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Sounds complicated…

Ever have that feeling on the buy-side of a sales presentation?  The more the sales rep said, the harder he tried, the worse things got?  How much of our business marketplace do you think is occupied by “average people”?

I consider myself an average person – which begs the question, “What on earth is an average person”?  I guess “it all depends”.  According to Wikipedia:

…as chronicled in his bestseller The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen, Kevin O’Keefe successfully completed a nationwide search for the person who was the most statistically average in the United States during a multi-year span starting in 2000. Newsweek proclaimed of the book, “The journey toward run-of-the-mill has never been so remarkable.”

Looks like Kevin O’Keefe remarkably over-complicated his search for an average person.

OK, hard to define perhaps but if you believe as I do that masses of opportunities are staffed by average people tasked with making buying decisions, then how effective are we at conveying our sales message to these average persons?

In the technology sales profession, we easily digress into a language of acronyms, technical terminology, and over-complication, true?  The end result often confuses the prospective buyer – and a confused prospect doesn’t buy.  They probably say to themselves, “This seems complicated; sounds expensive; I better wait.”  And Poof!  There goes our deal.

This language of confusion isn’t limited to the technology profession.  I recently listened to a discussion about making coffee and the various methods, machines and machinations that can go into it:

Rudnicki’s Nobel Principle:

Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else can understand it at all.

Unknown Sage

To add to the mess, many sales people pile on “the demo”; delivered by the “Technical Sales Consultant”; and that’s when our prospect switches to Coke.

Truth be told; I do coach my clients to leverage visual-based selling techniques to convey technically complex topics conceptually.  I like to follow Stephen R. Covey’s view so the prospective buyer has context in case we have to delve down into more complicated details.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

Stephen R. Covey

Most of the time I prefer to create my own visuals vs. relying on my marketing and/or product specialists because they typically add methods, marketing automation machines, and machinations  (aka features, statistics, and 3rd party research) that in an effort to clarify – actually confuse.

I will on many occasions reuse visuals created by someone else, so long as I can easily understand them.  You see, if I as an average person can get it, the odds are high my prospective client can too.  However, my buyers remain wary:

GAP‘s Dictionary of Computereeze:

Salesman – A user-friendly conveyor of highly technical, data processing concepts in an easy-to-understand, though sometimes slightly inaccurate fashion.

Trying to keep things simple (and accurate) has served me well; I believe the skill of getting to the essence of a prospective buyer’s situation, in layman’s terms, is a key to successful sales transactions.  Here is an example of one of my favorite pie charts that reflects this principle of simplicity:
pieSo I ask…  Take a look at the PowerPoint slides; handouts; pie charts; and websites you leverage to sell your products and services.  Was your content written by marketing specialists, technical writers, and product experts?  Does it clearly convey your main point?

Or, does it cause your prospect to think, “Sounds complicated – I’m switching to Coke”?

GAP

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Playing our position…

Now that the 2016 NBA Championship is over (congratulations Cleveland!), I believe cross-over lessons learned are available between the game of basketball and the professions of sales and marketing.

As usual, I draw my opinions from personal experience.  At 6’3”, I played the low post position in basketball (aka the “5”) through my sophomore year of high school.  By junior year, I was too small, too slow, and not athletic enough to remain in the “5”; so I moved to the small forward position (aka the “3”).

As I looked forward to playing collegiate ball, it was painfully obvious that at the NCAA Division I level, my only chance would be to play the off-guard role (aka the “2”).  Even then, getting playing time among the superior Division I athletes would be iffy.  Thankfully, the NCAA has other divisions.

I started every year of college ball, albeit Division III.  But even then, I played different positions.  My sophomore year I played the “5”; junior year the “2”; and senior year the “3”.

Of course, as we watched LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers we saw him seemingly seamlessly move from role to role throughout each game.  Sometimes the point guard (the “1”); other times the power forward (the “4”); and so on.  Such movement from position to position works in today’s NBA game.  I suggest it doesn’t in the sales and marketing world.

You see, every time my marketing colleagues try to play outside their position and dabble with the tools, tactics, and techniques preferred by sales professionals they seem to muck things up for the both of us.

Based on my StrengthsFinder 2.0© profile, my strongest strength is Context – I understand the present by researching the past (aka history).  And when it comes to history, there are many examples of what happens when marketing professionals try to play the sales professionals’ position.

Take telephone prospecting (aka cold calling); a tough position to play even for the most seasoned sales professional.  Our marketing colleagues thought they could help which begot “telemarketing”.  Yuck!

Look at what happened to the art of business letter-writing.  Yep, marketing stepped in and voila… we have mass mail (aka junk mail).  Email correspondence begat email blasts (aka spam); LinkedIn for personalized, professional networking begat social media marketing (aka Internet din); and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect and value most of the things marketing professionals contribute to the cause.  What sales professional doesn’t look forward to receiving a Marketing Originated Inquiry?  Anything warmed even slightly is better than a cold list.  But a Marketing Originated Inquiry isn’t a “lead” – that’s the sales professionals’ position.

Maintaining websites; search engine optimization; white papers; positioning statements; market research; branding; marketing communication pieces; the list is long for the value marketing provides.  Just not “leads”.

According to the renowned, marketing automation company, Marketo:

There are many definitions of a lead, and there are even more definitions of a “good lead”… in our own revenue cycle, a lead is “a qualified prospect that is starting to exhibit buying behavior”. But the sales and marketing team don’t always agree on what constitutes “buying behavior”…

Seemingly every time a marketing professional is attracted by the shiny objects sales professionals use in the pursuit of leads (let alone good leads) the marketer thinks applying the “more button” makes these tools, tactics, and techniques better.  When in reality, their “help” makes things worse.

It would be better if we all simply played our positions, true?

GAP

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Dinosaurs…

I was driving through eastern Utah earlier this month.  The enormity of the landscape is breath-taking!

Eastern_Utah

The drive was made even more impactful realizing that this is where dinosaurs walked millions of years ago.  I could close my eyes and “see” them roaming the plains with the mountains as their backdrop.  Then I realized I was driving and opened my eyes; relying on my driver’s training to avoid joining the dinosaurs!

At that moment, two Air Force jets roared by.  Hill Air Force Base is a major military installation in Utah.  Seems that our most modern military warfare technology trains over the same space previous dominated by ancient dinosaurs.  A striking contrast.

There I was in dinosaur country, with modern jets roaring by – what better place than to contemplate the nature of my profession and the views I have about what it takes to succeed in sales in the 21st century?  Weird you say?  Welcome to my Jurassic Park LoL!

In the sales profession, we can learn a lot from our military.  No – I’m not saying our customer is the enemy.  Nor am I suggesting we adopt a competitive attitude often voiced by Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation:

It’s not enough that we win; our enemies must lose.

That quote has been attributed to Gore Vidal; Genghis Khan; and even Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War©

You see, during our road trip we were listening to an audio book, Ghost Image: A Sophie Medina Mystery© And at the moment I was reflecting on the dinosaurs while the jets were roaring overhead, I heard this line from the book:

In the military you don’t learn you are trained.  In combat you rely on your training to get you through.

Then it hit me – when I offer “sales enablement” to my clients they aren’t actually learning how to sell.  I’m not trying to “teach” them; I’m trying to “train” them.  Actually, it’s worse than that – I’m trying to “re-train” them.  I believe, without such re-training they will continue to use sales tools, tactics and techniques that have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

And as stated above, in a sales cycle we rely on our training to get us through.  I know it’s not a life-or-death challenge.  But it is job and/or career threatening, yes?

Back to another one of my favorite book titles: Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life© by Alan Deutschman:

Deutschman concludes that although we all have the ability to change our behavior, we rarely ever do.

I often profess, “The market has shifted…”  My clients assume the context of my statement is technology; technology in the market has shifted (from traditional, client-server oriented software to Cloud Computing).  And just like our military, we must equip ourselves with new technology or risk being surpassed by our competition (in the military context, our enemies!).

But in the context of selling to a modern buyer, that element of the market has shifted too.  If we don’t re-train ourselves to sell the way the modern buyer buys, we risk becoming obsolete; replaced by eCommerce, an iPhone App, or some other “serve-yourself” option buyers have available to them to bypass we sales dinosaurs altogether.

Rare maybe, but I know my clients have the ability to change their behavior.   Yet, I left the eastern plains of Utah wondering, who is the dinosaur?  Them – resistant to re-training?  Or me – thinking I actually can enable them to change their behavior?

GAP

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Interrupted Attention…

That term was used during a recent webinar.  They were explaining the modern phenomena of people being fixated to their electronic devices.  And in the office – people operating 2-3-4 computer monitors at a time; multitasking throughout meetings.  The presenter presented presentation techniques to address this phenomenon.  I don’t think the audience was paying attention.

Yes, yes, I know – in 2015 multitasking is not just an accepted practice; it has become an expected practice.  I sometimes worry when a client finds me giving them my complete and undivided attention, they are thinking I’m some kind of whacko!

Masquerading as a better way to put everyone in touch, e-mail (and voice-mail) have become incessant distractions, a nonstop obligation and a sure source of stress and anxiety.  

I expect that a public statement by the Surgeon General is in the offering. 

 Seth Shostak

I’ve written often on the impact technology is having on our ability to be smart; to think; to be prompt; to be polite.  We all can relate to those occasions when we’re “caught”, can’t we?  Sorry – I wasn’t listening.  But does it persist?

I only have to be told twice; once. 

Adam Katzenmeyer

I can remember a time when it was more difficult to work with children because of their low attention span.  It used to be that we would complain that our kids are hopped-up on sugar; wound-up with adrenaline; hard to catch their attention; hard to get them to focus.  Maybe this is the source of stress and anxiety Seth Shostak was referring to:

Two children were playing in the back yard when their father came to the porch and yelled at them for the third time to come in for dinner.  The one child turned to the other and asked, “I can’t remember; which one am I?  Jesus Christ or God Dammit?”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world it seems to me that the levels of interrupted attention among children and adults are reversed.  But when the stress and anxiety of continuously multi-tasking wears us down, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers us this assistance:

Thing to say when you get caught sleeping at your computer:

“Did you ever notice the sound that comes out of the keyboard when you put your ear real close?”

Raise your head slowly and say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Comparatively, children seem to be a little more attentive today, a little more focused on accomplishing tasks at hand; a little easier to work with. Today, it’s the adults that have “become their TV”; “become their in-box”, “become their phone”.  And we’re not particularly concerned about being rude with our multi-tasking either.

Well, if both adults and children have interrupted attention spans these days, at least I can rely on my horse.  He offers me his best in memory-retention.  Yes, horses are definitely the best – as suggested by Elmer Wieland, founder of America’s finest precision mounted, youth drill teams (see http://westernaires.org/about/ ):

The more I know adults, the better I like children.  The more I know children, the better I like horses.

It’s true – Even if I haven’t ridden my horse for a while; even if we haven’t worked in the round pen.  When I put a saddle on his back he doesn’t freak out; he doesn’t spit the bit out of his mouth.  And when I climb on his back, thankfully, he remembers me; remembers it’s OK; and he doesn’t buck me off.

If only our children; our colleagues, and our clients were so attentive.

GAP

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Workforce generations…

So I was walking through the office before sunrise the other day.  Heading to the coffee machine – you know – the usual ritual.  My colleague Craig was already strapped in and online in a meeting at his cubical.  His phone was set to mute (demo account set to stun!).

Now I don’t know exactly how old Craig is, but his LinkedIn profile shows he graduated from Michigan State with his under graduate degree the same year I did.  Close enough (LoL!)  As I strolled by heading towards the coffee machine and commented about Craig being the “early bird”, his response was classic:  “Came in early – wanted to get a good seat.”

That’s right – two Old Guys starting their day early.

Much is being said and even more is being written about the generational make-up of our workforce these days.  With so much chatter going on – I can’t help myself – I’m weighing in.

How about you?  Which generation are you part of?  And which generation of employees do you think is the most productive; the most valuable; the most important generation for today’s business setting; and into the future?

In offering full disclosure – I’m a proud member of the Baby Boomer generation.  And I’m biased.  In fact, a former colleague of mine who I worked side-by-side with for a few years (and a member of the Generation X generation), once commented (in a very complimentary way I might add) “The old guy can still hunt!”

My online research suggests that as of 1/1/2015, there are 4 generations in the workplace:

  • Traditionalists aged 65-88
  • Baby Boomers aged 46-64
  • Generation X aged 30-45
  • And Generation Y (aka Millennials) aged 16-29

So, with this mixture of old and young; experienced and naïve – my bad – I meant inexperienced; hard workers and smart workers; I ask again, which generation provides the most business value contribution?

BTW – as a side note; where do you fall on the work hard – work smart continuum?  Here’s what my Traditionalist friend has to say:

Work smarter, and as hard as you can. 

Tom Hopkins

Well, my colleague Craig and I can certainly vouch for the “work hard” side.  That early morning?  Not a single Millennial in sight.  They started rolling in at about 8:30.  What was the John Wayne line in the movie Cowboys?  “Burning daylight”, (when it was still dark!)

OK, maybe the Millennials at our company prefer a flexible schedule.  Much has been said and much has been written about our Millennials.  Here is one of the recommendations on how to motivate Millennials by Lauren Sveen in her Denver Post article: 

Studies of millennials by the Intelligence Group, a youth-focused research company, have revealed that 74 percent of them want flexible work schedules.

Really, Captain Obvious?  In fact, when you read her full article (see Welcoming Millennials to the Workforce ) is there anything she suggests for Millennials that Baby Boomers would not appreciate too?

Look at Frederick Herzberg’s summary published in the Harvard Business Review.  And his research was from the 1950’s and 1960’s – aka “Traditionalists”.  The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.

Marty Birk, a Division Vice President of Sales I worked under “back in the day”, used to ask, “Gary, if you were going into a selling war would you take So-and-So with you?”  Well, in 2015 I don’t care what generation my colleagues are from.  If they can get the job done – harder or smarter – that’s good ‘nuff for me.  How about you?

GAP

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Planning to fail…

I attended a Proformative.com presentation recently by Patrick Stroh, President of Mercury Business Advisors entitled: Business Strategy & Leadership: Plan, Execute, Win!  (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh2qQeXaXMg).  I was intrigued by the executive role at companies today called the Chief Strategy Officer.

The most intriguing part of Patrick’s presentation was his review of the planning tool and process known as FMEA: Failure Mode Effect Analysis.  Hmmm planning to fail?  Tell me more.

Patrick Stroh offered that FMEA originated in the 1940’s during World War Two, in battle planning mode.  Then FMEA morphed to NASA and the space program.  And today exists (or at least, should exist) in the business community.

My summary understanding of the topic is the need to plan in advance for all of the possible bad things that can (and likely will) happen during an initiative because once the initiative commences, there is no time to start the planning process on how to react to the failure points if they arise.

This makes obvious sense when we think about the space probes we build and program on earth and then hurtle millions of miles into space.  Once launched, our only control is through (delayed) communications.  Once in space, NASA can only transmit software commands to address issues.  They don’t have any ability to retrofit physical repairs or replace things that wear out or are damaged in flight.  If they didn’t think about these possible failure points in advance, the entire mission (and tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars) would be lost.

This type of advanced planning with a failure-avoidance orientation makes me think about my profession – selling software.

Weinberg’s Law:

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. 

Gerald M. Weinberg

Throughout my career I continue to be amazed at how customers (and sales reps) focus more on negotiating a purchase price vs. going through all of the little implementation and upgrade intricacies that can (and usually do) fail.  We prefer to pay big bucks to our attorneys for contract negotiations just in case the project fails vs. entering into focused project planning in the sales cycle.   I suppose if the project fails at least the attorneys’ fees are covered.

I believe in the marketplace today the customer values a sales rep’s project planning skills more than the rep’s selling skills.  But that’s just me I guess.

When implementing or upgrading business systems it’s almost a surprise if a project goes well, isn’t it?  Does this sound at all familiar?

The stages of Systems Development: 

1. Wild enthusiasm

2. Disillusionment

3. Total confusion

4. Search for the guilty

5. Punishment of the innocent

6. Promotion of the non-participants

Arthur Black

Nope – no FMEA done here.

I get it – implementing new systems is complicated.  Getting our people to adopt new processes takes a huge effort.  The thing is; many of the pot holes projects run over are the same pot holes the same projects have been running over for as long as I can remember.  Maybe a little FMEA vs. attorney time would offer a better ROI, true?

Blunderware    

Hello, thank you for calling Application Consolidation Services.  We’re sorry for the problem s you’re having.  We know you’re sorry for buying the software in the first place.  We feel your pain.  But that’s life.  Please hold. 

CIO Magazine 5/15/1997

Selling software successfully doesn’t have to be rocket science; but FMEA shows we can learn a little from the space program.

GAP

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We used to…

I was thinking the other day about all of the things “we used to do”.  Remember “back in the day”?

I used to balance my check book each month.  I’d receive my paper bank statement in the mail; sit down with a calculator, my check book; and balance.  Ever since my wife took over as Chief Household Officer, things have changed.  With online banking and mobile phone apps, she manages our checking account balance near-real-time; electronically.

Think of all of the things in 2015 that in 50 years we will look back on and say, “We used to do that”.  Of course, “I” won’t be part of the “we” 50 years from now – I’ll be long gone by then.

We used to write letters with pen and paper.  In fact, much of the history about the Civil War we learned from the letters written by the lowliest soldiers all the way up to Abraham Lincoln and the country’s leaders.  As we all know, pen and paper have long since been replaced by electronic devices many of which we can simply speak to and the device converts our words into electronic text.  Writing letters with pen and paper?  Long gone.

Speaking of electronic communications, we used to interact with people face-to-face; have team meetings at work; conduct on-site sales calls; host bridge parties at home.  Remember playing card games with playing cards?  Today, many of these face-to-face business and social interactions have been replaced by instant messaging; webcasts; Instagram; and phone apps; true?

You know you’re living in 2004 when: 

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.

2. You haven’t played solitaire with real cards in years.

3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.

4. You email the person who works at the desk next to you.

5. When you make phone calls from home, you accidentally dial 9 to get an outside line.

6. You’ve sat at the same desk for four years and worked for three different companies.

7. Your boss doesn’t have the ability to do your job.

8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn’t have the first 20 or 30 (or 50) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it. 

Unknown Sage

And that’s 2004; imagine 2054, or 2065!

Even the concept of “interactions” being bi-directional has long since been replaced with the propensity of a one-directional approach (aka “spewing”).  Email in the business world; posts in the social media world; tweeting; texting.  We used to bi-directionally converse; now we spew.

I wonder if 50 years from now we will say we used to drive cars.  Of course, we drive cars today but it seems the folks at Google are deciding that the value of a driver behind the wheel of a vehicle is over-rated.  Are they engineering out the driver and replacing us with global positioning systems and computer chips?

Speaking of computer chips and engineering, I wonder if 50 years from now we will say, “We used to think?”  Will computers do the thinking for us then?

Will we reflect, “You know we used to write; we used to think; we used drive cars; we used to play bridge…?”  If this and more comes to fruition 50 years from now, I wonder what will be left for us to do

Of course, it won’t be “us” – “I” will be long gone by then.

GAP

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Is technology making us stupid?

Much is being said about the negative impact technology is having on us today.  For all the advancements and for all the good, many are suggesting there’s a negative side dare I say a “Dark Side to the Force” of technology.

For me, technology has represented an interesting (and amusing) dichotomy throughout my adult life.  On the one hand, from 1979 and literally spanning 5 decades, I have made a living selling the most modern and advanced technology of the time available to the business community.  On the other hand, I am the most clueless “end user” on the planet.

I’ve been guilty of many moments like this over the years; how about you?

The Know-Nothing: 

This is that clueless user who looks in vain for the “Any Key” when his computer prompts him to “Hit Any Key.” 

Lisa DiCarlo

For the longest time, I thought it was just me.  But recently, I have noticed a plethora of evidence that technology is impacting us more than we may want to admit.  Take this sign by the elevators at our local IKEA store:

IKEA_elevator

 “Siri-ously”?  For the elevator?  And illustrated, no less!  Hmmm.

I don’t think I’m the only one noticing how dumb our smart phones are making us.  Here are 8 more examples – can you relate?  I sure can:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/25/technology-intelligence_n_5617181.html

Was it the Internet that put us in the predicament?  Google?  Maybe smart phones are to blame.  Or Siri – yes, that’s it; Siri did it!  Of course, our favorite Unknown Sage suggests it’s actually worse than that:

In case you needed further proof that the human race is doomed through stupidity, here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods:     

On a Sears hairdryer:

“Do not use while sleeping.”

(That’s the only time I have to work on my    hair.) 

       On a bag of Fritos:

“You could be a winner! No purchase necessary.  Details inside.”

(The shoplifter special?) 

On a bar of Dial soap: Directions:

“Use like regular soap.”

(And that would be how?) 

On some Swanson frozen dinners:

“Serving suggestion: Defrost.

(But, it’s just a suggestion.) 

On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on the bottom):

“Do not turn upside down.” 

(Well…duh, a bit late, huh?)

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding:

“Product will be hot after heating.” 

(…and you thought?)

On packaging for a Rowenta iron:

“Do not iron clothes on body.”

              (But wouldn’t this save me more time?) 

On Booth’s Children Cough Medicine:

“Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.”

(We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5-year-olds with head-colds off those forklifts.)

On Nytol Sleep Aid:

“Warning: May cause drowsiness.”

              (And… I’m taking this because?)

On most brands of Christmas lights:

“For indoor or outdoor use only.”

(As opposed to…what?) 

On a Japanese food processor:

“Not to be used for the other use.”

(Now, somebody out there, help me on this. I’m a bit curious.)

On Sunsbury’s peanuts:

“Warning: contains nuts.”

(Talk about a news flash) 

On an American Airlines packet of nuts:

“Instructions: open packet, eat nuts.”

(Step 3: maybe, uh…fly Delta?)

On a child’s Superman costume:

“Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.”

(I don’t blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)

On a Swedish chainsaw:

“Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands.”

(Was there a lot of this happening somewhere?) 

 Hmmm –  wonder what will happen when I say “any key” to Siri?

GAP

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Self-Obliteration…

I attended my company’s annual sales “kick-off” meeting recently.  It was a terrific event!  Recognition of the outstanding; celebration of our 2014 accomplishments; preparation to execute our 2015 assignments; motivational speeches; the works!  Our sales force left totally fired up to dominate in 2015!

Although our company has been extremely successful to this point, our leadership stated in no uncertain terms to our entire sales force that we must move beyond being overly dependent on in-bound leads;

What got you here won’t get you there. 

Marshall Goldsmith

They proclaimed 2015 as the year of out-bound prospecting (aka “hunting”).  Everyone’s competitive juices were flowing!

And then came the automation worshipers…

Outside experts presenting their automated approach to appointment setting with prospects.  It was not a new message.  We have all heard that, “cold-calling is dead”, haven’t we?  We all use tools that come with claims about the wonderfulness of automating human-to-human interactions.  Just link with them on LinkedIn!  Hmmm, is it really that automatic?  Sorry – as my Grandmother used to say, “I’m no believe”.

Nonetheless, our outside experts enthusiastically presented their tools for sales-prospecting in today’s B2B world.  They presented in-person, mind you; no automation.  Was I seeing the beginning of our profession’s obliteration?  Has software replaced the sales professional?  Hmmm…

And then came the mathematicians…

“Spend less time on the right deals!”  “Sell more efficiently!”  “Using predictive analytics, we can selectively invest our time with prospects that are ready for us!”   Predictive analytics that “time the prospect”?  Hmmm, “time the prospect”…  Didn’t I lose a boatload in my investment account when I used automation to try to “time the market”?

But our guests spoke with great eloquence, which often accompanies technology;

Since Appian was first a famous Roman highway, you’d think this might be a clue to Xymos’ new identity.  But the release says; 

“Appian was chosen for the name because it represents the ability to use leading edge technology and innovation, integrated into solutions that provide differentiation and competitive advantage.” 

Just what the Romans had in mind. 

Rick Levine 

As Joan Rivers coined, “Can we talk?”   Not to peddle our products – but can sales professionals talk with a prospect about their business goals; their business plans; their business future?  Hmmm, actually talking with prospects about their aspirations vs. our products?  That’ll never work.

And then came the machinists…

Not sure how to “talk with a prospect”?  No worries. The machinists have the remedy.  Machine-based learning to help sales people talk with their prospects.  Machine-based learning – for human interaction?  Just shoot me!  With an automatic!

I’ve written about this before – see http://thequoteguys.com/2013/01/my-machine-to-yours/

Look – I get it; prospects won’t take our calls; won’t return our voice mails; won’t respond to our emails.  But what do I know?  I’m simply suggesting (and Gerald M. Weinberg seems to agree) we should be reluctant to become overly reliant on a software program to do our job of sales-prospecting;

Weinberg’s Law: 

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

I mean, don’t you think if it was that simple to become that efficient by becoming that automated, that the market would transact with statisticians and copy writers – not business people who sell?  It would be M2H (machine-to-human interactions) not B2B, true?  Are we automating the obliteration of our sales profession?

Now, I may not be able to avoid such obliteration by such automation by the masses of mathematicians and machinists.  But I refuse to condone self-obliteration.

GAP

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Ownership…

I bet our clients are amused (and amazed) to no end by us sales and marketing professionals.

How much time and energy do we spend today discussing and debating the best ways to win the client’s business; their engagement; their loyalty?  We tout we are “Trusted Advisors”; “Subject Matter Experts”; we seek “Client Engagement”; “Likes”; “Links”.  We invest millions of dollars and staff hours in social; mobile; SEO; and ecommerce technologies.

Well, we definitely have those clients surrounded!

I like to openly (and proudly) declare that I am a sales professional.  That’s usually not the positioning my sales brethren prefer tp use.  Their preference?  “Business Development”; “Client Engagement”; “Account Executive”; “District Manager”; are a few of the business card titles sales people like to use to try and disguise that fact that we are – well – sales people.  Do we really think clients can’t tell?

I also spend a fair amount of my time mingling with my marketing professional counterparts.  They like to openly (and proudly) declare that “Sales is no longer relevant!”  They profess it’s now all about “engagement”.  Increase your social media level of engagement and the sales transactions will magically follow.  And I can’t even begin to describe some of their business card titling creativity!

It must be amusing to our clients to observe sales people and marketing people donning our business card disguises and debating the question, “Who owns the customer”?   Let’s face it – we on the vendor side have been arguing this point since last century.  This century?  I’m pretty sure our clients have moved on; amused perhaps; but moved on!

Of course, it does me no good to argue with my marketing colleagues about, “Who owns the client?” and “Is sales still relevant?”  They seem to approach such arguments like engineers do:

Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling a pig in the mud. After a few hours you realize, the pig likes it. 

Unknown Sage

I mean, how many times do we hear marketing professionals profess the value of “mass personalization”?  “Mass Personalization” – what the hell is that!  Do we really think the client doesn’t notice the “mass” aspect of those “personalization” campaigns?

How many sales people still describe themselves as “Trusted Advisors”?  Really?  Do we think our clients have forgotten our sales predecessors who were not trustworthy?   Let’s face it – it was some “Business Development/Engagement Partner/Trusted Advisor” type that caused,

…a firm that once stood for trust and accountability ended 90 years as an auditor of publicly traded companies under a cloud of scandal and shame. (see Chicago Tribune article )

Smell that word “trusted” burning?

I suggest we need to change our traditional (shall I go as far as to say outdated; very 1990’s; legacy; tail lights; yesterday’s news; dead!) views about the amount of “ownership” sales or marketing has over the client.

The reality today – thanks to the modern technology developed by those argumentative engineers – the customer owns the customer.

I believe today the client thinks of us sales and marketing professionals as nothing more than “transaction facilitators”.  (Bet you won’t see that as a business card title!)  They no longer want to answer our “What keeps you up at night?” questions.  They don’t want to “Like” us on Facebook.

They just want to complete their transaction.  And in reality, they’d just as soon buy online and by-pass us altogether.  Amusing to the clients!  Not so much for us sales and marketing types, true?

GAP

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