The only way that you are going to get better at something is through practice. I read a quote in a hockey book once that really caught my attention:
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect” – Vince Lombardi
Even those with raw talent have to practice regularly. Engaging others in sales and other professional roles should not be limited to work relationships. You should practice engaging others when possible.
My dad was a teacher, and is still very engaging to this day – partially because of his personality, but it was also a necessity for his career. Could you imagine being in front of a class of kids and not holding their attention? Teachers who could captivate the crowd were always the ones that remained memorable to me. This also meant that my dad and I could never quickly go to a mall because he was always running into people. Conversations would start, and time would pass by. My mom would always comment upon our return, “Where were you? I just sent you for a couple of things!”
There are so many opportunities to engage people outside of work:
- In line at a store
- At a social events with friends
- Business or community events
- Sporting events
- On a walk or a run
- Groups, associations or teams that you and/or your children are part of
I was thinking about this one day after a run, and I reflected on how many people I acknowledge in that 45 minute period. It was about twelve!
- Some greetings were a simple hello or good morning as I passed by
- With others I would make a quick comment on the weather, or about the degree of difficulty of a hill that I (or they) had just ran up
- Some were a quick stop so our dogs could greet each other
- It was common that I ask for information about their dog, and how the person’s day was going
- I even complimented one guy who was actually attempting to train his new puppy
When I engage people in this setting, most people are pleasant back. It is common for people to jog with an iPod or Mp3 player, but I will still turn mine down to say something, or at least wave. I have done this for so long it is second nature now.
If I never practiced this skill, and instead just went through the day keeping to myself, it would be unreasonable to expect that I’d be very good at it in a short time period. Skills would develop eventually, but carrying that philosophy over to your personal life just means that you have more opportunity to practice. Then before you know it, the skill improves.
This was not always easy for me; because I was quite shy growing up due to my stutter. Speaking up and meeting people was very difficult well in to my teenage years. But with practice and patience, I consider myself very engaging now, and will always take time to speak with others.
- Do you only engage new people in work situations?
- Where can you begin to converse with people starting right away in your personal life?
The most practical business skill that has come out of this for me is keeping conversations going when there is a lot of dead air. I think most of us have experienced conversations that were very one-sided, and it was a struggle to keep it going, and interesting for the other person.
Good luck, and remember to always be in “engagement mode”!
That is the question 🙂
Ever see people handing out business cards like they are dealing a deck of cards?
“Come one, come all, everyone gets a card!”
The important question is…
did you get a card from the prospect, or the networking event connection?
When you get a card, you are in control. You control your own destiny.
When all you do is hand out cards, and often forget to get their card, you wait – hoping one day that they reach out to you.
Uh-oh! Your card may end up in the garbage but you still can connect if you have theirs!
“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky, ex National Hockey League Super Star.
My sales spin is,
“If you don’t ask, there is no chance that you will get the answer you want”.
Confidence in the sales profession is paramount to success, but does not happen over night. If you are not in sales, please keep reading. This post has merit for whatever you may be “selling” in your personal or professional life. We have all been selling and negotiating from the moment that we could speak as toddlers!
Confidence allows people opportunities in life that they may not experience if they are tentative and uncertain. When people feel good about themselves, are not afraid to ask questions and involve themselves in potentially challenging situations, they will generally like the outcomes.
Do not mistake confidence for arrogance though. I have seen both, and one is very appealing in business and personal interactions. The other… well not so much!
When you combine confidence with most (or all) of the characteristics below in sales and/or life, very cool things can happen!
- Driven to succeed
- Independent worker and thinker
How did I know if somebody would make it in sales?
I have seen a lot of outside sales reps (retail reps too) come and go during my career. It took me a few years to really get a sense of what the signs were if they would succeed. I was quite certain most of the time, after our first couple of meetings.
What typically tipped me off?
- How they carried themselves (do they have a bounce in their step?)
- Dressed neatly (not necessarily the most expensive clothes) and cared about how they looked
- Solid handshake
- Maintained good eye contact
- Engaged well in conversation
- Wanted to learn / Inquisitive
- Enthusiastic / Excitable
- Personable / Outgoing
If you take a moment to digest that list, many of those attributes can be directly related to being confident. Imagine how different that list would be if you did not feel good about yourself and your abilities?
I urge you to start networking with people who are working towards similar goals if you are not already. It has become common knowledge that you start to portray similar characteristics to the 5 people who you are the closest with. Work on feeling more confident in areas of your personal and professional life that you don’t feel as comfortable in as soon as possible.
For me, getting up in front of crowds to speak was frightening for many years due to my stutter, and now there is nothing I would rather do. It was a long road, but I am glad that I am getting closer to where I need to be thanks to a strong support group of family, friends and Toastmasters.
Confidence does not happen over night, and you cannot push a “magic button” to change how you feel about yourself and your abilities. If you don’t try, you will never know what the outcome could have been. Once you “flip the switch” to knowing you will succeed, and not being afraid to fail, you will see positive changes in your life.
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