The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Posts Tagged ‘Cowboy Up’


Code?  No.  123115 is the last day of the year; aka the last day to “hit our number” for anyone not on an alternative fiscal year.  The countdown to midnight; to accelerate our accelerators (maybe, to keep our job).


ABC: Always be closing. Telling’s not selling.

2000 Drama Boiler Room

Please “tell” us your favorite “sales-closing” story.  But you can wait until after midnight – stay focused today, yes?

Here are two of mine.

I worked with a seasoned sales professional years ago at Integral Systems.  He needed this one last deal to exceed his number and qualify for Club.  His prospect was in New York and he started with the old “camp-out-close” – showing up at their office without an appointment; determined to see his prospect; needed to close the deal.  The prospect played along.

Unfortunately, his prospect wasn’t budging as my colleague tried every “ABC” tactic he knew – an extra discount; lenient contract terms; even an opt-out, side letter (unacceptable by today’s revenue recognition standards, but a common “last resort” back then).  At the end of a short but spirited interaction between the sales rep and his prospect, the “because-it’s-my-day” close was born.  It likely went something like this:


“I’m sorry, but as I told you; our plan is to finalize our vendor selection in January.  Why should I buy from you today?”

Sales Rep:

“Well Sir; today is my day; and you have an opportunity to make today a special day for me.  Some day it will be your day; and when that day arrives, someone will have the opportunity to make that day a special day for you.  But today is my day and that’s why you should buy today.”

And his prospect did!

And then there’s the variation of the “because-it’s-my-day” close, I call the “me-or-my-successor” close:

As a sales professional, I have carried a quota for over 36 years.  And I can remember my 2nd quota year as clearly as any.  You see, in my first year, I was more lucky than good.  That led to a promotion, and a hefty quota increase for my second year – I was in over my head.

After 26 weeks into my 2nd year, I was put on a “performance warning”.  At the 39th week, the Vice President of Sales was asking my Sales Manager to fire me.  Since my company had chosen to proactively promote me (perhaps a bit prematurely) at the start of the year, I asked my Sales Manager to give me 52 weeks to sell my annual quota.

We agreed that at the end of the 52nd week, if I was still below 100%, I would resign.  At the end of my 51st week, I was at 75% and significantly behind the required sales dollars necessary to keep my job.  However, I had been working hard on a very large account.

I called the executive at my prospect and asked, “Do you think you will accept our proposal?”  “Yes”, was his response.  “Excellent, thank you!”  I reacted.  And then I added, “Do you think you could place your order this week?”  When my prospect asked why, I said, “Because if you place your order next week, it will be with my successor.”

And at the 52nd weekly sales meeting, with the Vice President of Sales in attendance, I “roll-called” the second largest deal in the Region’s history; finished my 2nd year at exactly 100% of my quota; and kept my job.

123115… “ABC” everyone, “ABC”.  Bon chance!


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R U Awesome?

Are you known as an “ace” in your field?  Are you, as the line from the movie Top Gun goes, “…the best of the best”?  Remember when Maverick flew through the jet-wash and his co-pilot Goose was killed?  Not so awesome. 

When I joined my current team, my friend Adam labeled our team: DFoA – Delta Force of Awesomeness!  I’ve quoted Adam before (see Sorry – I wasn’t Listening).  He now leads a new team within our company; leaving an awesome standard behind for us to live up to. 

I’d like to think of myself as being awesome.  My manager and my company seem to – awarding me very nice recognitions over the years and even citing my contributions at our most recent quarterly analysts meeting.  Maybe you too have received accolades; earned Presidents Clubs; and benefited from similar remunerations for being the experts that you are. 

But here’s the thing – such accomplishments are earned; one day at a time; one client at a time.  And the more I know, the more I realize what I don’t know: 

            To teach is to learn.

Japanese Proverb           

Recently, I led a coaching-event for one of my clients – I sucked!  Tough to take when you’re a member of DFoA.  My client didn’t think I was so awesome.  Now, I’m trying to regain the right perspective: 

I am neither so green that I can not teach; nor am I so gray that I can not learn.                            

That’s the thing about business in general and the sales profession in particular:  everyday, you’re either teaching or you’re learning. 

A poor performance stings when you take your work seriously, doesn’t it?  I mean here I was, requested by name (and perhaps by reputation) to work with this client, and rather than doing what needed to be done to insure they had an awesome experience, I let them down.  In so doing, I let my Manager down and myself, too.  I’d call that Lose ³.  Not very awesome. 

Oh at first I wanted to blame others; avoid fault; maybe “they” did this and “they” did that.  But no – I was the pilot; I flew through the jet-wash.  I’m still working to get over it.  It was so disappointing that I’ve literally lost sleep thinking about it. 

That’s the thing about being awesome – when you’re not, there’s no place to hide.  I‘ve done a thorough “post-mortem” to determine how to perform better in the future.  I’m following Gilbert Arland’s advice:

When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within.  Failure to hit the bull’s-eye is never the fault of the target.  To improve your aim – improve yourself.           

I can only guess how my client feels.  Afterwards, their manager said, “Great job” and moved on; opting for courtesy vs. sincerity.  Two people, who weren’t even there, gave me critical feedback on pieces of the program.  (It must have been pretty bad to travel all the way to them!) 

Yep – I failed; flew threw the jet-wash; crashed and burned: 

            Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.                

Truman Capote 

I’ve tasted that distasteful condiment many times throughout my career; I’m quite sure I will again.  And I know Adam would expect the same from me today that he now expects from his new team; and what I bet you expect from yourself as well – get back up; go out there; and taste awesome again! 


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Saluting the Road Warriors…

I just returned from a trip to San Francisco for our company’s annual sales kick-off meeting.  It was the first business trip I’ve taken in months.  I use to be a road warrior like many of you – but I was fortunate enough to get off the road about 2 years ago. 

My trip to San Francisco brought back many memories – the security lines; cramped quarters on the flight; difficulty sleeping in a strange bed; adjusting to the time zone change; a litany of additional taxes on the hotel room – you know, the works! 

During this trip, it also occurred o me that there has been lost of “noise” in the sporting arena about the impact of travel on professional athletes.  Permit me to take football as one example and digress for a moment. 

The 2012-2013 National Football League season has come to a conclusion.  The NFL Super Bowl XLVII Champion has been crowned.  One of the consistent commentaries I picked up on during this past NFL season had to do with travel. 

Time and again we would hear some radio or TV personality (often a former player) moan about the difficulties such as the Seattle Seahawks traveling all the way to Washington DC to play the Redskins; 4 hours in an airplane; 3 time zones difference; not being able to sleep in their own beds the night before the big game.  You’d think they were traveling by covered wagon! 

Call me uncaring, but the idea that travel has a big impact on an NFL player’s ability to perform at their highest level is a bit over the top.  Their “trips” consist of a single destination; in a chartered plane; with private security screening; pre-arranged ground transportation; high-end hotels; baggage concierge; and catered meals. 

In the world of business travel, I believe road warriors are the true super stars.  Take my boss for instance, who was responsible for coordinating my company’s sales kick-off meetings.  After his 5 days in San Francisco, he took a 1-day trip back home to the Midwest, and then flew Sunday to London for the sales kick-off in our European Region.  Three days in London and then he was off to Sidney for the sales kick-off in our Pacific Region.  Then a 19 hour flight back to the Midwest; executing his job at peak performance throughout. 

No chartered flights; private security screening; pre-arranged ground transportation; etc.  My boss, and so many other business professionals that must travel for a living, are the unheralded super stars. 

Now I’m no poet, but permit me to conclude with a little ditty I wrote many years ago when I was a proud member of the road warrior team:

 A shared prayer from the Mayflower to the modern day road warrior:

We know before leavin’

The ride will be bumpy

The quarters will be dumpy

The stewards will be grumpy

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

The days will be long

ETAs promised will be wrong

Success smiles on only the strong

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

Our family will pine

We’ll miss children’s prime

We barter money for time

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

To no one we sob

While pursuing our job

Our energy travels rob

And still we must go.

We know before leavin’

And we pray every evening

Lord, get me home safe

And I’ll call the rest even. 


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Smells like money…

The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo just wrapped up in Denver.  When was the last time you went to the rodeo?  I enjoy writing about the Stock Show as you might remember from last January: 


There is always a lot going on at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo.  The wide variety means there’s something for everyone – adults; children; farmers; ranchers; sales professionals; business leaders.  In my case, I particularly enjoy the variety of equestrian events, but not just for the entertainment value.   

Business professionals can gain great benefit from cowboys, English riders, and horses.  For instance, if you own or even lease a horse, you know how motivational it can be – just thinking about the price of hay alone gets me up and at ‘em in the morning!  Serves me right, I suppose, for ignoring the advice of our favorite, Unknown Sage who tells us this about investing: 

Seymore’s Investment Principle: 

Never invest in anything that eats.                            

And my corollary: 

GAP‘s Reaction to Seymore’s Investment Principle: 

Never buy anything that eats while you sleep.                            

Yep – smells like money.  Better get up and go sell somebody something today! 

Speaking of sales, understanding a horse’s behavior is also beneficial to our profession because our prospects act a lot like horses.  For instance, if we’re not careful, we can spook our prospects.  And when we do, they cut and run and we never seem to catch them again, do we. 

Prospects often show a herd animal instinct.  They want to keep their distance from sales people and fear being “cut-out from the herd”, yes?  You probably have faced every excuse in the book why a prospect does not want to meet with you 1-on-1, even for a straight-forward; 30-minute; business conversation.  Maybe they’re afraid that if they meet with you they won’t be able to help themselves and they will inadvertently buy something at that first meeting.  (If it were only that easy!) 

I was working with a team of sales professionals last week and suggested that even a prospect’s objections can have herd characteristics.  First, the prospect objects to our proposed price; then they don’t like our contract language; then it’s our payment terms; and then they want to delay placing their order.  Before you know it we get stampeded by a whole herd of objections! 

English style, hunter-jumper riders competed at the Stock Show, too.  If you’ve ever watched those riders you know that as they are approaching each jump, they reach a critical, “Go” or “No Go” point, before the horse must leap. 

Indecision on the part of the rider or the horse, or a business owner, can lead to a “train wreck”, true?  Another cross-over example of the great benefit sales professionals and business leaders can gain from horses: 

Half the failures of this world in life arise from pulling in one’s horse as he is leaping. 

                                  Julius and Augustus Hare 

Of course, western pleasure style riders don’t usually mix well with English style riders.  Come from different herds I suppose.  But whether western, or English, it’s the horses they ride, not the style they use, that we can learn important business lessons from. 

If you are a sales leader or business owner, and hear one of your sales reps complain about the difficulties of his/her quota pursuit, or the problems they are having with a prospect, you might offer the equestrian-oriented advice:


Or if you prefer,



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Will you make Club?

For many of us, December means year-end and year-end means President’s Club; Quota Achievers; President’s Circle; or the like.  Annual quota attainment goes by many names in a sales professional’s world, true?  

My company announced 2011 President’s Club qualifiers last week.  My name wasn’t on the list.  Even though we have a couple of weeks left, I won’t make Club this year.  Will you?  No?  Stings, yes?  

After you’ve earned President’s Club recognition in your career, failing in any subsequent year stings.  But as you know, we compete for a living.  Adversity does not deter our commitment to sales success.  Last year was last year; we are ready to compete again every, new sales year as the score is reset to zero.  We know that: 

            Success isn’t permanent, and failure isn’t fatal. 

                                  Mike Ditka 

I believe sales professionals work for commissions – but we will “run through walls” for recognition.  And the best-of-the-best earn President’s Club recognition.  In fact, at one company I worked for, we put the number of Clubs we earned right on our business cards.  It was the unit of measure that meant the most to us.  

So, if we didn’t make Club in 2011, we will “strap it on” in 2012 and give it another go, yes?  We can do it too, because sales professionals understand the meaning of the word persistence.  We are professionally persistent in our cold-calling; we persist when competing for a deal; and we persist when we occasionally miss Club.  It separates the best-of-the-best from all of the rest: 

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

                                  Calvin Coolidge 

Of course, there are those rare performers who earn President’s Club year in and year out.  I remember competing against such a person when I relocated to Denver in 1991.  It was the primary reason I was hired for the job.  Don Wall was Ceridian’s #1 sales rep for 26 straight years and never missed qualifying for their President’s Club.  Amazing!  It was known as Control Data then; I had also competed against that company going back to 1979 when it was known as the Service Bureau Corporation.  

I didn’t stop Don Wall’s string, but there was enough business for both of us to qualify for our Presidents’ Clubs.  He decided to retire two years after I moved in, his string of consecutive Clubs intact.  Mine, too. 

In recent years, quota attainment has been a bit more difficult, true?  Every year we set out to compete for Club.  And on those occasions when we fall a little short, it stings.  No, we don’t show it – we’re too proud.  We silently nurse our wounds, congratulate our colleagues who out-sold us, and quietly set our mind towards next year.  We are persistent, even in the face of adversity.  We are committed to achievement and personal success – it’s how a sales professional is “wired”. 

And after a successful 2012, when we are on the stage to receive our recognition, deep down inside we will tell ourselves we earned it by overcoming the adversity of 2011. 

            Adversity clarifies commitment.                  

                                  Gary A. Pokorn 

To our 2011 President’s Club colleagues – congratulations!  For the rest of us, 2012 can’t start soon enough. 


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April, optimism, and Chicago

April – we made it through another winter!  Welcome to springtime; April showers; spring flowers; baseball.  I love this time of year.  And when I reflect, I always think the past winter wasn’t so bad.  Memories of cold, snowy days and icy drives to work fade quickly this time of year.  Warm, sunny, spring days have a unique impact on our perspective, yes?  

Then I catch my self, “Wait a minute – you live in Denver”.  In Denver, we’re “in play” for a spring blizzard at least through Memorial Day. (In 2010, it snowed on June 15th).  Nonetheless, April makes me think of sunshine, cutting the grass, and baseball; it’s a very optimistic time of the year and of our life: 

No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.
Hal Borland 

Weather (and baseball) like life, is a matter of perspective, don’t you think?   Take our perspective in Chicago – my hometown: 

Life in Chicago 

60° above – Floridians wear coats, gloves and woolly hats.  Chicago people sunbathe. 

50° above – New Yorkers try to turn on the heat.  Chicago people plant gardens. 

40° above – Italian cars won’t start.  Chicago people drive with their windows down. 

32° above – Distilled water freezes.  Lake Michigan’s water gets thicker. 

20° above – Californians shiver uncontrollably.  Chicago people have their last cook-out before it gets cold. 

15° above – New York landlords finally turn up the heat.  Chicago people throw on a sweatshirt. 

Zero – Californians fly away to  Mexico.  Chicago people lick the flagpole. 

20° below – People in Miami cease to exist.  Chicago people get out their winter coats. 

40° below – Hollywood disintegrates.  Chicago’s Girl Scouts begin selling cookies door-to-door. 

60° below – Polar bears begin to  evacuate Antartica.  Chicago’s Boy Scouts postpone “Winter Survival” classes until it gets cold enough. 

80° below – Mt. St. Helen’s freezes.  Chicago people rent some videos. 

100° below – Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.  Chicago people get frustrated when they can’t thaw the keg. 

297° below – Microbial life survives on dairy products.  Illinois cows complain of farmers with cold hands. 

460° below – ALL atomic motion stops.  Chicago people start saying, “Cold ’nuff for ya?” 

500° below – Hell freezes over.  The Cubs win the World Series!                                          Unknown Sage 

Ah, the Cubs.  When I think of baseball in April, I think of Chicago.  You see – I’m a diehard Cubs fan.  Although I’ve lived in Denver since 1991, I’m only now warming to the Colorado Rockies baseball team.  

But my Cubbies?  Well you know, this is our year!  (Did I say April is a very optimistic time?)  I’ve been hoping this will be the Cubs’ year since I was a boy.  My Dad followed them his entire lifetime; ninety one years and he never saw them win a World Series. 

Yes, the weather; baseball; our entire life; all a matter of perspective.  And perspective is a range with borders on either side, as this Unknown Sage described it: 


A person who not only expects the worst, but makes the most of it when it happens. 


The person who makes it possible for the pessimist to know how happy he or she isn’t.

So come on Die Hard Cubs fans; don’t be pessimistic; don’t give up; don’t give in; don’t expect the worst.  This is our year!  At least that’s my perspective in April; and no April skips its turn in Chicago. 


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Cowboy secrets to success.

“Cowboy secrets to success:

  • Don’t let your head strap your hand to anything your butt can’t ride.
  • Never corner anything meaner than you.”

                                                                           Unknown Sage

If it’s January, and you’re in Denver (and it is, and I am), then it’s time for the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo!  Ah yes.  Crisp, January air; snow-covered mountains; and the rich, earthy aroma of the stock show.  Smells like money!  Now, I’m no cowboy; but I love being around horses; live stock; rodeos; and all things country. 

How fitting that as you and I are planning our year and getting off to a fast start, we pause to enjoy a world-class rodeo.  Ever been to one?  What’s your favorite part?  I like all of the events – bull riding; team penning; mutton busting (where parents mount their 6 year old children on farm animals and we call it “entertainment”).  But I especially like to watch the Westernaires perform.   Never seen them?  Check it out at   These teenagers are all about what’s right with our country and they really Ride with Pride!

No, I’m no cowboy, but I love all of the cowboy images that come to mind; tough yet polite; the original strong-silent types; their contribution to our American heritage; etc.  And horses are special too, like the American Mustangs.  Although I’m no cowboy, I have four mustangs living in my back yard.  Graduates, they are (along with my son Kevin) from Westernaires.   Yep, cowboys can definitely help us in 2011.  We can gain guidance from cowboy wisdom.  Simple things in some cases, like; “Don’t squat with your spurs on.”, or, “Never drink downstream from the herd.”  Cowboy wisdom can guide us through tougher issues too. 

Some of us city-types worry that 2011 will be a bad year (again).  I have several friends, family members, and business colleagues who lost their jobs in 2010.  I suppose it’s easy today to catch ourselves looking over our shoulder occasionally, yes?  And reading the daily headlines (or should I call them “hype-lines”), can actually contribute to our worry and fear.  Of course, if we stopped for a moment and compared our risks and troubles to what our ancestors faced in the times of the Old West, we might feel a little better.  I would think that a forced job change, a bad relationship, or even a foreclosure is a bit different from the life-threatening, Wyoming winters of the 1850’s.  (Wyoming winters are tough enough today!)

Nevertheless, I reckon for many of us the start of 2011 remains a mixture of enthusiasm and excited-anticipation at one end of the spectrum, coupled with fear-uncertainty-and doubt at the other.  So when worry and fear creeps back into my consciousness, it helps me to think of our great American cowboys and the wisdom they have passed on over the decades:  “Real courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

Let’s saddle up for 2011 armed with the confidence that we have the skills, knowledge and experience to make it a successful year.  Oh, we might not be cowboys; and we might face difficulties from time-to-time; but certainly this can be a year that we have the reins in our control, yes?   This is a year to enjoy with our family, friends and colleagues, right pardner?    And when the trail gets tough, we’ll think the way a cowboy would think and ride right on through the rough spots.

Come on ya’ll – Cowboy Up!


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