Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So you want to meet with me?

A long time ago I wrote a blog post called "So you want to sell me stuff?"  Even though I'm in IT, not Sales it has been one of the most popular posts I've done on this site...

Today though I want to vent a bit and also share some tips you can use when you are trying to setup an appointment with me. On average I get, let me see, 7+ 14 and carry the one, well a lot of cold calls. So many that I stopped answering my phone. It's not that I'm too dumb to understand what value you can bring to me, or that I hate people, it's just that I get a lot of calls and most of them are a complete waste of time.

So in the spirit of helping my fellow man here are 10 tips to make you more likely to get an appointment...

1. Check to see if I'm already working with someone. I hate when someone calls me on a cold call and I've been actively working on a deal. If your sales process is so completely broken that you can't tell an active account from a potential lead, I doubt you can help me with directions to Domino's, let alone a complicated IT process..

2. "My Director really wants to meet you" (or network with you, or partner with you). This one really shouldn't bother me because I know why people do it, I mean the director is busy and trying to line up appointments and time slots. Don't make it seem like meeting me is his or her lifelong dream. If they have time and think my company may get some value out of the discussion, cool. Say that. This one paired with #9 sets me off every time.

3. When you call me, be knowledgeable about what it is you are actually selling so if I ask a question you can at least speak intelligently about it. I know that you may need to bring in a technical resource for a followup call but if you don't have any clue what it is you are selling, don't bug me. Please.

4. If you call me and I can't hit redial to call you back, I'm probably not going to call you back. OK I know this is mostly simple laziness on my part, but it is in your best interest to make it easy for me to get to you, not the other way around. Besides I rarely have a pen and paper in front of me to write down your number, my writing is horrible and my eyes aren't much better so even if I want to take the time to do all of this I probably can't read the number anyway.

5. If I agree to a call, send me a calendar invite. I forget meetings I'm required to be at because its not in my calendar. If you expect me to remember a meeting from a cold call 2 weeks ago that probably isn't going to happen without an invite. I might not accept it (and I do know that's annoying, sorry) but at least it will be in my daily agenda when I look at it.

5b. If I agree to a call, setup a conference bridge, or web conference etc. I won't answer my phone, if you call and we'll just have to reschedule anyway... Save both of us some time.

6. If the call is not with you, let me know that up front. This sort of goes along with #2. It also falls under something that shouldn't annoy me but does. I know it's probably a character flaw. I'll try to work on it.

7. If you are reaching out on linkedin and I've never met you, it isn't likely that I will accept your request if it is just the default "I'd like to add you to my network on linkedin" I figured that, hence the invite. If I just met with you, or we met a few days ago and I remember you, that's fine. I do that too when I really want to connect with someone before I forget and am in a hurry. If I have no idea who you are or why we should connect I'll delete the message.

8. Don't name drop unless you really know someone and actually had the conversation. "Hi I was talking to Zuck and he said I should call". Sure Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, who I've never met, just happened to suggest you call? Come on...

PS Mark, if you are reading this and want to chat, hit me up on FB and we can connect.....

9. Please don't cold call me and the run through a qualification process that is so obvious I have to wonder why you wanted to call me without knowing any of this stuff. I understand you want to focus your resources on people that are likely to buy but do that BEFORE you call me, or at least weave it into the conversation so it doesn't feel like an interrogation.  Any chance you had of me wanting to have another call with your company probably went out the window.

10. Be respectful of my time, and I'll do the same. If you tell me your call is going to take 2 minutes at 125 seconds I'm already getting annoyed. On the flip side if there is no chance of me needing what you are selling, I'll let you know as soon as I can so you can make another call.

Sales is hard and I understand. I do want to buy things, not everything. Follow this advice and my other post  on selling and you will have a good chance of at least getting me to listen to you. I won't promise that I'll buy anything but at least we can have a good discussion...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Almost 10 lessons I wish I knew sooner

I just filled out a survey and when I got to the "age range" part of the survey, you know when you choose which bucket you fit in 18-25, 25-34 etc. I realized I wasn't at the low end of the scale any more. I was still on the scale just not in one of the first few options. I mean I'm even considered to be in the "protected age bracket" which I know is supposed to make me feel better, but it doesn't.

I was feeling a little bad about it, then realized I had some knowledge I could share to those younger than me. Most of it is stuff that someone told me when I was 18, or 20. But some of it is stuff that now looking back I wish someone had told me, though I probably wouldn't have listened....

Rich's lessons for the younger generation
1. Document. This is one of those lessons people tried to teach me. "Rich make sure you label that server", "Rich you should document how you fixed that" and of course my response was usually "I don't need to because I know it and won't forget". Why I thought that was a valid response I don't remember. Which is part of the reason I should have documented it. The other reason is then someone else could have done it when I was out. 

2. Train. If I wasn't going to document than I should have at least trained other people how to do things. This would have freed me up to do new things instead of me being the guy that always had to fix the printer. It sort of seems obvious now, and clearly should have been obvious then but wasn't. I mean I remember complaining about always having to fix the printer so it's not like I enjoyed doing it....

3. Relationships matter. Now in my defense we didn't have things like, facebook, or even commerical use of the Intenet back then so keeping up with relationships was harder, but still I wish someone had gotten through to me how important this is. While I do much better than I used to, I keep connections on linkedin, I try to stay in touch at least via email with people and even make sure to spend time out of my day talking to my work peers. Above all else do this one....

4. Save early. My company has done matching 401k for a long time and I was too dumb to take advantage of it for like 5 years. Dumb, dumb, dumb I should have at least done enough to max out the company match. It's like turning down a raise that would give interest. As soon as you can start saving for retirement do it. Let's be honest, counting on someone else like the government, to takre care of you is not the safe bet. Be dependent, start saving now..

5. Everyone can teach you something. I had the chance to ask a CEO once what he thought was the secret to turning around a company. His answer was listen to the employees. Everyone knows something you don't. In some cases it can be as critical as "Hey that guy from Friday the 13th, in the hockey mask is behind you with an ax" to "Don't press the red button", or as mundane as "The pizza place down the street is $3 cheaper for the same size" Listen and you will learn something.

6. If we all have the same information the answer is obvious. This took me a while to figure out. When people do something "stupid" often times, like 99% of the time, it's because they had, or didn't have some information you did. We once didn't buy a company tha built a key piece of technology that I thought we should have and it seemed dumb to me that our execs didn't see that. I had the chance to talk to our CTO about it and he explained why "We estimated about 2M a year in additional revenue, but the company wouldn't sell for less then 25-30M and we just didn't think that made enough sense". Hmm OK they actually had a well reasoned thought process on it. The next time you assume someone is being stupid, recognize that they just may not be able to share all the details of why...

7. Don't cover up mistakes, explain why you learned from them. My first real boss, at a local McDonald's taught me this. It was one of the few lessons I learned and remembered. The first time you do something wrong it isn't a mistake, it's a learning experience. Don't try to cover it up, but learn from it and avoid doing the same thing again. (Then it IS a mistake). Besides if sitcom's have taught us anything, it's that you always get caught and it just makes it worse...

8. Experience matters. When I graduated I knew that I knew everything.I mean I just got done learning so clearly that meant I must know more than the people that had been doing the same thing for years. They didn't get the new way of doing things. What never actually occurred to me then was that the people that had been doing it for 5, 10 or 15 years, already knew what I knew, plus everything that happened before, including why somethings were tried and dropped. 

9 just because you know doesn't mean you have to share, or to quote "The Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon's mother - "
Now listen here, Sheldon, I've been telling you since you were five years old, it's okay to be smarter than everyone else, but you can't go around pointing it out!"
I remember when i was very young my mother and father only had one car, so my mother would walk me and my sister to Kindergarten. I was too young, but it wasn't like she could leave me home, so she brought me too. Until I got kicked out for answering all the questions. Just because you know doesn't mean you need to interrupt people with the answer, it is sometimes OK to let them figure it out on their own.

10. Yeah I know there should be ten, but hell I'm old and didn't feel like thinking up another one. Deal with it :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not all vendors claims are false

In hindsight I guess I'm becoming pessimistic. I didn't think so but I realized when somebody tells me something, like "These tires will get 10% better fuel mileage" my first thought is "Bull crap".

I actually though was proven wrong, well at least it looks that way (See? pessimism....).

I bought new tires for my VW Jetta TDI and was going to go with the stock ones. The sales guy at the tire place though recommended these other tires called "Ecopia" because they have better low rolling resistance. They were about $70 more than I planned to pay, which was probably $50 less than I really needed to pay.

At first I wasn't going to but they come with a 30 day return if you don't like them. (I'm sure there's a catch though). I happened to read a review and a user claimed 1-2 MPG better and with the 50k miles a year I drive that was enough to sell me.

I put them on and this morning when I drove to work I actually got 53.4 mpg over the 58 miles. I actually have done better than that on a very rare occasion (once in 3 years) but I also hit a number of red lights, and stopped at the bank ATM so was very happy with that. My average was 45.9 and usually on the ride to work if I hit 49-50 I'm pretty happy.

The one thing I did notice, that I need to get used to, they coast longer, so I need to let off of the gas sooner than I'm used to. This means I should get even better mileage as I tune my driving to the new tires.

The morale of the story though is try it before you buy it (or need to keep it). This isn't just for tires, but for everything. Many vendors claim a lot of things, but before that PO goes through. make sure they show you or at least make sure you have it in writing that you can return it for free if it doesn't meet your needs....

So after a week my average MPG has been 52.2MPG. TO be fair I haven't been anywhere but back and forth to work (no downtown Boston driving or highway) but this used to be around 49.5 or so and is now over 52 so I'm pretty happy. Also I looked at their calculator and think it is pretty accurate (for me anyway) if you want to try it.