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Archive for October, 2019

R U Paying attention?

I’ve paid attention recently to how much attention my team is paying to the topic of paying attention.  We are very concerned that our audience won’t pay attention if we don’t offer some sort of mental break, exercise, or change of pace every 20 minutes.  One of my colleagues suggested adult learner attention spans are equivalent to TV entertainment attention spans.

TV entertainment attention spans!  In my case, that’s channel surfing; DVR’ing to fast-forward through commercials; and cell phone multi-tasking.

But in the sales profession?  Making a living to pay the cable TV bill?  I sure hope we still have the ability to pay attention.  How about you?  Do you need a quick break from reading this 600 word post?  Yep, it’s exactly 600 words.  Welcome to my world LoL!  (A Peek Inside).

OK – may I regain your attention, please?

Did you see the story recently about the Silicon Valley high school that requires students to store their cell phones in an individual, locked bag when they arrive in the morning?  The bags are unlocked by the administrators and the phones returned to the students at the end of the day.  The time in between?  Two expectations: (1) Pay attention and (2) socialize.

When the students were interviewed for the story it was surprising (and refreshing) to hear them say that after a short adjustment, they actually like the approach; they even said they enjoy conversing with the other students.  Imagine that!  Oh, and from a learning standpoint, their academic performance is up.  It’s amazing what can be done when we pay attention, true?

What’s that?  Can you take a quick mental break?  Well, if this little ditty isn’t holding your attention for 600 words that’s my fault; not yours.  It’s OK.  You wouldn’t be the first to say, “Gary, you’re killing me!”

Permission to resume?  Thank you.

My company’s leaders are fully vested in addressing adult learning and behavior change tools, tactics and techniques.  But truth be told, when we get into a deep dive discussion around eBooks; micro-learning; just-in-time video training; etc. I have a hard time paying attention.

As a career sales professional I guess I have been programmed to operate like my prospects operate; if the topic is relevant and the discussion interesting, I will pay attention.  As soon as either departs from things I feel are important, my attention departs too.

I suppose it boils down to the difference between “have to” vs. “want to”.  Those high school students have to go to school.  The educators (and parents) want them to want to go to school.  Therein lays the challenge.

At my company, our sales reps have to be trained; leadership wants them to want to be trained.  And therein lays the challenge.  It’s not unique to my company nor is it unique to the sales profession.

Attention spans can and do fade quickly.  As one example, it’s interesting to me that the once popular, mega-trend of gamification; touted as the do-all and end-all in getting sales reps to pay attention to their daily prospecting tasks and quota performance, is now out of vogue.  Guess the reps got bored with the game.  Maybe they decided the game benefited their overseers more than it benefited them.

What’s that you say?  You haven’t heard about the downward trend of gamification?  Perhaps you weren’t paying attention.

Congratulations!  If you’re reading this you have made it through exactly 600 words, including my signature line below.  Thank you for your attention!

GAP

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Eureka!

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary©, the word eureka is used to express triumph on a discovery.   Ah “discovery”… how much has been said and written about sales rep discovery in particular?

Recently, I had my “eureka!” moment about sales rep discovery.  It was a bit more modest than their history of the word:

When people exclaim Eureka! they are reenacting a legendary event in the life of the Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes. While wrestling with the problem of how to determine the purity of gold, he made the sudden realization that the buoyancy of an object placed in water is equal in magnitude to the weight of the water the object displaces. According to one popular version of the legend, he made his discovery at a public bathhouse, whereupon he leapt out of his bath, exclaimed “Heureka! Heureka!” (“I have found it!”), and ran home naked through the streets…

No, I didn’t run naked through the streets.

During one, 5-day span I finished reading the book GAP Selling © by Keenan; had breakfast with my friend and former colleague, Gary Givan; and attended a SMM Connect webinar about the lack of value selling.  Then… Eureka!  I discovered (in my own mind anyway) why sales professionals do such a poor job of discovery.

It’s not just my opinion.  During the SMM Connect webinar, research was cited from the article published all the way back on August 29, 2012 by the research firm Forrester, “Executive Buyer Insight Study: Defining the GAP between Buyers and Sellers” by Scott Santucci.  The conclusion?  Most business executives feel meeting with sales reps is a complete waste of time.  They don’t believe we are trying to understand their needs.

Kennan’s book and the SMM Connect webinar both offered intricate (aka overly complicated) training approaches to sales rep discovery.  I believe little of their training survives “game speed” when we’re in front of a prospect.

During breakfast with Gary Givan, we were “talking shop” about sales rep discovery.  If Gary is not the most skilled sales professional I have ever met, he’s in the top 5.   I discovered his perspective on what trainers and authors offer on sales rep discovery – they always over-complicate things because they have books or consulting engagements to sell.

Eureka – that’s it!  We’re making it too complicated.  That’s why I advocate a simplified, repeatable approach consisting of 4, count ‘em, 4 things:

  1. Listen to what the prospect is trying to accomplish.  It may sound like this, “Gary, the business problem we’re trying to solve is…”  They will tell us IF we will simply listen.
  2. Take good notes.  Customers speak in customer language.  Sales people may not understand right away. That’s OK.  If we are truly listening, the prospect will be patient with us; often help us to understand.  When we get to this point, they WANT us to understand.
  3. Ask clarifying and NEVER “qualifying” questions.  Prospects hate to be “qualified”.  You and I hate to be “qualified” by some sales schmo when we’re buying something!
  4. Don’t try to solve during the discovery meeting – no “pre-mature selling”.  Let’s offer them the business courtesy of giving their situation some thought.  They will respect our efforts to match their level of thought.  This earns respect (if not trust and a relationship).

That’s it.  Be patient and don’t sell during discovery.  Easy to say is some social media post, I know.   But be patient and keep things simple nonetheless.  The prospect might just find your approach refreshing.

GAP

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High School Sweethearts…

Fall; October; football; high school; Homecoming – do you remember your first high school sweetheart?  High school is a very special and memorable time for teenagers; it certainly was for me.  And I always enjoyed the autumn season when I was in high school – Homecoming; Halloween; dating; parties (most chaperoned, some not).

Forty-nine years ago, this very time of the year, I asked the prettiest girl in my high school out on a first date.  I guess it went well enough because here we are forty-nine years later, and I’m still awe-struck by the glow of her beauty.

I hope you enjoy this opening to Chapter XII True North, of my book, The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective © as much I enjoyed writing it:

Dedicated to… a crisp night in October; with a slight breeze blowing through bare trees – waiting for the coming winter.   Close your eyes.  Can you smell remnants of autumn leaves burning?

To winning the homecoming football game.  To being carefree. To a Saturday night party at the teenager’s house whose parents are away.  Can you hear the kids having fun in the kitchen; the basement; and the backyard, all to the beat of the Rolling Stones?

To couches, blue jeans and sweaters.  To the floor lamp reflecting on her blond hair making it shimmer with silvery streaks of light.  To the nervous small talk of a teenage boy in the presence of a varsity cheerleader.  To the patience of the teenage girl sitting on the couch with the captain of the varsity basketball team.  Can you remember when you could actually hear your heart throbbing?

To throw pillows, which come in handy when the small talk runs out – what else can a young boy do?  And to playful pillow fights; which lead to gentle wrestling and ultimately to that first kiss. Remember how delicate she felt in your arms – the hint of her perfume – the taste of her lips?

To first dates – dinner and a movie.  To the movie Catch 22 and the Oriental Theatre in downtown Chicago.  To dating the prettiest girl in your high school; to falling in love; to asking her father’s permission for her hand in marriage.  Were you ever so nervous?

To the tears welling up in my eyes even as I write this short memoire.  To all those emotions; all the happiness; all those hopes and all those dreams; some fulfilled, some yet to be; and all that I can remember today as if it just happened yesterday – that I will remember everyday, as long as I live.  How can someone be so lucky?

To 1970 – and that Saturday night in October in Elmhurst where I kissed Debbie for the very first time.  And to the friend’s house whose parents were out – to their couch, their floor lamp, to their throw pillows; and to the Rolling Stones music.  Can you imagine being so young, so infatuated, and so in love? 

I still am.

GAP

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Giving our best…

Football is 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 the one time in all my competitive pursuits (in athletics or in business) that I quit.  I’ve lost many times; won my share too; quit once.

I quit my high school football team two weeks into the start of my junior year 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 was yesterday.  A bit ironic I suppose, because after being a starter and co-captain my freshman and sophomore years, I was not even planning to play my junior year.  I planned to focus on basketball.

The coach called and asked me to reconsider.  I agreed, but when I showed up I wasn’t prepared to give my best.  He and his coaches weren’t prepared to coach me up either.  At the age of sixteen, I decided that quitting was the only escape.  I’ve regretted it to this day.  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 and mentors 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 about a high school, an underdog team, and their coach’s expectation about giving our best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sUKoKQlEC4

Probably not a technique that transfers into the business world today – but the message does, true?  Yes, the sporting world is different than the business world.  Nonetheless, we don’t have to go it alone.  Even the best-of-the-best have coaches.

In business, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers this:

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 his players had no quit.  They gave him their best.  Imagine – what could we accomplish today if we just committed to giving our best?

GAP

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