Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Save Jobs: How a large corporation can get rid of 700 people and no one loses their job!

Save the cost of retrenchment by creating a new company to exploit a technology that is owned by the corporation.

I really did think that this would be obvious but it seems like a blinding flash to some so I thought I'd just put it out there.  Maybe my thinking is skewed but I have canvassed a number of people and they seem to think it makes sense.

The idea first occurred to me some four years when Cisco Corporation announced they were shedding some 2000 jobs globally.  I've always held up Cisco to my sales teams as a great example of professionalism and I know that Cisco go to a lot of trouble to employ good people so it just didn't make sense to get rid of them.

The issue comes about when the company forecasts a reduction in profits. The board and company shareholders do not want to report a downturn in profits without seeing a planned reduction in costs.  As many will tell you, the most valuable asset of a company is its people so somehow this translates to: the greatest saving is to get rid of as many people as possible.  It doesn't seem to matter that in many countries the balance sheet has to carry a huge extraordinary hit due to the layoffs.  Just as long as the CEO and Board can show the analysts that they will return to a greater profit due to the reduction in costs.

Now a company like Cisco, or Telstra, has invested in many technologies and patents over the years and is often not able to justify an investment, which may not be core to its current business, to develop that technology.

So instead of taking a hit that can never show a return, why not take the people and the liability of the retrenchments and turn them into an investment in a new company which may eventually show a positive return to the balance sheet?  There could even be a case for a Federal government tax incentive given that it will be collecting more tax from both the existing and new companies and won't have the liability of more people on unemployment benefits.

I'm sure that there will be some complexity that I'm missing, such as how it might work for small companies, but surely this will generate a more positive outcome.

I welcome any feedback.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vale Simon Price

Simon always encouraged me to add to this blog so in keeping with the theme of the blog, the sub-heading is: How to Create Demand in your client base.

Last month I attended the memorial for a much admired friend, Simon Price.

I first met Simon in about 1984 when he stuck his head around a corner and asked if I was interested in buying some ergonomic furniture.  I was working for the Country Roads Board in Kew and, in turn, had my head stuck in a PC probably trying to figure out if the GEM Desktop was going to be replaced by Windows. That he had found his way onto the first floor, along the corridor and around the corner into a small office to find me, spoke to the determination that he showed for the rest of his 48 years.

As it turned out I did not need the ergonomic furniture, but he did turn the account into a multi-million dollar revenue stream for his employer, and we forged one of those strong friendships in the IT industry that endured, albeit with some gaps in continuity.

Simon was just building his career and he was moved onto another account and I lost track of him for a few years.  His successor managed to lose the account by insisting that I buy into the IBM PS/2 architecture.  He forgot that the relationship had been built on a trust that he was not a part of.  The relationship was not with the company, it was between two people who were trying to help each other.

Some ten years later, after I had opened the Melbourne office for a NSW Distributor, Simon re-appeared as a Business Developer at a reseller of the distributor.  He wasn’t there for long but his move was to a reseller with whom the distributor had some existing business.  I was still new to sales and hadn’t developed sufficient processes to ensure a strong funnel.  I recall having lunch with Simon and calling on his advice to shake some business loose.  Without hesitation he asked me if I was interested in selling to Holden Special Vehicles.  As was his practice, he was straight onto his mobile phone call to call HSV and organise an appointment.  He was someone who acted upon his ideas.  He didn’t wait to lose the initiative. The trust that he was able to establish with his clients meant that if Simon said that I was worth meeting, then that was all that was needed. 

It was also a lesson in backing yourself and understanding that business is done between people, not companies.  It took me about five years to repay the favour which I was happy to say, worked well for both Simon and the client.  The reason that I was able to replay the favour was the trust that I had built with the client in the same way that Simon had shown me.

Simon always enjoyed himself and took great pleasure in catching up for a beer.  The last time that I caught up with Simon was about five weeks before his passing, which was around two weeks before he was told that his cancer was terminal.  He bought lunch so I’ll have to find another way to repay him.

Just in case you did not know Simon, I want to point out that he could also be a bit of a larrikin.  I recall a story told to me by another of his long term clients.  The story was told around a table at a charity luncheon that Simon did not attend and I can’t recall if I ever checked the veracity of the story with him.  However, I assure you that the teller of the tale is a highly respected CIO currently on an international assignment.

The story was of Simon when he was new to the sales profession.  He was working for a pest control company and was given an inner Melbourne suburb to prospect.  After knocking on a few doors, Simon realised that pest control was only valuable to the client if the homeowner had some pests to control! Showing confidence, initiative and the wisdom to invest in creating clients, he bought a packet of icy poles.  He then walked along the street and tossed an unwrapped icy pole into the front year of every other front yard.  The next day he revisited the same street and knocked on the doors of the homeowners who now discovered that their front yard had a sudden influx of pests that needed to be controlled.  Simon didn’t create the infestation; he just made it obvious in the same way that he made his friendship obvious; he took the time and initiative.  I, along with the many friends he created, will miss him.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sales substitution lessons from my Dad

Some of you may recognise that my surname is Maltese. My father grew up in Malta during the second world war. It was only after his passing in 2001 that I learned how he and his younger brother would leave air raid shelters to bring more food and water to his family. They weren't even teenagers. At the end of the war, my father was apprenticed to an uncle as a carpenter and it was with this skill and background that he emigrated to Australia as a nineteen year old.

Of key importance here was that my father learned to be inventive and could build anything from wood. He eventually became a troubleshooter for the state roads department in fixing bridges.

Before he retired he bought and renovated a beach house so he could indulge in his passion for fishing. Fishing seems to be a birthright for anyone with a Maltese heritage. Dad was never one to spend money on material items if he could build it himself, unless there was sufficient gap in the functionality that he desired but could not achieve.

Two examples come to mind:
1. He was happy to spend money on a fiberglass fishing boat and fit it out with an endless array of paraphernalia  because he could not easily replicate the strength, lightness and maneuverability that he needed to get through the rip into the open sea. Spending this money helped him achieve his goals.

2. Dad loved to sit back after dinner and watch some television. Because it was a beach house he did not spend where it wasn't warranted. His problem was that the old push button television did not have remote control. Rather than spend hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on a new TV which would have given him more functionality including a remote control, Dad took a long piece of timber dowel (otherwise known as a stick) and shaped the end of the stick to fit the buttons on the TV. So he substituted a completely different product that fully complied with his required functionality at a fraction of the cost. Fights over the remote control took on a completely different aspect.

Often there is a danger when we sell specific products and services that we become focused on the benefits and features of "our" products. We do this in order to line up against a competing product and overcome objections by differentiating our product from a competitor's product. When we do this we forget to focus on the customer's goals.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sales Poetry - Poetry as an analogy for Sales

I originally wrote this as the basis for a speech and found it again when I was recently trawling through my documents folder. I hope you enjoy it.


Poetry needs passion, so does sales.

You can write a limerick and get a laugh, you can run through a process and get a sale. But if you want to leave them wanting more, you need to approach Sales with passion. After all, it is sales that gives your company its life blood, revenue. You may as well get passionate about it. 

Consistent format 

Poetry has consistent formats eg: Haiku, Rhyme, Quatrain, Iambic pentameter and limerick. Similarly, Sales generally follow a Prospect, Qualify, Position, Align, Proof of concept, determine scope of work, Quote, Negotiate, Close. 

Explores Facts and Emotions 

Poetry explores and questions facts, assumptions and emotions:
Eg: There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses — he was worth a thousand pound
(with apologies to AB "Banjo" Paterson)

A sales person might question the truth of this and seek to understand if the owner was happy with a replacement. If not, what would the owner do in the mean time to satisfy the need for a colt. Possibly strike an agreement to outsource a colt of similar stature at 100 pounds per month for the next 6 months and if the colt from old Regret could not be found, the owner could purchase the replacement. 

Sometimes unexpected ending 

Poetry can lead you down the garden path, certain that a pot of gold awaits at the end. Then, just as you feel it in your grasp, it is snatched away. Sales are the same, but if you write the script, you can be more certain of the end. 

Sometimes inspired

Famous American poet Ruth Stone described how a poem would fly to her when she was harvesting in the fields. See I had my own experience when I was able to out manoeuvre IBM. This is also a story about flexibility in smaller companies. 

Sometimes just hard work and persistence

Sometimes a poem just flows; sometimes it’s just hard work. When it is hard work you can still get there but you need to follow a process and make sure that the deal is still worth the work. 
·         2% of sales are made on the 1st contact
·         3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact
·         5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact
·         10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
·         80% of sales are made on or after the 5th contact <<== WOW

There are highs and lows 

Just as poetry can take you on an emotional rollercoaster, so can sales.
Month on month you can be elated at the end of the month then realise then you need to do it all over again.
The best way to avoid this is to have visibility of a pipeline.... 

Not everyone is a poet 

Just as everyone is not a poet, not everyone can sell.
The features and the benefits from which you can tell
That you understand all the tricks and avenues
It might be obvious to all, that you are clever with words
Adds up to nought when you are dealing with revenues

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Networking or Putting yourself in the way of your targets

I was recently asked by a trainer, who had just decided to start his own company, how I use networking to find business. In answer, I told him that it was about putting yourself in the way of your targets. He got it immediately.

Just in case it is not, I’ll try to make it more obvious with some examples. There are many occasions when you could be invited to an event or gathering that might turn up some good prospects. I recall one instance when I was looking to be employed by a company but wanted to impress upon the CEO that I would be able to take a different angle to most others. I started subscribing to an email specific to his industry. Very soon, I noticed a conference that was being run by a government body responsible for that industry and that he was listed as a speaker. As it was a government conference, anyone with an interest could register to attend. By the first break we had “run into each other” and he was offering me the role. He had not expected me to be there and the fact that I was showing interest beyond others proved to him that I was the right selection.

This is an especially good way to learn about an industry that you may be targeting and can give you great exposure to who is the decision maker.