Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Sell the Truth

I guess we all know sales people who would rather lie than even admit a passing acquaintance with the truth.  From the gal who claims her product can do things it can't, to the guy I know who continues to lie about his marital status just to get his "hot" customers between the sheets, and/or onto the balance sheet.  (The same guy claims commission on purchase orders that don't exist, and adds notches to his belt for conquests he's never had.)

People lie because they're embarrassed by, or afraid of the truth.  Add one more reason for sales people to lie:  the truth they fear is that they're lousy sales people.

Sell the truth.  It takes more talent, it takes a little longer, you lose some sales until you realize that selling to the wrong customer may be part of the problem.  Once you focus your efforts, prepare,  build your product and market knowledge, the truth will set your fee; nice and high.

Sell the truth.  Watch this rant:

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Professionally Ambitious

There was a time when I worked for a large multi-national company that was making aggressive inroads into Canada.  I was a young, eager, hungry and tireless manager competing with countless others for the next promotion, and the one after that.

In a well established company, that level of ambition is a little harder to find.  Perhaps it's because everyone has a different start date (as opposed to the thirty of us who all began on the same day; surveying the room and and sizing up the competition).  Perhaps it's because opportunity comes less often when a business is growing slowly, or not at all.  Perhaps it's because there isn't a culture of ambition.

Whatever the case, I know two things to be true.
  • Professionally ambitious people are rare.  I'm not talking about people who want a bigger salary, longer title, or a corner office.   I'm talking about people who feel it their moral professional duty to take on more responsibility for the good of the company, and for the good of their careers, and because they know no other way.   Those people are hard to find.
  • If someone has expressed an interest to move out of their current position and up in the company, the leadership ignores him/her at their own peril.  They've basically given their notice by expressing a desire to move on, so the question has to be asked, "when he leaves this current position, will it be for another in this company, or for one at a competing company?"
If it doesn't matter, hasten the departure and help him to find a new job elsewhere, fast.  If we can honestly answer the question "do I want this guy competing against us?" with a "who cares?", then let him go.  

If he's worth saving, but not quite ready for promotion, then the leadership has a moral professional duty to 
  • acknowledge the ambition
  • redirect the ambition if necessary
  • harness the ambition if a promotion isn't immediately in the cards
  • encourage the ambition 
  • support the ambition by working with the employee on a professional development plan
Most of all, we have the obligation,as leaders, to take our subordinates seriously.  If we don't, someone else will.  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Building Bridges

Whenever someone leaves his employ, someone else reminds him not to "burn any bridges."  I know a man who not only never burned a bridge, he built new ones.

He was one of the top managers in one of the top restaurants in the country.  Arguably, he was more known than his establishment, which suited the partners just fine - he brought in the guests.  He was a difficult man to work for if you were the kind of person who didn't believe in high standards, excellence in performance, and professionalism.  I don't have his permission to use his name, so let's call him Mr. Manager.  I thought of him as Mr. Mentor, and I've tried ever since to live up to his example.

And one day he gave his two weeks notice.  For me it was a death in the family.  It seemed like the next logical step was to close the establishment and call it a day.  Of course, that didn't happen but for a time I didn't know how I'd go on.  I did; we all did.

After he gave his notice, some of the staff started to slack off a bit.  Missing corkscrews, smudged aprons, carrying fewer than 3 pens, forgotten garnishes, loosened ties...things that seem small but that really matter.  Really.  He put a stop to it right away.  One of the waiters complained that he should lighten up, since he only had a few days left.  "What do you care?" he asked.  "You're leaving."

"Just because I'm leaving doesn't mean this isn't a four-diamond establishment," he said, as he worked full out until the last minute.  "Smarten up."

After he was gone, for years, the staff would remind the slackers, very seriously, "just because (he's) gone, doesn't mean this isn't a four-diamond establishment."


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Book I've Read - Brain Rules by John Medina

I met Dr. John Medina in San Diego and we had a chance to chat just moments before he presented his book, Brain Rules - 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School.  After just a few minutes of conversation I looked forward to how his observations would help me to be a better sales guy, and a better manager.  I wasn't disappointed.  Medina ties science to early human behaviour with wit and insight.  He suggests the typical caveman, when presented with new stimuli, asked himself a few questions very quickly - Can I eat it (will it eat me?)  Can I mate with it?  Have I seen it before?  We are not that different from the caveman, and if we imagine our audience, customer or employee asking himself these questions subconsciously, we can appeal to that which motivates him or her.  If nothing else, we'll know better when to change the subject (and what to change it to).

Brain Rules is a book you can apply to any role in your life.  Parent, employee, executive, matter who we are and what we do, we all want to do better, to relate to others better, and to be successful, however we define success.  Each of us will read this book and find different rules that seem to call to us.  Here are the three of the twelve that jumped off the page for me.

Brain Rule #1.  Exercise boosts brain power.  Our grade school teachers knew that, and made sure we got regular recess breaks, not just to wake us up or let us burn off some energy.  It turns out that when we came back in we were ready to think better.

Dr. Medina theorises that the average caveman survived because he got lots of exercise, so his brain was firing on all cylinders, he thought on his feet and was ready for the unexpected (like a big hungry tiger, or a tricky negotiation, or an ornery board member).  Medina says we're hardwired for 12 miles walking a day, so to improve our thinking, we've got to move!

Brain Rule #4.  People don't pay attention to boring things.  There is no such thing as multitasking, according to the author.  There are only distractions and wandering minds.  Medina suggests we are better at seeing meaning than recording detail, and that we need stimulus every 10 minutes or so or we'll mentally check out.  Presenters take note - switch it up with a story that appeals to our emotions every 10 minutes or so, or you'll lose us.

Brain Rule #10.  Vision trumps all other senses.  Of all the senses he employed, the early caveman relied most on his vision.  Medina suggests vision takes up half our brain resources, and we learn best through pictures, not written or spoken words.  Good advice for anyone designing a sales brochure or an annual report.

There was a great rule on sleep, Brain Rule #7.  Medina suggests the biological clock for an afternoon nap is universal. I don't mind admitting that since I read this book and heard Medina speak I've had the odd 20 minute nap at 2 pm (there's a specific way to calculate the best mid-day nap time).  I just didn't tell anyone about it.

Just one more reason I sometimes wish my kindergarten teacher was my boss.  She understood.

Brain Rules - 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School
John Medina
Pear Press

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Quit Your Job at Least Once a Year

I have a friend who quits his job once a year.  Not literally, but once a year he comes in on a weekend and cleans up his office as if he's leaving it forever.  He knows if he did it when the team was in the office he'd spend more time answering questions than cleaning up.

He imagines what it would be like for his successor to go through old files, and gets rid of the ones that he hasn't touched in a year and probably will never need to look at again; stuff that jusn't essential.  This isn't sensitive material, more like flyers and convention handouts, expired projects and old reports.

He organizes his current files and projects with summaries using the "hit by a bus" method.  You know the one.  If I was hit by a bus today, could someone step right in and take over?  The side benefit is he sometimes discovers files he's neglected, and has booked new business by reaching out to old customers accidentally forgotten.

He goes through his off-line and deletes the non-essential photos and files that he once thought were important enough to save.  His every year is organized off-line and he dumps the third year file, keeping two years and the current one.  This year, 2012, he deleted 2009; again, non-essential stuff only.  I think IT should send him a medal just for clearing up space on the company server.

Finally, he tidies up the junk and pictures and giveaways on his desk and credenza, and begins on Monday as if he was walking into the office for the first time, and every year he gets better at keeping it uncluttered.

Of all the time managment tips and tricks I have learned over the years, this one seems the most practical.  And if the day ever comes that he has to leave, he's got a lot less packing to do before he goes.