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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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My machine to yours?

How do you know who wrote this little ditty?  Was it me?  Am I re-posting someone else’s work?  Am I human?  Or are The Quote Guys a computer program?  Hmmm.

Well, if you will indulge me for a bit I’ll share a few experiences, questions and opinions and then you decide if this is human or machine generated, OK?

I attended a webinar recently sponsored by InsideView; “31 Must Have Sales Tools in 2013”.  It was delivered “lightning round” style by six sales subject matter experts, each offering a 90-second overview of five social selling products.  Sort of a verbal Tweet – although I didn’t count to see if they stayed within 144 characters.  Hmmm.  They actually highlighted 32 Sales Tools; I guess I’m not sure how “social math” works these days.  Hmmm.

The crux of all the subject matter experts’ presentations was how to leverage technology to automate our social media selling efforts.  There were tools to automate Internet searches for prospective companies; for targeted contacts; automated searches to find someone else’s content to re-post; automated email “pings”; automated email signature line commercials; automated everything!

Question: 

Is automation of social selling counter-intuitive?

“Social” according to Wikipedia: Attitudes, orientations, or behaviors which take the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account.  “Interests, intentions, or needs of other people”.  Hmmm.

Question: 

Do other people typically look forward to automated “pings” from sales reps’ social selling applications?

“Social Media”?  According to Jan H. Kietzmann, social media employ mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms via which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content.  “Highly interactive platforms via which individuals and communities share”.  Hmmm.

Question: 

What does an individual share with an auto-generated, re-post, from some sales stranger’s computer program?

“Social Media Marketing”?  According to Wikipedia: Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. A corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself.  “Presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source”.  Hmmm.

Question: 

Exactly which automated, computer programs are our “trusted, third-party source” these days?

Sorry, it’s not resonating.

Wikipedia does not contain a definition for “Social Media Selling”; yet I’m inundated with invitations to social media selling events literally ever day.  I suspect I’m just in a plethora of Internet databases, and these invitations are not actually coming from people, but rather some number of automated, “Must Have Sales Tools” programs.

In 2012 I wrote the little ditty; “Technology, Toaster-Ovens, and the Future”.  It was about a seminar I attended – the keynote speaker was David Smith, a technologist and a futurist (see http://thequoteguys.com/2012/04/technology-toaster-ovens-and-the-future/ ).  In that seminar, David stated:

70% of the Internet traffic does not involve a person; it’s machine-to-machine communications (often posing as human beings).

“Machine-to-machine communications (often posing as human beings)”.  Hmmm.

Well, I guess you will have to decide for yourself whether this little ditty came from “me” or from my automated, technology surrogate.  Of course, I am equally unsure if you are really reading this; or if “you” are one of those automated, “31 Must Have Sales Tools” trolling the Internet for re-postable content.

If we are automated at both ends; I hope our machines are keeping themselves amused.

GAP

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Don’t take my word for it…

Funny how things work.  Lately, I’ve been helping several clients recruit and onboard new sales reps.  As you already know, finding good sales people is hard work.  I’ve been blessed in my career to have recruited, managed and promoted stellar performers.  It was “Lesson #1” I learned from Tom McSweeney: 

Recruit good people; enjoy them while you can; promote them; and go find some more. 

I think it was Tom’s way of teaching me not to take good people for granted. 

At the same time Lew and Shayne, my friends and former teammates, recently changed jobs.  The companies they’re going to are getting two stellar performers – in this case, take my word for it!  Not surprisingly, both implied their frustration with their now former companies (and former managers).  I suspect they felt they were being taken for granted. 

“Gary”, you might ask, “how do you know they were stellar performers?”  Fair question.  It suggests you won’t just take my word for it.  BTW – a key perspective when you’re recruiting sales people – don’t simply take their word for it.  

When recruiting, I look for people who do all of the little things – little things don’t lie.  Are they prompt; prepared; did they do their homework before every meeting; did they professionally follow up after every meeting; have they worked hard for their accomplishments – like Lew and Shayne.  An Unknown Sage once said: 

How you do one thing is how you do everything – don’t kid yourself. 

“But Gary”, you might continue, “what about talent; experience; a track record of success in our industry?”  Another fair question.  Unfortunately, it sometimes reflects looking for the wrong things:  

  • Just because someone was successful in one role with one company at one point in time, does not mean they will be successful in their new role, with your company, at this point in time.  In fact, if they have had prior success we should wonder – why are they interviewing now?  Unless we can uncover justified frustration with their soon-to-be-previous manager, or some other legitimate reason for their departure, beware.  Don’t take their word for their prior performance.
  • I prefer to look for evidence of hard work vs. recruiting “talent”;  

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.

Chinese fortune cookie

And what does “hard work” look like?  It starts with a certain attitude – like Lew and Shayne’s attitude.  Permit me to offer an example from the email Lew sent me: 

I thought I would let you know that after 20 years I decided to leave… I had a great year last year and went to Presidents Club in Rome. I then resigned when I got back… After 20 years I needed a change. I have wanted to leave for a couple of years but I did not want to leave under plan. After 20 years I wanted to leave after having a great Presidents Club year… 

That’s an example of what a stellar attitude looks like, yes? 

Lew went on to thank me for the sales coaching I provided him during the years he was on my team.  Funny how hard working people make their boss look good – especially if you don’t take them for granted: 

            The teacher and the taught create the teaching.

Eastern Proverb 

I’ll share some of Shayne’s teachings in an upcoming post.  It is stellar, too – but don’t take my word for it. 

GAP 

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Technology, toaster-ovens, and the future…

I attended a McGladrey Emerging Technology conference recently, aptly entitled “Innovation Overload” ( http://mcgladrey.com/Search-Results?q=emerging+technology&sp_cs=UTF-8 ).  The keynote speaker was David Smith, a technologist and a futurist.  Coincidently, I heard another futurist and engineer present just four months ago.  

I suspect one of the reasons why futurists are popular speakers is they are provocative.  Part of their “WOW Factor” is those little known, yet shocking facts about what’s going on all around us that we don’t realize.  Here are a few examples: 

  • With today’s technology, we can record everything – and everything is a lot!
  • Among the 5 most appreciated technologies of the past 100 years – the microwave oven topped the list (followed very closely by – the garage door opener). 
  • 90% of the computer chips manufactured today don’t go into computers.  As it turns out, automobiles and household appliances are common computer chip destinations.  David emphasized that when we turn the key to start our car, before the signal ever reaches the starter, it first boots-up the car’s on-board computer chips.  He went on to state that today’s automobiles have more computing power than the Cray computers that dominated headlines for computing power in the 1990’s.  (Remember the ‘90’s?)
  • 70% of the Internet traffic does not involve a person; it’s machine-to-machine communications (often posing as human beings).  So how do we know if those Tweets are coming from a person or that toaster-oven with all the computer chips on your kitchen countertop? 

David went on to complete his “shock and awe” presentation about what the technology future has is store for us.  Very provocative. 

Some of his statements I took issue with.  For instance, he warned of possible disaster if businesses put their business applications in “the Cloud”.  He said, “The Internet might go down” and then your business couldn’t operate.  

During break, I sought David out to express an opposing view (i.e. “argue”).  You see, the Internet never goes down.  Perhaps your connection goes down, but not the Internet.  Still a problem, no doubt; but if your Internet connection goes down at the office, according to his futuristic presentation, you could simply go home and plug-in from your toaster-oven, yes?  

But after a few minutes of trying to argue with our futurist, I could tell 4 things: 

  1. He didn’t have the same sense of humor when it comes to the hype over futuristic technology as I do.  He gets paid to prognosticate about what will happen “someday” (with a fair bit of vagueness on the “when”, I might add); I actually have to make a living selling this stuff; yet he’s the serious one.
  2. Then it dawned on me that you really can’t argue with a futurist – his position is based on events that haven’t taken place yet, so we don’t know if he is accurate.  (Not quite the same when our Managers review our sales forecast, true?) 
  3. Reminds me of our weathermen and their “pinpoint” radar, technology, and forecasts.  (Which reminds me of those times I’m digging out of the snow storm that was supposed to miss us.)  But, we can’t argue with the weatherman, either.
  4. And all of this arguing  with technologists, futurists, engineers, and weathermen reminds me of our favorite, Unknown Sage: 

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

Have to go now – my refrigerator just texted me. 

GAP 

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Techno-speaking…

OMG! Just when we thought we had all of the typical acronyms in the technology business figured out. 

Using techno-speak, acronyms and other, made-up stuff is unfair, don’t you think?   I mean the English language is complicated enough.  Add in txting (which I thought was a universally accepted, misspelled shorthand; but come to find out it’s just me who is misspelling it universally); or SMSSocial Media Shorthand (OK, I made that one up; LOL!); and how can one be expected to communicate clearly today?  

It’s not a new challenge.  David S. Pottruck once told us; 

E-mail and voice-mail have, of course, exacerbated the problem in the last ten years.  Unfortunately, for all their convenience, these innovations have made it much easier to believe we are communicating when we are merely informing; if I have e-mailed you, you know it. This presumption frequently escalates from knowledge to understanding, then to consent, and finally to the delusion of wisdom. 

Ah yes- if I have e-mailed you, you consent.  How many times have we made that erroneous assumption?  Here are a few others. 

BAM – I assumed this was a word (silly me).  You know, like, “I was driving to work and BAM I realized today is our wedding anniversary and I haven’t bought a card or a present for my wife yet.  But no; as it turns out, BAM actually stands for Business Activity Management

And then there’s BOOM, which, again, I thought was a word.  As in, “When my wife realized I had bought her anniversary gift at the 7-11 on my way home from work that night, BOOM, there went the last chance for a “romantic” evening.  But no; as it turns out BOOM actually stands for Business Opportunity Optimization Management. (Who knew?) 

Do you think whoever created these terms ever combined BAM with BOOM?  (Don’t get me started!) 

Is it because the typed word is replacing the spoken word in our business world today?  To type as fast as we talk we created acronyms, short-cuts, and a new, techno-speak language, K?  In a pinch, we resort to voice mail (hoping the other party doesn’t actually answer our call because we’re too busy to converse).  That’s not good: 

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 also became acquainted with CAO, not to be confused with Ciao, which of course is Italian for both “Hello” and “Goodbye” (nice to see confusion is an international pastime).  CAO refers to the Chief Accelerator Officer.  And if your CAO is Italian, that means he is capable of doing business, as well as saying “Hello” and “Goodbye”, very fast!  

Maybe the thinking behind the creation of these terms originates from those childhood years where every kid received a ribbon – whether they finished first, or last – everyone was “special”.  Is it those same kids, now adults, who have created their own business role with its own acronym?  Is everyone “special” again? 

Call me kooky, but BAM sounds a lot like my manager; I think I spoke to BOOM the other day when I was ordering a pizza and being up-sold extra toppings and side dishes; and this morning I’m with a CAO – there are hundreds of them – they work at Starbucks. 

GAP (oops – my bad!) 

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“You guys will rock!”

An excerpt from the 2011 commencement address by Majora Carter to the graduating class at my alma mater, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.  (It’s true – I literally graduated from the school of “hard Knox” – more on that later.) 

Do you remember your high school or college commencement speeches?  Did you attend a friend or relative’s graduation this spring?  I always enjoy the unbridled hope and enthusiasm that comes from the speakers.  Have you kept up that spirit of “we can accomplish anything” at your company?  Yes?  Good for you – keep it going!  Sometimes a job can dampen our enthusiasm if we’re not careful.  

My company recently staffed a new initiative of “enablement” as we seek to aggressively grow our revenue.  The other day, in a planning and prioritizing  meeting, the senior member of our team expressed concern about the difficulty of our assignment and whether we will be fully supported by management as we strive to live up to our team name, “DFoA”.  Before we  spiraled down that black hole of trepidation and despair, we all agreed to stay focused on Mason Cooley’s perspective: 

            “Why not?” is a slogan for an interesting life.                                 

A key part of our enablement responsibility is to remove internal impediments that have built up over the years and eroded productivity levels of our sales force and our partners.  Our eradication assignment may sound familiar to you at your company.  We need to address outdated reference materials; incomplete onboarding processes; absence of tactical planning; avoidance of accountability; lack of vision; you know – the usual stuff. 

Are we up to the task?  Will our company remain committed to this initiative?  Why not? 

            Why not go out on a limb?  Isn’t that where the fruit is?

                                                                 Frank Scully 

Our internal, executive sponsor (along with the senior member of our team) has named us DFoA, the Delta Fore of Awesomeness!  Truly, with a moniker like that – why not?  

It seems to me that the recipe for fixing things in Corporate America includes the main ingredients of 1-part know-how + 1-part enthusiasm + 1-part fearlessness.  I suppose there are many other minor ingredients, too.  But I believe we have the main ones covered and in so doing are making the best of our assignment.  We are also following Charles L. Bromley’s guidance: 

Why not make the best of things?  Any fool can make the worst of them. 

As for me, I think it helps that I am a graduate of the school of “hard Knox”.  It helps me to think of other great leaders that passed through Knox College and what they went on to accomplish.  You see, Galesburg, Illinois was one of the locations of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates – a series of debates that shaped the future of our country.  Here’s an excerpt: 

Both men arrived at the Knox College campus by carriage and walked into the college’s impressive new building that later came to be called Old Main.  The debate was held on the east side of the building.  As the two men, along with other dignitaries, stepped through a window on to the stage it is reported that Lincoln said, “Well, at last I have gone through college.”

                                                                  Owen Muelder 

OK, my college experience was a bit different than Abraham Lincoln’s.  But if he was here today and looking at our enablement assignment as compared to the challenges he faced during his presidency, he might offer us these words of wisdom – Why not? 

                                                                  GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please check it out Subscribe.

When Positive Change is Absent

“Change is the breakfast of champions.  When Positive Change is absent, complacency takes over and failure is just around the corner.”

                                                                            David Cottrell

What will you change, in a positive way, in 2011?  Me?  I’m still trying to become the man my dog thinks I am.  She’s always the same – happy to see me; full of love and enthusiasm; ready to play.  (Maybe I should strive to be more like her!)  

“So Gary, we’re making some changes this year…”  “Gary, here’s your new compensation plan…”  “Gary, I love you but I think we need a change in our relationship…”  “Dad, I’m changing my major at school…”  One, simple word – “Change”; gets the adrenaline flowing, yes?

It’s interesting the emotions that word can stimulate in an adult.  How our feelings are impacted at the thought of moving out of our comfort zone.  Of course, being outside of our comfort zone is only a temporary point in time.  Then we will settle back into our new comfort zone (or slide back into our old comfort zone, I suppose).  But thinking positive, getting to a new and improved comfort zone means we must “make a few changes around here”.  And the thought of doing that often creates quite the reaction.  (It also fills my health club in January, but I know that won’t last.)

Remember your childhood?  I like to think of mine.  I carry a picture of me when I was about 5 years old to remind me of how happy I was then.  It was the summer; I’m sitting on my tricycle; on the driveway; in the sun – smiling.  Not a care in the world even though my whole world (myself included) was surrounded by change.  To a child, almost everything is new; foreign; changing.  But when we’re loved and cared for, we’re happy.  No worries, no adrenaline, no lost sleep, no problem.  But when we become adults – it seems to become a different story.  Sometimes I catch myself worrying about everything – my family; my health; my finances; global warming; the economy; the Denver Broncos.  And even when I don’t have anything real to worry about, I invent things.  You know – the “What ifs”?  What if I get sick?  What if I lose that deal?  What if the Broncos trade Tim Tebow?  (But I digress.) 

One of my changes for the positive in 2011 is my goal to be an adult while remembering the child that’s still inside of me.  I want to accept changes that are inevitable and seek new comfort zones.  I still have lots of growth opportunities (except my waste line – that needs to shrink!).  Change; positive change; making the world a better place, one day at a time.  Moving towards that man my dog already thinks I am.  Not day dreaming; not fantasizing; not blind optimism without any semblance of reality.  No, I am focusing on the specific things I can do; methodically; realistically; daily; that will move me into my next new and improved comfort zone.  It will be fun and I’ll enjoy the journey; just like when I was a child of five.

William Arthur Ward said,

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

 I plan to adjust a few of my sails in 2011. How about you?

                                                                         GAP

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