Enjoy Life Because You Never Know When The Bolt Out Of The Blue May Hit You!

One of the things that I learned about myself is that I like to write when I need comfort. Now is one of those times. If you read my last post you know that young Jackson is our latest grandchild. Jake (my name for the little hombre) was two pounds when he was born. For three days he was doing really well. Tonight the little guy had a setback. How will that setback play out? Who knows?

If you have ever seen a 2 pound preemie you know that anything can happen. Of course, doctors will never tell you the good news; they have to tell you the worst possible outcomes. That is their job after all. But wait!! Who the heck makes this world of ours happen? It is the people who think about things in a much different way.

Will young Jake make it through all this? We do not know. Regardless of what happens in this situation there is something that needs to be said. Life is chuck full of enormous roadbumps, avalanches, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and an assortment of other catastrophes. At this very minute there are people I know who are concerned that one of their perfectly normal kids has ADD and dyslexia. Be still my heart! What a joke!

There are mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, classmates, salespeople, managers, CEOS, owners, presidents, siblings, young kids, old kids, old people, customers ad nauseam who are worried about something in their lives. Well, guess what folks, your worries are meaningless in the flow of life! They are the pimples on the backside of mankind!

There is a purpose to this post aside from the rantings of a father and grandfather who does not quite understand how the Big Fella plays his game. At different times in our lives or the lives of people we care about some very bad things can happen! Those bad things can range from from lost sales (at the very bottom of the “I care heap”) to enormous losses of people we care about.

Every person who reads this has to understand that there is hierarchy of worries. Some of those worries we need to cast aside; others we need to put into perspective. Things like social networking, the customer collective, closing business, not closing business, prospecting, training, competition, networking, linked in, twitter, and all the rest of the things that people think are important aren’t!!!!!

When you read this, I want you to  connect with your spouse, your kid(s), parents, sibs, boss (???), customers, prospects, customer service rep, friends, acquaintances et al and either hug them, thank them or tell them that you love them. Life tends to speed by and all of a sudden the time that we think we had isn’t there. Don’t wait another minute.

Jackson, all two pounds of him, is telling you that life is short and what you had yesterday could be gone tomorrow. Don’t wait to enjoy your moments with the people that matter most-now and in the future. As of right now my buddy Jake is alive and kicking-literally. He wants to live. He told me so. (That’s another story.) I believe that Jake will live because I am a “glass half full kind of guy” and Jake is too.

And here is the point of this rather long post. My friends, life is for seeing outcomes, positive outcomes. It is for seeing past the mundane, the horrible, the problems, the frustrations, the worries, the cancer, the horrendous managers, the bad prospects, the ungrateful customers, the bad spouses, the worrisome kids, the…glass half empty inevitabilities of life. Those inevitabilities will never go away. They are what makes us strong, successful, vibrant, believers, faithful, staunch, optimistic, joy-filled, and responsive to whatever awaits us around the next corner of living.

Stop where you are right now and think about how lucky you are. I am doing just that. I have a beautiful and caring wife, two phenomenal natural born kids and and an inherited kid, four grandkids (Jake included) , a meaningful profession, several awesome clients, more good friends than I can count, a great sib, nieces and nephews whom I love as well as their kids and hosts more.

And Jake just said to me, “hey old guy, go to bed. I’m alive and kicking but I could use you tomorrow-fully awake”! Darn kids, they always keep us awake!

The Final Thought: “Love and touch someone N-O-W!” TJS

Some Other Blogs That Are Worth Reading

I’ve been at this blogging thing for the better part of 18 months and along the way I have made some electronic buddies or EB’s for short. What qualifies as an EB?

  1. Their blogs contain intelligent content.
  2. They offer objective feedback on my posts.
  3. They were nice enough to read my book that I sent them.
  4. They have directed me to other blog sites and individuals.

All in all this little blogging adventure has been well worth the time and energy. So here are a few sites worth visiting:

Adrian Miller writes at http://adrianmiller.wordpress.com/. Adrian’s comments are useful and can be applied immediately after you read them.

Will Fultz writes at http://www.topsalesblog.com/. Will is an ex-marine-what’s not to like? I have learned things from Will’s posts. He has a lot of creativity and is doing several things on his site that we should all do.

Jill Myrick writes at http://tipsforsalesmanagers.blogspot.com/. Jill’s comments cut to the proverbial chase on issues relative to sales management. I have a feeling that Jill also has a great sense of humor.

Jonathan Farrington writes at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/2008/02/03/empathy-has-become-more-relevant-as-the-whole-world-of-work-changes/. Jonathan has tremendous insight into sales and sales management. You will also catch some very dry wit in his blogs.

Scott Allen and Jim Berkowitz write at http://www.sales2.com/authors.shtml. More good stuff on sales and sales management. Their podcasts are worth a listen.

And last but not least Pat Schaber writes at http://www.lonelymarketer.com/. And yes, Pat is my son. In my opinion he is one of the smartest marketing sages on the web. Unfortunately, due to an extremely heavy work load, he has not been able to continue the lonely marketer but his earlier posts are worth reading.

Next week I’ll pass along some web sites.

The Final Word: “Friends are like four leaf clovers-hard to find and lucky to have.” Irish Wisdom

Sales Management or the Art of Mental Feng Shui

Do you ever wonder why things just pop into your brain? I was in my office last night thinking of something fresh and completely off the wall to write about sales management. Nothin’, absolutely nothin’ passed through that caught my interest. So I planted the idea and this morning checked in on that cob webby part of my brain where I store things for later reference. Sure enough, “mental feng shui” was sitting there like an 80 mile an hour fastball waiting for Justin Morneau to hammer it.

Yes there is something to this but it’s just not evident. Let’s get a definition of feng shui out of the way first. It is a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune for people inhabiting it. Or, the more funky one. Feng shui is improving life by receiving positive Qi. (Maybe that’s what was wrong with the idiots at AIG. The negative Qi made them do it!)

When you manage salespeople you are, in essence, managing the area between their ears. (As Ben Hogan so accurately put it “Golf is played on a six inch course”.) At any given time a salesperson’s brain might be dealing with any of the following thoughts:

  • I really hate this job but I’m trapped
  • I wish my boss understood me better
  • My wife and I spent way too much on that flat screen TV
  • If I lose the Thompson account there goes my year and the bonus
  • Should I consider the marketing job that will be opening up
  • I wonder why the VP of Sales is coming out to work with me

And these examples represent only a fraction of what’s roaming through the brain of any salesperson at any given time. I maintain that a good sales manager should be aware of some of the unnecessary junk that floats through a rep’s brain and that the manager needs to help the salesperson focus on what’s important and what’s not. Put another way, people need to live in the present. A good manager knows what the “present” looks like to a salesperson so why not help them focus on that rather than the situations that are past or future?

Is this not similar to “balancing the energies of any given space”?

The Final Thought:  “Present-moment living, getting in touch with your now, is at the heart of effective living. When you think about it, there really is no other moment you can live. Now is all there is, and the future is just another present moment to live when it arrives.” Wayne Dyer

Monday Morning Manager-The Sales Funnel-RIP

I hate sales funnels!!! They really make me crazy. I’ve been in too many sales meetings where each rep recaps the most recent activity on the opportunities they have in their sales funnel. These recaps sound like this:

  • Called my contact and there is no word on the proposal
  • Money still seems to be an issue
  • They’ve scaled back the project
  • The main decision maker wants to bring in the marketing department
  • After being hot to trot there seems to be less interest in the equipment
  • My contact said, “Look, we really want to do this but my partner is stalling.”

Let’s get this straight. I don’t think that funnels are stupid or should be eliminated from sales meetings. They “can” be a realistic predictor for future business. They are not a predictor when every opportunity is included or when existing opportunities overstay their welcome.

Let’s cover the right opportunities first:

  1. Does this opportunity fit into our marketing plan?
  2. Does this company have the right technical people to support our product?
  3. Does this company “really” have the need for our product?
  4. Can we support the sale of this product to a given customer?
  5. Is this really the right product for this customer?

If you have decided that the prospect you’re chasing satisfies these and other specific criteria then here is the next group of qualifiers. And these are bottom-liners:

  1. How badly does this prospect need our product? (If their PAIN is less than 7 on a scale of 1-10 you might want to question their need.)
  2. Have you met “every decision maker” that will or “should” be involved?
  3. Do you have “clear” next steps in the sales process? (The more indefinite the next steps are the longer the sales process.)
  4. Have you been involved in where their current product is used that does not work?
  5. Do you know the time line for making the decision?
  6. Is the money that this company is losing by using the current product more than the cost of the solution?
  7. Do you have all the support you need to make this sale happen?
  8. Have you created all the questions you need to ask to address all the possible ways that this sale can go south?

Here are my suggestions:

  1.  Create a checklist for the criteria for a valid prospect.
  2.  Create another checklist for what the salesperson needs to do at specific times during the sales process.
  3. To absolutely ensure that this opportunity moves down the funnel create the sales questions that the rep has to ask at specific times.

DON’T LEAVE ANYTHING TO CHANCE!

The Final Thought: Always be closing…That doesn’t mean you’re always closing the deal, but it does mean that you need to be always closing on the next step in the process.” Shane Gibson

Monday Morning Manager-Don’t Go Overboard When You’re New!

In 1983 when I became a first time sales manager I did a really stupid thing-don’t repeat it! I beleive that most new managers want to make an impression on two groups of people-their salespeople and and the sales manager’s boss. The new manager wants to appear like he or she has their act together so the salespeople know that they have a leader. The newbie manager also wants his or her boss to approve of how they conduct themselves. And herein lies the rub.

Back to Schaber’s first sales meeting. As a sales rep I kept fairly decent notes on who my customers were, how often I visited them and the usual other admin bits of information-names, addresses etc. Everything was in a nice binder so I could access everything before each call. And if you believe that then you’ll believe me when I tell you that my golf handicap is 28! Not!

I wasn’t slovenly at recording key information on my accounts but no way did I have a binder with this information in it. So, what did I do the minute I got promoted? I created this one page document that allowed the salespeople to fill in all the key information on their accounts. Remember, this was 1983. There were 22 pound laptops, no emails, no CRM’s and tech support consisted of a couple of pot-laden, bearded wanna-be nerds who couldn’t articulate DOS in any way that anyone understood. I handed out these prized one page documents and told my five reps that I wanted one of these forms filled out for each account in their territory.

I was proud! I was also D-U-M-B! When you walk into a new sales management position and you’re sitting in your first meeting don’t introduce anything new, don’t make any grand proclamations, don’t promise the world, don’t pretend to know what you’re doing. If today I were to walk into a sales meeting as a newly promoted sales manager I would have an agenda for the meeting and I would have the sales people do most of the work. I might ask the salespeople to expound on some of the following topics:

  1. What are our major opportunities in this market?
  2. What do you most need to succeed?
  3. What do our accounts say about our company?
  4. Who are our major competitors and why are they better than we are?
  5. What do you think are the top three responsibilities of a good sales manager?

Do you see where I’m going here? Spend your first sales meeting learning things. Leave the creative stuff for when you understand the needs of the salespeople. Look, I know that this example is outdated but it makes no difference because there will always be stupid things for managers to do even with the current technology. Keep It Simple Stupid!

The Final Thought: Talking comes by nature, silence by wisdom.” Proverb

Don’t Bet The Ranch On First Impressions

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston , and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President’s outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard & probably didn’t even deserve to be in Cambridge .

‘We’d like to see the president,’ the man said softly. 

‘He’ll be busy all day,’ the secretary snapped.

‘We’ll wait,’ the lady replied. 

  For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away.  They didn’t, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always  regretted. 

‘Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they’ll leave,’ she said to him! He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple. 

The lady told him, ‘We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.’ 

The president wasn’t touched. He was shocked.  ‘Madam,’ he said, gruffly, ‘we can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.’ 

  ‘Oh, no,’ the lady explained quickly. ‘We don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.’ 

The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, ‘A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard.’ 

For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased.  Maybe he could get rid of them now.  The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, ‘Is that all it cost to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own? ‘ 

 Her husband nodded. 

The president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment. Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.   

I had to pass this story along because it does relate to sales and sales management. Malcolm Forbes ended this story with this Final Thought: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Stupid Managers Give Stupid Reviews

How many people do you think have been discouraged, angry, bitter or frustrated enough to flip their companies off because they have been surprised at receiving a poor performance review? My guess is that there are tens of thousands. Let’s set the stage a bit here. I’m not referring to the employee who really should get a poor performance review because they really have performed poorly. I’m referring to the person who does their job well above average, contributes to the department, is liked by the peer group and gets recognized for the value they bring to the company.

Here is where the review process can start to spiral. Our imaginary employee is going on their merry way feeling good about where they’re at. Enter the boss or manager or career climber; they sit our unsuspecting employee down and proceed to inform them of all the ways they need to change in order to be effective. The employee takes it in, asks questions (which the reviewer may or may not know how to answer), leaves the room and does a slow burn for the next couple of weeks, affecting the quality of their work and ultimately their desire to stay with the company. And this all happened because some nitwit manager doesn’t understand people or how to communicate!

Before employees are promoted to any management position they should be thoroughly introduced to some elementary communication skills like NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) or something similar to it. Their employees should be assessed using any one of the many personality/style assessments on the market. The manager should be assessed as well. The manager should get his or her head out of their respective asses and think about how to relate messages to people, messages that are relevant to employee’s performance, their future with the company and maybe their own happiness. How hard is this? Based on some of the horror stories I’ve heard it must be difficult!

Here are some basic tips for all the twits who don’t understand that performance reviews can adversely affect people:

  1. Keep the performance reviews on performance issues, not personality styles.
  2. If you have to critique someone do so using specific work-related situations.
  3. Do not bring in other employees during the review or use feedback from other employees “to make a point”.
  4. Communicate the review using a style similar to the style of the person being reviewed. (If you’re an arm waving, outgoing, expressive like me wouldn’t it make sense for me to calm down a little if I were reviewing a calm, serene analytical person?)
  5. For the love of God and everything that is good on earth please ask the employee how they feel about the review so you can get hard feelings (if there are any) out into the open!
  6. Always, always spend time at the beginning of the review on all the things the employee does correctly.
  7. If you want the employee to change then give them specific situations and ways they can affect change.

And here are my last words on this. During the time between reviews document those situations where you observe the employee executing their job unsatisfactorily and use these “specific examples” during the review to illustrate your point. Do me a favor folks. Would you please forward this post along to people. Some really stupid manager out there may, just may get the point!

The Final Thought: We must become the change we want to see. Mahatma Gandhi. (The underlining was done by the author of this post.)