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Archive for December, 2011

Well, friends, I’m taking a couple of weeks off from the blog.  Be back on January 10.  But I wanted to share a delicious Christmas treat.

Please enjoy this link from YouTube.  It is an absolute hoot and certainly more profound than any fustian sales wisdom I could impart.  I want to drink what this febrile madman of a sales genius is drinking.  We should all be so gifted.  Enjoy.

Merry Christmas!

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There are groaning bookshelves of celebrated sales books out there.  Though I have read very few of them, there are surely reasons to read most of them, I suppose.

The reason I don’t read many sales books, even though elite sales initiation is the specialty of my firm Corporate Rain International, is that the assumptions behind many of these books seem non-essential, trivial, and cynical to me.  Though I know sales gurus command big bucks for their writing and personal appearances, from the outside most of this stuff looks to me to be about process, technique, psychology, dazzling virtuosity, and penultimate values and skills–a veritable plethora of sales technique insufficiently moored to core value and core values.

Sales is not about fooling people, despite our increasingly hucksterish culture of voyeurism, chimera, sophistry, and ends-justifies-the-means manipulation, mistaking image for essence. Per this, I am bemused that my home state of New York has started a 50 million dollar image campaign to attract new business to the state.  This is a fools errand while the state isn’t forthrightly addressing its business-hostile environment and frightening structural debt issues.  A PR campaign in such an environment is the worst sort of wasteful pablum, really a cynical attempt to paper over the obvious reasons businesses should not locate to New York.

(Tangentially speaking, politics drives me crazy these days.  I occasionally watch the Republican primary debates, as well as the unceasing four year, 365 day/year Obama reelection campaign, and am exhausted by the superficial, the calculated, the disingenuous.  It’s enough for me to take a second look at Newt Gingrich, who looks like a haughty, unsmiling, overstuffed sausage, but is at least arguing real policy and serious issues.  He is rising in the polls, despite his personal unlikeability quotient, because people long for seriousness and real depth of thought.)

Which brings me back to sales and substance.  I really believe sales is simple.  You simply tell the truth and tell it fiercely and sincerely.  If you can’t do that with a product or service, find a product or service you can do it with.  At that point you are doing your potential client a favor by revealing to him or her the truth, in much the same way a social worker or a minister seeks to serve and enlighten. There is no reason a salesman should look upon his profession as less than ennobling.  People intuitively respond to real value sincerely explicated.

There is always a hunger for the essential, whether in sales, politics, entertainment, or finance.  People have been spiritually sickened by the Bernie Madoffs, the Kim Kardashians, the banking and governmental con men, and an increasingly sclerotic culture that denigrates real essence and accomplishment and raises up image, branding, and phony feel-good nostrums.

So clear explanation and education about substance and real value is about all there is to sales, to my way of thinking.  That and hard work.

Or, as Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dane Bernbach once said, “Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’ That will only confuse you.  Just be sure you’re saying something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

Thank you, Bill.

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Just a simple idle thought on sales today.

Please keep in mind the special circumstances and opportunities posed by the end of the year.  It is often a great time to initiate with new clients at corporations.  Here’s some simple counter-intuitive experience I have unearthed in 17 years of helming my executive sales outsourcing firm Corporate Rain International.

Remember the end of the year is a time of accounting shenanigans.  Corporate CPAs, as often as not, may well want to have their clients lose money in December.  Thus, a different pattern of spending and ROI sensitivity may animate the last month of the year.

There is often selling opportunity in this circumstance.  Even in a scary and cautious business environment, December may give an impetus to the experimental and the new.  Almost every year one corporate client or another of mine will unexpectedly pull the string on a new project after discovering end-of-the-year revenue.

In addition to tax adjustments, individual departments within companies may have surplus funds left over from the year.  They need to use this money or lose it.  Corporate managers do not like leaving money on the table for a couple of reasons.  One, it reflects ill on their strategic fiscal plan from the beginning of the previous year.  And two, it may have budget reduction implications for their department’s strategic allocations in the next fiscal year.  So I have often found it is very worth an extra nudge to recalcitrant or timid potential corporate clients as the holiday season approaches.

A second counter-intuitive suggestion is not to view December as a selling dead zone.  While it is true that corporate decision-makers are often very busy with parties, vacations, personal travel, and family from Thanksgiving on, they also frequently find themselves with unexpected pockets  of inactivity available.  It can be a particularly propitious time for sales initiation and spec meetings.  There is always opportunity in times of disruptive corporate patterns.  So while many decision-makers may be especially hard to reach in the holiday season, those that are working may have out of the norm availability for real consideration of the new, the out-of-the-box, the uncommon, the magical—a particular opportunity for the creative entrepreneur.

So, as far as problematic holiday executive selling is concerned,  I stand with Lee Iococca, who said,  “We are continually faced by great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as problems.”

Thanks, Lee.

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