The Real Crisis and 8 Ways to Beat It

The Real Crisis and 8 Ways to Beat It

You’ve heard we are in the midst of a financial crisis.  That much is obvious.  But, did you know our financial woes pale in comparison to the crisis of trust we have on our hands?  That’s right.  Our most significant crisis revolves around a lack of trust.  When even leaders of the World Economic Forum agree that our biggest crisis is a lack of trust and confidence, you know it must be serious. Sadly, few people really understand the bottom line implications. Not only does it affect credit and government relations, it affects every relationship and every organization. Professor John Whitney of the Columbia Business School found, “Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.” I think it costs even more. Trust is not just a “soft skill,” it is the fundamental key to all lasting success.

trustedgeWithout trust, leaders lose teams and sales people lose sales. We all lose productivity, retention of good people, reputation, morale and revenue. The lower the trust the more time everything takes, the more everything costs, and the lower the loyalty of everyone involved. However, with greater trust come greater innovation, creativity, impact, freedom, morale, and a bigger bottom line.

All of my Graduate research points to the fact that trust is the unique commonality of the most successful leaders and organizations. Obtaining this level of trust isn’t easy. If you are looking for a quick fix, don’t look to trust. While it may appear to be static, in reality it is more like a forest—a long time growing, but easily burned down with a touch of carelessness. Trust is by nature solid and proven. Without trust no lasting, genuine success exists–just a brittle, fluffy, mirage of the real thing. The good news is that we can build this fundamental key to success. It is worth it! And it is the ONLY way to genuine relational or organizational success. The Trust Edge is the competitive advantage gained by being trusted whether as a mom or dad, a community leader or a consultant, or a business owner or government leader. Following is a synopsis of the eight pillars that build the Trust Edge.

1. Consistency: It’s the little things, done consistently, that make the big difference. In every area of life it is the little things. If I am over weight it is because I have eaten too many calories over time, not because I ate too much yesterday. If I am a good husband I am doing the little things that honor my wife on a daily basis. It is the same in business. The little things done consistently make for leaders being followed, increased sales and retention, and a higher level of trust. Consistency is the way brands are built and character is revealed. Even if we don’t like McDonald’s, we trust them because they deliver the same burger in Cleveland as in Tokyo. Do the little things, consistently.

2. Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When people are clear about the mission they do the little things differently. A clear mission unifies and inspires. When a manager is clear in expectations, she will likely get what she wants. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis we become productive and effective.

3. Compassion: Think beyond yourself. Never underestimate the power of sincerely caring. It is the reason we trust our mothers over some sales people. We are skeptical if the sales person really has our best interest in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying, it is a bottom line truth. If followed it builds trust.

4. Character: Do what is right over what is easy. Leaders who built this trust consistently did what needed to be done when it needed to be done whether they felt like doing it or not. It is the work of life to do what is right over what is easy.

5. Contribution: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. Be a contributor who delivers real results!

6. Competency: Staying fresh, relevant and capable builds trust. The humble teachable person keeps learning new and better ways of doing things. They stay current on ideas and trends. According to one study the key competency of new MBA’s is not a specific skill, but rather the ability to learn amidst chaos. Arrogance and a “been-there-done-that” attitude keep people from growing. There is always more to learn, so make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information.

7. Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends. People become friends when they build connection. Ask questions. Listen. Life, work, and trust are about relationships. All relationships are best built by establishing genuine connection.

8. Commitment: Stick with it through adversity.  Followers trusted General Patton, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Jesus, and George Washington, because they saw commitment. They saw sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment reveals and it builds trust.

Trust does not start with the economy or government. The good news is that YOU can build these pillars and enjoy greater relationships, revenue and results. It starts with individuals becoming trusted. When will we get out of this trust crisis? When we as individuals decide to build the Trust Edge on a daily basis. Keep on being trusted.

Our guest author for this post is David Horsager, MA, CSP, is an award-winning speaker, author, producer, and business strategist who has researched and spoken on the bottom-line impact of trust across four continents. His brand new book titled, The Trust Edge: What Top Leaders Have & 8 Pillars to Build It gives the framework for building trust at work or at home. Get free resources and more at and

Zig Ziglar Passes but his Legacy Remains

Zig Ziglar Passes but his Legacy Remains

We lost a very good friend with the passing of Zig Ziglar today in his 86th year.  He and his beloved “Redhead”, Jean Ziglar just had their 66th wedding anniversary on Monday, November 26, 2012.

Zig Ziglar, SMEI Ambassador of Free Enterprise.

Zig Ziglar is a special friend of SMEI, and was inducted to the SMEI Academy of Achievement in 1995 as the SMEI Ambassador of Free Enterprise.  When the hall of fame was physically housed at Oklahoma Christian University’s Enterprise Square USA, one of the star attractions was a 3-D image of Zig that gave an animated welcome and brief narrative on the importance of free enterprise. Zig was often quoted with one of his favorite lines “Free enterprise is the only way to go.”

Aside from the countless hours of Zig’s tapes that had a considerable impact on me over the years, one of the most memorable impressions was when I met him in person at SMEI’s annual international conference held in Detroit in 1998.  While Zig was on stage telling us “Ability can take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there,” a small earthquake rattled the Dearborn Hyatt Hotel and set the chandeliers to swaying in the ballroom. Following Zig’s presentation he came and sat next to me.  I asked him if he noticed the earthquake and he said “Oh, that was an earthquake, I just thought my talk created some new energy in the room!”

There won’t be another Zig Ziglar.  He had a unique style and his forthright talks, honesty and belief system have had a profound effect on countless individuals and companies.

We will always remember Zig with some of his most popular sayings “You can get everything in life you want if you help other people get what they want,” and “See you at the top!

If you are a fan of Zig’s, his family would love to hear from you through a post on his Facebook Page.

Thank you Zig Zigar.

SCPS Certification Journey Minnesota: Journal Entry 2

The Golden Rule of Selling

One of the first things we noticed about the SCPS sales certification preparatory book is the emphasis on sales ethics. The book hits this topic early and often.  As a central theme, the book describes the Golden Rule of Selling. This refers to the sales philosophy of “unselfishly treating others as you would like to be treated”. Sound familiar?  Applied to selling, it is about doing the right thing in a selling situation and, yes, walking away from a sale if it’s not right for the customer. It goes on to reinforce that successful selling is about building relationships and relationships are built on trust. It is these relationships that will help you be successful in your sales career.

Our study group is impressed that SMEI makes this Golden Rule such a core foundation of the learning in this program.  It made us feel good to know this as we begin our certification journey.  We also speculated that it could be a hidden benefit that will add further value to the SMEI certification as more employers learn that sales people trained in the SMEI method have had ethical selling techniques reinforced over and over again as part of their learning. Were you aware that ethics in selling was a major theme in the SCPS certification training?  What is your view?

Beijing Beginning

Beijing Beginning

Early in 2001, SMEI began to study the possibilities of launching the association in P.R. China, and 6 years later, fruits of that labor are manifest as SMEI officially launched its professional certification programs for sales and marketing on April 2, 2007 at a formal agreement signing in Beijing.  The long road to Beijing included extensive market research, consultation and many hours of negotiation and relationship building with SMEI’s new partner, the State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs.

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, China’s reform period has paved the way for both indigenous associations and those linked to their U.S. or international counterparts to begin operations in a country that has evolved into a world power with an emerging open economy.  However, for all its promise, China is not an easy market to penetrate.  Language and cultural barriers, governmental processes, along with financial and legal complexities are all obstacles that have been deemed insurmountable for some who seek to do business there.

There is no nation or business entity in the world today that is not directly or indirectly affected by China.  China’s insatiable demand for financial and material resources is literally gobbling up the world’s supplies.  Professional development, a key offering provided through SMEI’s certification programs, is in high demand.  Many associations are busy developing strategy to better serve this market or querying how to do so.  According to a recent article published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Western associations need to be innovative and have recourse to the single most important factor for success in China: guanxi (pronounced gwan-shee), a kind of social capital accruing from one’s personal network of influence.  As SMEI has learned, China is a culture of relationships.  Foreign entities who wish to succeed need to choose a Chinese partner that has guanxi, and the relationships needed to help launch an endeavor successfully.

SMEI’s collaboration with the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) is based on a sound working agreement to conduct training programs in China that will prepare candidates to successfully complete their certification exams for sales, sales management and marketing.  SAFEA’s sincere desire to develop a high standard for the sales and marketing profession in China, coupled with their strong track record of developing the U.S. based project management certification makes them the ideal partner for SMEI. 

Working together, SMEI and SAFEA will conduct “Train the Trainer” programs this year using foreign experts selected by SMEI.  Following this training, educational classes will be setup at authorized training facilities throughout China to prepare applicants for their certification exams.  The educational programs will be conducted in the Chinese language, using translated versions of SMEI approved sales, sales management and marketing management based textbooks by leading U.S. authors.

A growing need for professional certification programs is the result of demand for a skilled workforce.  With over 1.3 billion people and few opportunities for university education, professional certification programs help raise quality and efficiency, and ensure that the growing demand for workers employed by foreign-owned companies will be met.  China’s culture places a premium on hard work, self-improvement, and learning, characteristics and as result many professional certification, training, and educational programs offered are now oversubscribed.

The Chinese government has taken a pragmatic approach in partnering with SMEI, recognizing the need of a market economy to reach out to global leaders in areas such as standardization, credentialing and workplace professional development.

Members of SMEI’s delegation to Beijing on April 2, 2007 included: Nathalie Roemer, CSE, Chair, designee 2007-2008); Melissa Medley, CME, Chair, Certified Marketing & Sales Professionals; Willis Turner, CAE CSE, President & CEO; Gerard Edwards, CME CSE, Director of Education; and Susan Warren, CSE, SMEI Akron Executive Director.

Willis Turner CAE CSE and Director Xiong sign a cooperative agreement

Side bar:

  • China’s government estimates population between 1.3 and 1.6 billion (margin of error is equal to entire U.S. population, or most of EU)
  • Fragmented and diverse economy is growing at rate of 10 – 11% a year (fastest growing in world)
  • GDP grew 9.9% in 2005.  Current rate of growth will surpass Germany by 2010, Japan by 2020, and U.S. by 2040
  • 470 of Fortune 500 companies have production plants in China
  • English is widely taught in schools and college graduates will soon outnumber those in the U.S. and other developed countries
  • China will build 250 airports in next five years

  • Source: China Economic Monitoring and Analysis Center of the National Bureau of Statistics, P.R. China

The Power of Principles

Increased scrutiny of corporate actions in today’s business climate puts pressure on all facets of corporate structure to adhere to ethical business practices founded on principles that are honest, fair and transparent to the stakeholders.  The sales and marketing profession is a driving force in our economy and should not be left untouched when scrutinizing ethical issues. A society where the consumer is confident of honest trade is one that will prosper.

While some would fear that the sales and marketing department would be the last place to go looking for ethical guideposts, we could venture that this should be the first place to build a culture with values that create a climate for sound business decision making and the practice of ethical behavior.   The public face of corporations is often painted by brand identity, marketing messages delivered via various mediums and the sales representatives who deal directly with the buying public.  With an aligned, sound code of ethics for marketing, sales and customer service, organizations would theoretically build consumer confidence and shareholder value.

Of course, theory doesn’t spell success.  An important ingredient in developing an effective ethical culture is through strong exemplary leadership committed to these values.  There are many examples of companies that weakly espouse a code of ethics through lip service but in reality, short term results are valued more highly than a longer term strategy and commitment to doing what is right.  Unfortunately, some organizations are led by individuals who have given in to the pressures imposed by weightier shareholder centric rather than customer centric values.  This ultimately has a bearing on how sales and marketing departments are managed and in part defines the overall corporate culture.

A  Ten Point Plan for Emphasizing Ethics in the Sales & Marketing Culture:

  1. Create a written code of ethics specific to the sales and marketing department.  If you already have a written code of ethics, be sure it is widely communicated.  While some companies have their sales and marketing staff sign their code of ethics, in reality this is only a preliminary step in communicating the value placed on ethics by the organization.  The following steps will help transition from a written code to a code of practice.
  2. Define the parameters for managerial decision making that will form the acceptable boundaries for managerial actions. According to Hosmer in Ethics of Management (McGraw Hill 2003), there is a balancing act that needs to take into consideration ethics, economics and legal concerns in the managerial decision making process.
  3. Draft sales and marketing scenarios based on past experiences and use them as a basis for discussion at staff meetings.  Discussion of ethical issues without finger pointing will help create a culture of open dialogue and stimulate ideas and valuable thought process.
  4. Bring sales and marketing practitioners together during the planning phase to discuss the pros and cons of marketing campaigns and sales activities from an ethical viewpoint.
  5. Require marketing proposals and sales campaign documents to spell out the ethical considerations of the author(s). Creating transparency begins with the creative process. 
  6. Implement a privacy policy and publish a privacy statement.  Inform you clients and prospects about how you collect their data and what you use it for.  Allow prospects and clients to opt-in and never sell or give out their information without their permission.
  7. Use professional assessment tools to assist in sound hiring decisions.  Professional assessment tools are one of the necessary components in the hiring process.  Others include using scenario type, ethically based questions during the interview process and conducting thorough background checks.
  8. Establish due process for dealing with any violation of your code of ethics.  Without due process, your code of ethics could be flawed and unenforceable. Spell out in advance how due process would be accomplished and who is responsible for the jurisdiction.
  9. Reward sound judgment and recognize ethical behavior that exemplifies the culture you wish to create.  As with any type of reward and recognition, the best reinforcement of desired behavior is timely and applicable to the moment.  Personal one-to-one acknowledgement by management is very important. Public recognition within your organization in newsletters and at staff meetings in equally important.
  10. Practice exemplary leadership.  Last but not least, leadership by example is one of the most powerful and proven methods of building a team that lives by a code.  The price of exemplary leadership is high, but affordable, and the investment you make as a leader pays rewards that are immeasurable.

Every Day We Sell Integrity and Credibility

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 33rd Annual National Sales and Marketing Awards Program put on by the members of SMEI Akron.  Over 400 members and guests attended the gala dinner to honor 11 outstanding individuals in the community who were presented with the Distinguished Sales and Marketing Award. 

One student from the University of Akron, Sara Eddy, was recognized as the "Exceptional Sales & Marketing Collegiate Award" recipient.

SummaCare President, Martin P. Hauser, was recognized as the SMEI Executive of the Year, and received proclamations from the Governor of Ohio and the Mayor of Akron.

I was quite taken with Mr. Hauser’s acceptance speech when he touched on the subject of ethics.  He reinforced the concept of determining the boundaries for ethical behaviour in advance, knowing that our values are tested when we go through hard times.  Not only knowing where the boundaries are, but staying well back from them will help to keep us from the temptation of crossing the boundaries and "selling out on our values" he said.

As a true sales and marketing professional, Mr. Hauser does not view SummaCare as strictly insurance or managed care.  "We often tell our staff, and every new employee, that we’re in the education business," he says.  "We educate our consumers, providers and employers.  We tell our staff that on any given day, one of 190,000 people will be calling us, not because they want to, but because they have to, and they need our help.  Usually, they are in need or a crisis situation, and our job is to serve them.  I believe that we’re selling or marketing ourselves in everything we do.  The most important things we sell are integrity and credibility.  Every day, those are the ultimate products that we have in common."