Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The “Perfect Time” For Sales Training

Recently, I read an article on 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 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 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 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!"