Friday, December 31, 2010

The Teacher

This space is usually reserved for my thoughts on the world of business or an occasional semi-coherent rant about assorted nonsense.

Today I wanted to mention my finest teacher on how to be a decent and better human being.

That teacher is my only child, my eight year old son Sam. Sam has Autism. Sam is verbal and can show affection. For parents whose autistic child can do neither, my heart breaks for you. I'll never know nor feel your special type of sadness.

My son is very different from other children his age. Because of this, Sam does not really have any friends. Though he very occasionally mentions the loneliness this brings , he is a very happy child. He is unflinchingly kind to others, regardless of how others may react to him. He is, literally, incapable of judging others. He is almost entirely unaffected by praise or criticism. His "disability" allows him to live without any regret for the past or fear of the future. He's the ultimate Zen Master, living only in the present. He appears to be incapable of employing guile to trick or misrepresent in any way. His literalness- a trait of all people on the Autistic Spectrum- renders him incapable of baldface lying. (He can fib a bit..though he spills the truth after a few seconds).

Much of what I mentioned above is true for all Autistic people. It's part of the reason why many people close to Autism insist the search for a cure is wrong. I have mixed feelings. I'm scared to death of him one day being alone in this world.

Sam has a VERY hard time doing numerous mental and physical activities that most children his age have either mastered or are becoming quite adept at. I don't know if Sam will ever be able to live what society calls a "normal" life. In some respects, he has a tough road ahead. We're a social species and everything that falls under that realm is exceptionally difficult for him. He does not posses any savant-like abilities so he will need to be interdependent if he is one day to be independent. (Roughly 10% of Autistic people have a savant-like talent. Most people not close to Autism think that number is much higher...not so).

I would be lying if I claimed to never feel self-pity about certain things that will never be part of Sam's life. It doesn't last long, however, because spending just a few moments in Sams' presence morphs that self-pity into boundless gratitude.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You are "this economy"

Wifey sells Real Estate. Her breathren are on verbal AutoLoop, prefacing each dialog with "in this economy!". I tell her, for the love of all that is sacred, PLEASE STOP. Don't listen to them and NEVER internalize what the doom-n-gloomers say ad nauseum.

For those who can remember a couple decades back, many of the A-List musical acts got together to raise money for the world's least fortunate. Many of us remember them singing "We are the World" as part of their efforts. They didn't invent the concept that humanity and soceity are not just the sum of its parts. The world's greatest sages have been explaining this to us for centuries.

The idea that the individual also represents the whole sounds like some esoteric metaphysical gobbleygook....It's not. The world is you and vice versa. You are the economy you speak of.

Instead of whining about "what is" (the economy and/or other unpleasantries), save your lungs and take some form of action. Not only will there be a micro yet measurable effect, you'll feel a helluva lot better.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


People do not like to be interrupted. People doing important or time-sensitive work are especially hostile to interruption.

Think about it. You’ve got the TV remote control in your hand, you’re watching your favorite TV show “Barney the Asinine Purple Dinosaur” and it’s interrupted by some insane man trying to get you to walk into his Chevy Dealership. What do you do? Zap…you change the channel, IMMEDIATELY. Tivo, Comcast’s DVR service and other such services and gadgets are wildly popular for a reason…nobody wants to be bothered by your marketing message. Pop-up/Pop Under windows on The Web…those are a big hit, huh? Can’t get rid of them fast enough. It’s the same with Radio, Print advertisements and all other media. You may find the commercials on Super Bowl Sunday amusing (more on that later), but you tune EVERYTHING else out. The telephone consumer DO NOT CALL list, on its first day of online registration years ago, had tens of millions of people register.

If your job is to find new customers, it has become exponentially harder than it was a generation ago. It’s just the way it is. There are still people out there who could sell insurance dialing from the White Pages but they are incredibly rare (and rich). Why? Because it requires an exceptional talent AND one needs to be BULLETPROOF from constant rejection and even verbal abuse. If you don’t have both and you plan on mindless smiling-and-dialing all day…good luck with that.

There is good news. There are several new ways of reaching people that didn’t exist a generation ago. Of course people seized on some of them in the worst possible fashion and turned what could have been an asset into a hideous liability. (Best example: SPAM). This lack of creative thinking continues in most of the iterations of new media.

(No, Iggy the IT Services Guy…I don’t want to be your friggin’ Facebook “friend”). Good grief.

If you’re one of those rare creative/entertaining types, you can use new AND old media to get a foot in the door. If you’re an expert on a subject important to your prospects, that can be weaved into your approach to the market. There are dozens of ways of combining what is uniquely “you” with all forms of media….and that very much includes the telephone.

Think, people. Think and then act. Think, act, consistently modify and act until enough people find what you do valuable. With persistence and just a sliver of ability, you’ll never worry about money again. And you’ll never again have to interrupt an overworked manager to tell them how INCREDIBLE your company’s stuff is.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The 911

If you catch yourself saying anything even close to Someone Needs to do Something About That...I beg you- immediately sedate yourself, preferably in another room in a different area code. You are very much part of the problem.

I saw a great scene recently from television. On the work floor in a early-Sixties era advertising agency, a horrific and bloody accident befell an unsuspecting employee. Without a word, the office manager IMMEDIATELY comforted the victim. The office manager wasn't a physician or a nurse. She did know, however, the victim was terrified and bloodied so she took action. She comforted the victim, cleaned up copious amounts of blood and even applied direct pressure to the sizable wound.

What did her co-workers do? Either nothing or WORSE than nothing. What could possibly be worse than nothing? Standing there and telling nobody in particular to "Call 911". Hey Hawkeye Pierce...why don't YOU call 911?. Or better yet. Why don't YOU get on the floor with the office manger and help her and the victim in any way possible. IN ANY WAY.

That story is a perfect microcosm of both life AND work.

Let's put a slightly more positive spin on this to settle down Mr. Cranky Pants(me)down. We all know people like the office manager described above. They're not necessarily saintly people. Not all of them are wonderfully likable all the time. But without them, the entire world would fall apart. I couldn't be more serious. In life and in work, it's not hard to find them. Many of them employ others. Many of them are nurses or doctors. Some of them are cops or soldiers. Most of them are none of the above and answer primarily to the name of Mom, Dad or Friend. All of them are in positions of serious responsibility.

Perversely,many of them are under constant criticism and/or scrutiny from the type of people who, upon witnessing a gruesome injury, would blurt out Someone Call 911!

But that doesn't stop them no more than a doorway ablaze would stop them from entering a building or some other much less dramatic situation. If even 10% of the population was more like this, there never would have been The Great Depression or this current economic situation. The next time you see of these people, whether aloud or silently, thank them.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hit Man

You're not going to find a Chief Operating Officer position advertised on CraigsList, but you will see a virtual eighteen-wheeler full of Sales Rep jobs.

Close to all of them, according to the text descriptions, are "incredible opportunities". Thank goodness exclamation points are a renewable resource because they are consumed and used in these ads in numbers too large to count.

As a borderline Craigslist junkie (no...not THAT section, Uncle Pervy),I look at at the Sales/Biz Dev positions from time-to-time. There's a corporate apparel company on New Hampshire's Seacoast that IS ALWAYS looking for salespeople and not because they are growing. In the ad, they basically say they are looking to hire assassins. They are looking for people to HAMMER prospects into submission. I lost count at infinite but they say the word "aggressive" in this reoccurring Ad to where what they hope to find, I believe, is a headset-fitted wolverine with an understanding of hopefully 200 English words.

Inexplicably, everyone they hire doesn't seem to pan out.

I would get a sizable hoot if I could witness their best customers reading this ad.

Doesn't matter what line of work you're in, we're all consumers also. Raise your paw if you enjoy dealing with/buying from somebody who, flat-out, has been told NOT TO ACCEPT "no" for an answer. This company must make a mightly splendid golf shirt because they want to hire people who would tear it off your back.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Prices starting at $595

Two unequivocal certainties in this life: 1.} Your mortality 2.) $595 is NOT what you will pay.

I thought Mark Twain was very clever in his observations about many things including The Eternal Dirt Nap and taxes but he was dead-wrong about the latter. Lots of weasels NEVER pay taxes. And they don't pay $595, either.

Back to the "Prices starting at" practice of marketers. Marketers are fortunate in that your average consumer has the business IQ of laundry lint. The average consumer may very well be physically drawn into that retail location because, after all, they can purchase that exquisite sofa made from mohair and extinct Woolly Mammoth fur for $595 if they hurry, hurry, HURRY! (it is a limited time offer, of course).

Supply and Demand-with a little time and room to breathe- will get you to $595 or less. The consumer still holds the cards in this setting but the dynamics of commerce differs a bit when it's one business selling to another.

For example:

I worked for a gigantic software company that sold its wares only to other business. They are a publicly traded company so there is tremendous financial performance pressure four times a year. Unlike almost all their competitors, they publish the List Price of all their products on their website. That List Price, when printed to paper, made for excellent bird cage lining or for training your new puppy.


Because the OVERWHELMING majority of their customers and even first-time customers knew that List Price was about as real to them as The Easter Bunny. They knew that when the end of the fiscal quarter came down to the last two days, they could pay pretty much whatever the hell they wanted to pay. (I wanted to add "within reason" but the whole process was so ridiculous- I won't).

The only thing more comical than the validity of that vendor's List Price was management's and even Senior Management's attempts to get customers to pay closer to Full Price earlier in the quarter.

If a dog knows they can get hamburger EVERY TIME by behaving in a certain manner, what is their incentive to eschew eating hamburger when they know it is available?

Step right up, my friends!!Four processors worth of our FINEST software....prices STARTING at $160,000!!! Oh really???. Four "Procs" for 160K, eh?? I'll give ya half that much and I want the Maintenance Agreement extended a year at no charge.

You're too kind...where do I sign?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Free Set of Steak Knives

I'd footnote who I'm stealing this from but the author's name lives on one of my deceased brain cells.

The author noted- contained in the word "Closer" or "Close"- is the word Lose. If your client- who agonized over a very, VERY important decision- saw you fist-bumping and chest thumping your way through the sales floor, how would that play with them? Feel good about that decision now, Customer X?

Just ritual and harmless celebration for a job well done, you say? Bullcrap. It's a pervading and all-encompassing mindset.

This is one of the many, legit reasons businesspeople don't like salespeople. I exerted my will over you! I win, you lose! CLOSED the SOB!

At least a dozen times in my life a senior manager has brought an important customer or a prospective client through the sales floor as part of a facility tour. Before that guided tour commenced, down came ALL the stuff associated with clients being targeted and tracked. Whiteboards/scoreboards, Sales Bells, Buzzers and Whistles, Contests etc...all down. Why are you hiding what is true? It will make the customer feel a certain way?'re right, it will.

And you still run your sales operation that way. I wonder why the turnover in sales is unlike any other line of work?

Competition is healthy, guided ambition is good. Winning business is freakin' feels GREAT. It feels great for your customer, too. That centuries old mindset about how to do business in respect to "closing" customers is greasy and mega unprofessional.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Inconvenient Truth

Neither Al Gore nor Gore Vidal would recognize the New Green Movement.

The mantra of the New Green Movement is " much GREEN is this going to set me back?"

For the vast majority of people, it's only when we feel completely safe and secure that we take action and help others or, in GoreSpeak, save the planet. That's sounds like a slightly dark view of human nature. Unfortunately, it's an inconvenient truth.

The majority of Americans aren't feeling so ducky about tomorrow, educating Junior or Madison/Emma* or the 10 day forecast on what their retirement is looking like. So when the "Green" alternative costs more green, Jane Q. Public tends to stomp her Carbon Footprint.

(* Federal Law requires all female babies born after 1999 to be named Madison or Emma).

Some might think it's different when the buyer is a corporate purchasing agent or a manager considering buying some capital equipment. Hardly. If you need your job and part of your job is to buy stuff, the margin for error for screw-ups of any sort has been reduced exponentially.

You know that old sales maxim you used to hear from mostly senior salesreps...the one that sounded like: "I don't work hard, I work smart". You might want to do both there, Chucky.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Honk Honk

Jerry Seinfeld told the story of a male motorist attempting to obtain the attention and affection of an attractive woman walking in stride with his slow-moving car.

He simply laid on his horn! Beep Beep.

That guy, in Jerry's words, "is out of ideas"

It's 2010, and THE VAST MAJORITY of companies who hire new business development salespeople tell them they MUST make between 50-150 cold call telemarketing calls a day. These companies, like that poor SOB honking on his horn, ARE OUT OF IDEAS.

I got a cold call from the bank I do my business banking with yesterday. I won't reveal the name of the bank though it rhymes with Blitizens Tank. Anyway, the gentleman had a clear speaking voice and enunciated well. In a mere couple of seconds, he came off as pleasant and intelligent. He then began, without stopping to breathe or anything else, reading from a ultra-cheesy, salesy script. I politely tried to stop no avail. I'm a career sales and marketing person but I still had to hang up on the guy. He wouldn't stop reading that damn script.

Blitizens Tank Senior Sales Management....THEY ARE OUT OF IDEAS.

I get on this subject once in a while because I'm utterly astonished that companies still do this. The number of ways to economically reach new potential customers and markets has exponentially increased. Of course, most companies take these NEW remarkable communication vehicles and apply OLD mass media marketing techniques and methodologies. (Look at us!!! Listen to us!!...We're the best!!..We're incredible!!..Buy our stuff NOW!!!)

These companies, via the technological wizardry created by brilliant minds, were handed the coveted "new ideas" in the form of Web 2.0 as well as the many talented people behind its creation and delivery.

It didn't take long- even after being handed the Keys to the Kingdom- to "run out of ideas" on how to reach their desired markets.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Truth...It Hurts

Jack Nicholson's Colonel Jessup, up on the witness stand, uttered one of the most famous lines in cinema history on the subject of Truth in the film A Few Good Men.

(I'll spare know the line...somebody always feels compelled to bark it out and act as though their delivery and timing was impeccable. Alcohol is often involved)

I'll insert, relatively speaking, how this plays in the world of professional selling.

The Forecast Meeting. Manager and rep, one on one. One by one they go through "The Deals". I don't care who the organization is, "The Truth" is swaddled like a newborn. The truth on most of the deals, including the ones that are "far along" is the rep- and now the manager- have no idea what's going to happen. Oh, sure, the rep certainly acts in a manner consistent with someone who knows what's going to happen (if they want to stay employed, that is). Then there's the Manager-whether their style is more consistent with a Marine Corp Drill Instructor or Oprah after two glasses of Chardonnay...doesn't matter. Remember, that Manager ALSO has a manager and, if "The Truth" is real ugly, it's better to put perfume on that pig...until every last option out of this mess is exhausted.

It's the consummate "CYA" move and it is hardy limited to people who sell for a living. It's everywhere in society. How do you know if something is "the truth"? Here's how: it hurts. Much more often than not, it hurts. And I must admit, somebody once asked me "..what's the alternative?.", and I didn't have a great answer.

-Do I look "frumpy" in this dress?
-Does it look like I'm losing some hair up top?
-Tell me...PLEASE TELL ME that Lehman Brothers is going to be o'kay!?!?

In fairness, the salesrep at times is not to blame. Why? Because buyers tell them what the buyer needs to tell them to serve their agenda...and, believe me, the buyer ALWAYS has agenda. It's funny, for centuries it's been the salespeople who have been tagged as the ones not shooting straight.

So what kind of landscape would we have in professional selling if rank and file and management ALWAYS came clean about forecast, pipeline etc,. Personally, I think it would bring sanity, cleanse unequivocally and possibly turn on its head a system that has been nothing more than educated guesswork for time immemorial.

And up next we could tackle the truth-impaired world of professional politicians!

I'll close with another pop culture reference. Aerosmith released a song in 1973 that was and is still immensely popular...probably their most iconic song. It rhymes with "Cream Dawn"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Part of No

A handful of years ago, an employer of mine had mandatory sales training.

Neither myself nor many of my colleagues were too excited. I felt sales training-all sales training- attempted to do the impossible. There is no blueprint for human behavior, unless you have 6 billion + sets of individualized blueprints. There is an infinite amount of variables when it comes to business and deal-making. I was hard headed but I kept my mind open.

The late David Sandler built what is now known as The Sandler Sales Institute. The program is tremendous, in part because it doesn't profess to know how ANYTHING is going to go down. Much of what they talk about and teach flies directly in the face of conventional wisdom on how to be a good salesperson. What follows is a very brief example of this and why it is so effective.

Sandler tells salespeople to " Go for the 'NO!' ". What does this mean? What it means is salespeople spend an INCREDIBLE amount of time with customers and prospects unable or unwilling to make a decision, including the decision not to move forward (No!).

If the answer is "no", do you want to know that now or after months of fruitless work?

Naturally, every business situation is different so this practice isn't meant to be a literal plug-in and needs to be on a case-by-case basis. Be especially prudent with people who know you and have already done business with you. But by all means, if you think someone is waffling, is shopping you or just doesn't have the heart to tell you the "painful truth", tell them that "no" is OK.

Or as Sandler also likes to profess, you'd rather hear 'no' than 'maybe'. At least you know where you stand and can divert your energies elsewhere.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vito Corleone

The idea of top-down selling has been around forever.

Selling to the Very Important Top Officer was re-energized and popularized again about 10 years ago with the business book "Selling to VITO". The book did a good job of explaining just how difficult it will be for you if you attempt to sell/market into an organization at a middle or lower level.

I've read too many business and sales-oriented books...I'm not proud of it and I very rarely read books of that genre now. For every good one, there's 20 bad ones. Let's face it folks, there's nothing new under the sun. And that goes double in the world of human behavior...especially in relation to the world of business. I purposely didn't read all of "Selling to Vito" because: 1.) I had already been doing it for some time and 2.)much of it was recycled rehash. The parts I read and enjoyed served simply to sharpen my saw a little bit.

So briefly, here's why if you're not approaching VITO first, your odds of success are reduced exponentially.

Every item of importance on a corporate agenda rolls NEVER rolls down. And these items don't necessarily need to be time-sensitive and/or of critical importance in order for the CEO to be aware (e.g. operating capital, the price of their stock, short and long term strategy, capital budgets, research and development etc..). They have to think about other stuff too.

So, for example, if you sell software that improves the efficiency of a companies supply chain and logistics, go to the Boss. Go to VITO first.

That doesn't mean that, last night, The Board of Directors and the CEO were about to jump off The Sears Tower because of real or perceived IT-based shortcomings in their supply chain. What it means is what you represent is important ENOUGH to a CEO or a very senior manager that- if your timing is good- they MIGHT engage you OR delegate you down to one of their lieutenants. And not only does your timing need to be good, your approach needs to be impeccable.

Companies of several hundred or more employees, the CEO is the final decision-maker on only things of the utmost important. That's what their other senior managers are for. But don't think they aren't aware of a large number of other important issues. That's why they're in charge.

Chew on this: How different is the dynamic between you and the prospective senior manager buyer if you were introduced by the person who runs the company as opposed to, say, ANYONE ELSE?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

May I Have Your Attention, Please.

Stop talking, stop living in your endless, swirling thoughts and listen for a change. It's hard to do.

Let's pop ourselves into the Wayback Machine. Not to worry, we're not going to a time where there was no indoor plumbing or you'll be fine. We're only going back about 5-7 years. Your only concern should be your painfully dated vernacular with teenage kids (or, specifically, YOUR teenage kids)which, even 5 years ago, was a complete mess.

I've got a business idea..ready? Movie Rentals. What's that you say?...terrible play? WAY, WAY too saturated here in the glorious year of 2004. (Wonder how the Red Sox will do this year? Maybe 2004 is FINALLY the year. Naaaaah. Pipedream.)

But I'm not a delivery mechanism, I am primarily going to use the USPS. Nope, not the Internet...the freakin' mailman! What's that? You want me to pee in a cup it's such a bad idea?

When I heard of Netflix five or so years ago, I thought it might be the worst idea I had ever heard of. For all of the above reasons and about ten more. And I fancy myself as someone with fairly decent insight and instinct when it comes to such things.

We're heading back to 2010, Marty McFly...strap yourself in.

I am as addicted to Netflix as you are to your Crackberry....and I'm just one of their tens of millions of devoted customers. I get mega-value for my entertainment dollar. More than half of what I watch are the numerous high-quality television programs produced by HBO and delivered to me, multiple episodes at a time. I watch them in rapid-fire succession at a time that is convenient for me.

Somebody listened back then, they listened to an idea that I'm sure didn't sound so hot 90 seconds into it. I'm glad it wasn't me they were pitching.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Exxon Account

A friend of mine whose accomplishments and opinion I highly value used to tell the following parable. It's lesson in business, specifically a lesson in sales concerning "are you sure you're talking to the right guy?"

In the below dialog, a very senior sales management type engages a rep who was trying to land the gigantic Exxon account. It was a big enough story that the Sr VP knew about it and he bumped into the rep getting coffee.

SrVP: Hey!!...Jones!!...How the hell are ya, Jones?
Smith: It's 'Smith' sir, I'm great..thanks for asking.
SrVP: Sorry about that, Smith..anyway..great job in getting some traction in Exxon.
Smith: Thanks...
SrVP: So how's that going??...where are we with those guys?
Smith (nervously): Umm..ah..not where we had hoped. It appears to be dead.
SrVP: Sorry to hear that, Smith. Anything I can do? I know some people at Exxon.
Smith: Gee...I don't know. Thanks for offering. It doesn't look good.
SrVP: I hear ya...that's too bad. Who you talking to over there?
Smith: I got "a guy" over there..he's the one who told me it's dead.
SrVP: O'kay. Who's "your guy"? I still might be able to help.
Smith: "Eddie"...My guy is Eddie. Do you know Eddie?
SrVP: Hmmm...I don't. What's he do over there?
Smith: You know...Eddie..Corner of Main St and Pleasant. At the filling station.
SrVP: The filling station? What is this??...Mayberry RFD??? The guy who pumps gas??
Smith: Yeah,,well..ummm..he wasn't my "in" at Exxon...but he knows things.
SrVP: Who's your supervisor, Smith?

Please allow for the creative license....but we all get it. And we've all been guilty before of thinking we knew who was really pulling the strings when we didn't.
Usually it's our own fault but not always. People in buying organizations will fib or even flat-out lie to us about their role and responsibilities. Happens all the time.

If their job title isn't "Cxx" or Senior VP, never assume ANYONE has full decision-making power including the instances where they tell you they do. (Note: Even Chief Financial Officers often need CEO approval for the big stuff. Same with SrVP's).Be courteous, be super tactful, use all of your people skills but get to the truth about who has the juice to get the deal done.

And if you don't know, don't tell your bosses bosses boss that you do.