Consultative is a pretty big buzzword in the sales world today. Sales professionals and motivational sales coaches travel the country preaching from the mountain tops on the next best thing to do in order to guarantee your next sale. The ugly truth is that nothing will guarantee a sale in any type of business transaction. There are far too many circumstances that need to align in order to close a sale, and if we are honest with ourselves and we look at the criteria we should be amazed we sell anything at all. This of course depends on the product, but at the end of the day – and with the digital world we live in – any amateur can create a website and put something up for sale. We live in a market that is overflowing with product – simply put, oversaturated.
Some sales people are better at selling than others, but how can this be? The product is the same. The price is the same. The brand recognition and value is the same.
How can we possibly distinguish ourselves from the competition? How do we shine through the foggy marketplace like a beacon of truth in an effort to say “Hey! Look at me.”
First things first, our consumer must find value in the product we have to offer. Today, the ability for consumers to differentiate product has become seemingly impossible without strictly looking at the bottom-line price difference. Most markets, regardless of product, are price driven. But, what if there was a way to shift that paradigm? What if it was possible to not have to sell a product, but rather allow consumers to buy from us.
This is our beacon: consultative selling.
I work in large group commercial health insurance, and the best part of my job is the process of becoming an extension of my clients benefits team. I am given the opportunity to listen to their problems, learn about short/long term business goals, and help provide my consultation on how to get there based on the tools I have in my tool belt – in the form of new products and services. I personally feel that I have achieved some level of success in what I do, and I attribute a large portion of that to my ability to relate to my clients and their needs. They call me to tell me about their daily struggles and vent about the stress of the numerous regulatory requirements they’ve been burdened with as a result of “reform”.
I believe sales today have become more about power, authority, and who comes from the most prestigious background. To be fair, all of those emotions are a product of how we’ve been groomed to treat a competitive landscape. Those with the most power and authority will come out on top, right? Nay, I say!
Challenge: the next opportunity you have to close a sale, humble yourself and step down to look at your client face-to-face. They’ll view you as a partner and not something disposable. Relational sales people are the only sales people, everyone else is just a distraction.
The motivation of most anything at the age of 13 is something of monetary value. In 8th grade all I saw was a dollar sign. However, what I gained by taking part in my first clinical drug study for Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is something money will never be able to buy.
My first clinical study was in 2004 for a new and improved digestive enzyme for patients with CF. This new enzyme boasted improved capability for nutritional absorption and came with hopes of being able to take less than the usual 20-30 pills per day. The health risk involved was relatively low, but ultimately my family left the decision up to me regarding whether or not I was going to participate. We met with several of the clinical study nurses in addition to my usual staff of doctors so that we could make an educated decision. After almost no hesitation on my end – again, all I saw were dollar signs – we decided to move forward with the study. Although the risk was low, the commitment to the study was high and involved a two-week hospital stay (a first for me) to monitor vitals and the drug’ effectiveness.
For those who are wondering what happened to the study pill, it was never approved by the FDA for use by the CF community. Although it was disappointing to hear, the outcome of this particular story is far from failure. I gained so much more during this study than a few extra pounds and the added convenience of taking fewer enzymes. I built a deeper relationship with my physicians and nurses, I learned more about the disease I live with, and most importantly I contributed to the continued improvement and quality of life for those living with CF.
A few years later I was asked to take part in one of the preliminary drug trials for Vertex Pharmaceuticals who were pioneering what we now know as Kalydaco and Okrambi – I think we all know how these studies turned out.
Clinical drug studies are not for everyone. Several factors such as lack of time to commit to, health factors, as well as many others may mean that now is not the right time for participation in a drug study. However, I feel it is crucial that those who are capable of participating in these types of studies at least consider doing so for the simple fact that we would not have come as far as we have without the select few who have given their time and effort into making it happen. Tremendous organizations like the CF Foundation can raise as much money as they want to, but without dedication from patients willing to contribute in the name of science those dollars are wasted.
It’s one of those healthy buzz words plastered on food labels everywhere to make the food you eat more appealing. But studies have shown the consumption of whole grain foods, versus those with refined grains, can provide a much greater health benefit when properly added to your everyday dietary regimen. Whole grains are high in fiber and contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that, according to the Journal of Nutrition, have been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. Whole grains also play a vital role in healthy weight management and gastrointestinal health.
But what exactly is whole grain, and how can we tell if what’s on the food label is accurate?
Well, there are three components to whole grain – the outer Bran, Endosperm, and the Germ. All grains start out as whole grain, but the refining process typically removes the outer Bran and Germ portion to give the grain a better texture and preserve its shelf life. The downside to grain refinement is that what’s left remains only the inner Endosperm which contains mostly complex carbohydrates and only a few of the essential vitamins and minerals. A few good sources of whole grain include Barley, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Rice (both brown and white), Rye, and Corn.
In order for foods to be labeled as whole grain, the USDA requires that at least 8g of whole grain content be in each serving. The US dietary guidelines suggest that at least half of our daily serving of grain be from these whole grains – that comes out to about 3-5 servings of whole grain each day!
Whether you’re trying to shed some unwanted pounds or just trying to maintain the ones you have, a balanced diet is crucial to achieving your health goals. Try to integrate whole grains into your diet, and be sure to always look for the certified whole grain stamp when planning your next meal:
Photo courtesy of WholeGrainCouncil.org
Spring – where every day is a balmy 40 degrees, foggy, and there is enough moisture in the air to water a hibiscus. It also means that civilization is beginning to wander back outdoors for some fresh air as the great thaw begins to settle in. For those who work in the city, it means street vendors, spontaneous musical performances, and jumping at every opportunity to get out of the office and enjoy the nicer weather.
Spring also provides an in between period of winter and summer where we come out of hibernation and begin to refocus our free time on being active and getting rid of those unwanted winter pounds. According to a study by Johns Hopkins, the average American can gain anywhere between five and seven pounds during the winter months. Add this to a typical 40 hour work week, family, and other extracurricular activities and that those unwanted pounds can add up rather quickly.
The good news is there are plenty of ways we can integrate daily exercise into our already busy schedules and get back on track to a healthier lifestyle. Did you know, it takes approximately 10,000 steps to burn 1lb of fat? For an average adult standing 5’9”, that comes out to roughly five and a half miles! Couple this activity with a healthy diet and you have the recipe for success.
Here are 5 ways to help integrate a daily dose of exercise into your busy lifestyle and get you on track to a healthier you this spring:
Take the stairs
Stairs are the secret weapon nobody knows about. We see stairs every day and, chances are, we do not even take the time to use them. They are in our offices, parking garages, entertainment facilities, restaurants, etc.
Track your progress
How can we know that progress is being made if we don’t track our performance? There are lots of great tools to help track your daily exercise. Pedometers are a great way to measure the number of steps you take and you can find them at your local fitness store for under $20. There is also a great app for iPhone and Android called Moves that uses the technology in your phone to count steps as well – the best part is, it’s FREE.
Find a buddy
Studies have shown that those who exercise with a partner are nearly twice as motivated to continue with their routine than those who exercise alone. So find someone who shares in your fitness goals and exercise together.
Buy new shoes
It sounds crazy, but who doesn’t love getting some cool new gear? Whenever I get something new I want to use it all the time. So try jump starting your mentality with a new pair of walking shoes. You can get your daily dose of exercise and look good doing it!
Exercise requires hard work and dedication. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself after a long week of hard work. Reward yourself with a day of rest or some time off doing something you enjoy.
Photo courtesy of Dietsinreview.com
Created by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids as a celebration of “laughter for the health of it”, LaughFest is now in its 4th year of operation as one of the Midwest’s largest comedy festival. A 10-day festival featuring some of the largest names in comedy, it has become the winter edition of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids as a large scale attempt to drive economic growth and community engagement.
This year, the lineup for the week-and-a-half long festival is as impressive as ever. With headliner names like Jim Gaffigan, Chris Tucker, Lily Tomlin, Sinbad, and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, it’s nearly impossible to find an evening without five-star comedic excellence.
But big-name headline shows aren’t the only thing going on at LaughFest that makes it worth adding to your to-do list.
As is with ArtPrize, and really anything else you find in the city of Grand Rapids, LaughFest puts a big dose of family friendly fun into the 10-day festival. At the kick-off event held on Thursday, March 6th, the LaughFest community continued their tradition of breaking world records by attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the number of people wearing sunglasses at night. The unofficial number of 1,675 people wearing sunglasses at the LaughFest kick-off party beat the previous record held by Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
A new event to the festival this year is the Clean Comedy Showcase underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The clean comedy showcase brings a refreshing cast of comedians committed to making people laugh without vulgar or crude language.
For a complete list of upcoming events, visit the LaughFest events page here.
As wonderful as an entire 10-days committed to fun and laughter is, it is important to remember the root cause of such a fundraiser – that’s right, fundraiser. The LaughFest fundraiser is brought to the community through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a free
community with a comprehensive educational program, lectures, workshops, and social activities all designed with the intent of helping people deal with emotional health and wellness needs.
Photo Courtesy of Gilda’s Club
May was Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Awareness month. You’re probably saying to yourself “what the deuce is CF?” Well, chances are you can take comfort in the fact that you are not the only person. For a disease that affects more than 30,000 children and adults, with more than 1,000 new cases being diagnosed each year, it’s amazing how few people actually are “aware”.
To make things more difficult, we live in a world where every cause has a month where people dedicate their time and effort to increasing awareness and doing what they can to raise funds for their cause. ALS, Guide-dog awareness, National Bike Month, Mental Health, and Asthma are all “celebrated’ in the month of May alone.
This is all great news, but it makes it harder for smaller, lesser known organizations to break through the clutter and actually make a significant impact on their cause. In the case of CF, it’s rare to find someone who knows about this disease who does not have a personal connection to it. In other words, if your brother, best friend, significant other, etc. does not have CF then chances are most are unaware; the other option is ignorance which, in my opinion, is even more dangerous than not knowing about it at all.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has done miraculous things in the last 20 years to help improve the lives of those affected by CF. Funds have been raised and clinical studies have been conducted to help develop different treatment methods to combat the physiological effects of CF.
So to close, if you’re looking for worthy cause to support and get involved with I encourage you to reach out to your local CF community.
Get up. Be strong. Take action.