It’s pretty safe to say that if at all possible in our business and personal lives we prefer for our conversations and engagements to be happy, easy, and smooth. I don’t know too many people who would prefer controversy and “difficult conversations” over a situation where everyone gets along and things go according to plan. This dynamic of “everything is awesome” naturally carries over to the profession of sales. Sales reps want to present their products and/or services to their prospects in the best possible light, and in the process do whatever they can to avoid any negative angle that could be cast on what their selling. However, the true pro sales rep knows how to appropriately and artfully program in certain points in their pitch that insert reality into the situation, and use that as a point to highlight the human touch their company has to offer. This blog is all about how the best sales reps are able to effectively turn a negative into a positive, increase their chance of winning, lay landmines for their competition, and futureproof the relationship with their clients.
The Avoidance Problem of Junior Sales Reps
You know that feeling we all get when things seem too good to be true? When things are overly polished, or after we’ve heard too many “but wait, there’s more” in a pitch it’s human nature to start to look at the pitch with a bit of suspicion. Unfortunately, this is what most sales people unwittingly introduce into their sales process as they make their highly proficient and rehearsed pitches to their prospects. At first glance this is only natural. After all, what sales rep would expect to be successful if they pitched their product and/or services in a negative light effectively throwing cold water on their audience. Clearly, sales reps must make the case that their wares will solve their prospects problems, and do a better job of it than any perceived competition.
This aspect of competition is where sales reps can really dive into covering all of their angles. Sales reps of competing companies will often lay landmines for their competition by exposing to their shared prospect the weakness or issues with the other competing company. Thus, sales reps go to great lengths to prepare for these arguments and use their craft to deftly defuse the landmine set by their competition, making their prospect feel at ease.
But what if there was another way? What if you could take some of these perceived “negatives” and somehow turn them into a positive point that will turn the landmine back on the competition that set it in the first place while concurrently serving to win the hearts of your prospect and set the stage for a great long-term relationship.
How the Best Sales Reps Turn a Negative Into a Positive
There is a clear rule here that everyone needs to understand.
With that premise in mind sales reps can effectively change the game. Let’s look at two different scenarios to see how this concept seamlessly plays out.
Scenario 1 – Global Supply Chain Issues
Unless you’ve been deep in the woods separated from society working on that manifesto you’ve noticed the global supply chain crisis, which The Guardian claims can last for another two years. Clearly this is not your fault, it’s not my fault, and it’s not your prospects fault. Rather, this is simply a situation that we all find ourselves in thanks to a global pandemic that just won’t quit. With that being said let’s look at how this fits into a sales story of a product packaging service supplier.
The Pitch | Strategically Inserting the Negative for Positive Outcomes
We all know that there is a global supply chain crisis going on. We have strategically put multiple layers in place so we have a large source of suppliers to ensure our ability to provide continuous service to you. However, here’s the thing… While we are not experiencing any issues, and we’re doing what we can to prevent this from occurring, we can’t guarantee that this won’t happen to us as there are factors outside of our control. However, what’s very much within our control is how we respond if this comes up. If we find ourselves in this situation we promise to do right by you by informing you on exactly what the situation is in clear black & white terms. We will tell you what we’re doing to mitigate the issue, and/or we will present you with your options, and we will do everything we can to make this right and sort this out on your behalf.
Scenario 2 – Selling Technology
You know that saying “to err is to human” that means to be human is to make mistakes? Yeah, well you could basically substitute the word “human” out for “technology”. No matter how good technology in terms of software or hardware is it will invariably fail. Essentially, you could take a very similar approach above by stating that if in the future there is an issue with the technology you will take care of the customer because you care.
Pro Tip: Have a “When the Crap Hits the Fan” References. Yes, you want references for your product or service that speaks to the great job it does for your customers. However, it’s great to have references that speak to how your company responded with conditions were not ideal. This brings a whole different level of trust to the table that pays massive dividends.
Effectively, what you’re doing in the above scenarios is two things…
1. Proactively inserting reality into the situation
By inserting reality into the situation you’re proactively removing the “too good to be true” thought from entering into the mind of your prospect. Furthermore, you can use this against your less sophisticated competition by saying something along the lines of “anyone who tells you otherwise is not giving you the full truth that’s not the foundation for a good relationship”.
2. Promoting the value of partnering with your company
What you’re doing here is making a point of the fact that behind your product or service is a group of people that deeply care about your customer. Sometimes unexpected things happen and when they do your team will show up to help see them through it.
The Fall Out Filter
By proactively inserting these seemingly “negative” factors into your pitch you’re guiding the conversation down a path of reality and setting the stage for a good trusting and long term relationship. However, is there some risk with this tactic of proactively inserting what could be construed as negative? Sure there is! You could very well lose the prospect. However, while this may be frustrating you’ve actually just saved yourself a ton of future frustration because anyone who can’t handle the thought of anything going wrong is not a customer you want to have. This process serves as a great filter for weeding out customers that will ultimately be way more trouble than they’re worth.
The Wrap Up
Sales people should never be afraid to bring up potential negative scenarios when selling their product or service. In fact, by doing so it shows that you are honest and upfront with your customers, which builds trust. Furthermore, by including a plan for how you will handle such situations if they do arise, you show that you care about your customer’s well-being and are willing to go the extra mile to make things right. This type of customer service can set your company apart from the competition, win more deals, and set the appropriate stage for a great long term relationship with your customers.
Here we are again. We’ve made another trip around the sun, we’re starting to wind things down, but there’s a TON of things going on. It’s an extraordinarily busy time of year, and it’s very easy to get caught up in the commotion of buying gifts, sending cards, planning visits to family, and so on. However, as a high performer it’s critically important engage in some intentional downtime that involves a two part process:
Part 1 | Look Backward & Reflect
Part 2 | Look Forward & Goal Set
Engaging in this exercise serves up tremendous benefits and allows you to go forward with greater intelligence, vision, purpose, and passion.
Part 1 | Look Backward & Reflect
Naturally, the first thing you should do is make a list of who all has wronged you over the past year, think about what those people put you through, ponder what they love most, and harness all or your rage to righteously claim your revenge by destroying what they love so you crush their spirit, and (if you’re revenging good enough) their soul. Some say revenge is a dish best served cold. I say revenge is better served with white hot rage and hatred. Just kidding… (internal monologue: but it’s a bit concerning if I’m being honest how easily all of that poured out of me. Maybe I should look into that. Nah, I’ll just stuff it down deeeeeeeeeeep and sprinkle a bit of “I’m fine” on top)
In all seriousness a ton of stuff happened to all of us in 2021. As the global pandemic has progressed we’ve all had to deal with different challenges across many aspects of our professional and personal lives. However, if you’re reading this then that means you still have breath in your lungs, and that’s something that hundreds of thousands of other people can’t say. With that being said, if your a high performer or if high-performance is something you aspire towards it’s incredibly important that you intentionally pause and reflect on your 2021 experience. The rationale here is that you want to take stock of what you’ve learned so you can put that knowledge into action as you plan ahead.
I’m breaking up this blog into a two part series where this part one is all about helping guide you through the process of how high performers intentionally reflect so they can further their capacity as being a dangerously effective person. To that end I’ve got a six point framework to help guide you through the process. Here we go…
Before you approach the process of reflection (meditation may be the better word) be intentional about setting your mind to a state of openness. All too often, and I’m speaking about myself too here, we jump straight into a mindset of judgement when it comes to things. Be mindful that you may be tempted to immediately start passing judgement on everything, but pump the breaks on that. Approach your reflection process with a mindset of total openness as this will invite a state of flow into your process that will add value to your experience.
2. Take Stock of Impactful Experiences
With your mind set to a state of openness, and keeping judgement at bay, allow yourself to reflect on what was impactful to you over the past year. Let your thoughts flow with this in mind as you are seeking out was was truly meaningful to you. Again, you’re not saying whether something is “good” or “bad”, rather you’re just saying that these experiences carried meaning and weight in your life.
3. What are you proud of
Again without applying judgement, let your mind wander over these impactful and meaningful experiences and ask yourself which of these experiences made you feel proud. Another way to think of this is which of these experiences contributed to your sense of self-worth or self-confidence. What is it specifically about these experiences that contributes to you feeling proud?
4. What are you not so proud of
Now, revisit these impactful experiences with the filter of what are you not so proud of, and then openly ponder what is it about these experiences that make you feel this way.
5. What knowledge did you gain
Here we are now to one of the most important steps and that’s looking back on what you learned from these impactful and meaningful experiences. What knowledge have you gained that you would not otherwise have if it were not for these experiences.
6. Practice Intentional Gratitude
Your mind is not too different than a google search in that your brain will return results whatever it is you’re searching for. In other words, If you’re searching for the negative, your brain will return those search results. Conversely, if you’re searching for the positive, you’ll find that. With that in mind move on to the final step of the reflection process.
Take all that you’ve learned through this process and position your mind so that you can take a 10,000 foot view of it all. As you survey and take stock of the findings begin to shift your mindset to a state of intentional gratitude. While some of these experiences made you feel good and others bad, all of these impactful and meaningful experiences uniformly carry the gift of knowledge. If you are intentional about showing gratitude, and reserving judgement through the entire process, you can see these experiences and the knowledge that they carried as the gifts that they are.
Being a high performer is all about being intentional with your efforts, learning from your experiences, strategically applying fresh knowledge, and then giving it another go. It’s the end of the year and as such it’s a wonderful time to reflect on your experiences with a clear head and open mind. Survey what’s been impactful, and grab whatever lessons you’ve learned. Most importantly, make a point of having a mindset of intentional gratitude regarding your experiences.
In Part 2 of this installment we’re going to set our sights forward towards thinking about what you want out of the next year. It takes some reflection and intentional gratitude-based goal setting, but it will be worth your while in the end. By reflecting on this past year and positioning yourself for a new one with an open mind, without judgement or preconceived notions, you’ll have more clarity on how to get where you need to go. What outcome do you hope for? Who are going after? And what would make you feel good about that outcome? Ask these questions as they pertain specifically to your professional life and personal life separately before coming together at the end of this process with a clearer vision of both areas moving forward into 2022. In doing so, not only will set goals that are achievable and realistic, but they will also be in line with your values. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll explore how to put all of this into action.
How do you think about failure? Do you think of failure as something to be avoided at all costs? Do you see failure as something to be ashamed of? If you fail at something does this mean that you are a failure? Is this how you see failure, or perhaps do you have a different perspective?
The simple fact is that our society has heavily influenced and pre-programmed how we view, approach, and engage with failure, and if you are seeking a path of high performance this programming on failure must be undone if you are to have a chance of success. Make no mistake that failure does not feel good, it’s natural to want to avoid it, and it can shake one’s confidence. However, if you want become a high performer you must change your mindset on and relationship with failure. This blog is here to serve as a guide to understand how society has programmed our thinking on failure, and to serve as primer for reprogramming your mindset on failure so you can achieve high performance.
How society has programmed us to view success and failure
What did you learn in school? Certainly, you learned about math, science, reading, writing, and so on, but school also taught us something else. We received grades for our work that quantified how well we did or did not do, and depending upon how your family viewed these grades the line between success and failure varied a bit. Regardless of where the line between failure and success was drawn for you, you either landed on one side of that line or the other. In this context failure was absolutely something to be avoided. Failure was not tolerated, and if you failed you could not move forward. In this scenario of school we were taught that failure was bad, and our goal was set to perfection embodied by the A+ or 4.0 GPA.
What does social media teach us about success and failure? Well, we see plenty of success across the platforms of facebook and instagram don’t we. We see highlight reels of people we know playing out on these platforms, and we also see other people we don’t know that seems to be living their best life with ease. Do we see failure across these platforms? To be fair, if you were to look at my Instagram feed you’d see video after video of people falling off of skateboards and landing in the worst possible way on a rail, people getting kicked in the face point blank by a soccer ball, and all other kinds of calamity. Okay I’m off track and I apologize 🙂
As we see these people on social media seemingly kicking ass at life we don’t see any hints of failure as part of their story. All we see in these streams is a seemingly effortless depiction of success in terms of money, health, style, relationships, etc, and if we take what we see at face value then the natural avenue of thought is “why is it that these people are able to effortlessly succeed and kick ass in life while I can’t stop stumbling”. In other words we think something is wrong with ourselves because we experience failure, and that is out of alignment with what we see, therefore we think we are inherently flawed by comparison. However, this is all a lie. You are not flawed because you fail; you fail because you are human.
Why this programming holds us back form high performance
Our society has taught us through a massive array of channels that if you’re failing you are not succeeding. It has taught us that failure is bad, and something to be ashamed of. It has taught us that we must avoid failure at any and all costs. The consequence of this is that we set our eyes towards perfection, which is completely unattainable.
So where does the situation of strive for perfection and avoid failure at all costs leave most of us? Stuck, that’s where. In an effort to avoid failure we play it safe. We engage in what we know we’ll succeed in which keeps us small. This relationship with failure or success keeps people from achieving a state of high performance as high performance is not found in operating in safety.
Why this programming on failure restricts a high performance mindset
In the game of life are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose? If we acted based upon how society has taught us to think about failure it is likely that we will spend our lives making decision after decision based upon what is the “safest” decision while concurrently helping us avoid failure. The problem with this approach is that we are contained to operate within what we already know, otherwise known as our “comfort zone”. We stay here in our comfort zone and we build up walls and other safeguards to keep us out of harms way and in doing so we vastly limit our opportunity for growth. We don’t look for ways to expand and grow our lives because that means dipping our toes into the unknown and flirting with unpredictability.
Growth is not found in our comfort zone
Growth, and the pursuit of it, is a staple in high performers, and growth is often not found while operating within our comfort zone. Rather, growth is found beyond our current horizons. Growth lies beyond what we already know, and beyond our current competencies. In order to access true growth we must seek to expand into the wild that lies beyond the self-constructed walls of safety that not only keep out scary things of the world, but also hold us prisoner to a life resigned to apathy and complacency; which is truly the greatest risk of all. It is time for you to take courage and go beyond your walls, risking uncertainty in pursuit of a life of growth, purpose, and value.
Reprogramming our mindset of failure to access high performance
If it is to be understood that growth lies outside of our comfort zone, any engagement outside of our comfort zone incorporates risk of failure which we are trained to avoid. How is it that those in pursuit of high performance can break free of shackles of how society has taught us to think about failure? How does this reprogramming begin, and what does a proper relationship with failure look like? The first step is to put failure into the proper context.
Putting Failure Into Context | Why high performers fail more
If you talk with anyone who is truly successful about their path to success they will likely tell you more stories about where they failed than when things worked out. Conversely, if you talk with someone living a mediocre life it’s likely they will not be able to tell you many stories about failure. How interesting is it that those who are successful have more stories of failure than those who are living a mediocre life. Society would have us think that it’s the other way around, but reality proves a different tale. The simple fact is that high performers actually fail more than any other group of people. How can this possibly be the case? There are three things you need to know about high performers that explains this phenomenon.
The cycle of failure, growth, success
High performers and the highly successful, compared to others, have taken far more risks, failed more, learned more, reconfigured their efforts more, they redeploy being far smarter than they were before, and this cycle repeats over and over and over again. While their peers are playing it, high performers are out in the wilderness forging ahead, and with each step and misstep they are getting better, dangerously more capable, smarter, more confident, and courageous. This cycle of failure, growth, success becomes routine.
High performers operate at the edge of their abilities
When high performers engage in improving their craft they intentionally train just beyond the edge of their current abilities. This is one of the hallmark points made by Daniel Coyle in his book “The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How” as he dives into figuring how how the best athletes train, and working to understand why there is world class talent being produced and developed in certain pockets of the world.
Training just beyond your abilities does not look, sound, or feel great because you’re constantly messing up. You’re trying to learn something new and that means you must practice things you have not yet mastered. From the outside looking in it may seem like the individual who’s training just beyond their ability is not competent, but make no mistake about it; they are growing and working towards mastery.
Again, high performers get out of their comfort zone while mediocre people never leave it.
High performers fail forward
High performers do not automatically view failure as a setback that carries them away from their goals. Rather, they see failure as a necessary step in making forward progress to unlocking their goals. This is commonly known as “failing forward“. In this light a “failure” is actually considered a forward step, whereas inaction is considered a proper failure given there is no chance of any progressive movement.
5 Aspect of The High Performance Mindset on Failure
Habits are difficult to break, and there’s no reason why you should think reprogramming how society has shaped your mindset on failure will be any different. Make no mistake that it will be a difficult process, but rest assured that any difficulties you experience pale in comparison to what you’ll get in return. In an effort to help guide your process of reprogramming your mindset on failure we’ve listed five specific areas you can focus your efforts on.
1. Don’t run from failure; embrace it
Nobody likes the experience of failure, but it’s a rite of passage for anyone who wants to attain high performance. In fact failure is a critical aspect of attaining high performance as failure gives us the opportunity to gauge our progress, as well as learn from what we’ve done and develop the skills we’ll need in order be successful in future activities.
2. Failure means growth
Failure is true path towards growth. Failure increases your potential for success as failure is how one learns to succeed.
3. Failing does not mean you are a failure
People often, and tragically confuse the experience of failing with being a failure. If you are intentionally operating outside of your comfort zone in order to reach and grow beyond your current means then you are endeavoring towards something noble. Your moment of experiencing failure is temporary, and it is not a reflection on you, your intelligence, your character, or your potential. As the saying goes “you are only a failure when you stop trying”. Failure is not a permanant condition, but rather it’s a necessary toll on the road to greatness.
4. Failure is experience,
It is uniformly understood that across professional and personal domains that experience is deeply valuable. What is failure if not a deep and impactful experience. While you may not have gotten the outcome you had hoped for you most certainly have gained an experience which bears the gift of knowledge and being able to share a good story. By the way, no good story ever follows the arc of “I set out to do something, I did it without any troubles ,and everything worked out as planned”. So, I guess if you don’t take anything away from this just know that because of your experience with failure you may be the most interesting person at the party!
5. Failure is the basis of empathy
When you are going through a difficult time it feels much better hearing from someone who has shared a similar experience and lived to tell the tale compared to any attempts at comfort from someone else who has no idea what you’re experiencing. Connecting with people through the basis of understanding through a shared or similar experience is the basis of an empathetic connection, and it’s these types of connections that are extremely meaningful. Your failures are experiences that will more than likely add to your ability to help support others, and form deep and meaningful connections. If you’re wealthy in experiences then you’re wealthy in terms of your ability to connect with others.
It’s not failure that is the problem, but rather how society has framed failure as an entirely negative outcome. Re-framing your mindset on failure will help become a high performer and live a rich life of deep meaning, purpose, and value. Don’t run from failure, embrace it, and don’t let its value slip through your fingers!
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or feedback please leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to get back to you with a response Also, feel free to share this article if you enjoyed it with your friends – Cody Strate
Sales and marketing are two of the most important aspects of any business. No matter what type of company you have, it’s crucial to find ways to generate revenue and attract new customers. But all too often, businesses focus on the wrong things or develop bad habits when it comes to their sales and marketing efforts. There are three problems within sales and marketing that are so fundamental and basic in nature that many businesses completely overlook them, and if left unaddressed these problems can cause some serious harm. Here are three sales and marketing problems that will cost your business dearly if you don’t address them ASAP:
1) Missing the Fundamental Question
2) Less Selling | More Connecting
3) Not Seeing Beyond the Transaction
Problem 1: Missing the Fundamental Question
One of the most significant challenges facing new and established companies is the inability to answer what is arguably the most fundamental question: what is wrong with the world that you are business needs to exist? While this question seems painfully obvious, it is equally if not more painful hearing the various answers from people throughout the company. Responses that very are indicative of a company who does not uniformly know who they are or what they are about. One of the most valuable benefits of being able to have a solid answer to this question is that the answer provides direct insights into your customers world. The answer to this question speaks directly to the problems that they face and the challenges they experience that hold them back from where there could be. This is your company’s sweet spot because ideally you should be able to solve their challenges and accelerate then forward.
While it is critical that everyone throughout a company have complete clarity as to why the business that they support should exist, it is arguably most important that anyone occupying a role in sales or marketing should be most familiar with this answer. Sales and marketing are the primary contact point between your company and its customers and prospects, and if this group is out of sync On messaging as important as this then you have a serious problem on your hands. if you are out of sync here then how can you even begin to be successful in connecting with your customers and prospect base in any meaningful way?
The good news is that if your sales and marketing team that is currently effective in some way, that is an indicator they do have insight into this most fundamental question of why your company deserves to exist. However, taking the time to clarify this point will only serve as a means to connect with your customers and target audience In a far more effective manner that will invariably generate more revenue.
There is a common phrase that goes something like “nobody wants to be sold but everybody loves to buy”, and I would argue that we all have an innate understanding of what this means. However, how do you begin to explain the difference between somebody being sold versus somebody buying something? When you think of “being sold to” what does that conjure up in your mind? if you’re like me, you think of somebody who is a little too slick for their own good telling you exactly what you need, and why you need it, but they don’t ask you a single question. How can they tell you what you need when they don’t even know the first thing about you? Situations like this often tell us we are dealing with somebody who is worried about their interest more than ours. People like this are the ones who fuel all the popular stereotypes that we think of when it comes to the proverbial “used car salesperson”.
The most significant problem with these kinds of salespeople is that they are highly presumptive in their approach, and they almost exclusively spend their time talking about how great their product or service is. This is the kind of selling that is often found in rookie salespeople or poorly trained salespeople, and they do not get bound to full results overtime, and they do not set the stage at all for a long-term positive relationship between customer and vendor. If your salespeople are selling in this way, then you have an immediate and critical retraining initiative on your hands.
The best salespeople do not spend their time telling prospects how great they are. Rather, they show genuine interest in their prospects. They spend a great deal of time asking detailed questions and they listen intently to the response have the person opposite them. In listening to their prospects they gain deeply insightful knowledge as to the specific problems and the various dynamics of those issues faced by this particular prospect. With this knowledge a skilled salesperson can empathetically connect with their prospect, thus forming a true human to human connection period from there this skillful salesperson can directly match the problems their prospect faces with the solutions that they have to offer. Furthermore, they can craft an intricate and meaningful story of what an aspirational and achievable future looks like. Best of all the skillful salesperson can present numerous case studies that portray how others in similar circumstances were able to overcome their challenges and achieve a better state through your company’s products or services.
Problem 3: Not Seeing Beyond The Transaction
Salespeople push to close deals. That’s what they do. They sell products and or services. However, all too many salespeople, and companies for that matter, view the transaction as the culmination of all events serving as the end of the road. This is wrong. The transaction is not the end, but the beginning. If you have a sales team the views the sale as the end of the line, then you have a problem that you have to fix.
Salespeople have many tools at their disposal to help influence a deal to move forward ranging from video demos, ROI documents, case studies, etc. However, nothing is more potent for the salesperson then a thrilled customer willing to evangelize how great your company is to other prospects that are on the fence. Conversely, nothing is more damaging to a salesperson then a stable of unhappy customers.
Long term success for businesses largely stems from the quality of relationship they have with their customer base. Businesses that understand this invest the time effort and energy required to make these customers feel loved and heard on a regular basis. It is amazing how the bar yes set so low in many cases for customer expectation. poor customer service is more the rule then the exception these days. This sets the stage for your company to rise to the occasion and be something special in the mind, but more importantly the heart, of your customer. Simple things really matter in terms of preserving and expanding the relationship you have with your customer, but if you don’t think beyond the transaction then you will never grow these relationships, or the associated revenue that comes from a healthy and happy customer base in a meaningful way.
Bonus Point: companies that have been around awhile have had to weather a storm or two. Often it was revenue generated from there pool of current customers that sustained them through the potential crisis. if you do not have this type of customer base to lean on then your business will find itself in a very bad way the next time something of any significance shows up unexpectedly at your door. Will your business be able to weather the storm? Now is the time to take the action to ensure that answer is as close to a “yes” as you could possibly get as a guarantee.
It is a very noisy world that we live in and there are numerous books and programs that would teach you all the secrets to success. Unfortunately, most of these programs focus on the wrong things. Unfortunately, too many people are left wanting in terms of improving their craft. Unfortunately, too many prospects go underserved when it comes to the class of sales and marketing that they deserve.
Don’t let your company get caught up in the hollow hype. Look at your Sales and marketing fundamentals, which is aided by shining a light on the three problems listed above. if you can get your sales and marketing department’s right in the areas of fundamentally understanding why your company deserves to exist, selling less and connecting more, and seeing beyond the transactions, then you will find yourself better positioned than most to achieve significant, meaningful, and long lasting success. This is your opportunity to get better and vault well above and beyond your competition to achieve the growth that you know is out there. Go grab it.
Here at the upward spiral group, we know what we are about. We exist to help other companies and leaders maximize and realize their potential in order to better serve their customers, team members, and themselves. If you need a hand in achieving this next level of success let us know. We are here for you.
Davin Marceau was an Army Ranger for 17 years. He has seen combat and knows what it’s like to lead troops under the most stressful of situations. After leaving the military he became a Chief Operating Officer in a corporate setting. This blog is about 4 leadership lessons that translate from the battlefield to the boardroom, as well as general insights into leadership development and skillsets needed for success.
The Stress of Combat
What is it like to literally be under fire from an enemy combatant who’s goal is to kill you? What is it like to hear the supersonic crack of a 7.62 X 39mm round from a AK-47 fired by a member of the Taliban fly just above your head? How do you keep your cool in a situation like this? How do you think clearly enough to develop a plan, clearly communicate that plan to your team, and lead them out of danger while simultaneously navigate to complete the mission objectives? Davin Marceau, a 17 year Army Ranger veteran knows this situation all too well. “It takes a tremendous amount of training to prepare for these kinds of situations, and when the reality of combat hits you rise to the level of your training.”, says Davin.
These days Davin still finds himself coming under fire, but he’s in slightly less danger as he’s traded the battlefield for the boardroom. Today, Davin serves as a formidable business leader occupying the positions of Chief Operating Officer at Access and Managing Partner of The Upward Spiral Group. His time operating as an Army Ranger has taught him tremendously valuable lessons in leadership that directly translate to what it takes to succeed in the corporate setting. In this article Davin presents 4 lessons in leadership learned on the battlefield that he’s carried to the boardroom.
Lesson 1 – Contingency Planning
Lesson 2 – Delegate Power
Lesson 3 – Relentless Application of Standards
Lesson 4 – The Mission Above Individuals
“It takes a tremendous amount of training to prepare for these kinds of situations, and when the reality of combat hits you rise to the level of your training.”,
Lesson 1 – Contingency Planning
One of the most important lessons learned from Davin’s time in the military is the value of a detailed plan that covers numerous contingencies. There is a considerable amount of time spent planning a mission that involves understanding the terrain you’re about to enter. There is forethought into what the most likely scenarios they will encounter, and what actions they will take as a response. Equipment required to complete the mission objective is considered, and thought is given towards what will happen if that equipment breaks.
The capacity to execute a mission successfully is strongly influenced by meticulous preparation going into it, as demonstrated by numerous likely events and issues that must be considered ahead of time. This directly translates to business. Whether you are approaching a new marketing initiative, a negotiation with a customer, or a potential arrangement with a new partner it is essential to properly plan for the event to increase likelihood of success.
Lesson 2 – Delegate Power
One of the most important lessons that Davin has learned is the importance of delegation. “It’s not always about being the smartest person in the room.”, says Davin. “Sometimes you have to let go of certain tasks because you simply can’t be everywhere all of the time. You have to know how to delegate so you can free up your time and stay on top of everything.”
Davin believes this lesson translates easily to business. A CEO or President of a company can’t do everything, but more importantly these leaders need to realize that others are better equipped to do certain jobs. If you’ve hired members of your team who specialize in Operations, Professional Services, Sales, etc there’s a good chance that those individuals have spent 10+ years developing their craft. Simply put most CEO’s need to put their egos aside, get out of the freaking way, and let their better equipped teammates do their jobs.
“If you find yourself with less time or energy than before, start delegating your power to someone else”, says Davin.
Lesson 3 – Relentless Application of Standards
Standards Matter. This is a saying you’ll often hear from Davin. If you want to consistently perform at a high level you have to rigorously enforce the standards that matter; emphasis on “matter”. In the military there is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for just about every single task. While SOP’s are important it is more important to understand what really matters in terms of achieving the objective. High performing teams know the rule book but they have an understanding of what’s most important. You and your team should agree on the standards that are most important, communicate this with your team, communicate why these certain set of standards matter most, and then hold firmly to them without exception.
Lesson 4 – The Mission Above Individuals
During a military operation achieving the mission objective is the most important thing. If things don’t go according to plan and you find yourself in a difficult position you still have to constantly be thinking about how you can accomplish the mission. This focus of “mission comes first” would serve many companies. All too often small to medium sized companies take a “we’re all family here” approach, and while this might feel all warm and fuzzy, it does not always serve the mission objective. whether you have a business to run, or you are running a department, or you are running a team, it is your responsibility to ensure the success of that particular unit. if you fail in meeting your objective the ramifications could be significant in terms of impact. Keep in mind that it’s not just your livelihood on the line but also the livelihood of others. Achieving your company’s mission objectives is critical to ensure the continuation of that business, and all of the people it supports.
Davin spent his time learning these leadership lessons in some of the harshest settings, under heavy stress, and at the risk of mortal consequences to himself and the team he was leading. His lessons in leadership were hard learned, but he’s a better business executive and corporate leader because of it. Take the lessons he provides to improve your leadership skills, and in turn elevate your game.
Negotiation. It is a skill that when mastered is nearly unrivaled in its capacity to increase the velocity of success in almost all facets of your life. However, achieving a professional caliber status at the craft of negotiation is not easily attained. Most people don’t feel the need to put the time, effort, or energy into improving their craft of negotiation because they see negotiation as a skill required more in the field of sales, CFOs, or attorneys. While those professions do require a regular utilization of this skill, negotiation is by no means relegated to the exclusive use of those job functions.
Do you ever want a raise? Negotiation
Do you ever want a promotion? Negotiation
Do you want to buy a house? Negotiation
Want to have a happy relationship with a significant other. Negotiation
Want to have kids that don’t grow up to be shit heads? Negotiation
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Negotiation is for Everyone
At The Upward Spiral Group, we feel that negotiation is an absolutely necessary skill for everyone who wants to get the most out of life. However, negotiation is not an easy skill to learn. While negotiation is formulaic to a degree it is more of an artform than anything else. Like any other skill, negotiation is a craft that requires study, practice, and humility to get better.
Cody Strate recently sat down with Davin Marceau on The Upward Spiral Podcast to discuss Davin’s take on some of the common mistakes he sees at the negotiation table, and out came Ep. 47 – 5 Common Mistakes of Amateur Negotiators. Davin, an Army Ranger turned COO, is a master negotiator who has put in the work to become world-class at the craft of negotiation.
Before we go any further Davin would tell you is that if you really wanted to improve your negotiation prowess that you should pick up the wonderful book “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. Voss’s book stands as one of the best and most practical guides to becoming a formidable negotiator, and Davin has had the opportunity to negotiate with the man himself (FYI he openly acknowledges he had his ass handed to him). Now that our acknowledgement of Chris Voss is out of the way let’s press on.
5 Common Mistakes of Amateur Negotiators
Davin has done hundreds of high stakes professional negotiations with customers, partners, vendors, and employees. When I asked him about mistakes he commonly sees that serve as the tale-tale signs he’s working opposite an amateur negotiator, he did not hesitate in coming up with his list.
Negotiation Vs. Bargaining | There’s a Difference
Lack of Preparation
A Lack of Self-Awareness
The Fallacy of Reciprocity
Negotiation Vs. Bargaining | There’s a Difference
Bargaining is different from negotiating. Bargaining is when you focus in on a singular item, such as price, and work exclusively around that one point. Conversely, negotiation is when you factor in numerous elements into the equation and the flow of the negotiation will dictate a rise or fall in the relative importance or value of these various factors. In other words, bargaining is rather myopic whereas negotiation is the simultaneous management of many elements.
Lack of Preparation
Anyone operating at a professional level puts in the time to gather information and practice numerous scenarios before entering into an event. Negotiation is no different. If you want to perform well, you should do the following in advance of your negotiation event…
gather as much info as you can
sort out the various contingencies that could occur
create plans for the different contingences
understand what you really want
understand what’s valuable to your counterparts
What is most important is that you keep in mind what you really want vs. what you really don’t want, while being mindful of what’s valuable to your counterpart. This will help keep you oriented when plans go awry as they often do.
Whoever gets emotional first and loses their cool loses. People who are acting on emotion are not thinking clearly. They lose focus, they forget what’s really important, and they exclusively see things in the near-term. If you are not thinking clearly then you can’t negotiate towards the best outcome. Getting emotional is easy in negotiations; you are human after all. However, if you do find yourself getting emotional take a few deep breaths, or feel free to ask for a time out. Collect yourself, and remember what’s really most important to you, and what you’re after.
A Lack of Self-Awareness
All too often people are woefully lacking in self-awareness, and they don’t have any idea how the world perceives them. Getting outside of yourself is not an easy task, but if you want to be a good negotiator you must be self-aware. Do you fidget? What do you do when you are nervous? Do you lean on “crutches” in conversations like saying “umm” and “you know what I mean” too much when you’re off?
Davin described his own struggle with this in that he’s a big guy with a resting face that’s, shall we say… “less than warm and comforting”. What I really mean to say is that Davin’s resting face has that “I’m angry and possibly considering violence” kind of look. Of course, I’m kidding, kind of, but the point is that his resting face could make people feel uncomfortable, and he has to be consistently consciously aware of this.
The Fallacy of Reciprocity
Yes, it is natural according to human nature to act with reciprocity to those that do us favors. However, in a negotiation reciprocity is not always a given. Just because you offer something to your counterpart does not mean they will be compelled to act in kind. Giving away something of value in hopes your counterpart will reciprocate is folly.
Negotiation isn’t about getting what you want, it’s about making the other person want what you have. Negotiation is an art and a science that can be mastered by anyone willing to study the craft and practice. Negotiation is anything but easy, and apart from public speaking, and death, can be one of the scariest experiences people have. However, if the craft is learned and performed well it can play a vital role across a multitude of facets in your life to advance you forward.