Was Your Sales Call a Hit, or a Miss?

At some point during sales training sessions, or one on one coaching we hear from a veteran salesperson “I knew that!” Our follow up question is something along the lines of “I’m sure you did, the question is; are doing it?” Eyes go down and there is stillness in the room.

Most often this occurs when we are discussing call planning and debriefing. A surprising number of veteran salespeople do little, or no pre-call planning. Even fewer do any kind of de-brief after the call. I often wonder how one can determine the success of a sales call if they have no plan going in and no thought given to what happened when they come out.

We develop client specific Call Objective forms for our clients. You can download a sample from our website http://www.burrallresources.com/ . Whether you are successful or not in a sales call, it is always advantageous to review what you did and didn’t do.

Here are some simple steps to follow to make your next sales call a hit!
1) Do your research
If this is your first call on the prospect, have you visited their website, looked up your contact on LinkedIn, and checked the local newspaper for any current news articles? If this is a follow up call, did you complete all the action items from previous calls? What new information are bringing to this meeting?
2) Do your prep work
Do you have prepared questions, are they open ended, do you have follow up questions? Can you anticipate any questions they may ask? Do you have answers for those questions?
3) Set specific goals/objectives for this call
Why have you scheduled this meeting? Know what you want to accomplish and write those goals down. Your goal might be to get a buying commitment, or might be just to gather more information and set a follow up meeting. Be specific in your objectives.
4) End the call with purpose
Establish a list of Action Items for the customer as well as for yourself. Each one should be assigned specifically to someone. Each one should have a completion date and each one should be achievable. 5) Summarize and get out of there
What’s worse than people hanging around too long? Summarize your meeting, get agreement on the Action Items, establish a follow up date and time and leave. It’s been a productive meeting. Do not lose the luster by over staying your welcome.
6) Review
Before you drive out of the parking lot, pull out pre-call planning sheet and review. Did you accomplish your objectives? If not, why not? What are your Action Items? Were there any questions you need to respond to quickly? What will you change on the next call?

Ground Rule #6 – Dealing With Misfits

This is the next in a series of posts that will describe what the CEO of the Reliance Electric Company thought about basic commitments, how the organization was going to operate and ground rules for managers. Once again, all the content of this article is based on the work of B. Charles Ames as outlined in his management manifesto titled Basic Management Concepts dated January 14, 1974.

Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule #6 – Dealing With Misfits

This is it. The granddaddy of all business problems. The inability of most managers to deal with misfits quickly and decisively. They get into the organization somehow. Poor selection, mostly. Values misalignment, perhaps. They are there. And, they are destructive.

You know the drill.

Marginal employees are given every opportunity to succeed. They are coached and prodded. They are rewarded for temporary improvement and threatened when the inevitable backsliding occurs. Managers agonize. Co-workers fret. Performance is sub-optimized.

Ames highlighted four types of misfits who are especially damaging.

– The individual who lacks integrity or intellectual honesty required to insure total trust.

– The politician who always has a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
This individual is more interested in making the politically correct move rather
than doing what is right.

– People who are incompetent. Quite simply, employees who do not accomplish what is
expected of them in terms of job performance.

– Organizational bullies. Bastards to their subordinates. Sycophants to their bosses.

Jack Welch at GE was legendary for his 20-70-10 forced grid rankings of all employees and the determination to weed out the bottom 10 percent each year. It was also thought to be cruel and unusual punishment for GE people. As he points out in his book Jack: Straight from the Gut, however, the process to remove the bottom 10 percent of his people was just the opposite. Welch thought it was brutal to keep people around who were not going to grow and prosper. According to Welch, “there is no cruelty like waiting and telling people late in their careers that they don’t belong.”

Red Scott, a colleague of mine from Florida put it another way. “The best thing you can do for a good employee is fire a bad one.”

B. Chuck Ames and his wife Jay currently manage the Ames Family Foundation. They divide their time between a home in Vero Beach, Florida and a second home in a suburb of Cleveland.


Image Credit – iStock

Optimist versus Pessimist

Which is Better to Lead a Family Business

How to tell an optimist from a pessimist: The optimist says, “Please pass the cream” while the pessimist says, “Would you see if there is any milk in the pitcher?”

And of course we all know that the optimist sees the glass as half full while the pessimist sees it as half empty.

So what’s the best personality trait to run the family business?

John Davis is a senior lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management unit at the Harvard Business School. In his recent article “Managing the Family Business: Are Optimists or Pessimists Better Leaders?” published by HBS in the May 20, 2014 issue of “Working Knowledge”, Davis states that while an optimist is generally better suited to run an entrepreneurial company, both have their own unique traits that can benefit a business. But they will do it in different ways, and with different goals. Studies show that without either optimism or pessimism, people don’t accomplish as much. These natural traits motivate people to take action. These are likely to be different actions, but at least action.

Let’s look first at pessimism. The pessimist seeks to find safe havens, establish clear advantages, and protect resources. If you plan for the worst and it doesn’t happen, you feel good. And if it should happen, you are ready. When the news is bad and likely to get worse, a pessimist is your best ally because pessimists thrive on fixing problems. Davis points out that “for this reason, pessimists can make good operational leaders.” But a pessimist in the corner office is less likely to foster a culture of growth, risk taking, and wealth creation.

On the other hand, optimists prefer to think about how they and others can advance and grow both the business and themselves. Optimists tend to have larger social networks, solve problems cooperatively, and are more likely to seek help in difficult situations.

So Davis concludes that it’s better to choose an optimist to lead growth activities in a family organization. But he adds this caveat. “If you choose an optimistic business leader, you should probably pair them with ‘reality testers’ ” to be sure the organization has thought through the negative impact of decisions that are being made. A TEC Group is an excellent source for this kind of support.

So a well run business needs the power of both traits. For example, when testing strategic plans, you should deploy defensive pessimism, imagining all the things that can go wrong in the future. But when an opportunity requires flexibility and hard work toward uncertain goals, put on your optimist hat.

Here’s the link to the complete article by John Davis. http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7364.html


Image Credit – iStock

Business by Accident

A good friend, client, and TEC member, Tim Radtke, is the CEO/Founder of TSR Solutions in Milwaukee, WI. www.tsrsolutions.com Tim has an excellent technology company and data center that helps companies create and sustain their critical technology infrastructure. The tagline for TSR is “Technology on Purpose.” Tim often jokes it should be “Technology on Purpose, Business by Accident.” Although Tim is kidding, he’s also spot on.

I am writing this from Scottsdale, AZ. I just met an interesting guy named Michael Levenberg, owner of American Buffalo Leather Furniture. www.buffalocollection.com. He related a fascinating story on how his business came into existence.

Michael’s family operated a buffalo ranch in Colorado, but was economically compelled to literally thin their herd in the early 2000’s. (“Thinning the herd” is not a bad idea for any business, by the way.) Typically, the buffalo ranchers would butcher or sell off excess animals, and the resulting hides would end up in a landfill.

The Levenberg family had an interest in sustainability, and decided to use the whole animal. They started a meat business selling grass-fed buffalo meat; instead of disposing of the hides in a landfill, they had them tanned.

Still, what to do with the hides? The Levenbergs had guest cabins in Colorado with awesome Western furniture, so they contacted their furniture maker and asked him to make some chairs, sofas, and other pieces using the Buffalo hides — mostly custom for their guests. In the mid-2000’s, they opened a store in Scottsdale which has now developed a significant following. In fact, business is so good, they closed up the ranching part of their enterprise and are now entirely focused on growing the buffalo leather furniture business. Michael can tell you about every artisan whose pieces are displayed in his store because of the personal relationship he has built with each person while shepherding his family’s business strategy.

So what’s the point?

The point is many, many businesses start from an idea, but end up expanding in a totally different direction than originally intended. Often startup or early stage companies operate with a purely opportunistic business strategy. I once asked a business friend if he had a vertical category on which he focused. His response? “Whoever calls with money in hand.” So a strategy of “opportunity” can work for small companies and get them to a certain size — usually about $1-$2 million in revenue. And that’s pretty good.

If you get your business to $2 million in sales, you are in the upper 2% of all businesses in the United States. BUT, in the words of Jim Morrison, if you want to “break on through to the other side” and grow to $5 million, $10 million, $50 million or more, you are going to need to do a lot more than wait for whoever calls with money in hand. You’ll need to have a plan.

If you have never done a real business plan, strategic plan, or operating plan, here are a few pieces of reading homework to you get started:

1. Go to the Harvard Business Review (hbr.com) and download Jim Collins’ excellent HBR whitepaper called” Getting from Vision to Results”. It’s really the basis for all of the following books.
2. Read either Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish or Scaling Up by Harnish.
3. Read The Four Obsessions of and Extraordinary Leader by Patrick Lencioni and Lencioni’s The Advantage.

Once you have read these books and articles several times, you can decide if you are ready to move your organization to the next level. If not, it’s no problem. You will still be in the upper 2% of businesses in the U.S. you continue to execute well on your “opportunity” strategy. But if you really want to move your company forward, then you will need to work on your plan, your team, and your infrastructure.

It can be a lot of fun running a “Business by Accident.” But you can leave a lasting footprint if you create a “Business with a Purpose.”


Image Credit – iStock

Some of the Best Sales Excuses

Sales quote: “You get what you tolerate”

Over the past few years we have facilitated hundreds of sales meetings. At that point when we ask salespeople to explain the quotes in their pipeline, we hear some great excuses. It is hard to not interrupt with “wait that’s excuse number 6. I know it well.” That often produces hand wringing, loss of eye contact and heavy breathing. It’s common for a salesperson who hasn’t performed, to offer up excuses for the poor performance.

Just to bring a little humor to your day, here are some we hear most often when salespeople don’t meet their goals. I’ve added the translation for you.
1.When you hear: “I’m too busy” It means: “My organizational skills are so weak that I cannot separate important from urgent, and I don’t have the administrative help I need. I can’t fit in 9 calls a week and so I’m obviously too busy”

2.When you hear: “Nobody returns my emails and calls” It means: “I’ve tried twice, got no response and I haven’t a clue how to make them really want my product. They are obviously too stupid to deal with.”

3.When you hear: “Our leads are no good!” It means: “I don’t have the motivation to find my own leads. It’s easier to blame marketing for not making my life easy and handing me great leads.”

4.When you hear: “Our prices are too high compared to the competition” It means: “I haven’t been able to come up with a better value statement about our products, so it is obviously price.

5.When you hear: “My prospect/customer is on vacation” It means: “I knew he was going to be gone, but I was couldn’t find the time to help him make a decision. Therefore, nothing will happen for a couple of weeks. It’s not my fault!”

6.When you hear: “Our sales goals are unrealistic” It means: “I might achieve these stretch goals if I work smarter, but that’s too much hard work. It is much easier to just blame my sales manager for setting the targets too high”

I bet you have heard some good ones too. Watch for these and others. Don’t accept these excuses more than once. If there really is a systemic problem; fix it! If it’s your salespeople just being lazy, it may be time for a heart to heart conversations with each of the biggest offenders.

Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule # 5

This is the next in a series of posts that will describe what the CEO of the Reliance Electric Company thought about basic commitments, how the organization was going to operate and ground rules for managers. Once again, all the content of this article is based on the work of B. Charles Ames as outlined in his management manifesto titled Basic Management Concepts dated January 14, 1974.

Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule #5 – Performance Expectations

 Let’s personalize this Ground Rule a bit. In Basic Management Concepts Ames told every manager to make sure that every individual in the manager’s line of authority knew precisely what was expected in terms of job performance, how the individual’s assignment fit into the whole and how the individual’s performance would be measured. As a manager, how would you rate yourself on these three criteria? Experience suggests that most managers would not average above a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. And that is where the trouble begins.

Ames argued that each individual needed to have a pre-established set of specific results that the individual knew he or she was expected to accomplish within a defined time frame. The specific results had to be measureable so there would be no misunderstanding about what was going to get done. The results of the individual’s accomplishment would serve as the performance standard for how well the individual performed.

Most managers dread performance evaluations. And, for good reason. The lack of clearly defined performance expectations is a leading cause of dysfunctional performance reviews. People who didn’t exactly know what was expected of them up front tend to become somewhat defensive when they are told their performance sucked…after the fact.

Ames went on to say that the organization’s entire system of rewards and penalties should be aligned with expectations and accomplishment. “And, the payoff should always be for achieving results, not just effort.” The individuals who met and exceeded expectations should be recognized, paid well and eventually promoted. Those who did not perform should expect more limited compensation and lesser advancement opportunities. Ultimately, they may have to leave the organization. More on this when we get to Ground Rule #6 – Dealing With Misfits.

B. Chuck Ames and his wife Jay currently manage the Ames Family Foundation. They divide their time between a home in Vero Beach, Florida and a second home in a suburb of Cleveland.

Uber and the On-Demand Economy

| Author: Ane Ohm

Who loves the “next big thing?” I’m so tired of hearing about mobile, cloud, big data. And yet… it’s true these have all had a profound influence on us. So what’s the next “big thing?” I’d argue it’s the On-Demand Economy and it’s coming, fast.

Uber launched its first car service five years ago with a few cars in San Francisco. Today it has a valuation of $41.2 billion. Let me pause a moment for that to sink in. It’s not a typo – that’s billions of dollars. For a point of comparison, that’s higher than Delta Airlines, Salesforce.com, or Kraft Foods. The combined market cap of the three largest global staffing companies—Adecco, Randstad, and Manpower—is $25 billion.

Now another critical point: Uber’s total addressable market for car services is $11B. If car service domination is their ultimate objective, the math doesn’t work. So what’s going on?

To figure this out, first let’s look at what they’re actually doing: matching a job that needs to be done (someone needs a ride) with someone who will do the job (driver willing to provide the ride).

Matching a job that needs to be done with someone who will do the job. Does that sound like something we do every day in our businesses? Recruiting, watch out.


Perhaps you’re a bit doubtful, which I understand. I mean, really – what could that actually mean for us? It reminds me of another little Internet company: Amazon. At first, it was simply an online marketplace for books. Five years after Amazon’s launch, if you asked grocery chain CEOs whether they thought Amazon was a threat, they’d probably think you were an idiot or simply crazy. Ask those same CEOs today what they think about Amazon.


Of course, it’s not going to be easy for Uber and its competitors to move from what’s basically a consumer-to-consumer (driver-to-passenger) application to a business-to-consumer (hiring company-to-job seeker) app. Understanding the complexity of organizational decision-making is a distinctly different animal. As we know, corporate recruiting and staffing aren’t as simple as a car service (just like books for Amazon). At the same time, Uber and similar cohorts have raised billions of dollars to solve this problem. With a vision, the financing, and solid iteration, they’ll get there.


Keep your eyes open for the On-Demand Economy. The future is coming, whether we like it or not.


Ane Ohm Bio:

Ane Ohm is the CEO of HarQen, a Milwaukee-based recruitment technology company. She also serves on the Boards of The Good Jobs, a turnkey solution for attracting and retaining talent, and the Bread of Healing Clinic, a free clinic in Milwaukee. She was recognized as 2010 Woman Manager of the Year by Women in Management, Fox Cities chapter.


Ane is passionate about using technology to help organizations identify, attract, and retain the right people for the right job. Her career experience designing recruitment strategies for Fortune 100 companies has given her invaluable insights on how technology can best be integrated into recruitment processes to hire the best talent, faster and more efficiently.


In prior positions, Ane was President of LaserNet, Inc., a statement print/mail company, and Vice President at Pinstripe, Inc., where she played an instrumental role in the company’s rapid growth in recruitment process outsourcing. Before joining Pinstripe, Ane held various leadership roles at Strong Financial Corporation, including Vice President and Director of Mutual Fund Administration. Ane started her career as an auditor with Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) and graduated with a BBA-Accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Is Long Range Planning Still Relevant?

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, some argue conventional long range planning may no longer be relevant.

As background, here are the elements of a traditional strategic plan1:

  1. Mission – why you do what you do
  2. Vision – where do you want to be
  3. Core values – what guides you
  4. Driving Force – What is the nature of the products, services, customers, market segments and geographic areas that a company chooses to pursue?  What is it now?  Should it change?
  5. Strategic analysis
  6. The Five Forces2 – suppliers, customers, threat of substitutes (technology), ease of entry (potential entrants)
  7. SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
  8. Analysis of competitors SWOT
  9. Competitive advantage
  10. What should we continue, what should we change?
  11. Operating Plans & KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
  12. Budget, both capital and operating
  13. Balanced Scorecard – Finance, Internal Processes, Learning & Growth, Customer Satisfaction

Among those challenging traditional strategic planning is Clayton Christensen.  In his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma3, he questions traditional concepts of strategic planning in an environment populated by increasingly innovative and agile competitors.  His focus is on large companies who historically are not good at being agile and innovative and therefore lack the ability to respond to small, entrepreneurial, innovative competitors.

Rita Gunther McGrath, in her new book, The End of Competitive Advantage4, makes a frontal attack on accepted strategic planning methods designed, in her opinion, for another time. These are methods based on the presumption that competitive advantage is sustainable.

McGrath believes that the best one can hope for is “transient competitive advantage.”  Her prescription for achieving transient competitive advantage includes smaller, faster, more agile organizations where “management-by-consensus” is a thing of the past. Her emphasis is on marshalling rather than owning assets, including talent. To ensure the appropriate deployment of these assets from one opportunity to the next, it is necessary to recentralize control over the resource allocation process, moving it out of strategic business units (SBUs). This raises the question as to the relevancy of SBUs and suggests that they be replaced by transient teams as a primary form of organization.  They engage in a continuous process of creating and testing options, doing things fast and “roughly right” rather than relying on traditional strategic planning methods.

Like Christensen, McGrath’s message is aimed at large, historically slow moving companies.  So as a TEC member, is strategic planning still relevant to you?  What do you think?

Some closing thoughts:

  • “Strategic Planning is the single most important function of the CEO”, Patrick Below
  • “I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”, Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”, Lewis Carroll

Click here to read more on this subject.  ( http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7341.html )

1”The Executive Guide to Strategic Planning”, by Patrick J. Below

2”Competitive Strategy”, by Michael E. Porter

3Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997)

4Rita Gunther McGrath, The End of Competitive Strategy: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business, (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

Listen Up, CEO’s! It’s That Time of Year . . .

It’s That Time of Year…

It’s coming to that time of year when things begin to slow down. Current prospects become unavailable.  More time is spent finding Christmas presents and decorations. Generally, many people begin slipping out of high gear. By the time we reach the week between Christmas and New Year’s we are almost in “PARK”.

So, wrap up whatever year-end business you can, make some plans and set your goals for next year. AND do what so many of us fail to do the remainder of the year. This is a great time to PROSPECT and CULTIVATE. You’ve been running at full speed most of the year (except, maybe, for that one week vacation you squeeeezed in).

Go back and review those prospects that fell off the radar in the first three quarters of the year. Look at those names. They seemed promising at one time. What happened? Why didn’t you sell them? Should some of them be renewed? Maybe it’s time to go back to your referral source and see what they know. If you lost an order, check back and see if the prospect is happy with their purchase of a competitor’s product or service. Last year you promised yourself you would be more active in your prospecting. Reach out to referral sources, set up a few coffee meetings, reconnect with past customers, maybe attend a networking event, or two.  Drop off some Christmas cookies.

Look at your current customer list; those people that you’ve done business with since the first of the year. Is it time to for a follow up phone call, or personal call. CULTIVATE that relationship. Ask for a referral or reference. Are they happy customers? Is there something a simple phone call will do to further enhance your relationship? Is there another problem you can solve?  Don’t just be another Christmas card hanging in their lobby.

Prospecting and Cultivating are very important aspects of selling. If you don’t PROSPECT you will have trouble finding customers. If you don’t CULTIVATE your competition may sneak into the account while you are not paying attention.  It’s that time of year to spread a little cheer. Be merry and cheerful.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and Successful New Year!

Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule #3

This is the tenth in a series of posts that will describe what the CEO of the Reliance Electric Company thought about basic commitments, how the organization was going to operate and ground rules for managers. Once again, all the content of this article is based on the work of B. Charles Ames as outlined in his management manifesto titled Basic Management Concepts dated January 14, 1974.

Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule #3

“Every manager should have a backup person who is potentially better qualified for the manager’s job than the manager is himself.” CEOs of smaller firms balk at this one. They claim they do not have the layers of staffing and over-staffing that would allow this redundancy. Ames would disagree.

As he points out, this potentially better qualified backup ground rule does not necessarily mean that the manager’s staff should be expanded. It does mean that people in the organization who do not have the qualifications or potential should be weeded out and replaced with people that have real ability and potential. Further, if the manager determines that he or she does not have anyone in the organization that had the potential to be such a contributor, that manager was to make it a “top priority” to recruit, select and hire an individual that did.

CEOs like Ames did not use terms like “top priority” without careful consideration. He believed that ensuring this backup capacity was critical to the long term health of the organization.

Reliance Electric was developing leaders who could step up to the next rung on the management ladder. Without a logical successor in place, good managers could not move up and accept greater leadership roles.  They were stuck in their current position by their own failure to have a clearly visible, logical successor in place at all times. Ames cautioned that no manager had the right to feel good about his or her performance until Ground Rule #3 was satisfied.

  1. Chuck Ames and his wife Jay currently manage the Ames Family Foundation.  They divide their time between a home in Vero Beach, Florida and a second home in a suburb of Cleveland.