Business Mentors

No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.

– Ben Jonson -Sixteenth century English dramatist.

 It is difficult to improve yourself if your own set of skills is the only model you have to follow.  To reach a higher level of skills and abilities you must strive for them; but before you can strive for them, you must be able to see them in others.  See those skills and abilities in others first, then, adapt and apply them to yourself.

Someone who is a good role model performs two functions. 

         1)         He/she provides a good example of what you want to be.

         2)         He/she provides an excellent source of information and knowledge.

People who have achieved a high level of success will encourage others to go out and achieve similar success.  Take advice from people who have achieved what you want to achieve and who possess the qualities and traits of the successful person that you want to attain.  Someone who has worked for a wage all his life, will be unlikely to advise you on starting your own business.  People who have never achieved high levels of success will be hesitant to tell you to take a chance and work toward your primary desires. 

Successful people are willing to share their successes with those who show ambition.  Don’t hesitate to approach someone who is successful in your field.  They will take your interest as a compliment.  Additionally, you can shorten the learning curve and time needed for success by taking their advice.  You can attain important knowledge from books, but wise men and women give practical advice based on their experiences.  You can learn from the mistakes of others without having to make the same mistakes yourself.  This is an extremely important concept to adopt.

 I have been very fortunate to have been taught by two of the greatest salespeople I know, my father, Rubin, and Tom Hopkins.  After graduating from graduate school, I went into sales.  I trained with my father for two weeks.  It was time to go on my own and I adopted the strategy of just trying to imitate what my father did.  I knew that if I was only 50% as good at using the techniques as my father I would be considered successful.  After time, I could add my own embellishments to the system.  This plan worked for me and in a matter of months, I was the number one salesperson on a team of twelve.  In a short time, I was able to outsell the next best representative by about two to one.  One of the secrets to success is to emulate the best to get immediate and great results.  Then, and only then improve the system to become a superstar.

Later in my selling career, I was introduced to Tom Hopkins.  Tom has successfully trained over one million salespeople.  Tom is a stickler for details.  He helped me refine my selling skills by teaching me to pay attention to details.  It is the little things that can make, or possibly kill, a sale.  Just using one wrong word in your closing sequence can blow the entire opportunity.  Tom also taught the value of scripting out specific closes for any situation.  By writing out closes that are tailored to your particular industry, and then rehearsing them until they become second nature, you are prepared for almost anything the customer can throw at you.

After almost two years of rapport building with an account in Chicago I was in a position to close on a window program that would amount to over four-hundred-thousand-dollars a year.  I felt that the main obstacle to my success would be thirty-thousand-dollars of service credits the dealer was earning as rebates from his existing supplier.  I structured my pricing so I would be able to offer year-end rebates that more than offset my client’s lost credits from his former supplier.  By preparing a specific close for his possible objection, I was in position when the concern was raised by my client, to handle the objection and make the sale.

 Major corporations such as Xerox Corporation use a powerful technique called “benchmarking.”  Benchmarking allows you to gain the most from your mentor relationships.  It has become an important part of many Total Quality Management programs in recent years.  Xerox perfected the techniques in the 1970’s and used them to successfully beat back Japanese competitors producing cheaper copiers.

Benchmarking is made up of four parts:

         Identify areas that need improvement.

         Search out examples of other companies or individuals that excel in your area of interest.

         Study the techniques used by those companies and individuals to achieve  the “best in their field” status that they enjoy.

         Apply those same techniques in order to achieve significant improvements in your own performance.

If you were starting a new company and felt that in addition to your industry knowledge and good buying skills you needed improvement in internal accounting controls and marketing, you could use benchmarking to accelerate your success.  Seek out someone who exhibits excellent knowledge and use of accounting, statistics, and controls in his/her company.   Then, find someone else who has a great track record in marketing and product promotion.  Now, speak with these people and learn from them.  By carefully defining the areas where you need help and by “target benchmarking,” you will get a higher level of quality information to apply to your business.

 The best benchmark projects are those that have specific, well defined, and narrowly focused objectives.  Don’t try to analyze the big picture.  Work on specific elements of your plan.  Most of all, implement the information you obtain.  Many times people work hard to make the right connections, obtain valuable information and then do nothing with it

I continue to seek out advice from experts in any field in which I wish to excel.  If I am interested in a something, I am only interested in excelling at it.  Mentors will make the difference in your performance.  Making and learning from your own mistakes is often too costly, both in time and money.  Find people who will share their experiences and knowledge with you.  This will greatly shorten the time it takes to achieve your primary desires.


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