Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Give the People What They Want

Many eminent entrepreneurs and businesspeople, present and past, have answered the "how did you do it"? question verbatim from this postings Title: They simply gave the people what they wanted.

There are thousands of books published on the various "how to's" of effective sales and marketing. For the hell of it, I looked at the index section of several of the top sellers on Amazon this morning. People...they're all saying the same thing and it ISN'T necessary GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.

The hard part, of course, is these very people (consumers/B2B etc..)take action when they figure out what they want. Which means if your job is to find new business, you need to find them before they marry-up with somebody not named you.

Business networking,affiliate marketing, social media and all the other ways to find people who know what they want...I say "HorseBleep". Yes, we all have success stories from networking. Keep this important fact in mind, however: Your old and new network contacts...and all their "valuable" contacts- Unless you have something they want or need and your timing is impeccable, you're just another person who apparently is pitching them something while they sip their Sam Adams.

We're not talking about Account Management here....whole different animal. We're talking about finding new customers and, as much as you may try, you can't escape the numbers game element to it.

(If your phone rings because your organization cares about smart and effective marketing, you're in a great place. That represents considerably less than 1% of all jobs and companies that fall under the "New Business Development" umbrella )

Give the People What They Want...and ya gotta find them. I, personally, have a methodology different than anyone I've ever met and it VERY MUCH includes me the person. Beyond that, however, is the time and effort that I must put in.

I forget which famous deceased person said that "Success often presents itself disguised in overalls". Amen to that.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm Going In..

Pity the poor SOB whose job it is to call people at home and ask them to buy something. The only thing more extreme than the task at hand is how ill-prepared the people required to do the job are.

Let me emphasize that if your employer REQUIRES you to cold-call telemarket people, managers, executives in the middle of the work day, you are in a BRUTAL situation. But let's have a little fun here. In the past, I've been required to make thousands of these calls. I've also been required to physically knock on doors and I was very good at both. This is the WORST, most unprofessional way to find qualified buyers.

But let's get back to the task...and how it can be done effectively without wanting to dive off a skyscraper.

First of all, if you begin a cold call solicitation with- as I call it- "Name, Rank and Serial Number", you are utterly doomed. Name, rank and serial number being your first name, your last name and the organization you are calling from. DOOMED I tell you. Hospitals, Law Enforcement and telemarketers do that.

A couple of years ago, a cold call telemarketing person called me at home near dinner. I looked at the Caller ID...I thought it was someone else....I picked up. You're expecting a horror story of some script-reading carbon based automaton. WRONG.

It went something like this: (WUTM= WAY under-employed Telemarketer)

Craig: Yallo

WUTM: Craig?

Craig: Yeah..

WUTM: Hey Craig...I'm John..calling ya from the heartland..out here in Iowa (SILENCE)

Craig: Hey John...what's cooking? (I knew what was happening but his approach afforded him me not ending the call abruptly.)

WUTM: This and that...listen, you're probably not too far from the dinner table...just wanted to toss a 45 second infomercial at ya..It's good stuff, but timing will need to be on my o'kay with that?

Craig: Yeah...o' got ONE MINUTE though...what is it?

WUTM: The siding on your's that looking these days?

Craig: Not good...but I won't spend a dime on it until I absolutely have to.

WUTM: What are ya thinking??...two years?? year...six months?

Craig: No way I've got two years left...I hope to God I've got one.

WUTM: O'kay...fair. If I may do this. It sounds like you'll be at least THINKING about it in six months...fair?

Craig: Yup..

WUTM: I'm going to put some glossy stuff, U.S. Mail, tonight and six months from now. The Company I work for is U.S. Fiber Cement Siding. Strong company, strong products...can we re-visit?

Craig: Yeah, John...we can. I got hideous vinyl on the side of my house. Very good....I'll look em' up. Now I do need to tend to my young son. Nice job, though. I'm not screwing around with you. I'm going to have a need in a year or're on my short list.

WUTM: Craig...thank you...thanks for the window, here. I'll be in touch.

And that, my friends, is the difference between a professional and the rest of the poor souls out there required to cold call strangers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coffee is NOT for Closers

It's a bit tragic that so many young people in sales both glorify and are hypnotized by two fictional films in which the professional salesperson is chronicled:

1.) Glengarry Glen Ross
2.) Boiler Room

Both films are entertaining; the former a mega successful long-running play on Broadway. (The film version only managed to secure Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin and Alan Arkin to tow the films line). Maybe the greatest ensemble cast ever assembled.

The problem with both films is they champion acts of brutal dishonestly and bullying. They hammer the importance of "closing" business or, more specifically, aggressively if not sadistically closing their clients. It's everything that everybody hates about salesman. And I'm telling you from A TON of personal experience, young people in sales eat it up. Thankfully, they practice none of it because it requires a maniacal personality and brashness they don't posses. That and it's insanely unprofessional and it doesn't work.

Professional buyers eat these people alive..the ones that are actually still alive, that is.

I don't know a single person in sales who comes close to conducting themselves in the manner above described. If they did, they would be crucified. Even introverted buyers will shut down any conversation that has even a whiff of these tactics.

Buyers close deals, not sellers.

Whatdya Do?

Marketing is what I do, in more flavors than I can count. Selling is marketing except the word carries baggage but I do plently of direct selling as part of my marketing. I don't do either if I don't believe or understand the value or think either is marginal in any way.

My career has been equally divied up among start ups, self employment and working as an employee for Fortune 2000 companies.

Though much of what I do is as an independent, I frequently partner with a specific organization. I've spent an aggregate 15 years with the Principal of this company working directly for or with. Much of what I've learned originated from him and he alone represents the Mergers and Acquisitions Advisory Services.

All but not limited to:

Professional Search/Recruitment
New Client Development
Marketing and Advertising Copy
Creative- Generic and Specific
Professional Representation/Agency
Mergers and Acquisition Advisory Services

Friday, November 13, 2009

Don't Do it

I've advised more than a few people on why it's a very bad idea to start a cold call with your name and the company you're calling from.


In every instance, if you pick up a ringing telephone and the caller IMMEDIATELY tells you their name and where they're calling you from, what follows will not be good. The call is coming from:

1.) A hospital
2.) A cop
3.) A lawyer
4.) The IRS
5.) A bearer of other bad news

9 times out of 10,it's a salesperson. And you want NO PART of that call. Let me tell you something...neither do your busy prospects...but you CONTINUE to telemarket this way. The horror.

But you say: "It's company policy!!" or "We'll lose branding or name recognition if we don't say our Company Name!" or " It's the law on a telephone solicitations .." That "branding" one kills me...c'mon, you really believe that?

I say: "Ratfarts...don't do it"

You say: "..well, then, tough guy...what do you say?."

I'll give you this. If you start that call by giving your proverbial name, rank and serial're toast.

What you do say, well, get me in your grill and I'll tell you.

Where you at?

Remember...seriously, if you can. Don't end sentences with a preposition like I just did in the title above.

Craig Hodges
Dover, NH
603-343-4573 (office)
603-205-6983 (cell)



Where ya been?

If you really want to rip the covers off here, most of these listed companies I've done some type of business development for which I was paid. My efforts for the majority of these organizations was as a vendor/independent contractor.

I've also done short and longer term gigs for numerous smaller companies you've never heard they don't get their names in bright lights.

Dell Computers
GE Capital
Harris Semiconductor
Progress Software
Robert Half
Sherwin Williams
Texas Instruments
Time Warner

How Much??.

Client: So..I hear you're a house painter?
Me: Yup...Indeed.
Client: Well...I own a house.
Me: Man...that is tremendous. I like Shelter...think it's important.
Client: And it needs to be painted!!
Me: You don't say?
Client: How much would you charge me to paint my house?
Me: I don't know...I need to see the house.
Client: Ah...yeah...I guess that makes sense.
Me: It really does..

I hate when I ask somebody what something costs and they can't give me a direct answer...HATE IT. And salesreps are always told by their "senior mentors" to "never give price until you can sell value first". That's garbage.

But sometimes the above dialog is a reality.

We have NO idea where you are as an organization looking to develop new business. Or if you're looking to acquire a company or are thinking about shopping yours, the number of "unknowns" is innumerable. Talking about price and rates before a detailed discussion (and signed NDA's) is stupidity.

What does your Target Account List look like? Why are these companies on your Target List? (We'd LOVE to break into General Electric!!..they spend ALOT on what we provide!!.) What worked in previous marketing and sales campaigns? What do prospective clients tell you WHEN THEY CHOOSE A COMPETITOR over you? Tell me a little about your vendor partners. Have you thought about acquiring a company (and their customers) as opposed to slower, organic new client growth?

I could could type another 30 questions, easy...I think you get it.



I charge NOTHING when working as a Recruiter. The company that ends up hiring you pays.

I charge between $500 and $1,200 a day as a Contractor. New Customer Acquistion programs lives in the $500 a day neighborhood; Mergers and Acquisitions experience and expertise is in the McMansion part of town. Performance guarantees/bonuses, Upside Agreements,expenses,agreed-upon success benchmarks, yada, yada. We'll mutually agree upon that stuff...or we won't.

We need to "see the house". With your help and heavy early-stage involvement, we'll agree on numbers where everybody is happy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

But Fear Itself...

Imagine the suspension or temporary loss of the lifestyle you now have?

Notice I didn't use the phrase "loss of job" or "loss of income". I also didn't use "lifestyle you enjoy" because, c'mon now. Having fun yet?

That fear COMPLETELY runs your life. It's why when your bosses boss makes a joke, you pretend it's hilarious. How's that feel?

It's why when your supervisor tells you to do something that's WAY out of alignment with what you KNOW is do it anyway. You do that stuff every day. You're a team player, right? Pah-leeeeease.

You've got a family to feed, you've got children to educate, you've got elderly parents who are or will soon be leaning on you, right? Check, check and check here too. (And man oh man, this message is not being delivered from a Glass House...I've been that guy before...FOR YEARS...though I never laughed at the joke from the Sr. VP of Strategic Paradigm Leveraging).

I was raised working class in a close-knit upper-middle class town on the Northshore of Boston. A couple dozen of my close friends W2 at 200K and up every some cases, WAY up. I've known these people since elementary school and we were at each others weddings. We talk...and they tell me things..often they tell me things I don't want to know. They are GREAT providers, good people and- more often than not- are just trying to do the right thing.

The difference between the financial independence mindset and the typical corporate salaried high-income earner is often the difference between Tiger Woods and me accidentally destroying a golf course.

(I should add "self-made" to 'financial independence'. Most Trust Fund kids-turned adult arrive in the biggest boat with a closet full of pharmaceuticals to make them feel better).

You hear that "..tick, tick, tick."? You know what that sound is.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Much?

I vividly recall being in a vendor trade show booth as a young buck. A passerby with a virtual trashbag full of free marketing refuse stopped in to speak with me.

She asked me what a particular product cost....I told her.

I was immediately pounced on by a "seasoned sales veteran" of my company. "NEVER, EVER tell them the price!!!" he roared at me. He then explained how we must, on the spot, create the time and opportunity to sell VALUE first. VALUE, VALUE, NEVER, EVER he bellowed again.

In the fancy-pants parlance of the prestigious, tier-one consulting firms, my colleague is technically known as "an idiot".

There will be times where somebody-usually a customer- will ask you the price point blank. Got a relationship with them?...great, go ahead and jovially ask them "Are you buying on price again, Fred?.." (Make sure their name is Fred). Joke with them that you hear the sound of somebody kicking some tires.

We always want to sell value first, preferably right away. But if a customer or a prospective customer asks you what something costs...especially if it has a list price/SKU, tell them. Otherwise you lump yourself in with the untold millions of other salespeople...the type of salespeople that we all want to avoid.

If what you sell is a service, give em' the ol' housepainter example. Tell them a housepainter can't quote a price without thoroughly examining the house.

It's been my considerable experience that the "How Much" people very rarely buy a thing. Just tell them.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Object, Your Honor.

Young people getting into sales are still trained to hammer people who tell them they are not interested. Didn't that ethos disappear shortly after the atmosphere was forming and the Earth cooled?

It didn't. And, as companies get more desperate with slumping sales, many are telling their salesforce "not to take no for an answer". It's pathetic.

I have recently been VERY near three Fortune 500 companies who still teach this. Just three days ago, I had an experience with a mobile phone carrier who still thinks this constitutes clever tactics. (I won't say their name but it rhymes with ""Flint Bextel").

They don't call it "hammering", of course. It's called "overcoming objections". Many mentors/trainers still ascribe to the "you must hear five(5) no's" before you should stop. I'm not kidding. So why is it, exactly, the average consumer/buyer loathes salespeople?

By all means, if you're working with a customer who you know and have at least a business relationship with, probe aplenty. You've earned that right. They're so busy, half the time you know more about their needs than they do. But even if they adore you, customers often will reflexively say "no" before they even understand what they are saying 'no' to.

If you are talking to strangers..prospecting, it's different.

If you're forced to make cold-call telemarketing calls, don't do this. Not only will you fail miserably, you'll feel pretty lousy about yourself and what you do for a living. Cold calling can actually work...if you've got some SERIOUS phone skills and the people on the other line are in the market (or will be soon).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lessons From Boston-area Blizzards

"All non-essential State Employees STAY HOME"

A buddy of mine and I, whose worldview is consistent with my own, marvel at that line. It is uttered over the airwaves here in New England every year when we get really pounded with snow.

" name is Gary Dornhopper, I work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, my check clears every two weeks though I get called MANY names...including NON-ESSENTIAL".

There's a joke here, obviously...but is there?

Switch over to the private sector of the economy for a moment. Are you considered an "Essential Employee"? Probably not. Unless you are REALLY, REALLY GOOD at making the stuff, supporting the stuff or selling the stuff, you might want to wait on that little cottage you were thinking of buying up in Maine. (Oh, aside from the above mentioned, make sure you know the rules of "the game" and play them until your nose is the color of a UPS Truck).

This sounds like a complaint. It's not. It's reality and, quite frankly, it's probably what's best for most companies. I've worked at companies of all sizes and most people spend most of their days/daze not working!

If you're not very good at your job OR you can't stomach "the game", not to worry.

You're almost certainly pretty damn good at something in which others will be willing to pay you to do it. It may mean working for another employer or working for yourself. Yes, you're going to have to put the cottage in Maine on hold for awhile and possibly settle for a reasonably comfortable off-site tree fort but, hey, times are a changin'.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You've Got What I Need

Many of us know the cost of acquiring a new customer is high. I've LIVED (and written) that, when seeking new customers, it's best to seek people and companies who need what you have as opposed to endlessly following up with people who politely tell you "maybe someday".

Let's talk about customers. Assuming the relationship is on steady ground, you've got something that they need. Sure, they can fire you at any time (and vice versa) but that relationship and revenue stream IS YOUR BUSINESS.

What you have is a level of understanding of their business and, hopefully, a specific and timely remedy or augmentation for their requirements. That's value that you've earned.It doesn't mean they'll always take your call.

Your best prospects BY FAR will always be your customers. Knowing how to manage and grow that relationship is a skillset that companies pay big bucks for. Conversely, Account Managers who do neither get paid for the effort of others who came before them. Constantly "touching base" and stroking customers egos is hardly a skillset. There's a million people on the collective payrolls of corporate America who do little more than that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Four Guys and a Shovel

We've all seen this many times.

A smallish Department of Public Works-type road project. There's an excavator. It's usually a fix on a water and sewer line beneath the road and then a repair of said road.

And there, in plain view, is one man working and- at a collective $70 to $100 municipal tax dollars an hour- three others contemplating either E=Mc2 or whether to completely clear the shelves at Krispy Kreme.

This incredible waste is not limited to Public Works projects. Every study ever done on the workplace shows the vast majority of white-collar workers spend most of their salaried hours engaged in everything from "Tweeting" about what Madison said on Facebook to crunching baseball statistics in order to effectively manage their Fantasy Baseball Team. It's brutal.

As with any human problem, the solution seems incredibly obvious but either will never happen or will happen in a time frame in which all vested interests get their pockets lined.

As The Pretender's Chrissy Hynde sang in the little ditty Back on the Chain Gang...Welcome to the Human Ray-eeeee-ace (Race).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Following Up...right off the cliff

Feel like slaughtering a sacred cow today.

Repeatedly following up with a "prospect" who has never bought a thing from you, 98 times out of 100, is a complete waste of time. That time and energy could have been spent trying to find someone who needs what you have right now or VERY soon. Politely bow out and move on.

The follow-up/tickler system file crowd will tell you how that "builds relationships". They'll tell you some stories about people who EVENTUALLY bought from them after months or even years of "touching base". That's horsepoop. They FINALLY bought from you because you FINALLY had something they needed.

Oh, sure, they might think you're a swell person and complimented you on your diligent "following up". Let me ask you this: What if they thought you were a nice person, admired your tenacity in your following up efforts BUT STILL didn't need what you had. Answer: NO SALE.

Relationships are what happens after business has been transacted. That's when everyone has skin in the game.

I'll end the post with the cow motif I started it with..another one of my favorite little maxims:

Stop trying to teach a pig how to sing. Not only are you wasting your time, you're irritating the hell out of the pig.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sky Chair

"You are sitting on a chair in the sky!!!" shrieked a comedian who calls himself Louis CK.

In this four-minute viral Internet video in which he appeared as a guest on the Conan O'Brien show, he humorously ranted about the incredible comforts and conveniences that people enjoy in the modern world. He ranted how we have these wonderful things but we incessantly complain ABOUT EVERYTHING.

(The quotation that begins this blog entry was about his fellow passenger on a commercial jet who got all pissy when the wireless Internet access temporarily ceased working).

The rest of the video short is more of the same and very amusing. Amusing because, like many funny things, it is true. We are living in a 21st century free market democracy, living like Kings but constantly whining like four year olds.

I've have had a front row seat with people very close to me who had real problems. Painful, terminal illness could take the steam out of you, right? Not with the people I'm talking about. They valued everything they had and dealt with what they didn't.

That turnip truck that just took a left onto Nine Mile Road...I didn't just fall off of it. I realize that for virtually everybody, "you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone" (Amazing, as famous as that song is, I challenge anyone to remember who penned and performed it...without Google, jerky)

So, please, remember. As you're sitting on Flight #427 non-stop to Atlanta and you're late because you had to sit on the runway for 25 minutes- not to mention the 800 other ways the world inconvenienced you today- YOU'RE SITTING ON A CHAIR IN THE SKY.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dentist the Menace

Talking with a guy I knew who's in the salesforce training business. I ask him what's new in his line of work and he tells me something very interesting.

He said Dentists were his fasting growing clientele.

Think about it for a second. Your a Dentist, a highly-skilled professional. And you know your doing your job well if your clients don't need your services!!

An oversimplification, of course, but there's more than a shred of truth to that statement.

But any Dentist with business sense knows there's A TON of money sitting on the table but they need to tread carefully. Top-notch preventative care, cosmetic procedures and many other things people need done but choose to delay it until their mouth explodes with pain or their teeth look so bad they could walk on the set of "Deliverance II" and immediately be awarded a part.

So hooray for the dental profession to collectively say "..ummm...what's the best way to go about this.."

Timing is a funny thing. It wasn't long after I learned that MY DENTIST decided it was a good idea, without my permission, to send a group TEXT MESSAGE about something entirely irrelevant to me and my particular dental needs. I was on a business call at the time. An inbound text message on my cell phone caused a sound interruption slightly less loud than a nuclear bomb detonation. Extraordinary.

Every time I think the very basics of marketing and sales can be understood by a reasonably intelligent Golden Retriever, something like this happens.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'd Buy That

Just read about a company that is about to get a patent for "anti-mist coatings" and I guess it's a fairly big deal.

If you're anything like me, you have my empathy, because being like me is a permanent stay at the theme park, NeurosisLand. But we have to ask, no different than the feisty investigative Entertainment Tonight reporter, "What in the hell are anti-mist coatings?".

It's something that I'd buy....that's what it is.

For some reason WAY beyond my understanding, nobody has totally figured out how to COMPLETELY rid themselves of unwanted mist(or relatives).

You take a real hot shower, the fan is running at a maniacal pace, what happens when you're done? The mirror is STILL pretty much covered in mist. Did the fan go on a cigarette break, leaving his dimwitted humming-machine friend to cover? Why isn't it working? Another example...the interior of your car. I don't care how expensive the model of your car, when certain exterior and interior atmospheric conditions exist, it's "Play Misty for Me" on your interior windshield. It's alot of fun trying to clear a small viewing area at 60 MPH while you're on a road the width of Scotch tape and an approaching truck the size of a WalMart Supercenter is bearing down on you.

So, apparently, somebody has figured out how to fix this.

And I'm buying.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chuck Dickens

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Someone please summons Mr. Charley Dickens because many have been searching for the former lately with not much success. I, myself, was looking amongst and beneath the couch cushions for better days/daze and came up snake eyes. I did find, however, close to $1.80 in change and enough food parts to feed the entire population of Barbados for three weeks. Which brings me to this Post.

The Cosmic Arbiter sure dealt me and almost everyone I know one helluva good hand. And that includes the unemployed, the underemployed and the people who think their boss makes Joseph Stalin seem like "a decent enough guy".

As someone told me once, not only do I have a better quality of life than the VAST majority of the living on the planet, I have a better life than 99.999% of ALL THE PEOPLE WHO EVER LIVED. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Captain CrankyPants.

Not only do I have immediate access to hundreds of things that make my life more comfortable but I am also at arms length to hundreds of things-both needful and necessary- that even Kings and Queens didn't have as recently as 100 years ago.

We all need these self reality checks from time-to-time. There's a good chance your net worth is considerably less than it was five years ago. Your business went belly-up. That vacation is definitely NOT happening this summer. Your teenage children are possessed by some deranged poltergeist who instructs them to only stare blankly at electronic media and say the word "like" roughly 16 times per sentence.

I feel ya, bro and it's easy to get pissy about things...especially lately.

Without sounding like some charged up, self-help Super Sage on an Infomercial, the next time you work yourself up into A LATHER (ya know, like, later today), spend about 30 seconds thinking about what you HAVE as opposed to what you don't. Got it there, Jerky?

Let's look at a live case study.

My day today, in the vernacular of 18th century England, "sucked wicked bad". But I'm going to have a nice home-cooked meal this evening, fart around with my 7 year old son in the backyard, watch a good chunk of the Sox game on the tube, sleep in my comfy king-sized bed and then, tomorrow morning, unleash an uninterrupted stream of expletives as I ponder the incredible injustice of Boston traffic as it relates to my life. I'm kidding. The "No Whining Rule" will be strictly enforced, starting tomorrow, regardless of how the Sox fare tonight.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jetson, you're fired!!

I have been fired from a few corporate sales jobs. Never for insubordination, always because the numbers weren't where they needed to be.

The numbers weren't there and I was invariably told that I needed to get the numbers where they needed to be and how to do it.

Let me state, unequivocally, in all instances I deserved to be let go. I deserved to be let go because I accepted the job offer knowing very well what I was getting into.

Stuff's true, I know this because I read it on a bumper sticker.

On the flip side, I've spent almost half of my working life either working for myself or working for loosely affilaited businesspeople and even collective business interests. The businesspeople I worked for, usually as a contractor, were ALL entrepreneurs. Not people who work for a corporation but INSIST on calling themselves "entrepreneurs". These are and were people who had been completely on their own for many years. A handful had lost EVERYTHING in various business ventures..a couple more than once. By the time our paths had crossed, things were typically on the upside and humming along.

All of these entrepreneurs lived by a certain creed. They all agreed that the anxiety and uneasiness of financial unpredictability or even instability was MUCH LESS PAINFUL than the misery caused by either submitting themselves to the will and whim of others and/or selling themselves to do something that was anathema to everything they believed was right.

Sound familiar?

I have more than a few friends who are successful in their roles as good corporate citizens and, presumably, effective employees. They are respectful,intelligent people who are responsible and have always been consistent income earners and providers. And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, aware of my utter lack of consistency in similar environments have said to me "..hey, you gotta know when and how to play the game..". And they were honest enough to say they didn't necessarily enjoy that part of the job either but, hey, got kids to educate and bills to pay.

People write 500 page books on how to sell. Why? Look back a mere 100-150 years when the trader/merchant model ruled the day and had for centuries. Things haven't changed AT ALL at the most elemental level. People do commerce and engage in transactions where value is exchanged for value. Skilled marketing people can, at times, accelerate this and even create a perception of value.

Run this by your sales manager, who has framed quotes from General Patton and Vince Lombardi hanging on his walls, as he tells you how to "close those SOB's!!". And bring a box with you.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Organized Business Networking Events

Networking events are, unquestionably, the finest way on earth to meet water filtration system salespeople. If that's not what you're there for, rest assured, you will be assaulted by a dozen or so Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) salespeople who have some "amazing" or "incredible" opportunities they would love to tell you about, preferably this very moment! (Can I finish my doubled-fried chicken part, there, Bob?...yeeeks).

I, personally, reserve usage of the adjectives amazing and/or incredible for the very rare instance in which it is apropos. I've yet to trip over a skin cream or multivitamin product that was anything more than "relentless" or "suffocating"- as opposed to, say, a "once in a lifetime opportunity".

Back to business networking. Maybe there was a time when these scheduled events included largely people looking to meet new people and extend their business network. My experience of recent years tells me those days have been Betamaxed....and this is coming from a guy who sells stuff for a living. (Note to Self: the expression Betamaxed has been Betamaxed).

I know there are people who still effectively use such events to network and possibly even meet potential clients. These folks network effectively because they know how to listen, they're not there to see how many business cards they can collect and they genuinely care about other people. And they have sufficient body armor to fend off the swarming MLM'ers From the Depths of Hades.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ellis Redding

Morgan Freeman's "Red" from Shawshank was worried.

He was, after all, a man you went to see when you needed things. He knew life outside the prison walls was very, very different. Paraphrasing, he mentioned "people can just open the Yellow Pages and get anything they need".

If you're an entrepreneur or in a pure new business development role, it's hard not to feel like Ellis "Red" Redding sometimes. Even compared to 10 years ago, buyers can make a few phone calls and- by the time they get back from the restroom- have a dozen vendors doing synchronized cartwheels in the lobby.

Your job as the entrepreneur or salesperson becomes to either create unmanifested demand or consistently find that needle in the haystack. And if your on someone's payroll and fail to do either quickly, you'll be off their payroll soon.

I've lived it for 20 years with all the requisite bumps and bruises.

People want results and they want them now.

Turnover in Sales dwarfs any other line of work I'm aware of. Sales happens to be the default career for many. That said, there are many bad salespeople out there and they, rightfully, are typically jettisoned quickly. There are also very talented marketing/sales people out there, with the singular ability to turn NOTHING into SOMETHING who would be much better served answering only to themselves.

Virtually every great entrepreneurial story speaks of the man or woman who were repeatability told by others that they- and everything they believed was right- didn't fit the formula or system.

Friday, February 6, 2009

That would include lots of money

All these years later, I still hold out a sliver of idealism that sours on the perceived corrupting power of money. But many ideals, like this one, can be like a child covering their own eyes, believing nobody can see them.

One thing is certain. Rich or poor, happy or miserable, your life will have its share of heartbreak and disappointment. There's not a person on the planet who is exempt....not even Justin Timberlake (I think).

And when these hiccups come cascading in, not having any money is like chewing on a Dorito with an abscessed tooth. You don't get a mulligan on your financial obligations when your dog dies, your teenage son accidentally drives your car into somebody's living room and your wife thinks the UPS Driver is not only adorable but a great listener.

People would probably like to care more about your problems but they are too busy with a mountain of their own.

You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word said, uber mobster Al Capone. Replace "gun" with "money" and you may not be Socrates you'll have fewer wrinkles on your forehead.

This comes from a guy who, when I win Powerball some time later this month, will not swim in luxury. I don't get a charge from it.

I've had enough money and grew up with close friends who shared their opulent surroundings and possessions with me. The only thing thrills and exotic adventures ensures is a metaphorical hangover and a need for more. You say you're shocked when you hear the rich and/or famous either take their own lives or drink and drug themselves to death?

I am envious of those few who LOVE what they do and never have to think about money.

I will encourage my own son to follow his proverbial bliss. But I will not tell him that money is the root of all evil but an elixir that can sometimes help when you need help real bad or allow you to indulge in whatever it is that blows your hair back and requires payment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leads, not Brand

If the name of the company you run happens to be Pepsi or IBM, possibly even Mercedes Benz or The Mayo Clinic, get your checkbook out because you're about to cut another one to make sure your brand is at least as good as it was yesterday.

If you're running a company that won't be discussed this evening on CNBC and you're spending money on marketing, that money better be coming back with some friends. I like to call these "friends" leads.

I have a tough time with the billions spent on branding though I can't deny every study shows when the Big Boys slash cash on branding, their sales goes down. Possibly I'm jaded for when I ran my spots for my multi-national/basement headquarters during Super Bowl 39, the only result I witnessed was a call from a guy named "Vance" in Fresno, telling me he might like to "maybe, ya know, talk and stuff...later in the year when things settle down..".


If your marketing doesn't generate leads that can be measured and managed, spend the money somewhere else. Spend it on the people who produce for your company, whether in their making your product, servicing your product or consistently selling your product.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Selling to Strangers

This anecdote has a happy ending, so sit tight for a moment.

If cold calling strangers in the middle of the work day is what you do or ARE TOLD TO DO to "generate leads", you better pack a good-sized lunch.

I have made thousands and thousands of these types of calls through the years because I was told if I didn't, I would be escorted out the door. Good grief.

For the record, my voice projects very well, I speak clearly, am very effective with cadence, intonation and can make the guards at Buckingham Palace laugh. That said, if you set up a contest between myself and, say, a reasonably intelligent cocker spaniel that speaks English, and asked us to make 5,000 essentially random cold calls to sell widgets, I would win the contest...but BARELY.

We would each, by pure luck, get about the same number of live decision-makers on the phone who happen to need widgets that day or very soon(Grand Total:not many). I would win, however, because in that 2 second window after they say "hello", I would fare much better. My opponent would likely be engaging in some unsavory personal hygiene at all the wrong times so I'd take home the steak knives.

Bottom line: I lose, the dog loses and the business loses because it is a terrible way to sell products or services. It also completely destroys the morale of even the good people you may hire because EVERYBODY has a finite amount of arrows they can take in the face. People have their breaking points, robots do not. (Speaking of robots, the guy who played "The Robot" in Lost in Space, Bob May, died three days ago. That one hurts. It was like the day we lost Brando AND Don Corleone.)

So, as a business, what do you do? I am in complete agreement that we must connect with a significant amount of buyers to sell anything...and that includes using the telephone...alot.

(An aside:I am a HUGE proponent of clever guerrilla marketing. On short money, I have made it work more than once. You ask how? See above re: Buckingham Palace.)

So, if I'm on your payroll, we need to be reaching out to prospective customers who don't know me or our company in relatively large numbers, ideally in concert with a cost-effective guerrilla marketing program that is demonstratively working.

Here's the good stuff: I will be connecting with prospective buyers every day who don't know me BUT THEY THINK THEY DO (and there is not an iota of deception at work here). That's what I do; that's what I teach.

How's that work?

I get paid not only for results but what I know. I could put the whole program in print, right here, and know that people would read it, think "hey..that's a good idea" and then NEVER DO IT. They'd go right back to doing what they do...and that's just fine, if it works.

If the phone is not ringing (and I know for many, it's not), somebody better figure it out.