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Archive for August, 2012

Save time; save money…

In 1979, during my very first, B2B sales training class (led by Frank Justo at ADP), we worked on feature-benefit drills.  Ever do that?  And anytime we came across a feature we couldn’t immediately connect a benefit to, we were taught to use that famous, catch-all-justification phrase:  “Save Time; save Money!” 

Over three decades later, I’m amazed at how often I hear this catch-all-justification phrase used.  Maybe you say it yourself.  Oh and there’s also the popular derivation that goes like this:  “With our automated, online, interruption, foot peddle, your people currently assigned to this task can do more important things for the company…”  More important things?  Like what – being laid off?  But I digress. 

Much has been said and much has been written on how sales professionals can “cost justify” the sale of our products and services.  “Value Proposition”; “ROI”; “TCO”, “Time to Value”; “Payback”; “Doing more important things”; what is your favorite term and justification technique?  (“Save Time & Money” you say?  Just shoot me!) 

Of course, our companies can’t help from helping us by providing the infamous TCO/ROI calculator.  Amazing little tools these calculators.  It seems that no matter what numbers you plug in the end result is always the same – “Buy My Product!” 

Was the automation of the spreadsheet a bane to civilization?  I mean, have anthropologists uncovered evidence of abacus-based ROI calculators used to support trade in the ancient times?  Sorry – digressing again. 

After the sale, how often do you think clients go back to check the computation of the ROI they used to justify their purchase in the first place?  Here’s what George Eckes, a subject matter expert in Six Sigma (which according to Wikipedia, “A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects”) shared: 

About 30 percent of my clients have had a true Six Sigma cultural transformation; about 50 percent of my clients have obtained tactical results that justified their investment in paying my outrageous fees.  And about 20 percent of clients have totally wasted their money.           

Well, at least they went back to measure the results of his “outrageous fees”.  We would expect no less from six sigma black belts. 

Does every purchase have to be “justified”?  Here’s an excerpt from an interview published in the March 2012 issue of CFO Magazine

“CFOs need to understand that you have to keep the core running,” says NetSuite CFO Ron Gill.  “Sometimes the CIO will say the phone system needs upgrading.  The CFO will ask, ‘What will we get from the upgrade?’ The CIO says, ‘Phones.” 

Instead of “justification” what if we sold to “value”?  I believe value is client-defined, and it tends to be a bigger number than anything my little TCO calculator might come up with.  I also believe value connects to my client’s “discretionary funds”, which includes the original “budget” plus whatever it costs to get what they want.  

When the client values it and wants it; far be it for me to suggest we do a cost-justification first.  But don’t take my word for it: 

What’s my return on investment in e-commerce?  Are you crazy? This is Columbus in the New World.  What was his ROI?

Andrew Grove 

Truly – Queen Isabella received more value than Columbus’ three returning ships full of goods.  We might all consider selling to our client’s value – after all, this approach could save us time & money! 

GAP 

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Different is good…

Just returned from Boston where I had the pleasure of working with a group of young people we hired right out of college – their first foray into the sales profession.  We focused on listening; clarifying; and problem-solving skills. 

Everyone had a chance to practice client-centric selling (unusual in the marketplace today).  Prospective clients prefer the rare, client-centric approach vs. facing the pervasive “Death by PowerPoint”, “Death by Demo”, vendor-centric approaches, seemingly based on the premise that the client will buy just to get the sales rep to leave!  Client-centric selling is different; and being different is good. 

Businesses face real problems today and executives appreciate the sales professional who can shed light on solutions for them vs. just presenting “company image” slides and demoing product features.  In his book Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, Mahan Khalsa states: 

“How we sell is a free sample of how we solve” 

To solve is to be curious.  Curiosity is one trait in successful sales professionals – it’s different and it helps us stand out.  Although the fable may suggest that curiosity killed the cat, I believe in our profession, curiosity leads to uncovering real value and separates us from our competition.  But curiosity only works when combined with listening and clarification skills. 

Here’s an example of what poor listening and clarification might look like: 

After every flight, pilots fill out a form called a gripe sheet, which conveys to the mechanics problems encountered with the aircraft during the flight that need repair or correction.  The mechanics read and correct the problem, and then respond in writing on the lower half of the form what remedial action was taken, and the pilot reviews the gripe sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of humor.  Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems as submitted by pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance engineers. 

(By the way, this airline is the only major airline that has never had an accident.)  

P = The Problem logged by the pilot.

S = The Solution and action taken by the engineers.    

P:  Left inside main tire almost needs replacement. 

S:  Almost replaced the inside main tire. 

P:  Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.    

S:  Auto-land not installed on this aircraft. 

P:  Something loose in cockpit.  

S:  Something tightened in cockpit. 

P:  Dead bugs on windshield.

S:  Live bugs on backorder. 

P:  Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per    

    minute descent.

S:  Cannot reproduce problem on ground. 

P:  Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.    

S:  Evidence removed. 

P:  DME volume unbelievably loud.

S:  DME volume set to more believable level. 

P:  Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.  

S:  That’s what they’re there for. 

P:  IFF inoperative.   

S:  IFF always inoperative in OFF mode. 

P:  Suspected crack in windshield.   

S:  Suspect you’re right. 

P:  Number 3 engine missing.

S:  Engine found on right wing after brief search. 

P:  Aircraft handles funny. 

S:  Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be

    serious. 

P:  Target radar hums. 

S:  Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics. 

P:  Mouse in cockpit.  

S:  Cat installed. 

P:  Noise coming from under instrument panel.  Sounds

    like an elf pounding on something with a hammer.

S:  Took hammer away from elf.    

Unknown Sage 

Curious – when was the last time a prospective client told you your approach to winning their business was “different”?  

GAP 

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Olympian…

Did you enjoy watching the Summer Olympics?  Olympian – who wouldn’t want to have that on their resume?  What about our profession – what can we learn from Olympians that applies to business? 

During Olympic coverage, the sports media pours tons of hyperbole over the gold medal performances.  The spotlight also shines on those athletes that fail, too.  Either end of the extreme is good for the ratings business, I suppose.  

But in Olympic competition, not every competitor can win every event.  Their day is a lot like our day.  So following the closing ceremonies, what do you suppose the athletes are doing this week?  Getting ready for their next competition, I’ll bet.  

Competition is about striving to win; preparing to win; competing to win.  Winning (or losing) is simply the end result of competition, isn’t it?  You and me, we compete in our daily lives, don’t we?  And when we fail, what motivates us to try again?  Here’s Steve Richard’s view: 

            Who motivates you?  You!   

Yes, motivation can be a powerful force for all of us.  Of course, sometimes our family, friends, and mentors can play a big part in helping us leverage the power of motivation to overcome failure and pursue success.  As a sales professional, I advocate “hunting as a pack”.  I learned this approach from Joe Newton, who coached, “running as a pack”. 

You may have read my writings about “Tiger Joe” before.  He is one of the most successful high school boys cross country coaches ever, and although I was not a runner, he was the person who most influenced my sales career.  

There are many elements to Joe Newton’s competitive approach; the principle of continuous improvement; the ability to earn great success yet go back out every day to compete anyway; etc.  One key element I remember was his focus on offering positive motivation to his kids.  His key to positive motivation?  Pretty simple, really.  

Every day at every practice, Coach Newton called out every kid by their first name – every day.  Every kid (and most of his teams have 100 runners or more) would hear his coach call him by his first name (or nick name), every day.  Joe Newton coupled this technique with saying at least one positive thing to every kid, too. Every day. 

It’s amazing how far a simple; “Way to go!” goes.  The motivation Joe Newton stimulated helped his runners, run; every day.  They were motivated to train hard – harder than their competition.  On race day?  They dominated.  

Returning to today’s Olympic theme – perhaps your heard Sebastian Coe speak during the closing ceremonies.  According to Wikipedia: 

Sebastian Coe won four Olympic medals, including the 1500 meters gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984. He set eight outdoor and three indoor world records in middle-distance track events – including, in 1979, setting three world records in the space of 41 days – and the world record he set in the 800 metres in 1981 remained unbroken until 1997. 

The connection to Joe Newton?  Joe was the first high school coach to coach in the Olympics.  His star “pupil”?  Sebastian Coe. 

Back to business – Loren Brockhouse, a former colleague of mine, offers us this link to Inc. Magazine’s “9 beliefs of remarkably successful people”. I particularly like Belief #9:

            The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.

Enjoy the full article – 9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People 

Way to go Loren! 

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.

Not just OK…

When you hear the name Elvis Presley, what comes to mind?  Do you think we should strive to be like Elvis?  Hold that thought; I’ll come back to it. 

Elvis Presley recorded his first single in 1956.  By the time he died 21 years later he had become a worldwide icon: 

According to the R.I.A.A., the governing body that certifies Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum record sales, (Recording Industry Association of America) the leading all time artist in record sales is ELVIS PRESLEY. Elvis is the leading sales artist for both Solo Artist and Group. Elvis has sold over 2.5 Billion records worldwide. Elvis has been on the charts more times than any other artist or group. Elvis has the most hits in the Top 100, the Top 40, The Top 10, and has had 32 Number 1 Records. Elvis is the only artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and The Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.

John Lennon said: “Before Elvis there was nothing”. 

We just returned from Memphis – and Graceland, “Where Elvis Lives”.  Elvis Presley: a worldwide icon.   He sold more records than anyone who ever lived; took time out to serve in the Army; was a movie star; and a recording Hall of Famer.  His music spanned fans and genres from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and his legend continues to live on larger than life to this day.  

All from a man born into a poor family; with a high school education; who pre-dated Facebook, social media, and the Internet; yet by the time he was 30 he was a worldwide icon.  (Maybe earlier – I’m not sure who officially confirmed worldwide icons back in those days.)   Oh, and by the way, he accomplished all of these things without ever performing outside of North America. 

So how does Elvis “live on” in our daily life?  Music might be one answer – if you like Rock & Roll, Country, or Gospel music.  Fancy clothes, jewelry, luxury cars, and other “larger than life” accoutrements might be another example – if you’re into living larger than life.  

For the cynics, perhaps what you remember most about his image is the final years; fighting obesity; succumbing to prescription drug abuse; struggling to be an aging icon.  A worldwide icon struggling – just like you and me. 

Regardless of our age and different viewpoints, we might all agree that he left quite a legacy behind.  So how did he do it?  And, how could we benefit if we strove to be like Elvis?  

In one interview of a Production Director he commented about the movies Elvis starred in.  Some of the movies were well-produced; Elvis enjoyed them and was proud of them.  Other movies were poorly produced, which Elvis hated and was embarrassed by.  The Production Director agreed, saying his first movies were excellent; the others were just OK – but, he went on to emphasize: 

 Elvis Presley was not about being just OK. 

Yes, as we toured Graceland and later, visited the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, we could tell that everything about Elvis Presley was definitely not about being just OK.  He put all the energy he had, every day, into being who he was and doing what he did – and what he did made him a worldwide icon. 

What could we accomplish if we strove to be like Elvis?  

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.