Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Great Sales Training Class

I have spent the last few days in a Miller-Heiman training class. Pitched as "Conceptual Selling" and "Strategic Selling" the MH process focuses on the corporate selling process (versus, say, selling to individuals on the showroom floor).

If there was one broad concept that encapsulates the class, it's Companies don't buy products, people do. I can't sell to "Samsung" or "Sony", I sell to individuals who have their own business and personal needs that need to be met. The class provides a nice set of tools and concepts that helps the salesperson navigate the process and figure out what he needs to do to increase his chances of a close.

The class largely teaching me what I already knew, but I liked the framework and tools to support what I was already doing from instinct and experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who is in sales or business development.

Monday, August 27, 2007

In SF During a Full Moon

I'm in SF for sales training. The training is good, SF is also pretty good. More on the sales training l8ter.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Saturday Pep Rally

One the neat things about my Saturday Black-Belt class is when the Grand Master comes out at the end and gives the class a little motivation/morality speech. His speeches are sort of a strange mix of Confucius and Vince Lombardi, combining the Eastern ideals of duty, dedication and self-examination with the Western can-do, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps optimism.

The man is fifteen years older and a head shorter than me, but that in no way diminishes his authority. With his hands clasped his back he paces in front of the class with the full confidence of a man who could literally break in half anyone in the room. In his accented English he addresses the room while we stand at attention.

“You mus hav confidence! You mus wok hard! Tae Kwon Do is about controlling your body, controlling your mind. If you control those two, you can control your life.

Let me ass you, what you worry about? Are you worry about your past? You cannot change that! Why you worry about it? Huh?
(long pause, now softer) You mus only look fowad. You mus only focus on the future. And if you do that, you can do anything.

This is only a sample, and it actually has a lot of variation from week to week. We then all bow deeply and finish up class.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Late 30s Male Dissastisfaction

Last week a lot of blogs pointed to a UK study that men are unhappiest in their lives from their mid 30s to their mid 40s:

35-44 invariably hit a mid-life crisis when their happiness level plunges lower than at any other age according to a study for the Government.

It makes them the least satisfied members of society, scoring well below teenagers, the elderly - and women of all ages.

Researchers found that it takes men until they reach the age of 65 to start enjoying life as much as they did in their late-teens and early-20s.

Well, I can't vouch for what comes after the hump, but I have to give the story credence for where I am at 39. Let's count the reasons:

  • Only One Milestone Left - A lot of life is about looking forward to and experiencing major milestones: your first kiss, your driver's license, your first (legal) drink, getting married, having a kid, etc. By the time you're 40, you realize you really have just one more left. The Big One. And it will be a lot less fun than the others.

  • The Onset of Aging - By the late 30s you realize you are fighting a rear-guard action when it comes to health. In your 20s it only took three days a week at the gym to keep ripped. Now it takes a daily workout just to maintain. Scrapes and bruises that took a few days to heal now take a couple of weeks. Pulls and strains last forever. The doctor starts talking seriously about blood pressure, cancer history and PSA tests. And let me tell you that the onset of real, actual aging is jarring.

  • You Are What You are Going to Be: The first two decades of life are spent dreaming and wondering what you will be when grow up. By the late 30s you realize that what you're doing, that's pretty much it, and it wasn't on your childhood list. J. M. Barrie put it more depressingly:

    The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.

  • You See The World As It Is, Not As You Want It To Be – In a positive light this could be seen as the gaining of wisdom, but changing your world views is an unsettling experience, and in the case of middle aged men, it’s never the case that you figure out the world is a better place than you thought. It's depressing.

  • The Stress of Life – I would point out that this age range is when men are generally working the hardest. And most are going to peak in their profession during these years and realize that they reached the highest point they will ever go. This is also when most men have complicated family lives with kids reaching their teenage years, divorce being the most prevalent and so on.

So why do men feel better a decade later? I can only guess that men eventually get used to these feelings and adapt. As for women, who go through the same aging process, I have no clue.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My China Air Ban Still Holds

Back in the late 90s the company I worked for banned employees from using China Air due to the large number of crashes they had that decade:
  • 04/11/1993 - Boeing 747 - China Airlines B-165 - Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 26/04/1994 - Airbus A300 - China Airlines B-1816 - Nagoya, Japan
  • 16/02/1998 - Airbus A300 - China Airlines B-1814 - Taipei, Taiwan
  • 22/08/1999 - McDonnell Douglas MD-11 - China Airlines B-150- Hong Kong, Hong Kong
My next company didn't have the ban, but I kept a personal ban, which I judged to be valid after a big one in 2002:
  • 25/05/2002 - Boeing 747 - China Airlines B-18255 -Penghu islands, Taiwan

And two companies and five years later I still keep the ban. Twice this year I was scheduled on a China Airlines flight which I made my travel agent change. This is just common sense, which was verified today:

Taiwan jet explodes into fire in Japan - Passengers used emergency slides to evacuate a China Airlines jet just minutes before the plane burst into a fireball Monday on the tarmac. All 165 people aboard escaped unhurt, including the pilot, who jumped from the cockpit at the last second.

Something just isn't right at that airline.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Negotiating Is Just One Big Dance

So keep on playing those mind games together
Doing the ritual dance in the sun

- John Lennon

I have a price negotiation going on that I compared to dating. I am playing hard-to-get against a suiter who is definitely interested and who hasn't walked away even after I gave him a brush-off about a month ago.

But now that I am coming around, he is playing mind games of his own, constantly moving meetings on me and screwing with my travel schedule. In the Jim Camp negotiation book this is about "driving the schedule", and a way to get the other side to commit resources to a negotiation. These resources can be time, money, effort, emotion, and so on, with each one having a different "multiplier". The more resources put into a negotiation (times the multiplier) the harder it us to walk away (time and money are the hardest for an organization to walk away from, emotion the easiest).

So the more you can get the other side to invest, the more leverage you will have in the negotiation. It's just one big dance.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Difficult Part of Work: Not Answering Email

First thing in the morning I check and answer email. Then throughout the day. Then at night after dinner. Then before going to bed. It's not that I am addicted, it's that my company spans from the Middle East west to Asia, and either a customer or someone in my organization is always up and working.

But the hard part of email isn't answering it, it's not answering it, which is important in several cases:

Cooling Off - I will admit that I am really bad about this, but sometimes waiting to tell off that VP could wait until the next morning when you cool down a little. Execs don't have all the information, history and background on a problem, and when they state a solution that I think is wrong, I usually answer straight away why they are stupid and my solution is superior. This can be okay if stated politically, which isn't the case when I dash off my first thoughts like "what are you thinking, you moron?" Cooling down and writing an email that is more politically savvy is a better idea.

Waiting on Someone Else - Sometimes I get an email from a customer asking about something that I have already tasked someone else to do. Sometimes a "we are working on it" email is okay, but sometimes just waiting another day and sending an email with all the info is better. Sort of a judgment call.

Pacing - Negotiations take time and sometimes you should think about an email for a day or two before replying, or just pace the negotiation appropriately by waiting to reply. Right now I have a large Asian customer that sent me an email last Friday asking me if I would reply to a pricing request by this Wednesday. I didn't reply to that email and will get back to them on the pricing this Friday. They are on the hook and aren't going anywhere (if you think of this situation like dating, it will make total sense).

Political - I have read that you should wait x hours before replying to certain emails to let people think you are busy. I am not into that, but I will admit that sometimes not replying is better politics than replying, depending on circumstances. Also, not answering or delaying an answer can say as much as replying in some instances.

Excuses - And one of the best reasons not to answer email: "Oh, you asked for xyz? I must not have seen that email..."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

August Travel Movie Reviews

Shrek the Third - What happened? The first two were funny, enjoyable movies that had enough adult humor to keep me engaged and laughing. This one was boring and stupid. I guess the writers got tired or the franchise got old. Two out of five stars.

Spiderman 3 - This sequel did better if you are after nothing more than a fast adventure. As usual, the special effects were incredible. I enjoyed the exploration of Spidey's dark side, but feel they didn't go deep enough since they loaded up on too many bad guys. Three stars.

The Last King of Scotland (iPod)- This movie about Idi Amin may be mis-titled, but it is incredibly engrossing. It follows the slow descent of a care-free young doctor who becomes Amin's personal physician. Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for Amin, but I would have given the nod to James McAvoy as the doctor, who was entirely believable as a naive young man who finds out too late that he has become a part of an evil regime. There are a few disturbing scenes that turned me off, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this film. 4.5 stars.

Fracture - I never even heard of this legal-murder drama, and there's a good reason. Although it stars Anthony Hopkins, this thing never gets off the ground. I's unbelievable and stupid. 2 stars.

Friday, August 10, 2007

You Don't Really Know What Is Going On In Your Life

When I first entered the work force there was this guy, Mike, who started at the same time. He was intelligent, driven, charismatic, personable and a protected minority class. I saw this as a killer combination that the affirmative action-driven managers of our Fortune 50 company would try to capitalize on so figured he would be in management in a few years. That was certainly his plan. He never got the chance.

Less than two years into the job he got a surprise - a girl he used to know (and I am using that word in the Biblical sense) showed up on his doorstep with his four- year old son. He had no clue before that day that he had a kid out in the World. To his credit he made his new found progeny a big part of his life, but the sudden change derailed his career. Part of it was the additional outside responsibility at that stage of his career (“Sorry, I can’t make the trip that week – it’s my week to watch my son”), but part of it was the stigma attached to the personal story (And it isn’t like he could hide it. One day he was single, the next he was taking time to take care of his four-year old son. This sort of story gets you known, and not for the reasons you want in a large, conservative corporation). He left the company a little after I did.

The point of the story (besides being an interesting vignette) is that we all set a certain structure and set of goals for our life and live it based on the facts as we know it. The problem is that we really don’t know all the facts of our life. It could be the ticking time bomb that is your heart. The unknown cancer that is spreading. The spouse that is cheating behind your back. The boss who decided to lay you off by the end of the month. The kid you didn’t know you had.

So the important part of life isn’t planning it, but adapting to it. Because you don’t ever have the full set of facts of what is going on with it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Kindler, Gentler Soju

At dinner last night my host ordered soju, the national drink of Korea. It is to them what Vodka is to Russians. In fact, it is a lot like vodka in flavor, and like vodka can go down like rocket fuel. I don't particularly care for it, but when in Rome...

I took the shot glass and belted back the drink with one gulp and actually found it smooth. "Hey, did you change brands of Soju?" I asked.

"No, my brand lowered their alcohol content from 22% to 19%. They hope by lowering the alcohol people can drink more and they can therefore sell more bottles."

"It's certainly better tasting."

"Yes, they are trying to get more women to try it, so lowering the alcohol also makes it easier for people who cannot handle the stronger flavor."

"So are you saying I drink like a woman?"

"Oh, no, you drink like an American."

Monday, August 06, 2007


Many Americans eat sushi, but quite a few don't know about toro, or fatty tuna. This is from the belly of the tuna and has a higher fat content than regular tuna, and is therefore much more tasty. The fattiest part is called "Otoro". It melts in your mouth like butter and is an experience approaching...well, use your imagination.

I have been eating toro for a while, but it wasn't until I was in Korea this week that I learned this: no matter how much wasabi you put on toro, it will not burn your mouth. I was told this by my Korean host (we were eating at a sushi restaurant), so I experimented. Sure enough, you can put enough wasabi on toro to choke a horse, but you won't taste it at all. The fat in the tuna neutralizes the spiciness, and all you taste is the buttery excellence of the tuna.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

And I Thought I Was Safely in Sales

You are Strategic - The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route... This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.

You are an Arranger - When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing all of the variables, aligning and realigning them until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible...You are simply trying to figure out the best way to get things done.

- Two of my top 5 strengths, According to Strengthsfinder

Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in. - Godfather III

I was just informed today that I will be given some Program Management responsibilities due to some problems that have come up in the engineering group. I am not exactly surprised, but it was something that I was avoiding. While Program Management is something that I can actually do quite well, the main problem that is that it is a thankless task with few perks or benefits.

This is just a side responsibility to my sales role, but I need to make sure it doesn't become semi-permanent.