Brother, Can You Spare a Few Million?

With fall in the mid-Atlantic just weeks away, my usual reflections on the summer golf season—where I improved or didn’t, the rounds that got away, why I didn’t play more despite the resolve to do so—have been overtaken by thoughts of how different the 2018 season may be.  You see, our club is for sale.  It will be interesting to see who bids on this nearly 100-year old institution and what direction they eventually take things.  Regardless of the new owners, it seems a safe bet that there will be significant changes that provide lessons far beyond some idyllic parcels of land and a stately but dated clubhouse:

·         Do not lose sight of your core business

The Career Lifecycle

I was speaking with married friends this week whose youngest child just secured her first job. It had been a couple of months since they had proudly attended their progeny's college commencement ceremony, and the news stories about unemployed college grads and the questionable ROI of higher education seemed to be  increasing every day.  So the whole family breathed a collective sigh of relief upon her acceptance of this job offer.

Of course, now the “fun” is just beginning for this newly minted college grad.  She will likely change jobs 10 or more times over the next 30 years, and chances are good she will hold jobs that do not exist today working for companies that have yet to be launched, possibly in unimaginable industries.

Be in the market before you go-to-market

As I like to tell my 15 year old, in the immortal words of Genesis, “you’ve got to get in to get out.”  While he usually sighs and rolls his eyes (he is a teen), he knows that means that he has to do something, experience something FIRST before he can decide whether he likes it or not.  You can’t just say “I don’t like non-fiction books” if you haven’t read a non-fiction book.

The same is true of your product—it’s got to get into your market and to your customer—before anyone (other than you and your revenue projections) can decide whether or not they like it. 

Training Camp

While my sports viewing interests span a wide spectrum, when push comes to shove, the NFL tops the list for me.  As most football teams prepare open training camp this week, I find myself thinking back on the range of training experiences I have had, particularly in higher education-focused organizations. Like the NFL, August is the start of the season for higher ed sales teams.  Over the years, training, along with most everything else in higher education, evolved along with the available technology, moving from inches thick product sales catalogs to rich multimedia presentations and eventually from F2F sessions to a combination of F2F and virtual meetings.  But whether you opt to use technology for efficiency or for engagement in sales training scenarios, it won’t be impactful unless the foundation of good sales training is solid. Whether you call it culture, philosophy, or something else related, the greatest variation in preparing the sales organization to sell the line of products in the upcoming year can be attributed to the way a company’s leadership viewed its sales organization, sales training, and to a greater or lesser extent, the industry as a whole.  Acknowledging that there are many different approaches in this area that can be successful and recognizing that what I have to say may be highly controversial, here are some general observations (and maybe even some lessons?) that come to the fore: