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Posts Tagged ‘Greatness’

A matter of degree…

The Vice President of my department likes to say all sales people are all competitive.  I agree with her.  Although, I believe there are degrees of competitiveness among me and my brethren.  Not everyone is an “alpha”:

In studies of social animals, the highest ranking individual is sometimes referred to as the alpha.  Males, females, or both, can be alphas, depending on the species. 

Wikipedia

I was thinking about competitiveness and alphas while watching the recent NBA finals.  It was the night that the Warriors beat the Raptors by one point in Toronto – the night that Kevin Durant returned from being out for a month only to tear his Achilles tendon.

When KD’s injury occurred, others had to rise to the occasion.  If you watched the game, who did you think had the highest degree of competitiveness?  The Warriors’ “Splash Brothers” (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson)?  The Raptors Kawhi Leonard?  Did you think of Steve Kerr as being the alpha?  Did you know that prior to this season Steve Kerr was already an eight time NBA Champion?

Wikipedia’s definition of an alpha states it’s the “highest ranking” individual.  In competitive situations, we sometimes think of an alpha as the most dominant player, true?  The degree of Steve Kerr’s competitiveness certainly does not come across as dominant; anything but.

I enjoy the intellectual discussion of competition; dominance; greatness; and success.  So many individuals and so many great stories come to mind.  I bet you have your favorite example.  I doubt Steve Kerr is on it.  Maybe he learned from an all-time great alpha in Chicago.

No, I’m not speaking about Michael Jordan.  MJ was certainly an all-time, dominant NBA player; one of my favorites.  But he wasn’t the alpha of the Chicago Bulls.  Just like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were not the alphas on the LA Lakers; although their battle for dominance seemed the dominant storyline.

IMHO, the all-time alpha in the NBA was Phil Jackson.  I believe it takes an alpha to coach (or manage) dominant players.  You know, Phil was not Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O’Neal’s first coach.  But he was the first – and only – coach for all of their NBA championships.

To be sure – Phil has a dominant resume!

2 NBA championships as a player for the New York Knicks

6 championships as the coach of the Chicago Bulls

5 championships as the coach of the LA Lakers

Oh, and 1 Continental Basketball Association championship as the coach of the Albany Patroons

I have a little experience in managing competitive people.  Not as much as Steve Kerr or Phil Jackson mind you.  I was a good sales manager, but learned during my 6 years with two different companies that there are degrees of competitiveness among salespeople.

As a front line sales manager I led teams of dominant personalities.  Don’t get me wrong; their ability and their individual accomplishments were awesome!   In one case their sales performance likely saved one small, family owned company; and in the other they led me to the sales manager of the year recognition for a huge, international company.

It’s very challenging to manage people possessing heightened degrees of competitiveness.  I tried and might have succeeded to be the alpha among them.  But I tired of their continuous battle for dominance; with me; and among their peers.

I admire the abilities, patience, and personas of Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson before him – alphas among dominant performers for sure.

GAP

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Impossible …

What do you believe is impossible?  Developing a cure for cancer at one end; or the common cold at the other?  Space travel?  At an individual level – losing weight; quit smoking; getting out of debt; finding happiness?

In the book, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea©, the main character said this about the “impossible”:

Working on the bottom of the deep ocean wasn’t impossible, it was only considered impossible… Other people labeled things impossible not because they couldn’t be done, but because no one was doing them… Realizing that impossibility dwelt only in the imagination was the gateway to a new world of thinking… 

Gary Kinder

OK, he suggests the difference between impossible and possible starts with our belief.   Then a “new world of thinking” can emerge that will lead us to overcome the impossible.  Thinking – systematically; specifically; in ways others have not thought – yet.  Lewis Thomas, President of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute said this:

A good way to tell how the work is going is to listen in the corridors.  If you hear the word “Impossible!” spoken as an expletive, followed by laughter, you will know that someone’s orderly research plan is coming along nicely.

It seems that the path beyond impossible requires dedication and great optimism.  Not some pie-eyed, there’s no place like home, close your eyes and click your heels type of optimism.  But a mindset grounded on a pragmatic process of thinking things through while avoiding the pitfalls of theoretical debates:

Green’s Law of Debate

Anything is possible if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Unknown Sage

In The Path Between the Seas © David McCullough details at great length how prior generations thought of building impossible, man-made monuments, of momentous proportions.   He writes about their new world of thinking; of overcoming obstacles, known and unknown, not the least of which was discovering the cause of and then the treatment for malaria.  Many thought building the Panama Canal was impossible.  Until someone figured out how to build it.

What about today?  Are we enamored with geo-mechanical monuments?  Do our beliefs center around advanced technology; the Internet-of-Things; driverless cars; and drone-delivered pizzas?  What about the Dark Web; spyware; invasive-ware; and other malware – are those “advanced”?

Will we ever center our beliefs (and our resources) on people vs. things?  Mental illness; poverty; homelessness; addictions… can enough money, energy, and commitment ever be harnessed to address these humankind challenges?  Or do we believe finding those solutions is impossible?

No matter which impossible endeavor we chose to address it’s always better when we have support from our family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow Americans, or just our boss, true?  But if we are going to overcome the impossible, we need that support early; at the darkest most difficult point in our journey:

Clarke’s Law of Revolutionary Ideas

Every revolutionary idea — in Science, Politics, Art or Whatever — evokes three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the three phrases:

It is completely impossible — don’t waste my time.

It is possible, but it is not worth doing.

I said it was a good idea all along.

Unknown Sage

In 2019, what do you believe is worth doing?  Can it be done?  Or is it impossible because no one is doing it – yet?

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

Robert Schuller

Indeed.  What impossible feat would we all do for those we know; for those we don’t; for those in need?

GAP

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Crusader …

It’s amazing that the longer I have been in the sales profession, the more, new revelations I discover – about myself!  And just when you’d think I would have everything figured out.  Four decades of experience and I’m still a newbie LoL!

Just this month I came across this quote in LinkedIn:

Don’t ever take a job — join a crusade! Find a cause that you can believe in and give yourself to it completely.

Colleen Barrett, president emerita of Southwest Airlines

Crusader – that hits home!  Now I really feel bad for all the managers in my career I have reported to.  They probably thought they just had another employee on their team.  I bet you managers who are reading this little ditty today have crusaders on your team and you don’t even know it.  It might be easier to manage them if you recognize what you’re dealing with.

Wikipedia offers us this about the Crusades:

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period… Modern historians hold widely varying opinions of the Crusaders. To some, their conduct was incongruous with the stated aims and implied moral authority of the papacy… However, the Crusades had a profound impact on Western civilization… they constituted a wellspring for accounts of heroism, chivalry, and piety that galvanized medieval romance, philosophy, and literature.

“… heroism, chivalry, and piety … romance, philosophy, and literature.”  WOW – Way to go crusaders!

On the other hand, “incongruous conduct” explains a lot.  Conduct at a company as an employee is one thing.  Conduct at that company as a crusader can be something altogether different; something powerful.

Being a crusader is risky.  It can be abused for selfish interests.  It can be manipulative.  It can leave breakage behind.

On the other hand, it can be hard to maintain high energy over the long haul; crusaders must believe in what they’re doing and the company they’re doing it for; their managers and leaders must be worthy of the passion crusaders have for their job.

As for people that reported to me over the years – it seemed for the most part they welcomed my crusade-oriented style.  I’m not saying I expected them to become crusaders.  I’m saying they had a crusader leading their team.  And my poor wife – she is still dealing with it!

Never the less, I believe it’s how you do what you do that matters.  I believe Tom Connellan agrees:

One with passion is better than forty who are merely interested.

When we have passion for what we do, we stand out.  Standing out can be good; it can also be not so good depending on the culture within our company and relationships among our colleagues.  One with passion can sometimes be misunderstood; appear egotistical; self-promoting; disingenuous, true?

Risks aside, if we are going to work for a living I believe we should “play to win”.  I believe Jim Collins found other business leaders who believe this too:

“Look”, she said, “this program will be built on the idea that running is fun, racing is fun, improving is fun, and winning is fun.  If you’re not passionate about what we do here, then go find something else to do.”

It’s all a matter of choice.  We can take a job; be an employee; and go through the motions of doing our jobs.  Or, we can leverage our passion; run, race, improve, and win; and be a crusader at work.  Leaving incongruous conduct behind, of course.

GAP

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Guessing…

One of my strengths according to Strength Finders 2.0 © is “Context”:

You look back.  You look back because that is where the answers lie.  You look back to understand the present. 

Tom Rath

Unfortunately, I try to apply this strength in my business world but not so much on the personal side.  The business world seems objective whereas the personal side is… well… personal.

Nonetheless, I enjoy looking back and studying the tools, tactics and techniques that have proven successful for business leaders and companies alike.  I study past failures, too.  It’s interesting to me to find that the difference between winning and losing in the business world is often not based on what we guess it should be based on:

Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake. 

Savielly Grigonevitch Tartakower

And over the years, I have noticed much of the success in business has come about as much by accident as by any other means.  More times than not, leaders witnessed outcomes at their companies that were the direct opposite of their best laid plans:

There were times when we lost money on every PC we sold, and so we were conflicted – if sales were down, was that bad news or good news? 

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

I remember reading The Google Story © and learning how one of the most powerful technology companies on the planet was formed – with great reluctance – seemingly guess work, by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.  To monetize their intellectual property, the last thing on their mind was to start a company.  So, when they launched a company and eventually went public, they did their best to guess what a company was, and was not, about:

Google is not a conventional company.  We do not intend to become one. 

Sergey Brin and Larry Page

At the other end of the spectrum… We all know of times where things are not working well at our companies, yet leaders were clueless on what to do about it.  Seems like guessing is still a core attribute among leadership:

An old adage was that companies typically spent twice as much as necessary of advertising but had no way to figure out which half to cut. 

Unknown Sage

We all might agree that leaders do the best they can to make educated guesses while leading our companies, but no one really knows for sure how things will turn out.  There’s an example offered by our Unknown Sage about the auto dealer who fired all his sales reps and sales went up!  That story reminds me of the current Wells Fargo situation – at least the firing part; not sure yet if their sales will go back up.

One of the primary lessons I have learned in any and all roles I have held in the business world is not to take myself too seriously.  Truth be told, that is sometimes easier to blog about than to operate by.  (There’s that darn personal side again.)  I have had, and continue to have, my share of diva meltdowns when things don’t go my way.  However, I am eventually able to get a grip – eventually – and return to normal.  I mean; I’m just guessing too.

And I would guess that since I (along with everyone else) don’t know it all; I (and everyone else) can relax at work and do the best I can at what I would guess to be the best.  Is that what you would guess?

GAP

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Breaking the rules…

This little ditty breaks several of my rules.  First, it contains some profanity – please stop if that will offend you.  Second, it continues beyond my “standard 600 words”.  For those of you who are new – welcome to my world LoL!  (see http://thequoteguys.com/2015/07/a-peek-inside/)

Staying with me?  Thank you!

I attended my company’s women in business lunch ‘n learn recently.  The topic was, “Gender equality in the workplace is good for everyone – including men.”  The presenter was a male millennial from our sales department.  He assigned us to small groups and facilitated an excellent and provocative discussion on our respective career views from our gender perspectives.

There are lots of “rules” in the workplace these days about roles men and women play.  Lots of terms like “glass ceiling”; “gender equality”; “women in the workplace”.  A general theme is today’s rules seem to have been written by men for the advantage of men and the disadvantage of women.

When our meeting facilitator played a TED Talk video clip featuring a prominent professor of social studies from an east coast institution (I apologize, I don’t remember his name), the professor offered this position for us to contemplate:

Privilege is invisible to those who possess it.

That caused me pause; I’m privileged.  Perhaps not always and in everything.  Like so many others, I’ve experienced my share of failure and even tragedy.  But perhaps because I’m a man; with a college degree; and a successful sales career; I would now be considered by others as “privileged”.  And if that is their view, I could not argue.

I never thought comparatively about my privilege from the perspective of women who do not feel they share equally.  This was the topic of our small group discussion.  The women in my group each said they do not feel they carry the same amount of respect as their male counterparts in the eyes of their managers or their clients – just because they are women.

Truth be told, I don’t give gender privilege in the workplace much thought.  Maybe because privilege is invisible to me.  Maybe, because my life has been largely influenced by women.  My wife and my mother are the two most prominent people who have helped make me the man I am.

In my first role as a technology sales “hunter”, my (pre-sales) Systems Consultant, Donna Provost, was my guide.  When I worked at Integral Systems and hit my first “Million Dollar Seller” recognition, Barb Sadtler was the sales rep in my office I looked up to.  Debbie Fritchman and Kathy Garvin were my pre-sales teammates every step of the way.

In my first sales manager role, Sheila McDonald, Lisa Kwicien, and Joy Cox were my top reps.  In my first divisional role, Patty Manvelichvili was the first person I recruited for my team of subject matter experts.  When I started my own company Teah Bennett was my mentor.  Today, an experienced, successful, and female executive leads my department.

I don’t believe my criteria for success in the workplace is gender-based.  I respect excellence; performance; results; and anyone that helps me win – male or female.

Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.

Bill Gates

I hope the women in my life know how much I appreciate their help in not losing.

We are approaching my 600-word rule.  But today, I thought I’d continue with the wisdom from one of my favorite comedians (or is it comedienne?) – profane; provocative; professionally successful…

Feel free to stop here if you’re not a fan of Joan Rivers.  OK, that’s my 600.

Here’s what Joan Rivers told Penn’s graduating seniors in 1989

When they asked me to speak at graduation, I thought they meant GRADUATION. I’d been looking forward to quaffing champagne and wearing a black cap and gown – to match my roots. And I thought I’d be receiving a degree! They said I wasn’t going to get the degree, then they said I was going to get the degree, then they said I wasn’t going to get the degree. It became a situation I’m sure some of these seniors can easily relate to!

It seems like yesterday my late husband and I were talking to our daughter Melissa about choosing a college. The choice was made more difficult by our California standards. There, higher education is anything above crayons; the only culture you find out there is in yogurt. The idea of a really deep, philosophical, existentialist question is, “How tan am I?” We went to Bennington, where I was shocked at tuition – you could support South Korea for one year on it. And we went to Williams, where the most popular course was “How To Speak To Your Servants Without Using Your Facial Muscles.” We went to Brown and we sat in on a philosophy class where they discussed, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, who gives a shit?”

[At the first Penn football game I went to], Melissa had bet on Penn, and I bet on the number of cheerleaders who didn’t have nose jobs.

I’d like to tell you one thing, which is the truth as I see it. Please, everyone, look to your right, and look to your left, and look all around you – because right now, this is as good as it’s gonna get for a long, long time.

I hope all of you learn to fail, and plan to fail, and fail early on. Failure is the best thing that can ever happen to anybody. Not only did each failure in my life teach me something, it made me stronger. And moved me one step closer to success.

Don’t be proud. If you think the world is waiting for you now that you’ve graduated, you’re wrong. You think you’re hot. You think you graduated from Penn and Wharton: big deal. Nobody’s waiting for you. Try any path you can, go through any door that opens. Don’t wait for the right moment, because right moments come out of wrong moments.

Barbra Streisand is probably one of the biggest stars in the world, right? But if you think of her as unknown – she was no beauty: ug-o nose, stupid-looking crossed eyes, great voice, but nobody cared. She would go from audition to audition to audition. Nobody wanted her. Finally, in desperation, she sneaked into [an] audition for The Sound of Music. The call was for a 16-year-old, blonde, blue-eyed, young, very pretty Aryan. They’re looking for a Nazi. Perfect for Barbra! And she has the nerve to sing for them. [Someone told her], try nightclubs, which she did, and [eventually], she was discovered. She became a major, major star. And from that day on, I haven’t heard from the bitch.

If you don’t think [love and money] are related, spend a week in Hollywood. John Paul Getty once said – and I agree – “If you know how much money you have, you haven’t got enough.” Get out there, work hard, and thank God we’re living in a country where the sky is still the limit. And the stores are open late. And you can even shop from your bed, thanks to television!

I was one who, for about a minute and a half, went around saying, “Money doesn’t make you happy.” Yes, you can be happy without it. But it opens a lot of doors…From money, I turned to love, which is money’s first cousin. Look for love, and when you find it, grab it with both hands. And if it isn’t there at the moment, don’t be discouraged, because believe it or not, love comes to everybody. Even ug-os.

When love arrives, you have to make a choice: should I buy a real sofa or a sectional? A sectional is good because then you can split it up if it doesn’t work out, but I’m saying to you all, please get the sofa. Go for the gold. Don’t live together. Get married. It sounds dull, but marriage is just like living together – except you get presents.

Success doesn’t mean everyone’s gonna love you. Forget that. Success is short-lived, and you never want to trust success. Enjoy it for the moment, then, for God’s sake, go back to work. Never forget that work is the reason you became successful.

You think your childhood is over, but as long as you’ve a parent left, all you graduates will always be a child to somebody. Always remember, no matter how old you are, a light will always be in the window at your parents’ home for you. You can always come home. You can come for two days, for two weeks, for two years – even though that’s kind of pushing it a little bit.

I was asked to speak her today because I’m funny and I’m caustic and I’m cheap. That’s not the reason I accepted. I came because I wanted to pay tribute publicly to my daughter and to her friends and to the institution which has supported them and nurtured them and, please God, educated them. And what I mean by “educated”: I think that means that Penn has taught all of you to see, to hear, to smell, taste and touch.

You’re college graduates now. Use your education. Remember, it’s not who you know…It’s WHOM.

From Under The Button ©

GAP

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Boat floating…

Last week I wrote about Annual Achievement Planning.  Planning is one thing; now comes the achieving part.  Motivation is a good place to start, yes?

Careful though, individual motivation is quite personal.  For me, recognition floats my boat.  For you, it might be a promotion or an office.  If you manage a team, how do you motivate while avoiding a “one-size-fits-all” approach?

Here are excerpts of Tim Houlihan’s thoughts (see “Don’t show me the money”) published in Sales & Marketing Management ©:

A few months ago, I was in Denver and met a retired man who asked about my work. I told him I research the motivational effectiveness of different types of rewards. He held up a worn leather bag and said with a smile, “I was a sales rep and this was my first reward for winning a sales contest in 1967.” He beamed at the accomplishment made over 50 years ago.

When it comes to motivation, our brains know deep down what we’ll do with a bonus check: pay off a credit card or replace the water heater. There’s no joy and no motivation in that. Motivation comes from a new TV or a vacation, especially if it’s a reward.

Don’t show them the money, show them the vacation, show them the new bling. Focus your incentive spend so reps have unforgettable experiences — not just a paid-off credit card. High performers are motivated by things and trips, not cash.

I had a unique motivational experience in 2016, receiving “on stage” recognition:

Unfortunately, my last name was misspelled turning a boat floating opportunity into, “Misspelled?  Really?!”

That certificate hangs in my cube as motivation; reflecting my potential job security.  Such “one-size-fits-all; let’s not bother to check the spelling of his name” example reminds me of the, “Here today; forgotten tomorrow” realities of today’s workplace.

In the sales profession, much has been said and much has been written about the role money plays in motivation.  Money actually fits that impersonal, “one-size-fits-all” category mentioned above.  In the real world, money doesn’t float sales reps’ boats the way many people think it does.  Personal motivation is not that simple.

Here’s another excerpt from BI Worldwide also published in Sales & Marketing Management © (see “Nudging Sales Reps”):

While it can be intuitive to believe the risk-loving nature and generally high confidence of sales reps would lead to both high goal selection and high goal achievement, research is proving otherwise.

Risk-loving?  High confidence?  Research suggests maybe not.

What if sales reps aren’t these made-up, Hollywood, gun-slinging personas?  What if we’re just average people working in a career where individual performance dictates our income, our outcomes, and our very job security?  What if it’s a symbol of accomplishment in the face of job uncertainty that floats our boat? A leather bag; a paper certificate?

What if a bonus or a commission – minus taxes of course – just blends into our direct deposit for a week, and then it’s spent; gone; forgotten?

Looking beyond stereotypes and following credible research we find motivation originates from sources more powerful than mere money.  However, these sources are personal.  For managers, they’re hard to leverage; they aren’t “one-size-fits-all”; but they’re there.  And when we’re motivated – we will “run through walls” to achieve!

Today’s research is sales-oriented.  Yet, if sales reps are truly mere mortals; just average people risking income and job security on quota performance; then these principles apply to any person and every position, true?

What will float your boat in 2018?

GAP

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What’s the answer…

I have a training class next month.  Classes afford me the enjoyment of a little intellectual sport.

When conducting class for our resellers I insert a variety of exercises designed to strengthen our problem-solving “muscles”.  A lot is being studied and a lot is being published about how technology is actually reducing our ability to think.  I mean, is artificial intelligence making mankind’s intelligence artificial?

I have contributed to the conversation myself (see http://thequoteguys.com/2015/02/self-obliteration/).  Instant messaging; email; social sites; et al, are contributing to the weakening of our intellectual capabilities; dulling our minds; making us stupid!

Sorry, I inserted that last phrase of hyperbole to catch your attention – odds are you’re reading my little ditty from a cell phone or a tablet while having additional devices and screens open; multi-tasking.  If you are driving – please close my post and keep your eyes on the road!  Please drive defensively against those around you – who are ignoring my plea and reading my post!

But I digress…

As I work with my partners on problem-solving exercises; constantly competing for their intellectual attention in the face of continuous multi-tasking; I get their frustration and their preference – “Gary, just give us the answer!”  In my last class, one participant Googled for the answer to the opening exercise (which was a 3rd grade math problem from the year 2000).  He didn’t even try to think.

I understand.  We’re all busy; we’re all stressed; we’re all distracted; we’re all connected every waking minute of every waking hour.  If you believe that such behavior has very negative impact on our intellect, it begs the question, “So what?”

To me, our value in the workplace of today and that of the future is based on our thinking abilities.  Simple jobs are being automated; employers are hiring robots; employees who can’t think will be left with the leftovers of the jobs machines won’t do, true?

So how do we gain or maintain our intellectual strength while avoiding Donsen?

Donsen’s Law

The specialist learns more and more about less and less until, finally, he knows everything about nothing; whereas the generalist learns less and less about more and more until, finally, he knows nothing about everything.

We are on top of the animal kingdom because of our minds aren’t we?  We can trace this fact all the way back to the invention of the wheel.  But what if they we’re distracted back then?  What if the invention of the wheel was overlooked due to the dulling that comes with technology?                           What are we not inventing today because we’re overly dependent on machines that may decide to overlook solutions to problems that impact mankind, but not machines?

I remain hopeful that we can snap out of our social media induced; cellular technology driven; Siri mind numbing; drone sleep-walking environment.  I believe we can reverse the trend and regain our intellectual strength:

Imagination is stronger than knowledge.

Dreams are more powerful than facts.

Hope always triumphs over experience.

Robert Fulghum

I enjoy Robert’s expressions of hope.  Here are a few more; https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/robert_fulghum

I understand.  Problems are hard; answers are easy; can’t we just get to the easy without going through the hard?  I don’t think so.

In class I try to offer a little fun in the pursuit of the “answers” because getting to the “answer” is grounded on the strength of our “thinking”.  The mathematical solution comes from the accuracy of the formula.  From the caveman days forward, it always has – don’t you think?

GAP

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In the trenches…

As a career sales professional I write a bit about sales – but you already know that.  No “commercial insight” in that statement as described in the book The Challenger Sale © by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

The Foreword to their book was written by none other than Neil Rackham, author of the best-selling business book SPIN Selling ©.  It struck me as a most-interesting (dare I say “insightful”) contrast:  A book written about modern day selling prefaced by the author of another book about selling, written literally last century (copyrighted in 1988).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve learned and still apply teachings from Neil Rackham.  I try to keep learning, too:

Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. 

Bill Gates

So I read (and share) recent research in an effort to avoid losing – out there – in the trenches.

Permit me to get to today’s essence:  How do you sell?  Ready – Go!

Need more context?

…we live in an era when product innovation alone cannot be the basis for corporate success.  How you sell has become more important than what you sell. 

Neil Rackham

How we sell and why the customer buys from us vs. anyone and everyone else we compete against are flip-sides of the same coin, true?  Differentiation is the key.  But what do we differentiate on?

In absence of differentiation, the only thing left for the customer to base her decision on is price.  And if price is the deciding factor, we don’t need a sales force – we can put our products up on a web site and sell online.  How frequently do you find yourself spending the majority of your time defending your price with a prospect?

I ask again:  How do you sell?

Neil Rackham poses the question:  Would your customer pay you just for the experience of your selling process?  Is “how you sell” valuable in and of itself?  Heavy stuff!

Why does the research behind The Challenger Sale ® point to a handful of specific attributes that over 50% of all customers included in their study cite as the attributes of differentiation behind why they bought from a particular sales rep?  What are your attributes?  Want to compare?

The authors (Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson) list these 7 attributes as the key differentiators between those reps that win and all of the rest that lose – out there – in the trenches:

  • Offers unique, valuable perspectives on the market
  • Helps me navigate alternatives
  • Provides ongoing advice or consultation
  • Helps me avoid potential land mines
  • Educates me on new issues and outcomes
  • Supplier is easy to buy from
  • Supplier has widespread support across my organization

How do you compare?

It’s no secret that prospects value sales professionalism:

Prospects don’t get out much. 

Jill Konrath

Jill goes on to say that prospects are so busy running their business that they don’t get a chance to sit back and reflect on leading industry practices to be leveraged.  They rely on a sales professional to “offer unique and valuable perspectives on the market”.

Lest you believe that your company is “unique”; your products are “world class”; you “sell solutions”; and you seek to be a “trusted adviser”… beware.  These statements unto themselves are already commoditized.  To the customer, these claims are categorized as “Yea, you and everyone else on the planet”.

When we’re in the trenches of hand-to-hand, competitive conflict, what will our difference-maker be?  Here’s a hint: It’s how we sell.

Game on!

GAP

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Triangle – the conclusion…

This is the last little ditty devoted to the term “engagement” that is prominently used in Corporate America today.  I believe the term engagement has us surrounded.

Much has been said and much has been written about Leadership Engagement – that was my first post in this triangle series http://thequoteguys.com/2016/03/triangle-the-series/ .  Employee Engagement has also received lots of attention – that was the second corner of the triangle http://thequoteguys.com/2016/03/triangle-the-series-continues/ .  Today, let’s turn our attention to Customer Engagement.

I believe we can “feel” customer engagement when they are collaborating with us; i.e. actively participating with us in the pursuit of their solution (or problem resolution).

Alternatively, we’ve all experienced “that client” whose opinion of our company’s product or service wasn’t so hot:

After exhausting every possible way to assist an irate client for the past 45 minutes, and then concluding her phone conversation in the professional manner she had been trained for, the client service representative was heard to let out a pent-up, rhetorical question of frustration, “What does this customer want me to do about their problem, perform magic”?

Is magic (aka venting) the same as collaboration?  I don’t think so.

I’m referring to those customer interactions we have experienced where they help us help them.  I’m remembering situations where the customer wanted us to get it right.  And on those occasions when we strayed from what’s important – they offered us course-correction:

As a young, inexperienced salesman he was simply following the 1st call script he had been trained on.  Sitting in front of the Director of MIS of his largest prospect the salesman repeatedly emphasized his company’s outstanding customer service which he had rehearsed over and over again with his sales manager.  The sales rep ground on “service” and “servicing” to the point that the MIS Director finally interjected; 

“Gary, my family owns a dairy farm.  And periodically we take our cows down to a neighbor who has a bull so we can have our cows serviced.  You might consider not telling me how your company is going to service me.”

The young, inexperienced salesman course-corrected at his client’s suggestion and succeeded in securing a new account.

I suppose it can be hard to follow our customers’ direction at times.  I mean, we have invested all of that energy and effort becoming experts with our products and services – we’d like the customer to patiently sit there and listen to us spew all of our expertise, true?

Perhaps we can heed the advice Tom Sant wrote about way back in the 1990’s in his book Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win Customers, Clients, and Contracts ©

“GYST”:  Don’t write anything until you “Get Your Stuff Together.”  Lots of gas-filled balloons are launched from word processors by people who began to write before they really knew what they were talking about, why they were talking about it, or to whom they were talking.

If we can get past the spewing; if we can get to the GYST; if we can listen to our customer’s input; more times than not they will tell us exactly how to sell them; exactly how to get it right.  Besides, though we may think of ourselves as experts, our clients usually know the truth:

Make three correct guesses consecutively, and you will establish a reputation as an expert. 

Lawrence Peter

So let’s stop guessing; invite customer engagement; stop talking at them; start collaborating with them; accept their course-corrections; and gain their business.  After all, the commissions pay the same, true?

GAP

 

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Triangle – the series continues…

This is the second corner of a triangle I’m devoting to the term “engagement” that is prominently used in Corporate America today.  (Missed the first one? http://thequoteguys.com/2016/03/triangle-the-series/ )

Much has been said and much has been written about the term engagement in our modern marketplace.  Employee engagement as spoken by human resource professionals; customer engagement as spoken by marketing professionals; leadership engagement as spoken by management consulting professionals.  Engagement seems to have us surrounded.

Last week we examined leadership engagement.  In this week’s segment of the series let’s explore employee engagement.  Employees serve a key bridge between our companies’ leadership vision and the actual experiences felt by our clients:

If you want happy clients, first make sure that your client services employees are happy.  Everyone has run into that disgruntled client service representative who hates his job.

I recently read a report about millennials in our workforce and their lack of overall engagement.  Troubling – isn’t this the generation that will lead us into the future?  If they’re not engaged, how will we compete?

The report cites five reasons blocking millennial employee engagement https://hbr.org/2016/02/motivating-millennials-takes-more-than-flexible-work-policies . When we look at these reasons each one seems easily addressed, true?  What are we all waiting for?  (Is it the leadership engagement I wrote of in the first part of the series?)

If employee engagement is critical to business success in today’s global, competitive marketplace we have to get fired up!  For example, one of the oldest American industries is littered with failed businesses – big failures too; wiped out by competition.  Yet one company has arisen from the ashes as analyzed by a leading management consultant:

“We have the hardest working steel workers in the world”, said one Nucor executive.  “We hire five, work them like ten, and pay them like eight.” 

Jim Collins

We all get it – engage us; motivate us; lead us; pay us and we will forge steel with a level of effort on behalf of our company never before witnessed.  We can do it; so what’s stopping us?  Is it all of those silly, little, internal administrative processes that disillusion and ultimately diminish employees’ enthusiasm?

An angry worker goes into her company’s payroll office to complain that her paycheck is $50 short. 

The payroll supervisor checks the books and says, “I see here that last week you were overpaid by $50.  I can’t recall your complaining about that.”

“Well, I’m willing to overlook an occasional error, but this is two in a row.” 

Paul Dickson

OK, it could be that our company “bigness” has begot internal inefficiencies that irritate our employees from time to time.  It could be these minor mistakes are milking our pride; making us think our company is being run by a bunch of monkeys.  Could be, but…

There are many companies that still remain a beacon of pride, whose brand beams quality – dare I say “ENGAGEMENT”?

Welcome to Nordstrom… Here, almost in its entirety, is Nordstrom’s employee handbook:

We’re glad to have you with our Company.

Our number-one goal is to provide outstanding customer service.

Set both your personal and professional goals high.

We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. 

Bob Nelson

Hang tough millennials (and all generations in today’s diverse workforce), we too have great confidence in your ability to achieve your goals.

If we are a team of five, let’s produce like ten.  Let’s engage to make our company a beacon of pride.  Our customers will help us; as I will discuss next week.

GAP

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