Friday, April 25, 2014

Airline Travel Tips.

After more than twenty years of sales travel experience here are a few tips I've learned along the way.

1)  Always have a "go" bag ready.   Ever see those movies featuring an assassin or spy who gets "made" and has to leave the country on a moment's notice?   They always have one of those bags at their hotel room or locker at an airport that has their passport, a change of clothes, a wad of cash and all the necessities for travel?   Put one together for yourself now!   Hopefully you'll never get called into corporate HQ or an emergency meeting at a major client site half a continent away at the last minute.  But you never know.   As for your "go" bag, make sure it's ready to go!  Are its wheels and handles in good shape?   If not, replace it immediately!   Having to carry your luggage around because of a broken wheel or handle will drain your energy when you need it most.  Back strain, pulling a shoulder muscle or getting a stiff neck can all put a "stop" in an otherwise enjoyable trip; just because  you cheaped out when it came to your go bag!

2)  Pack as light as possible.  In an emergency you can always buy a needed essential on the road.  Chances are that wherever you are going, there will be stores there too!  That few extra pounds of luggage can be a big difference!  (see cartoon below)   If at all possible, DO NOT CHECK YOUR BAGS!!!   This one mistake causes the most trouble for business travelers!!!   Your luggage could get lost, damaged, or stolen.   Major delays in getting your bags off the plane and on to a pick up carousel can cause you to miss meetings, or at least put you in a bad mood, which isn't good for business.  Guess again if for one minute you think all those union workers between you and your ultimate destination care about your schedule or the condition of your luggage!

3)  Once you've cleared check-in or customs, buy yourself a bottle of water to take with you on the plane.   If you're stuck on the tarmac for hours, that drink could be a life saver.  As an aside there have been a few studies suggesting that the water available on the plane may not be as bacteria free as your body is used to.  Ditto for the ice cubes.   If the meeting is important enough, why take chances?

4)  Ever eaten plane food?   Probably the same companies that cater hospital food but without the nutritional requirements, cater airplane food.  Simply try to schedule your flight times so you do not have to eat in the air.   If it's a long flight, buy a sub or sandwich from a recognizable restaurant chain at the airport and take it with you.   The food will be more nutritious, better tasting and cheaper for you too!   The selection at most airports will trump anything your airline will be able to offer you.

5)  Pick aisle seats.  You get off the plane quicker, and you can get up at any time you like to stretch your legs.   I've haven't read any stats to prove it, but intuition dictates that in those plane crashes where only a few people survive, I'd be willing to bet the vast majority had aisle seats.

6)  Know your terminal!    If you have a connecting flight, it's important to plan your route from your arrival gate to departure gate, especially if the time gap between the two is a small one.   That airline magazine that's in the seat pocket in front of you?   It should contain a map of your destination terminal.   A minute invested here, can save you several minutes and potentially a missed flight later.

7)  When scheduling your flights, try to never select the last flight of the day.   Any cumulative delays during the day will affect the last flights of the day the most.  Flight crews, ground crews and even pilots tend to make most of their mistakes and are in less of a good mood at the end of their day.  It's only human nature. 

That's it folks!    Happy travels!!!   Remember, when it comes to your career or your airline travel, the sky's the limit!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I've been putting this blog entry off for quite some time now.   I never anticipated that writing about procrastination would have side effects.   But as late as yesterday, I came across one last piece of information that perfectly justified my rationalized delay.

It turns out according to an article from Huffington Post ( ) that one can now officially blame their tendency to put things off, on their genes.  How convenient.

In sales, there's generally two types of sales representatives; those who are driven, success-oriented, and organized, are considered type A sales reps.   While type B sales reps tend to go with the flow, are late filing paperwork, and they have fooled themselves into believing their free-wheeling "style" will bring success to them.   This self-denial means that the best results  such a disorganized, procrastinating rep will be able to achieve are just mediocre.  More existing clients, and new opportunities are lost by procrastinating, disorganized reps than your company's competition ever takes away.

Having a difficult time figuring out if you are procrastinating sales rep that needs to improve their sales game or not?

Here's a simple test.    Today, in the United States, is tax deadline day.   Did you remember?   Do you have your taxes filed yet?   If not, and your consider yourself a sales professional, you are likely a type B sales rep.   That stress, panic, and additional pressure you are feeling, simply because you didn't proactively complete your tax task before today,  is killing your sales career.   And it's killing you too.  High blood pressure, ulcers, skin rashes, binge eating of comfort foods, and unhealthy weight gain, are all serious medical conditions that can be caused by, or made more severe by, procrastination.   

So sales professionals, if you don't have your taxes done yet, it's time to get organized and get to work.   It's also time to give your sales career a good kick in the rear end and start bringing your A game!

To those of you who have had your taxes completed for a long time already, hit the phones hard today, or see as many clients as you possibly can.   Why?   Two reasons.   Your less organized, procrastinating competition won't be making any calls today.  They're too busy calling in sick and completing their taxes at home.   Their absence will open up a clear path to your prospects.   And second, chances are that the prospects you reach today are also organized, goal-oriented and type A personalities who like to get things done.    Any guesses as to which type of prospect is easier to do business with?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When the media affects your livelihood.

Most of the time the 'media' is a useful tool for sales professionals, that can be used to keep up on recent trends and activities in your industry, keep track of your competitors or research new prospects.

Sometimes however, the media can have a negative impact on your ability to make a living.  From general bad economic news to specific bad news about your company, it all can be used by prospects to justify a delay or a complete cancellation of their planned purchase with you.  If you're looking for work, a negative news item in your industry can reduce headcount or delay, if not cancel entirely, a planned new hire or your company's entry into a complete new line of business.  

In short, bad press is bad for business.

Historically, the best a sales professional could do, to counter bad press, would be to collect a bigger pile of favorable press pieces or customer references.   But that was then, and this is now.  Thanks to social media, most press pieces and opinion columns also include areas for comments or feedback.

Leverage the opportunity to post an opposing viewpoint.  Failing that, you could always leverage your blog, facebook page or LinkedIn account to express a contrary position to the offending piece.  Keep it short, keep it professional and keep it cordial.   Never make it personal or stoop to question the author's credibility or abilities as a writer.  No matter how different your opinion, don't forget that these folks are people too.  A professional writer is just as likely to have an off, or even a bad day every once in a while like anyone else. 

Recently I ran across an article that I completely disagree with, written by a high tech author I've been reading since the eighties, John C Dvorak.  The article's title?  'Big Data Is Just a Scam.'  John's original article can be read here: 

For simplicity's sake, I'll include my response below.  Curious if you think my response was polite, professional and yet pointed enough?    

Bottom line?   If you want to engage with your customers through social media, you may need to engage with those framing the discussion and conceptual frameworks of your industry online.  

Good luck.



I've been an avid reader of yours for decades now, and I would have to say this is the first time I'd ever have to disagree you.

Yes, Big Data has big PR problems when it comes to personal privacy. But to focus on just one small portion of the big picture isn't doing anyone any justice. Big Data isn't living up to the hype in targeted advertising? I would agree with you that right now it would appear that way; but I would also have to challenge you that perhaps the experiences you site in your article do not have Big Data implemented correctly, if implemented at all.

The media, in general, seems to have developed quite the negative myopic perspective lately when it comes to Big Data. It seems to be the cat that everyone loves to kick when they come home at night after another sluggish day in the technology industry. Which is quite comical, when in reality, the media itself could be blamed for setting unrealistic expectations for big data in the minds of the general public to begin with.

In business, big data itself is just a pile of data that you so correctly pointed out. But when analytics are properly applied, outliers, or results outside the ordinary, in performance, can be readily identified.

Why are outliers important?

Simple really. Negative outliers, could represent branch offices, retail outlets, product lines, hospitals, or even doctors that are performing below standards. Corrective measures or investigations can occur that can bring these results into line with historical norms or expectations.

Positive outliers, I would even argue, are more important for business. They represent levels of performance which are possible, yet not expected. Identify precisely what differs between the positive outlier and the norm, and you can replicate that formula at other retail locations, branch offices or hospitals for better results across the entire organization.

When these same outlier concepts are applied to, rather than by, big government, the results can be even more spectacular. Fraudulent health claims, financial transactions or suspicious or repetitive border crossings can be tracked, traced, investigated and eliminated to ensure the legitimacy and improve the accuracy of government programs. Government infrastructure projects, thanks to further analysis provided by Big Data, can also be validated, optimized and prioritized before any tax dollars are wasted on pork barrel or white elephant projects.

And I'm just getting started. For those of you who are skeptical or bitterly negative towards Big Data, I would simply ask that you go to the library or even buy a copy of Rick Smolan's book, "The Human Face of Big Data." You'll get a much better idea of how the proper implementation of Big Data (plus analytics) can lead to a more promising future for everyone.

Yes, there are Big Data scams out there, but remember there were also snake oil salesman present when the United States developed and explored the Western Frontier years ago. It would be a great tragedy if the United States failed to fully explore the vast economic potential and societal benefits of the Big Data frontier, just because they ran into a few snake oil salesmen along the way.

I hope you reconsider your position John. You are a very influential guru within the high tech industry. 

Back when the United States' Western frontier was developing and being explored and before the law caught up with it, local sheriffs were required to maintain order. Today with Big Data, as both society and our legal systems struggle to come to terms with its potential, technically savvy pundits are required to properly frame the discussion and eventual adoption of these new technologies into mainstream America. 

To that end John, I'd ask that you holster your 'scam' hyperbole. We still need you out there on main street battling those hucksters and charlatans who would lead the path of Big Data adoption astray. John, when it comes to Big Data, we need you as a positive, rather than a negative outlier.

James Gingerich

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Marching Orders.

So, the third month of the first quarter is already underway.  Just nineteen selling days left in Q1.

How are you doing?

How are you doing against your quota?   How healthy is your funnel for the rest of the year?  Tired of winter?   Tired of digging out from all that snow?  Wish you could go on vacation and just get away from it all?  Or have you just got back from vacation and just can't get back into all this cold, grey weather again?

I've got news for you.   The clock is still ticking.

For those of you involved in enterprise software sales, where the average sales cycle can be as long as eighteen months, you've already talked with the prospects that will be buying from you before the end of 2014.  So, if you have any hopes of making it to President's Club this year, you've probably got some work to do.

Here are some helpful hints, or marching orders, to help you get back on track if your sales so far this year, are not on pace to get to your quota.

First, review your sales funnel.   Cut out the dead wood now.   The placeholders, the hail Marys, and the perpetual tire-kickers, should all be pruned from your tree of opportunity.   This allows you to focus more time on just those opportunities that have a real chance of bearing fruit within your shortened growing season.

Still falling short?

Chances are your sales manager will tell you to make more calls!   Set up more appointments!   Always be closing!!!    Yeah right.   This is where reality kicks in.   Remember your average sales cycle.  If it usually takes more than 12 months, and now that we are in March, just more than 10 months, to take a prospect from the point of first contact to contract; you are not going to close that prospect before the end of the year.  Sure, you have to prospect and follow up on new leads, but it's a loser's bet if you spend all your time there.  

To beat the house, and get to quota before the end of the year, when you've started Q1 badly and your funnel is weak, you've got to go back to your base and re-engage your current customers.   Customers who have already invested serious money in your firm's technology, represent low hanging fruit.  Whether you are selling them upgrades, additional seats, or new products entirely, the sales cycle will often be shorter.  Because they have already had a good experience with your firm, pilot projects may not be needed, and full deployment sales can be negotiated right away.

While the marketing department is where to go if you want to generate new leads for next year's funnel, you will need to go to the accounting, finance, or product management department to secure the information you'll need to blaze an old trail this year.    Tell them that you simply want to pull a list of the top customers in your territory for the last 5 years.

Why five years?

To execute a proper back fill funnel strategy, you will need at least three years of historic customer sales data, but preferably five, to give you a high enough volume of potential business, to turn the odds of success in your favor.   The rule of thumb for desired funnel going forward in the software business is generally a three to one ratio.  Which means for every dollar of quota you need to sell in a given period, you will need approximately three dollars in opportunities to cover it.     If back filling from a customer base, you will need at least five dollars worth of historic business to generate one dollar of business in the current calendar year.   When you get your list, simply rank them in order of sales revenue, start at the top and work your way down.   If you run into dissatisfied customers, that's great!   More often than not, they represent a great opportunity for a services sale and an upgrade sale if they want to try and recover any value from their original technology investment.

When calling into historic accounts keep three areas of potential additional business in mind.  One, acquisition business.  Has your customer acquired additional employees through an acquisition, that may require licenses of your firm's software?  Second, transition business.  Would your customer be interested in transitioning from on premise to cloud for example?   Would they like to see any of their desktop applications made available on mobile devices?   Third, scale.  Has your customer outgrown older software or hardware that can no longer handle the increased volume of data the business now generates?

Targeted seminars to showcase new versions or new products to existing customers are ideal.   In this environment if you can get just a few in the room enthused about upgrading to the latest features or new technology, their word of mouth during breaks or intermissions can work wonders on others in the crowd.   Always remember to use leverage to work for you instead of against you.

Last, don't get stuck in the doldrums of winter.  It's time to spring into action.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sales Instinct. Some are born with it. Some are not. (February 21)

Sales Instinct.    That unique quality that allows some to spot a sales opportunity where others just walk right by.   Some have the courage to sell something that has been sold the same way for years, in a new way.  Their bold initiative catches their competition off guard, completely, as they rocket their way to sales success.

If you're in sales, you know doubt have experienced that "aha" moment.   Sometimes through planning, sometimes by sheer luck of being at the right place, at the right time, with the right product.  The fit is so amazing, the sale is so easy, and you discover that it's repeatable.  You have your very own gold-veined sales niche, that no one else knows about.  Yet.

You also know that your time in the niche, alone, will be limited.   It won't be long before others with keen sales instinct, will sniff out your success, identify your niche, and bring competition to, what formerly what was just your turf.

That, no doubt, is what is going to happen to Danielle Lei in the near future.   Lei,  a thirteen-year-old Girl Scout found a new, successful way to sell Girl Scout cookies earlier this week.   She set up shop outside a medical marijuana clinic in San Francisco.  This ingenuity resulted in her successfully selling 117 boxes of cookies in just under two hours.

Unfortunately for Danielle, the local media caught wind of her success and aired her story.  I've got the feeling, considering the content, that national coverage won't be far behind.  Very soon, thousands of competitors, selling into Danielle's same niche, will be sweetly salivating about similar success.  Her niche will be her's alone no longer.

The lesson here is obvious.   If a thirteen-year-old girl can come up with something so unique and so revolutionary in the almost mundane business of selling Girl Guide Cookies; what are you going to do today to revolutionize what you're selling?

Thanks Danielle!   You've given a lot of sales professionals a smile, and a bit of a wake-up call first thing on a Friday morning!

The entire story of Danielle's success can be read here:


Monday, December 30, 2013

On The Sidelines For Q4......

Watching football this weekend, I couldn't help but take special notice of the injured players on the sidelines, who had to just sit or stand there, and watch their colleagues battle it out on the field to see who made the playoffs and who didn't.

It had to be especially painful in the fourth quarter.   Knowing that if they had only be capable of playing they could have made a difference.

It's tough when you're capable of making big plays, to be sidelined at this time of year.

The same can be said for skilled sales professionals, who, because of the economy and corporate layoffs or re-organizations, find themselves on the sidelines this Q4.   For me personally, it is the first time in my sales career, that I haven't felt that adrenaline rush from closing that impossible deal with just minutes left on the clock.   Anyone who's ever had a quota, knows that the countdown started in October and picked up speed in November, peeks in December and doesn't let you come up for breath until you've carried that quota ball, across the goal line.  And now that I'm on the sidelines for the first time in my sales career, I miss that adrenaline rush and that sense of accomplishment that comes from executing according to plan.

I want back in the game.

There was one player on the field Sunday, that drew most of my attention.    Aaron Rodgers who had been sidelined for several weeks from a collarbone injury, proved that a skilled professional can come back from being sidelined and contribute in a major way to his team's victory.  Rodger's success on the field, showed everyone that instead of focusing on his injury, he worked out, studied and practiced until he could return.   He stayed sharp.  He stayed focused.  He didn't lose his edge or one ounce of his competitive drive.  In fact, on Sunday, Rodgers came back to defeat the very team that sidelined him earlier this year in week 9 of the season.

Sidelined sales professionals must do the same.   Focus and plan for your return rather than dwell on the situation that sidelined you.   You'll never be able to correct the past, but your choices and your attitude today, will go a long way in determining just how long you will continue to be sidelined, and just how bright your future career will be.

Thanks Aaron, for proving that comebacks from the sidelines are possible.

"It was a very good learning experience for me.  You can learn from your experience and improve."        -    Aaron Rodgers

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Big Data Job Interview

I had the pleasure of interviewing with one of the top firms in the Big Data space yesterday.   Since the firm produces a wide variety of products, our discussion quickly turned to which section of the company I was interested in.   "I'm passionate about big data," was my initial response, "but I'm also quite experienced in mobile and database technology."

A little bit later in the interview I was asked a question that I had anticipated.   "I'm a C-Level executive.  How would you sell me on Big Data?"

I stalled for a bit of time, and tried to highlight my flexibility and confidence with the subject matter by countering with a question of my own.  "Which industry?"

The interviewer was an actual hiring manager, a VP of Sales too experienced to let me wrangle a bit of control of the process by allowing me to be the one asking the questions at this early stage.   Without hesitation I was countered with the simple but very effective phrase, "You pick."

I went with the Healthcare industry because of HIPPA requirements in the US and because the obvious process optimization gains hospitals would be able to realize by identifying both positive and negative outliers, adopting the positive and eliminating the negative, on their way to establishing new best practices going forward.   I outlined briefly that patients could be considered "Work In Process" and that operations could be sped up and made more secure by establishing patient identity cards, containing biometric security verification, retinal scan or fingerprint id, thereby ensuring that the patient is in fact who they say they are.   This would eliminate a lot of fraud from the system early on.  Coupling this card to an RFID tagged bracelet, would allow the hospital to track the 'product' through the entire process, collecting more data along the way.  

"For what purpose?"  was a confirmation question I faced at that point.   

Patient safety, making sure that the patient who was supposed to undergo a surgical procedure, was the one undergoing the procedure.   Also ensuring that no transcription errors occur and that the patient receives exactly the correct drug and dosage amounts prescribed, as opposed to problems that can arise from other medical professionals or pharmacists trying to interpret the doctor's handwriting. So you could say by beefing up their systems, C-level executives would be able to mitigate risk moving forward.  With the gradual integration of the "Internet of Things" or intelligent medical devices and sensors, more and more data could be collected as more and more steps of the process are electronically or digitally monitored and automated.

Beyond data collection, you can now apply analytics.   This can allow you to determine optimal procedures for certain ailments.  Is surgery required or is drug therapy the optimal solution?    Do the surgeons working for your hospital have areas of specialty?   Can you allocate cases more optimally along these lines?   Almost like a baseball manager, the proper system would be able to predetermine the hospitals optimal 'batting' lineup based on their workload that day.   The net result would be more patients served, more safely, and by the best person capable of doing the work 'at the plate.'   For the hospital it would mean serving the patients with more optimal care,  at statistically, the lowest possible costs, while enhancing rather than compromising quality.

I then touched on mobile.   The advantages of having medical information available on tablets for doctors and nurses alike.   The security of medical information on devices is far superior to a clipboard at bedside, but it also allows specialists to consult on cases remotely, with full patient information, perhaps even live vitals feed, whether they are offsite at dinner or on the golf course.  Tablets themselves are perfectly suited for the hospital environment, because they are the same form factor as the clipboards they would be replacing, which would permit a direct digitalization of forms currently being used and a much shorter learning curve.   Tablets are also much easier to keep sanitary then computer keyboards or a paper-based system. 

Last, I touched on the monetization of data over time.   I cited examples of where some drug companies were willing to pay for patient outcome data to validate the effectiveness of their products.   Statistics on procedure effectiveness, drug effectiveness, wait times, population demographics, could all be very valuable to third parties.  But first, the hospital would have to be able to reliably collect and then 'package' the data properly.  HMOs and governments would be able to utilize the same data and with predictive analytics, allowing them to refine their capacity planning going forward.   So in short, big data and accompanying technologies, would be able to increase revenue, reduce costs and maximize the utilization of their current assets.  What's not to like?

I thought I had done well on the interview.   But then on the drive home, self doubt started to creep in.   Had I got too bogged down in technical details?    I resented not hitting that home run catch phrase, that would, differentiate me from the rest of the field.

It was dark on the drive home.   I was stuck in highway stop and go traffic for more than an hour.   My mind automatically kept going over what had transpired in the interview.   My dream job on the line and I had put in an okay, but not spectacular performance.   I began to think that what I lacked was a great universal analogy to describe the value of big data to any level of business executive.   An analogy so effective that once used in an interview, would be recognized immediately as a home run, gaining me a job offer on the spot.   As traffic started to finally approach the posted speed limit,  I spotted an opening, and at least was able to separate myself from this pack. 

A few exchanges later, as I left the metropolitan area and my grandiose dreams of the perfect big data analogy behind, I found myself  now alone on what appeared to be a very long stretch of highway, at night.

So I did what any other driver would do in these circumstances.  I turned on my high beams.

And then it hit me.

A C-level executive is really like the driver of a car, coping with ever increasing speeds and huge areas of uncertainty, or darkness.   Dashboards are of little use to that level of executive.  Dashboards are merely a reflection or validation of what's happening right now.  Today's results are merely the active history of decisions already made long ago.  Looking down at the dashboard isn't going to help the C-Level executive determine what lies ahead.   What the C-Level executive needs is something that will help enhance their vision of the future, or extend their vision of the road ahead at night.    

Having access to big data, would be like turning on your high beams, giving C-Level executives that valuable extra time required to make very important decisions ahead of time.   To take it one step further, predictive analytics could be considered an extra set of fog lights.  Having access to the two in tandem would allow any C-Level executive to avoid costly, if not life-threatening accidents, in the process.  Given similar conditions of darkness and speed, a car with high beams, or a company with big data, would be able to out maneuver any competitor no so equipped.  Both high beams for cars, and big data for companies, allows one to better navigate through all sorts of nasty weather or business conditions.  Both extend one's vision ahead into the future when it's needed most.

As I turned off at my exit, and reduced my speed to adjust to residential speed limits, I also turned off my high beams.   For the rest of the way home I tried to come up with a way of creatively getting this big data analogy through to the hiring manager, without appearing too obvious. 

Does anyone out there have any big ideas?

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."      - Johnathan Swift