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    Friday
    Nov022012

    Forecast, Upside, Pipeline and Staying on Offense

    I ended last week with a piece titled Playing Offense on Social Media, a story about how sometimes being aggressive, even snarky, but essentially leaning forward and playing offense in social media can be a good strategy for organizations, (and even individuals), that are active in social media and social networks.

    To continue the 'offense' theme, I want to share another similar take, this one from the world of sales, (and even if you are not 'in' sales, let's face it, we are all selling something), titled 'Play Offense When Predicting Revenue', from the Feld Thoughts sales blog.  

    In the piece, Brad Feld shares a simple way to change the way sales managers think about their sales pipeline, essentially instead of assigning a generic 'probable close rate' to every deal in the pipeline, e.g., 'We have 10 active deals, we think 75% will close this quarter', Feld recommends sales teams divide the pipeline into three buckets as follows:

    Forecast - These are the deals we BELIEVE (in CAPS), will close this quarter. We are committed to them, and any deal in this group that does not close, will be subject to a detailed review and post-mortem

    Upside - These are deals that MIGHT close this quarter. We are working them, but can't commit to a close this quarter.

    Pipeline - These are deals that WILL NOT close this quarter, but are being worked. These should move into the Upside or Forecast buckets soon, or will fall out as lost opportunities.

    According to Feld, the positioning of deals into these discrete categories, most particularly the 'committed' portion of the forecast bucket, creates more accountability in the organization, and provides a better mechanism for inderstanding the sales process, the customer decision cycle, and the skill and capability of the sales team.

    Then the sales team and managers revisit this list each week. Sometimes deals  fall out of Forecast into Upside based on new information. Last week you thought there was a 100% it was going to close (forecast), now you no longer have certainty but there's still a chance. And, if there's no way it'll close this quarter, it should go in Pipeline.

    This discrete planning helps allocation your efforts - most of your short term energy should be on Forecast deals, some of your short and some of your long term energy on Upside deals, and the balance of your long term energy on the Pipeline.

    I kind of dig it, simple, keeps the team focused, and as we like to say around here, keeps you playing offense, not just sitting back and wiating for (hopefully) good things to happen.

    Forecast, Upside, Pipeline - what other parts of your business could benefit from this simple breakdown?

    Have a Great Weekend!

    Thursday
    Nov012012

    Does it work on an iPhone?

    Earlier this year I had the good fortune to attend the Recruiting Innovation Summit in Mountain View, California and additionally serve as one of the judges at the event's Recruiting Tech start-up contest.

    It was a fantastic event and experience even though at the time I wondered if I personally added much value to the contest. You see while the other judges were asking really pointed and pertinent questions like 'How will you monetize?', and 'How big is the addressable market for this solution?, I was coming up with insightful queries like 'Will this work on an iPhone?'

    At the time I felt kind of dumb, as if that trivial sounding question sort of proved I did not really get what was important for tech start-ups and the depths of my understanding of the market were well, not that deep.

    But I was thinking about it all again recently, (I know I need more hobbies), and I have concluded it really was not such an obvious and shallow question after all. Because when I think about tech at all these days, doesn't matter if it is consumer tech or enterprise tech, the 'mobile' question is almost always part of the first five minutes of the conversation.

    Either the solution is purpose built and is mobile only or the providers are furiously trying to adapt or re-imagine their offerings for mobile.

    Finally, I thought about it this way - would I want to adopt ANY new technology for any reason that did not natively, easily, seamlessly and logically work on whatever mobile device I have?

    So my lame questions at the Recruiting event were, I think, not so lame after all.

    And this post, which is actually sort of lame itself, did indeed help me to prove a point to myself. It is the first post I've ever done completely on my iPhone.

    And if this somehow gets botched up after I hit 'publish', I'll probably start looking for a new blog host.

    Have a great day all!

    Wednesday
    Oct312012

    After the storm is over

    Millions of people and organizations continue to deal with the after-effects and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.  From the personal tragedies - a number of incredibly unfortunate deaths, injuries, loss of property, business interruptions; to the larger, more macro items like getting air travel resumed, major city mass transit restored, and determining if indeed the superstorm will effect next week's election, the storm will have a lasting and historical impact.

    For many organizations in the Eastern part of the country, one of the residual effects has been not just damage to facilities, but also and variously, lack of power or other essential services, the inability for many employees to safely commute to the workplace, and the need for many employees to have significantly increased flexibility as they deal with the storm themselves, (take care of their property, stay home with school-age children, etc.). The fallout from the storm will continue for a while certainly, but eventually things usually return to 'normal'. Offices will re-open, the subways will resume running, kids will go back to school, etc., but for now, many organizations are kind of in a odd middle-ground between full operations and complete shutdown. Where possible, employees are being encouraged, sometimes even directed, to work from home, and are also being supported in their efforts to ensure their homes, families, and property are being attended to in this time of crisis.

    In this time of natural disaster, both organizations and employees are being forced to think about work, the workplace, individual needs and responsibilites at home, and the relationships among them very, very differently. And I imagine most organizations, even if they did not have an articulated plan for dealing with a crisis of this magnitude, will eventually emerge in about the same place as they entered. It may take some time to repair damage to facilities, sales might be depressed for a bit as customers have their own issues to deal with, but pretty soon the clean-up will progress to a point where the storm will be behind us, and 'normal' will resume.

    But the larger question I think is whether incidents like the recent storm will have a lasting impact on the way that many organizations think about work, how and where it is done, and the needs of their workforces, not just in crisis, but all year long.  

    This isn't one of those horrible 'What can we learn about work from Hurricane Sandy' articles. Those are dreadful.

    But rather this is just an acknowledgement that in these incredibly trying times for so many people and organizations we can see where necessity has brought out and shone a light on the best attributes of our nature. Whether it was health care professionals going to extraordinary measures to care for their patients, first responders (again) risking their own safety to protect life and property, and the innumerable businesses that have exhibited care, concern, and compassion for their teams - we are left with much to reflect upon.

    Let's hope that after the storm has passed and the roads are clear, that we can take some time to think about how we can best continue to care for and support each other not just when unprecedented disaster strikes, but in the normal, mundane, and largest part of our lives. 

    I hope everyone reading this is safe and warm and can even manage to have a Happy Halloween.

     

    Tuesday
    Oct302012

    You look familiar...

    Quick - without thinking too hard, or lingering over any of the individual profile pictures too long, take a look at the images below and tell me what would you say you are looking at?

    Here are some logical guesses, (assuming you did not actually recognize any of these gents and figure it out already), take a look and pick the one you think is most likely to be correct:

    A.  The members of the local school board from the nicest neighborhood in town

    B. Your teammates from the Over-40 basketball league from the local YMCA

    C. The highest ranking executives at a major, huge, colossal, global corporation

    What do you think? Actually, all three options are pretty likely to be accurate, but the correct answer in this case is 'C' - take a look at the original, undoctored image below.

    So you've probably sorted out by now the gentlemen pictured above represent the highest ranking executives at everyone's favorite mega-corporation, Apple, in the news this week for announcing a pretty significant shake-up in their executive ranks.

    Do you notice anything about the picture?  Maybe that, I don't know, everyone in it looks pretty much like everyone else?

    Do you care at all about that?

    Does it matter?

    Does it not matter because it is Apple, and well, everyone loves their iPhones and iPads?

    I wonder.

    Monday
    Oct292012

    Carp, addictive bait, and just showing up

    We have all heard the old chestnut about the connection between 'showing up' and success - there are a few variations of the idea, but the one that is most often repeated, and that we probably cringe in horror when we see it randomly shoot past on a Twitter feed or a Facebook page is attributed to Woody Allen, and reads something like:

    'Eighty percent of success is showing up.'

    The idea being, I suppose, that often we short-circuit our own chances for success by not doing theI prefer Romanian bait simple, basic, and often kind of easy parts of the work, making true success even more unlikely. It is a kind of comforting notion as well - one begins to think that merely 'showing up' - i.e. getting to work on time, doing the pre-reading, passing on eating the extra donut - will put you 80% of the way towards wherever you'd like to go. And maybe that is true. But often just showing up won't get it done in a truly competitive situation, unless of course you call 'showing up' arriving five months before it is actually required, and creating a set of conditions from which, during the actual competition, you will be certain to win. 

    Submitted for your review, from a piece on the sports blog Deadspin, the story of the recent World Carp Fishing Championship, (yes, such a thing exists), and how 'showing up' five months early paid off for the Romanian team.  

    Winners Romania had spent the five months preceding the tournament feeding the fish of Lake Corbu with a secret bait recipe. Unfortunately for the 10-man England side, who finished 18th, they turned up at last month's tournament with £10,000 worth of traditional "boilies".

    The mash-up of flour, egg and flavorer such as blended dried dog food is popular with British fish but failed to spark a flicker of interest in the Romanian carp which were happy to gorge on the feed offered on the hooks of their hosts which they had grown obligingly fat on throughout the summer.

    The debacle has prompted fury in the highly-competitive world of carp fishing, a discipline where technical know-how and secret techniques can make the team tactics of cycle road racing appear as complex and cut throat as a round of tiddlywinks.

    I don't know why, but I dig this story. Maybe it's the underdog angle, except I have no idea if the Romanian team were truly underdogs. Or maybe it's the appreciation for the way they figured out there was more than one way to win at this contest, and if they were willing to do the lengthy preparation and pre-work that was needed, that they would win in the end, with the extra bonus of it seeming like cheating or at least unsporting behavior making it even more compelling.

    But in the end, I guess I like the story because it pokes a little bit at the Woody Allen quote that I am sick of hearing. The other teams all 'showed up' at the Carp fishing contest, but were crushed by the Romanians who just 'showed up' as well.  The difference was only how they interpreted 'showing up', something that no pithy quote from a celebrity can teach.

    So here's my (non-celebrity) advice on when you should show up - earlier than you planned.

    Have a great week!