Friday, July 27, 2018

If You Don't Like Change, Maybe Information Technology is not the Career for You

Information Technology is all about innovation and how technology can help streamline processes and workflows and make it easier to access the information you need to make decisions, learn or simply get the job done.  With the Internet of Things and Robotics, it has also become somewhat of a controversial field with the loss of some jobs and the closing of factories.  But yet, a lot of IT Professionals get stir crazy when they hear the word "Change" whether it affects them directly or the company they work for.



I have a quick story about a manager that had a 1-on-1 meeting with one of his employees recently.
The employee came into the manager's office looking a little stressed about the topics at an all department meeting.  The employee proceeds to ask questions about why the company was bringing in all of this "new"technology and how it will affect the job they were doing.   The employee also recalled the speaker talk about being agile when it comes to project management and then asked what does agile mean.   After a few more topics, the manager was thinking that their employee really has no clue with what is going on in today's ever-changing technology world.   It reminded them of the perception of older technology workers is that they are not interested in learning anything new and the old "this is how we always did it" is a mantra for "if it ain't broke, then don't change it".   I am sure some IT managers can relate to this.


Nothing is further from the truth that saying "This is How We Always Did It" when it comes to Information Technology.   An IT Professional has to adapt to change since what they learned five years ago may not be relevant today.   Companies and businesses change, organizations change and even that database software you have known for over 20 years is going to change.  If the word "Change" scares you, then maybe IT is not the career for you.   


At a lot of older large corporations, you may have a veteran IT staff of professionals that have put in quite a few years doing the same thing day in and day out and have no interest in learning anything new.  I personally have managed teams like this and challenged myself to see it from their perspective and sell the idea that change is good and that they should always be ready to adapt.  One way I have done that is simply mention to them how IT has changed the way we do things anything from how you do your banking, order food at your favorite restaurant or get directions in a town you are not familiar with.   People adapted to and embraced those changes so likewise our company and you as an IT Professional have to be ready for change or else the company and yourself may be out of business.

So put away those Oracle Database Tech Manuals or that Cold Fusion Web Design book and be ready for being in constant learning and adapting mode.  If not, your picture may be placed in the local Computer Museum!



Monday, July 23, 2018

So You are Afraid of Sales and Want Nothing To Do With It? You are Selling All The Time!

The word "Sales" is a terrifying word for most professionals.   The thought that they have to peddle some product or service to some stranger is one of the most terrifying ordeals of anyone's life.   Even worse is if you are forced into old school sales practice such as cold calling or door-to-door sales.  Yikes!  I think I am going to crawl under the nearest boulder and not come out!


Being a sales professional can be one of the most lucrative opportunities you can do.   Some sales professionals, depending on their product or service, can make more money than a doctor, lawyer or even a successful TV personality.   It is one of the hardest professions, but can be one of the most rewarding, especially if you were an introvert and you were "forced" to get out of your shell to make a living.

Sales comes in different formats.

There is direct sales, such as network marketing.     Network marketing is promoting a product or service using your network of contacts.  The marketing process is key since it makes the sales process easier.

There is also inside sales, where you are in the relationship building business and outside sales where you are the hunt for prospects.  There are also account managers, sales support where you are working to keep your current customers happy.

Are you overwhelmed yet?  This is probably why a lot of people avoid getting into sales.  One of the biggest objections I get when recruiting business partners in my business is because the person is terrified of sales!

The reality is that we are all in sales all the time!

Think back when you were a kid and saw this cool toy or candy in the store and wanted it bad.  You proceeded to scream your eyes out at your parents until they budged and ended up buying your favorite toy or candy bar.   You won your first sales challenge!


Also, you were out and about and saw the person of your dreams.   You built up the coverage to talk to them and they next thing you know, you are dating them and then comes marriage and then the family!    If a lot of people were afraid of sales, there would be a lot of single lonely people out there!


Another example, is when you got that big job interview after graduating from a prestigious university and you need to convince your future hiring manager that you are the best professional for the opportunity.  You are in constant selling mode until the big decision is made.

If you think about the three examples I provided from convincing your parents to buy you something, to dating then getting that dream job, the reality is that 95% of us have all had to sell/convince others to get what we want.   We are always convincing someone to give us what we want.   So why does only 5% of us love sales?  I mean really love sales?   Sounds backward to me.   It could be fear or rejection, or we are simply shy.  But even the shyest people get married or interview for a job, so why don't they like to sell?

I will leave my question open-ended since there are a lot of reasons people are afraid of sales.   But the next time you are approached by a sales professional, listen to them since they took the next step to conquer their fears and they probably realized that they have been selling all of their life anyway.


The one tip I will leave to the sales professional, the most important organ is your ear, listen to others and that sales thing will become fun and lucrative!


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What I Learned About Sales from the Window Guy

Springtime in New England means it is time to plan and execute on some household projects and like every year as a homeowner I have my list.



On top of that list, I wanted to replace a few windows in our family room since it was time and we have been on an energy saving kick.   We finally scored a contractor that will be doing our job next week but it was pretty painful getting there.

The first vendor was introduced to me at a local home show.   It is a reputable company with high quality windows.  The sales person came to my house and was a nice guy and he knew exactly what I wanted,  vinyl sliders with double pane glass to keep the weather at bay.   He did not question me and went ahead and measured my window frames and gave me a rough estimate of cost.   As you should always do, I asked for a written estimate to be sent to my email and the guy said "No Problem, you will get that in a day or so".   A few days went by, then a week, so I called the company using the number the guy gave me and they said that I need to call the guy on his cell phone directly to get a status on my quote, so I did.  I left a message and asked for a response.    I did not receive a response or follow-up to my call and email, so I called the company again to check the status of my quote.  Again, they apologize and said that I need to contact the guy that came to my house for the quote.  At this time, I was like F*** this, I am going with another company.


Lesson #1 - In sales or in any customer focused business, especially a home improvement business, follow-up is essential.  In the world of social media and with so much competition, if you don't follow-up with prospects, you will get a bad rap and people will know about it very quickly.

So I looked through the list of vendors from the Home Show I attended and found another reputable company from Rhode Island that specialized in Custom Built Windows.   I called them to make an appointment to get a quote on vinyl sliders with double pane and they had a tech free on the following Saturday.  Great, we are moving now!   Leading up to that Saturday appointment, I must have gotten 6 calls from different people asking me to confirm my appointment.   I repeatedly mentioned that it is all set and did you talk to the other person that called me?


Lesson #2 - Communicate with your sales team and make sure you are all on the same page.  Nothing is worst than an impression from your customer that your team is scattered and unorganized.

We are still on the same Custom Built Windows vendor from Rhode Island.  So Saturday is here and the guy came right on time for our appointment.  He was well dressed, as if he sold insurance on the side and came to the door with his official PowerPoint presentation and questionnaire.   It was a warm day for April so he can see that he was sweating either due to the weather or nerves.   So I mentioned to him that I had about 20-30 minutes and if he can proceed with getting the window measurements and then provide me a written quote.  He did the measurements and then asked if he can go over the quote with me right there and then.   I was like, cool, we are getting somewhere.   He then proceeded to go through a 40 page presentation on the history of windows and the differences between shutters, wood windows, double pane vs triple pane and why his company is the best company in the business.  The presentation went on for 90 minutes until I cut him short and said, can I have my f**** quote?   He ended up going through all of these numbers as if he was writing up a mortgage, and finally came up with a quote that was astronomically high for vinyl sliders.  I was thinking gee are we paying for his time running through that 90 minute presentation?   I was agitated and asked him to leave since my wife and I were already late for an appointment.   He then feverishly mentioned that "one day sale" if I bought today, he will slash the cost by 40%.   I did not care and asked him to leave.  This was a disaster.

Lesson #3- Where do I start?  First, listen to your customer.  Second, customize your response to what your customer is asking for.  Third, be conscious of your customer's time.  This was probably the same presentation for customers that wanted shutters, sliders or a new roof.   Listen to your customer!

This was not the end of Vendor #2.  For next few weeks, they kept calling me and not leaving messages and until one day I picked up the phone and said to not call me anymore.  They said sure, then guess what, a couple of days later, another person called me from the same company.   I will end this with, see Lesson #2.

Finally, I vented my frustration on a local blog and well-known contractor gave me a call and asked if he can help.   At this point, I was like sure.  A third time is a charm, right?   This guy was very personable and asked what I needed and that he will take care of it.  Long story short, my windows are getting replaced next Monday.

Lesson #4:  Your customers are human, not dollar signs.  Be personable and get to know them and build their trust.   You do that and you will take your business to the next level.

Sales is a tough business.  I understand that being in business myself, but it is art.   The art of listening, being personable and having a great supporting team.  Spend the time achieving those skills and you will be a success!

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