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Published:January 1st, 2008 07:58 EST

Getting Ahead by Looking Behind

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

I have goals, and have them written down. In fact, they are in my Sprint Treo “memos" so that every time I go to that file I’m reminded of things I plan to accomplish. However, I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions.

Resolutions tend to be traditionally made and habitually broken. I much prefer year end assessments. The kind that asks, "What did I learn?"

Looking back over 2007, we can all probably say we've learned certain lessons. Following are just a few things the past year has taught me.

President Eisenhower said, "Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before." This is especially true regarding people. If I didn't know it before, this past year’s travels from the British Isles to Virginia Beach have certainly taught me that people are people. From place to place and year to year they change very little. Their interests, fears and challenges, I’ve found, are about the same as mine. Their treatment of me is pretty much determined by my treatment of them.

In this connection, I’ve learned the real meaning of networking. At its best, it’s the by-product of a common bond.

Though I'm a member of various fine networking organizations, this past year I did my best networking while flying to and from engagements and then following the engagement itself. The reason? The establishment of common circumstances or interests.

In addition to these lessons regarding people and networking, this past year taught me something else: You just can't tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks. Though I heard this statement years ago, it was always just so much nonsense that I used mutter to amuse myself and others. However, it actually expresses a rather profound truth.

The truth is that we can often look at results or consequences in our lives with the same lack of perception as one who merely looks at train tracks. We don't see how we got where we are, or where we’re headed. Just that we're here.

This past year, more than any other, I learned the value of charting a course and of staying with it. Of having a vision and of selling it to the right people.

Most importantly, with respect to building a business, I learned anew that people are much more apt to buy what we have to offer when it is what they need or want. That seems pretty simple, right? Yet, in spite of such, for years I operated somewhat on the assumption that meeting planners simply hire speakers when, in reality, they hire problem solvers.

The challenge for meeting planners it seems is to find someone who can deliver the right message in the right way, without that speaker ultimately making them look like they made a poor selection. When meeting planners believe they have found that kind of speaker, little additional selling needs to take place.

One of the nicest compliments I've ever received as a speaker occurred this past year when an attendee said, "You’re so real." I felt I had met a need.

Good salespeople thoroughly learn this filling-a-need lesson. Businesspeople who refuse to learn this lesson generally don't stay in business very long.

BARBER-OSOPHY: Those who refuse to learn from the past are certain to fail in the future.

For More Information:  http://barber-osophy.blogspot.com/