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Daily Inspiration From A Simple Gift

The road to business development success takes many turns, with many of those turns unexpected. Just as unexpected, can be the surprise source of a nugget that speaks to the mindset or habits that separate the real high performers from the rest of the pack. Finding one of those nuggets may require something as simple as tearing off the next page of a desk calendar filled with quotes.

Random Surprises

I’ve been grateful to receive just such a calendar from someone I’ve done business with, but more importantly have developed a valuable relationship with over the last few years. We met twenty years ago in one of those unexpected turns, and along the way have shared many conversations about the philosophy of success, raising kids, taking risks, running our businesses and just about everything else. His gift of a simple calendar each year has always provided me with random surprises of humor or insightful advice from the icons of history or contemporary life.

Courage

So, from the 28th of January, 2010 comes a classic thought as we all begin to get after it again day after day trying to make a buck and keep our families fed and our clients satisfied. In as true a statement about what makes business development efforts so challenging as I’ve read in a long time, I’ll close by sharing what that master motivator had to say 60 years ago or so. From Winston Churchill, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

Like I said, a rare gem from an unexpected source. Thanks, Kevin!

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What does the North Star have to do with Business?

01/27/2010 Leave a comment

I know where the North Star is with 100% certainty. It’s like death and taxes. Unless someone moved it, or everything written about astronomy over the last few hundred years is just a big hoax, it’s usually pretty easy to find if you know where to look. Sometimes when the conversation comes up with others, and I show them where it is, I’ll get a reaction like this … “No, that’s not it. It’s not the brightest. That’s not North”, or some other reason for them to dispute the reality. Although they obviously don’t know where it is, they are almost certain of where it isn’t.

What’s the point Smarty Pants?

So when we recommend to managers that are selecting sales people to use an assessment before making a hiring decision, we sometimes get a similar reaction like this …  “No, they don’t work. I don’t want to spend the money. I’ve done it before. I can trust my gut. But we know him or her.” … and all the other reasons.

OK, I’m alright with skepticism up to the point where it doesn’t fly in the face of the truth or the proof. The stats for our assessments are this: When you follow the recommendation to Hire, there is a 94% chance of success. When you ignore the recommendation Not to Hire, your chances of success go down to 25%. Those stats are based on hundreds of thousands of real life data points and have been back tested to confirm the validity. No doubt that 94% isn’t as sure as 100%, but it’s pretty darned good when it comes to understanding the future potential and production of a very important and expensive asset.

Is it really that simple?

No it is not that simple, so don’t believe it when you hear it. Nothing is that simple anymore. Using an assessment is just a part of a process. First, it has to be the right assessment. Too many products out there are marketed to have the same effectiveness, but the truth is that they do not have the same predictive validity. Secondly, potentially good sales folks can easily be de-railed by a weak on-boarding plan, mis-alignment of sales management, insufficient coaching, poor fit with the work environment or many other parts of the process. Being blind to these others factors is probably the reason that those who have used an assessment in the past no longer believe in their usefulness.

Next time you get ready to put on a new sales rep, can you please ask yourself how certain you are of the parts of your process?

Defending Your Life

01/12/2010 5 comments

Everyone knows about fear. Because the word itself has some negative connotations, some prefer to call it anxiety, apprehension, discomfort, dread or trepidation in order to make the emotions more manageable. What started out as instinctual or subconscious “fight or flight” syndrome in early creatures, this is an emotion that is so vast in its cause and effects, that it is impossible to know where it starts and ends.

The topic has no shortage of discussion when it comes to personal and professional behavior. So many ideas about how to deal with it, deny it, understand it, embrace it or fight it are commonplace, but often provide little relief. We all know what the various forms feel like, but does that help anyone understand how it really affects our performance in any of the many roles we all have to fill every day and week?

Different Angles for Business

One of the most popular approaches in the business world are the concepts presented in the book “Who Moved My Cheese” when Haw asked himself “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. Only when Haw began to understand the implications of the answer was he able to mobilize himself and realize his potential for action.

If the book is good, is the movie better?

Perhaps a different approach gives another perspective. In the movie “Defending Your Life”, Albert Brooks has recently died in a head-on crash, and has been sent to an afterlife (Judgment City) where he must demonstrate how he has overcome his fears  in a court that will decide if he is now worthy of advancement in the Universe or not. In this clip, his Defense Attorney explains the Big Picture about fear.

Watch the clip and then ask yourself:

What should I start doing different right now?

A Funny Thing happened when he quit – (Part 2 of 3)

11/10/2009 Leave a comment

In the first installment of this series, we looked at Robert, a rep that was not only overpaid relative to his results, but that was causing trouble within the organization. Because of the circumstances, Robert had made the decision to leave that position and go out to find someone that would pay him what he thought he was worth. After his resignation, his former employer was shocked to learn that there were many pockets of business that had gone untouched and were easy pickings for someone willing to do some selling.

So what happened to him?

Many of you might guess that failure or job hopping was the inevitable future, but the outcome was entirely different. Despite his vast network of contacts, Robert was more than a little deflated to find that nobody was willing to pay anything close to his last salary, and that the nature of comp plans in his business were heavily slanted towards pay for performance. Not wanting to be on the street for too long he took the best offer he could find and proceeded to figure out how he was going to make the kind of money he was used too.

Now that he was mostly on commission, it didn’t take long for our wayward rep to discover that the game had changed. Being in a slightly different market, he couldn’t really leverage all his contacts the way he used to, so something would have to give. Looking back he realized he had behaved like an account manager (farmer) rather than the new business development pro (hunter) that he was expected to be. He also knew that his pipeline of new opportunities had been a stagnant list of hope and wishes.

Progress starts with change

Now that he had a firm understanding that he would actually have to prospect and sell again, Robert found some new strength from internal motivation and an unwillingness to make any excuses for himself. He became totally committed to his own success, he was willing to track his progress, monitor his behavior and develop the confidence to set and meet the goals he had failed to set for himself in his last position.

Update: It’s only been less than a year since Robert set out on this new course, but we know he is performing a lot better than he was before and that his results continue to grow.

[In the final installment next week, we’ll take a look at the cause and effects of this situation, and connect all the dots]

Passion for selling … a blessing or a curse?

10/27/2009 2 comments

Curse #1

What leaves a bad impression more than encountering a salesperson that is just going through the motions? The smell of the of lack of interest and commitment seems to linger after these folks have dropped off their literature, business card and limp hand shake. The sad part is realizing that you lost interest almost immediately in what they saying and found yourself feeling sorry for these miscast pretenders. You may want to tell them that if they could just show a little emotion they might actually sell something someday.

Curse #2

On the other hand, there are the salespeople that love selling so much it scares prospects away. They love the company, the product, the marketplace (and probably you too) by the end of a call. When they leave, you can find yourself shaking your hand to make sure the gooeyness of the hand shake is gone. The passion these people have overwhelms your interest in what they offer, and you can’t help but wonder what all that emotion may be hiding. If something sounds too good to be true, well you know the rest.

The Blessing

Somewhere in between are sales pros that love to sell, but still remember that the customer is more important than their emotions. You can sense a balance that looks and sounds like confidence in what they are doing, a confidence to succeed with or without you as a customer. There is a genuine interest in helping you find solutions, but not in making a commission if the sale isn’t in your best interest. In short, these people act and carry themselves as winners. Aren’t things more comfortable when you get to interact with these kinds of people as opposed to the ones that can’t even muster the strength to quit a job they hate, or the ones that can’t quit selling so hard you want to run away?

One of the hardest things a sales manager has to do …

Telling the truth is often one of the hardest things to do in sales management. When the economy tanks and everyone’s excuses seem to make so much sense, a sales manager’s job gets tougher every day. When the parade of struggling producers marches through your office and tells you all the sob stories about why no one is buying, why price is all that matters and that even your biggest competitor is off 40%, even the toughest task master can find it hard not to be sympathetic.

So what’s the problem?

And that would all make more sense if you didn’t have two or three guys or gals that seem to be getting the job done under the same conditions. For some reason there is often a couple of people that never seem to get caught in the morass of self pity and resignation that afflicts so many others. When that happens someone has to step up and tell it like it is, and if you are the sales manager, that is going to be you.

The truth is that some folks just don’t want to be responsible for where they are and what they are doing … or not doing. And the other truth is that some managers don’t want to be responsible for selecting or keeping these folks either. It’s time to decide; are you going to believe the winners, or are you going to allow the others to make or break your commitment to get it done? Tell the truth.

It isn’t easy

Selecting and keeping reps that resist making excuses and that are self responsible isn’t easy. It’s human nature to want to defend performance that is less than expected. But accepting excuses implies permission to do it more, and that is usually what happens. And that leads to a whole array of other trouble. If you want to know more, drop us a line and we’ll tell you how to train that habit out of your sales team. Otherwise, go out and Google “Excuses” and you’ll find a number of good books like “Let’s get results, not Excuses.

Economic momentum is building

An article today in the Washington Business Journal confirms my belief. How about yours?
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke sees the bottoming out of the housing market slump and increasing spending by consumers as signs the U.S. economy will be on the mend later this year, although he forecasts the recovery will be gradual.

In testimony before the congressional Joint Economic Committee Tuesday, Bernanke also warned another jolt to the banking system will stall any recovery.

“We continue to expect economic activity to bottom out, then to turn up later this year,” Bernanke said. “Key elements of this forecast are our assessments that the housing market is beginning to stabilize and that the sharp inventory liquidation that has been in progress will slow over the next few quarters.”

The forecast assumes a continued gradual repair of the country’s financial system, and a relapse there could cause a recovery to stall, he said.

While a recovery is now expected to begin, the Fed’s forecast cautions that the rate of growth is likely to remain below its longer-run potential for awhile. Businesses will likely put off hiring, meaning unemployment will remain high even after economic growth resumes.

Bernanke also believes inflation will remain low for some time.

A report Tuesday from the Institute for Supply Management showed U.S. service industries, which make up 90 percent of the economy, contracted at the slowest pace in six months in April, seen as another sign the recession is nearing an end.

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