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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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If you run a business or are involved in one, there will always be times when the going gets tough.  If you’re in charge, it can be a weight on your shoulders, and sometimes navigating your problems seems impossible.  What should you prioritize first?  How should you instruct and motivate your employees?  What if you have to resort to layoffs or restructuring your company? 

If you find yourselves in this situation, you’re not alone.  Look no further than Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things.  Horowitz was a co-founder of LoudCloud in 1999, one of the first cloud service providers, but due to several misfortunes the business quickly hit the skids.  To say the least he had to learn quick, but he has plenty of advice for others who find themselves struggling: 

  • Prioritizing the Three P’s in your office: “the people, the product and the profits – in that order”
  • Not attacking problems on your own and telling it like it is – be straightforward with your employees and encourage everyone to offer solutions
  • Running your company – hiring the right people, promoting good behavior and minimizing politics
  • Working on yourself and streamlining your vision
  • And if it comes to it: dealing with layoffs or firing employees 

Of course, avoiding dire straits is ideal.  However, if you find yourself in an unlucky spot consider this book some hard-won advice and a survival guide you should have on your nightstand.

Here is the summary from Amazon: 

“Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley's most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular Ben’s Blog.

“While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, from cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

“Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz's personal and often humbling experiences.”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more

Being a True Original

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Some of the greatest innovations of our time didn’t happen as easily as we remember.  They were met with skepticism and resistance just like any other risky idea.  When you’ve come up with an original idea or something that goes against the grain, you need to be prepared for pushback.  And you’re going to need help. 

One of the best guides out there is Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.  It goes hand-in-hand with some of our teachings at Selling Energy, particularly when it comes to overcoming objections, motivating your prospects, and compiling material to state your case (i.e., a Success Story Archive™ and an Objections Archive™).  The last thing a customer wants is to realize they are out of step or have been left behind!  It’s up to you to make sure that you’re saying the right things and that they don’t pass up a good opportunity. 

Selling efficiency can sometimes feel like you’re swimming upstream, but knowing how to present it will keep you ahead of the curve.  If you’re looking for supplemental material to our Learning to S.E.E.: Sell Energy Effectively™ program, then Originals is a book for you. 

Here is the summary on Amazon: 

“With Give and Take, Adam Grant not only introduced a landmark new paradigm for success but also established himself as one of his generation’s most compelling and provocative thought leaders. In Originals, he again addresses the challenge of improving the world, but now from the perspective of becoming original: choosing to champion novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battle conformity, and buck outdated traditions. How can we originate new ideas, policies, and practices without risking it all?
 
“Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and, how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent. Learn from an entrepreneur who pitches his start-ups by highlighting the reasons not to invest, a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below, an analyst who overturned the rule of secrecy at the CIA, a billionaire financial wizard who fires employees for failing to criticize him, and a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy but saved Seinfeld from the cutting-room floor. The payoff is a set of groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and improving the status quo.”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more

Exercising Your Influence

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As sales professionals, we often see trends on what is deemed “popular” or “unpopular.”  Sometimes we know the reasons; other times we’re not so sure.  Could it be the trend itself or how we perceive it?  What about how others perceive it?  

The answers may lie in Jonah Berger’s Invisible Influence, which offers valuable insight on human behavior and marketing.  Like many other industries, the energy efficiency industry is affected by trends.  However, success ultimately boils down to human interest.  Berger’s aim is to investigate how that interest is piqued and sustained. 

This starts with ourselves.  Most of us believe that we’re autonomous individuals without realizing our lives are affected by everyone else.  Berger cites opposing examples concerning product development, media promotion and several case studies, and finally arrives at some pretty interesting conclusions: 

  • We’re social animals and our identities are influenced by others’ preferences.
  • Our opinions are swayed by other peoples’ opinions, whether we like them or not.
  • The more attention is paid to something, the more likely we’ll want to see it (or buy it) ourselves.
  • The more familiar something is, the more we like it.
  • Making others pay attention to a product or offering is striking a balance between the familiar and the unknown. 

So why should sales professionals find this book interesting?  You’ll get to know yourself better, and you’ll begin noticing what it takes to influence others.  At the end of the day, in Berger’s own words: “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.” 

Here is the summary from Amazon:

“Jonah Berger, the bestselling author of Contagious, explores the subtle, secret influences that affect the decisions we make—from what we buy, to the careers we choose, to what we eat—in his latest New York Times bestseller that is a ‘rare business book that’s both informative and enough fun to take to the beach’ (Fortune.com).

“If you’re like most people, you think your individual tastes and opinions drive your choices and behaviors. You wear a certain jacket because you liked how it looked. You picked a particular career because you found it interesting. The notion that our choices are driven by our own personal thoughts and opinions is patently obvious. Right? Wrong.

“Without our realizing it, other people’s behavior has a huge influence on everything we do at every moment of our lives, from the mundane to the momentous. Even strangers have an impact on our judgments and decisions: our attitudes toward a welfare policy shift if we’re told it is supported by Democrats versus Republicans (even though the policy is the same). But social influence doesn’t just lead us to do the same things as others. In some cases, we imitate others around us. But in other cases, we avoid particular choices or behaviors because other people are doing them. We stop listening to a band because they go mainstream. We skip buying the minivan because we don’t want to look like a soccer mom.

“By understanding how social influence works, we can decide when to resist and when to embrace it—and learn how we can use this knowledge to exercise more control over our own behavior. In Invisible Influence, Jonah Berger is consistently entertaining, applying science to real life in surprising ways and explaining research through narrative. His book fascinates because it opens up the moving parts of a mysterious machine, allowing readers to watch them in action (Publishers Weekly).”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books, habits | Read more

How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues

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You have heard it before: teamwork is essential.  But just how essential?  

Chances are you already know the answer.  Everyone in the business world has experienced how teamwork can make or break a project.  When it comes to energy-related initiatives, collaborating and communicating are essential, not only within your inner circle, but also with customers and allies.  In many cases, you’ll need the best people to facilitate and maintain those relationships.  This is where teamwork can make the biggest difference and put you ahead of your competition. 

Patrick Lencioni is an expert on leadership and team development, with over twenty years of experience under his belt.  His latest book, The Ideal Team Player, focuses on the characteristics that make the best teammates in any work situation: 

  • They need to be humble, meaning that they aren’t arrogant and are willing to listen to others or learn from their mistakes.
  • They must be “hungry,” in that they are proactive, driven and committed to a rigorous work ethic.
  • They must be people smart, with the intuitive ability to read others, collaborate with different personalities, and think before they act or speak. 

Lencioni argues that it is a combination of these three qualities that ensures the best teamwork.  Even a team player with two out of these three qualities will struggle or potentially hinder a project’s development.  Most importantly, you must have these qualities in order to be an effective leader.  The Ideal Team Player is not only a guide for what to look for in collaborators or employees, but ultimately a reminder of the example you should be setting at work, regardless of your position. 

Here is a summary from Amazon

“In his classic book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni laid out a groundbreaking approach for tackling the perilous group behaviors that destroy teamwork. Here he turns his focus to the individual, revealing the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player.

In The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni tells the story of Jeff Shanley, a leader desperate to save his uncle’s company by restoring its cultural commitment to teamwork. Jeff must crack the code on the virtues that real team players possess, and then build a culture of hiring and development around those virtues. 

Beyond the fable, Lencioni presents a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players.  Whether you’re a leader trying to create a culture around teamwork, a staffing professional looking to hire real team players, or a team player wanting to improve yourself, this book will prove to be as useful as it is compelling.”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books, teamwork | Read more

The Power of Passion and Perseverance 

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If you care about what you’re doing, it’s harder to let your goals fall by the wayside.  If you deeply love how it makes you feel, you’ll find yourself pursuing that feeling over and over again.  Nevertheless, it isn’t just passion and devotion that foster success.  It takes hard work, determination and a persistent tenacity.  In short: you’ve got to have grit. 

This is explored in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, who is well versed in facilitating success.  She is not only the founder of The Character Lab and a non-profit summer school, but also a professor of psychology, a renowned consultant and a recipient of a MacArthur genius grant.  In Grit she illustrates the relationship between talent and effort, positing that in order for someone to reach their goals they have to push themselves and push hard, never resting on their laurels or shying away from challenges and innovation.  A particularly interesting part of the book is self-evaluation on what Duckworth calls the “Grit Scale,” which was developed to predict a subject’s success in the military.  However, can the scale be applied to your business efforts?  What about life goals?  Your home life?  The answer to all of these queries: definitely. 

Here is a summary from Amazon

“In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’

Among Grit’s most valuable insights:

*Why any effort you make ultimately counts twice toward your goal
*How grit can be learned, regardless of I.Q. or circumstances
*How lifelong interest is triggered
*How much of optimal practice is suffering and how much ecstasy
*Which is better for your child—a warm embrace or high standards
*The magic of the Hard Thing Rule

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books, goals | Read more

Smarter Faster Better

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Very often professionals find themselves in high-pressure situations that need tailored solutions.  The challenge is thinking outside the box (and quickly!) without compromising relationships or the health of your business.  When you’re facing an unforeseen obstacle or something entirely new, what is the best way to handle it?  What’s more, how can you be the most effective in a quickly paced and competitive environment? 

In Pulitzer Prize-winning Charles Cuhigg’s Smarter Faster Better there are anecdotal stories about people faced with these issues in a variety of different situations, from a world-class poker player and an intelligence agent to the creators of Google and writers for Pixar’s Frozen.  Duhigg groups these compelling stories into packaged examples of teamwork, innovation, motivation and creating goals with appendices on how they can be applied to your personal or professional life.  If you’re looking for an entertaining read about high-stakes problem-solving with a dose of self-help, then this is the book for you. 

Here is a summary from Amazon

At the core of Smarter Faster Better are eight key productivity concepts—from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making—that explain why some people and companies get so much done.  Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics—as well as the experiences of CEOs, educational reformers, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters—this painstakingly researched book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently.  They view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways.”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more

Intonation and Silence

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When you’re talking to a prospect or client, the way in which you ask and deliver questions can have a significant (albeit subconscious) effect on the response you receive. Here are two strategies that, when used appropriately, will help elicit the response you desire:

  1. Downward intonation: Most people ask questions with an upward intonation at the end of the sentence. However, using a downward intonation gives power to the question and makes it (subconsciously) seem incredibly important. A prospect or client is more likely to give you a straight answer when you deliver the question this way. Here’s a scenario as an example:

Let’s say your prospect volunteers, “Well, I like your technology…Let’s do a pilot with 10 units, and provided the projected results come true, we could phase in the rest of the units over the next couple years.”  You might respond (with a downward inflection), “And how do you think the building owners will feel seeing the majority of their energy savings unrealized so many months after the successful pilot?” This will probably elicit a response, perhaps something along the lines of, “Well, honestly, we may not have the money to do the whole project this year.” Rather than responding with a question like, “Would it help if we split it between two fiscal years?” you could say (also with downward intonation), “How about we implement half the units this December and the other half in January, which would enable you to split the investment between two fiscal years?”

As you can see from this example, the way in which you deliver the question can have a significant impact on the outcome of the conversation.

2. Silence: Salespeople have a tendency to talk too much, dominating the conversation. You’re more likely to get a positive response from your prospects if you give them time to think. After you ask the above-referenced questions (with a downward-facing intonation, of course), don’t speak for at least ten seconds.  Being comfortable with silence is a hallmark of sales professionals.  If silence makes you uncomfortable, keep a glass of water in front of you.  Ask the question, then take a leisurely sip of water.  This gives your prospect the time to think so that he or she can respond with an honest answer.  Two side benefits:  you don’t come off as a “pushy” salesperson, and you stay hydrated, too! 

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more

The Secret Power of Storytelling

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While teaching I’ve noted that one of the most engaging ways to capture attention is simple: tell a story.  It doesn’t only tell your prospect what you’re trying to do, but who you are.  When it comes to convincing others this is paramount, and a story is one of the most effective ways to get them to connect with your message and/or change their minds. 

It takes a simple glance at the testimonials for Carmine Gallo’s The Storyteller’s Secret to realize how his message has affected a diverse crowd of readers.  His experience speaks volumes as well, having worked with major brands like Coca-Cola, LinkedIn and Pfizer.  His latest book is a collection of inspiring stories revolving around notable names you’ll recognize in a heartbeat.  Branson.  Oprah.  Springsteen.  Jobs.  In sharing their stories, he also illustrates their “secrets,” namely how they inspired others and started movements or revolutions.  

In short, don’t pass this up.  If examples like these can change the minds of thousands, then you can accomplish a similar feat whether you’re presenting one-on-one or in the boardroom.  Gallo’s book sums up one of the quickest ways to that success, for “The story is the key as you open up the door.” 

Here is the introductory summary of the book from Amazon: 

“How did a Venice Beach T-shirt vendor become television's most successful producer? How did an entrepreneur who started in a garage create the most iconic product launches in business history? How did a timid pastor's son overcome a paralyzing fear of public speaking to captivate sold-out crowds at Yankee Stadium, twice? How did a human rights attorney earn TED's longest standing ovation, and how did a Facebook executive launch a movement to encourage millions of women to ‘lean in’?

“They told brilliant stories.

“In The Storyteller's Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch on and Others Don't, keynote speaker, bestselling author, and communication expert Carmine Gallo reveals the keys to telling powerful stories that inspire, motivate, educate, build brands, launch movements, and change lives. The New York Times has called a well-told story ‘a strategic tool with irresistible power’ - the proof lies in the success stories of 50 icons, leaders, and legends featured in The Storyteller's Secret: entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Sara Blakely, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Sheryl Sandberg; spellbinding speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bryan Stevenson, and Malala Yousafzai; and business leaders behind famous brands such as Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Wynn Resorts, Whole Foods, and Pixar. Whether your goal is to educate, fundraise, inspire teams, build an award-winning culture, or to deliver memorable presentations, a story is your most valuable asset and your competitive advantage.

“In The Storyteller's Secret, Gallo explains why the brain is hardwired to love stories - especially rags-to-riches stories - and how the latest science can help you craft a persuasive narrative that wins hearts and minds. ‘The art of storytelling can be used to drive change,’ says billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson. And since the next decade will see the most change our civilization has ever known, your story will radically transform your business, your life, and the lives of those you touch. Ideas that catch on are wrapped in story. Your story can change the world. Isn't it time you shared yours?”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more

Turbocharging Your Sales Machine

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Happy New Year Friends! 

I’m glad that I came across Chet Holmes’ The Ultimate Sales Machine recently.  He not only believed in focusing your efforts but streamlining them until you’re efficient and unstoppable.  As a whole, the book is a callback to a notable quote from Bruce Lee: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” 

Unfortunately, Chet Holmes passed away from leukemia in 2012. However, his message holds up and compliments what we promote at Selling Energy.   Today I want to further his mission.  The Ultimate Sales Machine believes that training yourself (and your staff) is imperative.  And not only that – you don’t stop there!  Keep training.  Keep learning.  Don’t just sell your product, sell yourself and everything you have to offer.  Make an effort to speak to the most important people and make your message clear and imperative. 

If you’ve attended one of my classes this may seem like old hat, but Holmes puts his own spin on being successful at sales.  If you’re looking for some enriching material to read in your spare time, look no further. 

Here is the book summary from Amazon: 

“Chet Holmes helps his clients blow away both the competition and their own expectations. And his advice starts with one simple concept: focus! Instead of trying to master four thousand strategies to improve your business, zero in on the few essential skill areas that make the big difference.

“The Ultimate Sales Machine shows you how to tune up and soup up virtually every part of your business by spending just an hour per week on each impact area you want to improve- sales, marketing, management, and more.”

 

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more

Stack Your Habits, Change Your Life

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Our routines become us, so they say.  The little things in life amount to a lot.  When it comes to our habits this is all the more noticeable – even overwhelming – but the same could be said about making small changes.  They accumulate and alter things in just the same way.  

What I recommend reading this week is S.J. Scott’s Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less.  Scott is a prolific writer, and upon reading this book it’s apparent why.  With a little of his advice on your bookshelf and on the brain, you might find yourself miles away from where you started. 

Here is the book summary from Amazon: 

Want to improve your life, but don't have enough time? Right now you could easily think of a dozen ways to instantly improve your life. Odds are, these ideas will only take a few minutes apiece to complete. The problem? You might feel like there's not enough time to do all of them. One solution can be found using the power of ‘habit stacking.’

“We all know it's not easy to add dozens of new habits to your day. But what you might not realize is it's fairly easy to build a single new routine. The essence of habit stacking is to take a series of small changes (like eating a piece of fruit or sending a loving text message to your significant other) and build a ritual that you follow on a daily basis. 

“Habit stacking works because you eliminate the stress of trying to change too many things at once. Your goal is to simply focus on a single routine that only takes about 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Within this routine is a series of actions (or small changes). All you have to do is to create a checklist and follow it every single day. That's the essence of habit stacking.

“In the book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes Or Less, you will discover 97 quick habits that can instantly improve your life. Plus you'll discover how to create a simple routine (managed by a checklist) that you repeat on a daily basis. Even better, you'll discover a few tools that will keep you motivated and consistent. So even if you're completely stressed out, you'll still find the time and energy to complete these actions on a consistent basis. 

“By completing dozens of small habits on a daily basis, you'll be able to make giant leaps forward in your business, strengthen your personal relationships, stay on top of your finances, get organized and improve your health.”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books, habits | Read more
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