The Tao of Vietnamese Selling

I write this at 30,000 feet heading back to Sydney from Vietnam. I’ve had two weeks with my family on a wonderful vacation. What an amazing country with beautiful people. Vietnam is a nation with an incredible past – relentless war and bombing by the French, Chinese, Japanese and the Americans (with Australia). They secured their independence about 40 years ago but almost three times more bombs were dropped on Indochina (Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia) in the 60's and 70's than during all of World War II. Millions dead, millions more suffering from post war land mine explosions, Agent Orange poisoning, cancer and birth defects – it’s still leaking into their ground water supplies near multiple ex-US Air Force bases. Kudos to Hillary Clinton for visiting and driving support to clean it up.

They have a form of communist capitalism that works well for them. They vote, freely surf the internet, can own real estate and go into business. There is a huge middle class and they have a safe and peaceful society – all religions are accepted so long as they are not violent or seek to meddle in affairs of state. Their only blight is corruption.

The central government in North Vietnam has sought to revise history and all the guides in Hanoi were very keen to educate us about “The American War.” We visited the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison where US airmen were kept prisoner until the end of the war in the mid 1970's. Early in my selling career in the 1980's I’d seenCaptain Gerald Coffee speak at a conference and I bought his book and tapes – he is an inspiration. He was flying a reconnaissance mission from the Kittyhawk and was shot down. He managed to survive in a tiny concrete cell barely big enough to lay straight. To see the prison he had been kept in was sobering. I also saw photos of John McCain when he was captured, imprisoned and then of him returning many years later as a ‘tourist’. Vietnam and the USA are now friends despite the horrendous atrocities and carnage of the past – the world changes.

Here’s what a learned in the land where traffic lights are mere suggestions and the road extends to embrace all of the footpath; where lane markings serve as runway centre-lines for drivers to straddle; where riders don't look as they enter traffic, where the horn is used for Morse code rather than abuse. Where an elegant chaos seems to just work – everyone assertively pushing in and taking the path of least resistance while avoiding collisions. Crossing the road as a pedestrian was always an adventure – just step out in faith, advancing with predicable cadence, never taking a backward step and never running – everyone on wheels seems to avoid killing you; amazing. Boarding a plane is a similar experience… I think everyone is worried the plane will depart without them or that someone will steal their seat.

There were not many dogs and I they never chase cars or show aggression to humans; they instead just look nervous – dinner maybe. Much like the New Zealand farmer’s favourite sheep – same-same, different. I think only Kiwis will get the joke. I eventually worked-up the courage to go and get a massage to deal with a neck and back that spends too much time with my computer. I seek inflicted pain rather than a happy ending but communication is always a challenge in Asian countries. Vietnam is a moral place; I need not have been concerned. No overt prostitution or immorality anywhere. This is a family destination and highly recommended. It’s especially a ‘must see’ for Western first-world teenagers to understand the evils of war and the power of a forward-looking demeanour – no hatred, no bitterness, just tolerance. But they never forget their past; their nationhood came at a price possibly higher than any other nation on the face of the planet.

It’s the people that define the experience in visiting any destination. Sandy beaches with resorts are a dime a dozen all over the world, Vietnam included. Differentiation is all about the experience created for customers through people. Here is what I learned about the Tao (way) of selling in Vietnam.

Mash-ups rule. They embrace all religions with harmony and everyone is free to practice their faith without restriction. The only thing they do not tolerate is any religion with violent intolerance. They’ve also blended communism with capitalism but with far greater freedom than China and with local representatives elected through open and ethical voting. Social Selling 3.0 is all about mash-ups, taking the best within your own meta-framework for selling.

Same, same, different. They know they need to differentiate and it’s incredibly difficult in a market where everyone seems to be selling the same stuff. They do their best with how they sell rather than what they sell. This is another important ingredient for the best sellers in the west – focus on how you sell rather that what you sell. Leading with insight, building trust and creating value remain important for winning in competitive markets.

Build a relationship. Vietnam is filled with push sellers. Everywhere you go you are confronted or coerced. The smartest sellers however engage you in conversation to build rapport. Relationships are the basis of all sales success – we buy from those we like and trust.

Provide value. On several occasions people started offering assistance with directions and provide helpful advice. You feel obligated to buy something when they’ve helped you. In Social Selling 3.0, quality content is king, queen, president and prime minister. Provide insight and helpful information; be a thought leader and people will come to you. At the very least they will respond to your approach once they’ve done their homework on you.

Genuine service. A genuine smile and sincere friendliness goes a long way and in Vietnam a tip is usually not expected. Be wholeheartedly generous of spirit in how you serve others – they will notice and show their appreciation.

Impeccable manners. Politeness overcomes language barriers and often manners serve as the best communication. We know what please and thank you are even when we don't know the language – good manners is the beginning of overcoming any cultural difference. We should show good manners when we engage in social; don't let volume kill quality or shorthand create the wrong impression. Never forget the importance of old school as you engage in new school mediums.

Provide a great experience. Our tour operator was focused on providing a customer experience that created wonderful memories. They confirmed every pick-up and flight and removed any uncertainty or stress. We all need to focus on the customer experience rather than ourselves and what we do. We need to obsess about their needs and timing rather than our own.

Have a world-view that creates a successful life. My sister and her husband happened to be holidaying in Indochina around the same time as us and in e-mail exchanges we both commented on how happy people can be with so little. Western society can learn much from the east concerning contentment. She shared with me the seven rules for a happy life that their guide bestowed upon them:

  1. Never hate
  2. Don't worry
  3. Live simple
  4. Expect a little
  5. Give a lot
  6. Always smile
  7. Have good friends

Thanks Tracy Hughes for contribution.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Lucas Jans

      10 Anti-Social Selling Antidotes

      Recently, I was a bit stunned to read a statistic from an InsideView survey cited in Harvard Business Review. It stated that 90% of C-level executives said they ‘never’ respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts. Yet I have experience with the best enterprise inside sales outfits, and some outsource operations, that still get excellent results. InsideView is a compelling market intelligence company because the core idea is based on tracking and leveraging Trigger Events which is why they also facilitate great results.

      So what does work for establishing connection and interest with a prospective client? And a second question, I have consistently been asked not just by sales pundits is: “What if my target segment is not in social media yet?” I did write a post that referenced a Domo survey that found that 68% of CEOs have no social presence at all on the top five social platforms, and of those who are on social, 73% are solely on LinkedIn.

      The problem here is a bit like a tiger chasing its tail. If you cannot reach them live by phone (voicemail is the new PA/EA screening obstacle) and if they’re not onsocial across all verticals, how do you meaningfully connect? Waiting for 100% adoption of LinkedIn, Twitter and such is really not an option. We need to close business now – yesterday.

      So here are some non-sequitur ideas that may work. Think ‘back to the future’ with social and technology as mere channels and tools:

      1. Advertise in industry trade publications and professional journals targeting verticals and/or roles. It's become so unpopular, your creative, edgy ad will stand out! Or, lend your subject matter expertise with a good old fashioned article.
      2. Host plenary sessions on the hottest topics and facilitated by independent draw-card, thought-leaders at conferences in your industry.
      3. Network at oblique conferences where C-Levels actually attend. Yes, the ones where you have to fly to an exclusive alpine destination to rub elbows. Typical tech conferences are filled with enthusiastic people trying to ‘sell you’ and CXOs send their agents. It’s quite comical when thousands are mingling to meet potential buyers and none of the decision-makers are actually there – it’s an intelligence gathering exercise, not effective selling.
      4. There’s been an amazing focus on social selling and that’s brilliant but this assumes the audience is in the network (social channel). Why not write a letter and deliver it via a plain, hand-addressed envelope VITO style? Leverage pith, whimsy and eloquence in a well-researched business case to set an appointment between both your executive teams. How refreshing!
      5. Mailing lists are often inaccurate and e-mail open rates are dwindling. There’s rarely time for executives to read them which is why I’ve placed a rare focus on my LinkedIn Publisher contributions as the focal point to my strategy. This being the case and in order to catch a broader niche market, I also speak at conferences and sales kickoffs. This gives me analog reach that exceeds social.
      6. Referrals - Digital referrals via LinkedIn are extremely powerful. But what about calling your clients and asking them if they know any “nice people” who could also avail themselves of your solution. But only those who may have problems you can solve. You’d be amazed at how far you can grow your business nonchalantly calling up everyone your organization has ever sold to, meeting with them, listening intently and prospecting at the close. While you’re there, find out / reaffirm why they bought your solution. What problem did they have? What triggered the need to finally do something? How's your solution working out for them? Win reviews with the right focus are very powerful.
      7. Thoughtfulness in handwritten notes, a paperless post or a meaningful postcard. Send someone an article with an intriguing or funny e-mail title that pops, that catches them off guard. Print a unique article out and mail it to them, writing a cover letter of why it pertains to their business or a discussion you had. These analog activities will paradoxically stand way out. The way you engage is what sets you apart rather than what you want to discuss.
      8. CRM oddities, bits and pieces: Remembering someone’s name is huge as is their birthday but now a digital birthday is just Facebook wall public spam. Everyone you’ve never met congratulates you. Make a birthday count by personalizing a card. Build a universal field in your CRM to jot down peculiar things about each customer contact: ‘Loves to juggle, collects stamps, spends summers in Denmark, is a polyglot who does Shakespeare in the park, Rugby enthusiast, committed atheist and loves The Selfish Gene, won't hire amiable people, big fan of Jim Collins on leadership.’
      9. Good ol' coffee or tea still cuts through. Just happen to show up in their geo in the afternoon; you’d be surprised how many senior executives would love to pop out for coffee because they do already. I’ve heard of a salesperson who literally showed up in offices and was able to catch executives off guard to grab coffee in a non-threatening way. There's still something to be said for spontaneity.
      10. Please understand the enduring hierarchy of human communication that will never change. A money manager of a multi hundred million dollar fund once told me: “Never do anything in business that’s important if you’re not face to face.” E-mail is 1/10th as viable and social (anything that whirs, buzzes, bings and dings) completely devalues a relationship if it's a crutch. To be effective, it must be supplementary even tertiary. Be the person who makes the time to meet rather than lazily send a major contract by e-mail. Also, always send concise e-mails with relevant headings, context before details, a logical flow and a clear request concerning what you want them to do. Stand out in how you respect their time!

      To speed up, we must first slow down. In 2015, in a sea of social media noise and confusion, the prevailing winds will seek to push our sales onto the rocks. I’ve written favorably of social selling but it is no panacea. If you are to engage with it, I want to empower you with the top flight tool-set and strategic selling underpinnings. That being said, a return to the rock solid approach of SPIN with a sprinkle of Challenger Selling, face to face, socially, civilly, e.g. in front of a real human being is the rub, because 'seeing the whites of their eyes' trumps everything else in a mad mad world gone batty over digital by hectares. You don't need to fuel executive ADD, nano-second attention spans and the daunting immediacy of the 'instant gratification of everything' movement.

      A growing group of us seeks a return to the "social" before social networks. Call it nostalgia or necessity. I think of Neil Young and his high end Pono player for a return to high quality music; audiophiles everywhere rejoice and shell out top dollar. Witness the bizarre comeback that vinyl records have made over piped in digital music. Once Elon Musk gets us to Mars, there will still be pods where you can talk with a ‘real live human’ or play a game of chess rather than battle IBM's Watson supercomputer. Why? Because it’s romantic and nostalgic like a street lamp lit jaunt down the Seine in Paris. It’s like watching The Trip movie, gallivanting with your best friend through Europe ever so Sancho Panza, cycling through the French Alps or following the Giro d'Italia, eating amazing food and cracking wise with your best Michael Caine impression.

      We use an incredibly small portion of our brain, and we’re fundamentally gregarious creatures. I think extroverts have truly suffered from the 'always on' mobile revolution. Sales goliaths are sitting around writing blog content, keeping up with an onslaught of notifications, e-mails and tweets (heads buried in digital devices) and their lives are cluttered with the productivity-focus interruptor slings and arrows that are laptops, phablets and the new appendage (boat anchor, ball-in-chain) that is the smartphone. The bottom line, you're seldom servicing your best customer with your head down in a screen and even if you're interacting with them that way because they're approaching 90% of completion of the buy-cycle, wouldn't they and you much rather personally interact vis-a-vis one of the methods laid out above? We must focus on empathy, EQ, understanding customer’s problems, consoling them, creating a synergistic ‘thinking’ environment to brainstorm with them and pushing the envelope of just how transformational our share ideas, experience and solutions can be.

      When was the last time you sat down with a CXO and had a meaningful conversation? How's that for simplicity in a quarterly KPI transcending your dashboard? How many did you meet at the last tech conference – truly? Are you scanning badges in the front or getting to know someone's business soup to nuts? Are you generating real success in social media? How often are you on site? How many of your key clients who spend over $100K with you annually are you meeting with, brainstorming with and investing quality time in to add unexpected value? Social selling can be fructose or real organic fruit. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's up to you - the choice is yours on how you choose to leverage the technology for good or evil. It can be very unhealthy, spike your insulin sending you from a sugar rush to a crash or a life affirming juice infusion giving you energy throughout the day. It's supplemental to a healthy diet of connecting in all platforms but the greatest platform is still you.

      Crawl out from behind your computer, get some fresh air, go bond with the great people you serve and then return with something even more compelling to write about. You won't gain much real world experience being the top ranked social influencer in the world: yes anecdotal... maybe. I try to bring real world advice from years in the trenches and I remind myself each day to tune-out and take social selling with a grain of salt. They said e-mail would be the magic bullet, then ERP, then CRM, then marketing automation, then mobile, then social, then cloud and bid data, now wearables. I don't believe that hard dollar ROI with any of these is fully measurable, certainly not in social. Yet they are all indispensable mandatory investments, tactics part of a cogent overall go-to-market strategy, for any serious enterprise.

      But amidst the array of technology automation and platforms, analytics and algorithms, blasting and bedazzling; never forget that it's unwise to attempt to close six and seven figure deals with enterprise elongated sales cycles solely in social. The secret to social selling is really about engagement rather than broadcasting and selling. The best sellers in any medium connect meaningfully with clients and work side-by-side as trusted advisors creating something bigger than both of the entities. It's a mastermind. It's a journey of discovery and beyond the realm of what neuroscience or business can fully understand.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Susanne Nilsson

      20 Humorous Leadership Lessons. Aviation Wisdom

      My flying days are well behind me but back in the 1980's I was a pioneer in the ultralight movement, the poor cousin grass roots segment of sport aviation. I recently found this document on my computer from back in that era. It brought a smile and some wonderful memories. There are lessons here for leaders in every walk of life. Enjoy as you read and think about how these can be applied within your profession.

      20 RULES OF THE AIR (also for leadership on the ground and in the boardroom)

      1. Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself.
      2. Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, most experience usually comes from bad judgment.
      3. You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.
      4. Confidence is usually the feeling you have just before you understand the situation.
      5. Keep looking around. There's always something you've missed – inside and outside.
      6. Every take-off is optional. Every landing is mandatory. It's always better to be down here wishing you were up there, than up there wishing you were down here. You cannot control prevailing conditions.
      7. Never let an aircraft take you somewhere your brain didn't get to five minutes earlier.
      8. The ONLY time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.
      9. Both the altitude above you and the runway behind you are of no use at all.
      10. Stay out of clouds. The silver lining everyone keeps talking about might be another airplane. Reliable sources also report that mountains have been known to hide in clouds.
      11. When in doubt, maintain your altitude. No one has ever collided with the sky.
      12. The probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle of arrival. Large angle of arrival, small probability of survival and vice-versa.
      13. A 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. A 'great' landing is one after which they can use the plane again.
      14. There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.
      15. Helicopters can't fly; they're just so ugly that the earth repels them. The dictionary should define the word ‘helicopter’ as ‘mechanical contradiction’.
      16. If all you can see out of the window is ground that's going round and round and all you can hear is commotion coming from the passenger compartment, things are not at all as they should be.
      17. Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal to the number of take offs you've made.
      18. In the ongoing battle between objects made of aluminum going hundreds of miles per hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.
      19. Remember, gravity is not just a good idea – it's the law, and not subject to repeal.
      20. There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are however no old bold pilots.

      I survived a plane crash in my aerobatic biplane and several of the key lessons, the things that saved my life, were in this top 20 list. We tend to remember things through repetition or emotional impact. Humor is therefore a good way to create emotional connection to ideas you wish to retain in yourselves or others. Make work a fun place to be but also one where commitment and competence are the hallmarks of execution.

      QANTAS is one of the world’s great airlines and my article about flight QF32 has had approximately 200,00 people read it in LinkedIn Publisher. The leadership of Captain Richard de Crespigny and the teamwork on the flight deck is truly inspiring. If you haven’t already done so, read the QF32 article here. It highlights how genuine leadership averted an Airbus A380 disaster.

      Back in the 1980's, these were reportedly true exchanges between QANTAS pilots and ground crew engineers. Back then, pilots would log notes concerning problems or concerns for maintenance engineers to address after a flight. These exchanges were generally known as squawks and after attending to the issue, maintenance crews were required to log the details of the action taken. These are from a bygone era with propeller aircraft servicing regional routes but never let it be said that engineers lack a sense of humour. P = The problem logged by the pilot, and S = The solution and action logged by the engineers.

      P - Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement. S - Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

      P - Something loose in cockpit. S - Something tightened in cockpit.

      P - Dead bugs on windshield. S - Live bugs on backorder.

      P - Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-fpm descent. S - Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

      P - Evidence of leak on right main landing gear. S - Evidence removed.

      P - DME volume unbelievably loud. S - Volume set to more believable level.

      P - Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick. S - That's what they are there for!

      P - IFF inoperative. S - IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

      P - Number 3 engine missing. S - Engine found on right wing after brief search.

      P - Aircraft handles funny. S - Aircraft warned to "Straighten up, Fly Right, and Be Serious."

      Be relentlessly inquisitive and competent, stay humble and maintain a sense of humor – these traits will take you a long way in life.

      Now it's your turn: When have you leveraged humor in your career? Who were the most humorous people you worked with? When did humor diffuse a business problem? Please share below.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Philo Nordlund

      How To Drive An Outrageous Amount Of New Business

      “THE NEW SALES DRIVER

      A. Select targets. 
      B. Create and deploy weapons. 
      C. Plan and execute the attack.”

      -- Mike Weinberg, New Sales. Simplified. --

      I'm a big fan of Mike Weinberg's blunt, back-to-basics new business development approach so I share his core strategy here with this stipulation – please go and buy his book at the above link, ASAP. It's truly worth your while and features one of the simplest, most effective and efficient of all models for driving new revenue. It will revolutionize your process and bring fresh consistent, new-business pipeline creation back into focus. For many organizations this has gotten very blurry with an obfuscated (or nonexistent) sales process mucking things up and more stages in the funnel than chocolates in Willy Wonka's proverbial factory.

      My process for winning new business is RSVPselling and it's aligned o opening up business in disruptive new markets and I would add the following ancillary supplements as you roll it out this year to capture latent buying intent in the marketplace:

      A. Laser focus on what constitutes a prospect - Hone your definition
      B. What are the sub-verticals?
      C. Who are the top 10 companies in each of those segments?
      D. Research on LinkedIn, target customers well with tailored, trigger-event based outreach
      E. Sell to VITO - the Very Important Top Officer (Remember, strategic selling is about engaging early, upstream at the highest levels, knowing their business, leading with insight and talking their language.)

      Caveats & Nuances:

      • Avoid the 'busy fool syndrome' - work smarter not harder; the 'it's a numbers game' mentality can paralyze forward momentum with endless lateral churn. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step but you must put one foot in front of the other. Move towards the target – deeper over wider – endless criss-crossing of the horizon is not only exhaustive, it will never allow you to ride into the gloriously fulfilling sunset of CLOSURE.
      • Anchor with your CEO or Sales Manager: If you're forecasting several million dollar deals this year in the plan, account for your historical sales cycle and level-set that the majority of them may fall at back end of the year. It's unlikely you'll be dropping a symmetrical million per quarter. Like any organic system, there's irregularity. I have written about the flaw in forecasting and 'predictable revenue'. Year over year consistent growth is possible but only with peaks and troughs. Do it right, don't rush it! You can't get blood from a stone and if you pull the line too hard you'll snap the marlin right off. Remember to drive even harder when in peak times to buffer performance during valleys that will ultimately exist in even the best executed sales system.
      • The only way you’ll fail is if you’re targeting organizations that weren’t going to be able to buy from you in the first place, so ask yourself daily, 'Where do I invest my time?' Are you a top gun at opportunity qualification?
      • Go deep into research, deep into the context of the account.
      • Understand the politics and power base within the account, some of these power bases are hidden or situational (forming for the duration of the buying cycle). Adding everyone in the decision making team on LinkedIn is dangerous, you may have frenemies in the bunch that will block you or secretly favor the incumbent supplier.
      • Only do this for the most important opportunities and go deep, spend huge amounts of time figuring out who you’re going to target. Imagine Lincoln as an Account Executive, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
      • TARGET THE RIGHT ORGANIZATIONS AND ROLE.
      • Build a business case, provocative insight and close them catalyzing "mobilizer" (Challenger Selling) advocates who will establish a consensus within the power base - avoid 'talkers and blockers'.
      • Obsess about how you will find the right organizations and the right lists of people to try and target. LinkedIn has huge tectonic shift value here. Hours of due diligence and research here is not wasted time if you can leverage it for targeted outreach to stakeholders who will grant you access in respect of the time you've invested. By knowing every aspect inside and out, you'll develop a sixth sense, an intuition compass for where to navigate strategically. Blue ocean strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand, so what's yours as a seller or organization in your go-to-market?
      We must take back control of our calendars, stop allowing others to put work on our desks, and selfishly guard our selling time. - Mike Weinberg

      Weinberg hits the nail on the head with this dictum; it's a constant battle to manage your own time. I hear horror stories of fundamentally flawed cultures where sellers are only selling 25% of the time. This is backward. The overarching trick of mastering new business sales and new business development is moving your process from reactive to proactive new business hunting. The best sales people are always hunting, even in named accounts. Farmers then are really wolves in sheep's clothing.

      There is no magic bullet, never will be! Old fashioned honest work ethic coupled with thinking differently (and acting more conscientiously) will set you apart, signal in the noise. Here are ten action-based strategies, tactics and critical success factors that will turbocharge your progress and work phenomenally well in the field in 2015. My goal is to multiply the effectiveness of what you're currently doing.

      Remember not doing the wrong things is worlds better than continuing with Einstein's definition of insanity"doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." After all, revenue is a static "lag measure" and can't be managed in a CRM. Fuggedaboudit! So we must stay hyper-focused on the sales activities we can achieve daily to actually move the needle and lever the boulder up the hill. Don't get me wrong, the byproduct of well-executed daily sales activity and effective strategy is avalanches of new business bookings. It takes patience to position the odds in your favor: a greater number of better qualified opportunities. Remember, "Pipeline cures all ills!" The secret to success in sales is "action." Daily! Consistency meets persistency. I don't mean to fill this treatise with platitudes but Einstein's, "Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work" comes to mind or Edison's, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

      I've consulted companies that have a "no-meeting Monday" policy. This should never apply to a vibrant sales function! We ultimately are judged by our revenue results to the top and bottom line in a battle royale for preservation of margin against the forces of procurement commoditization, so procrastination, leaning on only digital as a crutch, capitulating with price concessions or just being asleep at the switch as if the fish will swim up to you and jump into the boat, will catch-up to you. So here are those 10 with one bonus for good measure:

      1. Add an unexpected UVP to the subject lines of your emails - "Something YOU have never heard before." It features WIFM: what's in it for them. Recently, I monitored my own LinkedIn inbox and waded through hundreds of messages. Most sounded akin to "Opportunity, Partnership, Checking-in, Let's Touch Base, Ideas." Very generic outreach like this disappoints me when I open the email to double check it, as it's a super generic message... delete. Anything remarkable in the title or pertinent to how they could help me increase business or drive efficiency would have caused them to stand out. What's your unique value or better yet, how can you continuously create value? This is what I call 'unique value creation'. (The V in my RSVPselling Methodology) – Customize communication in all media.
      2. Simplify your sales process: There are many enterprise level sales systems like SPIN, TAS, Solution, Strategic and Challenger. The bottom line is you need to have one and apply it religiously. Consistent sales processes applied over time create cut-through. Managers must hold sales people accountable and there must be a single source of the truth in a CRM systemto bring all the moving parts together.
      3. E-mail, call, social, e-mail, call, social. 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. Staying power is everything in sales success and consistent quota attainment and it's rare. We must stick in deals and push through the resistance inherent in change management away from the status quo. Think of your channels like a cyclical wheel; it's important to cross-train your touch points and you want to get yourself into that hot zone of 5 - 12 touches. If you emailed, then call, then leave a meaningful message. Follow up by liking or commenting on something in their LinkedIn stream, then a relevant outreach based on what you read. Retweet an article, then call. What I call the "new sales mix" is key. 'Like' and also comment on content as only 20% of people even read an entire LinkedIn Publisher update while 80% simply like it. If you read the entire thing and comment about some of the subtleties in it, the author (your customer) will very much appreciate it. That could be the differentiator to gain access right then and there.
      4. Leverage your internal connections to breakthrough external silos- If your CXOs are connected via an alumni network, previous role or are close with someone at the target company, don't hesitate to get a referral. They'll often even make the call or write a personal email for you. Invite them to the discovery call or first meeting on-site; LinkedIn referrals are not enough. If you've properly qualified the prospect or opportunity and done your due diligence in advance, these internal C-Level relationships are extremely valuable and they will be onboard to help you, massively.
      5. Track and leverage trigger events, all of them are not created equal: "Changes and transitions" are Craig Elias' (Trigger Event Selling) top choice here out of the three buckets that include "bad supplier" and "awareness." In the first 90 days, CXOs will often spend six or seven figures on disruptive technology: be there and be first. The majority of marketers focus on awareness, or ROI. The problem with this strategy is it's ubiquitous so it's very hard to stand out. 'Bad supplier' comes down to human nature, many of us put up with a suboptimal situation in our lives because it's just comfortable to do so or we're procrastinating aka 'lazy'. In an organization this is the status quo rearing its seven headed hydra of complacency. If you're going to try to drive awareness or remind people their current provider is tanking, you'll usually get nowhere. Ironic, I know! There needs to be a substantive compelling event and a pain-point. Pinpoint the major pain and locate changes and transitions like: promotion, role-change, division-change, new job, etc. Watch for your existing or past customers moving into positions of influence at your target company. Many software platforms track this including InsideView, Avention, Gagein and now LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It's also helpful to understand the mode of the business, and I highlight three: growth, stasis and crisis mode. Very little will occur in the sales cycle in cryostasis mode.
      6. Nurture prospects and walk them up the ladder of engagement.Steve Richard of Vorsight shares, "At any given time, only 3% of the market you're prospecting to is going to be actively looking for your solutions, products, and services. But 40% more are open and are 'susceptible' to getting into the 'looking mode.' That's why we prospect within our target market – that 43% – we find those ready, and we nurture the upcoming opportunities by building trust over time and by adding insight to help educate our buyers."
      1. Think about demand like this – wouldn't you rather create it than service it? (Jim Holden Stage IV Customer Advisor) – When it comes to building a complex solution to solve a complex problem rather than being a prosaic commodity seller, you're moving up the value chain to creating "elasticity of demand," a construct that preserves margin as it bakes in acceptable "consultancy fees."
      2. Group participation on LinkedIn: Be active in customer groups on LinkedIn. Ask provocative questions and share insights but don't sell. If someone leaves a thoughtful comment, send them a relevant private message to engage. Provoke with knowledge and insight before trying to book an appointment or move to the target. Finesse selling is key in LinkedIn. The hard sell will typically fail.
      3. Become best friends with Executive Assistants, treat them like gold. Never call once, let the phone ring out and then ring again, only thenleave a short relevant message. Realize that the purpose of the first line of an e-mail is to get to the second line so think like a copyrighter or journalist in any exchange, in any medium. The purpose of the first sentence is to attract them to the second and this thinking even pertains to sales processes: 'The purpose of the first step is to get to the NEXT.'
      4. Neighborhood techniques and investing in on-sites: Weinberg takes a contrarian stance on this in that he advocates getting on-site a ton, in fact he calls Southwest Saleswest. He also doesn't believe in show-up and throw-up sales presentations. I frequently talk about a great meeting being one in which I speak 25% of the time. God gave us two ears and one mouth, as the old saying goes. Get on that flight to meet with qualified prospects based on the qualification elements of the "Caveats & Nuances" section I laid out above. Provide therapy; I'm reminded of the Dale Carnegie story where he shows up to a major interview never says a word and the executive says, "you're the best conversationalist I've ever met." Show-up in their vicinity and spend time actively listening, take masterful Evernotes. Prepare your questions; print out annual reports; research; Gartner, Forrester, analysis from thought leaders. Be prepared.
      5. Leverage calendar alerts in your CRM: The only way you're going to remember to e-mail, call and socially connect at a manageable frequency is to keep calendar alerts automated like a Swiss Watch. Very few people will send a targeted personalized email they wrote to a key executive, follow up in 3 day increments and then follow up in one week, then a week after that. Creating this cadence of accountability in CRM or Google Calendar can be the major difference in success or failure. As Jill Konrath writes in SNAP Selling, “Don’t wait around for your prospect to get in touch with you. Keep thinking of fresh reasons you can get in front of them, bringing them more ideas, insights, and information to help them achieve their desired business outcomes.” Yesware is a very powerful tool here as you can track them reading your emails in real time. It gives you a peak into the crystal ball as you develop the busines. Often, you'll notice a prospect open an email a few times so this is a great data-driven biz dev moment to leverage by giving them a call at that moment. I had a client call that out and buy just because he was so impressed by that tracking capability.
      6. BONUS: Always anchor the deal: Budget, timeline, compelling event and I'll throw in success criteria. It's critical to anchor the ship and anchor the deal early. Get these 800 pound gorillas addressed early. You can create your own personalized qualification document that serves as an anchor. 'Sell the dream' and stay focused on the business benefits rather than diving into the weeds and granular details or technical side, depending on whom you're presenting to. Here's a recent post by Tim Ferriss on How to Think Like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. "How do they create maximum leverage? How do they think differently?" Your customers are in the hot seat and they aspire to greatness. Psychologically anchoring the deal to tangible business value is going to be critical in how you present and the difference between prospects taking the bid to RFP for reverse auction, kicking the tires on a pilot (or POC)versus the coveted Production Volume - Purchase Order or Annual Commit. You want to leverage a sales story, testimonials, referrals and highlight your key differentiators. It should be second nature to you exactly how you're driving sound ROI for very similar customers and how to effectively communicate that. Open with a confident: "Here are the challenges we solve for customers like you." Know exactly why the conversation is important with the outcomes you can deliver for them and the risks you will mange.

      Critical themes to remember:

      • Map the political power base - white board it out, leverage LinkedIn or solutions such and TAS DealmakerPipeline Manager, or Pipeliner to map out the organizational chart.
      • Leverage the assumptive close, as Konrath's paradox states, "To be consultative, be assumptive."
      • Focus on the wildly important goals (WIGS) weekly with your manager, quarterly and in helping clients 'transform their business'.
      • Military strategy - Understand there are always competitors in the deal including the biggest enemy - 'do nothing'. No deals are bilateral, it's always triangulated.
      • Be careful not to challenge before you've built rapport and trust - this can be disastrous. You can come off as condescending and holier than The Pope.
      • Boots on the ground is critical at key conferences but overbook key meetings in advance of this. Ultimately some people will flake or get caught up in unforeseen travel logistics.
      • Close plans are powerful so if you are a manager reading this, make sure to ensure your team is building rock solids ones and you're collaborating on these.
      • InMails - Many of us have Premium LinkedIn accounts. Managers need to make this a KPI that all InMails are used each month. They reversed the system so you're actually rewarded now with credits when recipients respond. This not only incents the correct behaviors in the system but most importantly to you as a salesperson, InMails are exponentially more powerful than a telephone or traditional email as they're so infrequently even exploited, not to mention correctly with high value strategic messaging. Use it or lose it!

      The number one reason sales people miss quota is the gap in prospecting. Mind the gap!

      It takes massive self-discipline to carve out a couple hours each day to close a door, turn off everything with a circuit board and solely focus on driving warm prospects into the funnel. I would add, failure to segment and target the right prospects with a relevant, provocative message that triggers meaningful response is the second problem. It looks like Brainshark agrees. The most popular reason why reps fail to reach their numbers? Inability to articulate value in their sales conversations. We can't put the cart before the horse and say it's the 'sales story' if sales people are procrastinating and literally not selling or the organizational culture is so broken, the powers that be aren't absolutely prioritizing sales activity at the fore.

      The above strategies should greatly augment your forward momentum as you look to crush your Q1 goals and surface through the cloud cover in Q2 to jet toward the stratosphere. Hard work pays-off and smart work reigns supreme. Big bold, daily action is not for the faint of heart and if you love sales, you probably enjoy it like I do. Go pick up a few really big rocks before lunch and then rest easy knowing the revenue is on its way. Nothing is certain but consistent, massive action invigorates you as the crucible of unlimited selling power, a life-enhancing force. Where do you get all the energy? How does one stay motivated and avoid burn-out? One word: 'results.' Results are energizing, the fuel to your fire, and results you will achieve if you start on this explosion of proactive to-do's today. When you start getting traction in your sector, it's a morale producing adrenaline rush. As you set key appointments and on-sites with your dream clients, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Success breeds more success and win-rates spiral upward and cause you to, you guessed it: win even more! There's been a bizarre emphasis on closing and I'll go into that in future post. This post is about opening often with the right prospects, the ones that will help you make and exceed your number this quarter.

      What new business strategies and tactics work best for you? What books, blogs, white papers and authors are you reading on the subject? Which technology platforms, processes or advanced automations are you leveraging to boost results? Who is driving the most new business on your team and how are they doing it? What works for you? What are you putting off doing that you know would help you breakthrough? What are your challenges in new business sales? What's blocking you? Please share below.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: U.S. Pacific Air Forces

      Message To CEO – Change Your Job Description

      Have you ever looked at the management team sitting around the boardroom table and wondered, who are the most important people here? If you’ve had the privilege of being a father, you’ll be familiar with the question: ‘Am I your favorite?’ We love all of our children to the same degree but in different ways because they’re unique. Later in life, most little girls grow up to be women, marry and then ask: ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ I’ve come to learn that there is no good answer to that question even if you respond with: ‘For me, you are the most beautiful woman in the whole world.’ Yeah – right; it’s the dog-house for you.

      As a leader, it’s always a mistake to play favorites or comment on the size of someone’s rear-end; instead we must value difference in building balanced teams. All of us in leadership roles stand or fall on our values, competence, and the team we which we surrounded ourselves. IQ and EQ are both essential – intelligence and wisdom, energy and discipline, inner strength and humility, financial management and people skills.

      Success is a team sport and it’s amazing what can be accomplished if you always pass the credit to others but accept responsibility for failure yourself. The desire to be the smartest person in the room stifles collaboration and crushes the creativity of others. Hiring people just like you creates terrible blind-spots in perspective and weaknesses in execution – the best leaders hire complementary traits, experience and personalities.

      But there is another side to great leadership – the willingness to face the awful truth and accept that the biggest problem and opportunity for your business is in the mirror. Your personal values and behaviors are the culture of the organization. Even if the problem is with others, they are your responsibility because you either haven’t fired them or failed to get beside them and support them in overcoming the issues.

      Forgive me for the generic assertion but I’m right most of the time – sales management is the weak link in your revenue chain. You don't really understand the sales machine and so much about it frustrates you. The results should be predictable, the reports should be trustworthy, the forecast should be accurate, the pipeline real – but selling is a mysterious black box to you and the people feeding you with information seem to be flaky. You are part of the problem because you don't understand complex selling, yet you wrongly regard it as being like every other direct reporting line. You can't lead that way – The Board will eat you alive, the market will punish you. Worse still, you or those within your team could succumb to the temptation to make bad decisions driven by desperation to hit the numbers.

      Here’s the reality of business. One problem, above all others, is terminal – lack of revenue. Every other problem can be managed, massaged, resolved; but shrinking revenues are fatal. For some enterprises cost-cutting is strategic but for most it is a mere tactic and all it usually does is stall the inevitable. It’s rarely a winning strategy to engage in a ‘race to the bottom’.

      Revenue, on the other hand, is like air-speed – it creates lift. You can have the most beautifully engineered aircraft in the world but without airspeed it will never fly. Sales is the thrust that creates forward momentum, and with enough speed you can lift-off, climb and soar into the wild blue yonder. Your sales and marketing team is the engine that creates thrust, their commitment and passion is the fuel – prospects and customers are the wind beneath your wings. In proper aeronautical terms, they are the low pressure area above the wing that sucks you upward.

      But as you survey your generals [I swear this is true: Word somehow changed ‘generals' to ‘genitals’… funniest autocorrect I’ve experienced and very happy I caught it on the proof-read!] sitting around the boardroom table, do you see commanders of fiefdoms acting in their own best interests? Or do you see a unified team, willing to sacrifice themselves for each other and act in best interests of the greater good? Are sales, marketing, customer support and service disjointed? These are the most important roles around the management table and they need to be united in their vision and commitment. You are their common leader, the catalyst to bring them together. But you need to create the right focus and set the right agenda.

      Sales and marketing must especially be an integrated function; simmering hostility or finger-pointing cannot be allowed to prevail. They must come together to define and map customer engagement lifecycle. Everything from social media thought leadership, brand building, website education, differentiating video content, reasons to contact and then the entire sales cycle, on-boarding and retention through to case studies and upselling. Beyond your product, service or solution; what’s the customer experience you can create that sets you apart? How can you be the most insightful, helpful and the easiest supplier to deal with in the eyes of your customers?

      You must take personal control – it’s too important to delegate. You need to become Chief Revenue Officer with sales, marketing, support and service all reporting directly to you. Set a vision for the customer experience you want to create that will outshine your competitors. Facilitate workshops to brainstorm the future-state of your company. Gag anyone who wants to talk about technology. Force them all to first define and then workflow the end-to-end customer experience your clients deserve. What is your customer relationship management strategy and what are the metrics and KPIs that guide you on the path?

      Don't approve any investment request that comes to you for technology; CRM, social, and marketing automation included, unless they can clearly articulate where it fits within the end-to-end strategy. You need to drive a culture of customer success though best possible customer experience with every touch-point providing consistent high levels of service. Maybe you will appoint a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) in the future but for now you will grasp the role yourself. It’s a terrifying role because you cannot manage revenue or results; you can only manage activities and inputs. That’s the very reason why these next two roles must also be assumed by you personally to instil the vision, unity and discipline in your team and throughout the entire organization.

      CEO should really stand for: Chief Example Officer.

      CEO and Chief Customer Experience Officer. Align the business for buyer engagement. Create retention strategies based on irresistible value and service. Love your people and customers. Delight them, inspire them, and show them a better way. Create emotional connections to the way you do business.

      CEO and Chief Culture Officer. Love your staff and serve them with all you have. Be Chief Encouragement Office. Take your vision, mission and values statements off the wall and write them on everyone’s mind and heart. Bring it all to life in the way you live and lead. Be authentic – ditch the persona and instead be human in how you operate. It will cascade down through the organization and the market will notice. You’ll be ‘the good guys’ in your industry and partners and customers will want to do business with you over anyone else. Are you brave enough? This case study can show you how it can work.

      CEO/CRO/CCEO/CCO… it has a ring to it, doesn't it. Seriously, no need to put this inane mind-boggling acronym string on your business card or LinkedIn profile but ensure no-one is in doubt about your obsession. Customer intimacy combined with innovation to create the best market-leading customer experience is the most powerful form of differentiation. This, combined with a motivated and competent sales team is what creates profitable revenue, the life-blood of any enterprise.

      How many business out there already have a CRO or similar role that brings sales, marketing, service and customer support all together under a single leader? What are the barriers you see to breaking down fiefdoms for the benefit of customers and the prosperity of the business?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: John Taylor

      Lost In Translation. Funny True Miscommunication

      The world is wired for miscommunication and it’s especially problematic when we cross cultures or use shorthand social media and e-mail to communicate. But this is not a new problem created by digital communication. Every time we met someone and every time we talk or write, we must ensure we communicate positive intent to build trust and understanding.

      Effective communication and language translation involves far more than converting words and phrases from one language to another. We must convey intent. In the early 1980s, computer programmers were developing some innovative translation software but came up with some peculiar results:

      • From English to Russian, back to English: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ ended up: ‘Invisible idiot’.
      • From English to Japanese, back to English: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’ (from Hamlet) ended up: ‘It is, it is not, what is it?’

      In the 1990s, international marketers had some monumental cross-cultural miscommunication blunders concerning brand names and slogans:

      • Swedish vacuum-cleaner manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American advertising campaign: ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’.
      • Australian brewer, Castlemaine launched it's XXXX (‘four-ex’) beer in the USA using their trademarked jingle ‘I can feel a four-ex coming on’ which had proved so successful in the Australian market. Unfortunately the company was unaware that XXXX was the brand name of a successful American condom manufacturer!
      • The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover, until after thousands of signs had been printed, that the phrase means: ‘Bite the wax tadpole’. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, ‘ko-kou-ko-le,’ which can be loosely translated as: ‘Happiness in the mouth’.
      • Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan: 'Finger-lickin’ good' came out as: 'Eat your fingers off’.
      • In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan: ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ came out as: ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead’.
      • Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for ‘tiny male genitals’. Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
      • When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its advertisements were supposed to say: ‘It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you’. However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word ‘embarazar’ meant embarrass. Instead the advertisement said: ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant’.
      • In Italy, Schweppes Tonic Water was wrongly translated into Schweppes Toilet Water.
      • An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired: ‘I Saw the Pope’ in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed: ‘I Saw the Potato’.
      • And the funniest; American chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan: ‘It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken’, got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption saying: ‘It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused’.

      I swear this is true. I was once in Asia and had a meal in a restaurant with a client. At the end of dinner I paid the bill and as we left I thanked the waitress who had served us. She responded with broken English: “We like to pleasure you.” We both burst into laughter as we got outside.

      If you want to bridge any communication gap and build rapport, here are my ten tips.

      1. Have a firm, warm and friendly handshake. Sounds obvious but one-third of people I meet have a crap handshake. The most common problem is breaking eye-contact while still shaking my hand. The second-biggest problem is either limp-fish or gorilla grip – both are bad. Be aware that for some Muslim women, they cannot have physical contact with a man in public who is not their husband.
      2. Positive eye contact, especially for men who should keep their eyes above the shoulders. But don't drill a hole through the other person’s skull with your laser-like intimidating glare. The only time you should break eye contact is to take notes. Note that in some cultures in Asia, and also for traditional Aboriginal people in Australia, averting eye contact is not rudeness, and is instead a sign of respect.
      3. Talk with appropriate pace and tone. Don't gabble; don’t drone. Lower your voice if you’re a ‘high talker’. Avoid talking in an Irish, Scottish or Australian accent – no one has a clue what you’re saying!
      4. Be thoughtful in your manner and accurate with your language. This is especially important in dealing with senior people.
      5. Dress like them and, especially for ladies, wear nothing that is distracting. By all means be feminine but not sexual in any way – you’re better than that. Your value is in who you are, not in how you look.
      6. Smile and ensure congruent body language. If you’re excited, tell your face about it. Your body-language should match your words.
      7. Paint word pictures and give real examples – relevant true stories that draw your audience into what you can do for them.
      8. Actively listen to understand and ask open insightful questions
      9. Focus on the other person’s needs and personal agendas. It’s all about them and all they really care about concerning you, is what you can potentially do for them.
      10. Display good manners and treat business cards with respect. This is especially important when dealing with those from another country. I once sat in a meeting and the sales rep for the potential supplier started picking his teeth with my boss’ business card – true story.

      If you embrace these ten tips when you meet people for the first time, they won’t be able to do anything other than like you – you’ll now have the chance to earn their trust and build a relationship. But before they meet you in the flesh, they see you online – probably on LinkedIn. What’s your photo and persona like in digital and social? It’s important, first impressions stick. Make no mistake; LinkedIn is the new business card, but it’s exchanged in advance of meeting face-to-face. Your LinkedIn profile needs to highlight what you’re all about, not your title, qualifications and work history. It will show social proximity and credibility – whether you’re a person worthy of their time.

      I have a collection of funny miscommunication clips on my website here. You can also see some very funny ‘lost in translation’ signs from Asia, click here. This is a classic Monty Python miscommunication clip.

      Now it’s over to you. What are the funniest miscommunications you’ve experienced as you’ve operated cross-culture? What techniques do you use to ensure you connect and avoid miscommunication?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Sébastien Bertrand

      Industry Gobbledygook Makes You Look Fowl

      Okay, we’re all guilty. Every industry has acronyms coming out the wazoo and in the quest to look different in competitive markets, we craft wordy statements that we think make us stand out. But the reality is that a lot of what we say, especially in the technology sector, just washes right over customers – no cut-through at all.

      Worse still, acronyms can confuse people or create the impression that we’re disconnected from the real world. This video about Flutter, the new Twitter, could easily be regarded as similar to the pitch of a real tech start-up.

      As an example of the problem, consider this internal announcement. I won't blame you if you skip forward as you read but this could also be a case in point.

      New Dimensions In Executive & Shareholder Value: Social Mobility Cloud Content Life-cycle Optimization Strategy

      San Francisco, 22 January 2018 – The global imperative to unravel the allegory of the Social Content Life-cycle enigma has dominated our strategic thinking for some time and resulted in our resolve to fulfill and transcend our collective thinking in the context of significant geographic constraints and the unlimited potential of markets we are unable to address.

      In this paradigm it is imperative that we digitize our intellectual capital, dominate the white-space and maximize the opportunities in the cloud and mobile, all at the speed of thought. With this in mind, and in the context of virtual reverse-teaming, we are embarking on a bold adventure though initiatives that will fundamentally redefine new economy engagement and optimize shareholder value through a strategic paradigm shift in business sustainability.

      We are committed to thought leadership and cognizant of the requirement for delivering to the bottom-line and it is within this framework that our revolutionary unique customer value proposition will dominate social, mobile and cloud platforms of the ether. We fully expect our alliances and initiatives to deliver unprecedented click-through revenue streams derived from multi-faceted collaborative utilization across both vertical and horizontal markets, not to mention the power of niche diagonals yet to be harvested. This unprecedented innovative orientation toward customer interoperability will drive blockbusting market value through virtual interactions in target verticals to facilitate the realization of best outcomes for the corporate community via a ubiquitous intimate one-to-one social web enabled execution model, unfettered by the reality of real world relationships.

      Our value-add solutions will turn every click into an ‘internet transaction’ and achieve unparalleled customer connection, loyalty, value and revenue which will be captured via our revolutionary cyber-tolling engine. These synergistic yet mercurial technologies will combine to drive down costs, drive up revenue and profits, drive up value and most importantly, drive the competition – like a herd of hapless lemmings – over the precipice of the old-economy paradigm into the abyss of the Luddites to be dashed to oblivion on the jagged rocks of physical business reality.

      At the heart of this visionary business model is a holistic commitment to redefining value with a consistent, flexible, unique and often surprising experience that will truly inspire our target markets and some customers. These show-stopping initiatives are not just hollow bullish announcements; our patented Web Application Network Knowledge Enabled Repository (WANKER™) will differentiate our offerings from the current dross that dominates the incumbent landscape of mediocrity. Unlike our competitors, we will deliver on the vision for cloud enabled mobility with sell-side, buy-side and back-side integration.

      Furthermore, our unique and ground-breaking Share-Holder Optimized Value Implementation Technology(SHOVIT™) will drive the strategic Customer Third-Party Outsourcing (C3PO™) of our profitable customer relationships to viable horizontal competitors, therefore liberating precious internal customer-facing resources and enabling the pursuit of executive team ROI and shareholder value-spiking initiatives. We are committed to breaking the shackles of logic and facts that have constrained others, to instead transcend reality with a paradigm shift toward the convergence of technology, market ignorance, unbridled capitalism and self-optimization.

      Our commitment to executive ‘shareholder value’ and liberal fiscal abandonment will manifest itself during these turbulent times through innovation. Vociferous analyst and vertical press focus will make it increasingly important for you, our valued team members, to display positive intent and resilient commitment in the face of our new customer-centric paradigm shift which will serve as the catalyst for focussing on our core mission, vision and values as we embrace the future together in a dis-intermediated, self-outsourced environment.

      In summary, confluence of our objectives is paramount as we drive relentlessly toward accelerated ubiquitous obviation. It is therefore imperative that we adopt as our mantra this innovative message of enhanced synergistic co-operative diversity, delivering optimized and measurable quality outcomes.

      We sincerely care about you, our valued team members, so as we execute this equitable exit strategy, we are providing you with the Self Help Information Tele-System (SHITS™) which you can call 24x7 to dispel erroneous myths and soothe any fears or distress that you may be experiencing as a direct result of your personal failure to embrace pervasive change and evolve into the new paradigm.

      Finally; synchronized execution and ubiquity is everything, so share the vision, dominate with thought leadership and be empowered through teamwork, passion and commitment.

      ————————————

      The scary thing is that this nonsense is not that far removed from some of the content created by companies on a regular basis. Here is a website that auto-generates Dilbert mission statements based on clichés. Here's one I just randomly generated for your amusement. For fun, read some of these out loud seriously to colleagues; you'll be shocked they think you're serious. Bob, I was thinking about this for my next pitch deck:

      It is our mission to continue to continually negotiate ethical catalysts for change to allow us to endeavor to efficiently operationalize quality deliverables.

      David Meerman Scott did research which highlighted how terms such as ground breaking, industry standard, scalable, cutting-edge, best of breed, mission critical, and many others simply make you sound like everyone else in your industry. Kawasaki and Konrath have also advocated extensively to eliminate those revolutionary, curve jumping and paradigm shifting banalities from your vocabulary. But worse than that problem, you sound disconnected from their world and the reality of the business problems they face.

      The last thing you want is for your potential customer to look at you and think: He would probably describe a paperclip as a ‘paper consolidation management solution’.

      Politicians seem to be masters at saying a lot that means nothing spouting enough hot air to restore the Zeppelin industry. George Orwell in Politics and the English Language wrote: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Here is a classic from The BBC’s Yes Minister.

      Megan Hills writes: “Listen to the words your client uses and build an explanation bridge from their terms to yours. Don’t use acronyms unless they really are common knowledge.” She also recommends testing your message with a friend or relative not in your industry. Here are the three big things to avoid:

      Buzzwords: Best practice, market-leading, revolutionary, cloud enabled, coopetition, disruptive, game changing – all these types of terms and phrases are to be avoided whenever possible. Here’s a draft list of the top buzzwords of 2014. The occasional buzz word is okay but don't overdo it. Plain language is always best.

      Techspeak: Instead of saying “cloud enabled”, say: “Everyone will be able use it with just a web browser.” Simply use plain English. If you’re worried about the language and terms, use this gobbledygook generator, and if anything appears similar, rethink what you’re saying or writing. Here's a taste, "We need a more contemporary reimagining of our global reciprocal flexibility."

      Acronyms: The list is endless but as an example, what does CMS mean to you? Depending on who you’re talking with it could mean: Content Management System, Customer Management System, Corporate Management System, Contact Management System, or Code Management System. Don’t use an acronym in a room with others unless you’re sure everyone is on the same page. If anyone uses one that you’re not sure about, then ask them what they mean.

      True story, I worked for in SAP at the turn of the century – wow that makes me sound old. They launched SAP-SFA (Sales Force Automation). The problem here in Australia is that SFA means ‘Sweet F*#k All’ which, coincidentally, is exactly what most sales people thought the system did for them to assist in their sales efforts. At the time, it was very much a manage-up reporting tool like Siebel.

      In managing technology divisions, I've been on the receiving end of this classic level of verbal diarrhea all too many times. This is not just a Millennial love affair with tech-speak problem, it's endemic and epidemic in many high technology sectors. Can you relate?

      Now it’s over to you. What are the acronyms that create confusion in your world? What negative impact have you seen from Gobbledygook and buzz words? Which buzzwords drive you particularly nuts in the communications you receive?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Holly Occhipinti

      10 Superhuman Strategic Moonshot Methodologies to 10X Sales Revenue

      “If everyone’s saying they offer the 'leading solution,' what’s the customer to think? We can tell you what their response will be: 'Great—give me 10 percent off." - Matt Dixon

      2. Power Base Selling (eFox)

      “Know this about yourself: there is only one reason professional salespeople lose orders-- they are outsold.” - Jim Holden

      3. SPIN Selling

      “I believe there is a special place in hell reserved for wicked salespeople where they sit for all eternity being forced to answer their own situation questions.” - Neil Rackham

      RSVP Wheel.jpg

      4. RSVPselling

      (Full disclosure, this one is mine!). These are the four elements for winning the complex sale and the framework is intuitive. It's delivered huge enterprise wins. in countries around the world.

      "The RSVPselling methodology was instrumental in us winning a contract in excess of $100 million and provided clarity amidst the complexity of pursuing a large international enterprise opportunity. — Kevin Griffen, Managing Director - Orange Business Services.

       

       

      5. Solution Selling

      “Solution Selling is designed to help sellers understand and align with how buyers buy.” - Keith Eades

      6. Strategic Selling - Miller Heiman

      "I took Strategic Selling over 20 years ago and I'm glad to see that it hasn't changed which is a good indicator of a quality solution." - Sales representative - Business Services

      7. Trigger Event Selling

      “The number one metric I think more sales leaders should measure is how often they are the first vendor into an opportunity – aka first in.” - Craig Elias

      8. SNAP Selling

      "To be consultative, be assumptive." - Jill Konrath

      9. Insight Selling

      “Sales winners educate with new ideas and perspectives almost three times more often than second-place finishers. Of 42 factors studied, the greatest difference between winners and second-place finishers was their propensity to educate.” - Mike Schultz

      10. The Prime Process: Diagnostic Business Development

      “We’ve ingrained the Prime Process in our culture around the globe and it’s clearly a sustainable competitive advantage. I write this endorsement with some reluctance as I don’t want my competitors to have this advantage. In 30 years of reading books and attending seminars to continue my professional growth, there are only a handful that I can say made a difference. Jeff Thull’s Mastering the Complex Sale is one of them.” —Jim Clauser, President and COO, IBA Technology Group—Belgium

      11. Target Account Selling (TAS) - Honorable Mention

      "Donal uncovers vast advantages of Account Planning done right." - Patricia Elizondo SVP, XEROX

      12. BONUS: Consultative Selling

      "A 'challenging' insight can be used to drive to the value the salesperson can provide through a consultative dialogue, not replace it." - Linda Richardson

      By popular demand and to "switch it up" after over 100 posts, this post is incredibly concise and visual. In my honest opinion, this is the complex selling pantheon as far as strategic frameworks and methodologies are concerned – Which ones did I miss? What's in your pipeline???!!!

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main photo by: Victor Valor – Please click the title links above to buy and apply all these remarkable books creating your own almagamation! (Yes, all of them are a MUST to truly understand the evolution of professional selling, over the last thirty years.)

      Sorry you lost that big deal...

      Dear Joshua,

      So sorry to hear you lost the big deal… 'Internal options' and 'do nothing' are without a doubt the biggest competition for B2B enterprise selling… yet we’re all wired to emotionally obsess about our market competitors.

      The key to winning against both of these is two-fold:

      1. Understand and manage the internal politics… but did you have someone in the power-base working with you or manipulating the situation for you because they wanted you to win?
      2. Use ‘risk as a weapon’. It's important for them to see the danger of being left behind in the market, plus their lack of experience in your area, as two massive risks. They need a specialist expert which is you.

      I can’t tell you how many times I had the support of the project team and recommenders only to lose the deal at the final hurdle… so painful! It’s so frustrating when the CXO level engages but then says: “Phil is who I defer to as our expert in these matters.” Yet Phil wouldn’t know if his own hair was on fire, or as we say in Australia, “whether a bus was parked up his arse.”

      But many times, it’s just something you cannot change. I've seen many deals blow-up because we went above someone’s head and pissed them off… they became an enemy and white-anted us from within. It's like this crazy contradictory strategy has to be executed:

      • Engage high with a stake in the ground at C-level
      • Work with their project team / recommenders / evaluators to get them on board without feeling threatened

      The senior decision maker says “I’m not an expert in this so talk with my people.” Then his people think: "Hmmm, if we recommend this new solution, it undermines us and some of us could lose our jobs! Certainly the boss will be thinking, why weren’t you guys already doing this?"

      As sexy as it sounds, software as a service is still a tough value prop to sell, especially with regular bad press on failed implementations and fly-by-night operators pushing 'vapourware.'

      Not easy, but you’ve got to tell the CXO early that his team won’t like this, they’ll feel threatened, and they’ll say they can do it better and cheaper internally. Then ask him/her: "What will you do when they come to you with that message after we’ve educated them?”

      I had someone e-mail me last week from one of these posts [they really did] asking for my advice on selling professional services… I regard it as the toughest of selling. Not just because it's an ‘intangible’ product but because you're taking on internal politics and the law of self-interest lurking within everyone down the chain — smiling assassins, politely absorbing all of your information and then knifing you in the back when you’ve left the premises.

      Regards,

      Damien Drost, Sales Mentor

      Damien and Joshua are from my book, The Joshua Principle. If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Joe Hunt

      A 12-Step Program to Exceed Quota

      Sales is broken, it's sick. It's time to kick the social crack pipe! Doug Davidoffrecently posed the question, "To Sell or Not to Sell" in this ingenious post rebuking a CEO that's eschewing ever hiring another salesperson??!!

      Anthony Iannarino's take down of this post was so classic I must lift this paragraph here to share with my audience. I let out a cheer! "This CEO has replaced salespeople with a 'customer success team' that he believes offers a different experience because of their consultative approach and because their intentions are pure. This CEO doesn’t understand that salespeople lead when it comes to customer success, and that most take a consultative approach. Mistakenly, he believes his customer success team is more dedicated to his customer’s success than a salesperson who would stand to gain financially for making a sale. I defy you to find me anyone outside of the salesperson who is more concerned about their customer getting the outcome they paid for than the salesperson. But it’s not about their commission; it’s abouttheir word."

      There's a phenomenal amount of bad information masking the good and endless consternation about enterprise sales people being replaced by AI. Have you used SIRI? Have no fear, if that thing can't get my auto-corrects right without generating something hysterical and profane, the singularity is not too near and you're not going to be replaced any time soon. Failure to get back to basics and pick up a phone could be the bigger risk, insidious and lurking. I'll get into why below but I want to first console you that you do have job security. The bigger risk is falling in love with the easy, hacked and shortcut approach which bankrupts achievement of excellence in any chosen field.

      There's a stigma that 'sales people' are the laziest people in the world. Want to get a sales rep to stop working? Put a phone in front of them. Better yet, put a list of customers ready to buy in front of them. Isn't it ironic? Why is that? The mystery confounds me to this day. The truth is that Sellers are some of the hardest working, block and tackle, ruck and maul, kick and punt, roll up the sleeves and deal with daily insanity 'people', I've ever met. It's a few rotten eggs giving selling a foul smell. Social selling has become the new panacea, or clever opiate of our age. It 'supplements', it does not replace good old fashioned work-ethic. If you wish to avoid the aforementioned scarlet letters on your forehead, be one of the few, the proud and the bold: wear a headset and actually have hard, edgy conversations about real issues with customers – there's no shame in that game! Social media is incredibly addictive and addictive behaviors are reactive by nature. Let's get addicted to proactive sales success!

      Yes, e-mail and phone contact and conversion rates are down but it doesn't mean they're extinct. Your sales career may be if you don't generate fresh, qualified and high quality sales opportunities to your pipeline each and every selling day. The amount of sales days in a quarter keeps shrinking faster than executives' attention spans.

      By the time you've had the sales kick-off, personality strengths-finding tests, remedial training and endless internal meetings, you start to realize something horrifying: You're probably talking with actual customers less than a third of all your working hours. Rather than figuring out where you're strong, don't you think it's a strength to sell things to people? It's a pathetic state of the industry I'd dub 'over-solutioning' or 'analysis paralysis' and it's a leading contributor to why SVPs of Sales have such short tenure and untold millions of dollars are invested in sales processes, programs, trainings, shiny objects and the latest craze. Corporations spend exponentially on sales than all marketing. According to Business Insider, "Salesforce has grown its sales and marketing cost every year, and it still accounts for more than half of its total revenue. [Box] sales and marketing costs... at one point were higher than its total revenue." Sales forces retain a fraction of what they learn despite these pricey enablement efforts cutting into valuable selling time where they could actually move the needle for your business. This is not to say training is not valuable if it's instituted year round as anorganizational competency.

      Those 57% Challenger surveys that purport that buyers are much further in the decision making process are only so accurate because just like a science experiment, it's very very hard to factor for 'controls' in human systems, especially something as Black Swan volatile as the vicissitudes of key business decision makers, that can be fickle like the wind. After all, we're talking about a process that is highly subjective, emotionally driven and governed by market factors, pressure, internal politics and risk. This is a highly dynamic, explosive system not unlike an unstable super giant star ready to go supernova sending your deal into a black hole. Don't bank on it!

      Buying processes may change but human nature will not. "Crazy busy prospects" [Jill Konrath] are even busier and what do you do when you're far too busy? Something's got to give. You filter out the white noise, you star e-mails, you bookmark articles you'll never read and save files to review in the circular file. You thin slice, you cope, you filter out... hard. And this is a smart high integrity thing: You can't be a thousand places at once and you seek a balanced life in order to enjoy the journey and spend time with your family. As a prospect yourself, once you've been "rationally drowned" [Challenger Selling] with enough data, discovery calls and emails to make you blue in the face, you'll probably just call a lifeline, a friend, or someone you trust who is a subject matter expert in the space and can point you at the right solution removing the guesswork. You don't want to make a mistake and everyone is painting on the roses for how 'game-changing' their solution will be. Empty promises and hot wind.

      There are just too many variables in the web-enabled information age and too much chaos; I can't tell you how many top officers I still reach on a Friday after 5pm working late, exasperated who exclaim, "I've heard this before! How are you different?" True story. Demand generation with unique compelling value is all the rage. B2B sales is still en vogue but mainly ways to not sell with 'look a squirrel!' automata. Insight selling, consultative selling, solution selling, and strategic selling are all still working in the field, although the new guard shouts from mountain tops that it's the "Death of X-type of Selling." Well that's great, if you sell sales widgets. Nice job Wile E. Coyote, this Road Runner got away!

      News flash: Selling is alive and well despite the dystopian prediction it risks full blown Minority Report automation by 2020. Is insight selling with the exact same insights your competitors are using useful? No, it creates static white noise. The top vendors in the magic quadrant all download and read each others white papers and take that same insight to the market in their go-to-market strategy. Translation? Self-commoditization. How insightful is a statistic you just heard from both competing vendors? Diluted – information is not insight.

      I talk a great deal about Steve Jobs in these selling articles. Why is that? He figured out that customers don't always know what they've always wanted. The same is true in enterprise sales. Although the consumerization of IT is a huge trend in B2B, '90% of the buying cycle is done before buyers speak with sales people' or 'today's customer can easily research an entire marketplace in minutes', as Brian de Haaf so boldly proclaims in his quippy link bait, are patently erroneous musings. Certainty around these statistics is about as certain as Amazon was with their phone and Google was with the first generation of Glass. If you build solutions derivative of what came before, you'll often fail to truly innovate. A return to "first principles" thinking is the Socratic way that Elon Musk leverages in building reusable rockets at 2% of the typical price. Something the space powers that be said was impossible, by the way. You need to break down your solution into fundamental parts and rebuild new unique insight by putting yourself into the shoes, hearts and minds of your dream clients. Understanding them better than competitors do will trump better Challenger decks and chart porn. Yawn!

      Focus on the WHY, but which why?

      You must do something very different to stand out from the chorus of similar voices. The only difference in modern selling, is the executive buyer is often more informed (or more cynical) and will often reluctantly show up to a first call or meeting with a 'tell me something I haven't heard' crossed-armed mentality. More frequently, they'll delegate you down to who you sound like. Dealing with suppliers and vendors is often a chore. Part of getting to the C-Suite is not only earning the luxury of a corner office but the right to deploy your generals to go do this for you in a flurry of delegation. What I see most frequently is a junior strategists compiling pricing grids from four or five form fills from suppliers ranking on page one of Google. When you call them, they say: 'Well that extra value is all well and good but I just have to put these cost estimates in a spreadsheet to show my manager'. This is not a good place to be: this is a live 'reverse auction', you will be commoditized and priced out at the speed of a daily real-time RFP that Google has become. If all competing solutions look identical, claim to offer the same features and the price is the only differentiator, why wouldn't an executive just choose the lowest one?

      YOU are the differentiator. It's not what you sell, it's how you sell it. We've all heard that for decades and I've gone in to great detail about building rapport, achieving trusted advisor status in relationships and how to be an extension of the buyer's team. People do still buy from those they know, like and trust. But that's not really the problem, if you can't get the right meeting in the first place. So this would pose a bigger existential question? How can you compel the actual decision maker to talk to you or meet with you when they are fed up with your ilk? How can you engage early at the most senior levels by speaking 'CXO'? What is that language that cuts through? The insights alone sound like marketing pabulum, fluff for template drip e-mails, gated white papers with a form fill and as specific as they seem with 'mind-blowing' industry trends, it's not personalized enough or tailored to their actual business. Every vendor is showing double-digit ROI and promising the world. I recently saw a slide deck where 3,000% ROI had been achieved. How can you trust that statistic? How can you trust sellers in high technology markets where sensationalized statistics run rampant? I can't help but feel manipulated by this. It repels business: Too good to be true? It probably is!

      We have to challenge ourselves to be consultative. We must go deeper into understanding the actual nuances and subtleties of what each customer is facing. It's extremely time consuming but well worth it. So when we engage more deeply with fewer clients - the right clients - we do make progress and sit in the signal while the white noise crashes against the force field created in a quality sales exchange. As Linda Richardson so eloquently puts it: "The [Challenger Sale]missing link is validation of the customer’s perspective through questioning and dialogue." Parachuting in to condescend or 'teach' executives that have three decades of experience and even created the industries you're selling into, will surely backfire as fast as trying to help Jackie Chan get a white belt. A little humility goes a long way!

      The Challenger Sale book says get in early, upstream and teach with new insight. Easier said than done. How do we do this? Despite numerous best sellers on Insight Selling, it's still murky how we generate said insight when our target is such an august subject matter expert (SME). We need a big idea, a reason to meet, something worthwhile and intriguing to discuss. This is where the concept of ideation and Design Thinking delivers in a practical way. Design Thinking is a framework for ideation and has been with us for years. It’s an excellent way of harnessing a team’s creative juices to brainstorm and develop ideas and strategies for value and differentiation.

      These are the critical success factors as I see them, the daily sales activities and the strategies meets tactics you'll need to win in 2015. I'm familiar with the inner workings of the enterprise software and many times the goal posts get moved on top sales people and teams. It's frustrating to need to make 30% more in annual contract value at the drop of a hat. You won't be affected by this if you maintain the drive and 'will to win', and engage in proactive versus reactive daily activities that will put you into the driver's seat to your own sales destiny. Only you can hold yourself accountable. You need to analyze what works and do more of that each day.

      This is how you'll meet your number and even exceed it. Happy manager, happy life. Revenue = happy CEO and many times: a promotion for you or your manager. That's also good for you. Sales is the life blood of the economy and a thriving, growing business and an entire industry can rise and fall on the backs of quality sales people winning and gaining market share. So your role is vastly more important than you may have been lead to believe. Even in a flush funding climate: 'Did somebody say bubble? - pop goes the weasel'. It's still the businesses that consistently retain clients and preserve margins that are immune to market fluctuations. If the bubble bursts, it will be competent sales teams who embody these ideals that continue to keep the best firms thriving.

      We do this job not only because we're outgoing, gregarious and love helping people solve complex problems. We do this job because it's high risk, high reward. We each have a commission driven opportunity to advance our careers, take home a fat paycheck and live a life less ordinary, changing our own stars. Maybe I'll see you in plush 5 star holiday destination. Perhaps you'll go on a mission to Haiti and give back. That choice is yours, whatever floats your boat my friend but here's how you'll get there and create momentum:

      1. Acknowledge you have a very real sales problem. Ignorance is not always bliss. Show up 2 hours early and actually use a telephone,every day. It won't kill you but you'll kill your number! I know it's not fashionable and even the most expensive headset ever made still has a Spok-like goofiness but I'd rather be wearing the headset any day. Why? Because peace and quiet, aka: 'Time to think on your feet', and a phone collectively become your best friend. Don't get buried in a reactive avalanche of emails or have your dual flat-screens filled with streaming Twitter feeds. The reps clicking the mouse all day, fail. The loquacious chatter boxes hammering phones still win. Make those calls to your dream clients before your colleagues even show up. This will always be an edge. You can still make all the clicks later on that day. Keep social selling to a minimum just like you would trash TV or candy. We'd all love to believe chocolate bonbons will keep us fit!
      2. A pad and paper or white board are still the world's best self organizing tools. Write down numbers 1 - 20 and then fill in twenty target accounts. Ensure you make 1 - 3 meaningful prospecting touches that day: could be a call, v-mail, e-mail, social outreach, e-mail response, like, share or retweet. Make the touches and write down the names. Burn them into your brain. This will help you know the accounts 10,000 feet deep rather than the shallow end of the kiddie-pool.
      3. Prioritize face to face meetings; actually fly out there. Get on the flights! Bring executive sponsors to the big 'opening' meetings and don't present a 55 slide deck. Showing up and throwing up is a defense mechanism for the weak and insecure. Bring your listening and thinking cap, be adaptive to the real-time feedback client prospects are giving you. Listen listen and then listen more. SPIN selling is key but you ideally need to be in front of a human first. If you're an individual contributor and this collaboration is not realistic, operate with the gravitas and business acumen commensurate with delivering key insight in a consultative fashion as your best CEO would.
      4. Get buy-in from your own executive team. This means access. This means referrals from their LinkedIn. This means tracking down your boss or boss's boss in the hallway and saying: "Look, I see you went to school with the CMO of Acme Corporation. There's a real pain point we can immediately solve and strategic fit with this initiative they've talked about in the press. Could you please help me get introduced?" 99% of people will not rock the boat because they think they have to do it all themselves. That executive will give you one shot at this, so make sure to qualify the hell out of the opportunity. It's a bit of dare to do this, I would be shocked if they said 'no'. They're looking at the revenue reports every day too and want to close business. Be assertive about actually getting referrals through your network. Hold people accountable when they tell you they'll refer. I literally put the referral on my calendar to ask them again, one week later - especially internally!
      5. Read and listen to books on tape like a maniac and apply what you learn. I recently approached a sales person who was dying to move from existing to new business. I gave him a quick list of books to master it, phone tactics and such. His response was: "Well reading books is your thing. I'm more of an action guy." Where do you think I learned how to act? Another amusing rep explained, he was a fan of creating 'strategic spreadsheets' in the back room. Good luck! I'm not saying introverts can't win – they make epic sales engineers and solution consultants who go on to become CTOs. What I am saying is that 'success leaves clues' and the all time "greats" luckily wrote a lot of things down! Mel Brooks: "I have 15 commandments – oops, I have ten commandments!" Their collective knowledge applied represents a quantum leap. Take that leap and try new tactics daily. Honestly, every advance I've made has been about humbling myself, a willingness to learn and study, honing and applying the craft of sales and being extremely curious. Keep asking why! Relentless strategy is developed by filling your quiver with arrows of wisdom from all of those who work beside us in global sales, came before us and further the trade. Sales training is an oft under-appreciated, exhaustive and highly altruistic pursuit. Ignorance is sheer bliss. Readers are leaders and writers are closers. If you're hungry enough to win, you'll be hungry enough to make time. Audible, eBooks on your phone, I hear so so many excuses. It's just like exercise of the mental muscle. The fastest way to accelerate your career is to turn off the TV!
      6. Positive attitude is everything to keep you going. It's a marathon to crush revenue, never a sprint. The hare switches companies every year. The tortoise is now the CEO, firing the impetuous hare! When you're ready to throw in the towel and go home, make one more call. An attitude of gratitude, your attitude determines your altitude, attitude is everything. We hear these platitudes of personal development in a drone but that's because they're so true. You'll never withstand the degree of rejection that it really takes if you're a pessimist or complainer. You're going to work for three to six months, even up to eighteen months on a seven figure opportunity only to have your dreams dashed by an incumbent supplier, status quo or just something Act of God completely out of your control. You can't get down on yourself. You can't sell angry. You can't emotionally react to the headwinds or tempestuous customers. They are always right, ultimately... even when they're dead wrong. We are here to serve them, lead them and be lead; let's be tenacious to help them create change.
      7. Leverage the 10X Rule. These ideas have been sent my way from around the world. I'm familiar with the 10X Moonshot ideals of the Google Way. I've also seen this book in airports. My takeaway is it's highly freeing to your mind to take a goal and multiply it by 10, take a tactic and multiply it by 10. The caveat here is 'more is not more'. But we often are limited by our own small thinking. Go big! If you set a reasonable goal you'll often miss that. As the old adage goes, I'd rather reach for the stars and hit a mountain. Check out this eye opening new research from Velocify and Harvard Business Review which both highlight:
        • "High-performing sales organizations set higher quotas and expect fewer sales reps to meet their quota
        • Mediocre sales organizations were slower to fire under-performing sales reps
        • The best-performing sales teams were more likely to describe themselves as a "cohesive group"
        • High-performing sales organizations put more emphasis on structured sales processes and monitoring than average or under-performing organizations
        • Seventy-five percent of high-performing sales organizations raised 2014 annual quotas more than 10% over 2013 quotas," Steve W. Martin wrote in an HBR.org article.
        • And a full 40% of those top teams increased quotas by a quarter or more.
        • On the other hand, 65% of low-performing organizations and 48% of average teams either kept quota the same or decreased it."
      8. Never eat alone, eat with your clients. This was a great book and great concept. Ironically, once I was reading it alone at a restaurant before meeting with a client and a sly waiter remarked: "Hey, why are you eating alone?" Jill Rowley talks about the ABCs: always be connecting, and that applies here. Coffee, tea and meals are a great chance to commune with clients, prospects and to network. Be consistent, don't take other people's opinions too seriously. You need to follow your own internal compass. Consistency every day: sales is a full contact sport. Consistency of sales process. H2H is a process. Nurture your people internally and externally. "According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success."
      9. Protect your time and book conference rooms to prospect. Remember, it's a verb. Your internal bureaucracy even in a start-up will fight you to the teeth to intercede so you have absolutely 'zero selling time' during business hours. Block out your calendar and put a do not disturb sign on the door. A hilarious riff on this would be a sign that says Top Secret. Once the CEO breaks down the door, she'll find you startled, actually talking to people that can buy from you. 'Sorry, I was busy selling.' In the modern sales team, the entire organization is constructed to eat into your selling time. Mandatory meetings, eLearning training, HR summits, touchy-feely off-sites, group calls. It's like trying to drive a speed boat into constant white caps - water buffeted by wind – and once the quarter closes you've capsized the boat in a back-flip with an engine fire – and management wonders why the team is so far off the board-level revenue target? Maintain a serene calm, protect your calendar and run your day; don't let it run you. Be the water, fluid carving rock. The things we own, begin to own us if we're not careful so don't let your territory master you. Canvas effectively, leaving no stone unturned. You could almost argue sellers had an edge before computers were invented. As an experiment I'd like to take two President's Club reps and pin them against each other. One with only a computer and tablet and one with just a phone, pager and car. Go! Allez allez! Who do you think would win? The smart money is on the one with zero technology.
      10. Think differently with out-of-the-box sales strategies. I've outlined 13 that are base-jump wing-suit worthy here. I'd rather be remembered than beloved and forgettable, wouldn't you? [Here is the entire secret to networking and why 99% of networking is total waste of time. Read this superb article before you attend any conference to network about anything!] You'll love these maneuvers because they're scary to implement but they can actually work. You'll get noticed, and memorable people get called back. Take personal responsibility for your results as hard as it may be. Blaming the organization is like blaming your golf clubs. Ultimately, you can only affect the things that are under your control – your own actions and responses to things that happen as a result. Blaming the pay plan, a toxic boss or 'corrupt' leadership swimming in the money-pool of avarice is a cop-out. They're probably just trying to figure out the things plainly laid out in this article. You want to impress VCs with your sales results. Do this! It's about accurate predictions, not just growth. Also remember, early wins accelerate growth.Anchor deals but be willing to prove and move, land and expand.
      11. What gets measured gets managed so measure every action each day in a CRM, even on a handwritten scoreboard. This isn't rocket science. Do more of the things that produce concrete results. Qualify every opportunity harder. Don't put crap in your pipeline. If you're a manager, meet with your sales people to double-qualify every opportunity over $10K. Wouldn't you rather have a more accurate pipe than an inflated one where 'happy ears' and wishful thinking cause you to fail. A 3.5X pipeline is not the answer - accuracy and transparency is.
      12. Become a student of Trigger Events, the most important one: changes and transitions. A bad supplier is not enough. You're ingenious PowerPoint deck hitting on the true pain, is not enough. They got funding – great, everyone of your competitors called them expecting the sale. That's not how business works. It's an indicator of change but not a certainty. SPIN Selling will only work once you're in. You need to connect with change agents in accounts who can usher in the new paradigm, who have that shining moment in the first 90 days to actually get budget authority to topple the status quo and invest in the NEW. It's the one moment where the organization is aligned with sellers, expecting an incoming executive to shake things up and do things differently. You need to be there with insight and your disruptive solution to help them do just that.

      Now it's your turn: What are the daily habits and routines that get you over the line? What's helping you to consistently open and close deals? Do you agree with the above? What did I miss? When have you exceeded quota and how did you do it? How do you think sales prospecting is fundamentally changing in 2015 and how are you adapting to it? Why do you think you keep missing quota? What changes are within your control?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Tax Credits

      How To Become A Bestselling Author Using LinkedIn

      The number one obstacle to success as a writer in is obscurity. If a bear tweets in the woods in a flash of brilliance, will a publisher give him an advance making him an overnight sensation? There are 3 million blogs put out every day – you do the math – how on Earth will your content stick out?

      I share this wisdom from Michael Hyatt's book Platform"Two respected agents have told me they loved my book and proposal and are willing to represent it, but not until I have social media followers numbering in the thousands. I find this bewildering: Doesn’t a good book stand on its own anymore? Are writers now doomed to spend the bulk of our workdays trawling for blog subscribers?

      The answer to the first question is no. A good product does not stand on its own anymore. It is foundational but it is not enough. The answer to the second question is yes. You will need to be proactive about creating the who part of the equation. In order for you to be successful in today’s business environment, you need two things: a compelling product and a significant platform."

      Your platform trumps your content. Period. You can build that crucial audience directly on LinkedIn where the network effects are the greatest (especially as a business author.)

      Michael Hyatt's book, Platform encourages bringing a massively engaged 'follower audience' of tens of thousands to Publishers. This approach has already generated lucrative speaking gigs and book sales for me as a byproduct. I'm following Hyatt's blueprint advice to a tee in order to build this tribe of true fans so I can break into the US and European markets with a "built audience." 

      Content alone is folly as everyone has it, I'm focused on that foundational step of audience. Content is King but audience is Ace and in order to position RSVPselling alongside SPIN, Challenger and Cracking the Sales Management Code, (as I humbly believe it holds up in the field having road tested it on deals above $100 million), it will require building power bases in the publishing industry, the sales thought leader intelligentsia and the end users: front-line sales managers, sales people and those CXOs interested in growing profitable revenue in their business.

      The topic of Leadership (my next book) is an even more competitive field with the likes of Jim Collins, I can only hope to enter the fray with engagement statistics that justify the investment for the publisher. A major inspiration for this book has been my mentor Anthony Howard and his lighthouse principles of Human-Centred Leadership.

      I very deliberately don't take people to my website or do short posts with links to long version articles behind a form where people must provide their details. That's what I think causes people to click away and I'm not interested in spamming or e-mail blasting people.

      I had a call from America last week. It was with a potential publishing agent for my next book. She believes in what I’m all about but it’s a crowded market and she asked me a straight-forward question – I’m embarrassed to confess I stumbled.

      Five simple words: ‘What Really Makes You Different?’

      In every company I’ve run, in every sales team I’ve led, in every sales role I’ve held – I’ve had a solid response to that question. When I ran a CRM company, the answer was: “We help you improve revenue and reduce customer churn by providing a system that puts customers at the heart of everything you do. What’s makes us different is our approach, our people, our ability to deliver the results you need and manage implementation risk.” When I ran an Enterprise Content Management (document management) company, the answer was: “We reduce the costs and risks associated with all of your unstructured content – all those sensitive files on people’s hard drives, uncontrolled and unsecure. Our software is great but what really makes us different is our people, our project methodology, and the experience we bring from doing this for others just like you.”

      Two years ago I left the corporate world and went out on my own with what I regard as the world’s best sales methodology which I’d developed and honed towin hundreds of millions of dollars of business selling to large corporations and government at all levels. But I quickly learned that the world does not need another sales methodology; most companies already have a few – they’re not looking for yet another one. And they’re right – it doesn't really matter what the methodology is; just use something well. There are so many great approaches to selling out there and here are ten of the best frameworks and methodologies ever constructed. Full disclosure, after 30 years of success in the field working with teams, I humbly list RSVP in there alongside SPIN, TAS, Challenger, Solution, Strategic, etc.

      So what was my answer for the literary agent? She was patient and gracious and I eventually arrived at this: “I’m everything that needs to happen before and afterRackham’s SPIN – everything else is a fad. What makes me unique is that I’ve been doing it in the real world for thirty years and I’ve embraced social – old school meets new school, digital and physical, tactical and strategic.” It wasn’t a great answer and I shouldn’t have been negative about others.

      But it was beyond being ‘not great’; it was plain crap because it failed to address the needs of my audience – book publishers. Book publishing has changed, the industry is in turmoil, bookshops are going broke, publishers are being forced to redefine their business models. There’s a new set of rules and great content is no longer enough if you’re an author – you must bring the publisher an audience! Unless you’ve got a solid following, it just represents too much risk for a publisher to gamble on you being a surprise hit.

      Here is a statistic that may shock you and it was told to me by a past Australian regional manager for a major publisher. He confided that only 3% of books published in the world sell more than 500 copies – and it’s impossible to make money from a book unless you sell at least that many copies. Less than 1% of authors make any real money from their published work. If you’re in the publishing industry and can point me to other statistics or provide additional insight, please comment on this post.

      Making enough money to earn a good living from writing is the same as being a musician – there are very few Bonos and JK Rowlings out there. We live in a world where there are a thousand channels and no-one is listening. Browsing, clicking, liking, cursory comments – but very few truly engage. They merely do the gardening online a few times a week, just enough to maintain the hedge and stop weeds taking hold – dipping-in and paddling around in social, just enough not to be left behind.

      In a year in which we celebrate Martin Luther King with a new brilliant movie, we should think about what made him a world-changer. In my mind, the answer is clear – he had purpose and passion in his vision, mission and values.

      MLK articulated The Joshua Principle: Although our actions and behaviors define us; it's who we become that determines the real value of everything we pursue.

      This video by Ruckus is brilliant in its humor and clarity. They obviously understand that transferring belief in what you offer is the key to influencing someone in their buying decision! Ruckus has no problem in explaining how they’re different and why it matters.

      How I wish we all had this passion and ability to create cut-through in our message but here is a confession. For my entire career I’ve been able to differentiate and link to business value in my conversations. But now out on my own with no brand to hide behind, just me and my ideas, it’s been a challenge. In the age of social selling 3.0 we all sell naked because LinkedIn reveals social proximity and relevance. LinkedIn Publisher also reveals whether we have any insights, and the exact number of followers and their level of engagement – you can't fake a persona on this platform. I say it regularly: The way we sell is more important than what we sell; and the way you engage on LinkedIn and within other social media platforms is more important than retweets and ‘likes’.

      In Australia I’ve found two kindred spirits, John Smibert who runs the brilliantly engaging Strategic Selling Group and Bernadette McClelland who provides endless engagement and support. Anthony Iannarino is another from the USA and he’s been incredibly generous in his support of me; also Gerhard from Selling Power. These people are social ninjas with generosity of spirit and all are committed to making professional selling everything it needs to be. Genuine goodwill, the kind that promotes you with no expectation for anything in return, goes a very long way in a cynical world.

      I want you to ask yourself a question that will change the way you sell: “Why you; and what really makes you different from all the other voices out there?” When I was asked this question about myself and my ideas in the context of book publishing, I wasn’t ready – I deserved to be shot! I’ve carved a career being able to answer that questions but there I was – deer in the headlights.

      One of my clients in the professional services industry is someone I respect greatly. His name is Ian Sharpe and he helped my find clarity. I had previously shared these questions with him and he was a mirror in playing the questions back to me in my quest to improve the way I position myself in the world, especially on LinkedIn. In addition to the big question in the paragraph above, here are the three questions we used to help each other and they can help you transform your message to attract the opportunities you deserve. If you can answer these questions in the form of your story, you’ll knock it right out the park and stand out for all the right reasons:

      1. What’s the most important problem I solve for people?
      2. Why is it important?
      3. How can I help them and what should they do about it?

      But back to what I should have said when I was asked the question by the publishing agent. My first book is a bestseller in Australia and is in its 6th printing; and I'm rapidly building a strong LinkedIn following. I’ve achieved this by being committed to publishing quality content daily. It’s been a huge challenge on many levels and a commitment that could not be possible without the support of my wife as I disappear every night to write. I’ve had only one ‘rock-thrower’ in that time but luckily he scampered back under his rock. The huge level of support I’ve received and the results I’ve achieved have astounded me. There’s a reason I’m doing it and it’s not narcissism; it’s the need to build a following for my next books. This is what I later sent in an e-mail to salvage and refocus our dialogue:

      I’ve been thinking about your question: “What really makes you different.” The answer is that I’m a proven writer with an existing best seller and I can bring the publisher an audience. I’ve had 300,000 reads of my blog posts in just 8 weeks and among my thousands of LinkedIn connections they rank me #5, in front of the legendary Koka Sexton and Jill Rowley, and right behind Brian Tracy. But I’m not naïve enough to think that unique visitor page views equates to readership engagement – I know the publisher needs someone who can generate sales due to the following they’ve earned. For me, everyone who is a potential buyer of my books lives in LinkedIn. I’m obsessively and diligently earning a following that the publisher will be able to leverage. The new rules say quality content is king, queen, prime minister and Pope; but I know that audience is Ace – it trumps everything else. Both together is what brings the most possible value to a publisher. That’s what really makes me different.

      Your family, your community, your church or club, your employer – they all need you to lead. I had a later conversation with Ian Sharpe about why he thought leadership mattered and why there is such an absence of it. Here is what he wrote back to me:

      Leaders change things for the better and we live in a world in dire need of change. No one is born to lead – they learned it. Almost two thirds of Executive respondents identified leadership development as their number one concern – yet only 43 percent of CEOs are confident that their training investments in leadership will bear fruit (McKinsey 2014). The reason is that they’re focusing on the wrong developmental actions for leaders – which must be attitudinal and experience-based, and not just skills-based. A lack of leadership stunts company and career growth. There are no technical failures…they are all ultimately people failures; leading people is therefore crucial for avoiding disasters. Thriving in the 21st Century requires effective leadership, otherwise time, attention and money will continue to be wasted. Leadership is required for sustainable change and growth, it is the key competitive differentiator.

      I’ve been doing my best to improve my LinkedIn profile for some time now and I think I’m close but I would welcome your feedback. Now it’s over to you. What makes a great LinkedIn profile and what questions do you ask to sharpen your focus on the why, rather than the who, what and how? If you've recently had success as a publisher, could you please share insight into effective strategies that have helped you cut through?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: CollegeDegrees360

      10 Reasons Why Salespeople Will Always Be Absolutely Essential

      Just a little history repeating... I fully respect a CEO's prerogative to never hire sales people again and go fully automated. I will say, in thirty years I've candidlynever met a CEO who said this before much less pulled the trigger on it; only hundreds with an intention to improve or expand their sales team who desperately needed my counsel. It made for a phenomenal LinkedIn publicity stunt which rapidly drove an egregious amount of traffic self-servingly to his website, the most obvious manipulative sales tactic of all by which he employed – in diametric opposition to his customer-centric message. Notwithstanding the hypocrisy, my question is, does this leave a favorable brand impression for the 500,000 viewers? Unlikely. It was the first time many readers, including myself had ever heard of his company. The best part is rather than show some class and apologize for insulting 18 million people's livelihoods (as I advised for brand reputation) he nailed in the coffin with this megalomaniacal self-aggrandizement:

      "Your main question would have been akin to asking software development teams to quantify the impact of 'agile' methodologies when 99.9% of teams followed a traditional, waterfall approach. There was no data, just early pioneers who thought that there had to be a better way and were willing to try a new approach themselves. New ideas are often considered ludicrous because they break the norm. That also makes them frightening for many people too."

      My pithy retort: "The erasure of the human element of an entire industry isn't really akin to Galileo's heliocentric theory for which he was locked in a tower. Equating agile development to the elimination of salespeople globally is a stretch."

      Even salesperson-less Amazon has superb customer service when wires get crossed, which they rarely do. My issue is the sweeping generality that salespeople are unnecessary, superfluous or scum. The future will not be televised. No matter how much advanced technology gets unleashed, the future of our global economy will always rest within the hearts and minds of the greatest salespeople in the world. Salespeople are some of the finest people I've ever had the pleasure of working with and here's why:

      1. Sales people are the greatest single engine of the global economy.One name for a salesperson is: entrepreneur. Without successful sales people a business goes broke and all those wonderful employees who design, build, service, support, account, manage and lead... just would not have jobs. Nothing good happens in business until someone sells something. In a recent post to CEOs, I make the point that revenue is airspeed and it's created by sales people.
      2. Sales people feed their families feast or famine even in times of economic uncertainty and keep a positive attitude when the chips are down, pay plans change moving the goal posts or the product itself doesn't work and they have to eat the claw-back commission on the deal.
      3. Sales people are resilient, optimistic, humorous and caring. The best ones love people and love to help them solve extremely challenging problems with their acumen. They actually provide a public service which goes beyond money. Humble altruism is their secret true intent and that's how they become trusted advisors and inspire enough confidence to liaise the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in sales across a constellation of vertical industries.
      4. Sales people are CEOs, Founders, CTOs and have often worn every hat in the company to build something great that generates thousands of jobs and stimulates a stronger country and GDP despite brutal taxation, unfavorable government policy toward small business, over-regulation headwinds and every other challenge imaginable.
      5. Sales people are genuinely invested in their companies' doing well.There is a camaraderie, a fellowship and bond that builds with a team going out to create a marketplace that fundamentally disrupts the status quo challenging monolithic legacy incumbents.
      6. Sales people are helping world leaders navigate the near infinite complexity of technology acceleration. There are so many solutions cropping up every day, it's almost impossible to navigate those waters via the web alone when it comes to enterprise solutions.
      7. Sales people actually interact with the customers and are able to provide unique feedback to the business in order to improve it.Thereby, sales people impact product development and innovation itself. Without sales people, many of the greatest technologies would never have proliferated, even the supercomputer you're reading this on right now in the palm of your hand.
      8. Sales people love what they do, are self-actualized and highly motivated to interact and engage with stakeholders within every department of their own company as well as the customer's. Sales leaders create cultures that inspire, delight and retain customers. They add to the happiness and quality of life of the engineers, managers and staff.
      9. Sales people are fearless, courageous and push sticktoitiveness to the nth degree. Winston Churchill sold his vision of a tyrant free Europe to the people and many believe he single-handedly saved the world. Martin Luther King did the same thing for racial equality and we must never give-up.
      10. Sales people are relentlessly focused on self-improvement, bettering themselves beyond a degree through life-long learning, the pursuit of real world knowledge and enablement of new skill-sets. They even make their countries more competitive in a fierce global marketplace, preventing commoditization by delivering tangible value day after day.

      And in addition to all of this, here is something controversial. Free enterprise selling makes the world a safer and more tolerant place. It was the sellers and traders who risked their lives crossing dangerous seas, selling their spices and wares. Obviously slave traders were evil but even some of them saved their own souls. Did you know that the most recorded and performed song in the history of the world was written by a slave trader... Amazing Grace by John Newton.

      Selling connects people, exchanges ideas and improves the way everything is done in the world. Selling causes us to understand other people and their cultures, values and beliefs, but in a way where we have empathy rather than judgment. An idea on its own is a waste unless someone finds it a market and convinces others to try a better way. Selling is commercial evangelism – not the nutty religious type where prospects are beheaded unless they buy. But America was founded on religious freedom and prospered on an ethos of free enterprise and salesmanship – like John Newton, she also must not lose Her soul.

      Sell proudly because you're making the lives of people better if you do it with integrity. Sell proudly because you're providing employment for those who scoff at what you do. Sell proudly because you're a true believer in what you do. Treat selling as the highest of all professions – deliver exceptional value for customer and employer alike.

      I'll close with an inspiring quote from the sage Doug Davidoff, "The world our customers live in is simply too complex for even the best salesperson to attack on their own. We need to be relevant earlier in the process - and marketing has a critical role in that area. When both functions are aligned and functioning - it's a triple win; for the customer, the organization and the salesperson."

      It's our national day, Australia Day, here as I write but now it's your turn no matter where you are in the world: Do you really think there will ever be a day that sales people aren't necessary? What would you say to a CEO who is on the fence about staffing up a talented salesforce to rely solely on customer service and marketing? What inspires you daily as a sales person to reach your level best? What is the impact you think that great sales people have on your country's economy?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Andrew Fysh

      3 Total Failures Who Succeeded Wildly

      Failure is the key to success. Failure is an event, it’s not a person and it should never define you. Those who learn from failure, their own and the failures of others, are best equipped for success and even greatness. We’re all familiar with the statistics of Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan – the number of strike-outs and missed shots; yet they are Hall Of Fame legends. We all know that you have to be willing to fail to succeed. They also knew it but they went beyond the ten thousand hours it takes to become ‘unconsciously competent’ at something to be committed to a winning attitude. They hard-wiring successful habits to break though losing streaks, ignoring the doubters, believing in themselves and earning the success they so passionately pursued.

      But I’m not a big fan of sporting metaphors for business. I instead believe that the military and political spheres are more relevant domains for inspiration in professional selling and leadership. Winning in business is about strategy and execution, people and numbers, attitude and skill, EQ and IQ, work ethic and effectiveness. Allow me to share three true stories – two of politicians with Lazarus style resurrections and one of the richest man in China. There are great lessons here in the role of failure in creating success.

      This first leader came for humble beginnings, born into poverty with his family forced out of their home. At a young age he had to work to support them and his mother died. Plans to take over the family store went nowhere and the business disappeared. He studied and worked to improve himself as best he could before deciding to run for State Legislature and lost. He then lost his job and applied for law school but was rejected. He borrowed money from a friend to start a business which failed within a year. He was a bankrupt and spent seventeen years repaying debt.

      He then ran for state legislature again and won. Life seemed on the up and he fell in love and became engaged but his fiancée died tragically. He was broken-hearted, suffered from depression and had a breakdown. He barely lived – existing with deep dark depression – ‘the black dog’ as Winston Churchill later described. Luckily at that time there was no Fox News or social media to ‘out him’ as wasting tax payer money and he recovered to emerge after six months and later sought to become speaker of the State Legislature but was defeated. He then sought to become Elector and was defeated again. He then ran for Congress and lost. Undeterred, and despite advice not to, he ran for Congress again and this time he won.

      He went to Washington and performed well enough – but not in the minds of voters. He lost as a sitting congressman but was committed to public service. He sought the job of Land Officer in his home state but his application was rejected. A few years later he ran for The Senate and lost. But his passion for politics remained – he wanted to make a difference. A few years later he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention and attracted less than 100 votes. He then ran for Senate again and lost.

      Many would have looked at him and said: ‘Washed-up has-been, mediocre life, failure.’ If you were his friend at the time you could have easily given him some salient advice: “If the horse is dead, get off. Go find another one – maybe you should go back to business. You’d be pretty unlucky to go bankrupt twice in your life.”

      But he knew that he could never make the kind of difference America needed running a store. He ran for public office again. Failure had not worn him down – it had not blunted his resolve. Instead it had shaped his character and made him more determined than ever. He was stoic and surrounded himself with people he trusted – positive, solid, reliable, insightful, supportive, true believers in his cause to rid the world of self-destructive ideology and evil. He faced the awful truth head-on and had a vision to unite a broken people. Abraham Lincoln became 16th President Of The United States, leading through to the end of the Civil War and abolishing the blight of slavery on the soul of a great nation. He never gave up and was committed to his vision for a just and moral America, and his mission to lead and heal a nation.

      The second leader will be less known to most of my readers. He was called ‘the Lazarus of Australian politics’. His father owned a small gas station in the suburbs of Sydney and he was the youngest of four sons. He grew up to go to university and graduate in law before becoming solicitor. He joined a political party in university and eventually ran for public office winning a Federal Parliament seat and rose to the position of Treasurer of Australia. His party then lost the next election and he unsuccessfully contested the party’s leadership but lost. He contested again before the next election and won the role of Opposition Leader but led his party to defeat at the poles. He was challenged following the defeat in the general election and then lost the leadership within his party when challenged in the fall-out.

      He served as a low level shadow minister under three successive Opposition Leaders but he never lost his aspiration to lead. Six years after being dethroned as Opposition Leader within his party he won the leadership again – he was back. In March 1996 he won a sweeping election victory and John Howard became Australia’s 25th Prime Minister. His Government was returned at three consecutive elections; he became the second longest-serving Australian Prime Minister, after Robert Menzies. His prime ministership achieved a long period of economic prosperity, historically low interest rates and unemployment levels, huge budget surpluses and significant economic reforms that positioned the country to sail through the GFC when it hit being one of the strongest economies in the world.

      He is the first international leader to pledge support to the USA after the 9/11 attacks. He was in America at the time and spoke in congress just days later to a standing ovation. He led through terrorism attacks of Australian and other country’s citizens in Bali. He took the initiative following the Port Arthur massacre, the biggest in Australian history, to successfully pass gun laws that prohibited citizens owning semi-automatic weapons at all or hand-guns without strict controls. It’s rare for a political leader to lose their position but come back to win at the highest levels. Normally, once you’ve had your go you get tipped on the scrap heap – been there, done that, tried him – didn't work… ‘next!’ Howard made a difference and left a positive legacy. He was no Abraham Lincoln or Mandela but he came back, won and made a positive difference.

      Just like John Howard, Mitt Romney can come back as well – it will be a very interesting Presidential race and then election. Bill Clinton was the nicknamed ‘the comeback kid’ and maybe Hilary can come back too? The 2016 election could be a Lazarus battle of Biblical proportions!

      My third example is Jack Ma, the Executive Chairman of Alibaba. He is the richest man in China and personally made more money in 90 days than Amazon Corporation made in 20 years. Alibaba was the biggest IPO in Wall Street history. Yet Jack Ma was trained to be a teacher and he is not a technology geek. Instead he is focused on what technology can do for people, what problems it can solve, what markets it can create.

      Alibaba is staggering and here are some of the numbers: 100 million buyers shopping on their site every day and 60 million actual transactions every day. They’ve created 14 million jobs in China and have gown from 18 people to 30,000 staff in just 15 years. Yahoo invested $1 billion in the business. 800 million people use Alipay; the sister financial transaction system. Alibaba has a bigger market capitalization than Wallmart and IBM… wow! The average age of their staff is 28.

      Jack’s life is however one of overcoming rejection. He applied to 3 colleges to study teaching and he was rejected by all of them. He then gained acceptance on his fourth choice and secured his teaching qualifications. He applied for school teaching roles and failed the exams. He applied for a job with KFC and 24 people applied for roles and 23 were accepted…except Jack. He applied for job with the police with 5 other people and 4 were accepted but not Jack. After he began to be successful in business he applied for Harvard and has been rejected ten times.

      He learned English by offering to be a guide to Westerners for free. This became the education that changed his life. His Chinese name was too difficult to pronounce and a tourist gave him the name ‘Jack’ – he adopted it.

      Jack Ma is genuinely humble and here is some of Jack’s advice:

      • “The most important thing in commerce is TRUST. Everything I’ve done is to build up trust.”
      • “Leadership is about responsibility.” He is absolutely committed to integrity, ethically and legally.
      • “Never rely on the government for eCommerce.”
      • “If we want to change the world, change yourself first.”
      • “My job is making sure my team is happy. If the team is happy, it makes my customers happy.”
      • “The secret sauce for Alibaba's success is that we have a lot of women.”
      • “If someone says no, it’s just the beginning.”
      • “Be inspired and work as a team. It’s all about how you see the world – find Inspiration in movies such as Forest Gump. Life really is like a box of chocolates.”

      Here is an amazing and masterful interview with Jack Ma. Enjoy and learn – you’re watching the world’s commercial future.

      What this means for salespeople and entrepreneurs alike is simple – press on;take the road less traveled. March to the beat of your own drum and be willing to fail forward. Hold your to the vision and the dream. In sales, 'it ain't over 'til it's over.' I can't tell you how many deals were deemed 'closed-lost' that went to the most persistent party that hung in there to get to the 'closed won' finish line. But that's not the finish line: executing on the project is. Delivery of value and retention. Keep an eye on them with Client Services and ensure they receive more than the outcome they were sold. That's integrity!

      Be the change you wish to see in the world and steel yourself to opposing forces. Take inspiration from these true stories; if you can dream it, anything is possible! I've worked for many companies in my career and it's important to know that you can be the success particle to effect change in the system. The grass is always greener and jumping around laterally can build backward momentum. You don't need to be the CEO to lead. Start leading today in how you comport yourself, your positivity and work with the passion of a champion. When you set the stage the world is clay for your intent.

      Failure, tragedy and rejection have shaped my life but that’s a story for another time. Now it’s over to you. How has failure and rejection shaped your success?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Doug Kline

      How I Close Million Dollar Deals - RSVP Strategic Selling Framework

      Tony J Hughes

      This video is a few years old now but introduces strategic selling and the RSVPselling™ concepts which enable sales managers and channel managers to be effective with a low overhead approach for complex enterprise selling. It's a meta-framework that sits over the top of whatever you're currently using including Challenger, SPIN, TAS, Battleplan, Blue Sheets, and others. The framework enables a leader to manage a sales person's pursuit of an opportunity anywhere at any time and can be utilized in a boardroom within an account plan or in a coffee shop on the back of a napkin.

      Importantly, it drives clarity amidst all the data and it creates laser focus on what actually matters in winning regardless of how early or late you are in the opportunity. It's an efficient and effective framework for strategy and execution as you simply keep asking questions in the four RSVP areas to relentlessly focus on what's important.

      R)elationships: Do we have the right relationships? Followed by: Are we selling at the right level? Do they have genuine political and economic power? Do our relationships provide differentiating intelligence, insight and genuine influence?

      S)trategy: Do we have an effective strategy for managing relationships and competitive threats? Followed by: Do we understand the power-base and have we identified the competition (external and internal including the risk of them doing nothing)? What's our strategy for winning while engineering a positive bias in the customer's requirements toward us?

      V)alue: Are we leading with insight and uniquely creating compelling business value in the eyes of the customer? Followed by: Why will they buy anything at all and is there a risk of the status quo prevailing? How are we differentiating and evidencing our credentials as lowest risk and best value?

      P)rocess: Are we aligned and do we truly understand the customer’s process for evaluation, selection, approval and procurement? Followed by: Do we understand how they define and assess risk with suppliers and solutions? Do we have a close plan validated by the customer?

      Excellence in execution underpins the four RSVP elements with pragmatic tools for qualifying, closing and understanding the players in the buyer organization. RSVPselling™ also incorporates concepts such as the Value Quadrant for Professional Sales Agents© and The New ROI©

      This meta-framework supports the concepts of progressive qualification and close plans to manage an opportunity and it won't confuse your team regardless of what they're currently using. The reason the wheel goes anti-clockwise is that the approach is counter-intuitive. It simplifies complexity and creates insight without excessive overhead. Everyone is time-poor and this works.

      Now it’s over to you. Do sales people use their company's selling methodology well? What are the most important aspects to focus on? How do you create focus in winning with a team?

      Please feel free to personally email me if you're interested in me enabling your company or team with these principles attony@rsvpselling.com. Let me help you increase revenue sustainably.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      14 Authentic Ways To Motivate & Retain Top Flight Sales Talent

      The equivalent of an entire sales force is replaced at many firms every four years, so it's critical that go-to-market initiatives remain tied to strategic goals. - Frank Cespedes

      Attrition is a really big deal – staff churn is a cancer in organizations. Most sales organizations invest tens of thousands of dollars per sales person. You can't expect to retain top flight sales talent when you fail to provide the right environment and make the rules of the game impossible to play by. How can talent thrive in a rigged game? Think about it; a systemic culture that cripples customer-centric selling, almost encourages toxicity to rise through the ranks and an inept powerless - power-base - to take root. Welcome to the illusion of control whilst bleeding market share. So how did this happen and why are revenue targets being missed as gifted, high performing salespeople pour out the door to your competitors?

      "80% of employees self report that they are not engaged. 80% of managers are not suited to managing employees. The two eighty percents are closely related." Here are some sustainable solutions:

      1. Keep your bonus and incentive plan consistent. Even improve it! Paradoxically, rewarding your Eagles will keep them on board. Many major companies do this with stock but I've found salespeople to be most motivated by favorable commission structures that allow them the most OTE upside. The greats will continue to jump companies until they can have their cake and eat it too, great pay plus great future upside. Champion sales people will 'take a haircut' if the numbers are achievable. Simplify your plan. Last year, I was in a meeting where the country manager presented a pay plan that took a 2 hour meeting to explain and droned on about how he fought for the team. Double digits of the staff left for competitors within six months despite his "softening of the blow." Not kidding! Show your loyalty with the numbers; it's not rocket science.
      2. Remember that in effective leadership, there is a hand of love and hand of steel. Some respond to both, others one or the other. Either way, consistent supportive feedback coupled with compassionate critique that isalso constructive will help you get the most out of your people. You don't want to flatten the organization too much or make it too lean; Google tried to have no management and some felt listless. So they used 'data to test assumptions about management’s merits and then make the case.' We'll see how the holocracy (simultaneously "whole and part") company structure concept at Zappos plays out. Getting some Level 5 leaders at the helm of your teams will probably always be a sound idea. A bunch of uber talented people in a dark room fighting over one torch does not build a 100M company!
      3. Take the time to meet every week and focus on their wildly important goals (WIGS!). You need to book 'standing meetings' with all your sales people no matter how busy you are. You need to look them in the eye, listen to them like clients, talking only 25% of the time. Recently, I met with a new business hunter who was stifled having been shifted to existing accounts. All it took was giving him a chance to hunt more aggressively in named accounts to get him back on track. Empowerment out of one meeting was granting permission, providing a safe environment and a simple mind shift. Light bulb: he realized he could hunt and create a big impact where he was!
      4. Hold everyone in your organization accountable - manage up and down. It's not just about creating a quarterly business review where reps lay out their goals for the quarter and year. It's about holding them accountable. They learn that their word is gold internally, and this culture gets reflected in the go-to-market strategy and in interfacing with customers, channel partners and the world at large. Accountability has a ripple effect to even brand reputation. This is the unwritten law that builds sales teams who embody excellence. Yep, you won't need to send out a global email reminding them to behave at the tech conference. They'll be organizing it and leading the plenaries. Accountability to daily full completion of the CRM, accountability to 5 to 12 touches with clients new and or existing, adding value each time. Accountability to close plans, accountability to effectively leverage a coherent sales process. Accountability to hold you accountable when they find you slipping!
      5. Set 10X goals and have sales people write their own plan of attack.10x thinking is radically supported by science. "You can get to radically better solutions in honestly about the same amount of time," writes Astro Teller. Writing a mini business plan {Weinberg} at 10X for the year and presenting it to others on the team is extremely very effective. Some call this an internal QBR. It's a great way to hone presentation chops. Challenge them to keep it under 10 slides, ideally 5.
      6. Practice positive reinforcement: Playing your team Glengarry Glen Ross and thinking it's funny while commissions are being hacked away will not inspire loyalty. As a manager, I make sure the Product team is delivering, Account Services is aligned and Marketing and Sales are consistently meeting. Streamlining communication across the organization and making sure everyone is firing on all cylinders ultimately helps the entire team thrive.
      7. Break out strategic business units: Install war rooms and assign tiger teams; spin out specialty Navy Sealesque units within your bigger team. The sub-team approach works wonders. Everyone gets to shine with their true gifts and talents as the specialist they are. One person may be the lead gen Queen while another is a genius at trigger event research or building organizational power maps. Assign special missions to target the biggest opportunities upstream. What I've been seeing with the best sales teams is they are literally getting to customers before the buying cycle even begins; they're generating demand rather than servicing it and therefore avoiding the mythical customer buying journey, 57% doomsday statistic.
      8. Launch internal contests with unique metrics: I was listening to an interview with Timothy Hughes at Oracle UK and he was asked how he became such a social selling rock star. He said there was a contest on who could generate the most impressions from Google and that's how he got started. What I love about Tim is that he's hyper focused on closing enterprise new business and social is his secret weapon – sizzle to the steak. He gets the balance even while maintaining a ubiquitous social presence. He's smart about it by scheduling Tweets with Buffer but not relying too much on automation. He's never failed to acknowledge a cool post I did. We give each other a lot of reciprocal Twitter love because our thinking is aligned. Ultimately we must sell first and allow social selling to be a force multiplier. So you could hold a contest on social media followers, unique visitors to a LinkedIn Publisher channel or something simple like qualified meetings held with dream clients. Tune your KPIs toward proactivity!
      9. Discipline the team to make and log calls, daily. It's not popular, I know. But this is your edge. Track at least 20 calls per day in your CRM per rep – and even have them turn in a daily call tracker report with note summaries on each call, even if it's on good ol' paper. You could call this bureaucratic reporting on the reporting but granting an amnesty to this behavior is dangerous business. Another way to do this is something I call 50 relevant touches, meaning a combination of calls, social, e-mail, follow-up, curation and sharing. What gets measured gets managed [Drucker] so make sure it's all logged and your team takes pride in it. Ensure they are invested in why this is so important as a daily leading indicator of the lag measure of ultimate revenue success. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Pipeline cures all ills!" Caveat: 'qualified pipe.'
      10. Invest in super cool exploratory sales technology. Tools like Cirrus Insight, Buffer, Gagein, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, InsideView, Avention InsideSales.com, ConnectAndSell keep sales people pumped. New wave CRMs like Pipeliner and Nimble will give your team a real edge. They'll be pumped to road test them in the field. We love to sell technology so we love to use it strategically as a competitive advantage even more. But don't get caught up in technology for technology's sake or let it be a time suck. Trick out their workstations with dual flat screens and let all your sales people be equipped-exalted like engineers. Get them a license to Lynda.com for lifelong learning to up-skill, a subscription to Photoshop or Axure to trick out their decks and let them express their passion for how they communicate and what they do... but not in face-to-face selling time.
      11. Let your sales people organize, structure and run sales meetings and trainings themselves. By relinquishing control, you'll gain more of it. Nobody enjoys getting a 'spreadsheet jockey' update where someone talks for a very long time at the front droning on like Charlie Brown's teacher. I love seeing the most senior executives at the front of the room but in the audience taking notes as their team members provide input in a QBR to grow a key account or a close plan to get the deal signed and in the bank – strategy, tactics, red flags and actions. Then there's Q&A and the entire room learns collaboratively. Everyone lifts their game. This is a structure for a quality off-site QBR structure. Let's all create a dialogue, tell stories from the field, learn form each other's unique experience and get better.
      12. Positive psychology and motivation. You may think Tony Robbins is cheesy but try to have 10 calls with 9 people rude to you or never answer. Sales days get to be drudge work without some motivation. At best we feel like heroes bringing a deal over the line on New Year's Eve. At worse, we can feel like canaries in a coal mine. Bring in your favorite personal development speaker and when you do off-sites for sales people, focus on aspects of attitude, effort and teamwork. Ropes courses, sporting matches (host or participate in a league) - those who play together, close business together. I know of a famous American CEO who took his company through an IPO and major acquisition that still played 2 on 2 basketball with his team weekly. Now that's Level 5 leadership in my book. With one of my Australian clients, the CEO goes to watch the company soccer team play every week in a lunch-time competition in the city.
      13. Don't get too hung up on touting booths at conferences. Deploy clusters of your top people to go to conferences, set a goal of collecting 300 business cards and fly them in a day early or after to hold meetings and have meals with key clients and prospects. This is extra mile thinking. You can leverage the main conference behind the scenes often far more than shouting from the booth and scanning badges.
      14. Start a book club and read the books yourself. This is again accountability. I see these libraries spring up in sales offices or scattered, tattered books laying around. Get a budget to buy Challenger Sale for your team, or do a quarter on Trigger Events; get everyone reading the books and showing up to the weekly meeting with one author quote or big idea. Ten bucks and six hours of your time improving yourself is a small price to pay to glean an idea that can literally generate thousands in commissions. In each of your quarterly business reviews, let them represent how they intend to apply the concept in a book and then in the next QBR, follow-up on how they were successful with it. If you have the luxury to hire a great speaker who wrote one of these books for a quarterly kickoff to lead and facilitate these discussions, good show! Why not invite them back quarterly to help you lock in the results and manage change. Is training a luxury? I would venture to say, world class sales teams cannot afford not to invest heavily, frequently here. Repetition is the mother of skill.

      I think that sales management is not entirely broken; sales managers are just often set on auto-pilot. They're absolutely drowning in reporting (and an amusing termed I've coined "reporting on the reporting), putting out fires with key clients, carrying numbers themselves and working twenty five hours in a day. They often take a pay cut to run a territory of a dozen sales people and it's not always scalable. The ratio is often completely untenable. Picking off a couple ideas from this list this quarter will help you improve results. Nurture your people and tell them they're great but mean it. Pay attention to what their true gifts and talents are.

      Authenticity is everything in management because top sales people will smell insincerity from a mile away. Work to hire less people but better, improve conditions across the company and make every rep a raving success. Be the company where word of mouth spreads that your reps close the most and make the most. "Can you believe what Rachael is getting paid over there? Wow, they have a super generous commission plan! They're now one of the fastest growing tech companies in Australia."

      There's this constant argument that top reps often aren't good managers. I disagree, if they have good values, and like anything else they need to be coached and trained. Sure, throwing a Challenger lone wolf to head your territory will be a full scale political melt down like a bull in a china shop. But creating a training program and probation period for new managers where they meet with seasoned veterans in your organization who have been doing it for over five years can make something magical happen. People ultimately want to be managed by someone who has the product knowledge, who has gone through the blood, sweat and tears in the field, who understands the company culture and can do it; they can execute they don't just teach. That's why it's authentic management. Reps get very antsy being lorded over by those that have never exceeded quota or carried through in an eighteen month sales cycle. Sales people will flat out revolt being lectured about how to close six and seven figure enterprise SaaS deals by someone who purely has an MBA or came from a transactional industry experience.

      Front-line sales managers control their companies' brand reputation. They do this by leading with integrity and imbuing a sense of purpose in their team. A self-actualized leader lives to serve and for the success of others. Lead from behind, empower your people, constantly dream up ways to make their daily lives better, have a sense of humor and be genuinely humble, generous to a fault and self-deprecating. Make fun of yourself constantly and always stress that you 'work for them'. A winning sales organization is a reverse pyramid, the CXOs are on the bottom and the end customer that renews and raves is at the top.

      If you're interested in me facilitating a sales training or kickoff, please do not hesitate to contact me personally at tony@rsvpselling.com. Happy closing!

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Luigi Mengato

          Access the C-Suite - 7 Sage Secrets

          I've read the Challenger Sale – now what? I've heard I need to get upstream, past the gatekeeper, before my buyer hits the search engines and starts the reverse aggregation arms race. But how do I get there? I've got my frameworks queued up: TAS, Blue Sheets, Green Sheets, Gold Sheets, Battleplan.... oh my! I want to unleash the holy grail of all sales process, challenge the founders and part the ephemeral waters of the status quo. SPIN baby spin, I need to get in... come-on Tony, show me how! What is the killer insight I need to create and how can I deftly leverage it to reach the CXO, as an account executive? How can I reach the key decision maker as the CEO of a new start-up where I lack the clout to crowbar in via brand recognition alone?

          Here are seven proven ways and means that actually work with some caveats and bonus material woven in for good measure. They are born from the pavement, the street, coffee shop, hotel lobby, the field, the airplane, the jetway and the corridor. After thirty years of hard knocks, here they go. The world is your oyster but with great power comes great responsibility. I open-source them for you now knowing that the knowledge is in good hands with my LinkedIn reader-base.

          1. The Friendly Ghost - This one may be controversial. Gain access to your own CEO's social accounts or work with their EA to tee-up a coordinated C to C communique. I can't change the way the world is but sometimes the only way to impinge is a transmission from the top to the top.
          2. The Thrilla from Manila - I touched on this strategy in another post. It may take a bit of investment of time and resources. It requires finesse and care. You'll want to implement the design thinking process to ideate with your manager on exactly the key insight. You'll have a plain Manila envelope delivered to the executive assistant of the CFO, CSO, CTO, CIO or CEO. The key is to lead with the difference you can make to their business and offer genuine insight, supported by a relevant case study, testimonial or reference letter. It must be one page and punchy but factual. Show you've done your homework, catch the imagination and then leverage the hand signed document to land the meeting.
          3. Exclusive Industry Analysis - Take the time to do your own survey of executives, run your own tests, collect your own data in the field or create your own White Paper and then leverage it. Release it at a private CXO dinner where you'll reveal the insights and brief on the data with a celebrity guest [could even be a thought leader in your own company... but no selling!] Exclusivity is a powerful weapon; it's how the stickiest social networks have always thrived - virtual and analog.
          4. A sense of humor, courage and fearlessness - Bransonian: "Screw it, let's do it!" People in power seldom get an email that makes them laugh while still being to the point. I've seen quite a bit of research about sales people that hail mary 10X thinking, audacious e-mails to celebrities that seem unreachable. Many breakthrough via persistence, creativity or passion.
          5. Stealth Aerospace Technology - There are stealth start-ups creating C-Suite access technologies right now that I have seen open business even from existing accounts penetrating divisions previously closed.
          6. TeamLink Referral - Recently I've seen e-mails that reference three connections in common, a shared networking event, content and quotes cited while also mentioning a specific need. This takes time and research but for a key target, they'll be impressed enough to respond.
          7. Pull versus Push - Exactly what I'm doing in here everyday. Build the garden that attracts the butterflies. Instead of building a bigger better faster net, let the key executives land on your compelling content.

          Now on the flip side, here are some things that don't work so well:

          1. LinkedIn spam InMail - Generic templates that look personal will get deleted faster than a gaffe in a prerecorded award show speech. Assuming just because you have a connection in common gives you carte blanche and casual access – fail.
          2. Sheer persistence - Yes, 5 to 12 touches will work if there is initial interactivity or latent interest. Feel free to call an uninterested contact with no compelling event all twelve times in a row to prove my point. You can't always knock down the door with sheer will alone. That used to work in a bygone era but you've gotta be smarter than that today.
          3. Templated e-mail blasts and newsletters: We love them, whole industries are built on them. But the metrics just aren't there! 10% open rate doesn't equate to read rate. Most read the title and skip on. That's why blogging inside LinkedIn makes a profound impact. I'm stunned by the level of engagement and how deeply people read, often every word. An acclaimed e-mail template with the same subject line that everyone uses is not going to work for you. I know a President who got that same template from 3 vendors in one week. His unamused direct response? "Nice template."
          4. Shotgunning your business cards at conferences. If you treat people like a number they'll erase your info.
          5. Generic outreach. – Anything plain vanilla is forgotten instantly. Work to stand out as a beacon of enlightenment with humor and insight. The point of this post is to swim upstream against all the status quo methods of business development itself.
          6. Mistakenly believing senior executives will attend conferences at all: A sales person reached out to an SVP, excited to connect with her team and letting them know they had a booth at XYZ Muckety Muck 4.0, and was she going to be there? Her response after speedreading a 3 paragraph thought-to-be-tailored email: "No."

          And here are some bonus thoughts:

          • Do you know any other 'nice people' who I could call? This is so shockingly simple. I met a top sales person who set records with this strategy and tried to teach it to his team. Most couldn't fathom how easy it was but a few tried it and racked up enviable sales souvenirs. Here's the entire technique. If you speak to a nice person, genuinely ask in the moment – fully there: "Before I say goodbye, do you know of any other nice people like you that maybe also have a similar problem we could help them with?" This is completely counter-intuitive and defies logic, reason and especially The Challenger Sale. People buy from those they know, like and trust. To be liked, like someone first – genuinely take an interest in them. Nice people do nice things. It's painful to write this down, you'll probably see it as an urban legend. Secretly try it and you'll be stunned.
          • Leverage the principle of Non-Hunger: Prospects smell despair on your lips. Remember the last time you needed to write up a proposal and had no time. In a rush a customer called, tried to buy, you were super urgent and you felt them bite like crazy. The principle of non-hunger was at work. How can you train yourself to listen intently while being interested and disinterested at the same time? Confidence – you don't need the business. Radiate this: Although you'd like their business, you're bringing in a ton of key deals and this customer is not a make or break.
          • Walk up to someone extremely powerful and you've got a ten second virtual elevator: A friend of mine walked up to one of the Sharks from the US Shark Tank program in San Francisco recently, shook his hand, struck up a conversation and talked for awhile. He owned it, was natural and was relevant. He opened with admiration – it was sincere and genuine. Now that's a connection. I have another friend who's never missed an opportunity to meet someone well known. They approach confidently and met with admiration the leaders they actually aspire to be. That same philosophy created a connection with Richard Branson for my friend in the USA.
          • Be involved in good causes: Being passionate about solving world problems is a universal theme. You could join a board of directors and suddenly be on a committee with bank presidents. You're expanding your network. It's not a way to directly connect; it places you among a rare group of people doing something tangible to improve the world, invoking good karma.
          • Put out good energy, smile: Seems simple but I can't tell you how many times I smiled big at a massive conference or networking event and someone wonderful approached. We get back what we put out into this world, it's all reciprocal. The law of reciprocity is very real. Practice random acts of kindness daily, pay it forward and help strangers.
          • Embrace the Ziglar Factor: "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want." Zig Ziglar hit the nail on the head with this quote, he passed away a few years ago and was legend. Find leaders and people you admire; don't propitiate but do everything you can to help them reach their dreams. Just doing this selflessly, wholeheartedly, truly wanting that dream more for them than for yourself, opens magical doors.

          Notice I didn't mention very much about social selling. There's a cacophony and high roar there. To combat that there's a rising chorus of a return to the phone. What I'm looking to share in this article are some unusual methods for getting into the inner circle of people that can change your stars. Here are a few other things I've seen that deserve honorable mention to get your creative juices flowing: SlideShares or Videos in e-mails. QR codes on cupcakes triggering a custom multimedia message for a prospect. Extremely creative conference swag. Laser printed logos on things or laser cut metal business cards (makes you careful with who you meet as it costs a fortune to give someone your card... LOL). Completely customized white papers created for just one targeted customer. Private boxes at sporting events. Hold your own conferences featuring top rock bands and world leaders. Build conferences with extremely advanced sessions only, rather than anything entry level. Build a CXO council or alliance. Corporate Executive Board has done this very well.

          Now it's your turn: How do you reach the unreachable? What unique techniques have you found most helpful in accessing powerful decision makers? Who do you truly admire whom you'd like to connect with that could change your life? Since you know you're worthy of their time, what's holding back? Do you feel like it's impossible? When would be a better time than right now, to lob a B2B e-mail into the interwebs abyss of first name @ company and see what you get back? It should not exceed 5 sentences or contain any links whatsoever, not even in the signature. You can always reach me at tony@rsvpselling and see if I respond, I welcome your candor. OK, I'll always respond – just wanted to see if you're paying close attention here at the end. ;-)

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

          Main Image Photo by Flickr: Steve Jurvetson

          Innovate Or Die – The Sigmoid Curve Defines Your Future

          In my lifetime the average age of a Fortune 500 corporation has gone from 80 years down to just 18 years! Combine this shocking statistic with the fact that even the best corporations such as Google and Amazon have average employee tenure of barely 1 year, and I think you’ll agree we have a problem. Professor Richard Foster from Yale University estimates that by 2020 more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we haven’t heard of yet. Problems and opportunities all fused together – it all depends how you look at it.

          There was a time when incumbency in a market or entrenchment in a customer account represented a huge advantage; but now it can appear to be a legacy millstone around your neck. Some are predicting [wrongly] the extinction of sales people, to be steadily replaced by AI social selling autobots [not]. The barrier to entry for new competitors has never been lower; and the process of switching suppliers for customers has never been easier. Web services make integration to ‘best of breed’ cloud application easy. Access to low cost labor, combined with advances in technology and engagement platforms are changing everything. Just have a look at the staggering results of Jack Ma with Alibaba! The numbers of this eCommerce giant are staggering: 100 million buyers shop on the Alibaba site every day with 60 million actual transactions daily. They’ve created 14 million jobs in China and have gown from 18 people to 30,000 staff in just 15 years. Yahoo invested $1 billion in the business. 800 million people use the associated financial transaction system. Alibaba has a bigger market capitalization than Wallmart and IBM… wow! The average age of their staff is 28.

          Change is coming to your local area too but the light at the end of the tunnel need not be your near death experience or a train coming the other way. What’s the secret to prosperity in rapidly changing markets and a globally competitive economy? It’s the same as it always been – innovation and great customer service combined with flawless execution of well-conceived strategy, driven by leaders with good values. We will always live in a human world where real connection matters – people will always invest with and buy from those they like and trust. Social platforms are merely another way of engaging. Technology will never replace those who provide leadership, insight and value in every interaction.

          In one of my posts I stated that any buffoon can cut costs to temporarily create profit; but cost-cutting is almost always a tactic, not a strategy. You cannot cost cut your way to sustained success because sooner or later a business must provide value and differentiate through innovation, value and service. The world needs builders, not destroyers, but building businesses organically (not just through acquisition) is tough work. It requires real leadership, commitment and passionate sales and marketing people to execute. All this raises a daunting question: How do you escape commoditization and avoid extinction – how do you lead?

          There is something staggeringly difficult that every business must do to both survive and prosper. It’s the Mount Everest of personal development and business transformation – we must all innovate and reinvent ourselves... but how? The world is filled with advice on what to do… tell me how!

          I am blessed with amazing people in my life. One of my mentors, Anthony Howard, answers the question in the most profound way. He does it with the ‘must read’ leadership book of 2015 which is being published by Wiley in just a few weeks. The title is: Humanise: Why Human-Centred Leadership is the Key to the 21st Century. Anthony Howard is a leadership luminary and I’ve been fortunate to read an advance copy.

          He writes about the Sigmoid Curve as it relates to leadership – it’s an ideal framework for innovation and reinvention. The Sigmoid curve is usually used to visualize product lifecycle and manufacturers know all about this curve and use it to refresh products, create upgraded models and then plan for end of life and next generation releases.

          But companies need to think in the same terms and Anthony goes on to write the following in his upcoming book:

          “In order to avoid the inevitable decline, you need to rethink what you are doing — that is, innovate — as you approach the top of the curve, when everything appears to be going fabulously well. Doing this can sometimes lead to a temporary dip, for instance as profits decline due to increased R&D investment, although success will launch a new curve. This new upswing motion forms an inflexion point and creates the sigmoid curve.

          “Changing direction when things are going well is not easy. In business sales are booming, profits are up, people enjoy working for a market leader, customers love you... In government the economy is strong, debt is being paid down, unemployment is low... In your personal life relationships are flourishing, communication is honest and frequent, the world seems radiant ... This is often the calm before the storm, the comfort before the seven-year itch, the illusory satisfaction of supportive polls or market research.

          “Wise leaders take steps to prepare for the future, just as navigators know the sun does not shine forever and always keep a close eye on weather and water. They know a storm will roll in at some point and always maintain a state of readiness.

          “Looking away from what is successful at the moment to what could be successful in the future requires strong leadership. It requires courage to confront the chaos and confusion that marks inflexion points and to navigate the fog of uncertainty.”

          Anthony is a practical man and was a merchant seaman in his youth. He went on to lead at the highest levels on business. He goes on later in his book to explain how to navigate the Sigmoid curve.

          “The transition from one cycle to the next starts with an initial dip, which can feel like a loss of direction and be financially and emotionally draining. Living in and through the chaos and confusion of inflexion points and disruption is hard work …

          “Sometimes the inflexion point is forced on you by an event such as a global financial crisis. Suddenly what was clear becomes murky, what was straightforward becomes confused. Strategic plans are binned before they can gather dust. Employees are not sure how to act or what to do. The firm is facing a crisis, and you are the leader at the helm. What do you do?

          “Only one strategy works in times of chaos and confusion: Lead by purpose. Ensure people know the reason why. You have no idea how long it will take to work through the inflexion point, nor any great clarity about how things will look on the other side. In times of clear weather and steady-as-she-goes navigation you can make three- and five-year plans. In times of confusion and chaos you can focus only on longer-term purpose, since only it remains clear. Purpose stands like the North Star, or a distant lighthouse, toward which you can steer through the storm.”

          The above text in italics is an extract from Humanise. Why Human-Centred Leadership is the key to the 21st century, copyright (c) Anthony Howard, 2015, John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd. If you aspire to leadership then this book is essential reading; I promise you that it has the power to change your business and your life. If you would like to download a sample chapter, go to Anthony Howard’s LinkedIn profile and download from the Summary section.

          Here are some parting thoughts from me. Markets change and competitors are constantly seeking to out-fox and out-manoeuvre you. Whether it be from disruptive technologies, new market entrants, political and economic change, demographic shifts, whatever… you must be able to innovate, change and reinvent yourself for the people and markets you serve. This does not mean that you abandon timeless values and principles of ethics; but it does mean you must embrace change as you lead. There is no such thing as steady-state or the status quo in business, politics, or personal life for that matter – feelings of certainly are illusionary. The reality is that your business is either growing or withering. Grow it must or it will fade and die.

          The secrets to re-booting your Sigmoid curve include being visionary because the best way to predict the future is to invent it! You must also have customer intimacy in your chosen markets and obsessively listen to your clients and anticipate their needs. You also need a killer team of passionate people; everywhere within the organization (except maybe the accounting department). Finally, have a massive bias toward action and be willing to fail (but fail fast and get off dead horses immediately) while passing the credit on to your team for every success. The leader is the culture of any organization so be the change you need in your people. Be the best CEO you can be, even if you are just CEO of your department or team. CEO stands for: Chief Example Officer and Chief Encouragement Officer.

          What is the true meaning of leadership to you? Please comment below.

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

           

          Government Sues IBM – Blind Leading The Deaf?

          The Queensland Government in Australia is again instigating legal action against IBM over a failed SAP payroll implementation with integration to a third-party HR solution. The failed project was high profile – think The Sixth Sense movie... ‘I pay dead people’. It allegedly cost the government $1.25 billion and without commenting on the case itself, allow me to provide some insights concerning lessons to be learned for anyone selling to government.

          I will declare up-front that I have a tortured relationship with this very government department, Queensland Health, as I’ve previously won two very large software contracts in years past that never got banked. One was with a North American vendor where I was regional Managing Director and the other with an Australian public company where I was Sales Director. Between both of these opportunities, the government issued onerous tenders. We responded, answered clarifications, conducted demos, entered into negotiations, made contract concessions, and even conducted a paid pilot… then silence. On both occasions there were huge investments from us and competitors within the software industry; but everyone’s time, resources and money were wasted. The cost to industry was enormous. We later discovered that it was the failed payroll/HR project that had subsumed the funding.

          The salient lesson being that the biggest competitor in every enterprise opportunity is ‘do nothing’ – the status quo. Even if that’s not the case, always act as if it is because this drives you to business value, which will strongly differentiate you from your competitors who tend to lead with what they do and how they do it.

          I wrote a recent article (The Six Risks Sales people Must Manage) and in it I say that inertia, apathy and status quo are our biggest enemy in selling. Despite a customer’s desire to improve their business or department by implementing change, many projects go nowhere. Amazingly, no one on the client side seems to damage their career – they instead see benefits in gathering lots of valuable information. This is especially the case in State and Federal government entities.

          Over the years I’ve adopted a saying for what it’s like doing business with government: “The blind leading the deaf.” Lots of nice people with good intentions but the politics and machinery are wired for dysfunction. I’ve won massive deals selling to government at all levels and I’ve paid sales people single individual commission checks of up to $400,000. What I’m about to share with you is not theory; everything comes from the real world. In addition to having absolute integrity, here are my ten tips for succeeding with government (more commentary on the IBM case at the end):

          1. Be willing to invest. The ticket to the dance is insanely expensive. Are you really up for the investment of time and resources to merely earn the right to pitch? Panel contracts, onerous terms and conditions including liquidated damages, consequential losses, guarantees, indemnities, erosion of your own intellectual property rights – yes, it’s all part of the ‘privilege’ of potentiallydoing business. Then the individual departments or agencies want to use the ‘contract’ as the baseline for them running their own additional process with variations because they are ‘different’.
          2. You must have relevant reference customers. Government markets are not the place to pioneer; you’ll be old and wrinkly by the time you succeed – not really, your employer will have lost patience and fired you by then. Seriously, government is very risk-averse so don’t agree to pioneer in government verticals unless you have relevant and solid reference customers and case studies. Also ensure that you have a compensation plan that acknowledges the long sales-cycles and long-term investment of time.
          3. Sell high and then also gain consensus. Strategic selling, by definition, means early engagement at senior levels. But you cannot breach probity once a tender has been issued by seeking to go around their process or bypass the chain of command. If you want to sell strategically, then invest early to set an agenda and help build a business case with a bias toward your unique value. But whether you’re early or late, you must gain broad support – government is the land of consensus-based decision-making. Cover everyone, all of the people who can say ‘no’ as well as those who say ‘yes’.
          4. Identify and engage the eco-system of consultants and influencers.Within government, a successful career depends on managing risk and having someone to blame when things go wrong. God forbid that the cause of failure be from within the department with poor leadership or bad project management, ill-defined requirements, inadequate funding, crappy change management, or non-qualified staff. No, it’s always important to have both an external consultant and vendor to blame. So, who are the consultants in your world who engage early to build their business case, develop their requirements and assist them in going to market with a tender? You need relationships with these external influencers because they can make sure you’re invited to participate and provide you with informal support. Often they understand the power-base and politics and are invaluable strategic allies. Failure to foster these relationships is a big mistake.
          5. Beware unfriendly consultants and external lawyers embedded within their team. The more difficult it becomes and the longer it takes, the more money the consultants and lawyers make. The ‘law of self-interest’ works against the government and you as the supplier. Lawyers are to be instructed, rather than drive a negotiation. I’ve had to nicely confront senior government officials about this on a number of occasions by exhorting them to step-up and take control. I once visited a lawyer and said: “I only have $150 but can I ask you three questions?” He took my money and said “Sure, what’s your second question?” One university is doing experiments using lawyers instead of rats… there are just some things that even rats won’t do. LOL... those last two examples aren’t true and no offense intended to my friends in the legal profession. There is a software salesman joke at the end of this post to provide balance.
          6. Manage their bullying demands to stretch the truth. I’ve seen many tenders where some requirements are contradictory, yet the conflicting specification nominates both as ‘mandatory’. Government regularly compiles massive lists of ‘mandatory’ technical and functional requirements that are an aggregation of various supplier’s product specifications. Then they state that if you do not tick ‘fully complies’ with all mandatory requirements, you’re out. It’s tough; you know your product or solution can meet their needs, yet they insist on nonsensical and unreasonable compliance within their specification. Very importantly, work with your product people and legal team to ensure you are being truthful and accurate in providing words that satisfy the tender. Your internal legal people are your friends, work with them and heed their advice – never breach their trust. Also never sell vaporware and never underestimate the difficulty of integration.
          7. Understand their process. The tender will have a weighted evaluation criteria that you need to understand. Use your cunning and guile to figure it out. If you have to do a formal presentation, demonstration or reference site visits; then make sure you understand the scoring criteria. Stop at every stage and ask their team: “Have you seen everything you need to see here in order to accurately score your sheets?” Never assume, always ask – they will think you are a professional for doing so.
          8. Understand how they assess value for money and define risk.Government people tend to talk about delivering outcomes and value for money while managing government’s risk. The reality is that they tend to rely on contracts as the primary tool – what a blunt Neanderthal weapon a contract is if you need an ongoing relationship. Once anyone is quoting clauses in a contract as a way of resolving problems, the project and relationship is almost certainly terminally doomed. More on value for money after this top ten list.
          9. Use risk as a weapon. Price is never the main issue when selling to government. They care about risk and they will pay a premium to be perceived as managing it well. How can you position as best value and lowest risk – the solution provider in ‘the Goldilocks zone’? You must be seen to be big enough to deliver, yet small enough for them to be an important customer (in their eyes, capable of being strong-armed or pushed by them). Make them fall in love with the expertise of your people and methodology, rather than your product or service. Make it all about cultural alignment and the ability to work as a team. Ask them where they see the risks and then sell to those factors. Here is a real example of using risk to win a $100 million contract.
          10. Be patient when negotiating. I once walked into a meeting following notification that we were the ‘preferred supplier’ for a whole of government contract. It was a massive deal and to our horror, an external consultant sat there with government officials in the meeting and told us that although we had won, they were now changing the basis of the tender. I was requested to cut-out my channel partner / systems integrator and go direct even though we had bid on the basis that they were the ‘prime’ solution provider with us in behind them. We instantly requested an adjournment and I insisted everyone remain silent as we left and in the elevator. Once outside, I assured the three other companies with me in the consortium that we were 100% solid in our integrity and we would ‘stay the course’. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and government was banking on our desperation with end of year or end of quarter, and hoping for cannibalism on our side. I suggested we all call our bosses to say: “The deal cannot contract this quarter, take it out of the forecast.” We all made the unhappy calls and then reconvened with government. We patiently worked together and contracted seven weeks later in a manner that met everyone’s needs. There is a postscript here but that’s a story for another time – the ineptitude and naivety of government can be breath-taking.

          A few of the points above warrant further explanation.

          First; how do you manage the risk of ‘do nothing?' Constantly ask yourself: Are they really committed? Do they know why they are doing this? Is their senior executive commitment beyond a mere sponsor? Is there either a compelling business case or compelling event driving the project or initiative? Is their level of dissatisfaction strong enough or can the incumbent salvage their situation? Why will they change? Is the funding adequate and is it truly secured and committed for the project?

          Second; what is the formula for Value For Money that governments use? It is always derivation of my illustration below.

          Fit For Purpose is easy to determine because it’s what the bulk of the tender document is about. The difficult part of the equation, the way you truly differentiate and win, is with Lowest Risk Profile. How do they define and assess risk? In a recent article I provide a real example of how a customer defined risk in the exact opposite way that the vendor did. The vendor is one of the biggest software companies on the planet and they said: “Hey, look at how massively big we are. That means we’re the logical choice and lowest risk.” The case study is here – the customer saw it very differently. The last part of the formula is Total Cost of Ownership but do not make assumptions, especially if cloud solutions are being compared with on-premise, or capital purchase versus off balance sheet mechanisms. Take the time to ask the right questions and then truly listen to understand.

          A senior government executive once said to me: “Your prices are too high.” I responded instantly with a smile and said: “We’d love to be able to reduce our prices but the cost of doing business with you is crippling. It took us three years of investment to get on the panel, then we had to respond to your department’s additional tender process because you’re different and did not trust what central government put in place. Then we had to invest in a proof of concept that ran for six weeks. On top of all that, we then had to engage external lawyers, pay for additional insurances and organize escrow of source code. All just to be here in your office and after nearly four years we haven't been paid anything yet.” He didn’t ask for price reductions again.

          I really don’t understand why Queensland Government is wasting more taxpayer money on their failed payroll/HR project by again attacking IBM – maybe it’s because there is a State election in just under two weeks. Politician magicians are good with diversion. But governments at all levels in Australia have appalling failure rates with shared services initiatives and also tend to underestimate the complexity and cost of integration. On top of this, their ability to drive change is hopeless with passive management, strongly unionised and aging workforces and a shortage of real leaders.

          I’ve dealt with Queensland Health on multiple occasions with separate tenders and companies, and the experiences were painful. They’ve cost themselves and industry huge amounts with ill-conceived tenders, poorly run processes and inadequate project management; yet we never considered suing them – it was never in our DNA and also because you never get to business with them again if you play that card.

          Queensland Government has attempted litigation previously with IBM over the failed payroll/HR project and they allegedly reached some form of settlement in 2010. But now they have fired their own Solicitor General and gone to external lawyers to resurrect the smelly corpse. This is despite the fact that SAP has been successfully implemented for HR and payroll in Queensland, elsewhere in Australia (at both State and Federal levels), and all over the world. IBM is a formidable opponent – an IT giant with real integrity and massive resources. It will be interesting to see how this pans-out. The lawyers from legal firms, Minter Ellison and Jones Day, are now set to reap huge profits from the continuing stoush.

          For background and summary coverage by Paris Cowan from IT News, there is an excellent overview here. If you need guidance on selling to government in Australia, contact Judy Hurditch at Intermedium – they’re the experts.

          I promised to balance the derogatory jokes about lawyers. Maybe Queensland Government can use the following in their battle with IBM? What’s the difference between the software system and the software salesman? You only have to punch information into the software once.

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

          Main Image Photo by Flickr: Martin Bowling

          10 Leadership Insights From A Serial Millennial Entrepreneur

          By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be millennials. A millennial is usually defined as someone born between 1980 and 2005. We older people look down upon them and judge their sense of entitlement, narcissism, gadgetry fuelled ADD, and constant need for positive reinforcement. Like the Gen-Y crowd before them, they burst into the workplace saying: “I’ve been here for ten minutes, when are you promoting me? What’s wrong with you, can't you recognise real talent when it’s staring you in the face?”

          But Caleb Hong breaks the stereotype and is not someone you discover on LinkedIn… well you will but he has no photo and almost no detail in his profile. He doesn’t blog – he’s not seeking anyone and prefers to stay under the radar. Sorry Caleb! He is however a millennial serial entrepreneur who is very successful and incredibly complex; shy and thoughtful with a razor sharp mind and sense of purpose in his life. He and I were recently part of a business leadership panel in Sydney and we got to know each other. While he was speaking on stage I was wishing that I was in the audience so I could take notes.

          When I got home, I furiously wrote down what I could remember and then had a coffee with him a few days later. He has even turned a business into a franchise that went national and sold others for healthy profits. At one point he was operating four businesses at once, overseeing a hundred staff and coping with being on anti-depressants. He figured-out how to function effectively with just the 2-3 hours each day where he could positively interact with people and make good decisions. Here is the real world wisdom from Caleb – the rest of this post is essentially from him.

          Insight #1: Listen to the market to find problems you then solve for them.

          I think businesses shy away because they feel they are too small or don’t have enough experience. They have a picture in their mind about what they need to become or achieve before they can approach that potential client or investor. This timidity comes from looking at ourselves rather than looking at what companies and individuals need in the marketplace. It’s got nothing to do with you. One thing about remarkable companies is that they are customer-centric. I think it’s important to adopt that focus early on.

          Here’s a simple process I’ve used often in the past twelve months. Create an approach that can get you directly in front of the right people. Listen to the market, find problems you can solve, Figure out what people want & need. Package it; then sell it back to them. The companies giving you initial feedback can become your first customers.

          I’ve closed 6-figure deals, pre-selling services without a business card or a business logo, because I found what businesses desperately needed and gave it to them. Two months ago I did a similar thing; I reached out to a $6 billion financial company. I had a look at their marketing and extracted 14 key areas where they were leaving money on the table. Then I got in touch with them and gave them a comprehensive run-down on what they needed to do. The exercise was simple, but the impact was huge. When it’s not about you, and you make it about helping and solving problems that businesses or individuals have, you’re able to cut through the noise and gain traction very quickly.

          There are two reasons why I think this might resonate with businesses. What’s changed over recent years is that the marketplace expects businesses to add value – not just communicate value.

          And you want the shortest pathway to cash-flow and at the same time create a proof of concept as quickly as possible.

          Insight #2: Your ability to sell your ideas is crucial.

          Whether it’s a product, a proposal or a project; nobody is going to believe in your idea more than you. But it is critically important that you don’t just rely on the idea to sell itself, even if it’s good. This may seem obvious but so many make this mistake.

          Ideally, you want to have a great idea and be great at presenting and selling that idea, which leads me to the first point.

          A) When selling your idea, work on optimising both the sales process of your idea and the idea itself. Sometimes, we can focus on one at the expense of the other. If you address both, you’re doubling the rate of your success.

          B) If you were the buyer, would you buy your own product? The reason why this question is so important is because people buy into you before they buy into your idea. While you’re selling the idea, investors and potential clients are first looking at you.

          Steve Jobs believed in his company and products so much, it created a reality distortion for the rest of us, including his own team. We talked about the man as much as we talked about the products.

          When we believe in our idea, we’re helping our investors, potential clients and employees close the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’. That gap becomes smaller and smaller. And that’s exactly what we need to move fast and pivot, as our products and business are growing & improving while it gets closer to what it ‘could be’. The most forward thinking companies live in this gap. The businesses that are left behind predominantly live in the ‘what is’ or worse, ‘what was’.

          C) Integrate context with content. Your idea is the content. The industry and the businesses you are applying the idea is context.

          Selling your idea becomes so much more effective and persuasive when you understand the context as much as your content. Your product, proposal or project becomes an obvious solution to a much needed problem or need. A simple exercise is to rate out of 10 how much you understand your product, project or proposal and then do the same for your context – the niche that you are trying to reach, the business that you are speaking to, the markets you are seeking to reach. Then work to improve the content or context based on your score.

          Insight #3: Most of your time is wasted.

          For about 24 months while I was battling through depression, I had a mere 2-3 good hours to get anything done. That taught me a lot. If you only had two hours to achieve results each day, you wouldn’t waste time on trivial things. Rather, you’d be doing things that give you the biggest returns. It’s actually a really powerful exercise – just ask yourself: “If I had 2-3 hours in a day to build my business, what would I be doing? More importantly, what would I stop doing?”

          As you apply resourcefulness to your time, your efforts, your money, something happens… resourcefulness not only makes your resources go further, it actually attracts more resources.

          These are the things I did during that period of forced time-poverty. In the few hours I had each day, I focused on the most critical activities and projects and reduced or eliminated low value activities. I automated or delegated the rest. But that’s not enough. I also created a better process to make decisions fast. I used a simpler but more intuitive set of metrics to drive my businesses – going from whole spread-sheets to just looking at 3-5 numbers a day. Instead of training my best people, I mentored them. It was one of the best ways of taking myself out of the equation while empowering people to achieve bigger results. It’s like training an Olympian. At that level, you become a trainer, a coach and a mentor.

          I love Michael Gerber’s work on repeatable systems, but building systems without the right spirit and heart, without the trust of your best people; is a recipe for sub-optimal results. Connecting people to what you’re doing with mission and purpose is key and I love what Tony has written on this topic (I read his LinkedIn blog).

          Insight #4: Business is about people.

          The quality of the people you work with inevitably changes the quality of your business. And with that said, it’s important to work with the best people, whether they are employees, business partners or other businesses that support your growth – law firm, accountant, HR services, etc. Even if you can’t afford them now, there’s no reason why you can’t meet them now. Here is an example: I’ve worked with law firms that I selected because they were cheaper to begin with and eventually charged me double as I grew and could afford their fees… but they were the best. And I’ve worked with top consultants and accountants in this way too. The best people will also introduce you to other top professionals that you need in your ‘virtual’ team. They will also connect you with potential clients. But what’s even more important is who you become by working with the best people. Quality people make a massive difference in the success of a business – only work with the best; find a way to afford them.

          How do you bring the best people into your world? To do that, here are two practical things I can think of. First you must be the very best you can be, personally and with your business. Great people attract similar people and the fastest way to better yourself is to find mentors.

          The second point builds on the first: You want to create a framework that creates ‘pull’ and attracts the right people. I use what I call the 7C framework – your Core Mission, Character, Chemistry, Competence, Culture, Connection & Contribution.

          I use the 7C framework to better myself and I’ve created a training program using this framework for my team. I use the framework when hiring people and it serves as a compass that helps me identify the right organisations and individuals to build relationships. And using the 7C framework across different areas of the business creates congruency, which is a key ingredient in building a great brand. So the cycle perpetuates.

          Insight #5: You don't need more information – you need more action.

          So many people believe that they need more information before they can decide and execute. I think that’s a misconception because the focus is on learning, rather than execution. The fact of the matter is that we do not lack information – we have information overload! We’re especially running into that problem head-on in 2015 because there’s so much information out there, rather than being compelling, it paralyses. We become overwhelmed with information and it causes confusion & bottlenecks, so we look to learn more to resolve it, and it becomes a negative cycle.

          The key to success is learning the right thing, not learning more. It’s learning the right thing that empowers execution. My guess is that most of us already know enough. We know far more than we are implementing. What is needed is insight and less information.

          Insight #6: Business plans are a waste of time.

          Business plans are slow and they become out-dated quickly, before they’re even finished. The more time your spend on your plan, the longer you are out of the market. It’s all downtime because there’s no cash coming in and by the time you’re ready, the market most likely will have changed and you’re once again out of tune.

          It’s better to plan as you go. When you start a business or a project within an existing business, 80% of your efforts should be focused on selling and marketing, generating revenue as fast as possible. That’s your business lifeline and it’s your proof of concept. Let’s take it from there and just simplify it. If you want to market and sell something, you just need three things to get started. 1) You need to know who your target audience is; 2) You need an offer; and 3) You must choose one customer channel that you’ll leverage to reach them. That’s it. It’s not 100 moving parts – complexity can come later. We are planning as we go and pivoting based on what we learn. This cuts enormous time and energy.

          Insight #7: Ditch the 12 month calendar and instead work with 12 week cycles.

          Many businesses tend to have their biggest months towards the end of the year. That’s because a year gives you at least 10 months where you can procrastinate until it’s crunch time. I treat 12 weeks like a year. I’ve been doing this for my businesses and my client’s businesses and found it makes execution more predictable. The challenge with a 12 month calendar is that there is a lot of assumptions built into it. The further we plan, the more assumptions we’re making. Making decisions and allocating resources on assumptions and theory in a cut-throat market is risky business. Short cycles create urgency, action and accountability – no time to wait or procrastinate.

          Insight #8: It’s all about rapid momentum.

          I was speaking to a billionaire once and there was one thing he said that struck a deep chord. In fact, after that conversation I realised it was something I did very consistently. He said: “It’s not about how big or small a business is, it’s more about how fast or slow a business moves”. This is now more relevant than ever.

          Everything becomes easier with momentum. And to create momentum, you need speed. To create speed, it’s important to make execution easier. Remove complexity. A complex plan is harder to implement.

          One of the metrics I measure daily in my business is doing one thing per day that simplifies something in my business – whether that’s creating a checklist, an SOP, taking out a step in a process, replacing technology, etc.

          The simpler your business becomes, the more likely it’s going to build rapid momentum. Don’t make things more complicated than it needs to be.

          Insight #9: Your life partner is your life-line.

          Something that I learnt was about valuing people for who they are, and not for what they can necessarily do for you. I learnt that from my wife. I’ve never met anyone with so much authenticity. One big factor of life-balance is having the right people around you. They help you do it better through instruction, imitation but most importantly, through inspiration.

          I think life-balance is actually a product of our perspective. The perspective of the life we desire does dictate whether we create balance and how we choose to create that balance.

          One perspective that I love thinking about is seeing myself and a whole bunch of people that I love still doing life together until our last breathe in wheel chairs. That would be cool. And that perspective drives my balance today.

          Insight #10: Instill a multiplier into the DNA of your work

          We’ve been accustomed with the idea that good is not good enough, and that to be good you want to be excellent at what you do. It’s a fantastic idea except today most people in the marketplace are thinking the same.

          It’s hard to stand out in today’s market but I have a hack that could make you dangerous. There are hundreds of articles talking about why you need to upload blog posts regularly. But what if I told you that you can actually pick up 1-2 clients per blog post you create. Would this be of interest to you?

          And what if I then laid it out, step-by-step, thoroughly and as specifically as possible. What if all you had to do was to implement the process again and again whenever you needed more clients. This would very quickly create a list of businesses waiting to speak to you.

          I know this works because I’ve run this for a handful of my clients. One company in Sydney in particular achieved an account penetration by ten-folds using this approach.

          You can apply this in many different scenarios and foresee the outcome of your activities. When you do what you do -- whether that’s marketing, product expansion, sales, strategy meetings, client delivery, etc. – is it going to cause people to beat down your door for more? Or will it cause people to simply say “that was good.”

          For example, we can ask ourselves: “What needs to happen in order to publish one blog post and have a list of businesses waiting to speak to me?” And what would happen if you could find application for this again and again in the more critical parts of your business?

          Every activity has an innate DNA. Some are designed to produce average results, some negative, some are great and others are so revolutionary or meet the deepest need in the most practical way possible that it commands the attention of many people immediately. The speed of cut-through depends on a value equation.

          Is your activity designed with the DNA of additions or multiplication? For one speaking engagement, you get three more. What would you have to do for that to happen? Now you’re designing your business to multiply with each small act.

          This last insight, number 10, is one big thing that separated Apple from its competition. Here is a great video by Guy Kawasaki who worked with Steve Jobs.

          And also great wisdom from Steve Jobs himself.

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

          Main image photo by Flickr: meridican