This post is more of a personal message instead of my usual, more direct, advice on building materials sales and marketing. Often, when I share my observations and recommendations, I hear the following: “Mark, you are right on. Unfortunately, our company will never do this.”
In order to grow, companies need to change. But companies don’t change; people change. It all starts with your willingness to change. If your leader changes, are you ready to change to support their change? If your company is not changing, are you ready to change and make yourself a more valuable employee who enjoys what they do?
The more you can let go and grow, the easier it will be to find a better job if your company remains stuck and unwilling to let go.
Warning: You may find that this sounds too much like touchy-feely psychobabble than the straightforward, “You better sell more, or I’ll kick your ass” approach.
If your one of these people, perhaps you can just work on letting go of your need to always exhibit at a trade show or print that literature.
When I think about what caused the most profound changes in my life, I realize that there are two things that were always part of the approaches that had the most success.
The first was letting go of the direct goal, like increasing sales, and taking a view from a higher altitude where I can start to get a better view.
The second is to trust in the outcome and be open to being surprised with where it leads. The outcome may be much more powerful than you expected, you may even grow your sales without even trying.
How Letting Go Worked For Me
In 1998, I went to a Tony Robbins event. One of the most important things I learned there was that you might need to be prepared to let go of something in order to change.
Tony talked about the Six Human Needs. There is the need for Certainty and Comfort and the need for Uncertainty and Variety. Next is the need for Significance and the need for Love and Connection. And finally, the needs for Growth and Contribution.
I realized that I had an outsized need for Significance. Apparently, this need for others to think you’re important is a common issue with men. Who would have guessed that?
I saw how my need to feel important got in the way of making any progress on being more successful or just being happier and less stressed. I started every interaction with another person needing to feel that they saw me as someone important. If they didn’t see me as important, I could become enraged, thinking, “How dare they, don’t they know who I am?”
The bottom came when I was looking at a new car. I test drove the car and liked it. Then I handed the sales person my business card (important people always have cards) and told him I wanted to lease the car and to call me with the price. I was wearing a nice suit and tie, another signal of my importance.
The sales person never called me back. I blew up! I was enraged for several days. It really stressed me out. I thought if a car salesman won’t call me back, then how unimportant must he think I am?
I mean, WTF? I put on my best “I’m an important person performance”—and I was very good at playing this part—and it had no effect. How dare he? Who does he think he is?
That’s when I started to realize, “Who the hell do you think you are? What the hell is wrong with you?” I realized that I needed to change my need for significance.
When you are ready to let go of something in your life, Tony recommended that you do something symbolic to make it more real. He suggests things like burying it or burning it. I decided to retire my need for Significance. I wanted to recognize that my need for Significance had, in some ways, treated me well and got me to that point in my life but that I no longer needed it.
I told my wife about my experience, and she surprised me with a framed jersey so I could officially retire my need for Significance, just like a sports star. This jersey hangs on a wall in my bathroom, so every morning, I am reminded that I retired my need for Significance.
We all have a need for some Significance—my need had just become so big that is was creating problems. The jersey reminds me, every day, to keep this need in its place.
After I let go of this need, I wrote a book, started a blog, a podcast, webinars, a newsletter, held workshops and I get paid to speak for and consult with many businesses.
I am now a recognized expert in my field. People come up to me, at industry events to introduce themselves and thank me for helping their careers or businesses. I have no need to make sales calls—building materials companies come to me.
By letting go of my need for Significance, I have now become much more Significant than I ever imagined I could be.
In the male-dominated world of building materials, I frequently see a need for Significance at all levels. I also see a need for Certainty, as in, “I need to know that I will have this job for a long time, so I will keep my head down and just do as I am told.”
Leaders who need Significance are not open to new or alternative ideas. They stifle their employees and lose the best ones.
Many people in building materials need their suppliers to make them feel Significant. This leads to them being manipulated by their suppliers and favoring those who make them feel the most important.
What can you or your company let go of to grow more effectively? What are you ready to bury, burn or retire?