Archive for January, 2011

Choose Art

January 28, 2011

The Smithsonian Museum isn’t filled with mediocre crap, created by disgruntled factory workers who punch a 5 o’clock time card.  No, the Smithsonian is filled with significant, interesting, and (sometimes) breathtaking art. Every day, regardless of profession, we choose to produce either crap or art.

Today, choose art.

People Forget…

January 25, 2011

All things considered, we’ve got pretty short memories.  After some time has past, we’re more than willing to forgive and forget.  Take BP, for example.  Their gas stations are brimming with business 8 short months after 206 million gallons of gas spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

And by the end of this year’s NFL regular season, it was like Michael Vick had never left.  For us, life goes on.

What you’ve got to realize is that your customers have short memories too.  6 months from now, they’ll forget how you helped them out of a jam, worked with them to save a lot of money, or finished the project early so they could make their son’s soccer game.

That’s why, every day, you need to fight for relevance…to re-earn your customer’s trust and respect, and make sure that they haven’t forgotten exactly why they do business with you.

3 Online Tools You’re Not Using Today (But Should)

January 21, 2011

I’m as guilty as anyone of clinging to the old way of doing things.  Post-It-Notes, business cards, books made of paper (no Kindle for me) – that’s about my speed.  But lately I’ve been exposed to a few online tools that I found intriguing:  tools that will make your life easier, make you more productive, and save you from duplication of effort.    For your review:

Boardroom Insiders provides comprehensive executive profiles with detailed information about decision makers’ current initiatives, work history, even personal life.  They offer ad hoc reports (for when you’ve got a meeting with the CIO next week and need the latest dope) and also offer a subscription option that provides unlimited access to their extensive profile database. Beats the hell out of Google searches, believe me.



Dropbox gives you up to 2GB of online storage for free, and up to 100GB if necessary (for a fee, of course).  Laptop died and your latest presentation with it?  No problem – just hit your Dropbox account and launch it from any PC, anywhere you can get an Internet connection.

They even provide a mobile app for Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, and Android.  Very cool.


You’ve got to check out Ace of Sales.  Once you get past the ugly bald dude on the home page (no, that’s not me), you can see that this website is full of useful tools for managing customer relationships.  And this ain’t your daddy’s CRM.  It integrates with your email system and imports your contact lists, allows you to send personalized emails to hundreds of people at once (and tells you who opened them).  It will also send greeting cards, post cards…even perforated thank you notes with gift certificates attached.  If only it filed expense reports…

Intersecting Self Interests

January 18, 2011

I hate to break it to you, but your customer probably doesn’t care if you made your quota last year.  Nor does he care if his last purchase helped your company beat its Wall Street estimates or paid for your kid’s private school education.

Your customer, like everyone else on the planet, is self interested.  He’s interested in things like getting himself promoted, keeping his boss happy, protecting the status quo, and meeting budget constraints.

Fortunately for you, there are interests in every transaction that you both care about:  things like an acceptable price, meeting a compelling event, and finding a solution that solves a business need.  Focus on the overlap of these self interests, and you’ll find the catalysts you need to get the deal done.

The Business of Emotion

January 14, 2011

Most of us work in fairly mundane industries.  Sure, the solutions we sell solve business problems, drive revenue, or lower costs – all of which are impressive and impactful offerings.  But what most of us lack, and should be seeking, is an emotional connection that transcends price or even total cost of ownership.

Think of industries where emotional connections are strong:  Weddings, Funerals, Babies, College/Pro Sports Teams, et al.  Here, in the business of emotion, decisions are almost never made on price, but based on how these offerings make people feel, or how they expect to feel:  when vows are exchanged, the baby spends his first night in the nursery, or the winning touchdown is scored.

If you’re looking for true differentiation, beyond a feature/benefit statement prepared by some desk-jockey in corporate marketing, look for an emotional connection.  Help your customer project what life will be like with your solution, and the feelings attached to that projection will become a powerful force.  And once your customer has become emotionally invested, the connection is hard to break.

The Leader of the Band

January 11, 2011

Some of you may remember Dick Winters, the prolific World War II officer who led the US Army’s Easy Company into many harrowing battles throughout France and Germany.  His dynamic leadership was well documented by Stephen Ambrose’s book, Band of Brothers, in the mid 90’s, and then later in an HBO mini-series by the same name.

Winters, who died last week, was a true hero and exemplified many of the qualities (humility, empathy, responsibility, leadership) that we all should pursue, in the games of both sales and life.

How fitting, when asked if he was a hero, was Winters’ reply:  “No, but I served in the company of heroes”.

I take inspiration from this man; who never wanted the spotlight or credit, but was always willing to rise to every challenge and lead by example –  from the front.


January 7, 2011

Earlier this week, 2 people (one in Idaho, the other in Washington) won an equal share of the $330 Mega Millions lottery jackpot.  I think it’s safe to say that these two individuals have a lot of soul searching to do over the next couple of months.   They now have enough money to do anything they want to, but (more than likely) not enough money to do nothing forever (see MC Hammer and the long list of lottery millionaires now bankrupt).

What would you do?  I mean after the dust settles, and you’ve taken your friends to Vegas and bought your mom a new house, what next?  Some of you are thinking you’d just quit working, travel the world and play golf every day.  But let me tell you, this would get old.  After a few weeks, you’d be itching to get back in to the real world.  And when you that happens, what would you do?

Which begs a second, more important question:  Why aren’t you already doing that today?

Resolutions? Never.

January 4, 2011

I know it’s a tradition, or annual rite of passage, or whatever, but I don’t do resolutions.  Haven’t since 2000. My primary objection to resolutions is that they are usually full of absolutes or have an end date of infinity (“I’m going to quit smoking” or “I’m going to start working out”).

It’s not that I don’t need a lot of improving (the list is long), it’s just that my success rate is much higher when the target can be achieved in some finite period of time, at some achievable clip level.

Each January, instead of resolutions, I set time-bound, achievable goals for the coming year.  To some, this might sound like semantics, but there’s a clear difference between “coaching my daughter’s soccer team this year” and “spending more time with the kids”.  Obviously, coaching your daughter’s soccer team will lead to you spending more time with her, but it’s much more concrete than a vague resolution.

My subset of goals is constantly changing, but here’s what last year’s list of major categories looked like:

  • Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Philanthropical
  • Professional
  • Work Outside of Work

For each of the above major categories, I list between 2 and 6 goals with a target achievement date.  For example, under “Financial”, I might target how much I want to put into my kids’ 529 college funds, and for “Physical”, I might list a couple of road races that I want to compete in.

Regardless of the specific targets, forsaking the nebulous world of resolutions for something tangible and attainable has scratched that annual itch and keeps me on the path to my ultimate goal:  constant self improvement.

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