Wednesday, 26 September 2012

And Here's the Pitch

There's a guy I know, a pro, the kind of guy you want working for you, who has never been seriously recruited by anyone.  Oh sure, he's had off-the-cuff offers that amount to little more than cocktail party chatter.  He's had desperate headhunters ring him up, "do you know anyone who might be interested...?"  He got his current position the same way he has ever landed any job - he applied for it, successfully.  He hears stories of his peers lured away to the competition, but had started to believe it was all exaggeration and rhetoric.

And then he got the call.  The serious call.  The top guy at the competition called my friend at home, after hours, and told him he wanted him to take a serious promotion and leave his current company to do so.  There'd been cocktail party promises from middle management and low-level executives from this company in the past that my friend had acknowledged and ignored, but this was not that.  This was an actual invitation from a decision maker to advance his career in a way that increasingly seemed impossible in his current, otherwise happy state of affairs.

He asked me what I thought, and I called up the only baseball metaphor I could think of.

If it's a perfect pitch and you don't swing at the ball, it's still a strike.  Do that enough times and you're out without ever having moved an inch.  You can take yourself off the market and lessen your market value (even to your current employer) simply by doing nothing.

As an old boss told me wistfully when I submitted my resignation in search of a career growth elsewhere, "sometimes you have to move, to improve."

Best wishes, old pal. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Reclusive Professional

I get how difficult it must be to answer phone calls from sales people, day in and out, incessant calls from the overly aggressive and the seemingly undead, at least when it comes to persistence.  No wooden stake ever stopped one of these guys, and I'm not aware of a silver bullet that works in all cases.

In this day and age that description fits very few salespeople I know.

And yet perfectly reasonable professionals hide themselves in plain view at networking events, saving their hob-knobbing for old friends and associates.  They leave no trail at trade shows.  When contacted they become reclusive and surly, ("where did you get this number?") presumably to avoid prospecting calls from the likes of yours truly.  That hurts a little because I'm not just robo-dialling from a purchased list.  I've done my homework, I suspect you need or would benefit from knowing about my product.  You represent what seems like a cool organisation, the kind with which it would be an honour to do business. 

You're the customer, you hold the cards and I'm sorry for whatever has happened in your past that makes you wary of all salespeople, new products, change, new approaches and better results.  I am in no way suggesting that your current provider isn't the very best you can do; I am strongly suggesting you don't know that for sure.

I further respectfully suggest that the problem may not entirely lie with unprofessional sales people, though I acknowledge such individuals do exist, but in an adversarial view that is preventing us both from reaching our true potential.  Someone's customers and members, as well as their organisation's bottom line, may be suffering as a result.

Plus, rumour has it you're a decent human being and a respected professional in your field.  No reason you should care, but I'm going to be worse off for not having met you.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

LinkedIn and the Average Sales Guy

I'm no expert on the subject of Social Media; I dabble.  A lot.  One method of connection serves me professionally very well:  LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is not just Facebook for "suits", although it is that.  It's my on-line Rolodex that updates itself, stays with me wherever I go, and provides me with leads, introductions, connections, shared interest and current events.  Unlike my Outlook contacts list, it is not company property so if I should leave this place I would not be breaching ethics to use it to find my next gig and connect with former customers, if only for a recommendation.  We're connected by more than just our job titles.

If we're connected, I know more about you than you're telling me just by reading your posts, reading your recommended articles, seeing where you travel, reading your blog and choosing my next book on the books that you read, and you know that much about me.  I know you personally.  And you know someone I want to meet, and if I ask nicely you'll introduce us.   I can track current business to social media connections.

LinkedIn is not a massive ego trip for me.  "Look, I've got more than 500 connections!  Yay me!"  Actually, I do have more than 500 connections, but here's the thing.  I have personally met each one of them.  I trust them with my professional Rolodex, and by accepting my invitation to connect, they have trusted me with theirs.

For this reason I don't ever accept invitations to connect from complete strangers.  You shouldn't either.  Watch this:  Tyrrell on a Tangent: A Failed Invitation to Connect

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

When Excellence is Just Good Enough

True Story:  A friend tells me about his son, a student, having received his mid-summer performance review at his part time job.  He was marked "above expectations" on about half the categories, and "meets expectations" on the other half.  There was, apparently, a decided lack of specifics, so the student asks his reviewer,  "What do I need to do to be considered an excellent employee?"  

I Don't Grade Anyone "Excellent"
The answer is as surprising to hear in the new millennium as it was stupid back when it first crawled out from the Bog of Bad Management in the 80s.  "I don't mark anyone excellent because it demotivates.  You'd have no reason to keep trying."

OK, two things.  Actually three.

1.  That was a stupid thing to say.
2.  No it won't, no it won't, no it won't.  Exhibit A: Michael Phelps, who did not stop trying after he won his first gold medal.  My guess is that he kind of liked the feeling and wanted more of it.
3.  How about managers let their reports worry about their personal motivation and they worry about accurately assessing performance in a helpful, respectful and realistic manner?

Unless merely meeting expectations is their definition of excellence. 

It's my definition of a business about to die.