What I’m Watching in 2019

One of my favorite moments in 2018 – when SpaceX’s “Falcon Heavy” put “Starman” in space to drive a Tesla for eternity and the boosters stuck a double-landing.  Now here’s what I’m watching in 2019:

  1. Fully autonomous cars offered for sale.
  2. Permits to allow humans to be carried by autonomous drones.
  3. Permits to allow single pilot operations in a “twin-aisle” cargo aircraft.
  4. Permit to allow autonomous operation of a commercial aircraft.
  5. George Bye’s Sunflyer will receive FAA certification.
  6. Better batteries – Solid state batteries with a substantially higher energy density than current Li-ion batteries.
  7. Solar panels with 2X efficiency of current panels.
  8. Power Over Ethernet lighting – POE Lighting.
  9. The first company to react to air quality complaints based on data from Plume Labs handheld air quality meters.
  10. The normalization of deterministic and probabilistic applications for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning as a patient analysis tool at the onset of a visit to a Doctor’s office (or no visit at all).
  11. The first announcement about a patient cured with CRISPR technology.
  12. Widespread 5G deployment (50% coverage in top 5 markets) then 50% in top 25 markets, then 100% in top 25 markets.
  13. The first company to be charged under the EU’s new Global Data Privacy Regulation – GDPR
  14. De-dollarization.
  15. College tuition costs to decline more than 25% and the Future of Education from Peter Diamandis.
  16. The Best of CES 2019.
  17. MIT’s Technology Breakthrough list for 2019 – due sometime at the start of Q2 2019.












Deloitte’s CORE Leadership Program teaches Veterans the art of personal reinvention

Change is hard – it requires effort, it takes time, and demands gut-checks that are uncomfortable.

Thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen leave the service every year. Their choice means leaving behind a strong sense of purpose, service, leadership, teammates, co-pilots, neighbors, classmates, responsibility, and a life they understood and knew how to navigate. As a group, Veteran’s have more management, leadership, and decision-making experience than civilians twenty-years senior to them, but they often lack interview skills and job search experience. This is a gap Deloitte’s CORE Leadership Program fills.

Deloitte University

A few weeks ago Deloitte volunteers completed another three-day CORE Leadership Program for 50 Veteran’s in transition. Participants were selected to attend a series of workshops and networking events at Deloitte University (DU) to learn more about themselves, know their fit, know who to ask for help, and learn how to tell their stories effectively. Soon after the immersive program began Dorie Clark gave a powerful talk about personal reinvention.

Dorie’s an accomplished writer, speaker, and teacher who’s observations and ideas are supported by pivots from journalism, to politics, to non-profit leadership, then on to teaching, speaking, and writing for Forbes, the Harvard Business Review and other premier publications. Her talk about personal reinvention resonated with every person in the room.

Over the years I’ve witnessed capable peers, and accomplished employees, struggle. They either lacked confidence or story telling skills; they languished in jobs they were overqualified for because they didn’t know how to reinvent themselves. One of the greatest skills anyone can learn is how to interview well. Simply put – it’s a high payoff activity that gives people command over their careers, and it’s the reason CORE is so potent. The exercises, workshops, round-tables, practice interviews, and evenings at the “Barn” filled the middle.

The Barn

CORE ended on a Saturday afternoon – with a presentation by a Veteran, and two-time, Paralympic gold medal winner.

Here’s a preview at the risk of sharing too much with future CORE participants. During a raid the speaker activated an IED while moving to aid two Afghani Commandos who suffered serious injuries minutes earlier when they set off a 40lb explosive charge. Days after being flown back to the United States he learned devastating news. His situation changed – he had to reinvent himself.

This hero delivered an emotional, inspiring story. He offered more laughs than tears and called out many people who put themselves at risk or made other sacrifices to give him a second chance at life. He’s still adding chapters to his amazing story, and all of us have someone to cheer on in the 2016 Paralympic games.

Before CORE I thought about what I could offer, and how I could help. I left CORE  humbled, and more grateful for the Veterans who stepped-up after I left the Army seventeen years ago; I left filled with a sense of purpose and pride in Deloitte that is every CHRO’s “employee engagement” dream and I’m looking forward to meeting a new group of Veterans in February 2016.

Personal reinvention is hard, but a comprehensive roadmap exists. Please share this with service-members you know are ready to transition. Click here for more information about the CORE Leadership Program, including program eligibility and application requirements.

Originally published on LinkedIn.


A Top-Secret Technique That Guarantees Successful Leadership

There’s a powerful secret that successful organizations apply to get higher performance from their people. And it stands in contrast to the low performance generated by managers who filter their teams’ efforts, rather than acting as catalysts to drive productivity and results.

Let me tell you a personal story.

Second-Lieutenant Lessons

I remember the moment I led my first platoon operation outside the walls of an Army compound in South Korea. I was twenty-two and responsible for a convoy with ten armed Humvees, thirty-two people, and a handful of eighteen and nineteen year-old drivers strung-out over a half-mile behind my truck. I kept one eye behind me, and one on the road, always ready to pull in the mirror to navigate between houses on a road designed centuries earlier, and way too small for our enormous vehicles.

Don’t screw up – and no accidents.

The words of my larger-than-life Commander echoed in my ears. He was a big man – even measured against a Company of MP’s. He played football at a Division I University before the Army – and he was a combat veteran. Lucky for me he was also an incredible teacher and a strong leader.

I had already confronted the stress every new Second-Lieutenant experiences when they’re not with their unit during an operation. It’s impractical for a Military Police Lieutenant to spend every waking hour with his soldiers during law-enforcement operations, when each squad is assigned an eight-hour shift. How would you sleep if your employees (fresh out of high school with sixteen weeks of intensive training) strapped on a Kevlar vest, a Berretta semi-automatic pistol, a few extra magazines, and a ticket book–and dispatched a four-wheel drive vehicle, with lights and a siren, to drive around all night? It’s a maturing experience–one that left a lot of bruises and a few scars, but far more lessons I’ve put to good use every day since.

As I looked back at that line of trucks, with gunners in their turrets to man their M-249 grenade machine guns, I’d already received a few calls at 3 a.m. from my Platoon Sergeant who always started with, “Sorry to wake you, but I want you to know about…”  It hit me that they had all the training and experience they needed to make a sound decision in any situation we would encounter. I realized what the secret ingredient was. Trust. Expect more, and you will receive more. Said another way, “You get what you reward.” This is moving beyond lip service to the phrase, “empower people.” You should really expect more–and tell them.

Autonomy + Expectations = Higher Performance

When you give people autonomy, and make it clear what’s expected, you’ll get high performance to match, without the overhead and friction created by micro-management. One of my favorite expressions is: “I’m not asking for perfection, but I want you to try.”

There’s a lot of research that proves what I learned during my first weeks as a troop leader in Korea. I describe it as “Engineering Human Performance” – or how to create a pre-determined outcome. How can business leaders engineer higher performance?

Easy. When you put someone in charge, they’ll step up to perform well, make sound decisions, and generally do the right thing. The military operates using the ‘situational attribution‘ theory; decision-making authority rests with the senior person present. When the boss is gone, the next person in line has the authority to make operational decisions required to complete immediate tasks. This quality causes soldiers, sailors, and airmen to view leadership as a condition of their circumstances rather than their pedigree. They are not paralyzed by the loss of a leader, because even the lowliest Army of one has someone in charge.

Rising to the Role

In most companies, when the boss is away, subordinates need to find another senior leader to sign documents, approve budgets, sign off on expense reports, and make other decisions to operate the business. This is the ‘disposition attribution‘ theory at work; businesses incorrectly assume that sound decision making is a function of the employee’s level. It’s not.

“People assume the qualities of the roles they’re assigned.”

People who wear surgical scrubs, judge’s robes, or uniforms understand this. Uniforms create a feedback loop from bystanders–even a tentative rookie will step up under scrutiny from a crowd that expects them to succeed or to perform in a predictable way.  People also routinely commit the fundamental attribution error–they assign values and assume expertise where none exists. This misperception is demonstrated each time someone asks a doctor how they should invest their money–wrongly assuming that high achievement and domain knowledge in one area translates to other domains.

Catch Me If You Can

We saw countless examples of this in Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in the 2002 Steven Spielberg film, “Catch Me If You Can.” Consider how people treated Frank Abagnale Jr. when he forged checks as a nineteen-year-old pilot for Pan Am Airways. Self-confidence can overcome negative bias, since it can be difficult to identify an expert out of context–someone wearing tattered clothes who walks up and declares–”I’m a doctor” will get everyone’s attention. Think about the Holiday Inn commercials when self-confident people tackle a challenge they would otherwise be unprepared for–at the end revealing they have no qualifications except that they “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

The Guards and the Prisoners

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo and other researchers at Stanford wanted to measure how role expectations could change behavior, outlook, and self-esteem. In a study about prisons sponsored by the U.S. Navy, they devised an experiment where young men were randomly selected to be guards or prisoners in a Stanford prison experiment. Twenty-four students participated in the mock prison. Guards quickly asserted control over the prisoners, and subjected them to various forms of psychological torture. Most of the prisoners accepted their treatment, but a few resisted, only to be attacked by other prisoners who helped guards keep everyone in line.

“Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.” Philip G. Zimbardo

The Blue Eyes and the Brown Eyes

When we don’t live with an open mind, our bias is predictable and easy to uncover. The day after Martin Luther King was assassinated In 1968, Jane Elliott, a third-grade teacher in Riceville, Iowa, divided her class for an exercise about discrimination. Students were arbitrarily placed into two groups–blue eyes (superior) and brown eyes (inferior). The blue-eyed group was placed in charge, while brown-eyed students were not allowed to use the playground equipment or the drinking fountain. Students were told that blue-eyed students were naturally better at math, English, and other skills, while brown-eyed students were told they were not as good. The next day, Jane announced she had made a mistake and the roles were reversed.

Immediately, previously low-performing blue-eyed students were producing better work. They were trying harder, while high-performing brown-eyed children started to perform below their previous levels. Jane Elliott’s impact on education is significant. Her experiment in Riceville created the foundation for her work as a speaker and coach about discrimination and diversity training for corporations and colleges around the world. In 1970, her third group was filmed and a documentary was released called “Eye of the Storm.” In 1985 Frontline created a program about the experiment, based on a book by the same title, “A Class Divided” and it includes footage from the 1970 documentary. You can watch it here.

Jane tested her students regularly and found that scores went down during the time a student was part of the low expectation group, and up during their participation in a high performing group. But another effect was more surprising. After their participation in the experiment all students’ scores increased. Researchers at Stanford reviewed the results and concluded that the experiment led to a dramatic change in the students’ performance.

“The act of believing you could do better showed the kids they were able to achieve more, to perform better, and evidence presented during their time as high-performers increased their self-confidence and performance.”

Damage of Discrimination and Stereotypes

Jane Elliott demonstrated how discrimination is manufactured, and Philip Zimbardo showed us how people act out role stereotypes.

Both experiments offer important lessons for us. It’s a small leap to recognize that leaders and managers who encourage and support their teams will generate higher performance, while the reverse is true, too. People will perform to the expectations others set for them, and knowledge about their situations does not automatically reverse those effects.

Powerful, Little-Understood Leadership Lessons

My own military experience provides further evidence to support Jane Elliott’s conclusions and the Stanford researchers’ experience. Incredibly, those lessons have not yet penetrated business leadership principles in a meaningful way.

You have a chance to make a positive, lasting difference, and as you do, think about how the evidence in this article could influence leadership-rotation programs, recruiting practices, and B-scale pay plans. Trust your team, expect more, and give your people more autonomy–the results will shock you.

I’d love to hear from people who want to change the culture in their business or organization.

This article was originally published on the PipelinerCRM Sales blog


Confessions of a Professional Networker

My oldest daughter, Kate, loves horses. There’s a horse park next to the soccer fields where she started playing when she was four. She watched the horses during the game, and would always ask me to take her to see them when her game was over.

Then as soon as we climbed out of the truck she would ask me to ask if they would give her a ride. I  always said, “No” and this went on for several weeks. Finally I said, “Kate, It’s your job to ask for a ride, but I have a better idea. You can’t ask directly…so let’s try two things – pay a compliment, and ask what the horse’s name is.  Tell the rider something you admire about their horse, it’s color, markings, the way the mane is braided, or the saddle, then ask about the horse’s name.”

Incredibly, half the time, the rider would invite Kate to sit on the horse or even offer a short ride in the parking lot.

This describes my approach to networking, or meeting new people in any environment. It works as well at forty as it does at four. First – be fearless – nothing bad will happen from paying compliments, and if you ask to connect with someone, either by exchanging business cards or through LinkedIn, the worst that can happen is they will say “no”…or ignore you. The best outcome is that you’ll find some common ground and a way to help each other solve a problem, achieve a goal, or launch a connection. The most valuable people give you access to information or relationships you have few other ways to reach. Great connections have little in common with you and almost no overlapping knowledge and experience. The co-worker who sits next to you at work and lives in your neighborhood can do little to expand your worldview compared to these people:

Connect with people who matter – people who are open to serendipity and the power of relationships. People who have established a personal brand and communicate their thought leadership or expertise in any area.

Connect with people who are geographically distant in your industry, or physically close in other industries.

Connect with people who are in completely different industries, and geographically removed, but have similar interests, educations, or other shared experiences that you can leverage to connect.

Connect with authors, speakers, and researchers – they are very open to new connections and easy to reach if you share a positive comment or thought about something they’ve produced or created.

Connect with billionaires and investors – they’re actually very accessible and frequently seeking new ideas.

Connect with LIONSLinkedIn Open Networkers. They self-identify as people who are open to new links.

Placement surveys show that 75% of all jobs that pay >$100,000 are found through a candidate’s network. That’s an incredible statistic…so how do you put your network to work? For existing connections send a brief email that describes your strengths, experience, and what you’re looking for. Never ask for a job directly, rather, request that your contacts alert you of anyone in their networks who could benefit from your skills and experience.

What about new connections?

Here’s a proven road-map to build local connections and secure their help to find a new opportunity in your hometown.

1. Find a list of the fastest growing or most profitable companies in your City or State – usually published by the local business journal.

2. Select 25~30 companies that your skills could be well-suited for.

3. Search LinkedIn for LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers) that are well-positioned on that list. The world is full of people who want to help you – all you need to do is ask. And the more senior the person the more likely they appreciate the power of chance meetings.

4. Send a personal note to the LIONS or other people you identified from companies on your list. Say this:

“Hi, I found your profile on LinkedIn while researching XYZ company. I’d like to connect with you and would be delighted if I could buy you a cup of coffee sometime in the next two weeks for a chance to learn more about what you do?”

This works – especially for sharp candidates who have been out of the workforce for an extended period. Initiative catapults you to the head of the line. Nearly half the people I have shared this technique with end up in a job that was designed for them. Experience has shown me that a personalized request, like the example above, will yield about a 40% acceptance rate for people with a complete LinkedIn profile. And the final meeting rates will exceed 25%. Furthermore, half of those meetings result in a new connection revealing information about unpublished openings in their companies – hidden jobs. It doesn’t take many cups of coffee to heat-up your search.

I’ll wrap up with two more tips: in business credibility matters and it’s customary to use a senior manager’s firstname, even if the CEO. Don’t use “Sir” or “Ma’am” when speaking with someone about their company or in your introduction – it signals weakness or insecurity and reduces your position. Finally, the next time you encounter a networking event, look like a pro – carry your business cards in your left pocket, so you can pull one out as you shake hands with people you meet. Place the cards you receive in your right pocket. This prevents cards from getting mixed-up, and you can maintain eye-contact while delivering your card. It’s a small step, but deliberate, meaningful improvement will add up over time and turn your into a confident networker.

Please “Like” this and pass it along if you found it helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Diio LLC’s efforts to improve airlines’ decision-support processes, and access to critical data. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He uses his life-experience, and an MBA and BS in Psychology from Indiana University to help people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at paullaherty.com, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

Coaching Featured Sales & Marketing

What I Learned Connecting With Unicorns – The Top 100 STRATEGIC Social Sellers

Tony Hughes published a list of his top 100 strategic social sellers – “Unicorn’s” in Tony’s parlance. I was connected to three of them when I read the article, but I was curious about how they made the list and what contributions they made to their followers, so I invited each of them to connect with me. This turned into a meta-social-knowledge acceleration program.

Over the three days I pushed out invitations nearly half accepted my request within twenty-four hours. Twenty-five percent of the time I found their email addresses somewhere in their profiles, in a few other cases I dug it out from blogs or company websites. For the majority I simply indicated they were a “friend” and sent a two sentence email: “I’m a Tony Hughes fan and found you on his Unicorn list. I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn and follow your work.” It doesn’t get easier than that.

Eleven people sent me a “thank you” email, and most were personalized, but also included highlights and links to additional resources they created for people related to social media, linkedIn, sales force training, and other powerful content. I received several offers to write guest posts on blogs, and found one connection ten minutes from my house – we’ve already made plans to meet in-person.  Craig Elias actually called me while I was still cranking out requests. We had a powerful conversation on a range of topics. His “Trigger Event Selling” process resonated for me and I’m looking forward to spending more time to incorporate his ideas into my work.

Their generosity wasn’t confined to LinkedIn – it spilled onto Twitter where I generated eight new follows. Profile views on LinkedIn generated activity on my website when viewers clicked on links to articles only available on paullaherty.com. Celina Guerrero even commented on my latest article on LinkedIn.

This is an accomplished bunch – they didn’t make the list by sitting around to catch up on television. Most have authored one or many books, host their own blogs or websites, all of them are active on social media, and only a few have conventional W-2 jobs. Several have sales training backgrounds including with Miller Heiman and the Anthony Robbins Companies. Several lead social media or sales force effectiveness teams at bigger companies. They’re Act-On, Infusionsoft, and Hubspot fans. Pipeliner CRM actually has four people on the list, while only four or five were official LinkedIn Influencers, two are current LinkedIn employees. As a group they’re deeply curious – since the tools and techniques they’re expert in didn’t exist when they started their careers. They are selfless givers who recognize the rewards for help and knowledge freely given allows them to earn income from the trade-secrets and valuable approaches locked away for the exclusive use of their paying customers.

Here’s the big secret – great content isn’t always behind a pay wall and it doesn’t have to come from a book.

  1. Craig Elias’ “Trigger Event Selling” – A powerful framework to focus people who are ready to buy – don’t waste any more time.
  2. Aaron Ross’ “Why Sales People Shouldn’t Prospect” – This is a goldmine and should be read by anyone who doesn’t have sales experience but touches the process.
  3. Jill Konrath – From Topsalesworld, “Why Half-Baked Ideas are Perfect Sales Conversation
  4. I’m already a huge Colleen Francis fan and subscribe to coaching content at EngageSelling.com, but she provides free resources there too, and it’s always relevant and professional.
  5. Michael Brenner published “How to create an army of social contributors (for free)” It’s excellent – and I recommend another project he was involved with, Business 2 Community.

During my call with Craig we discussed techniques – I asked him what he would have done earlier – and he explained how useful webinars could be to reach people. He suggested two ways to increase participant list size and engagement: first, partner with a company that wants to promote a product or service, to provide the foundation; next, find other experts who complement your skills to fill in gaps or expand the  scope. Great advice. Did I mention it was free? And he called me – all I had to do was answer the phone from a number I didn’t recognize. We’re old friends now.

Anything is possible if you just focus on how. Thank you Tony Hughes!

Please share, tweet, and comment if this was helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Diio LLC’s efforts to improve airlines’ decision-support processes, and access to critical data. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He uses his life-experience, and an MBA and BS in Psychology from Indiana University to help people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at paullaherty.com, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.



Coaching Featured Sales & Marketing

Self-Confident Networking

Successful people are self-confident. Confidence alone doesn’t make you successful, but it’s so important it’s worth studying in detail.

Confidence has several ingredients – how we act, look, feel, what we say, and how we say it. Our body language, speech, and delivery influence people around us.  Amy Cuddy taught the world how “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” in a TED speech watched more than twenty-million times. We convey a lot of information about ourselves, our status, and how we’re feeling through our posture, body language, and how we move to establish personal space.

How do confident people act, walk, and talk? You know it when you see it. Let’s look at an effective teacher – the Military. Drill and ceremony rehearsals, confidence courses, the “gas chamber,” where Soldiers and Marines are inoculated against the fear of being hit with “tear gas” through the experience of being exposed to it. On demolition ranges where they learn how to throw live hand-grenades – safely. Airborne school, where Soldiers are turned into Paratroopers, and on countless missions, deployments and real emergencies that challenge participants to control their emotions to keep fear in check.

Early in my Military Police career I witnessed how attitudes affected preparation, readiness, and performance. I watched a five foot three inch, hundred and ten pound women control her fear to subdue a violent man twice her size. Phrases I half-believed then I embrace completely now – “fake it till you make it”, “when in charge, take charge, and when you’re not, act as if you are.” Confidence is not a substitute for competence, but it trumps alternative ways to approach life.

Training can be designed to teach tasks that together form skills that Soldiers or business-people master before they are qualified. Drown Proofing is a good example. It begins as a series of easy-to-achieve tasks. Soldiers are taught how to stay afloat and to make a flotation device from their clothing. The training culminates with a fully-clothed soldier, complete with kevlar vest, helmet, rifle, and boots thrown into the water. To pass, they need to stay afloat, no style points – as long as they don’t panic, they’ll get through it. And that’s true for anything you do in life – don’t panic.  More dramatic than conventional drown-proofing, this image shows Marines inside a helicopter mock-up as it rotates into water – you can watch the entire video on youtube here. This specialized training increased the survival rate for helicopter passengers caught in a forced-landing on water by several hundred percent.

Marines a modular Amphibious Egress Tank

Lessons learned in the Military can be applied to business. Networking is to business what drown-proofing is to Marines. Research on networking conducted at Harvard University adds evidence on this topic.

“Basically, the more “powerful” the person, the less they view “networking” as a “Dirty” activity. The lower power the person, the more they view it as a shameful chore. One implication for practice is that, to foster the advancement and effectiveness of professionals at low hierarchical levels, organizations need to create opportunities for emergent forms of networking, as those who need instrumental  networking the most are the least likely to engage in it.”

People I work with don’t need to do more good things better, they need to stop doing one thing poorly or step-up in situations where senior leaders wouldn’t hesitate. Usually it’s a single self-defeating inaction, or belief that stops them from moving forward. Self-confidence is the most common element their focus can fix to achieve the results they want. Think about how this could apply to you.

Gavin de Becker points out that young circus elephants are tied to a post with heavy chains they can’t break. Over time, they learn to stop trying, and eventually, as adults, they can be restrained with the flimsiest rope. What ropes are holding you back? Are you afraid, or lack confidence, or self-worth? Learn to be fearless.

Please “Like” and share if you found this useful!

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Diio LLC’s efforts to improve airlines’ decision-support processes, and access to critical data. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He uses his life-experience, and an MBA and BS in Psychology from Indiana University to help people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at paullaherty.com, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

Coaching Risk Management Sales & Marketing

Sales Planning for Start-Ups

The right focus, at the right time, has enormous influence on top-line and bottom-line growth for any company, but it’s especially true for new ones.

At the moment a company’s founders decide it’s time to add a sales team there are usually more issues to think about than who. “Sales” is used as a catch-all for a long list of activities and documentation that need to be rolled-out before the sales production line is running smoothly. Hiring a traditional salesperson first, before sales-support, and a marketing-driven lead-generation engine is in-place is a recipe for disappointment.

Chief Marketing Officers and Business Development VPs must understand the evolution of effective selling techniques to identify skills and timing that will achieve the best results for their new company. Professional selling is about leading the customer to imagine how your product will improve their condition.

Before there were Challengers: In the 1800’s through 1925, producers and collectors were recognizable personas of formal selling – also referred to as Hunters and Gatherers. Producers were the highly-compensated sales people who secured new business, while “collectors” were low-value operators assigned to gather fees and payments.

In 1925, E.K. Strong published “The Psychology of Selling.” Strong formalized descriptions and methods to handle objections and focus on features and benefits. This approach stood until the 1970’s when research created SPIN selling (Situation, Problem, Implications, Needs). SPIN segmented customers by size and sales by product complexity. The approach was popularized by Neil Rackham’s book, “SPIN Selling.” By then procurement organizations were seeking ways to control costs through various negotiations frameworks. McKinsey & Company introduced the McKinsey 7S process and procurement embraced it as a way to vet suppliers.

Contemporary sales thinkers, leaders, and sales trainers are driving high performance through programs based on the Corporate Executive Board’s research and 2011 book, “The Challenger Sale.” Written by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson it’s based on surveys from more than 1,200 companies about their B2B sales performance. Dixon and Adamson identified five sales personas and their occurrence rates: The Hard Worker (21%); The Challenger (27%); The Relationship Builder (21%); The Lone Wolf (18%); and the Reactive Problem Solver (18%).  They noticed that in low complexity sales, there was little difference between performance rates among the five types. But as product & service complexity increased Challengers separated from the pack as they generated a higher share of companies’ sales and profits.

Five Sales People Profiles

Challengers thrive: In complex environments with multiple stakeholders in the buyer’s organization. The Board’s research found that as product complexity increased performance separation began to favor Challengers over other sales personas.

Challenger Advantage

Here’s how Challengers do it. “A Challenger is defined by the ability to do three things – teach, tailor, and take control – and to do all of this through the use of constructive tension,” (Dixson and Adamson 2011).

Challenger Skills

Teach, Tailor, Take Control – great news – it’s possible to teach other personas and mid-performers how Challengers apply those skills in the buying process. Challengers don’t tell – they create business partnerships to uncover meaningful insights; they see the world from the customer’s point of view and generate ideas to help them grow faster and more profitably. Challenger selling engages the whole organization to think about ways to generate value for customers. Simply put, the Challenger method can be learned. The trick is to understand the mechanisms Challengers use to manipulate the buyer’s path.

Challenger Path

Marketing automation: The arms race between sales and procurement has been accelerating.  Contemporary marketing automation strategies, enhanced through lead-scoring programs offered by Act-On, Hubspot, Pardot, Infusionsoft, and others, are force-multipliers that allow sales and marketing organizations with a few employees to close complex deals with large customers, faster, at a higher-rate.

It doesn’t take an active imagination to realize what a Challenger could accomplish if they were handed a list of prospects who poked around the company’s website, viewed pages with information about implementation schedules, and opened a pricing page multiple times over the previous four days. Marketing automation is a goldmine. Want to see it in action? Download the beacon viewer extension from ghostery.com, once it’s active on your browser visit your competitors and other leading companies’ websites and check out the tools they’re using to track visitors.

Summary: For CMO’s, finding someone who understands the customers’ business and has the bandwidth to position the seller’s products in a meaningful way, earlier in the decision-process, will make a big difference to their new organization’s success. And if you don’t need a Challenger, you might not need a sales team. Sales people cost far more than sales and marketing automation programs, so a solid plan that incorporates both is necessary to drive success from each. A Challenger mind-set, along with a comprehensive list of lead scores from the new company’s prospective customers creates a good starting point.

Ideas and Suggestions:

  • Identify customer personas, and determine those customers’ “consideration paths” to buy your products, then organize content to respond to what you already know.
  • Launch your website early to accrue benefits the Google search algorithms bestow for site age.
  • Focus on meaningful, relevant content to drive participation on your site; refine your meta tags, keywords, and messaging to achieve low bounce rates, and increase visitor times on-page to drive higher organic search results – read “Call to Action” Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg’s e-commerce classic if you don’t know what this means.
  • Hire a good marketing person to create and publish sales collateral, marketing materials, and develop content that buyers will exchange personal information to get their hands on.
  • Launch a marketing automation program to capture buyer interest and develop a sales pipeline.
  • Now you’re ready to hire a Challenger sales leader.

Slides: From “The Challenger Sale.”

Coaching Sales & Marketing