Thursday, December 18, 2008

Married Guys & Christmas Gifts

As I write this, we're just a week away from Christmas Day, 2008. Personally, I'm facing one of life's greatest challenges for Married Guys ... what to get the Wife?! As I've pondered this dilemma, a couple of good general hints have come my way, through the media. One is a pretty good clue about what not to do, while I think the other one offers some excellent guidance on the right approach.

Perhaps, not so surprisingly, the "what-not-to-do" tip came to me via a forwarded email from my Wife. It had a link to a video entitled "Beware of the Doghouse". My sense is that most women find this to be more humorous than do most men. Basically, it portrays men making some bone-headed Christmas gift selections and ending up in an elaborately devised doghouse. In addition to vividly illustrating the sort of gift-giving that condemns a man to a stint in the "Doghouse", it provides the further revelation that, once you're in the "Doghouse", its awfully difficult to get out.

Although I do recommend that guys, especially Husbands, pay close attention to the "what-not-to-dos", I prefer to emphasize the "what-to-dos". Coincidentally, I picked up on a great example for this through the media this week too. Though it may not seem like the most likely place to seek direction on a topic like this, the source was Conservative Talk Radio Host, Hugh Hewitt. Anyone who listens to Hewitt, for any time at all, will be able to tell you that he consistently refers to his Wife, of over 25 years, as "The Fetching Mrs. Hewitt". While there may be many things you can read into this, as a "device", from the first time I heard it, I admired it as something sweet and precious that Mr. Hewitt faithfully honors in his relationship with his Wife.

Earlier this week, Hugh was broadcasting from Washington D.C. He was there, among other reasons, to attend a Christmas party at the White House. Of course, he commented on a number of things related to this trip but it struck me that, as much as anything, he mentioned that "The Fetching Mrs. Hewitt" was traveling with him and of how much they were enjoying revisiting experiences that were special to them when their relationship was young. It was hearing these reminiscences that reminded me of the most important "what-to-do" for Married Guys, with Christmas Gifts. That is, regardless of the gift/s you select for your Wife, bear in mind that they should reflect your appreciation for the fact that, short of His gift of His Son, God's greatest gift to you is her.

Oh, one more thing. The most important three words of wisdom from my Wife, Ruth, as she dispatches me for this year's Christmas shopping ... "Save the receipts!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hit ‘em Where They Ain’t

Something that every Sales Manager has to look out for is what's called "Self-Limiting Beliefs". In short, these are thoughts a person can "get into their heads" that focus on the negative - e.g., "I can't", "I won't", "I shouldn't", etc. This is especially true during down times in the economy. Earlier this week, I listened to a luncheon speaker whose presentation reminded me of a valuable, related lesson I learned, early in my career. I always think of this lesson as, "Hit 'em Where They Ain't".

Before going on, I probably should touch on where that phrase, 'Hit 'em Where They Ain't", comes from. I remember it as a phrase used by the Manager of one of my favorite baseball teams, growing up. It turns out that its credited to a baseball player, from the turn of the last century, named "Wee Willie" Keeler. As is indicated by his nickname, "Wee Willie" was one of the smallest men to play baseball and yet, in 1894, he started a streak of eight seasons with 200 or more hits ... a feat that has been equaled by few. When asked about how he accomplished this, "Wee Willie" said, "I keep my eyes clear and I hit 'em where they ain't." In other words, he didn't focus on what he "couldn't do", due to limitations of his 5'4"/140# stature. His reliance was on what he "could do" with his skill at hitting a baseball where he wanted it to go. When I was a fledgling Sales Rep, I was blessed to have a Sales Manager who used this illustration, to encourage my best performance regardless of my circumstances.

The Luncheon Speaker I mentioned earlier was Kent Craford, CEO of SeaPort Airlines. Although that may seem like a stretch for the topic I'm addressing, it actually couldn't be a better fit. You see, SeaPort Airlines launched their business this past June. Do you remember what was happening with most airlines this past June? The same conditions that had me paying $4.57 per gallon to fill up my SUV had most airlines in a panic. They were cutting costs (and related services) and increasing prices in every way they could find. You'd have to be crazy to start a new airlines at a time like that, right?! Maybe. And maybe not, if the new airlines has a smart business plan to "Hit 'em Where They Ain't".

Even if I could completely detail the SeaPort Airlines business plan for you, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to do so here. But here are some of the key elements that I do recall:

They recognized a significant business need that wasn't being met. Specifically, there is substantial need for business travel between Seattle and Portland. Driving from one city to the next takes about three hours. Roughly the same amount of time is required, if you fly the airlines that have been servicing this route. SeaPort's average time is 90 minutes.

A key to SeaPort's ability to cut travel time in half is their use of an aircraft type that allows them to fly in and out of general aviation facilities where TSA Security is not required.

They're able to offer a level of service that's close to the experience of flying on a privately-owned jet at competitive prices.

Again, the type of aircraft being used by SeaPort is a crucial element to their ability to offer reasonable fares. While fuel accounts for 50% to 70% of most airlines' operating costs, with SeaPort, it's only about 25%.

That's a pretty good example of "Hit 'em Where They Ain't", don't you think? Another phrase that fits is "Yankee Ingenuity". As far as I'm concerned, that has been the most important element, setting the U.S. business culture apart from the rest of the world. When market conditions are challenging, it's important to remind yourself of this, regardless of your role in business. I think it's especially important, if you're in Sales. So, I want to encourage everyone in a Sales Management role to give attention to this regularly. Of course, you're welcome to pass my anecdotes along, if that seems helpful. Better yet, look for opportunities for your Sales Team members to have an experience similar to mine with this week's SeaPort presentation. It didn't matter that the Presenter was a CEO and not a Sales person, per se. And it didn't matter that I don't have an airlines industry background. The important thing was coming away with a refreshed "can do" attitude. That can make all the difference in Sales performance, especially with those who have been letting circumstances control them instead of the other way around.

What's been your experience in dealing with "Self-Limiting Beliefs"? Has the "Hit 'em Where They Ain't" approach worked well for you? What inspirational examples, like mine with SeaPort Airlines, have you come across lately? Please let us know, so it can be shared with others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

“New School” Cold Calling

Not long ago, I saw an article entitled “Why Cold Calling Is Dead”. Around the same time, I came across a another article entitled “10 Things I Love About Cold Calling”. As I was considering these opposing points of view, a local business contact sent me a note saying that he was working on his Sales Organization’s Funnel Management and that he would appreciate me addressing that topic on this blog. Considering that, if Cold Calling fits in with Funnel (Pipeline) Management, it fits in at the top or beginning, in the Prospecting and Qualifying phase, I thought I should examine its viability.

In assessing “Why Cold Calling Is Dead”, I found that the main point was, “Our world of selling is closed off from other areas of business that continue to adopt and embrace new, efficient ideas.” It reminded me of a company I did some work for a few years back that sells software and services to correctional organizations. Their “sweet spot” was County Jails. This business had emerged from a company that was founded as a vending business, coming out of WWII. Believe it or not, I found that the present day company was continuing to have their Sales force work as though they were working a vending route – i.e. the Sales person spent their days driving from County Seat to County Seat, Cold Calling each County’s Sheriff or Jail Manager. Obviously, this is a great example of an organization that needed to “embrace new, efficient ideas”.

Although my experience supports the main point of “Cold Calling Is Dead”, as I considered the reasoning of “10 Things I Love About Cold Calling!”, there seemed to be a disconnect – i.e. each of these “10 Things” seemed legitimate. There was also that troubling Funnel Management consideration … If Cold Calling doesn’t fit in with Prospecting and Qualifying anymore, what does? So, to resolve this dilemna, I thought it might be productive to contrast my view of Cold Calling in the formative days of my Sales career with my current approach.

If you’ve visited this blog before, you may recall an earlier posting entitled “The ‘Tech-Savvy’ Sales Organization”. There I mentioned “Smoke Stacking”, the Cold Calling technique included in my initial training, in my first Sales territory, in the Midwest. “Smoke Stacking” is another great example of the need to “embrace new, efficient ideas”. However, I don’t go “Smoke Stacking” anymore and yet I do find myself regularly doing what I consider to be “Cold Calling”. So, where’s the disconnect?

Perhaps the disconnect is that, while the author of “Cold Calling Is Dead” is correct with their main point, they’re making the mistake of “throwing out the baby with the bath water”. I think its just semantics though. For me, the lesson isn’t that Cold Calling should be “laid to rest”. Like many other “Old School” techniques, it just needs to be applied differently, to fit in with the realities of the “New School”. In this reality, its something I do almost daily. And I teach it to others, encouraging them to look at “Cold Calling” as an exciting “adventure”, rather than letting it be a source of anxiety. But, I don’t teach “Smoke Stacking”. Instead, I teach appropriate ways to use the phone, email, networking events and especially, social media as ways to connect with new Prospects.

I guess it turns out that I sort of agreed with both the articles I mentioned at the outset. In as much as it pertains to “Old School” application, I agree, “Cold Calling Is Dead”. But, given a “New School” approach, I also agree that there are at least “10 Things I Love About Cold Calling!”

How about you? What are your views on Cold Calling? Please pass them along and share them with us.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

“Just A Sales Rep”

When I hear someone described as “Just a Sales Rep”, it always bothers me. More so, when a person introduces themselves that way. Of course, I recognize that there are times when the intent in using this phrase is humility. Regardless, I think its counterproductive for anyone who sees Sales as their profession.

With that said, I have to admit to my own guilt in this. Take a look at the “About Gary Wiram” page on this blog. I describe myself as a “Senior-Level Sales and Sales Management Professional”, not “Just a Sales Rep”. Why not? When you look at other professions, you don’t see this so much. As an example, if you’re looking to consult with someone on a legal matter, do you look for someone who introduces themselves as a Legal Professional? Not usually. Typically, you look for an Attorney. Granted, you may look for an Attorney with experience in specific aspects of the law but the title “Attorney” already implies “Professional”. So, why don’t I introduce myself as “Just a Sales Rep”? Actually, in many social settings I do introduce myself as “A Sales Guy”. However, I don’t on this blog and it does make some obvious sense. SOL&D is my business management consultancy and I want prospective Clients to know I have experience beyond working an individual Sales assignment as “Just a Sales Rep”. Though the logic of this is understandable, I regret the implication, as you get with other uses of the phrase “Just a Sales Rep”, that there’s something inferior in having that title.

Underlying my concern about the derogatory use of the phrase “Just a Sales Rep”, is my belief that a deep understanding of what it means to be a Sales Representative and being passionate about it is foundational to being successful in any Sales role. For me, the key to unlocking this passionate understanding comes from exploring the meaning of the title “Representative”.

I was reminded of this, during the past week, when I met a local business Owner who is looking for someone to drive the Sales effort for his company. As he expressed what he’s looking for, in a Sales Person, he said that the most important thing to him was that this person be a good “Ambassador” for his company. His company was founded nearly 20 years ago and he sees their value proposition and its level of quality as being matchless. The “Ambassador” he has in mind will embody this, as he does. In case you don’t know it, a synonym for the word “Ambassador” is “Representative”.

My most significant experience in this regard comes from the years when I partnered in a start-up venture of an existing business with an “old buddy”. This “old buddy” and I met when we were 15 years old, playing side-by-side on our high school football team. He founded his company, (now) over 30 years ago, based on curriculum developed by himself and his true Partner, his Wife. To give you some sense of the passion they have for their business, they commonly refer to their curriculum as their “baby”. I’m thankful to say that we all look back on this time as a success. That’s not to say that everything turned out the way we had hoped, going in. There were significant business successes, though, including developing a strategic relationship with a nationally-known political figure and securing the business of Fortune 500 companies. But, there were, also, times of disagreement and disappointment. For me, the greatest success was getting to live out the sort of pipe dream that can change an “old buddy” relationship into one of being “old enemies” and instead, our friendship became much deeper than ever before. However, in the context of this writing, the most significant factor is what my “old buddy” has to say about the role I played, as the “Senior-Level Sales and Sales Management Professional” in his company. At the heart of his Recommendation for me, he says, “… we couldn’t have been more pleased than we were with Gary’s thoroughly professional and accurate representation of our company …” “Representation”, my being ”Just a Sales Rep”, was the most important thing to him. I’m thankful for that achievement.

Hopefully, my anecdotes provide validation for the use of “Sales Representative” as a title to be proud of versus the deprecating use of the phrase “Just a Sales Rep”. But there’s importance well beyond this. In previous posts – e.g. “The Pride and Prejudice of Sales” and “Managing My Not-So-Hidden Agenda For Sales”, I’ve addressed ”grasping the legitimacy of the Sales function in Business” as being a critical path to success, regardless of your role in a Sales organization. My experience has been that gaining a deep understanding of what it means to be a Sales Representative and being passionate about it is just as essential.


Gary Wiram, Sales Representative

P.S. What is your experience along these lines? Do you have related anecdotes to share? Please let us hear from you!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where Do Today's Pilgrims Go Next?

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in the U.S. on the fourth Thursday in November. Although sources can be found (e.g. Wikipedia) stating that Thanksgiving is "considered secular" and "can be traced to harvest festivals ... celebrated ... since ancient times", that ignores an overwhelming abundance of evidence to the contrary. It's certainly contradictory to what I was taught in my home, in my church, in my school and in my entire community; growing up in the U.S. And, its absolutely inconsistent with what's in my heart, as I celebrate Thanksgiving ... to give thanks to God for all that He blesses me with.

That "overwhelming abundance of evidence" starts with the foundational event for our Thanksgiving Day ... the Pilgrims of Plymouth, MA, setting apart a day to celebrate their first harvest, in 1621. As to whether or not this celebration could be "considered secular", you only need to consider who the Pilgrims were. These were people, originating in England, who didn't accept the "divine right" of King James I and who were determined to honor only God, as their King. They ended up in Plymouth as the result of fleeing King James' persecution. You can bet that the Pilgrims saw Thanksgiving as a Holiday (meaning Holy Day), set aside to express their thanks to God.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress appointed Thanksgiving days every year. In 1777, their declaration started by saying:

"FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received ... (full text)."

You know, that doesn't sound so "secular" to me.

The first Thanksgiving Day in the United States was designated by President George Washington, in 1789. His proclamation began with:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits ... (full text)."

That doesn't sound very nuanced either, that its aim is Spiritual.

And, in 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln set forth a proclamation, establishing the Thanksgiving Day we continue to observe. Lincoln opened his decree by stating:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God." (full text)

The Spiritual intent is pretty hard to miss in that too.

So, where does this perception come from that Thanksgiving is "considered secular"? And, though its not what is taught in my home or in my church, why is it now commonly accepted in our schools and our communities? Even in the school where my Wife works, instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, they have a "Peace Meal". What's going on?

Sadly, I think what's going on is similar to what was going on with the Pilgrims. Remember, Pilgrims were the people who were determined to honor only God, as their King. They ended up here as a result of being persecuted for this. Considering that the persecution was so intense that it finally drove them out of their homeland, I assume they were experiencing this persecution everywhere they went ... in their communities, in their schools, in their churches and even in their homes. King James is long gone and it may seem melodramatic to refer to it as persecution but there's no denying that the changes I've seen in our communities and our schools has been driven by those who don't want to acknowledge God, in any way, let alone as their King. An added irony here is that its not uncommon for those taking this position to also be working to make America more like Europe ... the very environment the Pilgrims fled. Considering this, how long will it be before they succeed at having their way in our churches and homes too?

Sooner or later, this reality must be confronted. I suggest that we begin by looking in the mirror to see that the Pilgrims are still here. I can't say for sure that my European ancestors came here for the same reason as the Pilgrims but I, too, am determined to honor God as my King. So, even without the buckle hat, I recognize, I'm a Pilgrim too. However, I have no Mayflower to board and no New World to flee to. So, where do I, as one of today's Pilgrims go next? For me, the answer is simple and it comes from the persecutor's least favorite source ... God's Word (ironically, the King James version) ... "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." - Joshua 24:15. Meaning, I'm not going anywhere. For me, Thanksgiving Day will remain set apart to give thanks to God and I will honor only Him, as my King.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Competitive Sales Strategies & “Set-Aparts”

Competition plays a peculiar role in a Free Enterprise economic system, especially in the U.S. Since Sales is my business-life, dealing with competition has always been a consideration and frankly, my gut reaction to it is that its a nuisance. Intellectually, however, I recognize that competition has been an essential element behind the successes of U.S. business in the global marketplace. This element is commonly known as “Yankee Ingenuity”. With this in mind, I strive to not give in to my gut-level instincts to address competition as a nuisance and attack them negatively. I’ve heard it said that, in dealing with competition, “If you throw dirt, you’ll lose ground.” Sort of cute, huh? I’m surprised that hasn’t become a more common cliche. Anyway, for me, these have been helpful words of wisdom.

With that said, the question remains, “How does one, effectively, deal with competition in a positive manner?” My default position here has been to look for “set-aparts”.

Before going on, since the term “set-apart” can be used in a number of ways, let me tell you what I have in mind. To me, “set-apart” is more of a Marketing term. Its the sort of thing that you’ll typically find in Marketing materials, as positioning statements, for branding purposes. One of the best definitions I’ve found for this is in an article by Elizabeth Boineau, entitled “Is Your Brand Sending Mixed Messages?”, where she says:

“Your brand platform, or positioning statement, is born of articulating the “set-aparts,” whereby you offer a compelling proposition explaining why your brand should be the choice. The next step is to promise you’ll maintain both brand image and reputation by delivering against all the things you claim make you uniquely qualified to serve the needs of your audience.”

One of the best examples of this, in my experience, comes from my time with Minolta. At that time, I was able to say:

“Do you know that Minolta is so particular about imaging quality that we are one of only two companies in the world who make their own glass, from which we make our own lenses?”

Now, that’s a “set-apart”! More importantly, it was one that I could have a “fire in my belly” about and communicate with sincerity. As a Consultative Sales Professional, that has always been vital to me … to know that what I’m saying about what I’m offering is truly of value to my Customer.

With that in mind, I want to close by noting what I think is the most important “set-apart” for a Sales Professional to offer their Customers. That is the one that you see when you look in the mirror. Of course, that is, uniquely, you. No one else can offer that. However, it is also, uniquely, your responsibility to make sure that this is “truly of value” to your Customer.

How does this match up with your experience, in dealing with competition and in using “set-aparts”? As always, we welcome your sharing your views too!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sales Gimmicks

Sales gimmicks have always puzzled me. Often, I see some potential educational value in them, for the Sales person, but, almost always, they seem to be counterproductive, in application. During the past week, we’ve been “back home”, in Southern California, for a wedding. Ironically, in what is, for me, a pretty far from “work” setting, I saw a remarkable example of this.

There I was, babysitting my seven month old Grandson (Jake) at the front of a hair and nail salon, while Ruth (my Wife) and Jill (my step-Daughter) were having their hair done. While some concoction was doing its magic on Jill’s hair, she came to sit with Jake and me. As Jill was flipping through a magazine, a woman appeared in the exterior doorway that separated our chairs. Facing Jill, she said something like, “You seemed to be interested in our catalog. Would you like to order some of our products?” As she said this, she pointed at a catalog of cosmetic products that was laying on an end table next to Jill. I won’t mention the cosmetic company’s name but it rhymes with Rave On. Anyway, Jill said she wasn’t interested and the woman responded by saying, “Are you sure? I’m pretty sure I saw you starting to reach for it?” I won’t bore you with the rest of this verbal exchange but it didn’t get any better.

As I reflected on this, I considered that the cosmetic company representative had probably been taught the tactic I observed. My assumption was that the intent of this teaching was to aid a Sales person in initially connecting with a Prospect, if they found them actually showing interest in the company catalog. In this case, the misapplication of the training resulted in a disconnect, as well as a bad taste in Jill’s mouth (and mine) for ever doing any business with that cosmetic company.

In addition to the misapplication of well-intentioned Sales gimmicks, there are those that are simply devious. A good example of this is one that was included in my training for a summer “Sales” job when I was in college. This involved selling vending machine franchises to individuals. The tactic was to hand the Prospect a pen and get them to sign meaningless documents during my presentation so that when it came time to ask them to sign a contract; they’d already be comfortable in signing things for me. Since I always try to take something good from every experience, I suppose I gained in grasping an understanding of the psychology involved with this. Otherwise, I view this as a skill of a Charlatan, not of a Sales person.

And, I guess this last point is my primary objection to the use of Sales gimmicks … they, generally, seem to be the skills of a con artist, not of a business professional. Since my business card says, Consultative Sales Professional, that probably makes me even more sensitive to this. My view of “consultative” involves the aim to sort of “crawl inside the other person’s skin”, to understand their goals and challenges from their perspective and to have a much better understanding of how your company’s offerings can help with that? Manipulating the Prospect doesn’t seem to fit in with this approach very well.

Are there examples of more legitimate and productive Sales gimmicks out there? Please let us know your experience, one way or the other. As always, we welcome your sharing to benefit others.

Justin Hitt Says:

November 18, 2008 at 11:07 am edit

I make a skill of finding unusual sales gimmicks that translate well into the business-to-business selling space, and agree with you about the garbage approaches some managers teach sales people.

Managers and sales people alike seem to miss the attention part of a sales gimmick, it’s not so much for you to attach to your prospect, but instead to get your prospect to contact you (and qualify themselves.)

Thanks for highlighting this problem, I’m certain other observers of these “gimmicks” feel the same way, disgusted.



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Win-Win Selling … Another Perspective

“Win-Win Selling Is For Losers”. That’s the title of a current post by one of my favorite Sales bloggers, Scott R. Sheaffer. I have a high regard for this fellow Sales Professional’s views. In fact, Scott’s blog, Sales Vitamins, is on my Blogroll. With that set up, you may be expecting me to now say something like, “However, in this case, I think Scott’s all wet.” But I don’t. Actually, I’m in agreement with the views he expressed on this and if you haven’t read this article, I recommend that you do. Still, I think there’s another important perspective to consider.

At the risk of oversimplifying Scott’s message, I’ll say that the essence of my agreement is that it isn’t helpful and can be harmful for a Sales person to use the “We just want to make this a win-win situation” cliche. Scott is completely right that this is a trite expression that takes the focus off of the WIIFM and ignores that the “Me” component of the WIIFM is the Customer. With that said, though the cliched “win-win” expression may be unwise, I believe that the determination to achieve “win-win”, even if unspoken, is quite important. Here’s why:

The smart Customer recognizes that, in most cases, ”win-win” is in their best interest – i.e., it is part of their WIIFM. Regardless of the product or service the Customer needs they do “need” it. In other words, the Vendor is meeting a need that the Customer can’t satisfy on their own. The Vendor/Customer relationship isn’t a one-way street. It is, in fact, a mutually beneficial business partnership. With this in mind, the Customer understands the legitimacy of the “win-win” called “profit motive”. In most cases, their company will have a “profit motive” in mind for their products and services. Beyond this, the Customer understands that its the “profit motive” that makes it possible for their Vendor to keep fulfilling their needs and to get better at doing it. So, even if its only implicit, a Vendor that is determined to achieve “win-win” may be offering just the set-apart that the Customer knows they must have.

It may seem more obvious, on the Vendor’s side, why the “win-win” called “profit motive” is important. Nevertheless, my experience has been that finding this lacking in Sales Cultures is nearly as common as the use of hackneyed Sales cliches. Perhaps, in some cases, the effort to avoid the latter may end up causing the former. I’ve found that this can be avoided fairly simply. I start with pointing out that, though it isn’t always appropriate to bring it up in a Sales presentation, its completely appropriate to want your company to remain healthy. Then, it can be used to help the Sales person mature … when a Sales person is sort of “comfortable in their own skin” – i.e, at peace with the legitimacy of their function within a business process, they tend to become more and more self-assured. And, finally, they learn that there are circumstances where it is appropriate to bring this into the conversation with a Customer. A good example might be in a price versus value selling situation, where the Customer needs to understand that the value provided by “win-win” can be their sacrifice for a competitor’s lower price.

So what do you think? Do you agree that both my perspective on “win-win” and Scott’s are important? Is one more important than the other? Let us know your views so others can benefit from your experience too!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Managing My Not-So-Hidden Agenda For Sales

Since Sales is my business-life, I’ve had a not-so-hidden agenda for quite awhile. That is to make everyone in the organization I’m part of a Sales Person. Or, at least, that’s how I think of it. In reality, if I turned everyone into a Sales Person, forsaking the role that they were hired for, the organization wouldn’t function very well. So, maybe a better way to express this plan is to equip all my colleagues to help stimulate Sales, in addition to carrying out their assigned duties. Here’s what I have in mind:

One of the Fortune 500-level companies I’ve worked for is my career-favorite employer. The top reason for this was that this company truly looked out for the best interests of its people, knowing that the people would do the same for the company in return. That genuine caring attitude extended to other critical areas, such as: the company’s demand for quality in its products, their determination to have the best of mutually beneficial relationships with Customers and Business Partners, etc. Of course, as a Sales Person, it was great to be able to represent a firm with sincere enthusiasm that came easily. However, I discovered that the qualities that were the source of my zeal were effecting the behavior of others in non-Sales roles in ways that were positively impacting Sales. My favorite example of this was a great guy, named Sal, who ran the warehouse. Sal was as “on fire” as I was about the terrific company we worked for and I’m sure that was behind the excellent way he carried out his job. But, I found that this impacted Sal’s conduct elsewhere. When Sal ran into a friend at Trader Joe’s and they asked him about our company, you could count on him to tell them about our remarkable employer and our excellent performance. You can’t buy PR like that! But, you can bet that I saw to it that, in addition to Sal’s natural gusto for our company, he was equipped with an “elevator pitch” of matching quality, to help him express his views. And, as you might expect, it was from that point I started looking to do this with all my co-workers and thus, my “not-so-hidden agenda” was born.

I can’t imagine any sane business leader not wanting to have the sort of win-win culture I’ve described embedded in their company. Just the same, there are pitfalls to avoid. One of the biggest is what the folks who teach soft-skills call “unmet expectations”. This didn’t happen with Sal but lets say that, as the result of an encounter at Trader Joe’s Sal brought a Customer to the company and he took the Customer directly to Order Entry and asked that his name be placed on the order as the Commissioned Sales Person. Fraught with problems, right?! You talk about your unmet expectations! … The Sales Manager expected that Sales People, not enthusiastic Warehouse People, would handle all Sales. Sal expected that he would get paid commission. The Customer didn’t expect to get caught in some internal conflict with their supplier. Etc., etc. Wow!

Unmet expectations, commonly, occur because two parties expect different things and that’s because they didn’t set an expectation in the first place. If Sal’s Trader Joe’s contact resulted in revenue for the company, certainly it would be in line for him to receive recognition and remuneration. However, there should be a policy in place to define this and typically, that would define the appropriate steps for the not-really-a-Sales-Person to hand the connection off to Sales. That should apply across the board, even if the connection is made at a higher level … a situation that could be even more problematic. A good place to start, in general, is to make sure that everyone is on the same page about the legitimacy of Sales in the business process. My posting on The Pride and Prejudice of Sales touches on this a bit.

What experience have you had along these lines? Please let us know so it can be shared with others!

Dan Waldron Says:

October 15, 2008 at 5:16 pm edit

Well said� Great information, keep up the great work!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Faith ... In The World Economy

As you might expect, over the past couple of weeks, Figgins and I have had several discussions about our nation's financial crisis, that quickly spread to world markets. Since Figgins is a true Millennial, his experience with this sort of thing is next-to-none. Though I'm older, by an order of magnitude, I'm still just a Baby Boomer. I don't have the experience of the Great Depression and my business expertise hasn't been in Finance so I haven't had solutions to offer, with confidence. However, I have been able to pass along some observations of differing reactions to these circumstances and I think that's been meaningful to him.

One related occasion involved meeting with the VP of Sales of a $Billion+ firm. This is a man who is at retirement age but he's considering postponing his retirement due to the current economy. I suspect that his compensation plan is pretty healthy and he mentioned that he's in the process of having a vacation home built abroad so it didn't seem that he was in imminent danger of going broke. When he told me of a night he had spent "from 8:00 in the evening until 4:00 in the morning, calling Stock Brokers, with all (his) financial papers spread out around (him)", it was obvious that he is scared, nearly senseless, of the economy's uncertainties. In sympathy, I shared with him that these are the sort of times when I'm especially appreciative of the peace I have, as a man of faith. I told him that my slogan is, "I don't know what tomorrow holds but I know Who holds tomorrow." And, I went on to say that I like to look at the sun when it comes up in the morning and realize that I had absolutely nothing to do with that happening. My point is that I don't have any more control over the world economy than I do of the sun coming up in the morning so why should I worry about one more than the other. Sadly, he wasn't open to what I had to say and his anxiety seemed to remain, as we parted.

On another occasion, we heard from a couple who are friends from our church "back home". Their first message asked us to join them in praying about a situation that involved a relative who is out of work, who lost his home and who, along with his Wife and dog, is being evicted from his apartment because he's now out of money even for rent. Now, our friends were being asked to take in the relative, the Wife and the dog. Of course there are many things to consider in a situation like this and we don't know all the particulars but we do know that our friends both have full-time jobs, they've been struggling for the past few years to try to buy a home of their own and one of them has asthma and allergies so having a dog around is not ideal. Today, we heard from our friends, thanking us for our prayers and letting us know of their decision to have the relative move in, along with his Wife and dog. They have committed to covering all the costs, "including dog food", without any payback to be done so that the relative can "save his money & get a job".

Finally, I told Figgins that it was these sort of experiences that led me to Luke 9:57 - 10:2 for our time in the Word, at this past Saturday's Calvary Chapel - Vancouver - Married Couples Fellowship Event. That concludes with, "Then He said" ... "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." My added encouragement was that this is a GREAT TIME! Its a time when you can truly bless others by sharing your faith. I don't know that the words I spoke in sympathy with the VP of Sales will have any impact. I pray that they will. Likewise, I pray that the Lord will use the up-close view our friends' relatives (and others) are getting of what faith can do. And, for you, my Christian Brothers and Sisters who are reading this, I pray that, in this time of uncertainty in the world, you'll be especially watchful for opportunities to witness through the way you live. When those around you are shaking like a leaf and they turn to look at you, to see someone who is at peace, they're certain to wonder, "What do they have that I don't?" and that will lead to eternal blessing!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

“The Perfect Face” for Inside Sales

“Back in the day”, as TV encroached on the domain where Radio had been dominant, some Radio Stars were unsuccessful in their attempts to transition to become TV Stars. With some, it was said that this was because they had “the perfect face” for radio. In other words, some of those attractive voices didn’t have the eye appeal to match.

As the metamorphosis of Inside Sales has given it a more significant role in Selling, I’ve observed some similar phenomena, though in reverse. I’m not saying, if you’re not a great looking person, you shouldn’t consider Outside Sales and get on the phones right away. I’ve spent the great majority of my fairly successful Sales career in Outside Sales and I’m no Brad Pitt. What I am saying is that you can’t expect to take a good Outside Sales person, put them in an Inside Sales role and expect instant success.

Although I’d had previous involvement with Inside Sales, in its initial, supportive role for Outside Sales, my most significant experience in this arena came from the work I did in the Call Center of a premiere Direct Sales organization. This is where I first observed the phenomena mentioned above. My primary objective in this assignment was to assist this group, as it shifted its emphasis from transactional selling to more of a consultative approach. In doing that, I started by going through the classroom Sales training for new-hires. When it came time to role-play, some experienced “old hands” were brought in from the Call Center. I was matched with one of these “old hands” and I was a bit surprised at my level of discomfort, as I took on the role of the Inside Sales person. When it was the “old hand’s” turn, I noticed that the first thing he did was to roll his chair away from his workstation, put his elbows on his knees, rest his head in his hands and he stared at the floor … not at me, across the room. An “aha moment” for me! I realized that I had brought into that room a set of skills, that I’d honed over the years, that no longer applied because I was no longer able to visually connect with the Prospect.
My “aha moment” in the classroom ended up leading to the area where I was able to make the most significant strides, in developing the consultative selling abilities of this Direct Sales force. When I got to the Sales Floor of the Call Center, of course, I found that some of the Inside Sales people had previous successful experience as Outside Sales people. Within this group, I found that some were managing to succeed in their new environment, while others were “just getting by” and others were failing. The most significant difference I found in these groups had to do with my “aha moment”. Generally, here’s why:

The ones who were failing didn’t recognize why their previously successful approach wasn’t working and they had pretty much given up. With the ones who were “just getting by”, it seemed that they knew what wasn’t working for them anymore but they weren’t sure what to do about it and they were settling for what they could accomplish “in the transactional mode”. Those who were succeeding had become more consultative, in many cases unconsciously, through learning to replace their skills of visual observation with other techniques.

My approach, to start addressing this, was simple. Rather than emphasizing the sense of hearing over the sense of sight, I encouraged the sales people to focus all their senses on the human being who was calling in/being called. I would say, “You see that line of script lighting up on your PC monitor? That’s not just a stream of electrons, that’s a human being. And though they may not use these exact words, they are calling here for HELP! Your job is to learn, as completely as you can, what they need help with, that we can provide. Then, as thoroughly as you can, to communicate what we have to meet their needs and how it will meet their needs.” That turned out to be a great foundation for developing an effective consultative Inside Sales person.

For more on this, I recommend checking How have you approached this? What successful methods do you use that you can help others with by sharing?

greg wease Says:

October 7, 2008 at 2:57 pm edit

Gary – great article.

It has been my experience in the technology and media sectors is that many outside sales reps are now required to allocate a certain percentage of their time in the role of an inside sales rep, especially with the advent of social media and on-line collaboration.

grwiram Says:

October 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm edit

Great point, Greg! In addition to these aspects of New Media Sales & Marketing, the current economy necessitates that a Sales Professional equips themselves to be more of a “Utility Player”. The days when Smilin’ ‘n’ Dialin’, for Prospecting, was as close as an Outside Sales person came to doing true Inside Sales work are as passe as the days of the “Smoke-Stacking” sort of Prospecing I mentioned in an earlier post –

Nick Moreno Says:

October 17, 2008 at 11:35 am edit

Great article… thanks. The “sales foundation” for both inside and outside sales is to uncover a problem that you can “fix” with your product or service. It’s not about the product… it’s all about the solution.

Thanks again.


Vern Says:

November 7, 2008 at 9:44 am edit

I really liked your aha moment story because it shows a level of awareness that’s not available for many folks, as is clear by the story of what happened to other outside sales people when moved to the phones. I’d suggest that with such awareness, you may want to start a telesales consulting business of your own.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Growing Sales In A Down Economy

When the economy is down, it can seem almost instinctive to use what I call “foot-on-the-neck” tactics to keep Sales up. During my Sales career, I’ve seen such devices used, in good times and in bad times, with some regularity. My experience has been that these procedures are limited in their effectiveness and often result in some pretty negative side-effects. Lets face it, when the economy is down, sales potential will be reduced too and no matter how hard you press down with your “foot-on-the-neck”, there’s only so much that can be squeezed out. In the process you’re likely to “bruise the necks” of your Sales people, making them resentful and perhaps, forcing them into behaviors that don’t reflect the quality of representation you really want.

So what is a more effective approach during these tough times for businesses? I think the best answer to this was summed up in a conversation I had with our mortgage lender, when I ran into her at a recent business meeting in our community. Of course, her industry has probably been hit as hard as any business sector, in the current economy. So, I asked her how business was going. Her response was that she’s in this for the long-term. There are peaks and there are valleys. During the last peak, she did what she knew was necessary to prepare for the next valley, And, now that she’s in the valley, she’s tending to the things she didn’t have time for during the last peak and she’s doing this so she can maximize the benefits of the next peak.

What a great role model?! It brought to mind work I did with a Client during our country’s last big economic downturn … post 9/11. The Client was a major manufacturer of office furniture, whose Chairman had been championing a particular course in Cross-Cultural Communication to establish more consistency in the company’s corporate culture, to accomplish more productive business communication internally. I know this doesn’t seem very connected to Sales yet but bear with me … the Chairman’s initiative wasn’t getting much traction until I met with his EVP of Sales and pointed out to him that every time one of his Sales people entered a prospective Customer’s environment, they were actually entering a unique culture. Then, I went on to point out that, if his Sales organization was equipped with Cross-Cultural Communication Education and the competitor was not, his company had a huge advantage. As a result, the course that the Chairman was championing was deployed throughout the company, from the top down. The Sales result did not include putting the competitor out of business (yes, I have to admit to having that “killer instinct” too) but, in that down economy, my Client consistently beat their Sales goals and significantly increased their market-share, which they continue to grow.

Although I like telling that story, I know it can seem a bit altruistic. In fact, in times like we’re in, a business leader may just be trying to figure out how to make payroll or pay the light bill or … you name it. However, if your circumstances allow, my recommendation is to avoid looking to “foot-on-the-neck” sort of steps to buoy your company’s Sales. Instead, take a fresh look at all aspects of your Sales organization and consider what could be improved with some investment. One resource that may, actually, be more available for investment than it is during an economic boom is time. Regardless, I encourage investing what you can now. Its more likely than “foot-on-the-neck” to maximize current Sales performance and, like my friend the mortgage lender, you’ll be prepared to “maximize the benefits of the next peak. ‘

For another source of good ideas on this topic, check out What steps are you taking, along these lines, for the benefit of your Sales organization? As always, we welcome your Comments, to share with others!

Monday, September 29, 2008

_ _ _ _ PROOFing Your Marriage

In the past week or so it seems that I've encountered countless promotions for the current movie, "FIREPROOF". Just from the movies logo, the word "FIREPROOF" with the "OO" represented by interlocking wedding rings, you quickly get a sense of what the movie is about. On the movie's Website, you get a synopsis of the movie that starts out by saying,

"At work, inside burning buildings, Capt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. At home, in the cooling embers of his marriage, he lives by his own rules.

Growing up, Catherine Holt always dreamed of marrying a loving, brave firefighter...just like her daddy. Now, after seven years of marriage, Catherine wonders when she stopped being "good enough" for her husband."
Obviously, what needs to be made "FIREPROOF" is this couples marriage.

Since my Wife, Ruth and I head up our church's Married Couples Fellowship, we welcome seeing a movie that encourages married couples to tend to their marriage. And, naturally, we hear from others on the topic. Just yesterday, we had several couples come to us, raving about the movie and urging us to encourage others to see it. Also, we received an email from the leaders of the Married Couples Fellowship at our old church, in Southern California, letting us know that they had gone to see the movie, as a group and encouraging us to do likewise.

Of course, we're thankful to see this level of interest by married couples in protecting their relationship. Marriages certainly need _ _ _ _ PROOFing from countless things today. Just fill in the blanks with whatever threatens to draw your priority to something else and away from your marriage ... WORK, GOLD, BEER, BALL and on and on.

Coincidentally, Ruth and I are presently participating in a 12-week Marriage Class being conducted by the Pastors and Elders of our church. After the first class , I was approached by the Husband of a couple who were unable to attend the first session, though they are signed up for the course. He, simply, asked if I thought the class was worthwhile. I think my answer also helped sum up the importance of a movie like "FIREPROOF" and why we're so grateful for the attention its getting. I said,

"When you set aside time with your best friend to focus on guarding and nurturing your relationship, remembering Who put you together and Who is the foundation of your marriage; how can it not be one of the most worthwhile things you do with your life?!"

Sales Management Style – The Positive Motivator

“You can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.” Though its a bit of a non sequitur, the intent of this cliche illustrates a truth in human relations. So, it doesn’t take tremendous genius to recognize that a Positive Motivator Management Style (for Sales or for any other discipline) is, generally, more productive. But, as they say “back home”, that can say easy and do hard. The remaining question is how do you best implement this truth, as a Sales Leader?

A great lesson on this topic comes from Harvey McKay’s renowned book “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” McKay’s encouragement is to “catch people doing something right”, to harness the power of praise. This has been the foundation for what I’ve put into practice and I’d like to share one of my favorite examples:

Its not uncommon to hear that Sales “is a numbers game”. And, just as there is truth in the “bees to honey” cliche, its hard to deny that Sales clearly has a numbers-driven quality. My experience has been that Inside/Direct Sales Organizations are more comprehensive in doing this … capturing “talk time”, number of calls (inbound and outbound), time between calls, conversion rate, etc. Unfortunately, its also not uncommon to see numbers used in a punitive way in a Sales Organization. Ironically, one of my favorite stories of taking a different, Positive Motivator, approach to this comes from work I did in the Call Center of a premiere Direct Sales Organization … Nautilus. Here, we developed a program called “The Voice of Nautilus”, with the intent being to “catch people doing something right” and to encourage them to do more and more of it. In the Direct Sales arena there are certain basic “measurements” (some of them being legal requirements) that must be met. “The Voice of Nautilus” takes those things into full consideration but it focuses more on how well a Sales Professional actually “helped” a Customer. A good example here would be, did the Sales Professional hear that a Customer was interested in a specific device and then proceed to sell the features of the device or did they listen closely enough to hear that the Customer was calling because they wanted to be thinner and in better shape by the time of their next class reunion, thus the Sales Professional proposed the right device along with all the right accessories, a weight loss program, etc.? In addition to being a source of growth for individual Sales Professionals, this program is a source of development for the Direct Sales Organization, in general, inasmuch as it involves Sales Supervisors listening to recorded calls and submitting the calls they select to the Sales Training staff for determination of the winner/s.

Regardless of its implementation, having a Positive Motivator Style in your Sales Management is another foundational key to having a successful Sales Organization. What are your thoughts on this? What are your favorite stories, along these lines, that you’d like to share?!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Pride and Prejudice of Sales

If your business life has involved having the word “Sales” on your business card, you’ve probably had an experience like this:

You’re at a social function, you meet someone and they ask the most common question in that circumstance … “What do you do?” Your response includes the word “Sales” and you, literally, see the other person’s face go slack. As this happens, you know that your new acquaintance is envisioning some huckster, in white buck shoes, palming off some old rattle trap to some rube in a used car lot.

Of course, as a Sales Professional, I’m perturbed by this Prejudice and when I can, I try to dispel it through education. However, I’ve found that this isn’t just an occasional, individual bias. It seems to be systemic in our culture. Since I only minored in Psychology in college, I can’t be sure but I think the fact that I too connect with the imagined “huckster in white bucks”, affirms my view.

So, what is a Sales Professional to do about this? I suppose becoming an evangelist, marching onward to “fix” this wrong-headed notion, is an option. What I do and what I recommend is to take the flip-side of this weakness (Prejudice) and make it a strength (Pride). In fact, I think this is one of the most important foundational steps you can take for yourself, as a Sales Professional and for your Sales Organization.

There is a legitimacy to the Sales function in business. It isn’t “palming off.” That is hucksterism. The legitimate process, in very abbreviated terms, goes something like this:

Learning a Prospects challenges, from their perspective.

Understanding what you can offer to meet those challenges.

Communicating the value of that offer to the Prospect.

As a Consultative Sales Professional, the process is typically far more complex and requires many well-honed skills. And its this that I get “on fire” about. Its where I find the flip-side to Prejudice … its where I find the Pride of being a Sales Professional. For me, having that foundational Pride has been pivotal to my success. And, it has been integral to my work, as a Sales Leader, in developing others.

Over time, some aspects of the Sales role change. Presently, we’re seeing this as the result of telemarketing, inside sales, eCommerce, etc. Regardless, I believe it will remain true that any Sales Person or Sales Organization instilled with Pride in the Sales Profession will greatly outperform one that does not have this foundational characteristic. My recommendation is that you make it a regular touch-point in your personal development strategy and that of your Sales Organization.

Do you agree? If so, please share your ideas on the most effective ways you’ve found to do this.


Nick Moreno Says:

September 27, 2008 at 3:49 pm edit

100% Agree!

Thanks Gary!

I think this is why we use the word “Professional” so often… Professional Sales Career, Professional Sales Training, Professional Sales Rep. Ever hear of a “Professional” Lawyer?

Nice read!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Sales Incentive Programs – Maximizing Impact

WIIFM? What’s In It For Me? That question is at the heart of the buying motive. Whether we like to admit or not, its also at the heart of human nature. That means, not only is it at the heart of the buying motive, its at the heart of the selling motive too. So, regardless of a Sales Professional’s protestations that they’re really focused on their development and mastering things like strategic/complex selling, silently, they’re asking WIIFM? I’m, certainly, like that. My business card says, “Consultative Sales Professional” and I am but put an added incentive on the table and “I’m in baby!” And I’m perfectly happy to let others know of my success in competing for incentives. Wanna see the limited edition engraved marble Inner Circle plaques I have for each of my 11 years at Minolta?!

So, all that’s necessary is to play to that human nature … when Sales aren’t where you want them, just feed the WIIFM instincts of the Sales People then sit back and wait for the results. Right?! Well, sort of. Yes, you can grow your Sales along with growing the reward for the performing Sales Person through such feeding but I think, far too often, Sales Incentive Programs miss out on growth opportunities that can be much more far reaching and have significantly greater lasting power. Here’s what I have in mind:

Not long ago, I got to work with the Direct Sales Force of a company whose products are aimed at improving Health & Fitness. I found that, in the Direct Sales environment, Sales Incentive Programs are utilized with much greater frequency than I’ve experienced in Field Sales organizations. I, also, found that, this particular company set aside a significant budget amount in order to, at Christmas, purchase and distribute gift items to lower income families in their local community … no doubt, benefiting the Health & Fitness of that community. My suggestion was to tie the Sales Incentive Programs to the programs that benefit the community. Instead of the top Sales Performers getting to go home with the latest Nintendo has to offer, why not offer them Paid Time Off to represent the company in its community service? There’s still positive impact on Sales and some immediate needs in the community are still ministered to but, in between, there’s a lot of added growth.

But, what if you’re not a large company with its own sizeable Direct Sales Force? It strikes me that, even for a small to medium sized company, a similar approach can be taken. Is there a local business organization that would be beneficial for your company to join but you’re struggling to justify the budget for membership? How about adding to the justification by using the membership as an incentive, allowing Top Performing Sales People to represent the company, as they and your company grow in the process?

So, what do you think of this approach? What’s been your most effective approach to Sales Incentive Programs? Please let me know so it can be shared with others.


sensetives Says:

September 24, 2008 at 6:18 am edit

There is (unfortenately) not just one way. My experience is that you have to make a mix to have a succesfull incentive program. Not every one gets satiesfied bij doing something for the community. Leave a choice. Because the program has to motivate every individual but not everybody has the same values.

grwiram Says:

September 24, 2008 at 6:44 am edit

Thanks for your comment. I, absolutely, agree. The suggestion I made for community service, as a reward, would work best as an option. You are right that a good program should motivate everyone involved. I just want to encourage being as creative as possible, in doing that, to maximize the resulting value.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The "Tech Savvy" Sales Organization

If your Sales role doesn’t include a technology-based product or service, you might come to the conclusion that being “Tech-Savvy” isn’t a top priority. If so, you’re making a BIG MISTAKE, no “might” about it!

Believe it or not, in my first Sales territory, in the Midwest, my initial training included a prospecting technique called “Smoke-Stacking”. This involved driving to a town, finding the companies with the biggest smoke-stacks and trying to meet with the decision makers in those companies. The most significant technology involved in this was my company car (See! I don't go back to the horse and buggy days.), printed presentation materials, pay-phones and handwritten records. That was then.

Now, Sales and Technology go hand-in-hand, regardless of what you’re selling. This includes: cell phones, voice mail, PDAs/laptops/PCs, email, word processing software, spreadsheet software, Internet browsers, virtual meetings, eLearning, SFA, CRM, ERP and on and on, into my next blog post. If you’re not tuned into these technologies, you might as well try “Smoke-Stacking”.

So how do you keep up when it seems that technology advances with every breath? It’s a must to have a strategy for this, whether you’re an individual contributor in Sales or you’re a Sales leader. And, in order for the plan to succeed, it has to be a right-fit for each individual and their organization. That means there’s more than one “right answer” to this. Regardless of the method chosen, I recommend personal commitment, as an essential element. What I have in mind here is along the lines of what I once did, to keep up on CRM technology, when I was in “job search mode”. At that time, I had experience with several CRM systems. But, that didn’t include I can recall Googling CRM and finding an article entitled “Top 10 SFA Vendors Not Named”. It struck me that it might be important for me to do something to fill in that gap in my experience. Duh?! I found that offered a 30 day trial that allowed you to thoroughly examine their product, go through all their tutorials, have dialog with their support personnel, etc. Beyond this, an affordable individual license was available. Needless to say, I took advantage of those offerings and thus, no more void relative to

So, what’s worked for you along these lines? Please let me know! I’d welcome hearing from you on the approach you take for yourself and/or your organization so it can be shared with others.


Stan Earnshaw Says:

September 20, 2008 at 11:37 am edit

Technology is a valuable tool for my sales team and me. The key, though, is to keep it simple. Ignore the hype; focus on the tool that is easiest to use and covers the basic needs. For example, CRM systems have more capability than many sales organizations need. I use; it’s simple to use for keeping track of account / opportunity information. And there are a couple of reports that I pull on a weekly basis that meet my needs. There are many other capabilities and benefits of SF. And I plan to (over time) take advantage of them. For now, it’s the basics that get my attention.

Sean Says:

September 21, 2008 at 6:16 pm edit

I like this tool as well. I’m sure I don’t even use one third of its capabilities, but I keep trying to learn. One of the things I think makes it valuable is the ability for it to sync with Google apps. has anyone used this feature?

In addition, a tool like this could be useful for job seekers as they try to keep track of their informational interviews, networking meetings, etc. It may be overkill, but back a couple of months ago I saw that was offering a one year subscription for only $99. Not sure what it entailed, but you can’t buy a decent software package for that price these days. Any thoughts on this? Or other tools job seekers could use?

Sean Harry

Janet Johnson Says:

September 22, 2008 at 9:02 am edit

Hi Gary,

I subscribe to a few online newsletters to keep me informed and at the leading edge of marketing and technology. My favorite is IAB’s SmartBrief. SmartBriefs are on many subjects, and this one is focused on digital marketing. The ClickZ network is also good for staying informed in newsletter format.

In addition, I watch Twitter for breaking news and information, and am a pretty regular reader of the Read Write Web (RWW) blog because I know some of the bloggers there, and respect just how far ahead of the pack they are.

I try to share the love in my own blog, but there’s no substitute for learning from others!

Scott Sheaffer Says:

September 22, 2008 at 4:50 pm edit

Congratulations on the new sales blog site. Best of luck.

Sam Mikel Says:

September 26, 2008 at 2:22 pm edit

Hi Gary,

Technology is huge! I subscribe to several real estate feeds that I read every morning, one that focuses on technology in real estate around the country, as well ac PC Mag… plus every day has some technology study.

In our 100-year old real estate office (the business isn’t 100 years old, just the building , we have two flat screen monitors for training. We have the meeting information on the screen, as well as training videos, weekly local real estate statistics… and if you can’t get to the office, you can join us from Spain or from you living room in your jammies. Our agents can access company informatio online as well as post their new listings, articles, pictures, etc.

Our files are normally 1-8 inches thick full of paper at the end of a transaction. I just completed my first paperless transaction – at closing I had 3 sheets of paper (guess that’s not quite paperless). The title company was thrilled. Every piece of paper, my e-mails, notes, etc. can be accessed from anywhere I can get online… plus we will have a CD of each transaction.

So, after 30 years in real estate, we know that staying current with technology is mandatory for staying relevant.

By the way, didn’t you just have a birthday. Hope you did something fun.

Take care – nice to hear from you.

Sam Mikel

Nick Moreno Says:

September 27, 2008 at 4:12 pm edit

Nice article!

I’m one of those that was “selling” prior to the Internet, so I enjoyed it!



Thursday, September 11, 2008

The President Bush/Senator Daschle Hug - 7 Years Later

SEP 11, 2001. A day of great loss for our nation. But, at the time, out of that loss, there was the prospect of great gain. For me, that was symbolized by seeing President Bush and Senator Daschle hug, as the President arrived to address a joint session of Congress, shortly after the 9/11 tragedy. Sadly, our nation has let that prospective gain slip through our fingers.

Like most Americans who remember 9/11, there are specifics that stand out in my memory.

- We were still living in Orange County, CA and we were just waking up when the news started to come in. When I saw the 2nd plane go into the twin towers, I told my Wife, "This is no accident. You're gonna see that replayed over and over and over."

- Since I've had the experience of dining at Windows, the restaurant at the top of one of the WTC towers, I thought to check their Website. It was strange to see "views" on that Website ... "views" that no longer existed.

- It wasn't long before I went out to put up Old Glory on our Fountain Valley townhouse and during the day, we went to join others in prayer in the Sanctuary at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM).

- I recall worrying about my Wife going to work in a high-rise in the City of Orange and I remember the eeriness of seeing one of the first planes on approach to John Wayne, after air travel resumed.

But, I also recall that sense of potential gain, resulting from the loss. In addition to the Bush/Dascle hug, I remember:

- The pews being even fuller at CCCM.

- Drivers going out of their way to be courteous on the Southern California freeways.

- EVERYONE standing, with a hand over their heart and singing "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America", at Angels games.

- A sense that, as a nation, we were making a conscious effort to gain strength through our differences, instead of letting our differences divide us.

I truly thought that we were exhibiting what we said we were ... One Nation, Under God. God's Word teaches us - "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28. It appeared to me that this was exactly what was going on but, maybe even more tragically than 9/11 itself, we failed to nurture our newfound gain.

Currently, we see little, if any, evidence of that prospective gain. Looking at the current presidential race provides proof of just the opposite. Once again, its just one candidate pitted against the other, based on their differences. I think that's pretty sad. With that said, I'm not endorsing a "Can't we all just get along, lets all get together and sing Kum Ba Yah" approach. Staying with the musical theme, I do believe that "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." But that doesn't necessarily mean that because others see things differently than I do, that makes them wrong or bad. It just makes them different and I think the synergy of the best of our differences was a key element, leading to America's greatness in the first place. Although we didn't nurture the opportunity that the tragedy of 9/11 gave us to regain that quality, it doesn't have to mean the opportunity is completely missed. One of the qualities that all of the current presidential candidates like to tout is their ability to lead. My prayer is that at least one of them will show the courage of their convictions and from this point forward, choose to lead by example in this regard.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Is Our Choice Bush-McCain or Obama/Biden-Reid/Pelosi?

“Bush-McCain!” … the Democrat’s one consistent mantra, since John McCain became the Republican’s apparent nominee for the 2008 presidential race. Although McCain is obviously his own man and his presidency would be significantly different from that of President Bush, you can understand why they want McCain to be saddled with Bush’s unpopularity … currently ranging from 25% to 33%.

Since, according to the National Journal, Barack Obama (D) has the Senate’s most liberal voting record and Joe Biden (D) has the Senate’s 3rd most liberal voting record, isn’t it more appropriate to link Obama/Biden with the current liberal (D) congressional leadership … Reid/Pelosi? In 2006, the Democrats became the majority party in both houses of Congress, establishing the Reid/Pelosi administration. The Democrat’s winning campaign strategy was summed up, at that time, by the new Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, when he said, “The days of the do-nothing Congress are over,” adding that Americans spoke “clearly and decisively in favor of Democrats leading this country in a new direction.” Considering that the current unpopularity of Congress ranges from 14% to 18%, it appears that the “new direction” Reid/Pelosi had in mind was a level of “do-nothing” where no man has gone before. Now, aside from “Bush-McCain!”, the central Obama/Biden theme has been “Change!” It boggles the mind to consider the depths of “New Direction”/“Change” an Obama/Biden-Reid/Pelosi term will mean.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Character v Diversity

An African-American from Generation X, two White Guys from the Silent Generation and a woman from Generation X. Arguably, the greatest diversity the U.S. has ever seen in its leading general election candidates for the Presidency. I think that’s a healthy thing.

The progress our nation has made on the topic of diversity is, surely, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. But, he taught us not to judge people based on observable differences – e.g. the color of skin (or the age of skin or the shape of skin). Rather, his instruction was to base judgment on content of character.

Character, then and not diversity seems to be the important consideration in determining the best candidate for President. But, what is character? J.C. Watts Jr., one of my favorite ex-politicians (I do wish he would get back in the game) says, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.” I think that makes a great character “yardstick”. So, lets consider the things that first come to mind about these candidates that we’ve come to learn they did “… when nobody (was) looking.”

With Obama, I immediately think of the nearly 20 years he sat under the teaching of Jeremiah Wright. I find that deeply troubling.

In Joe Biden’s case, I’m mindful of the plagiarism he admitted to in school and that was obvious in his 1988 Presidential Campaign. He’s proven that you can’t take him at his word.

A year ago, “… when nobody (was) looking”, Senator John McCain was traveling coach-class and carrying his own bags because he was willing to stand up for our nation to win, even if it cost him his election. I find it very hard not to stand up for a guy who is willing to stand up for me like that.

Recently, Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin learned that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant. Quietly, giving being Mom priority over being a politician, Governor Palin provided her daughter the love and support she needed to begin dealing with the young woman’s challenging circumstances. Although the press tried to eviscerate her for it, it made me proud to know that someone with this sort of character is willing to serve us, as a nation.

Are there other matters to consider along these lines that would reflect more positively on Obama and Biden and more negatively on McCain and Palin? Perhaps. My recommendation is that we all give these matters our full consideration, in this same light and right away. November 4th is coming fast and we all need to be doing our best to determine the best candidates based on the Substance of their character and not the Style of their presentation.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Sound familiar? Before you jump to conclusion about the quotation … this is what a gnat might say, finding itself nearing windshield impact. Yes, the brainpower of a gnat is sufficient to know, when things aren’t going well, “Change” is a good idea.

Why, then, has the “Change” mantra generated so much excitement over Obama? If good “Judgment” accompanied “Change” … with the aim being better, not just different “Judgment” that, metaphorically, can keep us from going splat … I could understand.

Sadly, many who are excited about Obama and “Change” remain so in the face of indications of his lack of good “Judgment”. This list grows daily … far too long to address here. Choosing to sit under the teaching of Jeremiah Wright for nearly 20 years is very troubling. Ironically, the one that’s most telling about lack of fitness for the Presidency is the cornerstone of Obama’s candidacy … he wouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq … again, metaphorically, he wouldn’t have allowed us in front of that windshield in the first place.

Based on intelligence at the time, every other subsequent Presidential Candidate supported our President’s decision but, somehow, as an Illinois State Senator, Obama knew that going to war in Iraq was a mistake. It turns out, the intelligence was wrong and mistakes resulted. How did Obama know better? Was it ESP? He hasn’t said. He just says we need “Change”. Frighteningly, his “Judgment” hasn’t led him to the “Change” that’s most needed herebetter intelligence. That means, if Obama becomes President, if he gets the same sort of menacing intelligence we had about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (or Hitler’s Germany or Tojo’s Japan), proactive military action would not be an option. If that happens, wave your little gnat wings goodbye … we’ll be going splat on the windshield of the world.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Price-Per-Barrel, Band-Aids and Bludgeons

Arguably, the single most important issue in the U.S. economy is the current unprecedented rate of increase in the price-per-barrel of crude oil. Unarguably, our “Leaders” are still offering no well thought-out cohesive plan to address this matter that’s been in crisis-mode since 1973. Instead, they continue to offer Band-Aids and Bludgeons.

Band-Aids are things like the gas-tax holiday endorsed by Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain or Congress calling in oil company executives to yell at them about their morally questionable level of profits. While these actions illicit gut-level reactions, they’re not solutions. They are, at best, Band-Aids.

Bludgeon describes how politicians use this to beat on each other. Democrat Presidential Candidate Barack Obama provides a classic example of this. He uses this as yet another opportunity to use the disingenuous phrase “Bush/McCain” and to lay the blame for this crisis at the feet of his political opponent. This completely ignores the fact that every President, Senator (including himself) and Member of Congress, since 1973, has screwed this pooch. Instead of a true “Change” to true leadership that leads to much-needed real solutions, we get the same old political expedience of just blaming the other guy any chance you get. The result? No real solutions, just more Bludgeons.

Well, I’ve had enough! In late 1978, when I was 30, I accepted a promotion and moved from Indiana to Southern California. When I got there, I found that you could only get gas on alternating days, depending on the ending number of your car’s license plate. And, on those alternating days, you’d still have to wait in line for gas, hoping that the filling station you’d picked didn’t run out. To make matters worse, the price for gas was approaching an outrageous $1.00 per gallon! I remember the Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson saying, “Just wait. Once gas gets to $1.00 a gallon, there will be all the gas you want.” I guess he was right. Once there was enough supply, the price didn’t seem to matter that much and not much changed.

So, here we are, 30 years later, I’m now 60, I’ve moved from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest, gas is over $4.00 per gallon and finally, something about our nation’s energy dependence is beginning to change … our driving habits. Charles Krauthammer addresses this well in his recent column entitled “At $4, Everybody Gets Rational”. Once the price exceeded $4.00 a gallon, it did matter to us and the change in our behavior is forcing the “Captains of Industry” to respond.

I guess that’s a good thing and that Krauthammer is right … Its too bad that it takes this sort of “gun to the head” circumstance to change our driving habits but that key needs to remain in place if, as a nation, we’re ever going to achieve energy independence. But, this involves the behavior of “Followers”. What about the behavior of our “Leaders”?! Where is their cohesive plan, now 35 years overdue, that: Safely produces more domestic crude oil and refined product, includes rational and expedient development of alternative fuels, leverages pricing for the products that OPEC imports from the U.S., etc.?

Certainly, I’m not alone in my views on this and I’m confident I’m not even in the minority. What I’ve pointed out up to now isn’t exactly “news”. The question remaining is what do we, as individuals, do about this? Well, we can still “throw the rascals out” with the power of our vote. After 35 years of inaction, whether they have a “D” or an “R” (or any other party-affiliation) after their names, they deserve to be thrown out. If, in over a third of a century, they can’t address such a clearly urgent matter, which can just as clearly be resolved, how can we rely on them for other concerns and why shouldn’t we give “the other guys” a chance to do better?

For me, the time to act is now. I look at what has happened while our “Leaders” have continued to let this matter drift since I was 30. We can’t “unscramble that egg” but lets have enough concern for where our nation will be 30 years from now, to put true Leaders in place who will do better than just continue to let us “go with the flow” into oblivion. There’s no telling if I’ll see 90 but, if things don’t change, I imagine my departure having to be much less elegant than my arrival. I plan to be cremated. Without significant change, I imagine that my Wife and dog will have to drag me to some designated public spot where two sticks can be rubbed together to get me started and I can be used as fuel for something, including the smoke-signals that are used to relay the news of my passing. Part of why I imagine that black-comedy scene is to try to make myself laugh to keep from crying. I do not want to spend my “Golden Years” in depression, both economically and emotionally, as a result of what we allow to continue to happen to our great nation. So, I’m going to do what I can, including doing all I can to “throw the rascals out”. That means I will not vote for anyone, at any level, who isn’t supporting a well thought-out cohesive plan for our nation’s energy-independence. Can I make a difference alone? No. But, if I’m right, that I’m not in the minority on this and those who agree act in unison with me, we will make a difference. In addition to being a difference that keeps my sorry ash from going up in smoke signals we can make a significant and true “Change” that keeps our nation on its course of greatness.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

McCain’s Defense of Hagee

OK, there wasn’t one. As a result of controversy that was raised up about Pastor John Hagee within the past few days, Senator John McCain rejected the endorsement Hagee had given his presidential candidacy, without any apparent attempt to come to Hagee’s defense.

At the center of the mentioned controversy is an argument Pastor Hagee included in a late 1990s sermon. Those who unearthed this sermon, sum up Hagee’s argument as saying, “… the rise of Adolf Hitler was part of God's plan to help the Jews reach the Promised Land.” If that’s an accurate summary, I think Pastor Hagee is wrong. I’m a man of faith and I believe that God does know the end from the beginning so I would agree that God knew what Hitler would do. I, also, believe the Bible and what it tells us about the nature of God. As an example, in Romans 8:28, we’re told, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” In other words, though God knows of the evil that men will do, He sees to it that it leads to good anyway, for His people. So, while I can see that applying to the mind-boggling evil that Hitler did, it isn’t in God’s nature to raise up that evil Himself. With that said, I guess I can see how Hagee could get carried away and come to the conclusion he did but I don’t agree with that conclusion and I would agree with McCain in rejecting that conclusion.

However, it wasn’t just that conclusion that McCain rejected. He rejected Hagee’s endorsement and in doing that, he rejected Hagee himself. In order to understand McCain’s character and his fitness to be our next President, I think it’s appropriate to ask … Why was there no apparent attempt to come to Hagee’s defense?

Of course, I can understand why it was politically expedient for McCain to reject Hagee’s endorsement. Especially, in light of how McCain’s detractors have relentlessly dug for anything they can find to counter the Rev. Jeremiah Wright stigma that McCain’s opponent, Senator Barack Obama, carries. But doesn’t Hagee deserve better? McCain actually sought out Hagee’s endorsement. And this past February, Hagee stood up for McCain, in the way McCain wanted. I trust that Hagee did this, fully aware that McCain has his flaws. McCain admits to this, himself. A good example came this past MLK Day; when McCain appeared at the site of MLK’s assassination and stated, “I was wrong. I was wrong.” And “We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes”, regarding his original opposition to establishing MLK Day, as a National Holiday. Perhaps McCain’s original opposition to MLK Day was out of some well-intended but misdirected over-exuberance. Whatever the reason, McCain, himself, now rejects that position and yet, he asks that we not allow this admitted error to cause us to reject him or his presidential candidacy.

Why, then, isn’t Senator McCain extending the same consideration to Pastor Hagee that he asks for himself? Perhaps Pastor Hagee wouldn’t admit to being in error. I don’t know. What I do know is that it troubles me that McCain rejected Hagee without any apparent attempt to give him that opportunity, so he might continue to stand up for him. It makes me wonder how the “Captain of the Straight-Talk Express” will stand up for me, in spite of my flaws. Although I’m, presently, a McCain supporter, I have to wonder if I can count on him once he finds out that I voted for Ambassador Alan Keyes for President, in California’s 2000 Primaries. I heard Keyes speak at my church and every time he spoke, he uttered my views. Since then, Barack Obama beat him like a drum, in the Illinois race for U.S. Senate and with his few appearances in the current presidential campaign; I’ve been embarrassed for Keyes. Maybe I was just overly enthusiastic about Keyes’ speech at my church but, considering what I’ve witnessed since then, I have to conclude that my judgment was flawed, in casting my Year-2000 Presidential Primary vote for him. Does that mistake, with or without admitting to it, mean that Senator McCain would reject my support and thus, reject me? Maybe so and maybe I’d understand it, in a way. Maybe that would be the politically expedient thing to do. But is that what we want our nation’s character to be founded on? Political expedience?! Shouldn’t we be willing to stand up for those who stand up for us … At least to the extent that, before rejecting them, we give them the opportunity to acknowledge their mistakes so that we can continue to stand up for them? I’ve done that for Senator McCain and so did John Hagee. But, that’s not what Hagee got from McCain, in return. John McCain is an unquestionably-genuine national hero. My gratitude for all he’s done for us and our nation is undying. Regardless, I’m disappointed that I didn’t see the courage of an unquestionably-genuine national hero in the way he dealt with this recent controversy, that was raised up around John Hagee. My hope is that he will revisit this in a way that assures me that we can continue to count on John McCain to courageously stand up for us all, imperfect though we are.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

CA Voters Should “Recall” Why Prop 22 Was Abandoned

In 2003, California held a statewide circus known as the Gubernatorial Recall election. That election actually considered two questions … Yes or No, should their sitting Governor, Gray Davis, be recalled? … And, if Yes, who of the 154 candidates should replace him? The slate of candidates included Actors, a Lieutenant Governor, a State Senator, Business People, a Porn Star, a Comedian, etc., etc.

In the lead-up to this election, it seemed likely that Davis would be recalled. This gave the Republicans the opportunity to capture the Governorship of the nation’s most populous State from the Democrats. In my opinion, it was unnecessary emphasis on this that led the California Republican Party to make a tragic error. Dana Rohrabacher, the U.S. Congressman for the California District I lived in at the time, took the lead in the party’s effort to support Actor/Businessman Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was obvious that this endeavor was founded on Schwarzenegger’s popularity, making him most likely to garner the plurality of votes needed to be Davis’ replacement. It was just as obvious that, for the group led by Rohrabacher, the subject of “Who is the best Gubernatorial Candidate for the future of the State?” took a back seat to the issue of popularity. To many, the answer to the question of “Who is the best Gubernatorial Candidate for the future of the State?” was State Senator Tom McClintock. He seemed to be very clear on every issue, as it pertained to what was needed from a California Governor for the present and the future. However, he wasn’t widely known in the State and he is far from being a flashy politician. Of course, it’s impossible to say that, if Rohrabacher’s efforts had been invested in McClintock, he would have won and the Republicans would still have secured the California Governorship. As you know, Schwarzenegger became “The Governator”. However, since McClintock received more votes than any Republican besides Schwarzenegger, it seems quite feasible that, with the Rohrabacher group’s support, McClintock could have won the Governorship.

So, since that circus took place nearly five years ago, what’s its importance now? Especially, at a time when the political “hot topic” is the May 15, 2008 Headline - California Supreme Court Overturns Gay Marriage Ban - i.e. The overturn of California’s Year 2000 ballot initiative Proposition 22 which, by a vote of 61.4% in favor, prevented California from recognizing same-sex marriages. Of course, there’s ongoing heated debate on this issue. I’m not writing to add to that fire. I will say that there are people who are dear to me on both sides of this matter and my prayer is that we all can keep our related discussions, no matter how inflamed, from singeing those treasured relationships. I’m not even writing to address the matter of seven unelected officials forsaking the will of 61.4% of the California Electorate … though that seems pretty obviously wrong to me. I’m writing to address the matter of choosing style over substance – i.e. in 2003; the California Electorate let themselves be led to choosing popularity over ability. The current political “hot topic” just helps to illuminate that folly and its result … You may end up with just what you asked for, a likable “leader” who isn’t able (or willing) to respond in a way that reflects the will of those he represents. Specifically, in a statement responding to this California Supreme Court ruling, Governor Schwarzenegger simply said that he respected the ruling and did not support a constitutional amendment to overturn it. By contrast, State Senator (and now, U.S. Congress Candidate) Tom McClintock said, "Today's Supreme Court ruling is a travesty of judicial activism and is based not on California law - which is crystal-clear - but on the social views of the individual justices. Fortunately, the initiative process allows voters the opportunity to overturn this ruling by adopting the Marriage Protection initiative this November," McClintock said. "I intend to do everything in my power to campaign for this initiative."

Certainly, the outcome of the 2003 California Recall Circus isn’t unique, in terms of a population choosing style over substance, leading to travesty. As with most things, the best example is in the Bible, when Israel demanded a King. They first chose Saul, described in 1 Samuel 9:2 as “… a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” … He was a good-looking tall guy who was a disaster, as King. On the other hand, David, Israel's first great King, who God instructed Samuel to anoint to replace Saul, was initially not included with the sons of Jesse who Samuel was considering. He wasn’t even present … as the youngest and the least, he was the one assigned to be out in the field, shepherding the flock.

So, what can we learn from this? Obviously, though we were given the “choosing style over substance” lesson in Saul and David, thousands of years ago, in Israel, it seems we still haven’t fully learned that lesson. Hopefully, the voters of California are learning from the results of their having elected (and reelected) “The Governator”. But, I no longer live in California so I’ll leave that to present-day Californians. My hope is that we will apply this lesson to what lies before us, as a nation. In the current Presidential campaign, as in most political campaigns, there is much to consider, in terms of what is style and what is substance. I’m not going to tell you, here, which of the Presidential Candidates I see as having more substance. With this, I just want to encourage you to seriously consider the matter of “a population choosing style over substance, leading to travesty.”