The HBR article Selling is Not About Relationships (title misleading) categorizes sales people into 5 buckets:

    • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
    • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
    • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
    • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
    • Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

In their analysis, they state that Challengers far outperform others, with Relationship Builders coming in dead last. Not that relationships are unimportant, their point is that the type of relationship is what is important. Challengers push the relationship, to make it better while Relationship Builders focus only on reducing tension.

This made me stop and think: How does this apply to management/leadership? I have often debated the merits of sales people transitioning from sales to management – where they can leverage their relationship skills. What this made me realize is that it is is more than that, the ability to build relationships is important but success will hinge on what type of a person they are. Consider the same definitions applied to management/leadership with a few key words edited (i.e. customer changed to organization):

    • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet everyone’s needs, and work hard to resolve tensions in the internal relationships. (Add: Infrequently progress from manager to leader as they are the keeper of the status quo).
    • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team. (Add: It is naïve to think that you do not have to work hard to be successful. You do. But the person who thinks that hard work is enough stay managers. They are great ‘do-ers’.)
    • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the organization who do things their way or not at all. (Add: Often burn bridges and have difficulty moving from manager to leader as they are not a team player. After all, people follow those they trust)
    • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the organization’s standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on follow-up, ensuring that issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly. (Add: Great reporting to a leader)
    • Challengers use their deep understanding of the business to push their thinking and take control of the conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — within the organization. (Add: Can build, communicate and execute a vision … in other words, can lead).

As with the sales profiles, I would suggest that the Challenger will outpace the others as they are willing to paint a vision of the future, push boundaries, take risks, face big issues and execute – with relationships, problem solving and hard working contributing to that success.



I love the article I Stalked Steve Jobs in Forbes, detailing how a junior CEO got time with Jobs in the 90’s … all about persistence:

I was a young CEO and I needed answers. Steve Jobs had them. There was only one thing to do.

So I sent a FedEx letter.

Then I sent another.

Then I started calling.

Then I sent another FedEx, and called some more. Finally, after 7 FedExs and 12 phone calls, Steve’s assistant said he wanted to talk with me.

He then offers tips on how to get to a VIP, although she did not include one of my old favorites – call at 7:30am before their assistant gets in. Shocking how many times that one has worked for me (As long as you try it enough times).



A colleague forwarded a press release on HP releasing their 30th Anniversary Edition HP 12C, for a mere $80-$100. You can read about it here.


Leaving HP’s current problems and troubled future outlook aside, this is quite an event. I have many fond memories of this calculator and consider it one of the tools that propelled me to sales success after university in the early 90’s.

I commented on it in this entry under ‘Reciprocity’ in April and keenly remember how this tool set me apart from other reps. My peers would go in front of the financing manager with no understanding of how the deal was structured; no knowledge of interest rates or financing charges where I went in front of them understanding rates, terms and all of the affiliated deal details so that I could negotiate both internally and externally. A clear lesson to me that I remember today – it is not good enough to be good in just one aspect of your job – you must actively ensure that you are well rounded. For example, being a sales rep who is great at relationships but not good at understanding the technical and value details of the product, negotiation, objection handling, internal resource management, team leadership, cold calling, presentation creation and delivery .. etc. …. isn’t good enough.

Success comes from understanding all of the aspects and either being good at all of them (tough) or having a plan to ensure that you can execute well on all of them with the support of others. Top performance requires a Renaissance Man/Woman approach to business.

I have a HP 12C sitting on my desk as a reminder.



I had the opportunity to golf with the President of a large sports franchise a few weeks back and found it a fascinating day asking questions about the “business of sport”. At some point, we moved around to discussing the importance of marketing and image in sports, which inevitably lead to a conversation on Tiger Woods, the  documentary “The Rise and Fall of Tiger Woods” and how his image continues to struggle. In the end, we all agreed that it is because of attitude.

Consider the following case in point (made by my golfing companion): Michael Vick. Convicted of some pretty nasty crimes – a vehicle he owned was involved in marijuana distribution, failed drug tests, petty theft and the most heinous – dog fighting that included torture and execution of under performing dogs. He was convicted federally, did his time and came out with an apologetic manner and managed his image, doing charity work for the Humane Society and a number of other important public moves (A good overview here) starting in 2009.

What happens? $100M contract and not a lot of talk about his past. Even if I am sceptical as to the authenticity of his rehabilitation and authenticity, at least he is making the right steps and has been rewarded.

Another great example of that is Martha Stewart. If there was ever a case of humility, that is it – jailed as an object lesson for others while hundreds of larger white collar, inside traders run free, she managed it with dignity and came out just as strong, or perhaps even stronger. I know that I respect her.

Compare and contrast that Tiger, which is best summarized in the article ‘Still acting like the old Tiger in a new world’:

Tiger Woods stepped from behind a microphone, thankful to be done with a short interview that felt like an intrusion. He took 23 questions, most of them about his golf, a few others about his left leg, then walked off without looking at anyone.

“That’s why you guys listen,” he muttered under his breath, “and I play.”

He was as dismissive as ever, another example of how much has changed in his world, and how little he realizes it.

He has never been apologetic or humble. He still acts like he is No.1, not No. 30, which means that people are no longer tolerating his arrogance and overlooking his shortcomings due to his strong performance.

Which reinforces how important humility is at all times. Imagine how successful these people would have been through the tough times had they been humble from the start. People tolerate arrogant behaviour from the sales rep or high flying manager/leader when they are on top, but await their fall, ready to relish in their failure.  However, those same people will help the successful person reach greater heights and through tough times if that person gives back, acknowledges the contributions of others, says thank-you, remains humble and supportive of others.

Unfortunately for Tiger, he was never coached to be that person when he was successful and it would appear that no one is around to point out the Michael Vick lesson to him now …..



I have been cataloguing a few old folders over the past month and came across the photo below. It is the photo of a whiteboard from one of the largest deal negotiations that I have been involved in over the last decade (9 figures). The negotiation team that we were working ‘with’ on the other side consisted of some of the most professional negotiators I have ever had the pleasure to deal with. During the 6 week negotiation, I learned a lot from them thanks to a very observant teammate.

Negotiation Board Whited Out

That board was a 3 hour internal dialogue to prepare me for a 30 minute phone conversation. We role played out the conversation, areas where the conversation would go, objections that would come up, rat holes to be avoided and where to stand firm.

In the end, both parties were happy with the outcome, but it was tough and the experience reaffirmed my motto of practice, practice, practice. Whether doing a presentation, meeting a client for the first time, running a negotiation, practice and preparation pay.

I need to Photoshop this photo and clean it up a bit, it deserves a good frame.



A peer had a great insight that she shared this week:

“When I first arrived, I realized that all of our policies and procedures were built around catching the naughty 10%, which simply lowered the performance of the other 90%”

It is a statement that I have often thought about, but never articulated as well. In reviewing policies/procedures that I have seen over the last 6 years inside organizations, it would seem that this is the status quo in companies that are bucking under the weight of too much internal process.

Consider the case for contact management strategies in sales organizations. Generally, these strategies are built with a goal of ensuring that the salesforce keeps in regular touch with a client ‘X’ times per year or is built around some type of end goal such as:

At the end of 3 years we have a contract renewal, therefore at month 18 we must send out a letter, at month 20 we must meet with them and review this PPT, at month 24 we must have 1 executive meeting …. etc.

The problem being that if one were to step back and look at many of these processes, good sales teams are doing this as a matter of course and do not need the prompting. The only value that the process brings is another data point for central management to review, with questionable correlation to an improvement in sales.

This is in direct contrast to a sales basic, such as forecasting, which drives many productive outcomes such as resource allocation, executive focus to support good or struggling scenarios, inventory levels, etc. That being said, I can see how even forecasting can fall into this trap. I have read more than my fair share of articles on how large sales organizations dealt with the financial crisis (and experienced it). Many implemented draconian rigour such as world wide weekly or twice weekly forecasts with the following impacts:

    • The sales organization spent less time selling and more time working on recasting the same information that probably had not changed much. It reduced sales productivity.
    • Central management acquired an illusion of control by being busy, by feeling that they were closer to the minute by minute action. When the reality is that nothing changed. Most did not react faster, in fact they probably reacted slower as a reaction was even harder to do as they were too buried in the details to see big trends or too resource constrained due to the additional process load.

Therefore, I have decided on a new litmus test for policy and procedure approval/rejection which will center around a single question:

  • Is the policy/procedure designed to capture the ‘naughty’ 10% or does it raise total organizational performance?

If it is centered on the bottom 10%, then it needs to be rethought. It if raises total performance, then it is worth considering.



I bought my first trip from Flight Centre during the holidays – a short jaunt down to Atlantis. I have heard many good things about Flight Centre, and their growth is a good indicator that they are on the right path. When we were in England, it seemed like their shops were everywhere.

The service was fantastic and I thought this was a great follow-up touch. A thank-you (people who know me, know my opinion on that topic) and an opportunity to provide feedback via a survey.

Well done Flight Center.

From: []
Sent: January-04-11 4:01 PM

Subject: Thank You

Fight Centre

Thank you

Hello Michael,

I would like to thank you for trusting Flight Centre and especially myself with your trip. Thank you for the business and I look forward to working with you in the future to meet and exceed your travel needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions regarding your trip or future travel.

Enjoy your trip and travel safe.
Lindsay Adler

We appreciate your feedback. Please click here to complete a short survey and be entered to win a $500 Flight Centre Gift Certificate.