Keeping it positive

“A positive attidude may not solve all your problems but it will annoy enought people to make it worth the effort.”

Herm Albright

People with negative attitudes are easily annoyed by people with postive additudes.  In today’s business it’s very easy to find the faults in our system and our government.

People with positive attitudes rarely seem annoyed by people with negative attitudes.  So lets try something different for today.  See if you can stay and say something positive to everyone you meet.  NO matter what the circumstances!

 

 

 

Finding a Sales Person Going Against the grain..

For many years people would ask me what makes a good sales person.  We’ve all attended those sales training classes.  I’ve probably sent 100’s of people to them.

I once asked the president of Catapiller, who at that time had produced it’s 60th consecutive quarter of dividends how to you find all these great people you speak of in your company.  “I find a person that when he sweats he does not think he is sick and stops working.”

All sales people are not the same, the good seem to have similiar character traits as Philip Broughton writes in the this weeks Harvard Review says it best.

No profession in business has a more complex reputation than sales. When we think of salespeople — from Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman to Donald Trump to Steve Jobs — all kinds of contradictory ideas and images jangle in our minds. They can be persuaders and bullies, seducers and rogues, dream-makers and charlatans. But without them, no business exists.

It’s not just salespeople who must sell. Entrepreneurs must persuade others of the value of an idea or company which has yet to take concrete form. CEOs must convince the board, markets, employees, and customers that what they are doing is valuable. Politicians, artists, and scientists all must sell themselves and their work in order to succeed.

Sales is the most human and richly nuanced aspect of business and yet, amazingly, is not even a required course at most business schools. MBA students are dutifully taught finance, strategy and operations as if revenue appeared by magic and salespeople were at best a necessary evil.

But as one great salesman told me, sales is the greatest laboratory there is for understanding human nature. So while reporting my book I set off on a trip to meet salespeople around the world, in different cultures and different fields of selling, to understand not only what they did, but also what went on in their minds as they did it.

I began my journey in a Moroccan souk, an ancient marketplace where people must look each other in the eye over a pile of goods and decide whether to buy or sell, without the cover of email or conference calls. Abdelmajid Rais El Fenni, one of the most successful carpet and rug traders in Tangiers, explained how he coped with the daily rejections and petty humiliations every salesman must face.

“You are like a beggar in sales, asking again and again all day,” he said. “The salesman should have loose robes. You never get upset. Of course, sometimes you have customers and you want to kill them. But you’re not allowed to.”

His ability to brush off the insults and press ahead, to have “loose robes”, enabled him to do what he really enjoyed, which was trading in beautiful objects with people he liked.

Anthony Sullivan, a television infomercial salesman based in Tampa, told me that trying to over-intellectualize selling was a surefire way to fail.

“I have people who work with me who know everything about sales, but they still couldn’t sell,” he said. “They don’t have what it takes. And then I’ve watched kids on YouTube who make fake infomercials and they’re getting millions of views.”

Sullivan has read numerous sales books and attended conferences, but says most provide no more than a brief sugar high. “They get you all fired up, but you fall back into your old ways pretty soon. When you get into a bar fight, you revert to what comes naturally — the old-fashioned tactics.” Your authentic self will always, eventually, come out.

Ashok Vemuri, the head of Americas at Infosys, the Indian business process outsourcing company, made a similar point. The more salespeople he has hired, he said, the less impressed he is with the stereotypes and training which dominate the sales industry. The rigid methods taught in most sales courses, he told me, are hopeless in the field. “It seems everyone has to be either Dirty Harry, or the girl on the beach in her bikini teasing people.” Instead, what he looks for are intelligence, curiosity and an agile mind. The chest-beating Alpha male of sales myth has no place in this universe. Rather, it is the low-ego character who regards client service as the highest goal who thrives. He is looking for people who can make others comfortable, who are are articulate, and who are able to deal with the unexpected.

“I’ve had salespeople with terrible accents, who don’t adhere to an acceptable Westernized dress code, and misspeak words, but they are terrific story-tellers,” he told me. “They relate their story to your problem and can combine experiences across functions and geographies. They cannot hold a great conversation with the CEO about wine, but they can talk specifically about technology.”

Everywhere I went, from Silicon Valley to the world of Japanese life insurance saleswomen, I heard the same story.

I found that what most companies and sales training programs think really matters in sales is wrong. When training salespeople, they tend to propose one of two things: A sales process with methods and tricks which can move you from prospecting to closing, or a set of behaviors and character traits supposedly typical of great salespeople and worth mimicking.

Neither approach gets to the most important predictor of sales success.

If salespeople think of what they do as at odds with who they are or what they want to achieve in life, they will fail. If they are comfortable with it, they will thrive. Nothing matters more in sales than how each salesperson perceives his or her role, and how the act of selling protects, inflates, or undermines his or her sense of self.

Yes, there are underlying traits in every good salesperson — notably optimism and tenacity — which lead to resilience in the face of the adversity. But beyond that, what enables a salesperson to succeed is that they’ve found a match between who they are and what they are being required to do.

Some people are wooers, compelled to win over everyone they meet in an instant. They do well in jobs where they must close a lot of transactions every day and where long-term trust is not important. Others prefer to build networks of deep relationships over time. They might prefer selling products or services with long sales cycles and repeated interactions with the same customer. Some salespeople will be coin-operated, motivated entirely by commission and competition with their peers. Others put a higher value on the friendships they develop in sales and the opportunity to work in a field they enjoy, selling products and services they believe in. Some love selling for the pure thrill of it. Others sell as the means to getting what they really want, whether it is popularity, financial security or creative freedom.

But the first step for anyone selling, managing, or hiring a sales force is to understand these dynamics between personality, self-perception, and role. Identify the conflicts so that selling feels as normal and natural as it should. Ignore them, and the cost — psychological, organizational and financial — will skyrocket later.

The GENERALIST …IS BACK!

According to Vikram Mansharamani, quoted below, in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

You need a couple or at least access to some generalists.  These are the critical thinkers who have the ability to use information and “see the big picture”  taking information from many sources and making sense of them.   Considering our recent history of specialized education.  This one is going to take some time to get a masters in ….”nothing” or “everything”.  It’s really more about experience.

We have become a society of specialists. Business thinkers point to “domain expertise” as an enduring source of advantage in today’s competitive environment. The logic is straightforward: learn more about your function, acquire “expert” status, and you’ll go further in your career.

But what if this approach is no longer valid? Corporations around the world have come to value expertise, and in so doing, have created a collection of individuals studying bark. There are many who have deeply studied its nooks, grooves, coloration, and texture. Few have developed the understanding that the bark is merely the outermost layer of a tree. Fewer still understand the tree is embedded in a forest.

Approximately 2,700 years ago, the Greek poet Aristarchus wrote that “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Isaiah Berlin’s 1953 essay “The Fox and the Hedgehog” contrasts hedgehogs that “relate everything to a single, central vision” with foxes who “pursue many ends connected…if at all, only in some de facto way.” It’s really a story of specialists vs. generalists.

In the six decades since Berlin’s essay was published, hedgehogs have come to dominate academia, medicine, finance, law, and many other professional domains. Specialists with deep expertise have ruled the roost, climbing to higher and higher positions. To advance in one’s career, it was most efficient to specialize.

For various reasons, though, the specialist era is waning. The future may belong to the generalist. Why’s that? To begin, our highly interconnected and global economy means that seemingly unrelated developments can affect each other. Consider the Miami condo market, which has rebounded quite nicely since 2008 on the back of strong demand from Latin American buyers. But perhaps a slowdown in China, which can take away the “bid” for certain industrial commodities, might adversely affect many of the Latin American extraction-based companies, countries, and economies. How many real estate professionals in Miami are closely watching Chinese economic developments?

Secondly, specialists toil within a singular tradition and apply formulaic solutions to situations that are rarely well-defined. This often results in intellectual acrobatics to justify one’s perspective in the face of conflicting data. Think about Alan Greenspan’s public admission of “finding a flaw” in his worldview. Academics and serious economists were dogmatically dedicated to the efficient market hypothesis — contributing to the inflation of an unprecedented credit bubble between 2001 and 2007.

Finally, there appears to be reasonable and robust data suggesting that generalists are better at navigating uncertainty. Professor Phillip Tetlock conducted a 20+ year study of 284 professional forecasters. He asked them to predict the probability of various occurrences both within and outside of their areas of expertise. Analysis of the 80,000+ forecasts found that experts are less accurate predictors than non-experts in their area of expertise. Tetlock’s conclusion: when seeking accuracy of predictions, it is better to turn to those like “Berlin’s prototypical fox, those who know many little things, draw from an eclectic array of traditions, and accept ambiguity and contradictions.” Ideological reliance on a single perspective appears detrimental to one’s ability to successfully navigate vague or poorly-defined situations (which are more prevalent today than ever before).

The future has always been uncertain, but our ability to navigate it has been impaired by an increasing focus on studying bark. The closer you are to the material, the more likely you are to believe it. In psychology jargon, you anchor on your own beliefs and insufficiently adjust from them. In more straightforward language, a man with a hammer is more likely to see nails than one without a hammer. Expertise means being closer to the bark, and less likely to see ways in which your perspective may warrant adjustment. In today’s uncertain environment, breadth of perspective trumps depth of knowledge.

The declining returns to expertise have implications at the national, company, and even individual level. A collection of specialists creates a less flexible labor force, one that requires “retraining” with technological developments creating constantly shifting human resource needs. In this regard, the recent emphasis in American education on “job-specific” skills is disturbing. Within a company, employees skilled in numerous functions are more valuable as management can dynamically adjust their roles. Many forward-looking companies are specifically mandating multi-functional experience as a requirement for career progress. Finally, individuals should manage their careers around obtaining a diversity of geographic and functional experiences. Professionals armed with the analytical capabilities (e.g. basic statistical skills, critical reasoning, etc.) developed via these experiences will fare particularly well when competing against others more focused on domain-specific skill development.

The time has come to acknowledge expertise as overvalued. There is no question that expertise and hedgehog logic are appropriate in certain domains (i.e. hard sciences), but they certainly appear less fitting for domains plagued with uncertainty, ambiguity, and poorly-defined dynamics (i.e. social sciences, business, etc.).

Your head on a swivel this summer???

According to the June 8 Kiplinger Letter..

Beware the surge in speed traps and police checkpoints this summer.

Highway patrols and police departments of all sizes will step up efforts to curb speeding and other traffic no-no’s by writing more tickets. Improving safety is the stated goal, of course.

But it’s no coincidence that the moves are coming as municipal, county and state revenues continue to suffer in the weak economy.

Don’t count anymore on the cops spotting you five to 10 miles over the limit.

 

A point in every direction is like no point at all!

What are you doing well?

Do you have an on going plan your measuring?

Where to do make your most profit?

Know your business!  Then really compete!

“Within two years after becoming chief executive of General Electric in 1981, Jack Welch completed one of his most far-reaching initiatives: reducing the number of GE business units from about 150 to 15. In effect, Welch set out to focus the company on the businesses where it had the potential for greatness, and to jettison everything else. That was the point of his famous requirement that every business had to be No. 1 or No. 2 in its market; he also insisted that every business provide value no competitor could match, and that they all should be able to gain leverage from GE’s distinctive strength in complex, engineering-intensive industrial enterprises — or they wouldn’t fit. Welch articulated both what GE did well, and what it would not do at all: a critical challenge for all large companies, especially conglomerates.”

from HBR artical by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi

Don’t Make Decisions Based on Sunk Costs

Adapted from Harvard Business Review on Making Smart Decisions

It’s tempting to make choices that justify past choices. For example, you may refuse to end a suffering project because of the time and effort already put into it. But these sunk costs are in the past. Here are three ways to make decisions that focus on the future:
•Get a second opinion. Listen carefully to people who were uninvolved with earlier decisions and unlikely to be as committed to them.
•Be easy on yourself. Even the best managers make mistakes and it’s okay to reverse a previous decision.
•Don’t encourage a fear of failure. When evaluating decisions, look at the quality of the process, not just the outcomes.

Loosing your focus can leave a mark!

A study of car accidents by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute put cameras in cars to see what happens right before an accident. They found that in 80% of crashes the driver was distracted during the three seconds preceding the incident. In other words, they lost focus — dialed their cell phones, changed the station on the radio, took a bite of a sandwich, maybe checked a text — and didn’t notice that something changed in the world around them. Then they crashed.

This does not just apply when driving… This happens in your personal and business life too!  Stay focused!

 

Recognition Resonates!!

According to a recent article in the HBR. by Sylvia Ann Hewlett president of the Center for Talent Innovation

Thirty-five percent of workers and 30% of chief financial officers in an Accountemps poll cited frequent recognition of accomplishments as the most effective nonmonetary reward. Thanking people for their hard work and commitment is the key to making them feel appreciated.

“Because few people expect much in the way of reward these days, a small but personalized thank-you can have a big impact,” says Steve Richardson, founder of Diverse Outcomes and former chief talent officer for American Express. “Even when I send a recognition note to a big group or team, I try to add a personalized paragraph in each person’s email, so it’s highly tailored to the individual.”

Public recognition is also a powerful tool that doesn’t cost money but can reap a huge return. Writing about an individual or a team on the company’s intranet or showcasing their accomplishments at a town hall meeting can have a big impact.

A senior executive spending personal time with an employee is another popular reward. “Being taken to lunch or breakfast by the boss once in a while not only shows appreciation but interest,” says one CTI interviewee.

Just be sure not to devalue your appreciation with over-enthusiasm. A thank-you makes the biggest impact if it is heartfelt, not just a token.

Taking dividends in leiu of salary can be a tax saver.

According to Kiplinger Tax Newsletter:

Taking dividends in lieu of salary can be a net tax saver if the corporation is in a low tax bracket and the owner is in a high bracket. The owner’s tax savings due to the 15% top rate on dividends plus the payroll tax savings on the dividend can exceed the extra tax the corporation pays because the dividend isn’t deductible.

But this doesn’t work for personal service corporations…such as the accounting firm in this case…because they are required to pay tax on their income at a flat 35% rate.

Paying yourself a consulting fee does not work for the IRS

A firm’s payment of consulting fees to its owners is a nondeductible dividend, an Appeals Court says. An accounting firm that was set up as a regular corporation paid its owners modest salaries and still had substantial profits left over at year-end.

To cut its tax bill, the firm paid most of its net income to them as consulting fees.

But in the Court’s view, the distributions are really dividends because the payments weren’t for the owners’ services (Mulcahy, Pauritsch, Salvador & Co., 7th Cir.).

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