Beware the north-bound bull!

rant

I just read the bio of an author whose business book I was about buy. The bio contained the word “guru.”  I did not buy the book. Someone who uses the self-descriptor “guru” isn’t. It tells me that the poor sap is probably desperate for some recognition; or maybe at least one book sale to a non-family member.

…not only that!

Anyone who does not stop others from bestowing that dopey descriptor is just as bad. It smacks of the distasteful flavor of phony humility. Phony humility about some alleged expertise.

…which reminds me!

Ditto all of the above for the self-described “expert.” Anyone who genuinely pursues expertise of any kind knows that the more one learns, the more one realizes how much remains unknown.

…and one more thing!

“Secret sauce.” Seriously? Maybe NASA or the NSA or the visitors from outer space maybe have some secret sauce. A google search will turn up gobs of detail on whatever other “secret” the “expert guru” claims to know.

So, my friends, beware the south-facing ends of all northbound bulls.

BullsAsses

End-O-Rant

This outfit understands Leadership

Leadership

Some organizations understand leadership. I mean really understand. Studying what these organizations believe and what they do provides great insight for any sales leader. So read and heed the Leadership Principles of the U.S. Marine Corps.

MarineCorp

  1. Be technically and tactically proficient – Maintain a high level of competence in your Military Occupational Specialty. Your proficiency will earn the respect of your Marines.
  2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – Use the leadership traits to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. An accurate and clear understanding of yourself and a comprehension of group behavior will help you determine the best way to deal with any given situation.
  3. Know your Marines and look out for their welfare – You should know your Marines and how they react to different situations. This knowledge can save lives. Knowledge of your Marines’ personalities will enable you, as the leader, to decide how best to employ each Marine.
  4. Keep your Marines informed - Informed Marines perform better and, if knowledgeable of the situation, can carry on without your personal supervision. Providing information can inspire initiative.
  5. Set the example – Set the standards for your Marines by personal example. The Marines in your unit all watch your appearance, attitude, physical fitness and personal example. If your personal standards are high, then you can rightfully demand the same of your Marines.
  6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished – Before you can expect your Marines to perform, they need to know what is expected from them. Communicate your instructions in a clear, concise manner, and allow your Marines a chance to ask questions. Check progress periodically to confirm the assigned task is properly accomplished.
  7. Train your Marines as a team – Train your Marines with a purpose and emphasize the essential elements of teamwork and realism. Teach your unit to train, play and operate as a team. Be sure that all Marines know their positions and responsibilities within the team framework.
  8. Make sound and timely decisions - Rapidly estimate a situation and make a sound decision based on that estimation. There’s no room for reluctance to make a decision, revise it. Marines respect the leader who corrects mistakes immediately.
  9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates – Show your Marines you are interested in their welfare by giving them the opportunity for professional development. Assigning tasks and delegating authority promotes mutual confidence and respect between the leader and the team.
  10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities – Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit’s capabilities. Seek out challenging tasks for your unit, but be sure your unit is prepared for and has the ability to successfully complete the mission.
  11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions – Actively seek out challenging assignments for your professional development. Seeking responsibilities also means that you take the responsibility for your actions. You are responsible for all your unit does or fails to do. Stick by your convictions and be willing to accept justified and constructive criticism.

Funny thing about applications of your products & services…

Rodin's Thinker in Silhouette 0782

Of course you already know that your sales team needs to maintain a “solving-customer-problems” mindset. “Sell the application not the product” truly is the only way to fly. All high performing sales professionals live that philosophy and high performing product/service development and marketing folks live it as well.

There’s a funny thing about applications though.

Sometimes we’re trying to solve the wrong problem – even if we have a truly great product/service to sell.

Edison_and_phonographConsider Thomas Edison who invented (among many other things) the phonograph. This world class product developer had one of the biggest winners of all time, yet his early sales efforts were absolutely dismal. He knew that the best application of phonograph technology was to record a voice message and then stick it in the mail so the recipient could listen to it.

I can imagine his sales pitch.  “How cool is that! Your customers, friends and family can hear the inflections, tone and nuances of your voice. You can communicate far more information than you ever could with the written word.”

Nobody bought. Not until somebody else came up with the “record music” application. Then sales skyrocketed.

Not Bell, but an AT&T actor AFTER they got the application right!

Not Bell, but an AT&T actor AFTER they got the application right!

Or consider Alexander Graham Bell. You may not know that his sales pitch consisted of explaining how his telephone mic could be placed in front of an orchestra and that someone many miles away with one of his telephone receivers could hear a live performance.

Nobody bought. Not until somebody else came up with the “have a live business conversation” application. Then sales skyrocketed.

Two of the greatest product developers of all time were dead wrong and worked like crazy to solve the wrong problem with the wrong application.

So keep those minds open, sales leaders. Your product/service developers and marketing teams will have beautifully prepared application scenarios for you. And they will make loads of sense. They might also be missing the boat.

Contact plan for Sales Managers

RelationshipDev

The rawest rookie sales rep gets coached by his or her astute sales manager to set up and faithfully execute a one-on-one personal-interaction-with-all-contacts-in-the-territory plan. Typically there’s a matrix with rows labeled Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Annually and columns labeled Face-To-Face, Telephone, E-Mail.  (Or better still, the contact plan is baked into the CRM system with appropriate reminders.)

networkMany sales managers inspect how closely their reps follow this plan. Makes perfect sense. While nurturing relationships is far from the only aspect of the sales professional’s role, it’s sure as heck one of the most important.

But how many sales managers have a similar customer communication plan?

With the press of day-to-day business issues, fire-fighting and the myriad other items on the ToDo list, it becomes oh so easy to be too busy to communicate with customers.  Ouch… Would you as a sales manager accept one of those “explanations” from a member of your team? Double ouch…

Sales Managers Of The World! Put that customer communication plan in place and hold yourself accountable to it!

Think “Lean Sales Process”

Rodin's Thinker in Silhouette 0782

No, the point of this first post of the new year is not about a resolution to lose weight. (Although, yes, I’m doing that again this year!) The point of this first post is to focus attention on what is arguably the sales manager’s most powerful habit; Process Thinking.

thinkRe-reviewing the fundamentals of lean management is most certainly in order for “new year action items,” and frankly is something sales leaders must do on a continuous basis. These fundamentals are simple. They make extraordinary sense. They are easy to understand. They are not so easy to implement. (Which is exactly why you as the leader need to be thinking lean, thinking process, on a continuous basis!)

  1. Value – Look at everything you and your team and your customers are doing.  If an action does not add value to your organization or your customer’s organization, stop doing it. Now!
  2. Value Stream – Look at the value-adding actions that are left.  Put them in the optimal sequence. You will be stunned to find obvious dumb sequences.  You will find, for example, proposals delivered before customer requirements are understood, elaborate sales strategies developed and executed before the prospect is qualified, huge relationship development efforts expended before the customer decision process is understood, and on and on and on…
  3. Flow – With the proper sequence of actions defined, do it faster! Think of your sales process as a river.  Straighten out the meandering curves. Remove the boulders. Get a bigger motor for the boat.
  4. Pull – Clue the customer in on what you’re doing. If it makes sense; if you have a compelling value proposition; the customer will pull you through your very straight, boulder-free sales process ASAP.  If you don’t have a compelling value statement and the customer is not pulling, rethink the priority of the opportunity and/or the customer and/or build a better value prop.
  5. Perfection – I can put it no better than the late great Vince Lombardi.  “We will pursue perfection, knowing full well that we will never attain it.  But we will pursue it.  And in doing so we will achieve excellence.

So constantly think “Lean Sales Process,” and go have a great 2015!

Sales Process Media: An indispensable sales tool

salesprocessmedia

Question 1:  Is it useful to have quality sales/marketing collateral to support serving customers at all stages of the sales/purchasing process?

Question 2:  Is it useful to have all of the above in digital form to ease distribution?

contentOK, two questions with absurdly obviously answers.  Of course, any sales professional would love to have a gigantic collection of great digital sales & marketing content to shorten sell cycles, increase odds of closing deals and providing excellent customer service and support.  All that stuff that’s available on-demand and 24 X 7 X 365.

Think of it as Sales Process Media.

Absurdly obvious perhaps to identify the need for Sales Process Media; not so absurdly obvious how to go about making it happen.  Here’s a six-step framework that can help remove some of the mystery.

  1. Curate & Create Content
  2. Classify Content by Type
  3. Classify by Sales Stage
  4. Re-Create Content in Multiple Forms
  5. Choose Distribution Method & Target(s)
  6. Promote the Content

Curate & Create Content:  Curating content is a simple addition to what you’re already doing.  Whenever you read/hear/see something that could/should be of interest to your customers and prospects, grab it and add it (or links to it) to you digital library. (You do maintain a digital library, right?)

Creating content takes more effort, but frankly the thought clarification that comes from writing down a set of thoughts is well worth it.  Just do it.  Start with a short, (350 words or so) once-a-month essay on something you know about.  Anything.  Just get started.  It’s easier than you think, and I bet you come to enjoy it.

Classify Content by Type:  You’ll want to target your collection of content to different people at different times for different purposes.  Categorizing your content collection simplifies finding the right thing when you’re working to get a decision-maker’s attention or showing a technician you know your stuff or proving that you have appropriate experience.  Here’s a set of categories to get going:

  • Thought Leadership (Innovation, Management, Common Issues & Problems, Technologies)
  • Applications
  • Case Studies
  • Product Service Info (Technical Guides, New Product/Service Announcements, Brochures/Data Sheets)

Classify by Sales Stage:  Different information is relevant at different stages of the sales process.  Thought Leadership pieces are good for establishing new relationships and further building loyalty among existing customers.  Detailed product info is needed while bundling customer support for your proposal.

[NOTE:  Some pieces of content are relevant at multiple stages!]

Re-Create in Multiple Forms:   Some people like to read text.  Some need pictures and images.  Other prefer audio.  Some want video.  Feed ‘em the content in the form/forms they like best.

Choose Distribution Method & Target(s):  There are lots and lots of ways to distribute content. Web site, Landing page, Blog, White Paper, eBook, Webinar, Live Presentation, eNewsletter, E-mail, E-mail series…  Use multiple methods.  Use distribution channels you know specific contacts like.

Promote the Content:  Point to great content on social media. (…for sure on LinkedIn & almost certainly on Twitter)  It increases odds of others finding, enjoying and re-promoting your content.  Plug your content into all existing marketing channels used by your organization.  Use the available resources.  Finally, don’t forget word of mouth!  Talk about your content!

No sales professional has nearly enough time to do all that should get done.  Sales Process Media – your digital self – is an assistant you cannot live without!

The Bizarre Perspective and Priorities of One Sales Manager

Leadership

It’s not too difficult to imagine a sales manager who also happens to like to play golf.  Last week I had the strangest conversation with a guy who fits that description.  It was at a networking event for sales executives and consultants who provide services to them.

Being the continuous improvement geek that I am, I asked this individual how he goes about coaching the sales professionals on his team.  He responded by explaining his 4-step process.

  1. Invest a minimum of 2 days every week out in the field, making calls with his team members
  2. Follow up each each call with a discussion to identify strengths and weaknesses
  3. Write down an action plan to quickly address the weaknesses
  4. Follow up the next week to make sure that plan is being implemented

Simple, straightforward and eminently sensible!

My next question was, “How do you know your process works?”  His response was, “Sales are up!”  “Great,” say I, “but how do you know your process works?”  The response, accompanied by a disconcerted look was, “Because sales are up.”  “That’s the only thing you measure to judge skills improvement,” I asked.  “What else matters?” he said.  “That’s the only thing I care about and the only thing I measure.  Why waste my time using some CRM system or whatever to track all kinds of other stuff.”  At that point I let it go.

Later in the evening I bumped into the same guy and for whatever reason we started talking about golf.  He was genuinely charged up about improving his game and waxed eloquent about his new process for doing so.  He pulled out the following chart.  (Which he got from golfforensics.com.)

ProStats

He enthusiastically explained how the 19 multiple choice descriptors enabled him to track 49 distinct shot scenarios relative to 8 aspects of the result of each stroke for each round played.  “That’s a total of 392 different measurements of how well I execute a shot vs. my plan for that shot.”

He went on to talk about how those numbers could be combined in various ways to further enable him to examine and get deeper and deeper insights into how he could improve his performance in the larger context of a competitive match. “I can look at how well I do, for example in terms recovering from a bad shot and still making par because I’m good with my putter on the greens.  I know because of those numbers, that most times I should to lay up short because I’m good at hitting greens from 150 to 175 yards out.  I’ve identified literally hundreds and hundreds of aspects of my game that I can work on to improve.”

Hundreds and hundreds of metrics applied to improve his golf score and one metric to improve the sales performance of his team?  What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s your sales equivalent to the golf forensics?  Or is your sales skills improvement process so much less important than your performance on the links?

You can’t leave your brain in your pickup truck

Having been around the manufacturing industry for most of my career, I’ve seen a lot of transformation.  The biggest change in my view, has been the nature of the work out on the factory floor.  As Ray Attiyah, Chief Innovation Officer of Definity Partners and a colleague and client of mine always says,

“You can’t leave your brain in your pickup truck.”

The days of the mindless, dumb, dirty and dangerous manufacturing jobs are gone forever.  HOORAY!!!  Sadly, the reputation lags the reality.  Too many of us still perceive the factory worker as the low-skilled robot doing mind-numbingly repetitive tasks.  BOO!!!  And it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

So this Labor Day, let’s celebrate not only the resurgence of American Manufacturing, but also the resurgence of lots and lots of challenging jobs and careers bursting out of the industry.

Get even more perspective on American Manufacturing from Manufacturing Revival Radio and my friends at Definity Partners.
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Love what you do?

dreamland_radio

DLIguys

I offer as Exhibit A, the above photograph.  Five middle aged (OK, so maybe two of us are a tad past that…) guys during a break from an all day internal strategy session.  There was hot debate, disagreement, arm waving and table-pounding both before and after the photo-op.

But take another look at the picture.

Looks like a group having a good time, doesn’t it?  That’s because it was a group having a good time!  A group still having a good time!  Yes, of course we take our business seriously.  Like you, we have customers to satisfy, bills to pay and dreams to fulfill.  That is, however, no reason to sacrifice the basic human need to have a job that’s fun; something to look forward to most days; something that’s deeply fulfilling.

While I won’t necessarily advocate pursuing the lunacy of starting up a media company and a bunch of radio shows, I will most aggressively advocate pursuing a job and career that consistently bring joy, excitement and fulfillment into your life. It’s the only way to achieve success IMHO.

And as a closing thought…

If you have a story to tell; an experience to share; a business-related rant to rant, send us a Guest Profile.  We can probably slot you into one of our shows.

 

I’ll make this point yet again…

RelationshipDev

As I started to write this post, I was thinking. “Good golly, all my readers must be sooooo sick of me making this point.”  My next thought was, “So what?  It’s a point that has tons of value to all who’ll listen!”  So here we go again…

Trade Show Radio absolutely nails three of the critical elements of professional selling.

  1. Network with the movers and shakers in your industry
  2. Share valuable, actionable insight with everybody; develop a reputation as a trusted source of relevant knowledge
  3. Establish/develop credibility and a business relationship with decision makers
ACE2014_Boston158

U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar and yours truly

So what did Water Online accomplish with Trade Show Radio at ACE 2014?

  1. They networked with industry movers and shakers like the CEO of the American Water Works Association and the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore
  2. They shared valuable, actionable insight via live broadcast and also made it all available on-demand – for free – for everybody
  3. They deepened relationships with 51 – count ‘em fifty-freaking-one – industry executives (aka customers and prospects)

When’s the last time you had positive, upbeat, face-to-face business conversations with 51 execs in three days?  Go read about Trade Show Radio.