Archive for September, 2010


September 27, 2010

Self-Made:  The name implies enough.  There was no inheritance bequethed, no dowry received.  There were no paths made clear, or fortunes bestowed.

The pride of accomplishing something, despite the odds or unfortunate circumstances of birth, is almost reward enough to the self-made man (or woman).  Except that it’s not.

We, the self-made, have something to prove, something to achieve.  We, the self-made, will not rest until our names are written, in stone, on a brick, or monument, or foundation, marking our success.

Decision Time

September 24, 2010

Decide right now:  Are you going to continue to ignore that fact that someone on your team, someone in your network, or someone in your customer base is literally feeding you business, with no effort on your part?  Or are you going to set aside some time and money, out of your own pocket (not on your expense account), to take care of the people who take care of you?

You’re Losing Until You’ve Won

September 21, 2010

Ever had one of those opportunities that everybody described as “yours to lose”, and then (surprise!) you lost it?

It’s easy to get complacent when you’re ahead, or when you’re the incumbent.  But that’s when you’re most vulnerable to attack, because you’re less aware of a competitive threat.  And when you don’t feel that competitive pressure, the tendency is to stop selling and let your guard down.

These days, every opportunity is competitive.  Believe me, every CFO, Purchasing Manager, or Decision Maker  in the country is actively pursuing competition as a way to drive down costs.  It’s not only how they like to operate, it’s likely a part of their compensation.  This is great news for new players in your market, but (potentially)  bad news for you.

A little healthy paranoia, in this case, can go a long way for you in today’s economy.  You must adopt the philosophy that until you have the signed purchase order (or better yet, the customer is  consuming what you’ve sold them), you are still competing for the business.  In short, you must always assume that you’re losing, until you’ve won.

What Blog Posts Can Teach You About Sales

September 17, 2010

I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the course of the last 6 months or so while writing this blog.  Oddly enough, these lessons are applicable in the world of sales, and in many ways, life.  Here are 5 that jump out:

1.  Your Message Doesn’t Always Get Through – People are busy, and sometimes they don’t read your emails, even though they’ve given you permission to market to them.  So don’t take it personally, just stay politely persistent and relevant.

2.  The Subject Line Matters – I spend a fair amount of time picking the title of my blogs.  The goal is to compel people to read on, to take the next step.  I think it’s important to distill your message in sales, particularly if you’re trying to attract new customers.  Put some thought into it and be succinct.

3.  Your Product Isn’t For Everybody – When I started the blog, I sent out an email to a handful of people to let them know what I was doing.  To my surprise, a few of my friends and colleagues didn’t subscribe…or even reply.  Some prospects, even those that are a perfect fit for your solution, won’t buy, and won’t take a meeting, no matter what you do.  You can’t be everything to everybody, so accept that fact and move on.

4.  You Will Not Hit a Home Run Every Time – More often than not, my blog entries turn out to be base hits, or worse – strike outs.  You must be content with the day-to-day grind, the practice and the preparation.  Sales is 10% presentations and closing big deals, and 90% hard work that makes those extraordinary moments possible.  Reggie Jackson hit 563 home runs, but struck out more than any other player in Major League Baseball history.

5.  Being Persistent and Consistent Is Rewarding – With one exception, I’ve published every Tuesday and every Friday of every week since I started the blog 6 months ago….49 posts (including this one).    It hasn’t gotten any easier (in fact it is now incrementally harder to improve, see this graph for an explanation), but that consistency has paid off in feedback and followers.  It isn’t hard to draw a sales analogy here….being reliable is probably your customer’s # 2 desired trait (in you, the sales person), behind having integrity.

My Summer Reading List

September 14, 2010

I’ve read a lot of great books this Summer, and thought some would be worth sharing with you.  Below is a list (book titles are links to amazon), each with a brief description, and my subjective rating, on a scale of 1 to 10 (I hate the 1 to 5 scale, it’s not granular enough).

Tribes by Seth Godin

If you’ve followed my previous posts, you know that I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin.  Tribes  has inspired me to change my perspective on how I interact with customers, and explained the value of connecting people to each other.  The basic premise of the book (a mere 160 pages long) is that people want to be led, and that anyone can lead, if they choose to do so, regardless of social or economic position.  My Rating:  7 out of 10

The Talent Code by Daniel Cole

Talent Code starts out a little slow, laying the scientific groundwork for why our brains work the way they do, and what role that plays in the success of people who appear to the outside world as “talented”.  What Cole postulates is that while we may have certain physical traits that pre-dispose us for success in a chosen field (like say, for example, being 6’11” helps if you want to be a basketball player), deep practice, coaching, and ignition have everything to do with our success.  My Rating:  6 out of 10

REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Every once in a while, you read or watch or hear something that changes your whole perspective on life.  In 2010, REWORK was that something for me.  Of the 260ish pages, I’ve dog-eared more than a third, as a topic I need to go back to and re-visit, as a point I needed to re-read.  This book spits in the face of conventional business wisdom, and challenges the standard operating procedures of every three-letter-acronym, public company in existence.  If this book were a character in the movie The Breakfast Club, it would most certainly be played by Judd Nelson.   My Rating:  9 out of 10

LINCHPIN by Seth Godin

Lots of dog-eared pages on LINCHPIN too.  This book is all about the creation of “art” (meaningful work), and how that art separates us from the masses and saves us from extinction.  The goal, he argues, is not to live, as a cog in compliant fear of breaking the rules, but rather to invent, improve, build a map when none exists, and in doing so, you will be rewarded for standing out.  My Rating:  7 our of 10

By far, my favorite was REWORK.  I’ve read it twice, and recommended it to almost everyone I’ve met.  So if you’re only going to pick one from this list, make it that one.

If you’ve got a favorite, please leave a comment.  I’m building my Fall Reading List, and my queue is pretty short right now.

The Sales Cycle Continuum

September 10, 2010

A week or so ago, I posted a blog on Tag Lines, in which I shared my personal motto to “radically over deliver”.  Once you have a tag line, the challenge then becomes finding where to apply it, so that your message is reinforced, and your customers/colleagues/partners begin to see that it’s real, and not just a hollow mission statement.

To meet this challenge, my suggestion is to break down the sales cycle into “touch points” (the collection of which I refer to as the “sales cycle continuum”), so that it looks something like this:

These touch points represent every possible interaction that you might have with your customer, a collaborator, or co-worker during the sales cycle.  Once identified, you can begin to prioritize which touch points are most important; the places that deserve your focus and attention.  These are the places where you turn your tag line into something tangible, something that you can point to and say “This is what it’s like to do business with me, this is why I’m different”.

My touch point count?  60.  60 opportunities to radically over deliver, or 60 potential places where I could fall short of that goal.  But the number isn’t as important as knowing; knowing that the consistent reinforcement of your message, at predictable points throughout the sales cycle continuum, will define how you are seen by those around you, and establish your reputation in the marketplace.

I hope that one day, people will speak of me and say, “That guy radically over delivers”.

The View From Floor 10

September 7, 2010

Imagine that you live in Sherman, Texas, where the tallest building is 10 stories.  Also imagine that you take an amateur photography class, and your most recent assignment calls for a panoramic view of the city.  Naturally, Sherman’s tallest building would provide some fantastic pictures…especially from the 10th floor.

And so, every day you visit that building, but every day you get off on the 2nd floor, where the views are blocked by trees.  Common sense should prevail, telling you to go to the top, so that your shots are unobstructed, and your chances of success are greatest. But for some unknown reason, you never go above the 2nd floor, and you never get the shots you’re looking for.

That’s too bad…I bet the views are great up there.

The Trojan Horse

September 3, 2010

Most of you know the history of the proverbial Trojan Horse.  Legend has it that the Greeks, who were having trouble sacking Troy, built a giant wooden horse, filled it with 30 men, and left it at the gates.  The Trojans pulled the horse into the walled city, and under the cover of darkness, the concealed men opened the gates to the remaining Greek army, and the Trojans were destroyed.

The term “trojan horse” is now a part of our everyday vocabulary, and is often used to convey a sneak attack. In the world of computers, a trojan horse can refer to a virus that is masked as a legitimate looking piece of software, but in reality has a malicious intent.

In the context of sales, however, the term has a much less nefarious meaning.  The trojan horse can be a useful strategy in penetrating a heavily defended competitive account.  Instead of a full frontal attack, find a dark corner (translation: business unit, subsidiary, or department), flawlessly execute, and watch what happens over time.  The incumbent (your enemy)  won’t feel threatened, or better yet, might not even know that you’re there.

And if you play your cards right, that seed you planted will grow, and before your competition knows what’s going on, you’ll be challenging them for the customer’s family jewels.  It takes patience, creativity, and perseverance, but using the Trojan Horse might just pay off…if you’re willing to work for it.

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