Sales jails

October 22, 2009

Voice mail is a wonderful convenience. Unless you are in sales.  In that case, there is no voice mail.  There is only voice jail.  A place where no one ever returns your call.  A place where you wait and you wait and you wait, while the game goes on without you.  Until you pick up one of these:

get out of jail free card

To get out of voice jail and back in the game, flip over the card and read the five quick tips Robroy has printed on the back for you:

1. Expect to leave a message.

2. Know that your sole mission is to get a call back.

3. Plan what you will say.

4. Keep it short.

5. Practice on your own voice mail.

Think these rules don’t apply to you?  Think you can just keep winging it and get all your calls returned?  Then you might as well go back to jail.  Go directly to jail.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.


She has her sales hat on

October 16, 2009

gray fedora

So Robroy is early for a lunch date with his wife in a mall downtown.  With about 15 minutes to kill, I wander into a men’s hat store.

The salesperson is in her mid-20s.  She lets me check out the hats without interruption.  As soon as I start feeling the felt brim of an expensive gray fedora, she slides over.

“Let’s see how you look in it.”

I stick it on my head.  I tug the brim rakishly over my left eye, and look at her.  Her response is remarkable.  Her eyes widen.  She draws a sharp breath, and covers her mouth with her fingers.  The implication is that I look so good in the hat, it literally takes her breath away.

Now here’s the thing.  All men, no matter how doofy-looking, think they are studs.  Conversely, all women, no matter how beautiful, think they are hideous.  So it’s not a new trick in transactional, retail sales to flatter a man’s ego.  He takes it as affirmation, not information.

But there’s a catch.  For a guy sincerely in love with the girl he is going to meet, this flirtatious approach doesn’t fit.  I want my salesperson to be part of the solution.  Not part of the problem.

Somehow she picks up on this. “Wait til she sees how dashing you are in that hat,” she says with a disarming smile.

Now I have no other option but to admire her skill.  Besides, I’m a guy.  How can I disagree?  Grinning, I say, “I’ll take it.”

P.S. My wife loved it!

How to get what you want

September 22, 2009

Robroy has a process for everything.  You should know that about me if we are going to be friends.  I even have a process for helping you get what you want.  I call it the Getting Wheel.  Catchy name, I know.

Getting what you want starts with identifying where you are in the process.  Then it’s a matter of mapping your situation to the Getting Wheel, like this:

robroys getting wheel

Here’s how it works:

  1. GOAL: You passionately need something.  What is it?  Is there something you are afraid to lose, such as money, love or opportunity?  Is there something you want to be or do or have?  The more urgently you want it, the sooner you’ll get it.
  2. PROBLEM PHASE: What’s holding you back?  Where are the complications?  How bad is the stress?  When is the pain worst?  Get out all of the problems  and excuses and see them for what they are.
  3. DECISION POINT: It’s time to make up your mind.  You can’t stand at the end of the diving board forever.  Spring forward across the threshold.  No going back.
  4. INITIATION PHASE: Here you find yourself on the road of trials.  You will be severely tested, challenged, knocked down, insulted and robbed.  But don’t give up!  You are coming up on the …
  5. TURNING POINT: The balance of power has shifted.  For every punch they throw, you throw a counter-punch.  Only now, for the first time, your counter-punch is mightier.
  6. VISION PHASE: The battle for what you want rages on.  From the tears and the sweat and the cloud of dust is shaping a vision of your solution.  It’s like seeing daybreak through swollen eyes.  Your future is there — better than you imagined it.  With a loud cry, you lunge for it.
  7. BREAK-THROUGH POINT: Cradling your greatest treasure to your belly, you take the ultimate risk.  You sacrifice yourself.  You give it up and let go — tumbling headlong into the wonder of it all.
  8. REWARD PHASE: And you land on the feather bed of your reward.  The problem is solved.  You got what you wanted.  The pain has turned to luxurious pleasure.  What felt like an ordeal now looks perfectly natural and necessary.  You’re even glad you had to go through it.

The Getting Wheel keeps turning.  In life, no sooner do we reach one goal, up pops another.  That’s why getting what you want is a simple matter of following a process — nothing really changes.  No need to reinvent the wheel.

(Read more blog posts below.)

Platform agnostic (the cathedral)

September 7, 2009

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a traveler came to Baltimore to visit the Digital Harbor.  There, in the renovated sweatshops and warehouses along the water, he observed hundreds of software engineers hunched over their keyboards, pecking away incessantly.  To him it looked like soulless work.  He pitied them.

Interrupting one worker, he said, “Isn’t it boring, writing lines of programming code all day?”

The programmer looked up and said, “Writing code?  I’m not writing code.  I’m building a cathedral.”

cathedral in milan

(Read more blog entries below.)

The art of the foul-up

August 30, 2009

Robroy’s game is helping business owners and CEOs grow their companies.  That puts him in position to see really smart job applicants ruin their employment opportunities in really stupid ways every day.

Here’s how it usually plays out.  At the end of the interview, we tell them the next steps: We’ll finish our first round of interviews, and then, if everyone is still interested, we’ll all get back together for a second interview.

Then we wait.  We want to see one thing.  Will they follow up?

Most don’t.  In fact, even though they tell us they are passionate about building relationships, very few will do us the courtesy of sending a message or calling to say, ‘thank you for your time’ or ‘I enjoyed learning about the opportunity’ or ‘looking forward to our next conversation.’

Why not?  Laziness?  Ignorance?  They don’t care?  Shoes two sizes too small?

chicken jpeg

Whatever the reason, in this economy, who can afford the foul-up?

(Read more blog entries below.)


May 4, 2009

Most men in their 40s have no idea how close they are to losing their wives.

In their 30s, the wife was the one at risk.  She had to worry every time he went on a business trip.  But now it’s the husband’s turn.  He is fat, gray and balding – while she is still curvy, dark haired and hot-blooded.  He is looking for the sports.  She is looking for the action.  He’s thinking, “What’s for dinner?”  She’s thinking, “Why should I wait 15 years to divorce him, when I can do it now, while I’m still young and beautiful?”

The same thing happens in business.  You think you are doing everything possible to keep the customer satisfied.  In fact, I’ve known far more CEOs committed to their customers than to their wives.  But even that committed relationship can fall apart if you don’t keep it fresh and exciting.  There’s a home-wrecker lurking in every lobby.

So how can you save your customer base?  The same way you can save your marriage.  Surprise them tomorrow.  Show up, unannounced.  Sweep them up in your arms.  Tell them you are blinded by desire.  You can’t stop thinking about them.  You want them; you need them; you must have them.  Then deliver your custom solutions.  Implement your paradigm shift.  Oh, baby.

And when it’s all over, if it ends, it ends.  But if you can pay attention well enough, and if you can be responsive long enough, you just might come away with a relationship that lasts a lifetime.

And if that happens, don’t thank Robroy.  Just doing my job.

Beautiful Franny

April 26, 2009

My grandmother, Frances Rockwell Vining, who made it to 100, died on Wednesday. My mom and dad were with her. Though she suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years and didn’t recognize us, Grandma was at peace with her decline, warmly smiling and saying, “Thank you, sweet heart,” to the very end.

“Thank you, sweet heart” was Grandma’s calling card. She always went out of her way to make everyone else feel special.  That’s how I felt when I visited them in Western Mass, a few weeks after college graduation. I remember, she brought out some old photos I’d never seen. One nearly made my heart stop.

It was a girl – maybe 18. She was small and fair-haired and breath-takingly beautiful. Even in black-and-white you could see she had pale blue eyes that brimmed over high cheekbones and a laughing red mouth.  She was all dimples and creases, strawberries and cream. I’ve noticed that most people are attracted to faces opposite theirs. For me, it had always been girls with dark hair and dark eyes that turned my head and stole my heart. The girl in the picture looked nothing like that. Strange as it is to admit, she looked almost like … me.

“Who is this?” I demanded.

“That’s me,” Grandmother said, startled, gripping the shoebox on her lap.

“That was you?”

“That is me!”

I know I looked stunned. I had to look stunned. The face in the picture was excruciatingly cute. Looking at her now, it was as if age wore a rubber mask. Yet I could still see the bright eyes behind the cheekbones curving up, a flash of the joyful smile.  I blurted, “Grandma! You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen!”

She took the picture and slipped it back under the shoebox lid, blushing to the roots of her silver curls. “Thank you, sweet heart,” she said softly, shaking her head as if to deny the obvious truth.

Thank you, Grandma.

Why I un-friended Anderson Cooper

March 21, 2009

Talented, articulate, relentless, Anderson Cooper seems to have his heart in the right place.  But his face is in the wrong place.  As the front man of CNN, he is the king of the old media, the grand-daddy of all fear-mongers.  And so I decided to leave him.

Because that’s what old media channels do.  Generate fear.  Think of the City of Los Angeles – what comes to mind?  Smoke pouring out of shattered storefronts.  People rioting in the streets.  Old media channels give us the memory of despair and the expectation of pain.

Versus new media (FB, Twitter, MySpace, etc.), which are beautiful and positive.  At least, you can make them that way.  This doesn’t mean stick your head in the sand and ignore outrages against mankind.  Rather, it means we get to make the news media our own hub of communications.  We get to use the medium itself to come together quickly, to create change and broadcast the response.  We dictate what is news.  You do and I do.

For example, here’s a Twitter perspective on life in Los Angeles today.  If you tweet (pardon the expression if you don’t), you may have seen the recent article by Terry Parris Jr. about how people are using Twitter.

Here’s a part I liked: A company in LA sells hot, portable Korean barbeque in a taco shell.  They have no stores.  They deliver out of trucks.  The fascinating part is this: To connect with mobile customers, the company relies exclusively on Twitter.  They simply tweet their destinations.  According to the article, it’s a cult sensation.  Up to 800 people line up when the trucks arrive at various points throughout the city.

You can follow Kogi on Twitter.  Robroy does, even though we are 3,000 miles apart.  Why?  Because instead of a conventional bombardment of layoffs, bankruptcies and bailouts from CNN, you get upbeat posts about people coming together to make their city a better place:

“Hey, Bruins, migrate over to our new spot at Veteran and Ophir. Let’s make peace with the haters and feed them our tacos… of love!  10:36 PM Mar 17th

So I guess this is goodbye.  Please don’t take it personally, Anderson.  It’s not you – it’s me.

Have a nice trip next fall

March 8, 2009

In marketing, planning is an on-going process. It’s a controlled fall, the same way that walking is an on-going, controlled fall. You lean forward; take a step forward; prevent yourself from falling on your face. You know you want to go in a certain direction and get to a certain point in space, so you fall towards that goal, one foot in front of the other, until you arrive. And here are the footprints of an effective marketing program: plan/re-plan – plan/re-plan – plan/re-plan. It’s like walking downstairs. It’s easy when you break the journey into strategic steps. Without a structure for planning and re-planning, you’ll end up on the concrete with a broken leg. 

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco

March 2, 2009

Twitter is good for people living on mobile. The value is in the “retweet” feature, a/k/a “RT,” a/k/a plain ole simple copy-and-paste. Because that’s all RT is. Copy and paste in the status bar. The outcome is that you will have forwarded a link, with reference to the source, so that a broader and broader community may benefit from it instantly. When would this be useful? Well, for example, let’s say there is a need to evacuate your city. The tweeters will share maps, gps routes and updates on the run. Won’t that be fun?

Let’s get you started:

1) copy a status update that you like

2) go to your status bar

3) type “RT@” then the user’s name you are re-tweeting

4) paste

5) send

Master the simple art of retweeting, and you’ll be prepared for the end of the world.