Monday, October 29, 2012

Reform for Sales Success

We don't typically use political jargon when referring to sales. Yet, aren't politicians always selling? They are either selling us, as voters, or they are selling other politicians on their ideas and programs.
As I read Decision Points- The Presidential Memoir of George W. Bush, I couldn't help but recognize some parallels. For instance, in the chapter titled Leading, the President discusses his decision that leads to the "No Child Left Behind" legislation and says the following: "You cannot solve a problem until you diagnose it."
While this isn't a huge "ah-ha" for any of us, he then makes a quantum leap to "Accountability would serve as a catalyst for reform". Again, this isn't big news. Everyone knows that, to exact change, one must implement a system to ensure that necessary behaviors are being performed. Right?
As I think about the dozens of sales organizations we have worked with over the years, in nearly every instance, the chief executive's objective is to achieve some variation of reform. While their companies are not broken, they are working imperfectly, producing less than desirable results. These executives need a different set of outcomes and they realize that change is necessary.
In his book, the former president goes on to discuss the fact that, as a nation, the USA finished 3rd from the bottom, above only Cyprus and South Africa in the subject of mathematics. Sad placement for our country, known as a super power and the most influential country in the world.
But how could this happen? Surely our educational programs include quality math curriculums. It turns out the curriculums are not the problem. Apparently a lack of accountability- no checks and balances- is to blame.
Apparently there were no accountability measures set up to track progress. This tracking would have helped schools and reformers determine how to best duplicate occurring success or failure. As it was, there was no record and therefore no statistics to which one might refer. Given a lack of measurable data, accountability was impossible and success, or lack thereof, became a judgment call.
Translating this analogy to the business of selling, this means that if there is anything in your sales results that you can no longer accept, you must reach beyond treatment of the symptom to find the root cause of a problem. Then set standards. Then track the data. Then compare the data to the previously set standards.
Achieving success is not a one-step process, done when goals have been identified. Achieving success is a continuous and on-going job requiring discipline and process.
In other words, if your sales are falling short, where are the choke-points? Do your salespeople fail in closing? Or do they not prospect consistently? Do they sell on price and neglect the value your product brings to the prospect? Does your sales team even know that you, as chief executive, are looking for volume? Or margin? Or to expand distribution into other vertical channels?
In other words, your company's choke points could span executive, management and sales teams. Minus a deep-dive to uncover all the problems, you might easily address the wrong ones.
However the following issues typically come to light when we perform our diagnostics to help companies discover their choke-points-- the first step to reforming for sales success.
• Crucial Elements of Success are specific strengths or weaknesses that impact an individual's ability to grow and to be coached. These crucial elements include desire, commitment, responsibility and outlook, traits that largely impact an individual's performance in life and in sales.
• Major Performance Factor are deficits that impact execution of ANY sales system. These factors include need-for-approval, money issues, poor record-collection, and non-supportive buy-cycle.
• Strategies and priorities for the business are not aligned between senior management and sales management, thereby creating a disconnect between what should be executed and what is executed.
• Hiring - the population that is supposed to execute the strategies and priorities are incapable of doing so because they are not the right hires-- wrong hiring criteria was used.
• On-boarding - Accountability standards to execute sales activities to drive early success are missing. Additionally, there is often a lack of a consistent process to keep a new hire's pipeline full.
These are some of the major issues we uncover as we help companies reform their sales organizations. While you may be successfully treating some of your company's symptoms, chances are there are deeper issues that will inhibit long term change and growth and, in order to compete in today's hyper competitive environment, these issues will require deep diagnosis and consistently implemented accountability measures.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Robbing the Country of $4 Trillion in Lunch Money Count As Bullying

The media have been gasping in horror over claims that Mitt Romney engaged in gay bashing 50 years ago in high school, including one iconic incident in which he brutally hacked off a gay student's bleached blond locks.
Except that said student, John Lauber, wasn't openly gay. When interviewed by the non-partisan Auto Weekly before the haircut story surfaced in the mainstream media, key witness Phillip Maxwell never even mentioned the supposedly traumatizing incident.
Maxwell, a Democrat, did offer that Romney was disciplined, focused, and smart, and would probably make a great president-points that somehow didn't make it into the trim 5,500-word Post piece, no doubt due to space restrictions. One tipoff that the Post may have been proffering a biased report was its admission that most of the five witnesses it interviewed were Democrats.
The Post originally reported that another classmate, Stu White, had "long been bothered" by the incident-then had to publish a correction stating that White never knew about the incident until an unnamed source relayed it to him several weeks ago.
Lauber's three sisters issued statements expressing their disavowal of the Post's portrayal of their deceased brother and their distress over his use as a political prop.
Other details of the report claim that Romney teased another closeted gay student at Cranbrook School, though the Post confesses that other students and even teachers used language similar to Romney's.
Liberal commentators have studiously ignored the 95% of the Post report that focused on Romney's leadership in dozens of school organizations, extensive community service, robust work ethic, and all-around popularity and joviality, even as cited by many of the "victims" of his pranks.
The Post notes that Cranbrook was especially strict, and that it frequently expelled students for tiny infractions. If Romney was breaking rules and causing mayhem left and right, he sure was discreet about it.
What do we know about Romney's character later in life? We know that, much more recently than high school, he risked his life to save a family of six and their dog from drowning in a boating accident in 2003. Have you heard about that in the Post recently? Do you think you would have heard about it had Barack Obama done the same thing?
We also know that in 1996 Romney shut down Bain Capital for a week and sent his 30-person staff to New York City to scour the streets looking for a partner's missing daughter, who had traveled there for a rave and been abducted while on ecstasy. In a campaign commercial for Romney's gubernatorial run, the partner tearfully credited Romney with saving his daughter's life.
Such stories belie the mainstream media's portrayal of Romney as lacking in humanity and prone to "targeting the vulnerable," as New York Times columnist Charles Blow put it. Targeting the vulnerable? Targeting the vulnerable for being in need of his life-saving assistance, perhaps.
How many lives has Obama saved with his bare hands or his personal financial resources?
Meanwhile, since we're talking about high school and character, we know from Obama's autobiography that he "enthusiastically" used marijuana and cocaine and abused alcohol to such an extent that he spent his last two high school years in a "daze." We don't know what bad behavior Obama might have been up to in his twenties, but we do know that he steadfastly refuses to release his college or law school transcripts.
More importantly, we know that while his political career was ascendant, the young Obama sleazily knocked his three respected opponents for the Illinois State Senate off the ballot in 1996, by challenging their candidacy petition signatures based on technicalities. He also eliminated another opponent for Senate in 2004 by forcing open his challenger's sealed divorce records.
We know that Obama hobnobbed with unrepentant domestic terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, launched his political career in their home, attended for 20 years the church of anti-American preacher Jeremiah Wright, possibly tried to bribe Wright into silence before the November 2008 election, and marched with the New Black Panthers five short years ago.
Paul Begala argues the Romney bullying stories show that the candidate is a "serial abuser of power." Begala claims that one can "draw a straight line" from the man who orchestrated the alleged hippie-shearing to the one who laid off hundreds of employees while at Bain and "slashed education" while governor of Massachusetts.
Serial abuser of power? How about applying that label to the president who exploded the number of czars in the federal government, regularly plots to embolden left-wing federal agency heads to act unilaterally if Congress won't immediately implement his plans, and brags about putting his boots on people's necks, kicking their asses, and punishing his enemies? How about the president who threatens the Supreme Court that they had better not engage in judicial review of his signature legislation? How about the president who forms an enemies list of private citizens who contribute to his competitor's campaign?
One commenter breaks down the Begala piece: "It is tough when you have to deconstruct a monogamous, nondrinking, nonsmoking, honest Mormon who pays millions in taxes and gives millions to charities. You have to resort to high school pranks to turn a good man into a bully."
A friend and I once debated which is more pathetic: a twenty-something or fifty-something left-wing radical. My friend argued the former, because the fifty-something has the strength of his convictions to hold them till adulthood. I argued the latter, since we often grow out of youthful indiscretions and poorly thought-out ideologies through experience and wisdom.
Romney may have been a bit of a bully 50 years ago, which he regrets and apologizes for. Obama flirted with radicalism in his youth, a dalliance that has since blossomed into a full-blown, committed relationship.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Will the True Victims Please Step Forward

Logic and good thinking is a hobby of mine. Conversely, dishonesty, misleading facts and poor thinking are very irritating to me which is why I probably I don't like most news reporting. I feel like a good value I bring is to help people see wrong assumptions and myths in the world around us, particularly in the financial world.
In the past I've resisted writing about housing, partly because I try to stick with issues that directly impact personal investing rather than broader issues of the world around us, but as Popeye would say, "That's all I can stand, I can't stands no more."
Let's talk about those who have experienced the loss of a home through foreclosure. What I won't dispute is the emotional difficulty of being in a situation where for whatever reason you are forced to move. Most of us have been in that circumstance for financial reasons, relationship reasons or career reasons. So by this, allow me to put the emotions of the situation aside and let's talk about the financial aspect of this.
Some of those who have been foreclosed on are victims. They were not educated on what they were doing. Others chose foreclosure as a logical alternative to paying a mortgage payment on a home worth half the balance of the mortgage - personally, I find no fault with this, accepting the negative consequence no matter what the result to the lender are simply the rules of the game. However, from my armchair observation I haven't heard this group complaining about losing their homes. Let me parse out a situation which is based roughly on national averages:
In 2004 a couple buys a home in Denver for $200,000 with a payment of $1,000. The home's value goes up to $250,000. In 2006, they decided to do what everyone else was doing at the time and cash out $50,000. By 2009, the market value of the home had dropped back down to $200,000 and the couple divorces and because neither of them could individually afford the home, they let it go (helping the decision is that they are upside-down on the mortgage). The foreclosure process takes 18 months between the month they last make a payment and when they got the eviction deadline. So, let's review the numbers, between buying the house is 2004 and when moved out was about 72 months. At $1,000 per month this is $72,000. However, they cashed out (tax free) $50,000 and they got free rent for 18 months (or a $18,000 savings). So 68 of those 72 months were free and they really only paid $4,000 (or what averages out over 72 months as less than $100.00 per month for six years).
Folks, it's simply not honest to look at these people as victims of the housing crisis. And foreclosure is far from a death sentence for one's credit - the couple would be able to buy a house three years after a foreclosure which puts us to today in the year 2012 in an environment where interest rates and housing prices are even lower than their first house.
The victim is the lender who took a large loss on a loan (my guess recouping $175,000 or so on a $250,000 loan minus the interest lost over a few years during the foreclosure process which of course extends several additional months after the people move out). Denver did not really have explosive housing growth like Florida or Arizona. We could run this scenario with those markets and you could easily imagine somebody cashing out a home and getting hundreds of thousands and not only living for free, but actually making money off their foreclosure.
Not everyone is in this situation and some people need help, but there are probably fewer victims than people simply going through foreclosure. It is not that I am unsympathetic, but as a whole although the banks have been villainized in the media, it's the banks who have taken more losses than individuals who we buying a home for the first time during the boom -bank loses are a shade less visceral level than for families.
Of course not all situations are like this situation; there are people who were elderly who cashed out or responsible buys who put 20% down and still became upside-down, but my guess is that a great deal of people approximately fit into this scenario.
The banks don't need an apologist. After spending almost a decade working in them in my career, I don't expect much love from my bank. Banks are what they are: for profit institutions. If you have money at a bank, just like any business you are getting a service with the assumption that they are making money off you. And there's no shame in this. However, in my opinion, someone who has enjoy free or reduced rent has in essence realized a profit not a loss, particularly if they carried out refinancings that gave them cash in excess of their cost. Financially, the homeowner was the winner and the victim was the lender.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Like It Or Not, It's Still Montana, USA

Montana is prettier, emptier and, if you catch it at the wrong time, colder than most places in the United States. But it is still part of the United States - even if the state Supreme Court wants to pretend that it isn't.
Five of the state court's seven justices recently expressed their disapproval of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision by announcing that, due to Montana's special history, Citizens United does not apply beneath the famous Big Sky.
There is no chance that this position will stand. There will be no need to send in Federal troops, notwithstanding an old saying, dating back to the Gold Rush of the 1860s and 1870s, that "the Confederate Army never surrendered; it just retreated to Montana." But the state court's action, and the encouraging response it received from two members of the U.S. Supreme Court, is still disturbing.
Montana is one of a handful of states that have a highly developed sense of being unique by virtue of geography, history and local culture. I know Montana's perspective because I lived there for nearly seven years while I went to college and started my working career.
In 1972, shortly before I arrived, Montana wrote itself a brand-new constitution, filled with cutting-edge innovations such as guaranteeing the public's right to attend government meetings and see government documents. Montana has a deep-seated interest in maintaining clean, responsive and open government.
This is largely a reaction to the state's political history of corruption and exploitation at the hands of out-of-state corporate interests, which has gradually enlarged to a sometimes self-defeating mythology. Such corporate interests ran rampant in the early 20th century, most notably in the case of warring "copper kings," whose feuds ultimately resolved in the consolidation of power by the Anaconda Copper Company. Anaconda controlled most of the state's leading newspapers, and many facets of state and local government, until the late 1950s.
Steve Bullock, Montana's Democratic Attorney General, told NPR, "Our legislature, our judges, down to the local county assessors, were almost bought and paid for. Mark Twain even said that, you know, the amount of money coming in in Montana makes the smell of corruption almost sweet." (1)
In response, Montana legislators passed the state's Corrupt Practices Act in 1912. The law prohibited corporations from spending money to promote or attack political candidates, a position that Citizens United overturned by holding that corporations and labor unions have a free-speech right to spend their own money on political advertising.
Of course, Montana being what it was in 1912, there were ulterior motives for the passage of the Corrupt Practices Act. By that point, the state's most powerful interests had gained control of Montana's politics and newspapers. They did not need to spend money on political advertising; their editors, who ran the newspapers I later worked for, hyped or killed the stories they were told to hype or kill. The Corrupt Practices Act was designed to entrench Montana's then-existing power structure.
But the Montana Supreme Court cited the purportedly pure goals of the 1912 law when it took the position - one that it knew full well it had no power to take - that Citizens United has no force within Montana's boundaries. The Montana justices, in a 5-2 decision, argued that the state law somehow superseded the federal decision.
It is as though Mississippi had rejected Brown v. Board of Education, or as if California had ignored Loving v. Virginia. Imagine if the Florida Supreme Court had contended that the U.S. Supreme Court had no authority to rule on Florida's election recount in 2000's Bush v. Gore.
The justices in Washington rightly stayed the Montana court's decision. But two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer, foolishly encouraged the state's position by arguing that the Montana case is a suitable vehicle through which the U.S. Supreme Court might revisit Citizens United, a decision from which both Ginsberg and Breyer dissented.
Would they feel equally disposed to review a state Supreme Court decision holding that Roe v. Wade is of no force and effect? I highly doubt it.
Reversal of the Montana ruling is a foregone conclusion. Even the Montana judges know this. Montana Justice James C. Nelson was clear about his personal issues with Citizens United in his dissent, but went on to write, "Like it or not, Citizens United is the law of the land as regards corporate political speech. There is no 'Montana exception.'" (2)
The question, then, is whether the Montana judges can get another shot at the Supreme Court simply by brazenly defying a two-year-old holding. It is noteworthy that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented in Citizens United along with Ginsberg and Breyer, did not join Breyer's memorandum calling for a rehearing. Neither did Justice Elena Kagan, who was not yet on the court when it decided the case.
A rehearing would be exactly the wrong response to Montana's defiance. The right response would be a summary reversal.
Assuming none of the justices who were in the Citizens United majority are inclined to revisit the issue, both Sotomayor and Kagan would have to join Breyer and Ginsberg in voting to hear the Montana case in order to get it before the court. Here's hoping at least one of them has enough sense not to do so. If we start inviting state courts to disregard Supreme Court holdings, there is no telling where that path could lead, other than "nowhere good."
I have a lot of affection for Montana and its residents, but the state is not nearly as special, nor as oppressed or vulnerable to oppression, as its people think it is. In the 30 years since I left Montana, its neighbor to the west, Idaho, has developed a significant technology industry. To the east, South Dakota has made itself a banking center, and North Dakota has become headquarters to an energy boom. What industry has Montana itself developed since I departed? Not much, except electronic gambling. Almost every bar in the state (this is a state with an amazing ratio of bars to people) has video poker and similar machines.
That's not oppression by out-of-state money. That's a symptom of a state that is too busy pitying itself to fully participate in the 21st century. I visit once or twice a year, and I feel sad for this place that I still care about.
Out-of-state money doesn't vote in Montana elections. It buys ads, as it does everywhere else, and those ads represent nothing more than political speech. For good or ill, Montanans will decide their own elections and their own fate. But Montana is still one of the 50 states, and the U.S. Supreme Court has legal jurisdiction over all 50 of them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Things You Must Know Before Joining an MBA Course

MBA is a craze these days. Many youngsters plan to do MBA after their graduation. However not many of them really know what it exactly is and what they should really do to make most out of their investment. Most of these ignorant fellows end up in wasting huge money on an inferior institution that takes them nowhere in fact. Here are some things which you must know before opting for an MBA.
1. Nomenclature: MBA, abbreviated from Master in Business Administration is an internationally recognized PG course covering various business -oriented subjects, such as Marketing, Finance, Human Resources
2. Origin: Originated from the United States in the late nineteenth century, started in India in 1961 with IIMS that were not authorized to offer MBA degrees and were issuing PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management).
3. First b-schools of India: IIM Calcutta was the first to be established with the collaboration of MIT Sloan School of Management. Next to follow was IIM Ahmadabad, in initial collaboration with Harvard Business School. In 1955, the University of Delhi initiated the Faculty Management Studies (FMS) and during 1968, first launched the MBA program for graduates.
4. Course to be selected from i) Full time and Industry Accepted ii) Regular 2 years iii) One Year Part time for executives iv) Distance Learning online by weekends v) Open University vi) Finishing School Concepts.
5. Specialization Subjects: General MBA provides options for Marketing, HR and Finance. IIMs and other top b-schools offer a number of electives that don't attract student. Job prospects marketing 70% finance & HR 10% and balance 10% covers all specialization. Don't get lured by low budget programs offering new specialization.
6. Special Courses: Select institutes marked 'specialized' for specialized courses. Choose to join IIFT for Foreign Trade or IRMA for Rural Management. Other specialized courses are International Business, Entrepreneurship, Media Management, Healthcare, NGO & Rural Development, Tourism and Travels etc. Private institutes charging fees less than Rs 6-7 lakhs can't provide good quality specialized courses.
7. Self-Interrogation: Sort out the pros and cons with regard to the course and institute you are going to select. What are your motivations such as prospective job openings or establishing your own business? Thinking of in-country education or abroad? Low budget course or high profile institutes? Financial resources available or intending to avail study loan. Which course with what investment gives you the optimum Return on Investment?
8. Selection procedure of foreign b-schools: The base is GMAT or Graduate Management Admission Test, TOEFL or Test of English as a foreign language and IELTS or International English Language Testing System. Letters of Recommendation and personal interviews are other means of selection. Join only the high-ranking ones.
9. Ranking of b-School is done by Bloomberg Business week, US news & World Report, Eduniversal, the Economist and D& B gives list of all b-schools in India and interviews associated ( Leading Business Schools. Ranking up to top ten may be authentic while the rest may be manipulative, favoring particular institute.
10. Qualifying Ability: You are to score the minimum cut-off marks in Common Admission Test or CAT. Check your own past academic performance at matriculation or +2 levels. Your earlier good performance in mathematics and basic knowledge of Economics, and Quantitative Techniques, good communication skills in English, both written and spoken, involvement in extracurricular activities and perseverance will help you better after you join any b-school of your choice.