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Archive for April, 2012

If the Hamm’s Bear…

“If the owner wasn’t out of town, I would have had the contract signed before month-end…”

If I had prep’ed the Sales Engineer, the demo would not have gone poorly and we would not have lost the deal…”

“If I had more leads, I would have hit my forecast…”

Unlike beer, sales reps sometimes rationalize short-comings with the excuse of “if”, true?

However, we selected the sales profession because we wanted to have more control, yes?  Control over our schedule; control over our earnings; control over our career.  Control brings us to the Land of Sky Blue Waters.  But a little neglect on our part and, boom, there goes our control:

A little neglect may breed great mischief; for want of a nail the shoe was lost; and for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy; all for want of a little care about a horse shoe nail.              

 Benjamin Franklin

I had the above conversations on Friday, March 30th – the end of our sales quarter.  We had a bad quarter.  Beer here!

The first sales rep was actually surprised that the owner was out of town.  Of course, she never checked on the owner’s schedule as she developed her closing plan.  “Closing Plan”?  Doesn’t every sales rep develop a closing plan as part of our forecasting process?  You remember – the specific actions that need to take place; on the specific dates; at specific times; by specific people.  The sales rep assumed the CFO and not the owner would sign the contract.  “Assume” – makes an ….  (well, you know the rest).  The deal has yet to close; another beer please.

The second conversation wasn’t with just a sales rep. She is the President of her consulting firm.  The Sales Engineer was from my company – her firm is a new partner of ours.  She was very disappointed with his demonstration.  I suspected; so I probed.  Yep, she did not schedule any demo prep with him ahead of time, even though this was their first deal.

In my third conversation, this sales rep was preparing his manager for continuous bad news.  Not only did he not hit his Q1 target, but he was rationalizing why Q2 wasn’t looking too good either.  Amazing – where do sales reps think leads come from – the Land of Sky Blue Waters?  So much for my control theory I guess.

When I asked him what he thought might happen to him if he doesn’t work harder to generate his own leads, his eyes widened with new-found urgency.  Back to Old Ben:

Work as if you will live a hundred years.  Pray as if you would die tomorrow.                       

                                  Benjamin Franklin

“Work”.  Funny how that word is required to reach the Land of Sky Blue Waters.  I’ve always believed the sales profession is simple.  Not easy, mind you, but simple.  Our job is to meet or exceed our assigned quota from our assigned territory.  No if’s, and’s, or but’s – meet or exceed quota.  For that, we are handsomely compensated; enjoy an occassional beer; and earn a high degree of professional control.

And if sales reps abuse the if excuse, I like to refer them to our Unknown Sage:

If the Hamm’s Bear drank Schlitz; there’d be no Land of Sky Blue Waters. 

OK – one more beer – and then let’s get back to work.

GAP

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A salute to our Sales Managers…

A thankless job indeed!  Every front-line management role is equally difficult, I suppose.  But I have never been an Accounting Supervisor; a Production Foreman; a Circus Ringmaster; or any other line manager.  So permit me to speak from experience. 

Like the circus, there are many reasons why Sales Managers can be overly-criticized and under-appreciated.  Here are a few examples; plus a little baseball wisdom. 

First, are the expectations of frustration Sales Reps have toward their Sales Managers.  Recently, two of my friends changed positions within their companies.  Lateral moves more than promotions perhaps, but definitely well-earned opportunities to take on more responsibility.  As I asked about the reasons for the moves, frustration with their former Sales Manager topped the list.  

It is often said that when people are recruited to a company or a new position they are attracted by the company or the position.  But when they leave their previous company or previous position, they usually leave – their manager. 

After a few weeks in their new roles, I checked back in.   Both were excited about their new pursuits.  Their feelings toward their new Sales Managers?  “Frustrated”.   My friend Robyn Nicholson would probably say (speaking from her experience I might add): 

            Same circus – different clowns. 

I probed a little deeper.  A second, Sales Manager fault surfaced next – “My Manager never keeps me informed.”  

One Sales Rep went on to say that she rarely interacts with her Manager; he only responds at her request; and she feels she is not informed.  She is one of her company’s top producers.  One thing we know about top producers:  They don’t want to be “managed”; they don’t want to be “trained”; but they don’t want to be left alone and uninformed, either.  

My second colleague offered this third, Sales Manager fault – “My Manager over-commits and under-delivers.”  He speaks with his Sales Manager every day. As he described these interactions further, it seemed to me that his Sales Manager is actually over-informing.  

I remember having a senior sales rep on my team once who I considered a peer as much as a subordinate.  I respected his knowledge and experience so much that I would share with him things I was contemplating.  Unfortunately, he misunderstood – I wasn’t previewing pending changes; just brainstorming.  He left my team unhappy with his perception of an over-committing, under-delivering Sales Manager (aka Clown). 

Preconceptions; under-informing; over-informing – lots of rings in a Sales Manager’s circus.  Here is a fourth – “My Manager is unfair.”  

Sales Managers are often accused of being unfair, true?  I certainly was when I led sales teams – proud of it actually.  You see, the concept of fairness is a Sales Manager trap.  I believe it is impossible to have all the reps on your team feel that they are being treated fairly.   

To avoid this trap I applied the Principle of Equal Unfairness.  I was content if they were all equally unhappy.  Then, when one of my reps came in to my office; closed the door; and proceeded to cry about thus and so being unfair – I simply agreed and welcomed her to the circus. 

Turning from the circus of sales to the game of baseball, perhaps we can benefit from the management wisdom of Casey Stengel: 

The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided. 

And as a Hall of Fame Manager – he was no clown. 

                               GAP 

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April 20, 1999 never forgotten

It takes the sun to create a shadow – accept that the dark and the light live side by side in all of us.

                                  Chellie Campbell

 It’s not just my home town of Littleton – We are all Columbine:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9Seqhcq23M

May you personally feel, and share with your loved ones, the power of peace today –  and everyday!

 GAP

Income taxes, oh well…

Hey everyone – its income tax time!  Hooray! 

Actually, our 2011 Income Tax return filing deadline is April 17th this year instead of the traditional April 15th.  Is that because of ObamaNomics?  Oh well.  

Does it ever seem to you that no matter how you complete your income tax return; no matter how much outside, expert advice you leverage; no matter what plans you put in place to lessen your tax impact next year, you still seem to be funding everything?  Are our elected officials standing on the sideline cheering as our tax returns are coming in?  Oh well. 

On the one hand, I greatly dislike the immense level of government spending that takes place today at the federal, state, county, city and even master association level.  The media reminds us of the tremendous waste that seems to occur every day; every where.  And during this election year?  Indescribable.  Oh well. 

On the other hand, when there is a natural disaster; when we hear of a scientific breakthrough funded by a government grant; or when we simply have a friend of family member in need and they receive financial or medical support from a social services program, we are happy we live in America, true? 

Income tax time is one point during the year when we get to add it all up.  Sometimes we like the resulting sum; other times we don’t.  And talk about “new math”! 

The Income Tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.

                             Will Rogers 

Question:  If I work from a home office; and my dog barks when the FedEx driver arrives; does she qualify as my receptionist – and can I write-off the cost of her dog food?  No?  Oh well. 

All in all, 2011 was a very good year for us. How about you?  I suppose it depends on how we measure “good”.  Filing income taxes forces us to look at our W-2; our 401k; our IRA; along with our mortgage interest; real estate taxes; and all of those other numbers the IRS wants us to know (and report).  That’s one way to measure “good” (or some years, not so good).  

When we look in the mirror, often much of our financial (and related income tax) pains are self-inflicted: 

More and more these days I find myself pondering on how to reconcile my net income with my gross habits.                                 

John Kirk Nelson

When we heard growing up that money isn’t everything, do we have the same perspective about it as adults?  Hopefully so.  Our top line income, even when reduced by taxes, still can be more than enough for a man that is easily contented.  Unfortunately, the itch of discontent sometimes influences us to spend more than our means.  

It’s not what we make that counts; it’s what we save.  Years ago this was called “net worth”.  Today, “line of credit” seems to have replaced the concept of having net worth.  And like our federal government, line of credit means “debt”; and debt is not the same as net worth.  Oh well. 

We are looking forward to 2012 – this will be our best year ever!  And we can stay in control of how we define “best” by following the guidance of the world renowned author and poet, Robert Lewis Stevenson: 

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.                                 

And no – the seeds are not tax deductible.  Oh well. 

GAP 

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Technology, toaster-ovens, and the future…

I attended a McGladrey Emerging Technology conference recently, aptly entitled “Innovation Overload” ( http://mcgladrey.com/Search-Results?q=emerging+technology&sp_cs=UTF-8 ).  The keynote speaker was David Smith, a technologist and a futurist.  Coincidently, I heard another futurist and engineer present just four months ago.  

I suspect one of the reasons why futurists are popular speakers is they are provocative.  Part of their “WOW Factor” is those little known, yet shocking facts about what’s going on all around us that we don’t realize.  Here are a few examples: 

  • With today’s technology, we can record everything – and everything is a lot!
  • Among the 5 most appreciated technologies of the past 100 years – the microwave oven topped the list (followed very closely by – the garage door opener). 
  • 90% of the computer chips manufactured today don’t go into computers.  As it turns out, automobiles and household appliances are common computer chip destinations.  David emphasized that when we turn the key to start our car, before the signal ever reaches the starter, it first boots-up the car’s on-board computer chips.  He went on to state that today’s automobiles have more computing power than the Cray computers that dominated headlines for computing power in the 1990’s.  (Remember the ‘90’s?)
  • 70% of the Internet traffic does not involve a person; it’s machine-to-machine communications (often posing as human beings).  So how do we know if those Tweets are coming from a person or that toaster-oven with all the computer chips on your kitchen countertop? 

David went on to complete his “shock and awe” presentation about what the technology future has is store for us.  Very provocative. 

Some of his statements I took issue with.  For instance, he warned of possible disaster if businesses put their business applications in “the Cloud”.  He said, “The Internet might go down” and then your business couldn’t operate.  

During break, I sought David out to express an opposing view (i.e. “argue”).  You see, the Internet never goes down.  Perhaps your connection goes down, but not the Internet.  Still a problem, no doubt; but if your Internet connection goes down at the office, according to his futuristic presentation, you could simply go home and plug-in from your toaster-oven, yes?  

But after a few minutes of trying to argue with our futurist, I could tell 4 things: 

  1. He didn’t have the same sense of humor when it comes to the hype over futuristic technology as I do.  He gets paid to prognosticate about what will happen “someday” (with a fair bit of vagueness on the “when”, I might add); I actually have to make a living selling this stuff; yet he’s the serious one.
  2. Then it dawned on me that you really can’t argue with a futurist – his position is based on events that haven’t taken place yet, so we don’t know if he is accurate.  (Not quite the same when our Managers review our sales forecast, true?) 
  3. Reminds me of our weathermen and their “pinpoint” radar, technology, and forecasts.  (Which reminds me of those times I’m digging out of the snow storm that was supposed to miss us.)  But, we can’t argue with the weatherman, either.
  4. And all of this arguing  with technologists, futurists, engineers, and weathermen reminds me of our favorite, Unknown Sage: 

Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling a pig in the mud. After a few hours you realize, the pig likes it.                                 

Have to go now – my refrigerator just texted me. 

GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please check it out Subscribe.