Predictions sure to go wrong.

August 27, 2010

I love to get to the end of a sports season like baseball or football and review what the experts predicted as far as winners of titles and awards would be and see how desperately wrong they always seem to be.

Back in December of 2009 I sent out a survey to take a look at predictions on something that has been near to my heart, the economy and what the future was about to bring.  While we are not done with the year yet and there is still time for things to change, I wondered where the predictions showed up compared to current reality.

Question #1: Compared to 2009 will 2010 sales for your company.  46% said increase and 35% said decrease.  It is hard to say with 1/3 of the year left but judging from the up and down financial news I think that is a pretty accurate prediction.

Question #2: In 2010 will your income 46% said it would increase and 42% said it would decrease.  I know mine had to increase but then again, it really could not have gotten much lower.

Question #3: Whether or not you control it, will your company’s marketing budget 48% said it would be about the same, 28% said increase and 16% said decrease.  I am a sales person trying to get some of that marketing budget, and as such I am sure I am always told the truth about budgets, that being the case this one is dead wrong.  All budgets have been cut or completely eliminated just like the printing, food and water or whatever else it is I sell and” besides even if I were to have any money to spend on whatever it is you are selling the owners neighbor’s brother’s pet poodle has the best price and superior service to anything that anyone in the whole world has to offer”….yeah, like I said I am a sales person trying to get a piece of the budget.

Question #4: The recession 81% said it is going strong, 11% said the worst is yet to come.  Yikes! Not much hope of disproving this one.

Questions #5: When did the current economic downturn begin? 40% said 2007, 40% said 2008 and the rest said 2006.  I have actually thought that this is a continued downturn that started in the early 2000’s maybe even coinciding with a certain date in September of 2001.

Question #6: In Chicago sports, which is most likely: 54% said the Blackhawks would win the Stanly Cup how about that?  4% said the Bulls would make the playoffs, 11.5% said the White Sox would win the World Series and 11.5% said the Cubs would win the World Series.  As you know 2 of these happened, one cannot happen and with apologies to the handful of Sox fans that are not jerks I hope the last one does not happen

Predictions sure to go wrong.

Finally, for those who follow baseball there has been a recent comparison of Steven Strasburg to Mark Prior.  Not a good comparison at all.  Mark Prior needs to be compared to Mark “the Bird” Fidrych.  Strasburg will be fine and go on to have a very long and good career after he recovers from his elbow surgery.  There, another prediction.

Plan for the call, hit it hard and see what happens.


And these things shall be added on to you….

August 20, 2010

It is kind of odd when certain memories come back.  But as I found myself pondering what else I can do to reach more prospects and get more business I thought there is little end to how much time and effort you can put into business, especially in a down economy.  You can drive yourself nuts!

But at what price?

Which brought on the memory of several years ago when I really thought I wanted to be a General Sales Manager for a suburban Chicago radio station.  I was young and my wife and I were just starting our family.  I had been at this radio station selling radio advertising successfully for a few years when I found myself “moving up the ladder” because the people in front of me kept getting caught with their hand in the till.

One such person was Tom who had been billing fake numbers to make the sales numbers look good and then actually paying for the bills out of his own pocket.  When he was let go, I was next in line.  I really wanted the power and “prestige” and the money that I thought went with the position so I tried to become the next General Sales Manager.

It was mid-September and I sat in the owner’s office talking about things and being a good little ‘yes man’ that I thought it took to succeed when he said something that astounded me.  I had said I needed to be at my daughter’s first birthday party, but he said to be a success in business you sometimes have to miss those little events because you are taking care of business.  “And” he said, “when they get older, they never remember you weren’t there.”  I thought, “yea, but I will remember.”

I did not last as the General Sales Manager there, I don’t think I stayed there more than a year and a half after that.  In fact, I thought I would get out sales altogether after my experiences there.   But, as is so often the case in life it is the rest of the story that gets interesting.

That daughter of mine whose first birthday party I did not miss was the first daughter I got to walk down the aisle.  And she is the mother to my first two grandsons, one of which refers to me as his “friend grandpa.”  She got married in the Spring of 2005.

That boss who told me the kids never remember if you miss those little events?  His adult son took his own life two months before my daughter’s wedding.

I am by no means the perfect parent.  I am not a great success in business, either.  But I think a life in balance is very important.

So plan the call, hit it hard and see what happens….. but at the end of the day, go home.  Your work there is every bit as important.

Is There a Recovery going on?

August 6, 2010

Recently I had reason to wonder why my sales numbers are not better than they are.  Actually, that happens every month when commissions are paid out.

As I hear the news I am told things are better and in fact I have heard the VP Biden has declared this “the summer of recovery.”

But then there are the sales number.

So I decided to ask others in the form of a survey.  The question was: From what you and your business are experiencing, is the US economy in recovery?

The question may show bias on my part simply by being asked and I felt I had a good idea what the results would be.  It is far from scientific since I don’t have a cross-section of the population polled, but the results actually shocked me.

71.9% said no.

Let’s see if I am able to show that graphically.

Recovery Graph

Honestly, while I am sure no “recovery” has begun, I do have a sense the worst is behind us.

Just in case you have not taken the survey and want to weigh in I have left the survey open here and should the numbers change drastically I will let you know. (Psst, I don’t think they will change drastically.)

Also, I did not leave a place in the survey for comments so please feel free to leave them in the comments section of the blog.

Until next time:  Plan for the call, hit it hard and see what happens!

Lazy Hazy Crazy Fridays of Summer

July 30, 2010

It is a sleepy Friday afternoon in the home office today.  As I leave voice mail after voice mail and watch as nothing seems to be hitting my inbox I wonder if the rest of the world has taken the last business day of the week and the month off.

So to pass the time I sent a quick little email out to 170 contacts of mine asking them to take a little survey.  Of the 170 about 10 bounced and one asked me to take them off my list, clearly I needed to clean up my list a bit (giving me something to do on this afternoon).  Surely some deliveries were nabbed by spam filters.

But I also got 13 automated out of office responses.  This serves as affirmation, indeed the rest of the world seems to have taken the last day of the week and last business day of the month off.

BTW if you care to take the survey it is just one question and it is right here

It’s not my dog!

July 20, 2010

Wow things are a bit dusty around here.  The economy has knocked me for a loop, as it has many others.  That being said I have not been here because I have been busy trying to make ends meet.

So this morning I headed out on a morning run.  About a mile into it a dog, I think actually a German Shepherd puppy, came loping up to me from out of ….I don’t know where.  Being a little defensless and not knowing if this dog was friendly or not I tried to shoo it away or make it stay or generally keep it from attacking me.  No attacks came and shooing and staying did not work either.  So this morning I had company for a portion of my morning run.

As I made the turn and headed back towards home, along with the dog, I had made the decision that if this canine did not find another hobby by the time I passed the police station I would see if some of DeKalb’s finest could help me coral this unwanted companion.

Now this is just such an odd situation.  I have never had a dog, never intend to own a dog and in fact I really do not care for dogs.  But as I ran along with this little companion I thought people would see me and think this is my dog and how “cute” it is that we were out for a run together.  No feelings really came with the thought, just an annoyance that this dog without a collar or tags and slipped it’s leash and was intruding on my solitude.

The road back home passes the local high school.  I think this is the time of year that cross country runners start coming to the school for early morning practice which would explain why I and this four legged intruder of mine, noticed some kids running along the building across the highway from where we were slowly making our way.  Unlike me,  a dog thinks children running is great fun.  And unlike me, this puppy on the loose decided it would be a good idea to go see what those children were up to.  Unfortunately, also unlike me, this little fella’ did not make it to it’s earthly home today.  Instead my uninvited guest timed his crossing of the highway incorrectly and hit the rear wheel of a pick up truck going 40 mph.

Another car slowed, stopped in a drive way and headed back to the animal that was now lifeless in the road.  I thought for a while they would pick up the dog’s body, bring it to me in the car and chastise me for letting my dog die in the road like that.  To which I would have only said It’s not my dog.

That did not happen.  I don’t know what that person did with the dog.  I do know that somewhere tonight there is a family that is very sad because a puppy they loved got off it’s leash and never came back.

On my cool down walk around my home block I was met by my neighbors Shitsu, who sniffed my leg and then went back to it’s owner.

The irony.

The Super Bowl the most watched TV Show

February 9, 2010

Amidst all the pondering of why the 2010 Super Bowl was the most watched TV show ever has been the much missed, but most likely reason why.

This year’s Super Bowl was a time for a nation of people suffering from economic strain to gather around an entertaining event FOR LITTLE or NO MONEY. So it was kind of the perfect storm for the NFL and the network that broadcast it.

This is not dissimilar to the economic conditions of 1983 and the perfect storm that came along for the final episode of M*A*S*H, which, as we all know by now, was the most watch television show in history, until February 7, 2010

Four Questions

January 15, 2010

I get excited about the possibilities each new year brings.  It is like there is a clean slate given to me every January 1.

As we begin the new year I thought I would share the 4 king questions that help set the course for goals and give direction every year.  These are the four questions I like my clients to answer for me as I begin consulting with them.  I hope you find them thought-provoking and inspiring at the same time.

  1. What are the three best things that can happen to your career/business in the next 12 months?
  2. What are the three worst things that can happen to your career/business in the next 12 months?
  3. Considering the answers to questions 1 and 2, what steps are you going to take to make sure that the best does happen and the worst does not happen?
  4. What one thing do you want to accomplish for your business or in your career this year that will make you feel that above all else this was a successful year?

Prepare for the call, hit it hard and see what happens!

Cold calling anyone

January 15, 2010

Cold calling.  It’s got to be the least liked aspect of sales both from the sales person’s and the prospect’s perspective.

Cold calling how we hate thee, let me count (some of) the ways.

1. It is the ultimate in the now out-of-fashion interruption marketing.  No prospect is just sitting around waiting for a sales person to call.  And if they are they are not a prospect at all.

2. It’s embarrassing!  Nothing can compare to the embarrassment felt by a sales rep that walks into a lobby full of employees and asks for an important decision maker while the employees laugh and sneer at them. ( They probably aren’t really doing that but it sure seems like it)

3. It is unproductive.  Recent research has shown that less than 2% of cold calls have even resulted in the opportunity to quote.

Okay that is enough counting about hatred.

Here is a problem: There really is no substitute for it. I suppose if you have endless evening hours and resources you could network your way to overcoming cold calling.  If you are well-connected enough you could get referrals enough to replace it. (Yes, I know that is the ultimate, but if you were that well-connected you probably don’t need to be in sales and until you have satisfied customers to provide referrals, where do they come from?)  And I have made plenty of phone calls and thought I had a qualified prospect only to one day see their place of business and realize they look and sound bigger than they are.  (Yes, I know you cannot always judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to quality business, sometimes you can.)

So what can make this painful thing less painful and more productive.  Here are some ways:

1)  Do your research.  Most sales people know very early on who are good quality customers for them and these quality customers need to be the focus.  Check out Reference USA, it is free on-line if you have a library from your local public library.  This resource gives you excellent information on key players at the company how much they sell and what they sell.  Armed with that information you stand a better chance getting somewhere on your call if you say: “I think I need to speak with ________________”  Plus if you have annual sales information you have a decent idea of whether this is a sizable enough company.

2) See who you know in the company on LinkedIn, Facebook or any other social media of your choice.

3) Have something to give away.  It may be just a pen or note pad or something, but if you are armed with a “gift” and your research shows you need to speak to “Harry”, you stand a better chance if you say: “I have something for Harry.”

4) Face reality, the utopia of cold calls is when you have the right person sitting there waiting for you and they want what you sell….today.  Since that never happens accept the idea that you may end up with a name, that person’s card and you will have to call back another time.

So much for any pearls of wisdom on cold calling.

Prepare for the call, hit it hard and who knows what can happen?

How the Grinch tried to steal Christmas, again

December 23, 2009

As Christmas is here I thought I would share with you a story of how the Grinch once again tried to steal Christmas.

I think for many of us the Grinch of 2009 has been slower business and the resulting lower income.  As I heard one business owner describe it “flat is the new up!”  I certainly hope the Grinch is no where in sight a year from now.

This is a true  story of how the little green bad guy showed up a couple of times and now has been vanquished for one family.

Due to the economic downturn and the markets being as they are, a mother and father of 4 children faced the reality earlier this month that there were not going to be any Christmas presents to exchange.

The Grinch 1-Christmas 0.

A relative of this family took it upon herself to buy presents for the children so the father was able to announce that Santa had a sleigh full of gifts for the children and everyone involved was feeling very good.

The Grinch 1-Christmas 1.

Then last week while the collected presents waited in a car to be delivered, someone took a baseball bat to the windows of the car and stole all of the presents.  Santa’s sleigh was empty again.

The Grinch 2- Christmas 1.

My 16-year-old daughter mentioned this situation to her church youth group.  This youth group was in the act of looking for needy families to serve this Christmas. They graciously offered to help this family.  Gifts arrived Saturday night, yesterday afternoon and more arrive today to be delivered in time for Christmas.  Presents for the kids, parents and the entire family along with enough food for a couple of meals.

The Grinch was sent away in defeat, game, set and match: Christmas!

May the true meaning of this season be with you today.

Merry CHRISTmas!!!

Networking for Sales

December 21, 2009

I just read an interesting article on networking by Carl Winslow.  I believe networking is really key in sales which is why I am on LinkedIn and Twitter and to some extent why I am on Facebook.  Networking is getting to know who you may need to know to further the sales process and find who is going to buy.  Perhaps the most telling thing that makes me believe in networking is the stats I came up with regarding cold call/in-person calls and direct mail.

Direct mail?  A regular mailing program to prospects has yielded about a 1.7% return.

In-person/cold calls has yielded about 2.4%.

That’s a long way to a million that way!  Add Networking in person and on line along with referrals and we start getting some where.

The week of Christmas is a tough one for most of us business wise, between our being distracted and wanting to start the Holidays now and people being gone or feeling the same way.  Just remember, it only takes one more good contact to make this week worthwhile!

Happy winter solstice.