing the world:

I’m good at what I do, but sometimes I just feel I don’t know enough.  Prospecting is so difficult—nobody ever answers the phone and they never call back.  When they do, they’re already working with someone or they have no money.  It’s a tough world out there and if I just told some of the people who are ‘thinking about’ what I’ve recommended what I really think, they’d probably back away, and then there would be no business at all.

If you’re not happy with your performance, it’s because of how prospecting, sales, dealing with prospects and clients, and your role as a professional are occurring to you—not because you need more ideas.  All the training in the world from the best people in the business will not substantially change your results if there isn’t a huge shift in your view of the world surrounding your activities.  It’s really about your “inner stance”, not what activities you’re doing.

How your world is occurring for you shapes every action you take.  So trying to change your level or type of action to improve your overall performance, without first addressing and shifting how the world occurs to you, is futile.  You don’t need more information, either.  You need a better view of the world and your place in it.

Listen to the words you use when you talk about yourself, your family—your business, your prospects, your clients.  If you’re not where you want to be, what you say about all of these things will tell you why.  Your words are the window into how your world is occurring to you.  Catch the negative, weak words that are holding you back and replace them with powerful words—words that show the world is occurring to you in a better way.

You don’t need more training; you need an alteration in occurrence.  Only then can you change your actions, increase your performance, and become the success you know you ought to be.

The work I do is giving people access to an alteration in occurrence.  If you have the courage to contact me after reading this, I’ll waive my fee for the conversation that could begin your transformation.

In the meantime, watch out for your own weak words, and do all that you can to keep REACHING…

Work Smarter IV: A Fear of Success?

While most people think that the biggest fear we face in our professional lives is the fear of failure, the fear of success is actually much more insidious and damaging.

Lisa, age 28, had been earning $40,000 a year at her corporate job and switched to a straight commission financial job working for one of my clients—the sales manager of a company that offers clients mutual funds—because it promised her unlimited earning potential and flexible hours.

In her first six months in sales, starting with cold calls, Lisa cleared $31,000.  But how much do you think she earned in her next six months?

That’s right: only $9,000.  Somehow, in the second half of the year, despite her continued activity on the phone, she could not set as many appointments, she had more cancellations, and she ended up with significantly fewer sales per kept appointment—so that her annual income came out to be just about what it was at her old job.

How could this have happened?  My client called me to ask if I might be able to help Lisa, and he referred her my way.  As it turns out, she and I found that her problem is a common subject of coaching.  It appeared that Lisa was actually avoiding the success she had in her first six months.  But why would anyone avoid success?

Whenever professionals are having a run of “bad luck”, a fear of success may be at the root of it.  Dr. Kerry Johnson, a renowned sales coach, suggests that a fear of success is not usually an issue of self-confidence, but something more specific, arising out of two limiting beliefs that may have come to be embedded in our thinking:

1. The belief that the only path to financial success is through extremely hard workIf we have a belief—conscious or subconscious—that our success is coming too easily or too quickly, we’ll actually slow ourselves down.

2. The belief that being too successful is somehow essentially wrong.  If we’ve been taught that “money is the root of all evil” and “you can only make money off someone else’s back”, we may start back peddling when we suddenly find ourselves making real income.  If we think we’ll hurt Dad’s feelings if we’re earning more than he does, we’ll slow down so as not to get too far ahead of him.

Here are some symptoms of Fear of Success from which you may suffer:

Your income has stayed flat or decreased, even though you’re not working any less.

You feel guilty about your small victories, but you’re not sure why.

You’re missing what usually are easy sales, especially after you’ve had a good week.

You’re “forgetting” to follow through on promises made to prospects or clients, and you’re blowing sales that were already “in the bag” by acting unusually foolish.

If you have any of these symptoms, you may be backing away from the success you deserve—even sabotaging it.  Here are some of the things you can do to turn your situation around:

1. Take a look at where your sales are now.  Set goals to take them further, and commit to them in writing.

2. Observe and record each time and place that the “fear factor”—that uncomfortable, overly modest or guilty feeling—appears in your daily business or personal life.

3. Share 1 and 2 with someone else who truly wants you to succeed.

Through coaching, Lisa started her earnings rolling again and this year, she’s right on track again to earning a six-figure income.

Use these tips to work smarter—not harder—and to stop holding yourself back.  Contact a coach who can help you reach for the stars, and keep REACHING…

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Work Smarter III: Focus on the Vital Few

“There’s just never enough time to do all the things that need to be done!” Dave, an insurance producer, told me during a recent workshop.  “Is it possible,” I asked Dave, “that you’re focusing on the trivial many instead of the vital few, and that’s why you don’t have enough time?”

I explained to the group how the Pareto Principle—the 80-20 rule—applies to most businesses and professional practices:

20% of the things you do to grow your business or improve your career—the vital few—produce roughly 80% of your results.  If you want to work “smarter” instead of “harder”, your goal should be to do more of that 20% work—the work on the vital few—and less of the usual 80% of your work that doesn’t get results—the trivial many.

To know what is vital and what is trivial, you first need to figure out what your mission is—what you want to accomplish.  This needs to be crystal clear to you.  Each of the vital few activities has to be designed to get you to your business goals.

Once you know where you’re going, you can figure out which activities are helping you get there directly, and which ones are only peripheral pit stops.  Then, every time you’re doing something in your business, you can ask yourself whether what you’re doing at this moment is directly aimed at the result you want—whether it’s vital to your success.  If it’s not, why not delegate it to someone else?

Do the work that only you can do, that you’re best at, and that you like the most.  Delegate the rest.

“The first thing you can eliminate is the work you hate the most,” I suggested to the seminar group.  “What do you hate the most?”

“The bookkeeping,” Dave spoke out, before anyone else could respond.  “But delegating that is expensive and I really can’t afford to do it,” he complained.

“Have you figured out how much you make per session when you’re working with clients?” I asked him.  With some humility, Dave confessed that if we figured his time with clients hourly, it came out to about $200 an hour.

“And how much would a bookkeeper cost?” I continued.

“About $40 an hour in my area,” Dave admitted.

“That means,” I pressed on, “that if you spent just one more hour this week with a client, you could hire a bookkeeper for five hours and not lose any profit, right?”

Dave’s eyes lit up.  I knew that he, and at least a handful of the other workshop attendees, would be freeing up some time for themselves soon.

If you weigh the cost of having someone else do the work you hate against the energy drain and erosion of effectiveness you experience in doing that work yourself, the cost of having help reveals itself as a very small price to pay.

This week, list all of the things that need to be done in your business or practice, but that you hate to do, and be honest with yourself about whether someone else could be doing those things for you.  Pick one item from your list and arrange to have someone else take care of it.  You’ll be amazed at how much time, and energy you’ll free up for the vital few.

If I can help you consolidate your professional schedule, contact me.  In the meantime, as part of your 20% work, keep REACHING…

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Take Mighty Swings

Baseball fans know that most of the great home run hitters also have unusually high rates of strikeouts.  The most revered of these players, Babe Ruth, once advised a fan: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”  But most of us are too afraid of striking out to swing hard enough and often enough to hit home runs.  Instead, we wait for some perfectly pitched ball and hope to swing just hard enough so we can be sure we’ll make contact.  Taking mighty swings is not for us, because there’s always a chance we could strike out.

Beth, a newly appointed 30-year old Sales Manager for an investment brokerage branch office, was getting terrible results.  New advisers weren’t staying with her, and the sales of her veteran advisers were drastically declining.

I discovered that Beth was agonizing over every decision she had to make.  She would constantly seek the help of her irritated regional manager and make excuses to her advisers about why she didn’t have immediate answers for them.

“I usually have a gut feeling about the right response,” she told me, ”But then I start to question it, and I end up not being able to make a decision.”

“Would your situation actually be any worse if you just gave in to that gut feeling and took your chances?” I asked her.

“It couldn’t be much worse,” she admitted, “I’m going to lose my job if I keep running to my boss with every question from the field.”

I asked Beth to experiment for the next week by just giving in—all the way—to those “gut feelings” she had mentioned every time she was presented with a work decision.  She promised that she would.

Two days before our next appointment, Beth called me, excited.

“I had to make a decision about how a sale would be structured and I did what we said,” she exclaimed.  ”I followed my gut and gave my veteran adviser my opinion right there on the spot—and it was a home run!  Later,” she told me, ”I heard him tell another one of my advisers that I had given him great advice.”

Like any of us, Beth is sure to make mistakes in the work place, but practicing taking mighty swings will continue to serve her much better than did her fear of striking out.

If I can help you take mighty swings, you just have to step up to the plate and contact me.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…

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