Sunday, February 19, 2012

What Have I Done for You Lately?

With customers and relationships the question is: what had you done for me lately?

Good customers are approached often by other providers or discover interesting offerings on the internet. Good relationships are fouled by lack of attention. Thus the spoken or implied questions about what's recent.

I heard a story about an individual who hired into the lead sales position of a software organization with a 'huge book of business.' First priority on her mind was to personally contact all the major accounts to say hello. Shocked, she was, to learn that over 60% of these accounts had not heard from her new firm since the initial sale and more than half of these accounts has switched to different software.

This situation, more or less, is entirely too common in business.

Study after study shows the vast difference in resources to acquire rather than maintain customers. But a significant portion of managers (and to be fair, the sales staff too) press for acquisition over retention.

Why don't we ask the question: What have I done for You lately? and devote more time to our real customers.

Make contact – give something of value – demonstrate that a relationship does exist – show that you care!

This can be as simple as forwarding an article, document, or link to a blog which speaks to a known area of interest. It can be dynamic – checking in after x months to see how your product or service is meeting their needs – or even soliciting what features would make it meet their needs more broadly or deeply. Or it can be information about how other customers are using minor or undocumented features and other user-derived 'enhancements' for significant benefit.

Whatever you choose, make the contact with your customer worthwhile from their viewpoint. Keep in mind they are busy and not as focused on your products and services as you are. Always give value in every interaction with a customer.

Conversation and caring works for relationships as well.

It can change the conversation to that's what you've done for me lately! Music to our ears!

Your thoughts?

This is the topic for the next Rainmaker – a 300 second presentation before the featured speaker at the CTMH meeting. Join us February 22nd  for Sales Lab’s Rainmaker 12 - What Have I Done for You Lately? at the Capital Technology Management Hub on Wednesday, February 22nd. The featured CTMH speaker will be Sean Crowley on the topic of The Open Source Web Content Management Platform, Drupal, and its MomentumGet details here.

The Doer's Theorem

When talking with a person in transition he said: While I was working, the world changed! Even before the recession this was too often the case – a shocking discovery for far too many people.

Moore's Law predicts processing speed of chips will double every 18 months, as a result the cost per computation drops by a similar factor – many say cost drops by 50% during the same timeframe.

As processors change, software and systems take advantage of the speed and new capacity to build faster, more complex tools to do more work faster (transaction processing) or to improve video quality and delivery on computer screens and digital cameras (e.g., HD, 3D, Streaming).

In addition to changes in hardware, software, and systems, we have also seen the introduction of new instruments as well – smartphones, tablets, on-board automotive processors (for engine performance, accident avoidance).

The point is: the technology (how the instruments, tools, and equipment are applied) is evolving to replace repetitive and predictable manual tasks. As a result the collecting and compiling functions of technicians, operators, and analysts are being replaced by the changing technology. The effect of technological changes is illustrated by the automotive technician – a trained diagnostic tech with a roll-about computer and a dozen cable leads has been replaced by a cable attached to the network which can be plugged in to the socket under the dashboard – the computer complies the readings from sensors, applies analytics, and issues a report for the mechanic (and the car owner) on the findings and remedial actions required or recommended. No diagnostic tech is needed.

As more information and data is entered on-line, software and systems are used to collect responses, compile results, and do comparative analysis. Such tasks are disappearing from position responsibilities for employees.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January 2010 the average tenure in a private sector job is 4.0 years. During this timeframe, computing speed has doubled twice and the new chips have been incorporated into software, systems, and new instruments. A job changer will face the challenge of obsolete positions and skills, as well as the need for proficiency in using the new tools, systems, and instruments – a diagnostic tech may be able to trade down to get his old position with a less advanced shop, but will need additional skills to get a better position.

The Doers need to add to their skills to remain viable in the labor market and with their current employer. When changing jobs internally, new knowledge, skills, and experience play a strong role in winning the appointment – just as they do on the outside when applying to a new employer. If contemplating launching your own firm, old skills and experience with outdated technology will find a narrow and shrinking market – the exception to this was the Y2K phenomenon in the late '90's, where the COBAL programmers were desperately needed to modify enterprise systems. Keeping up with advances in the application of relevant technology is an important goal for us all.

The Doer's Theorem is you must add to your skill-set and expand your experience portfolio about every three years to remain viable in the labor market.

Prior experience, skills, and knowledge are the firm foundation on which to reinvent yourself, but change is coming too fast to rely just on the old favorites and a stagnant learning philosophy.

Successful Doers might say: While I was changing, the world did too!

Comments and contributions?

Join us -
February 22nd Sales Lab’s Rainmaker 12 is What Have I Done for You Lately? at the Capital Technology Management Hub on Wednesday, February 22nd. The featured CTMH speaker will be Sean Crowley on the topic of The Open Source Web Content Management Platform, Drupal, and its Momentum.


If you don't measure it, you can't improve it.” On of the first-order axioms of management, and a mantra of spreadsheet jockeys everywhere.

Benchmarking. Balanced Scorecard. SEO. What do they have in common – they are indirect measures of effectiveness.

For an artist, which is more important – the tack hammer or the paint brush? The paint brush is used to create the masterpiece; the tack hammer is used to stretch the canvas in preparation.

Does canvas stretching contribute directly to the quality or success of the artwork? It is true that a taut canvas permits the artist to be more precise in creating fine detail than does a loose canvas – so there is some value added by proper stretching. Would knowing that the short side of a canvas has an average of five tacks and the long side has eight, add anything to masterpiece or its value?

As a result of a promotion, I received twice each month a senior management detailed analytic report which was a quarter inch thick. I eagerly read the entire first copy and discovered only two items in it were useful to me and both were incorrect. Later, I instructed the report compilers to stop publishing it and not notify any recipients. After two months without any comment about the absence of this report, I canceled it.

The chart below was presented with an interpretation that our website needed CPR, when viewed against the comparator site. Our website has visitors from a restricted group who read the page about the meeting and then go to another page to register, triggered by a monthly announcement of the coming meeting. The other site is an eCommerce site for internet sales and traffic is driven to it continuously by numerous sources.

The results merely show that sites with different purposes do not generate the same traffic pattern or flow.

Analytics help us measure performance and other factors by direct, indirect, and comparative means. Comparative analytics view statistics from your organization with those of other organizations, or compare your statistics over time.

Metrics and analytics can be useful to set a baseline or measure progress – as long as they are chosen appropriately and recognized for the value they offer.

The artist's production tool is the paint brush and that is the focal point for creativity which produces the value as perceived by the buyer.

The report recipients get information elsewhere or go without as they manage their functional areas, because the content does not provide benefit.

The page views of a different website does little to improve planning or delivery unless the site functions are virtually identical.

When all is said and done, analytics are like observing the wake of a boat underway – they provide some feedback about how smooth the course has been, but say nothing about the progress toward the goal or destination. Planning and execution get us there.

As leaders we must use our resources effectively to achieve results – focus them on doing rather than curating.

What are your thoughts?

Must A Leader be Brave?

We have an image of leaders – whether it is John Wayne leading a charge in combat, or JFK declaring to the world the USA will put a man on the moon by the end of that decade, or Steve Jobs radically changing established market segments like music, telecom, and computers with new technology.

Traditionally, when the leader spoke, we listened; when the leader gave a command, we followed. Leadership relied on this command & control model, harkening back to the Roman Legion. Leaders issue orders and the tribe executes them. Collaboration, dissent, or suggestions were not rewarded.

Management theory has evolved, workers have become more educated, global markets have developed, and the pace of change has accelerated dramatically – the traditional has been replaced with rapidly changing and expanding norms, globalization, and new devices to advance technology. This is the New Normal and it dramatically affects how leaders lead.

Leadership is moving to a collaborative model – the leader articulates vision and goals then seeks input on how to get there. Success requires developing an environment of trust and for stakeholders to offer honest input. Collaboration and willingness to adopt offered changes – an open source approach – is a fundamental difference between traditional command & control and New Normal collaborative leadership models, but effective two-way communication is the critical factor.

To illustrate the shift to a new model, here's a brief case study on an organization changing from traditional to New Normal leadership:

Background: A specialty product/service firm using a traditional leadership and sales approach – the sales person armed with brochures, catalogs, and a price list visits each prospect for a show & tell session to make the sale (or not).

Situation: The down economy causes sales volume to tank! With reduced sales, the company is suffering financially.

Options: The leader (company owner) could:
  • Try to sell the company (no prospects identified) [quit option]
  • Try to ride out the recession until market (and sales) return [dream option]
  • Make changes to meet the new challenges by: [evolve option]
    1. Add web-sale portal (social business channel); 2. Qualifying customers and guiding lower probability customers to the social business channel; 3. Reserve personal visits only for high probability customers; 4. Enroll employees, tell the truth about the situation, plans, vision, and commitment of the leader to create a sustainable new model company.

Outcome: No magic – it took plenty of hard work and caused lots of angst. Everyone was kept current with the progress – good or bad. With the checkbook down to less than a couple of months of operating funds, sales volume increased from both the traditional channel and the social business channel. Sales volume grew at a steady pace and in the fourth year after starting this transition the company is profitable and stable.

The leader bet the ranch on creating a viable organization and came within a few months of losing everything. However, with the commitment of all stakeholders, hard work, honesty in assessing the situation for what it is, a good and flexible plan, and some luck – a leading-edge company emerged.

Is the leader brave? Or bold?

You decide.

Thrice Welcome!

This is the third post on our Leadership blog.

My name is Jack Gates – and I believe technology is how we do things, not the things we do them with, and leadership continues to evolve through technology. Some key elements to consider.

  1. Leadership has changed to a hub and spoke structure – no pyramid, no flat linear hierarchy – leader is hub and doers are the spokes – together is a strong and stable framework for solid results (rim).
  2. Leadership thrives with an open source approach and a collaborative team drawing the best resources when needed – internal, external, or international.
  3. Just as we learn by doing, leadership is developed by doing – it benefits from shared experiences of others as well.
  4. The 'New Normal' is a result of changes in business structure, available resources, and markets – leaders examine traditional approach, revising as necessary to adapt.
  5. Leadership is sharing the vision and communicating – sometimes by speaking, sometimes by listening – the what and empower the doers for the how.

For more, come back to Leadership often – big things are in the plans!

We are creating a community of leadership learners and welcome you to be part of this community. We welcome your thoughts and comments – and sharing your experience to deepen and enrich the discussion.

Share and others will benefit – share and you will learn...isn't that really what leadership is about?

Quit Presupposing And Just Do It!

As a leader we are expected to be decisive and to advance toward the envisioned goals.

So why do we find ourselves making excuses to postpone a meeting or delay an action? We sometimes rationalize deferring a task by convincing ourselves it would be better done later – based on perceived factors not directly related to achieving goals.

For example, we are introduced to a person Friday afternoon who will provide referrals of people who are prospective clients for our services. We suggest a follow-up meeting for mid-week, but know from experience that many people leave Monday morning open. Why not suggest getting together first thing on Monday and have 4 ½ days to use for prospecting instead of just 2 ½ days from a mid-week appointment?

As a CEO, my sales team spent considerable effort to persuade me against submitting a proposal for a project because the client was too tiny and the local organizations probably had a lock on the project. No sale - we submitted the proposal and won the project. The team was presupposing conditions that did not prove out.

In the War of Art, author Pressfield identifies how individuals create internal roadblocks to taking positive action to meet goals and offers advice about overcoming these barriers. The section on Resistance and Rationalization speaks to the seemingly rational argument for deferring action based on a presumed view of circumstances, as illustrated above. He suggests breaking the spell by relying on facts instead of opinions and suppositions about a situation.

Parkinson said Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion – strong support for building momentum and keeping it. Does going off track really provide anything positive – or simply grind down the velocity of the forward progress. Seems like the latter to me – additional time does not translate to productive time.

As a leader we are aware that the stakeholders are observing us to learn about the real culture of the organization. It is better to take action now rather than later - when possible, and to plan outcomes based on facts instead of presumptions.

Do it now. Finish it promptly. Ship often. Ignore Surface Thinkers.

Keep the conversation going – What are your thoughts?