Archives for category: Sales

The other day I was in a hurry to check the status of a flight I was taking later that week. I needed to know if I could fit in an appointment before leaving for the airport. When I went onto the website this is what I got.

For a company of this stature, and for a company that transacts online at this kind of scale, I find this flabbergasting. Such a website shouldn’t ever be down, certainly not at peak hours. This was 17:00 on a week day.

When I worked in the cyber-security business, the standard service level agreement for a cloud-based service was what they call ‘five nines’, or 99.999% availability. In some quarters, four nines wasn’t seen as sufficient for an enterprise’s mission-critical systems. To put this in perspective, five nines availability allows for total unscheduled downtime – assuming uptime is calculated on a 24/7/365 basis – of just six minutes, for the entire year, if my calculations are correct.

Which leads me to conclude either that this is one of those moments of unforeseen torture for a company that sets itself the highest standards of transactional availability, or that the company is in fact a bit sloppy or laissez faire with its customers’ goodwill.

In the time it’s taken me to write this post, I checked back on the site and it was back up, so perhaps we can give Ryanair the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.

Advertisements

There are two types of business-to-business client. I found this out in my first job after my MBA in the 1990’s when I worked for a design and marketing agency and had to get out there and sell.

The first type of client is the type that respects your work, trusts your expertise and domain knowledge, and generally takes your advice.

The other type of client is the type that wants it done his or her way, tells you what they want, because they know better, even though what they want may not be the best for them. They respond to what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

The one factor that affects this division is the amount of experience and and expertise you have with regard to your client’s industry. The less you have, or can demonstrate, the less likely they’ll be inclined to take your advice and the more command and control their approach becomes.

You know the saying: ‘you get the clients you deserve’. Clients also get the agencies, suppliers or delivery partners they deserve.

The term ‘client’ is also problematic for me. We used it in the agency and some companies still use it, depending on their sector. It puts the customer on a pedestal. I agree that everything stems from the customer, and that we all should be customer-centric, but when you elevate your customer to almost divine status it makes it hard both to have a peer-to-peer relationship that’s based on trust and to strike a fair deal. Then you have a vendor/supplier-client relationship that’s unequal and approaches that of a slave-master relationship. That’s what the term ‘client’ feels like to me.

Our French friends use the same word – faire – for both ‘to make’ and ‘to do’. Perhaps some other languages do too. You get the sense from the French of which word it translates to in English.

When it comes to combining the sense with the word ‘work’, however, it’s a really good job we have two separate words, and with every justification, as they’re fundamentally different things.

Making work is making work for yourself, to keep yourself busy, or in a job, or making work for other people to have to do, in various uncharitable and unhelpful ways. It’s the creating of a system that keeps people and organisations in a job, rather than serving the community as a whole usefully. It’s the overcomplicating of things to discourage people from applying for or claiming what is either rightfully theirs or what they’re entitled to. It’s preserving the complex, the difficult to understand, the proprietary or the difficult to join in order to justify whole departments or maintain the exclusivity of a club. Huge swathes of the public sector are guilty of this.

Then there is doing work; creating outputs, producing things, executing on plans, the act of getting something done. Productivity and performance lives at its heart. It’s about closing sales rather than preventing sales. It’s about accelerating motion, rather than retarding it. It’s about access over exclusion, encouragement over discouragement, others over oneself. It’s about knocking through barriers rather than putting them up, and it’s about telling people what they can do, rather than what they can’t.

So the question to ask yourself, obviously, is this: are you making work, or are you doing work? And the sanity question is this: what would others say about you?

I introduced the notion relatively recently that I might stop blogging on this page after 1,000 blog posts. I produce 3 blog posts a week, always on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and that cadence works for me, so 1,000 posts will take me a fraction over 333 weeks, the guts of 7 years.

And then I read Seth Godin’s post yesterday, which talks about the first 1,000 blog posts being the most difficult…Mr Godin’s blog is one of the inspirations for me starting my own back in 2013, but then again he writes a daily blog post, and we aren’t talking weekdays only. That’s over twice my input. That cadence obviously works for him.

His first para reads: “For years, I’ve been explaining to people that daily blogging is an extraordinarily useful habit. Even if no one reads your blog, the act of writing it is clarifying, motivating and (eventually) fun.” I could have written those words myself, except substitute ‘thrice weekly’ for the daily bit, because the sentiment is spot on.

Some of Mr Godin’s posts are very short indeed, and then some of them are quite involved, whereas I try and stick to a 4-to-5 para, 250-or-so words, couple-minutes-to-read kind of a thing. That said, his output is prodigious, helped no doubt by an enviable book-publishing remit that allows him to kill two birds with one stone.

Interestingly, Mr G sees a trend where people get the bit between their teeth after 200 posts or so, which is a little over 6 months. Maybe the time in the saddle is more important than the cadence, since 200 posts take me 15 months, which is a different proposition altogether. Or maybe it’s the cadence that counts…

As for the first 1000 posts thing, for me it could well be the only 1000 posts, and I think the daily discipline would become a daily drag, perhaps for you too, as the ‘customer’.

 

Many of us are in the business of imparting knowledge or experience. Teachers, lecturers, supervisors, mentors, trainers, consultants, managers, advisors. I think we all hope that what we impart is useful, in that it can be used.

I was reminded of this when I met with a colleague the other day. We were exchanging information and insight on various luminaries in the sales effectiveness and sales training business.

She shared an anecdote from a session she had attended with an internationally renowned sales trainer who is known for speaking her mind. After the keynote had finished, my colleague complimented the speaker on the session and said her talk provided much food for thought.

The sales guru, paused for a moment and said, ‘or food.’

And that’s a very important distinction. Food for thought means that we might think about what we’ve listened to and learned, but not necessarily act on it. We might not change our behaviour and ‘do’.

Food is something we actively consume and use, which gives us energy to progress, and do work. It influences our behaviour.

What about you? Are you providing food for thought, or food?

It’s impossible to resist the slow, glacial and inexorable movement of father time. Father time, but mother nature: what’s going on there?

Once you’ve reached the peak of fitness, be it physical, sporting, cerebral, intellectual and so on, or if you’re lucky, a long, luxurious plateau of a peak, you’re on the decline, fact. You have to work increasingly harder with each passing year to keep your skills at the level they were.

I have noticed this with the sport I have played most of over the last 4 decades, table tennis. It’s hard to judge how you compare with your much younger self, even though I still think I’m as good as I was in my peak, but I have a general sense that my abilities are in decline, that my skills are dwindling. Table tennis is one of those sports where you can have a long career of being at or close to your best. It’s not like some of the other speed and power sports where the window is much narrower.

That said, when I’m playing against people half my age, or less, I see that the sport has moved on, it’s played differently, and my approach to the game is outdated. I’m pushing against the tide of better ways of playing the game, and younger, faster and better players.

The enjoyment is still there, but the proficiency is such that you’re competitive against the standard of player on your way down that you were on your way up. The only way you can reconcile yourself with the march of time is to confine yourself to playing against your age group or to be in competition with yourself, and not others, on a daily basis.

I’m sure it applies to work as well…

 

 

I’ve written before about how the Irish language has some quite unwieldy versions of some of the most common words and phrases you’ll ever need, like hello, hello back and thank you.

It also has no words for yes and no, incredibly.

Instead, it makes do with a much more engaging and involving set of answers, that has exact parallel in English and which I use a lot myself.

‘Did you finish your lunch?’ ‘I did.’

‘Have you done that report?’ ‘I haven’t.’

‘Will you come with me to the meeting?’ ‘I will’

‘Can you commit to the end of this month for the order?’ ‘We can.’

‘Are you in charge?’ ‘I am.’

It’s an altogether more accommodating language, reversing the questioner’s word order and creating a kind of subconscious closeness and empathy. Nothing less than you’d expect from a very friendly people.

Do I like it? I do.

 

 

I’ve written a few times before about tackling large projects and biting off small digestible or achievable chunks to eat away at the project and make it doable.

One thing I find useful when tackling a large project – though not too large or else the parameters may change and you have to start again – is to do the fiddly stuff first. If you’re writing a document, get the contents right before you move on to fill in the big gaps. If you’re working on a large deck, do the cover slide and the end slide first and get the title and content conventions down before you do your slides. If you’re working on a spreadsheet, to the tidying up and formatting of cells before you put the main body of numbers in.

You have to do the important parts, the major bits, so getting the fiddly stuff out of the way means they won’t get forgotten about or underserved at the end when you’re flagging. Yes, you run the risk of not getting the big, important part finished, but you have to get it done so you’ll get it done, and if there’s a time deadline, then your focus, your productivity and your output will increase accordingly.

If you do the fiddly stuff first, you know you’ll finish. If you leave the fiddly stuff til last, you run the risk of wanting a break after finishing the big stuff and not finishing the whole thing.

Work, play. Day, night. Fun, no fun. These are pretty binary concepts, aren’t they?

I’ve always said we should find a job we enjoy, since it’s going to be occupying such a large amount of our healthy, active years, but enjoyment is hardly a binary concept.

No, it’s more of a spectrum. There are bits of our work that we enjoy more than others. The creative bits are generally more enjoyable than the humdrum bits. There are degrees of enjoyment. The most enjoyable parts of our job are not as enjoyable as our time off.Then again, being on holiday is often better than simply having time off.

If we play sport, then going to the gym is not as enjoyable as a game of footie or tennis.

I was out for an evening of 6-a-side soccer the other day, in the driving rain, and one of my pals joined the warm-up looking a bit glum. ‘Come on,’ I said, ‘you could be working. Playing soccer in terrible weather is always better than working. Are you telling me you’d rather be plastering right now?’

‘Yes’, he said, ‘I would.’ Like I said, degrees of enjoyment, just on a different part of the spectrum to me.

Well, bloody hell, 800 blog posts out the door! At a total elapsed average time from idea to creation, to fine-tuning, to scheduling of half an hour per post, that’s 400 hundred hours of blogging.

It’s also 10 solid weeks of nothing but blog posting over the last 5 years, 1 month, 1 week and change. There has to be a book in it somewhere. That doesn’t mean it’s a book worth publishing or buying, and if it’s not bought is it really a book? If a tree falls in a forest and no-one hears it does it make a sound? If I signal to turn left and no-one seems my signal, has it been received, to make it a signal to someone?

When I published my 750th blog post I talked about the possibility of packing it in at post number 1,000. That’s in 200 blog posts’ time, just over 15 months away, roughly the dawn of 2020. That seems as good a time as any, like when Forest Gump had run thousands of miles and then simply stopped, because for him the time was right. Maybe I’ll keep on going after the 1000th blog post, having become institutionalised to commit my musings to digital paper.

For me the act of blogging has always been a self-centred thing, something I do for the discipline and flow of regular writing. I’ve never actively promoted the blog and the size of the readership and followership is not important to me.

For now, though, the next thought is blog post number 801. Thanks for reading!