No One Wants to Be the First Loser

Everyone who owns a business finds themselves in competitive sales situations, RFP or not. Even when you think you’re not in a competition, buyers consider other options including not buying. And that’s why as a competitive person, I hate losing. There is nothing worse than being told my company has placed second, which just means I am the first loser.

We recently talked about the super fun RFPs offer small business owners. RFPs take incredible amount of time they take. In fact, all new business efforts takes time, a necessary part of running a company.

But when you come in second, it is the worst kind of failure. The win was within grasp. Some sort of internal failure to satisfy the customer caused the loss. That’s painful, folks.

When donned the second loser, you also have a choice. You can look within and engage in a post mortem to determine why you lost. Or you can embrace the loser status, and blame the client. Or outside circumstances. Or just accept that the other option was more attractive than what you presented.

Why They Say No

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The word attraction is important here. I find potential clients chose not to select my company because they just didn’t love what we had to offer. Or they loved something else more. Perhaps I failed to listen to them, and didn’t allay their fears. Or worse, I was cold and failed to build a relationships.

My friend Jack Vincent wrote a book, “A Sale Is a Love Affair.” It’s a great book, and I hope you read it. He talks about how sales are really about building relationships of trust and value. And like a love affair, if you don’t respect the other person and their feelings (fears, need for trust, etc.) then a sale goes awry.

I decided to forward a draft of this post to Jack and get his thoughts. “Sure, prospective customers want to know you’re competent and that your proposed solution is on the mark and that you can deliver it effectively,” wrote Jack. “But what often differentiates the winning pitch is the personal connection you establish during the pitch and the sales process. To this effect, winning new business has eye-opening parallels to finding love.”

While researching A Sale Is A Love Affair, Jack found that the advice given by today’s dating coaches and marriage counselors correlates directly with the best practices used by marketing consultants and sales trainers. “The mindset is actually a heart-set,” says, Jack. “It focuses on pulling prospects through their purchasing process, not pushing them through your sales process.”

So when I am the first loser, I always review the sale to see where it went wrong. Just like any relationship — marriage, friendship, parenting — business relationship skills can always stand to be improved upon. I need to know why I lost so next time, I can win the business, and more importantly, the fun project to work on with my new client and friend.

What do you think about close losses?

Getting Lost In Tech Again

Tenacity5 Media’s client Vocus and Cision released a new eBook, “What If PR Stood for People and Relationships” authored by Brian Solis and GapingVoid. The primary gist is to stop getting lost in technology, or suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.

Shiny Object Syndrome has been an issue ever since blogs and social networks took over the Internet. Today, you can see it manifest itself in the way marketers and communicators talk about data, social tools, and mobile technology.

Let us consider data. More than ever before we see how our actions inspire people to act. Data is fantastic, and it can inform our every step. Yet, when we let the outcomes manifested as precision results drive every action, our outreach can become lifeless.

Just look at the current iterations of ad retargeting. Marketers realize people have visited us and if we offer them something worthwhile or a coupon, x % will become customers. We engage in campaigns to yield this percentage, and in doing so we sacrifice good will with a much greater population of potential customers, because they are annoyed with cheap ads and tricks.

As Brian says in the book, we need to make relationships the guiding principle in our communications, no matter how powerful the technology may be. In the case of ad retargeting, offering additional quality content with real value for a limited period of time after a visit (like three days) would be a significant change in approach. Data is great if it is used wisely.

I hope you will check out the book. It’s a fantastic read with great illustrations. The Tenacity5 team was thrilled to have worked on the project, and hope it makes a great impact on the PR business.

Wipe the Ledger Clean to Forgive

Forgiving others may be one of the hardest things to do, but it’s equally important. By forgiving, we are forgiven.

The act of forgiveness is often about clearing resentments from the past, perceived and real. That means wiping the ledger, and offering people a second chance. Specifically, give folks a clean slate to live without judgement.

Everyone is human and makes mistakes varying in degrees of sillyness, selfishness, and incompetence. Find me a perfect person, and I’ll find you a liar. When it comes to doing the right thing, we all live in glass houses to some extent.

Judging others and pointing fingers is a very dangerous game. Inevitably, people who spend their time judging others have their own flaws. That includes me.

My friend David likes to remind me that if I want to be forgiven for some of my errors, I need to do the same and let others off the hook. I have to accept people for the good and the bad.

Friday’s post about walking away from relationships generated some great comments. In one response, I stated a willingness to give anyone a chance, and then if I am disappointed or if someone does something crazy, I weigh the positives and the negatives. I am responsible for the outcome of the second chance or misnomer because I made a conscious decision to accept them for who they are, good and bad. No one is perfect, right?

If there is anything nine years of marriage has taught me, it’s to let people off the hook. If I keep score and hold grudges in my relationships, they will always be tenuous.

Forgive, But Don’t Forget

There are some mistakes that cannot and should not be forgotten. For example, it’s hard to overcome criminal acts such as violence and stealing works from people. These are obvious moments that should serve as a warning about second chances.

At the same time, some people do change. There are times when we extend a hand, and try to help someone overcome a terrible burden. But only a fool would do so blindly.

More often than not we’re really dealing with minor wrongs, too. For example, consider the person who undermines their fellows consistently. I might accept them for who they are, and let them off the hook. That doesn’t mean I’m going to volunteer to get shown up again. Far from it, I will wish them well, but avoid teaming with them.

Live and Let Live

There is a big difference between stewing on a resentment, wanting a fair deal, etc., and walking away and wishing someone well. To live and let live, I need to forgive. And then move on, and wish the other person well on their path.

I knew someone several years ago who just trashed me left and right. The trash talking was quite damaging, and I was really angry. At the first opportunity to do so, I cut all ties (which of course produced more trash talking). It has been several years, and I still wish to have no contact with this person. Nothing that I have seen from afar indicates that a new chapter in the relationship would produce a different result.

At the same time, I recently heard that x was expecting a child, their first one. I know the joy of parenthood, and was really quite happy for x. I felt a sense of joy and wished x well in mind and spirit.

Then I went back home, played with Soleil, and wrote another chapter for my next novel.

Live and let live means truly wishing others well, and dropping the rock. This is compassion. They have their path, I have mine, and neither needs to be defined as right or wrong. It just is, and that’s the joy of being human.

Forgiveness finds a basis in accepting others AND ourselves. I can only improve myself, and choose to love those in my life, both the good and the bad. It’s much better to be happy that others have a chance to live life to its fullest, and improve if they want to.

What do you think about forgiveness?

Image by Murrayh77

Saying Goodbye Sucks Sometimes

Sometimes you have to cut ties and say good-bye to people. Relationships change, decisions are made, matters becomes intolerable with no hope for improvement. This can happen in your personal or professional life.

And sometimes it really sucks. It hurts to tell someone that you can’t be around them anymore, especially when you care about the relationship.

I had one of these conversations this week with a relationship that spanned decades, and it was extremely painful.

When It’s Time to Leave

Lisa Gerber wrote an insightful post on this topic a while back. It was a great post. She discussed when people undermine you and don’t live up to their promises that you have to make the break.

I’d add that when someone you know attacks, steals, or just becomes so downright mean to you (or someone you love) over an extended period of time that you may want to sever ties. There may be little choice. At that point it becomes a question of self-respect and welfare.

Sometimes people do things that are so obviously egregious you don’t have to say a thing. Instead you just walk away. It pays to say as little as possible. Volatile situations are never made better by harsh words.

One time, some people I know stole some ideas from me, and then used them. A close friend helped. Shame on me for opening my mouth and trusting these folks. Shame on them for violating that trust. All of them are no longer a part of my life, but perhaps everyone is better for it. Two of them got the ideas, and I learned the loose lips lesson.

In this case, I severed relationships by simply ending communications and social network ties. I could not see investing in the relationships again anytime in the forseeable future.

But when I really care, I communicate. Today, I try to do so in a factual manner, as gently as I can and with love, always focusing on the positive memories. Perhaps I express a little regret.

There have been many times when I let my emotions get the best of me, and expressed anger, but today I do my best to avoid outrage. Expressing as little anger as possible with the offending party leaves the door open.

Reunions and Forgiveness

This week also held a reunion with a prior friend, a business contact that I had a falling out with before I became an entrepreneur. It was good, we talked about it with the pain of yesterday behind us as a distant memory. There was an apology. When you walk away with as little bloodshed as possible, you leave open the chance that such moments can happen.

The reunion reminded me of Ben Affleck’s Argo acceptance speech. In it Affleck said, “You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard but you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.”

As I walked away from this reunion, I left pondering forgiveness and what it means. And I felt a need to embellish in a little gratitude.

More next week about these topics. What do you think about cutting ties?

Image by Vito Santoro.

The Naked Truth of Social Media

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Phil Gerbyshak‘s The Naked Truth of Social Media offers a compelling view of social media and its various experts.

I wrote the introduction to the eBook, which features experts debating the myths they see, and their version of social media truths. Reading it revealed a few truths to me, too. The following is a version of my introduction to The Naked Truth

Whose Rules?

First (and my myth buster), rules offered by social media experts don’t mean much unless you want to be a second tier version of this person (or business).

Even some of the opinions in the eBook offered starkly contrasting views.

It just reminded me that rules are meant to be broken, particularly when it comes to self-created etiquette. Continue reading

Fathers & Sons – Diamond Love

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One of my favorite books of all time remains Turgenev’s incredibly haunting Fathers & Sons. The book, “concerns the inevitable conflict between generations and between the values of traditionalists and intellectuals.” The crazy stories of generational conflict and care between men, unconquerable romantic love, and the constant strife between nihilism and traditional values reminds me of my 20s. My Dad and I had some tough times.  Ironically, the only thing that kept our tenuous relationship in place was a third kind of love, the love of the baseball diamond.

With the Phillies going deep into the playoffs this year, it’s been a joy talking baseball on the phone with him. A native Philadelphian, I grew up watching the Phillies of the 80s right behind first base where Pete Rose held court, in large part because my Dad always took me to the games. They won their first World Series back then, ending a 97 year franchise drubbing.

He even took me to a World Series game in 1983. It was Game 4 when the Orioles beat the Phillies Ace Richard Denny in a relatively tight game that pretty much sealed the series for Ripken and company.

Later in the 90s when I was living a questionable life, the Phillies sucked (sans the ‘93 World Series campaign). My Dad and I could barely talk, but when we did it was always awkward until the conversation turned to baseball. The words would come easier, and our admiration for the sport kept the calls coming.

As the 90s waned and I began to change, we had our amends. Watching me go through that period was tough for him. He tells me now that he couldn’t really talk to or help me, and he often didn’t want to know what I was doing…It was too painful.

But baseball was the bridge during that present, and to the future of now. Thank God, we had a common bond; one that he, too, shared with his father through his twenties in the late 60s and early 70s. My Dad was even an usher at Dodgers stadium in the 60s! I was raised on Sandy Koufax stories!

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Male love — particularly the father and son relationship — is often a quiet, unspoken one. Stoic in nature, I know my pop had a hard time demonstrating love through words or hugs, yet his care for me was undying. His actions over the past 37 years have demonstrated that.

3678367308_b1d38634df Today, baseball is still a strong undercurrent in our relationship.  For his 60th birthday, my sister and I sent him to Fenway Park for his first trip to that grand daddy of a stadium. I also took him to his first game at Yankee Stadium. That’s why last year’s surprise World Series win was extra special, and if the Phillies get back to the series for a repeat attempt, I am going to try and get my Dad to one of the games. My way of saying thanks.

And for me, like the generations before me, baseball is still religion. I go to at least seven games a year, and have been to roughly 75% of the League’s stadiums (I’ll get to the parks in Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Phoenix, St.Louis, and Tampa Bay before I leave this world). Here are pictures from this year’s games. Heck, even the last time I saw my Mom in Phoenix, we went to a spring training game.

It’s not just baseball for me, or for the Livingstons in general. It’s more than that, and thus, the diamond will always have a special place in my heart. Go Phillies!