Ahhh it’s that time of year again -- Christmas music, eggnog, twinkling lights, trees and, of course, presents!!! Do you remember the anticipation of waiting for Santa Claus to come to your house and bring you everything you wanted? As we get older, those memories and feelings begin to fade and we lose the spirit of the season, often forgetting what it’s really all about.
Instead of embracing the holiday spirit, it's easy to become like Ebenezer Scrooge and feel too stressed with what’s going on in our own world to enjoy the company of others and appreciate our families as much as we should. If we are honest with ourselves, we have all uttered some version of, “I hate this time of year – everything shuts down and I’ve already been following up with Sharon from the Johnson account for 4 months! BAH HUMBUG!!!”
As we all know deep down, the true joy and magic of this time of year is in giving to others. It may be a cliché or sound overly sentimental, but we know it’s true. The act of giving is a gift in and of itself; one that we give ourselves. As you watch your loved ones open the presents you give them this holiday season, I challenge you to think about how the “gift of giving” concept applies to your business. Ask yourself: Are you more focused on your wish list or that of your customers and employees? Do you wait and endure last-minute shopping mania with your fellow procrastinators or have you finished Christmas shopping before Home Alone begins to air on 4 different channels? The answers to these questions may tell you a lot about your business, as well as your shopping habits.
In general, our minds focus on what we can personally gain in any given situation; especially in business. We strive to find ways to generate as much revenue as we can in the most efficient way possible. But what if building a business and selling to customers was about a whole lot more than that?
You may be surprised to hear that once you begin focusing on others first and specifically on what they will gain from working with you, all the things that you previously wanted begin to happen naturally and seemingly with ease. Whether it’s the new compensation plan you are developing for your sales team or the manner in which you are following up with a prospect, focusing on servicing other people is what separates truly great businesses from ordinary companies.
Here are a two examples of how the gift of giving can elevate your business right now.
1. How You View & Treat Your Employees
If you started your own business, then it is YOUR vision that ultimately drives everything. You saw a need in the market. You came up with an idea. You developed a concept and got things off the ground. After a while you needed some help, so you hired people to get on board, make things better and grow your business efficiently. Typically things go well at first because your new hires are as excited as you are about the mission and are eager to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Inevitably, the novelty of being a part of something bigger begins to diminish and all too often, those new hires lose that pep in their step. You begin to wonder, “How can they not understand how important it is to work hard? Do they not want to be successful?”
This is where you need to be careful. It’s important to remember that the vision you have in your head, and what you probably conveyed to your employees, is still YOURS and not THEIRS. They have little to no ownership and without a personal connection, they will never be as motivated as you expect them to be. Thus, they will never gain as much as you will under that context. Think of it this way, imagine that you invited one of your friends to come over to watch you open presents at your house on Christmas morning. Do you think they would have a very good time? Probably not, at least not for very long. Why? Because they don’t get to open any presents or spend their with their family. They have no personal connection to YOUR Christmas morning.
Your business and vision for success is no different than “your Christmas.” If you want employees who will run through a wall for you and will match your intensity then here are a few critical things to keep in mind:
Don’t expect any of your employees to be as passionate as you are about your business. This isn’t fair to ask and you will be disappointed in them.
Share your vision with employees and help them develop their own version of that for themselves.
Follow up consistently with them to ensure that the vision is still important and that you are supporting their ability to get where they want to go.
Give yourself to your employees by being available and taking an interest their world.
As you help your employees tailor your vision to fit their personal goals and dreams, you will spend less time being frustrated with work ethic and lack of initiative. Things will start happening faster and your employees will feel appreciated because you are helping them live out their own dreams.
2. How You Think About Selling
“You can’t be nervous when you’re mind is on service.”
We used to say this out loud when I sold books door-to-door during my college summers. Think about what makes you the most nervous or anxious before a sales interaction with a prospect. The worst thing that could happen is that he/she will say “no.” So why does this naturally make us a react in a negative way? The reason is that most of us are thinking only about ourselves and what we gain (i.e. commissions) from a customer. This creates pressure as the next thing we start thinking about is what it would feel like to lose those commissions.
Keeping your mind on serving other people, and on what they will gain from doing business with you, is a lot less stressful. Believe it or not, prospects are WAY more likely to buy from you if you convey that you honestly have their best interests at the heart. What I’m describing here is actually the fundamental principle of successful sales. Selling isn’t about having fancy one-liners that convince people to do what you want them to do. Unless you're a Jedi, this approach will not bring you consistent success. Instead, you should:
Seek to understand the perspective of your prospect.
Tell your prospect that you are genuinely there to help them get what they want or need.
Thank them for their time and mean it, regardless of the outcome of the sale.
This is all simple stuff. The key is that you must be genuine when you say these things. Before you meet with any prospect you should remind yourself that it is your job to uncover what they need, help them identify that need, and walk them through how you can provide the solution. This also includes potentially informing them that you aren’t their best option based on what you learn.
As I am writing this, I just cold called a lead that I got through a friend and felt myself getting nervous as the phone rang. I forced myself to think about how much I could help this person and that my goal was to seek to understand. She picked up the phone; I felt calm and collected, and I got the appointment!
Now it’s your turn. Think about how your employees feel about working for you. Do they see you and your business as the path to greater things or are you just a way for them to pay the bills? What about your prospects and customers? Are they really in a better place because of what you have done for them or are they simply a part of your revenue forecast for this quarter?
My hope is that you will unlock the potential of giving the gift of yourself and your business to everyone you come in contact with- not just this holiday season, but year round. Meanwhile, enjoy your eggnog ☺.