Cancel, Cancel, Delete (OMG What Did I Just Do?)

  • Just as you tidy up an emotional response to that member of the team letting you down, you inadvertently send it to the group text including everyone at work. EV-ER-Y-ONE.
  • You send an email to your boss, explaining an internal obstacle in the form of a less-than-enthusiastic member of the team performing poorly – your boss immediately sends your note to the colleagues boss, leaving your tirade in the body of the message, and cc’s you on the message.
  • There are hundreds of other “What Did I Just Do” moments. They’ve happened to almost every one of us. This is (one of) mine – lots more of these to come. 

Communication 2017 v. 1997

The difference is incomprehensible and impossible to properly describe.

From the 27 year old vantage point I had in ’97 and the tools I then had at my disposal to be a successful communicator, what’s available to us looks incredibly closer to The Jetsons cartoons I watched growing up by comparison than most of us care to acknowledge. Amazing technology continues to evolve and now almost daily improves the way we live, and communication is core to this advancement, for the net result of advanced communication tools is this interconnected world we enjoy.

Monolithic sales organizations doled out precious little in budget for sales training & development at the intersection of the digital evolution of the equipment we sold.

While the introduction of networking technology was a boon to those of us savvy enough to learn how to sell it, it was a virtual pipe-dream to actually obtain (and therefore learn) the technology we were selling, as nearly all our sales offices lacked the basic networking infrastructure necessary to connect devices (much less hope our computer spoke the same operating language as the device). We had workplace-altering capability, and we needed to learn how to sell without the most basic understanding of the products we sold. (Sound familiar?)

Information about digital technology and it’s capability were not easily accessed by anyone (sellers NOR buyers, we all had the same problem) but the earliest of sales adopters outsold their peers primarily as a result of acquiring and refining one key non technology related skill in selling new technology to buyers of varied expertise themselves- the ability to equate the benefits of the technology to decreased costs associated with running their business – the harder the cost, the faster the yes.

Achieving this objective required a developed skill for earning the trust of potential buyers, as they often needed to share key financial information about both their business as well as it’s associated cost of operation in this key cost container to make an educated decision. They didn’t know the formula, but they had the inputs. Only by working together could the analysis be effective, and only by figuring out what motivated a buying decision of this magnitude could success be courted, much less expected.

I was the lead in teaching this new technology to our Midwest sales force, mostly by pitching existing clients our staff were selling other product lines. While there were pockets of quota-busting success, there were also entire sales teams taking a “something to ignore” position. Specialization projects had historically left reps & prospects unfulfilled and occasionally cost salespeople a portion of their client base. One such team lived in my assignment. Their scorn was built more from experience than disdain, and they had a historical right to feel that way. Not this time, however!

Forced compliance to the program took the form of a monthly conference call to discuss developments in our offering, new sales intelligence about ours & competing solutions and answer any prospect or deal questions the team might have. Sound inspiring?

It was nearing the end of the last of what had by then become a 6-call in a row death-march. The misery was palpable, and as we ended the call and as I proceeded to slam the phone back in it’s cradle (yes, it was THAT long ago), I let loose a bellow;

“That is by FAR the WORST sales group in the entire company. I LITERALLY* (*contents edited to make the story suitable for parents and their children at bedtime) hate talking to them”

We were on speaker phone.

They were still there.

It’s a day I cannot and don’t intend to forget.

While I defended myself vehemently at the time, it’s obvious in retrospect that a BIG motivator behind them not coming around was a mix of tenure, diminished excitement after adopting numerous other failed corporate objectives (they were the sales team in the Company HQ city and wanted to put their best foot forward) and those circumstances together had left them cynical. I hadn’t done enough to convince the manager the potential value of time devoted to the growth of my vertical. His people were ok with me, he was not and the results reflected that fact.

While it’s been 15+ years since that story actually occurred, the moment seems as clear as yesterday. Within the collection of moments like these, you grow most often when turning away from self-promotion and seek ways to help people in your tribe be successful and make memories for themselves and their families.

Relationship building requires the ability to overcome the obstacles.  That pre-internet Sales Team faced the same obstacles many of us have today, even though the means we have to communicate with one another have exploded.

I hypothesize a problem – we don’t tell each other how we prefer to use varied & shared communication methods. It either works itself out, or you lose touch. Maybe you’re texting me and I want to talk on the phone. Maybe you like SnapChat but I only want to trade goofy filters on that channel. Can’t you just send me the link to IG? It all comes back to the concept of communication. Be purposeful in the ways you use communication platforms, and don’t be afraid to share your preferences, lest you find yourself on the wrong end of an errant “reply-all” e-mail.

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