Tuesday, July 29, 2008

For Better or Worse

I just finished reading a nonfiction book called Better: A surgeon's notes on performance, by Atul Gawande, a surgeon. This doctor also wrote a book called Complications in 2003, which I enjoyed very much. Dr. Gawande's narrative prose gives us insight into the issues of perseverance, competence, and conscience faced by a thoughtful physician.

The author's perspective on performance is enlightened. It helps the reader imagine how it feels to work in a profession where perfect performance is needed, yet absolute perfection is not possible. In particular, I found Gawande's commentary on evaluation and measurement quite interesting.

Many strategists point to sports teams (and athletes) as examples of how to increase performance. In competitive environments, we see individuals strive to improve and win - inspired to beat "the other guy". But this book explores another aspect of performance - striving to be better because it will help people, or because it is the right thing to do. I especially like the examples of physicians who are already recognized as "the best", but strive for constant improvement.

I read this book because I thought it was an interesting topic, not because I expected to relate it to my work, or to marketing. But I find myself drawing parallels, and learning from the text. So here are my takeaways from a marketing perspective:

1. Have compassion - for your clients, customers, and co-workers.
2. Be humble - know that you can continuously learn more and improve your work.
3. Measure your performance - choose to measure something important, and it will improve.
4. Understand that even in a large and imperfect system, one can still do the right thing.
5. Persevere - when you meet a challenge that stumps you, keep trying!

I'm going to print out the list above and tape it to the wall next to my desk for inspiration. :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Book review: Gitomer's Little Red Book...

I just finished reading Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Red Book of Selling last month. As Allegro enters into a new era of widely selling our SaaS (Software as a Service) product, FreshDM, I thought it would be good to brush up on some of the current thinking around "traditional" sales processes. Years ago, I saw Jeffrey Gitomer give a presentation at an American Cancer Society event (for major/planned giving officers) out West. His book and presentation and personality are all really LOUD. He's sort of Tony Robbins meets Glengarry Glen Ross and all expressed in a series of lists.

The best audience for this book is people who are B2B salespeople or sales managers. Since a lot of the materials I work on developing are to support these kinds of efforts, I thought there would be some valuable info for my clients as well.

Although I found the format a little "campy" and didn't agree with all of the techniques, there are several things I liked about this book. I agree with the motivational approach and how it should thread throughout your life. People who are organized, focused, and positive at home are often more successful at work. I also agree that it is absolutely key to enjoy your work and the company itself. These are important and foundational points to Gitomer's approach.

There's an area of selling that Gitomer doesn't really talk about. His book targets commissioned salespeople - people who are more successful and make more money based on their sales. But there is another layer to selling that is also applicable to many people in the marketing world. The selling of ideas. Many of my clients spend a great deal of time and effort in internal meetings. What are they doing? Well, they're selling. Convincing. Persuading. It's in the same vein.

Many of Gitomer's ideas/concepts can be adapted to this kind of situation (as well as traditional sales processes). A few high points & things that resonated for me:
- Resign your position as General Manager of the Universe.
This basically means to stay out of projects/problems that don't have anything to do with you, but really suck your time and energy.
- Get over your fears of presentation/rejection/failure
So important! In any position, we must be able to communicate to an audience, and bring forward ideas without fear. Over-engineered campaigns "by committee" rarely win.
- Give value
Especially in service businesses, we have to give value to our customers, co-workers, even ourselves. This is the reason we all get paid.

There are many more good points in the book (12 of them), talking about personal branding, networking, using humor and creativity in the sales process. In all, it's a very motivating book. I recommend it for ambitious types and anyone in sales - or if you manage/support those folks. I'll probably re-read or refer to this book in the future.