As I get to know and work with more international founders, I’m struck by how hopeful I feel for the future of the planet. While we are mired in strange times with California wildfires, enflamed political discourse, and an aging Mother Earth, the people I met this past week at Blackbox, whose tagline is “Elevating Entrepreneurs Everywhere”, gave me hope that with enough ingenuity and passion, we can solve the problems in front of us collectively with greater speed and impact. Hearing the 10 pitches of Blackbox’ 24th cohort left me enthused as I was struck by how positive the energy of the founders and the incubator is and how optimistic it made me for the future.

One of the founders, Carlos, is helping elevate workers in Latin America to access better jobs by automating and democratizing the application and hiring process used by large corporations. He speaks with a broad smile of the impact his SaaS is having on individuals to make their families lives better. He tells stories of individuals empowered to beleive in themselves again.

Alex is from Brazil. He saw that farmers selling agricultural commoditeis and the buyers buying them were still stuck on the phone. This antiquated method promotes corruption and disempowers farmers as they deal with the same buyers they have been buying from for genrations. His online marketplace already has 2000 farmers on the platfrom. They now have access to more buyers and better pricing than before. The big corporate buyers win as well as compliance becomes easier and their market grows as well.

Primary health care access is problem that has been addresses by teleheatlh here in the States by Teledoc and DoctorOnDemand. Charlie saw that the Middle East and other emerging countiries had the need for primary care as badly, and had the cell phones to leverage telehealth. So he started a company that delivers primary health care to millions across a part of the world often ignored by other entrepreneurs if it doesn’t have to do with oil.

My final meeting was with Siddarth. He is solving a simple problem. People love their dogs and they worry about their safety and health. His canine tracking device provides location and movement information to dog owners so they can have peace of mind. And the peace of mind of one begins the peace of mind of the whole.

As we build these kind of relationships across the world, invisible threads weave an ever-increasing connection among like-minded people. The more we weave, the stonger the collective fabric of the planet becomes, the stronger our collective wisdom does.

So as we see all this crazy stuff happening and uncertainty across the globe, these bright, caring people working to fix problems gives me hope and makes me smile. I’m optimistic that we can come together, that we can rise up, and collectively solve whatever problems come our way.

So on this Thanksgiving week, I am grateful for entrepreneurs like these and all the others taking their knowledge, passion and energy and focusing it on helping to solve the world’s problems. I’m thankful for people like Fadi and Marie at Blackbox who support and nurture those founders. And I’m thankful that I can still be moved to look at the world with hopeful optimism.

 

Happy you’re reading my second blog in the series “What Time Is It” at www.soulcenteredselling.com. In these short blogs, we’re going to look at ego-based activities versus soul based activities and discuss how they each relate to the sales conversations we are all having.

Today, we’re going to consider the ego side, pitfall, and the soul side, opportunity.

In most sales conversation, things will invariably breakdown at some point. The prospect won’t give you information you need, they don’t return your call or they give you an outright no. Ego-based salespeople see a breakdown in the process or the conversation as a pitfall, as black hole that is going to kill the deal. Your feelings get hurt and you might even mope for a bit. Ever been there? I have.

The Soul-Centered Seller perceives that same breakdown as an opportunity. An opportunity for more understanding, for more empathy, for more questions.  An opportunity to find out what your customer really needs, what they’re thinking or maybe that one thing they’re not telling you. If you’ve built credibility and value throughout the process, you have the trust to be able to ask that tough question.

So again, please remember that the ego sells, and the soul serves. Breakdowns in the sales process, like shit, happen. Do you choose to perceive it from the ego place of pitfall, a dark crevice to fall into that’s going to kill the deal?

Or do you choose to see the breakdown from the soul centered place of it being an opportunity, an opportunity to turn a breakdown into a breakthrough, to understand better and opportunity to ask the tough questions?

This week as you execute your sales process, be aware of how you deal with these breakdowns. Pitfall, ego, Opportunity, soul. What do you choose?

Soulful selling!

 

Welcome to the first blog of “What Time Is It” at www.soulcenteredselling.com. 

In these short blogs, we’re going to look at ego-based activities versus soul based activities and look how they relate to the sales conversations we are all having.

We’ll kick the series off by looking at proving and understanding. The ego fights to prove. The soul yearns to understand.

How does that work in a sales conversation? Well, consider the following opposites as experienced at the most important part of the sales process, discovery.

Ego: Are you trying to prove to your customer that you are the right solution? Are you trying to convince them to listen to you? Are you trying to prove you are the best? Are you trying to prove to them that they should care?  That’s your ego digging an ever-widening ditch between you and your prospect.

Soul: Or are you taking the time to understand? To ask questions, to be curious, to stop thinking about what your next words, to listen to what the customer has to say today? Do your follow-up with thoughtful questions that show you are listening and allowing your customer to be heard. Listening is caring. Hearing is understanding.

As you go through your sales activities today, keep the relationship between proving and understanding front of mind. Are you dwelling in the ego looking to prove something or are you letting the soul take control and understand something?

Soulful Selling!

 

 

Think back to your favorite teacher in high school or college. What was it that you like about her? How did she reach you? What was the environment like in her classroom?

My favorite teacher in high school was my history teacher, Mr. Lilien, pictured above. While I don’t remember a whole lot of the history he taught, I do remember his classroom. Information moved two ways in his class. Not only did he teach us history, he taught us to teach him. In fact, a couple of my classmates used Bruce Springsteen’s album “The River” as an innovative basis for teaching Mr. Lilien about pop culture. He was a diligent student and shared his deep analysis of the album. The class ate it up.

Teachers like Mr, Lilien always create an atmosphere of openness, learning and growth that allow their students to take risks, make mistakes and learn. They also recognize the duality of teaching- at any one point, you can be a teacher or a student.

Questions are More Important than Answers

Today’s great leaders in corporate America understand this duality as well. They know that to engage employees in the mission at hand, questions are more important than answers. They also give the space to allow anybody to be a leader, or a teacher.

Creating an environment where constant learning is expected and fostered is a notable aspect of great organizations. These organizations value the questions over the answer. In his book Legacy, James Kerr writes about the All Black rugby team, the most successful sports organization in history. The All-Blacks continually ask questions of the players and have a process that empowers the players to lead the team. This atmosphere allows anyone on the team to stand up and be a leader or a teacher. When I was on the sales management team at TriNet, John Turner always told us “the answer is in the room.” The willingness for leaders to be open to learning from their charges fosters a learning environment.

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College.  In “Are Teachers Really Leaders in Disguise”, an article published by Psychology Today, Dr. Riggio notes that great teachers share the same traits as great leaders around their ability to provide a transformational experience. Along with Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, and Individualized Consideration, Dr. Riggio cites Intellectual Stimulation as a cornerstone of transformational leadership: “It involves challenging students/followers to engage their minds and to think creatively. The very best teachers get students to think about things in new ways, and challenge them to greater intellectual achievements. They encourage creative and novel thinking, rather than discouraging it.”

“The Answer is in the Room”

Organizations that create an atmosphere of continual learning growth also value coaching as a way for people to become better so they can be better leaders. Coaching, too, highly values the questions being asked in any engagement. The better the questions the coach asks the more inquiry and growth the client can achieve.

In fact, research by Josh Bersin of Deloitte found that some of the most important elements for nurturing a learning environment include a management culture which is open to mistakes, building trust, giving people time to reflect, and creating a value system around learning.  Notably, his report High Impact Learning Culture®:  40 Practices for and Empowered Enterprise finds the single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.

In summary, to create an environment of continual learning and growth makes good business sense. To do that you can emulate the teachers, like Mr. Lilien, who inspired you. Like those teachers, integrate the lessons taught by those around you. Value the questions over the answers. Ignite intellectual curiosity in your team to further engage them. And, encourage coaching as a means for all employees to learn about what drives and limits them and to grow as leader/teachers themselves.

 


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch

My mom was a maverick. In fact, that’s what it says on her tombstone. Maverick. She was a pioneer in how she lived her life at a time when that life was critically judged.

She grew up the adopted daughter of a tunnel family. Her family moved from tunnel job to tunnel job, living in most of the states and even for a stint in Brazil. She got her art degree in the Peter Max er  and was the driving force behind the neighborhood 4th of July floats. When we moved to Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-70s, she really blazed some trails.

After an affair with one of my friend’s mom, my mom came out as a lesbian. Predictably, that ruined her marriage and the nucleus that was our family. My dad never recovered, and couldn’t forgive her. Her parents disowned her for her choice. But the highest price she paid was with her children.

My two sisters and I lived with my mother in a rented house. Her partner lived with us, and it was an awkward situation for a boy who was a freshman in high school. Things didn’t go well as my mom was caught up in exploring her new life. Fights between us were common, and I had adopted much of my dad’s anger to mask the hurt and shame I felt.

My mom recognized the situation wasn’t working. Her solution was to leave. To leave us in the house alone. To leave us in the care of my father. To leave her children. When the time came for her to walk out, I was furious. As she left the house, I stood in her face and screamed hateful things, unconsciously beleiveing I could hurt her like she was hurtng me. When the door closed, we were alone.

That night was a source of great anger and pain for me. I hung my victimhood on that hook. One day, years later, as I was writing poems, that painful night came to me and I wrote. I adopted the persona of my mom, heeding the advice of Atticus Finch to his kids. That poem was my walk and being in her skin that day was transformational.

What I saw in that skin was a woman who was standing up for who she was. I saw a mother give up her kids so they could be better off. I felt the courage it took to do all that and be out at that time and place. As I forgave her, I understood that what she did was not the deepest darkest thing to ever happen to me, but the greatest lesson my Mom taught me: you be you.