Archives for category: Sales

I’m no different to anyone else when it comes to delivering ‘the big presentation’. I get nervous before I have to speak in front of a large audience. Who doesn’t? They used to say that if you weren’t nervous you didn’t care, and I think that adage still applies.

I’m not talking about the content of a big presentation in this post. I’m talking about getting into the right mindset so you do the best job you’re capable of.

I approach the psychology of a big presentation this way. I acknowledge that I’m nervous, and then I ask myself, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ However serious the ramifications are of a presentation not going well, they pale in comparison with, let’s say, our health and the health of our nearest and dearest. We sometimes fear in advance that things could go spectacularly wrong, but we always recover from these bumps in the road.

Once I’ve reminded myself that the worst that could happen is not that bad at all, I tell myself that I don’t care how the presentation goes, to take the pressure off. I’m now starting from a position of an empty box, a box empty of nervousness, and then I proceed to fill it with positive thoughts. I’m getting in the right frame of mind to deliver the best job I can. I’m getting my head in the game.

I mentally run through the order of the first few things I’m going to say, safe in the knowledge that once I get going everything will flow. I want to open with a bang, perhaps a surprise, earn the respect of the audience, and then relax knowing that I have them with me.

Sometimes someone introduces me, sometimes I’m the one speaking first, it doesn’t matter. I smile, and begin talking.

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When my brothers and I were kids, our parents were teachers and we had a special way of answering theĀ  house phone and dealing with phone calls.

We’d say hello. We’d never say ‘hello this is London 123456’, giving away our number, and we’d never say our name. If someone said is this 123456, we’d either say, no it’s not, what number were you looking for, or else we’d ask who they were looking for. If someone asked to speak to a person in the house, we’d ask their name before we checked if our parents or our brothers were in.

As teachers, my parent’s were ex-directory, that is to say that they chose not to list their phone number in the big book. We would occasionally get crank or abusive calls and this escalation protocol was a useful process for getting rid of them.

Nowadays, people just say hello, which is fine of course, but in business it’s not particularly helpful. This is because it forces many callers to say ‘is this Paul?’ to which we would have to say yes before the call had even started.

I used to date an American girl a long time ago. When she was at work she wouldn’t answer with hello, she’d say ‘this is Susan’. Susan wasn’t actually her name, but you get the point. I liked it. It was helpful, personal and sounded more customer focused. I adopted it immediately.

So don’t be surprised if you call me on business and I say ‘this is Paul’, or it’s even friendlier version ‘hello, this is Paul’.

Despite the advent of all things digital and web, a lot of us still do a lot of travelling, to physical meetings or events. We still spend a lot of time out of the office. That makes it hard for people to get hold of us but also hard for us to get stuff done while we’re travelling.

If we’re driving to meetings, much more so than if we’re travelling by rail or air, then this can be dead time, because the act of driving occupies so many of our faculties on a constant basis. After all, we might be guiding a one-and-a-half ton killing machine through fast motorways, narrow, winding roads roads and populated areas.

This is road time. In the car is the best time for people to reach us and for us to hold calls and get them out. The one thing we can do when we’re driving is talk. And think, it least to some degree.

If I want to do a long call or an interview with someone, I’ll ask them when they’re travelling. They’re a captive audience during their road time, they’re happy to get the call out of the way – it’s a good use of their time – and they generally have privacy, which you can’t say for train journeys.

Road time can be productive, for both the driver and the person trying to reach them.

I realise that are two ways you could interpret the title of this blog post. I don’t mean that the good ones want to be measured in their approach, in other words, considered, careful, circumspect, even though that might be a good thing in many situations. I mean that they want to be measured, by us.

Good sales people are confident in their abilities and want to be measured. The better measured they are, as long as the system of measurement is fair, the clearer their effort is, the better they sell, the better they’re rewarded.

The less good don’t want to be measured, or want to be measured less. The less they’re measured, the more they can hide in the grey areas that are equivocal and open to interpretation, wiggle room and excuses. Same for marketers too.

If you’re hiring sales people, and you know you have a product that sells well – not that you can sell well, that other people can sell well – look for the ones that want to be tied down to targets and measurements. They’re the ones who want to see their progress, be judged accurately on their efforts, and be rewarded accordingly.

 

Business is awash with shorthand.

Good shorthand uses TLAs or jargon that everyone understands to save time and effort. Bad shorthand leaves people unproductive, confused and alienated.

I’ve always used ‘mktg’ as a shorthand for marketing. So much so that I use it in the domain name for my business website, M4 Marketing. It’s a nice short domain. The only problem I have is that I have to spell out the domain name over the phone, which is not ideal.

I think that the mktg shorthand is good shorthand, no? It’s like ‘mgmt’ for management. Pretty much everyone knows that shorthand and uses it freely.

Working in, or for, a small business is fun. How much fun, I never knew until I was much older.

With a small business, if you’re involved in a non-technical role – in other words you’re on the business side, including sales and marketing – you get to do lots of different things. The variety is great, at least it is for me. You also get to do these lots of things relatively well, rather than spectacularly well in one niche area. You can be part-finder, part-minder and part-grinder if you want.

As your small business becomes more successful and grows, you find yourself doing fewer things, and you need to do those fewer things better. It becomes a medium-sized business.

When I did my Master’s degree in Business Administration a hundred years ago, there were courses on offer in running a small business. I had never worked in a small business, nor had anyone in my immediately family. We weren’t particularly entrepreneurial, we had worked for large organisations. Consequently I had little or no interest in finding out about how a small business worked.

It’s ironic how over time I’ve migrated from working for large companies to working for, with and running small companies.

August is a deceptively busy month.

On the surface, everyone’s on holiday and you can’t get anything done. If you’re relying on getting stuff back from suppliers, partners, or customers, you’re done for. It’s the holiday month. Don’t ask me for an answer, a budget, or a decision, it’s not happening.

But August is a deceptively busy month because everyone comes back on the first of September and immediately has to hit top gear until the next silly season hits around mid-December til the second week of January. To be ready to go in September we have to do the work in August, getting everything ready and managing our projects and our lead times.

August is a great month for getting the work done, undisturbed, so you’re ready to go when the wheels start screeching in the autumn.

As long as you don’t need anything back from anyone, that is. It’s a great month if you only need you to produce what it is you’re producing. But, interaction, collaboration? Forget it. Shoulda got that done in July…

When I’m cleaning the house, I’m usually tempted to do a relatively good job, but not a deep clean, a pull-out-all-the-stops clean. Enough to make it look decent for a week or so.

But then, once in a blue moon I do a proper clean, a proper wipe, a proper dust or a proper vacuum, the kind that we used to call spring cleaning when something gets its annual out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new clean.

There’s no such thing of course. Spring cleaning is something we have to do all year around, or at least once a season, or once a quarter, as we’d say in the business.

Speaking of business, it’s the same thing. We do an annual purging of the CRM system, our email inbox, or our sales pipeline. We should do it all the time, and certainly once a quarter, so it doesn’t mount up into something seemingly unsurmountable. Tidy as you go, and clean as you go too.

The trouble is, it’s a constant struggle to maintain this discipline in the face of the other business – and cleaning – mantra. Just enough is often good enough, and good enough means simply better than the alternative.

Every month or so over the summer I declare a war on weeds at the front of our house. We have what you might call a low maintenance front area, with a lot of it paved for a car and the border is a mixture of pebbles over weed-block tarpaulin and plant areas.

The thing with weeding is that it’s a bit like sales and marketing. It’s all or nothing. You either do it properly or you don’t bother. You can do a half-cocked job and they’re back 2 weeks later. I thought they were growing up through two layers of tarpaulin, but, following a root and branch – see what I did there? – analysis of the blighters they appear to be growing between the pebbles and then pushing down through the weed-block with their sturdy little roots. They’re all over the edges of the borders, or perhaps I should say the borders of the borders, sneaking in between the concrete and the weed-block edge, and helped by the zealous over-watering of the overhead balcony plants by Mrs D. Getting at the roots is tricky.

I can almost see the weeds looking up at me when I turn up with my trowel and my brown bin, and saying. “Here he is again. We’re not going to go through this charade again, are we? You realise you’re just giving us a haircut, right? Give us a couple of days and we’re going to be looking even better.”

So I’m turning up the heat on my war on weeds. No more Mr Nice Guy. No more vinegar mix and organicy stuff that cosies up to the weeds. I’ve bought the real deal, armageddon in a bottle and spray. This stuff will kill everything in its path, only stopping and evaporating at the earth’s core.

I just need to wait for a dry spell, in the west of Ireland renowned for its lakes, rivers and soft days…

 

We’re generally on the receiving end of irony. Things that end up being ironic are almost always not in our favour. Irony in business is the same. Commerce tends not to like irony. It likes to deal in good fortune and certainty where possible.

Towards the end of 2017 I finished the final draft of a book I’ve written on how we should deal with our lot in life and leisure if we’re generalists rather than specialists. People who can do a few things well, but are not standout in any one thing.

Since the end of 2017 I’ve been trying to find a agent to take on my project, get behind it and find a publishing deal. In other words, I’ve been trying to persuade a number of specialists that a book written about generalists is a worthwhile project.

The irony of this task is not lost on me. In fact it’s a constant companion. ‘If you’re only pretty good at a few things, why should I, who am great at this thing, take on a project, and why should readers read something, that is probably only pretty good, pretty well written?’

I’m going on holiday shortly for a couple of weeks, which necessitates having at least half a dozen blog posts ‘in the can’. Notwithstanding these literary guardians at the gate, I might publish a few pages of my book as posts, to see if I get any kind of a reaction.