A 12 Minute Speech

April 15, 2011

8 Hours.  That’s how long it took me to write, edit and practice a 12 minute speech.

I was recently asked to provide the keynote at a non-profit fundraiser here in Charlotte.  I agreed, and then immediately began to prepare…the fear of failure or embarrassment loomed large.  In total, I rehearsed that speech somewhere between 30 and 40 times over a period of two weeks – re-writing, tweaking, and adjusting until the day of reckoning arrived.  Oh, I certainly could have cut that time down to 4 hours, maybe even 2, but then it wouldn’t have been my best effort, and I would have looked back on that night with regret.

The speech was well received, but it wasn’t without effort.  Conventional wisdom might lead you to believe that public speaking is more of an art than science, but I’m here to tell you that it’s all about preparation.  Mark Twain once said “I could never make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it”, and I can certainly relate to that.

In sales, public speaking (or at least presenting in front of a prospective customer) comes with the territory.  But just because you’re good at making conversation doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice.  That’s one part of the job that you can never work too hard on perfecting.


Barriers to Entry

April 8, 2011

When people talk about starting a new business or entering a new market, a common topic of discussion is barrier to entry.  Simply put, barrier to entry refers to how difficult it will be for you (or your competitor) to enter that market and what obstacles stand in your way.

Traditional business models determine barriers to entry by looking at things like capital requirements, government regulations (for example, you can’t practice law unless you have a law degree and pass the bar), or economies of scale (can you compete on price against Walmart?).  Indeed, these are serious hurdles to consider and prepare for when you’re writing your business plan.

But I think the greatest barrier isn’t any of these, and actually doesn’t reside in the market itself.  The biggest obstacle to moving into a market or creating a new business is the mental hurdle you must clear between coming up with the idea and taking action.  I can’t tell you how many people I talk to every day who have great business ideas that will never see the light of day because they don’t (won’t) act on them.

Think about it….once you make the decision to pursue your dream and move forward (or ship, as Seth Godin puts it simply), the rest of those barriers will fall like dominoes.  They’re no match for your passion, your resolve, and your will.


Thank You

April 1, 2011

Exactly 1 year ago, I posted my first blog entry, Second Best.  It wasn’t very good (many weren’t/aren’t), but it was a start.  Looking back over the past year (and 101 posts), I learned how important it is to be reliable, consistent, and relevant.

Since that time, my monthly readership has grown from around a dozen to several hundred, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to reach that many people. It has been hard work, but personally fulfilling and gratifying.

Going forward I’ll only be posting once a week, which I’m hoping will give me enough time to work on a book based on the same philosophies about sales, customer service, and the customer experience.

Thank you, sincerely, for your patronage, feedback, and support over the last 12 months.  I look forward to what this second year will bring.

Mandatory Behavior?

March 29, 2011

This weekend I was at a retail store in Washington, D.C., and noticed an open door to a stock room.  There, inside the room, painted in large red letters on the wall, was the phrase FIVE BASIC DEMANDS, followed by a list of things like “maintain eye contact” and “smile”.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that the store was unkempt, the staff aloof, and the lines were moving at a snail’s pace.  How ironic that the employees were not only ignoring the company’s “basic demands”, but essentially going out of their way to create a miserable shopping experience.

The next time you are overcome with the urge to put together a list of behaviors you demand of your staff, why don’t you instead go out of your way to hire the right type of people, who would behave that way inherently, without your request?  If you don’t, your words probably won’t be worth the wall that they’re written on.

Not Bad for 5 Years Old….

March 22, 2011

Yesterday, Twitter celebrated its 5th birthday. On March 21st, 2006, founder Jack Dorsey sent his first “tweet”, beginning a revolution that would eventually change the way many of us communicate (I’m not among them, yet).

Since that time, some staggering statistics have been amassed.

Here are just a few:

  • Users send over 1 Billion tweets PER WEEK (the first Billion took over 3 years).
  • Over 460,000 accounts were added PER DAY last month
  • As of last month, Twitter is valued at somewhere between $8 Billion and $10 Billion on sales of (only) $110 Million

All in all, I’d say that’s not too shabby for the first 5 years in existence.

You may not have the next Twitter in mind, but somewhere, on a folded up bar napkin or the dark recesses of your brain, is an idea that (if you just had the guts to go for it) would change your life forever.

The Gauntlet (or Perhaps, Maybe, One Day)

March 18, 2011

Perhaps, one day in the future, you’ll be handed an account that has never done business with your company.

And perhaps you’ll be told that they never will.

But maybe the reason they tell you this is because they themselves have tried and failed, or never tried at all.

And one day, someone (maybe you), will pick up the guantlet that has been dropped, unnoticed or unquestioned by those who came before you, and do what no one else has ever done.

Face Time

March 15, 2011

I’m not a huge fan of big business – that is to say the prototypical bloated, top-heavy, publicly traded company.  I would trade agility for brand any day.  By and large, the bigger the company, the harder it is to get everybody to row in the same direction, and thus the more difficult it becomes to anticipate your customers’ needs and add value.

All that being said, Fortune magazine published a very interesting article this week on Sam Palmisano, the CEO of IBM, and leader of the biggest (and perhaps least efficient) IT company on the planet.

The nugget I discovered, buried among pages about history and strategy and product mixes, was this single sentence:  “When [Palmisano] became head of global services back in the ’90s, he blocked off 70% of his calendar for customer meetings, and he still speaks to at least one customer every single day.”

So here’s a guy, who at the time, was running a multi-billion dollar division of IBM, and he spent 70% of his time with customers.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not even close to that number, and that’s my day job.  It’s what I’m on this earth to do.  Embarrassing.

The next time you are tempted to check your LinkedIn account, or fill out a forecast, or straighten your desk, remember this:  Your customers are buying something from someone.  And if you’re not spending time with them, you’re risking a loss to a big, bloated, inefficient behemoth that’s got it’s priorities in the proper order.

Talent vs Will

March 11, 2011

The world is full of stories about supremely talented individuals that never achieve their potential.  Take JaMarcus Russell for example, the highly touted LSU quarterback drafted in 2007 as the #1 overall pick for the Oakland Raiders.  The Raiders spent nearly $40 million (an average of $2.2 Million per touchdown) on what has been recently touted as NFL’s Biggest Bust.

The fact of the matter is that it isn’t talent that makes you successful, it’s drive, discipline, and hard work.  At least one pro athlete gets it.  Here’s what C.J. Wilson, a pitcher for the Texas Rangers had to say in this week’s Sports Illustrated:

“Talent is irrelevant.  I’ve got much less natural talent than lots of other pitchers…I wasn’t even the best player on my Little League team.  What counts is perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Shake the Can

March 8, 2011

Move over Girl Scouts…here come the Mudcats.

Let me break it down for you:  Members of a local junior baseball team (and a couple of Dads/Coaches) were posted outside of a Sports Authority yesterday afternoon, shaking a can for money at passers-by.  No Krispy Kreme donuts, no cookies, no car wash, just a couple of kids shaking a can at people walking into the store and begging for a donation.

Really?  That’s all you could come up with?  What brain trust was assembled for this strategy?  I mean, even the Salvation Army guys have bells.  You can’t even spring for a bell?

Tell you what, next time, you can just stay at home, save the $4.00 you spent in gas money, and come out ahead.  Weak Game.  Very Weak Game.

The Imaginary Bar

March 4, 2011

I sometimes wonder about this quota thing….the imaginary hurdle that all sales people are supposed to get over, come hell or high water.  Occasionally there’s simple logic applied (“What did these customers spend last year?”), but often it’s arrived at in an arbitrary way.

What I wonder is this:   Suppose the arbitrary quota they gave you this year was 4 times larger than the one that you actually received….would you still hit it?  Would you fall short by 50%?  Is there any real reason you couldn’t achieve your manager’s entire revenue target, all by yourself?

The bar isn’t real, it’s imaginary.  How much you produce is really up to you.

%d bloggers like this: