You can’t listen yourself out of a deal

Who likes to talk?

I do and when I get on a subject I am passionate about I get animated too. I’m in sales, insurance sales to be exact so you might think this would be a good trait to have. Not so much so…

It’s annoying when it is obvious someone is not listening and I know I am that guy at times; just ask my wife. So make it stop….

However, if you ask the right questions and take the time to listen, really listen you will be surprised how much you can learn about someone or what makes them tick. It makes the person you are talking to feel like what they have to say is important. Sometimes paying attention to the little things first have the biggest impact on a potential relationship.

Personally, it’s not always easy for me to laser focus in on a conversation and what makes it even worse, I try to be Mr Funny guy so my mind is always ready to pounce on the opportunity to take something serious and funny it up. Ask my wife how funny she thinks I am, “not very” would probably be her reply and I can’t seem to help myself; fortunately I don’t verbalize every funny thing I am thinking.

In other words, I am letting myself be distracted when I should be listening.

The annoying non-listener, don’t be one of these

There are always distractions to contend with, but these types take non-listening to a higher level:

1. The daydreamer – they pay very little attention to the conversation, usually drifting in and out and obviously distracted.

2. The aggressive – they wait (sometimes) for you to take a breath and then jump in with whatever they want to say. If you ask them a question, you will get an answer but it might not be the answer to your question.

3. The lack of eye contact – especially in a room full of people; their eyes are everywhere  but on you and they are constantly acknowledging others as they pass by.

4. The impatient – continually interrupts to ask a question, express an opinion, or interject something witty (hey, don’t look at me).

But you really aren’t that interesting

Yeah, and you aren’t that clever either…

First of all I will confess I am an ok listener at best; kind of like school, just an ok student. But that’s not to say we all can’t improve, right?

Just as there are classes for speaking, I do believe there are resources to make us better listeners as well. My north of the border friend Ralph Dopping referenced it in one of his posts and maybe now I will get the book. I tried to recall which post it was before I had to search for it, but I must not have been listening real well when he tried to tell me the first time.

The count of two…

Most salespeople get uncomfortable with dead air; going as far to ask the question but when the response isn’t immediately forthcoming, blabbering some more.

One of the methods I try to employ in these situations is to take two slow deep breaths, but you can basically use anything to squelch the urge to jump in before it’s time. It’s amazing what you can find out if keep your yap shut and give the other person the opportunity to talk.

But you still have to ask for the order

Somebody once shadowed me at a networking event. We probably met 7-10 new people while we were there. As we mingled throughout the room, we introduced ourselves and made light conversation. At the end of the evening, they remarked to me they thought I asked really good questions.

I had not really thought about it, because I don’t think I intentionally set out to do that, but to me that was one of the highest compliments someone could pay me.

If you are asking the right questions and truly listening to the answers, more times than not the deal will close itself. The only ask you have to make is for the opportunity to meet with them.

But you still aren’t that smart

But I am well read and that opens the door for me to ask those really good questions. You can certainly make yourself smarter just by hanging around the right people and asking those questions.

So, if you can connect the really good questions with superior listening skills you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams; or not, but it will give you a better opportunity because I truly believe you can’t listen yourself out of a deal.

Can you hear me now?


Spin Sucks – the book; fighting the good fight

It’s not often you will see me use this platform to promote and/or review a book. After all, I am still a pretty big deal around here and my time is valuable so I just can’t share the spotlight with anybody and everybody, right?

What? Whadda mean this is the first time anybody asked me to share anything…

Well I never…

Will the real Spin Sucks please stand up?

For anybody who has met me through my social platform probably knows two things about me at this point; 1) Most of the time I am not to be taken too seriously, and 2) Gini Dietrich from Arment Dietrich gave me the key that opened up the door to this world for me.

Yes, she will have to bear that burden for the rest of her life.

All kidding aside, I do want to be serious about the Spin Sucks book review and as much as she (and others) have tried to coach my online social efforts, up to this point I’m lagging behind more out of laziness than anything else. At three years in you would think I should have a well-tuned machine by now, but oh no, it’s still the 1970 AMC Hornet model I came in with…yes, I actually drove that rig…

But that hasn’t stopped me from being observant and hanging around the fringes and sometimes it might appear I don’t know much, but I do know some things and one thing I do know, Gini knows this social game as well as anybody.

What does that have to do with Spin Sucks

The book, my review; reading it changed my life. Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch, but it did reinforce to me the right way social can be used to build your brand and make it work to your advantage.

We all know people who jumped in and thought this would be easy or by gaming the system would make them a guru and rich, but one thing stressed throughout the book is to treat this process like a marathon with proper training instead of approaching it like a sprint.

Yes, everything is fast-paced and ever-changing in the world of online social but if you took the time to do it the right way, the better chance you have of not only surviving, but succeeding as well. Spin Sucks the book provides the framework to do just that.

Clear and concise it explains how to take advantage of the opportunity to build trust through communications and using the technology currently available to deliver it; and we all know how much the digitable web has changed the way we communicate.

This is just one small actionable item however as it also addresses how to humanize and effectively tell your story and what it takes to put you in the right mindset to think like a writer, which makes the story telling much more effective. Another key point is the convergence of all media, what you own and don’t own and how that can impact your efforts and how you need to protect what you own and can control.

I was impressed enough with the book that I’m using it as my personal call to action and will be buying several copies to share as gifts with a few entrepreneurs and business owners I know. Spin Sucks and it’s message would fit very well with any current business plan today.

I am at the age where a lot of my peer group doesn’t want to embrace online social, but unless you are ready to retire tomorrow, it is never too late to be a learner.

Times aren’t changing, they have changed my friend and Spin Sucks can provide the framework of staying relevant in today’s environment and having your competition wondering what your secret sauce is.

But who are you to pontificate on this subject?

Just a mosquito on an elephant’s butt; not big enough to make too much noise, but persistent enough to be noticed…

Actually, I think Gini allowed me to be part of this process because she knows how much of a whiner I am if I don’t get to play. Plus, she probably thought my obscure little blog that doesn’t register on anybody’s radar can’t do her much harm, right?

So for what it is worth, if you think this online social thing is here to stay and you need help seeing how it can benefit you, I highly recommend you purchase this book; today. If you don’t find at least 2-3 actionable items that will help your social efforts I will personally give you your money back.

And that’s a guarantee.

Pull the trigger; buy (not steal) Spin Sucks the book now

Here’s the link; hit me with your best shot:

The 30-day naked classroom challenge

Made you look, didn’t I? Sorry, no nekkidity here today.

However, everybody has had the dream where you show up for class without any clothes on, right? Don’t be joshing me; I know you all have.

Don’t worry, you are saved, I certainly won’t be taking off my clothes here; but, if you feel like your life has become too predictable (I have) then I want to challenge you to get out of your personal space and comfort zone. 30-days in the title sounded better than 9 months but what I propose is finding at least one thing a month to do for 6-months or so that totally takes you out of your comfort zone.

Just one a month.

Suggested suggestions:

  1. Introduce yourself to 3 new people at a networking event
  2. Perform some type of public speaking/singing
  3. ASK somebody to do business with you…for pay
  4. Go to a restaurant you have never been to and order something unique off the menu
  5. Spend time around people more successful than you
  6. Say ‘yes’ to every single opportunity for a month, big or small
  7. Try a new hobby
  8. Pick a book totally outside your area of interest, and read it
  9. For a day, make eye contact and smile at everyone you see
  10. Visit a total stranger at a nursing home and take the time to learn their story

As you can see, there are a myriad of things you can do that make you feel just a little uncomfortable and can probably come up with plenty on your own.

Other than making me uncomfortable, what will this get me?

A new car? Not likely but it could if that is what is holding you back in sales and you might be surprised how it can subtly change your life and pull it out of those deep ruts. It’s bound to help you grow and by opening your mind it will expand your horizons.

If you feel like you are too predictable and stuck on square one this will provide just enough creative juices to give you the confidence to be bolder in everything you do.

Vanilla is a killah…

Confidence attracts.

But I won’t shave my legs

Why not? If it will take you out of the zone and get you out of a rut, run with it.

It sounds too silly to really work

Try it; if it doesn’t work and you haven’t changed a habit or two or phobia by the end of the year, I will guarantee your money back.

But I am afraid

Of course you are, but the only thing  we have to fear is fear itself, right? The real question is, what do you have to lose? Personally, I think the reward far exceeds the risks and it might be something you will continue each month thereafter.

The more you expand your horizons, the more interesting you become, the more interesting you become the more others like to be around you, the more others like to be around you the more you get invited for drinks and food; so how can this not be a win-win, huh?

And the results are:

If you are already doing this I would like to hear about it; whether you feel it makes your life more interesting. If not, are you willing to at least give it a try?

Here’s to full frontal nudity in a classroom of your peers; do I feel a draft in here?

Throw this dog a bone…

Bow wow yippie yo yippie yay…

Dude, you already walk around with your hand out every where you go; what do you want now?

Show me some twitter love

I have never actively tried to grow my twitter base. My efforts have been very passive indeed and pretty much only pulling the trigger after somebody shows up and then decide from there. Essentially, if you look human, have a reasonable amount of tweets I’ll probably let you in the house.

As a result of those efforts, after hanging around this joint for approximately 3-years I only have 2,990 followers. However, that is only 10 from 3,000. Therefore, I’m giving out a $100 billy dollar each to my next 9 followers and will send 5 $100 billy dollars and a DM for a great business opportunity for number 3,000.

How can you resist?

The reality is…

Unless someone is hanging on my every word in twitterville it doesn’t really matter. I still don’t do a good job of following streams, so even as twitter has become more mainstream I still mainly just broadcast blogs of others on my tweets.

The other thing about those 2,990 followers, I only really know about 150 of them. So I suppose it could be 3,000 or 300,000 for the way I use it. Somebody might look at that and think at 3,000 you are not much of an influencer so I don’t get the free stuff like some others, but even at 300,000 or 3,000,000 if nobody is really looking at your stuff, does it really matter?

However, my tweets are certainly worthy because I am sharing the works of some really talented people and if you were to take the time to see what is linked to my tweets, it might give you a ‘wow’ moment or two.

Twitter’s days are numbered

Mark my words; after twitter and other platforms (FB) become too mainstream and manipulative something new, shiny and different will come along and everybody will jump the ship.

And that begs the question, how much stock do you put into building a network on a particular platform knowing you don’t own it and it’s not going to be permanent? I guess that means if you want people to find you, you better have your own house in order with a welcome mat out front, and just rent your ride to get there, right? It doesn’t really matter how they get there, as long as they show up.

That’s what I’m going to do

For what it’s worth, if someone were to tell me they were thinking of getting in sales, I would recommend they look into insurance as a career. At least in my world it’s not a one and done, but building relationships and a book of business that pays you year after year. This might not sound too glamorous, but I can assure you the pay’s not bad and EVERYONE will buy insurance.

The downside of this model is after a while you get tired of scrumming and just want to hold onto and protect what you have. However, you do have competition, relationships change, businesses are sold and as soon as you put it in neutral you will be going backwards; you lose an account here, lose one there and then it’s hard to get the machine all cranked up again with an overflowing pipeline.

But what if your customers are your best advocates?

If I had to do it over again

I would have been more niche focused, picked a specialty type of coverage or a specific industry class and rode that horse until it had no life left whatsoever in them. It’s not a bad thing to be known as the expert in an industry.

Putting all your eggs in one basket can be dangerous, but can also be very lucrative; you just have to maintain flexibility and know when to fold them if necessary.

With a niche I think it’s much easier to communicate a social branding message in the world we live in today, and if you become known as the guy it sure makes it easier to open those doors; and standing out certainly helps.

Look at me, look at me; it’s not bragging if it’s true, right?

What do you think?

Are you better served trying to be all things for everybody, or just identifying your ideal customer/prospect and being the best you can be in that arena? I think we know the answer and if you become the best, then your customers will sell for you. How cool is that?

It might require you to get out of your comfort zone and actually have to walk away from opportunities, but at the end of the day you will be much better off.

That’s my story for now; until next time…

And my fighting weight is….

You don't have to be perfect

Hey, who said I was a fighter? I know you think I’m probably an American Badass but Billy doesn’t do fisticuffs….I don’t want anybody messin’ up my grill.

Even though that could be a reasonable facsimile of me lounging on the beach, it’s kind of how I feel these days. Having a broken hand over the holiday season and still eating like each meal might be my last sure made my clothes shrink up. You know you are in trouble when you use a knife to punch one more hole in your belt instead of buying a new one.

Hey you old fart, nobody cares what you look like anymore; you’ve been invisible for sometime now. Ha, even though there is some truth to that, it’s a good thing I am fairly active and like doing athletic endeavors that allow me to indulge in tasty food.

But that’s not the point of this post, it’s actually about habits and routines and is it possible to get too comfortable? Change can be hard, but if you are not willing to get out of your comfort zone how can you possibly grow and thrive?

Look out below

When I crashed my bike, it was an accident in the truest sense; it happened so suddenly I had zero time to prepare. Subsequently, my hand took the brunt of the fall. Whereas I thought I’d be a fast healer and maybe down 6 weeks at the max, it is now 3 months and I still can’t grip a golf club (but can still grip a bike handle…:). Being right-handed, fortunately it was my left hand that was injured, but it still tilted my universe just enough to discombobulate me (how do you like that word Josh?) and I have felt off kilter the entire time my hand was in a cast.

In my working world, January 1 is a common renewal date for business insurance so December is always a very active time for me; add all the parties and social events, it can be a very busy end of the year indeed. Trying to get through it just felt like they were sending me into the fight with one hand tied behind my back.

I know, call the whaaaambulance like anybody cares, because my ills were incredibly minor in the big scheme of things. 

But on the other hand…

I have been feeling stale because it felt like my life was becoming too routine and wondering if it was holding my awesomeness back? Routine can make you lazy and predictable and not want to get out of your comfort zone; for some that’s ok and the more routine the better but then you end up sitting back on your heels waiting for something to happen and can only react instead of making something happen; and then you just have to take what you get, good or bad.

What is the happy balance; I don’t want to be that guy? But I also don’t want broken bones to shake my world up either.

Who cut moved my cheese?

Most know my chosen profession is commercial insurance sales. Yes, I said it, sales. If I don’t form a relationship where somebody is paying me, then mama don’t eat; and if mama don’t eat she’s not a happy camper and if she’s not a happy camper, then trust me, nobody is…:). 

Lanier Upshaw Inc has been and still is a somewhat tradtional and conservative insurance agency. We do a lot of things from a service platform that many of our local peers do not do which helps us stand out, but at the end of the day you won’t see us dancing in the streets with our party hats on.

Up until a year ago neckties were part of our dress code with a long sleeved dress shirt…in Florida no less. Allegedly, it can get pretty toasty and muggy in August in the F L A.

We do a pretty damn darn good job of taking care of our customers at Lanier Upshaw, Inc and we have some really talented people who routinely perform at a very high level. However, it seems like it’s a lot harder getting those new opportunities in the door and I’m definitely seeing a changing of the guard where my peer group is either retiring, or starting to think about it.

So, where do I fit in? I did lose the tie and now we call it professional casual but keep a sport coat handy because you never know when it’s going to be 98 degrees with 100% humidity, huh? Easier to dress down on the fly than to dress up I suppose.

I do see this as an excellent opportunity in a land where a lot of us insurance types are treated like vendors, to stand out and create an awesome brand and using a social platform to accomplish this. I’m still a big believer in the face to face networking, but is that becoming a thing of the past; is that too going the way of my necktie?

So who’s with me; who thinks this social platform is going have some legs and be around for awhile? Do you think this is a sound strategy, and if so, does anybody want to do this for me? I promise, I can show up with the best of them, and I can look really good when I just show up, right?

It’s kind of embarrassing to have been in social as long as I have and finally come to this conclusion, huh? I just didn’t think this stuff was going to stick and I certainly didn’t want to be a bandwagon type…:).

If I have to work too hard, I might change my mind but who knows, stranger things have happened I suppose.

Don’t worry, when I become Big Time I will still make eye contact and say hello.

Until next time…


Can you do 3 more?

Being social in the witness protection program

Happy anniversary baby, I got you on my mind…….

Back by popular demand…true story, last week I was at an event and a person I didn’t know came up and introduced himself to say he read my posts and really liked my Once you go black you never go back effort; whoa, you talkin’ to me?

That particular post was written over two years ago; maybe I was on the cusp of greatness and should have hung in there, huh? I coulda been a contendah….

Three years is a long time

Actually, the last 3 years seemed to have gone by pretty quick; heck, I did a 3-year tour in the Army and it seemed like 10.  I seem to be at the end of the toilet paper roll where the years start rolling off more rapidly now.

It could have been worse I suppose, I could have become rich and famous in the last 3 years and turned into a total A-hole and forgot about all my friends. Since that didn’t happen, I just re-upped for two more years with my Go Daddy account in case I ever decide to jump back on the hamster wheel full time. Go Daddy said I would get to meet Danica Patrick if I renewed, but that hasn’t happened yet; I believe they tricked me…

However, March 3rd, 2014 officially marks my 3rd year anniversary; I have to stop by the place every once in awhile to make sure my key still works but I have pretty much moved all the furniture out and had the power turned off not to incur any unnecessary expenses. Of course, this is a cheap free site so I never spent a lot of money anyway…:). There’s nothing wrong w/ saltines and ketchup dip; and the clowns I hang with in real life think this is a delicacy.

I used to leave the backdoor open for the strays that would show up, but just noticed the door has been taken off the hinges and since there is no food around anymore there is not much coming and going anyway.

It’s still one big party

For me it is at least, I thought I was going to get serious at one time but don’t know if I have it in me. Whatever online success I have had was because I loved the networking part, and just like in real life, I still do. It was a way to stay in touch with your friends, some more frequently than others, but you usually got a good feel for what was going on in their lives. Nobody was paying me for all this frivolity and if I would have found a way to make dollars happen it would have been pretty cool, but lack of pay has not really been the deciding factor on my level of activity.

Recently, I have been lucky enough to be selected as a Brand Ambassador from a friend for a book that is to be published shortly; and yes, the author had to increase the cutoff to 1001 requests to get me in, but this person has been the biggest influence on me regarding a social presence and regardless of my invisibleness I still know where to find her and for that I’m thankful. Also, reading this book has opened my eyes and rekindled the spark again so there might be a resurrection after all.

I’m just trying to figure out if I need to hedge my bets because I’m not sure if this internet thing is going to make it or not and how uncool will that be if it looks like I was just jumping on the bandwagon anyway?

I just wanted to say thanks

I’m not really a tech guy but I can be as dorky as the best of them. My strengths are people and the networking part and if that and $5.00 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, then I’m all in; Venti Redeye for me please.

Until you’ve done this blogging gig, most outsiders don’t understand; but all the friendships I have made on this journey they are as real as real can be and I really appreciate it. For me, it has been time well spent.

What does the future hold?

Who knows, maybe better hair or a new car; or just appreciating all the talented friends I have access to on this platform.

All I would say is don’t form the line behind me just yet, and even though I might smell like I’m dead I just might have some life left in me yet.

Until next time…

‘Invisible’ in 2013 – outside looking in

The big revelation

Online social has survived without me; albeit barely I assume, but last time I looked it seems to still be here. Amazingly however, when I pulled the plug there was no hangover, no withdrawals; I certainly missed the banter and repertoire, but  didn’t miss the hamster wheel. Also, no one was clamoring for the next great piece of fiction I had threatened to write either…imagine that…

Secondly, it was way too easy to revert back to my extremely busy and ultra-exciting life I had before online social. If you don’t believe me, just check my Facebook posts…edge of the seat kinda stuff, huh?

Thirdly (is that a word Josh?), business-wise I am better off right now than I was at this point last year; but not by as much as I expected. I thought the distraction of social could have been holding me back; apparently, I have to now come up with a different excuse.

Please forgive me

I thought being frivolous and doing a blog for the fun of it was sustainable. It might be for some and probably could still be for me as long as I’m willing to set the bar so low anything is acceptable. If somebody had been paying me for my time then maybe a different story, but then again I guess that is what everybody is trying to figure out so welcome to the club pal.

If I tricked you into signing up or hanging out, I hope you felt enriched in some way by our acquaintance while you were here; I know I sure enjoyed having you around.

But what can I say, these times are a changin‘…..

The landscape has changed

I still see some of my original friends slugging it out, but quite a few have dropped back like me. Is it because the economy is better and people have gone back to traditional jobs or was it too much of an effort in futility?

Also, I don’t know if the new wave that is now jumping in are flocking to the blogs like my group of peeps used to but my guess is the numbers appear to be down. That’s just a Billy assumption however, no statistical data or Google research to back up that statement. I guess if I’m not around then that must mean nobody else is either…:).

What I did learn

You can pretty much go as high as you want and felt like even I was able to crack the code a little bit and rub elbows with some of the elite goober smoochers in here at one time.

Just like most jobs, you have the two-percenters who have figured it out and are very successful by all outward appearances. Then you have the majority that do well enough to hang around but never quite getting to the quit the day job status. We all want to be at the top of the rung, but the reality is at this point pretty much what you see is what you are going to get. Therefore, you better start buying lottery tickets ’cause this is as good as it’s going to get…just kidding; anybody who is in here is still willing to still learn and try to make something of this in some form or fashion. Congrats to those who are still making the effort.

Oh, and by the way it will also require getting out of your comfort zone…and some elbow grease if you want sustainable success.

For most, getting out of your comfort zone is akin to public speaking. Did you know the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death for most people? I just fear missing my next meal…

What I really learned

In the beginning…it was new, fresh and exciting. Even though we were all different ages, there was a certain neutrality because of the relative anonymity of social and it felt we were all somewhat the same age. Even a creepy old guy like myself felt like I belonged and could act as silly as I wanted.

Now that I’ve been away it’s making me feel my years and question if this is really a younger person’s game after all. It’s much easier to be a spectator at this point than an actual participant. Where is that Easy button anyway?

It looks like the social platforms are here to stay so I’m thankful I at least took the time to master social 101 I suppose. It is still a tremendous networking opportunity and you can even do it sitting around your living room in your skivvies while turning your fingers orange by eating Cheetos; how cool is that?

I coulda been a contendah….

Yep, suppose I coulda, huh; couldn’t we all?

Blowin’, goin’, and growin’…if anything it feels more like a holding pattern now and doesn’t feel like I’ve lost any ground. How about you, do you feel you are much farther along than you were at this time last year? What’s your one big thing for 2014?

Who’s going to make the cut?