Thursday, June 20, 2013

James Gandolfini - a God of Carnage


I confess I have never seen the Sopranos. Hard to believe I know. But when I heard today that James Gandolfini had died I didn't immediately think of Tony Soprano. I thought instead of an amazing night with his character Michael in the play God of Carnage in New York.

God of Carnage ran on Broadway from March 2009 to June 2010. Starring James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden it told the story of two sets of parents meeting after their two sons have had a fight in middle school. Starting with a civil, tempered discussion of how to help these two boys sort our their differences it deteriorates into a scene of ego, fights, drinking, vomiting and naked anger and aggression between the four characters.

It's a tough play. My friends and I walked from the theatre to the restaurant and straight to the bar, seeking comfort in a stiff drink. We felt raw. The play had successfully lured us into thinking we were seeing a comedy and then turned on us, as viciously as the characters, and punched us in the gut. You could not leave that play without realizing how thin the veneer is between manners and carnage.

James Gandolfini was superb. Completely believable. Subtle and brutal at the same time. Riveting to watch. He was simply a terrific actor and I am sorry we have all lost him so young.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Why Insight Is Urgent for Today's Sales Team

Published on the Huffington Post earlier today

A year ago I wrote about the economy's gradual turn out of a recession, and the pressure that the recovery put on sales teams to understand not just their customers -- but their customers' customers. Fortunately, the economic recovery has continued and many sales teams within our economy's biggest companies still find themselves in a position of being understaffed, under competitive pressure and struggling to make the kind of methodology transformation in their customer interactions necessary to achieve their urgent sales productivity goals.

The reason for this is because the kind of customer focus that comes from understanding your customer's customer is only part of the equation. Companies also have to ensure that their sales teams are equipped with the skills to put this knowledge into action and this need is being answered by a new boom-time in sales methodology consulting from creatively named systems such as the Corporate Executive Board's 'The Challenger Sale', The TAS Group's 'Target Account Selling', Miller Heiman's "Strategic Selling", etc.

What these and similar frameworks have in common is the expectation that salespeople will perform to a higher standard of insight and analysis. Specifically, these modern approaches all require that salespeople will educate themselves and get to know their customers extremely well.

Pre-recession, the assumption was that salespeople could do well enough by building relationships, recognizing opportunities as they presented themselves and pushing hard to close deals through enthusiasm and perseverance.

But what all these sales methodologies teach us is that a salesperson's responsibility extends to understanding her customers' business well enough to be able to challenge that customer's assumptions about his own (internal) operations and (external) markets. As a CEB study found, in today's hypercompetitive market it turns out that the salesperson that usually wins is not the one with the best customer relationship, but the one who can teach the customer something that he didn't already know about his market, opportunities or risks. The winning sales rep needs to know enough about the customer's customer to i) suggest a prescription for action, ii) describe the risks of inaction, and iii) so reflect the urgency of acting sooner rather than later.

While today's salesperson doesn't actually need to drive the customer's ship, she needs to be ready to provide some pretty enlightened navigation. This requires an in-depth knowledge of not one, not two, but three steps of the value chain: her own portfolio of products and services, her customer's solution, and her customer's customers' businesses and growth opportunities.

The insight gap is challenging many sales teams today but strong enterprise sales leaders are investing in the knowledge and systems for their sales teams to bridge the gap.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How you know you are a Road Warrior

Having crossed the country every week for many weeks now I'm reminded of the KPIs of the road warrior...

You can sleep anywhere and everywhere. On a plane, sitting on the floor by the airline gate, sitting upright in a hotel lobby.

You know which seats don't recline on each flight - without having to check the UA web site.

You know the wine menu at the United Club by heart. And then the bartender at the Chicago United Club greets you by name (yikes).

You've see OZ the Great and Powerful, without sound on a small screen above your head, 6 times in 2 weeks.

You can pack for a week in the smallest size of case Tumi makes.

You can run a conference call, on GoToMeeting, from a restaurant, with your cellphone and iPad and order food, eat and make a material financial decision - all in 30 minutes.

You can make even the reddest eyes look good with Visine.

Real food is a rarity - and a treat when you get it. Oatmeal is the breakfast staple because you know you can eat it fast.

Diet Coke. Say again. Diet Coke.

Your own bed is the sweetest, softest place you've ever been in when you finally fall into it!

But what are YOUR KPIs? Add a comment on how you know you're a Road Warrior!

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