Thursday, October 29, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Together

What's the difference between finger pointing and finger painting? While they each are childish activities, finger painting is not destructive. We all hear and read that one of the understandable reactions to this "temporary" economic reversal is a great deal of angst among those not already "downsized." The "am I next?" syndrome. How executives react to this angst is an excellent metric of their skill and value, and perhaps a pretty good indicator of whether or not the organization will "make it.".

A survival of the fittest (the sharp elbows and finger pointing) culture does much more than make life miserable for everyone (even for the perpetrator, unless he's been waiting in great anticipation for this inning of the game--because he's either nuts or a bad guy). This culture also greatly weakens the company's chances for survival, much less success, during and following the down cycle. If a pretty good I.Q. is, let's say 125, and you have six influential executives, you can have each of them firing away at the others, (in which case they all run a pretty good chance of incurring mortal wounds) or 750 I.Q. points in the aggregate trying to turn problems into opportunities for all.

A partner and I met with an institutional banker yesterday. He manages his firm's media portfolio and you can guess the kind of a year this has been for him. He actually was visiting with us to see if there was opportunity to grow with us. At one point I expressed if not sympathy, a sensitivity to how stressful his work must have been since this time last year.

"Actually," Tim said, "this has been a great year. Our boss preaches that it doesn't matter how we got here, we need to put our heads together to forge where we're going. Our teams have been strategizing and planning; everyone is wearing elbow pads, so no one has to wear body armor, and as a result we have a very sensible path to success."

How'd you like to work for his boss?

Look, it's okay to be concerned. But be concerned about the right stuff. You have clients and prospects who need your help more than ever. Whether it be to get through this period or make hay during this period, they need help. And if you are the one dedicated to providing it, you will, and an automatic by-product of that behavior will be that you have nothing to worry about.

Great Selling!
Serve Don't Sell
Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly

Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'll Take the Wheat...And Hold the Chaff Please

You always knew why you were asking someone "out," or why you accepted an invitation, when you were a kid. The reasons changed over the years but without fail, it always had something to do with wanting to spend at least an hour or two with the other person, for one reason or another. Not so in business.

Business lunches are a real gamble. The inviter has a reason to ask for the date. That reason involves an opportunity for him, in a "captive" environment, to push his agenda. In the best scenario for the invitee, the agenda involves helping the guest to more than a good meal and a few hours "away from the office." In that case the "host" (let's call him a "Seller") believes the social setting will allow him the time to make the "guest" (let's call him a "Buyer") comfortable with the notion that he is genuinely interested in helping him further his interests with the product or service that the Seller represents.

An hour or more at a restaurant provides all the time in the world for the Buyer to determine if he's ordered the "Wheat" by accepting the invitation, or gotten the Chaff. It's only Tuesday and I'm one for two.

The differences between the two engagements were somewhat predictable. The tasty lunch was with a professional acquaintance I've known for quite some time, done some business with over the years, and never had the occasion to look back after a transaction and question his intelligence, veracity, motives or ethics. I trust him; if not with my children, certainly with my parakeet. We spent the time at lunch with him posing questions and me responding; about my needs, about my business, about my conclusions about my business, in answer to his "yes, but what about?" challenges to my conclusions. In short, the meeting was about me. The conversation was provocative and helpful.

It was a delicious meal. I'm looking forward to the next. No---my host never got around to his agenda unless it was to use this date to mine for information to form one for a later meeting. I'll hear from him again, if that's the case, but chances are that I will call him before he gets back to me. He can be helpful.

The other host was also very smart and gregarious. I learned alot about his life and career path, he learned little about me and I didn't need the service he offered, nonetheless.

Wanna have lunch?

Great Selling!
Serve Don't Sell
Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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Friday, October 23, 2009

No, It's Not Your Client, It's Ours!

Most sales guys, not you of course, experience a good deal of anxiety every time their manager says, "Take it to the Client, you'll never get anywhere with the Buyer." That's because one of the unspoken learnings of advertising sales is that a "good relationship" with ad agency buyers, all but assures one of a more than decent living and a nice work environment that includes lunches and golf outings, all "on the company." Not that there's anything wrong with that. And that is, by and large, the career life of the average sales executive; Good relationships borne of a memory for wedding anniversary dates and childrens' birth dates, twice a season golf days and quarterly if not monthly lunches. So when the manager says, "forget the Buyer" (substitute your own familiar directive), the average sales guy says "Great idea Boss" and immediately heads for his desk drawer with the Maalox.

The more subtle cause of the angst is that the visit to a client will be like taking a knife to a gunfight, in the fantasy world of the average seller. ("I know all about CPP's, Ratings and can hold my own with respect to the strengths and weaknesses of competition within and without my media sector, but that client guy is going to want to talk about marketing and stuff, Jeez").

But again, the top of consciousness concern of the Seller is , "this will really piss my Buyer off, and destroy all the hard work I've done to develop a good relationship which mostly gets me my fair share of all his/her buys."

Hey, relax, remember, we're not talking about you. We're talking about the common, average seller.

Now the concern regarding the Buyer's feelings are well placed. After all, this is the Agency's Client, isn't it? Uh, Not Really. Not in my world anyway. Both you and your Buyer are in the business of helping the Client further his business interests. In fact, if the truth be known, the Client has no shot at building his business without you and your other media channel "friends," but if he had to, he could "stumble" along without an agency. However, because the transaction world's practice is for you to bill and and collect from the agency, you understandably mistake it, the Agency, for your client. In truth the Clients' best interests are met if you and the Agency partner are treating them as your mutual beneficiaries, your shared Clients, whose interests you work together toward meeting.

So, if you effectively and honestly communicate to the Buyer, that your only interest is to serve both him and your mutual Client and to help each of them be more successful, and that you would love to have him join you in a brainstorming session with the Client, or in the alternative, if he's unavailable, will make sure to keep him in the loop on all Client interactions--he'd have to be a real (insert your pejorative here) to object.


Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great Buyers Go Too!

Great Sellers go to heaven because they spend their careers focused on, and therefore helping, everyone with whom they come in contact. They are other-directed and understand that by expending their energy and activity in the service of others, good things will come their way as incidental, but inevitable results of that behavior.

Yesterday, I spent several hours with a top advertising agency executive..a very influential digital media expert. I visited with him because I wanted him to meet some people who represented outstanding advertising supported media vehicles, and knew from prior experience, that this exec would appreciate learning in the one case about a new product, and learning more about the other with which he already had substantial familiarity.

In the ninety minutes consumed by the two meetings, between Seller(s) and Buyer, dozens of questions, answers and goals flew back and forth. Many of the questions came from Sean (the executive/Buyer). When he found something particulary interesting he made a note of which of his clients, or subordinates would benefit from hearing about it. And he collaborated with the two Sellers about how they could be of service to his agency colleagues and clients. The meetings ended when Sean was sure he learned everything new to him about each product, and he orchestrated the next steps, which in this case included making sure that his co-workers and these sellers benefitted, as he did, from learning more about each other. Oh yes, nary a mention of CPPs, or CPAs. It was all about servicing Sean's accounts by learning more, and looking for partnership opportunities. So what did we have here? We had Sellers and a "Buyer" each intensely interested in the other guy and his products and goals. Good things will get done. Everyone will benefit, most especially Sean's clients.

And who would you rather bring a great idea to than this "Buyer?"...who coincidentally is off to you know where. (The only difference "there" is that the Buyers pick up the lunch checks for eternity). Hey, everything always balances out over time.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"When Can We Start?"... Who said that?

If it was me, then the client and I hadn't come up with a solution to his problem that involved me and my product or service. In other words, I hadn't sold anything yet. I had failed, so far anyway, to establish my worth.

RatherI was using a shopworn sales technique (trial close) just like any average sales guy, because I hadn't yet successfully sold. So I asked the question and waited for the inevitable "objection" so I could return to objection-answering. This sounds kind of familiar, yes?

Over the years, thankfully, "when can we start?" has much more often been ask of, rather than by me.

An Uncommon Seller skillfully lowers the inherent barrier between himself and the Buyer, so that the Buyer permits him to attempt to help. That's why the Seller made the appointment, prepared for it and showed up. To Help! To Serve! He lowers the barrier by communicating honestly and motivating the Buyer to struggle with him, as true partners, all four sleeves rolled up, empty coffee cups everywhere (25 years ago, filled ashtrays as well) to identify the hurdles to the client's growth, and to innovate solutions. (Get the picture?). That's where the art of selling comes lower the get him to let you help. Once that barrier is lowered, "selling" takes a rest and helping and serving take over. That's the remarkable salesman's only goal, to help the client be richer for the experience of the two of them working together. And then the moment comes when this uncommon Seller and his Buyer look up from their legal pads and the Buyer asks..."When can we start?"

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Great Negotiators Give the Other Guy What He Needs...and NOTHING MORE

The conventional wisdom of Win-Win as the desired result of a negotiation, doesn't mean both parties "share and share alike." Each party to a negotiation has a threshold that needs to be met for there to be any point in doing the deal. If that threshold gets met (that bare minimum) it's a "win." More than that, is a "wow."

Well then, you want to be the party who provides the "win" and gets the "wow."

The uncommonly successful negotiator spends little to no time trying to make a case for the value of his contribution to the deal. He assumes with confidence that the guy across the table appreciates his value, or there would have been no meeting to begin with. Our guy expends his energy probing for his counterpart's threshold.

"What are you trying to accomplish, Mr. Jones and why do you think Sherman Enterprises can help you?"

"What will you need from me, if any thing, after we shake hands, to make this work for you?"

"How and when will you be able to assess the results of our transaction?"

"Where does this deal sit on the priority ladder of your company's issues at this time."

The effort here is to get your potential "partner" to talk, and think, about himself rather than the "price" of the deal. The very process of focusing him on his "need" will reinforce for him why he is in this conversation in the first place and direct his thinking toward a successful conclusion--filling his basic need basket! The overflow becomes yours. He gets what he needed, you get what you needed, AND, the overflow---wow!

Many years ago the executive vice president of a media division of a major communication company called me to "talk about" a high profile management position he needed to fill. "Would I like to talk about it?" "Sure." We met. During the "interview" I spent a lot of time listening to his recitation of his career path and accomplishments. He may not have asked me one question. I was intrigued by his need to impress me. After all, he held the keys to the front door of a pretty high profile position. Mt first thought was, "this guy is letting me know that if we get together on this, he's going to be the boss. Why?"

At some point I asked what he thought the major challenge would be for his new hire. He told me, and off-handedly remarked that Fred (his boss) suggested he reach out to me as a potential "fixer." Translation: Fred "suggested" he check me out. If I wasn't at the command post tent when Fred next visited, this EVP would have failed. His "win" was to have me at the desk. My win was to get the job--but trust me--by learning what his"need" or "win" was, I got the "wow."
It was a nice package.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Open Wide! Here Comes the Choo Choo!...or the Art Of Selling and Moms

You don't know a better seller than your mom. First, her major concern has always been for your welfare. She always wanted what's best for you. She's always wanted to help you and until you were a teenager, she was always right as well. Then overnight, she became always wrong. Unfortunately many of the things mom needed to do to help you, met with resistance. You erected a "buyer/seller" wall between you and mom. No baby, or toddler for that matter, likes the taste of mashed green peas. But moms know they are good for you--protein, I think. So she wanted to help you eat healthfully by feeding you green peas and she said--"Open wide, here comes the choo choo." When you did, she shoved the awful stuff down your throat.

Mom skillfully employed the art of selling to help you get the food you need to be healthy. Nurse Ratchit, using the same words would have met with your clenched teeth. Why?
Mom genuinely wanted to help you; you saw that in her smile, you felt it in her warmth. She helped you set aside your distaste for the peas by distracting you with a choo choo game long enough to feed you. You trusted her to care for you because she focused on you and your needs and not on herself. Yes, she used a mild form of trickery. She had to; She had to get you to let her help you. "Help you. H-E-L-P M-E... H-E-L-P YOU!" (Tom Cruise to Cuba Gooding--Jerry McGuire). OPEN WIDE!

Last night I had a Diet Coke with my friend Tom. He just took on a marketing assignment for a new break-through product to identify a heretofore difficult to diagnose disease--Sepsis. Tom was really excited. The job doesn't pay very well (a non-profit foundation is his sponsor) and it will be very challenging to get the word out, he says. But Tom is very excited to have the opportunity to help a lot of people get early treatment which in the case of this medical problem is essential. I know, even if Tom doesn't, that if he is really good at getting the word out (and I'm sure that he will be), everything will take care of itself--economically as well. Someday ask Imus how quickly I tore up his contract after his first "through the roof " rating book.

The more you learn about the art of selling, to help you, help them, the more effective you will be, the more you will lower the buyer/seller barrier, the more people you will help, the better your chances of know where.

Great Selling

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessy
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Team Work
Service to Others

Monday, October 12, 2009

Provocateur or bust! Be one or be one.

Well you may not be a bust but you might raise your family in Ozone Park, Queens. Hey, I love Queens. I grew up there. I'm just making a point, OK? Management has been sending salesmen out to sell with a Customer Needs Analysis sheet since I was "parking" a Spaldeen with my fist in the P.S. 205 playground. In other words, it's out of date. On a food shelf it might read "expired."

Here's how the CNA goes:

The appointment: "Mr. Jones, I'm Strom Lamone and I'd like to visit with you for a half hour to learn about your business. I AM NOT COMING TO SELL YOU ANYTHING."

The visit: After 100 such approaches, some one says 'yes' and there you are; Across the counter, doing your CNA with somewhere between 3 and 17 interruptions for your prospect's customers.

The Questions (right off the CNA sheet):
1. Is there a predictable selling cycle in your business?
2. What is the demographic of your primary target?
3. How about your secondary target?
4. What is your marketing area?
5. Who are your top competitors?
6. Do you advertise?
7. What media do you use?
8. What is your annual budget for advertising?
9.What do you try to accomplish with your advertising?
10. Gulp..How is it working?

11. If you could name your biggest success hurdle, what would it be?

The 1st Visit Close: Not to "sell" anything as promised, but rather to get a second visit (at which time you will sell your buns off).

"Well Mr. Jones, if I understand you correctly, your biggest probem is blah, blah, blah. I'd like to go back to the office and share your information with our in-house marketing genius, my sales manager, my general manager and Dr. Phil. If we come up with something that could fix your problem, you'd want to hear about it, right? OK then, let's pencil in next Tuesday or Wednesday, morning or afternoon, which is better for you (nice "choice close").

So--Does any of this ring a bell?

Can anyone explain to me the rationale for calling this a consultative sales process? This is an idiotic sales process, immediately setting up the only question this line of questioning evokes from a customer, if he asks one at all--"Very interesting Mr. Lamone. What's the deal of the day?"

Let me suggest a more productive line of questioning;

1. When did you open for business?
2. Has the competitive landscape changed over that period of time?
3. Which of those that compete with you has the strongest brand image?
4. How does the business look side by side with your original business plan?
5. Has the consumer need or want for the type of product or service you offered grown or decreased?
6. How do you know?
7. Is your sales volume growing at an acceptable pace?
8. Why? Why not?
9. What's your brand perception?
10. How do you know?
11. What's the public view of your customer service?
12. How do you know?
13. What is your strongest calling card for your target consumer?
14. How do you know?

I could go on and on with this list...and so can you. And so you should, and do I. The only thing I care about when visiting with prospects is making it clear that I can help them. And I do that by showing a sincere and intense interest in them; their successes and failures. And I don't run out of questions until they start developing their own list. That's because until they start questioning everything about their challenges, they will never meet them. And my job is to provoke them to think, and worry and wonder. And I make it clear that I will be right at their side as they go through that uncomfortable, painful but ultimately rewarding process.

And they will insist that I share the fruits of our labor.

Provocateur: A person who provokes problems; causes dissention and...exceeds their revenue goals month after month and year after year.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Consultative Selling" and... Travolta

The Consultative Sell is so "50s." OK..maybe 60s. Picture Travolta sitting across the desk from his customer; Hair all Brylcreamed into a "DA," black T, jeans and boots with a clipboard on his lap and notes to himself reading: "target customer(?), sales cycle(?), budget(?), competition(?)," etc.

"You're the one that I want, one that I want, hoo hoo hoo hoo," playing softly in the background.

If you've been trained at all to sell, chances are that a six inch black plastic comb was, or could have been, your training graduation gift.

And by the way, here's how Travolta got the appointment: "Mr. Jones, I'd like to visit with you. Not to sell you anything, I promise, but to learn about your business." It probably took him 99 "no thank yous" to get this appointment even though the approach was sincere and novel :). In truth, four out of every three calls this subject got since the day he opened his doors, began that way.

My first problem with the consultative sales process (B to B selling), is that it is based on a series of lies. Anyone taught to get appointments this way is being taught to SELL not consult. ("Not that there's anything wrong with that."). However we need to be honest if we want to develop trust. And we need to develop trust, and the reputation for being trustworthy, if we want to build a sustainable career and consistently meet personal and corporate objectives. If we can accomplish that, it will be because we became uncommon and remarkable sales executives.

Real and valuable consultants do much more than gather the information from the customer about his business and what the subject knows about its growth, stumbling blocks and potential. The real articles in the consulting business look and behave much more like Monk, Kojak and Colombo than they do, Fred Sanford. They partner with the customer to learn what he doesn't know. Guess what, if he knew, he'd be there, wherever "there" is to him. It takes courage to behave like a consultant when you are being paid to sell, . That's because inherent in the relationship between consultant and customer is the right to politely insult the hell out of the check signer. In effect the consultant is there because the O level folk with whom he's consulting are stuck. Their needs range from discovery to affirmation. But they are at the "ignorant" or "fork in the road" rest stop on their trip. And they know that and so aren't offended when the consultant reminds them of what they don't know. The work is for the two of them to "what if" everything under the sun.

But picture this: you SELL widgets. You are on your first visit with your prospect and you say, "Look dummy. You don't have a clue how to move your business forward. You are blessed that I am here. Let's get to work!"

You probably need a more elegant intro, but if you are to be a problem solver, a forthright (and fearless) communicator, a trustworthy partner and resource and therefore a remarkable seller, (with eternity spent sitting comfy on a white cloud), that's where it all starts. Takes a little courage, no?

Many years ago I was the VP/GM of a CBS owned radio station in Philadelphia. My initial task was to change the format from Talk to All-News. Within three weeks of beginning the new assignment, I had replaced all department heads, fired most of the DJs and coverted the survivors to "journalists," hired an ad agency, "suggested" the creative approach, bought a heavy television schedule--all in time to coincide with the beginning of a rating period. The ratings came out and we were the number one station in the market. The day of the release of the audience research data, I got a call from the CEO of the largest local advertising agency. He welcomed me to the market, congratulated me on the ratings, and then told me I was screwed and wondered aloud how I would dig myself out of the hole I'd just put myself in? Excuse me?
"Well," he continued. "You have masterfully called to the attention of a vast number of Philadelphia listeners a perfectly dreadful product. You'll be able to fix the product, but how will you ever get back the listeners who recorded truthfully their responsiveness to your advertising but made notes to themselves to never listen again?" I had no idea, but he had a new account.

Hoo hoo hoo hoo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Have a Good Day, Honey..I'm off to Help

My wife collects Heinz Silver, Pez and hand carved bunnies. I collect "Thank-Yous." She's a collector, because I am.

The most important question in business is, "Have I helped you?" The most rewarding answer is "Yes, thank you." My wife's ability to indulge in her hobbies is an incidental, yet automatic by-product of my devotion to my collection.

It really doesn't matter what business you are in, or what product or service you represent. Someone thought of, or replicated that product or service because he or she believed it would help someone get something they wanted or needed. It would make the target constituent's life, business, day, minute better in some way. It has value because it enhances an experience of some kind for the customer. How you think about that which you represent, and what its intended purpose is, will be a most important determinant of your degree of success. It's more important than your territory, commission rate, competition or anything else you can think of, except your determination to help others benefit by making use of it. The uncommon achiever leaves his office well prepared and enthused not because it's another day to make sales, but rather because the new day brings fresh opportunities to help other people be more successful in their lives. Helping someone else to the top of the hill, gets you that much closer to it as well.

Human behavior and time have created an apathy, if not hostile barrier, between Buyer and Seller. Long before there were pockets, buyers were keeping their hands over where their pockets would have been to protect their purses (a gender-neutral term in years gone by). Except for remarkable and uncommon sales people, the guy with the sample bag coming through the door is "out to sell something," and everyone on the other side of the door knows it and counts the minutes until the seller leaves.

But there are rare performers as well. They walk through the door with a different purpose and they get different results. If one of these special performers has a product for a retailer to resell, he is attuned to the retailer's need to provide for his family, send his kids to college, and put something aside for retirement. The retailer toils to fulfill his dreams and the uncommon achiever is in the dreams-fulfillment business. "Mr. Jones, I can and want to help you build your business. My challenge is to get you to let me help you do that." Pretty corny, huh? Sure, so don't say it to the retailer but say it over and over to yourself until it becomes muscle memory and you behave accordingly. It's not how many people I can sell today, it's how many people can I help today?

"Emily, what does your daddy do?"
"He helps people make smart decisions about personal transportation."
"Oh, he sells cars?"

What do you collect?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oh Shut Up and Listen, For God's Sake!

Man's most recent evolutionary leap is his remarkable ability to appear to be listening to others while he's pretty much tuned out. Think about the people you love, and who love you; The most important people in your life. How often have you said to yourself about each of them, "He didn't hear a word I just said?" For any number of reasons, most of us are pretty self-absorbed. The I-Man (radio personality Don Imus) interrupts his interviewees all the time with, "I'm sorry. My mind strayed after I asked you the last question and I have no idea what you answered and uh, actually what I even asked you; Uh what's your name, again?" I'm not so sure he's always kidding when he does that. Perhaps the survival instinct is so a part of our DNA that we are, at the end of the day, a pretty selfish group. We spend so much of our lives in self-interested thought and action, and expecting little different from others, that we are in awe of truly altruistic behavior. When on those rare occasions we exhibit other-directed behavior ourselves, the reaction can run the gamut from pride and self-respect to, "What was I thinking?"

I believe the people we admire most are the few we are blessed to meet who really care about what others are saying and feeling. That's because most of us have learned to nod intermittently and at appropriate times while others "have the floor, " so as to appear to be focused on them and their needs. All the while our thoughts are running to, "How shall I respond?" or worse, "When will this ever end?"

And so, are you aghast to learn that Buyers believe that you have no real interest in them other, of course, than to sell them something? And honestly, unless you are an uncommon seller, they are probably right. The barrier between you and your prospect was erected long before you got into the game, but it is tall and wide, and grows taller and wider and stronger all the time. In fact, while both buyer and seller revel in the new technologies that allow them to transact electronically (from RFPs to executed contracts), and credit their enthusiasm to the efficiency of it all, the more plausible rationale is the consequence that they don't have to spend any more face time with each other pretending to be listening. It's exhausting.

Friends, Buyers have no expectation that you care one whit about them or what your product or service might do for them. That is why they are wary, non-communicative and non-committal. Most of we sellers go on prattling nonetheless about how our product/service is going to change their lives and, at a fifty per cent discount, if they buy today. The more we prattle, the less we listen. The less we listen the more we meet the Buyers' expectations and the less interested the Buyer is in the discussion.

My first advertising sales job was for a terrific trade publishing company. The newspaper I represented was so much better than me. I was the archetypal hot shot, aggressive New York salesman. I could rattle off the pitch in my sleep and had an answer for any possible objection. My first out-of-town sales trip was to see Bill Stanback, CEO of a powder headache remedy whose brand bore his name. The Stanback Company was in Salisbury, North Carolina. I'd targeted a six issue double truck ad campaign and I was ready. Bill welcomed me into his cavernous office and nearly crushed my hand with his. (Gee, he was really happy to see me, make it 12 issue double truck ads.). I got started. Once the first sentence of my canned pitch escaped my lips there was no stopping me. There could have been a gas leak explosion and I wouldn't have yelled "fire" until I'd finished with "sign here, Bill.").

When I finally came up for air, a giant smile crossed Bill's face as he rose to presumably finish off my last few unbroken metatarsels. "Well, well," he said. "That was terrific. Next time your down this way, make sure that you stop in again, you hear?" He walked me to the door. What a gentleman.

It wasn't until the cab left Stanback's building for the ride to the airport that it crossed my mind that I had sold zero, zilch, nada. How could I have? Our meeting had nothing to do with Stanback. No one in the world could have made that more clear than I. Hell, he might as well have not been in the room. In this case a failure to listen wasn't my flaw. There was nothing to listen to--I never shut up. (Who cared what he had to say? I had a nifty pitch).

Have you ever heard someone comment about another, "He has the gift of gab. He ought to be in sales?" I would argue that if he has the gift of gab, he ought to be in gabbing--not sales!

Do you hear me?

Great Selling!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Make a Cheat Sheet and I'll Tell You a Story

For you newbies to this blog, and non-note taking returnees, here in one place are the Five Core Values that any of us can adopt to guide our relationships and achieve uncommon, remarkable results. These are the values that have kept me on track and laid the foundation for a personally rewarding career. I've seen them do the same for others, and they will for you. I'm numbering and listing them below to make it easy for you to cut, paste, print and laminate them in two sizes (4x6 for your desk top, framed and business card size for your wallet:).

1. Selling is about service to others; everyone in your business life.
2. Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
3. Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
4. Collapse Time
5. Be a Great Team mate

(Each of these "values" is treated in an earlier blog).

Okay, here's the story: For a very long time my business cards have listed these core values under my contact information. They follow my signature in all emails that I send. It is one way I tell people who I am, or at least who I try to be. At AOL Advertising Sales, these values became the cornerstone for the organization's culture. I never dictated that, it happened organically. I inherited a sales organization that had become dispirited as a result of the Internet implosion after years of historic sales growth when AOL led the charge in the Internet space. But now it seemed overnight the Internet was out of favor and the resulting advertising decline was dramatic. Moreover the ad agency community had a real bone to pick with the AOL ad sales department.

During the period of intense Internet excitement, marketers were speculating, with enthusiastic encouragement from Internet entrepreneurs, that all of commerce was going to move from "bricks and mortars" to the Internet. From a pair of shoes to home mortgages, the world was going to take its business online. Suffice to say, AOL "played" this speculation spectacularly well. But in so doing invested in a lot of face-to-face client time, every once in a great while to the discomfort of the ad agencies. When the Internet (temporarily as it turned out) went out of favor, the downturn in ad sales was precipitous and profound. AOL and its Net competitors went kicking and scratching for advertising dollars. They visited the agencies with hat in hand. But "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." If that woman is a "media queen" the fury is taken to a whole new level.

So I found a bunch of "beaten" folk at AOL. They had been to the mountain top but the winds up there turned unkind. They were now so low they could no longer imagine, much less see the top. They needed to learn how to again believe in AOL, and more importantly in themselves. The core values that I proselytized played a real part in quickly turning around the sales slide. Having something new to believe in, and a guide for behavior what would earn them trust from all with whom they dealt, gave these very bright, talented men and women a new road map to uncommon performance and many of them took the trip. Our first quarter at AOL was the first in many to show growth.

When a sales executive loves his work, there is a transfer of that affection to those for whom he works, to those that work for him and to those for whom he would like to work; The customer.

I am a pretty direct communicator and so if I respect and "love" my co-workers, I tell them. If they know I care about them because they are so important a part of what makes my work pleasurable, they feel safe when I point out opportunities for improvement in their performance.
And I remind them, and now point out to you, that if they (you) really believe the mission is to serve the client, first, last and always, they (you) will earn the liberty to teach, advise, provoke and brainstorm with the client because everything about the interactions say to the client, "I'm safe here. This person can and wants to help me invest wisely in advertising." When that moment arrives you are very special indeed. Your services are a most important asset to the client. You have no competitor. Your product or service is not a commodity. Nature will take its course and you will be incidentally but inevitably rewarded. Get it?

Great Selling!