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.