Archive for June, 2010

Don’t Hibernate

June 29, 2010

July is usually a tough month for sales people. This is the month many of our customers take their vacations, as do we. For most, the first half of most fiscal years will have just closed, and the 2nd quarter results will have been tallied. Collective sighs breathed after a busy June.

What will you do this July? Will you set aside a day or two during this slow time to reflect on the first half of 2010, write down 5 things to improve upon, 5 mistakes to avoid next time, and 5 new goals for the rest of the year? Or will you just hibernate?

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Dividends

June 25, 2010

In the corporate world, companies sometimes distribute a portion of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends. Generally speaking, dividends are a positive sign: the company is doing well, well enough to share the profits with those who own company stock.

Of course, the only way to become eligible to receive these dividends is to invest in the company paying the dividend. You must choose first to contribute before you receive a share of the profits in return.

Funny how this concept is paralleled in the world of sales, isn’t it?

The return phone call, the meeting acceptance, the sole-source bid, the purchase order, the referral – are all dividends paid out in relationships with our customers. They’re what every salesperson craves. But just like in the corporate world, you’ll never reap these dividends unless you become an investor first.

Pick 10

June 22, 2010

As you become more successful in your career, choices on how to spend your time and money will continue to surface. The side business, the non-profit board, the website, the blog – all become possibilities with increasing frequency, where once they were just aspirations. Success breeds opportunity.

But be careful. The unintended consequence of so many choices can be a lack of focus. And it’s not just about opportunity cost, its about bandwidth too. When you try to take on too much, you do nothing exceptionally well.

For me, 10 projects is the limit. Any more than this, and my impact is diluted, my results second-rate. Choosing to limit myself to 10 forces me to prioritize, and if something new and exciting comes along that I want to take on, an existing project comes off the list. One in, one out.

Figure out your bandwidth, stick to that number, and you’ll find your quality of work improving and your life more in balance. Even though you might want to, you can’t do everything.

Seek Out the Critics

June 18, 2010

Striving for constant self improvement can be an uncomfortable journey. You are constantly pushing at the edge of your abilities, and in doing so, you’re bound to stumble, or altogether fail. All along the way, people will be questioning your motives, second guessing your decisions, and criticizing your tactics. The world is full of armchair quarterbacks.

This presents two options:

You can glide through life avoiding these critics, and choose to only spend time with those people who prop you up and make you feel good about yourself.

-Or-

You can take the more difficult route, seeking out the critics who will test your resolve, force you to clarify your vision, and make you stronger in the end.

Is there really even a choice?

Just Admit It

June 15, 2010

There are lots of reasons you lose deals to the competition.  Perhaps they’re unethical and will do anything to get the deal.  Maybe they have deep pockets and can afford a loss-leader to seed the account.  And of course, they might be the dominant player in your market and the “de-facto standard” for the type of product or service you sell.

Like I said, lots of reasons.

But maybe, just maybe, you should just admit that they’re better than you, stop making excuses, and do something about it.

Help Wanted

June 11, 2010

After 6+ years of working together, my Sales Engineer has taken a new position outside of the company.  In other words, he resigned.  I can’t say I blame him, he made his decision for personal reasons which I support and agree with.  Like most salespeople at technical firms, I leaned heavily on him for support.  He made good on my promises to customers, cleaned up my messes, and was a good sounding board for my sales strategies, presentation ideas, and tactical decisions.

He’s gone, and now I’m in the market for a new SE.  I need someone very technical, who is good in front of customers.  I need someone who can deliver presentations, but can also talk a customer through a technical support issue.  I need someone who works hard, but is cool enough to drink a beer with.  I need someone who customers will trust, someone with a good sense of humor, someone with sense enough to know when to shut up, someone with a good attitude, someone willing to travel.

Sounds like a long shot, I know, but these people exist.  Please pass the word – Help Wanted.

They’re Completely Missing the Point

June 8, 2010

I am disappointed (and baffled) by the unbelievably bad customer service I’ve been receiving lately.  What is amazing to me, in this economy, is that customer service is actually getting worse, instead of better.

Wait times on hold are longer.  Tables at restaurants are cleaned less often.  Employees are rude and indifferent.

The ironic thing is that this is the time when they should get better.  This is the time when customers are scarce, so they should do everything they can to overwhelm them.  This is the time when employees are abundant, so they should take every opportunity to “topgrade” their staff positions.  This is the time when their competition is going out of business, so they should build programs to grab customers who are searching for new companies to meet their needs.

Instead, they’re cutting corners, they’re slimming down their workforces, their cheapening their offerings.  What a shame.  They have the opportunity of a lifetime, and they’re completely missing the point.

Yes, You Really Sound Like That

June 4, 2010

Sometimes I cringe when I’m watching a replay of a home movie, and I hear my own voice on the recording.  I think to myself:  “That sounds awful.  Do I sound like that all the time?  Is that really the way my voice sounds?”  I then answer myself:  “Yes, you really sound like that.”

Many years ago, in a one-on-one sales training session with him, Jeffrey Gitomer forced me to listen to my voice several times on an answering machine.  We critiqued my style, my enunciation, my accent, my tempo.  It was very enlightening.  I made some adjustments that have served me well since then, but more important, I’m cognizant of how I sound and what sort of lasting impression that might make.

What do you sound like?  It may seem like a trivial question, but if you think about all time you spend on the phone each day with your customers and prospects, you ought to know.  Your delivery might be getting in the way of your message.  So listen, and learn.

$5,200

June 1, 2010

I just looked at Forbe’s list of the richest people in the world.  Call me superficial, or a dreamer, but I’d love to make that list one day.  One thing that stands out to me, when I look at the top 10 for this year, is that the average age is 65.7 years.  In a strange way, that’s comforting to me, to know that there’s still time to make a huge dent in this world.

Consider Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle.  Ellison started Oracle when he was in his 30’s. He’s now 65 and the 6th richest man in the world, with a net worth of $28 Billion.  What’s more impressive is that he started his company with only $1,400.  That’s $5,200 in 2010 money.  Incredible.

Right now, in garages and basements around the world, dreamers and doers are launching the next Microsoft, the next Oracle, the next Google.  I’m not even close to what Larry Ellison or Bill Gates have achieved, but I’ve got plenty of time, I’m hungry, and I’ve got $5,200.


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