Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Does a “Bleeding-Heart Conservative” Look Like? - Why the Answer is Critical for 2010/2012 -

On my Twitter Bio, I describe myself as “A Bleeding-Heart Conservative”. As you might expect, I’m often asked to provide my definition for that description. And, when I’m asked for this, it’s not uncommon for the inquiry to be accompanied by the question, “Is that like a 'Compassionate Conservative'?” … I get the impression that many don’t like that label due to its association with Bush 43.

Since I was referring to myself as a “Bleeding-Heart Conservative” long before I heard GWB call himself a “Compassionate Conservative”, I’ve felt comfortable saying that my sense is that the two are substantially different. Otherwise, until lately, I haven’t felt especially moved to offer further definition of “Bleeding-Heart Conservative”. However, when I was recently notified of a new Twitter Follower named Gina Bella (@ginabella) I was motivated to change my perspective on this. When I checked Gina’s Bio, to my surprise, I found that she also describes herself as a “bleeding heart conservative”. My immediate reaction was to think, “Hmmmmmmm. I guess we’re a movement. We should probably have a clear definition for our brand.”

As I began to seriously consider my meaning of “Bleeding –Heart Conservative”, I quickly realized that I don’t really fit my own definition. You see, when I think of “Bleeding-Heart Conservative”, I’m thinking of the guy in the photo (President Reagan), comforting those grieving the loss of the Challenger Shuttle Crew. Although I like to point out similarities between myself and “The Gipper” – e.g., I, too, can say that I didn’t leave the Democrat Party, it left me – I know I don’t measure up to the standard he set. Not many do. I guess, at best, I should call myself an “Aspiring Bleeding-Heart Conservative”, though I probably won’t make that change to my Twitter Bio due to their 140 character limit. Regardless, it struck me that, with Reagan as the standard, defining itself as the party of those aspiring to be a “Bleeding-Heart Conservative” could be pivotal to the Republican Party in regaining its significance in American politics. With that in mind, I finally felt compelled to offer my definition.

As noted, I see Ronald Reagan as having set the standard for what it means to be a “Bleeding-Heart Conservative”. And, as I see it, the key components of that standard are:
  1. Focusing on what we stand for, not what we’re against. In other words, accentuating the positive. Remember, Reagan always saw us as striving to be “The Shining City on the Hill”. I don’t remember him ever being apologetic to anyone about us while blaming our condition on what he inherited from predecessors.
  2. Being absolutely clear about what we stand for. The C&W lyrics “You’ve got to stand for somethin’ or you’ll fall for anything” may seem corny but they carry great truth. Being wishy-washy is a surefire way to invite attack from those who oppose you, who are not well-meaning.
  3. Not forgetting Reagan’s “11th Commandment”. Simply stated, this is not speaking ill of your fellow Republican. The converse of that is just as true – i.e., Boldly, speaking well of your fellow Republican … even when their popularity is down in the polls. I can’t think of a better example here than the way Former VP Dick Cheney has been speaking out lately. Too many have shied away from him due to the way our last administration was inappropriately disrespected and far too few have spoken out in agreement with him, as he has been courageously shining the light of truth.
  4. Constructively engaging those who oppose us, who are well-meaning. Don’t confuse this with the current administration’s foolishness in offering to sit down with lunatics like Ahmadinejad. President Reagan clearly understood that there is evil in this world and he was unafraid of calling a spade a spade, in that regard. But, when sitting down to negotiate with foreign leaders; he first strove to connect with the fellow-human-being on the other side of the table. More importantly, when dealing with domestic political opponents, he started by showing complete respect for those across the aisle ... his fellow-Americans. Moreover, whether or not he was in general agreement with another person, he was willing to selflessly embrace and acknowledge any superior ideas they offered.
Certainly, there are other important aspects to being a “Bleeding-Heart Conservative”. Likewise, beyond defining itself as the party of those aspiring to be a “Bleeding-Heart Conservative”, there are other essentials to bear in mind, as the Republican Party works to recapture its influence. But, I can’t think of anything better suited to serve as our cornerstone, as we rebuild and prepare the party for the coming 2010 and 2012 campaigns.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Portland’s Whuffie Trail Blazers

If you’re checking this article to see what I’m implying about Portland’s NBA team, the Trail Blazers, you’re going to be disappointed. This isn’t about basketball; it’s about a remarkable quality I’ve discovered in the Portland (PDX) business culture. It falls under a category trend setters in New Media Marketing are calling Whuffie. With the “remarkable quality” I mentioned, PDX has become quite a trend setter, itself, with Whuffie – i.e., Whuffie Trail Blazers.

Before going on, for those of you who’ve never heard of Whuffie (I heard it for the first time, myself, just over two weeks ago, through my friend, Janet Lee Johnson), let me tell you what it is, if I haven’t lost you already. In short, Whuffie is sort of the net worth a person or group builds up in Social Capital. The word “Whuffie” actually comes from a Sci-Fi book entitled “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”, by Cory Doctorow. Credit for the application of the word “Whuffie” to Social Capital seems to go to Tara Hunt, the Author of a book entitled “The Whuffie Factor”. For a more in depth understanding of Whuffie, check out Tara’s blog post entitled “You can’t eat Whuffie (but it’s getting harder to eat without it)”.

With all that said, my purpose with this article isn’t to educate you about Whuffie. It’s to give PDX kudos for its “Whuffie Factor” and to encourage Sales people and Sales organizations to be mindful of building their net worth in this regard.

First, let me tell you a bit about my discovery of PDX’s “Whuffie Factor”. When we relocated to PDX, from Southern California, four years ago, I discovered several traits of the PDX business community and its culture, that were different than I had anticipated. One of these aspects was the PDX employment base. It wasn’t as strong as I had expected and of course, as the once bustling streets of downtown PDX have taken on more of a look of a ghost town, that’s become an even more significant factor.

However, the most significant difference I found in the PDX marketplace, versus what I had expected, was the importance of a good network of local business contacts. I started coming into PDX on business in the mid 1980s and I thought I had an understanding of the business community when we decided to move here. I discovered that I was wrong and that having a good network of local business contacts was critical. At first, I was a bit anxious about recognizing my lack in this regard. In addition to surprises in the business community, I was also taken aback by realities I found in PDX in general that didn’t match up well with several of my most important personal beliefs. Especially since I’m pretty transparent about my beliefs, I was concerned that the business community might spurn me and keep me from building the needed network of business connections. I’m thankful to say that I was wrong about that too. It’s not uncommon to hear the PDX marketplace described as being provincial. That’s true to some degree but mostly it’s true with the positive characteristics of “provincial”. If you’re willing to be a member of the PDX business community who looks out for its other members and the health of the business community in general, PDX will not only welcome you as a member, it will help you to become one. In general, that is the “Whuffie Factor” I discovered in PDX.

The specifics Tara Hunt uses to define Whuffie include:

Do well by doing good.

Think Customer-centrically.

Help others go further.

Spread love.

Value something bigger.

That sounds significantly different from the clichéd business/Sales model of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), doesn’t it? At first, I thought that Whuffie might be WIIFM’s selfless, diametric opposite. But, though it is somewhat opposite, it isn’t selfless. In fact I think it’s fair to say that Whuffie turns out to be an extension of WIIFM, with Whuffie as a vehicle for securing WIIFM. But, if I’m right, it at least gets you out of the mode of exclusively considering WIIFM by first getting you involved in WIIFO (What’s In It For Others). Regardless of what you call it and I’m fine with calling it Whuffie, I’m thankful for it. It’s the common ground PDX made available for me to connect and become a part.

So, hats off to PDX for nurturing this remarkable quality. I’ve been a part of two other major business communities and I’ve had the opportunity to observe countless business communities throughout the northern hemisphere. In this regard, PDX stands head and shoulders above any other marketplace I’ve known. I’m pleased, then, to be a part of it and to proudly say, “I am one of Portland’s Whuffie Trail Blazers.”

With that in mind, I want to close by encouraging you to be mindful of Whuffie for yourself, as a Sales person and for your Sales organization. Tara Hunt says that with Whuffie, “The more you give away, the more you get.” I can’t think of a better attitude for you to take in engaging with your business community.

sharrypdx Says:

June 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm edit

Welcome to the community Gary. You are a VALUABLE asset . . . conservative opinions and all!

Sean Harry

Anne B Says:

June 7, 2009 at 7:41 pm edit

To really understand the power of Whuffie in building your business, I recommend reading Tara Hunt’s “Whuffie Factor”.

I agree – Pdx is a welcoming community if you are ready to put in before you take out!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Biggest Casualty, So Far, Of A Nation Divided Against Itself - General Motors

Lunatic Foreign Terrorists Brought Down The WTC Twin Towers

– GM’s Collapse Is A Fully-Domestic Self-Inflicted Wound

My first visit to New York City’s World Trade Center was in 1979. The company I worked for, at that time, had a branch office on the ground floor of one of the buildings in the WTC complex so I was there on business. A few years later, in the mid-80s, I was there on business again. The company I was working for then held a fiscal-year-end celebration dinner at Windows on the World (aka Windows), the renowned restaurant that occupied the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower. And, while on vacation in the early-90s, I got to visit Top of the World, the observation deck at 1,377 feet, atop the South Tower. What a blessing it was to have those experiences! And what magnificent structures they were! Literally and figuratively, they were a high point, symbolizing the great strength of American Capitalism. With their magnificence, it was well beyond my imagination that on a beautiful September day in 2001 a small band of maniacs, who hated everything the Twin Towers stood for, would bring them down, along with nearly 3,000 lives. Those who were responsible for that were identified, though. Many have been brought to justice and we continue to pursue justice for all who were responsible.

When I was born, General Motors was the world’s largest automaker. At that point, it had held that distinction for 17 years and it would continue to do so for the next 60 years. What New York City’s World Trade Center symbolized about the great strength of American Capitalism, Detroit City’s General Motors was, in fact. As I completed my formal education in the 50s and 60s, the optimum target for anyone with a business career in mind was a job with GM. And, as I carried out my business life, starting in the 70s and continuing into the new millennium, GM continued to serve as the standard metaphor of the ideal employer/business-partner. Considering that, in the heyday of my working life, General Motors reached its zenith, employing 349,000 workers in 150 assembly plants; you can understand that it was well beyond my imagination that on the first day in June, nearly 101 years after its founding, the once seemingly all powerful industrial giant known as General Motors would announce its bankruptcy. Unlike the disintegration of the WTC Twin Towers, the colossal collapse of GM wasn’t the result of foreign terrorists; it was the result of domestic ineptitude on the part of our Captains of Industry, our Wizards of Wall Street, our Labor Leaders and Politicians of all stripes. While Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is having his nasal passages regularly hydrated, Osama Bin Laden is living like a mountain goat and their compatriots are ducking real bullets; the dim-wits responsible for GM’s fall are shooting blanks at each other with their pointed fingers.

What’s needed here is for all of us, including the above-mentioned dim-wits, to draw together and do what President George Bush said he was going to do in the midst of the WTC ruble. Whether or not you were/are a GWB fan, his words from that time serve as a great example for the appropriate response to today’s disaster. The paraphrase I’d use is … "We hear you! And the rest of the world will hear all of us soon!" It was that attitude, not an attitude of Reds just opposing everything Blues are in favor of and vice-versa, that made America and American Capitalism so great in the first place. Some call it synergy … the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. My favorite label for it is the one that goes back to the founding of our country … Yankee Ingenuity. That’s the attitude that made it possible for us to accomplish things like winning a two-front world war. At the center of that successful effort was American Industry and an industrial giant named General Motors. If we truly want to regain the greatness our nation has known, we must rediscover that attitude and fully embrace it. That will require all of us and the leaders we choose, to stop the finger pointing and actually consistently extend our hands “across the aisle” instead of just paying lip service to that need.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

“FIREPROOF” Business Partners


Last year, in my personal blog (A Few Days With Figgins), I posted an article about a movie called “FIREPROOF”. As I said in that article, “Just from the movie’s logo, the word ‘FIREPROOF’ with the ‘OO’ represented by interlocking wedding rings, you quickly get a sense of what the movie is about.” 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. Of course, techniques that are healthy for marriages are often wise additions to other sorts of relationships. As the U.S. economy has been going through its current “trial by fire”, I’ve been reminded of the importance of having “FIREPROOF” business relationships.

Most Sales people become adept at communicating WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) messages to their Prospects. Typically these are FABs (Features, Advantages and Benefits) … things like “A 3.2 GHz processor”, “50% faster than your current PC” and “You’ll be able to do the same amount of work in half the time”. But, how many Sales people fully address what to expect when there are problems? Of course, after-Sales service, warranties, etc. are commonly detailed. How often, though, do you hear a Sales person say something like, “You know, we have a great (company, product, service, etc.) but we’re not perfect and there will be problems. An important consideration for you is, when problems come up, have you chosen a business-partner you can count on? I want you to know, when problems occur, you can count on me to be there, shoulder-to-shoulder with you.” Especially in the current “trial by fire” economy, its important to set your offering apart in as many meaningful ways as possible and setting yourself apart in this way may make the difference in whether you get business or it goes to your competitor.

This is, also, an important consideration in hiring. As a Sales Manager, there are numerous qualities to consider, in selecting the right Sales people for your team. However, no matter how good your selection is, the person you select won’t be joining a perfect (company, Sales team, Sales Manager, etc.). What can you expect from them when problems arise? Although the commitment to an employer/employee relationship isn’t the same as the Husband/Wife commitment to marriage, its important to know if you’re hiring someone who will stick with you “through thick and through thin”. Likewise, when you, as a Sales person, are considering a new employer, you should give this aspect some thought.

The movie “FIREPROOF” uses the metaphor of a company of Fire Fighters and their motto, “Never Leave Your Partner Behind”, to exemplify a necessary attitude for a successful marriage. With that said, I think its fair to say, there’s no such thing as a “FIREPROOF” marriage. There will be fires and some burning will take place. However, if Husband and Wife are fully committed to “Never Leave (Their) Partner Behind”, the marriage won’t “go down in flames”. Especially in the current “trial by fire” economic times, it seems important to strive for this sense of “FIREPROOF” in business relationships too.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree? What are your favorite stories, along these lines, that you’d like to share?! Please let us know so it can be shared with others.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The “Perfect Time” For Sales Training

Recently, I read an article on SalesBlogcast.com entitled “Making Time for Business Improvement and Staff Development“. The key points of this are:

It seems that there’s never a “good time” for a company to invest its resources in business improvement and staff development.

When business is good, companies feel secure and they don’t want to divert resources from processing as much business as possible.

When business is down; there are RIFs, along with cuts in travel and training budgets – i.e., the resources companies don’t want to divert when business is good are now reduced.

In order for a business to remain viable, investing in business improvement is a must, whether or not it seems like a “good time” for it.

This was reminiscent of an article I posted last year entitled “Growing Sales In A Down Economy“. Similar to the SalesBlogcast.com article, I point out that, though it can seem almost instinctive to restrict investment when the economy is down, some resources (e.g., time) are actually more available than they are during an economic boom. So, investing what you can now is wise. In doing so, you’ll be better prepared to maximize the benefits of the economy turning up again.

Recently, I took on the Director of Sales role for a leading developer of e-Learning based business solutions, headquartered in Portland, OR. So, in that capacity, you might expect my position to be that any time is a “good time” for a company to invest in education aimed at business improvement. You’d be right. In addition to my admitted bias, I’m getting a much closer look at the issues illuminated by the aforementioned SalesBlogcast.com article and on a daily basis, I’m seeing them clearly demonstrated in reality. This includes:

Companies wanting to nurture their workforce to be as competitive as possible.

Companies wanting to nurture their customer base to stimulate buying and to minimize support costs.

Much of the above-mentioned “nurturing” requires education and many companies are faced with getting this job done with fewer resources.

The admonition on this from the SalesBlogcast.com article is “Pay me now or pay me later”. I won’t argue with that wisdom. However, I think the example I used in my previous article provides more encouraging positive reinforcement so I’ll repeat that here:

So what is a more effective approach during these tough times for business? 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 that valley, she’s tending to 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.

So, what are your views on this topic? Whether or not you agree with my perspective, I welcome you sharing your experience.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Easter, The Ultimate Answer To, "What Would Jesus Do?"

Earlier this week, I had a really good discussion with a new friend. This new relationship seems to be one where we quickly recognized that we like each other regardless of our differing views on some pretty important topics. I say "really good discussion" because it was an open exchange with both of us genuinely interested in hearing the other's points of view and wanting to learn from that. Candidly, I have to give my friend more credit than I can take myself, in that regard. Although this "really good discussion" mostly involved the two forbidden topics typically warned against for peaceful relationships ... Politics and Religion ... I strongly suspect this was just the first "really good discussion" of many to come.

One of the results of this conversation was for me to be reminded that, while I'm clear in my understanding of my positions on the issues we discussed, I want to be able to clearly express my views to others. The question that was raised that confronted me with this most significantly was the question, "Do you believe there's only one way to Heaven?" Although I think my response to this was adequate, it seems to me that I should be prepared to offer more than an answer that's just OK to such an important question. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible compels Christians to do this, saying, "[be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you".

Expressing the "reason of the hope that is in (me)" is what I want to be better prepared to do but, before I delve into that, I should give you my initial answer to that question. My answer is:

I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I,
also, believe that every person can have salvation through accepting Christ's sacrifice for their sin. And, I believe that salvation, through accepting Christ's sacrifice, is the one and only path to Heaven.

Since my friend didn't state his position on this question, I won't presume to give you his answer. I will say his question was accompanied with several related questions and comments that I took into account as I considered how to best express the "reason of the hope that is in (me)". One related question was, "Do you think Mother Teresa went to Heaven?" and one related comment was, "I make it a daily habit, when considering certain choices, to ask myself, What would Jesus do?" I'm paraphrasing rather than quoting here but, to me, this combination of questions and comments had certain implications. One was that while my friend has some high regard for Jesus, he doesn't necessarily accept Him as being the only way to Heaven. Another was that "good works"/"being a good person" should get you to Heaven.

So, in order to respond to this and more adequately express the "reason of the hope that is in (me)", the two questions to answer are:

  1. Who is Jesus?

  2. Can "good works" alone be a path to Heaven.
In my opinion, one of the best sources addressing Question #1 is the book The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel. The one-liner I'll distill from this is that "Jesus was either Who He said He was or He was the greatest fraud in history". My friend's "high regard" for Jesus seems incongruent with Him being "the greatest fraud in history". That pretty much leaves that He must be Who He said He was. The Scripture references on this are numerous but Who He said He was, is God.

With that being the case, Question #2 is easier to address. Jesus, himself, answered it. As recorded in John 14:6, He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Although Scripture - e.g., James 2:20, makes it clear that good works are expected of Christians when it says, "faith without works is dead", according to Jesus, He alone is the way to Heaven. As to whether or not Mother Teresa went to Heaven, I don't know. Only God can look on our hearts. If Mother Teresa accepted Jesus' gracious gift of salvation, she did go to Heaven, where she heard the Lord tell her, "Well done good and faithful servant" and she's receiving the reward He stored up for her.

So, how then should I have offered a more adequate answer to my friend on this matter? Beyond what I've addressed up to now, I think the answer was contained in another comment he made ... "God is love". That's right! He loves us so much that He sent His Son out of Heaven, to live as a man, to die as horrible a death as can be imagined, to save us from our sin, to overcome death and sin and to return to Heaven saying, "I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, (there) ye may be also."

That was His ultimate answer to the question
"What would Jesus do?"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sales Pay Plans Written By Non-Sales People

It’s not uncommon for Clients to ask me to review their Sales Pay Plans. Often, this involves making changes and additions to what’s already written, to make it an effective and productive program for everyone involved. Nearly as frequently, though, this requires me to write whole new sections that are just plain missing. Thankfully, it’s a rare occasion for me to come across a section of a pay plan that needs to be excised completely. That did happen recently, however, when I came across a clause in a Client’s pay plan entitled “Windfall Business”. Here’s how that clause read:

“To provide for those unusual occasions when business achievement is realized through little or no effort on the part of a Participant, the Company reserves the right to declare such business a ‘windfall’. Windfall business is subjected to special treatment. Such treatment will be handled at the sole discretion of the Plan Administrator.”

I’m thankful that, when I first read this clause, I wasn’t in the presence of the Client. No doubt, my reaction was visible and it probably wouldn’t have been good for our relationship for them to see that. At first, I wondered what could have motivated such a position. Then, I wondered how my Client could have permitted it to be embedded in their pay plan. Finally, I decided that neither of those considerations should be my immediate concern. I had been introduced to this Client under the auspices that “they need a guy like (me) to turn their Sales around.” So, regardless of the answers to my “what & how” questions, I knew that their “Windfall Business” clause was a counterproductive element for Sales. They needed to understand that clearly and immediately. Here’s how I went about getting that done:

I, simply, shared with them some of my background in helping to develop Sales People. What I told them was: ”I’ve had occasions where, fairly early on in their efforts, new Sales People would have a stroke of good luck and close some significant business more quickly than they expected. In these cases, it wasn’t uncommon for the Sales Person involved to express some guilt, that they hadn’t really earned the sale. My consistent response in these instances was to tell that person that all Sales People get their share of luck … some of its good and some of its bad. You’re going to get your share of bad luck so, when you get some good luck, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty.” That was really all it took. From that, my Client recognized that their “Windfall Business” clause allowed Sales people to keep their bad luck but they didn’t necessarily get to keep their good luck. They agreed to remove the “Windfall Business” clause from their pay plan.

You may be interested to know that, in discussing this matter with my Client, I did learn the answers to my “what & how” questions. The answer to ”What could have motivated such a position?” was that it was a clause developed by an HR Consultant. The answer to “How my Client could have permitted it to be embedded in their pay plan?” was that they’d payed the HR Consultant for their advice and the Client felt they should follow the advice they’d paid for. In both cases, it’s an indication that both the HR Consultant and the Client don’t “get it” when it comes to what I called the “legitimacy to the Sales function in business”, in an earlier article entitled “The Pride and Prejudice of Sales“. And, I have to admit, with something like this; it may require a person who has Sales experience to “get it”. To many, who don’t have Sales experience, it may even seem to have a certain logic to it. And, that’s why I think my Client’s erstwhile “Windfall Business” clause is a great example for my point in this article:

In order to establish a Sales Pay Plan that’s effective and productive for everyone involved, don’t have it written by Non-Sales People!

What’s your experience been with Sales Pay Plans along these lines? Do you have other good examples to share? Do you agree with my perspective on the “Windfall Business” clause? Please let us hear from you, to benefit others through the experience you’ve gained!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

They Don't Make 'em Like That Anymore

My parent's generation, the G.I. Generation - aka The Greatest Generation - and their parents, were the ones who truly got to enjoy what's known as "The Golden Age of Radio". But, there were some remaining vestiges of that era when I was pre-school-aged. I remember hearing some of it, waiting outside, along with my older Brother and Sister, in our black 1951 Chevy Bel Air, while Mom did the grocery shopping at the A&P. We would entertain ourselves by listening to the car radio. Mostly, we would listen for some of that new Rock 'n' Roll music, interspersed with the stuff that old folks liked ... Don McNeil's Breakfast Club, Big Band Music, News, Weather, etc. However, there was a unique personality that seemed to fit in with "the stuff that old folks liked" that stood out and appealed to me. He would capture my attention, from the outset, when he would come on and say,

"Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey!
... Stand by for News!"

That captivation endured for most of six decades, until Paul Harvey passed away, recently, at the age of 90. It may be beyond me to fully define what it was about Paul Harvey that I found so appealing. What, generally, attracted me was a sense of a good person, with a good message ... the sort you hear esteemed with the statement, "They don't make 'em like that anymore". I think it may be more accurate to say, "They don't make many like that anymore" but I do believe Paul Harvey's sort are rare and are rapidly becoming even rarer. With that in mind, my motivation is to try to identify the qualities I found so appealing about Paul Harvey, hoping that we can encourage it in our culture, rather than just watching it depart along with Mr. Harvey and his generation.

Probably like most of his listeners, I never met Paul Harvey. So, when I speak of his qualities, I'm mindful that these are characteristics of his public persona. However, I've never heard even a hint of an indication that Paul Harvey's "real personality" was much different than his "radio personality". With that understood, the qualities that stood out for me in Paul Harvey are these:

He gave his work his best effort. His work was "News and Comment" and he was exceptionally skilled at it. Although he didn't dodge news that was unpleasant or try to sugar-coat it, one thing that set Paul Harvey apart was that you could count on him to find and to report good news. And, he didn't just "report" the news, he told stories ... great stories, that were uplifting, told by a great story-teller. His renowned segments known as "The Rest of the Story" offer the best evidence of this.

He, unfailingly, honored his Wife. Although her given name was Lynne, Paul Harvey called her Angel. They married in 1940 and the Harveys remained together until she passed away in 2008. Angel was mentioned often in Paul Harvey's broadcasts and always with great warmth and respect.

He was, unashamedly, a man of faith. However, I don't remember him being critical of others for having different views. This applied to other personal views, as well. It wasn't hard to tell that he was a Conservative and though prominent Republicans like Thompson, Huckabee and Romney have filled in for him, I don't recall him ever voicing partisan positions.

He was an unflinching American Patriot. It was said that Paul Harvey was "the Norman Rockwell of radio", honoring anonymous Americans with his words, the way Rockwell did with his painting. In 2005, President George W. Bush honored Paul Harvey's patriotism with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

An exceptionally skilled professional, who is unabrasively dedicated to his family, to his faith and to his country. There are some qualities I'd like to see encouraged in our culture ... especially with members of the media and others who are looked to as role models. My prayer is that this will be the case, as a suitable tribute to Paul Harvey, rather than just seeing these qualities further diminished in our culture with the last saying of,

"Paul Harvey.
... Good Day!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Selling and Business Humor


On two occasions in the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of attending meetings of the Executive Officers Club, at Portland’s Multnomah Athletic Club. There were numerous positive experiences associated with these events, that merit comment. However, the most notable experience, as it relates to this blog, came from The Keynote Speaker for the most recent meeting I attended. His name was Tim Gard and his topic was “Business Humor”. Before sharing my views on the noteworthiness of Mr. Gard and his presentation, relative to the SOL&D blog, let me tell you a bit about Tim and his perspective on “Business Humor”.

Tim Gard is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) who focuses on dealing with stressful circumstances in business, through humor. Most prominent in the multiple methods and techniques that Tim employs is his utilization of props. As an example, Tim has a nicely printed and bound booklet entitled “My Official Policy Manual”, that he carries with him. When he finds himself in a circumstance such as having a Flight Attendant tell him that “Its against the policy of the airline to upgrade a Coach Seat to First Class”, when Coach is oversold, he can pull out his “My Official Policy Manual”, to show them a differing policy, thus breaking any tension and often, getting himself a First Class upgrade. The prop that I think tells the most about Tim’s methodology, without giving you his whole presentation, is his Major Credit Card. Here are the basics on this:

As a CSP, Tim travels a lot and he’s found that, often, he arrives at his destination hotel fairly late.

In this circumstance, Tim will walk up to the Reception Desk and say, “Hi, I’m Tim Gard and I have a reservation.” He’s found that, consistently, the Reception Desk Clerk will look up and say, “What is your name sir? Do you have a reservation and do you have a major credit card?” Thus Tim’s development of a prop to help diffuse this annoying situation, that can become more and more stressful.

Tim’s Major Credit Card is credit-card-sized but it doesn’t have raised, imprinted information. Its green with white printing that includes his own logo in the lower right corner. The rest of the printed information includes: “This is a MAJOR CREDIT CARD”, Tim’s 1 800 number + 0000 (in the place of the credit card number) and the name Ima Traveler.

At first, being presented with Tim’s Major Credit Card can cause some bewilderment. So, typically, the clerk will ask for “Some other form of identification.” You guessed it, when you turn Tim’s Major Credit Card over, the backside is printed with the words “Here is SOME OTHER FORM OF IDENTIFICATION”, along with his Web site and other contact information. With this, usually any building anxiety is broken and often, Tim winds up with a room upgrade.

Hopefully, you now have a general understanding of Tim Gard’s approach to the topic of “Business Humor”. But the question remains, where does this fit in with Selling? Well, I think it fits in with the philosophy that companies don’t buy from companies, people buy from people. That means, as a Sales Person, in addition to developing good Selling Skills, its good to be a well rounded person. I think this is particularly true with Consultative Selling. It seems to me that having a good sense of humor is an important facet to being a well rounded person so I recommend that all Sales Professionals give this proper attention.

But, what is “proper attention”? Should Sales People employ Tim Gard’s methodology? I suppose there are some roles where this might be appropriate but I don’t think that’s the case for most. In the majority of Sales and Sales Leadership roles I’ve held, I don’t think direct application of the Tim Gard approach would be appropriate. In fact, considering those roles and especially considering my personality, using Tim Gard’s techniques might have caused me to come off as a clown, thus diminishing my effectiveness.

What I consider ”proper attention” to this topic includes a few steps, including:

Give some attention to ways humor applies in the business environment. Although Tim Gard’s methodology may not be right for you, taking a look at it and other examples, can give you a better understanding of humor’s application in a business setting.

Give consideration to your personality and the culture/s you typically find yourself operating in. Some things that are a “crack up” in a factory setting may not be so funny to folks in the back-office.

Of course, timing and general circumstances are important. It may be OK to share some friendly jibes with a longtime Customer, as you’re walking to a meeting but that’s not appropriate when you’re initiating a business contact.

Give some thought to what you view as being appropriate. This is not only important for how you conduct yourself but for how you react when another uses humor that you consider to be inappropriate. I’ve certainly had occasions when Prospects and Customers have told me ethnic jokes, as an example. I can’t tell you how you should react to this sort of thing but, these days, ethnic jokes are usually considered to be inappropriate and your reaction to someone else doing this should be considered.

Finally, I do recommend trying Tim Gard’s philosophy, if not his methodology, for dealing with stressful situations. On numerous occasions, I’ve found myself in stressful circumstances where those I was dealing with were proposing precipitous actions. A stock response I’ve used in such situations is to say, “We can always do that but, you know, the sun isn’t going to stop in the sky, if we don’t. First, lets see if we can come up with some alternatives that are better for us all.” Obviously, Tim Gard’s humorous approach could be fitting here too.

So, do you agree with my views on being a well rounded person being important in development, as a Sales Professional? If so, where do you think humor fits in? What is your experience in this regard and what direction can you offer?

Partner Profile Girl Says:

April 20, 2010 at 1:51 am edit

“So, do you agree with my views on being a well rounded person being important in development, as a Sales Professional? If so, where do you think humor fits in? What is your experience in this regard and what direction can you offer?” – I do agree, some clients may be hard to read or hard to drop a joke just to freshen up the ambiance. Humor is really important. Though we still need to be serious, it actually depends on what meeting or whatnot you are in.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My First Social Media Group - Circa 1955 - Lessons For Today From The Baby Boom

I suppose anyone past the age of 30 gets occasional "Remember When" email messages. As a Baby Boomer, I suspect that may be particularly true for folks my age. Typically, they start off with things like:

Do you remember when ... ?

  • All the girls had ugly Gym uniforms?
  • It took five minutes for the TV to warm up?
  • A Quarter was a decent allowance?
  • ...

And, generally, they conclude by lamenting how much better things were "back then", compared to the world today.

Of course, its true that there were many qualities of that era of "Remember When" that would be wonderful to restore. A good example that springs to my mind is how my buddies and me could safely be all over our neighborhood, from dawn to dusk, without any immediate adult supervision.

However, its just as true that there are aspects of "back then" that today's world is better off without. What I think of first is that, in those days, in the neighborhood that my buddies and me were all over, there were no "colored people" ... they all lived in their own part of town.

But, looking back and longing for what was good in the past, while letting the not-so-good fade away seems natural enough. What doesn't seem natural to me, though, is that these "Remember When" laments aren't accompanied by a call-to-action to actually do something to restore some of those wonderful qualities from "back then".

In an earlier post entitled "Rebuilding Lake Wobegon", I talked about my generation, the Baby Boomers, having “A Great Wealth of Wisdom” to offer younger generations. We were lavished, more than any other generation, with education. Moreover, we were raised by the GI Generation, who instilled us with a great work ethic. That meant, not only did we get a great education, we actually went out and tried to accomplish everything we could with that resource and in the process, grew the resource by honing it with experience. Included in our experience, of course, are those wonderful "Remember When" qualities, whose restoration would benefit today's world. As I said in that earlier post, if we don’t find a way to transfer this “Great Wealth”, IT WILL DIE WITH US! So, I want to encourage my fellow Baby Boomers to start looking for every opportunity we can find to make that transfer.

In just the past couple of weeks, I've realized I'm participating in an "opportunity area" where I don't encounter many other Baby Boomers. What I'm talking about is, generally, known as Social Media. Specifically, I'm talking about Twitter. Even more specifically, I'm talking about a Twitter Tweetchat Group that follows the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show. An overview on how this works is:

  • Twitter allows groups to form by using "hashtags". This is, simply, a # symbol followed by other characters to designate a specific group. In the case of the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, its #hhrs. Get it?
  • Once you log on to #hhrs, you "see" the others who are "tweeting", along with their "tweets".
  • Since its a radio show, while "tweeting", you also listen to the show, online or via broadcast.
  • The "tweets" are exchanged among the show's listeners, Producers and occasionally, Hugh and his guests.
  • Although much of the "tweeting" is about what's on the show, many other topics get attention. As #hhrs "Regulars" get better acquainted, more personal "tweeting" goes on too ... "What are you doing for your birthday tomorrow?", "How did your Mom's medical treatment go?", etc.
  • This group even takes on themes of its own, completely separate from the show. As an example, one day this past week, we decided for the group to take on the personality of the old Andy Griffith TV Show, with each "Tweeter" becoming a cast character and relating to Hugh Hewitt in the Sheriff Taylor role. Before you know it, almost everyone had changed their Twitter avatar to a picture of one of the Mayberry characters (Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, etc.), indicating that they were taking on that role. I know it sounds pretty goofy but it was fun.

Based on what I've told you so far, even if it doesn't sound like something that would be your "cup of tea", if nothing else, you can see how this would help in developing multi-tasking skills. However, as I was logging on to #hhrs recently, I recognized something strikingly familiar and in turn, potentially quite valuable in the effort I'm encouraging, to pass along our "Great Wealth". Here's what happened:

  • Its not uncommon for a #hhrs "Regular" to make their presence known by "tweeting" a greeting to the group logged on at that time.
  • On the occasion in question, I found myself "entering the scene" with the words. "Come along and sing a song And join the jamboree!"
  • As I was recognizing the familiarity of what I'd done, almost instantly a "tweet" came back saying, "Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! there You're as welcome as can be." and "Forever let us hold our banner High! High! High! High!" ... My words and the ones coming back to me were the lyrics to the "Mickey Mouse Club March" ... a song I'd first sung as a seven or eight-year-old kid, in front of my black-and-white TV, in 1955.

As I recognized that familiarity, I was struck with the realization that not everything about this "New Media" was so new. I'd done this before. Of course, there are major differences between black-and white TV and the Internet. Likewise, what an Elementary School aged kid learned from Jimmy Dodd and The Mouseketeers is not on the same level with the knowledge a Boomer can gain today from a discussion between Hugh Hewitt and Charles Krauthammer (as an example). And, #hhrs "Regulars" have real-time dialog whereas Mickey Mouse Club Members had their discussions later, on the playground or the following day, on the school grounds. But, in both cases, wholesome learning takes place, views are shared, relationships are established, the community is enriched and the culture benefits.

As I said earlier, with Social Media, I've realized I'm participating in an "opportunity area" where I don't encounter many other Baby Boomers. I want to change that and I hope this article will help. Please, don't be intimidated by this, as "New Media"! We've done this before ... in my case, starting over 50 years ago! Be courageous! By doing this, you won't have to resign yourself to just lamenting the loss of good qualities from that "Remember When" era. You can have an active role in restoring positive aspects of the culture "back then" to benefit society today. Remember, all you've got to do to have an impact here is ...

Come along and sing a song And join the jamboree!

Forever let us hold our banner High! High! High! High!

WARNING! I need tell you about another part of this that hasn't changed ... ya still gotta do your homework first. With the Mickey Mouse Club, even if your parents worked and the kids were at home alone after school, they'd better be able to get their homework done, if they're going to watch TV, go to the playground, etc. Likewise with Tweetchat. It can be addictive.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

“Closing”, Another “Bad Word” In Sales?

Recently, in a conversation with a colleague, I used the word “closing”, relative to Sales. This person, literally, cringed, in response to my use of the word. I’ve had that sort of reaction numerous times before. Maybe you have too. Every time it happens, I silently wish that I could do something to have this topic viewed in a more favorable light.

It seems that there are negative connotations that go along with the word “closing” that are similar to what I addressed in an earlier posting entitled “The Pride and Prejudice of Sales“. That article dealt with a commonly found bias in our culture, equating the title “Sales Person” with the label “Huckster”. With those who hold that view, I suppose they envision “closing” as the time when “the Huckster springs his or her trap.”

One publication I’ve found, that does a good job of tackling this issue is “10 Steps To Sales Success“, by Tim Breithaupt. Here, the ideal Sales process is described as “… a mutual journey of honesty, trust and respect as you and your Customer work in harmony …”. In this context, the Author presents “closing” as “… confirming the sale using a non-manipulative, straightforward approach and presenting a practical, value-added solution.” I think that is an excellent way of expressing what I’ve longed to be able to do in the situation I mentioned earlier when I said, ”I silently wish that I could do something to have this topic viewed in a more favorable light.”

Since Breithaupt does a good and thorough job on this theme, I won’t bore you with a rehash here. However, I do want to add a bit to one facet of the matter that Breithaupt touches on. Its where he says, “You need to be engineering commitment throughout the entire sales call because anything you do or say, at any step, will either erode or enhance the sale.” I agree with that and I just want to emphasize that this doesn’t apply to just an individual sales call. Though that’s not what Breithaupt is saying, I think this point can be overlooked. Failing to see this leads to another of the biggest misconceptions about “closing” – i.e., that it is the terminus, the final act of a sale. However, “closing” shouldn’t be regarded as a finishing point. Rather, the “engineering commitment” should be taking place throughout the entire Sales process. The best definition I’ve learned for “closing”, in this respect is “a commitment to positive action” on the part of both parties. In other words, a “quid pro quo”. In the early phases of a Sale it might be something like, “If I’ll put together a 30 minute presentation showing how we can help your company save X cost over your current method, will you set aside that much time on your Calendar and have your CFO attend with you?” Unlike “springing a trap”, these sort of calls for “commitment to positive action” on the part of both parties is really just a way to determine if and how the Sales process is ready to move forward. This, too, hearkens back to what I spoke to in “The Pride and Prejudice of Sales” – i.e., “There is a legitimacy to the Sales function in business. It isn’t ‘palming off.’ That is hucksterism. “

So, as always, let me ask you, what are your views on this topic? What have you read that you think does a better and/or more thorough job of discussing this issue? Please share any and all input. The goal here is to share the richness of our experience for the mutual benefit of the group.


Justin Hitt Says:

February 5, 2009 at 8:25 am edit

Thank you for pointing out the use of the word “closing” doesn’t mean the END of the sales process.

I’ve always considered and thought clients that “closing” is like you do in accounting at the end of a month — then you “open” again into the next part of the selling process which is “service.”

Too many still associate “closing” with hard sell tactics that never really worded. By shedding light on the after sale service necessary to keep customers, you are helping change this misconception. Thanks.



Monday, January 19, 2009

A Prayer In Baltimore

Although I didn't vote for Barack Obama, I do want his presidency to be successful. However, as the public celebratory events started on the weekend prior to Obama's inauguration, I have to admit that I wasn't drawn to join in the celebration. In fact, I found myself going into sort of an "auto-tune-out" mode. I suspect I'm not alone in this. However, I really do want to be supportive of the Obama administration where I can and I want to encourage others to do likewise so, while my reaction is probably pretty natural, I want to be on guard about it.

I guess this is just one of those situations that, growing up in Indiana, we would define as, "Says Easy but Does Hard." Thankfully, something broke through my "auto-tune-out" that I'm finding to be helpful on the "Does" part. It took place on the Saturday prior to the inauguration, as the Obama Train, making it's way to Washington, D.C., made a stop in Baltimore. Prior to Obama's introduction, to speak at Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza, Dr. Walter Scott Thomas, of Baltimore's New Psalmist Baptist Church, strode to the podium, to open the ceremony in prayer. I've only been able to find one link for a video of Dr. Thomas' prayer and its incomplete, but here are the highlights that caught my attention:

  • Dr. Thomas started by asking everyone to join hands.
  • He expressed his thanks to God for things we're all blessed with, as Americans.
  • He asked for God's blessing of, protection of and guidance of the incoming President.
  • He closed, "In the name of Your Son and our Savior."

"Faith & Family are my priorities." That's the statement I use, in beginning my Twitter Profile. Knowing that, offers understanding of why that prayer managed to break through my "auto-tune-out". Since my Twitter Profile goes on to describe me as "A Bleeding-Heart Conservative", that should, likewise, help provide understanding that I still wasn't drawn to join in the celebration. But it did help me gain perspective on how I can actually go about being "supportive of the Obama administration where I can". Surely, Obama had a hand in selecting Dr. Thomas to offer this opening-prayer. Just as there are many issues where I don't support Barack Obama, I might find that to be true of Dr. Thomas. But I support what Dr. Thomas lifted up in prayer and I support Barack Obama, in choosing Thomas for that role. I see this much the same as I did Obama's invitation to Pastor Rick Warren, to participate in the inauguration. That invitation and its acceptance, was criticized both from the Left and from the Right. Though I'm not a Rick Warren fan, per se, we're in fundamental agreement on doctrine so, I'm pleased to know that this will be a part of the inaugural ... especially considering the "Wright" choice that Obama might have made.

Though I do want to be "supportive of the Obama administration where I can" I'm not expecting to be found out in the public square in the near future singing Kumbaya with those who did vote for Obama. There are many issues where I'm in disagreement with our incoming President. None is more significant than our differences on abortion. When and if the Obama administration becomes proactive with their pro-abortion attitude, you can look for me to oppose that as strenuously as I know how. But, as a Conservative, I don't think we are doing our best for those who share our views or for our country, if opposition is all we put forward. I agree with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham when he speaks against "playing Gotcha Politics" (though I don't think challenging the Geithner appointment necessarily falls into that category).

My hope with this, in general, is much the same as what I've stated in earlier posts - e.g., America's 21st Century Civil War. In that posting, I stated that, "Unfortunately, our nation has drifted away from ... a quality that made us great in the first place. Some think of it as Yankee ingenuity. I say its a greater strength that comes from the synergy of the best of our differing ideas." That's a perspective I want to maintain. Hearing Dr. Thomas' Prayer in Baltimore has helped me to do that. Whether or not you share my views, I recommend taking time to check out the video link I've highlighted above and then give some added thought to how you, as an individual, can add to that "greater strength".

Friday, January 16, 2009

The "Highly-Leveraged" Pay-Plan. A Right-Fit For The Tough Economy?

It seems that current economic conditions are resulting in more companies considering a more "highly-leveraged" pay-plan for their Sales force. Generally, this means a lowering of Base pay for a Sales person and an increase in the percentage of their potential Commission. As thoughts along these lines have been presented to me, they've often been accompanied by comments like, "A Sales person should eat what they kill, right?" That sort of argument can seem logical, at a gut-level, but it may not be the right approach for every circumstance and it certainly merits more thorough examination.

In order to give this topic a more complete look, I think it should be viewed in context - i.e., where does it fit in with the overall design of the pay-plan/commission-plan that's right for your company? Of course, the "right design" for a commission-plan is going to vary from company to company. So, in order to do this "more thorough examination", its necessary to come up with a "yardstick' that's good for general application. One that I came across some time ago, which I think suits this purpose as well as any, was an article in BNET called "Design a commission plan that drives sales - Sales Commissions". This article begins with a "Ground Rule" which seems like a great "yardstick" to start with on this topic. It says:

'* Start with the outcomes and behaviors you want to foster;"

Generally, as this topic has been raised with me, the only "outcome" receiving any attention is increasing revenues while reducing upfront investment. In one case, I met with a business owner who was targeting a 50% increase in annual revenues while planning to reduce the base pay of his Sales people by more than 50%. Of course, this is a pretty extreme example and it may just be a reflection of that company's financial position. However, this company's approach on this topic is similar to others I've encountered recently in as much as it only focuses on one desired "outcome" and it ignores desired "behaviors". Ironically, in most cases where this is coming up, its coming from business people who tend to view "typical Sales people" in the way I described in 'The Pride and Prejudice of Sales"- i.e., "a huckster" who is skilled at "palming off" some product or service. The true irony in this is that those very business people are adamant about not having that sort of behavior as a part of their company. It seems to me that their myopic perspective on this is more likely to produce behaviors they don't want while being unlikely to produce the revenue outcome they do want, at least not consistently and not in the long-term.

This isn't to say that there's no place for the "highly-leveraged" pay-plan/commission-plan. But, as with any commission-plan, it should be designed considering ALL the "outcomes and behaviors you want to foster." I think most Sales people also have the gut-level reaction to the statement, "A Sales person should eat what they kill, right?", that it seems logical. However, that's only going to hold up, if they feel a part of an organization where everyone "has some skin in the game." In the case of the business owner I mentioned who was targeting a 50% increase in annual revenues while planning to reduce the base pay of his Sales people by more than 50%, this was a complete disconnect with the company's pricing structure. That pricing structure is pretty standard ... a Customer is told what they'll get and at what price ... the Customer isn't allowed to pay more or less, depending on how they like what they end up with. Of course, any incentivized Sales compensation-plan won't completely map to that sort of pricing structure either. But, if I was on the receiving end of the pay-plan the business owner in question is contemplating, the gap between how I was getting paid and the way the business owner is getting paid would most certainly have a negative impact on my behavior, especially in terms of my feeling a part of that company.

So, what are your views on this? As always, we welcome you sharing your related views and experience for the benefit of others.


Liz Cobb, CEO Makana Solutions Says:

January 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm edit

Your most compelling argument here is related to one of my fundamental philosophies: “start with the outcomes and behaviors you want to foster”. My version of it is make sure your plan communicates what you intend for the salesperson to do, because it is the most powerful communications you have.

However, I cringe at the argument that the reason to lower base salaries is that “A Sales person should eat what they kill, right?”. The real reason, and everyone knows it, is that the business owner now needs to save the money to be more profitable. If they are doing it for their own benefit, that will be noticed. If they are doing it because our economy is going through hard times, the message can be told differently. By showing that lowering the base doesn’t mean you will make less money unless you produce less or by showing a higher reward for over performance, you are communicating a shared business goal and reward. We have several customers who have managed this successfully because of the very clear plan documents our system produced. Take a look. http://www.makanasolutions.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year’s Resolutions for the Aspiring Sales Person

Part One


Christmas 2008 is less than a week away and soon we’ll be celebrating the New Year, 2009. Of course, its a tradition with many to make “New Year’s Resolutions”. And, with nearly as many, its somewhat of a tradition to break their “New Year’s Resolutions”not long after they’re made. In either case, this may not seem like much of a topic for a sales oriented business blog. For me, though, it seems like a good opportunity to be a bit more pragmatic and less philosophical than I usually am, as I strive to “share my rich experience, to produce Top Sales Performers and Top Performing Sales Organizations.” Specifically, it seems a good way to share lessons I’ve learned on how I could’ve done things differently and better in developing my career, as a Sales Professional.

I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a Sales Professional. I don’t think many do. My becoming a Sales Professional, in fact, was pretty serendipitous. Much like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s character Topsy, to a great degree and especially early on, “I just growed.” In other words, I wasn’t very “intentional” and this is the first area I think of when I consider that “I could’ve done things differently and better”. So, the first New Year’s Resolution I recommend for an aspiring Sales Person is …


In order to provide a better understanding of the steps I’m going to encourage, in being “intentional”, I think it will help to give a few details on the early days of my career and related shortcomings, as I see them:

Regardless of the point in time I pick to start telling you about my development, its important to acknowledge that my circumstances are unique. That’s true of us all. One of my best friends is a top Subject Matter Expert in Cross-Cultural Communication and he says there are over 6 billion cultures on the face of the planet – i.e., one culture per person. And, he says that a key element to what makes each of us different is what are called Cultural Formers. There are many types of Cultural Formers. Some can be as obvious as ethnicity and some may be more subtle, like being left-handed. And, with the role that Cultural Formers play in making each of us unique, some are more noteworthy than others. I can easily identify that my most important Cultural Former was being raised without a Father, from the age of three. For some reason, it seemed that no one ever really stepped into that void where I needed a role model and Mentor. I don’t point this out so readers will say, “Oh, poor Gary!” My purpose in drawing attention to this is my recognition that having a Mentor could have made a dramatic difference in my career development. With that said, then, the first step I recommend, in being more “intentional” is …


If, unlike me, you have a Mentor, great! If not, go get one! Whether you’re a Student, considering a career in Sales or you’re a fledgling Sales Person, having a Mentor can be invaluable. In seeking out a Mentor, look closest to you first … family, church, school, work. After that, check out local business groups and service organizations e.g., Rotary, Toastmasters, Chamber of Commerce, etc. In the process of connecting with prospective Mentors, you’ll expand your network of contacts and you’ll be exposed to learning opportunities that will help you contribute to your career, your community and to your life, in general.

The idea, with a Mentor, is not to find someone who will run your life for you. Mentors should serve as Counselors. So, the best Mentor won’t necessarily be someone who comes off as being “superior”. In fact, the best attribute to look for, in a Mentor, is someone who seems to have “a servant’s heart” – i.e., a person who is looking to share their experience in ways that benefit others. Once you’ve found the right Mentor for you, you’ll want to get their counsel on everything from completing your formal education to getting your first job to your relationships with colleagues to getting promotions and so on.

In Part Two of “New Year’s Resolutions for the Aspiring Sales Person”, I want to tackle a couple more areas where, looking back, I recognize that I could’ve done things differently and better in developing my career, as a Sales Professional. Areas where a Mentor could’ve fit in, to make a significant and positive difference. But I think this posting provides enough to consider for now.

If you’re an experienced Sales Professional, what would you like to go back and change for the better, in developing your career? If you are an Aspiring Sales Person, what else would you like to hear about in this regard, that you’re thinking and feeling would be helpful to you? Please let us know your thoughts along these lines.

Sean Harry Says:

December 24, 2008 at 4:55 am edit

Good post Gary. Isn’t it also true that we can have different mentors for different parts of our lives? Even for different parts of our professional lives? For instance, as a sales person I may want a mentor who will coach me in the sales process, helping me to focus on and improve in the areas where I have the most potential for growth. AND, as a sales person, I may also want to find a mentor at my Toastmasters group who can help guide me through the manuals.

Part Two


Have you thought about participating in Sales 2.0? It would be another place where you could post your blog so you could “share my rich experience, to produce Top Sales Performers and Top Performing Sales Organizations.” Check them out at: http://www.salesmanagement20.com/. I think some of the folks over there would be interested in hearing what you have to say and learning from your MANY years of experience.

In Part One of New Year's Resolutions for the Aspiring Sales Person, I began an overview aimed to be "... a good way to share lessons I’ve learned on how I could’ve done things differently and better in developing my career, as a Sales Professional." The steps I'm encouraging in doing this fall under the general recommendation to "BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT IT!" And, my first specific suggestion under that heading was to "HAVE A MENTOR!" As I proceed to address specific aspects of my career development, I think it's obvious where being more "intentional" and having a "Mentor" could’ve fit in, to make a significant and positive difference. With that said, let me proceed with the next area I'd like to discuss:

Have A Proper Formal Education, As A Foundation!

Here, again, it may be helpful to share information about my beginnings and the flaws I now see, looking back. Here's how things went:

I was a National Honor Society High School Graduate, with five Majors - English, French, Math, Science and Social Science - and no Minors. Although I recall being advised to go on to college and to have a Major selected by the time I got to college, I don't recall getting any counsel on applying for scholarships or what to consider in selecting a Major. Thankfully, there was a State University in my hometown, so I could live at home and there were enough jobs around to be able to earn the money needed for books and tuition. Since the local State University had evolved from a State Teacher's College, I decided to Major in Education. I spent 4 1/2 years in college, trying one Education discipline after another. During that time, I dropped out and returned twice. In my third attempt at a Junior year, I finally got to do some lesson plans and got to try them out in the University's Lab School. Guess what?! I found out that I didn't like being a School Teacher. So, I dropped out for the final time and went out to get a job. I'm grateful for the successful Sales career that led to. However, though most recognize my experience as equivalent to a Bachelor's Degree and an MBA in Sales, even these decades later, not having completed my formal education still comes up.

With the benefit of hindsight, here's how I would do things differently:

I'd look at alternatives for financing my college education. A National Honor Society High School Graduate should be able to qualify for some form of scholarship or, at least, favorable terms for a student loan.

Finding sources for counsel on selecting my major courses of study, obviously, would've been helpful. Just as obviously, they didn't find me in those days.

It would've been good to look beyond my local horizons too. I've been blessed to work and travel in most of the Northern Hemisphere but getting some of this exposure earlier would've been beneficial.

Though a scholarship or a student loan would have provided me with more latitude, I still would have worked while going to school but I'd have done it more selectively. Specifically, I would've tried to find work associated with my field of study. As an example of one benefit in doing this, if I'd taken a job as a Custodian in a public school instead of as an hourly laborer in a warehouse, I might have, at least, recognized a bit earlier that I wasn't cut out to spend my working life in a public school. On the other hand, if it turned out that I was well suited for work in that field, perhaps it would have led to a job more in line with my ultimate career path, resulting in better preparedness and a bolstered resume.

Taking steps 1 through 4 would have made it more likely for me to not drop out of college. Since I did end up dropping out though, it would have been better if, during the first decade or two, I had completed my Bachelor's while continuing my career.

In Part Three of “New Year’s Resolutions for the Aspiring Sales Person”, I want to tackle one more specific area where, looking back, I recognize that I could’ve done things differently and better in developing my career, as a Sales Professional. Then, with that added to the other steps I've addressed, I'll conclude with a general discussion of more productively leveraging those foundational changes throughout my career. For now, I think that's enough from me. But what about you? If you’re an experienced Sales Professional, what would you like to go back and change for the better, in developing your career? If you are an Aspiring Sales Person, what else would you like to hear about in this regard, that you’re thinking and feeling would be helpful to you? Please let us know your thoughts along these lines. Then, check back for Part Three, as I wrap up this "more pragmatic and less philosophical" discussion, meant to “share my rich experience, to produce Top Sales Performers and Top Performing Sales Organizations.”

Part Three
This is the final chapter in my three-part overview, aimed at being “… a good way to share lessons I’ve learned on how I could’ve done things differently and better in developing my career, as a Sales Professional.” In Part One, I discussed the general recommendation, to “BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT IT!” From there, I went on to make the specific suggestion to “HAVE A MENTOR!” In Part Two, I offered a more detailed proposal to "Have A Proper Formal Education, As A Foundation!"

Of course, its difficult to be complete on the sort of topic this three-part series is meant to address. Probably with anyone who's in a position to look back over the decades of a a career, there are many changes you'd make, if you could go back to do so. And, changes in one area can easily lead to changes in other areas. However, in keeping with the theme I've set, to deal with just a few foundational issues, I'll conclude with just one more:

Have A Structured Continuing Development Plan!

In a way, this is an extension of my topic in Part Two, "Have A Proper Formal Education, As A Foundation!" And, once again, it may be helpful to examine my beginnings in this regard:

My first Sales job was with a company offering document management systems. I was hired by a VP, whose background was in Engineering and I reported to a Branch Manager, whose background was in Finance ... neither of them were Sales Professionals. I guess the fact that I was able to land the job in the first place is an indication that I was gifted with some Sales instincts. However, just a few months into that job, the Branch Manager was replaced by a guy with a successful Sales background. In working with the new guy, several startling realities became very clear in fairly short order. These were: (1) I was accomplishing as much as could be expected, with my gifted skills. (2) I wasn't meeting Quota. (3) I had no clue what to do about it. At that point, my new boss made a decision that was truly a watershed event for my working life. If he had decided differently, its likely that I'd be writing this blog on something other than Sales. But his decision was to send me off to a Fortune 500 company's Training Center, to take their course in Professional Selling Skills.

I'm thankful for my old boss' decision to enroll me in that "PSS 101" course. Likewise, I'm thankful that, since then, I've been blessed with Sales education including Miller Heiman, Zig Ziglar, Strategic Selling, Selling to VITO, etc. as well as Fortune 500 employer's internal selling curricula. Along with this, I've gained from learning provided by employers and professional associations in Leadership, Management, Relationships, etc. Just recently, though, a prospective Client asked me a question that reminded me of an ongoing flaw I have in this area. The question was, simply, "What business book have you read recently?" I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was stumped, momentarily. After stopping to consider this for a moment, I realized that the business book I was currently reading was just under the notepad I was using. Its entitled, "Biz Blog Marketing". Then, I turned to look at the bookshelves in my home-office and saw the two books I'd recently finished, "How Did You Do It Truett?" (The story of the Founder of Chick-Fil-A) and "Becoming A Coaching Leader". And, as I looked back to my PC monitor, I thought of the significant volume of reading I do daily, on-line, just to keep up with my business and to support the three blogs I write. So, why the embarrassment and where is the flaw? Its in the very same place that I mentioned in Part One of this series ... "My becoming a Sales Professional, in fact, was pretty serendipitous. Much like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s character Topsy, to a great degree and especially early on, “I just growed.” In other words, I wasn’t very “intentional” . And, with this, there's still room for improvement. With this in mind, I want to make these concluding recommendations:

Lay out your own plan for the business-related courses you want to take over the next several years. Perhaps an employer or a professional association will provide these for you but you should have your own plan for a curriculum that you think will best serve your interests and attaining your goals. When its time to take the next course on your list, see to it that you complete it, regardless of who will provide it.

Keep a record of the courses you've completed. In most cases, you'll get some sort of certificate. Its easy enough to keep these in a 3 ring binder. Don't let yourself fall into the trap I've fallen into where I'm looking at my resume and saying, "Oh, yeah. I remember, going to San Francisco, when I worked for Minolta, to take that AMA course in "Dealing With Challenging Personalities".

Have a formal reading plan for each year- i.e. Specific titles you will read, with specific completion dates assigned to each title. Back in the days prior to laptop PCs, when I used to do a lot of air travel, I relied on that "downtime" to keep my reading caught up. Those circumstances changed. So, I recommend laying out a plan that you will carry out regardless of changing circumstances.

Keep a record of the reading you've done too. Its not practical for me to note every article I read on-line but, if I had prepared the sort of reading plan detailed above, it would be fairly simple to use it to note the actual completion dates. At the end of the year, that completed plan could be stashed away in the same 3 ring binder used to store the certificates from the business courses I'd completed.

So, that pretty much wraps up this year-end exercise in somewhat baring by business soul. But, as always, you're welcome to add to it. If, like me, you're an "old hand", please add your experience and your views by leaving a Comment. And, especially if you're in the early stages of a Sales career, I'd welcome hearing from you. As I say on the "About Gary Wiram" page of this blog: "My hope is that this blog will be beneficial to other Sales and Sales Management Professionals." That is my central purpose - i.e., I don't get paid for this. So, I hope you'll know that I'm most sincere, with that page going on to say, "I welcome hearing from you, via your Comments. If you'd like to hear more from me, contact me today, via this blog's Email link!"

Sales Training & Management Says:

July 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm edit

Here’s another sales-related tip to further your success:

Experience is a wonderful teacher, but only if you pay attention and draw the right lessons from your experience. It pays to document certain portions of your company’s sales process—and the most successful practices that you and your fellow salespeople have found for handling common challenges. Salespeople who do this maximize the use of their time, shorten sell cycles, make more sales, and cash bigger paychecks.

To learn from what works, document what works.

What parts of your sales process should you document?

First, identify the milestones in your sales cycle. What are the necessary steps that lead from your initial contact with a prospect to a completed sale? What commitment must you gain from the customer at each milestone that will lead to the next step? For example, does your sales cycle usually require an initial meeting with several decision makers followed by another meeting at which you present a formal proposal? Both of those meetings are milestones.

Write down your 10 strongest sales features—the features of your products or services that have the strongest appeal to most customers. Include a benefits statement for each feature. Remember that benefits usually have dollar signs attached.

Next, write down the expected customer needs associated with those 10 features and benefits. Customers will only buy if a benefit represents a solution to a perceived need. So what needs must you look for? Write some open-ended questions that help you draw out needs for which your 10 strongest features offer solutions.

Write the best questions that you can use to determine what your sales strategy must be for a particular client. Your sales strategy is determined by the competition you face, the buyer’s time frame, and the buying influences that will play a role in the sale. What are the best questions with which to draw out information about those factors?

Document a crisp (30-second) and powerful company story that you can tell in all first-call selling situations.

Ask your peers about each of these topics, and compare their approaches with yours. If somebody else has a great question for drawing out needs, for example, by all means write it down and use it. Create reminder lists for yourself, and review them before every sales call. Then you can stop making the same expensive mistakes.

To Your Success

Verkooptraining & Commerciele training Says:

October 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm edit

Training and courses can help you to get the skills you could not get just with experience. It will provide you the tools to do your job properly and improving you self confidence.