career


Gratitude is one of your biggest sales tools

Most of the sales people who I know have lots of confidence. With some, it might even border on arrogance. Confidence is a critical attribute for successful sales, as believing you can get a result is vital to making it happen. But another attribute is almost as important: the often-underappreciated trait of gratitude.

Ridiculous, you might think. Why would someone in sales need to be grateful? How is humility helpful?

Consider this. How many of you find overconfidence to be a turnoff, particularly when the offender is trying to sell you something? The feeling conveyed is that the seller is smarter, knows more, and overall is just better than you are. Of course, nobody likes that feeling. But so many in sales behave that way and never change.

What about gratitude makes it a great quality in a salesperson?

A grateful sales person is grounded in reality and can see things for what they are.

A grateful sales person does the necessary homework on an opportunity, doesn’t try to wing it in a presentation, and doesn’t assume that personality will overcome objections.

A grateful sales person can walk in the shoes of others, recognizing that while they may represent a different perspective, they are a peer with respect to any transaction or relationship.

A grateful sales person doesn’t push ideas too hard, recognizing that a sale should come more naturally, and the case made that it’s obvious that the prospect should buy, rather than be forced.

Who wants to feel that they are being forced to buy something? Don’t get me wrong, gratitude without confidence is a non-starter. But having the right balance can be the difference in a well-rounded sales approach.

In sales, as with many things, being grateful for what you have is the right foundation for getting what you want and perhaps what your prospect needs.


Your Network is Terrible and It Will Kill You

A couple of questions:

  • Could you quickly secure a new job solely on the strength of your connections?
  • Could you start a business and achieve self-sufficiency immediately based upon your connections?

I suspect that the answer is ‘no’ to both questions, as it proved to be for me in December 2005 when I chose to start my business. At the time, my thinking was “Hey, I used to run Macworld. Once people know I have my own company the phone will ring off the hook.” Unfortunately, reality proved to be different and I struggled for the first two years.

 

The Event Mechanic! struggles

The main reason for my early struggles? My network was only 10% of what was needed to make a living. With both time and considerable effort that network now is much healthier and now financially I do well. As a result of my network, I often get referrals for new opportunities or, because of the range of my network, I can usually reach whoever I need through a couple of connections.

If you have the six months to two years of savings to support the lean times between jobs, then you might be fine. If not, you should be working on your network. And the time to work on it is when you don’t need it, not when you are scrabbling for financial survival.

 

How can you create a vibrant network? 

  1. Focus on connections that offer value.
  2. Make sure that any connection is recognized as being mutually beneficial, rather than a one-sided ‘extraction.’
  3. Offer value before expecting it from others.
  4. Be open to making connections on behalf of others.
  5. Don’t neglect your core network in deference to focusing on new connections.
  6. Use LinkedIn as a roadmap.
  7. Treat your efforts as a business; develop a board of directors for advice.

 

More or better?

Is the goal to have more connections or better connections? My old boss, Ron Gomes, often would answer that kind of either/or question with a ‘yes,’ since ideally, you want both. But, if there’s a trade-off, I would argue that it is better to have fewer, stronger connections than have many distant connections who you don’t really know. As a metric, I’d recommend trying to develop a network of one hundred core connections with whom you connect at least annually. That number should be complemented by several hundred “secondary” connections who will, at a minimum, respond to an email or take your call on an “as needed” basis.

 

Don’t be an Extractor

Building and maintaining a network takes work, but you should consider it an investment in your ‘rainy day’ fund. And, as was noted earlier, remember the importance of reciprocity. To be successful with network building you should enjoy helping others, as there will be times when members of your network need YOUR help. Relationships that are one directional will not be sustainable and your network will have the fraction of the power it should have.. When you’re only seen as an extractor, there soon will be nothing to be extracted as your connections will leave in droves.

I learned the value of a good network the hard way, and now enjoy the benefits of having invested in that effort. Will you make the same effort or risk being caught short when you need the resources?

 

Extra Credit reading:

https://www.fastcompany.com/90246816/the-5-people-you-must-have-in-your-network

https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/7-ways-to-build-a-strong-network/

https://www.fastcompany.com/90265127/how-to-build-and-maintain-an-effective-linkedin-network

And thanks to Dan Schwabel for his outline of the seven steps to creating a sound network.

 


Take Responsibility for Your Actions

Recently I have started to notice a trend where people will blame others for situations that are truly their own responsibility. You probably know what – or who – I’m talking about.

 

Can you sell or what?

Typically, as a sales manager, I am fairly cautious when setting sales goals. Some would say that I am too conservative. If I were managing someone like me, I’d certainly want a larger commitment. But, as a sales person, I’d also want to be known as someone who always exceeds my goals and who will agree to a ‘stretch’ goal where the push for higher results makes sense.

Regardless of whether the target is aggressive or conservative, accountability is the important thing. I remember a time when I fell short of selling the desired number of sponsors for an online event. In a conversation with my boss, I started to roll out all the reasons why I had missed the number – until I stopped myself. Not hitting the goal was my fault, despite all the factors that I could name. My responsibility! Fortunately, it was a small piece of the $1 million that I was due to produce and I had already made up the deficit by overachieving in other areas.

 

Yet the episode was instructive in several ways:

Taking responsibility, now a rare act, can be a competitive advantage if you do it consistently.

It’s liberating to know that, because an outcome is within your control (regardless of circumstances), you can and will make it happen.

Acknowledging a “failure” is almost never as painful as you fear it will be.

 

Do you have the character?

A willingness to take responsibility is a character trait that I seek out in those with whom I work or considering to hire. It signifies power, leadership and independent thinking. Of course, when you are the CEO, the buck should naturally stop with you but most of us typically report to someone, so indications of accountability at any level are positive signals necessary to be a star, no matter what role you perform.

I’m not going to descend into the messy pool of today’s politics for less affirming examples of the trend to blame others.  Make sure however that you frequently conduct your own objective self-review and acceptance of your responsibilities if you plan to succeed in the long run.

 

See you soon?

On a separate note, I’ll be in New Orleans for Expo! Expo! in December. If you’d like to discuss this or other newsletters that I’ve written, I’d be thrilled to get your perspective. And I love to meet event people as passionate as I am about our business.

 

Until the next time, consider how you can make ‘the buck stop’ at your own desk….

 


The Power of the Increment

When I reflect upon the success I’ve achieved to date and consider the details, I’m always amazed to consider the origins and my journey so far.  Given different accomplishments, it’s instructive to consider how things got started. Everything that’s happened has done so in a series of increments, some of which have been positive and others less so. Even the big achievements have come as a progression of small steps.

 

A Lesson from the Owner of COMDEX

My experience is not unique. A good example comes from Masayoshi Son, the founder of Softbank and someone I consider a living legend even though one of his events was a well-known competitor at a past company: COMDEX.

 

While Son was a full-time student at UC Berkeley, he sought a way to earn $10,000 a month. It was perhaps too challenging a goal for most of us, but not for Son. How did he do it? By investing a mere five minutes daily in thinking about new business ideas. With no support from fellow students (who thought he was wasting his time, he persevered in thinking about inventions that he could patent – but for just five minutes a day.

 

Now you and I would probably consider five minutes daily as trivial. Why not go away for a week or so, if you were really committed to getting something accomplished. But Son’s efforts were grounded in the belief in the “Power of the Increment”.

 

And what were the results? Son conceived and created an electronic dictionary that could translate words from English into Japanese, eventually selling it to Sharp for $1.7 million. Another business idea involving the importing of video games generated $1.5M. By the age of 19, he was a millionaire.

 

 

The Concept of “Kaizen” vs. Sudden Big Changes

The Japanese word “kaizen” captures the concept of making big life changes through small, incremental steps. It translates as “continual improvement” and has been implemented everywhere. With kaizen, you can tackle projects through daily routines. Rather than completely overhaul and reorganize things in the hopes of achieving success, kaizen centers on how ideas can evolve over time and how small changes can have big results if they’re nurtured properly.

 

The continuing nature of a kaizen approach allows for continued measurement and analysis to ensure that things are headed in the right direction. Sudden transformations often don’t allow you to properly keep track of your goals. Good processes should always allow for measurement along the way, so make sure you measure what you are doing.

 

The Power of the Increment really is a winner. Give it a shot!

 


Do You Live by Your Word?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been bombarded with lots of marketing offers, many of which make the wildest of claims. Possibly it’s something to help you lose 20 lbs in just two weeks or a promise to brighten your teeth in only two days. Or maybe there’s someone promoting a system that can magically solve your marketing problems, generate lots of leads, and fix your website’s SEO performance. And so on.
 
Riffing off a recent LinkedIn post by Michael Hart, it seems clear that keeping one’s word can now be a competitive advantage. Too many organizations will say anything they think is needed to drive sales, without any expectation of following through on their promises. Given that environment, my suggestion is to take a contrarian approach and ensure that you follow through and do whatever you’ve said you will – no matter how small that obligation might be.
 
This effort will build trust in your commitment, although getting to that trust may take time. In the prevailing environment, people are wary about what they’re told – and there’s often good reason to be skeptical. There’s ample evidence that many people feel no need to follow through on what they promise, whether it’s an outright effort to cheat or just the lack of sense of obligation to deliver. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but now there’s just more visibility to the gap between words and deeds.
 

My suggestion is to start small and be consistent. And deliver! It will be the best decision you’ve ever made.

In the end, your word and your reputation are the only things you’ve really got.

Given that situation, it’s best to use them wisely.


Are Event Marketers About to Become Extinct?

 

Imagine that you’ve missed another attendee goal for an event. Or, possibly worse, your attendee revenue number is short of the target. Why?

Some questions to ask are:

  • Did you do the same things that you did the previous year?
  • Was that because your marketing staff chose the familiar route rather than changing things up?
  • Are they skilled enough to know how and when to change strategies or can they only work to the original plan?
  • Were they wary of new strategies because they were afraid to fail?
  • Are they attuned enough to what’s happening in marketing to explore the latest tactics?

 

I know many marketing people who were cutting edge ten years ago, but no longer are. Why? They’ve not done what’s needed to update their knowledge and skills or they’ve not worked at companies that offered such training and they have drifted.

Is it their fault?

 

I would estimate that 90% of all event marketing professionals have learned “by doing”, rather than having undergone specific training. In truth, there is no “formal” marketing training that is designed for event professionals. Nor is there the higher-level skills training for those who have some industry experience but need to update their capabilities as new tools and techniques and market trends have emerged. That means that over time your event staff is likely to become less and less proficient in executing the marketing tasks in ways that can deliver results. There’s a skills atrophy. This in a time where getting attendance is proving harder and harder every year.

 

Are our Trainers up to Scratch?

And, given the inverse correlation between “time in the industry” and “familiarity with the latest in marketing,” those with the most experience, who might be considered the likely source for knowledge and expertise – and could serve as trainers – are likely to be the least able to do it well for what’s needed now….

 

Given the importance of marketing – it’s the foundation to getting attendees to an event, and the gateway to attracting exhibitors – I find it difficult to reconcile myself to this situation people less well equipped to handle tougher circumstances. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that marketing staff has the most up-to-date skills?

 

In principle, I’d argue that it’s the individual who must take personal ownership of keeping their skills current rather than rely on the company for whom they work. But, if event marketers learn primarily by doing, then they need the opportunity to “do.” However, going to training or a learning experience ‘to learn’ is frequently seen as a reward and not considered something that all staff should have the chance to do.

 

Should you Outsource your Strategy to Technology?

Much of the marketing training that is available focuses on developing skills with specific marketing software packages that can, if you believe the claims, do everything for you. Readers can probably identify many examples of sales pitches that urge attendance at webinars or classes with suggestions that mastery of a certain product will make things right. The reality is that software can help execute decisions once they are made but less suited as a tool for determining what those decisions should be.

 

I would argue that we, as an industry, need to start figuring out how to train (and retrain) our marketing people so that they are self-sufficient, strategic assets within our companies, rather than just the staff we need to operate software programs. Otherwise, we will regress to the point where we hand decision-making and execution of critical attendance acquisition plans to technicians who operate analytics programs rather rely on smart, multi-resourced marketing teams.

 

If we proceed in the direction that ‘technology solves all marketing problems’, the question to ask is whether these marketing jobs will become extinct since you will just need to be an ‘operator’ to do the work…..

 

I see a business opportunity for someone….


What Drives You to Succeed?

What drives people to succeed?  What prompts people to do what they do – and try to do it better over time? And to compete and do it better than others? Try searching online and you’ll find that it’s the kind of question that prompts a lot of inquiries; depending on how you look, it could be in the tens of millions. Clearly, trying to understand what motivates people is one of those elemental questions. Some people look at successful people and try to figure it out that way. There are thousands of books to help.

 

Back in the middle of the last century, Abraham Maslow looked at things more fundamentally and proposed a “hierarchy of needs” – the things that motivate behavior. He suggested that people start with certain basic “physiological” motivations (basics like food, shelter, clothing, etc.) and they then proceed up the ladder to finally reach what he called “self-actualization” (spiritual/emotional motivations like values, faith, helping others, etc.) In the years that followed there’s been a lot of debate and criticism about the model. The reality is that it’s hard to find something that fits everyone.

 

Rather than try to establish some set of universal truths, perhaps it’s best to look inward. I am sure that each of you can point to things that keep you focused. For me, the types of projects in which I’m involved provide a clue. Event ‘firefighting’, launching events, and sales are all high pressure, time-sensitive, mentally taxing, and extremely stressful. There are times when circumstances reach the point at which I’d just like to give up.

 

Despite any difficulties I encounter, I never quit. Why not?

* Is it the challenge of pulling through when things are difficult? Yes.

* Is it the need to make money? Yes.

* Is it the need to expand my horizons and test myself? Yes.

 

But while all those incentives are true, they are not the biggest reason. The biggest reason is right next to me as I write this piece. It’s my daughter Annabelle.

 

I find that even when I find myself in the toughest situations, super stressed and beset with despair as to whether things can be worked out, picking up my daughter can make those difficulties fade away.

 

Who or what does it for you? As I have gotten older, it’s the people, not the things that make the tough things worth doing.

 

Is it the same for you?

 

 


Controlling the Tone = You Being Leader

A colleague from my past was a bit of a con man. By that, I mean he frequently pitched new schemes with little-to-no thought about what was needed to deliver on the promises he was making. The story was good, but the details on achieving the goal were lacking. Making promises that he couldn’t keep eventually proved to be his downfall in the business.

 

Besides being an excellent pitchman, this former colleague also had the great facility to be able to control the tone of whatever was going on. What do I mean? I’d describe him as someone who could be sitting in an office beset by flame and smoke, but you’d never know it from his attitude. His tone and mannerisms would lead you to conclude that all was serene and headed in the right direction. Additionally, he could transform the mood of a room from darkness to light, engaging with people in ways that got them excited about moving forward no matter the circumstances.

 

Enter the Firefighter

My memories of that colleague got me thinking about the ability of some to define the tone of a situation- even one which is potentially catastrophic. For leaders operating in challenging times, controlling the tone of a situation enables them to transcend the details – often obstacles – of the moment with a style that serves as a cue to your staff not to be worried. It’s a signal that the team should not surrender to the moment, but rather should muster the will to handle whatever challenges need to be faced.


Enter the Flight Attendant

You know what I mean. Most of us have seen this in action. We’ve all been on a plane that’s experienced unexpected turbulence. In that moment, what do we do? Look to the flight attendants and, from their expressions and actions, gauge whether the situation is serious or not. I actually believe that the airline’s onboard staff is trained to smile  and behave confidently when things are bad, thus helping to alleviate the sense of panic that passengers would otherwise have. Personally, I recall a flight from Boston to New Orleans that was forced to land at JFK in New York. In that situation, all the flight attendants were strapped in and somber, a clue to me that we might have been in for trouble-indeed I was right as they stopped all flights and had firetrucks at the end of the runway. I wonder if any stress would have been avoided if they had been instructed to act differently.

 

Enter the Leader = You

The ability to control the tone of a situation has huge benefits and I believe that it’s a litmus test for both identifying new leaders and affirming existing ones. If you can master this skill, you will engender loyalty and perseverance from your staff when the going gets tough, something that will pay for itself many times over.

Are you with me?


The Era of Pushback

People would prefer to engage in activity that preserves the status quo rather than pursue something new because the status quo is safer and proven. One can expend as little effort as is needed, and try to extract the biggest benefit from what’s been done previously, taking comfort and security in knowing there’s an established precedent for achieving success. Often people will do what’s been done and hope that no-one notices it’s the same. They prefer a proven path rather than blaze a new trail. The result is often an old product, packaged in a new box, with lots of time and effort spent on promotion.

 

Why is this considered the way to go? Because we’re in an “era of pushback.”

 

What’s that? It’s the scenario where your boss wants to maintain profits and do so without risking anything. That boss will push back on anything new that you might want to try because their focus is on next quarter’s and year’s numbers.

What explanations are given?

  • The opportunity cost of investing time and money on something new means you’re not investing in what’s already proven to work.
  • There’s a possibility that whatever new endeavor is being contemplated just won’t work.
  • You won’t make your numbers and anything that jeopardizes the numbers must be avoided.
  • This new idea that you’re proposing? Nobody but you, gets it.

Far worse than any of the above, is if you feel the company culture dictates that if you fail you’ll be punished somehow.

 

Attempting anything new is hard. Many will falter at the first obstacle. But the good news is that if you’re not stymied by the ‘barriers of no’ you will reap the rewards. Why? Because you’ll be exploring new opportunities when others won’t dare. Even if you ‘fail’, you’ll have developed the habits associated with creation, overcoming obstacles, and innovation. That predisposition is the prerequisite for exploiting new opportunities or, better yet, actually creating those opportunities.

 

Unlike your competition, who are selling last year’s product, perhaps with a new name….

 

Go get ‘em, Tiger!


Success Requires Getting Burned

Although my business is now successful, in December of 2005 I was at a crossroads. After six months of R&R that had followed the end of a difficult events job, it was time to get back to work. I chose to open my own event consulting company, a perilous decision given that 8 of every 10 new businesses will fail within 18 months of their founding.
 
Yet I survived and am now thriving. Why? Am I significantly smarter than the 80% of entrepreneurs that do not? Probably not. To what do I attribute the difference? Because I have been burned.
 
That’s “burned” as in having failed, as in having had to grind for years, hustling and scrounging to get to where I now am. But mostly I was burned. In what ways?
 
  • I got my start in sales, but within months I was put on probation for having missed my sales quota – even though I had the worst territory amongst 18 sales reps. Think Glengarry Glen Ross. That burned!

  • At Lufthansa, I was told I’d never succeed as a sales rep. That burned!
 
  • For an assignment in the Netherlands, I was told that the project for which I had flown 3000 miles would be a failure because I lacked direct experience and was only 22 years old. It burned!
 
  • While working in Boston, the major sponsor of my biggest event commanded that I produce a solution to a problem that they had created, and do so by 6 AM the following morning. I remember feeling my scalp get scorched that time.
 
There are countless other occasions – personal and professional – when I have tried things and not succeeded. There were jobs I wanted, dates I sought, grades in school for which I worked, etc. And not getting them left me feeling burned.
 
If you have failed at something, yet got back up and tried again and again until you succeeded, then you know what I mean.
 
You can’t truly savor victory until you have been burned by failure. That experience is the best fuel to becoming better than the next guy, making your quota, or launching an event and hitting a home run with it.
 
Currently, I carry a part-time sales quota of $1 Million – and I’m launching successful events every year. Neither situation would be possible without the failures I’ve listed. And I anticipate – even welcome – possible future failures, recognizing that they will similarly propel me forward.
 
Burn, baby, burn! Keep it going and try new things. For those that do so, I salute you!