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Monday, October 27, 2008

A Dating Approach to Sales

Managing Your Network Increases Your Return on Investment
by Steven Brown

One of the critical lessons for becoming successful in sales is realizing that you must call on the person who can commit to the sized deal you want to close. You have to open a conversation with them, develop rapport, and then ask for the order. This same strategy needs to be considered when networking for business, career, or pleasure.

Enterprise sales executives are masters of the complex sale. They know how to execute corporate level discovery of needs by examining the career aspirations and objective responsibilities of various people. They know how to get introduced to new people they need to meet. Even when those people do not want to meet them. These sales people know their success depends upon the specific skill of discovering the needs of the right people and proposing a business relationship to address those needs.

This same skill is pertinent in job searches. 99% of the people I meet who are looking for a new career opportunity aren't aware of who they need to be meeting, or are befuddled as to how to get to that person. Then, to my amazement, this same high percentage simply don't ask for what they want.

These same issues exist in dating. To illustrate, let's look at a friend who was single when we met. Despite being a successful salesman with a fantastic townhouse, a healthy investment portfolio, and in fantastic physical condition, he was having some trouble with his dating. I have to admit I was quite surprised. Of all the people I knew, this guy seemed to have the social scene down and be able to banter with anyone. I was intrigued by the reasons contributing to a salesman having trouble with dating.

As a creative person I thought I'd offer a systematic approach I use in business to help him solve his problem. When he agreed, we started with open ended fact finding, first defining the goals for closed business. Next, we analyzed the steps in the sales process, and examined the alignment of the value proposition with the desired audience and reviewed the sales approach. Finally, I suggested that he look at the success rates for each of the transition phases in what is called the sales funnel. Within this process sales growth inhibitors are usually quite obvious.

During this process, and to my surprise, I discovered that my friend was actually pretty shy. While he appeared to banter easily, he was actually only interacting with people he already knew ( trying to increase revenue by simply selling more to existing customers ). He had subscriptions on Match.com and was a regular on Craigslist personals, but he wasn't happy with who he was meeting from either effort ( Networking the wrong way, and / or in the wrong places ). His dating problem was that he simply was not prospecting properly. Without an adequate number of introductions ( possibilities ) to potential dates, he was dependent upon unrealistic success rates ( turning opportunities into trial sales ) on his way through the process.

Strategy in hand we began with basic metrics - in this case his dating ( business ) goals. I won't be explicit, but let's just say he wanted to achieve what every successful, attractive man wants to achieve when he's not feeling like he's dating well ( he wants more sales ). He wanted to date a lot ( increase opportunities ). We defined his goals in terms of how many women he wanted to meet ( possible sales ) and how often he wanted to meet new possibilities ( deal flow ). This approach may sound strangely male oriented, but the tables can certainly be turned should my friend have been a woman. Only the prospecting, sales approaches, and offering would have been changed.

By identifying conservative success rates for each step in the sales funnel, we determine how many client prospects were needed. In my friend's case we decided that he needed to say "Hi" to 5 new women every day. All he had to do was say "Hi", and the normal processes ( discovery ) and the odds of personality alignment ( rapport building ) would take care of themselves. He would in effect increase his discovery rate, and make offers from there. I'm not sure which of us was more surprised with the results he produced.

Today, the good news is he's happily dating one special woman. I'm very happy for him and like her immensely. I've been told I should be a dating coach, or write a book on dating. That feels a bit smarmy to me. But I have to admit the parallels of the dating process and the sales process can be a powerful parallel as these steps do apply. And the analogy can be an insightful one that might not be obvious to small, medium business owners stuck in a rut about increasing sales.

A logo is NOT a brand...

...in most cases it's just a graphic image.
by David Bookout

In this short post I want to offer an opening to what I hope is a more valuable, actionable perspective regarding logos and their place in brand strategy, and brand development.

Brand, branded, and branding have recently become commonly used terms. But, to me, the way most people use these terms is a bit off relative to what is actually happening, or more to the point, not happening in regard to their own logo.

Branding originally hurt, and still does in that context, then became an expensive process ONLY for big companies and now is even a topic for nascent entrepreneurs.

Today almost everyone talks about their "brand". The real issue, particularly for small to medium business ( SMB ), is that they don't have a brand. Too many people think that because they've had a logo developed that they have a brand. Too many people think that if they put a logo on a piece of paper, or other medium, that they are branding. Too many people think that if they have a done a little positioning work, have come up with a tag line, which is usually a full on slogan, that they have effectively branded themselves. In reality these thoughts are absolutely, and completely false. In fact, this is where brand building actually begins. Where brands exist the logo itself has symbolism, the logo has distinct meaning for people, and those same people have a picture, actually more like a short movie, in their minds about how the company, the product, or the service connects to and with them in their life.

In our next post in this series we'll have some FUN with our friend Dilbert and talk about effective, and ineffective logos.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Brand Review - Honda...

It's ALL about "Mobility"!
by David Bookout

Dejavu. Some may, but I certainly don't, remember the debut of the Honda Accord in 1976. The car was an upscale version of the Civic, a concept test by Honda to evaluate the American market, and consumer appetite for an automobile that could run a long, long way on a gallon of gas. Back then Honda's goal was to become an automotive brand. They succeeded.

Fast forward 32 years, look closely, and we can observe a new ambition for Honda. My speculation, Honda wants to own the word mobility.

Outside of requiring a vision that extends 1/2 to 1/3 of a human life time, what can small, medium enterprise ( SME ) learn from what Honda is doing relative to brand development?

Well let's see:

First, vision is required. We're often in such a hurry that we overlook the bumps in the road, the detours, and breakdowns that we actually bring into our own journey. A little time focusing on the essence of your offer, and a compelling value proposition is essential.

Second, patience is required. I often tell people that to go fast, they need to slowdown. Again, we're often in such a hurry, and want to change, or do things that are really non-essential. Why? Because we can. Technology and the internet are actually conspirators against young brand builders. Technology and the internet enable constant, rapid change, and along with that the ability to break established ( but, you have to know rules to break them, right? ), time tested rules of establishing market leadership and successful brand building.

Third, solid strategy & creativity are required. Amongst several different examples, the brilliance of combining The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Yo Yo Ma, and an ASIMO robot by Honda is exquisite brilliance.

What can you do, within a rational budget, to compellingly position your business and create customer centric examples of the value that you, your team, your business, your products and services bring ?

When in doubt, ask actual members of your desired audience, and your customer base !!

Friday, October 17, 2008

White-Knuckle Driving in NASCAR

Gripping the wheel of your career in the "New Economy"
by Steven Brown

I dream of driving a race car someday. My home state of Oregon has some spectacular stretches of Highway and mountain roads that elevate your adrenaline. But the thrill of competitive driving has called to me for years. Maybe someday I'll make it to Infineon Raceway for one of their driving schools. For now I have to settle for the thrill of bumper to bumper driving at 20 mph on interstate 880 here in the east bay.

NASCAR is a different breed of racing from the Portland Champ Car races I've attended. The wrecks in NASCAR are so spectacular, the fan community almost celebrates them. The most exciting replays are from the on-car camera of a driver who can't avoid driving through the smoke of a wreck. This aspect of NASCAR is so popular that video games advertise this as one of their most attractive features!

As I look around I’m sure there are many executives who might feel like things are a bit out of control, just like they are driving through the smoke, or worse, going up in flames. Wall Street has certainly had very well-publicized troubles of late, and those issues are beginning to cascade into other sectors.

As we find ourselves driving 200 mph in turn 4 (Q4); trying to avoid running into one of the wrecked cars, or someone who slowed down for the smoke, it's important to stay calm, and focus on the customer, on business, on creating measurable contributions. Water-cooler conversations and continuing to look in the rear view mirror will do little to move your car safely through the smoke and wreckage.

And just like in NASCAR, it’s ok to be a bit sad because no driver likes to see those wrecks, particularly the wrecks of their teammates. People we have known and worked with. But we have to move on, and keep driving through these times towards the exciting opportunities ahead of us in this race. I for one anticipate a lot of exciting changes coming. I can see them and I feel the adrenaline kicking in to keep me from over steering in turn 4. Maybe a pit stop is in order to check my tires and fill up on racing fuel. For today, I have marketing collateral to develop, programs to manage, and customer success stories to publish. My knuckles are white...holding on tight!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Be careful - every conversation is a Negotiation!

How to thrive in life, work, and love
by Steven Brown

In my personal and professional development activities I have spent many hours on the subject of negotiation. In addition I have explored the nuances of language in communication, assertiveness, power and relationships. As I have experimented with various techniques and incorporated new skills in my everyday life I have come to believe that we live with negotiation at every turn. I like to tell people that every conversation is a negotiation.

To most people the word negotiation means conflict, a fight of cunning skill over some object to be acquired in exchange for other resources. This derives from what is called a Scarcity Mentality - where the individual(s) involved believe there is a fixed pool of stuff that is available for discussion. That the "winner" comes away from a negotiation with more of the stuff. The alternative to this approach is known as an Abundance Mentality. Where an individual believes that even though there might appear to be a fixed pool of stuff, that with creativity and a willingness to flexibly examine what you value, more can be exchanged.

Abundance and Scarcity

Some other terms have been created to categorize negotiations: Win/Win, Win/Lose, Lose/Win, and Win/I-Don't-Care. Win/Win is where each person is after the win for themselves AND the other party. Win/Lose is an orientation to Win by forcing the other party to Lose. Lose/Win is an orientation to sacrifice so the other party Wins and likes you. Win/I-Don't-Care is the notion that you Win, and the other person's outcome doesn't matter to you.

They might also be called Abundance/Abundance, Abundance/Scarcity, Victim/Victor, and Scarcity/Destruction. I added different labels to illustrate the flair with which Scarcity can be applied. It's very important to know which situation you're in so as to not only maximize your outcome, but sometimes even save the other party from themselves. I believe that frequently people are predisposed to Scarcity because they feel like everyone around them is that way and they need to survive using those tactics. In fact they usually are creating their own reality. As a person that tries to operate from Abundance, I perceive I have an opportunity to invite others to see, learn, and work with me in Abundance.

There is a negotiation training tool called the "Red Black game" which can provide exactly this Scarcity vs Abundance mentality experience, if facilitated properly. Two teams of people enter into a series of potentially identical negotiations. They are very simple negotiations (similar to the Prisoner's Dilemma), so the only real complexity is deciding between Abundance and Scarcity.

Language

One of the more fascinating dimensions of negotiation is how language can play a very important role. I believe that language represents what people really think. That may sound overly simplistic. A consistent observation I have made is that as people learn and grow, they begin to adopt more positive and precise language to represent their thoughts, feelings, and what they want.

What this leads to is the realization that conversations are negotiations. If you look at a conversation as a connection, as building a relationship, as creating potential to influence, you are negotiating. Maybe for the future, or maybe in the moment. You are developing an impression in others of your propensity for Abundance or Scarcity. People are drawn to those who are Abundant. People share more with those that are Abundant. Negotiations are easier with those who are Abundant.

Conclusion

There are many dimensions of this short post. The one I hope you latch onto here is Abundance versus Scarcity. I believe that all other dimensions of negotiation are tactical skills. Even planning a negotiating strategy to win is tactical, if you've already decided to operate from Scarcity. How do you view negotiations?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Intent ~ Action ~ Results ( Part 2 )...

How these words go together and why it might matter to you.
by David Bookout

In ( Part 1 ) we offered that thinking about the connection between these words and what we "do" can be a continuous, valuable process to help you get where you want to go, and we illustrated this concept as a "loop" wherein even intent and results are connected <>Intent<>Action<>Results<>.

In this post I want to offer two examples; one illustrating how things potentially DON'T work when we disconnect these words in our thinking and actions, and one illustrating how things DO work when we keep the connections alive. Both examples are from the perspective of an individual contributor on a team.

Disconnected Thinking / Disconnected Action Example:

Imagine yourself in your weekly meeting. You're not the team leader, but you think that you could be, or should be. Subsequently, you find yourself "going to Greece" quite often during the meeting. You tune out and allow your mind to wander, not really hearing the other meeting participants, and not seeing opportunities to contribute.

Sound familiar? We all do this. NOT doing this is a skill, a practice that anyone can develop. The more powerful we are, the more the skill is second nature. BTW - Raise your hand if you liked the video, please!

When you "go to Greece" , or anywhere else for that matter, your in your own head. You have no hope of interpreting where others are coming from, what their concerns are, and where you can make valuable offers. Greece and leadership are only dreams.

From this perspective, you have no hope of fulfilling on your intent of becoming THE leader, or even "leading". In other words your short circuiting your own possibilities and opportunities to lead. Your intent to be a leader is disconnected from the actions your in, and the results are negative. The people that need to see you as a leader don't.

Also, from this perspective, is often a feeling of entitlement, a feeling that you should actually be the leader, and in fact the reason why your not the leader is because of others. It's not you.

If you find yourself here, this is the first thing to shift. We can tend to have "all about me" thinking, but this is often in the wrong context. Here we need to be confident in the fact that WE are the result of everything that happens around us. We generate it. This is critically important, but rather than take this path, let's get back to a more positive example, and save this tangent for another post.

Connected Thinking / Connected Action Example:

Imagine yourself in that same weekly meeting. You're still not the team leader, but you think that you could be, or should be. Subsequently, you "tune in", you shift your "intent" to be a valuable contributor. Your mind is laser focused on the conversation, the participants, and what they are saying and doing. Your looking for where you can contribute value!

From this perspective, this insight and recently reported results could be your own:

"I've tended to check out when the people aren't doing the good work (my opinion). I started the meeting in that frame of mind, but then I reminded myself that my intent is to make things better. The next thing I knew, I was actively engaged and leading a section of the meeting. Nice. Thank you!"

In closing, Part 3 will be another example, this time as a short business case, of how this works, or more to the point, does NOT work amongst the wrong thinking and choices.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Understand The Customer - Do What You Love

Capitalizing on Passion as the best form of Specialization and Financial Gain
by Steven Brown

We've all heard the career advice of "do what you love, the money will follow". As an investor, Warren Buffet states it a bit differently: "I buy businesses I can understand". Unfortunately most people don't know how to act on this advice, frequently allowing the unknown of finding buyers to prevent them from creating opportunities. Taking a first step becomes too difficult and nothing happens with their dream.

Here's an example of a very smart woman I know, developing her passion into expertise and business opportunity. Stacy Menas is a college educated IT professional, working at the forefront of automating healthcare business. She also happens to ride a sportbike. Fast. Think race track fast. I personally have driven my sportbike at more than twice the speed limit, but I was essentially going straight. Stacy goes at least as fast while cornering, her knee extended to graze the ground. In the process of going very fast, she's also educated herself on all aspects regarding women riding sportbikes.

Along the way of enjoying her passion she realized that her friends and acquaintances were asking for advice. They recognized her expertise and sought that value from her. She eventually developed her knowledge into a book and is marketing that book through her various sportbike connections and activities. The book, "Starting Out Sportbike: An Introduction to Sportbike Riding for Women", is a getting-started guide for women who want to make good choices with their time and money. The book is now available on Amazon.

I've enjoyed observing the process and brainstorming various marketing venues, messages, and techniques. One that has gotten the most response from her clients is "For those of you Angels that have a little Devil in you", and other variants on that theme. I'll let your imagination run wild about those other variants, and you're probably right.

The important lesson here is Stacy is having fun. On those rainy days in November through March she was thinking about her passion and writing. On sunny days she rides, fast. And all year long, people now pay her money to share that passion.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Intent ~ Action ~ Results...

How these words go together and why it might matter to you.
( Part 1 )
by David Bookout

Some of you have been very generous in your description of me lately as "particularly prickly". I can get this way when I'm chewing on a puzzle in which all the pieces don't seem to fit. The feeling started with the recent mass focus on our nation's, and perhaps the world's, financial situation, and the 2008 U.S. race for President. But, it has quickly spread to my observations of many of the things that seem to be going on around me. Around us all actually.

This photo of comedian Steve Martin seemed to be a good metaphor for my prickly-ness. But, I think it also indicative, just like an arrow through the head would be, of much bigger problems to come, one of which I'm sure would be blindness.

Our arrow is our own blindness. Blindness to the lack of connection between the words Intent / Action & Results, and there in lies the problem, because if we are blind we of course can't see.

This post is an offer to restore some vision, some sense of what to accomplish next, for those of you who find yourselves dissatisfied with where you are, and the possibilities you see for the future.

First, "INTENT" is such a great word, popularized in my mind most recently by the 2007 version of the movie The Secret, which focuses on the Law of Attraction, and how this can assist people in accomplishing greatness in their lives.

Now we get to "ACTION", and here is the rub. Nothing ever gets attracted to a couch potato outside of food & beverage stains. You actually have to "do" something to get things in motion. You can't just sit around and daydream about the 10's of millions of dollars your going to get for that next, next thing, and how your going to spend it. Then, once things begin there needs to be some rigor in the action choices you make. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month...

Last, we have "RESULTS", which you want connected back to your intent. <>Intent<>Action<>Results<> Those results need to be measurable, connectable to both intent & action, and not too subject, or irrelevant.

Actions need to be consistent with the intent, and often people confuse the fact that they are in action with effective action related to their intent, so the results that they "want" may NOT be the results that they get.

Part 2 will be an example of how this works, or more to the point, does NOT work amongst the wrong choices.


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