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 ;)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Art of Leaving Voicemails

I'm not sure about most people, but I get very bored leaving similar voice mails all the time. For better or worse (and to keep my sanity) I try to spice it up every once in a while. Does this help? Not really. Most voice mails are never returned...such is the fate of voice mails. So how do you leave a voice mail that guarantees a call back? You can't. That's the lesson here. There is no magic speech that will make sure client A calls you back. In order to know what would motivate client A you would need to hear client A speak. If you just hear "Please leave a message for #" then you really don't have any clues as to how to phrase your voice mail. On the flip side though if you hear a humorous one or a serious one, you can leave a voice mail in kind.

I've found that any "strategy" or "method" is never fool proof, it's just a numbers game. Statistically, if you leave enough voice mails you WILL get a call back (unless you curse someone out or something). The Art of Leaving voice mails is something I will post more about...if I ever find the Art myself.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How do you handle a bad client?

I overheard a coworker today who got a horrible call. My company had a promotion going on that ended in December, and of course people call in for January still trying to get promo rate. There are times when deals start and time when deals end, and I am too low in the totem pole to make those kind of decisions anyway. But the fact remains that some people are so hurt that a given price is not extended for them that they refuse the product all together. Doesn't that mean the product was not that important to them in the first place?

I do sometimes enjoy the various hiccups that come up based on irate clients, but only when I can actually fix their problems. Many times I've been the irate client and here are some strategies I suggest for achieving resolution:

1) Be calm, cool, and collected. No one will help you if you curse them out. Instead of the potential for getting someone on your side you may have gained another roadblock towards getting your conflict resolved. Being easy going is important because often the first line of defense for most companies are people who are gatekeepers, people put in place to stop you from talking to people with the power to change things. Collected is probably the most important of the three, because with organization you can mention each fault (date and time of incidents helps add to the professionalism).

2) Be patient. Some fixes are not able to be made right away, so be reasonable in your expectations. At the same time don't wait forever for things to get done because for many companies it's "out of site, out of mind".

3) Negotiate till the end. Often a higher up gatekeeper might give you an offer that sounds good...weigh the cost benefits of accepting that or fighting for more. Often it is more useful to accept a tangible benefit that to wait out for a mysterious higher benefit that never comes.

4) Try to have the person you speak to imagine they were in your shoes. If your fight is reasonable this is the key to have others fight on your behalf.

Good luck!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hope everyone got what they wanted for Christmas

It's a new year and not much is different...economy is still in the toilet, though it has "signs of recovery" (aka power of positive thinking). I've always been a firm believer in realism over optimism. Since most tend to see things a bit greener on the current side just to get through the day, I try to aim for a more pessimistic approach which hopefully tends to hit more towards that golden mean.

We just got word of another deserter here...I get the feeling the sales field weeds out many. That doesn't mean in any way that the ones that stay are the best, only that they have not necessarily found better opportunities.