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The Business Exercise That Changed My Life — How to Trade a Paperclip for a House

Is it possible to trade a paperclip for a house? Turns out it is.

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A long time ago I participated in something called Billionaire Bootcamp. I was doing the complete courses Chris Howard, a life coach, offered. In short, I was training to become a life coach myself. Not because I wanted to be a life coach per se, but because I was fascinated by psychology and wanted to learn out of curiosity. As the courses were also targeted to people who wanted to improve their own lives through personal development, one course revolved around finances and was called Billionaire Bootcamp.

During Billionaire Bootcamp, we did one exercise that will stay with me for life. It was called The Paperclip Exercise. For this exercise we were divided into groups. Each group got a paperclip. We had to trade that paperclip for something else, that we’d trade for something else, that we’d trade for something else and so forth. The idea was that we’d trade for something better every time we made a trade.

The fascinating thing? People who had done this before us had ended up with something like a house. I can’t remember the details, but it was a big deal.

The thing is, you don’t go from a paperclip to a house in one trade. You tell someone in the local restaurant that you’re participating in a game and ask if they can’t donate one free meal in return for the paperclip. They do that, you take the gift certificate from them and trade it for something else, explaining you’re part of a game and can’t they please help out? With each trade, the value increases.

Now, you have to get smart, of course. You need to call your contacts and ask them what they can throw in for free, such as a free coaching session. Or twenty discount tickets to the cinema they own. Then you need to find the people who truly need those things and therefore are willing to give you something that to you is of higher value.

As you’re a group of people you work together and call in favors right, left and center. As it’s a game, people are prone to help you. They’re buying into something more than a trade — they’re helping their friend win a competition.

As it’s a competition and you’re under time pressure — whether it is an hour, or 24 hours — you have an adrenaline rush where you’re competing to win. It gives you the oomph you need.

Another thing that has stuck with me is the preamble for the game: imagine someone would die if you didn’t reach your goal. When the stakes are different, you think differently. You get a lot more creative.

Imagine you’re trading a paperclip to raise funds for someone who needs surgery for cancer. Now the stakes are higher. And now people are more willing to give you a helping hand, because they know what you’re fundraising for.

I can’t even remember what we ended up with during this exercise — I was much more stunned by what the other group had previously accomplished and the idea that if the stakes were different, you’d act differently. However, I do remember we ended up with a lot more than a paperclip.

It’s surprising what people will do to help you when you’re working on achieving a goal. And it’s surprising how invested strangers can become in your goal, if you only show them your own enthusiasm. Before you know it, you have an entire team backing your efforts to trade a paperclip, raise money for a cause, or set up your business.

These days many people do crowdfunding online, but how about combining that with an offline campaign where you walk around to every store in your neighborhood, explaining what you’re doing and why you’d like their support. What if you film them and put the videos up on your campaign page, showing the support you got? Wouldn’t that entice more people to donate to your cause?

What’s also memorable about this is how much can happen if you set aside 24 or 48 hours to work on one goal only.

So if you’re sitting there thinking that something you want to do is impossible, consider it from the point of view of The Paperclip Exercise — can you get a team together and go out there and start trading till you reach your goal? Can you enlist people to your cause and start a movement? Can you set aside 24 hours for a mad rush of activity where you and your team conquer your city to reach your goal?

If you can trade a paperclip for a house, anything’s possible. 


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There is no lack of evidence to support the fact that professionals in the sales sector can achieve performances which are superior to the average professional in the field when they are provided consistent and high-quality sales coaching from their mentors or their managers. The coach assigned with the task works to create improvements in the sales performances of the professionals.

These can be seen in the form of an increase in revenue, acquiring bigger deals, attaining higher close rates, negotiation of higher margins, deeper account penetration, and selling solutions among other major factors. The sales coach does this through imparting a direction and feedback on the performance of the sales professionals, using methods which are tried and tested through analysis of hundreds of sales measurement projects with the participation of organizations from over seventy countries across the world.

To decide whether you require the help of formal sales coaching is done through inspection of the current state of your sales teams and answer some important questions. First, you need to see if the sales goals, which were penned down by you, are being left incomplete due to your sales team having a few 2nd or 3rd quality members. Try to sense if the level of motivation in your sales team is low despite the best efforts of your sales leaders. Ask yourself if you would agree that formal sales coaching can play a role in uplifting the level of performances that your sales representatives have been delivering.

Sales leaders and managers benefit a lot from the core coaching skills and tools which are provided through this coaching. These are essential when it comes to the facilitation of the development of the sales team, which they lead with the help of a consistent process. The focus of the program lies towards contribution to the high level of performance from the sales team through the creation of standards of performance in clear sales, the tools and processes required to make successful sales.

This is accompanied by regular constructive feedback to the sales team for improving the methods and their efficiencies as they work on the development and monitor their sales plans for improvement in their performances. The workshop works for developing the optimal sales strategies, imparting the required knowledge as skills for your professionals and increase the engagement of your sales team along with their satisfaction to create a conductive environment for higher performances.

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