EPISODE 248: Organizational Performance Expert Alan Stein, Jr. Dishes Out Three Things to Help Sales Leaders Raise Their Team’s Performance as this Unusual Summer Begins

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the OPTIMAL SALES MINDSET Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on May 14, 2020. It featured sales motivational speaker Alan Stein, Jr.]

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EPISODE 248: Organizational Performance Expert Alan Stein, Jr. Dishes Out Three Things to Help Sales Leaders Raise Their Team’s Performance as this Unusual Summer Begins

ALAN’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “As sales professionals, we need to do everything in our power to get rid of blaming, complaining and making excuses. Those three things will never ever do anything to improve your performance, improve your situation and they’re certainly not going to help you improve your sale. Anytime we blame, we complain or we make an excuse we’re actually taking responsibility off of ourselves and we’re putting it on someone else. Sales professionals and high performers don’t do that.  We all need to live by a code of extreme ownership.”

Fred Diamond: It’s great to have you on today’s webcast, my friend. How are you doing?

Alan Stein Jr.: I’m fantastic, in fact I’m one of the ones that nothing can stop me at present. I’m brimming with optimism and poised but I guess I’ll start this by saying that it’s okay if you’re listening or watching and you’re not there. Just know and appreciate the fact that you more than likely have been and will continue to be on an emotional roller coaster for a while as we continue the recovery and the reopening, just give yourself some grace and some compassion and patience and just know that those emotions will ebb and flow.

While at present I’m certainly optimistic and poised and feeling good, I’ve had my moments of despair and I certainly had my times where I wasn’t feeling so good. I think that’s a good place for us to start when we’re going to talk about mindset and just so you all know, my goal is to share a couple strategies and tips for 4-5 minutes and then take a pause and if someone has a question or Fred wants to chime in, we’ll just rinse and repeat that until the 45 minutes is up. I do want to make this as interactive as we can as I know we all miss being in person. I think self-awareness needs to be the foundation and we all do need to look at where we fall on that spectrum. In essence, if I use slightly different language what Fred just asked you all are, “Are you on the end of optimism or are you on the end of uncertainty and anxiety?”

Every single one of us is somewhere on that spectrum but equally important, every one of your clients and every one of your customers is somewhere on that spectrum and you can’t make the assumption that they’re in the same place that you are. You may be brimming with optimism and they may be highly anxious and uncertain and it’s very important deep in your connection with them that you be chameleon like enough to meet them where they are and not force them to come where you are. I know many of you have a vast Rolodex and you have lots of clients and customers, that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges is trying to take the temperature, if you will, of each and every group that you work with and each and every client and customer to figure out where they are. A few thoughts, when it comes to optimism it’s very obvious to all of us what the negatives are of this pandemic, it’s a long list starting with people losing lives and their health being sacrificed to people being furloughed and losing jobs to seniors in high school and college not having graduations and athletes not having spring sports and vacations and weddings being cancelled, we know all of that.

I don’t mean to take anything away from that, those are facts but it doesn’t mean we have to focus on them. What we can do is choose to focus on some of the silver linings and there’s two silver linings that I believe are occurring right now for sales professionals. The first is that you’re getting an opportunity to strengthen different muscles and work on different skill sets that you most likely didn’t need to work on before and one of the main ones is communication especially in a virtual world. If most of your interaction was face to face with clients, this is forcing you to add more tools to your tool box and actually be a more well-rounded communicator. I think that’s incredibly important, that we embrace that and we look at this as an opportunity to sharpen our sword in multiple ways. I know as a keynote speaker I was saying to Fred before we hit record that’s been one of my personal biggest challenges, I’m not in person without being able to read the room and feel the room, I’m just staring off into a cavernous webcam and not getting any real-time feedback. That is a challenge, but I embrace that challenge because I’m confident that if I can learn to do this in front of a webcam, I’ll be the more influential and impactful when I can get back in front of a live audience.

I think it’s incredibly important that we focus on the silver linings. I also believe this is an opportune time for you to deepen your connection with your clients and customers because you have somewhat of a captive audience right now, they’re not out doing all of the things that we would normally be doing. You can make the time to reach out to them individually and create multiple touch points where you can actually deepen that connection.

You can earn more trust from them and earn more buy-in and believe-in so that when the floodgates do open back up you’ve actually cemented a better relationship. They’ll be more likely to do business with you when the time is right. As far as those that are feeling somewhat uncertain and anxious, that’s a very normal feeling and my only recommendation is with uncertainty usually comes this feeling of lack of control.

For me, where I get comfort is focusing more on the things that I do have control over, certainly my attitude and my effort but creating routines and creating habits, being able to take control of the decisions that I make every single day gives me a little bit more sense of being in control which clearly none of us are, this is a chaotic time. That’s probably the initial chunk and Fred, I can see your head nodding. If that jars any questions from you or if anyone has entered a question that they’d love to ask.

Fred Diamond: How do you maintain your energy level?” You mentioned the fact that you’re by yourself, we’ve all been by ourselves for two months, people on today’s webcast are around the world, I see a lot of them are local but I know people are coming from the UK, I know somebody here is from South Africa as well. We don’t know necessarily when everyone’s going to go back in meeting with customers so this is going to be what it’s going to be like probably for at least another four weeks, maybe even through the end of the summer, who knows? So, how do you maintain that energy level when it’s just you being solitary in your apartment, in your house, in the office, in the basement? You’re not going to have that level of personal engagement.

Alan Stein Jr.: I love that question and thank you so much for asking. I would like to look at the energy levels from three different perspectives, mental, physical and emotional and all I’ll do is share my perspective and what I’m doing and then each of you can run that through your own filter and decide what works for you. From a physical standpoint, I try to move my body every day. When weather is permitting here in the D.C. area I try to get outside to take a walk, get a little natural vitamin D and just walk around, be outside and enjoy some fresh air. I try to do something that gets me moving, sometimes that might just be doing some push-ups and sit-ups and lunges, there’s a ton of different at-home videos that you can follow on YouTube or again, sometimes it’s nothing more than a walk and listening to a podcast like the Sales Game Changers.

Then from a mental standpoint I try to energize myself by learning something new so either reading a book or listening to an audiobook or a podcast or watching a YouTube video that’s more on the educational/inspirational side. Then from the emotional standpoint, that usually has to do with connection.

Based on my situation because I’m amicably divorced, I have my kids half of the time even during this quarantine so that actually fills my bucket when I get to be with my children. When I’m not with my children, then I make sure that I can connect with others doing calls like this. As much as Fred may think I’m doing him a favor by being on this, he’s actually doing me a huge favor by letting me do what I love to do which is share and present. This is the highlight of my day today, so as much as I hope I’m adding value to each and every one of you, this is actually filling my bucket and energizing me. If every single day I can take a few minutes to do something physically active, I can take a few minutes to break a mental sweat and I can do something to connect with human beings, for me that allows me to keep my energy high in addition to the normal things of get adequate sleep, stay hydrated and try to eat as well as you’re capable of. For me, I try not to overcomplicate it and that’s a recipe that allows me to keep my energy up.

Fred Diamond: Once again, if you have any questions for Alan Stein Jr. just submit them through the panel or even just something you want Alan to further get deep on and involved with. I do have one question here that just came through before we get to your next section. You’ve become one of the top speakers in the country on performance improvement not just for sales professionals but for business leaders. Plaudits to you, you’ve actually done that in a relatively short amount of time so you’re used to speaking, I follow you on all the social media and I see you take a picture before you speak, rooms filled or about to be filled with hundreds of people. Now you’re speaking to a dot on a laptop and of course, there’s you and I so how do you project yourself and what are some of the recommendations for the people who are watching us today on better ways to make yourself more livid, more alive as you’re in a presentation mode just via your laptop?

Alan Stein Jr.: Given that speaking actually is my vocation, I approach this virtual talk with my same pregame routine that I would have done if I was live in front of an audience. I have a very specific ritual and routine that I do to get prepared all the way to tying up my tie and I’m dressing as if I’m going to be live. I’ve got my hands free so that I can speak with my hands which is certainly what I do if I’m live. The only major restriction from a physical standpoint is that I don’t have a stage to walk around on, that I need to stay somewhat stationary so that you all don’t get motion sickness but I approach virtual with the same mentality that I would approach being in person and even though I’m looking at this dot, I’m visualizing and imagining a face. I can see Fred’s face which is always a warm smile but I’m imagining an audience, I’m picturing some of you that are out there right now and hoping that what I’m saying is connecting and that is, as I mentioned, the biggest challenge is I don’t know that. If I crack a joke I can’t hear any laughter so I don’t know if it worked. If I said something that I thought would be really helpful I can’t tell if you guys are leaning over to write that down or not so it’s still challenging but this leads me actually perfectly into my next section which is a mindset that I’ve always had but I’ve applied even more so now. I wake up every single day and say to myself, “Today I’m going to do the best I can with what I have where I am.” I think we’re all familiar with the, “Do the best you can” part but how about with the, “What I have” part? That’s where we all can clearly see some limitations as we’ve already been mentioning but we can’t use those as an excuse. We need to do the best we can with the tools that we’re given wherever we are and realize that it’s not a level playing field, some people have access to more resources than others at present but this dovetails nicely into the other mantra that I have: we all as sales professionals and as performers need to do everything in our power to get rid of blaming, complaining and making excuses.

Those three things will never ever do anything to improve your performance, improve your situation and they’re certainly not going to help you improve your sale. Anytime we blame, we complain or we make an excuse we’re actually taking responsibility off of ourselves and we’re putting it on someone else. Sales professionals and high performers don’t do that, we all need to live by a code of extreme ownership. Clearly this would be the easiest time since I’ve been alive for us to make excuses and to blame other people or other things and to complain about how bad things are, it’s so easy to do but if you want to be a great sales professional you can’t just do the things that are easy to do, you can’t just do the things that everyone else does. You will never make a sale based off of making excuses, complaining and blaming others so the sooner we can get rid of those things, it’s almost like we’re taking a weight vest off. We’ll become lighter, we’ll become emotionally more nimble, our performance will go through the roof but equally important and I know this from personal experience, we’ll be so much happier and more fulfilled when we don’t hide behind excuses and complaints and blaming other people and it’s just us again. We’ll feel better about everything that we do. My guess is if you’re like me, you’ll still every once in a while revert back to one of those things but hopefully you have the self-awareness to catch yourself and say, “Okay, that’s not going to help me right now, I need to be able to move forward.” To be a great leader, once you’ve adopted that mindset for yourself then you need to make that contagious with everyone in your organization. You need your sales colleagues and your leadership teams, everyone to have that same mindset. Yes, things are really tough right now they’re tough economically, they’re tough in so many different ways but making excuses, complaining and blaming the situation isn’t going to make it better so we might as well get rid of the negativity.

Fred Diamond: Alan, you raised a good point there which has come up many times across the last couple of weeks that we’ve been doing these webcasts on a daily basis, you’re a professional. You are a sales professional, it’s hard right now for reasons that we all know that we don’t need to go into but if you’re a professional, what do you do to continue being a professional? Maybe your customer is having challenges and isn’t ready to buy right now for reasons that we all know but what should you be doing as a professional? Alan, we have a question that came on, you talked about how you start your day thinking about what can you be doing with what you have. A question comes in here actually from a guest in Canada, so thank you to all of our Canadian friends who are on today’s webcast. Alan, can you tell us how you structure your full day for optimal performance? Again, not many people know this but you’ve worked with some of the top basketball professionals in the history of basketball, people like Kobe, Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo so you’ve seen some of the true world-class performers and what you’ve been able to do is translate that into business and sales as you work with companies right now. Talk about the ideal day for right now for maintaining the optimal mindset for sales professionals.

Alan Stein Jr.: Once again, what I’ll do is I’ll share my approach but I don’t ever want someone to think that the way I do things, it is right or is better than the way someone else does, it’s what works for me and that’s what each of us should be looking for right now. What is the routine and what are the disciplines and habits that work best for us? With as many people as you have listening and watching right now, there’s a wide array of different circumstances. You probably have some single professionals that are living by themselves and then you have someone else that has three or four kids and they have to home school proctor in addition to being a sales professional so it’s going to be all over the map. As I mentioned, I told you the big rocks that need to be in place for me and that is to keep my energy up, that’s because we can’t ever get time back but we can replenish energy. There’s no reason that we can’t be at 100% with our batteries full every single day but once a day passes, it’s gone. Those things that I mentioned earlier are structured as part of my day. I also know enough about myself to know that I’m much more of a morning person, that before 10 a.m. is when I do my best critical thinking, it’s when I do my best problem solving, it’s when I have the clearest thoughts if I’m going to write, it’s also when I have the highest physical energy. So, I try to stack my mornings that I do most of the heavy lifting of doing those types of things and then I try to save other work for later in the day. Clearly because my goal is to give you all as much value as possible, I need to make sure that I was on at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time today so I had to structure my day in a way that I could get some things one this morning and that I could allow enough time to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare for this keynote talk that we’re doing virtually. Every day is a little bit different, some days I have four or five of these Zoom calls in a day and then sometimes I don’t have any and I can focus on doing some other projects so I think from a structure standpoint, the consistency is important and knowing how you operate best is important. Everything else, you’ve got to be the one to fill in the big rock. For me, come 8, 9 o’clock p.m., my brain starts to stop functioning at a high level, I’m not worth much after that so that’s time where I can kick back and read or watch a documentary or something on Netflix, I’m not doing any heavy work at night but someone listening to this right now might be the exact opposite. You might loathe early mornings and you do your best critical thinking and problem solving at 11 p.m., that’s great. Make sure that’s when you’re writing your proposals or you’re creating social content or you’re doing the things that work best for you. Almost everything will always come back to the self-awareness of knowing what you need to do to perform at a high level.

Fred Diamond: Once again, if anyone has any questions submit them via the panel. Also, please take a screenshot, email it to me at fdiamond@i4esbd.org, you can do it after today’s webcast. The best screenshot will get a copy of Alan’s book Raise Your Game. Alright Alan, we’re ready for the next segment here.

Alan Stein Jr.: Back when I was in the basketball space, coaches would hire me to come in to consult with them. They wanted me to come watch their practices and then give some input and feedback on how efficient and effective their practices were. I would always go to practice 30 to 40 minutes early because I wanted to watch the players and the staff before the practice started. Inevitably, I could take every player and put them into one of two buckets: you had those that were waiting for practice to start and then you had those that were preparing for practice to start and it was a very stark contrast. If you can picture a teenage boys’ basketball team at the high school level, those that were waiting, they didn’t have their shoes tied and their shirts weren’t tucked in, they were sitting in the bleachers thumbing through their phone or they were in the hallways trying to pick up girls and then you had those that were preparing.

Those were the ones that already had a sweat going, they were laced up and doing some type of form shooting or maybe some stretching, they were mentally, physically and emotionally getting ready to compete at the highest level so that the moment the coach blew the whistle, they were ready to go. The reason I bring that up is as sales professionals in this unusual climate, I hope that you’re not waiting for this pandemic to be over, I hope that you’re preparing for it to be over. Of course the big elephant in the room is the fact that we don’t know when practice is going to start. As Fred mentioned, it could be a couple weeks, it could be a couple months, we don’t know but the actual start time is irrelevant because if every day you’re doing something to prepare for the recovery and the reopening then whenever that happens, you will be ready.

It’s always better to be ready for an opportunity that never arises than unprepared for one that does so if the whole world opens up next week, are you prepared for that or are you going to say, “Hang on, I need a few more days to get myself ready”? We don’t want to be in that camp so you need to start figuring out what are the things that you can do to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare to be at the top of your game when the world does open up. Some of that will be internal and some of that will be external with the relationships with your clients and customers and the partners and groups that you work with and doing everything you can to help them prepare for when the world opens up. You guys can look at yourselves as being a resource above and beyond just being sales professionals and I don’t say just sales professionals in a diminishing way, but you have an opportunity to add value above and beyond what you would normally do. The key, of course, is figuring out and each one of us needs to do that somewhat differently, what do I need to do to prepare? The moral of that story is just make sure you’re not back on your heels and you’re not surprised when the world starts coming back around. When that pendulum swings back and we go into full recovery and open mode, make sure you’ve been prepared to do so and by doing so, you’ll be the front-runners. You’ll be in front of your competition.

Fred Diamond: We have some great sales professionals listening in. Preparation is critical and I hate using the word ‘new normal’ because this is definitely not normal, it’s definitely new. If you’re watching today’s webcast, use the question panel, submit something to us that you’re doing today to prepare. Alan is absolutely correct, you should be doing things. Every Monday, Alan, we post on LinkedIn some advice from some of our past Sales Game Changers guests on what are they encouraging their teams to do. Preparation, strategic planning comes through, we have somebody here who just submitted that they’re creating account plans for all of their accounts post-whatever this might be. Again, send something via the question panel that you might be doing. Someone says right here they’re creating lists of things that they are asking their customers each time. What are some of the things that you’re seeing on some of the sales leaders that you’re working with that they’re doing to prepare right now to be more effective moving forward?

Alan Stein Jr.: The ones that I’ve been working with are using the relationship pyramid that I’ve discussed before. The bottom of the pyramid, and I think we talked enough about this at present, is the self-care part. Just making sure that you are ready, your mindset is ready to get back out there, then the next is making sure that your teammates are as well. I know depending on your situation there’s going to be a wide variety of when you’re a sales professional who else is on your team and who else you work with, but I’ve always believed that a rising tide raises all boats so anything you can do to help the person next to you, the folks that are wearing the same polo and the same logo that you’re wearing, anything you can do to help them perform at a higher level is going to help the greater good of the entire team. Whatever you can do to be the type of teammate that you want to play with, I encourage you, do that now.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, we’re all on that spectrum ranging from optimism to anxious and uncertain and this is a great time to reach out to those on your team whether it’s your leadership team or folks in HR or folks in R&D or admin staff, whatever it may be and see where they’re falling on that spectrum. Then see what you can do to help move them along so that they can get closer to the optimistic side. You have to be so chameleon like and go to where they are.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about that for a second. We did a session last week with Steven Gaffney on managing optimal teams. You’ve worked with some of the best team performers in the planet, you’ve worked with a lot of the high performing basketball players. What might be some examples of being a good teammate? You said be a good teammate but what might be some things you think people could be doing today to be a more effective teammate? If you look back at the poll here, 44% of the people said, “I’m cool most of the time but sometimes I’m concerned” and 25% of the people were below the curve saying, “I’m concerned.” How might you show up as a great teammate today? Again, we’re doing today’s webcast, it’s May 14th, 2020. Here we are, things are beginning to open up a little bit, some states are beginning to open up, the nonessential businesses, restaurants and certain areas like that, certain stores. You’ve studied teams, you’ve studied some of the best teammates in the world. What might be some examples of things that our listeners can physically do today to help their teammates along?

Alan Stein Jr.: One of them I know you mentioned in that awesome LinkedIn post that you made and that’s this concept of ten assists and this has been a foundational belief that I’ve always had. The premise of ten assists – and some of you, I believe are familiar with this and actually are doing it with great success – every single morning when you wake up, put 10 rubber bands on your left wrist and every time you give an assist to one of your teammates or to one of your clients and customers if you’d prefer to define it that way, you move one rubber band from your left wrist over to your right wrist. An assist is anything that you do that goes above and beyond what you’re expected to do, above and beyond what you’re supposed to do, above and beyond what they think that you’ll do and whether large or small, when you give out an assist you take one rubber band off the left and you move it to the right. Here’s the rub, you’re not allowed to go to sleep that night until all 10 rubber bands are on your right wrist, until you know for a fact that you did 10 things above and beyond what you’re supposed to do and expected to do and needed to do to help fill the bucket of a teammate or a customer and client.

I know that some of you listening to this, you’ve probably already dished out 20 assists by the time you’re listening to this webinar, that’s fantastic, keep doing that. Then if you want to be a great teammate you can hold those accountable on your team to do the same thing and I’ve always believed that accountability is a gift, that holding someone accountable is the best gift that you can give them because it shows them that you care about them and their performance and that you care about the team’s performance. Just remember that holding someone accountable is something that you do for them, it’s not something that you do to them and we have to make sure that everyone on our team understands that, that if Fred and I are teammates and for some reason today he doesn’t show up as his best self it’s my duty as his teammate to help him raise his game and to call him out. The way at which I call him out and the way at which I hold him accountable will be based on the way that would be best received by him, not necessarily the way that I would prefer to do it.

That leaves me to this thought that when I was a child, going back to my two bucket analogies, you could take every single kid and put them into one of two categories. You had those that could swallow a Tylenol pill and you had those that had to have it smashed up in apple sauce to take the Tylenol pill and that’s what we need to do as sales professionals. Whether gauging with a teammate or gauging with a client or customer, you have to figure out how do they take their Tylenol and then you need to give it to them in the manner that they prefer. It doesn’t matter to me if Fred can swallow a pill or he needs it with apple sauce, all that matters to me is that he takes his Tylenol so it’s my job to give it to him in the manner that he prefers. When you can have the emotional intelligence and the discernment to be able to do that for your teammates and do that for those that you serve, you’ll be so much more attractive and magnetic. You’ll be the teammate that you’ll want to play with and you’ll be the type of sales professional that customers and clients want to do business with.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. The whole concept of being proactive, there are some great articles that I’ve seen recently, it’s not enough today to say, “How can I help you?” or, “Is there anything you need from me?” if you’re a sales professional reaching out to customers, you need to start being more specific. You need to start being more focused on, “Is there something I can help you with your communications or something to help you with reopening?” Or, “Something I can help you with producing materials to help your customers?” One of the interesting challenges right now today is that your customer has challenges but your customer’s customer and your customer’s customer’s customer all have the same type of challenge, so be proactive.

Alan Stein Jr.: Fred, if I can add to that and I love that you brought that up. Part of being proactive is being able to anticipate client needs and anticipate customer issues, problems and pain points. One of the best advice that I would give to assistant basketball coaches is figure out what are the things that you think your head coach is going to ask you to do and do them before they ask. You know that they’re going to ask you to sweep the floor before practice so why do you wait for them to ask? Sweep the floor before they even get to the gym. I don’t know how many people right now are glued to ESPN on Sunday night to watch The Last Dance, the documentary about the Bulls and Michael Jordan’s last season but it brings back very nostalgic memories for me. Dennis Rodman, as undersized as he was, is arguably the best rebounder in the history of the NBA and the fact that he was only 6’8 and able to lead the league in rebounding for three straight years just showed how remarkable he was.

He said numerous times that the main reason he was able to do that was because he could anticipate where the ball was going to go, he could anticipate based on the angle of the shot where it was most likely to go if it missed and then he would make sure he was there, because he wasn’t the biggest or strongest or fastest guy. We need to do the same thing, I’m willing to bet in your industry there are certain trends where you can anticipate some of the pain points in advance and if you can reach out and solve a problem for a customer before they even know that’s a problem, you become superhuman and you become invaluable to them. If you’re in a commoditized business, you take yourself out of being a commodity and you become someone that they have to work with because you can anticipate these types of problems. Think like Dennis Rodman when it comes to rebounding and get to the ball before the ball gets there.

Fred Diamond: If you have any questions for Alan Stein Jr. submit them via the panel. Alan, we do have a question here and somebody here must be a Facebook friend of yours. “Who was a better teammate, Pippen or Jordan?” I love talking to you about basketball, obviously you’ve done work with Kobe, we’ve already addressed that story in the past. Just curiously, who do you think was a better teammate, Pippen or Jordan?

Alan Stein Jr.: I think they both had their positives and they both had their flaws as all of us do as human beings. I believe that Jordan led by example and he held people to a very high standard but Jordan didn’t really care how his teammates wanted their Tylenol, he was going to shove it down their throat no matter what. Then on the other hand, I think Pippen probably had a better emotional IQ when it came to dealing with the different types of personalities on the team but I think there were a few times, and Pippen owns this, that he was actually selfish and he actually put his needs in front of the team, and selfishness is a cancer to any team. Overall you’re talking about two of the best basketball players to ever play and I do think both of them were exceptional teammates overall but they certainly had their flaws. But if you’re going to make me answer, I would say Jordan, I would slightly edge out as the better teammate.

Fred Diamond: You’ve worked with some of the most elite basketball players in the history of the world like we’ve talked about, you talked about some of these great stories in your book, Raise Your Game. Again, if you haven’t submitted your screenshot yet, take a screenshot, email it to me before midnight tonight and the best screenshot is going to get a copy of Alan’s autographed book. If you think about some of the elite basketball players in the history of the world, what are they doing today? How would they perform in this circumstance? If you think about it, if you’re a basketball player a bad thing may be being on a bad team or you don’t like to coach or you’re dealing with an injury or something. What are some of the lessons that you took from some of those elite performers that we could apply today right smack in the middle of this new world as we’re beginning to hopefully come out of it? What are top two or three things that they did that we can apply? Again, we got sales professionals around the globe watching us today, we’re going to make this a Sales Game Changers podcast as well. What are two or three habits that we could apply that you’ve learned to be more successful with our mindset?

Alan Stein Jr.: The cool part is in some degree we’ve mentioned them so far on this talk. One that we didn’t mention, though is that they always stick to the basics and they have a strong respect and appreciation for the fundamentals. Right now is a great time, while many of us have paused and hit reset and been able to take a beat, now is a great time to get back in the lab and work on those fundamentals. Some of the other things that we have mentioned when they realize that things are out of their control on the external world, they double down on the things that they do have control over which is their own effort and their own attitude. They aren’t waiting for the next practice, the next workout or the next game, they are preparing for it, they’re doing all of the little things. It’s not just good enough to show up to practice and give a good effort, to be able to perform at practice you need to have gotten a good night’s sleep the night before and eaten a healthy breakfast the day of and gone through some of your pre-practice rituals and routines to prepare so they look at it from a very holistic standpoint. Another thing that makes the elite the elite is as confident as they are – and they’ve earned the right to be confident through demonstrated performance during the unseen hours, but they also have a stroke of humility and they know that they don’t have every answer, they know they don’t know everything and no matter how good they get, they know that they can still get better.

They stay very open to coaching, they stay very open to learning no matter how successful they are. To some of them it was almost a curse that they can’t even enjoy winning because they immediately start thinking about, “We have to win again, we have to win the next time.” They really focus on those core fundamentals and habits and they don’t deviate from them. Then lastly, they don’t allow themselves to get distracted. It’s not just about doing the right thing, it’s also about avoiding doing the wrong thing and that’s really important. They keep their circles tight, they stay well insulated, they focus on the basics, they respect the fundamentals, they make sure that they’re always in preparation mode, they do the little things every day as part of their routine and they stay very open to coaching and learning. If all of us could just do that core thing that I said for 20 seconds right there, we’d see performance skyrocket.

Fred Diamond: When you talk about sales those little things would be researching your customer, thinking of solutions for your customer, working on your writing, your ability to write a nice, crisp, coherent email, working on your presentation skills, working on your ability to communicate via the phone, via text. We have Alan for about another 5 minutes so if you have any more questions for Alan Stein Jr., please submit it. We have a question here, “What are the little things that an elite basketball player would be working on?” When we think about these amazing players, we think of the 360 dunks and those aren’t the things that they’re working on. Tell us those little things that elite performers work on to give us some context in the sales world.

Alan Stein Jr.: What I’ll do is I’ll tell you what basketball players work on and then I’ll tell you the equivalent of that for sales professionals. Basketball players know that every single thing they do on the court starts at their feet. Every shot, every pass, every rebound, every defensive slide, everything starts at their feet so their footwork is the most important part to building a foundation to which the rest of the house is built. Then in order for them to be good at any of the skills, they have to train themselves to have perfect feet. The best players in the world will do footwork drills every single day, that is just a part of what they do.

What I firmly believe is the equivalent of that in the sales game is the ability to actively listen. The ability to actively listen and ask insightful questions is the footwork of sales because when you ask the right questions, you don’t have to convince a client or a customer to buy from you. If you ask the right questions and they are the right fit, they’ll convince themselves to buy from you. If you can sharpen your sword and your intuition and emotional intelligence and your ability to ask the right questions at the right time to the right people and process the information and then based on what they say, offer them another insightful question, you’ll just simply drop the breadcrumbs until you lead to the only logical answer which is for them to do business with you.

Fred Diamond: That is a great analogy, footwork is the active listening. That is such a great analogy because active listening comes up so many times on the Sales Game Changers podcast when we have guests. We have a question here for Alan Stein Jr. “Do you have any ideas for making virtual meetings more creative, appealing with clients?” That’s a great question. We’re all in the same place, people think there’s only so much you could do in front of the little dot on your laptop but do you have any suggestions for making virtual meetings more appealing or more creative with your clients? Thank you, Anne, for that question.

Alan Stein Jr.: That is a wonderful question and in full transparency, Anne, it’s a question that I’m constantly asking myself because as I try to look down the runway of the next 6 to 9 months, I know that I’m going to have to get more well-versed with this technical world and with doing these calls. Because I believe in engagement and I want engagement, I’m going to slowly start trying some different things to figure out ways to answer that question for you so let’s make sure we stay in touch. At present, I don’t think I have any mind-blowing ideas outside of the obvious which Fred has done a tremendous job of on this is getting engagement from you all, asking you all questions, doing a poll at the very beginning to set the tone, encouraging you to write questions in the chat area. I think there’s a variety of ways that we all collectively will start to see ourselves get better. I can tell you for a fact that I’ve done more Zoom calls in the last three weeks than I did in the three years prior to that so repetition is our friend, repetition is the mother of all skill.

The more we start doing these things, we’ll get better and more polished at doing them but we’ll also spark the creativity and innovation of figuring out ways that we can try to make them more interactive and more enjoyable, because we don’t want folks to start getting Zoom fatigue. Zoom fatigue really could set in over the next 5 to 6 months and that’s not something we want. I recommend all of you to use your creativity and innovation to try different ways and just like when I’m on stage, there are times that I try certain things and it doesn’t work as well as I’d like, so then I go back and I workshop it and I try it again, and I try it in a slightly different way or deliver it in a different way. If it’s still not working then maybe I shelf it or maybe I continue to tweak it until it does work. Don’t be afraid to try things with your staff and with your clients and customers, some things will work really well, some things will fall flat and then you can decide whether those things are worth tweaking or not but let’s make sure we stay in touch over the next several months. Any ideas that I get, I’ll make sure I post them on social media so that you guys can enjoy them as well.

Fred Diamond: One thing I would recommend to people is just get familiar with the technology. There’s a lot of little tricks that we’ve begun to learn, I’ve just learned that you can submit handouts, we use GoToWebinar as our platform and you can do handouts. The other thing too about making the virtual meetings more creative and valuable is what we’ve been talking about over the last 45 minutes, preparing. It’s coming with those great questions. If you think about it, a lot of the sales type things that we talk about, you’re absolutely right, one of the best ways to be a great listener is to have great questions, is to prepare, is to come with some ideas. The other thing, is let your customer talk. If you let your customer talk 90% of the conversation versus you show up and throw up and show them things that they could see on their own, you’re not really adding much value to them. I want to thank Alan Stein Jr. once again.

Alan Stein Jr.: Can I add one thing to that, Fred? I’m sorry, I realize folks have to go. You’re 100% right. I’m going to give you guys a coaching analogy and then I’ll leave it to you to figure out how to apply that to yourself. When I watch an inexperienced coach – and let’s just use the high school basketball team, for example – and they set up a scrimmage situation and their point guard comes down and makes a bad pass and turns the ball over, a very novice coach will stop practice, will yell at the player and tell them what they should have done and then they’ll resume. An expert coach will stop practice briefly, ask the player what they saw, “Why did you think that was the right pass to make?” because they realize that player didn’t mean to turn the ball over, they were doing at that time what they thought was the right play to make and in hindsight it wasn’t, so they ask them, “What did you see and why did you think that was the right play?”

Once the player understands that it wasn’t, then they say, “What was something else that you could have done? What was a different option, what was a different pass that you could have made to maybe get a better solution?” Inevitably the player will be able to figure it out, and the reason they do that is one, to get more buy-in and believe-in from the player but two, it makes the lessons stickier. That kid is not going to forget that now because they are the ones that came up with the resolution, it wasn’t just spoon fed to them as if they were some type of robot. This goes back to don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can and ask questions that are literally dropping the breadcrumbs to where you want the client and customer to go, and if you are the right fit when they get there, business with you will be a done deal.


Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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