In the 1980s Lee Iacocca turned GM/Chrysler around with the help of a pithy maxim: lead, follow, or get out of the way.
For #b#Ron Karr#/b#, a popular speaker and sales guru who makes regular appearances on cable news magazines, Iacocca’s thoughts are outdated. There are no followers, he proclaims. There are leaders, there are sellers, and there are the rest. Sales and business are too competitive for anyone to be a follower these days, so you had better gear up to pave your own way if you want to succeed.
Karr presents “If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now: 22 Years of Success, Mistakes and Gaps in the Speaking Business” at the National Speakers Association on Wednesday, July 23, at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bridgewater. Cost $60. Visit www.nsanj.org
Karr, who graduated from Skidmore College in 1978, is the founder and president of Karr Associates in Westwood, where he has been a professional trainer, speaker, and coach since 1988. He specializes in sales training and has written two books. His latest, “Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way,” is published by Wiley.
In his latest book, Karr makes the case for leadership as the pinnacle of professional service. Leaders, he writes, “don’t puke.” They do not have the luxury of looking feeble and they are always on call. A strong leader sets the mood and tone for the entire company, and if he wants it to be a success, he has to maintain an attitude of success. Part of his eye toward success comes from his mother, Miriam Karr, who was the vice president of Chase Manhattan and an internationally known economist.
“In today’s market there is simply no room for followers,” he writes. “But there is plenty of room for leaders who are willing to create outcomes that others have not yet imagined.”
With competition so fierce, Karr writes, assuming the leadership role in your business is a necessity — because if you don’t take your customers by the hand, your competition will be more than happy to fill in for you.
But leadership is not simply taking on the competition. Effective leaders do not just beat the competition at a given thing, nor even sell against the competition. In essence, Karr writes, success lies in creating opportunities for yourself — in effect, having no competition. If you own the game, you will always win the prize.
#b#Believe#/b#. Good leaders, Karr writes, share a few key traits. One of them is belief in the self. Effective leaders already know they have everything they need. They know they have to be flexible and prepared, and they believe that improvement is always possible.
Likewise, good sellers have a core belief in what they have and what it can do. They visualize big, using intuition alongside knowledge. They build for the long term and are not put off by snags that come along, like the “I don’t need it” and I’m just looking” blockades. Instead, good salespeople learn to position their product the right way — will it make you money if you use Plan X? Will it give you a competitive edge just to have it?
#b#Make friends#/b#. An old cliche often advises us to pick our battles. Karr would rather win the war, and the way to do that, he writes, is by building alliances through respect and mutual benefit.
A major component of this process, he writes, is listening. “Leaders know that a one-sided conversation is not as likely to get people invested with them as powerful, integrated dialogue,” he writes. Particularly when it comes to conflict resolution, listening and empathy will win over a lot more people than trying to prove you’re right.
Karr says sales professionals should know when to put their needs aside and when to take the emotion out of a situation in order to find a solid middle ground. And sales pros will know when that time comes if they listen to what their customers want. Good salespeople also ask good questions, based on the issues at hand.
#b#Prepare, prepare, prepare#/b#. The worst thing you can do when it comes time for a presentation is to read it live, Karr writes. Effective communicators know their material well enough to anticipate questions that might arise.
And they know it well enough not to read along. When making presentations, he writes, visual aids are key. But word-heavy visual aids will put your audience to sleep long before you are finished. “Don’t overload the screen with words,” he writes. “Use pictures and photographs, and don’t read slides verbatim.”
#b#Learn from experience#/b#. There are two ways to grow a business, Karr writes. The first, most common approach, is to set out on your own and do it the hard way and make all the same mistakes everyone else has made.
The second is to learn from people who have been there. “Acquire the knowledge and experience gained by other people,” he writes. That way you don’t just get there, you get there faster.
“Leaders know that people don’t want to be sold,” he writes. “They simply want someone who’s responsible and accountable and responsible to help guide them through the buying process.”