Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Easy come, easy go

What marks a good company? Is it the amount of money that can be made at an organization? Is it the employee happiness? "A happy worker is a productive worker" that always the case?

I wonder these things because my job has what I perceive to be a high attrition rate. What keeps an employee in their desks, working diligently? At the end of the day, it's got to be more then a paycheck (unless in dire straights, of course). The opening offer might be lucrative with pay, bonus, stock options, health benefits etc, but over time what I think drives most employees is sense of worth. Unless someone is bogged down by financial obligations so much that their main priority is putting food on the table, most want to work towards some career goal. How does one reward an employee other than money? Sometimes it seems that some companies don't understand how important recognition can be, though recognition without tangible award might be an empty pat on the back. What I see often is that employees in a company often offer new insights based on their unique experiences coming in, but often when these ideas are pitched forward they are either dismissed or worse. Worse would be assimilated as to someone else's ideas, and not given any credit or recognition at all. Not only does that make the creativity process for that person less likely, but it also harms the company as a whole by not foresting the creativity of its employees. Why bring up an idea if it will just be stolen by (and credited to) an associate?

Reason I bring this up is because moral is a direct connection to people's shelf life at an organization. Why stay at a company when you feel like your time might be better used somewhere else? A company has to find a good balance between too strict and too lax an employment policy. So when people who are new hires leave it makes little impact, but when many experienced people leave for new (read: better?) opportunities, what are those who stay supposed to think? "Maybe if I work really hard and become that good...I can leave and ditch this place too? Wait, why do I need to wait that long?" After those long standing members leave the company has to trudge on and downplay their impact, because the company has to save face in some sort. Can't imply that there are better/higher paying opportunities out there, because what is the incentive to stay at company X...

But just as they are often better companies out there, there are often (in this economy always) people out there who are willing to do you job for just a little less...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Board meetings or Bored meetings?

What is the point of a Board meeting for the common folk? In the company I work for we are notified that a Board meeting is coming, and that we should be on our best behavior...I feel like we are in kindergarten and the principle will be visiting the class soon.

If you were a high level executive and were visiting a company that you had a large investment in, wouldn't you want to see how things are when business is usual? Instead when board members (or principals) oversee everyday operations, people are on their best behavior. One might think this is a good thing, but in truth it sets up a false sense of security. A higher up might think that everything is fine, and if that is their impression of how business is done I imagine the shareholder meetings go smoothly...but if only they knew what went on in the trenches. That might effect their investments, and their hope for the future.

Meetings as a whole though are often supreme example of wastes of time. How much information is disseminated in a group meeting that couldn't be sent via email? Charts, graphs, facts, figures...if there is no discussion or question and answer period, why do people have to stop their normal day flow to go to a meeting to listen to someone read from a power point presentation? It's like I am not able to read or take into account any information so I need it spoon fed to me. Though I can understand the meetings that I attend to be more pep rallies then anything else. I never understood how pep rallies motivated people. If I say "I will kick ass today", does that really affect me kicking ass? Perhaps I'm too skeptical a person to swallow the corporate Kool-Aid...

Perhaps there is a rhyme to the corporate reason, but salespeople are usually not privy to such knowledge.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Walking away from a mortgage...ethical or smart?

The latest debacle that economists are talking about is the housing catastrophe, and how many home owners should "walk away" from their loans because the house's value has changed since the agreement was started. Many smart people are doing the math and realizing they can cut their losses by just leaving their current "overpriced" house and settling into something more in line with today's prices. For many this seems like a good move...but is it the right one? I see this and think of Kant's categorical imperative (For those non-philosophical types, it basically means it's OK to do something if you think everyone could do it). I'm not thinking of just home loans but extrapolating this out to other purchases made over time. What if I wanted the latest techno-gadget and just had to have it, even though I couldn't afford it? Well, I'd take out a loan of course. Now because I am somewhat familiar with pricing for tech gadgets, I would imagine that overtime the value of said gadget would drop as it became more commonplace. Would this affect the terms of my loan however?

Why is it different with houses? Could it be that as a society we stopped thinking of houses as living units and started only considering them as investment opportunities? I can see home values rise and fall with crime rates and other important factors, but what if the house next to mine sold for twice as much as I paid for mine? I would think the buyer got a bum deal and I got a steal (assuming the purchases were roughly equal all other things considered). The real question is what determines the value of a home, and why do we assume that prices should continue to rise ad infinitum? Values fluctuate for many reasons, but the primary reason they fluctuate is because of perception. If the perception of my latest techno-gadget changes, does that mean that the terms of my loan for it should change to?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Money as an incentive...for kids?

In sales, money is the driving force for people to put in that extra effort to close out for the day, the week, or the month. Management assumes that the more money you throw at someone, the harder they will work (to a point). The question is how early can (should) this occur? I was reading an article that was stating some schools are paying kids for getting good grades on tests. I was thinking does this foster undesirable behavior later on in life. Do we want the mentality that greed is good to spread to grade school? Some would argue that all that matters is the bottom line: The grades for children, the sales for salesmen. But is that all? Does student satisfaction or client satisfaction matter in the long run?

Given the fact that greed got us into this mess economy wise, it would seem odd that pure greed would get us out. I wonder if I am in a minority of people who learn for the sake of learning. A tipping point could occur in society if more things were "incentivized" by throwing money at things. "Don't cheat on your wife for 10+ years? Get a bonus!" The intrinsic value of things might be lost on a generation literally raised on the almighty dollar. Future generations might have more accomplishments then prior ones if motivated by constant showing of money. The question is...what happens when the money runs out?

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Legalese" and the fun times of translating it

Recent news in late night talk show upheavals likes me to non-compete clauses in business. Is it fair for a job to ask you to not consider competitors AFTER your time with them has ended? On one side I can understand the guarding of trade secrets yet isn't that why lawsuits are filed? I wonder how many other jobs have non-compete clauses...Pepsi and Coke? Different investment banks? Burger King and McDonald's?

I hear from many tech companies of people jumping ship all the time, from Google to Apple to Microsoft, etc. Why are some industries more paranoid then others? I would assume trade secrets would be far more valuable for tech companies then others. For sales jobs, I assume stating "I used to work for company x and boy was that shady" might hurt as well as help your pitch.

Legalese can basically be translated as using fancy jargon where simple explanations would do just fine. This happens all too often in sales pitches where internal company lingo leaks into the conversation, though the client may be none-the-wiser about such terms. It is always easier to explain something to someone in your own line of work then to someone outside it. Why is it so hard to boil down thoughts to a language that a common man (read: customer) can understand it. People don't buy why they can't understand (note I don't suggest that many customers fully understand what they are purchasing, just that they think they do), so talking to clients in a legalese type language with your product by name dropping features will hurt more then help. Having catchy or pithy names for products or services might make for nice ad bytes, but for convincing a client? Not so much.

Best weapon against legalese -> Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Both for the client to the salesperson, and for the salesperson to the client. That should help get to the root of the question...whether you want it, or not? And whether you really want it, or not? ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sales jobs, and the lying liars who work there

Do you have to lie to be a good salesman? Better you have to lie to be a salesman period? Many people equate the two and assume that sales = lying. And though many succeed by doing that it does not necessarily have to be the case. What I've noticed is that many people have an ethical falling once or twice, but it is really the system in place that can either positively or negatively reinforce such behavior. If someone does something considered "unethical" but gets ever increasing amounts of money for doing so, they are in essence being told that is the "right" thing to do. When did profits become more important then ethics?

What I also wonder is the lying that goes on on the other the client. How many times have you been strung along by a client who gave all the right buying signals but at the end the sale never appeared? Before you go blaming yourself and thinking you missed some cue (which might of course be the case), keep in mind it's often human nature to avoid conflict. Some people just don't want to say no. Others know what "no" leads to for a salesman...more questions and pitches. Sometimes calling someone who would normally be interested will just give negative responses based on other factors (time of day, level of blood alcohol level, etc.) So while the issue for many clients has been how to get an honest's a question from an honest salesman: How can I get an honest client?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Getting over a funk

What do you do when you don't get any sales in a day? And when that day turns into two...then three...or even more? Is the key to focus on quality, quantity, or some other factor. I think the key is to distance yourself a bit. Sales is cyclical, no one is on the top forever...and no one is on the bottom forever. So how does a salesman get out of selling block? Put things into perspective and don't stress (I know, easier said then done). The hardest part about not selling is often not the lack of sales but the abundance of OTHER people selling. This often tells you that selling can be done, but gives you the impression that selling can't be done by YOU.

Given the fact that all people have good days and bad days, what happens when your bad day coincides with someone else's great day? Or worse, when your bad day coincides with a cash incentive day. The more you dwell on the funk you are in, the longer you might stay there. In the great words of Aaliyah, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again".

All sales people eventually get out of the funk...or they find other career paths ;)