Business Success Truth or Dare: Are you trying to succeed by being a fake?

Truth Or Dare? see-sawRecently, I tried to write a series of emails for a project that my business partner and I had been working on.

Thinking I was going to be crafty and write a really good series the easy way, I modeled my first email after the format that a highly successful marketer used. You see, I had just finished going through his entire promotional sequence of emails and videos, and I was very impressed.

My business partner wrote back saying, “George, this email just doesn’t work for me. I see what you’re trying to do, but it’s off-putting.”

While he was concerned I’d be offended (I wasn’t), it was a great opportunity for a good laugh, and it reminded me of a couple of incidents where I wasn’t being myself…

Lessons about connecting with your audience by being yourself.
I had just come back from a training program on how to present and lead live workshops (Train the Trainer program); this was around 2003 or 2004.

I was practicing an introductory workshop that I was developing with my wife as an audience of one.

So I started my introduction, and two minutes into it she goes, “George, what are you doing?!?”

I said, “I’m practicing!”

She said, “No, no, no.

“You’re trying to be somebody else. You’re trying to be the guy who trained you at the Train the Trainer program. That guy cannot lead this program.

“You and only you can lead this program.

“You need to be you.”

So I got a little frustrated. I turned my back on her and regained my composure. Just took a few breaths.

I turned back around and then I started out the introduction being George.

And I didn’t expect this, but my wife broke into tears within the first 5 minutes. She got the impact of me introducing the program as me. It was powerful.

Curiously, at that very Train the Trainer program that I mentioned earlier, I was selected from the audience to come up on stage as an example.

I can’t remember exactly what the trainer asked me to speak about. But I started speaking about whatever topic it was, and he stopped me very shortly after I started. He said, “Hold on a minute.”

And he thumped me on my chest with a flat hand. Thump. Thump.

He said, “George, you’re a fit guy. “I want you to command that presence.

“Look out into this audience. (There were probably 250+ people.) “

And connect with everybody in this audience, be powerful, and project your energy to the back of the room.”

So after he pounded me on my chest, I started over, this time with a lot more energy, enthusiasm, conviction, and power.

Then he said, “Great job. That’s what I want!”

Everyone in the audience started clapping. And then I started walking off the stage.

I didn’t know this had happened, but several people in the audience were in tears.

I had them in tears. I had my wife in tears in a separate incident. So by then, you’d think I would have learned to be myself.

It’s so easy to forget this stuff!

Where in your life, particularly in your business interactions, have you attempted to be someone you’re not? And how did it go? Did it backfire?

Unless you’re a spy, mentally disturbed, or an accomplished actor, it’s a heck of a lot easier to influence and connect with others by being yourself—warts, blemishes, and all—than by attempting to cover up what you believe your shortcomings are by masquerading as someone else.

With rare exceptions, people can sense a fraud. Conversely, they can sense authenticity. Business success comes more naturally when you’re being authentic.

The next time it’s important for you to inspire and engage an audience of one or an audience of 1,000, which version of you do you want to show up? The real you? Or the fictitious you?

Marketing Madness and Sales Insanity: I know we just met, but how would you like to get married and have kids together?

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In 1999, I was encouraged by some friends to take a class about personal growth and transformation. During the class, I couldn’t help but notice when a certain gorgeous woman stood up to share something.

During one of the breakout sessions, I ended up sitting next to this particular woman. Normally I have no problem thinking up things to say, even regarding topics that I know very little about. However, under the extreme pressure of sitting next to such an attractive woman, I was rendered speechless. The only thing I could think of saying was, “Did you know that your pager is going off in your purse?”

The little common sense I had remaining told me that that line wasn’t going to win the day. So the session ended with me not saying a single word to her.

To make a long story short, that gorgeous woman ultimately became my wife. We have been happily married for the past 13 years and have two rambunctious young boys who are teaching us a lot about being grown-ups.

After our first son was born, I was telling a friend—one of the friends who had encouraged me to register for the class to start with—about how I had sat next to Denise during the second day of class but didn’t have anything slick or suave to say to her.

Flirting at work.Retrospection being highly accurate, he suggested that I should have said something like, “I know you don’t know me, but how would you like to have kids together?”

Hmmm… Single guys out there reading this, don’t try this one out. At least, if you do, don’t blame me for your dismal results!

The other day, I was speaking with a colleague about the challenges of getting clients. She shared an experience she had had earlier in the day: Someone she had just met had immediately started a sales pitch. To my colleague, it felt like an attempt to pressure her into buying something. My colleague has a lot of past experience with sales and immediately knew what was going on.

Another misguided attempt to “close” a buyer without taking time to build rapport.

Her story reminded me about my experience of meeting Denise.

I still shake my head in disbelief when I see so many entrepreneurs out there trying to go back and close a sale almost literally after the first handshake. That’s the business equivalent of saying:
I know we just met, but how would you like to get married and have kids together?

PuzzleI’m not saying you have to take things slow as molasses, but I do recommend that you take whatever time is necessary to get into the other person’s world. Learn about them. Ask questions and listen for problems, issues, challenges, and frustrations. Listen for ways you might be able to provide suggestions or resources, or otherwise provide something of value in an unimposing, nonthreatening, nonsalesy way.

Over the years, I’ve come across a number of people who teach how to get clients by offering a complimentary strategy session, with the primary aim of having the client work with you or otherwise buy something from you.

This approach can certainly work. I used it for the first two years of my coaching practice. But I found it incredibly inefficient, as I wasted a lot of time doing these complimentary strategy sessions with people who I just wasn’t going to be able to work with effectively.

“If only I had a way to screen these people out!” I lamented.

I started tinkering with my approach to the early phases of engaging with potential clients.

Along the way, I wondered why so many coaches, consultants, and therapists just jump right in to working with their clients without so much as a plan, other than: “Let’s get started right away. We can schedule our first session next week.”

Instead of leaping from “just met you” to “let’s jump in bed together,” I teach all my coaching clients to offer a planning session as the next step after the initial “getting to know you” session.

Here’s the common approach:
Informal conversation => complimentary strategy session (a disguised sales session) => sign up client

Now, here’s the approach I recommend:
Informal conversation => screening questionnaire => complimentary discovery session => complimentary (or paid) strategic planning session

strategy

While there’s an extra step in the sequence I recommend, I’ve found in my own experience and that of my clients that taking this added step is going to increase your conversion rates significantly when it comes to longer-term, higher-paying clients. And it’s a more natural progression for your clients, making it easier for them to say yes.

Suffering from Entrepreneurial Deficit Disorder? Here’s a Simple Way to Stay Focused on the Things That Keep Your Business Financially Healthy

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Many entrepreneurs suffer from EDD, or entrepreneurial deficit disorder, a malady in which they have big hearts but so many ideas and so many talents that they don’t know where to focus their efforts or how to choose the best strategies for their situation.

Here’s a real-life example from a recent experience of mine:

I’m helping one of my clients build his group coaching program. As part of this endeavor, I spoke directly with one of his test clients. I gave her advice on where to focus her gifts and talents. Later I heard a recording of a follow-up coaching session that my client did with her.

She was euphoric because I got her pointed in a direction that she’s super excited about; it’s one of her life’s passions. Great news, right? And it gets better: I heard her report that she was so excited that she went out and got several new clients. Starting from scratch, she generated approximately $3,500 in monthly revenue, catalyzed by our initial conversation.

Imagine how thrilled I was to hear this! Then she dropped a bomb: With unbridled enthusiasm, she reported that she had gotten her accountant to agree to train her in how to use QuickBooks. Instantaneously, I felt the blood drain from my face and my back slouch a little bit.

I flashed back to a moment years ago, when I happened be flipping through a book on business planning. I was curious to see the author’s advice for setting up a new business to be successful. In one of the early chapters, she wrote that one of the first things you should do is hire a graphic designer and create a logo for your new business. Bad advice. And this was a best-selling book.

You just don’t need a logo to generate business! (Despite generating a six-figure annualized revenue stream in 73 days, I didn’t have a logo for my business for at least the first couple of years.) Instead, you’d be far better off spending your time and money on getting clients, customers, and patients. A logo will not do that for you.

The same advice applies to my client’s test client: Instead of her spending time, money, and energy on learning a complex piece of software that was designed for financial professionals, she would be better served to focus on getting even more clients — and then delivering outstanding service and value.

When considering investing a significant amount of their time, energy, or money, I advise my clients to consider the following questions:

  • Will this activity help me increase my revenue?
  • Will this activity help me reduce my expenditures?
  • Will this activity boost my cash flow?
  • Will this activity boost my productivity?

If the answer is yes to at least one of these, and ideally more than one, I’m likely to recommend such an activity. But if the answer is no to all of these, it’s best to steer clear.

Real-life stories like these continue to drive me and my business partner, Dan Bowser, to create a cash-flow and money-management educational program for entrepreneurs. We’ve also been encouraged by many of you to develop a Web-based application, Business Cash Pulse. This tool is designed to present entrepreneurs with the financial numbers that matter. It’s designed to be simple enough that you don’t have to invest a lot of time, money, or energy into learning how to use the doggone thing; every minute you waste learning complex software is time and energy taken away from doing what you do best: serving clients, customers, and patients.

In the coming days and weeks, you’ll be hearing more about our holistic, whole-brain (no, not harebrained!) approach to making more money and keeping more of what you make. And you don’t have to be a financial expert to pull this off!

Do You Have The Freedom To Fail?

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On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, declaring independence of the existing 13 American colonies from the kingdom of Great Britain. And so it is that we in the States look forward to celebrating the Fourth of July, also known as “Independence Day.”

No matter where you are in the world, this is a good time for all of us to explore an important aspect of freedom, one that is uncommonly considered: the freedom to fail.

Everyone has a different definition of what freedom specifically means. Ultimately, freedom is an experience, a state of mind, body, and being.

For me, freedom means being able to be true to myself: Staying true to my own values and being able to express them in the world by learning, pursuing activities, and cultivating relationships that bring me meaningful experiences.

What about you? What specifically does freedom mean and feel like for you?

Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure that your vision of freedom does not include failure. Am I right? After all, who consciously wants to be defined by your failures?

Assuming you are of sound mind, you don’t.

Like it or not, failure is a critical ingredient in the mastery of any skill, of any successful endeavor, including the level of your Success after many failuresbusiness success. Those who have mastered any sport or other skill are the ones who have learned from their failures and made the appropriate corrections.

The big problem is that society, in general, frowns upon mistakes, even though we’re inevitably going to make them. Whether in education or the business world, we penalize people, sometimes severely for making honest mistakes.

What’s more likely to gain prominence in the media: the colossal mistake or the extraordinary act of generosity? It’s no wonder why, at a young age, we start to beat ourselves down, mentally, emotionally, and even physically, for making mistakes.

I’m not proposing that we encourage thoughtless “pillage and plunder” under the guise of the “freedom to make mistakes.” Instead, I’m recommending that we grant ourselves the freedom to fail, in the context of learning and growing from taking chances, while also taking responsibility for the consequences of our thoughts, words, and actions. Lacking such a shift in mindset, we’ll only reinforce the subversive attitude that mistakes are intolerable and perpetuate the “not good enough” mindset for ourselves and future generations to come. There’s no freedom there.

We learn the most from making mistakes. So why is it then, they we also beat ourselves and others so severely about making imgmistakes? Many people are afraid to “swing out big” because of their deep-seated fears of failure and shame. If you’re afraid of making mistakes, if you try to “play it safe,” you’ll never have freedom. And you’ll never experience the levels of success that are rightly yours.

Having the freedom to fail means having the courage to take chances, to go beyond what’s familiar and comfortable and to actively learn from what didn’t work and work to improve on it.

Ultimately, freedom is an inner experience of peace, joyfulness, an inner knowing that you are living your life according to your values, while honoring those of others who may be in direct opposition to your beliefs and values. True freedom gives you the power to be at peace with your circumstances and results, desirable or not.

It takes practice and inner awareness to honor your mistakes, failures, and shortcomings for what they are: an important part of your personal growth, an important ingredient of sustainable success.

The freedom to intentionally choose to honor your mistakes as part of your path to success is yours.

What will you choose?

Money Can Buy Happiness

Happy-Money

“If you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right.”

– Michael Norton, co-author, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending

A lot of us have grown up hearing that money can’t buy happiness. But what if money doesn’t make us happy because we’re spending it on the wrong things?

Recently, I’ve been studying a lot about behavioral economics (the science of social, cognitive, and emotional factors on our buying decisions) through Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University, founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, and the author of Predictably Irrational. Through Dan, I came across the work of one of his former graduate students, Michael Norton, now a professor at Harvard Business School.

Mike and his colleagues ran a study at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. They gave students envelopes filled with money, ranging from $5-$20. Some of the envelopes had instructions to spend the money on themselves by 5 pm. Other envelopes instructed the volunteers to spend the money on someone else, such as buying something for a friend or donating it to a homeless person.

The researchers called each volunteer at the end of the day and asked them what they did with the money and their level of happiness, compared to how they started the day.

They found that the people who spent money on themselves weren’t any more or less happy than how they started the day, despite getting the free money.

Yet, the people who spent the money on somebody else actually became more happy by the end of the day.

Wanting to assure themselves that this wasn’t a fluke, Mike and his team repeated the study in Uganda and found similar results!

What’s the practical lesson? Give a part of your money away, even if it’s a small amount; you’re likely to be happier when you spend your money on someone else, rather than yourself!

Inspired by this idea, I’ve made donations to a couple of organizations that I learned about through Mike:

donorschoose.org

DonorsChoose is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on our site, and you can give any amount to the project that most inspires you. I donated to a local school so they could purchase plastic models of human skeletons.

globalgiving.orgGlobalGiving is a charity fundraising web site that gives social entrepreneurs and non-profits from anywhere in the world a chance to raise the money that they need to improve their communities. I donated to a microlending program administered by students at Northwestern University.

Encouraged by my email dialogue with Mike, I was also inspired to begin offering one of my flagship training programs, Rapid Revenue Acceleration Mission Control, for “better than free.” I asked attendees of a recent webinar to make a donation of any amount to an organization of their choosing, send me a copy of their receipt, and then I’d give them access to my premiere training program. I didn’t know what to expect, but the response from participants has been uplifting. Some of them have made contributions ranging from $2.97 to $500 to organizations literally from around the world.

Want to learn more about making smarter spending decisions?
You can pre-order Mike’s forthcoming book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, which is being released on May 14th (I placed my order already).

Better yet, why not buy the book and gift it away?!?

And, if you want immediate gratification, I also highly recommend taking in Mike’s 11-minute presentation at a TEDx event.

Happy (and Smarter) Spending!