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Archive for October, 2013

Hoping in Duple Time…

What stimulates your hope?

The Polka is a happy, little tune – don’t you think?  (“Really, Gary?  The Polka?  Slow day?”)

No, really.  I was station-surfing the other day; looking for a little hard-rock music.  It was Monday, which for me is Mandatory Metallica (helps me start my week).  I came across Polka music on the radio and it immediately triggered memories of my childhood – and the movie “Home Alone”.  Did you see that movie?  John Candy played Gus Polinski, the leader of a Polka Band from Milwaukee. Remember his pride over one of their hits, “Polka-Polka-Polka”?  Classic!

From Centralhome.com (of all places):

Polka is defined as a vivacious couple dance of Bohemian origin in duple time; it is a basic pattern of hop-step-close-step; a lively dance tune in 2/4 time.

Vivacious; lively; duple time; doesn’t that just perk you right up?  OK, who brought the accordian?

Answer.com adds:

Polka music is a form of European dance music which originated in Bohemia (what is now an area within the Czech Republic).

And from Wikipedia:

Apparently, it was so well-received that it became a sort of dance craze, spreading across all of Europe, and to the US.

“OK Gary, but the Polka?  Today?  How does that stimulate hope?”

Well, you see the Polka is part of my family roots.  When I was in grade school my Cousin John in Chicago played the accordion and everyone would dance (lively; in duple time!).  I remember the cold beer would flow, as would the rich happiness of blue collar, working families, who made the most of celebrations that they could rarely afford.  Although they struggled to make ends meet, when they partied – they really partied – and they Polka’ed!

There have been other dance crazes, for sure.  In the ‘60’s it was the Twist.  Who remembers doing the Hustle in the ‘70’s? Today, who hasn’t done the Electric Slide?   How many of these dances will outlast the Polka?

Back to Wikipedia:

The actual dance and accompanying music called “polka” are generally attributed to a girl, Anna Slezakova of Labska Tynice, Bohemia, in 1834.

Alright Anna! 179 years and still going strong!

When my relatives danced the Polka years ago, it was all about celebration.  Celebrating some occasion, for sure; but also celebrating family; celebrating life; celebrating hope!  The hardest working people are often the ones that enjoy family gatherings and modest accouterments the most, yes?

These celebrations are enthusiastic expressions of hope.  Hard working people stay pretty focused day-to-day; living paycheck to paycheck.  They have to.  But when it’s time for a family celebration, hope springs eternal!

Throughout the ages, dances of hope were common among many people. Texas Bix Bender, who brought us such sage advice as:

Don’t squat with your boots on.

and,

Never drink down stream from the herd.

Also offers us insight about dance, the future, timing, and hope.  In the Great Plains and throughout the West, for instance, we’ve all read lore about the rain dance.  And Texas Bix said:

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

So I’m smiling today about the timing of my life and the opportunity to envision memories of my Cousin John playing the accordion while my Uncle Frank and Aunt Bernice danced the Polka into the wee hours of the morning. Yes – the Polka – a happy (and hopeful) little tune indeed.

What stimulates your hope?

GAP

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Qualifying, Clarifying, or Guessing?

One of my mentors Joe Carusi, recommended I read the book, Selling is Dead© by Marc Miller to help clarify how buyers buy today.  Catchy little title, yes?  I highly recommend it to any B2B sales professional.  Marc Miller’s main point is we should understand the type of buyer-demand we’re facing, and once understood, use the appropriate selling tactics.

Understanding the buyer-demand; focus on the prospect more than the deal – what a concept!

Qualifying is more difficult than guessing, yes?  Knowing which prospects (aka “Buyers”) to pursue and which prospects (aka “Lookers”) to nurture is a challenge, true?  The former make decisions while the latter represent the “long lose”.  The former have a decision-making body, with decision-criteria, and an approval process.  The latter just want a demo and a quote.

It’s hard to stay focused on the prospect.  Sometimes we get so focused on the “deal” that we do a poor job of picking up the subtleties the prospect offers.  It’s easy to get caught “guessing” that they are qualified and just focus on winning the deal; getting to the approval process.

Sales Management likes to “help” us qualify our deals too, don’t they?  Of course, everyone wants to talk about the prospect’s approval process.  I wrote a little ditty about approval processes (see The Approval-Process).  Sales professionals live and breathe approval processes.

As defined by TheFreeDictionary.com:

Live and breathe something 

If you live and breathe an activity or subject, you spend most of your time doing it or thinking about it because you like it so much.

I suppose we only “like” living and breathing the approval process when we win the deal, true?  The “looonnnggg looossse”?  We hate living and breathing through those approval processes!

Sales training from the last century taught us “BANT” – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe.  Not much there about understanding buyer-demand.  Yes, I am reminded that the “A” and the “N” are supposed to be about the prospect.  I’m simply asking whether we focus on the prospect; or the deal?

Let’s take a closer look at the “A” – Authority.  When we speak with our prospects, we often ask, “Mr. Prospect, in addition to yourself who else will be involved in this very important decision?”  Perhaps we don’t believe Arthur W. Radford’s advice:

A decision is the action an executive must take when he has information so incomplete that the answer does not suggest itself. 

Is the information we provide complete?  Does our solution “suggest itself”?  Do we understand their “Need”?  Can there be dissent?  And if there is dissent, do we panic?  Press?  Discount?

Alfred Sloan, Chairman and CEO of General Motors for years was in a Board meeting about to make an important decision.  He said, “I take it that everyone is in basic agreement with this decision.”  Everyone nodded.  Sloan looked at the group and said, “Then I suggest we postpone the decision.  Until we have disagreement, we don’t understand the problem.”

This is the funny part about winning deals – the less we understand buyer-demand; the more we focus on the deal.  The more we (over) react to dissent; the more we press.  The more we press; the harder it is to win …. the deal.

How many times do we just want the deal while caring less about the prospect?  Yet when we clarify more about the latter, it’s amazing how many more of the former they reward us with.

GAP

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

Brevity…

Brevity is a skill, true?  Lord knows, it’s not one of mine!  (Can you say verbose?)

Oh well, at least my readers have patience – I hope!

Ever notice that some of the most historically significant speeches in American history are brief?  Take Martin Luther King for instance.  Famous for his role in leading the American civil rights movement, his still-cherished, “I have a dream” speech delivered over 50 years ago was brief.  According to HistoryBuff.com:

Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was delivered on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.  He spoke for approximately 17 minutes.  http://www.historybuff.com/audio/king.mp3

Abraham Lincoln was even briefer. His most famous speech was less than 271 words.  According to AngelFire.com:

November 19, 1863

Perhaps no speech in American history has been more revered than this short message by Lincoln on the occasion of the dedication of a cemetery in the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

I was recently asked by one of my clients to interview two finalists for their firm’s marketing position.  Although I am a sales professional not a marketing professional, I agreed to do the interviews because I believe the sales and marketing communication disciplines (written and spoken) are blurring in the modern marketplace.

It took me about 4 hours to prepare for the interviews.  That included two phone conversations with my client; one with the CEO; one with his Recruiter.  I wanted to clarify the skills, attributes and/or characteristics they wanted me to focus on to insure I was not duplicating or interfering with areas they were focused on.  I also prepared a structured interview template (to prevent Mr. Verbose from appearing!).

I was following former President Woodrow Wilson’s “game plan”:

If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.

It takes preparation to be brief.  In my case, I structured 4 interview questions.  Allotting time for the candidates’ questions of me, it was good preparation for 1-hour interviews.  The candidates were evidently not as familiar with American history; nor as prepared to be brief.

I’ve often associated this phenomenon with stress.  When we are in stressful, selling situations (and during an interview we are selling ourselves), if we’re not totally prepared we tend to throw more words at it, don’t we?  Well, that’s what they did.  And “throwing more words at it” is often not “better”.

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

Abraham Lincoln

I recapped my interview notes and sent them to the CEO and the Recruiter.  Since I am not a hiring manager for them, I stayed within the boundaries of my 4 questions and did not offer them additional opinions on candidate “fit”.  That’s their prerogative.

But this experience was excellent reinforcement for my sales and leadership responsibilities.  I mean, who can go wrong following Abraham Lincoln’s advice?

My friends, the less you see of me the better you will like me.

Of course, if we plan to apply a “less is more” technique, then whatever we select to include in the “less” better be the “good stuff”, yes?  And to insure we offer the good stuff, albeit briefly, we best allocate sufficient time to prepare.  Yet even with preparation, Mr. Verbose lingers near by.  But I digress – see what I mean!

GAP

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

Giving our best…

I love football – it’s my favorite sport.  A bit ironic I suppose, because football is the epitome of a time in my life that I did not give my best.  Actually, it was worse than that; it was one time that I quit.

I quit my high school football team two weeks into the start of the season.  It was the only time in my life that my Mom told me I disappointed her. I can remember going into the head coach’s office to quit as if it just took place yesterday.  A bit ironic I suppose, because after being a starter and co-captain my freshman and sophomore years, I was not even going to go out for the team my junior year.   The coach called me over the summer and asked me to reconsider.

I acknowledged his request, but when I showed up I wasn’t prepared to give my best.  And the coaches weren’t prepared to coach me up.  Somehow I decided that quitting was the only escape.  I’ve regretted it ever since.  A bit ironic I suppose – it’s not the not-playing that I regret; it’s the not giving my best.

I bet there have been special coaches, mentors, and managers who have had a positive impact on your life.  Coaches come in all shapes and sizes and use a wide variety of styles and techniques.  I bit ironic I suppose – some coaches resonate with us; some don’t.

Here’s a 6 minute video clip about a high school, underdog football team, their coach, and his expectation to giving our best:

http://youtu.be/-vB59PkB0eQ

Probably not a technique that transfers into the business world, but his message does, doesn’t it?  A bit ironic I suppose – coaches aren’t magicians – we must help them help us.  And in return for their knowledge, enthusiasm, and time; they only ask we give our best.

In business, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers:

Common misconceptions about coaching in the marketplace: 

  • “Coaching is primarily for correcting behavior” – If we only coach people when they do something wrong, we have missed the point.  It’s about building not fixing.
  • “Coaching requires giving up power and control” – The manager relies more on influence. The person is still accountable.
  • “Coaching takes too much time” – Coaching takes too much time if you don’t do enough of it and you don’t do it correctly.
  • “Coaching is soft stuff” – The manager who avoids soft stuff usually does so because it is so hard.  The work is easy; people are difficult.
  • “Coaching is laissez-faire management” – Freedom in the workplace, actually just about anywhere, is rooted in strict discipline.
  • “Coaching is simply being a good cheerleader” – A good manager has the courage and inner strength when needed to tell people the truth.
  • “Coaching is like therapy” – To be a good manager and coach one does need a basic understanding of human behavior and motivation, but therapy has no place in your relationship with the people you are leading.

Coaches enjoy occasional accolades, too.  The best I ever heard was a tribute to Bum Phillips, head coach of the then, Houston Oilers.  It was once said of Bum:

He could take his and beat yours – and then he could take yours and beat his. 

A bit ironic I suppose, but they gave their best to him.  It’s a good idea to find a coach to help us commit to giving our best too, yes?

GAP

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