The Problem With Businesses Giving Back (As Seen on The Huffington Post)

Giving back is at the core of any great business. In small towns all across the country, one sure sign that the holidays have arrived is when the Toys for Tots collection signs are sprinkled beside businesses along Main Street like the first fallen snow. It’s not just small businesses, it’s big ones too. You won’t find a Fortune 500 firm that doesn’t give back to the community or to charitable organizations, they all do. Giving back is the minimum standard when it comes to business, period. What could be wrong with giving back?

I own a handful of real estate offices in New England, sixteen to be exact. Since the day we opened our doors twelve years ago, we have always been sure to abide by the cardinal rule of business, “Give back to the community.” Last year was no exception, and as usual we adopted hundreds of families across the state for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We bought holiday dinners and tons of toys and gifts for the families in need. One week before Christmas last year one of my salespeople sent me a short email that really caught my attention. Her email simply posed the question, “Do you think any of our own employees need help for the holidays too?”

In the ten years of owning and operating small businesses of all kinds, it had always been a given that some people in the community need help during the holidays, but it had never once occurred to me that our own team members could use a hand as well. My own team members were not needy! Or were they? Sure enough, I sent an email out to our entire company, more than three hundred sales associates and employees. The email simply read, “The holidays are almost here. If there are any team members who are worried about how they are going to provide for their families this holiday season, please let me know. We are here to help.” Six of my team members reached out, and we provided the financial resources to help them for the season.

What does needy look like?

What you might not know about “needy” is that it looks a lot like you. Sometimes “needy” is the person sitting right next you. It’s a family member, a friend or an employee. Yes, it is quite possible that the people who need a hand financially this holiday season are the people that are working for you. They have a job, but maybe their spouse doesn’t. Maybe they are working for less than what they are worth because jobs are scarce. Perhaps they are caring for not only their four kids, but also other family members who have been affected by a difficult economy. People who are in need generally don’t announce it. Instead, they silently just get by.

Needy has no particular face and everyone at some point needs. For some the need is financial and for others the need is just company, or even simply an ear to talk to. Don’t ever judge someone because they need, because there will be a time when you need too. I make this point because when you bravely reach out to your own people and extend a hand, you will be surprised by those that reach back for the help. It’s easy to pre-judge and think that the other side could not possibly be in need. You are not privy to the whole picture for that person, nor should you be. The courage it takes to ask your team if anyone needs help for the holidays pales in comparison to the valor it takes to be the one to ask for help. Therefore, ask no questions, just give.

Now, when I make arrangements for giving back for the holidays, I always make sure to reach out to my own people too. As a business owner, I will no longer make the mistake of assuming that the people around me don’t need a hand. In business, giving back is merely a minimum standard. Exceeding the standard requires only that you, as a business owner, entrepreneur, and leader remember that charity must start at home.

 

 

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Firing Your Sales Force — Redefining Greatness (As Seen On The Huffington Post)

Recently I fired a great salesperson. If you are a leader of a business that is fueled by salespeople, only then can you feel my pain. For most businesses, your sales team is like a self-fueling engine that keeps the rest of the organization going. Your fuel is your customers and the revenue they generate that allows the organization to keep pumping out product or service. Without great salespeople, there is no fuel, and for many of us, there is no business without them.

If great salespeople are so absolutely vital to any great organization, why would I go and cut out a chunk of my engine by firing someone who clearly had the ability to sell? It’s all about re-defining greatness. The sales business has come a long way in the past century. Fifty years ago it was not uncommon to have salespeople visiting your front stoop to sell you anything from vacuums to encyclopedias. If you were the owner of the vacuum company, it was likely very easy to judge the success of your sales force. If they could sell vacuums, they were keepers, if they could not, you would re-introduce them to the workforce. It was easy to judge talent back then because the only benchmark for determining whether your salespeople were good was their ability to sell.

Greatness in sales has been redefined by our smartphones, social networks, and other technology. Fifty years ago, you were remarkable if you could simply sell. Today, sales ability is a minimum standard, and is not quite good enough for companies seeking greatness. What makes for an amazing salesperson today?

1. Empathy: The number one trait of a really good salesperson is their ability to put themselves in the shoes of others. A salesperson with this trait is appreciated by your consumer because they get where the customer is coming from. As well, these types of salespeople are also a breath of fresh air for organizational leaders because those that can empathize understand that the company needs to make a profit too. These are your salespeople who are not trying to renegotiate their compensation every time they bring in a good-sized piece of business for your firm. On the other hand, when you have a salesperson with the inability to empathize, you will hear about it. In our new world of technology, word travels quickly which means a poor salesperson can create major waves in a vast ocean pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s just a matter of sending out a tweet to the world. Before technology, there was six degrees between me and Kevin Bacon. Today, if I really want to get a hold of Kevin Bacon, I’m pretty sure I could, even if just by a tweet. The double edge of all the new and great technology in the world is that you have instant access to everyone, while so does your consumer.

2. Honesty: I would bet that it was a rare occasion when the leader of the door-to-door vacuum company heard complaints about a dishonest salesperson fifty years ago. It wasn’t that easy for a customer to communicate with a business owner back then. This meant that the leader of the company was in the dark when it came to any unscrupulous salespeople. The business owner was in the dark and so too were other potential consumers. Back then people didn’t communicate with this huge network of all the people they have ever met on a daily basis, like we do on Facebook today. Technology is great for weeding out all the dishonest salespeople in today’s new world of business. If you have a salesperson that has cheated someone, you’ll find out through a Google or Topsy alert when the disgruntled customer writes a blog about it. Unfortunately, by that point, the entire world has found out about your dishonest salesperson too.

3. Nice: This, by the way, is the reason I fired my salesperson. She could sell, that’s for sure. She would have been a prized salesperson for any organization in times past. If you have a salesperson that is unable to be nice to others, you don’t need them. Niceness trickles through an organization. When you have one salesperson that is always angry, moody, and carries a chip on their shoulder, it costs your organization big bucks. I’m not talking about someone who occasionally has a bad day. I’m talking about that person that never has anything nice to say, complains constantly to you and to their co-workers, and is just generally unhappy. You know who I’m talking about. It is that one salesperson that you say to yourself, “How does this person do any business?” This person is a cancer in your organization, regardless of how much money he or she brings in. For every customer she closes, she probably loses five others. She is also a drain on your productivity and that of your other team members. If you have tried to fix the problem by talking and it just doesn’t seem to work, do your company a big favor and get rid of her. What this says to your other team members, to your customers, and to the world is, “You are worth more to me than another sale.”

I know how hard it is to cut a great salesperson from your ranks, so for me, it came down to re-defining greatness. When you step back, and re-define what great is for your company and your sales force, you end up trimming some fat from your business while at the same time empowering the rest of your team to live up to the new and improved standard.

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

60 Seconds with Arianna and 6 Lessons on Leadership

If leadership is your passion, then you’ll appreciate this article about a brief encounter I had with Arianna Huffington.  She was the keynote speaker at a conference I attended, and her speech exceeded the expectations of those with even the highest of anticipations, like me.  However, it was in my sixty seconds with Arianna personally, that I learned a few of the important clues to her incredible success as a leader.  I know I will take these keys forward into my businesses and I hope too, you will do the same.

Be Accessible: Once you have “made it” in your field, you can begin to get selective about who you spend time with.  Be careful.  Real leaders, always remain accessible.  What possible reason would the biggest news and media mogul of our time have for taking time out of her busy schedule to come share ideas with a room full of entrepreneurs? She certainly didn’t come for the paycheck.  No, it’s more like passion.  Arianna Huffington remains accessible to other business leaders and entrepreneurs because she’s passionate about sending a message that hard work, drive, and determination, do pay off.

Engage: In my brief meeting with Arianna she asked me where I was from and what I do for work.  This is Dale Carengie’s  How to Win Friends  & Influence People 101.  To climb to the top, you must be genuinely interested in others.  Leaders never quit practicing this, it’s in their blood.

Listen: It seems easy, right?  Listening is one of the hardest attributes to master.  Imagine being someone like Arianna Huffington with a million responsibilities to attend to.  Not only that, you have cameras flashing in your face and people vying for your attention from every direction.  Listening requires extreme focus.  During my sixty seconds with Arianna I explained that I had been trying for some time to have some of my work published on The Huffington Post.  She acknowledged that she heard me by giving me her business card and telling me what steps to take to get my work published.  Amazing.

Be Obliging: When you are offered the rare opportunity to spend even a minute with an amazing leader, remember this; he or she owes you nothing.  Great leaders are obliging.   They will offer assistance when they can, not because they have to, or because they owe you, it’s because that is just what great leaders do.

Be Transparent: When I talked to Arianna about getting some of my work published, she explained that sometimes there is too much bureaucracy at her company, and she offered a solution for bypassing it.  Awe-inspiring leaders do not make excuses, they find solutions.  They do not pretend that they or their companies are perfect.  Major league leaders acknowledge their weaknesses and work to improve them, as opposed to simply making excuses.

Look Extraordinary: Leaders radiate.  They appear unruffled, calm, collected, and powerful.  Arianna, was unquestionably the best dressed, most put together person in the room of 8000 women.  Undeniably, she also had the most going on in her business behind the scenes.  As the saying goes, never let them see you sweat.

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Find Your Rudolph – Turning Liability Into Unique Value Proposition

Join the small handful of people who have made millions by embracing a concept so simple, even a reindeer can figure it out.  If Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer offers nothing else to you, let the story at least offer you this simple proposition: Your world will become one of massive opportunity when you figure out the secret to turning your liabilities into your value proposition.  Rudolph’s world changed when he realized that his bright red nose was not something to brush under the carpet, like many sales people try to do when they too have a weakness.  No, Rudolph realized that this was his Unique Selling Proposition.  It wasn’t a weakness, in fact it made him better than all the other reindeer.

Several years ago I was coaching a brand new real estate agent.  He was young, in his mid-twenties.  He was aggressively going after new business, so much so that he had great success getting appointments.  He could rarely get the client to sign on the dotted line though.  I asked him, “Why do you think the clients don’t choose you?”  To which he replied, “I know why they don’t choose me.  I am too young.”  Here’s how this agent went from new kid on the block to rookie of the year.

Perception:  Perception is reality in sales.  If someone perceives you as expensive, you are expensive.  If someone perceives you as rude, you are rude.  You get it, right?  This is Sales 101.  However, that’s when dealing with the general public or with customers.  When it comes to perception, the only thing worse than the outside world believing something about you which is detrimental to your business, is when YOU believe it about you.  I told this agent that if he continued to believe he was “too young” then he would unconsciously project that perception onto his potential clients.  You will never be great in sales if you do not wholeheartedly believe in what you are selling and the number one thing you are selling, no matter what industry you are in, no matter what product or service you are offering, is YOU.  If you do not believe in yourself, go get a “real” job.

Truth: Does age matter in sales?  Before I ask you that, do you think age matters in baseball management?  At the time I was coaching this agent, a Boston native, the Boston Red Sox were being managed by Theo Epstein.  Epstein, at twenty eight years of age, was hired in 2002 as the youngest ever general manager in Major League Baseball.  He was young, but he was good…and in fact much better than most general managers.  Two years after being hired as general manager the Red Sox won a World Series for the first time in 86 years.  They went on to win again a few years later. I asked this agent I was coaching, do you think Theo Epstein believed he was too young to get the job?  Not likely.  He believed in himself, and rightly so.

Whatever you THINK your liabilities are, also think about how you can turn them into Unique Value Propositions.  If your new, you have more time for individualized client care.  If you are young, you quickly adapt to technology.  If you are older, you are experienced.  You name me a liability, and I’ll come up with a value propositions.  That’s simply how millionaires think.

By the way, the Theo Epstein story took with my agent.  This agent realized that he had a lot to offer his clients and that his age was an asset.  Occasionally he would get the objection, “you are too young,” to which the agent would simply share the story of Theo Epstein.

 

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.

Is She A Learning Disabled Kid or Are You a Teaching Disabled Teacher?

In fifth grade I remember the day I was labeled “learning disabled.”  Looking back at those days and knowing what I know now, I see that it was all horse pucky.  I’m sure I will get flack for this post but I’ll take it because this needs to be said.  If you are a teacher, and there’s a kid that just ain’t learning (I feel obliged to throw the “ain’t” in so that my critics who read this will have evidence to support the fact that I am really learning disabled!), then I would argue that you are a teaching disabled teacher with a perfectly normal kid.  Everyone in the entire world is equipped to learn but everyone learns a little differently and at varying speeds.

This is what prompted me to write the blog today.  I read lots of business books.  Two that I read recently were Switch and How We Decide, both of which were awesome books about how the mind works.  Both books shared a segment on how to raise high achieving children.  Despite what you may think, you do not raise high reaching children by always rewarding them for A’s on the report card and disciplining them for the C’s, D’s, and F’s.  No, the problem with this very popular method of rewarding children is that kids who are always rewarded for high grades will simply give up when they feel they can’t get that A grade in a particular subject.  In their eyes, there is no use in trying because they know the best they will do is a C, which is pretty much the same as an F to their parents, so they just don’t try.

This concept really hit home for me when I was reading these two books because I was labeled by Mr. S, my fifth grade teacher, as a learning disabled child.  Not only did I buy it, but my parents bought it too.  My “learning disabled” status carried me all the way through to my high school graduation.  I developed a habit because of my label and that habit was as follows: I either got A’s in my classes or I got F’s.  In my head, there was no use in trying unless something came easy to me.  There was no benefit in trying because I was learning disabled and there was no benefit in getting better if I couldn’t achieve an A.  For me, my label stuck.  Upon graduating from high school I was declined from every university I applied to, even the state schools.  The first turning point in my life was being labeled learning disabled.  The second turning point in my life was being declined from every college and university to which I applied.  The third turning point was graduating from one of the best business schools in the country, and then eventually also completing law school and passing the Massachusetts Bar Exam.  What will the next turning point be for me?  Who knows, because the sky is the limit! I am having no issue achieving all of my wildest dreams, but I can say for sure that one teaching disabled teacher created lots of speed bumps and curves along the way by labeling me.  I got some slack when I wrote my Blog entitled Forget About Your Strengths – The Real Money is In Your Weaknesses, but in reality this is the story of my life.  If you work every single day on the things you think are hard, eventually they become easy, and then you wonder what else you are capable of doing.  That’s how you breakdown self-imposed as well as teacher-imposed, and society-imposed limits.

I do not claim to be an expert in child rearing, that’s for sure.  By the way, if you do want to read an awesome blog about bringing up kids check out www.painfullyunique.com.  I can offer you this.  Studies prove that rewarding your kid for incremental improvements will result in a kid that is not fearful of trying and failing.  Be really careful of rewarding kids for A’s, B’s, and C’s on the report card because you may very well be labeling your kids just like I was labeled three decades ago.  Instead, watch carefully and pat them on the back when they try hard and accomplish something.  Reward your kid not for scaling the mountain to the top, but rather for taking a step forward on a steep hill, because that’s just as huge an accomplishment for many.

 

Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! and Tuned In. She is a business strategy and sales consultant for large corporations and Global Fortune 100 Firms. She is also a keynote speaker, blogger, trainer, and start-up consultant. Her sales training products have been licensed by hundreds of organizations around the world who use her one-of-a kind sales training materials as the genesis for their own brand growth. Make sure to sign up here for my REACH! Weekly News for awesome interviews with Leaders & Visionaries that I only share with my VIP members.