My Next Ten Years

Networked Brains

I decided it is time for me to make a new plan. The Chinese have their 100 year plans. I like the idea but having turned 62 a couple of months ago, I thought 100 years might be bit too optimistic. So, I am working on my ten-year plan.

Now the truth is that while I’ve always been a goal setter, I don’t recall ever setting a life plan for myself. I’m fascinated by people who do it and even more fascinated when they actually follow the plan but I’m just too interested in too many things and I always wanted to keep my options open. Yeah, I’ve always suffered from shiny object syndrome. It’s worked for me. I’ve had a fascinating and rich life and while there are things I might like to do-over, I’ve learned not to dwell on the past and to focus on today.

I’ve been writing a new book for the last couple of months. It was focused on sales for small business. I say was because I’ve decided not to write it. And, the story of why I made that decision is what led to putting together the ten-year plan. Let me tell you the story of what happened.

Part of writing the book involved interviewing small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers. One of the things that kept coming up was the expressed need for a better way to sell despite all the amazing amount of content available in books, DVD’s, video, online, etc. It seems like these things just aren’t enough to give people the combination of skills and confidence necessary to sell when selling isn’t your primary job description.

All of the people I talked with share a couple of characteristics. The first one is they are in business because they love and are passionate about what they are doing. The second one that most of them share is they have almost no direct selling experience and, for the most part, are anxious about selling to someone.

That got me to thinking about how I learned how to sell. The first formal training occurred when I was in my mid-twenties and working my first job for someone other than myself. I got a sales job with 3M Company and they put me through an extensive two-week program followed up by time working in the field with a supervisor, followed up by more classroom training, which was followed up by more follow-up. It was an awesome program.

When I later formed my own sales and marketing consulting company, I put together my own sales training that was three full days of workshops followed by six to eight weeks of continuing on-site follow-up including working with the salespeople on actual sales calls where we not only observed but interacted with the customers and prospects so the person undergoing the training could learn to model us. It too was very successful but it was designed for people who wanted to be sales professionals and were motivated to participate and learn.

Suddenly during my interviews with these small business owners a light bulb went off and I realized that it was always going to be exceptionally hard for them to learn how to sell and value the sales process from reading a book or watching a video. Selling is an experiential process. Books are great but most people need to actually experience the sales process in order to own it – especially people who view selling as something they know they have to do for their business to survive but don’t particularly appreciate having to engage in it.

It was at that moment that I decided the world doesn’t need another book about how to sell.

But, now I’m faced with a really difficult question. “How do you help non-sales type people be successful in selling without the long-term training and follow-up? How do you let them experience selling for themselves without being with them?”

I’ve got some ideas but I can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a tribe of us to make it happen. We’re going to have to network our brains for exponential growth. If there is one thing I do know it is that there are lots of you out there that want and need to be able to sell but you don’t want the process to feel manipulative and you don’t need all the rah-rah and sneaky sales tactics. You want selling to be a win-win relationship that happens naturally and gently.

I’m with you on all this and I’m proof that you don’t need any of the slimy tactics to sell. I broke every sales record possible with 3M and continued to have remarkable success in selling my entire life. Manipulation and creepy tactics just don’t work for me and they don’t work for most people who are in business because they love what they do and not because they love the sales part of it.

So the 10-year plan is focused on delivering a realistic, first-hand, you’re part of the sales process experience while still allowing you to run your business. The first change you’re going to see in this 10-year plan is my blog is going to be very different. I’m going to give you something that I hope will be a way to keep you in tune with gentle selling. I call it The Daily Doughnut and you’ll be hearing more about what a treat it will be right here very soon. I know you don’t have a lot of time to spend on learning and maintaining your selling skills when you’re running your business so The Doughnut will give you some bite size chunks that I hope will be one way to help you.

In order to make the experience more real for you, I’m going to invite readers to share their sales challenges and we will use the power of stories to recreate them along with solutions that you all can use in your own business. You’ll see more videos, hear more podcasts, experience more webinars and be an actual part of all this yourself. I may even show up at your place of business and we’ll do this together.

If you only come away with one thing from this post I want you to remember this. In order to learn how to sell, to become better at sales – you have got to experience it! You just can’t sit on the sidelines watching. I don’t have all the answers and this plan is a journey for all of us. More ideas of how to turn this into an experience are in development now. I’m talking to several companies about doing real interactive long-distance training as one example. I’ll continue to write about leadership and creativity but I hope to even make that experience more real for all of you. Between technology, storytelling and working together as a tribe I hope we can accomplish these things.

I hope you’ll join me on the trip. It should be one heck of a ride!

6 thoughts on “My Next Ten Years”

  1. We fit your description of the typical small business perfectly :”they love and are passionate about what they are doing” and “no direct selling experience”. I look forward to seeing The Doughnut! We are really working hard to develop our sales process and it’s very challenging for us.

    We produce something similar to your proposed Doughnut, but for web site marketing. We call it the “Marketing Bite” and actually describe it as “bite-sized actionable marketing tips” for your business. We’ve gotten great feedback from subscribers. We keep the messages short and always provide a quick action someone can take. I don’t know if The Doughnut will lend itself to “actionable” items, but that is an important part of our Marketing Bite.

    You can take a look at what we’ve been doing here:

    http://www.heroweb.com/home/hwm/smartlist_116/heroweb_marketing_bites.html

    (and subscribe if you want to!).

    1. Hi Staci – thanks for joining us. I like Marketing Bites especially how they are actionable. I just signed up to get them in my email. We’ll keep the word actionable in mind with the Doughnuts!

  2. Wow, Bob. Can’t wait to see the Doughnut. I love the idea of all working together on this. I love being part of a tribe. Couldn’t help but wonder as I read your story – how much of selling success is due to innate personality and how much to learned techniques. We talked about your friend Walt and his natural ability to make people feel comfortable. You can’t learn that. So how do you get people who have an aversion to selling to become better salespeople? Especially when they don’t think they can do it. Let’s find out together.

    1. There is no doubt, Marvin, that some people like Walt have a natural ability to connect with people. However, I can tell you that Walt also practiced and practiced that ability every week for many years as an entertainer. I first met him when he was doing a an oldies rock ‘n roll show and I immediately wondered what he did for a living. A few weeks later he walked into my office wondering if we were hiring salespeople. I recognized him immediately, hired him and we’ve been friends and working together for many years now. His natural ability took him a long way but all of his shows were interactive with the audience and what he learned during those interactions is one of the reasons I think he is such a fantastic salesperson.

      To answer your question about what to do if you have an aversion to selling is you must practice it. You can study it all you want but getting up on the stage and facing the fear is what will change everything.

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