Any Way You Want It

At the end of the last episode of The Sopranos, the scene flashes to an image of a Jukebox with the Journey classics “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Any Way You Want It”.  Patriarch Tony Soprano chooses the first song as the music that would carry us out of one of the most successful television series of all time.   The ending was brilliant and well-chosen for a fan base that would have been disappointed with an ending that was not left to the imagination to complete.  What made it even more brilliant is the choice by Creator/Producer David Chase  to choose “Believing” over “Any Way” by showing us that any way was what he intended through a quick and fleeting visual of both sides of the record.  The show will remain timeless and mysterious for the future to come, as he  intended.

We find ourselves in a similar place of record.  One one side we mentally play “Don’t Stop Believing” and on the backside we play “Any Way You Want It”.  Side one reminds us that we have put ourselves in a place where we have banked dreams which are behind locked doors.  Side two says that things can go in a lot of different directions and that we are ultimately responsible for where we land.  Everyone owns this record and some of us choose to only listen and not act relegating the tune over time to what could have been.

The ending to the Sopranos was a quick fade to black which left many wondering what happened and suspecting they would need to have a tough talk with their cable or satellite provider for the gross injustice of relieving them of conclusion. As intended,  the quick fade to black left mystery,  as a slow fade might have suggested a soft future continuity of Tony and family.  The quick fade supported both premises of “any way you want it” and “don’t stop believing” .   We were given the gift of writing the ending as our projection of how we wanted to things to end.  The creator gave us options to believe any way we wanted.

We are given the same in life and it is as mysterious to those who have no viewers in life.  We know our dreams are behind glass and we know there are variations, but we often choose those that are closest to hand instead of searching through the folder titled “options”.    The record becomes fuzzy like an old cassette tape where the “A” side of the tape appears to have bled onto the “B” side of the tape when we choose to believe that our dreams will someone automagically come into alignment when we make a simple choice to go one way or the other.

Brilliant writers like Chase know that writing an ending to an acclaimed series is tough – really tough and they know there are detractors and fans and they choose what will serve their audience best.  Someone has to make the tough call and in this case life-giver decides how his creation will die.   He gave the life in a way he felt served the creation and he ended the life in the way it best served his creation.  It was his to decide, we are just visitor viewers  to his vision and clearly the “right” ending would have never been resolved in committee.

In order to get the ending we want, we must create the beginning that sets the tone and we need to leave clues in the process about how things will end.  In essence we must get access to our dreams, take them from the vault and put them in place they are not always safe, but are close at hand.  We must choose which dream to work first and which ones to work thereafter.  We must choose which dreams we will pursue with passion and which ones might die in the process if they are scripted as to take a minor or defeated role.  We can then make sure we are inserting ourselves into a place that insures we can now live a life that has the true outcome of “any way you want it”.   We must choose to have viewers though, an audience of trusted advisors who can participate serially in our lives with both praise and criticism for the story we write so that we keep our characters honest and true, engaging and brilliant.  We are defined by the dreams we pursue, the action we take to drive fruition of those dreams and we must live in accordance with the “B Side” that in clear melody reminds us that:

Any way you want it

That’s the way you need it 

The Doctor and the Salesperson

What do doctors and salespeople have in common.?  Well of course, in the case of both of them, their expertise in their field and the fact that time is their greatest asset is shared, but what I am looking for here is their committment to questioning.  Both professionals know that to get to the conclusion faster and move onto the next person in the “waiting room” it is critical that well positioned questioning takes place.  Doctors don’t run into the room, lay down a bunch of brochures on things you “might want or need” and then whip out the prescription pad to write your Rx before quickly exiting the room.   Well not if they are trying to avoid an increase in their malpractice insurance.

The professional doctor comes in with a plan and questions on how to diagnose your situation,  but more importantly,  he is trying to discover if you even have something that is treatable by him through medicine or procedures.  He might ask where it hurts, how often it hurts and how that is impacting your lifestyle.  If he uncovers that it is greatly impacting your life and may be a precursor to more serious issues,  he might be might choose a more aggressive action.  But he would never choose any action without ALL the facts and symptoms.

So why do salespeople walk in with few questions and all the answers?  How would you view a doctor who approached your health as an opportunity to simply write an order?  Chances are you would invite him out of your life becasue of your low level of trust. 

Asking probing questions is a little uncomfortable in the sales process; enough so, that a prospect might inquire as to why you are asking so many questions.  It might be uncomfortable for the salesperson as well, who is not used to asking deep questions related to how a prospects current situation affects them personally.  However, most clients who , at one time , were”well investigated prospects”,  respect the salesperson for asking the types of questions that would identify if they were a good prospect or if the salesperson was playing on the wrong field. 

Failing to ask the right questions shows lack of respect for the prospect and his/her business.  It tells them that THEY are less important than YOUR selling process and ultimately see your primary focus as being tilted toward your personal gain.    You must walk into a prospect meeting that with a sense of abundance;  that all is well for you financially and each and every prospect you meet with is simply another opportunity to help them find their own abundance in the pain you will remove from their life. 

Great doctors got into medicine because they believed in helping people, curing pain and allowing people to gain the most for their lives.  We need to turn that stethoscope back onto our hearts to see what motivates us.  And while money motivation for salespeople is important, you will find the deals close moreoften  when you share the motivations of the doctor to help the person sitting across from them. 

Gain more – ask more.

The Art of Flexibility

Recently,  a client I have had the unfortunate incident of getting stuck behind the gate of a downtown parking garage prior to a meeting.  They had a planned to be at a prospects location 15 minutes early for a meeting, but with each frustrating action of the gate attendant, that time was clicking down.  Escaping the garage five minutes prior to our meeting, he dashed across town hitting almost every red light along the way to arrive a couple of minutes after their agreed time and spent the next couple frantically looking for parking.   Arriving in the lobby, he was turned away by the company President for being 5 minutes late.  She informed him they were an “on time” company and would not take the meeting.  Now, he wasrarely, if ever , late for a meeting, but even with the miracle of real time traffic mapping,  occasionally the road demons rear their ugly heads to through a wrench in the best laid plans. 

So why do I bring this up ?  Well from now on,  he’s shooting for a half hour early!  But more importantly, the prospect lost out on some important benefits of this meeting that are most likely non-recoverable.  Had the prospect had the flexibility to forgive five minutes, she would have been rewarded quite nicely.  With him in his meeting folder, was a substantial pre-qualified lead, a very innovative marketing plan ( that would have,  without any doubt, put their organization in the forefront of her competitors) and a proposal that provided a very effective, but cost efficient proposal, to help them fill many gaps in their current non-performing sales team.  The lead alone may have covered most of his retainer and the knowledge and marketing plan could have increased their revenue a minimum of 175% in the first year

The “Waive” goodbye

Fourteen years ago when we moved into our house we contacted Comcast who has only a few weeks earlier completed a free installation offer. We contacted them asking for that offer which they would not extend, no matter what level of “management” I ended up with.  It made the decision to go to DirectTV much easier and has cost Comcast 14 years of recycling bin liner mailings (aka junk mail pleading deals to get me to come on board ).   14 years of revenue to Comcast would have been somewhere in the $13,000!   If only the Chief Flexibility Officer had gotten on the line.  My understanding is that Comcast has gotten such a poor reputation for there business dealings that they decided to change a well recognized brand to Xfinity.  The moral of the story is that lack of flexibility costs.

In the Eye of The Beholder

The art of flexibility is to know when you need to overlook something to get something greater.  While I advocate strong margins to salespeople and proper selling technique attitude and behaviors, I know that asking the right questions and overlooking slight indiscretions can make that gateway difference in your business. Consider the story I heard from a client who took a meeting with a supplier who she had heard second hand was a “tough salesperson”.  She felt she could match a tough salesperson and she had a problem she was willing to fix in the business at all costs with the hope of making a significant advancement.  She met with the salesperson (who was well trained) and he simply asked her probing questions about her business.  She found the approach refreshing and was encouraged she had met with the person on the other side of the desk that would solve her problem.  Since that time. the company has not only done business with that salesperson but actually bought that company – for over 120 million dollars!  The art of flexibility taught her that there is no place in business for inflexibility today.  With the world of business expanding to a global footprint at the fastest rate in history,  we need to find new, innovative and volocity driven ways to succeed in business, and we need to look at all options and consider all proposals. 

…and occasionally, we need to ask, what can five minutes do to change our company?

The guy behind the guy

Remember the Verizon “Network” Commercial that was pervasive in 2009 and early 2010 .  It showed a bunch of technicians and support staff behind a nerdy sort used to spend a lot of his days making calls to his network in days of old asking if they could hear him.  

The Verizon Guy and Network

Well, great business networkers share the same affinity in that we have a network that stands behind us.  They want us and they need us.   If we are supporting them correctly, we are their extended salespeople, their enthusiastic marketers and their influencers to help them grow their business.  In networking situation we listed for an opportunity to introduce our network loyals to fill a gap or correct a situation for the person in front of us.  We serve our network and when we serve our network, they serve us.  Not because they have to, but because they want to and they do it with both enthusiasm and precision,  They place the seed of connection in the conversation, and they grow the seed when they return to their office.  They follow-up with their network to see if a connection is made, not so they can pat themselves on the back on what a great connector they are, but to make sure they understand if they have been successful in their quest to connect.  If they connection failed, the great networker does failure analysis to discover why the connection failed and they either intervene for a successful connection or they work with their network to understand how to better position the next opportunity.

I can usually spot the new networker who comes loaded down with brochures and mobile PowerPoints to pitch the unsuspecting event participant into a floor presentation.  The mistake they make is to assume that:

  1. You Care.
  2. They have earned the right to influence you or your network
  3. That  you are the right person to make this investment
  4. That is does not bother you that they are interrupting your efforts to help your network.

The right way to network is walk in with full power in your hearing and low power in your pitching.  The primary words that come from your lips should be those that ask the questions that get to determining how you can help that person and how you can help your network.  Having a conversation about your business should happen after the event.  Good practice at these events is to invest no more than 10 minutes with any single individual.  The way out of the conversation at the maximum recommended time is to set a meeting and/or inform that the person at the other side of the conversation that you will touch your network and have the appropriate person contact them to help them.   A good practice is to call both parties to make sure they connection was successfully made.  Being a professional networker is a process, not just a title.  Great networkers know that building a productive and interesting network of influencers takes time and effort.  Sounds simple, but less than 5% do what it takes to be remarkable in this area.

Remember that it is not the person standing in front of you in a room – it is the hundred behind them.  Be clear on your goals when  you network and like many things in life, put the needs of others in front of your own and you will be fulfilled in many ways!