Friday, November 27, 2015

Can Anyone Be President of the United States?

A vivid and very weird dream last night work me up with a jolt.  I was seeking the Democrat Party's nomination for President of the United States and was debating Hillary Clinton on live television.  

The debate was a big deal, with a fancy stage (we were to be seated in giant chairs, each next to a small table with a glass of still water, no ice, of a brand I had not heard of that the former Secretary of State requested).  She was quite specific. The venue was a performing arts theater with bight lights and a huge blue curtain.  It was oversold with people standing in the back of the room and the world's press corps all in attendance.  The moderator was a Katie Couric lookalike (or maybe it was Katie?). 

Before the debate started Mrs Clinton and I hung out back stage and she was questioning how in the world I had ever made it this far in the race.  She asked me why the American people would choose to vote for someone who was just an average person without fame or experience in politics?  She was really nice, a bit shocked to be at this point in the race with some person whose credentials included being a professional master of ceremonies, keynote speaker and story teller (although that seemed normal to everyone else in the dream). 

Apparently I had come out of nowhere in the polls and knocked out the other contenders in the early voting states. The remaining states would determine the nomination, and Mrs. Clinton wanted to lock this up quickly and bury my campaign.  She had demanded the debate take place.  While very polite to me, she felt there was no way I could have anything to say on television that could be impressive to the voters.

My wife and kids sat in the front row giving me smiles each time I answered a question.  They were so supportive. I won the debate and my opponent stormed away as Katie Couric announced I had been the victor, as in my dream it was common for the moderator to announce the winner on the spot.  I waved as confetti dropped (real debates are not instantly called by TV news personalities and followed by a balloon drop and a marching band).

Then I woke up.  It was similar to one of those scary dreams where you are chased or falling.  I have no intention of entering politics nor do I think I could beat Hillary in a foreign policy debate.  I am not seeking any party's nomination for the presidency.  Yet in a strange way the dream was empowering.  

I decided to write this post on my blog, but since I do not usually share odd dreams, this piece stands alone as some open window to my head. Sorry for kicking your butt in a fake debate in a dream, Mrs C.  And why did the brand of water matter so damn much?  (I don't recall anyone ever taking a drink).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #137) - Karen Jacobsen's New Christmas Album

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friend Karen Jacobson has just released her first Christmas CD, Destination Christmas.  The album is full of original and classic holiday tunes, and I recommend you download these songs to get you ready for the season.

Many of you know Karen's voice from your GPS and Siri.  Yep, she is The GPS Girl.  I have known her for a few years through the National Speakers Association, but had no idea she was such a talented singer / performer.  It is common that we know people, but never really know all their talents.

Wait, you are stuck on my mention that Karen is the voice of your GPS and Siri? Yes, she gives directions in over 400 million GPS and smart phones around the world..  (before meeting her I had never thought about the fact that someone had to record all those words that Siri says).  She has a great voice for telling you where to turn your car, and she can sing!!!  

Karen Jacobsen is a speaker for organizations that want to both entertain and inspire their people to perform in a world class fashion, and "Recalculate" when things do not go as planned (I find it clever that the title of one of her most popular keynotes is "Recalculating").

When I saw that she had released a new Christmas CD I knew I had to share this on a "Cool Things My Friends Do" post as week #137.  I am also going to ask her to be a guest on the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast in the next few weeks so she can share her story with my podcast audience.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, November 23, 2015

Live Event Networking Is Based on Pre-Conceived Opinions

The next time you attend a conference or other live event, go in with the intention that the other people who are present are amazing souls who can help you learn and find opportunities.  Do not pre-judge them and do not fear that anyone is wasting your time.

Also take the point of view that you are a person capable of bringing life-changing value to someone in the room.  Seek ways to build meaningful long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.

All opportunities come from people, and too often we miss out because we fail to connect with others.  Our pre-conceived opinions of others and ourselves hold us back.

What can change if you meet the right people?  The whole world can change.

Have fun.


Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Learning From Lost Sales Opportunities

As a keynote speaker who was selected to give over fifty presentations this year (and 600 speeches over my career), the "no's" can still be disappointing.  Sales is the hardest part of any career, and the ups and downs of selling can be interesting. As a career sales person (before I was a speaker), I am okay with rejection.  You will not win them all, and to get to success you have to have some losses. 

However, in this business there are times you talk with a meeting planner and you get excited by the vibe of being part of their conference.

After having booked many speakers on the planning side and having been a speaker for nearly a decade, I fully understand how these things go. I am the first person to say that choosing a speaker is hard work for a committee and if I am not the right fit, I never worry about it.... as I know the attention that planners and committees put into finding the ones that can have the right impact on their audience.  

About once a year I lose a deal that makes me sad.  It is usually because I enjoyed the personality of the people on the committee or the planner and want to work with them in making their conference more engaging.  

"No" is so final, and most groups do not revisit the same list of speakers the following year, so a loss can seem so final. While not all deals make me sad if I am not selected, sometimes the loss is my fault (usually that I did not do a good job of painting a visual picture of the committee as to who I can impact their event).

Take loses in stride and make notes about what you could have done differently.  In working with clients who want to increase sales I am shocked how few analyze their lost sales.  Too many move on without reflection. To improve your sales you must be relentless about learning and accept your failures.  Discovering your strengths and weaknesses has to be a lifetime commitment and part of every deal (win or lose).

Recently I had a loss that stung (it happens once a year, so it was bound to show up).  Having researched this unique industry I was sure that my message would have "wowwed" this audience, but alas it wont happen in 2016.  Yet I learned so much exploring their business area that I found some new ways that my keynote can have an impact on the retail sector (something I had not thought much about in the past).  The enthusiasm I now have to work with local independent retail clients is exciting and this experience will allow me to change up how I position parts of my message about being engaged in your community.

So is a loss a loss?  Not if you can learn from it or you discover new markets who will benefit from your product or service.  Inspiration and information are powerful tools that sales people should be uncovering in every lost opportunity.  Don't cry about a sale that goes to a competitor, make it your muse.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Is Automation Is Leading To Impersonal Communication

In our social media crazy world, we have many tools that allow us to automate our communications.  While productivity is awesome, it can lead to stale and impersonal exchanged and sometimes hurt feelings.  

Automation tools are not necessarily bad.  Finding ways to manage the huge amounts of information that comes and goes from our lives is a great idea, but we must be aware of the consequences. 

Too often the tools that make our lives easier can complicate things for others.  There is a fine line between efficiency and being rude in how we engage.  It is easy for others to misinterpret intention when we automate.  And not all of these tools are ideal for everyone.  What a busy executive or celebrity does online is not always the best thing for everyone else.

Recently I head from someone that they have outsourced 100% of their Twitter communications.  Their assistant not only does their self-promoting tweets, but also carries on conversations as if they are the person.  That just seems wrong.  Additionally the person bragged that his own daughter held an ongoing Twitter conversation with him and never realized she was not actually chatting with her dad.  While he saves time by never being on Twitter, I am not sure that is really what is intended with "social media".  Is that social?  Or simply a form of outbound advertising?  And as readers of someone's Twitter, do we feel cheated if they are not involved?

Another person's email auto-responds with instructions on how to best communicate with him.  While this person is a highly sought after business leader whose time is limited, I misunderstood what his message was saying, and thus think I offended him in my response to his auto-response.  I do not receive as many emails as this person, so I am not being judgmental about his methods.  However, I do not think automation is the best way for every person to reply to all communications.  

(Note, the person I am referring to is the most generous executive I know when it comes to giving of his time to others, and in his case this high level of automation is necessary.  My point here is I misunderstood what he was saying, and I assume it is easy for others to jump to assumptions from this type of message....not that he was wrong for being automated).

I have warmed up to the idea of scheduling tools, as they seem to make it easier for busy people to schedule their time.  These are great for those willing to meet with others, and for those with podcasts who have large numbers of guests to get on the calendar.  I still prefer to talk to people and find a convenient time for a meeting, as I do not do so many meetings that it is unmanageable to figure out my calendar.  While I admit I am not as efficient as I could be with every action, I am just me being me.

How we communicate impacts how we build relationships. No matter how technologically advanced we become we cannot automate friendships.  People have feelings, and those influence our connections to others.  We misinterpret what we think people are saying, get our feelings hurt, and form opinions about others.  This can be worse in a world of typed communication, as without the face-to-face interactions we have less to go on when making snap decisions.

So automate in our digital world, but remember that there can be negative side effects.   Automation is not going away, so as we do it more often, I think we just need to be aware that communication is a two way street.

What do others think?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, November 02, 2015

Your Lawyers Are Not Gelling

Law firms (and other professional services businesses) are leaving money on the table.  They do great work in one area of the law, but their clients are utilizing the services of their competitors for other problem areas.  

The lack of cross-selling has been over discussed and it is so common that many firms have given up on trying to find a solution.  There is still a lot of talk internally about "Cross-Selling"... but few expect they will ever capture the revenue they are knowingly ignoring.  Instead they put their heads down and just chase more individual billable hours.

In my work with hundreds of lawyers it is clear that the cross-selling problem is a cross-gelling problem.  Lawyers to not talk about their firm's services, besides their area of expertise, because they do not have strong relationships outside their practice groups.  Often they do not understand the value their partners can bring to their clients, and sometimes they simply do not even like the people who work inside their own firm.

You want your firm to start capturing the cross-selling revenue that seems so illusive?  You have to get the whole team together on a regular basis and have real hard conversations.  If your partners do not know, like and trust each other then each year's distribution check will not reach its maximum potential.

Working with firms to get them to do this is hard.  We cannot just hold hands and sing campfire songs.  The whole firm must buy into new acceptable behaviors and be willing to part ways with high performing partners who are jerks.  The no-jerk rule is hard for law firms, as the think they cannot replace the revenue, so they let the toxic partners stay put.  Year over year the situation stays the same, and without discussion about the elephants in the room there will never be any change.

Networking is not just an external activity that is done when a lawyer is worried about finding their next case.  Networking the creation on long-term and mutually beneficial relationships where all those involved find more success than they would alone. This is just as important inside the firm as it is outside.

Is you firm lacking on its cross-selling success?  How is your internal gelling?  There are ways to get your internal relationships on track, and once people build honest friendships with understanding of their partner's business, promoting them becomes easy.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, October 19, 2015

What To Do After A Potentially Life Changing Encounter

It is hard to know for sure, but I believe I had a transformational experience.  Although it only happened 72 hours ago, my encounter with three big-thinkers challenged me at the core.  My year-long quest to change my mindset has yielded little, but since this gathering I am operating at a different level.

Before a trip to New York to speak to a business conference I reached out to an interesting person who I had interviewed on my podcast.  She seemed smart, nice and approachable while also being a person who was open to meeting new people.  Not only did she agree, she invited two others who she thought would spur conversation.

At the breakfast I had an overwhelming feeling that I was in the presence of three individuals who had the mindset that I have been seeking in my own life.  Each were overwhelmingly successful in different areas, and the way they see the world, business, and success was at obviously at a high performance level.

Clearly one of these things was not like the other.  While I have achieved some great things in my career it does not compare with the resumes of my fellow breakfast club members.  Halfway though the 90 minutes I realized this was no longer a social call, but instead I was seated at the feet of some people who could inspire me at a core level.

Two of the people are high performance business coaches, and one has a group program that is within my budget (the other guy charges $20K for a day of his time).  I wanted to hire all of them on the spot, but realized that was not about to happen because of the financial commitment.  I also realized that while everyone was so genuinely nice, there were no instant friendships happening that were going to lead them to becoming my personal mentor.  

This potentially life changing encounter got to me even before the plates were cleared.  My mind was racing and I wanted to save this moment in my brain.  I looked at the walls of the room, the table, the faces of those around me, and tried to burn the image into my mind.

After the handshakes in parting, I felt that some amazing ships had just passed in my night.  It was 10:00 AM as I exited the restaurant, and there was a sense of being alone in a crowded city.  For just over an hour I had a seat at the big kids table, and now I did not know if I could ever return to my own past acceptance of mid-level existence.

The question is "what now"?  I have listened to podcasts these people host and episodes of other shows where they have been guests.  I read their blogs, and other online IP.  I want to move to this next level, but not sure how to take the fresh motivation and change the mindset.  Results will come in the ways I think and act.

A piece of advice I tell my own clients is that you have to take action.  Just thinking, wishing and hoping is not enough. Study alone cannot cause change.  I know that it is easy to fall back into previous patterns, and being stuck in a rut is never the best place to reside.

Has anyone ever had an experience they knew could create a paradigm, and yet did not know what to do next?  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #136): Think Big - Act Bigger with Jeffrey Hayzlett

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

I am late on getting this "Cool Things My Friends Do" released, but I cannot hide the kudos for this book.  It is a MUST READ for everyone, especially those who listen to my podcast, as you know the topic of re-invention and raising yourself to a higher level of production is a theme I believe matters to all in a world full of mediocrity. 

Jeffrey Hayzlett is a global business celebrity, former CMO of Kodak, author, speaker, prime time Bloomberg Television host and is the chairman of the C-Suite Network.  I know Jeffrey from the National Speakers Association, and have spent time chatting with him at several conferences (and he has been a guest on my podcast).  Jeffrey is one who always gives his time to anyone, and has been a bit of a silent mentor to me since I met him last year.

Recently he released his second book, Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless.  In this book he empowers business leaders to tie their visions to actions, advancing themselves past competitors and closer to their business dream. Drawing upon his own business back stories he sharing examples from the many leaders featured on “The C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett,” Jeffrey imparts ten core lessons that dare readers to own who they are as a leader and/or company, define where they want to go, and fearlessly do what it takes to get there—caring less about conventional wisdom, re-framing limitations, and steamrolling obstacles as they go.

Being a consumer of many business and life-related books, I can tell you this one is an awesome inspirational read.  I am so happy to have this book and Jeffrey featured as week #136 of "Cool Things My Friends Do".  Check it out.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, October 04, 2015

7 Tips For Better Team Meetings

Team meetings often suck. The reputation of bad company meetings is so cliche that many companies have stopped having end of year meetings or new year kick-offs to motivate their employees. They skip the meeting to save money and not take people out of the field, but no meetings are a bad idea, as shared experiences build relationships. Over the last decade people are less satisfied with their jobs, do not feel their employers are investing in them, and have less loyalty.

Is there a connection Maybe..

Motivation is a word that get a bad wrap. Many people cringe at the thought of motivational meetings that are meant to encourage their team. People say things like "you can't motivate others", or "motivation doesn't last". Yes in high dollar industries and sales oriented companies there are often team meetings that are designed specifically to motivate. So why does it work for high performers, but not the regular folks? Or is it that without motivational exercises, people get stuck in mediocre?
People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.
Zig Ziglar
As we enter the 4th quarter, now is the time to look at planning your company meeting. It need not be expensive to be awesome and to have an impact. Here are 7 tips to make your team meeting awesome:

1. Have a stated purpose. Do not host meetings for the sake of hosting a meeting. Begin with the results in mind, and let your staff know why you are going to have this gathering.

2. Include stakeholders in the planning process. Get people from different parts of the company to be on the organizing committee and let their teams know they are part of the team that is working to make the meeting meaningful.

3. Have an outside presentation. This may or may not mean hiring a professional speaker, but an outside point of view can often get people talking. Professional facilitators exist because they do provide value to meetings, but often you can get a vendor, customer or friend of the boss to present to your team.

4. Have an agenda and keep on track. Meetings that meander and run long suck the excitement out of the crowd.

5. Be interactive. Nobody wants to have the whole day of a team meeting be a series of lectures. Let your employees get involved and participate in the discussions.

6. Include some fun. A team meeting should involve some bonding activity before, during or after the business portions of the event.

7. Have action items and accountability. A main reason meetings and motivational messaging fails is once the day is over nobody ever keeps the conversation going. Be sure that this meeting is on purpose and that purpose continues after the event ends.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

***Thom Singer has special programs for team meetings.  Call today to learn more.  512-970-0398

Friday, October 02, 2015

Selling Professional Services

Selling is hard.  This is why the top companies in the world pay their sales people very well.  Selling is the oldest profession, and to do it well means that there is always a job waiting for you. Smart leaders are always seeking proven sales professionals to add to their company.  The best business leaders cherish those who can sell.

Professional services firms face a problem that their partners (lawyers, accountants, consultants, engineers, etc...) are often doing double duty as the sales people.  If you look at sales oriented companies, the selling team gets the new clients on board, and other people deliver on the work.  But in a services firm the practitioners often has to do both.  This is what it is, and will not change anytime soon (although the largest accounting firms figured it out twenty years ago that having a top tier sales team was the best solution).

To be successful at selling professional services you must accept your role in sales.  Too often lawyers (and others) try to hide behind their work product.  However, being a "good lawyer" is just the ticket into the stadium.  It does not guarantee you will play on the field or win the game.  

Clients expect you to be good at your job.  Heck, they expect you to be great.  So thinking your work is your competitive advantage is a path to mediocre numbers.

The first question I ask those in a service profession is "what differentiates you from your competition?".  Do you know?  Can you clearly articulate the points of differentiation?  Bankers always answer this question by saying "We are a relationships bank".  They are so proud of this statement, but is it really different if all your competition claims the same unique selling position?  Most have no legitimate answer.  

To be able to describe what makes you different and to believe the words in your soul takes time.  This is not an exercise you can complete in an hour long coaching session.  And your answer could, and should, be morphing over time.  This is serious stuff, and yet regularly ignored.

A mistake that is made by those in professional services is that they spend little to no time thinking about sales, business development and their personal brand.  They lament their leading competitors who are winning the game, but they do not examine what those people are doing behind the scenes.  Assumptions are made all the time, but no research or actions are being taken. 

Oh, and social media is NOT selling.  There is a lot of people talking about "social selling", but for the those who are really finding success, social media is an add on to their success, not the basis of it.  Most professional services firms need to get their people focused on old-fashioned prospecting.  This means attending live events and meeting people and then using the phone to get on the calendar to have real conversations.  Even in our social media crazy world, the way people make most decisions still comes down to the human-to-human relationships.  People do business with those they know, like and trust.

CRM systems are great, but they will not bring you more business.  A mistake made in many businesses is they mistakenly think the system is key to sales success.  My friend Jim Pancero has been a sales trainer for over 30 years and has seen all the changes in sales over the decades.  He says that we need to remember the original CRM system was a 3x5 card (and they still can work today).  I remember in my early days of selling that I had a plastic box filled with information on index cards.  Computer programs are more efficient, and allow those inside you company to access this information, but sales still come from people making calls on live prospects.  Emails and tweets will not drive your bottom line.  Gathering information and repeated calls to prospects is how you win new business.

Professional service firms also rarely do sales training or any type of inspiring motivation for the vary people who need to sell their product.  The largest sales oriented companies do a great job of educating, inspiring, and providing motivational materials for their people, but law, accounting, banking, engineering and consulting firms rarely invest in these skills.  These firms do "partner meetings", but rarely bring their whole team together for an annual "kick off" to make sure everyone is aware of the annual goals.  I find professionals cringe at the idea of sales skills training, yet the best sales people look forward to learning new ways to do their job.

Selling professional services is difficult, but not impossible.  The first step is to embrace the need for a culture shift inside a company.  The firms that have real leadership are making changes.  I see law firms that are telling partners to learn to sell or leave.  Wow, that was not said a decade ago.  Other firms are creating training and coaching programs for younger associates and working to get all of their staff engaged in developing new business.  

What have you seen professional services firms do lately that is driving their sales numbers?

Have A Great Day

thom singer