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Archive for March, 2019

Pretending…

Before we get started permit me to say for the record, I don’t know.  I hope you find such an admission does not make me a pretender:

To know that you do not know is the best. 

Lao-Tsu

I met Bob Perkins earlier this month.  He is the Founder & CEO of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (www.aa-isp.org ).  Sales and the month of March remind me basketball (which I wrote about recently “Coaching” ).

Basketball is very popular in Denver this year. Fans are hopeful the Denver Nuggets are contenders; not pretenders.  I don’t know if they are, but the debate reminds me of my hometown team – the Chicago Bulls.  Perhaps not the Bulls you might be thinking of:

Former NBA center and coach Johnny Kerr said his biggest test as a coach came when he coached the then-expansion team the Chicago Bulls and his biggest player was 6’8″ Erwin Mueller.

We had lost seven in a row and I decided to give a psychological pep talk before a game with the Celtics, Kerr said.  I told Bob Boozer to go out and pretend he was the best scorer in basketball.  I told Jerry Sloan to pretend he was the best defensive guard.  I told Guy Rodgers to pretend he could run an offense better than any other guard, and I told Erwin Mueller to pretend he was the best rebounding, shot-blocking, scoring center in the game.  We lost the game by 17.

I was pacing around the locker room afterward trying to figure out what to say when Mueller walked up, put his arm around me, and said, “Don’t worry about it Coach.  Just pretend we won.” 

James S. Hewett

It took a while, but my Chicago Bulls ultimately morphed from pretenders to contenders and then champions, true?  The key to their success?  I don’t know.  Many simplify the answer to “Michael Jordan”.  In reality however, the Detroit Pistons pounded Jordan into submission before Phil Jackson was hired as the Bulls’ head coach.  Was the “Zen Master” the difference?  I don’t know.

There are pretenders in my profession.  Bob Perkins is not one of them – he and his organization are authentic.  Inside sales; aka telephone sales; lead-generation; cold-calling; smiling and dialing… it is one tough job.  Pounding the phones day-in and day-out?  It pounds the pretenders into submission and out of the profession quickly.

Bob Perkins and his organization (started 20 years ago) have stepped in to help.  I don’t know, but I believe pretenders can become contenders and ultimately champions if they have the essential elements and get a little help.  What are the essential elements?  I don’t know – maybe it’s selling to the right audience:

The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk. 

Alben W. Barkley

What’s “a little help”?  I don’t know.

Bob shared his opinions.  He has certainly been front and center witnessing all of the technology “advances” over the past 20 years; salesforce automation systems; CRM; integrated dialers; predictive analytics.  There has been an endless stream of technology product peddlers peddling technology as “the answer” to effective cold-calling.  Will technology help pretenders become contenders?

Bob’s response was, “I don’t think so”.  After being immersed with inside sales; automation; and technology trends for 20 years; Bob suggested the future will actually be “humanization”… putting sales professionals – real people – properly trained and continuously coached – back into the profession.

Is that the path from pretenders to contenders?  I don’t know… but I certainly hope so.

GAP

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Day by day…

Happy Anniversary Debbie!

If I do the math 46 years is the equivalent of 16,790 days.  Tomorrow will mark 46 years; 16,790 days.  A significant amount of time to be with one’s significant other, true?

In reality it’s been significantly more than 16,790 days when I add in the 365 days we were engaged, plus the many more days we dated from high school into college. And every day for over 16,790 days – more than 46 years – I have enjoyed being married to my high school sweetheart.

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, 46 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 46 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:

You have to listen more than you talk…

You have to smile more than you frown…

You have to be fascinated more than you’re frustrated…

You have to believe in yourself more than you doubt yourself.

You have to work more than you whine.

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, I 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.

16,790 days and our love train is still rolling strong.  No matter our future course; no matter the challenges we will face; the trials 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 46th Anniversary Dear!  You’re my rock and I love you.

GAP

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Coaching…

March reminds me of basketball; and basketball, reminds me of coaching.  Coaching – personally and professionally – makes a difference.

March is full of basketball news and events.  The NCAA even copyrighted the title of their men’s Division I tournament, “March Madness” ©!  Fans apply that slogan to other NCAA divisions; women’s teams; and even associate March to the NBA regular season wind-down to their playoffs (a marathon that actually begins in April and ends sometime during the next NFL season) because:

Overkill is underrated. 

Col. John “Hannibal” Smith

The A-Team

This (if you’ve seen the movie) was spoken by a leader, and a coach, who believed in the power of a plan.  By I digress.

I’ve been blessed in my life from the guidance and grit I’ve received from coaches.  In basketball, Harley Knosher; Bud Johnston; Larry Wiley; and others too numerous to name coached me and helped me get better.  Bearing in mind, I was already pretty good – they still helped me get better.  I adopted this experience in my “elevator pitch” today; I help others get better at what they already do best.

Not that all sports analogies work out well:

Golfer Tommy Bolt is known for his sweet swing and foul temper.  While giving a clinic to a group of amateurs, Bolt tried to show his softer side by involving his 14-year old son in the lesson.  “Show the nice folks what I taught you”, said Bolt.  His son obediently took a 9-iron, cursed, and hurled it into the sky. 

Thomas Roswell

Nevertheless, I have benefited greatly from coaching in my personal and professional life.  Unlike basketball, when I started out in the sales profession, I didn’t know anything about anything.  Sales is what we do when we can’t do anything else.  No one has the aspiration, “Damn the rejection – I’m cold calling!”

So when I couldn’t do anything else, yet at a young age needed to provide for my wife (married at 20) and family (fatherhood at 23), I turned to sales, “Damn the rejection – give me a phone!”

Frank Justo coached me in my early days, “You better speak up or your prospect will throw you out …” Rob Denkewalter too, “Stop frowning when you present or your prospect will throw you out…”  Their coaching helped “me” get ready to face “them” – the prospects.

I’ve had coaches my entire career.  Nick Ryder; Tony Marabotti; Jim Anderson; Teah Bennett; and many others too numerous to name.  To this day they help me think about me.

I say all that to offer context on this; Integrity Solutions Research Brief.  The bad news?  Their research suggests when it comes to coaching in the sales profession – we suck.

The good news?  They offer us a starting place to improve:

The aspect that is rarely discussed is not a sales rep’s skillset but their mindset. Do your salespeople have limited, negative thinking that’s getting in their way? People need to change their thinking first in order to change their behavior. Almost every training program misses this critical point and therefore fails to help coaches develop this important aspect of performance. Helping to improve the conversations that they have with prospects and clients is important. However, the conversations that they have with themselves are just as important and too frequently overlooked when it comes to coaching.

Regardless of your athletic, academic, personal or professional situation; what conversations are you having with you?  Who’s helping you get better at what you already do best?

GAP

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40 years from now…

Posted Mar 6 2019 by in True North with 0 Comments

I recently read a newspaper article about a trend with millennials who are borrowing from their 401(k) accounts to buy a house.  The article didn’t say whether it was their parents’ house (where they’ve already taken over the basement LoL!)  OK; OK; that’s a bad joke we Boomers tell too often.

The article suggested millennials’ retirement needs that will arise some 40 years in the future are not a priority.  I get it – 40 years seems a long way off.  Truth be told, 40 years ago I would have been holding an actual paper, newspaper.  Do you think we’ll even be reading newspapers (digital or otherwise) 40 years from now?

When I was reading the newspaper I was actually reading the “paper” on my smart phone.  I don’t know why we call it a “phone” anymore – we seem to use it for everything but making phone calls.  Do you think we’ll even have cell phones 40 years from now?

According to Fox News Tech, cellular technology was quite the novelty, “40 years ago…”  http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/04/03/first-mobile-phone-call-was-placed-40-years-ago-today.html  That article was published in 2013 referring to a 1973 event – actually 46 years ago.  I bet millennials think of 1973 as the Dark Ages.

A lot has been said and even more has been written about the millennial generation which is poised to dominate the workplace – and the world!

At my company not a day goes by without some announcement and/or recognition about our college recruits.  I understand our enthusiasm.  These young professionals are bright, articulate, abundant, and affordable; all-in-all, awesome!

Yet, I find the absence of discussion about my generation – Baby Boomers – a bit concerning.  Do others think we should be retired (or dead) by now?  Now Walmart is eliminating greeters.  Believe it or not – we’re awesome too!

It’s easier to have the vigor of youth when you’re old than the wisdom of age when you’re young. 

Richard J. Needham

Too old; too expensive; too inflexible; too technically illiterate; there are many pop culture; bad jokes affixed to us Boomers.  Our knowledge, skills, and experience seem no longer to be celebrated.  But really – we are not “too old”:

Leonardo DaVinci was fifty six years old when he painted the Mona Lisa.

Leonardo lived into the 16th century.  Not exactly the Dark Ages; and no – I didn’t know him personally!

I wonder what the millennials think they will be doing 40 years from now.  If they’re already spending monies ear-marked for retirement, will they not need savings in 2059?

Maybe they think the high paying technology jobs companies are hiring them for (in some cases instead of more experienced aka “older” workers) will last for the next 40 years.  Maybe they think they will earn so much money, so quickly, that they can retire early; open a boutique; and enjoy a self-employed lifestyle that will carry them through to their sunset.  The optimism and the possibilities seem limitless.

But wait a minute… unless I’ve succumbed to Alzheimer’s or Dementia this week, it seems to me that 40 years ago those were the aspirations of my generation!  Then life happened:

Life is what happens when we’ve made other plans. 

Susan Jeffers

Well, maybe today’s youth have everything figured out.  But just in case, they might consider upping their contributions to some kind of account they will rely on when their children’s generation are ready to take over the world (and their jobs).  That day may arrive sooner for them than 40 years from now.

GAP

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