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Business Lessons From Elon Musk

Elon Musk has radically disrupted three major industries. Just a few years ago, his plan for SpaceX to land and reuse rockets was deemed impossible by most experts. Tesla’s mission to start a new American car company focused solely on electric vehicles was considered laughable as well. Musk’s plans to dramatically transform the electric storage industry with his Gigafactory was derided as a dangerously risky scheme. Yet despite his vocal critics, Musk is making waves and effecting change.

The principles outlined below that drive Musk’s success can drive yours as well.

Dare to Attempt a Unique Solution

In every business Elon Musk has been involved with, he has brought a vision of a new way of doing things that transformed the industry. It takes courage to do more than talk about thinking outside the box. It is a lot easier to present a slightly different spin on a tried-and-true sales pitch than to dare to try something unique. Great success often comes from those willing to put in the effort demanded to make such ideas succeed.

Align Your Goals with a Higher Purpose

Elon Musk works more hours in a week than many people work in a month. Tesla and Musk’s home power packs factory are driven by his conviction that we must take drastic action to stop pollution. SpaceX was founded on the belief that we must have a sustained presence on Mars to avoid potential disaster on earth. If meeting your sales goals is just a matter of keeping the manager happy or getting a bigger paycheck, those motivations will rarely push anyone to put in the effort needed to be truly successful. When you find the higher purpose in your life and see your sales goals as a way of achieving that purpose, you will find yourself working harder and succeeding more.

Embrace Your Failures

SpaceX’s first three rocket launches ended in disaster, and Tesla almost failed as setbacks mounted. Yet Elon Musk did not just move on from failure. Rather, he openly embraced it and owned up to it. Owning up to failure is a difficult and humbling process. We often experience the most growth because of what we learn from failure. Embrace your failures and make them a part of your success in the future.

While few people have the drive and ingenuity to succeed to the extent Elon Musk has, by drawing from his approach, anyone can enjoy greater success, meet sales goals, and find new ways to expand their business.

Balancing Teamwork and Competition in a Sales Environment

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When managing a sales team, you need to walk a very delicate line. On the one hand, you want every member of the team to have the motivation to make as many sales as possible. One of the most proven ways to motivate sales team members is by offering performance-based commissions and bonuses. On the other hand, you don’t want your sales team stabbing each other in the back to steal sales. Too much competition can lead to a toxic sales environment, which can have a severe, negative impact on your business.

To get the most out of your sales team without causing infighting, you need to promote both healthy competition and teamwork amongst your employees. There are a few ways you can create this type of atmosphere at your office.

1. Set Team Sales Goals with Bonuses

The easiest way to encourage your sales team to work together is to include a financial incentive for doing so. Set one or more sales goals for the team as a whole, and if they reach the goals, give everyone a bonus. When everybody benefits from the team’s success, team members are more likely to help each other out. It fosters an atmosphere of cooperation and communication rather than rivalry. Each team member also has additional motivation to do well, as no one wants to be the person who didn’t pull their weight and let the rest of the team down.

Just because you’re setting team goals doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of individual sales goals. You can still pay out bonuses or commissions to sales team members individually so they also stay focused on their own success

2. Schedule Regular Meetings

One problem with many organizations is that each salesperson is isolated from their peers, so it can be difficult for team members to develop a feeling of camaraderie. You can mitigate this by calling the entire sales team in for regular meetings to go over their results, goals, and any concerns that they have.

Meetings are also an excellent opportunity for sales team training, which many organizations overlook. Continuous training is great for sales employees and your company, as it’s shown to result in 50 percent higher net sales per employee. Despite the enormous benefits, the average company only invests $2,000 per year in sales training, despite spending about $10,000 to $15,000 on hiring each employee.

By training the sales team together, the team members have an opportunity to become more comfortable working with each other.This builds a more cooperative atmosphere, one where the entire team is working together.

3. Put Your Team in the Right Positions to Succeed

Every member of your sales team is going to have their own strengths and weaknesses. You’ll get better results and create a more positive atmosphere when you find ways to leverage each member’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

For example, you may have one employee who is excellent at initiating cold calls, while another is much better at breaking down the products or services that your company offers. Having these employees work in tandem, with the former gathering leads over the phone and the latter closing the deal by describing product features, could lead to far more sales than if they worked separately. At the same time, you could have these employees learn from each other so they are able to shore up their weak points.

It takes time to learn the best way to utilize your sales team. Consider their backgrounds, personalities, and education, and evaluate their performance metrics to get an idea of what each team member does best and where they struggle. As the manager, it’s your job to get the most out of every employee.

The first steps towards getting your sales team working together while still working hard is setting up team goals and holding meetings regularly. Then, take a deeper look at the skill sets of your sales team to help them reach their potential and succeed.

How to Lead Your Office in Sales

There are certain personality traits and characteristics that enable an individual to be successful at sales. Temperaments, ways of approaching people, and even external appearance can all be a huge influence on a salesperson’s efficacy with clients. Most of these traits are applicable to more than sales, too; they’re valuable life skills that will travel with you throughout your career.

Being Self-Aware 

To understand the way others perceive us, we must first understand ourselves. Being self-aware and identifying our emotions is a useful skill at work and in life. Salespeople have the inherent ability to read their own and others’ emotions, which allows them to adjust their response. Once you can identify how you respond to certain stimuli, you can work on changing your actions, if necessary.

Think about how you react when you don’t understand something. Do you get mad? Do you make a reasonable effort to wrap your head around it? Or do you change the subject? Salespeople know ahead of time how they tend to react and what type of reaction will elicit a positive response in a given situation.

Solution Oriented

Salespeople are adept at solving problems; that’s what makes them so good at their jobs. When a salesman pitches an idea or product, they must first identify a problem for which the product offers a solution. They convince the person by explaining how the product or idea works to make their life easier. In the event that a customer has a complaint or a pitch goes sour, they know how to solve that problem, too. Understanding is the foundation for problem solving. To effectively solve a problem, you must first understand the nature of it.

Optimistic 

Optimism isn’t limited to salespeople. It is a healthy outlook everyone should embrace. Optimistic people are more confident, and confidence gets you everywhere. The key to becoming more optimistic is to thoroughly analyze your emotional response to situations. Imagine you wake up in the morning and stub your toe getting out of bed. You can either think: “oh great, it’s going to be that kind of day,” or you can think: “at least I’m wide awake now!” It’s this type of decision in your perception that alters your entire day.

Assertiveness 

Being assertive doesn’t mean being aggressive. There are plenty of ways to convey your assertiveness without coming across as arrogant. When a customer tells an assertive salesman they would like to think about the offer and get back to them, the salesman will often ask for a specific time and date to follow up. This isn’t as passive as simply saying “okay,” and it’s less aggressive than saying “it’s now or never.” It is both firm and accommodating.

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/04/12/the-unexpected-secret-to-being-a-great-salesperson/

http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/5-traits-of-highly-successful-salespeople.html

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65984

Top 10 Most Influential Speeches

Have you ever watched a political debate between U.S. congressmen or senators broadcast on C-Span, and heard one party in the debate accuse the other party of using ‘rhetoric?’

The accusation usually goes, “That’s just more rhetoric from Senator so-and-so,” and it’s stated as if to besmirch the good name of rhetoric. At least that seems to be how general audiences are meant to take it anyway, as if rhetoric is some kind of dirty political game. So, let’s get clear about what that word means, just for a second.

Simply stated, rhetoric is the logical structure that composes a selection of words into a persuasive, moving, entertaining, and/or instructive message. That means every coherent statement ever uttered followed a rhetorical structure. Yes, that also includes deception, and praise, and flattery.

The senator who accuses the other senator of using rhetoric, is himself employing rhetoric. What does that mean? While there may be some real dunces in politics, but most senator types are educated and polished professional communicators. They know what rhetoric is and what it isn’t. And their common condemnation of ‘rhetoric’ as such, is typically a rhetorical ploy to counter a hollow, ideological argument without appearing to categorically renounce the ideology itself, presumably because it’s popular. That’s some pretty clever rhetoric. Wouldn’t you agree?

In sales, public speaking, negotiation, argumentation and even personal communication understanding the basics of rhetoric gives us a framework for improvement. So let’s take a look at the rhetoric of some famous speeches.

  1. The Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln

The world famous ‘Gettysburg Address’ speech was given by President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, PA on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the National Cemetery.

The primary address at the ceremony was delivered by a famous orator at the time, Edward Everett, and was one of two hours. After such a compelling speech, it appeared that Lincoln’s brief but sincere speech hardly even mattered at the time. However, in spite of a bit of criticism from his opponents, the speech was commonly quoted and hugely praised and was soon recognized as a classic masterpiece of outstanding poetry.

  1. I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous 17-minute long public speech delivered on August 28, 1963, was a direct call to end discrimination and support racial equality. The speech was a defining moment in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King’s speech ranked as one of the top U.S. American speeches of the 20th century conducted by a group of educational scholars regarding public address in 1999.

  1. Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

One early afternoon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt along with Harry Hopkins (Roosevelt’s chief foreign policy aide) were both interrupted by a call from Henry Stimson (Secretary of War) and were informed that Japan just attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. At around 5pm that evening after numerous meetings with his key military advisers, President Roosevelt decisively and calmly dictated a speech off the top of his head to Grace Tully (Roosevelt’s secretary) to make a request to Congress for a formal declaration of war.

  1. Ich bin ein Berliner – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

In 1963, President Kennedy gave one of his most moving speeches ever to the world in West Berlin. Besides “ask not”, it was the most well-known speech he ever delivered. Those heartfelt words captured the attention of the world regarding what Kennedy considered the warmest spot in the Cold War. Scribbled into his hand at the very last moment, they were his very own words; unlike the majority of his other addresses created by uniquely gifted speechwriters. This was even more amazing since Kennedy had a reputation for being tongue-tied when trying to pronounce or speak foreign languages. Ironically, the most famous four words of the entire speech were in German – Ich bin ein Berliner (“I am one with the people of Berlin”).

  1. The Great Silent Majority – Richard Milhous Nixon

President Richard Nixon gave his address to the nation regarding the War in Vietnam on November 3, 1969 about his plans to end it. His address is commonly called the ‘Silent Majority’ speech because towards the end he asked for “the great silent majority of my fellow Americans” for support, meaning the ones who were onboard with his policies but never actually spoke up. The President was contrasting these average American citizens without reserve using vocal adversaries of his said policies who demonstrated and protested against the war, like they did in Washington, D.C. in October of that same year.

  1. The Military Industrial Complex – Dwight David Eisenhower

In President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address, he cautioned American citizens to keep a wary eye on a growing socioeconomic force he referred to as the ‘military industrial complex.’ Eisenhower proved downright prophetic given that the military industrial complex did indeed develop into a powerful entity in the years following World War II. President Eisenhower’s frank language shocked a few of his followers. However, for most listeners, it appeared obvious that Eisenhower was just stating the obvious. Both World War II and the subsequent Cold War lead to the development of a substantial and strong defense organization. Eisenhower warned that this military industrial complex may eventually weaken or devastate the very principles and institutions it was created to protect in the end.

  1. Kenyon College Commencement “This is Water” – David Foster Wallace

It was only one time that David Foster Wallace ever spoke publicly regarding his point of view on life. The parable “This is Water,” was delivered during a commencement speech addressed at Kenyon College in 2005. The speech itself encapsulates Wallace’s gifted mind as well as his trademark humility due to the way it gave meaning to the lonely, beautiful thoughts that roamed about in his head and the way he made people ‘think’ better in general. “This is Water,” is a meaningful parable about the process of constructing meaning from one’s own life, no matter the path it follows.

  1. A Left-Handed Commencement Address – Ursula Le Guin

Le Guin’s “A Left-Handed Commencement Address” perfectly summarizes the area of feminism that highlights the fundamental peaceful qualities of women compared to most men. Le Guin spoke the established binary hierarchies that, as she saw it, govern society. She pointed out how historically, men have always fought wars and were generally thought of as ‘opposites’: fail/succeed, lose/win, weak/strong, false/true, as Le Guin so eloquently put it — women have lived, and have therefore been loathed for living. She goes on to say that women are the entire side of life that involves and takes responsibility for everything that’s unclean, animal, uninhibited, passive, and obscure — the valley of the deep, depths of life.

  1. On the Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous 1948 speech is considered by a number of experts as one of the most amazing and profound speeches ever addressed throughout modern history. Ms. Eleanor, the widow of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the address in Paris, France on December 9, 1948. She spoke to the United Nations at a precarious time when the Soviet Union was throwing its weight around following the Second World War in Eastern Europe.

  1. Women’s Rights are Human Rights – Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton

Sometimes the facts carry enough rhetorical weight to speak for themselves. When facts of that sort are delivered by a significantly authoritative presenter, you have the makings of a very potent speech.

When Hillary Rodham Clinton took the stage at the UN Conference on Women in 1995, it was her detailed list of atrocities against women and young girls that captured the audience’s interest. It wasn’t that they were unaware of the crimes, since the majority of the audience were advocates for the rights of women in many countries across the world in their own right. But, the key difference was that such an important political female voice brought the issues to light and therefore took on a whole new meaning.