I haven't written anything on the business side of relationships in a long time.
Truth be told, the last several months has been quite the whirlwind of events, and I've been more focused on growing my own business than I have helping others grow theirs.
I've learned something, but it's not anything new. In fact I've known it, I guess a better word than learned would be experienced.
I experienced something in my business. Change is necessary to survival. Adaptation. The ability to assimilate and thrive. In business if you want to thrive, you have to change.
You have to be willing to grow and admit there's things that could be done better.
I've mentioned this in my blogs before, but when I explained how I use neuroscience to help business owners understand their customers' values, and relationship skills to make sales professionals more likable and influential, I always got the same question:
Do you do personal relationships too?
That's when the light came on. I said to myself, "self, you could help a lot of people with this stuff." And I started tackling personal relationship problems, not just my own, but other people's too. And my business grew.
You have to invest some time and effort into implementing new ideas, and create systems that keep those new ideas flowing. Rewarded behavior is repeated behavior, so the more you can implement those changes in a positive way, the more it will encourage the team to think outside the box for solutions.
In my case, I'm a solopreneur. My team is me. My social media marketer is also me. I'm responsible for all of it, and I don't like social media, so I'm not very good at that part. To be quite frank, I stink at it. I should've been fired a while ago.
Seriously, it's hurting my business.
Because I can't fire me, I have to invest some time and effort into becoming a better social media manager, until I hire one.
You also have to keep doing what you're good at.
It's easy to get the wind knocked out of you sometimes. Life can hit pretty hard. When that happens, there's a temptation to lay down and quit for a while until the pain goes away. You don't get that luxury in business, at least not until you're building passive income, but that's another lesson for another day.
In active business, we get hit with things like the 'rona, and we get the wind knocked out of us. That's when you take a step back, take a deep breath and do what entrepreneurs have always done, keep going. You keep delivering the same value to your customers that you've always done. You build relationships in your community. You give back.
You find a new way to do it better. And before you go typing in the comments "but I can't blah blah blah blah" ask yourself how can I blah blah blah blah? And watch how creative you get.
I don’t know if it’s the independence of being my own boss or which particular aspect of small business it is that draws me most, but there’s something about it. Maybe the nostalgia of the mom and pop shops I grew up around. Comic book stores and arcades, diners with key lime pie and fried pork chops, even the hardware store was fun. All my earliest memories of small businesses were great.
Granted I wasn’t there for the after-hours inventory counts. Nor did I think of them as “small business”. I didn’t know what a small business was.
I know it’s more than a mom and pop shop. It’s a passion. Or madness.
It’s the entrepreneurial spirit. Hustle. Drive.
I’m weird that way, I get it. But it gives people a vehicle to get out on their own and provide a service to their community and even the world with today’s technology.
Small business is a wonderful thing.
When you love something, naturally, you want to see it grow and prosper and that drives me to get out there and teach business owners what I know.
I love serving people. I know that sounds weird, but speaking from a customer service standpoint, I get a little dopamine hit from making sure people feel great when they do business with me. Whether it’s when I was serving and bartending, or whatever job
I was doing, my main concerns were: is it right and are they happy. Everything else was secondary.
One particular sales call I was building rapport with a customer by asking about what he did at his church. He told me he was an encourager.
The look on my face was probably about the same as yours is reading this, because he proceeded to explain, “After the message, and during the invitation if I see somebody who looks like they’re down or having a hard time with something, I go put my arm around them and take my Bible and see if I can be a help to them.” He said, “You know, just love em.”
I said, “Man that’s really cool. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have an actual job like that?”
Turns out, it’s a thing. I get to do it.
I get to coach business owners and teach them all sorts of cool sciencey stuff and help them. I get to see people thrive. To the point where one restaurant, in particular, couldn’t handle the dinner rush for several weeks. #humblebrag
How did I get here?
And where is here?
Maybe answering the second question first will make answering the first more concise.
Some would say my life is a success. I do what I love, I have a wonderful relationship with my kids, I live minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Some would say my life is a failure, because I don’t own a car or have shiny things. It sounds petty, but their basis of judgement is materialism.
Here is a place where neither success nor failure are terms by which I gauge my progress. Here is a place where persistence matters more.
Here is not the mountain top of success, but from here, I can see the future.
People like the view from the mountain top, but few want to risk the climb, or continue through the cold, or power through the exhaustion. It’s necessary to get there.
When I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, I became a bit of an adrenaline junky.
Standing on the back of motorcycles and finding other interesting ways of tempting death became a weekly outing. One such addiction was climbing Garden of the Gods without any gear. Just barehanded grit.
I never fell.
There’s something about the option of plummeting to a bouncy painful death that makes you want to reach the top. When missing your goal becomes equivalent to bouncy painful death, it keeps you going. It makes you want to find another way up or around. But not down, Not yet.
Once I reached the summit of whichever formation I happened to be scaling, I would often sit and watch the sky. I might regretfully come down after an hour or so if my friends were with there too, but if not, I’d go find another peak to climb.
That is the entrepreneurial spirit. Exploring, persisting.
Here is not the valley of failure.
One of the most incredible places on earth is San Luis Potosi, Mexico. However, between June and September, the area gets over 14 inches of rain per month. It’s an unforgiving downpour. Unpleasant as that may be, the constant rains feed the streams and rivers that flow through the area and create some of the most incredible waterfalls ever seen. Not only do the rains create beautiful attractions, they also nourish the plethora of fauna. Here we have palm trees, pines and oaks, and there they have mangoes and avocados and guava. I’ve picked lemons that, because of their size and color, could easily be mistaken for oranges. Plantains just growing by the side of the road. It all just grows naturally. The soil is as black as the night sky as deep as you can dig.
One of the more interesting observations I made while in Mexico, was that the fruits and vegetables so plenteous in the valley didn’t grow on the mountains.
This observation has done so much in helping me through hard times.
We like being on the mountain top. It’s beautiful up there. The valley is muddy and hard to traverse. It’s messy down there. But that’s where the growth happens. In the messy places.
I learned another interesting fact while in Mexico. They have bamboo, very similar to the kind that grows in China. Bamboo is an amazing plant capable of astronomical growth. As much as 90 feet in one month. Here’s where the interesting (life-helping) part comes in. Bamboo doesn’t just shoot out of the ground and launch skyward in a day. Or a month, or even a year. Bamboo grows an intricate network of roots for five years before breaking through the surface. It’s the unseen underground growth that allows the stalk to grow so quickly.
People see the strong, majestic stalks reaching for the sky, not the roots below.
The entrepreneurial spirit is growth.
I didn’t get here in a day. Or a month. It’s been over a year of personal growth and changes just to get here. It’s been rejections and bootstrapping. It’s been creating and remaking. It’s been shedding preconceived notions, particularly the words “failure” and “success”.
Failure has been incorrectly defined as a person who fails. It is also incorrectly defined as an event with an unexpected or unwanted outcome. The ones who define failure as a learning tool are closer to accuracy; but I do not use the term at all. Nor do I use success. These words are too final for me. I am either where I want to be in life, or on the way. “Failure” is a course correction, whereas “success” is just a guidepost.
To put it more simply, we either learn, or know.
Redefining events in my life by these terms has drastically changed my outlook.
Suddenly all the circumstances that I thought were against me became tools or teachable moments. Even suffering the loss of my car and not being able to replace it became a catalyst for my personal fitness and endurance.
That alone has taught me the truth of the adage: strength does not come from what you can do, it comes from doing what you thought you couldn’t.
The entrepreneurial spirit is strength.
Redefining my life without those terms also taught me a valuable lesson on perspective: to look at events as learning opportunities. When these events with less than desirable outcomes occur, I change the emotional label from disappointing to teachable, thus removing any power of depression, and replacing it with an intense desire to know more. Why did it happen this way? How can I change the outcome next time? Asking these questions completely changes the meaning behind the event, and thus my response to it.
Getting “here” has been more of a marathon than a quick jog to career change land.
Just over a year ago, I left what I thought would be the last job I would ever have.
Right out of the box, they provided tools for setting goals in my life, identifying the values that drive me, and some of the best sales and management training a person can get. I loved the job and the people I worked with. And then I had an epiphany. I’m not a sales guy. I don’t like pressuring people into decisions, and certainly don’t like selling a product to someone that they don’t need and can’t afford.
I discovered something else, too. I love teaching. Prior to taking that sales job, I had learned a lot about neuroscience, influence and rapport building, particularly in the area of relationships. After leaving that sales job, I learned a lot of entrepreneurs need help in building and nurturing those relationships to improve their customer experience. This opened a whole new world of opportunity.
I began sharing the science right away. It fascinated me. With what I learned, I could ask a few simple questions and take a person from complete stranger to near intimacy within a relatively short amount of time. It was repeatable. I began experimenting with it, refining it and finally created courses. Material based in science, but works like magic.
I focused on communication and rapport building, and put material together that allows anyone to connect with anyone else on deeply personal levels, and actually understand them better. I used David Snyder’s “three magic questions” and adapted them to a relationship sales approach that focuses more on the relationship and customer values, while increasing close rates. The most fulfilling work, though, has been consolidating the course in customer service. It’s been 25 years in the making.
I remember one particular climbing expedition in Colorado that was in a bit of a horseshoe formation. One side of the horseshoe was at ground level. The other side was about forty feet high. My friend Ivan took the easy way up and walked around. I decided the straight up approach was more fun. They both led to the same place. About ten or twelve feet from the top (where Ivan was waiting) I reached the base of a V shaped crevice that had opened at the surface. Much to my dismay, it made reaching the top rather difficult. From where I was, I could either go to the right into the crevice, or out to the left around it. The left side of the face had no place for my hand to grasp, but another foot hold about four feet up. The right side became the more logical route, so into the crevice I went.
I wasn’t going back down.
I got myself good and wedged in that crevice when I realized I had no way up there either. The crevice only offered a hand hold about two feet from the top, and no place for my feet. My option now was to reach left handed out from the crevice, find the foothold, and swing out and up, or grow taller.
I was stuck. I could go back down, that wasn’t an issue, but I was just out of arm’s reach from the top, and I wasn’t going to quit. I needed to get unstuck.
I reached out with my left hand, grabbed a rock and began to unstick myself when something hit me in the head. I looked up to see Ivan’s upper half leaning over edge with his hand stretched out for mine. He said with a chuckle, “I thought you could use some help.”
I really did need it. I didn’t want to admit it, but likely wouldn’t have made it without Ivan’s help.
It’s been said that asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. I’ve learned that I can do a lot on my own, but way more with the help of others. The entrepreneurial spirit is knowing your limitations, and finding the help to overcome them.
I tell that story because all these things that have happened have been learning experiences. Every disappointment, every setback, every obstacle. They have been catalysts. It is highly unlikely that I would have put these courses together had I not left that sales job. It is just as unlikely that I would be on my way to achieving my fitness goals had I not lost my car.
This dream would not be a reality were it not for the persistence to keep going. It would not be had I not kept exploring. I would not be the person I am today were it not for the network of friends and colleagues, mentors by proxy, nourishing me mentally; and helping me find the strength I need to push through the mess and grow. Nor would I be able to provide help to others, if I had not received it myself.
I hosted my first meetup today. The grand total in attendance: two. Myself included. Here's my takeaways. 1) Social media requires engagement. I have close to 20,000 connections on LinkedIn and my Instagram reach is around the 200,000 mark with hashtags. Hashtags are great for reaching an audience. They don't work so well for actually engaging with people though. That requires vulnerability. People need a reason to engage. As a startup, I have to find out where my clients are challenged, and speak to that pain in a way that resonates with my clients, and provide solutions that they can use. That means I have to meet them where they are, being transparent and real. It means I need to be open enough to understand what they are going through as a business owner. All this means engaging then and asking questions. It's not enough to post an event, I must first discover if the event is needed. 2) The Power of One. Sometimes we have to go through things alone. Sometimes we have a support group, family and friends who believe in you and in what you're doing. Sometimes that support group is one person. Sometimes, that's all you need. The right person understands your vision. They buy in. They get behind you, support you and help you realize your vision. The one other person that came to the meetup was exactly that type. He understood and wanted to partner with me. He even pointed me in the direction of a business owner who could not only host future meetups, but has been approached by other business owners looking for the solutions I offer. 3) Overcoming "against all odds" means there's odds to be against. No one can write a story of inspiring, winning and learning without victories to win and lessons to learn. That comes from adversity. Problems, challenges, issues, troubles... whatever you call them... every last one is a chance to move closer to accomplishing your goals or help you make the necessary course corrections. Two of the most powerful mindset shifts I've made have been: a) there's no such thing as failure, or success. I am either where i want to be in life, or on my way there. And b) asking myself, "How can this move me closer to my goals/benefit me or my clients?" as opposed to "Why is this happening to me?" "This" might just be happening FOR you, not TO you. Once you realize that, things can happen THROUGH you. In other words, you become the catalyst for change. You control your destiny. Not circumstances. Dear reader, this last takeaway is certainly the most valuable, because the tiniest shifts in thinking can create the greatest changes in your life. As you become aware of your thinking, and realize you are in total control of your mind, you can easily and automatically begin to make changes for your best good, and understand how important mindset can be in manifesting the life you really want. This isn't a lesson in the law of attraction, it’s a lesson in the law of attraction, gratitude and mindset.
Those words rang in my head, in a voice that sounded much like my own. I was gasping for air. Heart pounding and desperately thirsty, I laid on the floor of my apartment, searching for the strength to get up.
“I bet if I broke my foot off in your ass you’d get up!”
“No, imaginary drill sergeant. I’d just be tired four feet over there. I can’t get up.”
“Can’t never could do anything, son.” My dad’s voice this time “You can get up, you’re just tired. Laying there is more comfortable.”
He was right. I could get up, but damn, my abs were sore. Laying there was comfortable. I took about a week off from working out, and now I was paying for it. I thought surely cramming the last five days of strength training and cardio into one session would make up for my laziness.
My decision seemed a lot less smart twenty minutes in. I was tired already and my dad’s advice from years ago reminded me that I had only reached that 40% plateau. It’s the first wall we hit. We, from initial enthusiasm and energetic will power, go as fast as possible in the first available direction when the first real obstacle comes up. Bam, face first.
We hit that wall. It stops being exciting. It stops being fun. It’s hard work and it’s tiring and we want to quit.
And that’s exactly where I was: on the floor, attempting to bring my water from across the room by sheer willpower. My telekinesis wasn’t working either.
I’m there in my entrepreneurial journey as well.
That 40% plateau looked different. I was getting things going. Making real progress.
The website, social media, connections, everything. Then I was approached by my friend and long time customer. He offered me a sales position at his dealership. Porsche. I could easily make six figures.
But if I sell my dream, what’s the difference between doing it for six figures or two?
I couldn’t take the position. I turned down the opportunity of a lifetime. I told my friend “No” because I don’t like doing sales. I’d rather teach. And I’d rather teach the science behind relationships and how business owners can use it to turn prospects into brand ambassadors. And I’d rather teach it to the guys at Porsche.
That’s when I hit the wall. When he told me Porsche doesn’t usually bring in outside consultants, it was a disappointment to say the least. It seemed as though everything else had come to a halt so fast, I could almost hear the cyber-screech. My web developer had to take some weeks off. My fiverr was doing nothing. Very little engagement in social media, and none of it was turning sales.
I remember running on two different occasions.
My first, as a junior in high school. I was a fat kid, but loved soccer and felt reasonably comfortable enough in my athletic ability to try out for the JV team. The first requirement seemed obvious enough, make sure we could run. One and a half miles, in thirteen minutes.
It was only six laps. My undeveloped mind did not yet understand the idea of pacing oneself, or the importance of stretching, warming up — any of the normal, pre-run activities. My brain understood two things: racing, and impressing coach LeVine.
Ready, set, and gone. I took off like a rocket. I ran as fast as I possibly could, and two thirds of the way around the track I realized I couldn’t breathe very well. And my legs hurt, bad. Like, they don’t want to do this anymore. Neither did my lungs. My everything hurt. I had to finish, though. I was first.
“No, no you’re not finishing.” my legs said.
“Yeah we’re done too”, “I’m out”, “we’re done”…my body said no. That was a dumb idea and we’re not doing it anymore. As I sputtered across the starting line, I ran off to the side, found Coach LeVine and said, “Coach, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea.”
And I walked off the field.
My second running memory was formed in a battalion run at the end of basic training. The battalion commander thought it would be a good idea to take the lot of us on a six mile run in the cool December evening weather Missouri has to offer. (Read cold.
Not the regular cold that comes when it snows, but the kind of dismal, wet cold that only comes from running six miles in an accordion like fashion through the back of Fort Leonard Wood.)
My friend Robie was in my platoon and happened to be behind me in the run. We were almost finished, but had another mile and a half or so left when he felt done. We were in formation, battalion formation. There would be no end to the proverbial shit storm that would be rained upon us from literally every drill sergeant in the battalion if we broke formation. It wasn’t an option. It was a considerable challenge given the nature of several hundred soldiers running “together”. Cadence calling helped, but only so much for Echo Company, third platoon, the near end of the formation. Only fourth platoon, their drill sergeant, our drill sergeant, Top, the XO, CO, and of course our BCO were behind us.
I told Robie to hold onto my jacket and not let go. Just keep pace for one more step. He did, and we made it in.
I relate these two experiences because they demonstrate the vast difference in results between quitting when we hit that wall, and merely resting. Or in this latter instance, pacing oneself.
When I tried out for JV soccer, I was excited and inexperienced. I hit that wall fast. It hurt and I quit.
In the Army, I was better trained, properly warmed up, fed and equipped. I had a standard to uphold and people depending on me. As well as consequences and people I did not want to disappoint. When I hit that wall in the Army, I powered through it. I got my second wind. It didn’t hurt because I didn’t quit.
Had I not quit in high school, but rather conserved my energy and slowed to a more reasonable pace, I would’ve made the soccer team instead of embarrassing myself.
I didn’t realize what the 40% plateau was.
I should’ve slowed down, dug down and found that strength to keep going. I didn’t know how. The Army taught me the mission comes first. My platoon taught me the team comes first. My friend taught me others come first.
All these come before me, and it gave me the drive to keep going. Being properly trained, fed and motivated gave me the ability to keep going. Despite being tired. In business, especially starting a project, it’s important to be properly prepared and paced in order to power through. We will hit obstacles. will get tired. It will stop being fun, and become hard work. But people depend on you. Your company’s mission depends on you. Your “success" depends on you.
My personal plateau will not stop me. I will not quit because things aren’t going according to plan. I am prepared and equipped to change the plan. It’s time to climb. This is the time to dig in, remember the why, develop the how, and go after the whats which will benefit the most. Time to find the whos that are depending on me and help where they hurt.
Because I’m not done yet. I have sixty percent left before I’m truly exhausted. That’s if i don’t refuel along the way. Self care is another topic for another day. Today is the day to keep going. To take an honest inventory of where I am, and what I need to get where I want.
We’ve all got great ideas. Great, money-making ideas, if we can implement them.
Therein lies the challenge - the implementation.
How do you go from idea to an enjoyable, fulfilling adventure as an entrepreneur?
Here’s some things you should, and shouldn’t do, from my experience.
Head knowledge is great, but heart knowledge is better. This is one area where I’d like you to take my word for it and avoid some of these costly mistakes.
I’ll grant you this, it’s better to try something and fail, than it is to try nothing and succeed. Better still is to accomplish without the headaches. So without further ado, here’s some things to do and don’t do.
DON’T THINK STARTING A BUSINESS IS SOMETHING TO TOY WITH.
Businesses are a lot of investment. Some models require a near endless stream of energy to get started and/or up and running. If you’re going to start a business, be dead sure you can dig in and devote time to making it real.
There are thousands of business owners who will tell you it’s a ton of work. I’ll be the first, so get ready to get your hands dirty.
DO YOUR MARKET RESEARCH.
Yes, you have a great idea for a business. Yes, you have a passion, and yes, you’re probably great at what you love doing. I"‘m not online yelling, but i do want you, my dear reader to be very clear about this: THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT A VIABLE BUSINESS . It may very well be that there’s not already thousands of people doing what you want to do as a business because there’s not a developed market for it.
It’s a painful lesson, but one that needs to be understood before you start this.
Not everybody wants to buy hot sauce online - Count the Cost.
I love to cook. I love making sweet and spicy foods for my friends and family to enjoy. I love fresh, healthy foods. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so I bought hundreds of bottles, hundreds of seals, caps, boxes…the whole nine.
Doc’s Dang Tangy Hand-crafted Hot Sauce was underway. People loved it too. I sold jars at my work and even got some into a local restaurant. I made enough to cover the cost of the fruits and peppers, but didn’t have the demand in place or proper cost structure for the product to make it my sole source of income. As much as I would’ve loved to make batch after batch, I would either have to use cheaper, artificial ingredients, or be doing it for the next hundred years to fill the hypothetical demand needed to make it a viable business.
There are several places available to you. Your local chapter of the Small Business Development Council will be able to provide numerous resources at no charge as well as referrals to paid services. Your local chamber of commerce can also provide valuable market information for you. Google is free, too. All of these can provide clarity with your market demographic.
I’m big on free. Starting a business means you’re going to have to manage expenses as much as possible.
Had I done the research beforehand, I would’ve kept Doc’s Dang Tangy as a hobby, as it is today.
The ability to get in front of a potential customer is absolutely critical, which is why I so highly recommend business-owners-to-be watch Simon Sinek’s now famous TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire to Action..
Not only does that video provide a great model for business owners, It also provides a tremendous marketing strategy. Go watch that after you finish reading this. It’ll help.
It also leads me to my next “don’t”…
DON’T ASSUME EVERYONE SEES YOUR VISION.
I have to come back to my current coaching venture on this point, because it was something I had to get really, really good at communicating.
I didn’t learn all this neuroscience stuff to sell five star customer service coaching to business owners, I learned it because I wanted to learn how to create attraction. Making it a customer service business class was a by-product of creating good feelings in people who came into my restaurant. Making guests feel great was my job, and I found a foolproof way of doing it.
The problem came in communicating how this would help a business owner. I had to learn to explain my vision in very clear terms. “Hey, I want to teach you this stuff because it will help you create genuine connection with your customers. You can begin to meet their needs on a values-based level, and generate more business through word of mouth advertising because of it.”
I communicated with purpose, and the business owners that had customer service issues grabbed onto that. Answer this question for yourself: Why am I in business… and why should anyone care? Answering this will help you market your business to your audience. It will cause some serious examination (especially the last part) but it will also greatly improve your ability to define your vision. Your product or service offering becomes more than just your business’ bread and butter. ti becomes a part of the conversation with your customer that fulfills their needs and meets their criteria for excellence.
The way you communicate your purpose in business will determine the type of audience you attract. It will resonate with some, but not with others. If you want to connect with those others as well, you have to meet them where they are and express your purpose in a way that speaks to their pain, or greatest need, or goal. You have to learn how to describe your offering in the terms the customer describes as the ideal solution.
Speak to the pain.
DO DEVELOP YOUR OFFERING.
Many years ago I was training with some Marine Corps friends (I’m a former Army guy, so I kinda had to show these guys how we do) and during this fun time, I had made my way into a bunker through an underground tunnel and was returning “fire” to defend my position. My buddy James popped up through the same trap door and handed me his weapons and ammo, “Here bro, take this stuff, I’m dead.”
“I can’t bro, I’m taking fire.” I was in the front corner of the bunker shooting outward, they had rounds coming in from all directions, and taking his stuff required crossing a hail of 6mm plastic BB’s ripping through the air at ridiculously painful speeds..
“Back up, knucklehead”
When I stepped back, my left leg went through the open trap door and crashed down on a log, shattering the second metatarsal bone in my foot.
I couldn’t put any weight on it for about a month and a half, which hurt my delivery job.
It was way back in the days when desktop publishing started to become a thing, so I thought I’d try my hand at that. (Again, good idea, but i didn’t count the cost of doing it). Back then, my idea of advertising was telling people I had a skill. It was like my son saying, “Dad, look what I can do…” before hurtling himself into the air into some funny pose.
The more profitable idea was to tell business owners I can create business cards, letterhead and even websites. That solved more problems and generated more income than saying “look what I can do…”.
Develop your product or service to be a solution to a problem.
DON’T QUIT AT THE FIRST SIGN OF OPPOSITION. Opposition will come. You can count on that. I can pretty much guarantee you, just as sure as your name is what it is, you’re going to run into obstacles, challenges, and naysayers. They’ll discourage you and make you want to quit. They may even send you spiraling down into battles with depression. God knows, I’ve been through that too.
I’ve said it a hundred times before, and I’ll probably say it a hundred times more: There is no such thing as failure. You either win, or you learn. Business ownership (or any other goal) is a long game. Don’t play the short game and think just because you don’t have x, y or z that you can’t make it happen. You can, if you find the right resources, whether it’s hiring a business coach or finding a grant or finding another person who can do what you can’t…the resources are out there.. Make the necessary course corrections and keep going. It’s fine to rest, but don’t quit.
There’s going to be times when running a business might seem overwhelming. You have a big goal, or lofty idea and you might feel some trepidation about getting started.
Chunk it down. Do a little bit each day towards your business, and do a little bit each day towards improving you. You’re worth it. Yes, it might take time, but as the adage says, Time will pass anyway.
Gil was a friend I had the pleasure of working with at a produce distributor during the summer and fall of 2017. He delivered the orders I transcribed from voicemails the night before. I verified the deliveries and we would talk about a girl he was interested in. It started with him relaying stories of the day’s interaction. I was dissecting the interaction based on what I had learned about what happens in the brain in a relationship, and would tell him what to do to generate attraction. We talked about everything from the value/criteria map, to body language and micro-expressions. I taught him how to understand this girl he was interested in, and how to express his affection for her in a way she knew was “right”. It was truly fascinating. I started using this information everywhere. I started giving people their map back to them, purposely generating attraction. I wasn’t looking for romantic interludes, but I did want to test the application to determine just how broad it would reach. This developmental phase gave birth to my tagline: based in science, works like magic. Here’s what I learned.As humans, we have a basic need for love. We need to love and be loved. Because we also have a basic need for security, we seek that love in the safest place — the familiar. This search for familiarity is the prism through which we see the world. In other words, we like people like us. We all have our own set of values, and we assign our own criteria that tell us when those values are validated. When the criteria is met, the value is validated and the connection with the other person is deepened. It can’t not happen. (We can blame that on oxytocin — the hormone responsible for feelings of bonding between a parent and child.) However, if the criteria is not met, rapport will be broken. Person A is in a relationship with person B. Both people have the value of respect. They both want respect in the relationship. Person A says, “I know you respect me when you tell me the truth, regardless of how it will make me feel.” Person B says, “I know you respect me when you tell me things carefully and take how i feel into consideration first.” Now what’s going to happen when these two start respecting each other based on their own map? What about if they respected each other based on their partner’s map? These two options can produce very different outcomes. Before the conversation can even begin, there must be enough trust (read feeling of security) to engage the other person. Again, we search for the familiar. And because we are primarily visual in nature, mirror neurons, micro-expressions and body language all play a huge role in how comfortable we are with the interaction. Bringing it into business:There’s a motto in sales that nearly every professional knows by heart — people buy from those they know, like and trust. Here’s the “dirty little secret”: we know, like and trust those most like ourselves. In order to change the relationship from prospect to a brand ambassador, your potential customer must feel like you tailored the experience just for them, because you share the same values. Here’s your checklist to build the kind of rapport to make that happen. Thing 1. MindsetI haven’t fully discussed the importance of mindset in this article, however, I will say it is an integral part of the prospective interaction. We must have the end goal of not just understanding the person, but understanding them well enough to create an amazing customer experience. Interacting with your prospective customers with this mindset will dramatically improve your responses. Think about every person that your business interacts with as your best friend. That’s it. When you think about them as your best friend, it changes the way you feel about them, the way you talk to them and most importantly, the feelings of trust and likability you generate in them. Thing 2. PhysiologyExperts say communication is 93% non verbal. This gives us a critical advantage for rapport building by allowing us to use our physiology to communicate openness long before a “how can I help you” comes out. Every person says “hi” with their eyebrows when they see someone they like. It’s subconscious, happens in a flash and occasionally accompanied by a smile. When we see someone we like and know, that brow raise can turn to a full-on head nod. Because this greeting is more instinctual, seeing it naturally induces feelings of trust. The paleo-cortex says this person is friendly, and friendly is good. Our body language also reveals how we feel, regardless of what we say. Understanding body language gives remarkable insight into how a person really feels, but what’s more remarkable is that we can use body language to influence how a person feels. We can create trust and likability with an open posture, palms out, genuine Duchenne smiles, and so forth, but the sense of knowing comes from mirroring the prospect’s gestures. Brian Tracy talks about this in his award winning sales course. Gesture mirroring is exactly what it sounds like — giving the prospect’s mannerisms back to them within one to three seconds after it is displayed. This technique is most effective with smaller expressions, such as head tilts or blinking. Gesture hijacking, however, is used when giving back larger expressions like hand movements, and done some time after the prospect uses the gesture. I used gesture mirroring while conducting one particular test — meeting a representative for the local chamber of commerce. When I got up to leave after our fifteen minute conversation, she stood up as well, and reached out for a hug. Gesture mirroring and hijacking is so effective because our gestures are generally expressed unconsciously. They are literal physical expressions of our emotional attachment to the subject of discussion. Because they are expressed unconsciously, they are received unconsciously. Because they are received unconsciously, they create immediate rapport. Thing 3. ReadingReading people seems more like a mentalist trick than it does science, however there’s a great deal of research that goes into effective people reading. Dr. Paul Ekman pioneered the work on micro-expressions — nuanced ticks that indicate emotional response or stress. They relay messages to our subconscious in fractions of a second, under the radar of awareness, and directly impact how we feel about the interaction. Dr. Ekman studied the facial expressions of people from all over the world to find the common facial indicators of emotion, regardless of age, gender or socioeconomic background. He found seven emotions that trigger universal facial expressions — anger, fear, disgust, contempt, sadness, surprise and joy. These universal expressions reveal thoughts and emotions that otherwise may go unnoticed. Dr. Lillian Pearl Bridges teaches face reading in Chinese medicine, and her work has been used by countless professionals, from health practitioners to C-level executives. She’s produced an incredibly revealing chart of where emotions are expressed in the face, the types of emotions that are expressed repeatedly and what those wrinkles reveal about a person’s disposition. From these two experts, we gain a wealth of information about how to deal with a particular individual. Lines on the chin can reveal fear or anxiety, that person may need reassurance about product performance or service guarantee. Vertical lines in front of the ear indicate hyper vigilance, this person may need more specifics about a product. A person with the corners of their mouth turned down has experienced disappointment. They might need you to undersell and over-deliver. Reading and reciprocating expressions are phenomenally powerful ways of building rapport, and because they are nonverbal, there is no critical factor to dissect the reciprocation. We simply feel this person is like us. Thing 4: SpeakingBoth verbal and tonal communication can be used to build rapport. The way a person speaks can be indicative of thought process, but also show the emotion attached. For example, higher pitch or faster rate of speech can show emotional stress, whereas a lower pitch and slower rate can reveal a calm demeanor and more analytical or critical thought processes. Verbiage, however remains one of the most powerful tools for rapport building. It is through words we express our values and desires, and more importantly, how we know those values are validated. In the example above, both parties had the value of respect, but their criteria for respect was different. Just like that example above, we seldom meet another’s criteria with our own map. In order for a relationship to be built, we must validate their values and do so by their criteria. Verbiage is the tool to use. A very popular method of communication called reflective listening came out several years ago, and while it does have some efficacy, a tool developed by David Snyder is far more useful. It’s known as the echo technique and is simply giving a person their own words back in the exact order and sequence they came out. Much like body language, it bypasses critical faculties and speaks directly to the emotional part of the brain. Likability is where sales are supercharged and experiences are perfected. When a person describes an expectation, desire or passion, they feel a particular emotion and use very particular words. Those words are the keys to those emotions, and the person cannot hear those words about that expectation, desire or passion and not feel that emotion. What’s more fascinating is whatever or whoever a person is looking at when describing that expectation/desire/passion thing gets the emotion transferred to it like an anchor. Eliciting these emotions builds deep rapport by driving likability through the roof. Final thoughtsAs humans, we tend to over-complicate the simplest things. Building rapport and business relationships isn’t difficult. People are looking for themselves and their own values reflected back to them. If we can, through the relationships, services and products we offer give those values back in a way the customer feels understood and appreciated, we will build trust, and the subsequent loyalty that grows our business. I have personally used these exact skills to create a very loyal group of people who request my service at every restaurant I’ve been a part of, and regularly receive tips ranging from 20–100 plus percent. If you want more organic growth, better reviews, more referrals, etc., then build a relationship with your customers. Customer relationships built on deep rapport will flourish because they know you understand, appreciate and value them individually, and you can meet their business needs better than the competition.
The interview was going well. We discussed corporate culture, service and we had finally come around to the sales position for which I was applying. “Sell me this pen.” the interviewer said. I picked the pen up off the desk, looked it over once and stuck it in my coat pocket. “No.” “Beg your pardon?” His brow had more lines than a pickup artist. The look of surprise alone was worth the drive to the interview. “Why do you want this pen?” I asked. “Because I like the way it writes. The ink flows well but dries quickly so there are no smudges. It has a very professional style, and comes with different colored refills.” “No smudges? Is that important?” “Yes”, He said, “I do a lot of writing. That pen allows me to let my thoughts flow without worrying about the ink spotting or smearing.” “I’m curious about something, what do you do a lot of writing about?” I asked. “Well, a lot of plans for my team, strategies, notes from meetings, things like that.” “Ah, things like that, stuff that will grow the organization, improve the process? Are those the thoughts this pen helps you keep track of and implement?” “Yes, indeed.” His face shone with a smile only a fourth-grade science project contest winner knows. “Wow, I can see you do like this pen. Have you always used a pen like this?” “Oh, no,” he said, “only since I’ve gotten into management. My first pen like that was from my mentor, but it’s on my desk.” “I see. So this pen brings back some fond memories for you. I see why you like this pen.” “Yes”, he reached out for his pen. “Can I have it back now?” “No, but you can buy it for $29.95.” The Problem Persistent: Why Features and Benefits Don’t Work in Sales AnymoreThe age-old interview scenario: Sell this _____ to me. It has gotten the age-old responses: features and benefits. Features and benefits are for packaging. That was a great answer twenty years ago. My first time I was asked to show my sales chops, I was asked to sell a pepper shaker. I was applying for a serving position and this was the test. I told the manager about where pepper came from, the wonderful health benefits and the zest the pepper added to the food. I got the job. But, my real sales ability came from connecting with my guests at the restaurant. It was understanding their values (like whether or not they drank alcohol, preferred big meals with family or quiet nights or alone, the kind of foods they chose and lifestyle) and forming relationships with those guests. It made me more able to recommend appetizers, wine, desserts and even fun spots in the area. Translating to the Now: Selling to People’s ValuesAfter spending the last two years in a passionate (not academic, I’m just a nerd) pursuit into neuroscience, I understand why the science of selling to people’s values works so well. Human beings have three brains. The deepest of which is known as the paleocortex. We tend to think of this as the heart. Not the blood pumper, but the behavior driver. The paleocortex thinks in terms of primal drives. Do I know it? Can I eat it? Is it friendly? Can I mate with it? That’s about it. The second brain wraps all those primal drives in emotions. But neither of those two have any capacity for language. That’s why we say things like “it just doesn’t feel right”. Our third brain is where logic, reason, and stories package those emotions and drives into communication, and it comes through in our language, and what we look for as good and right. It is our checklist. We assign labels and meanings and it becomes the criteria by which our values are validated. It is in our communication we understand one another and form relationships based on rapport. When our values are validated, it deepens rapport. We feel as though we can trust the person because they believe in the same things we do. Let me bring all this together.In the example above, our manager expressed the value and emotional attachment he held for the pen through his words. He talked about the style of the pen, it’s daily use, and receiving one as a congratulatory gift, from his mentor, on the occasion of being promoted. All positive events. Had he received a pen as a joke from his peers after he was fired, it wouldn’t have held the same emotional value. It wouldn’t be described with the same words. Each section of the manager’s brain views the pen in its own way. The neocortex views the pen through the senses and attaches a story and meaning to the pen. The second layer “likes” the pen because of the sentimental value and fulfillment derived from usage. The paleocortex says that this pen is familiar, and that familiar is good. I knew this because rather than sell the pen by describing all its features and benefits, I developed enough of a relationship with the manager to find out what’s important to him. In my interview example, I didn’t talk about how nice the pen was, how professional it looked, how well it wrote or anything like that. The questions I asked made the manager sell the pen to himself. They brought out the emotional attachment he had to that pen. A Closer Look: How Sales Should WorkThe first question was very general, why do you like this _____? Apart from planting the assumption that they like the pen, it’s a search for criteria. Our brains are wired to answer questions. A question like this one forces the mind to come up with all of the reasons why we like something. The more we think about why we like it, the more we like it. That thought loop reinforces our desire to have that pen. The manager liked the pen because it held sentimental value and fulfillment from use. That happens in the second brain. The neocortex attaches reasons like the professional style and meeting notes. The second question elicits value. Is that important to you? Yes or no, it gives a measure of how desired those features and benefits really are to the client. In our example, it revealed that our manager does a lot of writing. It goes beyond the thing itself and into the emotional value, the thing provides. The intermediary questions I posed elicit the emotional value of the pen, further reinforce its importance, and got the manager thinking about all of the projects that would be finished, the ideas implemented and so forth. These thoughts trigger emotional attachment and desire, completely under the radar. It’s almost unfair. The last question elicits fond memory. It’s the deal sealer. Our manager cannot think about the first time he used a pen like that, without thinking about his mentor, being promoted, or receiving a gift. Nor can he have those thoughts without experiencing good feelings. And because I asked the question, all of those good feelings from the fond memory becomes associated with me. With that pen in my pocket, I have essentially taken that appreciation he has for the pen, the passion he writes and the fond memories away. They’re in my pocket attached to his pen. This association can be done with any product. The questions may have to be adapted to have the prospect imagine him or herself using the proverbial pen, but it can be done. Frankly, it’s more powerful using imagination, but rapport is strengthened using memory. This final takeaway creates a “pain” that is vastly different from the emotional “pleasure” of the fond memories and big dreams. This emotional up and down creates an emotional bond between me and the manager. It’s a technique known as fractionation and used by Hollywood in every box office hit that comes out. Final ThoughtsPeople buy from those they know, like and trust. Every salesperson knows that. Every customer knows that, but they don’t realize it consciously. In order to improve the feeling of knowing, likability and trust, it requires building rapport and understanding the customer’s values before their needs. This rapport/relationship approach to sales is far more valuable because it builds customer loyalty and loyal customers are referring customers. We understand values simply by asking what is important and why it’s important. That gives us keywords and phrases that have an emotional attachment. The person cannot talk about these values with feeling the emotion, and they cannot have their values validated and not have rapport deepened. It’s a powerful and adaptable process that lets the prospect sell themselves. The rapport generated by eliciting the value and criteria became vastly powerful when it came time for “the close”. The close was done when I put the pen in my pocket, but we didn’t get there until the relationship was built. Had I not asked those questions and generated that rapport, I would’ve been a thief. By building the relationship we are able to elicit the values and criteria by which our prospects measure any product, service or interaction. It gives us as sales professionals the ability to provide solutions that not only meet the need but exceed expectations. We are able to provide a level of service more personalized than the competition and build a loyal client base that grows organically and as exponentially as word of mouth.