Friday, March 28, 2008

Dealing With Anxiety

Feel anxious about the economy? The anxiety you feel (on anything) depends on the probability you assign to the catastrophy versus the resources you have to do something about said catastrophy:

So if you're Bill Gates and you think the economy is going into a tailspin, you're not going to lose sleep over it. Conversely, if you think the economy is doing okay, but have no savings, you might still worry about bills.

Note that this is true of any catastrophe. Think a loved one might die? If you think you can deal with the loss, you won't be as anxious about it. Think the probability is small? You probably don't give it much thought.

So to deal with anxiety, you either have to put real expectations on the probability (i.e. don't worry about an asteroid striking the Earth) or develop resources to deal with the situation (save for economic catastrophies, develop character for personal crises, etc.).

This sort of ties into the Mamet quote I posted here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How to Shake Hands

One of the things that really pisses me off is when I shake someone's hand and they are looking at or talking to someone else. Of course I am in sales and consider a handshake critical to my work, but everyone should know how to do it. So here it is step by step:

1. Extend your hand.

2. Look the other person straight in the eye. You give them your complete and total attention (it simply amazes me the number of people who don't do this).

3. Smile. And I don't mean an idiotic used-car-sales grin, but a pleasant, welcoming continence. Even in a nasty negotiation there is no reason to frown or grimace.

4. Grasp the other person's hand. Firm, but not too tight. A weak handshake can be translated as a weak person. And an iron grip is showing off. If you have one of those "missed grasps" when your hands don't come together just right (about 1 in 50 for me), just ignore it and continue with the greeting. It happens.

5. State your name clearly and distinctly, with a very small pause between your first and last names. There is no need to rush. The pause helps people who are not native English speakers separate your first and last name, or it helps those who are English speakers deal with non-native names.

6. The other person will usually state their name in return. Pay attention and try to remember it. Associating the name with someone I already know works for me (So this guy is "Mark", like my cousin Mark)

7. Pump the person's hand a few times. In the U.S. a few shakes is considered the norm. Asian cultures - when they shake hands - might hold on for a few more shakes.

8. Release

Special Situations:
  • Business Cards - A whole separate blog entry one day. Essential when you are meeting a dozen people at once (common in sales presentations)
  • Japan - A combination "shake-and-bow" is used a lot in Japan with Western visitors. The bow is about half the depth of a normal bow.
  • Korea - the left hand is (or was) considered unclean. So when shaking hands (and when passing or receiving an item ) the left arm is kept bent and flat against your stomach.
  • The Double Grip - Used only when you are meeting someone you already know and are genuinely happy to see. When meeting for the first time this is in the same category as the used-car-sales grin.
  • The Left Arm on the Shoulder - I never use it when initially greeting, but I do use it when exiting a first meeting I think went especially well. Like the double grip I also use it for people I am truly happy to see, but not close enough to hug (American males are hugging more and more it seems)
  • Women - Many women, especially from the South, are taught that they have to offer their hand first, so a man is considered "forward" when sticking his hand out first. This is sort of an instinctive thing you have to call by ear. Also, women generally grip weaker than men, so I typically use a less firm grip.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Should the Government Allow a Censor Access to Spectrum?

Internet users in China can't Google about killings in Tibet since Google blocks access to anything their Chinese masters deem improper.

In the upper left hand corner of this blog you can "flag this blog as objectionable" and Google, if it deems me un-PC, will ban my blog.

Google has a well established track record of banning conservative blogs from its news search engine and rejects ads it deems "improper" (like ads for arms, which happen to be in the Constitution, like free speech. So if your name is Remington, you can't use Google to promote your business).

There is nothing in the Constitution preventing a corporation from banning speech or refusing service to certain customers, but there are provisions against the government from doing it. So having Google ask the government to open up spectrum for them is a bit ridiculous. If they want spectrum, then the U.S. government should require Google respect free speech and equal protection.

(Yes, this blog is on Google, but Blogger wasn't owned by Google when I started. With about 1500 posts I don't have the time or energy to change it.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Depressing Sales Movie: Glengarry Glen Ross

Here is an excerpt from the movie every salesman should see, Glengarry Glen Ross (from the Al Pacino character).  It is a fascinating take on both life and sales:

What is our life? It's looking forward or it's looking back. And that's our life. That's it. Where is the moment?
And what is it that we're afraid of? Loss. What else? The bank closes. We get sick, my wife died on a plane, the stock market collapsed...the house burnt down...what of these happen...? None on 'em. We worry anyway. What does this mean? I'm not secure. How can I be secure? Through amassing wealth beyond all measure? No. And what's beyond all measure? That's a sickness. That's a trap. There is no measure. Only greed. How can we act?
The right way, we would say, to deal with this: "There is a one-in-a-million chance that so and so will happen...#$%* it, it won't happen to me..." No. We know that's not the right way I think. We say the correct way to deal with this is "There is a one-in-so-and-so chance this will happen...God protect me. I am powerless, let it not happen to me..." But no to that. I say there's something else.
What is it? If it happens, AS IT MAY for that is not within our powers, I will deal with it, just as I do today with what draws my concern today. I say this is how we must act. I do those things which seem correct to me today. I trust myself. And if security concerns me, I do that which today I think will make me secure. And every day I do that, when that day arrives that I need a reserve, [a] odds are that I have it, and [b] the true reserve that I have is the strength that I have of acting each day without fear. According to the dictates of my mind.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How Bad Will It Get?

I told a friend of mine the other day that the economy is looking really, really bad. "You should be okay - you don't work in banking." was the response. No, I don't. And I actually think my own job is safe outside of a worldwide economic meltdown - a scenario I no longer think is beyond belief.

The DOW went through a 400 point gyration today as traders try to figure out what is going on. We have the Fed lending to non-banking institutions for the first time in decades. The dollar has cratered, and may crater more. Many currencies that are pegged to it are starting to drop their pegs and there is talk about the dollar losing is status as a worldwide currency. We have oil at over $100 a barrel, as much as from dollar deflation as anything else, along with gold being over $1,000.

A couple of years ago economists were crowing about the "unlinked world economy", meaning that the old phrase "America gets an economic cold and the rest of the world gets the flu" no longer held. We started to see several months ago that this adage is still true, and the U.S. seems to be coming down with a flu, not a cold. If this is the case, what is going to happen to the rest of the world economy?

Via Gongol comes an interesting link showing graphically the ballooning mortgage and write-down crises that started the all the dominoes. Did I see it? In a way. When I heard radio commercials offering mortgages with no proof of income, I knew things were peaking. I just didn't know how hard it would fall.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Those Wacky IS Guys (Again)

The IS department just installed new expense reporting software for my company. Every month or so I am supposed to go in and report my sales expenses for reimbursement.

One of the requirements of the new software is that you report your expenses in the foreign currency which you used, which the software will convert for the accounting department.

My business is nearly all in Asia. Currency NOT on the conversion list is:
  • South Korean Won
  • Chinese Yuan
  • Taiwan Dollar

Currency that is ON the list includes (and I am not kidding):
  • Icelandic Krona
  • South African Rand
  • Jamaican Dollar
So they put currency that will never (legitimately) be used by the sales force, and don't put in countries that we actually visit. Hello? McFly? Anyone at home?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Economy is Worse Than I Thought

One of my New Year's predictions was that the economy would go into recession within the next 18 months. My daily perusal of the WSJ is convincing me that the economy is in worse shape than I thought.

The liquidity crises has moved beyond the mortgage business, beyond the banking business and across national borders. The dollar has continued to plummet as gold continues to skyrocket.

Businesses and individuals with good credit are finding it hard to borrow. Plus banks and other lending institutions are getting nervous and starting to call in even performing loans, forcing more sell-offs and weakening the capital markets even further. I cringe each morning when I open the paper, wondering what domino has fallen next.

A key issue is that there isn't a lot the federal government can do. Politicians, especially democrats, will scream to "do something", but as in most government interventions, the law of unintended consequences means that they will just do more damage. In this case the market and people have to take their lumps and find a place of equilibrium. Government interference will more than likely extend the pain.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Negotiation Tip of The Day

If you don't say no, you won't get no.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

This is a Real Product

Okay, I know marketing people make a living by doing "brand extensions", but putting the Disney Princess characters on pasta? But it works. I found this in my kitchen pantry (and I don't do the grocery shopping).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Purell Nation

Over the past few years I have noticed American germaphobic characters in movies. Snakes on a Plane comes in mind. And there is Babel where the wife keeps using Purell as they trek their way across North Africa.

This American stereotype is true. Based on conversations with people who travel (plus, admittedly, my own feelings), it seems that over the past few years that the U.S. has become more and more germ obsessed. Casual conversation at my latest trade show found over half the people (all Americans) doing some sort of activity in the last month to avoid or "clean" germs (I include using Airborne). And I think part of the problem is products like Purell.

In order to sell Purell the marketing people create commercials like this. Similar ads can be found for various "bacteria killing" soaps, kitchen cleaners and other household cleaners. Add to this constant "studies" about germs in and around work, and exposes on how certain items aren't being cleaned and sanitized and you have the making of a mass phobia.

It doesn't help that new parents are just about insane about keeping germs away from newborns. Friends and relatives who come a visit a baby these days have to bathe in Purell before finally holding the infant. But as the baby gets older, the Purell doesn't leave the house and another family gets addicted to the equivalent of ritual hand washing.

I have to admit that I have been affected, wincing away from people who have colds and avoiding what I think are unclean areas (airport bathrooms come to mind, although there now are other reasons to avoid them). I also carried my own bottle of Purell when I traveled, but it is something that I weaned myself off of. Besides regular soap works just as well.

I think this problem will get worse over time, as Americans become more and more coddled, living in a fake reality where they think they can remove all risk from their lives. This is one of the magic products that is supposed to remove some of that risk, but it isn't stopping people from getting sick.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Cherry Apple Tini

I posted some time ago my ultimate appletini recipe. It's simple, good, and a staple in my household. Turns out I stumbled on an accidental improvement: Effen Black Cherry vodka. Wow! Try it, it's simple:

2 Parts Apple Pucker

1 Part Effen Cherry Vodka

Shaken (not stirred)

The Effen site has an appletini recipe, but it is a lot more complicated.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Psychological Sales

A couple of readers have wondered why I have psychology books on my reading list. The fact of the matter is that sales - most of life actually - can be helped by using certain psychological techniques. Here are a few of them that are taught in most sales courses:

  • Mirroring Body Language - Just put yourself in the same body position and posture as the person across from you in order to build rapport. People usually do this unconsciously anyway, but it doesn't hurt to be aware of it.
  • Reading Body Language - There are whole books on this subject, but I think all you need to know are the basics since you are unconsciously aware of it anyway. The simple ones are that are taught in sales training courses are crossed arms indicates defensiveness, both hands out and up indicate openness, both hands out and down indicates emphasis.
  • Repeating the Last Thing Someone Said - The goal here is to keep someone talking or to expand on what they said. The other person will go on without thinking about it. I was even caught in it when explaining it to someone else. "Repeat the last thing they said?", my friend asked. "Yes, you see..." and I went on for a moment before I realized she had caught me. A simple variation to keep people going is "Hmmm mmm".
  • Silence - Many, if not most, people are uncomfortable with silence and will attempt to fill the void. The hard part is getting them to fill it with information you need.
  • Full Listening - Most people hear, but are already thinking about the next thing they are going to say in the conversation. The hard thing is to listen totally. What words is the person using? What words are they not using? Where are they looking during the conversation (to their right is fabrication, to their left is recollection). What is their pupil dilation and what is that telling you?
These techniques along with some basic psychological understanding (Freud, Rogers) can give you a surprisingly good view into what people are thinking.