No Excuses

no excusesAccording to the Oxford Dictionary, an excuse is defined as “a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.” In simpler terms, an excuse is a reason that motivates our actions or lack thereof. Years ago at a regional meeting, I observed a local team member who showed up late for the morning meeting and made the excuse that “he was late due to traffic.” During the first break, the seasoned manager pulled the latecomer aside, and I overheard the manager saying that the best way not to be “late due to traffic” is not to hit traffic.

The reason this person was late was not because of traffic; he was late because he didn’t leave early enough to allow for traffic. That conversation has stuck with me for years and made me realize that excuses are never the real reason we do or don’t do something but instead are the way we reorganize the facts to make us feel better about something we did or didn’t do. Excuses are for people who avoid taking 100% responsibility for their lives.

Everyone has issues, and everyone can find numerous excuses not to prosper. But we need to understand that excuses never improve the situation. We’ve all found ourselves making excuses at some point in our lives. What are your favorite ones?

I’m tired. It’s too much effort. I’m too old. I’m too young. It’s too hard. I don’t have enough time. I have kids. I’m married. Next year. If only I had more money. My company doesn’t support me. My boss is a jerk. Our prices are too high. Our products aren’t on any purchasing contracts. If only our product did this. My quota is too high. The economy sucks. Capital budgets are tight. We don’t have the right financial programs. My competitors are giving away their products. I don’t have time to read. I’m too busy to go back to school. The procedure/appointment got canceled. My customer doesn’t have the money. We don’t have any clinical data. We don’t have any marketing material. I got stuck in traffic. My dog ate it. I handed it in. The market is tough. No one told me. It’s not my fault. The world is against me. Just hit me with the bad luck stick.

Should I keep going? Shoot me now!

I will say it again: making excuses never improves the situation. Yet, why do so many people make them? All they’re doing is hiding from reality, not facing the truth and doing what’s right. I love this quote from Benjamin Franklin:

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

When we’re trying to avoid something we don’t want to do, almost any excuse will suffice. It’s much easier to go for a run on a cold day than to go when it’s hot—but if you start making excuses about why you can’t exercise on a hot day, you’ll soon find an excuse not to exercise on a cold day. Making excuses may enable you to avoid effort temporarily, but excuses lead to more pain in the end. Successful people do not make excuses. Most things that happen to us are because of us. For example, it wasn’t that the customer didn’t have the budget to buy your product. It was that you didn’t find enough pain in the customer’s current situation (equaling a need for your product!), so the customer didn’t have enough motivation to find the money to buy your product.

Here’s the thing: we need to STOP MAKING EXCUSES.

Making excuses is a self-destructive behavior. When we make excuses, we prevent ourselves from achieving greatness and sabotage any efforts toward success. If we want results, we need to stop making excuses. As Bob Moawad says, “The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”

I hope I’ve convinced you—join me next week as I discuss ways not to make excuses. Have a great week!

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Why We Need Omnipresent Salespeople

omnipresence bHave you ever noticed that the best reps always seem to be in all places at the same time?  Throughout my sales career, I’ve observed that the best of my competitors always seemed to be in the picture: I would constantly run into them, see their new products, and have my accounts tell me about them.

The word “omnipresence” can be defined as the state of being everywhere at once or seeming to be everywhere at once. 

The very best salespeople are seemingly competing in all places, all the time.  Although it may seem impossible, this should be your goal in your territory.  You must approach your accounts and territory with this mindset and make yourself available everywhere.  You want your customers to see you often and think of your product immediately when they see your face or hear your name.

Why would anyone want to be omnipresent? Well, omnipresence is the fast-track for you to cement your name as the expert in your field—and this status enables you to get your products into your customers’ hands. If people are looking for information about a specific topic or have a question about a device in your space, you want there to be no doubt in their minds: you are the authority. This is a great way for you to make the sales process easier as you fast-track building your territory and business.

If I turn here, I see you.

If I turn there, I see you.

It seems like you’re working overtime, but, in reality, you’re not! Yes, you are working hard, but you’re also working smart! And thinking big!

So what are some ways to start achieving omnipresence in your territory?

I’ve outlined what I think are the three best ways to achieve this:

1)      ABC – Always Be Converting

In medical device sales, we need to be conscious that once the initial sale is made, it’s still imperative we suggest other solutions and value-added product offerings. It’s much easier for prospects to justify the second sale when they recently justified their original decision to buy from us. Looking for additional opportunities in the OR allows you to maximize the time, energy, and effort you just put forth. Think about how hard it has become to get in the OR. When you finally get there and have a reason to be there, how are you maximizing your selling effectiveness?

Most important, every time you convert a competitor’s product to one of your own, you make it that much more difficult for your competitors to convert the account.  You and your products are everywhere in the account, constantly reminding your customer about your company’s brand and you as its representative.  If you wish to read more on this subject, download my free eBook and refer to Chapter 4: “Awareness: Utilizing the Power of the Second Sale.”

2)      Start with Surgeons but Finish with the Nurses and Technicians

It amazes me how often medical device reps are so focused on the surgeons that they forget to bring value to their nurses and technicians.  A nurse or technician will never close a sale for you, but he or she can choose to hinder or promote you, your company, and your products.  I have heard about nurses and technicians promoting a competitor’s product, pulling a rep’s product that was recently added to a preference card but was then forgotten to be placed on the case cart, and—my favorite—calling a rep to inform him that the competition was recently in the account.  We need to remember to always bring value to these important customers of our company through means such as utilizing continuing education programs, selling on their agenda, and providing excellent service. We need to make their lives easier whenever we can, never forgetting they are part of the selling process.  

3)      Network, Network, Network

Lastly, we need to take every opportunity to network within our territory.  There are so many opportunities that many medical device reps do not take advantage of, mostly because these opportunities are outside regular working hours.  This is the part of the equation where effort and working smart are essential.  Every medical device rep should be taking advantage of his or her local AORN (Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses) chapter meetings and other similar medical opportunities.  Many companies can offer their continuing education programs, and there is no better social event to get to know so many customers from different hospitals in one place.

Another idea is one I learned from one of our Territory Managers on the west coast. He got on LinkedIn, located other medical device reps from noncompeting companies, and then started a lead sharing happy hour at a local brewery.  These sales reps get together to share leads, discuss their hospital purchasing patterns, and keep an eye on the competitors outside the group!

These are just three ways you can work hard, work smart, and be creative, effectively expanding your footprint in your territory and hospitals. If you commit to the three action items above, I guarantee the opportunities will start and will continue.  Real success requires patience and commitment to longevity.  So, if you are passionate about your company and its products and if you’re in it for the long haul, then commit to developing omnipresence today!

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Problems = Opportunities (But Only if You Face Them!)

Problems Into OpportunitiesA couple of months ago, I raced in the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race, which was, by far, the most challenging endurance event I’ve faced so far. I am relatively new to bike racing—up until about 18 months ago, my biking experience was limited to casual recreational riding. People who know me well know that when I’m looking for a challenge, I look for the biggest one possible. Climbing a mountain is not enough—I want the biggest, “baddest” mountain there is!

The Leadville 100 is considered in the mountain bike community to be the Boston Marathon of endurance mountain bike racing. Although I did not get the results I was looking for, I have no regrets. I have and always will have the “glass is half full” perspective, so my experience at Leadville this year just gives me my big, hairy, audacious goal for 2015! This week I start my training program to get ready for next year—and I’d like to focus this blog post on one of the two big mistakes I made in this year’s race.

About four hours and 40 miles into the race, I knew the first cutoff point was about an hour away. Right about then, I started having issues with my CamelBak (72-ounce backpack hydration bladder). It was not working correctly, so I couldn’t get any fluids. Although I had time to spare to make the cutoff, I didn’t take any time to deal with the issue and pushed through the next 10 miles without hydrating. Big mistake! As I passed the cutoff, reached my crew, and swapped out my malfunctioning CamelBak for a new one, I noticed a twinge in my right leg. I knew this was not good—I was experiencing the initial onset of cramping due to the lack of hydration and crucial electrolytes. Experienced riders know that nutrition and hydration work hand in hand as important keys during endurance events. Our bodies are like any other mechanical machines—when pushed to the extreme, they must be cared for properly. I neglected to do this. I should have stayed ahead of things, for once cramping—“bonking”—starts, it’s almost impossible to recover from it.

Reflecting back on my mistake, I should have dealt with the CamelBak issue immediately instead of waiting until I got to the cutoff aid station. If I had spent 5 – 10 minutes making sure I had access to my hydration, I probably could have made it to the cutoff station in time AND continued to race well. But because I didn’t do this, my cramping got so bad that I just couldn’t regain the time lost.

This experience made me think about how we deal with problems in our careers and in our lives. Life isn’t easy. It’s not fair. And it’s certain to challenge even the best of us. We will all face physical, mental, financial, relational, and resource challenges. Regardless of where you are in your life and your career, I can promise you one thing: you will consistently be faced with challenges and obstacles along the way.

No matter what kinds of problems we face, we must make sure to address them. Problems cannot be ignored in hopes that they will work themselves out, for this rarely happens. Problems must be tackled sooner rather than later.

In a nutshell, dealing with barriers, obstacles, and setbacks requires both attitude and aptitude. Do you have the perspective and skills to thrive under pressure and succeed, or will you implode when faced with a challenge? Just as a diamond cannot be polished without friction, neither can you full develop your skills without being tested by adversity. Use problems as opportunities to polish your skills and develop your attitude.

While such obstacles will certainly challenge your skills and temperament, those who are willing to spend time assessing problems as they arise and who subsequently refuse to back down will succeed in the end. The ability to blow through barriers must become a passion if you want to achieve sustainable success in today’s world. And we cannot blow through barriers when we ignore the problems staring us in the face. When we delay dealing with our problems, we also delay (or derail!) our success.

As I think about next year’s Leadville 100 race, which I consider to be my personal “Mt. Everest,” I reflect on the life of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to successfully summit Everest. Many do not realize that Hillary was unsuccessful in his attempt to climb Mt. Everest on three different occasions before he succeeded in 1953. After he reached his goal, admirers told him, “You’ve conquered the mountain.” Sir Hillary replied, “No, I’ve conquered myself.”

Here’s to conquering myself in 2015!

What about you? What problems do you need to face head on this week?

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Do You Buy What You Want or What You Need?

West Coast TrailA survey released by Expedia.com showed that 55% of workers come back to work after time off without feeling rejuvenated, while others struggle to cope with work-related stress while they’re away. In another survey 69% of workers check in with the office at least once or twice a week while on vacation.

In an article I read recently regarding work/life balance, the author quoted Alan Langlieb, a Baltimore psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins University: “It used to be that work was like a belly button—you were either in or out,” said Dr. Langlieb, “and now, for most people who work, they’re always in.” Dr. Langlieb added that “technology allows you to be at work 24 hours a day any place in the world.” He also said, “You end up seeing nonstop work where there’s never really an off period.” Americans are not only working more during office hours, but they are also paying more attention to their jobs during vacations.

A year ago I took a vacation and learned the value of truly unplugging. No cell phone, Internet, or any contact with the outside world. Since then, I have made a commitment to take at least one vacation a year in which I can truly eliminate the world’s distractions and recharge my batteries.

This year I decided to backpack the West Coast Trail over seven days. The West Coast Trail is a 47-mile backpacking trail along the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island. This trail is often heralded by hiking guides as one of the world’s top backpacking trails. For those looking for a challenging vacation, here’s a good 15-minute news documentary about the trail and what you’ll be in for:

I have limited backpacking experience, but I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take on this challenge with some old friends of mine who have been backpacking quite a few times. In preparation for the trip, one of the major considerations was nutrition. A main source of food on the trail consisted of dried meals in bags—the kind you just add hot water to. One of my two mistakes on this trip (I’ll talk about my second mistake in the weeks to come) was that I did not try the meals before I left. Once on the trail I quickly learned about eating for pleasure versus eating to survive. The companies who make these dried meals advertise how great their meals taste, but, seriously, how do you make lasagna taste good when it’s packaged in a bag and you add hot water? Not to mention the fact that, whenever we took the orange-tinged water from nearby streams, we needed to treat the water with water tablets, which gave the water a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste.

About four days into the trip, we hiked through an area where a smart local entrepreneur had set up a burger shack next to the trail and was offering juicy burgers and ice-cold beer. After several days of bagged meals, plain oatmeal, and trail mix, I was ready for something better! That’s when it hit me—I was reminded of a Sandler concept I learned years ago about selling to needs versus wants.

Ask yourself this question:

Do clients want to buy from me or do they need to buy from me? 

Why do salespeople care? Because marketing and selling a product or service to a client’s wants is completely different than selling to a client’s needs! You see, “want” is intellectual, whereas “need” is emotional. For example, “I want to make President’s Club this year” is a 100% intellectual statement. The statement has no compelling needs attached to it that will create a behavior to achieve the want.

However, what will happen if I don’t make President’s Club? Odds are, those consequences will have some emotion attached to them. The effect of the potential consequences turns “want” into “need.”  

After hiking for four days with no real enjoyment gained from eating, I went from wanting to eat to an emotional need to eat, and I ordered that hamburger and beer without any consideration for the price. In fact, it did not even bother me that the burger shack charged $25 for a hamburger and $10 for a beer—I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, despite my burger’s being a little overdone. Why was this the case? The (expensive) burger satisfied my emotional need to have something beyond that awful dried food. I didn’t “want” that burger and beer; I “needed” them at the time.

Burger

A successful salesperson understands that he or she needs to sell to problems and get prospects to buy products based on an emotional need. Many studies show that people buy emotionally and that they then justify purchases intellectually. I justified $35 for an overdone burger and a cold beer. If our prospects knew precisely how to fix their problems, there’s a good chance they would have already fixed them! David Sandler learned that people must have a compelling (emotional) problem in order to need to buy. Salespeople should focus on uncovering problems their companies can fix, not on pitching “intellectual” features or benefits of their companies. Features and benefits can be effective when selling to wants but are ineffective and even counterproductive when selling to needs.

Getting the prospect to express that kind of desire is the objective of the critical phase of the buyer/seller relationship that we call the Pain Step. This Pain Step involves the buyer’s understanding and expressing an emotional need born out of an existing problem—just like when I “needed” that burger on the trail. When a prospect is ready to buy, his or her inner self is saying, “I want that (product/service) because I emotionally ‘need’ it.”

Salespeople must focus on the problems (pains) clients have and give less weight to what clients think they want. A successful salesperson will stop asking clients what they want and start identifying what their problems are—then the salesperson has effectively identified what each buyer needs.

People buy what they “need” in the moment—what they perceive will solve their problems. If you enter selling situations with preconceived notions about what you are going to sell (i.e., what you think your clients want), you will miss the opportunity to sell what prospects need and are ready to buy! Leave your preconceptions behind and dig deep to find your buyers’ needs.

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No Regrets

No RegretsRegret can be defined as the feeling of wishing we’d done something in the past in a different way. We all experience feelings of regret at some point in our lives—times when we’re bombarded with “could haves,” “would haves,” and “should haves.”

Sometimes, when we feel regret, we are tempted to give up. We’ve hit a wall, and we’re convinced there’s no going on. During these times, we need to ask ourselves, “Have we given it our all? Have we gotten everything there is to get out of this situation?” If our answer is no to these questions, we need to get back on the proverbial horse, give it everything we’ve got, and then make an informed decision about the next course of action.

Let me share one of the biggest secrets to success.

It’s not found in having superior talent or skills; it doesn’t stem from possessing physical advantages; it’s not even guaranteed by being tactically or strategically smarter than everyone else.

Very simply, success is a product of determination and perseverance.

Success is a direct result of your “staying power.” Success eventually comes to those with stick-to-it assertiveness. It comes as a result of an attitude that says, “No matter how long it takes and regardless of the cost, I will hang in there until I get what I want.”

And this type of success demolishes regret.

***

A week ago I raced in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Though I trained hard, prepared for the big day, and had a lot of support from my family and friends, the prestigious belt buckle award was not in the cards for me that day.

I made two crucial mistakes on race day, which I will discuss in the weeks ahead, but, today, I want to focus on my overall experience and talk about why I was able to leave the mountains with absolutely no regrets.

The Leadville 100 has multiple cutoff points for racers—every rider must get to each checkpoint by a certain time in order to be allowed to continue on. My quest came to an end after completing a 40-mile stretch about four hours into the race. At this point, my legs started cramping just as I was about to climb the steepest and most grueling part of the course—the dreaded Columbine section. During this part of the course, riders ascend 3,000 feet over 10 miles while battling the limited oxygen supply that comes with such a high altitude. Some parts of the Columbine stretch are too steep to even ride, so bikers push their bikes up the mountain. It was at this point that I realized I was not going to make the next cutoff point in time.

I had a decision to make.

There was not going to be a big celebration with my family at the finish line, no finisher’s medal, no belt buckle award. I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears as I assessed the situation.

And then I decided: although my race was over, I still had something to prove.

I kept going, determining to stay the course until they pulled me off. I could not control how my body reacted to the intense physical demands of the race. But I could control my mental state. Quitting is a choice, and it was a choice I would not allow myself to make.

The two hours following my decision provided some of the most difficult physical and mental challenges I’ve ever endured. I remember saying to myself, “The pain is temporary, but the memory of quitting will be forever.”

When I reached the top of the Columbine ascent, 13,000 feet above sea level, I underwent an assessment by an EMT doctor, who informed me that my race was over, as I was being pulled from the course.

Although disappointed I did not achieve my goal, I have no regrets.

I learned something about myself that day—something that will stick with me forever. Ironically, the memory of the physical pain I endured has all but faded away already, but the memory of digging deep to continue on as long as I could leaves me at peace and motivated to try again. I will get my belt buckle!

There is much truth in Nietzsche’s famous saying: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The greater the adversity we handle, the greater our capacity becomes to cope with difficulty. If we give up at the first sign of trouble, we will never learn to endure—and overcome—hardship. This principle has application for my bike race—and for so much more in our personal and professional lives.

When you get in the habit of never giving up, you emerge as a champion. To me, a champion is someone who truly goes for the goal, someone who does everything he or she possibly can to forge ahead, not balking at setbacks and obstacles.

You are a defined as a champion by how you pursue your goal, not by whether or not you actually reach it.

Did you go all out in the pursuit of your goal? Did you do everything possible to make it happen? Did you totally commit yourself to the quest? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you can look at yourself in the mirror and see a winner staring back, a winner with no regrets.

And that’s something to smile about!

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