Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Power Of YOU

I recently spoke at a seminar for Executives In Transition. It was a fantastic event put on by an outstanding Executive Coach (and competitive triathlete) Bobbi LaPorte. Part of my personal and professional philosophy is to assist executives (and others) with streamlining their path to their next great career move or job. Lord knows I made a few career turns down this road and if in sharing some of my experiences with people can be of benefit to them...awesome. This was a group of highly focused, energized executives who are taking all of the right steps toward the goal of finding their next great position.

Whenever I have an opportunity to speak one on one or to a group about carrier transitions I always recommend Bob Beaudine's "The Power Of Who". Bob is a fellow executive search professional who has written a compelling book about how networking must be as important to us as breathing air! For more information, go to It is available at Amazon and other retailers. Also, check out his promotion video If that doesn't get you jacked had better feel for a pulse!

More on how I benefited from speaking to this group in an upcoming post. Here I was the "subject matter expert" yet I left that event having learned a valuable lesson and even more inspired to help people who are committed to their success.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

No More "Good Meetings"!

One of my professional pet peeves as a Sales Executives was hearing one of my sales people tell me they had a real "good" meeting with a prospect. When I inquire "why"? as my blood begins to boil, I would be answered with much hand waving, vague examples of what was accomplished and little in the way of next steps. This reminds me of something a former boss of mine would bemoan. Mike Boich, the founder and former CEO of Radius had a favorite saying, "When all was said and done, more was said than done".

I recall unloading on a Senior Director of Business Development after I was again told how "good" his meeting was with a strategic partner with little to show for it other than a lengthy intellectual discourse and supposed alignment with the partner's strategy. After I peeled myself off the ceiling, I sat this individual down and outlined the essential characteristics of a highly productive sales call.

The stage for a highly productive sales call is set well in advance of the actual meeting. Every encounter with a prospective customer must be well thought out. You want to prove the value of your time (and theirs) at each engagement. Some sales people are notoriously known for "winging it" on a sales call and guess what, it comes through loud and clear to the prospect. Know exactly what you want to accomplish BEFORE the meeting and then develop a plan as to how this will be accomplished. Do you want to present the concept of a pilot program? Gain an introduction to a newly identified decision maker? Whatever it is, be very clear in your mind what you want to derive from the meeting.

In turn, know exactly what you want to communicate to the prospect(s) as to how your product or service will solve their problem. Every interaction with the decision maker or influencer is an opportunity to demonstrate and prove your value. Take advantage of it!

Another key attribute of a highly productive sales call are the definitive action items and next steps that are agreed to by both parties BEFORE you leave the room. If the next step is to initiate a pilot program, then the key participants must be identified and contact information obtained. Second, the start date of the pilot must be determined. Third, specific assignments and responsibilities must be outlined. Who is going to do what and by when. Four, the potential customer agrees to this and off you go.

Through out the discussions, always seek out opportunities to affirm what your company can do for the customer. This can be done by presenting a quantified R.O.I. analysis or a proforma estimate of costs reduced or even better yet a forecast for incremental revenue. Promises are not what prospects want. They want proof.

So, let's recap:

1) Conduct a pre-call planning session: Know exactly what you want to accomplish in the meeting and what outcome(s) you need.
2) Determine the all important NEXT STEPS. This includes dates, times, targets, actions, owners, participants, duration and costs. Get buy-in from the prospect.
3) Prove your worth on every sales call: Every interaction with the prospect must advance the relationship toward the ultimate objective--win them as a customer!

Do yourself and your boss a favor. Expunge the term "good sales call" from your company lexicon and from your consciousness. Focus instead on proving your company's value, adding value to your prospect's business and advancing the deal along at each engagement point. When you do this, you will be not only highly productive but you will close more sales.

Happy hunting!

Mike Vanneman

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Different Industry-Same Lingo

Last week I attended an event in San Francisco sponsored by the Association For Corporate Growth. A.C.G. is a national yet locally driven chapter based organization that brings together founders and operating executives from companies across a myriad of industries. I was impressed by the caliber of executives in attendance and even more so by the panel participants. The topic of the day was "Confronting Reality: Retail And Consumer Trends In The New Economy". The panel was comprised of two Private Equity investors and a former large retail chain CXO, now a consultant. In addition to the networking benefits from attending I was interested in hearing from people who's industry was at center stage in the economic downturn drama. Here are some of the key takeaways:

1. Times have changed. Forever.: When the capital markets tanked in late 2008, the "discretionary" or "aspirational" spender vanished overnight. Gone. Not likely to return. These are people who had a couple of extra grand in their checking account and decided on a whim to purchase those alligator skin running shoes or bought that Rolex watch that they really couldn't afford but aspired to own it. Hey, after all they had a fat line of credit and money was cheap. Times are good. Why not?! So what if Bear Stearns failed that past July...who the hell is Bear Stearns anyway?

2. Consumers will buy what they need-not what they want.: Well, thanks for deep insights into the obvious Mike. What evidence do you have to support this? Target, Wal-mart have moved fast and furious into the food/grocery business. They are opening smaller footprint stores and will sell value oriented groceries seeking to lure you to their location and not your local Safeway. These retailers figured if they sell you what you NEED, you might buy something you WANT while you are there.
But I am pretty sure it won't be those alligator skin running shoes. Smart move.

3. Investors in technology and in retail base their investment decisions on similar criteria:
  • Category creators: How many times have we heard this term in high tech? It applies to retail and fashion too: MBT Shoes and LuLu Lemon are two contemporary examples.
  • Under-served markets: Ranch Markets, a grocery chain targeted specifically at the Asian Community has plopped it's stores into the heart of Asian neighborhoods and customized their selection to meet their market's tastes and cultural preferences.
  • Multi-channel model: Customers are attracted, acquired and served over the web, from a catalog, a mall location or an outlet. J.Crew is a great example of this. You have to be where the customer wants to buy.
  • The People Experience: Go into any Apple Retail Store and you will understand. Not only are Apple's products technically superior, but the customer experience in an Apple Retail location is phenomenal. Way better than Nordstroms. If you don't have a business strategy that is customer centric, you won't get funded or much less survive.
So, what is your take-a-way from this blog? Try this on for size:

Take a hard look at your business. Times have indeed changed but are there areas of your business that are still stuck in 2008 because of denial, inefficiency or arrogance? Have you adopted a multi-channel approach that enables you to reach customers based on how they want to buy verses how you want to sell? Finally and most importantly, what would your customers say about their experience with your company? Is it more like Fry's Electronics or The Apple Store?

Regardless of industry differences if you focus on these common fundamentals you will greatly improve the odds of future success.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Putting It All Together-Part 4-Mike's Four P's of MARKETING YOURSELF

It's game time! Here we go! You have developed and tweaked your PLAN. You can recite your PITCH in your sleep, standing on your multiple languages. As for PRESENTATION, boy...don't you clean up well! You have the right look, outfit, haircut, resume paper and nifty portfolio to carry containing insightful and pithy questions. You have got it! YOU are the total PACKAGE! Yes, you!

You are what your future employer wants. They just haven't discovered it yet. The PACKAGE you present to the market place is the result of all your planning, preparation and practice. It is complete and ready to be received. Now, it is all about delivering the PACKAGE. What do you mean?

1) Consistently WORK YOUR PLAN: You don't have the luxury of missing a half day to play golf or navel gaze at the beach. There will be plenty of time on the weekends to go that AFTER you have your next great job. Be tenacious in the execution of your plan and you dramatically increase the odds of getting hired...sooner and not later.

2) Keep PRACTICING your PITCH: Frequently rehearsing your personal elevator pitch is as important as practicing your short game in golf. (You'd think I play golf given the references--I don't!) Not practicing your pitch and interview skills is a guaranteed way to stammer through the first set of questions during an upcoming interview. Practice begets confidence. Confidence begets success.

3) PRESENT with confidence! I am not just talking about physical presentation (though that is very important). It is how you present your true self. There is nothing better for a hiring manager than when their new employee's performance, demeanor and professionalism confirm what their instincts told them all along...great selection. Only way that can happen for you (being the "great selection") is when you are representing who you truly are.

So, there you have it...Mike's 4 "P's" of Marketing Yourself. If any of this has struck a cord or better yet worked for you in your search...let me know! Good luck and good hunting!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Plan Your Work - Work Your Plan

Norman Vincent Peale is credited with coining the often used expression "Plan your work and then work your plan". Countless other success minded authors and speakers have use this phrase and others like it to emphasis a fundamental point of success: That planning and preparation are the underpinnings of success. With out a plan, you can't possibly get to your destination with any efficiency or much less get there at all.

This principal is especially appropriate to Marketing Yourself. Whether you are marketing your own business, your company's service or the most important product of all-YOU, you have to have a plan that guides you towards your objective. The application of this point to executives in transition (looking for another job) is extremely on point. I have engaged in hundreds of discussions with individuals looking for a new job and a surprising number of them did not map out a plan as to how to get that next great position. Sure, they networked. Yes, they beefed up their LinkedIn profile. Of course they contacted recruiters. Documenting written "Go To Market" plan for any endeavor is critical but especially if you are looking for a new position. It isn't rocket science-just a discipline but without it, you will delay achieving your ultimate goal. What is required is a SMART plan:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding, Trackable

Specific: Create a 1-2 page detailed description of what you want. Get really specific. Scope of responsibility, title, compensation plan--everything that is important to you in your next position.

Measurable: Set daily and weekly job search metrics. The number of calls, emails, referrals from your network, meetings interviews, etc. You should manage your job search just like you manage building up your sales pipeline or previous customer base. Activity is driven by metrics.

Achievable: Your goals must be achievable. Set them too high and you will spiral into frustration. Too low and you won't get traction. Don't go after positions that are long shots. In this market, companies are hiring for exactly what they need. Be realistic.

Rewarding: Reinforce your progress with a reward system. Set your daily goal and if you hit that objective, reward yourself with a tangible benefit. The job search process is tough enough. You might as well give back to yourself along the way.

Trackable: Monitor your progress each week. Determine where you gained ground and where you need to improve. I know one person that used as their career search CRM. He was able to track his progress based on the measurement system he created.

The smartest move you can make is to create a SMART plan that will help you achieve your objective with far more efficiency and far less frustration.

Happy planning!

Friday, June 18, 2010

4 "P's" of Marketing Yourself, Part 2 -- PRESENTATION

Here is Part 2 of my series, 4 "P's" of Marketing Yourself. If you missed part 1, read the first installment, "PITCH".

Some of you may find this material remedial while others will be enlightened by it. If you are in a career transition it is essential that you learn how to PITCH and PRESENT yourself in the best possible light.


“What is the dress code?” If I had a dollar for every time I am asked that question by prospective candidates in advance of their first interview with a client company I would be well, a guy with heck of a lot of dollars! Truth be told, I am flummoxed by that query. No, actually I am really annoyed but it.So, for once and for all let me set the record straight. This is the final, final answer to that question.

The answer is: You should dress in a manner that is the very best professional representation of who you are and how you will represent the company. Period.

No blue jeans. No Birkenstocks. No all black ensembles that make you look like Dieter from the Sprockets skit on S.N.L. Casual dress is for weekends and walking your dog. It isn’t for an interview. A clean, crisp conservative style always shows well. Think Brooks Brothers not True Religion. There. You now can cross off that “dress code” question from your list.

Why am I so wrapped around the axle on this issue? Because clients who retain me to find superior talent for them have an expectation of what superior talent looks like, regardless of the position being interviewed for. You will be evaluated by how you present yourself and first impressions are a huge determinate of lasting perceptions. Oh, and in case you forgot. The interview isn’t really about YOU. It is about the COMPANY and their analysis of your fit and function. They will hire you based on your experience, track record and the value they expect you will deliver. Many a qualified candidate are not asked back to the next round of interviews because of one the key stakeholders on the interview team “didn’t like the way he or she PRESENTED themselves.” Yes. Happens all the time. Leave nothing to chance in the interview process. This includes what you wear.

Got it? Great!

Now, go buy some slacks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

4 "P's" of Marketing Yourself, Part 1

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with the second year MBA class at San Jose State University. These 50 students are facing a very challenging (but improving) hiring climate. What was refreshing to experience was how hungry they were for guidance and support. It is obvious that most business schools, like undergraduate programs offer little support to students beyond the dreadful career placement center. Below is Part 1 of material I covered with the students.

You have all heard of the “4 P's of Marketing”. Well, I have created “Mike’s 4 P's of Marketing Yourself!”: Pitch, Plan, Package and Presentation. Here is part 1....THE PITCH.

You are at a conference or a networking event and the person next to you in the drink line turns and asks, “So, what do you do”? As soon as intonation of the person’s sentence rose signaling the inbound question, you began to sweat. At first not noticeably but quickly you felt as though someone just poured a glass of water over your head. Your left eye started to twitch and just as you frame the words in your brain to respond, you stammered out a reply that made the person’s eyes glaze over and then order a double adult beverage.

Sound familiar? Well, don’t worry. You are in good company. It happens to darn near everyone when they are “in career transition”. If this is still happening to you, take heart. It won’t for long. What you need to develop is what is commonly called “your personal elevator pitch”. This is a concise, clear and powerful statement about who you are, why a company should hire you and what you can do for them.

It should be no more than 45 seconds, 30 if possible. The desired outcome of the pitch is to encourage the fortunate recipient to ask for your card and schedule a time for a longer discussion. Short of that, it is to cement an impression that you are laser focused, know who you are, what you want to do and are supremely confident in your abilities. The goal is to get that person engage further, question deeper about what makes you tick.

Crafting and honing a 30 second pitch literally takes hours of work before you become a master at the delivery. You should practice it in front of a mirror. Bribe a trusted friend to listen to your pitch. Rehearse it until you are dreaming about practicing! Then, practice some more.

Ready to give it a try? Then develop your pitch, email me when you are ready and we will set up a time and you can pitch me! I would be happy to listen to it. Just don’t make my eyes glaze over.

Mike Vanneman