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The Hell that is Business Travel

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A few years ago I suffered through four days of business travel hell.  I saved emails and documented my nightmare so that one-day I might look back on it and laugh.  This story is dedicated to anyone has had “one of those days” or in my case, four of those days.  If you don’t believe in travel karma this may change your mind…pay attention to the time/date stamps and subject headings.  As they say in Germany; “Schadenfreude.”

Day 1 – Monday June 11

Travelogue  5:45 pm – arrive in Detroit early, nice airport… can’t believe we’re early.  Call Lara (my assistant) because I can’t find Mark’s flight information on the arrival board.  Lara tells me that his plane is delay won’t arrive until 7:30 pm.  No problem I’ll grab something to eat and wait for him and Sean.

—–Original Message—–
From: Mark
Sent: Monday, June 11, 6:03 PM
To: Scott Gillum; Sean
Subject: Flight delayed- still on the ground in ATL

Scott and Sean:

I’ve been stuck on the tarmac for about 90 minutes they say due to weather up North. No sign of anything at the airport taking off to the North.

What time do you arrive? Looks like 8:00 to 8:30 if we get out in the next half hour. Otherwise I’ll probably shoot myself… And then it won’t matter.

BTW, who booked me on Northwest?? Very tight, very hot in here…

What’s your status?

Mark

—– Original Message —-

From: Scott Gillum
Sent: Monday, June 11, 6:11 PM
To: Mark; Sean
Subject: Re: Flight delayed – still on the ground in ATL

I’ve arrived and am sitting in a nice air conditioned bar in the A terminal about to have a nice Greek dinner.

Got to go… my drink just came, call me when you get in.  Headed to the hotel for a good night of sleep after a big dinner.

Good luck and safe travels. Oh, here comes my appetizer.  Bye.

—–Original Message—–
From: Mark
Sent: Monday, June 11, 6:14 PM
To: Scott Gillum; Sean
Subject: Re: Flight delayed – still on the ground in ATL

Oooooooh.  You’re just getting me ramped up. Don’t expect any mercy from me when the moment is right

Mark

—–Original Message—–
From: Scott Gillum
Sent: Monday, June 11, 6:39 PM
To: Mark, Sean
Subject: Re: Flight delayed- still on the ground in ATL

Sorry I couldn’t respond sooner you really need your hands to eat Greek food.

You realize that I probably have cursed myself on the outbound flight now. 

Call me when you get in…unless it’s too late.  I really need my sleep to be on my game.

Travelogue 7:00 pm – Catch the Hilton shuttle bus to the hotel a quick 5 min ride.  Arrive at the hotel – “OMG, what a shit hole”.  Under-construction, the front is completely gone…contemplate getting back on the bus.   Suck it up and enter to find a lobby in the hallway.  Check-in, walk thru the Workout Area (a former hotel room) then thru the make shift restaurant which looks to be meeting room.  Diners don’t seem to notice that I’m walking thru with my bags.  Enter room and open the curtains to see what looks to be the motel from Eminem’s movie 8 Mile across the street.  Glance at the direction for the meeting tomorrow  – notice we’re a good 20 miles from the client, great…the meeting starts at 8:30 am.

Travelogue 8:10 pm – Mark and Sean land…decide to flee and find a hotel closer to the client.  Check and make a reservation at the Weber Restaurant & Hotel.  A well-known steak house in the area that happens to have added a hotel “get’s a lot of press for its indoor pool” according to a review on Google.

Travelogue 9:30 pm – arrive at Weber and check-in.   Clerk has a problem finding the reservation…finally finding it under “Scott Dillum”.

Day 2 – Tuesdays, June 12,  Departing on the 3:17 pm to Washington.  All of us are leaving at about the same time but to different locations.

Travelogue 1:00 pm – check voicemail and hear a message from Northwest Airlines that my flight has been canceled and I have been rebooked on the 9:00 pm flight.  Call Lara who works with the travel agency to book me on the 5:35 pm.

Flights departs from the gate but…

—–Original Message—–
From: Scott Gillum
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 5:59 PM
To: Sean; Mark
Subject: What comes around…

Sitting on the tarmac… in the parking lot… grounded because of a weather delay…no time given yet for wheels up.

Great, they just shut the engines down…

—–Original Message—–
From: Mark
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 6:34 PM
To: Scott Gillum; Sean
Subject: Re: What comes around…

Oh man… The sweet taste. I couldn’t reply sooner because I had to finish my frosty ice cream cone I just picked up after landing.

Mark

—–Original Message—–
From: Scott Gillum
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 8:49 PM
To: Sean; Mark
Subject: RE: Perfect karma

Spending the night in Detroit…

Travelogue 9:00 pm – arrive back at the gate with tension headache and taste of bile in my mouth.   Buy underwear, shirt, socks, Tums and Tylenol.  Check into an airport hotel…not the Hilton.

—–Original Message—–
From: Sean
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 10:09 PM
To: Scott Gillum; Mark
Subject: RE: Perfect karma

Sitting in Seattle and I can’t help but think you brought this all on yourself, Scott Dillum.

Regards-

Sean

Day 3 – Wednesday, June 13.  

Travelogue 6:00 am: Departing on the 6:30 am to Washington connecting to the 8:30 am Delta Shuttle to New York. No flights available to New York direct from Detroit.  Need to be at an important client meeting in NYC at 10 am.  No chance I’ll make it, but Chris is catching a 7:30 am flight on USAir and will be there in time to cover.  

—–Original Message—–
From: Chris
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 8:05 AM
To: Lara, Scott Gillum
Subject: Also having flight issues. Will arrive at LGA at 9:30

I will have Lara contact the client.

Travelogue 8:30 am – arrive DC and make the shuttle to find Chris sitting on the plane.  No hope of being on time for the meeting now.  Ingest 2 Tums and Tylenol.

Return Flight

Travelogue 6:00 pm – call Lara to make sure my 6:30 pm shuttle is on time and to check weather condition.   Make comment that if there looks like there are any problems I will go to the train station.  Lara confirms that the flight is on time and looks good.

Travelogue 6:15 pm – check-in…flight is on time but notice 5:30 pm has been cancelled.  Plane departs gate on time.  Pilot announces that we will be parked for at least 30 mins waiting for our flight sequence.

Travelogue 7:00 pm – Pilot announces that he has no news but will update in 15 minutes…bile taste coming back, grab Tums.  30  minutes later…we’re #5 for take-off.  We’re airborne. Yes, finally making it home! 

Travelogue 8:00 pm – Pilot announces that DC has stop inbound flights because of storms in the area.   We’ll be circling Dover, Delaware for at least 30 minutes.  Search briefcase for Tums to find a banana that I thru in earlier that day….completely smashed…feels like wet oatmeal.

Travelogue 8:30 pm – Pilot announces that he has no news…but will update us again in 15 minutes.   15 minutes later makes announcement that they are still not taking flights and we’ll have to re-route to another airport to re-fuel.

Travelogue 9:15 pm – we land…in Baltimore.  No gate available, which is not a issue because…no one is available to bring the plane into the gate, or work the jet way, etc.  Tums are now gone.

—–Original Message—–
From: Scott Gillum
Sent: Wed, June 13, 11:21 pm
To: Lara
Subject: Didn’t make it back again…

Landed in Baltimore tonight.  Catching a cab…if I’m lucky.  I may or may not be in tomorrow.

Travelogue 9:45 pm – catch cab, 45 minute should be home finally.  Get on I95 to find that 2 lanes are closed…traffic slows to a crawl.  Bile returning, stomach churning, head out the window…possibility of hurling is very real.   Call home and announce to my wife that I’ve landed and I’m quitting my job.

Travelogue ? – lost all track of time but finally home….car at Reagan National.

Day 4 – Thursday, June 14  – Car services takes me to Reagan pick up car.

Travelogue 12:45 pm – finally back in my office with a spiritual healer having my aura adjusted.   Find that I now have a twitch above my left eye brought on by any mention of a storm, airport or plane.   Just submitted a PO request for a “Madden Cruiser.”

6 Tips to Better Market Yourself on LInkedin

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Linkedin’s stock opened at $45 a year and a half ago, it now sits at $120.  Unlike Facebook, one of the primary reasons it has done so well is that it found its’ “killer app”early on, and built a business model around it.

For recruiters, Linkedin is the largest (now 200 million members) and most current database of business professionals in the world.  For job seekers, it’s a portal into new opportunities, connections and references.

To learn more about its capabilities as a recruiting tool, we posted an open account supervisor position for our DC office on Linkedin. The resumes have been sent directly to me for the past month.  Unfiltered by a recruiter or HR person, I got a direct shot of the power of Linkedin.  As the hiring manager, I learned a good deal about using the tool, and how job candidates can better marketing themselves for posted positions.

Because of the volume generated by Linkedin, hiring managers have the luxury of trying to find exactly what they are looking for without having to dig too hard to find it.  We quickly scan the email summary and the attachments.  As a result candidates need to:

  1. Read the job description – hiring and HR managers spend a great deal of time defining the role.  Take the time to adapt your resume to highlight those areas that best match what we are looking for don’t make us connect the dots because we won’t…we’re already on to the next candidate.
  2. Customize your cover letter – tell us why you’re the right candidate for the position in the cover letter, especially if you can’t link it on your resume. Make a compelling case as to why we should spend additional time looking at your resume and background.  A generic cover letter is a waste of time and a sure way to take yourself out of the race.
  3. Know that we will check you out – if we find someone we like, we’ll spend time checking your Linkedin profile (beyond the email summary below) our current and former employers, as well as your social profile.  For example, a person that caught my attention was eliminated from the process because I couldn’t find their last two employers on the web.  The learning – companies go out of business or are acquired all the time, make sure your resume reflects or notes that change.  We will “Google” you.  Slide1
  4. Brands count – recruiting firms use key word searches to pull resumes.  As for me, I scanned resumes also looking for those “key words.”  Again, because of the need for speed certain words “pop.”  Brand name companies caught my attention (whether the candidate worked for them or had them as a client).  Schools you attended, the types of skills you have, and your accomplishments, especially if they were award winning.  I also took notice of the number of Linkedin connections and references…it does matter, I’m looking for a good marketer.
  5. Using a connection/s worksleverage your Linkedin connections to find a common link to the hiring manager or job poster for an introduction.  I trust the recommendations of people that I’ve worked with in the past.  As a result, do your homework. The closer the connection to the hiring manager or recruiter the better chance it will get you noticed.
  6. What does not workI found the executive education programs to be confusing.  It took too much of my time to figure out if you graduated or only took a class.  Consider moving the later under skills or experience rather than putting in education.  I also found resumes that were more than 2 pages too long to read.  A summary is a good to have upfront, but don’t go beyond more than a third of the page.  Get into your experience quickly.

Talent is the lifeblood of an agency…for that matter most companies.  What you think, say and produce grows our business.  We need you, and we have jobs.  Help make it easier for us to find you, link your experience and expertise to our needs.  Hurry, I need someone…like yesterday.

The Disappearing Sales Process

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Twenty-five years ago, I was a snot-nosed kid out of college who suddenly decided that law school was not in the future.  With a recession on, and needing to pay the rent, I took the first job offered and went into sales.

Having learned nothing about the profession in college, I picked up a copy of Miller Heiman’s Strategic Selling — still have a dog-eared copy on my bookshelf.  I learned everything I could about the buyer types, account management, and the sales process.  “Know the process work the process,” as my first sales manager used to say.

Typically, that process came down to 5-to-7 steps that generally covered the following areas below.

Slide1

Over the years, I found that working the process helped give you sense of control.  It came down to the numbers; calls, leads, transaction sizes or conversion rate.  Call on X number of qualified prospects to get Y amount of proposals, at Z close rate, and you made bonus.

But, research from Google and CEB entitled The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing provides new insight into buyer behavior, and it challenges the conventional wisdom.  According to the study, customers reported to being nearly 60% through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point.   More accurately, 57% of the sales process just disappeared.

Slide2

What are buyers doing if they’re not talking to sales?  Well, they’re surfing corporate websites to identify and qualify vendors, instead of the sales forces qualifying them.  They are engaging peers in social media to learn more about their needs, potential solutions, and providers.  And they’re reading, listening to, and watching free digital content that is available to them at the click of a mouse.  No longer is the sales force the sole source of information.

What does this mean for sales and marketing? 

The study recommends focusing efforts in three areas; 1) improve marketing communication integration, 2) develop and activate a content strategy, and 3) strengthen multichannel analytics.  Nothing new or breakthrough here, but the study provides good examples of how companies are executing against each point.

However, I found a number of other points to take from the research.

  1. It is not all bad news – for products or services with low price points and/or margins, having customers self direct themselves through the sales process can help reduce the cost of sale and/or create leverage for the sales force.  In fact, in certain situations an organization will want to encourage and/or incent this behavior.  The research also found that some customers felt comfortable going through 70% of the process before making contact.
  2. Changing buying behavior – an old manager used to say that technology changes fastest, then consumer buyer behavior, and eventually, organizations.  The “57%” stated in the research makes for a good sound bite; the fact is, that number will vary, greatly by customers, transaction, industry, etc.  The point is that change is a constant; the question is how far ahead or behind is your sales and marketing efforts? Are you keeping pace?  The second question is, how would you know?
  3. Content Distribution – as the study notes, the sales force is still the most effective and important communication channel.  When developing the content strategy ensure that the best and/or most valuable content is not in the public domain, reserve it for the sales force.
  4. Time to Take Social Media Seriously – with well-informed prospects, sales reps have to quickly learn what buyers know or perceive about the organization, products/services and competitors.  Social media can help them better understand what is motivating buyers to take action, what buyers believe to be true, and perhaps most importantly, who they believe.

The Future

Business decision makers will continue to drive their buyer process deeper into the sales process.   As a result, relevant content will continue to escalate in value, especially content related to consideration and purchase drivers, and the business application of the product or service.

Social media and monitoring has helped many marketing organizations understand this trend and to make the transition from being content “dictators” to information “facilitators.”

For sales, the research may be an epiphany.  No longer can it be successful focusing solely on an inwardly directed process intended for reporting and planning purposes.

With ever-increasing knowledgeable buyers waiting longer to engage, sales has to transition from being a “product pusher” following a process, to an insight “provider” adding value to the buyers business.  As the study states, sales must deliver “pointed insights and evidence that seek to challenge an entrenched point of view among potential customers.”

Finally, it is time to recognize that we’re not in control, and perhaps we never were.  The traditional sales process is now obsolete; it is now time to follow the buyers’ journey.