Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Rose By Any Other Name

There's a fine line between organic fertilizer and a big steaming turd, its all in the packaging.

Most sales professionals have honed a sense of "packaging" information in a way where it can be easily consumed by the target audience.

For example, instead of "you are going to have to upgrade all of your servers to run the new version" we will typically relay this information in a manner close to "with the power and robustness of the new release, its understandable that the hardware specs have been upgraded".

The old, bad joke goes a sales rep tried this in his relationships. Instead of "I'm having an affair with the secretary", he informed his wife that "he would no longer be making any more sexual demands of her" to which she replied "Thank you dear, that's very sweet".

"Jim" was one of our chief software gurus. I don't remember the pecking order of our developer food chain, but he was pretty high up there. "Pamela" was our head strong, hard charging, take-no-prisoners, SVP of Sales. From the moment they exited the respective wombs, it was written that these two would clash.

One thing I can say about Yankees, my affectionate term for anyone who lives North of Macon, Ga, is that they can party. Every time my Yankee-laden company would have a sales meeting the pattern was always the same; a lot of really boring, borderline unproductive meetings, followed by a great steak at some overpriced restaurant that at some point in its history made one of those lists than you see in airplane magazines, and booze, a lot of booze.

After dinner, as it was custom, our band of semi-intoxicated castaways, would find the nearest bar and spend the rest of the evening in our version of a team building exercises, aka, more booze and golden tee.

Earlier in the day, a long simmering feud among Pamela and Jim finally came to a head. There was shouting, screaming, and the slamming of doors, etc. Which, if you are dude, the worst thing you can ever do is that whole slam the door thing, very wussie-ish.

So some 10 hours later, we learned that the feud was not resolved, and that Pam and Jim were starting to ease back into their verbal boxing gloves. We were standing/sitting in a semi-circle and you could feel the tension.

As the first round of the rematch was set to begin, I was standing next to Jim when he burps. A little burp, nothing too loud. But his reply to the burp was an "oh boy, that's not good". You veterans know where this is going.

The next thing that happens, was one of those things that you can see in slow motion as it happens.

Pam was famous for her fashion sense. Love her, Hate her, the woman knows how to dress well. At the time, the over priced handbag of choice was about the size of a small Samsonite and Pam's was laying on the floor, wide open, like a receptacle.

Back to the slow motion thing, so Jim burps, realizes whats coming and stands up and in probably the most graceful of motions projects the contents of his stomach into the air in a fine rainbow arc. Visualize a water balloon rupturing in mid-flight, but only with puke, in a club. It seems to hang in the air forever, slowing wafting onto those who were unfortunate in their seating locations. Im not sure but I think the hit count topped seven.

For all of his brilliance, Jim was equally proud and humble and naturally was horribly embarrassed at his accident and made a quick retreat. In his haste however he failed to notice what gift that physics had brought.

The next morning, after discussing the evenings events with select members of our team, and receiving a little coaching, Jim's explanation of the evening to the curious masses went something close to this "Pam and I had a fight. She kept on disagreeing with me, so I puked in her purse. That's how the JDog rolls. End of story."

The curious masses were satisfied. Jim's "street cred" increased. And Pam had the opportunity to upgrade her "everyday" purse.

Its all in the packaging.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Top Ten Signs Your Sales Rep is About to Leave

  • During sales demo, explains that, while not proven, he suspects that your new product has proven to cause global warming

  • Shows up to work, exceedingly happy, like a lifer whose just been given parole

  • During cold calls, refers to your cutting edge solution as "that crap we sell"

  • On casual fridays, shows up wearing " Job Fair - Fall 2007" T-Shirt

  • Instead of the customary "hey", greets everyone with a hug and the instructions "come with me if you want to live"

  • Asks for assistance in downloading sales database to his jumpdrive. The new one, emblazzened with your competitor's logo.

  • Chats up the boss by asking if ever noticed that his (the boss') Porsche boxter is more of a chick's car

  • His linkedin profile has more personal detail than his DNA

  • His last expense reports include items ranging from "Mileage" to "War in Iraq".

From the "Karma is a Booger" Files

Something About Mary

"Mary" was new to our sales team. Being a part of our virtual team, she worked from her home-base in the Mid West. As we all know, being the "new guy/girl" on the team is always awkward and we tried our best to make her feel welcomed.

Mary missed several of our weekly pipeline review sessions. Since this was the primary opportunity to interact with the rest of the team, and to show her progress on her deals, we were concerned.

I called Mary one day to get a "temp" check and to make sure she was going to make our next session. Mary was always enthusiastic when I called. We exchanged pleasantries, and then I asked if she was going to join us in our next pipeline review.

Mary shared that while she would love to join us, she was unfortunately not going to be able to make it because she had to go to court to keep our streets safe.

Mary shared with me the following vignette:

While she was returning from a downtown meeting, she grabs a cab. The cabbie, not realizing she was a local, begins to give her the "scenic tour" in order to run up the fare. When she confronts the cabbie, he evidently goes berserk and refuses to let her out of the cab. He then proceeds to floor it and is weaving in and out of downtown traffic at speeds ranging from 60 to 100mph.

Finally, after 40 minutes of her constant screaming he stops and dumps her in the ghetto and she had to use a payphone to get home.

A few days later the police caught the guy. He had pulled this stunt numerous times, and it was up to Mary to go to court and testify against him before he killed someone. God Bless Mary.

So I clearly understood why Mary would miss another weekly meeting. I wished her well, thanked her for her courage.

Yes, I am that gullible.

"So, did you hear about Mary's DUI?" came the off hours comment from one of my sales engineers.

It seems that Mary was going to court alright. She had gotten wasted at a party, was too drunk to drive home, did it anyway, and got caught.

What about Karma?

At some point in your career, someone will need to stand up for you. Either as an internal vote of confidence for a promotion, or in Mary's case, someone to help you hold onto your job. When that time came for Mary, that well was dry.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Perceived Death as a Negotiation Tactic

This one is from a linkedin connection.

After training some great new sales people, I finished the course off with some reminders on the reasons people can employ NOT to buy - and in view of their inexperience, asked them to just use their first couple of presentations as 'target practice' and carry on with a full presentation if at all possible.

One of the trainees (a slightly built Norwegian lady) gave her first presentation perfectly, kept the price to the very end and delivered it perfectly too. The gentleman chose this moment to have a fit. Not throw a temper - a proper medical condition, falling from his chair and going into spasms on the floor.

I saw this going on and immediately went over to help. The guy was on the floor, foaming from the mouth and in need of urgent help. My trusty trainee unfortunately saw this as his reason to leave her presentation, leant over his body shouting, "SO, JUST HOW MUCH TOO MUCH IS THE DEPOSIT?" The young lady went on to be a super salesperson - but did learn to chill out a little from that point........

By the way, we did get a doctor on the scene, the man was OK after some insulin and a rest :-)

- John P.

"Nice Shoes" is not sexual harassment

When people think of the topic of sexual harassment, they usually think in extremes, because "extremes" are newsworthy. We hear about workers who suffered prolonged humiliation, loss of dignity, and sabotaged careers under the oppression of a manager with carnal motives. On the flip side, we've heard of the frivolous lawsuits because an individual felt that "Your Shoes Look Nice" was some sort of secret code for "Let's go back to my place and play naked twister".

Lets be honest, try as we might, guys have a different view on sexual harassment. The odds are extremely low that it will ever happen to us. In fact, in the movie "Disclosure" where Demi Moore is throwing herself at a married Michael Douglas, and he stops her in mid-foreplay. Every guy is like "DUDE, NOOOOO!!!!". Yeah, most guys are really like that.

With my computer programmer physique, I have never been a candidate as a potential sexual harassment victim. However, one of my female associates shared her experience with me. Ill be honest, I didn't think this kind of stuff went on anymore. After she shared her story, I realized that my experience with mandatory "sensitivity training" had actually desensitized me to how powerful and destructive sexual harassment can be.

"During my tenure with a mid-sized professional services firm, I used to be given 'advice' from the CEO's secretary on what to wear to certain meetings. Depending on the location, purpose, and the number of existing or potential clients, some meetings required a little more exposed skin than others. One of my female colleagues, who used to travel with the big bosses, was asked to join the CEO, President, and a prospective client in a hot tub in her bikini. When I asked about what transpired beyond the hot tub and champagne the only feedback I received was "we landed the deal". Later I accompanied the CEO on a business trip to South Beach. Even though I was married, with a small child, the CEO kept flirting with me and repeatedly requested that I show him my underwear. I felt so disgusted that it permanently affected how I felt about the company, my job, and myself.