O-Fer

In baseball the stat line for a hitter who strikes out, flies out or grounds out in all his at-bats during a game is shown as 0 – 4 or 0 – 5. The stat sheet for a basketball player who continually shoots and misses without scoring a point might show 0 – 7 or 0 – 10. In athletic terms this is an O-fer . . . O for 4 or O for 5 . . . O-fer. Going O-fer is an ignominious experience and generally brings on scorn from the fans. In 1922, Babe Ruth faced St. Louis Browns’ pitcher Hub Pruett. The first 14 at-bats for the Babe resulted in 10 strikeouts and two walks. During the 1922 World Series, Babe Ruth hit one single and one double in 17 trips to the plate. Arguably one of the greatest players to ever step on the diamond, Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. That was fewer than a number of other baseball luminaries such as Barry Bonds (1,539), Mark McGwire (1,596), Mickey Mantle (1,710), Alex Rodriquez (2,287) and Reggie Jackson (2,597). Any student of the game will tell you that all of these players were some of the best in the history of baseball.

There is another side to the story. Ruth had 2,214 Runs Batted In (RBI); Bonds had 1,996; McGwire had 1,414; Mantle had 1,509; Rodriguez had 2,086, and Jackson had 1,702. And each smacked a lot of home runs during their respective careers – Ruth (714); Bonds (762); McGwire (583); Mantle (536); Rodriguez (696) and Jackson (563). I know this is a lot of statistics and if you aren’t a baseball fan you may not fully understand the astounding nature of these feats. But there’s a point to all of this. In life we do strikeout. Baseball players strikeout. Entrepreneurs strikeout. Salespeople strikeout. Going O-fer is just part of the game.

What matters is how we deal with going O-fer. When we flameout do we play the victim and blame someone else? Or do we examine our technique as well as the surrounding circumstances and look for ways to tweak our “form?” How easy would it have been for these great baseball players to have let their propensity to strikeout destroy their careers? Instead they did something else. They figured out how to take the strikeout experience and find a way to hit the ball out of the park in a future plate appearance. Babe Ruth was number 118 in lifetime strikeouts, but he was number two in RBIs. I find this fascinating. Here’s a man who drove in far more runs than he struck out – yet he had a lot of strikeouts over the course of his career.

I listened to a podcast recently about a venture capital firm that was launching its first fund. The principals were doing the typical road show and calling on prospective investors in multiple markets. They would typically be gone for a week at a time – one week they made 25 meetings in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and New York. During that particular week they were O-fer through 22 meetings. Imagine how this might feel! Yet, on their final day, they went three-for-three and netted tens of millions of dollars in commitments.

There’s more than just resilience at work here. It’s critical to understand that going O-fer is just part of the game. It doesn’t mean the game is over. With each new meeting, pitch, visit or idea, we’re starting zero to zero. It’s a tie game. I have learned not to look at O-fer beyond zero to zero. If we don’t win the last at-bat we simply start over with the next one. We remember the instructive elements from the encounter and discard all emotion as we make the pitch again to the next customer. We only lose if we stop playing the game. We know in our bones that eventually we’ll hit a home run or an RBI. So we keep playing the game.

If we understand that O-fer is just part of the game and can maintain our positive energy, we can erase our doubts and feelings of limitation. This sets us up to ultimately connect with the ball and score consistently.

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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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No Scorecard

Question: What do you think is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship?

Answer: Entrepreneurship is comprised of a great many elements. Creativity, vision, patience, perseverance, capital and integrity are some of the more prominent components. But in my opinion, the lifeblood of entrepreneurship is the building of relationships.

We’ve all heard about how important relationships are but at times I’m not sure that we truly comprehend their vital nature – both as entrepreneurs and as human beings. Early in our business lives many of us are out to “prove something.” We want to make sure that we are perceived as worthy or serious. And at times we may not work as hard to build relationships as we could.

For many years, we had in our family of companies, a commercial real estate leasing and brokerage unit. We leased and sold office buildings, shopping centers, industrial facilities and other commercial properties. The art of building relationships was something we constantly preached and several of our salespeople were receptive to this. Many were not. Those that didn’t buy-in were focused on the transaction. They would make or receive a call to or from someone interested in a property. After some discussion if the prospect wasn’t interested in a property these salespeople would move on to work on another prospect. Other more enlightened salespeople sought to become better acquainted with the prospect, maintained contact and found ways to help that individual even if no transaction was imminent. It was these salespeople who ultimately were able to be the most successful.

Building relationships requires an investment on our part. It is an investment of ourselves in other people. Perhaps that investment takes the form of time, money or emotion. Building relationships does not focus on transactions. Instead it focuses on finding opportunities to genuinely serve others. And we’re not doing so with any expectation of receiving something immediately in return. We serve because it’s the right thing to do. When we do focus on gaining a quid pro quo we often find that the relationship we are trying to establish lacks loyalty – in both directions. Do we hope that the day may come that the person with whom we have a relationship will serve us in some way – i.e. a transaction? Sure, there’s nothing wrong with thinking this, but only because it’s the way the world works.

We can be most successful when we build relationships with others where there is no scorecard. When we have this mindset the game will be won by both parties.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Buy or Sell?

Question: I see people use essentially the same sales techniques, but some are successful and some are not. How can this be?

Answer: There are so many books about selling that it would be impossible to read all of them in a lifetime. And there are so many different techniques that it makes our heads spin. So what does it all boil down to? I can simplify it fairly easily. A successful salesperson does not sell anything. Nothing at all. Nada. Instead, he or she helps a customer buy something.

The distinction between buying and selling is huge. And it can be the difference between success or failure. Let’s examine what all this means. Old-school salespeople do the schmooze with the customer. They use techniques such as asking questions that get the customer to answer with the word “yes.” They attempt to close at least seven times with different methods. They try and create a sense of urgency – i.e. the price is going to increase tomorrow, or there is only one left. I’m not quarreling with the fact that these methods may have worked in the past. But people are more sophisticated in today’s world and they don’t respond to manipulation as they may have in an earlier era.

Rather than selling to someone, I submit that helping someone buy can be as effective as old-school salesmanship – maybe even more so. This starts from a premise of respect in that we want to help meet the needs of a customer – notice the mindset is accentuated by the words “respect” and “help.” Understanding the needs of a customer means asking a lot of questions; usually many more than a customer is typically asked. In the process, there is an opportunity to build a relationship with the customer. Working with someone on a relationship basis is part of the “help” to which I’ve referred. Think about this for a moment. Are you more or less inclined to buy from someone who has genuinely tried to understand your needs and at the same time you are both able to get to know each other better?

Of course you need to be completely knowledgeable about your product or service in order to answer the questions raised by the customer. And you’ll certainly want to demonstrate the features and how they translate into benefits. But I think the sale is won or lost in the first few seconds of the encounter based upon how well you connect with the customer. Will this happen with manipulation and pressure? Or is the connection made through the process of thoroughly understanding needs and building relationships?

To be successful at sales simply practice the Golden Rule. In all likelihood, helping someone buy is the way you would want it to be when you are the customer.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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