Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Dad Brags

My son will have written his last exam at university by the time you read this.  He's the youngest of our three who all attended university.  He may well go on for even higher education, his choice, and I am confident of his and all of my kids' success in their careers and in life.

Here's why I'm bragging.

  • All three of our children chose programs they really wanted and stayed at home while they studied.  That can't have been easy as normal household life did go on, although we did try to accommodate around crunch times, exams, etc.
  • Our kids paid for their own education  (they had part-time jobs through high-school and university and saved their money)
  • They all finished university debt free without having taken loans for tuition
  • They're pretty darned normal - not bookworms or lifeless study hounds.  They had active social lives.
Their mom and I are average folks in an average income bracket - so not a lot of help there.  I attribute their success to a few factors, as well as to their own drive.
  • A stay-at-home mom for most of their lives, who was relentless in her support of their education
  • My kids like and support each other
  • An outstanding Catholic education system that provided a solid moral compass
  • Mass together as a family, weekly (with occasional exceptions for work, travel or frankly, let's admit it, post-Saturday night blues)

Claire and I are kind of proud of them.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

It's Your Thing

"It's your thing, do what you wanna do.  I can't tell you who to sock it to"  Isley Brothers

It takes all kinds.  Here are three things I've learned from people I don't normally run into socially, but have had the pleasure (and occasionally the displeasure) of interacting with professionally.

1.  Your thing is not necessarily my thing.  I'm as much into inclusiveness as the next guy, but it's hardly inclusive if all we're doing is tolerating each other's presence.  I may not understand or embrace your cause, but I get that you do.  If we're going to do business, the faster I appreciate your enthusiasm the sooner I can get you to open your wallet and share a little of what's inside of it with me.

2.  "Let's not make a thing of the thing until it becomes a thing."  My old boss used to say that to remind us not to escalate a situation prematurely, but that doesn't mean she wasn't perfectly capable of doing so if it was called for.  No need for confrontation, but that doesn't mean acceptance.  I don't buy the "if it's not hurting anyone..." argument; dig deeper - what's the real story?

Some people you just can't do business with, and that's OK.  Just don't assume, but when the decision is made, commit.

3.  Good things may come to those who wait but good things come sooner to those who go out and get them.   There are all sorts of potential customers out there, and going through the usual channels just puts you in line with every other sales person going through the usual channels.  Read a newspaper, watch the local news, pay attention to your community.  There may be business walking right by the front door because we haven't asked them to come in.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Nobody's Buying!

"Nobody's buying!"  I've heard sales people get together and whine about it.  Hell, I've done it.  Sales are down ergo the world is to blame.  The weak can always find someone to commiserate.

That's too bad.  There are lots of mitigating factors that can affect sales, many (most?) out of our control.  The price of the dollar, the state of the economy, the peace of the nation....But I am also reminded that excuses don't put bread on the table.

If what I'm doing isn't working then I have two choices.  Change how I'm selling or change what I'm selling.  Neither is easy.

Nobody's buying?  Maybe.  Sometimes if feels like nobody's selling.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Focused Effort

One of the cool things about social media and general sociability is keeping in touch with like-minded individuals, discussing business and learning from their success and failure.  I freely confess I have had the knack of knowing which of my peers' best behaviours I should imitate, even if their business is completely different than mine.  Someone else's good idea modified to fit my situation is potentially a great, new and innovative approach.

With permission, one of my successful friends has agreed to let me share the three steps he took to hit some very steep sales goals last fiscal, which I shamelessly emulated (copied).

  • He kept his eye, and his team's eyes, on the goal.  The sales target seemed impossibly high, in fact it was common knowledge that there was no way for the team to achieve it (they did).  He eliminated all distracting behaviour with one simple question, "will this help us to achieve x$?"  (the annual sales goal).  If not, the intended activity was not approved.  As he likes to say, "strategy exists so we can say 'no' to some very good ideas." 
  • Measurable activities were broken down into manageable daily goals.  X number of prospecting calls per month meant X number per day, a more achievable goal.  Same for sales calls, trade show leads, you name it.  Do the math.
  • Time periods are front end loaded.  Want to make X number of calls in a month?  Do the math, dividing the number by 15 days (3 working weeks) instead of 20 days (4 working weeks) so even if you fall a bit behind or have to do other activities that take you away from the phone, you're not scrambling in the last week (along with all the other mediocre sales people dialing for dollars).  The same for the year - divide the annual sales goal into 11, not 12 months and spend the last month with maybe a bit of catching up instead of desperately begging your customer for a signed contract just to hit the sales target.
What I noticed most was what he didn't say.  None of the old "if you believe it, you can achieve it" horse crap plays into his plan.  It's all about straight up focused effort and uncompromising vision.