Posts Tagged ‘intelligent selling’

Justin Bieber and the Purple Cow

January 22, 2013

Way back in 2003, before “Google” was a verb, Seth Godin coined the phrase “Purple Cow”, a term used to describe something interesting and set apart from the rest.  In his book of the same name, Godin postulated that (even for a guy from New York) driving along the quaint countryside of France, the cows along the road that at first held your attention, would eventually blend into the scenery and cease to become interesting.  

What would catch your eye, he argued, was a purple cow…standing among the black, and white, and brown cows that dotted the countryside on your trip from Versailles to Provence.  Of course, the purple cow is metaphoric.  It represents the “signal” we discover while sifting through the overwhelming “noise” we’re subjected to on a daily basis.  In other words, to be remarkable (even back in 2003 and certainly more so in 2013), your product(s) must be radically different in a meaningful way for people to even notice, much less buy, and (if we’re extremely good) tell others about their purchasing experience. 

Tomorrow night, I’m taking my oldest daughter to the Justin Bieber concert.  Bieber (whose last name I thought for years was Beaver) is a true purple cow.  He can dance, sing, write, play, and promote…a true performer with skills and polish and style and nothing, absolutely nothing, left to chance.  The lights will go on as planned, the set list is pre-arranged, the sincere words he says during the breaks and the clothes he wears were all thought out well in advance, to create a unique experience that his fans will never forget. 

What does your product look like?  Is it unique?  Do its attributes market itself?  Or are you just putting a new name on the same old aspirin formula that’s been around for 130 years, trying to move the market share dial by 1%?  What’s harder?   What’s more fun?  The answer to both questions is probably the same. 




Fair and Square

June 28, 2011

Recently, I hit up a friend for the sponsorship of an upcoming non-profit event, giving him just 3 days to decide whether or not this event would be a good fit for him and his business.  I was very late in my request, and knew my chances of securing this last minute funding were slim.  In the end, he decided to pass, but promised to support the event next year.

Later, when his wife had heard of the sponsorship opportunity, she suggested that in the future, I come directly to her for such requests…she could make things happen.  I knew this, of course, but that’s not how I wanted to play it.  In philanthropy, as in business, we want people to part with their money because we sold the vision and the value; because we earned the right to ask for the order.

Conceptually, the idea of the “good ol’ boys” network is intriguing, but if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s not really how we want to make a living.  Of course we want to win, but not because we have an angle or know what strings to pull.  We want to win because we truly won…fair and square.

I’m Not Sure Everybody Gets It

June 10, 2011

I’m not sure everybody gets it.

For the 5,000 years leading up to about 10 years ago, bigger was better.  Bigger paid higher salaries, bigger won more often, and bigger carried more clout.  Bigger was low-risk and high-reward.

But not now.  Now, 2 guys with passion can launch a business on the side and literally change the way an entire industry operates.  Now, customers care about agile, and smart, and responsive – and don’t really give a damn about size.  Now, you can be anything you want to be, and create anything  you want to create, without permission or a lot of cash.

I’m not sure everybody gets it, but that’s OK with us, because we do.


Don’t Tell Me

April 21, 2011

Tell me that you’re lazy.

Tell me that your priorities are in the right place.

Tell me you don’t care that much about money or recognition or reward.

Tell me any of these things and I’ll believe you.  I’ll accept your answer at face value.

But don’t ever tell me that the reason you’re not reaching your potential is because of your family commitments, your sick uncle, the city you live in, the industry you work in, the company you work for, or the product you sell.  Because that’s all bullshit, and you and I both know it.

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.

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