The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for February, 2013

First in, best dressed

Today, sales professionals often have to catch up with the “modern buyer” who is often ahead of us in their evaluation process.  Nothing new; here’s a tale from last century. 

It was a call-in… 

NewCo Mining was being spun off and needed a new payroll system – in 5 weeks.  What would you have done?  I scheduled a 9 am for the next morning.  Would wear my best tie. 

Carol in Finance escorted me into a conference room and introduced me to Judy from HR and Bill from IT.  (Bill was with IBM; assigned to help NewCo spin-off from the parent company’s systems.)  I started the usual way: “Thank you for inviting me to visit with your today…”  “I’ve prepared some information to share…”  “Before we get to my list, what do you want to cover?” 

Straight forward enough, but Carol just repeated the information she shared over the phone.  It was uncomfortable, until “he” walked in without introduction.  “He” sat at the end of the conference table.  No greeting, no handshake (no warmth).  Carol picked up the pace: 

We’re a new company being spun off from XYZ Mining.  We have approximately 1,000 union employees at 5 mine locations plus a corporate staff.  We need to convert to a new payroll system by the start of the quarter (5 weeks from now).  Bill is from IBM and will help us with anything we need; data conversion, interfaces, whatever.  We called you because your company is the biggest in the business; we also called your largest competitor – they will be here in an hour.  What will it take to get a proposal? 

First in! 

I described a 5-step process that would address their request: 

  1. Requirements Analysis (covering functional, technical, and financial considerations)
  2. Feedback on the feasibility of our findings; recommendations; and preliminary pricing
  3. Product and Service set presentation (functional demo, installation  requirements, interfaces; file format options; Customer Service Delivery; “Phase 2” options; and our Quality Assurance program)
  4. Final price quote review and preparation of order placement documents
  5. Joint development of the implementation plan (tasks; deadlines; responsibilities; “Go Live” date; post Go-Live phases; etc.) 

I cautioned that an implementation of their size and complexity often ran much longer than 5 weeks from the order placement date; and this was only our “Very 1st Meeting”. 

That’s when “he” spoke: 

We have Don Wall coming in next.  (FYI – Don was a Hall-of-Fame sales rep with my biggest competitor.)  Why should we buy from you instead of him? 

Again, no warmth; just eye-contact and a direct question. 

I’ve always been coached to answer direct questions with direct answers.  In this case, I said, “Well, I would answer your question this way:

  • It’s true; my firm is the largest and most successful in the industry
  • My role is to lead our most knowledgeable and experienced team to address the largest and most complex clients in the market (aka best dressed!)
  • Although we are considered the biggest and the best, I’m not sure even we can do your conversion in 5 weeks
  • With respect; you don’t have time to shop around” 

A direct answer, true? 

He looked at me for a moment, turned to Carol and said, “He’s right.  Cancel the 10 am.  Get me a proposal by close of business today.”  And he left the room. 

Carol turned to me and asked, “OK, what do you need from us?” 

First in! 


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In the 1996 movie Jerry McGuire, Tom Cruise’s character gives out a heartfelt speech to Renée Zellweger’s character; Zellweger stops Cruise and says “You had me at ‘hello’.” 

But that was the 90’s.  Today’s audience is a lot more difficult to connect with, don’t you think?  Take last week for instance.  I was facilitating a selling skills class.  The audience was comprised of three dozen seasoned sales professionals some of whom own their own technology business.  I didn’t have them at “hello”! 

Talk about multi-tasking;  I was observing one person with IM, email, and Google search open on her laptop; while texting on her cell phone; and chatting with a classmate across the table; all while one of my colleagues was explaining instructions for a Discovery simulation we were about to role play.  Hello? 

Her Discovery performance?  Predictable: 

            It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Zig Ziglar 

Her Year-to-Date sales?  Zero. 

But Zig was popular in the 80’s and 90’s; the sales professional today is much more difficult to connect with, true?  Hard to have them at “hello”. 

However, if you agree that sales training for experienced sales professionals is challenging, try addressing the “modern buyer”.  Talk about demanding; most modern buyers today would rather pursue a Do-It-Yourself purchase than have to rely on a sales rep. 

Of course, when they do eventually call us for help because many sophisticated products and services can’t be purchased DIY, they’re expecting to have us at “hello”; but we can still disappoint them. 

The weekend before our sales class mentioned above, my wife and I attended the Colorado Home and Garden Show.  What a kick!  There must have been a couple of thousand sales reps pulling booth duty.  While my wife walked the gauntlet looking for replacement windows, I had a bird’s eye view of hundreds of initial interactions. 

“No thanks, just looking.”; “How’s the show?”; or simply “No. I’m not interested.”  permeated the aisles.  OK, we’ve all been there, done that, yes?  But for the window replacement vendors, they had my wife’s attention at “hello”. 

It’s simple.  My wife is a modern buyer.  We had already decided we needed to replace the windows in our condo; we already knew the number of windows; she had already been researching online.  Now, her calendar was open on her phone.  She was “VITO”. (You know “VITO” from Anthony Parinello?) The sales reps didn’t. 

As soon as she said she was looking for windows, they almost immediately responded with a feature-benefit pitch.  They opened up product brochures and read key sections.  They demonstrated how their windows opened and closed.  Some even had cut-outs of their windows showing the double/triple glazing, aluminum framing, and in-window screen options.  They were experienced sales professionals who seemed to know it all. 

Our reaction?  Predictable – my wife wanted to schedule an appointment so each of the five vendors could measure the windows and give us an estimate.  Three of the five vendors talked and talked and talked so much (without ever asking for the appointment), that we decided to continue looking at other options. 

Two of the five wouldn’t accept my wife’s business card for her contact information; and wouldn’t schedule an appointment on the spot.  Nope, she had to fill out a lead request form first before someone would follow up! 

And today, eight days after completing the lead forms?  She’s still waiting to schedule those two appointments.  Hello?  


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Love rules without rules

Still one of my favorite Italian Proverbs. 

There’s a special day later this week – Valentine’s Day.  What are you doing for that special someone in your life?  Too busy?  Too tired?  Too stressed?  You’re both working?  It’s still not too late you know.  Or did you plan ahead and set a date with your honey for next weekend? 

I don’t know, are meaningful relationships easier or harder to find and maintain these days?  Life seems to move so fast; people seem to be stressed; the media inundates us with sensationalized issues.  With everything racing at a break-neck pace, who’s responsible for maintaining a healthy, loving, long-lasting relationship?  Well, here’s a view from Wyatt Webb: 

You are 100 percent responsible for 50 percent of any relationship.                                 

A nice reminder as we think of that special person in our life this week.  We are responsible.  Carrying more than ½ the load you say?  Yep – you and my wife, too.  Thank God my wife has patience:                             

Patience strengthens the spirit,

sweetens the temper,

stifles anger,

extinguishes envy,

subdues pride,

bridles the tongue,

restrains the hand,

and tramples upon temptation.

George Horne 

This Thursday may be a special day in my household, but our relationship over the years has taken constant care (and patience).  Little things mostly; not very difficult, I suppose; but we have been very fortunate.  Marriage seems less common than divorce these days; long-lasting marriage is becoming even rarer.  And when times get tough, the most convenient person to argue with, vent to, and take our frustrations out on is often our partner, true? 

My wife and I are still in love after all of these years.  We will do something quiet this Thursday; we enjoy quiet time together; always have – going all the way back to when we started dating in high school.  We’re blessed with sharing many common interests, so spending time together is always a nice retreat. 

Like you, our conversations span a variety of topics; children; friends; happy memories.  Of course, when we’re together we also synchronize our calendars; debate upcoming projects; disagree on priorities; discuss business; and almost always review our finances.  Yuck!  Necessary I suppose, but certainly not very romantic. 

Like you, we leverage electronic communication in our daily routine – email; voice mail; texting – what a modern couple!  I get a kick out of these technologies.  Less personal I suppose, but it keeps us in closer contact throughout the day.  However, these machines won’t replace our quiet moments together.  Brings to mind what Jim Sterne said about the year 2000:

Live contact will never be replaced by a machine (except ATM’s – we love machines that give us money). 

Yet this Valentine’s Day I will be reminded:

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.

Mignon McLaughlin 

So here’s to February 14th – Valentines Day.   May you enjoy it with someone special in your life – a friend; a family member; your spouse.  If you’re lucky enough to be in love, may you cherish your quiet time together; sharing common interests; being patient with life’s trials and tribulations.

And if you’re with someone but you’re not yet sure if he or she is “the one”, don’t worry – trust your gut feeling:

Love is not finding someone you can live with; it’s finding someone you cannot live without.

Rafael Ortiz 

Love is special on Valentine’s Day – and every day.


How’s your day?  When life gets tough you could get a helmet.  Or, you could read The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.

Saluting the Road Warriors…

I just returned from a trip to San Francisco for our company’s annual sales kick-off meeting.  It was the first business trip I’ve taken in months.  I use to be a road warrior like many of you – but I was fortunate enough to get off the road about 2 years ago. 

My trip to San Francisco brought back many memories – the security lines; cramped quarters on the flight; difficulty sleeping in a strange bed; adjusting to the time zone change; a litany of additional taxes on the hotel room – you know, the works! 

During this trip, it also occurred o me that there has been lost of “noise” in the sporting arena about the impact of travel on professional athletes.  Permit me to take football as one example and digress for a moment. 

The 2012-2013 National Football League season has come to a conclusion.  The NFL Super Bowl XLVII Champion has been crowned.  One of the consistent commentaries I picked up on during this past NFL season had to do with travel. 

Time and again we would hear some radio or TV personality (often a former player) moan about the difficulties such as the Seattle Seahawks traveling all the way to Washington DC to play the Redskins; 4 hours in an airplane; 3 time zones difference; not being able to sleep in their own beds the night before the big game.  You’d think they were traveling by covered wagon! 

Call me uncaring, but the idea that travel has a big impact on an NFL player’s ability to perform at their highest level is a bit over the top.  Their “trips” consist of a single destination; in a chartered plane; with private security screening; pre-arranged ground transportation; high-end hotels; baggage concierge; and catered meals. 

In the world of business travel, I believe road warriors are the true super stars.  Take my boss for instance, who was responsible for coordinating my company’s sales kick-off meetings.  After his 5 days in San Francisco, he took a 1-day trip back home to the Midwest, and then flew Sunday to London for the sales kick-off in our European Region.  Three days in London and then he was off to Sidney for the sales kick-off in our Pacific Region.  Then a 19 hour flight back to the Midwest; executing his job at peak performance throughout. 

No chartered flights; private security screening; pre-arranged ground transportation; etc.  My boss, and so many other business professionals that must travel for a living, are the unheralded super stars. 

Now I’m no poet, but permit me to conclude with a little ditty I wrote many years ago when I was a proud member of the road warrior team:

 A shared prayer from the Mayflower to the modern day road warrior:

We know before leavin’

The ride will be bumpy

The quarters will be dumpy

The stewards will be grumpy

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

The days will be long

ETAs promised will be wrong

Success smiles on only the strong

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

Our family will pine

We’ll miss children’s prime

We barter money for time

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

To no one we sob

While pursuing our job

Our energy travels rob

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

And we pray every evening

Lord, get me home safe

And I’ll call the rest even. 


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