Three Cups of Tea


The Balti Theory of Relationships

I’m a coffee drinker.  This is a story involving tea but that shouldn’t matter.

I’m not a fan of a lot of fancy coffees.  Just straight up brewed coffee from a pot or Keurig machine is all I need.  If I am going to splurge on something exotic, I go for a strong espresso or café americano, nothing too foamy or overly sweet.  I always drink my coffee black, mostly because I am lactose intolerant but since I discovered that, I have found I prefer the fuller taste that milk or cream can tend to dull.

I used to do a lot of business networking in coffee shops.  Until recently there was no better place to have an informal, meet and greet with a new or perspective client.  Of course, COVID19 has changed all of that.  Now all my meetings, regardless of purpose have gone virtual.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it saves a lot of time, no more driving across town, paying for coffee, looking for a table etc.  Even though I do miss the atmosphere of a good coffee shop and I feel for the entrepreneurs that run them I can’t say I’ve really missed a beat by moving my meetings online.

Regardless of where our networking occurs, one thing has not changed.  It’s still all about personal relationships.

I learned what I call The Balti Three Cups of Tea Theory of Relationships from educational activist Greg Mortenson.  He learned it while building schools in the mountains of Pakistan.

Mortenson’s story was first published in the 2006 book, “Three Cups of Tea”.  In a nutshell, back in 1993, while climbing K2 he got separated from his party, ended up injured and stranded in a remote, underserved region of Pakistan.  There he discovered a Balti village tribe where the children had to walk several miles, over treacherous mountain trails to the nearest school.  In winter, the trail would be impassible, leaving the children without access to basic education for several months at a time.

After spending weeks among the Balti people, recovering from his injuries, he promised to repay their hospitality and build them a school.  Over the next decade Mortenson would return to Northern Pakistan several times and oversee the construction of over 50 schools across the region.

Since the publication of Mortenson’s story, the details and results have been called into question.  It seems when one person sets out the change the world there are no shortage of others who want to tear him down, but that’s a different post.  The point of this post is how Mortenson learned to build relationships across a religious and cultural divide, not to mention a significant language barrier.

The Balti people do business over tea.  According to one of the village elders that Mortenson worked with, the first time you share tea with a Balti you are a stranger, the second time you are an honored guest, and the third time you are family.

I’ve been in business for nearly 30 years, the last 10 of which have been in my current capacity.  Before COVID I used to joke that I’ve met with clients and prospects in every coffee shop from here to Deep River, (about 200 kms away) and I have found the Balti theory to be remarkably accurate.  It takes an average of 3 meetings before enough trust has been built to get anything done.  I have also found that each meeting must be approached in its own unique way to maximize your effectiveness and move the relationship forward.  Poor execution at one meeting can seriously damage your chances of getting the to next one and ultimately to the sale.

Here are some of the things I have learned moving relationships forward.  While we can’t meet in coffee shops right now these tips and tricks for execution are still incredibly useful and tend to work just as well in a virtual environment.

The First Cup

“The first time you take tea with the Bakti you are a stranger.”

Likewise, the first time you meet with a prospective client.  It has been my experience that no real business ever gets done in the first meeting.  People don’t do business with strangers.  The purpose of the first meeting is for the prospective client to get to know you.  Start by asking a lot of open-ended questions about their business, their personal life, how they got started, and what their hopes and dreams and plans are.

By asking those questions and letting the prospect talk as much as they want you will gain a ton of information without being aggressive or sounding like a salesperson.  When they start to run out of steam ask a few follow up questions about what they have done to achieve their goals, who they have worked with in the past and most importantly, what their experience has been with individuals similar to you.

That last one is too often overlooked, and it is key in moving out of the stranger pool.  Everyone has a bias or preconceived notion about you and what you offer, even if they won’t admit it.  By asking point blank what their experience and impression has been with people like you, you immediately uncover what that bias is.  Once you know that you can tailor your offering to address their specific needs and concerns.

Now it’s your turn to talk.  Don’t forget, at this point you are still a stranger so don’t be aggressive or say anything that could make the prospect feel uncomfortable.  Repeat back some of the things they have said, affirm their goals and dreams, congratulate them for their accomplishments and acknowledge their concerns.  Then make it clear that you do business differently and that you have a unique approach that can make a significant impact on their goals.

After I have determined the prospect’s main goals and biases, I finish off with one last question that sets the stage for the next meeting.  “If I could show you a way to achieve x without y, would that be a conversation worth having?”  That answer is almost always yes, at that point it’s time to wrap it up and book the next meeting.

It’s important at this point not to pitch a product.  You are still a stranger, by piquing their interest you are on the verge of becoming a welcome guest the next time but you haven’t gained enough trust to ask for a sale.  That comes later.  Go away leaving them wanting more and looking forward to your next meeting.

The Second Cup

“The second time you share tea with a Balti you are an esteemed guest.”

If you did your job in the first meeting, the prospect will want to hear from you again.  When I arrive at the appointed time and place of this second meeting, I sometimes visualize a grand welcome like how you would expect a visiting dignitary or celebrity to be greeted.  I rarely get the literal red-carpet-treatment but it helps to build up my confidence and put me in the right frame of mind, remember, the prospect wants you here, you are an esteemed guest.

In the previous meeting you not only listened to their goals and dreams, you affirmed them.  And then you heard their concerns and gave them hope.  You’ve gone from stranger to welcome guest.  You aren’t yet family, but you potentially hold the keys to a better tomorrow and for that you will be honored.  The stakes are exponentially higher in the second meeting, now you must deliver value.

At the end of the last meeting we left the prospect wanting more by leaving the open question; “If I could show you a way to x without y, would that be a conversation worth having?”   But you haven’t gathered enough details about their unique situation yet so this time I like to bring a full proposal that answers a similar question but is based on a completely different client’s set of details.  I use this as an example to show the kind of work I do for people with similar concerns as the prospect.

By using a different set of details, I accomplish three things in a non-threatening manner:

  1. I show the prospect that they are not alone in their concerns, alleviating any doubts they may have that their issue is, or isn’t a big deal.
  2. I show deep expertise in the subject matter at hand.
  3. I show them that there is a solution.

After walking the prospect through the solution that I used with another client I can then ask for the exact details of their situation.  If I’ve done my job to this point, the prospect will almost always give me everything I need to build a proposal for them.

Once I’ve gathered all the personal details I need, I set a time to come back a third time with their unique proposal.

The Third Cup

“The third time you share tea with a Balti, you are family.”

If you’ve made it this far in the relationship you know a lot of personal details about the prospect, you’ve been invited in and are now family.  In fact, you probably have a more intimate knowledge of certain aspects of their life than some actual family members do.  The trust you have been given is sacred and the care with which you present your solutions must rival that of a doctor laying out a treatment plan or a priest counselling them through a major life event.

Forget about the red-carpet this time.  When I arrive at this meeting I like to visualize standing on holy ground and presenting the prospect with the tools to embark on a sacred journey.  Again, I am rarely treated like Gandalf or some other mystical guru, but the mental exercise helps set my mind on the monumental importance of what I am about to share.   I present the solution with a level of reverence and respect that shines through to the prospect and helps cement my position as the one who holds the key to unlocking their goals and dreams.

It might take a fourth meeting to fill out an application and collect a cheque but if I’ve done my job to this point, validated their goals and dreams, affirmed their concerns and presented appropriate solutions, the sale is all but assured.

 

I’ve presented this process as three neatly planned meetings.  The reality is that it there can often be several months of telephone, email, and other discussions between each of these meetings.  It takes time to build relationships but given enough time, Gandalf always wins.

 

Branding 101


5 Steps to Cultivating and Promoting Your Personal Brand

“We are all CEOs of our own companies:  Me Inc.  To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” – Tom Peters

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal branding.  In today’s business world, with so much happening on-line, effective communication of our brand is the only thing we take with us into every meeting and send out into the world ahead of us through our advertising and on-line presence.

When I transitioned from the music business into the world of personal finance I started to hear a lot about personal branding.  Having cut my teeth in the early 90s and developed a brand and processes in the old world of rolodexes and face to face networking, I didn’t quite get it at first.  I thought branding was just another word for marketing, I thought it was all logo design and catchy slogans.  That is until I heard Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos give his definition of branding:

“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

It’s the impression you leave on people.  The first thing they think about when they hear your name.  It’s the trail of bread crumbs you leave behind in every interaction that either resonates with people, or it doesn’t.  Most importantly, it’s the reputation that both follows and proceeds you everywhere you go.

In today’s business world, so profoundly driven by social media, your brand is your life.  Cultivate a good one and your success is all but assured before you even enter the room.  Neglect your brand or let it get tarnished and you’ll be fighting an up-hill battle against unseen forces and opinions that you can’t control.

So here are the five steps I’ve discovered to cultivating and promoting your personal brand.

Step One –  Pick a compelling word or short phrase that you want people to remember about you after you leave the room.

Like Jeff Bezos says, what people say about you when you aren’t there is your brand. While you can’t control what people think you can plant seeds through your words and actions that will help people come to the desired conclusions about you that will form your brand.

For me, that phrase is Next Level Customer Service.  Everything I do and say is carefully considered in terms of how it will reflect my commitment to serve my customers.  I know that there are people in my business who are smarter than me, have better pricing that I do and have better systems that are easier to use than mine.  My goal therefore, in every interaction is to convince you that no one will service your needs better than I will.

Step Two – Develop a brand statement.

When I first started in business everyone talked about the need to have a “30 second commercial” or “Elevator Pitch”.  This is a description of who you are and how you service customers that can be delivered in 30 seconds or less, or in the time it takes to ride up a couple of floors in an elevator.  In the old world of face to face networking that’s what worked.  But in today’s world, you don’t have 30 seconds.

Now-a-days your brand statement needs to be tweetable, even hashtagable.  Something that you can drop into a conversation, a text message or facebook comment in 140 characters or less.  And it needs to be fluid, so that you can adapt it to each unique situation.

My current brand statement goes something like this: I am committed to providing “Next Level” Customer Service to help my clients achieve their financial goals and dreams.  If I have room I might add a hashtag or two, #nextlevel, #customerservice, #levelup.

The brand statement needs to say three things; who you are, what you do, and who you serve.  Who am I?  I am committed, and a person who is defined by this commitment.  What do I do?  I provide extreme customer service beyond anything you’ve ever experienced from a financial advisor before.  Who do I serve?  I serve my clients who are probably just like you, trying to achieve some financial goal.

Step Three – Super charge your brand with a great story (or several).

Think of a few stories that tell who you are, where you came from and how you came to be this way.

Depending on the context I tell stories that describe how much I hate bad service, like the time I walked out of a jewellery store after being ignored by two clerks that seemed more interested in catching up on each other’s weekend plans than helping me buy a watch battery.  Or I’ll tell stories about how hard I work to serve my clients, like the time I drove clear across town, in rush hour, to meet an injured client who couldn’t make it to our meeting.

To really drive the point home though I will then ask people to tell me stories of their customer service frustrations and relate stories back to them of how I have handled similar situations differently.  By doing this I make it real and help them see what Next Level Customer Service could look like for them.

Step Four –  Distribute your brand.

Repeat your statement and tell your stories every chance you get.  Make it part of your LinkedIn headline, your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram bios.  Comment on other people’s social media feeds in the context of your brand.  Blog about it like I’m doing now.

Be constantly talking about the things that matter to your brand to the people who need hear it (your target audience).  As my friend Tim Day once said, you need to become a one note song.  If you aren’t talking about your brand people will talk about something else and that something else will become your brand.

Step Five – Reinforce your brand.

You’ve got to live it.  Imagine yourself as a walking billboard for your brand.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, you are your brand.  If you let people form a different opinion about you that will become your brand in their minds so even when you aren’t “working” you are still branding.

I think constantly about how Next Level Customer Service projects itself in every situation.  How I dress, how I walk into a room, how I speak to people, even how I walk through the grocery store on a Saturday morning.  Next Level Customer Service dresses neatly, but not flashy, holds the door open for others, speaks with respect and helps little old ladies get things off the top shelf, because that’s my brand – twenty-four hours a day.

 

So, there you have it, five steps to cultivating and promoting your personal brand.  Robert Kiyosaki, the author and founder of The Rich Dad Company, says it this way:

If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity.

Nobody wants to be a commodity.  Commodities are bottom feeders that can only compete on price.  Being a commodity is a race to the bottom.  Next Level Customer Service is not the cheapest option, but if you care about customer service, it’s the only option.

Do you have a personal brand?  (Trick question, you already know that you do.)  The real question is, did you cultivate it, or did you just let it happen?  Tell me about it in the comments below and if you feel comfortable doing so, send me your personal branding statement, I’d love to read it.

You Shouldn’t Read this Post


 But if you do, write me a comment and tell me why you wasted your time…

I recently finished reading Adam Grant’s latest book “Originals:  How Non-Conformists Move the World”.  I read a lot and it’s generally true that there is “nothing new under the sun” so I am really delighted when I find an idea that I hadn’t fully considered before.

In the book Grant talks about the unique qualities and tactics that some truly innovative leaders have used that break all the rules of conventional business.  It’s in the breaking of these rules that Grant explains the greatest impact on society can be made.  This is more than just outside the box thinking, it’s screw the box and go to a completely different room.

One of the most innovative ideas that I found in Grant’s book is what he referred to as The Sarick Effect.  According to Grant, professor Leslie Sarick completed a study of different sales pitches and found that initially arguing against your own idea can improve the audience’s reception of it.

There are five key conclusions of Sarick’s study.

1 – Leading with weakness disarms the audience.

2- Too much optimism seems like salesmanship.

3 – Critical comments are perceived as smarter than positive ones.

4 – Starting negative boosts trust.

5 – Listing negatives makes it harder for listeners to think of their own objections.

Taken together, leading with weakness can make people like you more.  They will also start to try and help and actively look for solutions with you.

One of the other things Grant talks about is the idea that if you state something as fact, at least 3 times in rapid succession people will tend to believe you without doing any further research.  Although I am not a big fan of trying to deceive people it’s interesting to note that Leslie Sarick doesn’t exist, and the Sarick Effect is a name he made up to prove his point.

I’ve begun using some of these tactics in my presentations lately and I can tell that they do work.  Starting a meeting with the top 5 reasons nobody needs life insurance is going a bit far in my opinion but being honest about my past bankruptcy and long journey to financial security has been very effective.  It helps people see me as human and vulnerable.

As I state on the home page of this site, I’m just a fellow traveler on this road, what I have to offer isn’t unique but it’s honest and that counts for a lot.

So, thanks for reading this post – even though I told you not to.  Tell me, what do you think of leading with weakness?  Have you ever tried it?  What where the results?

 

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  

Either Way, You Win


Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you’re going to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi

I recently told a business associate that I tend to read a book a week.

To say that they were impressed is a bit of an understatement.  Shocked is more like it.  How on earth can anyone find time to read a book a week?

Well to be perfectly honest it’s not exactly a book a week.  More like 50 pages a day.  That works out to between 250 and 350 pages every seven days.  We aren’t talking about War & Peace here.  Or Adam Smith’s 900 page opus, The Wealth of Nations. I’ve found that the average hard cover non-fiction book on just about any topic runs between 200 and 400 pages.  50 pages a day therefore is about a book a week.

I have learned that in order to be successful in life and business you need to be a life long learner. The world is changing so rapidly that we need to be constantly learning new things to keep up.  My chosen field of work, the financial services industry, is no exception.  But when you strip it all down just about every business is a people business.  And I can’t seem to get away from spirituality either.

I read everything I can get my hands on that even remotely applies to these areas.  My bookshelf is lined with the latest and classic works of, Business Management, Personal Finance, Sales Theory, Marketing, Behavioral Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Spirituality, and Theology.

Where do I find the time?  It’s not that hard to read 50 pages in a day.  Unless the typeset is super small it takes me a about an hour.  Turn off the TV for an hour and you’re there – it’s that easy.

An hour a day is all it takes to read a book a week and be a life long learner.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was in the Life Insurance business, in the 1960s.  He was a top associate by the time he was 23 years old and in 1965 he founded Life Management Services and all but invented the Life Coaching industry.  Millions of people have read his books and attended his seminars on navigating life’s most challenging situations.  Most people know him for his famous inspirational quote:

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Nothing has a bigger impact on your life than what you learn from books and people.  That’s why I really like that quote from Gandhi as well.  If I continue learning at the pace of a book a week, and I live forever, I will eventually know everything there is to know.

That’s my plan.

But the first half of the Gandhi quote is important as well.  It’s important to live for today, don’t put things off, enjoy each moment as it comes and be content in whatever your circumstance.  Tomorrow might not come so live for today but if you do wake up in the morning, keep learning and make every day better than the last.  You can’t go wrong.

Live today or die tomorrow – either way you win!

How do you live for today and learn for tomorrow?  Tell me in the comments below.

Goals and Resolutions – 2018 Version


Every year around this time I sit down and work on my goals for the coming year.  Not New Year’s Resolutions per say but a handful of things that I plan to do on a regular basis over the course of the year to reach my major goals.

It’s a two-step process.

In accordance with the second of Steven Covey’s famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I begin with the end in mind.   What are my major goals for 2018?

1 – Complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon

The Olympic Triathlon is the official distance run at the Olympic games and is approximately one quarter of an Iron Man.  It consists of a 1500 m swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.  World class athletes can generally complete an Olympic Tri in about 2 hours.  The world record is 1:39:50, set at the World Championships in Cleveland Ohio in 1996.  That record has stood for over 20 years and is the stuff of legend in the Triathlon community.  I’ll be happy if I complete my Olympic Tri in under 4 hours.

2 – Finish my Third Book

My first two books came relatively easily to me.  I poured a lot of pent up energy into those books.  My third effort has been quite a bit harder.  I’ve been writing a book on Leadership for about 3 years now and it’s just not working.  Probably because I don’t really have a lot of experience in leadership.  I’m more the solopreneur type so writing about leadership seems a bit disingenuous.  I have several other books sketched out so I’m going to return to my favourite topic – behavioural economics, and work on something along those lines.  I’ve also started writing a memoir of sorts, maybe that could be something, we’ll see, keep an eye out here for more information as these projects grow.

3 – Develop the Financial Coaching Aspect of my Practice

The Meekonomics Project, (financial coaching) has been near and dear to my heart and my plans since the very beginning.  For the past six years I’ve focussed on building my financial practice along traditional lines, Life Insurance and Investments for the family market, Disability Insurance and Group Health Plans for businesses and business owners.  But that’s not where my heart is.  I have a passion for the poor, disadvantaged and victims of predatory lenders.  The Meekonomics Project is my assault on the PayDay Lending industry and stewardship planning for the working poor.

4 – Grow my practice to $85,000 in gross income

Two years ago, I made $74,000, and I thought I was on my way.  The next year I struggled to make $60,000 and this year I will make about $66,000.  These past two years have been hard.  I made a few mistakes, missed a few opportunities and got drawn off on some tangents.  To hit these goals, I need to remain focused and learn to filter out the noise that could pull me off track.

So those are the major goals.  But how are we going to get there?

Covey’s third habit is to put first things first.  In other words, work backwards from the end goal and figure out what to do next.  As a result, I have figured out five daily goals that are going to move me closer to the four major goals every single day.

1 – Go to the Gym for an hour at least 3 days a week  

There are several different triathlon training programs on line.  Most of them say that you can train for an Olympic Tri in about 10 weeks.  They all require at least six days a week in the gym, but I don’t have that kind of time.  I’m pretty sure I can modify a program to work over a 3 day cycle and be ready to complete the distance in about 20 weeks.  In fact, I’ve been working on this for a few months already and should be ready to complete the distance by April.  If I do, great, if not I will save eight months to work on it and hit the goal by the end of the year.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

2 – Spend 30 minutes in prayer and meditation every day

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Why isn’t this the number one priority?  If I was a good Christian boy nothing should take precedence over spending time in prayer, but hear me out.

This list is semi-chronological, and I have learned from experience that if I get up early and do anything other than get out he door and go the gym, it’s not going to happen.  Therefore, for the three days that I plan to go and train for the triathlon, nothing else happens until I can check that off the list.  That being said; my 30 minutes of prayer is the only thing that I am committing to doing every single day.  It keeps me grounded and on point for the rest of the day.

There is a lot more I could say about the importance of connecting with a higher power, however you define it, but I think maybe I’ll save that for another post.  For now, I’ll just say this, releasing my stresses and worries to the God of the universe while at the same time expressing my hopes and dreams and confessing my short comings is incredibly relaxing.   Starting my day in a state of peace and relaxation is the best way I’ve yet found to remain centered, balanced and calm.

3 – Reach out to 40 Individual Clients and Prospects each work day

Working backwards from my goal of making $85,000 this year I need to make approximately 2 new sales per week.  Decades of statistical research in the insurance and investment industry has proven that it takes 5 face-to-face appointments for every sale.  Many of those appointments are simple policy reviews and service calls that don’t necessarily lead to anything new and of those that do require additional services it usually takes 3 or 4 meetings to move someone from prospect to client.  That means I need at least 10 appointments a week.

The same research has show that it takes approximately 20 client “touches” to book an appointment.  Again, many of those touches are simple check in calls or emails that don’t necessarily lead to a meeting right away.  All of this to say that I need to reach out to 200 clients and prospects a week to book 10 appointments.  Broken down over the course of a 5-day workweek that amounts to 40 unique “touches” per day.

4 – Initiate 5 Cold Introductions to new Prospects each work day

This is the law of attrition.  If I’m reaching out to 40 individual clients and prospects each work day it stands to reason that a percentage of those prospects are going to be non-responsive or say they aren’t interested.  All that research about the number of sales and the number of meetings also says that a little better than 10% of your prospects will die on the vine.   So, to keep the numbers consistent I need to be reaching out to 5 new prospects every day.

5 – Write 500 words or film 2 minutes of video each work day

I’m a writer and writers write, ‘nuff said.

Not everything I write will be worth publishing and not every piece of video I record will make it out of my phone but like training for a triathlon the daily discipline will help to improve the final results and hopefully lead to a lot more content on my blog and another book.

500 words is approximately one typewritten page and takes less than 2 minutes to read, the perfect length for a blog post.  2 minute videos get more views than 20 minute videos.  It’s about accessibility, short sweet and too the point, that’s what a blog or vlog should be.  Save the longer thoughts and more detailed analysis for the books.

This combination of major goals and daily goals aren’t exactly New Years Resolutions.  They are more like an execution plan.  I do have a few resolutions tough.  These are simple tweaks to my personality designed to boost my productivity, social capital and emotional connections.

1 – Just Do It

Procrastination is the enemy of productivity.  If a job takes less than 5 minutes to complete it should be completed immediately.  If it takes less than 15 minutes to complete it should be completed by the end of the day.  If it takes more than 15 minutes to complete make an appointment to work on it before the end of the week.

2 – Smile   

Happy people are proven to be more successful people, especially in sales and customer centric industries like financial services.  Even if you don’t feel happy, smiling has been proven to trick your brain into thinking you are happier and so becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Smiling puts people at ease and increases your credibility so that they like you more.

3 – Say Yes as much as possible

Defaulting to yes, even when it’s a yes, but or a yes, and is far better than saying no.  In difficult situations, starting with yes makes you appear as though you are a problem solver even when the eventual outcome is not what was originally desired.  Saying yes is collaborative, while no is confrontational.

So, there you have it.  My goals and resolutions for 2018.  What do you think? Do you have goals or resolutions?  I’d love to hear them, please comment back.

The Day I Realize, I’m Dumb!


We left off last time talking about the 5 Whys process for turning failure into success.  As we get close to the end of the year I’ve started using the 5 Whys to analyze my past successes and failures and make plans for 2018.

I’ve come to an uncomfortable conclusion.

When I look at some of my biggest failures from this past year.  The lost deals, the solid prospects that the just didn’t convert, the opportunities that withered on the vine and the clients that just outright left, the answer to the 5th why is a variation of the same thing.

“I was dumb!”

That sounds trite, but it’s accurate.

More to the point, I was Emotionally Unintelligent.

In every instance of failure that I analyzed I came to the same conclusion.  I one way or another I was out of sync with my client or prospect and failed to recognize what truly mattered to them.  I made the sales process all about product and forgot about the client’s underlying emotional needs.  And what’s worse, as the prospect pulled away I made their failure to move forward all about me and my failure to communicate the benefits of the product.  As deals started to spin away from me I doubled down on a strategy that wasn’t working and further alienated the prospect.

Emotional Intelligence has been defined by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of the best selling “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” as,

your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

The chart to the right is a typical four quadrant diagram that is popular with psychologists in analyzing behavior.  In this diagram we see the four core skills of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management aligned with perception; what I see and reaction; what I do.  These skills are further aligned with personal and social competency.

In my failures I tend to be severely lacking in the perception side of the diagram, I don’t see how people are reacting to what I am doing and therefore am unable to adjust my behavior in a way that makes people comfortable moving forward in relationship with me.  If I were to place myself as a dot on the diagram I would be in the top right corner, very strong in Self-Management, I work hard and am disciplined.  I’m very task oriented, my mantra could be that the best kind of To-Do List is a Done List.  But I am extremely lacking in Social Awareness.   In my desire to get things done I tend to push people aside.

My greatest failure of 2017 was with a fast-growing company that I had the opportunity to work with on setting up a Group Benefits program.  I am met with the prospect and immediately hit it off with one of the co-owners.  We were having a great time, talking about business, telling jokes and swapping stories about our past business successes and failures.

Everything was going great.

Then my prospect took me into his partner’s office to say hello.  His partner was in another meeting, but we interrupted because we thought what we had was more important.  To be fair – I didn’t interrupt the meeting, my prospect did and that’s not what I believe caused the problem.

I was introduced around the room as “The Group Benefits Guy”, and while there were other people in the room I immediately forgot their names and laser focused my attention on the business partner.  Looking back at it now I realize that in that moment I went from the fun-loving Group Benefits Guy who was going to help this company move it’s HR process to the next level to that jerky salesman who only cares about people who are in a position of power.  It took a few more weeks but I truly believe that the opportunity was lost in that moment.

A few weeks later the prospect told me that they were pretty much ready to go with the Group Benefits plan, all we had to do was confirm with the partner.  I never heard from the company again.  My follow up messages went unanswered and within a few more months I found out that they had signed up with a competitor.

In doing my 5 Why’s analysis of that failure I concluded that at the critical moment, when I needed to show that I was in tune with the culture of the organization and took their people’s best interests seriously, I failed.  I was emotionally dumb.  To this day I still don’t remember the names of the other people in the room.  For a time, I even forgot the partner’s name and just referred to him in an email as “your partner”.

Why am telling you all this?

Studies have shown that people of average intelligence out-perform those with higher intelligence nearly 70% of the time.  The difference isn’t in classic measures of intelligence.  It’s in how we interact with each other.  Top performers have a higher emotional intelligence and can align their Personal Competencies with their Social Competencies and their perception with their actions.  The closer to the center of that four quadrant diagram you can hang out, the more successful you will be.

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  I prefer to make course corrections as I become aware of a need and this one is huge.  If I were to make a New Year’s Resolution for 2018 it would be this – To become more Emotionally Intelligent, get better at truly seeing people and working to aligning my actions with their needs.

“Just Like You…”


Continuing where I left off last week in discussing my Elevator Pitch for new prospects.  Once I’ve successfully converted a prospect to a client or decided that there is no real opportunity there the next step is to ask for referrals.  I’m always on the lookout for new clients and where better to find them than through the endorsement of people I have already worked for and who are presumably happy with the service I provide?

I start by saying something like this;

“As you know I’m actively working to expand my practice.  Now that you know first-hand the way I work perhaps you can help me find more clients just like you who recognize the importance of protecting their loved ones and know the value of professional advice.  Who do you know that I should be talking to?”

The exact wording of what I say, when and how I say it during my conversations varies but there are three elements (highlighted) that never change.

Just Like You…

Gratitude and a little bit of flattery never hurts especially when you are asking for something.  By telling a client that I want to work with people just like them I am expressing thanks and giving them an ego boost at the same time.  I am saying that you fit the profile of my ideal client, you are special, I wish I could clone you and spend the rest of my life working only for you.  But alas that’s not possible so who else do you know that you would be proud to bring in to our exclusive little club?

One of Dale Carnegie’s famous tips from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is to start with a complement.  Telling a client that I want to work with more people like them certainly fits that formula.

Protect Their Loved Ones…

One of the reasons why Life Insurance and Investment products can be so hard to sell is that at the end of the day, they aren’t really for you.  At best, in the case of a retirement plan they are for a future version of you and in the case of Life Insurance they are for the people closest to you but they are never truly for you in the here and now.

Legendary Life Insurance agent George Sigurdson of London Life and author of the book, “In Search of Friends; A Guide to Prospecting” says –

                “Life Insurance is a product bought with love and paid for with healthy choices.”

By telling clients I’m looking for people who want to protect their loved ones I’m reinforcing the flattery of the first statement by saying I see that in you and helping them fill in the picture in their mind of who else would be a good fit for me.  Another way of saying it is that I want to work with people who love their families enough to sacrifice a little bit of their cashflow to make sure they are going to be okay.

My friend Bruce told me a story once about driving on the Autobahn in Germany.  The first time he got behind the wheel he was excited to see just how fast he could drive but after a few minutes his wife leaned over and whispered to him, “Remember – you love your family.”  Suddenly it was no longer about how fast he could drive, it became more about safely getting to their destination with his is wife and their three young girls in the back seat.  He sacrificed his selfish desire to drive fast for the safety and security of the people he loves the most.

At the end of the day that’s what Life Insurance and Investing are all about.  I want to work with people who get that.

The Value of Professional Advice

Admittedly this last point can back fire if I haven’t laid the ground work for it in the previous two statements.  It basically says – “You are not the professional, I am.”

I’m poking at your ego a bit.  But by know you’re either already a client or I’ve determined that you aren’t likely to become one in the short term.  A little dig can serve to either snap you back into the conversation or further enhance the warm and fuzzy feelings I’ve evoked by reminding you how great you are for buying Life Insurance or starting an Investment plan.

The Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC) has determined through numerous studies that people who work with a financial security advisor, on average, have up to four times more investable assets than those don’t.  Professional advice is clearly valuable to those who care to seek it out.  Similar studies have shown that the main reason people don’t seek out professional advice is a perception that it is too expensive or too complicated and that they are not sophisticated enough to benefit from it.  Lastly, many people don’t adhere to the need for professional advice because they have an unrealistic perception of their own ability to go it alone.

By telling people that I want to work with those who value professional advice I’m reinforcing the previous points, you’re great, you get this, congratulations on your good decision-making ability.  While at the same time reminding you that this is not too expensive or complicated.  I’m also drawing a line in the sand and making it clear the type of person I don’t want to work with.  If you think you can go it alone, without the help of a professional, good luck with that.

The world’s greatest philosopher Jesus of Nazareth said it best:

                “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Luke 5:31

In other words, if you think you’re okay, I’m not here for you.

So that’s my referral pitch.  It is designed to help reinforce in my clients and prospects a sense of their own worth to me and my practice and frame in their mind a specific picture of the people in their lives that I think I can help.  When I finally ask the question “who do know that I should be talking to?” a specific someone immediately pops to mind.

Who just popped into your mind?  Let me know – I’d be happy to meet them.

Lauren C Sheil is a Serial Entrepreneur and Financial Security Advisor.  He helps people live life to the fullest along the way teaching them to Eliminate Debt, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.  Write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com 

 

You’re doing it wrong!


Living Life and Growing Your Business on Your Terms

Have you ever received unsolicited advice?

You know the kind I’m talking about. One of your “friends” takes it upon themselves to tell you how you’re screwing up your life. And if you would just make one or two “minor” changes you would be so much better off.

This advice is usually sincere. Your friends are probably genuinely worried about you. When they look at your life they likely see the struggles you go through, how hard you work for seemingly little return, the heartache, the sleepless nights, you name it. Your friends see all the stress and they are genuinely worried about you.

If you’d just give up on your dream and take a job with a steady paycheque. Or maybe just slow it down a bit and relegate your business aspirations to weekends and evenings, maybe you’d be better off. You’d have more money, less stress and live longer.

Or so they think.

But make no mistake it’s never really about you.

It’s about how they feel when they are around you. Maybe they feel sorry for you – but that’s not about you, it’s about them. Maybe they feel guilty for their own success in the face of your seeming failure – but that’s not about you either, it’s still all about them. And maybe they feel envy and jealousy because they see the huge potential for your success and wish they had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. But you guessed it, that’s not about you either.

The fact is, no one can give you advice on what you need to do to be successful. Sure there are some general principles but they are ultimately the same whether you work for a boss or not. At the end of the day nobody knows better than you what it will take for you to be successful. Nobody knows your business better than you. Nobody works harder than you. Nobody cares more than you.

So stop listening to everyone else. That’s what you’re doing wrong.

Entrepreneurship is lonely. And for the most part the pay sucks. Work your ass off for 5, maybe 10 years or even more and maybe, just maybe you’ll become so successful you’ll forget about the years of struggle that led up it.

Maybe not.

You have to be prepared to live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.

That’s my best unsolicited advice.  Take it or leave it.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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3 Lessons From the Hallway – Advisor Summit 2015


hallwaycrowdI just spent the last 3 days at a conference for Financial Advisors from all across the country. The content taught from the dais during various sessions was great but it paled in comparison to the wisdom gleaned just by rubbing shoulders with men and women who have been in the business for decades. I’m a relative newbie to the whole world of financial planning, just 4 years in but as one fellow newbie put it, “this room is full of legends”. After the first day I decided that attending conference sessions was merely a secondary distraction, something to do between the all important networking that happened in the halls outside.

So I started to approach these legends, introduce myself and ask them one question. “When I get back to the office on Monday morning, what do I need to start doing immediately that will ensure that I am back here not only next year but in 20, 30 or even 50 years from now?”

The following are 3 of my favourite responses.

1 – Know your purpose and demonstrate your value, (from 33 years in the business).  

This came from a regional manager who has not only developed a loyal client base but has been involved in training and developing financial advisors for most of his career. I’m a big believer in the importance of mission statements and that closely mirrors the idea of knowing your purpose. But demonstrating value is a bit harder. What that comes down to, according to this legend isn’t about you, it’s about showing your client what you can do for them. Rick Warren, in the first line of the Purpose Driven Life said it best; “It’s not about you.” It’s about what you can do for others.

2 – Ask good questions and let the answers lead you where the client needs to go, (from 53 years in the business).

The man who told me this started in the financial services business at 34 and is still working today at the age of 87! Oh how I would love to be as vibrant, healthy and engaging as he is at that age. His response came after he asked me a series of increasingly personal questions. How old are you? Are you married? Do you have kids? What did you do before you started in this business? Are your parents still living? What did your Dad do? Finally leading me to a discussion of what kind of insurance I currently hold and why I bought it. He then got a sly smile on his face and asked me why I had answered all of those personal questions that under normal circumstances would seem a bit off putting?  I laughed and said I see what you’re doing, you seem genuinely interested and sincere, and he was, oh that’s GOLD!

3 – Do What’s Right for the Client, (from 31 years in the business).

After making one of his first sales over 30 years ago this person’s manager noticed that as he drove away from the client’s home he was very quiet and appeared to be working something out in his mind. The Manager looked at him as said, “stop doing that.” Doing what? “You’re mentally calculating how much commission you just made aren’t you?” This goes back to the first one, it’s not about you.  If you concentrate on doing the things that are solely in the best interest of the client the commission will take care of itself, even if you don’t say anything, clients can tell when you’re in it for yourself and not them.  Stay focused on the client and you will develop loyalty for life.

After 23 years in business myself, the last 4 in this capacity, I know all of these lessons to be true. I’ve seen them play out time and time again across all lines of business.  It’s about humility, respect and genuine honesty. Those are the traits that make great salespeople and business leaders. You don’t have to be an extrovert or an introvert you just have to be true to your purpose, ask great questions and do what’s right.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and our mission (purpose) to help people manage money better write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

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Stop Sharing My Videos! – No really stop it…


My second video in the series running up to the release of the rebooted 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program is out.

 

I’m following Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula whereby marketers are told to release a series of “teasers” ahead of the official launch of a new product. So far I’ve released two videos in as many weeks. Each time I’ve sent announcements to an email list of about 140 subscribers, posted on twitter to my 3000 plus followers, linked to them on facebook, linkedin and pinterest for about 500 more people and of course blogged about them here.

As a result, according to YouTube I have received a grand total of 0 – count them ZERO views!

(If you go now and look at them the count is actually about 20 views between the two of them but all of those are just me going there to grab the link so that I can tweet it, post it or embed it in emails.)

What gives?

I can understand if you don’t like my videos, or they don’t resonate with where you’re at right now but to have no views at all, after posting to almost 4000 followers across all of my social media accounts? That makes no sense to me.

I’m following all the rules about Social Media Marketing.

  • I’m posting regularly
  • I’m using hashtags
  • And I’m following up on all my retweets and favorites

Actually that last one is the most mind-boggling of all. So far I’ve received about 20 favorites and retweets from people who haven’t even watched the videos themselves! What’s up with that? I even had one guy forward it to a friend with a comment “you should watch this”, how could he know?

There is something very wrong with the way we engage with new products on-line.

Social Media is a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to product marketing. We’ve been taught that the key to a good marketing campaign is the social share, the more people share what you are posting the better. I’m getting shares but the sad fact is sharing is not engagement. In order to sell a product you need people to engage with it, not just say, “hey this looks cool, check it out.”

What’s worse in my case at least, people are saying “check this out” without having checked it out for themselves! How can you endorse something if you haven’t used it? Not only is it killing your credibility it’s damaging my brand in the process!

So, I never thought I’d have to say this but: please stop sharing my videos, unless you’ve actually watched them.

The third and final video in the series will be posted next week. You can watch both of the current ones here – https://youtu.be/olaDR2KhPOE and here – https://youtu.be/FJ8rWYxLTGw

Please watch, then comment, then share if you are so inclined.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and our newly re-launched 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com