Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There is no future in the past

Yesterday I was in Dublin, Ireland at a meeting of the Dealmaker Partner Network (DPN) along with the leadership of the TAS Group and Infomentis. This was my first visit to my native land since last year and gave me an opportunity to talk to people and assess the full impact of the recession on this former tiger economy. The prognosis is, unfortunately, not good for the short to medium term future as the country rebuilds (unfortunate choice of words I know) after the bursting of a property bubble that rivaled anything seen in the US or elsewhere.

The papers and the TV stations are full of backward looking introspective pieces on what happened to the economy and why and who is to blame, all valid questions and while I agree with Churchill's assertion that those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it there is a greater urgency and I would argue time better spent figuring out where to go from here. Thankfully some efforts are afoot, including a Government sponsored think tank of leading Irish business people and academics who are charged with identifying how to foster and support innovation in Ireland and what industries or market segments Ireland is best placed to service in the future. I am happy to add that my brother-in-law who is CEO of Merrion Pharma, an Irish bio-tech success story that continues to excel, is a member of this think tank.

 There are many parallels at the individual business level to what is happening at the national level in countries large and small as they grapple with an uncertain future after the certainties of the recent past turned out to not be certain at all. Businesses need to quickly move from the initial reactive mode that is essential to survival during the first wave of a recession to a more future focused mode that repositions the business for success as a recovery (however slow that recovery may be) begins to take root. There is always a temptation to stay in reactive mode for too long or to forlornly wait for the return of the norm which of course never comes because business is a dynamic organism than evolves and changes, eventually settling into a new norm that marks a new cycle.

Equally sellers need to move out reactive mode and begin equipping themselves for selling in the new norm that emerges from the ashes of the last business cycle. So just as nations and businesses are figuring out where they should focus and what is needed to succeed during this next business cycle, so too should each individual sales person be asking themselves the hard questions:
  • Will my current skill-set enable me to be successful going forward?
  • What do I need to do differently?
  • What changes do I need to make to my daily work practices? 
  • What changes am I seeing in buyer-behavior?
Some of these are addressed in previous postings Death of a Salesman 2.0 and The 21st Century Sales Rep Challenge but I encourage you to spend some time contemplating them. Now is the time to focus forward, be bold and position yourself to be a winner, don't allow too much focus on the past slow you down.

This can be your time!


  1. Great statement - we live in a flat world, competition could come from every where. As I am growing older ( 38 yrs old) I realize that most people are below average and ordinary, they do aspire for something great, but they have lost their inspiration and they just get by, most people do not read a book after college, or school. I have seen it with Doctors, teachers, Buyers, Sales People, etc - it is a mind set of entitlement - I deserve all in the world - but I do not want to pay the price.
    But I guess it is human nature... per what I read on the papers and web - that is exactly what happened in EU (Greece in this case), how can you think on retiring @ 55yrs old withuot paying taxes and expect for the goverment to feed you up another 40 years? That is utopia.

  2. Thanks Juan - I do think that people generally aspire to greater things and now is a perfect time to position yourself for those greater things by taking a strategic look at your career and job skills as we begin to move towards recovery.

  3. As an individual contributor and a sales leader this really hit home. My belief is the hard daily miles of picking up the phone and having those interactive conversations with customers and prospects will achieve results. Less email, less twitter, less befriending and connecting....

  4. I do agree that there needs to be some perspective brought to bear and that as social media and tribal knowledge, crowd sourcing and other changes to the way we communicate influence how business is done, it is always worth noting that the new rules do not neccessary always wash away all of the old rules and that evolutions are usually a combination of the fundamental old rules tha still hold true and the new rules.

    We saw in the dot com boom how the fundamental old rules of having business plans with a route to profitability were cast aside only to be revisited once the dust had settled after the crash and since then dot com success stories have abounded as companies have combined innovation with business imperatives.

    Likewise in the housing boom we saw that the old rules of having some equity skin in the game when buying a home rather than being 100+% leveraged had merit once the reality that property prices could not appreciate indefinitely became clear.

    Which brings us to one of the oldest rules of communication and that is: "if you don't have anything to say, then don't say it". The fact that you have so many more media in which to say it through makes no difference. Therefore as a seller if you are not adding value for the customer or advancing a sale, then using social media for communication when you have nothing to say or no real value to add is just wasting time and creating noise.

    Be creative by all means but creativity takes application and considered thought.So now is the chance to distinguish yourself by ensuring you look at communication skills as a way of differentiating yourself regardless of the media you use.