Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Little Respect - Returning Calls

There's a number thrown around about a sales person having to make something like 7 to 12 calls to connect, and most giving up after 3.  I'm not sure of the veracity of the statistics, but anecdotally I can tell you it sounds about right (on all counts).

It does amaze me when professionals who have invited me to contact them will not return my calls.  I've gone the distance sometimes, and I've given up from time to time.  Both scenarios are disheartening, frankly.

And that's why we should return calls when people try to sell us stuff.  It's just good practice to treat others as we would like to be treated, and further, it's crazy to think anyone will (or should) treat us with respect if we can't afford that courtesy ourselves.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Ethics and Special Effects

On this day 35 years ago, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was released.

I saw the original Star Wars 11 times in theatres, the "Strikes Back" movie 18 times in the theatre, and that third one with the stupid Ewoks only once.  As any good dad would, I took my sons to see the original Star Wars movie when it was re-released in theatres fifteen years ago.

A valuable life lesson was learned, however, as the boys saw the familiar Star Wars on the big screen for the first time.  As new creatures and different special effects showed up in the oddest places with no discernible relevance to the plot, my oldest son was the first to squirm, and finally blurt out in disappointment and disgust,

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."  He was referring to advances in technology that allowed for all sorts of creative and useless distractions from a perfectly GREAT first couple of films.

That has since applied to the next three Star Wars movies and that last Indiana Jones with the (spoiler alert) aliens ex machina ending.  It's true of all enhanced special effects, sequels, prequels and in matters of ethics.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

It applies especially with business ethics - just because you can
  • (get away  with it) - like when the boss or your wife will never know
  • (expense it, hide it, fudge it) - creativity has no place in accounting
  • (do it) - whatever "it" is that just ain't right, or demeans someone else, or is illegal or immoral or reflects badly on your organization
doesn't mean you should.

Insert your own clever "force be with you" ending here.  It's not that I can't...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Will you....?

Imagine the scene:  A young man plans it all carefully.  He works with stadium and team management so at the seventh inning stretch they will spring into action.  The jumbotron will say it all - "Buffy, I love you!"  A picture of the two of them is framed by a heart of rose petals...

The big moment comes.  The balloons fly, the jumbtron screams the message, and the picture fades to a live shot of the two of them, the crowd cheers and then waits for the moment...and waits.

And he does nothing.  He just stands there waiting to slip a ring on the finger of his truly beloved if she would just take the hint.  He wants to marry her, dammit!  Isn't it obvious?

Sometimes that's how we sell.  Flyers, client events, email "dailies" and newsletters.  Lunches and drinks.  Good times at conferences.  Sponsorships.  Bar tabs.  Table partners at monthly chapter lunches.  Opening receptions and hospitality suites.  Coffee, coffee and more coffee at Starbucks.  Messages on Jumbotrons.

All great fun, but if we don't ask for the business, someone else eventually will.  A girl can only wait so long.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Let it Be and Move On

When we get emotionally invested in our customers there come times when we are called to forgiveness.

I know a sales guy who is steaming because a C-Level customer played him like a fish with promises of future business, never signed.  Word got out that other companies were favoured and the sales guy couldn't get Mr. CEO on the phone.  My sales buddy was under pressure at home office for the promised deal.  Desperate, one day he dropped into CEO's office and watched him squirm around the "it just happened" and "next time" and "future considerations" potty dance.

That doesn't bother my friend.  It's the constant reminders that Mr. CEO is considered a leader in his industry.  Every publication he picks up has yet another validation of Mr. CEO's astuteness and professionalism, and my friend has experience otherwise.

It could have been a one-time thing, and my sales guy buddy has to let it go and move on.  It could be an ongoing issue, and my sales guy buddy has to let it be and move on.  Forgive, but don't forget.  There but for the grace of God, go I - the shoe could well one day be on the other foot.  Mr. Sales Guy may one day lose the trust of a client because of something stupid.  Truth be told, he probably already has (haven't we all done something stupid?)

As for the integrity of Mr. CEO and his public persona; I'm not ready to switch religions but I do like this quote: 

"Three things cannot long be hidden - the sun, the moon and the truth."  Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Goodbye Saab

Months later I can finally write about it.

From the first time I ever drove a Saab and announced to my boss that I would be the top Saab salesperson in my town (and was, for awhile), to buying my dream Saab second-hand, to buying my wife a Saab I have considered it to be the finest automobile ever built (for a guy of my social status).

But by the time I drove to Toronto to trade in the 9-3, I was ready to wake up.  As my local Saab dealership said as they disavowed all knowledge of having ever sold me the car, "you're on your own now."  The dream, while nice, was over.  Life goes on.  It was a machine.  A very cool machine.  The machine of a dream. 
  • A very safe machine, one of the safest cars ever designed
  • A beautiful machine, one of the most stylish vehicles I've ever owned
  • A functional machine, with seats down one of the largest cargo spaces in it's class
  • A well built machine, with not a squeak or a rattle 9 years after first rolling off the line
  • A quirky machine, with strange and different design that made perfect sense...I can't explain it.
  • A bit of a status symbol, I admit.  Not everyone "gets" Saab.  I will having miss the nameplate in my driveway and on my key chain.

And so I bid adieu and move on.  We shall speak of it no more.  Watch my goodbye video here:  

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Lessons in Sales, Learned at the Heartbreak Hotel

One of the best tactics sales people use is to let the customer experience the product and imagine ownership.  That's why we take test drives - partly because we need to test and drive, and mostly because we'll become emotionally attached to the car.  We use buyer's language.  "Does it come in blue?"  They use seller's language.  "Do you think the kids will like it?"  We've usually bought it before we own it.

There's nothing wrong with this when it's done with integrity.  It's a way of gauging buy-in, or finding silent objections that may need addressing.  It's a way of determining the customer's emotional investment in whatever it is we're selling.

Sales People are People Too
The truth is, good sales people get emotionally invested, too.  We really want the client to buy - partly because we get paid if they do, and mostly because we've determined their needs, we know our product and we believe it is the best for them.  Really good sales people let down their guard and let themselves "fall in love with the customer."  It's a way of living in truth.  It's integrity.  It's caring about someone else.  It keeps it real and it helps us sleep at night knowing we've connected the right customer with the right product; the classic "win-win".

The downside is just the same as it was in high school.  Sometimes you get your heart broken.  Sometimes you experience rejection.  Sometimes you get screwed.  And just as it was in high school, you go through the anger, the bitterness, the self-doubt, the hurt, the fear of trying again and finally the getting over it as you discover that for someone, somewhere, you're actually perfect.

It's worth taking the chance.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Smart Phones and Dumb Users

I've often wondered if anyone has measured the lost productivity when a company issues a new phone to an employee.  Although I've moved beyond the "gee whiz!" reaction to a new phone that had me obsessing over it for a full workday, I still spend more than a few hours just figuring out where everything is, what it can do, what new apps I need and which I can delete...

So I asked our I.T. guy that very question.  "Are you concerned with the lost productivity every time you issue me a replacement smartphone?"

His answer was the first wake up call on a new phone.  "We've got you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with this thing.  Go ahead and take a few hours to figure it out.  We'll get 'em back."