The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for September, 2012

Business card titles…

As a professional salesman, I can get pretty self-absorbed in the examination of business card titles.  Usually, I’m fixated on the business card titles of prospects.  

However, I’ve noticed when I’m coaching other sales professionals; they don’t get into this topic as enthusiastically as I do.  For instance, when they say they’re working with the CFO, I’ll ask, “Is that the title on her business card or email signature line?”  I typically get a blank stare in return. 

There’s one tendency about “Chief Financial Officers”, or any other “Chief” for that matter: Chiefs have Executive Assistants; middle managers don’t.  In the above example, when I respond to the sales rep’s blank stare by continuing, “Have you identified the CFO’s EA?”  Their blank stare usually continues as well.  It’s then that I can tell they aren’t much into the concept of business card titles.  To them, any old voice on the phone will do I suppose. 

OK, let’s turn towards our prospects.  Does the business card title of the sales rep they work with make a difference in their decisions?  I mean, in the sales profession we have a plethora of preferred business card titles, true? 

Who do you think your prospects prefer: a “Manager” (and are you of the District Manager or Area Manager variety)?  Do you think your prospects ever wonder: exactly who or what you manage anyway; People? Accounts? Areas?  How about being a Business Performance Advisor?  Or a “Consultant”? 

Do the business card tiles of “Systems Engineer” or “Solutions Architect” stimulate buying preference; or blank stares?  I’ve noticed not many sales professionals use the business card title of Soothsayer anymore.  I guess that one fell from grace sometime after the first century: 

It seems to me that no soothsayer should be able to look at another soothsayer without laughing.


Today, in my industry, “Account Executive” is the title of preference; even better, “Senior Account Executive”.  (Implying others are what, “Junior”?)  Have you ever observed how our prospects react to our business card title positioning?  In my experience, outside of Japan, blank stares are the common prospects’ reaction.  I don’t think they are very much into business card titles either. 

So if all the time and energy invested into business card title creativity generates more blank stares than substance, what do our prospects value when sizing up an introduction to their next, new sales rep? 

Well, let’s take fixing our cars for example.  I prefer an experienced auto mechanic over a Solutions Consultant, Area Manager, or Senior Account Executive.  How about you?  Of course, as the “prospect” I don’t really like being so dependent on my auto mechanic to begin with.  They can speak in such complicated and technical terms, yes?  Puts blank stares on my face. 

Although a Do-It-Yourself alternative is not a practical option, I try to participate in the decision-making process.  Unfortunately, it seems the only sense of control I have over repair decisions is whether to have them done now – expensively – or procrastinate and wait to have the repairs done later – even more expensively!  I should heed the advice of our favorite, Unknown Sage who has coached us on auto repair rates for years; 

            Labor Rates    

Regular                                 $ 24.50

If you wait                                 30.00

If you watch                                35.00

If you help                                     50.00

If you laugh                                      75.00                      

BTW – what business card title to do suppose our favorite Unknown Sage carries on his or her business card? 


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Don’t take my word for it…

Funny how things work.  Lately, I’ve been helping several clients recruit and onboard new sales reps.  As you already know, finding good sales people is hard work.  I’ve been blessed in my career to have recruited, managed and promoted stellar performers.  It was “Lesson #1” I learned from Tom McSweeney: 

Recruit good people; enjoy them while you can; promote them; and go find some more. 

I think it was Tom’s way of teaching me not to take good people for granted. 

At the same time Lew and Shayne, my friends and former teammates, recently changed jobs.  The companies they’re going to are getting two stellar performers – in this case, take my word for it!  Not surprisingly, both implied their frustration with their now former companies (and former managers).  I suspect they felt they were being taken for granted. 

“Gary”, you might ask, “how do you know they were stellar performers?”  Fair question.  It suggests you won’t just take my word for it.  BTW – a key perspective when you’re recruiting sales people – don’t simply take their word for it.  

When recruiting, I look for people who do all of the little things – little things don’t lie.  Are they prompt; prepared; did they do their homework before every meeting; did they professionally follow up after every meeting; have they worked hard for their accomplishments – like Lew and Shayne.  An Unknown Sage once said: 

How you do one thing is how you do everything – don’t kid yourself. 

“But Gary”, you might continue, “what about talent; experience; a track record of success in our industry?”  Another fair question.  Unfortunately, it sometimes reflects looking for the wrong things:  

  • Just because someone was successful in one role with one company at one point in time, does not mean they will be successful in their new role, with your company, at this point in time.  In fact, if they have had prior success we should wonder – why are they interviewing now?  Unless we can uncover justified frustration with their soon-to-be-previous manager, or some other legitimate reason for their departure, beware.  Don’t take their word for their prior performance.
  • I prefer to look for evidence of hard work vs. recruiting “talent”;  

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.

Chinese fortune cookie

And what does “hard work” look like?  It starts with a certain attitude – like Lew and Shayne’s attitude.  Permit me to offer an example from the email Lew sent me: 

I thought I would let you know that after 20 years I decided to leave… I had a great year last year and went to Presidents Club in Rome. I then resigned when I got back… After 20 years I needed a change. I have wanted to leave for a couple of years but I did not want to leave under plan. After 20 years I wanted to leave after having a great Presidents Club year… 

That’s an example of what a stellar attitude looks like, yes? 

Lew went on to thank me for the sales coaching I provided him during the years he was on my team.  Funny how hard working people make their boss look good – especially if you don’t take them for granted: 

            The teacher and the taught create the teaching.

Eastern Proverb 

I’ll share some of Shayne’s teachings in an upcoming post.  It is stellar, too – but don’t take my word for it. 


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Our dates…

9/11/2012 has come and gone, but some dates are never forgotten.  

In the beginning of the novel, A Tale of Two Cities is the contrast, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” within the context of both occurring at the same time.  For Americans, 9/11/2001 seems like a demarcation point between the best of times before that morning and the worst of times after, true?  That’s when terrorism literally collided into freedom. 

Do you remember where you were when news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Centers in New York was broadcast?  I always will.  

It’s amazing what we can accomplish during the best of times; and what we can endure during the worst of times, don’t you think?  9/11 was the worst national society experience for many of us.  April 20, 1999 – Never Forgotten – was the worst of times for my home town; although truly, we are all Columbine. 

At a most personal level, how many bests and worsts have you had?  The bad times help us appreciate and enjoy the good times even more, do you agree?  Here’s what Ernest Hemingway said: 

Life breaks us.  And when we heal, we’re stronger on the broken parts. 

My local community is stronger following the Columbine killings; and I believe America is stronger following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Our ability to gain strength from adversity should come as no surprise, though.  Our ancestry is made of up generations who had to overcome adversity.  Much of today’s adversity pales in comparison to theirs, doesn’t it?  

For many of us who did not suffer a direct loss of loved ones from these tragic events, our hardships now come in the form of inconvenience and economics.  We work harder today to keep up than we did before; travel has become more difficult; guns are all too prevalent in our society; in our schools (and at our theaters!); and our 401(k) balances are still struggling to regain their original value. 

Things we once dreamed of seem further from our reach.  We have extended our resources close to the breaking point in defense of our country and our way of life.   For America, that’s nothing new.  Our country has been on the brink; had parts broken; and healed back stronger for as long as we have been a country.  Were the hardships of the Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Viet Nam War, or any other national, local, personal, or family crisis less hard? 

We are up to facing today’s challenges.  We are strong because we come from generations of strength – families who struggled to make for this country, for their families, and for themselves the best of times.  Like past generations, Americans today have the opportunity to earn and enjoy the better things in life.  And we know why they are the better things: 

To really enjoy the better things in life, one must first have experienced the things they are better than.

Oscar Holmolka 

So this month we reflect on that life-changing event now known as 9/11.  Like the day an American walked on the moon, or the night the USA Olympic hockey team won the gold medal to Al Michaels’ famous words broadcast around the world, “Do you believe in miracles?”,  let’s turn to our favorite, Unknown Sage once again for this reminder: 

            The First Rule of Life: 

The best things in life aren’t things.


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Selling the one that works…

Setting appropriate expectations – easy to say, hard to do.  

While recently reading Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play © by Mahan Khalsa, he wrote of a negotiation concept called” “Preemptive Negotiations”.  It goes like this: 

Out of curiosity, have you ever experienced an installation of this scale that went absolutely perfectly?”  When the say, “no”, we can continue, “and neither have we.” 

Now there’s an approach that takes some brass!  Negotiating how you will address your client’s disappointments with their purchase of your products/services, before you close the deal for their purchase of your products/services! 

Yes, much has been said and much has been written about sales people mis-setting expectations.  Over promising and under delivering it is often called.  But it’s extremely difficult to sell the customer a “solution” (aka the one that works).  Unfortunately, it really is all about expectations: 

            Law Number XXXVII: 

Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect.  The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.

Norman R. Augustine 

Are there sales professionals that have made huge money “selling ice to Eskimos”?  I suppose.  We see some of those types appear in the headlines from time to time with captions that include, “Ponzi Scheme”; “CEO receives millions in pay while company slumps into oblivion”; or sometimes, simply “Facebook IPO”.  But these self-serving, over-the-top, unscrupulous, sales types really are few and far between. 

Most of us have the appropriate intentions.  Yet “selling the one that works” to the customer takes much more than appropriate intentions.   Take product training, for instance.  How many times have we taken a new sales position and discovered our company only offers a Do-It-Yourself approach to training us on how the product really works? 

Some companies leverage a mentoring approach with their new hires; on surface, an excellent idea.  But – who trains the mentor on how to mentor?  The Sales Manager, you say?  OK – who has trained your Sales Managers to “manage”?  “Mr. OJT”, you say?  Ah yes, we know him well.

If Mr. OJT has developed bad habits, leveraged short cuts, or in some other way figured out how to succeed in spite of cluelessness, he now infects our new sales reps with these bad habits.  Is that what our future customers were expecting? 

Of course, the customer is hard enough to sell to, true?  Too busy to walk us through their current situation, letting us guess instead; leaders delegating to subordinates; or worse, bringing in an outside consultant who leverages that world famous, expectation, mis-setting tool known as the “RFP”.  Yep, too many projects are doomed from the beginning: 

            The stages of Systems Development: 

1. Wild enthusiasm

2. Disillusionment

3. Total confusion

4. Search for the guilty

5. Punishment of the innocent

6. Promotion of the non-participants

Arthur Black 

But in the end I believe it still remains the sales professional’s responsibility to sell the one that works to our customers.  And when we come across that customer that we intuitively know we can’t possibly meet their expectations – we have to be the ones to walk away.  Yes, setting appropriate expectations; easy to say, very hard to do.  

But an error of omission can lead to the same dead-end destinations as errors of commission.  Either way, if we are not careful we will wind up in a cartoon like this one that has lasted the ages:



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