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Archive for March, 2017

I don’t wanna…

As I’m writing this little ditty I’m remembering one of those days.  You too?

Having a bad day in and of itself is nothing rare.  It’s just – I’d rather hear about your bad day and try to console you vs. experiencing that bad day myself.    You too?

It doesn’t matter when I know the cause of my mood.  Today for instance, it began with a family crisis false alarm.  I can’t help it.  Even though my sons are grown men; strong men; men I’m proud of more than I tell them; when one (or both) of them are in danger (real or perceived), I react.  And truth be told in many cases; over-react.  And that’s how my day started.

Once I understood that there was no danger, my mind seemed to switch into this “I don’t wanna” mood.  I tried to carry on; stiff upper lip, and all that.  I tried to have the courage to move forward in spite of the fear for my son (real or perceived).  I turned to our favorite, Unknown Sage; sought courage:

“COURAGE”:  The ability to move in the right direction in spite of fear.

Oh, I continued my day; went to the office; completed my meetings; conducted business as usual.  I mean, it’s not my company’s fault that I’m having a bad day.  Not like what happens at other companies:

Due to recent cutbacks the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off until further notice. 

Unknown Sage

And I appreciate knowing that I’m in a job, working for an excellent manager, a member of a terrific team, serving clients who value my contributions, all within a leading company in our industry.  Yes, a rare combination of positive factors many business people do not enjoy (and a source of me consoling them).  Nevertheless, today – I don’t wanna!

Who knows – maybe I have been too fortunate?  Maybe it’s just my turn for a bad turn.  Back to you know who:

Law of Life’s Highway:

If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

Unknown Sage

I tried to address my poop-in-the-face attitude.  I read a few articles from TalentSmart one of my favorite thought leaders about emotional intelligence.  I perused their “Unmistakable Habits of Irresistible People” and felt bad.  Tried “Surprising Things Ultra Productive People Do Every Day” and felt worse.  Started down their “Body Language Blunders That Make You Look Bad” and gave up!

Maybe, hopefully, my timing is simply a little off today:

“Timing”:

I just heard the sad story of the comic who lost his timing.  He stepped on his own lines, tried to talk over the laughs, and lost his ability to build a strong close.  He got fired from one gig after another until he got so depressed, he decided to end it all.  He went down to the railroad tracks and threw himself behind a train.

The Jokesmith

I know I’m wearing out my welcome with our Unknown Sage  – but maybe I can still find peace:

My therapist told me a way to achieve peace was to finish things I started.  Today, I finished 2 bags of potato chips, a lemon pie, a fifth of Jack Daniels, and a small box of chocolate candy.  I feel better already! 

Unknown Sage

Yes, maybe that’s it – chocolate, booze, and junk food.  Doctor Oz – don’t start with me.

Well, not to worry.  After writing about it I think I going to be alright after all.  You too?

GAP

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In the trenches…

As a career sales professional I write a bit about sales – but you already know that.  No “commercial insight” in that statement as described in the book The Challenger Sale © by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

The Foreword to their book was written by none other than Neil Rackham, author of the best-selling business book SPIN Selling ©.  It struck me as a most-interesting (dare I say “insightful”) contrast:  A book written about modern day selling prefaced by the author of another book about selling, written literally last century (copyrighted in 1988).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve learned and still apply teachings from Neil Rackham.  I try to keep learning, too:

Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. 

Bill Gates

So I read (and share) recent research in an effort to avoid losing – out there – in the trenches.

Permit me to get to today’s essence:  How do you sell?  Ready – Go!

Need more context?

…we live in an era when product innovation alone cannot be the basis for corporate success.  How you sell has become more important than what you sell. 

Neil Rackham

How we sell and why the customer buys from us vs. anyone and everyone else we compete against are flip-sides of the same coin, true?  Differentiation is the key.  But what do we differentiate on?

In absence of differentiation, the only thing left for the customer to base her decision on is price.  And if price is the deciding factor, we don’t need a sales force – we can put our products up on a web site and sell online.  How frequently do you find yourself spending the majority of your time defending your price with a prospect?

I ask again:  How do you sell?

Neil Rackham poses the question:  Would your customer pay you just for the experience of your selling process?  Is “how you sell” valuable in and of itself?  Heavy stuff!

Why does the research behind The Challenger Sale ® point to a handful of specific attributes that over 50% of all customers included in their study cite as the attributes of differentiation behind why they bought from a particular sales rep?  What are your attributes?  Want to compare?

The authors (Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson) list these 7 attributes as the key differentiators between those reps that win and all of the rest that lose – out there – in the trenches:

  • Offers unique, valuable perspectives on the market
  • Helps me navigate alternatives
  • Provides ongoing advice or consultation
  • Helps me avoid potential land mines
  • Educates me on new issues and outcomes
  • Supplier is easy to buy from
  • Supplier has widespread support across my organization

How do you compare?

It’s no secret that prospects value sales professionalism:

Prospects don’t get out much. 

Jill Konrath

Jill goes on to say that prospects are so busy running their business that they don’t get a chance to sit back and reflect on leading industry practices to be leveraged.  They rely on a sales professional to “offer unique and valuable perspectives on the market”.

Lest you believe that your company is “unique”; your products are “world class”; you “sell solutions”; and you seek to be a “trusted adviser”… beware.  These statements unto themselves are already commoditized.  To the customer, these claims are categorized as “Yea, you and everyone else on the planet”.

When we’re in the trenches of hand-to-hand, competitive conflict, what will our difference-maker be?  Here’s a hint: It’s how we sell.

Game on!

GAP

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Day by day…

If I do the math 44 years is the equivalent of 16,060 days.  This coming Sunday marks 44 years; 16,060 days.  A significant amount of time to be with one’s significant other, true?

In reality it’s been significantly more than 16,060 days when I think about our engagement, plus  the many days we dated in high school. And every day for over 16,060 days – more than 44 years – I have enjoyed being married to my high school sweetheart.  Happy Anniversary Debbie!

Many of you are in a long-lasting relationship; many have been married longer than we.  A Mile High Salute!  Maybe my relationship thrived because I was a “road warrior” for several years?  As one of my colleagues once said:

The secret to a long marriage is a husband that travels. 

Lisa Kwiecien

As you know, I write about my wife frequently; not necessarily daily; but frequently.  Like any couple, we have our good days and our not-so-good days.  Like many couples, we’ve also had some of those relationship-testing; foundation-rattling; we’re-not-going-to-make-it; kind of days.   When those days have occurred we followed James P. Owen’s advice:

When you’re riding through hell… keep riding.

Any meaningful journey is like that, don’t you think?  Even one of America’s most famous sweethearts offered all of us her guidance on life’s journey:

Pain nourishes courage.  You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you. 

Mary Tyler Moore

Over our 16,000+ days, we have had more than our share of wonderful things happen; all driven by love.  In fact, 44 years ago this month the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Love Train” by the O’Jays.  According to Wikipedia:

The word ‘train’ comes from the Old French trahiner, from the Latin trahere meaning pull, or draw.

I have been a passenger on that love train as my wife has pulled us along for 44 years!  Of course, I’ve tried to pay attention to the little things that make a difference day by day; lighten her load a bit; smooth the tracks.  Rob Gilbert made a list:

How to have a Winning Day:

  1. You have to listen more than you talk…
  2. You have to smile more than you frown…
  3. You have to be fascinated more than you’re frustrated…
  4. You have to believe in yourself more than you doubt yourself.
  5. You have to work more than you whine.
  6. You have to do more than you don’t.

I have also paid attention to my role, responsibilities and boundaries:

Men ordering custom colors must first bring in a note from their wife. 

Guiry Paint Store

It’s OK; she writes the notes; I run the errands; we make a great team.  And on those occasional occasions where disagreement looms, we heed Harlan Miller’s advice:

Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving three or four things a day unsaid.

16,060 days and our love train is still rolling strong.  No matter our future course; no matter the challenges we will face; the trails that will test us; not even the weather we may encounter; our love train will continue – pulled along by my significant other – regardless of whether the wind is boosting us from behind our back or resisting us as it blows hard in our face.

Etheridge Knight’s words will continue to guide us:

Love is a rock against the wind.

Happy 44th Anniversary Dear.  You’re my rock and I love you.

GAP

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Intentional…

Google intentional and among other definitions, you will find:

Planned, meant, studied, knowing, purposeful

Not the adjectives typically associated with millennials these days, true?

Much has been said and much has been written about the future of civilization as we know it when the day comes that millennials are running things.  We’ve seen the disastrous predictions when “they” are in charge, yes?  I’m a bit more hopeful (of course, I’m optimistic by nature).  I think we’ll be alright – after all:

We hope that when the insects take over the world they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics. 

Bill Vaughan

However, there are many harsh realities we (and “they”) must face first for things to work out.  This 15 minute clip is sobering.  Two prefaces – (1) I wonder if you will have the patience to watch it in full and deny the temptation to fast forward to my point (2) at the 14:30 mark the speaker reveals the origin of ideas and innovation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

Speaking of observation, casual (in-person) interactions, and idea origination, I walk by the cubes of our Business Development Reps periodically.  A whole department of millennials; managed by millennials; quite the dichotomy from this gray-haired, periodic passerby.

I noticed after several fly-bys the word “Intentional” boldly written above one of the BDR’s desk.  Recently, I stopped and chatted with Megan about it – I wanted to know more about why she had posted “Intentional” above her desk.

“Gary, I’m focused on doing my job better” she offered. And then continued, “I’m trying to make each phone call I make and each voice mail I leave intentional.  I’m paying closer attention to how I’m doing what I’m doing.  I want to leave a memorable impression with the prospects I contact.”  WOW!  If that isn’t planned, studied and purposeful, aka intentional, I don’t know what is!  And all from none other than a millennial.

In the YouTube clip the speaker discusses how Corporate America today has to learn to manage, motivate, and lead millennials better.  He offers the position that they have capabilities – managers just have to tap into these capabilities differently than the way managers managed their teams of prior generations.  Naturally, this presumes managers know how to do this – which I believe they don’t – but I digress and will leave my thoughts on front line sales management to a future post.

Getting back to my casual conversation with my millennial colleague about her intentional approach, I’d like to add:

I am neither so green that I cannot teach; nor am I so gray that I cannot learn.

Since our conversation at Megan’s cube I have given the word intentional a lot of thought.  I think I am already in alignment with her on my intentional approach to the sales profession and my sales enablement responsibilities.  I think I’ve developed the requisite knowledge, skills and experience over the years the old fashion way – trial and error.

But as with others of my generation, I don’t think I have been as intentional as I should be with other sources of dopamine that the YouTube speaker cites.  So with my young colleague’s teaching I will be more intentional in 2017.

To remain in the sales profession we must either teach or we must learn, every day.  For my part, after 40 years I’m still learning.  In this case from a person who is younger than some of my horses LOL!

Yes – I have great hope for the future.

GAP

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Problem statements…

I’ve written recently about the large amount of change we are going through at my company.  And even though sales professionals are in the business of selling change, we tend to be quite change adverse ourselves.

During times of change, followers often make “problem statements” (aka protests, complaints, bitches) to our leaders, yes?  And during our period of change I’ve observed one of my colleagues consistently making such problem statements to the boss.  In turn, the boss has been quite consistent – he puts the problem back in my colleague’s court and asks him to come up with a solution.

It’s not that the boss is above input (or criticism) on his game plan for the team; just the opposite in my opinion.  You see, my boss is stellar at setting our strategic course based on the company’s priorities; hiring skilled, experienced people for his team; and empowering us to get the job done.  We are nicely compensated for our contributions, too – just like those that implemented dramatic changes in the United States steel industry:

“We have the hardest working steel workers in the world”, said one Nucor executive.  “We hire five, work them like ten, and pay them like eight.” 

Jim Collins

However, “getting the job done” at our company isn’t easy – I bet that holds true at your company too.  And on more than a few occasions, my colleague will make a “problem statement” seeking to throw the issue over the fence into my boss’ yard.  He doesn’t like the boomeranged result.

The reality is solving these problems (aka issues, concerns, difficulties) is the reason he hired us to begin with.  He’s very skilled at anticipating our problem statements:

The boss always scheduled the weekly staff meeting for 4:30 on Fridays.  When one of the employees finally got up the nerve to ask why, she explained; “I’ll tell you why – I’ve learned that’s the only time when none of you seem to want to argue with me.” 

Unknown Sage

So I get it – don’t expect to throw the problems of getting my job done over the fence and expect my boss to handle them.  Those problems (aka challenges, complexities, trials and tribulations) are the reason why he hired me in the first place.

And I’ve been around the block enough to understand the realities of team member complaints (aka grievances, grumbles, moans):

Zimmerman’s Law of Complaints

Nobody notices when things go right.

I may have an advantage as compared to my colleague (to be fair though, I’m not totally knowledgeable about his background before joining our team).  But I’ve been the boss before. During that time, I attempted to follow the teachings of great business leaders such as Alfred P. Sloan who led General Motors to the powerhouse of his industry during his time:

The job of a professional manager is not to like people.  And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts and indeed the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to.

I know my colleague doesn’t like it when he hits the boss with problem statements and doesn’t get whatever burden lifted off of his shoulders.  It’s not a “like” thing to begin with.  The boss is simply demonstrating faith in my colleague’s ability to perform.

The good news (aka happiness, silver lining, positive side)?  Like Nucor, we are all quite capable of the meeting the high performance he expects.

GAP

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my past posts too: www.TheQuoteGuys.com