Wednesday, May 25, 2016

In preparation H for a family trip to Boston, or I love my father…I really do!

5/21/16 Woburn, MA

I woke up before 6 without an alarm clock.  It’s an hour later and the shades are still drawn, snores are emanating from one bed and my wife is in the same position when she fell asleep next to me.  I’ve learned on this trip that my father missed his calling since he would have been a perfect project manager.  He is the epitome of anal retentive.  He is the one who is set on the intricate details that could drive someone like me…bonkers.  This was the first trip which our parents joined us.  The occasion, their first grandchild was graduating college.  Before I describe the event I have to share some of the dialogue between my father and myself.  If you don’t know anything about me, I will tell you – I can survive on the spare of moment and take off on a business trip or a weekend without much planning.  For work, I can be called out to make a meeting which will mean an overnight.  It’s not a big deal.  I pack and go.  I have to say I am surprised my parents made the trip and very happy they did.  My parents planned to take Amtrak to Boston.  They wanted to be assured that Amanda would meet them.  She did.  Two weeks before the trip, my father wanted to know where our hotel was.  It’s in Woburn.  Another call, do you know if they will hold the reservation after six PM, since we may get in after six.  Yes, they will hold the room.  It’s reserved.  Another call, do they have two beds since your mother snores.  I will make sure they have two beds.  Another call, what is Amanda’s cell?  He called me last Sunday, do you have a paper and pen?  Yes.  I want you to take down our cell number.  Dad, you can call my cell and your number will be in my phone.  He didn’t understand.  Well, take it down anyway.  I did.  I finally said to my father, if this trip was too much for you, we would understand if you could not make it. No, I am fine.  We want to be there.  So, I was surprised when I learned my parents were heading up to Boston.  For the record, I tried to call my father on his $5 subscription cell phone – he did not pick up when I called to make sure they were alright while they were making our way up here on Thursday.  Dad told Amanda he added “minutes” for the weekend.  Everything is set for today.  Breakfast at 9:30, so most of us can sleep in.  Back to the hotel and leave by 12:00 since their train leaves from Boston at 1:40.  No problem, we got it.  
Yesterday, the sun was out and it was a warm day in Boston.  It was a good day for graduation ceremonies, and especially from Simmons College.  The day started out early.  Amanda had to be at the site by 9:30 which meant we left the hotel by 7:45.  My parents were the first in the lobby.  Dad explained he was never late for a ship.  We packed into the minivan.  Dad sat next to me and my mother with her nerves and genuflections sat in the back.  At one time I looked back and saw both hands raised to the sky as she prayed.  We hit rush hour traffic and found the grace of the HOV till we were in a short distance for the exit.  We made it on time.  Parking was $40.  Who cares, they got us and it’s too late.  Made it on time.  Mo Cheeks forgot her tassel.   They sold tassels and sweat shirts ($40) Bella looked cold, but Ma used it since Bella said she didn’t need it.  The ceremony was incredible.  Michelle Alexander gave the commencement address which had an impactful message on the justice system in America that has become a vehicle for racial control.
After lunch, my in-laws drove my parents to BaBoo where we rented a room for lunch.  The food was delicious.  A few of Amanda’s friends joined us.  Afterwards, we walked down to the water and sat on the ledge.  There was a sail boat race or practice since all the boats were from Harvard.  Jets were taking off from Logan and the day turned out fine…just as I expected.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Making Cold Calls is not Grinding!

I work in sales.  If you work in sales you prospect.  I love the whole concept of prospecting.  If you are not prospecting you are not a salesperson.  You’re a manager for house accounts and there is no distinction or real need to keep a manager for house accounts employed. You can be easily replaced.  You need to find ways that you can bring value to your company or to your business.  I wake up most mornings ready to connect with prospects.  I enjoy finding that person and then making contact and of course meeting with them and I hope that in time – we are closing a deal.   
I don’t understand why other sales representatives don’t enjoy the hunt or the game.   You need to be valuable.  If you work for a company there is the competition and they have their sales team who are out there getting to your prospects as well as your house accounts.  You need to balance the time, prospecting and keeping in contact with the house accounts.  The phrase: time management is too vague, I need to see results and if I don’t feel I am making progress – I need to make changes.  Not only with my time, but with my approach. Are my habits making me successful? Do I need to dedicate more time to prospecting instead of giving up.  You will see results if you work hard.
My sales director refers to prospecting as “grinding,” and I believe that word is not conducive to our goals.  “Keep grinding,” reminds me of visits to the dentist and feeling her grind down my tooth with some high pitched whiny drill.  It’s painful and the sound makes most of us cringe.  Prospecting is something different, I make progress with potential customers who will become a client.  Staying focused and keeping a positive attitude makes me forget the term, "grinding."
So, let me be honest.  I’m different in my approach. I love making cold calls.  My sales director calls me, “sick” but he also said he would like to clone me since I am successful.  How do I do it?  I first begin to make a list of contacts that I want to reach that day.  This is a lesson I learned when I was in the Navy, in boot camp we used an acronym POD which stands for: Plan of the Day.  We had a list of what we would do the next day.  I use this for my cold calls.  Who do I want to reach?  The President for our company believes that a good number to prospect is 20…twenty cold contacts each day.  For some, that is what you will be able to accomplish in an hour.  For others that will be your week, and there are weeks when I’m either on the road most of the week and travelling to meetings.  Those weeks are challenging for prospecting, but I will make an effort by looking at my schedule and utilize what free time I have to make cold calls.  Maybe it’s not a call, instead it’s an email, but the important thing is; I am making an effort and making prospecting.
There are a number of prospecting resources a good salesperson will use.  Depending on your industry.  But it’s vital to create your own targets from this list.  Have their phone number and email.  Make the cold calls.  I would not call the same prospects every day.  Instead, you should call on them at least once a week.  You don’t work for a collection agency and you don’t need to harass someone.  Would you call anyone back if they left you a message…every day?  Not at all.  Recently, I received a call back from one of my prospects.  It took months, but he called back.  This was someone I called at least once a week.  I picked up the phone and was pleasant to him.  “Hey Bryan, it’s Mike.”  He apologized for not calling sooner.  It’s alright I said, I’ve been going to therapy since there was no response from you; I was getting a complex.  I said this in a very easy manner, pleasant…so he knew I was joking.  He laughed and said I could send him the bill and he would expense it.  Later that day we had a formal conference call since he had a couple of projects and wanted to know if my company would be interested in the work.  Of course we are interested.  We also set a time a face to face meeting.  I don’t think he would have called back if I kept calling him every day.  
I believe that in most cases – eventually - most prospects will give us some time.  It could a brief email or better, a call back.  This be a contact who I’ve been trying to reach for weeks, but by maintaining my optimistic attitude, I can make the calls.  Like I said, eventually they pick up and I pleasantly introduce myself.  I don’t want to come across as Rude.  You don’t want to come across as bitter if someone finally calls back.  I could have spoke to Bryan like this: “Well, look who it is. Bryan?   Now you call me.  Are you serious?  It took months for you to call me back after I left a hundred and twelve messages!”  Good chance your prospect and Bryan will hang up and will never pick up the phone when you call them.  
Let’s say they pick up the first time you call.  Generally, I ask if they have a couple of minutes.  Since I sound pleasant (most of the time, if the person on the other end sounds blunt, I get right to the point) they say yes.  I can also tell if I caught them at a bad time.  Two lessons for sales, be pleasant.  For some salespeople, they smile when they make that call.  You will sound happy, but you don’t want to sound insincere.  Most of us can read through the bull shit in a split second.  Second, you want to learn the important skill of listening. Lesson two is where most of us fail.  We feel we need to pounce on this opportunity and spill everything in a split second only to hear...what did you just say?  Listen to the tone of their voice on the other end, hear the way she picked up.  Did she sound as if she was in a hurry?  Was it a quick hello?  Be pleasant and listen.  If she tells me it’s not a good time, I will ask when would be a better time.  They may say tomorrow at 10:00 works.  I ask, can I send you an invitation?  This is important especially when I don’t have her email address.  There, you made contact with the prospect, you were pleasant and respectful of her time and she appreciates that and you have her email address.  Just don't forget to send the invitation!  

I don’t like coming across as the typical sales person.  The type who will turn most people off.  The kind who only cares about the sale and making the quota.  That style may be important in some sales, but it’s not acceptable in a service orientated profession.  Most of us don’t want to deal with someone who is selfish or pushy.  Initially, I am not very good at small talk.  "Hey, it's Mike and I was just thinking maybe now is a good time to call since I bought a delicious cup of coffee at the local deli...STOP.  I also believe that small talk in the first couple of calls may imply that I am not considerate of the prospect’s time.  We all know time is precious. Start the first impressions right.  Consideration and being pleasant and positive are vital.  No one wants to hear about your coffee or your struggles with your mother-in-law or why you were late this morning because the dog ran off this morning.  Be professional.  Always be professional.  Now, good luck and make some calls.  

Thank you for reading this.