Friday, December 14, 2012

Where Is Your Next Buyer?

Where will your next buyer come from?

Sales happen at the intersection of what the buyer needs, what you offer to provide, and a connection between you both. This may be from a conversation across a desk; from an 'ah ha' insight in your blog or presentation; from a referral by another party; or from the other ways of talking your business.

Regardless of how these three elements converge – it is the engagement that's the catalyst for aligning buyer's needs with seller's solutions.

At a program by the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, Pamela Wagner, Vice President of W.R. Grace was speaking about the reduction of employee engagement worldwide and her thoughts on why.

While writing notes during the presentation, I realized that the same also applies to customers – current and potential.

Here's a formula Wagner offered to describe the engagement gap:

Volatile Economy creates insecurity
More Work with fewer employees and resources
Less Sustainable Engagement.

Uncertainty and stress are distracting – affecting employee involvement and the buyer's willingness to commit.

Since the environment is not likely to change soon, the key question is: how do we get ahead of the distraction?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Learning From Students

The Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland held 'mock interviews' and I had the honor of being an interviewer.

The students came eager to learn from this role-playing exercise. The 'interviewers' are seasoned individuals - most are Smith School Alumni - and well experienced in hiring superior candidates.

My 'interviews' found the 'applicants' well prepared, articulate in expressing themselves, offering direct answers to the questions, and telling stories of relevant situations from earlier part-time jobs.

What did I learn from the students? They are talking about the new normal in the past tense.

An accounting student commented on the radical effect of systems and digital files on the audit function – now requires a team of 2 instead of 10 associates – and felt that a second major in finance will help prepare her for the demands of clients for specific services.

Several other students were in dual-major programs as well – finance and accounting would be partnered with Information Technology – to be agile with both the knowledge and systems recognizing the evolution of these practice areas.

One individual, majoring in finance-accounting, finds math a rewarding exercise in solving puzzles, is a landscape artist, and an avid sports player – had marvelous stories to illustrate answers to interview questions from rich past experience.

Taken together, students are drawing from numerous resources to develop a pretty accurate view of the maturing changes of computerization on processes and practices. In addition, they find time to pursue other interests and gain other experiences – which gives them balance and well-roundedness while providing illustrations to help communicate ideas and concepts.

They are soaking in the various inputs and coming up with a new look of operations of organizations from the outside, while many of us in the working world are heads-down on projects – not seeing the changes around us

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Two CEOs were out in the wilderness when a bear saw them and was lumbering toward the two. One CEO took off like a champion sprinter while the other CEO stood with a pondering look on the face.

When the first CEO saw the other one 'frozen' to the spot, he ran back to help – when close he yelled asking what's the problem, 'that bear looks really hungry!'

The motionless CEO turned and said – 'All the analytics are not in yet so I don't know what the optimal response is!'

This story illustrates a paralysis that some leaders experience when they get too deep into decision by analytics or relying too much on external measures and factors.

Before the computerization of records and measurement, analytics were done by hand and the investment in time and labor helped to focus what was important to the success of the mission and targeted results. Now that records and measurements are readily available for virtually anything about the organization, market, economy, and global situation.

It is possible to compare the atomic clock to the system clock to determine time-drift...but why bother? What would be learned?

SEO, OLAP, BPM analytics are useful – like the rear-view mirror in the car is useful, or reading a map before leaving on a trip. Planning for detailed measurement and analysis is effective when done 'backwards' – start from the desired outcome and back into the best way to obtain the information. In addition, limit the routine reporting to a handful of informative items – I had real-time access to a dozen key indicators, like cash, receivables total & aging, payables total & aging, sales volume & scheduled delivery, production output, labor-force & hours, and accrued vacation – which gave me a good picture of current conditions.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in measuring and interpreting that we delay action...and the bear get's us!

What are the most useful key indicators?