Fifth in the Series

Posted by Richard Moran.

On Getting Ahead, Getting a Job and/or Getting Funded

Advice Too Simple Not to Know

Sell. Even Though You Think You Can’t or that You Don’t Need To

I have over heard real estate agents being asked, “Are you still selling real estate?” I have overheard life insurance agents being asked, “Are you still selling life insurance?” I, too, have asked a Procter and Gamble management trainee, “Have you grown tired of selling Pringles?”
No one asks a brain surgeon, “Are you still a brain surgeon?” No one asks a management consultant, “Are you still consulting?” I have learned the lesson that to those who choose careers in real estate or life insurance or any profession, “Are you still…?” It is insulting and implies that they could do better if they only tried.

As I have thought about it though, the question “Are you still…?” is almost always asked of those in some sort of sales role. As in, sales is the dirty part of the job and try to do something that doesn’t involve sales. Wake up, because sales is a part of every career that I know of and it is not something to run away from. Developing sales skills will make you more successful, regardless of your career.

Every entrepreneur, no matter how geeky, no matter how technical will have to sell their idea in order to raise money. Every candidate for every job will have to sell skills and potential to get hired. I cannot think of any role in any profession that does not require sales skills. In consulting I often heard, “I don’t want to become a Partner because I don’t want to sell.” Come on, no matter the level, there is selling so get with the program and learn how to sell and sell well.

Are you in the services business? Are you a CEO? Are you a dog catcher? Are you raising money? Are you sitting next to someone on an airplane who can hire you? Are you going into graduate school? Are you a novelist? Are you trying to convince your daughter not to get that tattoo down there? Are you dealing with a gate agent for that upgrade? You Are Selling.

There are plenty of books out there that will tell you how to sell in 300 pages. The advice will include know your customer, know your product and ask for the sale. All good advice. In typical bulleted fashion, here are a few pearls of wisdom that might help you capture a sale or two.

Use the phrases, “unabashed self promotion or unabashed sales try”. People know when they are being sold to anyway so be blatant about it. Awkward as that might be, it cuts to the chase and you know an answer one way or the other. Don’t ever be embarrassed about selling.

If it is something you really, really want to sell, be very, very persistent. I once hired someone just so I would no longer have to deal with their constant barrage of how much they wanted the job. Anyone who wants it that bad, must be pretty goal-driven.

If what you are selling isn’t selling, sell the next best thing while you have some attention. In other words, if the interviewer is obviously not interested in your analytical ability as demonstrated by checking the blackberry; start selling the hardships you endured while your Dad was in prison. If the venture capitalists are clearly not interested in your business model, make sure you let them know that it is a work in process and you are considering that could lead to bigger profits.
There is no getting around it. We are all selling. We all can be good at selling in our own way. Know what that way is and get better at selling.

Fourth in the Series…

Posted by Richard Moran.

On Getting Ahead, Getting a Job and/or Getting Funded

Advice too Simple Not to Know

Be Billable

When I was a Partner at Accenture people knew that if I saw them take a newspaper into the bathroom it would show up on their “permanent record” – at least in my mind. Newspaper in the bathroom seems to be a guy thing but there was no gender discrimination here. Let the record show (and what I always declared in public) that my intent was not to inhibit fantasy football player picks. Newspapers and bathrooms are all about time, not discrimination. My message was very clear:

Treat your time like someone is paying for it – someone is.

Much has been written about the tyranny of a billable time environment. Stanford Professor Jeff Pfeffer’s research suggests that working in a billable time environment can wreak havoc in one’s personal and professional life. But there is one element of filling out time sheets that is useful. That is the notion that someone is paying for your time so you should be productive and fulfill your responsibilities.

In some professions the concept of time and billing is obvious: consulting, law, prostitution, automobile repair, accounting, and services in general. Although the rates by-the-hour or by-the-day will vary considerably, the concept is the same: someone pays for a service rendered based on the time it takes to perform that service. Not a bad concept in general but as Pfeffer points out, when the demands to be “billable” are too onerous, that’s when pressure builds and bad things can happen.

On the other side of the ledger are many other professions and workers who have forgotten that someone is paying for their time. In all those millions of jobs where the concept of billable time is not a key to success, remember that time and productivity/results are still important.

Just thinking about billable time conjures up lots of variables that can lead to fairness questions. Like, “Why am I getting billed-out at $200/hr. but I only get paid $40/hr.?” If you think you can make $200/hr on your own, you should quit that job and do it. Chances are, you cannot.

How can you tell if someone you are working with is a billable person?

Constant watch gazing and incomprehensible scratches on note paper
Endless discussions comparing 6 to 15 minute increments
Irritable behavior toward office gossips, because if you listen, you have to subtract; if you ignore them, you lose out on all the good stuff
No perceivable lunch hour; either you can scarf a sandwich in less than a minute, or you graze on the sandwich for hours.
Multi-tasking pros and speakerphone addicts; and Bluetooth headset as you wander the office.
Billing time may be tedious and lead to strange behavior but it does make one think about the most important thing to do in that hour or day or week because someone has to pay for it. That billable time mentality may help you meet deadlines, finish projects, hit goals and all the other behaviors that will help you get the job or the deal. It’s not a bad approach.

Third in the Series…

Posted by Richard Moran.

On Getting Ahead, Getting a Job and/or Getting Funded

Advice Too Simple Not to Know

Whatever It Takes

It was a coffee break during a strategy planning session and I was standing up looking out the window. The CEO came over to join me and with glazed eyes was taking in the scene. He spotted a roofer and said, “I wish I had a job like that.” While I was hoping that the share holders didn’t hear him, I knew that while we were stuck in process, he was longing for closure.

Closure is a highly undervalued element of the world. One reason why we like sports so much is that the game ends and there is an outcome. A reason we like college so much is that the semester has a clear ending and we know when we will be able to throw that calculus book away. People enjoy project oriented work because there is an end and one can move on to the next thing. And maybe the next project will be even better.

Think about areas where there is very little closure and how frustrated it makes us. How about health care reform? Progress in Iraq? Public school reform? Improving the Sarbanes Oxley legislation? The Jersey diner and Tony Soprano? If there is any closure there it is, at best, in the form of an ambiguous victory or a nebulous defeat.

I think because of the current frustrations about closure, the buzz words out there today are all about implementation and simply, getting things done.

The ability to get things done or to convince people that you will get things done is a bankable proposition. The appreciation that goes along with getting things done captures both closure and progress; it should never be under estimated. Getting things done requires the “whatever it takes” aura.

Whatever it takes means you will:

Stay up all night to meet the deadline.
Be on a first name basis with every shift at Kinko’s.
Induce your team to do things they thought they couldn’t do.
Take a shower in the sinks at Logan or JFK airports and be ready for an 8am meeting.
Continue the night classes to earn the promotion
Understand the expectations and over-deliver
Last minute reschedule of the dinner date and celebrate the new account with a weekend in Napa
An entrepreneur should convince any funding source that you are willing to drag your body across burning coals to make the idea successful, whatever it takes.

A job seeker should convince the hiring manager that life will be better when you join because stuff will get done, whatever it takes.

A project manager will get promoted if the project is completed, on-time, on-budget, whatever it takes.

This blog entry will get completed and posted on time, whatever it takes.