This final installment in a three-part series on the Three Controllables of a Southwestern Advantagesummer takes a look at the most difficult and yet most important aspect of your summer to control: your attitude.
In Part One, we saw that controlling hours doesn’t necessarily mean simply being “out there” for the allotted amount of time. It also means using that time productively. In Part Two, we saw that controlling your demos really means controlling the quality of the effort you put forth. In Part Three, we’ll take a look at what it means to have a positive attitude.
Many first-year Southwestern Advantage students get frustrated during the summer because they feel like they are expected to be happy all the time. This, of course, is an unrealistic goal. Aside from the fact that sometimes we just don’t feel happy, it can be hard to keep a smile plastered on our faces if the last ten families in a row refuse to even sit down and look at our books. It’s hard to enjoy yourself if you feel like you are failing. Even top producers get frustrated sometimes. But they still are able to maintain a positive attitude, because they understand that you don’t have to be happy in order to be positive.
A positive attitude is made up of five Southwestern Advantage mindsets:
Confidence in yourself and your ability to succeed, no matter the circumstances.
Belief in the value of the product or service you are providing.
A focus on the future and how your actions in the present will help you get there.
A commitment to learning from mistakes and past failures.
Taking responsibility for the results you get.
If those five mindsets make up the lens through which you see the world, then your attitude is positive. So attitude, then, is not a set of emotions, but a point of view. It is very possible to experience frustration and still maintain a positive attitude. We can still be disappointed in the outcome of an event—say a family doesn’t buy any books—but a person with a positive attitude will understand that that event is in the past and it is a learning opportunity, and dwelling will make no difference except to hinder further progress toward the achievement of the goal.
An example of this playing out in everyday life: consider that test you spent four hours studying for, but just barely passed. A person with a positive attitude is not jumping up and down for joy over a D-, but they are able to assess what they could have done differently, and they focus on being better prepared for the next test by finding solutions—asking more questions in class, beginning to study sooner, or visiting their professor during office hours. They take responsibility for their actions and the results of those actions, always focusing on how to move forward.
If we look at the summer and as life as being up to us in the actions we take, then our attitude truly is positive. It is no doubt the most difficult of the Three Controllables, but it is ultimately the one that will most greatly influence our success both during a Southwestern Advantage summer and in our lives.
In this three-part series, we’re looking at the 3 Controllables of a Southwestern Advantagesummer. In the first part, we looked at Hours, the first controllable. Today, let’s consider the second controllable: Demos.
I remember before my first summer with Southwestern Advantage, being trained by my student manager. Every week he would drill into me the importance of 30 demos. 30 demos every day; if you just get your thirty in, it’ll work; don’t worry about your sales, just focus on your demos! I had bought in so much to this idea of 30 demos, and that demos determine success, that I committed to try for 40 demos every day. I figured, “If thirty gives me one or two customers a day, then forty should give me an extra one or two each week.” In fact, I was so tied in to this idea that I was confused when I got to Sales School and the introductions for the sales managers teaching parts included talking about their sales. I remember thinking they should announce their demos instead.
As a result, I completely focused on doing 30 demos every day, and I managed to do that even my very first day. But despite getting the demos in, I wasn’t making the sales. I was so focused on the quantity, that I was oblivious to the quality. And one day, after leaving a sit down, I realized that my focus was off. Of course the demos were important, but I came here to make sales, and getting an “X” on my goal card was pretty meaningless in and of itself. The only reason to aim for those demos and sit-downs was because that’s where sales are made.
So “Demos” refers to more than just the number of demos we do. (Don’t get me wrong—the number is important, and if you’re not doing 30 a day, you need to focus on that before you worry about anything else.) It’s not just the number, but the nature. I can control if I re-demo and re-close after an objection. I can control how well I find a need. I can control how many names I use and if I make them three-dimensional or not. I can control the quality of my pre-approach so I’m showing books at the door appropriate for the kids’ age levels. In terms of a Southwestern Advantage summer, all of these things fall under the umbrella of the Demo.
So how does this relate to regular life? Well, if Hours correlates with what we do with our time, then Demos correlates with how well we do it. For instance, if you’re working on a report, either for a professor or for your boss, and you spend several uninterrupted hours working on it, that’s controlling your time. And if you do the appropriate research, verify your facts and information, take the time to proofread and revise, and make sure there is a logical organization, that’s controlling your work—your Demos.
To truly control the work you do and the quality of it, you have to do the little things that will lead to the success you are looking for. Both on and off the Southwestern Advantage bookfield, that is the key to truly controlling your Demos.
Life is complicated. There are always so many things going on, so many priorities to balance, and so many people to stay connected with. That’s part of why I like the Southwestern Advantagesummer program so much—for twelve weeks, all I need to focus on is one thing: connecting with families about education.
But even during the summer there are a lot of variables. Weather, cars, first-years, host families, permits, packages, sales, Sunday meetings, stat calls, gas prices—and so many of these things are completely beyond our control. That’s why we learn to focus on the Three Controllables: Hours, Demos, and Attitude. But here’s the cool part: these three things are not just controllable during a Southwestern Advantage summer, but during the rest of the year as well. This is the first in a three-part series of blogs about the three controllables and how we can apply them to our everyday lives as well.
The first of the three Southwestern Advantage controllables is hours. This is by far the easiest of the three to control. As we explain to first-years, it means starting on time and stopping on time. It means being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. This is critical during the summer, because if you aren’t in your sales area, it’s hard to make sales.
But I think there’s more to hours than just “being there” all day. It means what you use those hours for. It means being productive with your time, which is the most precious gift any of us have ever received. To truly control your hours means to not waste a millisecond. For instance, if you know after 8 minutes that a family won’t buy, but you stay the full twenty minutes, have you technically done anything wrong? No. You followed the 20-Minute Rule, and you were with a family for that whole time. But were you truly controlling your hours? No. You wasted twelve minutes of your day in an activity you knew was unproductive. That is NOT controlling your hours.
So how does that relate to daily life? Well, whether college students, full-time recruiters, sales managers, or any other profession, we can control the hours that we spend focusing on our work and our goals. And the winner, nine times out of ten, is the one who spends the most time working towards their goals. So, as an example, let’s consider college students.
Imagine we have two students, we’ll call them Sam and Kris. Both students decide they need to study for two hours for their upcoming Calculus test, but Sam decides to study in the library and Kris in the dorms. Ultimately, Sam is doing the best at controlling hours, because time spent studying in the library will most likely have fewer distractions than time in the dorms. So even though Sam and Kris are both “studying” for two hours, and they may even get through the same amount of material, Sam will be more successful and get more out of studying than Kris.
In life and on the Southwestern Advantage bookfield, there are very few things we have any control over, but we can definitely control ourselves and our time. As Mort Utley reminds us, what we do each day is important because we are trading a day of our lives for it. If we want to be successful in life, we will consistently use that time to its fullest potential.
This is the first in a three-part series, looking at each of the three controllables in turn, in sales and in life. Next up is a closer look at “demos” in the context of Southwestern Advantage.
Let’s go a bit deeper and explore how laying ground rules in advance can really enhance a working relationship. As a young student manager in the Southwestern Advantage program, I learned what worked and didn’t work when managing people mostly by trial and error. Mostly from mistakes.
Students have asked me, “How do you develop judgment?”
I say, “From experience.”
They ask, “And where do you get this experience?”
My reply, “From poor judgment.”
After a series of badly-handled interpersonal encounters, opaque communications and poor working relationships with fellow students, I found it was 1) best to lay the ground rules first and 2) discover what made my recruit/friend/team member tick & ticked. By the way, all of this applies also to parenting, coaching, managing and dealing with people in general.
So, in a Southwestern Advantage team building scenario, I would have a meeting with my team member and discuss our preferences (ground rules) for how we should work together going forward. It might sound like:
“So Stephen, would it be OK if we talked about how we should work together this summer? I was curious about how you like to be worked with and coached? In other words, what makes you tick? What are your preferences?
“The flip side is I’m also curious about what you find irritating or frustrating about work relationships—maybe in the past. In other words, what made you ticked? What drove you crazy about a manager or coach in the past?
“The reason I’m bringing this up is the better we understand each other on the front end, the fewer the frustrations later on. So maybe we can come up with a list of do’s and don’ts for working together. Does that make sense?”
Then I would literally get out paper, share preferences, and make a list. Writing it down is always more powerful and lasting than just lightly discussing a topic once and dropping it.
Whether you’re teaching a class, coaching a team, running an office, or parenting a child, figuring out what makes them tick or ticked is helpful. Feel free to share your ideas or anecdotes. Certainly, in the context of building a team with Southwestern Advantage, laying the ground work first saves a lot of emotional upset later on and ensures a solid working relationship.
Here’s a fun activity for your next Southwestern Advantage campus meeting: grab a friend and tell them that no matter what, they cannot smile. Next, sit across from them and smile. See how long they can last without smiling back. Most people last less than a minute before breaking into a grin. And all you did is smile at them!
In the book “Social Intelligence,” psychologist Daniel Goleman, Ph. D. describes how the human brain is truly a social organism. When we see an emotion on someone else’s face, our own faces naturally begin to mimic that expression and we actually begin to internalize that emotion ourselves. That’s why we cry at sad movies, and why laughter can be contagious. Goleman calls this synchronization of emotion and expression between two people “rapport.”
But wait—isn’t establishing rapport the first part of the introduction in the Southwestern Advantage sales cycle?
It sure is! Students in the Southwestern Advantage summer program learn that the first step in making a sale is to find a connection with their prospect. So how can we use this idea of rapport as emotional synchronization to help improve our ability to connect with Mrs. Jones?
It’s pretty simple, actually. Most of us are guilty, at some point or another, of assuming that just because we drop a few names, our current prospect feels connected to us. And then we end up confused when the prospect doesn’t buy our product! The problem is that simply telling Mrs. Jones who else has bought your books doesn’t establish any sort of emotional connection. All it does is let her know that you’ve been trained in sales. To truly establish rapport through using names, we need to emotionally connect with our prospects.
The best way to do this is by telling stories about your customers that elicit a shared emotional response. For example, if you know that Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith both have kids on the soccer team, sharing a story with Mrs. Jones about how frustrated Mrs. Smith was with long practices on a school night can remind her of her own frustration. (But remember to be ethical: only share true stories!) Because you are now both sharing the emotional experience of long practices, Mrs. Jones begins to feel connected to you. You have successfully created “rapport.”
So for those of you frustrated with your attempts to establish a connection with your prospects, try creating that emotional synchronization. Hey, you could even ask them to try as hard as they can not to smile…
Aside from using names during the summer more effectively, how else could you use the “emotional synchronization” understanding of rapport, either while selling or recruiting? Feel free to share in the comments section below!
For more information on Daniel Goleman and Social Intelligence, visit danielgoleman.info, or pick up the book from your local library!
I had the chance to share some ideas recently at Southwestern’s Great Recruiters Seminar, specifically in a workshop on communication strategies. One of the points I stressed to student managers was to teach new team members how to treat you, from the start.
First impressions are tricky. People make rapid assumptions about new acquaintances. Oftentimes, you can be mistaken about what you see and hear from a Southwestern candidate or a recruit.
If you’re going to be working with someone you don’t know well, you need to manage the budding relationship, not just the first impression.
Let’s explore an example. If you’re following up with a new Southwestern team member and they show up late for the meeting, you have several options:
1) ignore the fact they’re 15 minutes late and proceed
2) when (if) they apologize, say, “Oh, it’s no big deal.”
3) Confront them politely.
Early on in my Southwestern recruiting career, I would have opted for #2. I valued the team member liking me above our business relationship. If you pursue ignoring or excusing behavior you don’t appreciate, expect more of it. When I said, “Don’t worry, it’s no big deal,” I was teaching that person how to treat me in the future. I was unconsciously teaching them my time was not valuable. Once I chose this interpersonal route, I couldn’t then be upset if they showed up late for other follow-ups.
Option 3 might sound like this: “Jennifer, it’d be great for you to be on time when we meet again. When you show up late, I feel like you don’t value my time…. I’m meeting with a bunch of students today, and it throws everyone off. But I still like you! I just wanted to let you know how I felt.” Be sure to pause and let them feel a smidge uncomfortable.
(Use judgment! If they’re just totaled their car and they’re bleeding, or if there’s been some calamity, you can cut them some slack. If they overslept, see above.)
If you choose to let people know how you feel when they’ve violated one of your rules (in this case, punctuality), they will normally make adjustments. If they are tardy again, you need to amp up the message, making it more uncomfortable.
Punctuality is one example. Teach people how to treat you in other areas: turning in completed reports, returning calls, responding to texts—there are many ways to let new team members know what behavior you want. Feel free to comment! Can you give me other examples—Southwestern or not—where this would be useful?
It’s the mantra of almost every top Southwestern salesperson out there. We’ve all been told that to reach our goals, we can’t make any excuses—we have to be unconditionally committed. But I AM unconditionally committed, you say. I don’t make excuses, but I still haven’t reached my goals. What gives? The answer is pretty simple: human beings are far too reasonable.
Let me give you an example: let’s say you’re a student in the Southwestern Advantage summer program, and you have a goal of hitting President’s Club in personal sales. It’s 9:36 on Saturday night, and you’re one sale away from reaching your goal, but you have no good prospects in your area who have lights on. In fact, the closest prospect lives a ten-minute drive away, and they might not be up, either. After all, you didn’t set up an appointment with them. What do you do? The reasonable Southwestern salesperson looks at their watch and calls it a day. They didn’t hit their goal, but they had a good reason for not hitting it. I don’t want to make these people mad at me! That could give me really bad PR, and I might get kicked out of my turf. And they’ll probably buy if I stop in at a better time, but there’s no way they’ll buy if I wake them up. What else can I do? And they rationalize away their failure to hit their goal.
That, my friends, it what it means to be reasonable. It means granting a good reason for failure permission to be a suitable substitute for success. Being reasonable is the number one cause of our failure to reach our true potential in work and in life.
And there is a cure. But like most cures, it’s not pleasant—it’s not comfortable. If we really want to succeed, we must embrace the concept of being UNreasonable. To be UNreasonable is to refuse to let a good reason for failure prevent us from achieving success.
So looking at our previous Southwestern example, we saw that the reasonable thing to do is to end the week, failing to hit our goal. What’s the UNreasonable course of action? Well, this is where it gets fun! There are lots of UNreasonable things we can do. One is to go knock on a dark door. Another is to drive to that next prospect ten minutes away. They may not be up, but maybe their neighbors are. We could go to a new area of our Southwestern sales locality and find a family who’s awake. What about going to a convenience store and selling a set of books to the clerk on night shift? Or, we could plan ahead and make sure we have lots of late night appointments, so there’s always someone to go talk to after dark (the best choice!) The possibilities are endless!
If you ever find yourself caught in a situation where the only way out seems to be reasonable, check yourself. Is the reason really valid? Are there any UNreasonable solutions you could try? And don’t forget to fall back on your emotional purpose: is the reason for failing to hit your goal really bigger than your desire to make your purpose a reality? If it’s not, then it’s time to get UNreasonable.
And now for a departure from my normal sales blog for a chance political encouner: I was running a Leadership Retreat for Southwestern student managers in Des Moines, IA last week. As we wrapped up lunch and were heading into the conference room, one of the managers remarked, “Rick Perry is in the restaurant.” Didn’t register. I was busy getting the projector ready, messing with the PowerPoint. Then I got a text: “Rick Perry in restaurant.” It dawned on me that this was no joke, since there was a debate that night in town! We suspended the meeting and I headed over to meet one of our alums, now Republican presidential candidate.
A cluster of student managers encircled Gov. Perry. I naturally pushed them aside and shook hands. It was a nice encounter–the restaurant had emptied–and there were a couple bodyguards on the periphery. Perry seemed interested in the Southwestern students, and his body language gave no indication he was in a hurry to exit. We chatted about Southwestern, who we knew, and asked him about that night’s debate. His ”Gold Seal Gold” election schedule sounded daunting, and we were glad to be able to spend a few minutes with him.
Overall, Perry made a good impression (would you expect any less?). He was warm, friendly, interested in us and what we were doing. Obviously, photos were in order so we fell in and took a few shots. As we broke up, we asked him if he would mind saying a few words about his Southwestern experience on video. Perry told us that he could not endorse a product or company, but he did say we could quote him: “Southwestern’s the best thing I ever did.”
Last blog, we were discussing how to break out of the state of being stuck mentally in a Southwestern context. We talked about using the phrase, “What would it be like if I could ________ (insert impossible thing)?” By pretending you have the skill or ability which you currently believe you lack, your brain opens up to possibilities. You automatically imagine what it would be like.
Dealing with stuckness during a Southwestern summer.
I travel to many weekend meetings during the summer. On Sundays, I always meet with Southwestern students–many of whom are struggling–with their self-imposed limitations, with their belief levels in selling, with feelings of frustration because they’re not hitting their goals. Invariably, they’re in a mental “death-loop”: their self-talk is negative, which leads to a mental image of what they don’t want, which leads to an outcome or action that confirms their self-talk! A self-fulfilling sales prophecy that is limiting.
We’ve all done this in some way if we’ve sold with Southwestern: You look at a house and think to yourself: “I know I’m not going to get in.” You form a mental picture of this negative outcome. You muster up the courage anyway, knock and shock–you didn’t get in; then you tell yourself: “See! I knew that wouldn’t work.” We don’t get what we want; we get what we picture.
So my PC (personal conference) might sound like this:
Me: “Tell me what’s happening.”
Student: “I just can’t get in doors. People don’t let me in. Ever.”
Me: “Really. No one ever lets you in.”"
Student: “Well…some do.”
Me: “Tell me more.”
They go on to describe their stuckness in great detail. Using all kinds of universal statements, like “everyone”, “no one”, “always” and “never”. First person, present tense, with emotion. All their assertions reinforce what they don’t want!
I finally counter with a key question: “What do you want to happen?”
This usually brings an abrupt halt to their sad monologue. Southwestern students who are locked into their mental morass are not often looking for solutions, and the new question interrupts their train of thought. They are wallowing in self-pity and a vicious self-defeating cycle. After I ask, “What do you want to happen?” they typically give their right answer. Example: “I want to get in doors so I can make a sale.”
My reply? “Great, let’s talk about how to do that.” A how-to question allows us both to explore options and think about what the Southwestern student can do differently to reach a different outcome. Most people who are suffering from stuckness are in the “why-question” mode: “why is this happening to me?” or “why can’t I get in doors?” Breaking their state a bit with an entirely new question–”what do you want to happen?”–can launch the conversation into a much more useful area: the how-to-fix-this area.
If you’re selling (or studying or working out or feeling bad about yourself) and you’re mentally stuck, you don’t need me to PC you. Ask yourself, “What do I want to happen?” or “How do I want to feel?” Your brain will begin to give new & improved answers. Thoughts? Comments? Southwestern veterans, chime in and let me know if this makes sense!
Many of you Southwestern managers may have already seen this if you’re paying attention to youtube…Kenny Brooks, a self-styled comedian who uses a barrage of funny one-liners to sell his cleaning product, has gone viral. Kenny’s sales technique is caught on camera by a prospect. From the looks of this, he didn’t attend a conventional sales school of any kind, but he does have a planned presentation!
Kenny is engaging, warm, funny, self-deprecating and persistent. He hi-fives his prospect (physical involvement), deflects questions about the price (the inquiry came during the “demo”), and closes repeatedly. On the less admirable side, Kenny makes appeals to buying out of sympathy (a little) and not solely out of service. Yet on the positive side, he wears an ID badge! Well done. His entire approach/demo is performed (I chose that word carefully) at the door—quite the door demo! Kenny does reference neighbors, but doesn’t use any names.
Kenny says he is working to become a TV comedian, and his door to door selling is merely a “stepping stone” to greater fame and fortune. What are your thoughts on his technique? Would you consider him effective or off-putting? Watch this 7:00 minute clip, and you decide whether this guy will make it big. (Why didn’t anyone approach him for Southwestern?)