CONFIDENCE: Only Comes from Doing

How many times have you not acted on an idea, because you didn’t have confidence in your ability to do it? If you’re like most people, it’s probably more times than you care to admit.

Lack of confidence is a very poor excuse for inaction. After all, how can we be confident in our ability to do anything, if it’s something we haven’t done before? Confidence is the last thing that comes. It is strictly a byproduct of our actions.

If you want to build confidence, you have to start out with "Commitment." It’s our commitment to something that gives us the "Courage" to act. Once we have acted, we acquire confidence.

I get apoplectic when I hear about school systems who are busy teaching children self-esteem, rather than how to read, write and think. Of course, the reason is, it’s a lot easier to give people a short term "feel good," than it is to do the hard work of making them into outstanding students. Unfortunately, "doing the easy," rather than "the hard," is why most people are not successful.

But how can a child feel good about themselves, in the long run, if they can’t compete with the better students. Teach a child to read, write, think and excel in school and the self-esteem will take care of itself.

Do you remember your first sales call? Were you more confident before you walked in the door or after? I’m sure your answer is; after. How could it not be, since you had never done it before? But the commitment to the fact that this was not only what you had to do, but wanted to do, gave you the courage to act. After it was over, you probably said, "Hey, that wasn’t so bad. I could do this again." Now, you had acquired confidence.


Your Most Important Sale is At Home

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I’ll never forget the day I decided to start my own business. I came home and told my wife. Normally, when you tell someone you’re starting your own business, you’d expect them to say, "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" Or, "Do you think this is a good time to quit your job?" Or even, "What kind of business are you starting?" Not my wife. She turned to me, looked me right in the eye and said, "It’s about time." How could I possibly fail?

Starting and operating a small business is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and time, along with a total unwavering commitment. More than fifty percent of new businesses don’t make it past the first five years.

Sales is an extremely hard profession because it entails so much rejection. Far more people say "No," than "Yes."

It takes time to build your business and your customer base. Even after you become successful, it’s not over. It takes the same effort to stay successful.

Salespeople and business owners, especially new ones, go out there every day and get their brains beaten in. The last thing you need is to go home and get your brains beaten in. Home has to be the one place you can go for unflinching, no questions asked, support.

If you are contemplating starting your own business, or a new career in sales, make sure you have total support at home. If you don’t, I’d think twice about making the move.

Salespeople and business owners, especially those first starting out, work long hours; many of them work nights. I have seen numerous careers and businesses sidetracked because a non-supportive spouse couldn’t understand why their spouse wasn’t home more often. They also couldn’t understand why those long hours weren’t yielding an immediate monetary bonanza. But, as I’ve said many times before, money is always the last thing that comes. It is a by-product of all that action. How can you possibly expect to get through those early lean times without total support at home?

One solution I’ve found is to bring your spouse into the process. First, sit them down and have them buy into your long-term plan. Solicit their input. Explain about the long hours, possible nights and weekends and show them when you might expect to see some real money out of the effort. Then, take them to work with you.

I think the best thing you can do is have your spouse spend a couple of days on the job with you. Have them come into the office or out on sales calls. Let them see what you do when you work those nights and weekends. Let them see how hard you’re working. I’m sure that will give them a better appreciation for what you do.

I know the first time I brought my wife out with me on a road trip it was a real eye-opener. The first morning we were back home she remarked, "I’m so tired and all I did was sit and watch. I can’t imagine how exhausted you must be."

Everyone needs somebody in their corner. Everyone needs a safe place they can go to feel good about themselves when all around them seems to be crumbling. If you can’t convince the people at home to be in your corner, no matter what, how are you ever going to convince your clients?


Promise Less, Deliver More

When I first started my sales career in New York City’s Garment Center in 1973, I was 21 years old and willing to do anything to make a sale. In fact, I was so eager to make a sale, I would promise unrealistic delivery dates to the buyers.

On the surface, it looked like I was doing my customers a favor by telling them I would get them their merchandise quickly. Besides, I had to show them I could ship faster than my competition. But was I helping my customers or hurting them? And, in the long run, wasn’t I hurting myself and my ability to generate repeat business.

Sure I would usually call up, ask for an extension on the delivery date and they would give to me. But what choice did they have? It would be too late to replace the merchandise with something from the competition. However, what effect did my strategy of "Promise More, Deliver Less" have on future business? Do you think customers trust salespeople who do that? Remember, you don’t get many chances to acquire trust.

By promising less and delivering more you are constantly a hero to your customers. You reduce stress, build trust and make it easier for them to plan their business, since they don’t have to worry about late deliveries or blown deadlines. And you know, when you make it easier for people to do business with you, they keep coming back for more.

Southwest Airlines is great at "Promise Less, Deliver More." When I first started flying them, I noticed their flight times seemed longer than those of other airlines for the same routes. I realized, after flying them awhile, this was how they maintained their great on-time record. They always left themselves a margin for error.

Now, you might say, "That’s cheating." But to me, that’s smart. Would rather be told your flight was going to land at 1PM and arrive at 1:45, or would you rather be told your flight would land at 2PM and arrive at 1:45? Don’t we make plans based on the arrival times the airlines give us? Are there others who might be picking us up at the airport or waiting for us at a meeting or lunch appointment? And who would you rather be, the airline that got us there 45 minutes late or 15 minutes early?

One of the keys to success in business is the ability to make yourself indispensable to your customers. When you consistently "Promise Less and Deliver More," you become a trusted resource and believe me, it’s real hard for any client to replace that.


Allow Your People to Make Decisions

As a customer, I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than a customer service rep or salesperson with no decision-making capability. The last thing a customer with a problem wants to hear is that they’re going to have to wait for someone else (who can actually make a decision) to get back to them. What makes it even more frustrating is:

  • Most customers believe that no one will ever call them back. Past experience tells us that; and that they will have to waste even more time following up on this.
  • Instead of having to wait for a call that may never come, when the customer asks for a name of someone to call, they’re often told: "Sorry, we can’t give out that information."

I don’t know about you, but I have pretty much cut out dealing with companies whose executives tell us, by their actions, that they have no desire to "get their hands dirty," and actually talk to a customer. I’m convinced that many companies set up elaborate customer service departments in order to make these poor reps a buffer between corporate HQ and the customers.

One of the major reasons the people who are closest to the customers don’t get to make decisions is: their managers or employers are afraid they’ll make too many mistakes and give customers more than they’re entitled to.

My answer is: Sure they’re going to make mistakes; doesn’t everybody. (And, by the way, it’s really hard to give a customer, especially a good one, too much.) How else do we learn but by doing, and making mistakes? It’s up to the manager, leader or owner of the company to help these people correct their mistakes and learn from the experience.

Pushing decision making responsibility as far down as possible, insures quicker decisions; faster resolutions to customer problems and complaints; more motivated workers, since added responsibility has been found to be one of the primary causes of people "loving their jobs;" and naturally happy customers who will most certainly come back and do even more business in the future.

What do you think is harder to find: companies who encourage their people to make decisions and resolve customer problems or companies who don’t? Obviously, from experience, we know the answer is: those who do are much harder to find. If that’s the case, why be one of the companies "who don’t," because by being a company "who does," you’ll be in the minority; you’ll stand out; and, easily differentiate yourself from the competition. This gives you a tremendous opportunity to increase your business.


Don’t You Just Hate When…

These are situations that actually happened to me or someone I know well.

Don’t you just hate when…

  • You call customer service; they ask you to punch in your account number; your call is finally routed to a person, who ASKS FOR YOUR ACCOUNT NUMBER!
  • You buy something with cash, try to return it and they’ll only give you a store credit.
  • You have a problem; tell a customer service rep your whole story; it keeps happening and every time you call you speak to a different person and have to repeat your story over and over again.
  • Someone promises to call back at a certain time and doesn’t.
  • You ask a store clerk where something is and they point to it instead of taking you there.
  • You walk into a store that has 14 or 15 cash registers but there are never more than 3 going at one time.
  • You make one of those "Anytime between 8AM and 12 Noon" appointments with a service person and they never show up.
  • A company automatically renews your subscription unless you cancel it in writing.
  • A salesperson shows up late for an appointment and tells you it was because he/she was busy with other clients.
  • You make a restaurant reservation, show up on time and they tell you to wait because they’re "busy tonight."
  • Someone tells you "Sorry sir/madam, but we can’t do that," when you know what they really mean is, "Sorry sir/madam, but we have no desire to do that for you."
  • The telephone company is doing work in your area; inadvertently cuts off your service and then leaves for the day without fixing it.
  • Your morning newspaper is delivered soaking wet.
  • The Customer Service Department tells you they cannot (or will not) give out the number to corporate headquarters, because their executives don’t talk to customers.
  • A company representative asks, "What can we do to get back your business?" You tell them and they reply, "Oh sorry, but we can’t do that."
  • People constantly complain about their life; ask for your advice; you tell them what to do and they tell you every reason why it can’t be done.
  • You’re expected to tip for bad service.
  • Your food arrives cold; you send it back; it comes back hot, but now it’s overcooked.
  • Salespeople throw information at you and expect you to know as much about their product and service as they do.

BONUS FOR ALL MY FEMALE READERS and unfortunately I’ve heard of these happening FAR too often:

Don’t You Just Hate When You Walk Into an Auto Dealer…

  • With your husband and they only speak to your husband.
  • By yourself and they say "Why don’t you come back with your husband?"
  • By yourself and the only thing they show you is the vanity mirrors and the different colors the car comes in.
  • And they ignore you.

If any of you out there have a "Don’t You Just Hate When…" I’d love for you to send it to me.