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Archive for February, 2017

What do they do when…

I am assisting one of my clients recruit and on-board an Inside Sales Rep.  As an engineer by background my client has expressed disappointment on how difficult it has been to find a Sales Rep capable of meeting his expectations.

He has been following the usual path; looking for someone with prior experience; assuming that experience will readily transfer to his company; find a “hunter” he can plug-in; should be a snap.  After enough trial and error, he called.

Always preferring to start at the beginning, we chatted about the oversight of his previous reps; the structure of their daily routine; their on-boarding; etc.  We agreed – no specific processes were in place.  Just expectations – get someone to set a bunch of appointments – inexpensively.

My client agreed to join me at the beginning to start his search and on-boarding of his next new sales rep.  He created a written job description for bi-directional candidate screening; a compensation plan both affordable as well as offering incentive income for over-performers; and an initial 13-week, ramp-up plan.  (Actually, he simply borrowed a copy of my 13-week plan.)

While putting his program in place he was surprised at the amount of effort, detail and documentation I advocate.  Although it appealed to his engineering background, he didn’t expect such necessities for sales; leading to my reaction on his reaction:

What do most sales people do when they don’t know what to do? 

Unknown Sage

Confessing he hadn’t given it much thought, we went on to discuss that selling is a skilled process requiring clarity of expectations, structured methodology, and continuous coaching.  Further, in the technology industry, sales is a team sport not an individual endeavor:

Kevin Joyce, a sales and marketing leader in the technology industry, shared the following on effective collaboration. “When there is not a crisp definition of what people should do, they will gravitate to what they want to do. As a metaphor, I refer to this as ‘swarm ball.’ If you ever have any children that play soccer under the age of 10, you know what I am talking about. The entire organization basically swarms around the ball and the ball is whatever the issue is at that moment.”

As my client prepared to welcome his next new recruit, I cited advice from another Subject Matter Expert, Townsend Wardlaw, on what his next new sales rep’s first day, first impression should be:

That wasn’t how my client did it in the past.

We have continued our preparation to on-board his next new sales rep.  We’ve included weekly training and practice sessions.  When my client expressed surprise at the amount of commitment I emphasized for continuous training – even for an “experienced” sales rep, I offered:

Think training is hard? Try losing. 

Davee Jones

As his engineering tendencies came to the forefront, there was more than a bit of worry about adding up all of the time he and his team would be devoting to the new sales rep.  “Was this really going to be affordable?” he wondered.  This brought to mind the thought process of the Founder of my company:

“Someone once asked me if it’s worth $100 million to win the America’s Cup,” Ellison says in the recent documentary The Wind Gods. “It’s certainly not worth $100 million to lose the America’s Cup.”

What’s your company’s approach?  Do you rely on your structured processes for sales performance?  Or do you seek that mythical character known to some as a “hunter”?

GAP

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Turn up the music…

2017 is starting out with lots of challenges for us.  Dramatic change is in the wind (and all over the news), yes?  As Americans, the Executive Branch of our federal government is provoking great change.  At the corporate level, employees of my recently acquired company are feeling the impact of significant change.

The Co-CEO addressed our sales organization in January in an effort to help quell our jitters.  The gesture of his in-person address was impressive (and appreciated).  He was very clear on his vision of our collective future, however.  And change is a big element of his vision for a great future:

Comfort is not the objective in a visionary company.  Indeed, visionary companies install powerful mechanisms to create discomfort – to obliterate complacency – and thereby stimulate change and improvement before the external world demands it. 

Jim Collins

He asked us to embrace the discomfort of change and contribute to our company’s future success.  Many felt it was a big ask.

Change can be very difficult for us to deal with, true?  For me, it’s especially ironic to see how change affects those of us in the sales profession.  I mean, here we are the sellers of change when our clients buy our new products or services to replace their previous products and services.  Sales and change are synonymous, yes?  And yet, I find sales people in particular to be extremely change adverse.

My company has lost several people since the acquisition just because of impending change.  So far, there’s really been nothing materially wrong with our new parent company’s approach to things.  For most of us, our daily routine is the same today as it had been previously.  There are procedural differences; pay and benefits differences; internal systems differences to be sure.  But these changes aren’t really material to the valuable roles we all play.

Nonetheless, some of my colleagues simply won’t embrace the change.  Now it’s not my place to judge whether they’ve panicked or not.  It simply seems to me that they have chosen to depart before giving the new environment a chance.

When faced with uncertainty, where do we turn?

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. 

William Arthur Ward

OK, but while we are adjusting the sails how do we sooth our worries about change; how do we avoid panic?  In my case, I like to leverage music to seek peace of mind.

On the America front we’ve seen civil unrest in the face of change before.  This 8:43 YouTube clip is one example of music; change; and civil unrest: http://youtu.be/VhX3b1h7GQw

To me, music is a powerful reminder of change.  And it’s a reminder that throughout my lifetime change can be fun, too.  (We called our first band The Neighbors’ Complaint!):

So when faced with the possibility of panic in the face of change, I turn to music.  I was recently reminded by my Great Niece of the importance of music in our lives:

Whether we are faced with changes at our company or changes in our country don’t panic – instead consider the words of E.B. White:

I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time.  Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult.

And when in need of a little help to calm the jitters associated with change in order to have one hell of a good time; turn up the music!

GAP

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Luv rules…

Posted Feb 8 2017 by in True North with 2 Comments

Valentine’s Day is on its way – there’s still time to make special arrangements for that special person in our life.

OK, OK – so I can’t take credit for creating this awesome display of love for my love.  That was someone else’s awesome display of their love for their love.  But I can take “observation credit” for stopping along the roadside while driving through this western Illinois farming community to take the picture, can’t I?  I think my wife will give me credit for a little kind-hearted, photo-plagiarism because I know she knows:

Love rules without rules

Italian Proverb

Who says men are oblivious and have no powers of observation?  OK – so with the billboard approach there were no subtleties.  But observing his demonstration of love reminds us all that for next Tuesday, no assumptions; no taking her for granted; no obliviousness; no subtleties are allowed.  On Valentine’s Day, we must shout our love for our love from the top of the mountains!  Of course, we hope our women do the same for the men in their lives:

You know “That Look” women get when they want sex?  Me neither. 

Steve Martin

Next Tuesday may be a special day in my marriage, but our relationship over the years has taken constant care (and patience).  Thankfully, 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

It’s easier to be patient with the little things I suppose.   But when times get tough, the most convenient person to argue with, vent to, and take our frustrations out on is often our partner, true?  Life seems to move so fast; people seem to be so stressed; the media inundates us with so many sensationalized issues.

I don’t know; are meaningful, loving partnerships easier or harder to find these days?  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.

Carrying more than ½ the load you say?  Yep – you and my wife, too.

Thankfully, my wife and I are still in love after all of these years.  We will do something quiet this Valentine’s Day; we enjoy our quiet time together – always have.  We’re blessed with sharing many common interests, so spending time together and “decompressing” from our fast-paced life is a nice retreat.

Like you, our conversations will span a variety of topics; children; friends; happy memories; love.  Of course, when we’re together we will 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.

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 – Valentine’s Day.  May you enjoy it with someone special in your life.  If you’re lucky enough to be in love, may you cherish your quiet time together; sharing common interests; being patient with life’s challenges; relishing the restorative results of romance.

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 rules without rules on Valentine’s Day – and every day.

GAP

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Training – more specifically…

Posted Feb 1 2017 by with 3 Comments

I was thinking about training last month.  More specifically, I was thinking about the difference between training horses vs. training sales people.

In their book Peak Secrets from the New Science of Expertise © the authors (who are scientists) take a scientific look at what goes in to training exceptional performers.  More specifically, they drill down into the myths and realities behind “natural talent” vs. developed excellence.  I came away from the read believing their view that the difference-maker is deliberate practice:

…deliberate practice involves stepping outside your comfort zone and trying activities beyond your current abilities. 

Anders Ericsson

I read this book for two reasons.  First, one of my colleagues who I consider “the expert” in our field and the most valuable member of our “Finance Center of Excellence” team recommended it.  He said this book made him worry that he might be losing his expertise; being passed up; out of practice.  More specifically, he paraphrased the authors:

I worry that those with 20 years of experience like me are being passed up by those with 5 years.

Chris Miller

The second reason I read the book is I was heading to lead a 2-day, on-site sales training session.  More specifically, working with a client’s fifteen sales people carrying a combined 247 years of industry experience the majority of that experience selling a competitive product to the one I was now training them to sell.  And none of them had read the book!

I wondered how things would go.  More specifically, would these experienced sales professionals permit me to take them out of their comfort zone for two days of deliberate practice?

Just prior to facing my experienced audience and leading the sales training session, I worked evenings and weekends with my wife’s company at the 2017 National Western Stock Show & Rodeo.  (Pardon my plug – see www.thrivingpetsinternational.com )  One of the equestrian performances featured an Australian horse trainer.  His demonstrations of horse training skill were amazing:

Horse_Trainer

Now I’m no horse trainer, but my understanding of the field is that one key to success with our equine friends is to get them into a comfort zone on the maneuvers you’re asking them to execute.  The contrast struck me.  More specifically, I thought about the difference of approaching stellar performance with people vs. horses.

On the people side, the key is commitment to deliberate practice outside of one’s comfort zone.  On the equine side, the key is the commitment to deliberate practice while keeping the horse inside of its comfort zone.

Well, I did meet for two days with my client to lead a sales training session on how my company’s product is not only different than what they’ve sold over the years, but also different in how they should sell it.

I suspect I “shocked” them out of their comfort zone (citing Peak© to justify my methods), but I definitely fell short of fully enabling them.  More specifically, they were tolerant of observing my role-modeling on how to sell our product.  But they would not practice this new approach (aka “role play”).  And that’s the problem.

More specifically, I believe there is a difference between gaining an intellectual understanding of a particular skill while watching someone else do it vs. the deliberate practice necessary to convert that understanding into the ability to do it yourself – comfort zones notwithstanding.

More specifically, I don’t think the horse trainer scheduled a conference room and talked his horses through their maneuvers via PowerPoint.  You?

GAP

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