When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, my dad insisted on driving for all our vacations.
Flying was out of the question, even on long trips to places like Colorado. And as my dad drove the family Ford, he would listen to Zig Ziglar tapes. This was before the advent of handheld video games or backseat DVD systems. That meant that if dad was listening to Zig Ziglar tapes, so was I.
After all these years, one thing that Zig Ziglar said sticks out in my memory. I remember him saying, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
Even as a kid this stuck with me. But I haven’t always lived up to Ziglar’s advice.
Instead, as a young man I went into sales to make as much money as I could and achieve a comfortable life for myself. But the harder I tried, the more I failed.
The problem was that my definition of success was misguided. I cared too much about my own bank account and my own ambitions. I brought a briefcase full of selfish intentions and hard sales tactics to my interactions with clients and prospects.
They saw right through me.
Success is not about you
Defining success the right way is the first step toward developing an effective sales culture.
As a sales coach, I have the opportunity to meet with salespeople, business development directors, sales managers, and others responsible for growing companies. I always ask them, “How do you define success?”
These are typical responses:
- Success is meeting our growth goal.
- We are trying to grow by (X) number of clients.
- We are trying to grow our assets.
- We want a specific profit margin.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have goals and targets. I encourage you to dream big, set goals and take action. But you are going to meet or exceed those expectations a lot faster if your mission is focused outward instead of inward.
Simply put, you must define success not by what you can accomplish but by what you can help others accomplish.
Consider two hypothetical financial institutions. One defines success as achieving a billion dollar valuation. The other defines success as becoming the leader at helping young people plan for retirement.
Which of those two organizations would you invest in?
The one with a clear sense of purpose, right?
Develop a sense of purpose
I got my career on track when I ditched the hard sell and heeded the advice of another best-selling author, John Maxwell. He said you must:
- Know what your purpose is. What is it that you do as an organization, and why do you do it?
- Maximize yourself in that purpose. Work hard and be the best you can be at that purpose.
- Sow all your purpose into the benefit of someone else. Remember who are you doing this for. Keep your attention on your clients, not on yourself.
All this talk about purpose and a selfless definition of success makes some companies nervous because it’s intangible. It’s easier to talk about dollars and cents and market share.
Some make a half-hearted attempt by encouraging their employees to use phrases like, “I am here to help,” or “I’m trying to figure out if I can help you.” These catchphrases always fail because your true intentions will eventually show through.
Your intent must be authentic.
Some might call this concept karma. Others might dismiss it as idealistic. There’s certainly some irony in the idea that selflessness is the key to self-achievement or that de-emphasizing traditional sales ideas can lead to increased sales.
But it’s common sense, really. The more you help others, the more they are inclined to help you. You scratch someone’s back, they’ll scratch yours. You help a client solve a problem, they will pay you for products or services rendered.
So, get out there in the world and start helping. Invest your time and resources in the success of your clients. Put others first.
If you need motivation, a long road-trip, a travel mug of coffee and Zig Ziglar in your tape deck—well, your smartphone nowadays—may just do the trick.