Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Two men are walking in the woods when they come across a bear...”

At the point of conception we are endowed with a stew of DNA. It determines our height, our weight, our hair color, our eye color, everything about us. This includes our intelligence, our passions, our resilience and our desires. We have a DNA blueprint of how our lives could roll out. We are in part a reflection of our life experiences, but more importantly, if we choose, we are the product of who we are destine to be.

Every morning when we first wake we are given a chance to mold the rest of our day. We can choose to look backward at those things that have happen to us or we can chose to look forward to how we will change our existence into something of meaning. All too often I meet people whose yardstick of success is predicated on the performance of those around them. In the story of two hikers in the woods who come across a bear, the one hiker puts on running shoes. The other asked "why, you can't outrun the bear." The first responds "I only have to outrun you." I would suggest that we are all given the innate ability to overcome the bear in our own unique way, without sacrificing someone else.

The travesty of this "outrun you "mentality is that first of all it creates a win-lose scenario and second it robs us of our true potential and our self actualization. We go through life thinking that we have to be better than someone else to have meaning and value. The problem is that we will always know people who are better than us in many ways. Ways in which we are not naturally talented or gifted. The truly competitive people among us become good at marginalizing these talents in an effort to build themselves up.

I know that a better approach is to surround yourself with those much more talented than you and learn from them. "Fly with the eagles." Know that your destiny is as unique as your talents, passion and drive. Spend every day living up to your DNA. The great thing about following your passions is that it makes everyday an adventure. It's easier to get up, it's easier to learn, it's easier to excel and you can do it longer.

Nothing could be more tragic than a life wasted and yet I see it every day, people going through life trying to be better than their neighbors or co-workers, but falling short of their true potential. In time this constant competition, in which we are doomed to lose, wears us down. Retirement is that far off goals that signifies the end of the race. Those, whose focus is on living to their potential, don't want the race to end. They are still creating the person they ultimately want to be. Retirement means no longer working for money.

At conception each and every one of us has all the tools to be successful and happy. It is not externally driven, but internal. Madison Avenue, MTV or Vogue Magazine doesn't own your potential, don't let them form it. Find that which your inner-self longs for, nurture it, feed it and watch it grow. Jack Trout, one of the great pioneers in marketing says "If you can't be first to market, create your own market."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hiring Soft verses Hard Sales Management Skills


Now is a key time to upgrade you staff. As unemployment rises more qualified people find themselves out of a job. If you have questions about your staff's ability to take you to the next level now is the time to make a critical review and take action if required. I want to provide a framework for thinking about this next step. I have hired or help organizations hire hundreds of sales people and sales managers. This discussion is about sales leadership, but some of the principals could be applied to hiring individual contributors.

So you have two candidates which one do you hire? Candidate "A" has a strong understanding of the correct profile of high producing employees. This person can articulate a sound sales methodology and has documented success in teaching and coaching sales skills, but they have average knowledge of the industry and although they know many of the businesses in the territory they don't have personal relationships with decision makers. Candidate "B" has a good track record of sales success but can't easily tell you the profile of a good sales person, their sales methodology is generic and simple and they say they are good a sales training and coaching, but can't give good example where they have actually done it. The good news is that they have been in the industry for years; know all the key players, including the one you're trying to land and can walk the sales people into a few good accounts.



Candidate "A"

Candidate "B"

Employee Profiling



Sales Methodology



Sales Training and Coaching



Industry Knowledge



Territory Knowledge







What I find is that most CEO's and business owners with say candidate "A", but their interview techniques lead them straight to Candidate "B". Now I'm going to distinguish between large company CEO's and small companies CEO's at this point because large company CEO's have a tendency to be more strategic in their outlook, because they have staff to handle the tactical issues of implementing the vision. Small companies CEO and middle managers of large companies are more tactical in nature. Small company CEO's and middle managers of larger companies are closer to the market. They naturally understand the need to get into XYZ Corporation or out sell ABC Company at a pragmatic level. Someone else has helped profile the employment candidates (if it is even done), build out the sales methodology (which might be a natural melding of past managers) and they have third parties do their sales training (outside firms or dedicated training departments).

The end result is that the hiring manager has pointed and specific questions about competitors, companies, decision makers and tactical sales strategies. They know the objections they are trying to overcome; they know the frustrations in the market. They are focused on the next 30 days, 6 months and year, not how to sustain growth over extended periods. They could and sometime do ask questions about the perfect sales person, but they don't know the answer, so they have no gauge. Their sales methodology is a simple six step sales process. They sometime feel if they can hire someone to come in to train the sales force once a year or once a quarter, they don't need to want their sales manager to take the time to do it. They need to be closing business. In the end they can full quantify a candidate's ability to interact with the market, but they can't quantify their soft skills. So the hire hard skills

Here is the reality of your decision. Markets change, people come and go. Any industry, business or decision makers knowledge a sale leader brings to your company will be dated in 6 months. Once they run through their rolodex they don't have any new value to add. Once new competitors come into the market or old ones change their products, their value diminishes. From that point on they will be doing an average job of managing your sales organization. Here is what I would suggest. Turn your hiring criteria around 180 degrees. Hire a consultant to get you into the prime accounts. Hire consultants to update your organization on industry knowledge. Hire your sales leader to build and maintain an innovative sales methodology that will constantly change with the market. Hire a sales leader that will teach your sales people to be successful in any environment. At the leadership level hire someone who knows the science of sales and sales leadership. Know that they can coach the sales people into executing the strategy that produces results. They need to be a student of sales, sales processes, sales strategies and tactics, not a student of the industry or the geography.

You can hire sales people to get you into accounts, but once they are there can they close business?


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The battle sir, is not of the strong alone.

Patrick Henry said: 'An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle sir, is not of the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.'

I was reminded of this passage recently. It is an incredible call to arms. It envisions patriotism, honor, valor, and bravery. It inspires us to reach deep inside ourselves to seize that part of us that longs for heroics. It is recognized as one of the truly great moments in American history. This imagery is improved by the fact that we did successfully rise up and prevail.

At times I think we are again under siege by a tyranny just as dangerous as the revolutionist faced. This time it is more psychological than physical. We are under siege from bad economic news, unemployment news, and uncertainty in how our country will impact these events, all blaring from the six o'clock news daily. Those that have jobs live in uncertainty at worst and declining income or overwork at best, and they are the lucky ones. Many would like the privilege of being overworked. Depression is growing at an alarming rate.

Let's take a page out of the life of Patrick Henry. Every morning we are given a choice. The choice is simple, you are about to live this day, you can live it to the most or you can chose to not participate. We need to make the courageous decision to not only participate, but to attack the day. We need to set goals and then drive toward those goals. Just the act of pursuing will ultimately improve the chances of success even if results of your activity don't seem evident.

It's about action, a call to arms. To help fight off worry, have a plan and work that plan every day. In the movie "What about Bob?" remember it's about "baby steps". You have to get up; you might as well make something of it. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Don't try to eat the elephant in a single bite… should I go on?

In case you haven't noticed I'm kind of big on personal responsibility. But no one can do it all by themselves. Everyone needs help once in a while. If you feel you can't do it alone don't be afraid to reach out. There are a lot of people out there that genuinely care. They just might not know your situation.

Worry is about uncertainty. Making a plan and then following that plan removes some of the uncertainty. It gives us a sense of hope. It also keeps our minds busy. Waiting for events to improve is a fool's game.

Mathew 6:25 "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Innovation is the only Sustainable Advantage

I work with all types of companies. Some of them are trying to sell products based on leading edge technology, some are trying to sell solutions built on sometime very good, and other times mediocre, technology and others are trying to sell concepts that can be cobbled together using existing technology.

What I see as overwhelming common among all of these is that whatever advantage they perceive to have in the market will be short lived. Technology, solutions, concepts and ideas can all be copied and improved upon. No company, whether they sell hardware components, software programs or services can maintain a leadership role without constantly striving to improve their offering. They not only have to invest in the improvements require to just keep their offering viable in the short term; they have to invest in finding the next "game changer". This is time, money and resource intensive.

Common sense and urban legend tells us that every company must reinvent itself three to five years. This is not a disruptive shift in the direction of the company; it is a constant morphing of product offerings, markets served, and corporate culture. Here is what I think is the real "game changer". It is the way that companies innovate, changing the not-invented-here mentality to a proudly-found-here mentality. Rather than protecting intellectual property as a means of providing a unique selling proposition embracing openness and collaboration to accelerate time to market.

To sustain a position as a leading edge innovator in the market a company must build a collaboration mentality embracing customer ideas, employee ideas, supplier ideas, competitor ideas, government ideas and ideas from our financial stakeholders. The concept of throwing a need out in the open and allowing all the stakeholders to add input and suggestions, not only to potential approaches to meeting the need, but the very nature of the need itself.

Look at the concept of XPrize Foundation. They provide an incentive for collaboration. The problems are unique and complex. The intent is to harness intelligence from all over the world to bring creative solutions to market. A pragmatic application for the Xprize concept would be to post a need on your website. Provide an incentive to the party that comes up with the most creative solution. The incentive should mirror the internal cost of ideation. Don't just get the R&D folks involved, get all the employees involved, get your suppliers involved (they'll see a potential new market for their products), get clients involved (after all the need is most likely one of their problems), talk to your neighbors, challenge trade associations, expand your team with free intelligence.

If we think that we have little time to respond to market changes now, think forward ten years. How fast do you think you will have to react to stay current, not to mention get a head. You are going to have to implement a want – find – get- manage model to stay viable in future markets. Why wait? Start expanding your teams internally and work toward total worldwide collaboration somewhere down the road.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Business Development verses Sales

I was following a car to work today that has the prestige license “VPRES”. I wondered if this person was a teller in a bank. Kidding aside, titles can really be confusing. I’m in the business of creating long-term incremental new revenue. One might think that means adding new accounts or growing embedded accounts. To me the answer is “yes” and “no”, but mostly “no”. I have traditionally approached sales as the means by which a company achieves its annual revenue plan. This includes both growing existing accounts and adding new ones. I like to think that a good rule of thumb is to have 30% of revenue from new accounts. This helps deals with the revenue attrition experienced with older existing accounts.

So in my definition, what is business development? Clearly you have to be able to sell to develop incremental new revenue. But the selling is more strategic than tactical. A good business development person is opening an all new market. The selling is typically to the early adopters who will blaze the trail for the mainstream sales force to take over. I think in terms of a three year cycle. At the end of three years it becomes more of a sales activity than a business development activity. What are the traits of a very good Business Development person?

Sales: Number one on the list. It’s about revenue. There is no reason to have a business development process if the end game doesn’t produce significant revenue growth. Solution selling skills are the minimum requirement. Advanced skills and experience are what you are looking for. Do they have a wide variety of successes or are they a specialist? I believe a variety of experiences is always best.

Marketing: It’s not about spinning an existing product to fit a new market. It’s about finding and validating an all new revenue source. There is a lot of advanced marketing going on here. Market research is paramount to long term success. Remember, in no more than three years you want to turn it over to the rank and file sales teams to exploit. The marketing is not so much copywriting and collaterals as it is messaging. What is the Unique Selling Proposition and what’s the value add that makes the solution appealing?

Product Development: Again, this is not classical product development. But it is the ability to create a new product from existing parts, with an extra dash of new. It is understanding the effort required and the resources available to meet time-to-market. It’s the ability to assure that it is within the product roadmap for the company.

Business Skills: Are they going to treat the company’s money like their money? It cost money to develop a new market. Can they run it like a profit center or are they content to run it as a cost center. Do they understand the investment they are asking for and the return they are willing to deliver? Have they built Pro Forma statements to use as milestones?

In the end, if you hire a sales person for a business development position, you may grow revenue in the short term, but will it dramatically affect the revenue potential of the company in the long term? And the other point is…. If you are looking for a pure hunter to open new accounts, don’t call it business development. If you want a hunter, ask for a hunter and hire someone who is proud to be called a hunter. If they don’t like being called a hunter then they probably aren’t one…..

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Unique Sales Proposition

This is one of the least understood and most over used concepts in sales and marketing. Everyone thinks they have one, few companies do. Here’s why….

A Unique Sales Proposition (USP) must have these characteristics:

  1. First and foremost it must be unique
  2. Second, it has to be easily validated
  3. Third, it must have real intrinsic value to the buyer.

USP’s are situational. What has unique value in one environment may not have any value in another. So one of two things must happen, either the USP changes based on the environment or the seller must target only the environment in which the USP is truly unique and valuable. The second alternative limits the viability of the market. The first alternative widens the target market but required that the seller understand both the unique value of their products or services and the specific value the prospect is looking to achieve. So the USP starts to look like a BBQ Menu; pick one entre, and two side items. Listing the attributes of your products and services is the easy part, getting past the second characteristic is where most fail the test.

Validating your USP is going to be difficult in traditional terms. Companies like to think their UPS is best-in-class service, leading edge technology, the most this, the fastest that, the only whatever…. The problem is can you prove it? More importantly can you prove it prior to the sale in such a way that your competition is left in the cold. This innately means that the USP must be measurable. If I want to state that my product is installed in more companies than any other like product; do I have the third party validated market share data to back up the claim? Is there another study out there that might invalidate my claim? If I claim to have best-in-class service; can I validate it with third party customer care data? Many benefits are just that benefits, they are not USP’s. I may be able to demonstrate that my clients rate my customer service 97 out of 100, but that does not make it a USP. It makes it very good and is an asset, but unless I can validate that my competition cannot meet that, it’s not a USP.

The last point is the logic test. Who cares? I have a good friend whose company has incredible IP based video server technology. It is truly great stuff. It is incredibly fast and has great features. The problem is; who cares. They compete against analog video servers that are half the price in small configurations and most of the video is never viewed. They lead with their gee-wiz technology just to get hammered on price. They try to tout their reliability, but the prospect counters with “I can afford spares”. The real challenge is to find a market that requires very high camera counts and the video is reviewed on a regular basis. Think casinos…. Think major airports….

The point is that every buyer has a unique set of pain that requires a unique solution. The product or service does not have to be unique, just the sales proposition. When your company can document that your product or service can uniquely address their particular problem, you have a leg up on getting the business. This will shorten the sales cycle and could lead to larger margins.

Your USP is not a tag line on your advertising. It is a tangible benefit supplied to a specific prospect in a specific environment. Don’t look for the magic bullet. Look for an arsenal, a smorgasbord of objective tangible benefits that can be used as the situation dictates.

Defensively speaking, look at your competitors USP’s and be prepared to demonstrate how your product can provide the same benefit. It won’t make your product more attractive, but it will reduce the FUD factor.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Selling in the 21st Century

Selling has changed considerably in the last 10 years. Start-ups have embraced this change because they have to. Older companies are just starting to understand it. This change in driving business, has been brought about to a large extent by the movement away from the concept of “Web 1.0” to “Web 2.0”. The major difference in these two concepts is the Web 1.0 was a more traditional push-pull approach. The idea was to attract eyes to your website and then provide value. This is an electronic form of print advertising, except that there is a lot more real estate to use and a wider geographic distribution. Web 1.0 didn’t fundamentally change sales methodologies. Prospects were attracted to the website, were then pre-qualified by filling out a form and passed to sales as a lead.

Web 2.0 changes that dynamic. Web 2.0 is interactive. The website visitor can change the content by commenting on it. They can add their own spin. Two prospects can debate benefits and add insight for each other. Many Web 2.0 demonstration sites allow the viewer to interact with the demo by inputting their own data. They can have a dialogue with the presenter if there is one. Fundamentally, a prospect can experience the first 2 or 3 steps of the sales cycle without engaging a live person. When the lead gets to sales, the prospect is much more informed and qualified.

Using blogs, twitters and wikis as part of the marketing and sales strategy has become more commonplace. Letting the marketplace create marketing content through interaction provides deeper insight. Sales has to adjust to this new medium. As the prospects and client collaborate on new ideas and approaches, Sales has to keep up. No longer can they rely on marketing material printed annually for their source of information. Smart sales people have their own blogs and twitters. They are engaging their market to build relationships and find opportunities. Social networks can provide new knowledge on personalities, backgrounds, priorities. Reference selling through social networks is a growing tool.

Hiring salespeople with a defined rolodex and an aptitude for cold calling is old school and ineffective. There are just too many screening processes available to the prospect. The average buyer in inundated with spam and junk e-mail, not to mention telemarketing calls. They have e-mail filters and incoming call identification to help them manage unwanted interruptions.

Times have changed and companies must change with them. Take the time to reevaluate the interaction between clients, marketing and sales. Look for sales people who have embraced the new technologies and know how to use them to drive performance. Have they defined their social networks and do they know if and how these networks affect their performance.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to Manage Sales Performance Change

In my business I deal with this almost daily. Either a sales person or an entire organization is not performing up to requirements and change has to take place. When I was a new sales manager, and I consider this to be the first five or so years, I tended to approach these problems with more or less brute force. There is a sales methodology in place and I needed to enforce it. I had several years of sales and sales management experience and that experience taught me to go back to the basics and build upward. In time I finally noticed that the irregular results I was achieving while managing change was stressful to me and unacceptable to the organization. Typically a new sales manager brings their bag of tricks and when they run out they move on to the next job. So, I started to look for a better way. I needed to understand how to implement sustainable change.

There are several high brow concepts that need to be understood to effectively manage sustainable change in any organization and this is especially true with sales. The first concept is Gleicher’s Formula for Change. All of these are found in psychology textbooks, but still have relevant practical use. Basically Gleicher states that the discomfort level that exists, times the vision of how things could be better, times a finite plan to make it happen, has to be greater that the resistance to change for change to effectively take place.

D * V * F > R

The second is the concept of Psychosclerosis and Homeostasis both developed by Abraham Maslow. Genetically we do not embrace change at the subconscious level. We dig in our heels and prefer to stay the way we are. Johannes Schultz developed the theory of Autogenic Conditioning around this concept. The last concept revolves around the Reticular Activating System (RAS). That is the part of the brain that is constantly filtering information for the subconscious.

This is a lot of book learning just to attack a simple problem of getting someone to perform at a higher level. But to sustain change over time these concepts have to be understood and applied. Now this is enough material for a book, so a blog will not give it justice. The one sentence answer is this:

The person or system that must be changed must be able to visualize the benefit of change at a subconscious level, and they must understand a clear plan to implement lasting change to embrace that change will happen. Then there must be a repeatable reinforcement methodology in place to overcome the natural desire to stay the way we are.

There are as many ways to accomplish this as there are personalities. Experience managers know how to connect the dots in a lasting and meaningful way. Less experienced managers will go through their bag of tricks until they are no longer effective and then they move on. Never really understanding why change is not permanent.

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. William James (1842 - 1910)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Driving Mechanisms and Critical Events

This subject has come up a lot lately. It’s interesting how many people in sales don’t understand this very simple concept. If there isn’t a change agent going on in the business, change will not happen. If this change is not tied to a drop dead date, it will not happen in a predictable timeframe. When you say it out loud is sounds intuitive. When I talk with clients and they are lamenting about long sales cycles, unpredictable forecasts and why their sales people can’t close business, my first thought goes to these two concepts. Let me explain further….

Almost every professional sales person has now figured out that they have to solve a business problem to stand a chance of closing the deal. They understand that uncovering and validating the pain is important, if not critical. The top echelon even goes as far as to have the prospect validate the value of the pain in their own words. They get the solution to belong to the prospect by having them articulate the need and the value to themselves of meeting that need. Mike Bosworth in “Solution Selling, Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets (McGraw-Hill 1994) defines a prospect as a buyer who has admitted a problem. So you understand the buying process, you are dealing with the decision maker, they have a budget allocated, you have not only uncovered the business pain, you have gotten the buyer to admit to it and put a value on it. Deal closed, right!

Why is the deal still in the pipeline three months from now? How do you overcome objections when there aren’t any? The checks in the mail.

The reason is there are no driving mechanisms and/or critical events to cause the decision to be implemented. Your prospect, the CFO or the VP of Purchasing has never processed the paper because there are other pressing issues or no issues at all. In James Clavell book “Shogun” (Cornet Books 1975), Lord Toranaga constantly reinforces to Blackthorne that no decision should be made until it has to be made. The driving mechanism might be a face-off with his arch-rival, but there is no attack; therefore no critical event. The same is with sales. There must be a driving mechanism such as a reorganization, critical financial crisis, or new business process. Something which causes the potential buyer to consider alternatives to what they are doing today. This is what got you to the presentation and the proposal, but it won’t close the deal. Too many times we get this far and assume the deal will now close.

This is where understanding the critical event becomes extremely important. If I am going to forecast this sale, I had better understand when and why it’s going to close. If my solution is part of a process required to achieve a goal, I need to work backward from the launch or introduction date of the new process to create my critical event. “If we cannot start implementation by next week, we cannot make the launch date of May 17th.” “If your new plant is scheduled to go into production on July 1st, then we need to….now”

If they want to improve your AR process or their sales process, but haven’t actually committed to when they must accomplish it, then I can’t forecast the close date on my deal. If they want things to be better, but don’t have a time line for making them better, then I can’t predict when they will buy, if ever.

Even when the pain is real and the cost of the solution is less than the problem, without something driving the buyer to implement the solution, there is no deal. This is why opportunities linger in the pipeline for months and then fad away…..

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Biggest Rant

This is a business blog. The concept is to present ideas that would help business people improve both their businesses and themselves. Over the past few weeks I have been bombarded with social issues that just scream for comment. The underlying dismay voiced by most of these self proclaimed pundits is that the United States has serious problems and someone needs to step up and solve them. That someone typically isn’t the writer. What are some of the issues?

  1. The United States Ranks 96th out of 140 countries on the Global Peace Index according annual survey commissioned by Britain’s Economic intelligence Unit. (Great Britain is 49th ). Two of the major factors are the highest number of homicides per 100,000 citizens and the fact that we have the highest incarceration rate of all the countries surveyed.
  2. Gas prices are at an all time high at almost $4.00 per gallon. Gas is $8.35 in Great Britain and more than $6.50 in most of Europe, according to AA Motoring Trust, when our gas prices were still at $2.87. Whereas we consume 1.6 gallons per day per person as opposed to most of Europe at .5 gallons per day per person (Economist View )
  3. The U.S. economy is on everyones agenda. The unemployment rate has hovered between 4.5% and 5.2% since 2005 according to the US Department of Labor. The Consumer Price Index, less food, has been constant since prior to 2004. With the increase in gas prices and the fact that most food is transportation sensitive the CPI including food has risen significantly. A Gallup Poll suggests that 85% of the population thinks economic conditions are getting worse.
  4. The Dow Jones Index has risen from a low of 8235 in September of 2001 to 12823 today. That’s a 55% increase in six plus years. A dollar invested in 2001 would be worth $1.55 today. Real average earning during that same period grew from $497.35 per month to $607.49. That’s a growth of 22%. Factoring for inflation the earnings growth was only 2.3% from 2001. So the stock market is outracing real earnings.
  5. Household debt is 133.7% of household disposable income in 4th quarter 2007. Households spent 14.3% of disposable income to service debt in 2007 compared to 13.0% in 2001.

What’s the underlying business concept to all of this? It’s responsibility. The problems we are facing are problems we can deal with on an individual basis. If, and it’s an incredibly big IF in an entitlement culture, we all take responsibility for our part of the problem, it solves itself.

Number one on the list is dismal. Twice as many citizens were killed in the state of California during the duration of the Iraq war then were killed in that war. Several points scream out to me…

  1. This is just one state in our union. The needless death toll in our own back yard is staggering.
  2. These people neither volunteered, were skillfully trained, nor took an oath to die, they just got up in the morning thinking they would make it through another day and didn’t.
  3. There is no outrage from the public like there is for the war. We have come to believe this is acceptable.

I visit prisons every year. We can’t afford to continue to build prisons at the rate we are currently building them. Something has to change. I suspect the real reason is that we don’t expose this like the war, is we might feel somehow responsible for not doing our part. Because it happens all around us, we might be asked to actually take action to prevent it. The war is a long ways away and we can’t possible impact the outcome, so we vent and rage for someone else to take action.

The problem with rising gas prices is not a matter of the government reducing taxes, but modification in our social norms. Not an easy task to accomplish. We are Americans and the constitution says we can have and do anything we like as long as it doesn’t impinge of the freedom of others. So I want to drive a big car anytime and anywhere I want and the government is responsible for assuring I can continue to do this. Capitalism is great as long as I get what I want at the price I want. If not, the government needs to step in and mandate my happiness. This is just self-center goofy thinking. Only desperate times will change this. It’s an unfortunate aspect of human nature. We have lived the high life so long we expect it to last forever without our sacrifice. As China and India continue to grow their economies, this problem will continue to grow. It’s not a matter of our government solving this. Free enterprise and right thinking by the general public will solve it, if we choose. If not we will be doomed to second class status in the world economy.

The last starts with the very basic premise of spending less, investing more. If we take control of our spending and invest the difference two things happen. First we capture back 14% of our disposable income used for servicing debt. Second our investments grow faster than real earnings. As individuals we have more. More importantly we invest in businesses that provide jobs and stimulate the economy. Unemployment goes down, employee demand goes up, wages rise, we invest more and the cycle continues.

It's all about individual responsibility. Something we have total control over.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How do you catch wild pigs?

There was a Chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab the Prof noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept rubbing his back, and stretching as if his back hurt. The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and install a new communist government.

In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question.

He asked, 'Do you know how to catch wild pigs?'

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said this was no joke. 'You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat; you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity. The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to America.

There is a lot to be said concerning government entitlement programs, not all of it is bad. But I want to address the entitlement programs in our lives, the ones that we create for our own benefit. They are the short cuts in our lives that at the time seem expedient, but later sap us of the drive end energy to push through much harder issues.

In college I took four semesters of calculus. Four mind numbing semesters of proving theorems that were printed in the back of our CRC. It was a slow and repetitive process that didn’t seem to have a goal other than to make us work harder. Once I got to Differential Equations and Applied Differential Equations I understood why. This process of proving what had already been proven provided me with the framework to analyze much more complex ideas. The hard work in the beginning prepared me for the work ahead. I could validate amazing concepts that previously seemed impossible to comprehend. (Calculating the center of mass of an irregular object) Many students never got to “Diffy Q” to see the fruits of their labor.

How many times are we so busy multitasking that we lose the lessons that eventually imprisons us in mediocrity? We are looking for a free lunch thinking that it will always be free. The problem is that it will be free as long as you never want to be more than you are. We slowly lose our ability to think outside the box. Psychosclerosis sets in. We become so convinced that new ideas won’t work, that we lose the ability to move forward and grow. We start to love the fences around us. They bring us comfort. We start to believe we will always be able to provide for ourselves and our families using only the skills, talents and knowledge we presently have. We can somehow start to coast to the finish line. I see this happening to younger and younger generations


Continually strive to stretch your imagination and knowledge. Go through the pain and sometimes boredom required to grow. Never stop. It will pay tremendous dividends for years to come.

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have." - Thomas Jefferson

Monday, April 28, 2008

Enduring Greatness

Jim Collins is still one of my favorite authors. He has this die hard, never say quit, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, attitude about success. In his latest article for Fortune Magazine “The Secret of Enduring Greatness”, he again states his case for greatness. ….The best corporate leaders never point out the window to blame external conditions; they look in the mirror and say, "We are responsible for our results!"….

We ARE responsible for our results. Whether those results are for individual behavior or corporate performance, we are responsible. One common denominator of those who never achieve their potential it is lack of personal responsibility, the belief that others have more control over our personal performance than we ourselves do. I could point to countless examples of this in society. In almost every case there is a price to be paid. In the end the price is far greater than the original cost of just taking responsibility and making something happen.

In the face of uncertainty, punt. Uncertainty creates stress. Stress hurts. So we hide from the source of that stress by assuring ourselves that there is nothing more we could have done. It’s just not our fault. If only this had happened or that had happened it would have all turned out differently. If only the government had adopted this policy or that policy it would have turned out differently. If our employees had performed better, if our customers weren’t so demanding, if the competition had been honest, it would have turned out differently. There is a never ending supply of excuses.

It was once said it is not how many times you are knocked down, it is how many times you get back up. Life was never meant to be a smooth road. We get stronger through adversity. Without adversity we would never know triumph. How would we ever relate to those in need if we ourselves had never experienced it? Here is a simple way to overcome adversity and accelerate your success:

  1. Define the problem in front of you in the greatest detail possible
  2. Write down every potential outcome from the situation as you see it today
  3. Decide what one outcome is the worst possible scenario.
  4. Develop a plan to mitigate the impact of this scenario.

Once you define the problem in detail you will find that it isn’t as bad as you imagine. Our imaginations always paint things worse than they are. This alone will reduce the stress level by eliminating some uncertainty. By choosing the worst possible scenario you face the worst possible outcome. I think you will find that it isn’t as bad as you thought. Finally attacking this scenario with a plan to minimize its impact on your life will put you in a position to win. Remember this is the worst possible scenario. Everything else is peanuts compared to this.

Having a plan and working your plan is the only way to take responsibility for what happens to you. The environment changes, plans change, results vary. The goal is to have the final result better than the results you would have gotten doing nothing.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.”
Brian Tracy

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

This is an adage we all know. Typically we hire faster than we would like because each employee represents work that is piling up. We fire slowly, partly because it is unpleasant and partly because we just somehow expect it to fix itself. In some cases I would even suggest we fire slowly because we don’t realize there is a problem until we’ve had to deal with it for some time. My background is sales and marketing, but throughout my career I have managed many operational types as well. To me, operational employees are easier to evaluate because they typically are in the middle of the business cycle. They are given work to do and there is an expectation of the quality and quantity of effort. Problem employees produce sloppy, incomplete or no work.

Sales people are a different kettle of fish. When they come on board there is a natural expectation that it will take time for them to come up to speed. In many cases they have to build a pipeline. If the sales cycle is six months, it should take on average six months to close their first deal. Most sales people don’t start completely from scratch, but there is a very good possibility that their territory have been vacant for some period of time and is therefore more or less dormant. So how long do you give a new sales person before you start the “are you the right person” discussion?

My suggestion is day one. Each business should have a documented and repeatable sales methodology. That methodology has certain milestones. There are leads and suspects and prospect and qualified prospects and proposals and contracts. There should be prospecting scripts and data gathering outlines and proposal templates. There are a myriad of tools available to start evaluating the progress of a new sales person the very first day. Each new sales person should have a 90 – 120 day plan that outlines expectation. The expectations should be targeted toward results, not activity.

Here’s the hard part, you’ve got to pay attention. You can’t have your best sales person training the newbie. That creates two problems. If you follow a program for the first 90 – 120 days you will quickly find out if the new sales person can perform certain critical aspects of the sales methodology. You can compare their performance against a standard at each phase of development. This developmental approach is better for the company and the employee. If your sales methodology works for the sales team in general it will work for the newbie. They perform better within the sales culture of the company, thus making more money and so do you.

If they cannot master a critical component of the sales methodology and you’ve tried every mentoring approach you have, then it’s time to have the “are you the right person” discussion. I personally believe that if you are having the “are you the right person” discussion you, as the hiring manage, screwed up somewhere. Sometimes we don’t like to admit that, so we keep pushing a square peg into a round hole. We all make mistakes. Good managers recognize them before they affect results and correct them. Other managers make excuses or cover them up.

Here is the really good news for you…. If you have a program and you’re following it, then the new sales person knows where they stand at all times. The “are you the right person” discussion might be brought up by them. They see the goals, they see they’re not making them, they understand they have a problem. The discussion is not a shock. My guess is that if you have a decent hiring process and a decent development process, then this discussion will very seldom ever take place.

That’s the goal anyway….

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Is it time to go Viral?

I was thinking about viral marketing and how to take advantage of it if you don’t have a gee whiz product. What I mean is this, what if you don’t have the kind of product that would cause someone to pass it on to their e-mail list. That is one of the primary premises behind viral marketing. What are you saying that’s worth repeating? That’s pretty hard for a lot of companies. What they do just isn’t neighborhood party chatter. Most of your neighbors probably don’t know what you do for a living and don’t care. Either that or it’s so common place they don’t think twice.

We can get advice for solving this problem from two primary places. (This is based on my limited reading so feel free to add your own sources) First is a great book by Chip and Dan Heath “Made to Stick”, and the other is Dan Tapscott’s book “Wikinomics”. Wikinomics is a little of a challenge to me because it reeks of socialism, but that another subject for another time. So here is how I think we can go about building a viral experience that will promote our company.

If we don’t have that mind blowing concept or product that is going to make almost everyone sit up and say “WOW”, then we need to find an angle that will make some of them at least say “Interesting!” The concept does not have to be directly related to your business. It can be tangential to it. Here’s an example: Let’s say I do technology consulting for billing systems in the wireless telecommunications market. It may be pretty hard to get more than a few people to say “interesting” more or less “WOW”. But if I start a Blog or drip marketing program concerning the latest developments in consumer mobile devices, it could go viral and it is in the same space as my practice.

You might be able to find the right subject by using collaboration with, not just your employees, but customers and suppliers. Put some type of reward out there for the best ideas. It doesn’t have to be big, just enough to spur interest. Remember people love recognition over material things. The banter back and forth concerning the ideal subject may turn out to be the viral marketing you’re looking for. Even if it’s not, this is where Chip and Dan come in. Their book will give you the step by step instruction you need to build a story that will not only stick in the minds of those that hear it, but cause those same people to pass it on.

Just like varnishing a table…Let dry and repeat…. Keep in mind to build a brand around viral marketing the same rules apply as traditional marketing….Consistency of the message. Don’t bounce around from subject to subject. Pick something with staying power and build on it. I would start with a Blog, as opposed to drip e-mail marketing, because there is a better feedback system with Blogs. If you are not getting comments and visitors, then it’s not going to go viral on you. Once you figure it out, you can add it to your drip marketing program with some level of confidence that people will read it and pass it on.

If you’re really serious about this, hire a professional to help. They can help craft the message so that it has the highest impact. They can also optimize exposure to attract viewers.

"If the Internet can be described as a giant human consciousness, then viral marketing is the illusion of free will."
- By George Pendle

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Web Marketing - Did you start in the right place?

I spend a lot of time in meetings discussing web strategies, Web 2.0, Social Networking, all the latest jargon used to help drive business. The one component that is always missing in these discussions is WHY? The discussion goes around web optimization, Adword, impressions, eyeballs, clicks, and landing pages, but it’s hard to nail someone down to exactly what they want to happen. The short answer is always “I want more business” they haven’t really thought through how their web marketing program was going to actually get them more business. They see it as a “Field of Dreams”, build it and they will come. The reality is that successful web marketing is a symbiotic relationship between marketing, web technology and sales.

Just like no two companies have the same mission and goal, no two companies have the same web strategy. No two companies want the same results from the initial actions taken by potential clients. Even within the same industry and region of the country, each company will have its own unique sales proposition, sales methodology, and sales qualification criteria. The problem is that many companies go to technical resources to build their web marketing strategy without thinking through what exactly they want to happen once they have attracted a person of interest. They’re not even prospects at this point; they may not be good suspects for that matter.

Here is the process I would recommend.

1. Have a thorough understanding of your entire market strategy and exactly how Web Marketing plays in it.

2. Determine the profile of the prospects you want attracted to your site. Remember it is not the number of people who visit your site that counts; it’s the number of people who visit your site and buy something.

3. Determine how much of the sales process do you want to accomplish before you turn it over to your people. At this point I would work out a rough schematic of the process so that I understood how I expected it to work.

4. Now you need to put yourself in the minds of your prospects. Don’t think about what you would use. Thinks about the words they would use. Remember not everyone is good on a keyboard. There are ways to use word combinations.

Let’s say at this point we have found the way to get them to see our little web banner. That’s the summary part they see in the search engine results. Banner Ads are across the top, Adword banners are down the right side and organic search banners are on the left. You have very little real estate to make a point.

5. What do you have to say that will make them click on your URL? This is extremely important. It’s a sales and marketing discussion, not a technology discussion.

6. Once they click on the URL associated with your banner, which may not be your home page, what do you want to happen? They are going to hit your landing page. The right landing page is critical. Testing many versions is extremely helpful.

Everything starts with the right strategy. If you have thought through that process, here are two extremely good companies to talk with about how to implement it. They are a couple of the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) firms that understand that it is what happens after they get to your site that is more important than getting them there.

Prominent Placement

Avenue a Razorfish

Generating a lot of traffic with no new business is a waste of time and money.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Faithful Leadership

I personally know Rob Parker, CEO of Kiwanis and Crawford Loritts, pastor, author, and speaker. Both men are men of exceptional integrity. Crawford provided this transcript of the interview that was published in the February 2008 edition of Kiwanis Magazine ( ). It can downloaded in its entirety from my business website:

Crawford makes an enormous observation when defining leadership. I truly believe that leadership is about passion and vision. Vision with passion is almost unstoppable. Passion is not the cheerleader on the sidelines; it’s the look in the eye of the quarterback in the huddle. The cheerleaders get the spectators motivated (that’s why their backs are to the field of play); the quarterback gets the players to believe that they can win.

Crawford takes it one step further when he talks about assignment. So many businesses fail to achieve their potential because management cannot let go long enough to reach out their hand for help.

Rob Parker (RP): At Kiwanis, we have been talking about how important it is for leaders to be able to communicate a clear and compelling vision. Would you agree with that, and what are your thoughts on the importance of vision?

Crawford Loritts (CL): Vision is everything. There’s no such thing as leadership apart from assignment. Leadership is not a position. Leadership is a verb. If there’s no movement, there’s no leadership. If there’s no task, there’s no leadership. If there’s no assignment, there’s no leadership. By its very nature, leadership is not a corner office with a big desk and nameplate. That is not leadership. Leadership is always about going somewhere. This is where vision comes in. The vision, that’s the target. It is what you see. It’s what gets you up in the morning. It is what makes you pound the table and weep. And if a leader doesn’t feel that, if it’s not worth a sacrifice, then it’s not worth trying to communicate. You have got to be absorbed with the vision. There’s so much that’s nonverbal about leadership. A leader communicates passion with body language and presence, and with their eyes and with all their nonverbal communication … that’s what helps make vision compelling.

RP: Do you believe people are born leaders, or is leadership something that can be learned?

CL: I think we all need to be concerned about developing our ability to lead in relationship to the responsibilities we have. However, I do think there are unique positions that require more than just skill. It requires a sense of innate ability that either you have it or you don’t. Let me give you an illustration. You can teach kids with average hand-eye coordination to be a fairly decent baseball player. But there comes a time where no amount of time in a batting cage is going to help a kid bat any better. There are certain things you cannot coach and cannot teach, like when to swing. And I think that’s true at certain levels of proficiencies and skills. There are some people, no matter how many seminars you send them to, no matter how much training you give them, how many books they read, there is a certain innate sixth sense a leader has to have that makes all that stuff natural; that you can’t teach. Some of it is natural and some of it is learned.

I’m interested in what you think. Read the whole article. It’s well worth the effort. It might make a difference in the way you lead……

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Dynamics of a Recession

The old saying is; “A Recession is when your neighbor is out of work and a Depression is when you are.” Keep in mind that during a recession over 95% of the employable working population is still gainfully employed. They may modify their spending, which has a trickle down affect, but they don’t stop spending. Here is an indicator; the Consumer Electronics Association trade group forecast industry revenue would grow 6.1 percent over 2007 to $171 billion -- despite rising energy costs, a slumping housing market and the subprime lending meltdown. Television displays are to make up the largest portion of projected sales at 16 percent. Shipments of TVs will grow 13 percent to more than $29 billion, the trade group forecast. Does this sound like a serious recession or is the old saying still true?

The International Monetary Fund projected in December that the U.S. economy would grow only 1.9 percent in 2008, its slowest rate in six years. So what’s up with this? The electronic entertainment industry is going to grow three times the U.S. economy and we’re in a recession. Economic downturns are like the weather. Forecasting a 40% chance of rain in your city doesn’t mean you’ll see rain. It follows Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. We can predict with almost 100% certainty that there will be a downturn in the overall economy, but we cannot predict with certainty what the impact will be on any one industry, business or person. It’s just too granular and elastic.

The amazing thing is that each person, business and industry can take steps to mitigate the impact. The larger the group involved the harder it is to coordinate the effort required to be successful at making this adjustment. Individuals can react very quickly to change their habit. Businesses, with strong leadership, need more lead time to turn the ship because of the mass. Industries require way too much inter-competitive cooperation to be successful. Some business will use the downturn in the economy to sabotage competitors within their same industry making it even harder for the industry to adjust. The point is that each has a decision to make concerning the degree and length of the impact of an economic downturn.

So what are you doing? Are you going to be buffeted by the winds of change, or take the helm and use this wind to go faster? Now is the time to rethink strategies. In an economic downturn the focus must be, more than ever before, on hard dollar benefit to the buyer. Can you make money or save money by using my product? Discretionary spending will dramatically decrease, not go away, but decrease. At the individual level people will put money in things that they can get the money back out of if needed. Can I reduce the heating bill; can I increase the value of my home? Businesses will spend money to reduce the overall cost of operations. Can they automate an operation saving the need to hire additional people? A note here, very seldom will a company intentional set out to downsize their workforce. Downsizing, right sizing and outplacement are almost always the result of a lack of cash flow. It’s a by-product of events, not the objective. Your strategy should be to leverage existing people to do more.

If you use a reseller channel, what incentives are you providing your partners to help their customer buy more from them? Most suppliers provide incentives (typically through discounts) to the partner hoping for a trickle down affect to their customers. Be a little more obvious and intentional. An example might be to provide a payment plan for the end-user through the reseller. The interest on the money won’t be more than the original discount and the ultimate buyer see a direct benefit.

Get away from the victim mentality. Take control of your destiny. Put in place intentional strategies to protect yourself over the next few months. The more you can encourage the market to buy your offerings, the shorter the “recession” will be. It’s good for all of us.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Decision Process Management

Many deals are lost because the sales organization was either unaware of the true decision process or overconfident of their value in this process. Often sales people get trapped in the notion that the decision process is more or less linear. There is a hierarchy of groups or individuals, which ultimately report to single person with total authority over the decision. This is very seldom true. There is a person who has been given the responsibility to sign the contract. That person may have tremendous leeway in making the ultimate decision. But most of the time the one given the responsibility to sign the contract does not feel they have the total authority to sign it. Most of the time responsibility and authority are two totally different processes.

To get to the bottom of this complex transaction, one must first understand the nature of the business problem. As an example, the IT manager who is trying to buy a new processor has been given the specifications, budget and responsibility to acquire the needed resources. But he or she does not own the business process that is driving the need. The value the IT manager puts on the purchase is driven by competition and budget. The value to the functional manager responsible for the business problem is something entirely different.

A big part of decision process management is the ability to understand the needs and responsibilities of everyone involved in solving the business problem. The IT manager is involved in a formal process with defined rules designed to be impersonal to the organization. This process is several steps removed from the functional business needs assessment because the business understands that the IT manager does not need to fully understand the ultimate reason for acquiring the data processing equipment.

The informal decision process is soft and pliable and is based on factors which change from deal to deal. The informal process is very self-motivated. Informal decision makers have “skin” in the game. They generally have a target return on investment that they must deliver. He or she generally has the ability to make decisions for solutions that are outside the box of traditional thinking.

How many times has the IT manager either dismissed a creative solution as not within specifications or “bumped the idea upstairs for review.” The decision of your sales team to engage any set of players in the decision process is an important step in getting the deal. Don’t make the decision process more complex than it needs to be. But understand there can be other forces involved, and make an effort to determine exactly where they stand. Make every effort to know the entire process so that you can make an informed decision as to how to proceed, keeping in mind the true influencer might be a mentor who is not directly involved in either the business process or the formal decision process.

There are three fundamental levels of resistance when it comes to making decisions. The first level is the logical process of understanding the need. When you see a person’s eyes glaze over, eyebrows furrow, or head tip slightly to one side or the other, he is sending you an unspoken message: “I don’t get what you’re saying.” That’s your cue to slow down and touch base with the person before he or she gets so confused or lost in the morass of your idea that he or she loses interest altogether. After all, if he or she doesn’t get your idea, there’s no chance they’ll support it. The consultative approach to selling will help overcome this.

The second level is s based in the emotion of actually implementing change. Concern that something about your idea will make the other person look bad or lose status in the eyes of others, worry that your idea will cost the person his job or endanger his financial security, Nervousness that your idea will cause the person to fail, perhaps as a result of—and in the wake of—your success. Much of what we have discussed here should help to understand the personal risk involved with moving forward.

The last level is the lack of a trusted relationship. Focus on conversation, not presentation. Ask questions to find out what’s going on in the other person’s mind and why he or she opposes the idea. Find ways to connect with others. Paraphrase their concerns to show that you’re listening, embrace suggestions that piggy-back on your idea, and make it clear that there’s room—and opportunity—for others to join you as you move forward to implement the idea.

Take time upfront to understand this thoroughly. It will improve your chances of success and streamline the sales process.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Guard Against a Potential Recession

I’m not an alarmist by nature so don’t take this as an ominous prediction, it’s not. I wanted to take a minute just to remind everyone of what may appear to be obvious. There is a lot of talk about a potential recession. The old adage is that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is when you lose yours. Now I don’t expect either in the near future but prudence says that we should “expect the best but prepare for the worst” So let’s talk about preparing for the worst.

Have you started contingency planning for a slowdown in the economy? Do you understand what that might mean specifically for your company? If you were in the real estate or construction industry you already know. Start taking action to mitigate the potential damage.

Here are some ideas…

Look at your pricing policies to determine if there is a way of assuring future revenue from sales made now. There may be a way of accelerating the recognition of that revenue later if you need it. Remember if you have to discount a deal, always try to discount the one-time products or services over the recurring. If you sell professional service as part of your offering, try to discount those aspects that will only happen once as opposed to your overall billing rate. A discount to your billing rate may last forever.

Take a good look at your pipeline for prospects that might not have the ability to pay in a downturn. The decision concerning what to do is an individual issue. Protect yourself from incurring expenses that you may not be able to collect on down the road.

Don’t start projects that fall into the “nice to have” category both internally and externally. An updated document viewer my make your product more attractive in the long run, but if it isn’t going to pay for itself in the short run consider putting it off until you’re sure the economy is in your favor.

People are your most important asset. If you gain a reputation of jettisoning employees it will be hard to replace them with quality people later on. Make this your last alternative. If the downturn is short lived, the severance pay, plus new hire cost, will eat all your potential savings.

This is a really good time to have conversations with your best customers. Start putting together a contingency plan with them. It will pay overwhelming dividends down the road. It might be a time to accelerate projects while the money is available. It’s also the best time to put together a great business case on why your project should be a priority during the downturn. Proactive thinking beat reactive thinking any day.

Bottom line is; don’t let it happen to you. You have an opportunity to do something about it now. Don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day that you leave yourself exposed. If it doesn’t happen, you will have left yourself in a better position for what will happen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Absolutely Accelerate Revenue Recognition

Every businessperson wants to grow their company. Growth can be defined in many ways; revenue, profit, market share, asset value, strong team that lets you take more time off, increased happiness and contentment. Not every businessperson wants more money. Interestingly enough, virtually everything that we do want is somehow tied to money. It’s because we live in a capitalistic society. Increased peace of mind comes from the ability to rise above the day-to-day issues of walking this earth. Much of that contentment can come from inner strength to face everyday challenges with less stress. I would say that we could in almost (key word almost) every case tie back the ability to use money to acquire tools that can help solve problems as an underlying attribute to contentment. Of course the other part is the ability to be content with less. Very few companies are content with less, so let’s talk about the other side….

If profit is a derivative of revenue and I need profit to invest in solutions then “If I could sell more today would I?” I think we would all say “yes”. Then if we want more revenue in our companies today, why don’t we just do it? It’s because it’s not that easy. Growing incremental new revenue is difficult at best, near impossible at worst. I know businesspeople who believe “If I haven’t done it yet, it’s because it can’t be done.” It’s not that they think they are overwhelmingly smart in general. It’s just that they believe that no one understands their particular business better then themselves. They don’t know what they don’t know (The ugly description is: unconscious incompetent).

Let me suggest an approach that should help virtually any businessperson find a way to generate not only more top line revenue, but bottom line profit. It is a systemic approach to looking at revenue. Systemic means “affecting the body as a whole”. There are several components that must work together. These components reside throughout your organization, not just sales and marketing. Here are some of them with a brief description of their impact on revenue:

Product Development: It all starts with deciding what is the best product or service to take to market? This doesn’t mean that you have to actually develop the product or service yourself, but someone must. You might just resell it for them. The key issue is “What business problem does it solve for my prospective customer?” Does the value of the solution cost more than the problem? It is a “must have” or a “like to have”? Does it dilute my earnings or enhance them? Is the market big enough to support the investment, initial and ongoing?

Accounting: Accounting? Yes one of the biggest overlooked elements in a good revenue engine. Are there KPI’s (Key Results Indicators) in place to tell you what products make money and which ones don’t or which clients make you money and which ones dilute your earnings? Do your credit and collections policies support or detract from your ability to attract quality prospects? Does your pricing methodology support your prospects ability to pay (capital outlay verses expense outlay, lump sum verse payments)? Do you have a discount policy and corresponding methodologies? Does the salaries, commission and incentive plans support the goals of the corporation (remember that this doesn’t just apply to sales)?

Marketing: On the surface this seems obvious, but there are deeper concerns. Every businessperson knows that marketing is important. Does your marketing department (person) work with accounting to determine the right product mix and customer profile? Does their lead generation programs target these products and prospects? Do they have metrics in place to measure the ROI on each program they run? Is information that is gathered through the marketing process feed back into accounting, product development and sales to improve their involvement? Is marketing not only targeting new products or new customers, it is trying to increase the average value of a sales by promoting ancillary or corollary products (product bundling)?

Sales: This is the assembly line of revenue and income. In a well oiled revenue engine; sales simply works through a process with predicable results; easier said than done. There needs to be a sales methodology that accelerates prospects through the pipeline. Each step in the process should be easier for the prospect. Every wasted effort needs to be removed. Think of it as an assembly line. You should be driving down the cost of manufacturing. Look at the risk associated with the potential gain. Don’t have such a laborious proposal approval process or credit approval process that it drives way business. This is especially true if you haven’t really experience a financial loss due to business polices. Get accounting involved to determine the true downside of speeding up the system. Be prudent, but not paranoid.

Support: I am going to define support as both post sales support and any production process required to deliver the product. It cost more money to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. We all know this, yet we act differently. Get feedback from your support function on the ideal customer. You can also get feedback on feature improvements and pricing or credit policies. Once you get this far in the relationship, use it. Constantly gather information on ways to improve the revenue generating process. These are people who have made a decision to do business with you. Make sure you know why.

Executive Management: Always a sticking point in my conversations. There are very good executives that understand revenue generation and are a major assets. I’m sure you are one of them. But I have worked with senior executive that have had a less than stellar opinion of sales and marketing people. When you don’t trust your revenue generation system, you have a problem. Use the system outline above. Understand that sales is not the sales department, it is the entire company. If sales are not where you want them look everywhere, don’t just beat up the sales group. If your career has been laced with having bad sales people call on you, learn to trust and delegate. Your personal bias may be costing your business.

Bottom line: Sell the products with the largest margins to the customer who will pay the most, through a sales methodology that will close the sale the fastest.