Friday, January 1, 2010

Weaknesses? Me? Can't Think of Any

Those of you who believe they are without weaknesses, can stop reading now, because there's little hope for you to be anything more than average. Other than you, the last person who was sure that you were perfect was your NaNa. I know that neither you nor I are without weaknesses and so does every prospective boss. Down deep, maybe not so deep, you know it too. So never tell an interviewer you are weakness-free!

Many years ago, as a rookie sales manager and blessed with as good a mentor as could be found, I learned the following with respect to evaluating sales candidates: "If a person is uncomfortable telling you his weaknesses," Charlie said, "it's because he is really unsure about his strengths." Hundreds of interviews later have proved Charlie right as rain. The candidate insecure about his strengths, likely has good reasons, so a sensible executive takes his word for it, and says, "Thanks for coming in, we'll get back to you."

Conversely, the candidate who might say, "I am disastrously disorganized and always have thirty balls I'm juggling at once, so, how good are the assistants here?", is halfway home to an offer, at least from me. If that concludes his weakness list, he's already set the credibility table for the next conversation which will be about his strengths.

A serious business person, who rationally identifies his weaknesses, will also take the trouble to protect himself and all with whom he deals from the potential effects of them. So for example, Jeanne, the latest in a series of brave executive assistants, emails me every evening the next day's schedule (even after meticulously noting every task and appointment in my online calendar). She follows that with a cell call or IM five minutes before any scheduled event. By 'fessing up to my assistants, and making their protection of me, from me, a requisite part of their job, I've neutered the weakness and can focus on the strengths--juggling for instance.

Now here's the really important news. Every client and prospective client for the rest of your career will also have weaknesses. Because your role is to help them grow their businesses and you are singularly focused on that--you owe it to them to help them both identify their shortfalls that are holding growth back, and partnering to devise ways to corral them, as well as to encourage them to give free rein to their strengths.

The truth is that people with towering strengths may also have towering weaknesses. Rather than kill them off for their weaknesses, great executives assist these folk with creative containment techniques, freeing them to change the world with their towering strengths. Great sellers do the same for their clients.

Your meetings with your clients should always involve discussions meant to identify weaker areas in their business--target market, sales structure, corporate culture, management systems, strategic initiatives, which competitors pose the greatest threats, why---oh yes, marketing and advertising experiences, results and future plans, are all necessary, and fair game. These are discussions great sellers provoke, so as to be indispensable assets to their customers, present and future. How do you get permission to engage like that? By making it clear from the first contact on that you are there for them alone, and believe you can be of real assistance in helping them grow. And then your behavior from that moment on must support that pledge.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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