The Efficiency in Being Inefficient

( My column as appeared in UpMarket Magazine Week of Jan. 15th )

As sales people try to become more efficient during economic upturns i.e. Handle more sales using more efficient means. Buyers do something similar but in the opposite direction during economic downturns. They become efficient at being inefficient.

At first this may seem as a play on words or it makes no sense, however I’ll assure that not only is it true, but it can be a powerful way companies, families, or just about anyone uses when they don’t want to commit to purchase, invest, change, etc.

A great example of this was identified in a recent corporate earnings release from Oracle®. As I was listening to a financial network give highlights on the report I heard what deemed as a throw away line for most. But to my ears it wasn’t. One of the reasons they asserted for sales being pushed back into latter quarters was (I’m paraphrasing) “Companies have added more management layers to the decision-making process hence increasing the time in the purchasing approval process.” That line is very telling if you’re truly listening. The way most salespeople react to this type of information will also distinguish the average from the super stars.

In today’s economic climate many salespeople will end up spinning their wheels more than ever because buyers have greased the tracks. What buyers of every stripe will do when implementing this technique is to give salespeople just enough hope that what is actually a no sale can possibly turn into a sale once the right person approves the purchase order, or the budget gets allocated, or their boss signs off, and on, and on. This also allows the possible buyer to keep all their options open while continually dragging along the resources of the sales persons time in endless negotiations with other levels of management. Deals that were assumed to be agreed upon suddenly find themselves undercut by some competitor while they were waiting for the approval that was “promised” to be any time now.

The only efficient way of dealing with it is to get back to the fundamentals so many forget or disregard. Is the person you are in front of the one who can authorize the sale or write the check if an agreement is made today. Anyone that can not perform that task is a gate-keeper not a true buyer. The time you’ll spend spinning your wheels in front of gate-keepers is time lost not searching out a true economic buyer. You must qualify, qualify, qualify. Only when you are in front of the person responsible for cutting the check or giving the final approval should you be giving your real sales pitch for them to buy. All other talking should be directed at getting you there. If you can’t get in front of the real buyer, then stop wasting your breath, time, or resources and move onto looking for another prospect because one thing is for sure.

An efficient sales process is only valid once the check has been cashed and cleared the bank. As of this writing “Sounds good, I’ll get purchasing to take a look at it.” or ” Send me a proposal so I can show it to my boss.” or “I’m waiting to hear what they think.” is not accepted anywhere as legal tender.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Why Many Big Paydays Result in Bankruptcies

Ever wonder just when it seems a company you know or hear of as a rising star that seems to have nothing but the brightest future ahead of it unexpectedly goes out of business just as fast? Or in the case of media stars that are all the rage then become totally irrelevant even faster? Usually it can be traced back to the “Big Payday.”

Some brands or companies have staying power. Same goes for talent such as movie stars or singers.  What we don’t see is the far greater number of everyday people who fall into this category because they are not in the public eye. Their stories fall by the way side and we wonder if it was just an act of fate. I believe it has less to do with fate and more to do with handing the reins over to someone else once the “payday” has been reached. Happens all the time in new start-ups. Some new company goes public with an IPO making the founders rich beyond their dreams then suddenly we find them out of business a year later. Most want to complicate it by adding excuses or alibis to all the reasons why they are no longer in the spot light, or worse no longer solvent. Many times what happens is once the ultimate goal they set is reached i.e., stardom, money, breaking records, positions of status, they feel they can now relax. Sound too simplistic? That’s the problem.

The first clue for trouble can be noticed when day-to-day efforts of anything are to be done through some underling, or done through some management company, etc. Another sign that trouble might be on the horizon is in watching how long it takes them to farm out the chore of actually opening their own utility bills and writing the check themselves. (The horror!) These are just first stages in the problems associated with the big “pay-day.” Others that can be just as damaging or prove disastrous even quicker is when this same attitude gets applied to their actual work or business. They no longer worry about prospecting for new clients or markets. Why? Because business is so good right now all they need to do is not lose any and the gravy train will keep on running. History proves it won’t. The road is littered with examples in the dangers once you turn over the helm of running your life or business in any way to someone else whether it be the small details or large ones, No one cares or will care for your financial fitness or career like you regardless of how much money you now may make. Most will never realize this until it’s too late.

Nothing creates success like more success, but you have to continually work at it yourself. No one is going to keep it for you no matter what you can now afford to pay them. You’ll never have enough.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Some Free Advice…

I’ve learned many things by trial and error in my career, but when I was asked to write a pithy statement to the question of: “What insight have you learned over the years that you wish you had known, or would recommend to anyone else if they were just starting out in business?”

Here’s my response:

“Don’t start a project before you both have signed a summation of exactly what is expected to be performed and how each is to be compensated and when. This summation is not a contract drawn up by some legal department or subject to it. Rather it should be a written document on points already agreed upon so that if terms change midstream you may stop performing all duties till you once again both have a clear understanding of the changes to continue in good faith. If not you risk doing work you may never be able to collect on.”

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Team Building 101…Dump the Committees

(My column as appeared in UpMarket Magazine week of Jan 8th)

In the world of business we hear from just about anyone who strides a stage or whips out the PowerPoint® presentation that it’s about “Teams.” They blather ad nauseam about team building. Most regurgitate so many old and tired metaphors to emphasize their points one needs to wonder if they purchased them by the ton. “There’s no I in team!” I swore if I ever heard that one again I would walk out of the meeting even if it meant I would be fired. Enough already what’s next “Right brain, Left brain thinking?” Forget the pink slip. I’ll save a tree and leave right now.

Teams and team building is what most say they want their organization to resemble. The problem most never understand is that on a team there can not be any winners or losers within the team without effecting the well-being of the team. When you have one person who can win at the expense of another you don’t have a team you have a committee. The two are similar when viewed from a distance however they are geared and designed to exploit very different objectives.

Teams share a common goal. That goal could be winning a game, designing a new widget, or research project just to name a few. Everyone on the team shares the common quest for the attainment or successful outcome of the project, however if for some reason one persons input needs to be discounted or not used that person is neither to be offended nor felt left out. They may need to switch roles, or work on something that seems unrelated to outsiders, but for the winning of the team in its goal nothing is too big or too small a chore. On a team, the team winning is all that matters even if it means one of the members needs to be sidelined. That is not the way committees work, and that’s what most are but they call themselves the former.

Committees are important and necessary. They allow for different teams to coalesce and fight for why their project, research, and others have a need. Another would be to validate their funding. You get the idea. But unlike a team the members on a committee don’t share the most fundamental principle needed for a team. In a committee someone can win big while an other can lose. (and lose big!) Here’s an example:

In a committee made up of different department heads say the warehouse department wants more influence or control of inventory decisions, but that would entail hindering the purchasing department. While the warehouse department might win the argument for having the control, the purchasing department would in effect be losing. Maybe with that decision the purchasing department doesn’t take advantage of some deeply discounted volume buy that would give the sales force an edge over the competition because the arguments over control have been decided by committee to reside with the warehouse. The warehouse might now be running like a Swiss clock, but other departments could suffer greatly. Understanding this dichotomy and managing each effectively is what sets winning teams or companies apart.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Some News I’m Very Proud Of

Today I am very pleased to announce that I am a weekly contributor to the newest magazine launched by aptly named UpMarket. This is a very exciting time for me as I’ll explain.

For those whom might not be familiar with Squidoo, it is the brain child of Seth Godin whom is by far one of the most well-respected marketing gurus of this age. Mr. Godin has been shaking up the world of publishing over the last decade with not only his own books and lectures, but with actual companies launched under his tutelage. Squidoo as of this writing is currently ranked #73 out of the millions of websites in the United States as measured by Quantcast. Squidoo now gets more traffic than Digg, NBC, or Hulu. (and a few others you’d be surprised at) Another project of his that is shaking up the world of books is The Domino Project which is powered by Amazon®.

If there is anything certain about this new platform and venue is it demonstrates how everything is in flux, and anything is possible but only if you’re willing to play. And I am grateful for the opportunity to “suit up.”

You can view my first article and the launch of this magazine here. You can also view and read the articles on Facebook® here. This platform allows and makes effortless the ability for you to comment and share anything you read and you’re encouraged so have fun.

I know I am!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Understanding Math is One Thing, But Not the Only Thing

Many this week looked at the recently released unemployment numbers and many are shaking their head. One of the questions I get asked is,”Do I think the numbers are correct?” This question arises because many who understand 1+1=2 can’t quite grasp the math when they hear on television or radio some talking head touting this statistic or that statistic. They hear the UE6 number (a stat that reflects the people who have given up looking for work) and that number rises, but another average falls. It just doesn’t make any sense when they get out a calculator and try the math for themselves. This is understandable because these are “Government” numbers. So I’ll give an easy example to use for the many whom for what ever the reason don’t understand why they’re confused, or don’t quite get why some are complaining and others are praising the same numbers.

As with anything related or released by the Government always remember, there must be a way to report something so that both sides can complain or praise when it fits the agenda of either party. It’s your job to at least understand how the numbers are formed, then you can at least rely on your own rationals or gut feelings to plan.

Here’s the example of how I described the recent data point:

“Let’s say there are 1000 jobs with 1 person in each. If you lay off 100 people you would have an unemployment rate of 10%. If at the next report the companies that laid off the 100 workers now states that those people and jobs are not going to be rehired because the jobs will no longer be available you will now have a base line of 900 jobs. So by the Government’s calculation and reporting criteria the next unemployment report would show 100% or full employment because the pool of available jobs is now smaller and they are all currently filled.”
For the 100 people who lost their job this type of math is what infuriates them, and with good reason.

It’s for these reasons I try to point out over, and over again that you just can’t listen to some talking head on television, radio, or even in print without making sure you do your own research as to make intelligent decisions on what data points you are going to work with in your planning of life or business.

Just because they’re on TV doesn’t mean they’re smart, or being exactly truthful. After all, there is a reason for the axiom: “Close enough for Government work.”

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Life is About How…

“Life is about how you take it. Not how it’s served”
–Mark St.Cyr

A personal example:

I went into a restaurant to pick up a pizza I ordered. When I enter there is a very attractive girl who smiles at me from behind the counter. As I ask for my order she is very pleasant with me. She’s so pleasant that I’m starting to have those feelings that every guy has, you know the one: “Yeah, she digs me.”
She proceeds to hand me my bill but I can’t read the amount. So I look up and say “I’m sorry I can’t see the total without my glasses.” She smiles and says…“That’s OK, happens to my dad all the time.”
Ouch! I was now wondering exactly how fast can I retreat out of this place without looking like I might need a cane for my now bruised ego.
By the time I reached my car I was laughing at myself about the whole incident and proceeded to tell my wife the story as we drove off. Then as usual she put everything into perspective by saying: “It could have been worse. She could have said her grandfather.”

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Sasquatch and the ROI of Social Media

I’m watch something funny beginning to develop in an area that once thought it was unlike anything before it. The questioning of: What is this whole “Social Media” thing worth in actual dollar terms to my business and how exactly can I quantify it? All I can say is the more things change the more they stay the same.

I have heard and seen some very well-respected people in the field of “Social Media” giving advice or heralding its virtues of late having what I might call odd answers to a very simple question. “What is my expected return on investment?” Suddenly the answers start resembling a discussion on whether Sasquatch exists or not. People say they’ve seen footprints or some will point to documentaries they’ve seen on the internet as credence, but yet it still seems no one is able to quantify a specific marketing strategy using the medium. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying social media has no value. That would be nuts. What I am saying is that the medium itself is getting large enough and old enough to begin to have strategies on money spent and where. After all, this medium is built on the greatest quantifying platform ever known to exist. You can’t click on anything without it being calculated somewhere.

Was it not just a short time ago one of the main reasons touted by some of the clarion callers were that the old modes of advertising were over because they sold sizzle and no steak? I remember listening to one such person as he lambasted a company on paying for a Super Bowl® commercial. The rant was based on “How will you ever know who saw it and actually went out and bought?” Well I’m starting to see that same behavior play out when companies start asking things like: “What is the average add click-through or abandon rate per platform?” Oh I can hear the call of the Yeti from here. I heard one respected voice state “What’s the ROI of your mother?” Although I personally understand the point he was trying to make, media buyers or companies are trying to make million dollar decisions in ad budgets, and they just might not feel comfortable giving their family member millions either in a “See what you can do with this.” scenario.

There are all types of strategies that will work for some, yet not work for others. Telephones were all the rage for cold calling till they weren’t. Fax machines were next than that was old news. Email was it, then banner ads, then websites or blogs. Now its “Social Media.” That doesn’t mean to say its going away or not going to grow exponentially larger. What it means is that in an ever-increasing world where every dollar counts, and nearly every action is quantifiable, the only thing that will be allowed to remain elusive in the years ahead might be our friend in the woods.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Ready, Set, Wish? (follow up)

Some asked if Power Ball was #2, what was #1?

#1 was iPhone 5

It would appear to me that getting the lottery results on the iPhone 4s just isn’t quick enough.

But I’m just thinking out loud. That couldn’t be true.
Could it?

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved


Ready, Set, Wish?

So here we are 2012 and if you ask most people (if they aren’t too hung over) they are ready to hit the ground running on all the new shiny resolutions they made 24 hours ago. As I’ve said before, this can be an exhilarating time if you go about it the right way. Does this mean the “right way” is some set of rules or doctrine laid down by some anointed resolution committee? No, your resolutions are yours. Period! How you define them, how you go about attaining them are totally subject to only the criteria you assign as the benchmarks no one else. If for some reason you didn’t even make one and want to do that today, or tomorrow, or on your birthday who cares? It’s your life, and you do with it as you please. Forget trying to fit yourself into a tradition that might make no sense to you. As long as you’re always trying to improve yourself be it with education, adventure, leisure time, family time, you get the drill. Do it to your own standards as long as you’re seeing real improvement and not kidding yourself. You’re an adult, you know when you’re fooling yourself, or don’t tell others you have when you know you really haven’t moved on a goal. Challenges are just that, challenges. All of us have some we meet and overcome. Then there are the ones we thought we would have already conquered but we fell short. If so start again where you stand. Who cares if it’s New Years Day or some other. Growth, adventure, achievement starts the day, the hour, the minute you decide it does. So decide to decide, and move! Nothing defeats wishing like faith, momentum, and resolve.

Believe it or not most of the people you will encounter throughout your life will say they are doing one thing and secretly they’ll be doing the other. Of course that sounds very simplistic and for some it rings of “duh.” But when it comes to taking hold of the reins of ones life it can’t be stressed enough why you have to know where you are going and what you’re willing to do for its attainment. So as we venture into the event horizon know as 2012 I would like you to contemplate this revealing statistic of 2011.

The #2 Top mobile search per Yahoo (or what people searched on their smart phones) was, are you ready?   “Power Ball.” It seems people who paid big bucks to have one of the most useful or powerful devices known to mankind used it more often to search for something out of their control than for something they could use to help control or improve their lives. One can search for ways to better educate ones self, or a myriad of others available for self improvement that they alone hold the power to implement. Alas, not a chance. With the greatest technological revolution in their own hands along with the unprecedented power to access the worlds data bases for knowledge, they used it to find out if their lives could be changes by wishing, hoping, and praying that some random generated combination of numbers was their ticket to freedom. What a shame.

I hope you choose Ready, Set, Go in 2012 and not the other. And by the way, it’s a winning combination regardless of the order you decide to implement it. Those are far better odds to be played than the wishing game in my book.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved