How to Lose a Sale and Gain a Customer (for life)

Are we serving our customers or just selling to them?

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the heat and the mosquitoes. With the recent rains we’ve received over the last 6 months, mosquitoes have set their sights on any who venture outdoors. As we prepare to wage war against these pesky pests, we recently contacted our pest control company to see how they could help. Lawn

My wife called our pest control company and talked to the sales rep. She asked about the mosquito treatment we’d recently seen advertised. The sales rep had a hot lead and could have sold us on any package he wanted. He could have zinged us with the Zika virus or warned us about West Nile. Instead, he asked us questions, told us the truth, and didn’t sell us a thing.

He asked questions about our house and location, and he realized that an additional service was not a good fit. The truth is that they could sell us an something extra, but it would not do help any more than what we were already doing.

The sales rep could have easily sold us a service and made a commission. However, by telling us that we might not benefit from what they provide, he gained our trust, and more importantly our loyalty and referrals. We were happy with their service before, but by telling us the truth and NOT selling us a product, they created a customer for life and one who will refer others.

How many of us would walk away from a sell or a deal because we value our customers and seek to serve them? If we add value, serve our customers, and seek to solve their problems, we may not always make the initial sale. But if our goal is long-term success and relationships, the sell we turn down today may lead to the customer that sticks with you for life.

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12 Reflections on 1200 Straight Days of Running

IMG_3328It started off as an ordinary February day. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the day itself, but looking back now I wish I’d paid more attention. On a typical week, I’d hit lift weights at the YMCA and find time to run 2-3 times during the week. This day was like most Friday’s, but 3 years later, Feb. 15th, 2013 is the day this whole madness started.

Today marks day 1,200 of my Running Streak – meaning I’ve run every day for the last 3+ years (minimum of 2 miles). I never planned this; it just sort of happened. I guess I thought I’d try to run every day for a week. That week turned into 2, then 3, and before I knew it, I was approaching 100 days of running.

So here we are 171 weeks later still going at it, and not knowing how to quit. Looking back, here are 12 takeaways from the last 1200 days.

  1. You have to be intentional.
  2. Some days are easier than others.
  3. The best way to run in the morning is to set out your clothes the night before.
  4. My wife deserves 95% of the credit (She’s a saint!).
  5. Habits – good and bad – are hard to break
  6. Cruise ships are much more fun to run around than hotel parking lots.
  7. Texas summers are miserable.
  8. I’m a much more pleasant person when I run in the morning.
  9. “What we’re doing here is not a mark of intelligence.”- Jon Simpson
  10. I’m very thankful for hotel treadmills.
  11. My dad is my hero – at age 73, he’s averaged 3 miles a day for the last 365+ days.
  12. Set goals and celebrate milestones.

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    Lily deserves a gold star for joining me on most early morning. 

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a quick snapshot of observations over the last 3 years. I never set out to take on such an endeavor, but now that I’m here, I suppose we’ll keep going.

Over the next 100 days, I’ll probably complain about the heat and humidity of Texas summers for 90 of them. And for the other 10, I’ll most likely be on a treadmill somewhere.

So bear with me as my twitter feed is 90% running, and the next time you see my wife, make sure to congratulate her for enduring and supporting such nonsense.

Happy Streaking!

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Cartwheels and Comfort Zones

3 Goal Setting Lessons from Gymnastics Class

Last week I had the opportunity to take my daughter to her gymnastics class. For the past 3 months she’s been diligently working to perfect her cartwheels, and as I watched the session, my eyes were opened to some important lessons on goal setting and getting out of our comfort zones. Cartwheels

When you’re 6 years old and you’ve never done a cartwheel before, it’s scary to invert yourself and get both legs in the air. My six year old doesn’t want to get hurt doing something she’s only seen but never done herself. The challenge is wanting to do something significant but being afraid to take actions that move us toward our goals.

We tend to stay in our comfort zones instead of taking steps that move us toward our goals. Sometimes we’re scared of falling, and sometimes we fear what others will think.

There are 3 problems with the status quo.

  • It’s safe, but it keeps you from doing something significant.
  • You’ll never fall, but you’ll never fly.
  • You won’t stand out, but you’ll never see what could be either. 

When you’re 28, 38, or 68, it’s easy to let our desire to stay safe keep us from taking a chance. What if we try something we’ve never done before and we don’t succeed? Staying comfortable is safe. The trade off for staying is safe is that we lose the opportunity to do something truly significant.

Coaches give us courage

An amazing thing happened when the gymnastic coach came over to help. While she was still scared, she began to believe that she could go a little higher and a little further than she could by herself. Her coach instilled courage and was able to spot her to give her confidence.

When we set our goals, who do we surround ourselves with? (Hopefully people that don’t end sentences with the word “with”). Surrounding ourselves with the right coach and community can help us go further than we could by ourselves.

Accountability leads to amazing.

Without accountability, it’s easy to revert back to the old way of doing things. This was apparent when the kids started doing various activities on their own (circuit). The coach couldn’t focus on every athlete, and my 6 year old daughter was smart enough to know when she was being watched – and when she wasn’t.

As I watched her move through the exercises, an interesting thing happened. When the coach with her, she worked harder and took more risks. However, when the coach turned to work with another gymnast and wasn’t watching, she regressed and fell back to doing what was comfortable.

Six year olds know when they’re being watched – and so do 36 year olds. Without accountability, we’ll never accomplish our true potential. Surrounding ourselves with the right people – a coach or a group – can help keep us accountable.

Our car ride home after the class was insightful. Whether she consciously realized it or not, she agreed that she was not pushing herself when her coach wasn’t around. We agreed that she should do her best with or without the coach their, and she should make an effort to move out of her comfort zone and into the cartwheel zone. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.

Closer to home

Regardless of what our goal are, we can right them down. We can commit to them. We can structure our days so that we devote time to moving the needle. However, over time we can easily slip back into a mindset of comfort unless we’re self-aware and surround ourselves with the ones that will push us and hold us accountable.

As we get older, we look to stay comfortable. For many different reasons, we’ll never take the actions that we perceive as risky. The result is that we won’t have to worry about skinning our knees or falling in front of others. But we’ll also never have the chance to do something significant. Keeping one foot on the ground is a way to not fall, but it’s certainly not a way to do a cartwheel.

As for me, I got more out of that class than every other young gymnast there. Unless I take the actions that move me out of my comfort zone, I won’t make the progress that moves me closer to my goals.

To my daughter, keeping one foot on the ground is safe. But safe won’t let a 6 year old do a cartwheel. And safe won’t let the rest of us do amazing things. I hope we’ll all find a way to move out of our comfort zones this week!

Instructional Technology

3 Things Technology Can Do (and 3 things it never should)

When I took my first teaching job in 2004, technology was starting to emerge in the classroom. Very few students had their own devices, and teachers were learning new ways to teach and engage students. Technology Blog Pic

Over the last 10 years, technology in the classroom has created some incredible learning opportunities, and we’ve seen a number of changes – from the way we teach to the way we manage our classrooms. From a teachers perspective, sometimes the challenge becomes leveraging technology in a way that takes something off an educator’s plate, instead of adding something else onto it.

Whether in a middle school math class or an intro chemistry class at a university, there are at least 3 things that technology can (and should) do.

  1. Engage – Technology allows instructors and students to engage at a level that was impossible to do just 20 years ago. Through technology, we have the ability to understand difficult concepts that in the past were abstract. If we can utilize the devices that students already use and are comfortable with, we have removed a barrier and engagement increases.
  2. Connect – Today’s student is connected. Very few of us are every more than an arms length away from our phones. Technology allows us to connect to a community, both inside and outside of the classroom. If we as educators can use technology to connect with our students in the classroom, we can start to understand the gaps and reach those students who need us most.
  3. Maximize efficiency – Technology provides a way to streamline many of the processes and housekeeping items that take away valuable instruction time. As educators, we should leverage technology to automate and empower students. Taking attendance, sharing presentations, and providing feedback are ways that educators can use technology to reclaim valuable classroom time. If we simply use technology to help us make the best use of the time we have, then we are beginning to leverage technology, and not just implementing it.

As valuable a tool as technology can be, there are also 3 things that technology cannot do.

  1. Technology cannot replace educators who care. Teachers have an incredible ability and responsibility to create relationships with their students. No App or social network can take the place educators who invest in the lives of their students.
  2. Technology cannot replace dynamic presenters and effective communicators.  It can allow us different ways to communicate, but Siri and Alexa are poor substitutes for the passion and knowledge that educators can bring to the table.
  3. And finally, if educators are to fully leverage technology into classrooms, it should not create additional work. While there may be a learning curve, and sometimes we may have to spend time on the front end to design or create, in the long run, technology should be used to optimize the most valuable commodity we have – TIME. When technology fails to work or creates more problems than solutions, then we have only substituted one medium for another.

Many things have changed since my first year in that 9th grade Algebra classroom. We’ve seen initiatives come and go. We’ve seen technology change the way we do many things. In some ways the role of an educator has changed, but the one thing that remains is the impact teachers have on students.

Now that I’m on the outside of the classroom looking in, I am grateful for the educators who have invested in me. I’m also thankful to be able to work with a group of people that influences future generations, and I hope that in some small way, I can help leverage technology to make a difference with teachers and students.

 

Stop Leading with the Right Hook and Start Jabbing

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For those of us in sales, please stop leading with the right hook. We are passionate about our product or service, but we’ve got to learn more about our customers. Engage your customers and prospects in a meaningful conversation. Find out what makes them tic. Learn their history and challenges. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk and make your pitch. (Here’s the link to the book on Amazon)

Today at a conference, I watched prospects approach vendors. What I witnessed was disheartening, and almost painful. These unsuspecting prospects never had a chance.  Vendors exchanged pleasantries and begin their pitch about why he or she should sign up/commit/or purchase a product or service. Not once did the sales folks stop to ask open ended questions. 

If you haven’t listened to or read Gary Vaynerchuck, start right now. Whether in sales, marketing, design, leadership, customer service, or any other part of business, we have to stop our first interaction being a request to buy or product or service. Instead, we have to jab with our prospects – provide them value, create meaningful content, start to learn about their needs – and if you serve your customers, you’ll not only convert prospects to leads to sales, but you’ll start to develop a tribe and build influential followers. 

Donald Miller crafts it beautifully – our customers are the heroes of the story, and our job is to serve as the guide. Uncover their challenges, or even better, help them discover challenges that they didn’t realize they had. And as you guide your prospects through the story, continue to write the story with he/she as the hero/heroine. 

As salespeople, we know our product or service. We know the value, and we know how it can solve our customers’ problems. If we don’t believe in it, we shouldn’t be selling it. If we’ll take the time to slow down and wait for the right hook, I believe we’ll be successful – both in the short term and for the long haul. 

– Patrick

Starting Over

downloadLast week I got to start a new chapter of my own personal Do Over. Starting over is seldom easy, and beginning a new job brings excitement, doubt, and fear.

The excitement of learning new things and meeting new people can be suffocated by the doubt that says, “you’ll never be able to be as successful as you were at your last job.” And doubt brings his cousin fear alongside to cause you to forget that you were capable before and you can win again.

When I left my last job, I knew the ins and outs. I understood process and challenges. I knew what it took to be successful, and often I could coast threw the day in the hammock of comfort. Starting a new job comes to your hammock and cuts the cords, knocking you to the ground.

Whether you step out of the hammock on your own or you or dumped to the ground, the only way to grow is to leave the comfort of the net and do things that make you uncomfortable.

So as you leave your hammock or climb to your feet after falling out, it’s important to dust yourself off and prepare to start again. As I’ve started over recently, I’ve learned 4 important lessons.

  1. Be Willing To Learn – Regardless of what you knew or didn’t know at your last gig, come into your new job with humility and a willingness to learn new processes and meet new people. If you unconscionably competent at your last job, be prepared to live in the land of conscious incompetence for a season.
  2. Be Coachable – Ask for feedback, especially from your leader. Find out what he or she wants, and work hard to deliver. There will be time for you to adapt and modify, but focus on making your leader successful. This is especially good advice if your leader has been in your position in the past. Listen to their advice, and find out what’s worked in the past.
  3. Be Hungry – Start early. Work late. Focus on the work and do everything you can add value  – to your leader and your team. The ability to win can only be accomplished if there is a willingness to prepare. Learn. Take notes. Ask questions. Be willing to pay your dues.
  4. Be Patient – This is extremely difficult when you want to hit the ground running. Understand that it takes time. You may not have the same success that you had before, at least at first. It takes time to learn the who’s and what’s of an organization, and often times things don’t move as quickly as you’d like. Give yourself permission to be patient, but be ready when it’s your turn.

Starting over is seldom easy. However, I am grateful for the opportunity that starting over brings. I’m thankful that failure is never final, and there are others that have walked this road before me. I was fortunate enough to get to read Jon Acuff’s book, Do Over, and the encouragement and hope that I gained from that book has been key in recovering from the shock of an unexpected career bump. Having a testimony is a great thing – getting one is a pain in the rear.

 

This post is dedicated to Jon Acuff, author of Do Over and other great books (www.JonAcuff.me). I highly recommend this book as you prepare for or go through an experience where you get a chance to start over.

 

The Middle – A fog between start and finish

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10×10 Challenge – Day 7 Days 4-7 are usually the toughest.

Yesterday was day 7 of my latest 10×10 challenge. For those of you that don’t know, this running challenge involves running 10 miles a day for 10 straight days. That’s 100 miles over a week and a half. I’ve done 2 of these over the past 2 years, and I thought this was a time in my life that I could go at this again.

I’ve learned a lot over the course of these 10×10 challenges – I’ve worked through personal struggles, job challenges, goals, and a myriad of other thoughts. With today’s post, I want to focus on the middle miles (days 4-7) and how those relate to life.

Why is the middle hard?

For me personally, the first days and the last days are easier than the middle. When I set goals, the start is easy. I can get up at 4:15 a.m. on days 1 and 2.When I hit days 8-10, I can see the finish line, and it’s easier to get out of bed and hit the road.

The challenge usually comes in the murky middle. For me, running 10 miles on days 4-7 is tough. I’m tired. I know I have another week of this madness. I realized that when we set goals and start working towards them, this MIDDLE is the hardest part of accomplishing anything worthwhile.

How do we fight through after the newness wares off?

How do we stay focused on the goal and take concrete steps when the end seems so far away (or maybe nowhere in sight)?

I realized a couple of things during miles 40-70 of the current challenge.

The middle is necessary to get to the end. 

Anything worthwhile has a middle.

The middle is necessary to accomplish anything of substance.

If you go from start to finish with no middle, you may not appreciate what you accomplish.

Right now, I’m in a season that I would call a MIDDLE. My job ended in December and my new adventure starts at the end of the month (February). The middle has been a place of unknown and a wavering between hope and fear.

The lessons I’ve learned about the middle are real. It’s not easy making it through the middle to the place where you can catch a glimpse of the finish line. And many times it is faith and grit that gets us to a place where we can know the end is within our reach.

For me, the end is now in sight. I can see the finish line, and I know I can make it 2 more days – 20 more miles. If you are currently in the middle – between your start and your finish – keep moving forward. Keep your eyes on the goal, and remember that the MIDDLE is what makes the END worth the fight.