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Archive for September, 2018

How was your day?

One year ago last week, I was in an earthquake in Mexico City; a 7.1.  How do you work that into casual conversation?

September 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm local time, a powerful earthquake shook the bejeezus out of my training class; our lunch break; my colleagues and me!  Thankfully, no one in our group got hurt.

Unfortunately, there were many in Mexico City and surrounding states that did get hurt; over 200 people killed; hundreds perhaps thousands injured.  According to The Guardian ©;

It was the second major earthquake to hit Mexico in two weeks and came on the anniversary of the 1985 quake that devastated Mexico City, killing 5,000 people and destroying 10,000 homes.

In fact, because of that 32nd anniversary; commemorating that devastation; we actually had an emergency evacuation drill at 11am in 2017.  Just about 2 hours before the real thing hit again!

During the episode, I wasn’t afraid; but I was not brave either.  I was conscious of the fact we were experiencing an earthquake – on the 19th floor of a hotel no less.  What started out feeling like a freight train passing by, causing the table to vibrate quickly erupted into what seemed like a prolonged period of ferocious shaking; I could not keep my feet.

Those much braver than I were calling out; directing us towards the archway leading into the room.  Firmly they instructed us to move away from the windows; calmly, they reassured us that we will be alright.

I remember looking out the window and seeing the glass buildings across the plaza actually swaying.  It was surreal; it reminded me of that scene in movie The Matrix when the helicopter crash caused a ripple through the facade of a glass office tower.

My overriding feeling today is one of disappointment.  So many had invested so much before the earthquake hit – and after.  Gustavo Moussalli, out Latin American Division Director and the executive sponsor for the class had made a huge commitment to his local partners; coordinating a 3-day enablement class to support their success.

Gerardo Diez Martinez, our local Channel Manager made all the arrangements.  The meeting rooms and set-up; AV equipment; food and beverage; Gerardo spared no expense to insure we would have everything we needed for his partners.

My colleague Susanna Lagtapon sacrificed time away from her daughter’s 13th birthday; traveling instead to join us for the class.  Our colleague, Tony Caporal, with cooler head and bravery, prevailed following the earthquake.  He helped us retrieve our laptops and luggage.  (Even stopping at the lobby bar to grab a free beer on his way out of the hotel.)

Our VP, Brian Enright, was our “home base”; coordinating flights out of town; hotel reservations; and anything else he could do to support us from afar.

And especially Hector Garcia from our long-time partner NetSoft.  Hector insisted on personally driving us to the airport; would not hear of us taking a taxi or a bus.  He would navigate us through the city streets; on constant vigil for our safety.  Three hours to drive us 12 kilometers.  Three hours in the opposite direction from his own home and family – taking us in his care.

As with all disasters, there were many heroes – named and unnamed.  But that was 2017; Mexico City; and an earthquake.  Today, it’s another crisis; another natural disaster; another conflict.

We are all thankful for so many first responders and other heroes – named and unnamed.  May God bless them all.

GAP

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I don’t know…

We’re in the midst of revising and retooling our sales training program; a periodic ritual all companies go through, you know?  The process we’re following might sound familiar.  Leadership has announced the strategic changes.  Now followership is being asked if the new direction will “fit” our sales constituents.

Naturally, we need to make the new direction “fit”, even if it doesn’t actually “fit”; the change has already been announced.  Though our change management process might sound backward, I’m optimistic the outcome will be favorable.

“Fit” is an often-debated concept in the sales (and sales training) profession.  Ask for input and there seems no end to opinions.  But “fit” is important:

Not a good fit’ is a great conclusion, if arrived at early.  It is a horrible miscalculation if arrived at late. 

Mahan Khalsa

We are late in our process, but it should be OK.  After all, our constituents won’t know the difference.  They only go through our sales training activities once, so they won’t be making comparisons.  Even if we suck going forward no one will know; keeping in mind we may not suck – we may have something better.  I am comfortable saying I don’t know.

He who knows most, knows how little he knows.

Thomas Jefferson

Although I’m change-adverse (like many in my profession), I’m keeping an open mind on the new program.  Philosophically, I’m in alignment with the strategic intent of consistency across all sales channels.  Others smarter and more successful than I have led their companies to greatness based on the principle of consistency:

I wanted to get the ‘creativity’ out of the sales process.  If you want to be creative, go write a novel. 

Larry Ellison

But to be fair, I believe there is a big difference between pronouncing a strategic change vs. developing and delivering the multitude of tactical details that go into the execution of such strategy.  I don’t know… but I’m think the key word here is execution.

We followers are supposed to be domain experts; we’re expected to execute on the plan.  What’s the military saying about battle plans – “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  (Here’s background on that quote.)

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder knew last century that the complexity of war prevented any one leader from grasping the entirety of details necessary to win battles.  The writer (Sean Newman Maroni) offers cross-over connections to the business world.  His cross-over has agreement from at least one famous business leader I know:

‘What do we need a sales guy for?’  I smugly replied, ‘To sell more of our software, perhaps.’  That’s an inside glimpse of our top management team at work discussing the expansion of our distribution capacity.  I knew we needed to build a sales organization, although I certainly had no idea how one worked. 

Larry Ellison

Even though Larry Ellison said he didn’t know (as published in the book Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle©), that didn’t prevent Oracle from achieving tremendous business (and sales) success.

When we launch our revised sales training program I’ll be a bit nervous about “surviving first contact”.  But I “know” we will improvise if necessary in the short term and adapt in the long term to insure success.

However, if in reality I don’t know, I’m comforted by titans of military history and the technology industry – if they don’t know; then it’s probably OK that I don’t know.  On the other hand, if you know – please let me know, OK?

GAP

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Dates never forgotten…

The anniversary of “the” September 11th was remembered this week.  A date we will never forget.  What dates are never forgotten for you?

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 figuratively and 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?  The 9/11 attacks were the worst of times for many Americans.

April 20, 1999 was the worst of times for my home town.  (Although truly, we are all Columbine.)

At a personal level, how many bests have you enjoyed and worsts endured?  The bad times help us appreciate the good times even more, yes?  Here’s what Ernest Hemingway said:

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

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 concerts!).

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.   But 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, the Civil Rights Movement, 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 week we reflect on that never forgotten, 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 Michael’s 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.

My local community is stronger following the 4/20 Columbine killings; and I believe America is stronger following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Both dates will never be forgotten.

GAP

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If you think about it …

I use that phrase often when I’m coaching sales professionals.  Has “thinking” is becoming a lost art?  I mean in the 21st century, if a prospect or an existing client needs to interact with a sales professional it’s only because Google’s answer wasn’t sufficient, don’t you think?

If we’re meeting with a client or a prospect, something’s up.  Business people are so busy today they don’t take a meeting with a sales rep just to take a meeting.  Instead I think they are thinking about a purchase and would like to get additional thinking from the sales rep to either address unconsidered needs or mitigate the risk of overlooking something in their own thinking.

Let’s think about how you buy something.  Have you recently made a purchase decision online?  Or if you were at a store, did you know what you were looking for?  When was the last time you actually interacted with a sales rep?  And when that interaction occurred, why did it occur?

Today, I think business buyers prefer Do-It-Yourself buying and only choose to work with a sales rep if they can’t “DIY”.  The modern sales rep brings good thinking to the transaction – that’s what the buyer is buying, yes?  “Will it work?”  “Will it work for me?”  “Is this what other companies like mine use?”  “What gotchas haven’t I thought about?”  These are examples of what’s likely on the buyer’s mind when they take a meeting with a sales rep.

But are today’s sales reps ready?  Are we good thinkers?  Thankfully, we can continuously train our thinking skills.  Here’s a quick test from Edward de Bono in his book Lateral Thinking ©:

In a tennis tournament there are one hundred and eleven entrants.  It is a singles knockout tournament and you as secretary have to arrange the matches.  What is the minimum number of matches that would have to be arranged with this number of entrants?

Ok – Go!  How many tennis matches would you have to arrange?  What is the formula you would use to answer this question?  What is your thought process?

Well, de Bono offers us a little thought leadership about thinking “laterally”.  In fact, he describes our thinking options this way:

Vertical thinking is used to dig the same hole deeper.  Lateral thinking is used to dig a hole in a different place.

If we think about it, calculating the number of tennis matches can be done simply and quickly – if we think about the problem differently:

… to work it out one must shift attention from the winners of each match to the losers (in whom no one is usually very interested).  Since there can only be one winner there must be one hundred and ten losers.  Each loser can only lose once so there must be one hundred and ten matches.

Is that how you approached answering the question?  Or was your approach similar to mine?  I started drawing out brackets and then counting matches by bracket – before I gave up that is and just read his answer.

Edward de Bono seems to be a good thinker. And if I was buying something that required a sales rep interaction (vs. a DIY approach), if he was one of the sales reps I met with, I would very likely value his thinking.

In today’s marketplace, I think buyers think all products are alike.  It’s the sales rep that is the best thinker that makes the difference.  What do you think?

GAP

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