Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Change has Come.

The latest issue of Selling Power arrived yesterday and there was an interesting article that offered some predictions for 2009 and how a business would need to adapt in this economy. It started with an interesting story about a CEO that cut his staff by 20% back in October "before things got too bad" - interestingly his competitors used these layoffs as a marketing tool and put fear into the CEO's current clients as well as future clients -would they be taken care of? Are they going out of business? Surely the quality will of the service will be affected? The Result - their numbers went in the toilet because they were losing current customers and the new deals were not closing - with them! If you are thinking the same way as that CEO please reconsider.
Here are the interesting predictions mentioned in the article:

1)Your customers future will continue to be uncertain.
2)Decision makers will have less time than ever to listen to you.
3)Your customers will be overwhelmed with data and have difficulty recognizing fact or fiction.
4)Your customers will have trouble seeing past the end of the current quarter.
5)Your customers will need your help more than ever before.

So are you adapting the approach of your sales group to compensate for these changes? Are the people you have even capable of changing? History is full of Paradigm shifts that left some floundering and others prospering - we are all aware of the dramatic changes going on around us, we have all felt them happening but are we change ready? Have you already changed what you are doing?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lessons from a Biotech Presentation.

I had a chance to hear Robert Coughlin speak Friday afternoon regarding the advances in the Massachusetts Bio Technology sector and its impact on the State. Robert is the CEO of the Mass Biotechnology Council. I must be honest and admit that I initially thought any discussion on Bio Tech was going to be pretty boring and dry - but it wasn't and I want to talk about why.
First of all as I read Roberts Bio my hopes improved, it was clear that rather than having a super technical background he had risen through the sales ranks and I believe that made a big difference for me and the other 500 people in the room. Could utilizing what he did help you?

1. He gave us a compelling reason as to the big picture. Good sales people start with a positioning statement that addresses the big picture and gets the emotions involved. Bob did this by mentioning his experiences having a sick child and desiring a cure (a very strong emotional argument) and by reminding us of the States former mistakes in allowing some of huge companies of the past to all move out west (very big picture) Now he had my undivided attention.
2. Bob spoke in the vernacular. I was expecting the talk to contain big words and terminologies that my very unscientific Brain couldn't handle - but not once did he go there. He spoke in terms that all 500 could understand.
3.He spoke with Passion and Personal Commitment - it was very clear that this was close to his heart and he let that show. People as a rule are attracted to that type of realism and can relate to it.
So Thanks Bob - I learned a lot, I want to Join the MBC and see if we can help other companies package their story in the way you were able to - like a true sales professional.
Historically speaking - great leaders have always been able to use these same methods to relate to their people and get their acceptance and buy-in. Conversely the hacks have not. Just compare Abe Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Alexander the Great and Henry the 5th to Dick Cheney, Jefferson Davis, Marie Antoinette and Czar Nicholas.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

War and Technology

I was watching a documentary on World War 1 the other day and it was discussing the advances in technology and the impact those advances had on the war itself. One of those advances was the machine gun - it was introduced early in the war and even with this new opponent soldiers were still ordered to perform the same maneuvers as prior to its use. The results - millions of young men died almost needlessly.
Another invention was the tank - it was designed to overcome the problems the machine gun was causing, and it would have, however the generals and leaders of the day didn't like this new concept and didn't understand it fully so it sat in a warehouse somewhere unused until the very end of the war.
Lesson - Business is a war. Are your people still using outdated methods, ineffective methods or are they finding ways to utilize technology to their benefit. As the leader of a company are you taking advantage of new systems and tools that might help your people perform? are your competitors gunning your people down on the field without so much as a chance of success?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How Biographical is your Business?

I had a chance this weekend to visit the Assyrian exhibit at the Boston Museum of fine arts. The antiquities on display were from the British Museum and it was pretty fascinating to see how advanced these almost forgotten people were. They were really ahead of their time so to speak. They had proven themselves to be a formidable military power that was pretty much unstoppable - what happened?
Well , like Winston Churchill had said - "good history is biographical" and that was true with Assyria as well. As long as the King was strong the nation was strong. Sure, the empire could weather the occasional bad ruler but when there were a few in a row things fell apart - and the competing nations took note of the weakness. In other words a nation is merely a reflection of the Ruler.
What about the leadership during this time of economic strain? Are you able to keep your company ahead of the curve? are you able to maintain focus? Are you able to fight off the more aggressive competitors? Do your people trust you and look to you for the right guidance?
So often, like running an empire, Business is Biographical.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Winning Against the Odds

A.D 60 and the Romans had suffered several humiliating defeats at the hands of a woman. Boudicca was queen of the Icini and she was now pursuing the last remaining obstacle to her returning the rule of Brittania back to her people - Seutonius stood in her way with two legions, a little more than 10,000 men facing as many as 100,000 Icini warriors.
Seutonius was moving quickly because he was trying to find some ground to fight on that favored his army - and he did. When Boudicca and her army arrived they certainly could have moved on and fought somewhere else but by now they were so emotionally involved and in a frenzy that didn't happen. Needless to say and long story short the Romans won.
The question for business leaders is this - are your sales people fighting the competitive situations they face on their own ground? Or are they fighting on the prospects terms or even worse on the competitors turf? Are they disciplined and trained enough to stand their ground in the most trying of situations and come of victorious?
Good questions and you might want to start by rating your sales force -here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Breaking Down the Doors

Most business people would feel that people "breaking down the doors" in order to do business with you would be a good thing. Maybe that expression is not so popular after the events of this past weekend where two workers were killed by a charge of greedy consumers hoping to save $50 at their local Wal Mart - yes I called them greedy!
I personally hate Wal Mart - not because of the big corporate bully bad guy image it has acquired but if I am being totally honest everytime I have had the displeasure of entering one of their stores I simply hate being with the people - the people that work there and the people that shop there. I don't have the type of buy-cycle that forces me to shop at a place where price is everything and the others do - I am sort of a fish out of water the minute I walk in.
That is why I would never be among the throngs of Idiots that head out the day after Thanksgiving at 4:00am in order to secure a minor savings. I certainly would like to think that no decent sales person would be among that group either. Most rational people who understand their value and time would not wake up at an ungodly hour and spend extra time in a crowded store to save maybe $100 - it actually would amount to a net loss!
So now they are talking about law suits - who should be sued? Well obviously they are going to all proceed against Wal Mart. My alternative - collect the names of every person that was there that morning by looking at every transaction in the first 2 - 3 hours and prosecute them all! After all they were the greedy people responsible for this tragedy. It was their feet that trampled the workers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Best Manager I Ever Knew

Sometimes the people that are promoted to positions where managing a group is the focus are not always the right fit - especially a group of sales people.Notoriously the most difficult group, segment or department of any organization to manage. Dave Kurlan talks about the tendency to promote your best sales person to the position of management - what a disaster that can be! I have seen it time and time again , superstar sales people often end up being too spontaneous and reactionary - I once saw a female "superstar sales manager" start throwing items across the room at her sales reps in anger - needless to say she didn't last.
I conversely was not the greatest sales person - She consistently finished top 3 in the country and I was a top 25 finisher ( still out of 2000 sales people nationwide not bad) but in retrospect and being quite honest I am probably the best sales manager I have ever known.( not that there are not any better managers - I just haven't met one) I blew the doors off when it came to getting a team of 8 reps to perform at the top of their game and all of a sudden our place in the national standings reversed.
Why - the role of a manager has more in common with a Director of a Play or Performance than many might imagine - get the most out each person, help them to perform better and better, consistently acknowledge their greatness, keep them enthusiastic about being there and loving their job, keep the head in the show and treat them like a fellow "artist". Of course there is still an obligation on their part to know their lines, show up for the rehearsals and listen to your coaching. My counterpart modeled her management style after Joseph Stalin and people responded accordingly - no self respect, no pride, no confidence, no motivation and by the way no numbers, no new business and spending their valuable prospecting time looking for another position.
When William Shakespeare founded the Globe theater in London he knew the value of having the right performers on the stage to bring his characters to life. Often he would tirelessly search for the right tonality or physical build so that nothing hindered his performance. You hear things like that about Directors today - Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard - "they just brought the best out in me"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the Great Wide Open

There has been a lot of talk about FDR lately - mainly having to do with the great depression and the similarities with the current economic meltdown. But i want to talk about Teddy Roosevelt, lover of the outdoors, big sky country and founder of most of the National Parks we enjoy today.
Interestingly there was no mandate to create national parks. There was no EPA nor were there groups protesting for the preservation of the national natural treasures - he just did it and he did it because it was the right thing to do and at the time it might have seemed silly, rash or pie in the sky.
I guess the point is that sometimes what is truly brilliant at the time seems silly or foolish. But when you think about Yosemite, Yellowstone or Acadia - who would say Teddy made a bad choice. With global warming and so many other serious environmental issues facing us - in retrospect Teddy really did take us into the great wide open! Will you take your business into big sky country?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Give them Something to Believe In.

So it is the day after the election and pretty much everyone is happy that we are finally at the end - regardless of your political views everyone was just about over saturated with this race and the "closure" that the decision brings is somewhat of a relief.
I was listening to a report about the canvassing and tireless support that some of these advocates had given to their candidates - door to door work, holding signs, making calls, handing out information and pretty much selling their candidate. Interestingly many of these people were not sales people and I am sure they suffered from some of the hidden weaknesses we uncover in people and no doubt some of them suffer from these quite severely, and yet they were involved in sales activities, they sucked it up and overcame these fears. What a lesson for business leaders. Could you "Obama-Fy" your people by giving them something to believe, a big picture view of your company and a clear vision of the "how you help" factor.
Of course the best option is to have all the right people in the right seats, however it is also true that sometimes we don't and even the wrong people will serve your business better if you give them something to believe in.

Friday, October 24, 2008

When a Keynote hits the wrong note.

I attended the central Mass business expo this week and subjected to their keynote speaker. I use the word subjected because I am trying to be polite - boring in delivery and more noteworthy - boring in content. This was an opportunity to provide these business people with something helpful, timely and applicable - it was also supposed to be information that would help their business to do well in a rough economy and unfortunately, it accomplished none of these.
Here are some of the gems I did happen to glean from the presentation.
  • turn down the heat and buy your people long sleeved sweatshirts to reduce costs through the winter.
  • LOCK the supply cabinet.
  • take a close look at your expenditures and go to your vendors and get them to lower your price.

So if you like those and think they would make a difference in your business surviving the recession then here are a few more you might benefit from.

  • CLOSE your doors - save a bundle.
  • QUIT - go work for someone else.
  • MOVE - change your name and find a new identity, start over.
  • Start collecting cans and bottles on the side of the road.
  • Get rid of your car, walk to work.
  • See if you can save money by "acquiring" your lunch in the dumpster behind McDonald's.

Sounds Ridiculous doesn't it? I thought it would.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bigger = Slower?

So here I am watching Tom Peters speak to a group of business people that are attending his presentation because they all desire to see their business grow. One problem according to Tom - that may not be the right thing to focus on and often big companies often equate to bad companies.
Think about yourself - maybe you have put on a few pounds, maybe you are a "little" out of shape and surely as you have grown older you have discovered more aches and pains? Your bigger - so to speak, but you are hardly faster or more energetic. Same proves true in business - with growth often a business finds themselves losing some of their nimble moves and stamina, not to mention flexibility.
So the point would seem to be - focus on the right things, the fundamentals and not the flashy things. In history all empires seem to have grown to a point where they suddenly cannot get out of their own way, they experience a social and financial collapse and then they implode - sounds a little scary doesn't it?