Interview with Xerox – not impressed

I reached out to a Director to ask if he was looking for sales, and he pointed me to the recruiter.  It took multiple attempts to hear from the recruiter then when I met with her via phone she obsessed about my recent job changes (out of my control) and focused on W2s and Quota; honestly she sounded exhausted/fatigued.  SHe said she’d run my candidacy by the hiring manager. I  sent her a thank you note and, it took three more emails over two weeks to she and the manager before she said they had moved forward with another candidate.  Not even an interview with the manager?  Seriously?   Was not impressed with their process and their recent GD reviews are not good.  Need to remember for next time.

Interview with Xerox – not impressed

A lot of sales activity this year / again

I will finish this year averaging 26 sales activities (calls, emails, voice mails) per day, not including meetings, prep and internal items. This is despite missing several weeks and not deducting those days (or holidays) from that total (I am over 30 if those days are removed). That is one of my highest totals ever, yet have nothing to show for it. quite yet. The last five years have involved extensive sales calling to continously build a pipeline. Usually, I have a year of intense activity, then 1 or 2 years of less activity to manage existing pipeline and growth, then repeat. I am looking forward to getting back to that 🙂

A lot of sales activity this year / again

Trying to make the most of a slow week at work

Normally, I take this week to rest and recuperate since most clients are OOF anyway and I am a firm believer that it is important to re-charge the batteries.  But I am OOF next week due to timing, so am doing the best I can to be productive this week.  

  • Updated our slide deck and posted it online.  Have been making some suggested changes, which I appreciate — it is nice to get feedback in an attempt to make the info better.  My boss isn’t responding though – I never know if he is going to respond or not.
  • I don’t want to put work aside next week, so made a list of clients I should/could email next week.  There are 92 who I need to check in with, so am going through each one now to add my note to them, then will transfer that to a mail merge that I can copy and paste into emails next week, when people are returning from the holidays.  I am also adding a few prospects who didn’t respond to previous emails so could email again.
  • I am making some calls today.  I reached a couple of people, including one who might have an immediate need.
Trying to make the most of a slow week at work

Wow – I respond better to kudos that criticism and the proof is in the data.

For several months I was breaking my butt, making sales calls, setting up meetings, finding a few opportunities, including a couple of real good opportunities.  I was frustrated with our lack of detail in delivery and our delivery’s slow responses and missed meetings, but figured that was part of the learning curve of this org and I would be able to adapt as time went on.  But in October our owner vented at me about our lack of sales, never mind that I’d warned him before even accepting the job that their solutions would take time to build, and that was before I realized some of the other challenges we faced.  I was irritated that he blamed me, versus recognizing there had been challenges but we were making progress (and we were).  

Since that time, my sales activities have dropped by 25%, not out of spite but because I am no longer killing myself (working from home at 6 AM, racing to the office, staying after the office closes, working through lunch).  I am funny – I work as hard (if not harder) than anyone when I am appreciated, something that others have always recognized in me. But that is not unconditional, and I know from experience that I only respond well to criticism if I truly truly respect the person giving me constructive feedback, which is rare and is definitely not this company.

I think that is true of most people.  I like to hire hard workers then encourage them to reinforce good behaviors versus criticizing.  I’ve hired two people who turned out to not meet expectations, and both were strong referrals taht went against my gut, a mistake I’ll never make again.

Wow – I respond better to kudos that criticism and the proof is in the data.

I got a reminder today that many techies don’t know what they are talking about :)

When I used to sponsor a lot of technical demos, where I’d have a sales engineer present technology to a room full of techies, I was frequently reminded that techies speak a lot of gibberish, even to each other.  For example, I’d listen to a few techies talk in Greek to each other and not be able to discern what they were talking about but feeling impressed at their level of knowlegdge.  Then, almost invariably, later I would mention to one of the techies later in private what a great conversation that seemed to be, and they’d say, “Oh, he/she doesn’t know what he is talking about” then explain how most of what they were saying didn’t make sense.

I’d forgotten about this, but yesterday, I sat in a room where four techies talked to each other about the cloud, including SaaS and Lambda and other things.  I heard them talking about latency and instances and data collection and so on, and in general couldn’t string together the general meanings although I know what each of the phrases were.  Then, after the meeting, one of them said, “I didn’t know half of what I was saying” although all the other guys int he room were nodding the entire time he was talking.

So, once again, I am left thinking that most of what techies talk about is truly gibberish, even to themselves.  They are masters at baffling people with BS.

I got a reminder today that many techies don’t know what they are talking about :)

Talked to former employee about how work was going, made me glad I was not working there any more :)

Had coffee with a former employee who remains at the company where we worked together.  It sounds like the company is still a mess, and mired in metrics hell.  For example, each Rep has to find 6-8 leads a week, and they are measured on how well the delivery team covers the leads since (in theory) if the lead is good then delivery will do good work on it.  This is shocking – the delivery team isn’t doing good work and usually blames the leads, since they don’t really have any accountability (again, if the leads don’t advance it is the rep’s fault).  

Meanwhile, there are twice a week meetings where each rep’s leads are reviewed, they are given action items on each lead then questioned about the these items at the next meeting.  So there is a perpetual current of stress that begins with the 6-8 leads and runs down sh** creek from there.  

Oh my god.  What a hell hole, and a sign that the company is run by a former data-obsessesed engineer and not an actual good business person.  It makes me veeeerrrrryyyyy glad I don’t work there anymore.  How can you possibly be strategic and thorough — and possibly enjoy your job — when you are obsessed all the time about meeting one-size-fits-all metrics developed by people with no common sense?  🙂 

Talked to former employee about how work was going, made me glad I was not working there any more :)

Whoa – a brutal (challenging) week to reach clients by phone – which in some ways is kind of nice :)

This past week was one of the worst weeks I can remember at successfully reaching people.  Very few people responded to my emails, and even fewer picked up my phone calls.  Why?  I don’t know – I am just reporting what the data shows me.  In general, I reach people about 11% of the time when I make an attempt to reach them (which means when I *have* to reach them I need to try several times :)).  This week was 7%.  8% is lousy, and about as low as I ever see except for the week of July 5, Christmas, etc.  so this week was absolutely brutal.  Ironically though, I had several good meetings so it was overall a successful week.

Speaking of which, it is ironic that I make a lot of sales calls each week.  I *hate* using the phone — I literally walk several blocks to my favorite pizzeria to place my delivery order so I don’t have to phone in the order and I am pretty bad at returning voice mails but good about responding to text.  But my job pays the bills, and I’ve found over the years that phone is an effective tool for doing my job, so just have to grin (and reward myself with coffee and chocolate) and bear it.  I am also less likely to pick up a call from a friend than I am from an employee – I always pick up calls from people who work for me.  On weekends, I don’t pick up the phone from anyone who is not a client or employee – friends know to text me if they want to reach me, and if they don’t text then it must not be that important or must not be anyone that truly knows me that well 🙂

In my last job, we had this clown VP Howard in New York, one of those loud and annoying guys who is like 300 years old and was buddies with the CEO and always flying into everyone’s offices but no one knew exactly what he did.  He and I didn’t always see eye to eye — it was one of those things where my team was dependent occasionally on my pushing back on his intrusivness so that we could generate revenue, so to ignore him hurt my business but to push back hurt me politically and unfortunately he had a vested interested in one of our area accounts so was always in our business poking around.  But he was  also one of those guy was always calling on things that he could’ve emailed about, so we would have a 20 minute conversation (mostly one sided) about something that would have taken a 2-minute email or text exchange.  I used to call him (privately) the SHakespearean Fool – the foolish court jester that everyone pokes fun at but also has the king’s attention so is potentially dangerous.  I am very glad I don’t have to worry about that guy anymore.

Whoa – a brutal (challenging) week to reach clients by phone – which in some ways is kind of nice :)

Battling the Demon of Mahfuz

I rue the day I ever took a job working for a company owned by Mahfuz.  Why?  Because he was honestly nuts (80% turnover proves that).  But more than that, he did not tolerate any kind of “excuses,” even when major changes he made had massive impacts on my team’s ability to make quota, compounded in that Mahfuz did not allow any excuses for missing quota.  So then you end up become a yes person, and then you miss quota one month (not year, but month) and he starts in with the blame/hate emails, and you just learn to try to live under the radar at all costs.  It is  not a good place to be when you are a highly independent, highly successful, highly self-driven person.  That experience two years ago left scars — a fear of being direct with bosses unless I was truly pissed — that I am just now starting to overcome and learning again to be objective and consultative but direct in my communication.  For example, I might say, “Last quarter we had a 90% win rate, then we put in the new plan, and my team had dropped to a 10% win rate.  Here is why I think that is, here is what I am doing to overcome it with the resources that I have, and here is what I could really use from you if at all possible.”  It is taking a lot of time, effort and willpower to overcome the demon of Mahufz, and I will say again that the day I no longer think of Mahfuz will be a day too late 🙂  

This morning I was proud of myself, because I was direct with my boss on issues I having with an opportunity.  That was not easy to do, and a step forward towards being my old self.

Battling the Demon of Mahfuz

A sign of the times in USA is that it doesn’t make a difference if I mention that I am a customer when I am sales calling

10 years ago if I mentioned to a potential client that I was a customer of their company, they were much more likely to respond to my voice mail or email.  For example, I was having difficulty reaching a Director at Alaska Airlines in that she wouldn’t answer my calls or return my messages (why would she?  Her job description doesn’t include returning calls of Sales Guys); then I mentioned in an email that I was an MVP of her airline – she returned my email that day.  So I did that for awhile, and it worked, except for a regional Pharmacy (who I have not gone to since).  I went to a new role for several years where I didn’t call on places where I was a custtomer.  

The past two years I’ve returned to a role where I have the opportunity to mention people I am a customer.  I’ve mentioned I am a policy holder to Symetra (true), that my office makes field trips to donate to the local blood bank (true), and so on – only one person has returned my message when I’ve mentioned that.  To me, that is a sign of the times – people are too busy and too disposable too care, to give a courtesy return call to someone giving their business to them.  In the 2000s US, we are all out for ourselves (with some exceptions, of course) and not playing in this thing called life as a team.  It is too bad.  It is also a missed opportunity for companies…

A couple of years ago,  I reached a CTO at a rapidly growing start-up company.  He listened to my brief introduction for a moment, then asked if my company was a customer of his company.  “No,” I said.  “Listen, I’m interested, but we try only to do business with companies that do business with us.”  He was sincere and respectful, and honestly I loved it.  He told me if we became a customer of his company, to call him back.  What was the first thing I did?  I marched down the hall to my boss and asked if we could consider taking a look at this CTO’s solutions.  Brilliant.

When companies and/or managers don’t respond to a sales guy who is also a customer, it is a missed opportunity. It also has cost a few companies my business.  And, most importantly, a sign that our country has (temporarily?) lost its soul.

This didn’t happen overnight.  It started in the 80s, when offshoring and layoffs and union-busting and tax breaks that fueled income disparity began. Then post 9/11, when companies became incredibly automated and efficient with fewer workers, it continued.  We are all disposable in 2010s USA.  So of course a VP won’t care that I am a customer of their company, when they don’t know if they will have a job next month due to profit-fueled layoffs and when the bloated company alread has 10s of millions of customersf.

A sign of the times in USA is that it doesn’t make a difference if I mention that I am a customer when I am sales calling

Thankfully, I think the sales person trend of sending calendar invitations to prospects then showing up in the lobby has passed

A few years ago, it seems there was a trend of sales “professionals” sending calendar invitations to prospects (via outlook) then showing up in the lobby at the proposed time if the person didn’t respond.  I remember one peer I had in particular used to say, “I never cold call anyone.  I just send them a calendar invitation.”   

I always felt like that was a pushy tactic and was never a fan of it* so am glad that the trend seems to have run its course.  I think there were a few reasons for this trend: one is the silly obsession sales VPs have with meeting metrics, i.e. requiring sales people to have a certain number of meetings in a week and threatening to fire them if they don’t meet it. In this case, by sending a calendar invitation a sales person is more likely to end up with a meeting in some shape or form, and if they show up in the lobby and the client is passive aggressive and doesn’t show then the sales rep can still claim they had the meeting since it shows on their calendar.  The second is in a highly competitive sales world where managers are deluged with calls and emails from sales people, it was a way of trying anything to get a few minutes of a Decision Maker’s time.  Lastly, it was like anything else, a few more people started doing it, which led to a few more people doing it, and so on until there was a snowball effect, which like most snowball effects run their course until they dwindle.  But, again, it does seem like the popularity of this tactic has run its course, thankfully.

In my experience, there is no magic formula — such as unsoliced calendar invitations — to reaching all managers all the time. As someone who has been in management so has received my share of unsolicited calls, my pet peeve are reps who ask for 15 minutes of time via email but really don’t provide any information on what they are offering.  Why would I possibly commit to 15 minutes of time I don’t have when I don’t even know what the rep is offering? 🙂

* Except if I met with a client and the client owed me follow up or made a commitment and wasn’t following through on it – I don’t mind if managers don’t want to take my call or to meet or aren’t interested, but it is a pet peeve of mine if they take my time and make some promises then don’t follow up That is, I won’t waste their time, but don’t waste mine either 🙂 ). 

Thankfully, I think the sales person trend of sending calendar invitations to prospects then showing up in the lobby has passed