You learn to be book smart in school, but you better not forget that you need to also be street smart. As I like to say, knowledge does not become power until it is used!
I succeeded because I have street smarts that I either developed or picked up throughout my career from some of the world's smartest and most interesting people.
I have done four previous columns on street-smart ideas, which have generated terrific reader feedback. Here are some more of my favorites.
First idea: Know thy competitor. Walmart founder Sam Walton once walked through a K-Mart store with his CEO, David Glass. David told me this story personally. Sam suddenly stopped in an aisle and said, "How come we're not doing that?"
Sam Walton spent more time in K-Mart stores than his own stores.
Interesting fact: Both K-Mart and Walmart started in business the same year -- 1962. Walmart's sales last year were $482 billion, while K-Mart sales were a paltry $10 billion.
Next idea: Channel your inner child. We start out as pretty creative beings -- children let their imaginations take them to places they've never seen and do things that seem impossible. We encourage this as fun and playtime, but we should celebrate it as the potential for great discovery and accomplishment.
Here's a quote often attributed to Pablo Picasso, arguably one of the most creative artists in history: "Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up." Or maybe you can be inspired by another notable thinker, Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel): "Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try."
Next idea: The most important term in any contract isn't in the contract. It's dealing with people who are honest. The second most important term is including the right to inspect all their books and records, including tax records, correspondence and so on, pertaining to the agreement. Once that clause is in there, people with a tendency to get cute usually don't.
Next idea: Everything is negotiable. Everything has a price. A deal can always be made when the parties see it to their own benefit. Nine out of 10 lawsuits are settled on the courthouse steps before proceeding to trial. Even the most bitter of adversaries will sit down at the same table when they can be shown there is a greater advantage to themselves in negotiating than in fighting. The worst settlement is usually better than the best lawsuit.
Next idea: The given reason is seldom the real reason. You must find out the real reason to be successful. In sales, you are asking for the order your entire career. When a person says no, they seldom tell you the real reason.
For example, way over half the time, the prospective buyer will tell you that your price is too high, there isn't enough difference in price to switch, they are concerned about your delivery schedule, they have a long-standing relationship with their current supplier -- a myriad of reasons.
It's your job to discover the real reason. Then and only then can you can work to overcome their objections.
Next idea: Paint your wagon. Did you ever notice how many people happen to work in office buildings more than one story in height? And how many of these same people look out the window off and on during the day? Why not paint your company name and logo on the top of your delivery vehicles or trucks? It's the easiest, least expensive and most neglected form of advertising.
Next idea: Call on people on their birthdays. I always make it a point to visit my customers on their birthdays. If you can't get to them personally, call or email them. Send them a humorous but tasteful birthday card. Stress this tip with your salesforce.
You won't believe how much business we write up on our customers' birthdays. They are in a good mood. Bring them a creative gift. You are not buying their business, you are building a relationship.
I once figured out that I make approximately 300 phone calls a year to my customers and friends on their birthdays. I always try to put a smile on their face by singing "Happy Birthday" in a humorous voice.
Mackay's Moral: Using your street smarts will put you on the road to success.
(Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing email@example.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.)