Thursday, December 27, 2007

Outsourcing the Sales Force to SalesForce.com

As SalesForce.com becomes more widespread, what will it free up your sales team to accomplish?A few weeks back, I attended a SalesForce.com seminar in the local Cleveland area. I have been familiarizing myself with SalesForce for about a year now. Still, attending the conference was very enlightening. As with anything in life, I discovered that the more I learned about a product or a new technology, the more I realized that I didn’t know. In this particular instance, it also brought up memories of Tom Peters’ book, Re-Imagine.

In this book, Tom Peters wrote how technology was making complex tasks easier to do, requiring fewer people to execute them and taking less time in the process. To underscore his point, he used the example of a timber ship unloading at a dock. He said that 30 years ago, when one of these ships pulled into the dock, it took 108 men 5 days to unload it. Today, after the advent of containerization, it takes 8 men only 1 day to do the same amount of work. Yet, no one seems surprised about this advancement. In fact, we’ve come to expect this kind of advancement in efficiency. Peters points out that the forklift did the same thing for the distribution centers, robotics did the same for the automobile factory and that software is doing the same thing for white-collar office work.

This is exactly what SalesForce.com and sales force automation is doing in the arena in sales.

At this SalesForce conference, one of the attendees on the customer panel stated that he used SalesForce.com to get rid of all spreadsheets. He did not want to see them. All of the information had to be in SalesForce so that he could pull up a report in real time when he needed it. He could see which clients needed attention, which sales reps were performing and where he should allocate corporate resources. And it made his sales team more effective with their time and work effort as opposed to having them trying to organize various scraps of paper for the next sales review.

In our organization, we use SalesForce.com to perform such tasks as real-time data analysis, on-demand report creation, responding immediately to emails, coordinate our schedules, as well as enhancing our collaborative sales efforts. Since implementing SalesForce.com, our team has had the time to enhance their communication skills, listening skills and business acumen to provide some additional value to our clients.
In other words, our team has had time to focus on the things and develop the skills that the company cannot outsource to a machine.

Traditionally, sales people have spent a large chunk of time dedicated to creating spreadsheets, creating reports, writing letters of introduction, and writing follow up letters to potential leads. They relied on a sales support staff to handle some of this work and to organize their schedule. Today, many businesses are outsourcing much if not all, of this activity to SalesForce.com and other advanced CRM applications.

So what does this mean for the sales reps that are accustomed to doing all of this by hand? Well, two responses immediately come to mind. On the one hand, they may say, "Great! Now I’ve got all this extra time to contact more people, establish stronger relationships with my clients, and work on my skills set to bring some additional value to the table." On the other hand, they may say, "Great! Now what am I gonna do? I’m being replaced by a machine!"

With more advanced applications on the horizon performing these routine tasks more efficiently, I guess the answer really resides with us, the sales rep, to determine where we should focus our attention. We may have to take another look at what it means to be a sales rep in this hi-tech, hyper-connected world, identify our current skills and talents, and determine the skills that we should focus on developing. That way, we can bring real value to our clients, as opposed to a catalogue and a thank you card.

In his book, The Accidental Salesperson, Chris Lytle stated that our biggest investment is not the car, the house or the 401K. The biggest investment we will make is in ourselves. Because without our own growth, there can be no career advancement and no increase in income to buy the car or the house or invest in the 401k.

It may be time for some of us old sales dogs to learn a few new tricks, or risk being left behind by the competition.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from the team at Dale Carnegie Training of Ohio and Indiana
To all of our clients, supporters, and the entire Ohio Valley Community, the team at Dale Carnegie Training of Ohio and Indiana wish you a safe and prosperous holiday season.


Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holding On to the Can-Do Attitude

Recently, my uncle passed away and I attended the funeral just this past weekend. You know, it’s never a good time to have a relative pass on. But it can be particularly difficult around the holidays when families are getting together to celebrate.

When the end of the service approached and all of the participants were streaming out of the church, I noticed an older woman sitting in the pew in front of me. My cousin was sitting next to her and he asked if she needed any assistance. She replied that she was going to be fine.

As the congregation began to thin out, I noticed her walker. I then followed up on my cousin’s offer to the older woman, asking if she needed any assistance. Again, she replied that she had everything under control and that she was waiting for the elevator.

As I was leaving, she grabbed my arm and said, “I do appreciate the offer. But you know, I’ve been to France, Italy, and Greece. If I can find my way around another country, I think I can manage to get out of a church in my hometown.”

I was amazed. At a time many people are looking for ways to get someone else to do the heavy lifting for them, here was an older woman who valued her independence. She also had a number of resources at her disposal that she tied together with a strong, can-do attitude. We often don’t think about our memories and experiences as useful resources, but that’s what they are, and they are at our disposal to enhance our current experiences.

In the Dale Carnegie Course, we often help participants to exercise their flexibility and to think outside the box. We also help them to recognize some of their past achievements, to recognize that they have done some good work in the past and it is these experiences and memories that can be leveraged to assist in future endeavors.

I left the church that morning feeling uplifted. I had the pleasure of meeting a determined woman, someone who was profoundly aware of her capabilities, and what she could do with those abilities.
We should all be as fortunate to have that same presence of mind and the same can-do attitude when we reach her age.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Effective Problem Solving Meetings

Make Your Next Business Meeting Flow Smoothly. Use the Guidelines for Conducting a Meeting.Just a few nights ago, I briefly attended the graduation of our Leadership Training for Managers program. During that program, I picked up one of the booklets entitled “Effective Problem Solving Meetings” that was left on a table.

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I reminisced about the days of the “old” Dale Carnegie Course where we learned about conducting effective meetings. These strategies have since been relegated to the Leadership Training for Managers program, and the Dale Carnegie Course now covers additional topics concerning interpersonal skills and communication. But I know of a few Dale Carnegie Course instructors who still try to sneak in a few of the strategies when conducting small group sessions.

When you are leading a meeting, some of the guidelines are:

  • Open the meeting with a brief statement of the problem.
  • Ask for causes of the problem.
  • Ask for possible solutions to the problem and evidence to support each solution.
  • Make frequent summaries and when sufficient solutions have been discussed, select the best possible solution.
  • If desirable, appoint an individual, team or committee to see that the decision is converted into action.
  • Express your own personal ideas only after all other have expressed theirs.
  • Encourage an open environment by minimizing parliamentary procedure.

This one I find particularly interesting. I spent several years in the Toastmasters organization and held several governing functions for several clubs and territories. I know that parliamentary procedures are written somewhere in the bylaws of Toastmasters and regularly touted as a staple for clubs.

Parliamentary procedures, however, are no joke. Out of all of the clubs I have been a participated in, I can think of only one that adhered to parliamentary procedure rigorously. That club was TGIF Management in Sunnyvale, California. I even kept my copy of Roberts Rules of Order, just in case I might ever need it!

However, in every other club I attended, the members tended to use the skills and techniques that they brought from their workplace meetings, which were some variation of the guidelines outlined above.

Oh, before I forget, there were two more:

  • Keep the meeting moving and on track.
  • Encourage participation from everyone, but avoid going around the table to ask each person’s views directly.

Parliamentary procedures are great if you happen to be a member of Congress, conducting a meeting with a large governing body, or if you a member of Toastmasters. Most of us in business, however, need the meeting to be executed in a timely fashion, we need to have some immediate action happen after a meeting ends and we need to show some results in a reasonable time frame. Moreover, we have to accomplish this while recognizing that we are dealing with human beings.

The next time you are in a Dale Carnegie Class, or if you know a Dale Carnegie Course Instructor, ask them about the guidelines for leading a meeting and the guidelines for participating in a meeting. You will come away with some insights to make your next business meeting more productive.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Customer Service and Entrepreneurism Served up with Coffee

You can sometimes find Leadership, Customer Service and Sales in unlikely places if you keep your eyes open.
I like coffee.

Just after leaving the Dale Carnegie office earlier today, I went over to the local Starbucks on the other side of I480. Sarah was behind the counter when I got there. Since I go there frequently and order a large coffee every time, all she had to do was recite it back to me before getting it, “Hello Larry. Venti Coffee?” (Ya gotta love those Starbucks terms).

She told me that it was still brewing and, because I had to wait, the coffee would be on the house.

While I was waiting, I knelt down and peeked at the local paper, thumbing through some of the headlines. After a couple of minutes, I stood up and Sarah was behind me, holding out my cup of coffee.

You could say that she could afford to come from behind the counter and deliver my coffee because there were only a few people in the store.

You could say that I was receiving preferential treatment because I was a regular customer.

I say it was a reflection of her entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to go the extra mile.

This was not the first time a customer service event like this has happened here, nor do I believe it will be the last.

Some individuals out there take personal ownership of a job, a task or achieving an outcome. They see it as their personal mission to extend beyond the norm and make something happen.

How would you like to have a few of these people on your team? What kind of impact would it make on your production to have members of your team take personal ownership of getting a job done?

To Sarah, Jenna, Dan, Dave, and the rest of the Starbucks crew at Vista Way in Garfield Heights, keep up the excellent service and thank you for making 2007 a wonderful year.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Training and Education

Combine Training Programs with your Education Programs
When I was studying for my NLP Practitioners Certification, I heard an amusing story about the two co-founders of NLP. While they participating in the educational experience at a university in California, word got out that they were also teaching other people how to perform some of the early NLP patterns.

The dean eventually got wind of the dealings, pulled them aside and said:

"We understand that you’ve been teaching people how to do things. Is this true?"

There was no way to hide what they were doing, so they said yes.

The dean then asked them to stop their activities. Perplexed, the two co-founders asked why, to which the dean replied, "…this is an institution where people learn about things, not how to do things."

I don't know if the story is true, but it does underscore a fundamental difference between education and training. Education has traditionally been concerned with assimilating knowledge about the world around us and about ourselves. Training has typically been focused on doing stuff, developing skills and acting on knowledge. Not that one is more important than the other, but society tends to place more of an emphasis on education and downplays training. Both, however, are essential to the learning process.

When I was starting my career and got my first design job, my manager, Rick, told me that there should have been a school to teach young engineers about engineering after they graduated from college. There were many things I didn't learn in school. Some things, however, were essential to being an effective engineer. Things like how to work with a vendor and select a part after the technical specifications were met. Or how to gather information from sales people to select a second source for a part. Or how to work with a difficult CAD designer who is laying the routes for the board you just designed.

We typically learn these kinds of activities by a process called "on the job training". There is no established, formal process for learning these activities like there is for learning physics or mathematics. They don’t correlate directly to gaining knowledge about systems design, creating algorithms or analyzing chemical compositions. Nor do they directly affect a student’s ability to get a degree, so they aren’t emphasized in school. They are, however, essential to operating in the real world.

Just recently, I was reminded of this yet again during a seminar conducted by Lance Tyson. In the Dale Carnegie "Are You Promotable" seminar, he reminded the audience that knowledge by itself is not power. However, in the hands of someone who is willing to act on it, knowledge can indeed be powerful.

Knowledge without action is only potential.

Action without knowledge is unfocused and ineffective.

Action based on knowledge, however, can make a major impact in the life of the individual who is willing to take the risk and move on this combination.

As you move forward in your professional life, ask yourself these questions to maintain perspective:

"Now that I have this knowledge, what can I do with it?"

"How can I use the knowledge that I have?"

"What outcome do I want to have happen?"

"How will having this knowledge help me get what I want?"

Remember that we are only as powerful as the knowledge we are willing to act on. Taking effective action requires a strong skill set. Developing a strong skill set takes effective training and lots of practice. So get some training, take action on your knowledge, and you’ll make an impact on the world around you.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Some More Reasons To Get Started On Your Job Promotion Plan.

As the end of the year approaches, more people are running about looking for that last minute holiday gift. Let us not forget about ourselves in this holiday rush. As the New Year commences twenty-one days from now, we will make some resolutions and start looking at ways that we can make the coming year prosperous for ourselves.

This article from Robert McCauley from Robert Half International, outlines some simple reasons why now is the best time to put the pressure on your career move, be it a new job, a career transition or looking for job advancement.

Look over this article and then ask yourself, what else do I need to do to make my goals a reality? Where can I get assistance in reaching my performance targets? Then register for the "Are You Promotable" workshop in Cleveland and Akron this week to begin putting together your plan to make it happen.

One of the tips we will be discussing in the workshop is how to make other people better. Companies are always looking for people who have the skill to work with other people, to support the teams that they create and can motivate other people to excel. If this is something that is in your skill set, then it should definitely be a part of your overall plan.

As someone who is looking for career advancement, remember that you are actually selling your skill set to prospective buyers. In order to make your case for the job, the promotion or the change, you will need to have a plan in place with your skill set outlined to highlight what you are truly capable of accomplishing. Tuesday and Wednesday will be the perfect opportunity to build that plan and start making something happen for you.

Comments on job hunting and promotions.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

More About Job Hunting, Job Promotions and Career Advancement

Here is another article from Jim Citrin on changing jobs and careers. While the presenters in the “Are You Promotable” workshop will be addressing the factors involved in a job promotion, you will be able to apply some of the material to the job search as well.

This particular article outlines several factors from the job candidate’s perspective as well as from the hiring manager’s point of view. The linchpin for both perspectives, however, is the people question: Is this a good fit?

Give this document a read. Then get ready to integrate one or two points in your own plan that you will construct in the free workshop, “Are You Promotable”.

It should prove to be an interesting exercise.

Remember, the "Are You Promotable" workshop will be held in Akron on December 11 and then in Cleveland on December 12.

See you there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

New Training Resource

People,

Just discovered a wonderful resource on the net. Called training-classes.com, it is a directory full of training resources where you can find and register for a number of classes, including all of our Dale Carnegie Training programs. A link has been included in the Resource section for your convenience.

If you are looking to augment your management, sales or customer service training with some type of technical or specialized training, you can probably find it in this directory.

DCTOH

Leadership Served up with Coffee

General George S. Patton once said, "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." I think that this is definitely the case when it comes to Starbucks.

Earlier this year, during my trip west, I spent some time with my sister in Long Beach, CA. While there, I spent a couple of mornings at the local Starbucks cafe reviewing documents from my Dale Carnegie Instructor Refresher training.

During that time, I sat in a chair that was fairly close to a back table where the store manager was undergoing her store review with the area manager. They did all of the usual stuff like sales numbers and marketing promos. They also discussed the people working in the store, which they referred to as partners.

I had seen the process before. We use it regularly in our Leadership Training. However, the store manager, Carolyne, was just outstanding. During this process, she identified a unique personal endeavor that was outside the scope of work for each of her partners. She also identified several strengths that each individual possessed. And she described her process for rotating her people through different positions, challenging them to leverage their skills in solving new problems.

During my time as a Sales rep for Dale Carnegie Training, I contacted and interviewed a number of managers and supervisors. Some of them took the attitude that their people were supposed to perform their tasks because "it was a part of their job description". One person, who shall remain unidentifiable, was a Human Resource rep who stated, "why should I bother showing appreciation to a worker for a job that they are getting paid to do?"

If we look at things from the "worker’s" point of view, then we see a person who has a certain skill set which they are selling to the highest bidder. They are interviewing potential purchasers, usually called employers, and they will receive a number of bids, called job offers. They will then make a decision based on the highest bidder. Here is something to remember; commerce isn’t always measured in dollars and cents. There are a quite a few individuals who have walked away from very lucrative jobs because they wanted less stress, more time with their families, a new challenge, and sometimes, just a little appreciation from the boss.

So if you’ve got a team members who are watching the clock every day and doing just enough to keep from getting fired, maybe it’s time to look at the way they are being motivated.

Try this. Sit down, right now, with a pad of paper. Legal pads work well for this. You will need a separate sheet of paper for each member of your team. For each individual, write down:

  1. Their name.
  2. Five strengths that you see in them.
  3. Two processes that they can do to strengthen themselves.
  4. One thing that they are passionate about outside of work.
You can use this exercise as a management tool when you get in tomorrow morning. You can also use it right now to reveal where you can improve yourself as managers.

Carolyne took a personal interest in her people. Did they love her for it? I don’t know. I’m willing to bet that some really didn’t like it when she gave them tasks that forced them to do things that they weren’t comfortable with or that they didn’t like. But I’ll also wager that they respected her for it and appreciated her when she praised them.

Some of the best managers that I have worked with were not necessarily the ones who were nice. They were the ones who challenged me, gave me just a little bit more responsibility than I could handle, and showed appreciation for an all out effort.

We reserve a special word for those kinds of managers. We call them leaders.

What are your thoughts on leadership?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Short or Long Voicemails

Recently I was reading a blog by Jim Citrin on crafting the “perfect” voicemail. Jim had several tips on leaving voicemails and then he provided some examples. What I found surprising were the number of comments that were, shall we say, less than supporting.

I found all of his tips were spot on and helpful. Here is a quick recap:

  1. Be clear about the goal of the message. This goes without saying in any of our communication
  2. Be authoritative yet upbeat in your tone. Who wants to hear somebody whining on the other end? I’ve got enough on my end to whine about. I don’t need any more drama.
  3. Find a bridge to the person you’re calling. This goes back to the reason you are calling and being clear about the goal. It also pays to do your homework as well.
  4. Be brief. I think we’ve all been guilty of leaving voicemails that stretch into a 5-minute speech (myself included). I think we’ve also been the recipient of voicemails that have been to long. How many of us hit the delete key after 45 seconds? People are busy. Show some respect for their time.
  5. Be specific in your request. Again, this goes back to knowing your goal or outcome.
  6. Leave your contact information slowly and clearly. Another no brainer.

The comments in the blog made the case for Jim to be a not-so-nice guy. That he was a jerk. That he was breaking tradition of returning a call promptly. That he was a bum.

I think that sometimes we confuse being nice, with being effective. We can be nice, we can be effective, and there are times when we can be nice and effective. However, the two are not equivalent.

I had the pleasure of spending some time working in a call center. I also cut my teeth in an engineering lab and grew up applying the scientific method of analysis. After spending 6 months in the center, the one thing I noticed was that shorter phone messages consistently got more return calls. Longer messages were rarely returned. So, from my perspective, and my experiments, shorter voicemails yielded better returns.

About two years ago, I attended a Dale Carnegie regional sales meeting in Pittsburgh. There were a number of high-level executives from some of the larger national clients participating in a panel discussion. They were there providing insights into what top-level executives wanted from the sales reps calling on them. A number of thoughts were offered up but the suggestions I remember the most came from the executive from Iron Mountain.

He said that as an executive, he wanted a sales person to be clear, direct and results oriented. The person had to have done their homework and had to be offering a solution that addressed a problem. Then as he was wrapping up, he added, “…and no lengthy voicemails. Twenty seconds is long enough to make your point.”

So, in Jim’s defense, I have found his points to be very relevant when compared against my own experiences. The examples, however, are another matter. After looking at all three voicemail samples, I concluded that I would not return any of them. In every sample, the speaker talks about themselves and something that they wanted. There was nothing of interest to me. As I have said before, I’ve got enough drama in my life and plenty to do. I really don’t need an unknown caller bringing me more challenges to solve.

Every person listens to their favorite radio station, WII FM (or What’s In It For Me). If you can’t leave a voicemail that operates on this frequency, expect poor reception.

What has been your experience with voicemails? Leave a comment below.