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Recharging Batteries

A diminutive, yet muscular, man walked out on stage, took off his black sports coat, hung it over a chair and said, I was a gymnast in college, and back then I did this a lot. The gray-haired man, then, in one fluid motion, grabbed a tables edge, flipped his feet up over his head and held a handstand for several impressive seconds. Back on his feet, red of face but under control, he continued, Since I just turned 60 last week… [The audience of 200 people burst into spontaneous, approving applause] …I cant do that as much anymore.

With that, author and lecturer Dan Millman began his Life Balance presentation on the final day of the CEDIA Management Conference last month in San Francisco. Millman, author of a book which inspired the soon-to-be-released film, called The Peaceful Warrior, provided a mix of spiritual guidance and pragmatic concepts that tied together three strong days of group discussions, formal presentations, and peer-to-peer networking that has made CEDIAs conference a great place for harried business owners in the custom installation channel to come and recharge their batteries.

Harvey Mackay, who made his mark running a very successful envelope business, kicked things off with a presentation about humanizing the sales process. Mackay described how he encourages his sales team to develop a dossier on each of its sales prospects. Sales people in his company, over time, ask their prospects a long list of questions to develop a deeper understanding of them. Mackay demonstrated the extreme side of the technique by spending 10 minutes describing the life of RS columnist and industry consultant Buzz Delano, a man he had never met before. Buzz, who was sitting next to me at the time, had no idea that he was going to be singled out in the presentation and was as amazed as everyone else (except for his wife back home, Im sure), as the details of his life were presented.

The next day, author Michael Gerber, expanded on his work on the business, not in the business theme, by explaining the differences between a practice, a business, and an enterprise. Ninety percent of CI companies, he noted, are owner-centric and therefore should be called practices. A business, on the other hand, has a formal operating system that is not owner-dependent, and an enterprise is a company with size. The goal, Gerber said, is to create a scalable and turnkey business that can grow, so that you can go.

One of most useful things learned from The Ritz-Carlton Learning Institutes Bruce Siegel was how his company created 20 service basics lessons that are reinforced daily, in a shift-change staff meeting at Ritz-Carltons worldwide. This exercise, he said, energizes the high-end hotel chains commitment to quality, from the front desk staff, all the way to the maids and maintenance teams.

The key point gleaned from Grant Bowman of the Dale Carnegie Institute was how to improve sales by developing better rapport with and interest in your clients. Bowman, like Harvey Mackay, encourages sales people to ask a lot of questions before making a sale. His approach focuses on a clients primary interest, buying motive, and buying criteria. During this process, for example, a custom installation sales person should find out what gear a client has now and what they like about it. Next, find out what they want to accomplish with their next purchase. Then ask the client what has been preventing them from accomplishing their goal. Finally, learn what is driving them to make a purchase.

After all of this no-nonsense advice, the conference concluded with Dan Millman, his attention-grabbing handstand and group-participation games. Oddly enough, it worked quite well in bringing all of the ideas together. Millman reminded us that life is a series of moments, some more meaningful than others. Always, he said, stop and ask yourself, What am I learning from this experience?

In the present, there is only awareness.