Filling the Glass: The Book
The Skeptic’s Guide to Positive Thinking in Business
To Build a Better Buzzword
Ron Campbell tested high in intelligence and even higher in sales skills. His positive, high-energy outlook impressed the interviewers at Industrial Solutions, and both his former employers raved about his ambition and his honesty. Bright, talented, upbeat, ambitious and ethical: those were the qualities that won Ron his dream job. And those were the qualities that caused him to quit in disgust less than a year later.
I met Ron while I was consulting with Industrial Solutions, immediately after he’d been hired. Twenty-eight years old, he’d moved from a $33,000 per year sales rep position with a mom and pop operation to a “Professional Sales Career” with a Fortune 500 giant, where the average first year earnings were $67,000, and someone with Ron’s potential could make well over $100,000. Then there was the company car, expenses, and a benefit package tempting enough to make me or anyone else question the joys of self-employment. As a result, Ron’s infectious grin became a near-permanent fixture on his face.
When I arrived each morning at 7:30 AM, he was already in the training room, studying hard. When I left, sometimes as late as 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening, he’d still be around, usually picking the brain of anyone who had anything to teach him. In his second month on the job, the division manager asked him to deliver a motivational presentation at a key sales meeting. Even the veterans were impressed.
I figured he’d be a memory in 18 months. Cynicism was practically a job requirement at Industrial Solutions. I’d seen too many of those who should have become the best and the brightest crushed by the realities of selling for such a demanding company. Ron seemed particularly vulnerable.
The day I finished my contract with the company, Ron volunteered to drive me to the airport; he wanted a chance to pick my brain. I gave him my card.
“Everyone around here has been raving about your potential,” I said. “But if things ever get too rough, please give me a call before you do anything that can’t be undone.”
He thanked me, but assured me that he considered this job the chance of a lifetime. “I’m lashing myself to the saddle on this bronco,” he said, reminding me that while Ron was from New Jersey, his sales manager was from Texas. “It can buck, it can even bite, but there’s no way it’s going to throw me.”
The call came eight months later. He told me he was quitting the next day.
“Their prices are just too high,” he explained. “I just can’t sell their machines.”
“Ron, you can sell anything you choose to sell.”
“I can’t sell this stuff. Not in amounts large enough to meet their ridiculous quotas.”
“How many of the others are making their quotas?”
“Some of them. Most of them, I suppose. But the company puts so much pressure on the reps to make their numbers, who knows what they’re telling the customers? I sell clean, and I don’t sell enough. And I don’t feel good about what I do sell. I get prospects to trust me, then use that trust to talk them into buying something they wouldn’t have bought on their own. That’s what selling is all about–and that may be fine if you’ve got the best product in the marketplace . . .” His voice trailed off.
“But,” I said, finishing the thought, “not everybody can have the best product in the marketplace.”
“That’s the problem.”
“That is a problem, Ron. But aren’t you the guy that told a division meeting that in Chinese the word for problem is the same as the word for opportunity?”
“Crisis. The word for crisis is the same as the word for opportunity.”
“You’re quitting your job tomorrow, Ron. The job you told me was your chance of a lifetime. If this isn’t a crisis, it will certainly do until one arrives.”
“Let me tell you about filling the glass . . .”
Norma Landry was on the side of the angels, an administrator in a small religious denomination, and anything but a salesperson.
“I couldn’t sell ice water in Hell,” Norma told me when she called my office. “Neither could most of our ministers. That’s why the bishop wanted to book you for our yearly colloquium–to edify them with your sales workshop.” Her tone made it clear that she did not approve of this particular brand of edification.
“I’ve heard it said that Jesus was a master salesman,” I tried, filching from some televangelist I’d stumbled across while channel surfing. I always check out the televangelists. As a professional speaker, I’m impressed by their fervor. As a bald guy, I’m amazed by their hair.
“Salespeople do cover a broad spectrum,” I admitted.
But Norma’s problem wasn’t really with salespeople or even balding consultants. Her problem was with her new bishop.
“Suddenly, everything is measured in money,” she confided to me when I arrived on the day before my workshop. “And I’m the one who’s supposed to do the measuring. I’m constantly dunning the ministers to improve their collections. And then improve upon the improvement. That’s hardly what I took this job to do. The old bishop measured our success in souls.”
She handed me a sheet of paper.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“I’m thinking of inserting it into the bishop’s speech welcoming the ministers tonight.”
“Please inform your parishioners that—while our churches have minimal financial needs that must be met—Jesus, himself, does not need their money. I spoke to him this morning, and he says that one of the best parts about being God is that you don’t have to rely on contributions to do whatever it is you want done. He mentioned the creation of the Universe with virtually no capital expenditure. And he asked me to tell all those who’ve been so nice as to be collecting money for him for so long that it might be more fitting for them to be giving money to those they keep saying they’re trying to help, rather than taking money from them. He’d like this to start immediately. Otherwise he’s coming for his money. And it better be all there.”
I looked up smiling, but Norma didn’t smile back. Rather than serving as a release, sharing the joke seemed to make her angrier.
“Norma,” I said, “why don’t you come to my workshop tomorrow.”
Why indeed? Ron Campbell was a salesperson so it’s probably not surprising that a person like myself, who started out as a sales consultant, could help him deal with his crisis. I don’t know if the word for crisis really is the same as the word for opportunity in Chinese. People keep telling me it is. They also keep telling me that in Chinese Coca Cola means, “bite the wax tadpole.” I’ll give you the details in a moment, but for right now let me just say that we managed to work through Ron’s near terminal opportunity. Today, he’s one of Industrial Solutions’ most successful salespeople. And, though he’s “grayer and wiser, and a touch rounder,” he’s still one of their least cynical. He’s generous enough to give me much of the credit, though unquestionably, Ron has heeded my advice and become his own guru.
But what could a workshop by someone who made his mark as a sales consultant offer a Norma Landry? “It’s made all the difference in the world,” she says “it showed me how to turn the job I had into the job I wanted. It gave me an honest, open-hearted enthusiasm for everything I do.”
Her bishop says, “Nowadays, Norma is so good she makes me a better boss.”
As I say, I started out as a sales consultant. A good portion of my business remains sales consulting. But this is not a book about selling, it’s a book about succeeding. The strategies we’ll be discussing are aimed not at salespeople but at anyone in the world of business.
A recent article on me in Selling Power magazine said, “To his powerful and famous clients, Barry Maher is simply the best sales trainer in the business.” I’m not. But now that I’ve worked in that shameless brag, let me set aside the false modesty and admit that, I’m damn good at what I do—if a bit overpriced. But why do I find myself working more and more with executives, managers and workers—people like Norma Landry—who have nothing to do with sales? And what could a book by a sales consultant offer anyone who isn’t a salesperson?
How about integrity?
Integrity. Not integrity as some vaguely reassuring concept in a mission statement in the company manual. Not even integrity in the sense of honesty or ethics. I’m a big fan of honesty and ethics but that’s not what this book is about. I’m not going to be preaching or moralizing. I intend to irritate you in other ways. (No matter who you are, I hope there’s something in this book that you vehemently disagree with.)
No, by integrity I mean integrity in the sense of wholeness, oneness, relief from the dichotomy between what we believe we should be doing in our careers and our lives, and what we actually find ourselves doing.
And what if the book could provide an effective, practical method for getting wherever you might want to go in life, for achieving whatever you might want to achieve, without sacrificing who you really are and who you would like to be?
That would certainly be worth the price on cover, wouldn’t it—even if you can’t rely on my pronouncements about Chinese?
Two Sad and Simple Truths
At its best, as practiced by the best, selling is about integrity—not about cynical manipulation. And the qualities that make a truly great salesperson are qualities that can help anyone to reach their goals.
But here’s a sad and simple truth about salespeople:
Most salespeople are not as sold on their product as they believe they have to appear to be in order to make the sale. Far too frequently, what they’d like to believe about the product, what they say or at least imply about it, fails to match up with what they’ve discovered to be true.
Here’s a sad and simple truth about the population in general:
Many of us, perhaps most of us, believe our careers and our business lives should be one thing, while the untidy facts keep insisting that those careers and those lives are something else, usually something considerably less. And when we’re honest with ourselves, we often have trouble selling those lives and those careers to ourselves and to those around us.
Sales and non-sales people both suffer from the same fundamental disconnects. And the strategies that have been so effective for me in helping salespeople make peace with their negatives and regain their sense of integrity work every bit as well with the disconnects that non-sales people face.
These ten, easily understood techniques enable salespeople to sell—and to sell a great deal—with an integrity that leaves both themselves and their customers feeling positive about the transaction. And if applied correctly, they can make all of us—salespeople and non-sales people alike—more successful, regardless of what our individual definition of success might be.
As I said, this is not a book about selling; it’s a book about succeeding. And it’s not about morality. It’s about strategies that work.
Attila and I
So, what does a sales consultant know about helping non-sales people to succeed?
Before discovering Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, what would you have said Attila knew about management? A great salesperson is every bit as much an expert on seat-of-the-pants psychology as Attila was on rape, pillage and—I guess—twentieth century management technique. Anyone who doubts that there are important psychological truths at the heart of the most effective sales techniques must have difficulty explaining the thousands of new cars on the streets, the billions of dollars in life insurance policies gathering dust in safe deposit boxes, and the trillions of Ginzu knives, Veg-a-matics and Pocket Fishermen that fill the closets of America and the world. You can argue about how those truths have been used: Norma Landry and I were both right, Jesus and Satan were both great salesmen. But you can not deny they exist.
In fact, if you and I are ever simultaneously held hostage by two separate groups of heavily armed, distraught postal workers, you can have Dr. Joyce Brothers, Dr. Carl Rogers or any other human behavior guru negotiate with your pack of dementos. I’ll take Zig Ziglar, Ron Popeil or for that matter, master salesman, Gerry Spence to help me get out alive.
Filling the Glass should arm you with that kind of power.
A Better Buzzword
There are two types of people in the world: those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t. Those who divide the world into two types tell us that one of those types of people can look at a glass and see it as half full, while the other looks at the same glass and sees it as half empty.
It’s common knowledge that seeing the glass as half full is a more successful mindset. Like much of what passes for common knowledge in business, this idea is more common than it is genuine knowledge. It’s time for a new metaphor. The person I want to be, the person I want to hire and the person who will ultimately be more successful and more valuable to his company, his family, his society and himself is the one who takes a look at that glass and is concerned, not with whether it’s half empty or half fill, but with figuring out how to fill it up.
And that’s what the strategies in this book are all about: taking that half full or half empty glass and filling it—ideally, until your cup runneth over.
When used properly, these strategies can help anyone:
|•||Achieve peak performance for realizing their dreams—without sacrificing their personal integrity;
|•|| take control of their own accomplishments and their own destiny;
|•|| motivate themselves and those around them;
|•|| come to terms with the negatives in their life;
|•|| gain perspective and match their life to their values;
|•|| relate to others with increased empathy;
|•|| overcome adversity—capturing the value in every failure as well as every success.
Many of the strategies are novel, some even counter-intuitive (Brag about the negatives!?!). A few will sound familiar, reflecting things you may already believe to be true, but probably haven’t gotten around to making a part of your life. With case studies, examples, brief tips, detailed tactics, and even a few parables, maybe we can find a way to get you started. Plato believed that all learning is actually remembering. If that’s the case, I think there are a few truths here I can help you remember.
Transformation Made Difficult
Filling the Glass has been called, “a book that can transform your life,” but if you think the process will be easy, you’d better put the book down right now. I’m not going to tell you that all you need is a little positive thinking and a touch of pixie dust and—poof!—all your dreams will come true. Filling the Glass has also been called inspirational. I hope it is. But if so, it’s a hardheaded, reality-based inspiration. If there are any pixies flying around here, they’ve got calluses on their hands and a slightly skeptical tilt to their smiles. They aren’t going to be working at Disney.
I’ve been a consultant as well as a professional speaker since 1986, and my client list includes many of the largest companies in the world. As a consultant, I’m far more interested in reality than theory—in dealing with what actually works rather than what sounds good, or what should work, or what I wish worked because it’s what the client wants to hear. “Filling the glass” is a great catchphrase, and it gives me a unique marketing hook. But as a consultant, I’m hired to produce concrete, verifiable results. The only marketing hook that keeps clients coming back for more and keeps the phone ringing in my Santa Barbara office is a program that delivers.
Filling the Glass delivers.
And though following these strategies isn’t always easy, it isn’t so difficult that it can’t be done by anyone who chooses to do so. Being all too human, I have to admit that I have been known to stray from them myself from time to time. Preaching has always been easier than practicing. But when I do follow them, my career, my business relationships and my life all go far more smoothly for myself and for those around me.
The ten strategies of Filling the Glass are:
- Make Peace with the Negatives. Every situation has its negatives, and you can make them work for you.
- Fill the Glass. Attitude is important. But reality rules.
- Become Your Own Guru. You’re your own best guide. The most important decisions take place when Steven Covey can’t be with you.
- Add Water. Far too often we keep our strongest selling points hidden. This segment includes tactics for presenting your ideas, your projects and proposals, and ultimately, yourself.
- Bring out the Prospect in Yourself. Looking inside and looking outside: includes tactics for empathy and understanding.
- Become an Expert Witness. Let the other side make their points, and help you make yours.
- Fail towards Success. Tactics for becoming a master craftsman—a master craftsman being someone who’s already made every possible mistake.
- Brag about the Negatives. Make your biggest liabilities your strongest assets.
- Change the Scale to Make the Sale. Size may count, but it’s not how big it is, it’s how big it seems.
- Never Settle for Success. Keeping your goals from keeping you down: including tactics for making the journey even more enjoyable than the destination.
As the saying goes, all generalizations are false, including this one. You can’t capture reality in a case study or an example or a speech or a book. The complexity of the simplest situation guarantees that the best a writer can ever do is to give his or her impression of reality. Filling the Glass is my best impression. But all the strategies, all the tactics, all the tips have been tested time after time against the realities of the business world.
Beyond that, some of the names in the pages that follow have been changed, some of the situations disguised: to protect the innocent, and to protect the confidences of those who have confided in me. Once or twice it’s been done to protect the guilty. Some stupid mistakes are recorded in this book. We can learn from stupid mistakes, but there’s nothing to be gained from subjecting real people to ridicule. We all make stupid mistakes.
I would never claim that the path outlined in Filling the Glass is the only route to success. Obviously, it isn’t. But these ten strategies can turn around unsuccessful careers—and reconcile the disconnects between what we believe and what we often find ourselves doing—faster and more completely than any other techniques I’ve ever encountered.
That’s what happened to Ron Campbell and Norma Landry.
The prices on the machinery Ron had to sell were too high in comparison to the competition. So—as we often teach salespeople to do—Ron turned himself into the ultimate value-added feature, the final benefit that lifted his products above the competition.
He’s become a major resource, developing an expertise his customers no longer feel they can do without. “His machines may not be quite as reliable as his competition’s,” one of them admits. “But he knows more about that type of milling than anyone in the industry. The free information we get from him more than offsets the cost of the occasional problem his products may encounter. He’s indispensable. Besides, when there is a problem, Ron’s on it—practically before the machine stops humming.”
I recently spoke with Bill Swetland, a customer service rep with Industrial Solutions, Ron’s company. “When one of Ron’s accounts has a problem,” Bill said, “he fights for them harder than they’d ever fight for themselves . . . Sometimes I wonder who he’s working for.”
“But that’s part of what they’re buying,” Ron explains. “They’re buying me. That’s what they are paying for and that’s what they get. I make sure I’m worth the extra money our products cost and then some.”
Because he’s free from doubt about the value his clients will be receiving, Ron can sell honestly. He can tell the truth to his customers and to himself and still close any deal. He sells to more customers and he sells more to each customer.
And Norma Landry, the church administrator who was so concerned about her bishop’s constant focus on fund raising? How did Norma fill the glass? Among other things, on her own time she created a breakdown of how the money they raised was being used. Then she made it a matter of church pride that they become more efficient than comparable non-profit groups—so every penny did the most possible good. She reported the results to the ministers to share with their congregations, and to the press, earning the church some impressive PR. Contributions increased, and Norma felt much better about her job. She wasn’t dunning people for money; she was feeding the hungry, tending to the sick.
Her bishop was so impressed he made monitoring distributions a permanent part of Norma’s job, making sure the church became even more efficient and got even more value for every dollar spent.
The world is full of decent people like Ron Campbell and Norma Landry, people who want, need and deserve to be able to feel good about the way they’re occupying their time on this planet. Filling the Glass can help.
I’ve seen it work.
© Copyright 2009, Barry Maher, Las Vegas, Nevada