The title of today’s post was penned by legendary basketball coach John Wooden. One of the first steps to accomplishing great things in life is to refuse to dwell on negative things from your past and carefully assess your present strengths and achievements. Focusing on positive events helps remove the ceiling over your potential. In Wonderland, in 1865 Alice and the Mad Hatter had a conversation illustrating this point (courtesy of Lewis Carroll):

Alice: “Where I come from, people study what they are not good at in order to be able to do what they are good at.”

Mad Hatter: “We only go around in circles in Wonderland, but we always end up where we started. Would you mind explaining yourself?”

Alice: “Well, grown-ups tell us to find out what we did wrong, and never do it again.”

Mad Hatter: “That’s odd! It seems to me that in order to find out about something, you have to study it. And when you study it, you should become better at it. Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again? But please continue.”

Alice: “Nobody ever tells us to study the right things we do. We’re only supposed to learn from the wrong things. But we are permitted to study the right things other people do. And sometimes we’re even told to copy them.”

Mad Hatter: “That’s cheating!”

Alice: “You’re quite right, Mr. Hatter. I do live in a topsy-turvy world. It seems like I have to do something wrong first, in order to learn from what not to do. And then, by not doing what I’m not supposed to do, perhaps I’ll be right. But I’d rather be right the first time, wouldn’t you?”

Although selling doesn’t occur in a fairy tale world, it is definitely easier said than done. All the necessary steps you need to take demand that you first understand human nature. Then execute various emotional and intellectual moves in order to influence buying decisions.

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As the title of the post states, in selling the smallest tweaks often lead to success or failure. Although there are countless components to success, here are a handful of ideas to stir into your selling cake mix batter that, if used regularly, will add flavor to your approach.

  • Reach from zero to heroYou always need to show your prospects “what’s in it for them” personally. If it’s a commercial deal, will her supervisor be impressed because she chose your firm? If it’s a residential proposal, will the homeowner sleep better at night because he chose you as his preferred provider?
  • Realize your buyer has a brainSpeak to your buyer like an intelligent yet uninformed friend. Don’t insult their intelligence with inane leading questions. A high-pressure, “What’s there to think about?” approach won’t work in today’s environment. Buyers are smart and deserve respect, so give it to them.
  • Reinforce emotions with poetic license – I know it sounds corny but consider saying things like, “Your entire department will stand up and applaud you for choosing our firm as you become sheltered from future financial risk.” Buyers will allow a “late hit” like this, so don’t worry about sounding stupid. The buyer knows he really won’t get a standing O, but just the mental image of it will work in your favor.
  • Rethink icebreakingSome training gurus tell you to start with a pleasantry such as, “How are you today,” but frankly that just makes you sound more like a typical salesperson. Try a more businesslike approach such as, “The reason I’m calling (or stopping by) is to learn about your company’s needs in order to see if we can be of help.” Prospects will appreciate your honesty and acknowledging their intelligence.

    Ransom yourself from kowtowing and grovelingIt may seem polite to be overly thankful for taking a phone call or scheduling an appointment but it immediately relegates you to a subordinate position. Likewise, when you finally catch up with a difficult prospect never begin with, “You sure are a hard person to reach!”

  • Reconsider answering questions with questionsAlthough many disagree, answering a question with a question usually sounds evasive. If your buyer wants to know how soon you can do the installation, don’t respond with, “When do you want it?” because that reduces your credibility. Simply respond by offering to call the service department for availability, and ask if that works for your prospect.
  • Resolve to always be positive Persuasive sellers always use positive language. Instead of saying, “We can’t get a truck here until next Tuesday,” say, “We can be here as early as next Tuesday.” What a difference! The habit of using positive speech will help you to achieve more results than you can imagine.
  • Refrain from badgering the witnessEverybody agrees it’s important to ask open questions to gather information, but nobody likes a verbal strip-search. Prime the pump by asking a couple of thought-provoking questions then simply follow the 80/20 Rule—you listen 80% of the time and talk only 20% of the time, and many of your questions will be answered without asking them. Don’t put your buyer on the hot seat.
  • Respond like a winnerWhen you feel like the victor, you smile, stand up straight, and walk confidently. Do the same thing when on the phone. Sit up straight, or even stand, and smile; and your voice will begin to reflect those positive feelings you seek, and success will begin to follow.


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