Archive for the ‘Sales’ category

Down to the Crossroads

September 19, 2011

We went out to dinner last night with another couple.  When we got to the restaurant, a cool little Turkish place with great food and suspect service, it was still pretty crowded.  We found a spot at the bar, watched a little of the Oklahoma/Fla State game, and figured we’d have a drink while we waited for a table to free up.

About fifteen minutes went by, and no one even came to ask us if we wanted a beverage.  But gratefully, someone finally came and told us a table was ready.  Woot!

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So we sat down and waited for our “dining experience” to begin.  And we waited, and waited and waited.  We watched the bus crew clear a few other tables, and a waitress slowly bring checks to other tables.  By now, it had been close to 30 minutes and we were no closer to a meal than when we walked in.

I decided it was time for “action.”   I got up from the table, walked up to someone I was pretty sure was the owner, and said we’d been waiting a LONG time at the bar AND at a table and we hadn’t even gotten so much as a menu and a glass of water.

Moment of truth!

The owner was remarkably apologetic.  The manager said he would serve us himself, and then, after a conversation in Turkish with the owner, told us our drinks would be on them.  I am pretty sure they also threw in a free appetizer.

As usual, the meal itself was fantastic.   We stuffed ourselves and I made sure to go back to the manager before I left to thank him for taking such good care of us after our initial wait.

Here’s the thing:  the owner and manager, in an instant, had the option of making me a bigger fan of their establishment, or putting me in a position where I probably never would have returned.  But, in order to do that, they had to swallow just a tiny bit of pride and be apologetic and conciliatory.

When you find yourself at the crossroads of ego and customer service, do you turn left or “right”…?

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Deafening Silence

April 28, 2011

There’s an old, old expression: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  It is intended to mean that people who complain the loudest and longest often get their way.  OK, I get that.  If somebody is “in your face” demanding better service, restitution, free donuts for their grief, whatever, you are going to be inclined to give them what they want and “shut them up.”

Now be honest.  As a product or service provider, once they’re gone and you’ve “met their demands” you are likely to either mutter under your breath, or casually remark to a co-worker, “what a rear anatomical part of a donkey…”

Nevertheless, you have gone above and beyond!  You have satisfied an otherwise disgruntled customer.  You have saved your business from their on-line rants.  Good for you!!!

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So what have you done for all your clients or employees that haven’t complained because they are either satisfied or delighted with your products, services or management style?  There’s a chance the answer is, “not much, I have been too busy greasing the squeaky wheels.”

That’s part of the premise of Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, the Thank You Economy.  I heard an interview with him on NPR and it made me think about the best ways to strike a balance between openly upset customers and employees, and ones who are quietly complacent.

Maybe this week, you can find some time to grease a wheel that isn’t squeaking yet…

Newton was right

March 3, 2011

Newton’s Laws of Motion were a brilliant advance in the world of physics in the 17th century.  Groundbreaking stuff.  And who knew how broadly applicable they could be!

My favorite is Newton’s third law.  To summarize:  for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  How true, how true!!   He actually said it more elegantly than that but that’s the gist of how we non-physicists think of it these days.

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I was talking to a friend of mine this week.  Since I am not directly involved in sales these days, I didn’t realize Monday was “end of month.”  He, on the other hand, did.  He told me he had been getting calls from his sales manager for the past week or so, asking him if he could close one of the bigger deals in his “pipeline” before month-end.  From my buddy’s perspective, his manager was essentially pestering him.  He finally said to me, “I am not going to make my quota for this month anyway, so even if I could close the deal today, I won’t.”

I am sure there are many viewpoints out there on who’s right and who’s wrong in this little instructional tale.  Pile on!!!

But I don’t really think that’s the point.

The sales manager, for reasons that mattered only to him, decided to “push.”  And then, when he didn’t get what he wanted, he decided to push some more.  And I imagine he might actually be surprised to know that his salesman decided to “push back” even if it was done passively.  Did he really think that calling five times a day was going to help close the deal, motivate his salesman, or meet his monthly quota??

The moral of the story:  Even in sales, don’t mess with the Principia…

Going down?

January 14, 2011

As a leader within your organization, I am sure that at one point or another you’ve had a discussion about your company’s “elevator speech” – this concept that you should be able to explain exactly what your company is all about in less than 1 minute.  Many companies take this quite seriously, and even practice and drill their C levels, business development team and others about what they should say and how they should say it.  Seems reasonable to me.

But what if you had A WHOLE HOUR to talk about yourself and your company??   Assuming you opted not to repeat your elevator pitch 59 times, then what?

I had the pleasure of sitting through two such “moments” today as part of the vendor selection process for an enterprise-wide ERP implementation (and yes, I know that’s redundant…)  It was, to say the least, illuminating.

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So here’s my quick “top 5” things NOT to do, in case you:

  • a) find yourself in a similar situation
  • b) actually think any of my alleged “insights” are worth taking seriously

Drum roll, please!

  1. Don’t read slides to me that have the same content that is already in the response to my RFP.  I know I didn’t read it, and you know I didn’t read it, but still…
  2. Don’t tell me how many partner/customer/developer/consultant of the year awards you’ve won.  That’s like auditioning for a part in a movie, walking in with an Emmy statue, and asking me if I still want you to actually read the script…
  3. Don’t tell me “who reports to who.” In the unlikely event I can’t figure it out from the business cards you just handed me, if you do win the business, and the project goes south, there will be ample time for me to find out who your boss is and call her.
  4. Don’t show me a methodology slide you “tweaked” from ITIL, PMI, COBIT, Lean, Six Sigma, Seven Sigma or Eight Omega and tell me that’s what makes you different and better.  That’s like showing me an overhead photo of the Brickyard at Indianapolis, grabbing a marker and drawing an arrow that goes around the track in a perfect oval, and then tell me that makes you Helio Castroneves…
  5. Don’t tell me the project is going to take 6,473 hours to complete and if we start on February 3, we’ll be done on October 15 at 3:44 PM.    I know my requirements are 60% accurate; you know my requirements are 60% accurate.  Why not say there’s a good chance we could finish between Sep 30 and Nov 15, depending on what we learn about each other in the next 6 weeks.  Is that so hard??

Would you press 4 for me?

 

You’re all winners!

November 11, 2010

I have been on a bit of a collaboration soapbox for the past few weeks, so let me shift gears just a bit and balance out all that love with just a little cynicism.  Here’s a true story, that can be verified by my good friend and devout reader, Ilya (and in this case, by devout, I mean he once read a post of mine and said, “really, this passes for literature in your country?  We had Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky…”)

We were on a con call with a business development or partnering employee of Microsoft, and the Microsoft guy told us that some joint event we were going to do with him was going to be a “super super win win.”  I am not making that up.   

image Ever since then, I have been perhaps overly sensitive and suspicious of the phrase “win win.”   OK, I’ll come clean – I hate it.  Here’s why:  I think that most of the time someone utters that phrase, while they would like you to believe that some magically perfect 50-50 split of goodness will come your way, they really mean I WILL WIN and you might.   And I think that would be OK.  Because real business relationships are not built on instantaneous “win win situations.”  They are built on trust and gradual mutual benefit that more often than not comes incrementally in the more common but less uttered phrase, ‘I win this time, and you can win the next.’

Think of it this way:  next time you do someone else a favor in a business situation, you’re doing yourself one too.  Just not right away…

The Money Changers

January 15, 2010

Although I love a good metaphor (and bad ones, according to my wife) I am not usually given to Biblical ones.  But I gotta throw something out there….

There’s a passage in Matthew, in the new testament, where the usually mild-mannered Jesus “loses it” and throws all the money changers out of the temple.  I guess these folks, among other services, sold doves and other livestock to temple patrons to be sacrificed, and exchanged foreign currency for whatever coinage was in vogue on the temple mount at the time, shekels most likely.

Fast forward 2000 years or so, and go to any technology convention.  In a vast area someplace (usually on the way into a session you’d like to attend) are rows and rows of tables of Independent Software Vendors (aka ISV’s) who desperately want you to stop by their booth and buy a goat or a hen (oh wait, confused there…  I mean take a brochure or try out a 30 day free demo)

Disclaimer:

  1. some of my best friends are ISV’s
  2. I use third party software at my clients all the time and work to implement all sorts of solutions that use ISV products, usually with some level of what would be considered “success”

Having said that, the last straw for me came from an interesting tweet from alert reader, Woody, who shared a link about “booth babes” from the just-ended Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas [duh] that goes into the lives and motivations of the lures to a software or product display at a convention.  Nice.

So here’s my “ask” of my ISV friends.  (I first learned to use the word ‘ask’ as a noun at Xerox – they were famous for that…)   If you are going to physically position yourself in the way of our session, lunch or happy hour beer, and lure us to your booth with “babes,” why don’t you balance that with a few honest statements about what your product DOESN’T do.  I can honestly say that I have never had an ISV tell me, in printed material or a pre-sales call, that their software isn’t good at X and was never meant to be used as Y.  We’re gonna find out anyway, why not tell us before we invest?  Do you need the sale that bad?  Do you really want to deal with the fallout from unfulfilled promises later?

If you can’t bring yourselves to do it, have the booth babes do it.  I promise, we won’t walk away…

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Day Trading

September 24, 2009

After the most recent 10 year roller coaster ride that is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but more importantly, my decimated 401k, you would think that, finally, the euphoria of Day Trading has worn off for the common person.  I do remember, though, the halcyon days in late 1998 when 25 year olds in my office at Xerox would have Yahoo Finance open, literally buying and selling stocks like, well, Yahoo, which, believe it or not, was near $400/share for a while, on an hourly basis.   Get rich quick.  Crazy times.  Lessons learned…  But so 10 years ago, right?

And yet it appears that our insatiable need for instant gratification, coupled nicely with our emergent societal ADD and the pressure for immediate results has created a renewed form of Day Trading in management, specifically Sales Management.

I realize, of course, that in sales management this approach is not new, per se.  Rather, I thought it was dead.  But after talking to a sales associate over the weekend who described the ups and downs of every conversation with her manager based on her numbers FOR THAT WEEK, I realized that old habits die hard.  She went on to describe exactly what you’d expect:  the relative calm on a week when she was hitting her targets, and the dread on weeks when she wasn’t.   One thing that was pretty clear – she did not see this process as:

  1. even remotely humanizing
  2. motivational

My response to this (and I apologize if this is redundant with several recent posts) is “duh…” 

So here’s the thing.  I understand that, as a manager, you are held accountable for sales targets, profits, revenue and a host of other highly measurable (and yes important!) objectives.  I am simply suggesting that one of your core alleged skills as a manager is to decouple those targets from how you motivate your team and make them feel valued.  Otherwise, you’re just an overpaid walkie-talkie.  Duh…