When I did research for my book on negotiating, I found professionals are always prepared. The more prepared, the better the chance for success. So why aren’t the rest of us? Are we lazy, don’t care or maybe just didn’t think about it?
Let’s take a look at these professionals and their preparations:
• Teacher: A lesson plan is ready before every class. Imagine a teacher coming into the class with no preparation and saying, “Hey, kids, what do you want to do today?” We already have a word for this – a substitute. Seriously, the teacher must be prepared before walking into the classroom and must know exactly what he or she wants to accomplish. The teacher’s thoughts are organized so the plan can be accomplished.
• Lawyer: Before every trial, a lawyer prepares notes or briefs of what he or she will cover in the courtroom. Don’t you want your lawyer to have the questions written and to have an idea of what he or she will ask a person before that person takes the stand? As one of the greatest trial attorneys of all time, Irving Younger, once said, “Never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer.” The better prepared the lawyer is before the case, the better the client’s chances of winning.
• Dentist: When your dentist walks into the room with your chart, he has your mouth’s history in his hands. Do you think for a moment you are the dentist’s only patient? Does he sit around all day every day for six months, waiting for you to return? “Hurrah! Hal is here. Get me my drill!” He needs to look at the chart to remind himself what he did on your last visit and to check on what has happened in your mouth since then. As in all other professions, knowledge is power.
• Physician: Before an annual physical, he or she has a sheet with questions to ask about your life history: mumps, measles, heart, cancer, blood pressure and so on. You want your doctor to ask questions. You don’t want him or her to walk in and greet you with, “Hey, appendix. Yes, I think the appendix should come out. No, no specific reason, just a thought.” The better his or her notes from your previous visits, the better the doctor’s chances of remembering what happened.
• Professional golfer: He or she plays the course a number of times before the match to familiarize himself or herself with it. You don’t see a professional golfer showing up the day of the tournament and saying, “Hi there, I’m ready to play. Does anybody know where the first hole is?” The more familiar he or she is with the course, the greater his or her chance of winning. This familiarity also gives him or her a great deal more confidence, which provides a competitive edge.
• Race-car driver: A race-car driver goes through the course a number of times to get a feel for the track and to build confidence. In most races, the cars are identical, so the edge must be with the driver’s skills, knowledge of the track, desire to win and readiness to take risks to outmaneuver the other drivers.
• Military special forces: From the U.S. Navy Seals to the U.S. Army Rangers, those elite forces practice certain combat situations over and over again until they become procedures with which they are fully familiar. Again, this practice gives them a higher degree of confidence before they enter in a real live attack. The military refers to this approach to preparation as military muscle. It’s said that any task or exercise repeated 2,000 times becomes automatic. The bottom line is that the elite or special forces practice much more and train harder than other branches of the military.
Certain cultures play a difference. After all these years, I’m surprised that Americans and Japanese are still so different in the manner of regarding our senior citizens. In the United States, we equate old age with a loss of knowledge and facilities. We throw away our senior citizens, but in Japan they are revered. In the United States we put together a five-year business plan, but in Japan they have a hundred-year plan. Asians have a great amount of respect for all people, regardless of their status, class, or income.
Age equals wisdom, wisdom equals knowledge and knowledge equals power. People learn from each other and especially from experience. Don’t think for a minute that a Japanese businessperson will ever come to a meeting unprepared. It just won’t happen. They understand a work ethic we Americans are still trying to figure out. Pros do things differently regardless of their background or culture. Maybe one day we will each look at ourselves as professionals and try to be the best at whatever we do, whether it is sales, clerical or even being on an assembly line.
Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.