January 28, 2010
Here's a revenue forecasting tip for small business owners, freelancers or sales managers at any company: Never take points off the board.
This is a sports phrase used to describe points that are errantly posted on the score board, only to be nullified by a penalty or review. It's really painful in sports and business alike.
All to often, we forecast revenue based on handshakes (both digital and real.) When we hear "yes," we book the revenue and update our progress. I call it "the money dance." We put things into our schedules in permanent ink.
Rarely, something goes wrong between the hand shake and signed contract. The deal unravels, you grovel to save it and later declare it dead. When you do, you have a fiscal funeral in your mind and the mood at work is gloomy. Sound familiar?
Frequently, taking money out of your forecast can put you into a panic - wondering how you'll replace the revenue that you've already spent. It's highly distracting when a counted deal falls through. On the other hand, when we treat an informal yes as a hot prospect, we don't count those chickens yet. We keep on looking for more prospects to turn hot, just in case one of our hots doesn't close. We are not wed to the deal. It's a different mentality than when we book it as solid.
Here's the takeaway: Never count revenue when you don't have a signed deal unless you have a long history with that client and their green light is gold. Never report a sale up or down the organization just because you've been given an oral/email green light from the light. Delay gratification.
For many of you, this is much harder than you think. You feel the pressure of the last eighteen months and you need to report that goals are being met and the turnaround is afoot. Every hot call gives you a chance to report it uphill and take a deep breath, enjoy at least half of Sunday. Listen to me: It's ten times easier to ask the boss or market for some time as it is to ask forgiveness because you can't tell the difference between a deal and a hot lead!
January 27, 2010
(Photo by Lesley Bohm)
I believe that book readers are better leaders.
A few years ago, in a trade magazine, I read the result of a poll of a few thousand business folk from small biz to corporate enterprise. The average person read about one business or self-help book a year. On the other hand, the average senior executive read over six books a year. I'm not surprised because I've known many executives that were passionate about being well read and not just by USA Today, CNBC and various web sites. Book readers are committed to personal and professional growth.
Remember, the role of the leader (according to Napoleon) is to define reality, then give hope. If you commit yourself to read a good book every month, you'll keep you head in between reality and hope. If you, instead, fill your head with noise, fast food media, shock media and biz-gossip, you'll swing to an extreme and start to lose followers and influence.
Read in these three areas for real growth: Rah (Inspiration, Motivation, Power), How (How to accomplish things from personal to business, including business/company stories.) and Next (what the future holds, and what that means to you and your business ecosystem). Each year, read at least four books in each category and you'll find yourself confidence, eager to share and very balanced in your leadership approach.
January 26, 2010
A ripple is a phrase used in the Timberland culture to describe how a single act of compassion can inspire others and lead to a chain reaction of good. (watch The Timberland Story) We all want to be part of something big, making a difference by setting powerful examples.
In the last few weeks, actors to toddlers have mobilized to create a ripple of giving to Haiti. From George Clooney to Sandra Bullock, we've seen actors give hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money - often challenging us to reciprocate by texting $10 from our wealth pile. Today, a UK lad has leveraged a bike-a-thon into media coverage and a viral web sensation which raised over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for Haiti.
Many of us lend our social media status to Haiti, or create events or spamaround to do the same. All of us want to create a ripple to address a crisis - whether it's in Haiti or our own back yard. It's really not just random that single acts of compassion inspire others to follow - certain social/psychological rules of rippling are being followed and here they are:
1. Credibility - There is a real problem to address. The messenger is sincere in his/her admonishment of others to do something about it. Unless they are famous, they have a weak tie to their target audience they are pitching. The money is going to a credible place (example: Red Cross) and no one gains from it other than the victims or those in need.
2. Convenience - This is the key. It needs to be easy and quick for people to pitch in. The recent "text Haiti to 90999 raises the bar on ease of giving. It is a charity meme that's converted well wishers into tens of millions of relief dollars. Think about how EZ this is: You text a single word to five digits. You get a reply asking to confirm, you say yes. That's it. Shows up on your next phone bill (no login, password, etc.) Works on even the slowest wireless phones. Even in the case of the UK lad, he had a website, otherwise you'd have to mail or visit him - and that would kill the ripple effect quickly.
3. Urgency - This is the final key. You need to communicate the urgency of giving now, and not later. If you can paint a picture of the suffering that continues each day without help, you can get people to move from sympathy to action. In the past, I've seen urgency displayed with a countup clock, showing how many people suffer/die/become infected with each passing minute. If you are trying to create a ripple for community action or the environment, you must demonstrate that the #1 enemy is time and you must ask this very important question of your target giving market: If not you, then who? If not right now, then when?
If you follow these rules, you can change the world. The Law of Contagious Compassion is the "Secret" for unleashing charity and love in others.
January 25, 2010
Whether you want to be successful on Twitter or in the real world as a leader, the key is simple:
Commit yourself to solving problems, anticipating needs, growing everyone you spend time with and finding opportunities to share your wealth (both intangibles and tangibles). If you are helpful, you'll find that the Law of Reciprocity will kick in -- and people will outgive you exponentially over time.
Being helpful will also assist you in obeying rule #1: Feed Your Mind Good Stuff. Take mentorship, for example. You spend time learning and synthesizing information to have a strategic mind. You then share this wisdom with someone who is coming up or needs this edge. If you've picked your mentee correctly, they execute on your ideas and information and it changes his or her life. They are incredibly grateful and search for ways to show you - and the positive feedback makes making a difference addictive to you.
When I first got on Twitter and Facebook, I asked a seasoned veteran for some advice and his answer perplexed me: "The internet rewards what the internet likes," he told me. In other words, instead of trying to use social media as a marketing platform, he schooled me to use it as a make a difference platform where it was very easy for people to give back or pay it forward. It's worked too. When I spend my effort trying to 'be helpful' on social media, my following grows.
As I travel the world, I meet people almost every day that follow one of my social media platforms, and they tell me about how my advice is helping them - and that's why I continue to devote time and energy to writing and RT'ing helpful content. In fact, I'm addicted to it.
This whole notion reminds me of something that Dale Carnegie wrote and later shared with his Great Depression era YMCA classes on speaking and leading: "You will accomplish more developing a sincere interest in people than you'll accomplish trying to get people interested in you."
By the way, no matter who you are, you can be helpful too. Tune into the world around you, and spot places where you can add or multiply value. Capture these opportunities like you capture financial opportunities. At any level of a company, being helpful will get you noticed and put you into a positive feedback loop over time.
January 15, 2010
I take special assignments from companies that want to leverage my expertise to address business challenges. Recently, I've been preparing for an engagement with a leading technology company. I'll talk to account executives about how to talk/sell/connect with business decision makers.
For years, most technology sales executives dealt with technologists such as Director of IT, the CTO or the CIO (for customer relationship management). The conversation centered about pre-existing budgets, requirements, reliability, price and total cost of ownership. Features led the conversation and geek speak was a plenty.
At the end of the day, however, the business decision makers either funded or rejected any tech investment. As the economy got worse, this became even more pronounced as incremental spending was scrutinized for short term business results. Some companies sell directly to the business lines (VP Sales, VP Marketing, VP Operations) and when they do, they dramatically speed up the pitch-to-deal cycle. Most companies wait for an internal "tech sponsor" to introduce them to business decision makers. When the tech sales person talks to the business person, the conversation changes from features to benefits and from tech capabilities to financial realities.
In a few weeks, I'll post some video clips or real world business decision makers talking about how they like to be sold technology -- and what turns them on/off. If you sell any type of technology from software to hardware to services, stay tuned to this (RSS). In the meantime, let me give you a few suggestions:
1. Research how the company makes money before the first presentation. The more you understand about the business model, the quicker you'll dial in to the save money/make money opportunities that drive business decisions and budgeting.
2. Don't start out by presenting your product's capabilities. Start out by asking questions about current task challenges, business process inefficiencies and corporate initiatives. Later, when you present your slide show, you'll be able to "translate" on the fly - connecting dollars to features.
3. Talk their talk. If a VP of Sales at an apparel company is in your audience, talk about how many "doors" they have to manage (retail stores that carry the product) and how your product can help. If they are a manufacturing executive, talk about the supply chain and use correct speak (Costo doesn't say vendors, they say partners, for example). Every time you meet with them, let them know you are listening by adopting their jargon.
4. Leave your jargon at the door. When talking to a business decision maker, unless they are a known geek, don't use any terminology and your lawyer or accountant wouldn't understand.
At Yahoo, this was my specialty. I spent years working on this system, and even produced a funny parody video of 50 Cent's hit "Wanksta" for the 2003 Yahoo sales conference to illustrate the importance of learning the prospect's space and talking their language. It made the difference between presentations and closed deals.
January 12, 2010
From my training program, The Dirty Dozen Rules Of Email Etiquette, here's Rule #3 -- Stamp Out Reply To All. This is a huge problem for many of us working in mid to large companies.
Watch this video clip and find out why Reply To All must be dealt with and how to convince others to stop using it all the time. VIDEO: Rule #3 Stamp Out Reply To All
January 11, 2010The mobile phone has not helped the quality of calls we make. In fact, mobile phone conversations are usually pretty lame: choppy, distracted, banal and often interrupted. When someone calls me, and they are ordering a burger as they talk to me, it is not a very good experience. Over the last year or so, I’ve decided to stop making important calls on the run. When I want to give good phone, I shut down my laptop, spend a few minutes collecting my thoughts…then I call someone on my phone and totally concentrate on that call. The results? Much more gets accomplished and the listener can sense your attention and respect for them. I know we are all busy, and feel like travel time is perfect phone time – but it is not. Working on time management may do more for you than cramming phone calls into driving, shopping or some other mobile activities. I believe that the quality of our conversations determines the quality of our relationships and business life. They provide the nutrition that feeds both. So why would you eat ‘fast phone’?
January 08, 2010
For the last five or six years, the burning question I get is "how did Google pass Yahoo?"
It's not my favorite discussion, but in the spirit of abundance, I've pontificated. Initially, I thought it was the result of a breakthrough search algorithm (Page Rank). But that wouldn't have sustained them up until today. Next, I concluded that it was leadership and management style (read Peanut Butter Manifesto).
However, after watching a recent CNBC Special (Inside Google), I finally realized how they rose to the top -- and will likely stay there for a long time. They are focused on the cloud based services: stocking it, mining it, providing access to it, generating value from it. Their main competitors like Yahoo have been focused on content (Bill Gates wrote an article in 1996, Content Is King, that dominated the leadership vision of Web 1.0 and permeated Yahoo speak for years.)
The "Content Is King" mantra may have been right for the mid-90's, but today with over fifty percent of online advertising (against content) still unsold, it makes you wonder. Yahoo's main acquisitions, with the exception of Overture, were content related: Broadcast.com (audio/video), Geocities (user), Launch (music) and so on. Meanwhile, Google worked on making the cloud's database more useful to users who needed to buy things or hire companies (search). They scanned hundreds of thousands of books, not just for content, but to improve the cloud's research capabilities. They invested in satellite based maps to dramatically improve the cloud's ability to compete with Mapsco's and the like (remember how bad Mapquest was?).
As Yahoo experimented with a CNBC type show (Finance Vision) and a variety of others (Entertainment, Business, etc.), Google worked on getting our favorites apps out of the software realm and into the cloud. Services like Google docs are "software as services" and only require bandwidth to access and use.
Finally, consider the issue of wireless phones. Yahoo's approach was to aggregate content for the phone and provide a thin layer of services. Google went all in and developed Android, an operating system for the phone that elevated the competition beyond dotcoms -- to Motorola and Apple!
I can't say for sure, but I'm willing to bet that certain Google executives have read and digested the book Customer Capitalism (a classic from the early 2000's). This book suggested that to win tough business battles, you need to surround the customer with services that solve all of their problems and leave no value gaps. While Yahoo, AOL and MSN thought wide, Google went deep. Combined with management and the reality that paid search is the biggest win/win in online advertising, the whole picture makes more sense to me now.
Recent articles seem to support my view that content is no longer king, it's likely queen or maybe a duke (Content As Pauper). For entrepreneurs watching from the sideline, make sure your strategy keys in on the issue of web based services and not just content to watch/read or listen to.
January 04, 2010
Many of you just started following this blog, others have been with me since 2007. You may or may not catch every single posting, so I've reviewed the last year to come up with the dozen most talked about postings on Sanders Says. I look at retweets, Digg submissions, comments and my stats reports for incoming links. If you haven't read or commented on these dozen top posts, please do.
Top Sanders Says Posts Of 2009: