Informative Articles by Gene Swindell

Gene speaks and writes on topics that help organizations manage change. He is the author of two books and numerous articles on the topics of change, leadership, team dynamics, customer service and consultative sales.

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Examining Your Priorities
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

Faster is now more impressive than better. Bigger gets more applause than deeper. Quantity seems more significant than quality, just as overnight success attracts more attention than time-honored integrity. At least, that's the way it appears on the surface. But since when did things like character, values and truth take a backseat to anything? I believe that there are still a lot of people who prefer the solid, genuine stuff, rather than cheap imitations that have no substance."


We live in an instant world. There's instant coffee, instant tea, instant money, instant cooking, instant messages-the list goes on endlessly. Technology provides answers faster than one can think of questions. We're all running 90 miles an hour in a 30 mph zone. It's rush, rush, rush in our little whirlwind of activity.


Although the acceleration has brought production and service up to incredible marks, the quality built into products has been damaged. Recently, my favorite clock radio broke. The radio played fine but the numbers on the rotating cylinder that displayed the time wouldn't turn. It seemed like a simple repair job so I took it to a shop. The repairmen took one look at it and said, "Throw it away." "Why?" I said. "Just replace the clock mechanism and it'll work fine." The repairmen smiled. "It would cost more to fix it than to buy a new one." I hate to throw things away. So I now have a radio with 9:23 permanently displayed on the dead cylinder and a new disposable device that displays huge numbers in digital time. All the blinding motion to create a faster, easy-to-replace world has hit our personal lives with a gigantic impact. We don't take time to consider our decisions, to look where we're going, to reflect on what's happening or to simply stop and smell the roses. The whirlwind begins when we rise each morning and ends when we collapse into bed at night. We can't seem to find the peaceful eye of the storm where we can pause to take stock of where we are and where we're headed. It's vitally important that you decide what's important to you.


Priorities are essential in both directing your efforts and conserving your time. Here's one of my favorite illustrations. You're invited to sit on a chair with only three legs; the leg on the right front corner is missing. You could balance yourself on that chair, but it would be impossible to lean back, relax and enjoy its comforts. The chair must have four legs of equal length to provide those benefits. Each leg is vital to support its corner of the chair. And so it is with each leg of your life. You must put as much priority into developing good family relationships as you do into advancing your career or building a good physical body. The four legs on your life's chair are:

Financial (Work)
Social (Leisure)
Physical (Activities)
Educational (Development)

If one leg is out of balance, you will not be comfortable. The phrase that fully describes success is uncomfortably comfortable.


Take a moment to reflect on those words and how they fit your current lifestyle. Isn't comfort what you're really seeking when you strive for success? To be comfortable in every phase of life-in career and finances, in the social, physical, spiritual and educational realms-should be the goal of every person. Yet, we should be uncomfortable enough in our present comfort state that continue to improve and strive for higher goals. The priority you place on each area will determine your comfort zone.

 

Examine your calendar; study each activity and the time allotted each day. Are your playing a round of golf when you should be attending Jimmy's Little League game? Is it more important to watch television than to read a good book or have a conversation with your spouse? There's nothing wrong with playing golf, watching worthwhile TV or any other activity as long as the proper priority is applied. Be 100 percent Dad/Mom while you're doing kids' stuff. Be 100 percent husband/wife with your spouse. Be 100 percent in whatever you are doing at the moment

 

"We all sorely complain of the shortness of time and yet, we have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few and acting as though there would be no end to them."
-Seneca

 

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Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395. 

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Training: Investment or Expense?

By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

In these days of economic downturn, is training being considered an expense rather than an investment? Corporations are "cutting back" and "tightening the belt" and although training has been seen as valuable, it's no longer essential. Training has been labeled an expense, not an investment.

 

What's the difference between an expense and investment? Simple: An expense subtracts from the bottom line, an investment adds. Consider the following "Investment Evaluation Criteria:"


1.  Does training address a bottom-line solution to a recognized issue or problem? Do the training sessions increase, improve, augment or enhance your products, your service, your quality, your employees? Yes ___ No ___


2.  Compared to the alternatives (no training or previous attempts at training), is the training specifically addressing issues of concern in your organization? Yes ___ No ___


3.  What are you hearing from your employees? Are they learning and applying techniques presented in the training sessions? Yes ___ No ___


4.  Are the training sessions interesting, credible, and innovative to hold the trainees' attention? Yes ___ No ___


5.  Does the trainer speak from experience and knowledge? Does the trainer suggest practical solutions and techniques applicable to the employees' jobs? Yes ___ No ___


For any training program to be successful, there must be a complete two-way cycle:

  1. The trainer must deliver meaningful material in a practical and entertaining style that will be interesting and meaningful to employees, and …
    .

  2. Employees must apply the techniques and ideas to their individual jobs and continue to add to their growth pattern.

Investing in management/employee training can be compared to a fine piece of machinery. You want the finest, most effective equipment to produce your products. A machine must be installed, adjusted and fine-tuned to reach maximum efficiency. From time to time, the machine must be retuned. Likewise, you want the most productive, efficient workforce possible. Managers and employees must be informed of new techniques and operating procedures to achieve maximum productivity. They, too, need to undergo a "tune-up" from time to time.

Effective training offers a good return on your investment. Ignoring training needs and doing nothing is a costly expense. Did you answer "no" to any of the questions above? Need help?

Call toll free 877-815-8666 and get details on how you can get customized training programs in leadership, teambuilding, customer service and sales from Gene Swindell, a highly-effective trainer with 20+ years experience. You'll be surprised at the low investment to yield high returns.

 

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Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395. 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Keep Your Stress Under Control
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

A recent study by the International Labor Organization showed that one in ten workers suffer from depression, anxiety, stress or burnout. That's alarming. The overwhelming wave of information from technological advances; the pace of globalization in nearly every business; overwork and job insecurity, plus the chaotic dysfunction of company politics have brought about tremendous stress in the workplace.

After heart disease, depression in the workplace is the most disabling illness for workers around the world. Predictions are mental and neurological disorders could pass highway accidents, AIDS and violence as a primary cause of work years lost from early death or disability in the next 20 years if nothing is done. And, futurists also say women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression at work.

What's the cause of all that stress? There isn't one single cause ... it's a combination of unrealistic deadlines, lack of clear instructions, isolated working conditions, lack of decision-making, workplace surveillance, uncertainty of job status, and dominating managers. While some companies are trying to improve their management strategies by putting greater emphasis on family and life issues with stress reduction programs, it still becomes the responsibility of an individual to control stress.

Let's face it. Anyone who expects a job, a leadership position, or even life itself, to be all fun and games is not living in the real world. There are always going to be tough times. And the higher you climb up the ladder of success, the tougher things become. Have you seen the sign that reads: "It's mind. I worked for it. I deserve it! As soon as I find time, I'll have my nervous breakdown." That sounds funny but it's become shockingly true.

When you look around you, who would you say suffers most often from stress? The hard-driving boss who's always fuming? The overly-achieving, aggressive salesperson? Perhaps the quiet, passive engineer or accountant? Wrong.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a high percentage of the victims of high blood pressure and heart attack are just average, normal people. Many are in business and community leadership roles. So, what does that say to you? Every one of us ... regardless of age, financial status, career, education, career, or gender ... are subject to the effects of stress.

Let's look at some remedies to help reduce the stress in your life:

1. Prepare for problems. We don't plan to die next week but we still pay our life insurance premiums each month ... just in case. You don't plan to have a flat tire, but you always have a spare in the trunk, right? The same with problems in your life.

One of the best lifelines you can have is the understanding and courage to handle problems that occur. Many problems are simply opportunities hiding behind the mask of trouble. When you have the courage to confront problems head-on, your chances of avoiding a crisis or emergency increase greatly. When you recognize dangerous situations in advance, actions can be taken to avert a catastrophe and avoid a heap of stress. 

2. Understand the problem. Many times, we don't take time to understand the true nature of a problem. "Bill just jumped up from his chair and ran out the door," an excited employee said to the boss. "You taught us that it was unsafe to run through the office." "Did you try to stop him?" the boss asked. "Yes, but he kept on running," the employee replied. "His pants were on fire." Always get to the root cause of the problem. You might discover that what was perceived as the problem is only a symptom of the real problem.

3. Probe the problem. Edwards Deming, the American credited with starting the total quality movement in Japan after World War II, taught that problem solvers need to ask seven "why" questions to get to the root cause of a problem. I've found that to be very helpful in my work. As a business consultant, I'm often confronted with problems within a client's organization. When I ask "Why does this problem exist?" and follow with another "why" question, then another, and another until the seventh one does the real cause of the problem become clear. Don't jump to conclusions without seeing the complete picture. The solution should be in fixing the problem, not focusing the blame.

4. Use the fishbone. Another Deming technique from total quality management to solve problems is the Ishikawa fishbone method. To disclose the causes to the problem, draw a horizontal arrow that points toward a written statement of the problem. Just a simple sentence will do. Now, start brainstorming all the possible causes of the problem. Draw lines resembling fishbones from the horizontal arrow to represent the various categories of possible causes. For example, suppose the problem is telephone order-takers in your sales department are getting a lot of incorrect purchase order numbers from customers. What are some of the causes? Maybe it's the method of taking orders: the order-taker didn't repeat the number. Or it could be the order-takers who have had an increase in overtime and they didn't take time to ask for the number. Perhaps they work in a noisy environment or there's no separate number on the computer keypad. It could be they are rewarded on the number of orders taken, not on accuracy. Most problems have five contributing categories: people, method, environment, equipment and measurement. The fishbone will provide a wide range of causes. Now, your ready to start analyzing and prioritizing those causes to take corrective action.

5. See the solution. What will the situation look like when the problem is solved? Have that picture in your mind as you begin to analyze the various causes to the problem. Then, start prioritizing the reasonable choices open to you. Don't settle on one without considering all the actions available. And, discuss the problem and your choices with someone whose judgment you value before making your decision.

6. Take action. As Nike's slogan says: "Just do it." Don't ponder or delay. Take action and start implementing your decision. Good leaders move forward. Consultant and author Tom Peters says we need to fail forward faster. It's usually best to act and make a mistake than to do nothing or to postpone action. I like Mark Twain's words: "You'll get run over if you just sit there." 

A true lifeline to leadership is the ability to handle problems and move on to other challenges rather than wallow and fret over problems without taking any action. Some solutions might not be realized overnight, they could take months or years. You might have to make adjustments in your plans to accept new information or new situations but don't let the problem get the best of you. Don't succumb to the stress. Keep it under control.

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Gene Swindell works with companies that want to create a competitive advantage by strengthening the framework of their organization. Call 770-926-1395 or on-line www.geneswindell.com 

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Developing Your Self-Confidence
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

Perhaps some people back away from developing a strong trait of self-confidence because they have experienced so many pretenders ... people who attempt to wear the air of self confidence. They've seen those people who brag about their accomplishments, their skills, their position, their status. They are turned off by the pretenders who are always exaggerating about their great deeds and usually become very assertive and boisterous when things don't go their way. After a few experiences with pretenders and their oversized egos, some people say, "If that's self-confidence, I want no part of it." The typical pretender is one who uses those fake characteristics to cover up a tremendous lack of self-confidence.

 

I recall a young reporter at a newspaper where I worked early in my career who was always described as having a lot of self-confidence. Jim always accepted every assignment with vigor. When someone would reject his request for an interview, he never accepted that as anything but a challenge. He researched his stories to great depths to make certain his facts were correct. (That was in the days when news reporters did those things.) 

 

To me, Jim always had an air of self-confidence. He never boasted about his accomplishments but accepted praise graciously. He believed in himself and his value but never arrogantly. Jim's self-confidence simply said, "I can do what I set out to accomplish." 

 

Isn't that what self-confidence is all about? It's knowing what you are seeking, focusing on that goal, resisting distractions, and accomplishing that task. A self-confident person is usually soft-spoken, not an arrogant, conceited blow-hard. 

 

Effective leaders let others talk about their abilities and accomplishments while concentrating on goals and offering praise, admiration and appreciation to others. There are two people inside each of us. There's the giant who seeks recognition and greatness. And there's the midget who somehow gets in the way. 

 

Someone once said Enrico Caruso, the famous tenor, was standing in the wings on opening night at a huge opera house, a packed house awaiting his performance. Suddenly, the great singer rasped in a loud whisper, "Get out of my way! Get out of my way! Get out! Get out!" The stage hands were all startled because no one was near him. They thought he had gone off his rocker.

 

Later Caruso explained, "I felt within the 'big me' that wants to sing and knows it can was being stifled by the 'little me' that gets afraid and says I can't. I was simply ordering the little me out of my body." 

 

Self-doubt and fear of failure are the two great barriers thrown at us by that midget inside. The giant within wants to rise up but is beaten down by the negatives that chip away, if we allow them, until we become shy, timid and afraid. 

 

Zig Ziglar, the dynamic motivational speaker, best defines fear as false evidence appearing real. That's the best definition I've ever heard ... and true.

 

I was to speak at a hospital one morning to a group of 20 doctors. The topic for the three hour seminar was patient services. As each one entered the room, I would offer a friendly greeting and handshake but their facial expressions showed they were not pleased to be there. Fear and rejection began to build in my mind. My midget inside was shouting, "You're out of your league. These are doctors who have gone to medical school. They're highly educated. Who are you to come in here and teach them about patient services?" By the time the class was to start, I was basket case inside. After all those years of finally getting my butterflies under control, they had broken out of formation. 

 

I walked to the front of the class and my opening "Good morning, Doctors" got only a murmur from the audience. My reject button went bonkers. It must have been divine guidance at that point because I suddenly asked an unplanned question:

 

"How many of you in high school, college, med school or internship have had training in customer service?" No one raised a hand. "Then I guess that makes me the expert here this morning." There was not a single grin. 

 

I then explained the three things every customer wants is (1) a friendly smile; (2) a pleasant tone of voice, and (3) to be appreciated. The giant within was beginning to push the midget aside so I took a bold step. "I want each of you to put those three things into practice this morning. Please stand, put on your best smile, move around the room, greet each person with a handshake and, in a friendly tone of voice, say 'I really appreciate seeing you here'."

 

One doctor immediately closed the door and the exercise began. That was absolutely the icebreaker of all time. Their attitudes changed, they loosened up, a couple doctors even came up and shook my hand and said they appreciated my being there. For the next three hours, we had an interactive and friendly training session. Self-doubt, fear of rejection and feeling of inadequacy were buried. My self-confidence took over and once again the giant prevailed.

 

No one wants to suffer with difficulties and misfortunes, but leaders accept them as opportunities to grow. Experience shows we should welcome the struggle - the challenge - because it is the best way to develop character. If everything was easy, our mental power would never grow. If we never exercised physically, our bodies would wither away. If everything was handed to us without work, trial, and energy, we would never develop self-confidence and character.

 

Self-confidence demands self-discipline. Self-confidence is built on the ability to assemble the full resources of our minds, bodies and spirits to handle any challenge that comes before us. Only when we have self-discipline can we accomplish that feat. 

 

Norman Vaughn is a man to be admired. Born in 1905, his life's course is filled with more adventures than ten men his equal. He lived in an era of polar exploration and worked with Admiral Richard E. Byrd in Antarctica and Sir Wilfred Grenfell in Newfoundland. In his book, My Life of Adventure, he tells about learning to drive dog teams at an early age, a skill that he not only used in the vast white wilderness of the seventh continent but in U.S. Army search-and-rescue operations and running the grueling long-distance Iditarod sled dog race thirteen times. 

 

I met Norman when he was in Atlanta organizing a search team to find the Lost Squadron of 1942 in Greenland. Two P-38s had gone down in that northern country during World War II and they posed a challenge to him. Like most challenges in his life, he was determined to find the planes and hoist them out of their prison of ice. He was confident he could conquer that task. Norman Vaughn believed in himself and in his dream. After 12 trips to Greenland, his persistence paid off. In 1992, Norman and his team were able to melt the ice down and found one of the planes still in good shape. He is the epitome of one who lives life to the fullest. He believes in himself through wisdom and knowledge, a positive attitude, overflowing enthusiasm, integrity and action.

 

On my office bulletin board, I have posted one of his quotations:

 

"The only death you die is the death you die every day by not living.
Dream big and dare to fail
."

 

Besides the midgets inside each of us, there are plenty of small-minded "midgets" who will be quick to tell you it can't be done. There are times when those "midgets" seem to gang up until it seems you are the lone person in the world who believes in your giant. Self-confidence can make the difference in your success as a leader. 

 

To build your self-confidence:

 

1. Know your real limitations. People have overcome tremendous physical and mental disadvantages to achieve incredible goals. Sometimes there are limitations of time, money, family, and immovable obligations that prevent us from reaching our ultimate success. While we explore creative and innovative ways to get what we want, we must still live in the world of reality. But, at the same time, we must always look at possibilities to extend or eliminate those limitations.

 

2. Concentrate on your strengths. Use the rifle vs. shotgun approach. Top leaders know what they can do best. They master the art of focusing their energy on what is most worthy. Rather than being a "jack of all things," they choose to become "master of their strengths." As they zero in and improve their strengths, their self-confidence grows.

 

3. Believe in yourself. Most of us have more self-confidence than we realize. Your belief system began even before you took your first step or said your first word. You knew you could do it. You just had to try and learn. And, through the years, your belief has grown. As you have believed, you have achieved. Believing has been defined as "accepting as true." Our response to that must be to act as if something is true. Make a habit of acting as if the best things about you are true.

 

4. Prepare for the best. If you want to be the best that you can be, you must prepare. Just hoping you will reach the top won't cut it. Tom Simpson, a shipping clerk in a small Midwest manufacturing plant, had a dream to become a design engineer. After high school, he didn't have sufficient funds to attend college so he decided to get a job and save money for his education. After six months in his job, he learned about an engineering class at a local vocational school. He enrolled and attended classes. After a few months, he had qualified for the company educational aid program. He then continued his education at a nearby university offering night classes. After four years, Tom received his degree and started his career as a design engineer with that company. Success requires sacrifice and preparation.

 

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Gene Swindell works with companies that want to create a competitive advantage by strengthening the framework of their organization. Call 770-926-1395 or on-line www.geneswindell.com 

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Overcoming Fear
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

Fears are multiplied through negative thoughts built up over years. The initial fear in our lives is the fear of falling. Listening to people tell us of the hidden dangers in the world, our fears increase to the point that we feel we must know what lies ahead before we take another step. Fear of the unknown or the untested future keeps many people confined to their pigeonholes.

Yes, fear is one of the greatest obstacles on the road to success. But strange as it seems, it is not always failure we fear. A professional speaker of my acquaintance has a fear of succeeding. He has achieved a high level of success in his career but he has fumbled many opportunities that could have elevated him even further. When he had chances to accept greater responsibilities or to ascend to new levels, he backed off. His fear of success has stymied a brilliant career. He is an excellent speaker but I wonder how much farther he could have gone if only his fear had been conquered.

There's no research to support this claim but I believe fears have prevented more people from succeeding in life that any other cause. For some reason, humans tend to relinquish their pursuit of success to the frightening feelings of fear.

The true definition of fear is-

False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

Fear is something that seems very real in our minds. But upon further investigation we discover the so-called facts are untrue. It's like looking at a painting you're certain is a Monet masterpiece then upon closer examination discovering it's a copy. Putting water in a Coca-Cola bottle doesn't make it Coke. Fear is a false portrayal through imagination.

Has fear kept you in a comfort zone too long? Has fear blocked your door of opportunity? Fear is sometimes confused with intuition. A hunch that something will be right or wrong is a sixth sense that the mind perceives as truth without reasoning. Of course, good judgment and common sense must be applied in making sound decisions. To plunge headlong into a decision without considering the circumstances and possible consequences would be foolish. Just keep in mind that when fears begin to create doubt, check the validity of that thought or idea. You may find it's False Evidence Appearing Real. When we analyze all the circumstances that create fear, they generally wind up being only figments of our imagination.

Self confidence needs to be built into your life-belief in yourself, your job, your family and friends, your products or services, your company. You can combat negative fears by concentrating on your goals, your aspirations and your dreams of success. Don't allow fears to eat away your confidence. There's no place for the pothole of fear in the highway to success. Through patterns of thought, action and reaction, you can transform fears into self-confidence, pride and accomplishment. A confident personality is extremely important in every aspect of a successful life.

Confidence is based upon belief, knowledge and experience. Your self-confidence is built by following these three steps:

  1. Determine the cause of fear.
  2. Gain knowledge and remove the unknown.
  3. Erase the fear by positive, intelligent action.

Stop and analyze what you fear. Is it because of a bad experience or something you haven't tried before? Examine the situation confronting you. Learn everything you can about the situation. Then eliminate your fear by reestablishing your belief through clear, positive thinking and action. You will build your confidence every time.

If you change the way you think, fears will disappear and you will instinctively change the way you act. Success-great success-is visualizing, planning and doing things that failures never dream about doing.

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Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395. 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Are You Really Listening?
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

Most people spend about 80 percent of their day in a passive listening mode. Background noises, extraneous sounds, and idle conversations are tuned out as we go about doing our daily routines. When you walk into a room where background music is being played, you hear it but you don't listen to it. Then, someone asks, "What's the title of that song?" At that point you switch to active listening. You focus and concentrate on the song - and probably spend the next hour trying to recall the title.

Poor listening has resulted in lost business opportunities, wasted time and strained or even broken relationships. In business today, listening to customers is essential to determine their needs and expectations. But most businesspeople are stuck in the habit of passive listening.

What's the major difference between passive and active listening? It's moving beyond your perception of what customers want to understanding each customer's perception of your products, service and company. That becomes a major task, especially when perceptions become mixed with old thinking, old habits and old methods of operation.

Mack Truck Company of Allentown, PA became an active listener to its customers. After several years of Mack turning a deaf ear to customers and their special needs, a series of meetings was set up with existing and former customers in different parts of the country. These customer groups were asked to express their opinions regarding Mack's trucks and service. Many of the comments were not good. Video cameras recorded their remarks.

Next, Mack took the taped segments to its dealers and salespeople in regional sales meetings. A new "Yes We Can" theme was introduced to counter the negative "we can't" corporate attitude that had been experienced by many customers. The new corporate mindset and philosophy: "The answer is yes, what's your question."

There are four key elements to active listening:

1.  Nonverbal Attends - Facial expression and eye contact reveal one's listening intent. A pleasant facial expression and direct eye contact convey interest, concern and care to the person speaking. Squaring your body with the speaker, rather than turning away, also indicates openness to receive information. A head nod is a listening signal.

2.  Verbal Attends - These are simple acknowledgements to the speaker that you are listening. Simple sounds ("ah huh," "hmmm," "I see") indicate the message is being received. Verbal acknowledgements are especially important in telephone conversations when the speaker cannot see your head nod.

3.  Door-opener Questions - Questions that focus on "who," "what," "where," "when," and "how" solicit dialog and indicate your interest in the speaker's comments. When questions are asked, we naturally listen for the answers. Door-opener questions produce information, show interest in the customer's concerns, and make you a better listener. Avoid "why" questions until absolutely necessary. They can appear threatening or confrontational.

4.  Paraphrasing - Research shows the concentrated attention span of humans is only about 30 to 45 seconds. Our brains are processing words so much faster than they are being spoken that we start forming our responses long before a speaker finishes. Paraphrasing or restating the speaker's message from point to point helps to keep you focused and shows that you are listening.

Don't get defensive when customers voice derogatory remarks. Whether the comments are justified or not from your viewpoint, at the moment they are very appropriate from the customer's perspective. Such comments can be extremely unnerving if your corporate philosophy is to exceed the customer's expectations and you are honestly trying to fulfill their needs. Emotionally charged words or phrases can take control and cause you to go into orbit. Active listening shuts down.

Recognize certain words or phrases that are apt to set you spinning, then commit to conquering their affect on you. Keep your emotions under control, listen to the customer, and use your skills to uncover the real cause of their anger.

Understanding perceptions is the primary key to building relations with customers. To do that, you must actively listen. Remember, money talks - you listen!

 

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Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395. 

 

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Leadership of the Future
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

Leadership is not a science or theory. Effective leadership is mobilizing others who want to struggle for shared aspiration. That's a fancy way of saying leadership is motivating, inspiring, organizing and planning. In this 21st century, there are five key areas that weigh heavily on the success of a leader. Leaders today must:

 

1. Challenge the process and look for new and better ways to do things.


2. Inspire a shared vision. Where do you want to lead your followers?


3. Enable others to act. Empowerment is still the key to getting things done.


4. Model the way. True leaders still are the role models of any organization.


5. Encourage the heart. Leaders want more than just bodies in their group.

 

To stay ahead of the ever-advancing learning curve, top leaders must develop more curiosity and focus less on directing. The old saying, God gave you two ears and one mouth for a purpose, is very applicable. Do twice as much listening as you do talking. Leaders in the past have claimed the position of authority. They speak, people act. Now, leaders still need to be leaders but become more collaborative. They need to listen. They need to widen their vision and seek multiple inputs. They need to develop a stronger curiosity with "what if .." thinking. What if we tried doing this task differently? What if we could be more cooperative. What if I would step back and examine some alternatives?

 

Some leaders still discount reality. They stick their heads in the sand like an ostrich and hope all their problems will go away. Of course, they don't. The old transactional leader still relies on structural power, a hierarchal top-down mindset. The command and control traits are still dominant. They exchange rewards for services rendered and punishment for inadequate performance.

 

Strong leaders today recognize that to be effective, they must be interactive with their group. They must be inclusive and delegate tasks that once were reserved solely for the leader. 

 

Where managers and supervisors once ignored the "e" word fearing loss of power and authority, they now embrace empowerment. Most of all, modern leaders use their powers appropriately. 

 

Every leader has three powers: (1) Position power - the authority that comes with the leadership job. (2) Skills power - the knowledge and expertise of the leader. (3) Personal power - the attitude, the beliefs and values, and commitment demonstrated by the leader. Numbers one and two can become barriers to good relationships, trust and respect if allowed to dominate the leader's actions. Number three, personal power, could well be the key to successful leadership. The reality now is people don't want to be managed, they want to be led by a leader who manages himself and leads others.

 

Effective leaders in the 21st century also recognize that customers want what they want, where and when they need it. Customer service has gone through a drastic change in recent years. Where we were trying to keep customers satisfied through mass marketing, direct mail, and discount sales in the 90's, the service industry now focuses on electronic data gathering and data mining. Information on individual customers is collected, categorized, and analyzed to determine the exact services that appeal to that specific person or group of people. 

 

If leaders learn customers want business magazines in restrooms, then the latest publications will be there. When a customer wants invoices due at the end of the month instead of the 15th, the change is made without question. Leaders in this new century will have to remain ahead of the curve to maintain the competitive edge.

 

Balanced thinking is becoming a critical characteristic of effective leaders. The age-old challenge of meeting quotas and goals will always be a top priority in any business. However, meeting the numbers must be balanced with creating new methods and systems. The left-brain of today's leaders must be connected to the right brain so the statistical hemisphere can be simultaneously joined with the creative right hemisphere. When numbers appear, forward-thinking leaders immediately look for new innovative ways to meet them. New ideas will be the key to success.

 

Rather than answers, leaders must have more questions. "Am I providing the leadership you need?" "What can I do to improve your skills?" "How can I help you get promoted?" 

 

"Where can you be most effective?" The art of probing is a most needed skill today. Leadership is serving. The law of reciprocity continues to be prominent if you give, you get.

 

The fundamental principle of leadership is understanding the people you lead. If you want to be successful as a leader, discover what people want and help them achieve it. Your success comes when you are helping other people achieve what is important to them. 

 

In my leadership seminars, one of the most asked questions is "How do I motivate my people?" Two things every leader must realize: (1) People do things for their reasons, not yours, and (2) they do things in their time frame, not yours. So, we must learn to ask, "What motivates you?" "What do you really want?" "How can I help you get it?" 

 

Those principles will be the dominate characteristics in effective leaders throughout this century. Leaders will have to remain flexible, to change instantly, and initiate action at blinding speed. Work statisticians report that approximately ten percent of people in the world are responsible for initiating 90 percent of productive action that occurs every day. That means about 90 percent of those people are content to follow where others lead not as robots, but as stakeholders, as teammates, as partners in every aspect of business.

 

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Gene Swindell works with companies that want to create a competitive advantage by strengthening the framework of their organization. Call 770-926-1395 or on-line www.geneswindell.com 

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call toll-free 770.926.1395

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Handling Pressure
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

Are you being pressured to achieve more, produce more, and give more in your work and personal relationships? In today's society, that's called "normal." Everyone seems stretched to the max - trying to cram too much into too little time or space. Result: More people are suffering stress-related illnesses.


Almost everything that can be recommended to relieve pressures in our lives comes down to one of three responses:

  1. Receive pressure - handle it and work with it.

  2. Reject pressure - eliminate or avoid it.

  3. Reduce pressure - shrink it and revise its negative impact.

First, you must identify the pressures in your life. What are the stress factors? Where are they coming from? Which of the three "Rs" is most appropriate for you. In some instances, your desire to reject a pressure is not realistic or even possible. The pressure might be part of your job and must be confronted. You then must decide to either change it or find strategies to live with it.


A young man shared his experience with me recently. With little sales training, he was thrust into prospecting and contacting customers. His frustration grew when unrealistic sales goals were set but no support offered by his manager. The pressure brought on by his low productivity became unbearable and the struggling sales rep decided to quit. He chose to reject that pressure and move to another sales job where proper training and support would allow him to handle a normal amount of pressure. He's now consistently among the top salespeople in the company.


Don't readily receive pressure. Often, certain things appear to be established and cannot be changed. If you can create effective coping techniques for withstanding unavoidable pressure, that's good. But why battle with stress when it could be within your power to change or eliminate it? The six fatal words of many organizations are, "We've always done it that way." Look for better, stress-free ways of doing things.


Your best stress buster might be to reduce the pressure. Sometimes it is impossible to change things entirely but they can be revised in a constructive manner. For example, you may not have the authority to eliminate a monthly report and there may be no reason for doing so. But you can change the major problem that always seems to accompany it:

  1. If you're a manager, subordinates are late in getting necessary information to you and last-minute work is piled on your shoulders;
    .

  2. As an employee, you don't compile figures through the month rather than burn the midnight oil at the end of each month to beat the deadline causing loss of sleep and more stress.

Each of the three Rs has a specific place in your life, and each involves a distinct set of tactics. If your choice is to receive a pressure, part of your response may involve internal adjustments, such as releasing or tossing off disabling emotions. If your choice is to reject a pressure, effective self-management may be needed such as the ability to set priorities, then make unwavering decisions. If you choose to reduce a pressure, the skills of negotiation and delegation may be necessary to make changes.

 

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Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395. 

 

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Is Your Message Getting Through?
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

If you possess average communication skills, your customers probably understand only about 25 percent of what you say. There's a giant obstacle that blocks effective communication. It's the illusion of total attention and concentration. When you say something to another person during a conversation, you naturally assume that he or she is listening and either agrees or disagrees with you. But, in the words a rental car commercial, "Not necessarily." Most of the time, the person you're talking to has heard only about one-fourth of your message.

To communicate better with your customers, try these three techniques:

1.  Don't come right out and ask whether the buyer understands. That approach might make the customer think you're questioning his or her intelligence. Instead, say, "As I understand it, you're saying that …" and then rephrase the buyer's statement. You can also use the feedback technique in a slightly different way. One approach might be to say, "Now that I've explained this equipment, how would you fit it into your operation?" The point is to ask the buyer some question that will make use of the information you've just supplied.

2.  Structure your sales message carefully in your mind. Then make sure the organization and flow of information is clear to the buyer. Usually, it's best to move from the general to the specific. Draw the general picture first, then fill in the details. To describe a physical layout or appearance of a product, use clock points as a pilot does - 3, 6, 9, 12 o'clock. Or use familiarity to help explain something that is new to your customer. You might use the example of how several thin sticks bound together are far stronger than any single rods alone to explain the strength and durability of a new bonding process.

3.  As a sales professional, you are not limited solely to speech. Computer presentations, visuals, audiovisuals, brochures, notes and advertisements, etc., all help reinforce your sales message and make it meaning clear to your customer. Visual aids are probably the most important media at your command. And a good visual can go a long way toward helping you improve your communication with the buyer. Good visuals offer three important factors:

  1. They address features and benefits

  2. They have only one idea per page or frame

  3. They tell the story of your product or service with pictures, graphs and charts other than just type.

Don't simply hand out your visuals. Instead, make the buyer ask for it. Tell your customer something and ask if he or she is interested. If the buyer shows interest, you might say something like, "I can save you some time by explaining this graph. It shows the friction-reduction ratios and comparisons we've been talking about."


Proper use of a good visual also serves a valuable communication function. By telling your sales story in another form, it improves your chances of getting an important point about your product's features or benefits across to the buyer.


Few people receive in-depth training in improving our speaking and listening proficiency skills. And we may not have heard much about why or how we should improve our ability to communicate thoughts and ideas to others. With this disadvantage, it's easy to see why things can go wrong when we're making a presentation to customers and prospects. Try these simple steps to improve your communication skills and boost your sales.

 

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Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395. 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call 770.926.1395

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Five Enemies to Effective Leadership
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

Leadership is the art of getting others to willingly do the jobs that must be done. The shocking news to many managers is the old days of "demanding and getting" style of management has long passed. Employees have changed. They want to be led, not managed. Managers must change, too. They must see their role in a different light.

 

There are five enemies to successful leadership:

 

1. Selfishness - - Self-centeredness is one of the greatest obstacles to reaching total success as a leader. We focus on what we want and don't consider the needs and wants of others. The old adage, "If I don't look out for #1, who will?" seems to be the one most applied in our society today. We have a bad case of I-tis ... What do I want? How can I get it? Why don't I get all the marbles? We seem to focus only on ourselves and how we can get instant gratification.

 

Self-centeredness has been around for many years. Back in 1864, a member of Abraham Lincoln's cabinet died suddenly and there was a furious scramble for the vacant post. One potential candidate quickly rushed into Lincoln's office and asked, "I've always wanted that position. Can I take his place right now?" to which Lincoln calmly replied, "Certainly, if the undertaker doesn't care."

 

To get beyond this giant hurdle of selfishness, we must focus on the law of reciprocity: If you give, you get. If you widen your scope to look beyond your own desires and help others get what they want, chances are they will offer a helping hand in return.

 

2. Power struggles -- The struggle for position and power joins selfishness among the top enemies to effective leadership. Leaders are ones who gain respect through serving rather than by demanding. To lead, we must learn to serve.

 

People strive for power in all aspects of life. In the home, a man declares "I am head of this household. I rule the roost." The woman counters "You may rule the roost but I'll rule the rooster." Thus, the power struggle begins and, until there is an understanding of individual and shared roles, the battle can become dangerously heated and turn into a disaster.

 

Two employees in a large corporation had a contentious relationship for several years. Each was always trying to outdo the other for visibility and recognition. Both had strong personalities and skilled in their respective jobs. When projects and tasks were assigned, each one tried to get their bid in first to the department manager, who had kept the conflict under control but had to counsel them occasionally.

 

When a charity campaign was being organized throughout the corporation, both people quickly volunteered to chair the committee. One was chosen and immediately, the other set out to sabotage the campaign in their department. A plaque is always presented to the committee chairs who get 100% participation in their respective departments. The rejected employee went to friends and supporters throughout the department and encouraged them not to donate to the charity. Thus, the department chair would not get a plaque.

 

Once the department manager realized the situation, she called both of them into her office. "I've seen what's going on between you in this charity campaign and it's going to end right now. I'm giving you 15 minutes to get this problem resolved once and for all.." The manager, not knowing what might occur between those highly-competitive people, returned to her office to find both people chatting and in a congenial mood. 
Instead of mediating, the manager showed good leadership skills by forcing the two people to work out their problem. Had they not resolved the situation, she then could have negotiated a resolution. Competition can be healthy but when it crosses over into bitterness and hate, productivity drops and the work environment suffers.

 

3. Poor communication -- Isn't is amazing how poor communication always seems to be a primary cause of any problem? Poor communication is a major enemy to effective leadership. In every form of communication, we often use the wrong words, or use the wrong tone of voice, or our body sends a different message than our mouth dispenses. We just don't communicate well. And, as a result, our communication gets misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misplaced.

 

Women and men communicate differently. Women, when they have a problem, love to talk about details. They usually don't want an opinion. They just want to talk … and talk … and talk. Men want to fix the problem and move on. Women want men to listen.

 

Here's an example: Mary left in the family car to drive to the grocery store. A few minutes later, she returned to the house and quickly announced to her husband, Jim, that the car would not start. "There's water in the carburetor," she explained. "You see, I got in the car, turned on the key, put on the seat belt, put the car in reverse, backed out ... " Jim interrupted, "You don't know anything about an automobile. How do you know there's water in the carburetor?"

 

"The car went into the swimming pool," she said.

 

Communication is talking, listening, sharing. The tongue is a powerful tool that can either send clear or clogged messages in kind or cutting words.

 

4. Behavior -- How often have we seen a leader "shoot himself in the foot" by some stupid outburst or ridiculous act? Failure to keep emotions under control has cost many potential leaders the opportunity to advance their careers. Some people want to take on the role of manager of the universe and control everything. Effective leaders learn to lead but also let go. They don't try to govern everything in their domain. Everyone needs self-discovery. We need to know the "hot button" remarks that ignite our emotions and send us into orbit. We need to know when to take hands off and delegate to others. It's been said repeatedly and the statement remains true ... leaders lead by example.

 

5. Jealousy -- Although jealousy and greed play a large part in power struggles, this enemy to effective leadership must be addressed separately. Shakespeare once called jealousy the "green eyed monster." We become envious of the promotion that someone else got; envious of a better lifestyle, a better car, a better house, more money. Some call it human nature. I call it a cancer. 

 

More does not always lead to happiness. Gerry was an outstanding salesperson for a major pharmaceutical company. In his five years with the company, he set sales records and won several thousands of dollars in bonus money. He liked his job but in conversations with other salespeople, he always had negative things to say about Jeff, the sales manager. He was jealous of the authority and status that Jeff held in his position. Naturally, Gerry felt he would make a much better manager. 

 

When Jeff was promoted to regional manager, Gerry was promoted. At last he had the prestige of sales manager. But once the excitement wore off and he settled into the new role of supervising salespeople, filing reports, keeping pace with the rapid changes that came from headquarters, and spending time in the office, he become very dissatisfied. He realized his joy came from meeting prospects, building relationships with customers, and closing sales. Sales management was not his cup of tea. Envy and jealousy cause many people to become discontent in their jobs.

 

Which ones are your enemies? Leadership is not dictating, it's serving.

 

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Gene Swindell is President of Creative Concepts International, Inc., in Atlanta, GA. He specializes in customized leadership, team building and customer service training programs. www.geneswindell.com
Call: 770-926-1395.

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call toll-free 770.926.1395

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Do You Antagonize Your Prospects?
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

No sales professional would ever do or say anything that would intentionally antagonize a prospect. But what about those unintentional miscues? Whether you've offended on purpose or in innocence, the result is likely to be the same: Antagonize the prospect - lose the sale.

 

Reflect back on your recent turndowns. Did you make an effective presentation? Did the prospect like your product or service but still didn't give you an order? If there's nothing amiss with your product and presentation, perhaps the prospects decided it's you they could do without. Take a moment and check some areas where your presence has been less than welcome.


1.  When you walk into the prospect's office, do your manners go out the window? A frequent complaint of buyers is that some salespeople fail to use common courtesy - smoking without asking permission, sitting down before being invited to do so, cutting off the prospect in the middle of a sentence, being late for an appointment, complaining when kept waiting beyond the appointed time are a few forms of bad manners.


2.  Are you too polite? In a sincere attempt not to rub the prospect the wrong way, you could move too far in the other direction. Politeness helps create a friendly, sales-producing environment but an overdose of friendliness and compliments can lose you the prospect's respect and kill the sale.


3.  How deep is your product knowledge? You cannot impress a prospect with mere superficial information that can be found in brochures and other literature about your products and services. A professional salesperson must be able to provide answers to what buyers want to know - why they need your product, how your product or service will solve their problem, how the prospect can effectively use it, other ways they can use it, what your product or service costs, its limitations as well as its advantages, how it compares with other products on the market, what they can expect from you and your company after the sale. That's consultive selling.


4.  Do you go beyond features? If your presentation focuses solely on your product's features, the prospect must determine whether they can use it or not. And many of them won't bother to do that. Buyers are interested in features but they are far more interested in benefits and advantages those features represent. Do your homework. Before you make a sales call, learn everything you can about the prospect's business. Then in your conversation with the buyer, determine their specific needs so you can convert your product's features into benefits and advantages that will meet those needs.


5.  Are your calls too often or not often enough? Call too often and you can become an annoyance. Don't call often enough and you're perceived as not interested in keeping the business. A simple rule to remember: Base your call schedules on each customer's needs and potential. Take care that you don't leave room for a competitor to steal your account.


6.  Do you keep your promises? Closely examine the tactics you're using to get those initial orders. Do you make offhand remarks that you soon forget but the buyer takes as promises? Your casual assurance may win you the sale, but it will probably lose you a customer. Never promise what you can't deliver. In fact, the old adage, "Under promise, over deliver," still works.


Remember, you are part of the package the prospect considers in buying your products and services.

 

###

 

Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395.

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call toll-free 770.926-1395

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Change is Redefining Sales
By Gene Swindell
The Voice of Change™

 

Change is redefining the very essence of professional selling. It is proving to be the major driving force behind the new approach to selling in this new century. Sales professionals must anticipate and adapt to a series of events that will dictate their ability to meet the unique demands of their customers. Change is demanding continuous adjustments and course corrections.

What are some of those changes?


1. Economic trends are occurring more rapidly and in full force.

 

2. Customers emphasize their demands for quality, design, flexibility, technical support and purchasing terms to meet their specific needs.


3. Customers are more knowledgeable and require more attention. They no longer accept traditional sales philosophies in making their purchasing decisions.


4. More sales occur today in the analysis phase of the selling cycle. Selling to the buyer's needs results in a better positioning of both products and salespeople in the marketplace.


Professional salespeople in the new millennium are considered information specialists, problem solvers and experts in their field - yes, consultants.


At a recent conference of farm equipment salespeople in Wisconsin, several seminars were presented during the two-day event on environmental issues, soil and crop nutrient balance, government regulations and basic economics. There was even a session on public and community relations. Selling to farmers today is more than promoting features and benefits of the latest equipment. Salespeople must provide answers to an increasing number of questions posed by their customers.


The day of order taking is over. Veteran salespeople are rapidly learning their old methods don't work anymore. Traditional sales philosophies and points of view are finally proving themselves to be totally out of date with more closed doors than opened accounts.


More sales occur today in the "needs analysis" phase of the selling process. There is an increasing need to ask more questions, probe deeper into issues and problems being expressed, and then listen intently for the customers' answers. They have a basic need to be understood; they want you to listen, then offer help.


Selling products and services today also includes sharing and finding information, creating solutions to ever-increasing problems, and offering advice sometimes outside the scope of your primary focus. To gain favorable positioning in the minds of customers, an effective sales rep must establish relationships based on trust, shared respect and a sense of partnership.


In addition to Thomas Edison's great inventions, he also was known for his creative thinking. Edison challenged all assumptions. His 3,500 notebooks provide a clear picture of his ideas on creativity and productivity - ideas that can be adopted by every salesperson. He never approached his work with any preconceived notions and insisted that his associates do the same.


Before he hired an assistant, Edison would invite the candidate to join him for a bowl of soup. If the guest salted the soup before tasting it, the famed inventor would not even consider hiring that person - the guest assumed the soup needed seasoning.


What assumptions have you made about your customers? Have you assumed your customers are secured accounts? Will they continue doing business with you? Are you still using the same old sales approach from years past? It's time to bridge the gap from the past to the present -open your eyes to new ideas and your ears to opportunity with every customer. Times have changed!

 

###

 

Gene Swindell is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author with more than 20-plus years of experience. He delivers customized Consultive Selling programs in addition to award-winning leadership, teambuilding and customer service seminars to a wide range of industries around the world. Request complete information from www.geneswindell.com or call 770-926-1395. 

 

© 2007 Creative Concepts International. All Rights Reserved.

To receive more information on Gene Swindell or to book him for your
next engagement, complete our contact form or call toll-free 770.926.1395

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Communicating with Your Customers
Customer Service is Your Only Business
Dealing with Difficult Customers
Professional Telephone Skills

 

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