25 May “It’s Not Working Like It Used To!”
Do you ever find yourself saying that about your business? Recently, I spoke with a Business Development Director who was very frustrated. So frustrated, in fact, that he resigned and started looking for a position in corporate HR. One of the comments he made resonated with me deeply: “I feel like all the things I did before aren’t working now. And I don’t understand why. All the tricks of the trade and sales scripts and pitches that have worked for me for the past six years just don’t work anymore. I’m tired of feeling frustrated and defeated. The clients I bring in don’t respect me and the deals go sour. The prospects I talk to rush me off the phone. I’m not doing anything different, but it’s not working like it used to!”
At one point, he had been a very good producer but now he felt like box office poison. I feel for him because it happened to me, too. I had gone from being the top producer at an agency with consistent, Steady Eddie production to drastic feast/famine cycles and low confidence. Like the BD Director, I also wondered, “What the hell happened? How could I have been so successful before and yet strike out so badly now? Did I slip through a wormhole to an alternate universe? WTF?!” So why do these things happen?
One important thing to realize is this: if you’re still doing the same things you’ve “always” done, you’re not leveling up. Many times in life, people don’t invest in personal or professional development when things are peachy. Like the old cliche: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Certainly, there are entrepreneurs who try to add too many product lines or make changes too frequently. We can look back to the New Coke debacle from the 80s to highlight that not all business-related changes are home runs. (In fact, Peter Jennings interrupted General Hospital to tell everyone that old Coke was coming back.) It’s not about changing for the sake of change or blindly throwing darts and hoping one of them hits the board. But you do have to be willing to learn new things and experiment. Like A/B testing in marketing: something that worked last year may not work now. You have to be comfortable with making changes.
You Bought Your Own Hype.
“You start living in this bubble, which is your world, and you start to believe that that’s the only world that exists,” he said. “Which is why most successful people screw it up for themselves normally within two, three, five, ten years. They stop listening. The biggest failures I’ve had were at a time when I believed my own hype.” -Simon Cowell to the Hollywood Reporter
Maybe you were a million-dollar producer and thought it’d last every year forever. Maybe you made insane money with very little effort during a market boom. Maybe you started a sales job with no prior experience and discovered you could sell anything to anyone. It was all great and you thought the money train would never stop running. Until the day it did and you felt confused, angry, and desperate. Don’t believe your own hype. Just don’t do it. Several years ago, I had a colleague who was reviled by basically the entire company as well as many clients and candidates. The term “back-stabber” would almost be a compliment for this person. But the owners of the business made it clear that they would not give her the boot until she stopped producing because she was worth a vast amount of money to the agency. At that time. The key here is that the owners knew eventually, her production would dip and she’d either leave on her own or get fired for poor performance. And so it was. She was quite the peacock during the high production time– strutting around ever so proud and convinced she was God’s gift to the industry. It was a meteoric rise followed by a massive freefall– something like a $700K drop in production.
The Training Sucks.
Perhaps you’re working for a company that promotes continuing education, but falls flat in delivering anything useful. Or you may be struggling as a business owner to find something industry-specific that truly addresses your needs. Let’s face it: there’s a lot of junk out there. Your company sends you off to listen to their corporate training team that has zero real-life entrepreneurial experience. (Or they did it for 12 months 100 years ago.) You get on a plane and fly off to a hotel with a conference room, eat bad food, drink stale coffee, and listen to some Matt Foley-esque “motivational” speaker yell at you about how to be successful. Some guy comes to your office and shows you a PowerPoint of dry statistics and reminds you that most sales are made on the 109,726th attempt. I once heard of a business development training seminar that included going to the woods to gather twigs and then coming back to the office to assemble those twigs into a bridge. And all I could think was, “Are you shitting me? How on earth does this help anyone?” There are better options out there!
Are past successful techniques no longer working for you? Feel like you’ve hit a plateau and you’re ready to skyrocket out of it? Let’s talk.