Tag Archive | "Improvement"

Burning The Boats: How We Found Success By Getting Rid Of Our Safety Net

In 1519, eleven ships carrying 600 Spaniards landed on an inland plateau that would one day be known as Mexico. Their goal was to conquer an empire that had amassed a massive fortune of gold, silver, and precious gems, reports Forbes. However, with just 600 men, most of whom were vastly under supplied, the prospect of conquering the vast Aztec empire seemed like an impossible task.

However, Cortes was undeterred. Rather than charge forward upon landing in Mexico, Cortes gathered his men on the beach and promptly gave the order to burn the ships they just arrived on, effectively destroying their only escape route. The only choice left was to push forward and succeed.

Taking the underlying morality of Cortes’ actions out of the equation for a moment, it’s easy to see how many entrepreneurs often find themselves in similar circumstances. To be a startup is to contend with a constant sense of being outmanned, outgunned, and out planned. On the surface, the idea of a small, often poorly supplied team making waves in the world may seem just as ludicrous as trying to conquer an empire with only 600 men, but they’re really not that different.

Sometimes, burning your ships and eliminating your safety net is the only way to inspire team members to push forward in the face of daunting odds. My team and I did it at BodeTree, and it was the best decision we ever made.

When we first launched BodeTree, our plan was to sell our products directly to small business owners, helping them to cut out the proverbial middleman when it came to managing their finances. We charged down this path for several years and achieved moderate success. However, we knew that in order to gain the scale we were looking for, we would have to explore other options.

We ultimately chose to shift our focus away from direct to consumer sales and towards working with large institutional partners. This move enabled us to gain scale rapidly and grow the business into what it is today. The shift was not going to be an easy one, and we knew that the sales cycle for selling to institutions can be long and painful.

At first, we merely dipped our toe into the market. Our institutional sales channel was, to be frank, an afterthought at first. We continued to support and market our direct presence and thought that we could serve two masters. For us, the direct channel was a safety net. If selling to institutional partners proved to be too difficult or time consuming, we could always fall back on what we had built. We had our ships anchored in the bay, providing an escape route if the going got tough. As a result, we failed to fully commit to our new channel.

Once I realized this, I knew what had to be done. We had to burn our ships if we were to have any chance of succeeding. It was a terrifying decision to make, because we had invested so much into that effort. All of our marketing materials, brand presence, and technical features were designed around the idea of selling directly to the small business owner. To back away from this decision meant reworking our entire approach and making changes to the team we had assembled.

The decision was made in early 2014, and proved to be just as difficult as we feared. We had to replace team members and refocus the entire organization. We continued to allow direct sign ups and to support our existing customers, but we effectively have shut down all of our marketing efforts centered around that channel.

Our mantra became “all institutions, all the time.” To make matters worse, sales did not start rolling in. In fact, they stalled for months on end. The team grew nervous, and investors questioned the all-in approach we were taking. In spite of this, we maintained our course and never looked back. Over time, things started to turn around. Then, they started to accelerate faster than any of us could have expected.

It was our decision to “burn our ships” and commit fully to our institutional strategy that enabled us to persevere and eventually thrive. Had we had the safety net of our direct efforts waiting in the wings, we never would have been able to succeed. I think that there is some primal response that only surfaces when faced with a life-or-death situation. Too often, we limit ourselves by holding on to our escape routes and safety nets. Sometimes, you just have to burn the ships in order to move forward.

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The Secret Trait All Successful Salespeople Share, According to Science

In 1960, toymaker Harold von Braunhut created a product he felt certain would be his biggest hit to date–a dehydrated strain of brine shrimp that could be reanimated simply by adding water, reports Inc. He named his product Instant Life and waited for the dollars to roll in.

The product flopped spectacularly.

But Harold von Braunhut was a persistent man. He decided that the problem with his sales had little to do with what he was offering and far more to do with how he was offering it. So von Braunhut completely revamped his marketing approach.

He renamed his tiny life forms Sea-Monkeys and rolled out an advertisement depicting them as a smiling family of finned beings who would “swim, play, scoot, race, and do comical tricks and stunts” in front of their underwater castle home. He ran these ads in the back pages of comic books, amidst fantastic tales of superheroes and otherworldly adventures.

Anyone who bought these Sea-Monkeys should have realized almost immediately that the primitive organisms floating in their bowl bore little resemblance to the magical creatures von Braunhut had cooked up for the ad. Yet Sea-Monkeys made Harold von Braunhut a multimillionaire many times over, and continue to sell three million units a year even today.


A Psychological Tactic All Great Salespeople Use

The phenomenon behind von Braunhut’s success is what neurologists and psychologists refer to as “cognitive priming.” In other words, human beings are wired to see what we want to see. The best salespeople and marketers are those who embrace this.

In the case of von Braunhut, everything about his approach–from the whimsical drawings to the enclosed magnifying lenses–made buyers really, really want to believe in the vision he helped them build up in their heads. He intentionally selected messaging to filter for a target audience that had proven themselves willing to enter directly into a world of imagination. Then, all he had to do was provide the fuel for their fantasies.

The reality is that when people are making a decision about whether to buy something, they follow their feelings, perceptions, and desires above all else. What the heart wants to believe, the mind will accept. Those who accept and master this central truth will never want for customers.

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13 Confident Ways to Overcome Your Shyness

Shyness can truly hold people back–partly because those who are shy tend to avoid public situations and speaking up, and partly because they experience so much chronic anxiety.

If that’s you, take comfort in knowing you are far from alone–four out of 10 people consider themselves shy.

But here’s the good news: Shyness can be overcome. With time and effort and a desire to change, it’s possible to break through, reports Inc.

If your shyness is severe, you may need help from a therapist or counselor, but most people can overcome it on their own.

Take your first steps in getting past shyness with these 13 techniques to help you become a more confident you.

1. Don’t tell.

There’s no need to advertise your shyness. Those who are close to you already know, and others may never even have an opportunity to notice. It’s not as visible as you probably think.

2. Keep it light.

If others bring up your shyness, keep your tone casual. If it becomes part of a discussion, speak of it lightheartedly.

3. Change your tone.

If you blush when you’re uncomfortable, don’t equate it with shyness. Let it stand on its own: “I’ve always been quick to blush.”

4. Avoid the label.

Don’t label yourself as shy–or as anything. Let yourself be defined as a unique individual, not a single trait.

5. Stop self-sabotaging.

Sometimes we really are our own worst enemy. Don’t allow your inner critic to put you down. Instead, analyze the power of that voice so you can defuse it.

6. Know your strengths.

Make a list of all your positive qualities–enlist a friend or family member to help if you need to–and read or recite it when you’re feeling insecure. Let it remind you how much you have to offer.

7. Choose relationships carefully.

Shy people tend to have fewer but deeper friendships–which means your choice of friend or partner is even more important. Give your time to the people in your life who are responsive, warm, and encouraging.

8. Avoid bullies and teases.

There are always a few people who are willing to be cruel or sarcastic if it makes for a good punch line, some who just have no sense of what’s appropriate, and some who don’t care whom they hurt. Keep a healthy distance from these people.

9. Watch carefully.

Most of us are hardest on ourselves, so make a habit of observing others (without making a big deal out of it). You may find that other people are suffering from their own symptoms of insecurity and that you are not alone.

10. Remember that one bad moment doesn’t mean a bad day.

Especially when you spend a lot of time inside your own head, as shy people tend to do, it’s easy to distort experiences, to think that your shyness ruined an entire event–when chances are it wasn’t a big deal to anyone but you.

11. Shut down your imagination.

Shy people sometimes feel disapproval or rejection even when it isn’t there. People probably like you much more than you give yourself credit for.

12. Stare it down.

Sometimes when you’re scared, the best thing to do is to face it head on. If you’re frightened, just stare it down and lean into it.

13. Name it.

Make a list of all your jitters and worries. Name them, plan how you’re going to eliminate them, and move forward.

Suffering from shyness shouldn’t keep you from the success you are seeking, so try these simple tools and make them work for you–in fact, they’re good techniques to try whether you’re shy or not.

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Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better

The meetings all went well, the dealer and GM were present, all the sales and F&I managers seemed to agree with the plan and the coffee and doughnuts were fresh. What more can you ask for? Now it’s off to the races! … Or is it? Everyone agreed with the plan, but are they actually committed it?

In the agency space, when it comes to implementing change, there is a big difference between agreement and commitment. Whether it’s the rollout of a new account or the installation of a new product, the process for account development can take a sharp turn if the dealership’s staff is not fully committed.

Getting to know the difference between a commitment and an agreement before you trust the rollout or installation went as planned is vital to the overall success and development of the account. It’s also the only way to ensure all those meetings make you, the dealer and their team better, not bitter.

Fear of Commitment

Typically, all you have accomplished when the dealership’s staff displays a lack of engagement during meetings is an agreement. It’s the meeting in which the dealership’s staff engages in meaningful discussions, dialogue and debate that a true commitment is formed. Agreement happens when people sit in meetings, nod their heads and then, afterward, either fail to take action or deliver on time.

Commitment, on the other hand, occurs when people take responsibility and then follow through to completion. Agreement results in head nods. Commitment results in action. There is something about progress and improvement that gets a dealer’s attention. No progress or improvement and you may find yourself swimming with the sharks. No amount of coffee and doughnuts will save you.

One of the greatest obstacles impeding your ability to development and progress with a dealership is its staff’s commitment to make the shift. Just because they say they’ll do it doesn’t mean they will. How many times have you found yourself shaking your head in wonderment after learning that the F&I and sales management staff had not begun executing a specific procedure, policy or process that they all agreed would make a positive impact? Does your stomach turn while listening to the list of excuses they provide for not following through with the plan? Do you find yourself disappointed and discouraged with their lack of motivation and discipline? Do you find yourself on the edge of that slippery slope known as mediocrity?

Don’t give in to their shortcomings. Don’t allow the dealership’s staff to control your destiny. Sometimes you will work your tail off, do all you can do, and still not get the results you want. Sometimes there will be obstacles that get in the way of your progress and you will feel defeated. Sometimes you will simply give in to all the mediocrity that surrounds you. That’s life! When things simply don’t go as planned you have two options: get better or get bitter.

Personal Standards

When you feel you gave it your all or put in a great effort and fell short of the objective, the important thing when evaluating the outcome is your viewpoint. It’s your viewpoint that matters the most when assessing the damage. Every now and then, you need to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, what is the real reason? Did you truly give it your all and what can you do to make the outcome better the next time you’re faced with a similar situation?

Reevaluate your drive and your knowledge. Be truthful with yourself. Once you evaluate the facts and assess whether or not you truly gave it your best, you can take comfort in the fact that you left it all on the line. Only then can you step back and realize you have bettered yourself by pouring your all into it. If your best effort wasn’t enough this time, you are better prepared to accomplish it next time.

Becoming the best agent you can be requires holding yourself to a high standard. If you fell short of your objectives because you failed to give your all during your preparation, that will become immediately apparent to you. Life is full of probabilities. If you can learn from your shortcomings, you will be better prepared to take on a new challenge in a meaningful way. Sometimes falling short and realizing that you did not provide the effort needed and working harder with your next chance can make you stronger in the long run.

The choice is always yours. When faced with defeat, you can get better by focusing on correcting past mistakes, providing necessary effort and working your tail off to ensure that you will be ready next time. Or you can get bitter by allowing yourself to slip into sulking self-doubt, failing to correct your mindset and ensuring you will be unsuccessful going forward. Get better at controlling your destiny. If you don’t, someone else will.

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7 Habit Changes That Will Rock Your Business in Unexpected Ways

When was the last time you changed anything that you did in your day or anything in your company, especially something that isn’t working well?

Change isn’t a one-time thing. But small changes done regularly in business can have a huge impact, reports Small Business Trends.

Did you know that Toyota became a huge multinational corporation in part due to its unique and innovative process improvement system — a system based on continuous change? Yes, the huge corporation was itself once a scrappy small business. In the 1940s, it developed something called the “Toyota Production System.”

In the Toyota Production System, small, continuous improvements drive high quality of work and competitiveness. Today, Toyota shares this process with other organizations. The goal is to help them make great things happen.

Toyota partnered with filmmakers to create a series of mini-documentary films called The Toyota Effect to document some of these impactful projects. I was able to draw a number of lessons from the films about habit changes, and have outlined seven below.

Then, see if you can come up with any other lessons like these seven:

Get an Early Start to the Day

Starting work early gives you time to orient yourself to the day’s requirements. It gives you time to think before the demands of customers and employees monopolize your attention. This way you can focus on your goals. Leadership also sets an example for everyone in the company. It’s hard to demand that employees get an early start if the boss rolls in at 9:30 or 10:00 every day.

Fix Something Little — Every Day or Every Week

Most companies have processes that could stand some improvement. That’s particularly true for growing companies. A process that worked when the company was smaller and had fewer customers may begin to break down as volume increases.

St. Bernard Project, a non-profit engaged in rebuilding New Orleans flood-damaged homes, realized with help from Toyota that becoming more efficient needn’t be a huge initiative. It can be as simple as fixing little things. While they may seem small, collectively those little fixes help overall performance significantly.

Set and Review Goals Daily or Weekly

Without goals, it’s all too easy to drift along and never change anything. Establish a few goals for your personal productivity, and then establish a few goals for your departments and managers. Start with simple goals. Your personal productivity goal could be “Get to work by 7:30 am each day.” Or a goal for a department might be: “Cut one day out of the shipping cycle.” To stay on track, review goals regularly — at least weekly.

Establish Teams to Solve Problems

As the owner of the business, you don’t have to do everything. In fact, you can’t do everything. Get in the habit of establishing teams to come up with ideas. Make continuous improvement everyone’s job.
For example, at ACE Metal Crafts, the team set out to fix the problems in the shipping department (which one employee called “a shambles”). They didn’t implement a complex high-tech solution. Instead, by applying principles of the Toyota Production System, the team came up with a simple yet innovative solution: taping off a section of the shipping floor the size of a truck. Team members could stack parts in it throughout the day. That way, every employee could see exactly when they had a full truck load of parts.

Find Fun Solutions

Encourage team members to get in the habit of finding fun solutions. Fun solutions get employees and teams engaged — that’s the real power of fun.

Reassure People It’s About Fixing the Process, Not Fixing Them

When you bring up change, some employees will have fear — fear that their jobs may go away. Or they fear that process improvement is really a ploy to identify poor-performing employees.
But as Jean Pitzo, CEO of ACE Metal Crafts, discovered with help from Toyota, process improvement can actually help employees perform better and feel good about their jobs. Emphasize that it’s about fixing the process — and that by doing so you are respecting them as employees and helping them.

Celebrate the Wins

Celebrate “wins.” It’s so motivating when people see that the things they do make all the difference.

Publicly congratulate someone for accomplishing a new milestone. Throw a party when a major efficiency breakthrough happens. Put up a whiteboard to show progress toward goals. Or follow a time honored technique, and get a large glass jar and place a marble in it each time something good happens. Before you know it, the jar will fill up and become a visual reminder of your team’s accomplishments.

Remember, small things done regularly can make a huge difference in efficiency and productivity.

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In Just 21 Days You Can Turn On Success!

I want to share a technique I’ve learned that can change and improve anything in your life you want to change.

If you’re unhappy with your sales, your attitude, your skills, your work habits, your weight or anything else you can think of, you can change it in just three short weeks. Successful people in every walk of life have learned to use this technique to achieve positive changes in their personal lives and their careers.

If you think about it, don’t we do almost everything out of habit?

Don’t we dry off after a shower the same way each time, shave in the same routine, comb our hair the same way, always brush our teeth the same way, get dressed the same way, eat the same meal for breakfast and drive to work the same route each time – simply because that’s what we always do? Aren’t our lives pretty much a summary of all the habits we’ve picked up through the years?

Problem: Some of our habits aren’t good for us though, like eating a pound of bacon for breakfast every day, adding a little coffee to our cup of sugar or waiting for something to happen in sales.

We all do things we know we shouldn’t do, and we all do things we wish we did better. So let’s understand what causes us to do the same things over and over again, even when our old habits cost us sales.


It’s the last day of the month and you need two more units to hit your next bonus level. You’ve been doing things right, staying off price, following the Basics.

Now when you’re under pressure, you fall back to your old habits of rushing, pre-qualifying, skipping steps and trying to close on price, hoping to hit those other two sales.

Is that a good strategy or a bad one? If you said it’s a bad strategy, you’re right. It’s going to cost you big time. You’re five times more likely to make those two sales by following the basics than by trying those shortcuts!

That means you’ll be lucky to hit even one of them, much less both for the bonus. Speed kills sales!

Breaking a Habit

The easiest way to break a habit is to replace it with a new one.

You see ex-smokers chewing gum instead of smoking, and dieters switching to bottled water instead of 90-ounce sodas (flavored liquid sugar – with free refills).

Want to develop better sales habits? It’s easy, just start by making a list of the things you do now that you know you could be doing better. Then set a goal to improve.

Do you have poor closing skills?

Are you not asking enough closing questions?

Simple – just change your habit.

You know that 80% of the sales are closed after the fifth attempt, so carry at least five pennies in your right pocket and move them one at a time to your left pocket each time you ask a closing question.

By focusing on the pennies, you’ll ask for the sale more times. Move more pennies – make more sales. Do this for 30 days and you’ll also develop the habit of asking five times or more with every prospect.

Tracking is Critical to Changing Habits!

Most salespeople don’t really know how many prospects they talk to each month, how many incoming calls they get, how many presentations, demos or write ups they do, much less how many times they try to close the sale, how many unsold prospects they call, or how many of them come back in.

You have a lot of habits that can easily be improved – which means more sales and income. But without tracking every opportunity, activity and result, you won’t know what you need to work on to improve, so the first critical habit to develop is tracking every opportunity, every activity and every result.

Not sure where to start? At a minimum, every day track the number of ups you talk to, the number of demos, write-ups and sales for the day. Develop this most important habit of tracking everything you do and all of the other habits and changes you need to make to improve will become obvious.

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