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Archive for June, 2012

Another Business Meeting took place…

An American business meeting occurred – hooray! 

The best advice I ever received about sales meetings came from one of my clients.  (I couldn’t tell at the time if he was coaching me; complimenting me; or correcting me.) 

            The 3 B’s of Sales: 

          Be Brief

              Be Bright

                   Be Gone

                                  Jeff Blauvelt 

Recently, I attended a client management review meeting with one of our strategic partners.  They flew 14 people in for the meeting; there were 6 from our company.  My role was “support”.  

There are many American business meetings that take place like this between sales team & client; or internal meetings involving the dreaded “committee”: 

We’re into the era where a committee designs airplanes.  You never do anything totally stupid, you never do anything totally bright.  You get an average, wrong answer. 

Kelly Johnson 

I bet you attend these types of meetings, too. While observing the interactions at this American business meeting, here are some examples of, “little things that make a difference”; recognize any? 

  • The meeting was scheduled to start at 11:00 am; I arrived at 10:55; the meeting had already started.  My colleague running the meeting told me afterward, “They arrived early and since you didn’t have a big part we decided to start without you…”  Actually, I didn’t have any part at all.  Made me wonder; why I was invited to begin with?  Ever attend a meeting and wonder, “Why am I here?”
  • The meeting started at 11:00 am; our Vice President strolled in at 11:15 – “Sorry, I was in another meeting.” was offered.  I wondered:  How many minutes late is it these days before the late-comers realize they are late? 

Punctuality is the politeness of kings.                                 

Louis XVIII 

  • To her credit, our lead sales rep had an agenda – how many American business meetings do you attend that have no agenda?  Unfortunately, she had 2-hours of content for a 1-hour agenda.  Sound familiar?
  • Much of the discussion was dominated by three of the participants whose arguments were mostly self-promoting vs. applicable to the agenda.  Everyone else sat back and observed the debate – been there, done that?  

The amount of time devoted to the debate of a subject is inversely proportional to the importance of the outcome. 

Norman R. Augustine 

  • While the arguments droned on, 4 of my colleagues were texting from their cell phones.  They kept the phones below table level – perhaps thinking we wouldn’t notice.   Well, if we didn’t notice the devices, it was hard to miss the bowed heads.  Looked like they were napping.  Question: would napping vs. texting have been better or worse?
  • Our lead sales rep proposed a Call-to-Action and our strategic partner responded, “No”.  Undaunted, she re-phrased her request three different ways; three different times.  To which our partner re-stated, “No; No; and still No”.  Ever attend a meeting where the asker asked – but she was actually trying to tell and not really asking? 

Their highest ranking Vice President (and our late-coming VP), got up to leave 15 minutes early, “Have to catch a flight” was offered.  “But please continue the discussion”, we were instructed.  In other words, we could stay to chat, but the decision makers were leaving – so no further decisions would be made that day.  

Come late; leave early; self-promotion; casual chat; decision avoidance.  Yep, another successful American business meeting took place.  

Oops – gotta go – I’m late to my next meeting! 

GAP 

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Titles…

Question: If we added clever titles to our Situation Reports and Progress Reports, would it make for better reading by our managers? 

Yes, yes, I know… you can’t judge a book (or Report) by its cover.  Which according to Wikipedia originates from the English idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” a metaphorical phrase which means “you shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something, by its outward appearance alone”.  But I digress. 

One of my favorite book titles is Hope is Not a Strategy© by Rick Page.  I like the title because it can be applied to so many of life’s challenges, true?  I liked the book too, within the context of the sales profession – where we have to go out and find business vs. hoping business will somehow find us.  

The other day I saw a book titled,  How to Work for an Idiot © by Dr. John Hoover.  WOW!  That may say it all, right?  Question:  If I’m a Manager, do I buy that book for my people?  Alternatively, if they but it for themselves and I see it on their desk, what do I do?  What if they have dog-eared several pages?  It brings to mind words from our favorite, Unknown Sage:  

Owen’s Theory of Organizational Deviance:

Every organization has an allotted number of positions to be filled by misfits.  

Progress Reports, and Situation Reports – do you put titles on these for your manager?  It can be amazing sometimes how out of touch a Manager can be with his/her staff, don’t you agree?  Question:  Is the objective of your Progress Report to keep your Manager informed of your progress?  Or, is it to help your Manager show his Manager that he really isn’t uninformed?  Hmmm 

Another aspect of Progress Report writing is when we write our report; then (and sometimes, only then) we get a call from our Manager.  Now, she wants to discuss what’s in our Report.  Question:  If we are going to talk about it anyway, why did we have to write it in the first place?  Back to our Unknown Sage: 

Sweeny’s Law: 

The length of a Progress Report is inversely proportional to the amount of progress. 

Yes, I find titles often influence my reading priorities.  Of course, not every book (or Report) with a catchy title is a great read.  But at least it gets me started.  How about you?  Do book titles influence your reading priorities?  Here’s one that’s on my to-be-read-list,  What Got You Here Won’t Get You There © by Marshall Goldsmith. 

If you are interested in catchy book titles that, as it turns out, are petty good reads as well, I’m happy to offer these suggestions: 

Don’t Squat With Yer Spurs On © by Texas Bix Bender.  Cowboy logic applies very nicely to many of today’s business settings, don’t you think?  Henry Ward Beecher said; 

The common sense of one century is the common sense of the next. 

Then there is Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun © by Wess Roberts.  The book description on amazon.com: 

Attila the Hun-the man who centuries ago shaped an aimless band of mercenary tribal nomads into the undisputed rulers of the ancient world, and who today offers us timeless lessons in take-charge management. 

Aimless band of nomads – has he been reading our Situation Reports? 

And to help you with your Situation and Progress Report writing, might I recommend, Only the Paranoid Survive © by Andy Grove? 

GAP 

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Why?…

Imagine: You’re all alone; in a sinking row boat; at sea; surrounded by sharks.  You have no oars; just a mirror.  You can see land; it’s about a mile off.  The sky is cloudless.  How would you survive this ordeal?  

Jot down your answer; we’ll come back to it. 

My Manager believes (and I agree with him) that Discovery is the most important aspect to a B2B sales process; yet it is an area that most sales people do poorly.  “Discovery”; “Analysis”; “Requirements Definition”; it goes by many names.  What do you call it?  I’ll refer to it as “Disco” for today, OK? 

Doing an effective Disco certainly is not easy.  Getting the prospect to tell you what their needs are; tell you about their current shortcomings; sharing their goals; permitting you to meet with their full staff; complete interviews with their executives; etc., etc., etc., requires the utmost of skill and discretion.  

And, of course, in competitive situations the prospect may not want to give you all of the time and the access you need to be thorough.  Worse yet:  The people you’re interacting with may favor a competitor – especially, our most tenacious competitor; “no change”.  

            Not to decide is to decide.

                                                           Harvey Cox 

When we’re doing a Disco in that situation, the people we’re interviewing will withhold key information (or worse, lie!).  Even if they favor your solution, they may still withhold information because they’ve moved past Disco into Negotiation mode, true? 

All valid – yet most often a bad Disco is due to poor skills on the part of us – the sales person.  We’re too anxious to sell; too high pressured in our questioning; in too much of a hurry.  We like to speak – not listen; we want to dwell on “us”, not focus on “them”.  And, we can over-think things instead of simply asking our prospect, “Why?”  Here’s our favorite, Unknown Sage: 

The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert.  After their tent was set up, they fell sound asleep.  One hour later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, “Kemo-Sabe, look towards the sky.  What do you see?”  The Lone Ranger replies, “I see millions of stars.”  “What that tell you?” asks Tonto.  The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute and then says, “Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially millions of planets.  Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.  Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning.  Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant.  Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.  What’s it tell you, Tonto?”  Tonto is silent for a moment, then says, “Kemo-Sabe, you dumb a@#.  Someone stole tent.”                                                                           

I opened today’s little ditty with a “Minute Mystery” – fun to play in a group; excellent drill for a sales team to practice their Disco skills.   One person states the mystery; everyone else works together to get to the solution.  The players can ask the leader questions that can be answered either “Yes” or “No” (only).  All-in-all, it should take about a minute to solve the mystery.  

Asking good questions; listening to the answers; and avoiding over-thinking; are all keys to solving Minute Mysteries.  True – today, you didn’t have the benefit of teammates to help you solve the mystery stated at the start.  Nonetheless, how did you do?  The answer, you ask?  “Stop imagining.” 

GAP 

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Walking down Memory Lane…

One little-known, under-appreciated aspect of the sales profession is the presentation tools our companies equip us with.  If Noah was similarly equipped by the Lord, the Ark would have sunk.  When things go wrong, is it the sales people; the product; or their presentation tools?

Several years ago, a car dealer in St. Petersburg, Florida fired his entire sales force and sales went up twenty-six percent.

Rick Page

Recently, I presented at the international client and partner conference of my leading Cloud Computing company.  The topic was Selling Value and my audience was our resellers.  I was also able to attend the Cloud application and platform presentations – “stimulated demos”.  Screen shots; report shots; workflow examples; the works.  Those simulations took me on a walk down Memory Lane…

You see, these latest and greatest, Cloud Computing products and platform presentations were delivered on today’s-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of our modern and sophisticated era – PowerPoint.  Yep; selling the Cloud with presentation software launched May 22, 1990 – 22 years ago!

Back to Rick Page, from his book Hope Is Not a Strategy ©:

Before computers, tellers showed with slide trays, showing feature after feature:  “Stop me if you see something you like.”  Today we have presentation software with even greater capacity to bore our prospects. 

I remember when PowerPoint replaced the-then-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of the time; Harvard Graphics; launched in 1986.  Not the most user-friendly application, Harvard Graphics took a great deal of effort (and intelligence) to create presentations.  Ergo the name “Harvard” I suppose.

The first person I remember who created presentations in Harvard Graphics was my friend and fraternity brother, Dushan Petrovich.  Dushan was not a sales professional.  He was an accountant at the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, assigned to their Chicago Cubs division.  He built internal financial projection presentations in Harvard Graphics.  He was smart enough to operate the software – smarter still, “Duke” rose all the way to become the President of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company before retiring in 2011.  Great presentations no doubt!

In 1986, I was a Sales Rep for Integral Systems (Dave Duffield’s preceding company to PeopleSoft; which preceded WorkDay).  It was a mainframe world in those days.  Integral’s claim to fame in the mid-1980s was our “native database implementations” of payroll and human resource management software.  We ran on the then-famous IMS; IDMS; Adabase; and IBM’s DB2 database platforms.

The-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of that era?  35mm slide projectors!  Screen shots; report shots; workflow examples; the works.  Here I was selling the most technologically sophisticated, business applications of my time and carrying in to the meeting rooms at companies such as Motorola and PPG Industries a slide projector with a 200 slide carousel.  (Hello Rick Page.)

For the technical presentation accompanying my 35mm simulated demo, our subject matter expert at Integral Systems, Nelson Russell, used the-second-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of that time – overhead transparencies!  There he was, presenting Integral’s technical implementation, adhering to IBM’s “System Application Architecture” blueprint for the future of mainframes; mini’s; and micro’s – hoping the light bulb in his overhead projector wouldn’t burn out!

Of course, sales presentation tools aren’t limited to selling technology.  In 1959, my Dad used a Dukane film strip projector equipped with a 78 rpm-LP album and wired remote control for a multi-media, life insurance presentation to families at their kitchen tables in the evening.  The Dukane remains in working condition today.

Maybe if those sales reps at that car dealer had better presentation tools…

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.