Archive for March, 2009

Becoming Intentional in Your Selling

March 26, 2009

There is a characteristic of top performers in selling and serving others. I recently learned a term that describes it – “intentionality.” This characteristic is often missing from selling efforts.

A few months ago I was invited to be a panelist in a discussion on leadership. Our speaker at this session was Betty L. Siegel, Ph.D., the recently retired president of Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA. Among the topics she discussed was the concept of intentionality, which is a cornerstone principle in her book, Becoming an Invitational Leader, co-authored with William W.
Purkey, Ed.D.

Listening to Dr. Siegel that day, and hearing my fellow panelists respond to questions from the audience, caused me to begin to think about the whole concept of being “intentional” about life and work. What is this whole idea of living or working “intentionally?” As Dr. Siegel pointed out that day, intentionality is not the same as intentions. “It is our ability to have intentions in the first place.”

There is an underlying factor in becoming intentional – that is ultimate purpose or chief aim. Hundreds of books stress the absolute necessity of an individual as well as an enterprise having a clearly defined, written and effectively communicated purpose or aim. Intentionality is what brings that aim or purpose into reality, and engages others in action with the future in mind. It is my opinion that many businesses suffer from a lack of intentionality. Their leaders are not clearly moving the enterprise toward its purpose.

As I reflected on this idea of intentionality, it seemed that there were some significant peaks and valleys along my own life journey. Thinking about these fluctuations, I had a BLIGOI (a Blinding Glimpse of Insight!) When my chief aim was meaningful for me, the factor that caused the peaks was BELIEF! I had a passionate belief in my product or service and believed in the value that I brought to my clientele. Where there were valleys, the belief was weak.

As I think about this now, there is a process that underlies all this:

Chief Aim > Belief in Product or Service > Intenionality in the Marketplace = The Sale

During the period of my greatest success, my chief aim was strong and meaningful for me, I held a strong belief that my products were superior, even unique, and that belief communicated itself in my attitude of intentionality where ever I went. Success followed. If I doubted, or held a wavering belief, I lost my sense of intentionality, and had a difficult time making sales and achieving my chief aim.

So here is what I have concluded. The rock for success is, of course, a “definite chief aim,” as Napoleon Hill calls it in his classic book Think and Grow Rich. You can call it “life purpose, ““vision, “or “spaghetti,” as long as it gives you a reason for being. So these three factors, Chief Aim, Belief in Product and Intentionality are all related. One follows the other in sequence, yet each stands independently.

Once you know your purpose or chief aim, you will see that there are dozens or hundreds of ways to achieve it. For a sales or service professional there are millions of viable and useful products and services that must be sold to the customer or client base. People will have to work through this on their own perhaps, but I have sold tangible and intangible products and done well in most of them. Whenever I have had difficulty it was because of a low level of belief in the value the particular products to the customer. I could not “sell myself on what I was selling.”

One more thought. Some people have a chief aim that is very lofty and sophisticated. Others may have one that is more basic. It just has to be yours – vital to you. Then sell yourself on what you are selling! If you can’t, in Integrity Selling for the 21st Century, Ron Willingham advises us to, “Have the courage to face the truth,” and make a change. Sometimes the change is in you, not your job, by the way.

Then become Intentional in your marketplace!

By J. Mark Walker


Building a Trusting Workplace #4

March 6, 2009

In an earlier blog, I mentioned four things that are important in creating a trusting work culture. (Click here to read that blog entry.)  The fourth was “Leadership Committed to Walking the Talk.”

There are two major factors in this idea, as I see it:  first the workplace culture must be based on values, not on rules.  To get an idea of what this means, think of the last time you dealt with a government agency, especially one at the state or federal level.  If you don’t “follow the rules,” you get quashed!  As a result, few people want to deal the “the government,” and will even pay unnecessary fees and taxes just to avoid the confrontation.  However, when an agency or a company operates under a set of values, focusing on what it takes to meet the needs of their customers, work gets done, people feel good about the relationship, and new business has a fertile platform on which to grow.

Here’s an example:  29 years ago, one year after I moved to Cobb County, Georgia, I submitted my automobile license tag renewal by mail for the first time.  After about 7 days I revived a phone call from a woman from the County Tag Office.  She said (imagine a sweet voice and a genuine southern accent), “Mr. Walker, this is Betty Jean down at the County Tag Office.  I’m processing your tag renewal and you forgot to put down the name of your insurance company.  If you’ll just tell me what it is, I’ll write it in for you and we can just get this taken care of.”  So I told her, and it was done in 3 minutes, far less time than it would have taken Betty Jean to fill out the rejection forms and mail all my paperwork back to me.  I have had this “citizen-centric” attitude reflected to me dozens of times over the 30 years I have lived here, and continue to be amazed that a county government is so effective in serving their citizens with values, not just rules.  Systems and processes provide structure; values get the job done efficiently and effectively.

The second factor is leaders who model the values.  When leaders exhibit the values they espouse by the way they themselves treat employees and customers, these leaders set the standard.  Going back to my county example, the Chairman of our County Commission is the most citizen-focused person in the county.  He values his constituents, not just to get elected, but to make sure our county prospers.  He is out in the community every day.  He learns your name.  More importantly, he has cultivated the support of business and political leaders by focusing on building an infrastructure that is unparalleled in our state.  Our county has prospered, and still does. C-level executives are often completely out of touch with the employees and their customers.  Yesterday I spent an hour reviewing some of the characteristics of the “100 Best Places to Work For” from Fortune Magazine.  Virtually without exception, the CEO’s and other executives are known by their people, communicate the corporate values regularly by word and deed, and are visible in the workplace with employees and customers. 

J. Mark Walker

Build a values-based work culture, and show people how to live those values!  One way is to select the right kind of  training model which support the communication and implementation of your corporate values. 

Building a Trusting Workplace #3

March 2, 2009

This is the third of four blogs on Overcoming Commoditization with Your People.  Click here for the original post.

Our businesses are always at risk for being seen as “commodity suppliers” by our clients, customers or prospects.  Our people are the best resource we have to differentiate ourselves in the markets we serve.  So far we have discussed identifying the values on which our enterprise is founded (#1) and having the right people in place (#2).  This blog is about “catching people doing something right.”

Forty years ago, the founder of Integrity Solutions, Ron Willingham, recognized the vital significance of building people by positive reinforcement.  Then Spencer Johnson and Ken Blanchard wrote their little book, The One Minute Manager, which was a roaring success.  Steven Covey’s Seven Habits took the business world by storm in the 1980’s.  In this decade the Gallop organization has numerous books on the importance of creating a positive work environment, including Vital Friends by Tom Rath.  All of these deal at some level with the need to reinforce people in a positive way.

What about growing the person?  How do you focus on the positive?  You have to be intentional about it!  The best way to grow people is to 1) assess their strengths, 2) talk with them about those strengths, and 3) listen to where they want to grow.  Then encourage and help them accordingly.  When we teach Integrity Coaching® part of the mindset we want supervisory and management folks to adopt is: 1) Point out a person’s strengths and show them how those strengths fit into the organization’s goals.  2) Ask them for areas in which they would like to see themselves grow, and encourage them to grow in those which are compatible with their strengths. 3) Point out to them every time you see them doing something correctly in either strength or an area they identified for improvement.  In his book, The Greatest Management Principle in the World, by Dr. Michael le Boeuf (now out of print), he makes this key point in building up people:  “Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated.”