Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Seeking Answers To The Tough Questions

Can a person train themselves to be better at spotting unseen opportunities? Gosh, I hope so.

I am always amazed at people who can spot trends and capitalize on creating whole new industries. I want to be better at seeing things that do not exist and helping to blaze a path toward making them a new reality. Companies and individuals need to explore new territory or they become stale.

I find that groups can do this when they brainstorm, but need to be comfortable enough with each other to allow the creative juices to flow and freely take form. But often people are caught up with preconceived notions to really let the ideas germinate into new solutions. People want to be "big tent thinkers", but in practice they all have small tents.

I recently spoke to a corporate business consultant who says he produces increases in his client's EBITDA by 80% in 12 months. Although he charges large sums of money, all of his clients can serve as references because they all see results. I was curious why everyone he meets does not work with him (as what CEO would not want an 80% increase in EBITDA?), and he says that he refuses to take clients who do not listen and will not embrace change. The process of reinventing a company's direction can be painful and many just do not want the risk of discomfort.

Many times people are so sure that they know what to do to succeed that they never get anywhere. I understand this, as I can get stuck in ruts just like the next person. One needs to be open minded to take the road less traveled and create new paths.

I spent an hour alone with a pen and a large white board the other day. While I did not find the answers to all I query, I did feel that I made progress in uncovering what can hold me back from success.

In today's high tech world many of our products and services are viewed as commodities. Even when we know that we offer things that are unique, the clients just do not see the differences. Or maybe they do not care. They rationalize any number of things in their mind to be able to bypass the realities we know to be self-evident.

Thus it all comes back to reputation. But can our reputations become commodities? It seems like doing good work is just the minimum fee we must pay to play in the game of business. A good reputation is needed to survive, so does that distinguish us from those with whom we compete?

It comes back to needing to see new ways to position ourselves, our products, and our companies that have not been identified by the competition. And how does one do this? What does it take to have that "ahhh ha" moment when you realize you just won the game many moves before the end is even near?

Alas, I am still looking for these answers. But I believe.

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com







Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Austin City Council Election

Early voting has begun in Austin for City Council. Election day is May 10th.

If you live in Central Texas you most likely know that too few people vote in the City Council Elections, leaving a few people to make these important decisions. The only way we can change that is if you go vote!

I am excited to support my friend Randi Shade for City Council Place 3. If you would like to know more about Randi and all that will make her a great representative of our community, please visit her website at www.randishade.com.

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Monday, April 28, 2008

Social Media Has To Be About More Than Just The "Stats"

Jonathan Fields has a post called "Prove It or Lose It" on his Awake @ The Wheel Blog. In it he discusses how many people in the online world call themselves "experts" without the ability to back it up. His points are good, but I think he leaves out the middle ground which is where most people reside in the emerging social online media culture.

There is a line between someone being an “online rock-star A-lister”, “a quality resource without a big following” and “a poser fake”.

One might get the impression from his post that you need to start at the top with a huge platform or grow there quickly...less you are going to be labeled a fraud. I am not sure those are the only two options for those who blog, twit, or otherwise participate in online communities.

I don’t claim to be a social media expert, but I am learning a lot about the subject by participating in several communities. I might never be as big an online celebrity as Penelope Trunk, Steve Rubel, Hugh MacLeod or others, but does that make me irrelevant? God I hope not.

The great part about social online media is it allows everyone to have their voice. Some are listened to more often, but anyone who wants to play gets to play. By the nature of life itself, not everyone gets to be on the top of the “stats”, but if "stats" are the only sign of success then we are breeding a lot of failure into the system (think local cable access!).

I believe the advice here is not to “lie” in positioning yourself online, as you will get found out in a transparent digital world. We all learned not to lie in kindergarten (well…many of us did), and I think that using these new tools to be part of an honest conversation is always a victory….even if you do not become one of the famous ones in the social online media world.

In the end, traffic and stats are important, but just be genuine and you will do just fine. I have spent little time focusing on how to deal with growing my stats, but I do get attention for my books, speaking engagements and other accolades from my online presence. I try to deliver value and just share my points of view. My participation online is an extention of myself.

I think that many people are being scared away from social media as they think they missed the boat at being an “A-lister” with blogs, twitter, and other tools. this is too bad because these tools are there just to be a not a race to the top of the charts. The potential for everyone to succeed in their own way exists on the internet....that is what makes this medium different than traditional media. If we get focused on ratings and reach, then it is just another old media tool.

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Questions About Your Success

Ten Questions To Consider If You Want To Out-Think The Competition

1. What are your organizations short term and long term goals? (do all your employees know these?)

2. What do you think are the top three things keeping you from achieving your desired success?

3. What makes your company unique? What do you do that your competition cannot copy?

4. How do you communicate your place in the market?

5. How do you communicate with existing customers to let them know about your other products or services?

6. How do your competitors market differently than you do? Are they successful?

7. What are the top three things your customers want from your company?

8. How do most of your customers find you?

9. Do your customers tell others about how great you are on a regular basis?

10. Who is your primary competition and how do you differentiate your customer service, experience and product offerings?

11. What do you do that goes the extra mile to serve your customers?

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nurture All Relationships Over The Long Run

According to the sales consulting firm The Result Source "80% of all B2B sales happen more than 12 months after the initial contact". Therefore your business development efforts really need to focus on the cultivation of relationships and nurturing your leads. You have to look for ways to create business friendships with everyone you meet and have consistent and meaningful interactions with your prospects.

You cannot expect meeting someone at a networking event or placing a cold call to turn into business. Sure, there are times when you hit someone at just the right time when they need your product or service, but the reality is that most people do not wake up in the morning dreaming of your call.

Look at your own life. How do you feel when a stranger tries to sell something to you that you did not want? Yet, what if a trusted friend has a product or service that you realize that you now need? Why are your prospects any different from you?

I recently set an appointment with a prospect whom took my cold call. He was a very nice guy who was very gracious. He was curious about my company's services, but did not have a current need. I asked him a lot of questions to qualify his organization's current situation, and was not able to find anything that connected with him at this time, however did uncover the potential for major growth in twenty-four months that would make him an ideal prospect.

Was this sales call a failure? Nope. It was the opportunity to meet an executive with a dynamic company and to establish the foundation for ongoing communication. While two years is a long time with no guarantee that he will ever purchase, one never knows what success could await his company or where he will end up in the future.

I followed up with a short handwritten note letting him know what a pleasure it was to meet him and offered myself up as a resource for him in the future. From here it is up to me to continue to ping him with meaningful information and to establish a real relationship. If his company does reach its milestones, it would be a "no-brainer" for him to do business with me in the long run.

Too many people get caught up in short term needs and miss the chance to establish their future. While a sense of urgency and reaching immediate goals is important, they should not totally eclipse the reality of the time involved to establish trusted adviser status with prospects.

This is why networking is so important. Since you cannot know everyone in the world and will never create close friendships with each potential client years in advance, having a large circle of referral sources who will know when their contacts need you will expedite your being in the right place at the right time!

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Breakthrough Company by Keith McFarland

In January I reviewed the best-selling book The Breakthrough Company, which I thought was a GREAT read. Since that time author Keith McFarland has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and traveled the country on his book tour.

This week he came to Austin, Texas. The company I work for, vcfo, along with two other sponsors (USI and Staubach) hosted Keith for a private luncheon with 125 local executives. He spoke for over an hour sharing his insights on how companies can "breakthrough" and soar to greater heights.

According to McFarland, break though companies all know the following three things:

1. It is not what you make, it is what you make of it. Many of the most impressive companies are not from the cool and trendy industries that you might think. Many are old school manufacturing or distribution businesses that are not "sexy"....but are consistently successful.

2. There is no personality profile of a successful CEO. How they "wire" their business is more important than how they are "wired". The great leaders do not make it all about them, but instead they "crown the company"...not the individual.

3. It is not just about getting the right people, it is getting the people right. Many leaders will complain about not having the right people instead of laying the blame on a failure in management. Top companies create a place where ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Keith also talked about how successful companies have an atmosphere that encourages people to try new things. Too often business leaders discourage innovation bypunishing failure. Breakthrough companies reward those who help the company learn, even if that lesson comes from a stumble along the way.

Additionally the executives in the companies that excel have created a situation where those around them are not "yes men". They thrive in an environment with "insultants" who are willing to take on the tough issues no matter what people think of them. These "loyal opposition" help businesses see the real problems
that face the company.


Below is a short video from Keith McFarland's Austin appearance:

video

If you have not yet had the chance to read Keith's book, The Breakthrough Company, I suggest you pick up a copy and discover all that he discovered in five years of research into these companies.

Have A Great Day


thom

http://www.thomsinger.com/

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Figuring Things Out - Part Three

While striving to excel is a good thing, you have to remember to not run over other people along the way. You never know how your assistance toward an other's goal could positively impact the world. Do not become so self focused that you fail to see where you can help another person to reach their goals.

Often people are dedicated to their own their tasks that they lose sight of those around them. These people don't necessarily mean to harm or neglect others on purpose, but their dedication to success makes them think that people are a nuance.

Realize that this life is not a "zero-sum game". Success is not about how big a piece you get of the pie, but how big you can make the pie for everyone. An ever expanding pie means we all can win.

But it is hard when under pressure to remember to be observant of the needs of others. I have figured out that those who are truly successful, be it financially, emotionally or spiritually are never jealous. Instead these are the people who go out of their way to lend a hand up to those who are still climbing the latter. Successful people are confident in themselves and are never threatened by the achievements of the next guy.

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Monday, April 21, 2008

Figuring Things Out - Part Two

While always striving to figure things out about life, people discover that some points are clear. Yet, these blinding flashes of the obvious are unique for each one of us. It is what makes us walk together, and yet stroll alone through our lives. One person's "ah ha" is an somebody's mystery.

I have come to know that when I am working in my "zone of strengths" I not only perform better, but I find that it is not work at all. I love to be in that zone but even better to share it with others of like mind.

It is fun to be around motivated and driven people who share a passion for success and understand the power of striving for a goal. Those who are supportive of seeing others succeed
are the spark that makes the world a wonderful place. It is crystal clear to me that associating with those who inspire you will change your future.

I recently had the honor of speaking at a conference for the Entrepreneurs Organization. I spent the weekend with these highly driven individuals and was impacted by their energy level and the vision of each of the members. These folk were not just business owners, but creators of commerce. The future is born from the passion of entrepreneurs.

In talking with many of these barons of business was interesting in that they all had little tolerance for excuses and did not know the "fear of failure". Instead they were focused on investing in their future, and understood that success comes to those who work for it and make sacrifices.

"Tireless" was the common thread and "making things happen" was apparently the mantra. This was coupled with a theme of wanting to help see others succeed.... all while having fun along the way.

Attitude and vision make a difference. What is your attitude? What is your vision? Can you articulate them to anyone who asks?

Have A Great Day.


thom

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Figuring Things Out - Part One

I think that many people are striving to figure out their purpose in life. I know I am always looking for more meaning to my daily activities. With all of the pressures of career, family, community, etc... it is easy to get lost in the day to day routine while missing out on smelling the flowers along the way.

The materialism of our society tends to trap people in the cycle of money and things. Houses, cars, clothes, trips, careers, the latest electronic gadgets and the rest are a seductive draw that are nearly impossible to avoid.

I do not have a desire to sell my house and live in a tent and this post is not about renouncing monetary goals. It is just the opposite. It is part of figuring out ones path to know yourself, your dreams and your own desires. Money cannot buy happiness, but it can provide freedom and opportunity.

Many years ago when I was in my early twenties I had run up a large amounts of credit card debt. When my wife and I realized the amount I owed it was stifling. It hurt. It felt as though we were in a cage. Together we restructured our budget and worked hard to eliminate the plastic handcuffs of over use of credit. Since that time we have only spent within our means. Sure, there are things we want, but having those "toys" do not provide freedom.

I am discovering that freedom is the true currency. Having the freedom to discover "self" is the key to experiencing life. With freedom comes confidence....and I know personally that when I am confident I feel as though I am on top of a mountain over looking an unlimited and amazing view. It is as if I am an eagle soaring high over the landscape.

Entrepreneurs live this mindset. Those who can see every situation as just another opportunity have the freedom to excel. I admire those who start and grow businesses and can create income from where there was nothing. The real artists who can face any problem and find an opportunity. Lemonade from lemons.

Does one have to be born with such traits or can they be learned? I think you can learn to be entrepreneurial, but you need to be open to change and growth.... for both you and your company. I see it around me all the time. Many of my friends who own businesses struggle with a variety of issues, but they are nimble and can reassess their environment quickly. Even those who resist change, know that success requires flexibility.

To figure things out one must be open to exploration.

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Open Cluster Theory of Networking

When you are at a networking event standing in a circle, leave a little open space to allow others to join the cluster. If you all stand close together it is not inviting and people will walk past your group.

Tonight at the Austin Tech Happy Hour a small group of people had a discussion about this theory. We opened up the cluster just a little and were instantly able to be joined by another person.

Scientific? Maybe not... but we raced to see who could blog about it the fastest. I used "Utterz.com" to call in my post. Listen above. I had only had one glass of wine, so NO...not buzzed.... just excited about the "Open Cluster Theory of Networking" and the race to get it posted on the internet. Ahhh, the silly fun one can have in today's wired world. Just think, a generation ago there would have been no cell phones or internet so the theory would have just died out. Now it is here for you to hear!

Mobile post sent by tsinger using Utterz. Replies. mp3

Have A Great Day.

thom

2009 Leadership Austin Applications Are Now Being Accepted

I am a member of the 2008 Leadership Austin Essentials Class. This program began in 1979 and has been going strong ever since. Applications are now being accepted for the 2009 class and if you live in Central Texas, I encourage you to explore this amazing organization. (most major cities in the United States have similar leadership programs, so if you read this blog and do not live nearby, you can look in your own community for an organization).

I have participated in a wide variety of business groups, but my experience with Leadership Austin is unparalleled. While I considered myself "well-networked" in the business community, I was amazed that from the 55 members of my class I only knew 6 before the program began.

My classmates come from government, non-profits, business, technology, banking, small business, large corporations, law firms, etc... Each person brings a unique passion for serving others, and a desire to expand their own abilities. We meet once a month, and with every interaction I am humbled by the intelligence, grace, wisdom and dedication of those in the room.

Leadership Austin
fosters a non-partisan environment where people of diverse backgrounds and experience come together to learn about civic leadership, engage in meaningful dialogue about important public issues, and collaborate to make a difference in Central Texas. Each September 55 new class members are selected to participate and explore.

If you are interested in Leadership Austin, feel free to email me directly at thom(at)thomsinger(dot)com. I will happily share my experience with the organization. I encourage everyone to apply. I applied three other times and was not selected, but that is because they get so many applications for so few spaces. It was worth the wait!

Click here for the application and more information.

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Charitable Causes and Giving

Many business professionals would love to support philanthropic endeavors, but have no idea how to get involved with the arts, education or charitable organizations. To make matters worse, many of these fine organization only seem to "elephant hunt" when looking donors. If a person does not have the means to write a $100,000 check, then they do not invest the time to cultivate relationships, thus leaving millions of dollars on the table.

Yesterday at my monthly Leadership Austin meeting I had the pleasure to meet two outstanding women who are tackling the monumental cause of connecting average people with the opportunity to make a difference.

Rebecca Powers is the founder of Impact Austin. This unique organization was founded by Mrs. Powers five years ago when she realized that ordinary women could make an extraordinary impact. She began by looking for 100 women who could write a check for $1000. While not a huge amount of money, together they would be able to give a grant of $100,000 to a local charity. The organization has now grown to over 510 women, and this year they will give five grants.

Her story is amazing, but more important is the impact that she and her organization make on the local philanthropic community. Not from a family with three generations of wealth, she had only ever given money to her church. Organizing a group of 100 women who would make huge grants could have seemed impossible, but she did it. When someone feels that a regular individual cannot make a difference, all they need to do is look at Impact Austin and you will see that anything is possible.

Patsy Wood Martin is the director of "I Live Here, I Give Here", an organization that was founded to encourage giving in the Austin, Texas area. National studies consistently find that Austinites give far less to charitable causes than people in other cities. In fact, Austin is ranked 48th out of the 50 largest cities in the nation in per capita giving. The mission of the I Live Here, I Give Here campaign is to change that.

Studies show that people would give more if they better understood their community's needs and if they felt that their contributions would make a difference. I Live Here, I Give Here is working to raise people's awareness, and thus increase the levels of giving.

A friend of mine confided in me wants to give 5% of her income to charity, but she feels overwhelmed by all the choices. She believes that all causes are good causes, but fears that making fifty small donations to fifty charities wont have any impact. I suggested that she select on phenomenal organization whose mission touches her heart. Then give consistently to that cause over five years. While each year her 5% may not seem like much, over five years that becomes a real number.

Giving in small amounts does add up. If you think 5% is a good amount to give to philanthropic causes, but you wait until you earn $1,000,000... you may never write a check for $50,000 (because that is a lot of money). However, if each time you get a check $2000 you send $100, you will do it. Over time it is the same amount of money, and much easier on your personal checkbook.

I encourage people who write books or launch side businesses to tithe an amount off the top line of their sales to a good cause. This encourages the individual and makes their project bigger than just themselves. It feels good to know that each time you get a check that your charity benefits.
Have A Great Day

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Through The Eyes Of A Child


While at a family picnic at the park,
My 11-year-old daughter took
the camera and captured some
amazing photographs.

I predict we have
a photographer on our hands!
I especially like the last one.








Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thursday 4/17 - Austin Tech Happy Hour

Don't Miss This One!

Live in Austin? Work in / or around "high tech"?

The BUZZ is huge. The people are coming.
Mega networking opportunities. All that is missing is YOU!.


Austin Tech Happy Hour

Thursday, April 17th

5:30 - 7:30

HiLo (Corner of 6th and Lavaca)

Sponsored by vcfo

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Dark Sides Of Social Online Media

I am a fan of how social online networking and social media can bring people together. For a long time I resisted the real power of making connections online, but in the past year I have witnessed how such relationships with others have positively impacted my life. While one still needs to have face to face human interactions (I fear some folks hide from reality and live on the internet), online relationships can help people explore and discover many things about one another.

There are many good things that comes with being active online, but there are also some dark sides that accompany the brilliance of the internet. We need to be conscious of the "icky" parts of humanity that can creep into the social online universe in order to protect ourselves and others.

I am not referring here about the pornography and predictors that litter the online landscape, although those are real dilemmas. Instead I am talking about the tendency that people have in online communities to behave without regard to polite accepted etiquette.

To start with, not everyone you meet via online networking really has mutually beneficial motivations. Some are just link collectors who want to raise their number of "friends" to astronomical highs. Others are takers, who want to have access to your network, but are not really planning on helping you should the opportunity arise. This is true of online connections as well as face-to-face relationships, but becomes more common-place when people are distant and masked by anonymity.

The real problems are that for some reason many individuals feel that they can hide behind their computer screen and write very mean-spirited, inflammatory and untrue (or partially true, but slanted to make a point) statements about any subject with which they feel passionate.


The issue here is that people tend to react quickly online and also enjoy stirring up the emotions of others. You see this a lot with the political topics, but these flaming blog posts and comments are also common in the business and other circles.

More than once I have seen people skew the truth to make a point on the blogosphere. I know that I have also been guilty of letting my passion for a topic take precedent over all else. The painful part of this is that then others on line pick up on the exaggerated or false statements... and post about them on their own blogs, Twitter, email lists or other media source. These who re-post take what they read as 100% factual, even though they have no knowledge of the actual story. They then add their opinions, comments and exaggerations without any regard to the facts. These small deviation becomes like the childhood game of "Telephone" where the story morphs and changes and has no resemblance to reality when it reaches the other side.


One argument that traditional journalists make about bloggers is that they do not have the checks and balances of an editor overseeing their writing. Now, we all know of the highly publicized examples of the traditional press making bad judgement calls and running stories to advance their causes.... but usually the editorial process does provide the good judgement to limit presenting emotionally charged opinions as fact.

Some bloggers argue that they have the power of the people and do not need the structure provided by an editor to advance the discussion of important topics. While sometimes this is true, we can all easily find examples of bloggers who do not report fairly, and this is dangerous. Very dangerous.


When emotions run wild, good people can get caught up in the excitement and the mob-rules mentality can take over. When this happens, common sense and judgment get sidelined and innocent people get hurt. Whenever I see people who love the emotions of a cause more than all else, I know in my heart that all bets are off on what they will say or do to make their point.

But one has to be careful to jump in when the mob has taken over, or you can be crucified. Recently I have been warned by other bloggers to stay out online discussions on heated topics because of the fear that other (more powerful online personalities) would retaliate. There are those who fear individuals in social online communities with large followings because they can use their power to bully others. Many feel that one's reputation can be crushed if the mob decides you are not in line. YIKES.


Most upsetting to me are the people who cheer on the bullies. It reminds me of the fight in the halls of a junior high.

There is no "fix"to this
dark side of social media, as by its own nature it is about the interaction and connections of people to people. There is no way to police these social communities, other than by the community itself having mutually agreed upon standards (which is tough to define, enforce or understand). Those who live on the internet often hate the thought of "rules", much less common courtesy.

Many of the worst offenders on the internet are the ones with the biggest audiences. They flame and defame anyone without any regret, and their sights continue to get more and more readers. This causes them to just say more outlandish statements and they embrace the "Shock Factor" and justify it by the amount of traffic it creates. And like a violent car accident, viewers continue to slow down to see the twisted heap of metal on the side of the road.

Just some thoughts. Social media is a force - "But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side of the Force, are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will... as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice." (Yoda to Luke Skywalker).

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Inbound Cold Calls...Do You Change Your Tune?

Lots of sales and marketing people (and their employers) want to know how to make better cold calls. Many debate the level of success that can come from smiling and dialing a stranger while trying to talk your way into an discussion about your services, but the truth is that when it works....BAMMMM!!! you can have a new client. Lets face it, we all love the "chance" of getting new clients, so we make the calls.

There is much out there (positive and negative) written about the effectiveness of cold calling in blogs, books, newletters, etc... I know, I have made many, many a cold-call over time. I don't "LIKE" doing it, but it is an expected part of the job when you have a quota.... and the process does sometimes lead to the opportunity to meet a prospect and begin a discussion.

While making a series of calls to prospective customers, I was reminded that companies who have sales teams (and want their sales people to sign up new clients) should instruct their employees on how to receive cold calls. I am sometimes appalled at how rude C-Level executives can be on the telephone when called by sales professionals. Meanwhile they have outbound sales teams who are calling their prospects. It is sort of a paradox: they want success for their own company, while treating those who call into their company with disdain.

I understand that C-Level executives are busy (heck, we are all busy), and most simply never answer their own phone to avoid solicitations. As I said in my previous post, there are people I meet who instantly think "* 3" upon meeting me in person. They do not even know why, but they have an instinctual calling to hit "delete" at the sound of my voice (because they have ignored so many of my voicemail messages!).

But not returning a call is very different from having an off-putting attitude when you are actually talking to someone. Sure, you cannot meet with every person who calls, but that does not mean that you have omnipotent knowledge about the product or service that the other person is offering. If you are going to answer your phone, you need to be prepared to talk to sales people. It is just a fact of life. Treating everyone with respect should go without saying.

Yet, many executives I know HATE the calls they get from salespeople, and take pride in avoiding, deleting or otherwise getting rid of people. The bad news is that by doing so they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

However, some people I know have great ways of dealing with inbound calls. One CEO (who asked to remain nameless) told me recently he has three questions that he asks all sales professionals who call him. He turns the theory of probing questions around on the sales person to decide if he will take the meeting:

1. What companies like mine are currently using your product or service?

By getting instant names of others he can make a more informed decision of if this might be of interest to his company. If a competitor's name is given he wants to look closer, as the thought of the competition having access to something he has never considered is just a dumb idea. It does not mean he will buy, but he wants to make sure that his buying decisions are educated decisions, not automatic "NO" because he has not taken the time to explore his options.

2. How long has your company been in business and how long have you worked for them?

Seniority has its privileges and companies that have been in business a long time with a good tenure of employees are doing something right. He likes to meet with people who have long careers with the companies they represent.

3. Can you meet at 6 AM?

He is a morning person who gets to his office at the crack of dawn. If someone has passion about their product or service you will find them up and ready to talk at any time. He says the same goes true for those who actively attend "after-hours" networking events. The slackers have all the excuses in the world why they only work 9-5, but those he wants to do business with will come out on a Sunday to meet him.

If someone meets all three criteria, they get an appointment. He claims to not be a good buyer, as he still says "NO" often, but that he has also uncovered amazing opportunities for his company because he is "open to the prospect of being someones prospect".

How about you.... are you open to inbound calls?

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's The Experience, Stupid

Sometimes you have to try new things to find higher levels of success. If you look around at the results you are getting and are not satisfied, why in the world would you just keep doing the same things. Shake it up a bit. Experiment with new ways to connect with others.

This is true in all areas of life, but sales and marketing people live this life of needing to try new things on a regular basis. The old ways of getting through to people do not always work, and you need to look for ways to stand out, be seen and buy space on their braincells.

When cold calling doesn't work, you need to network. When networking reaches all it can you need to market. Marketing can only take you so far (it is not magic), so you need to uncover other ways to be top of mind with clients, prospects and others. You and you company need to be an "experience". If you want to win, you don't get to slow down, or just do one thing. Think bigger.


I have done my share of cold calling in my career, and have had mixed results. Sometimes I think that making cold calls is just part of a personal branding campaign. Unless you catch someone at the exact time they need your product or service, they will not take your call and certainly will never call you back.


After I have lobbed in ten or more messages over months I am fairly confident that people know who I am. When I get the chance to meet them at a networking event or other occasion, they usually seem to have faint recognition, even if they can't figure out why. Of course the reason is they have heard me on their voicemail repetitively.

They seem to have a natural tendency to want to push "* 3" (delete) upon hearing my name.


But we need more of a relationship with potential clients than just leaving messages if we want to connect. Both parties need to have the sense of a mutually beneficial exchange.

I got the chance to sit next to Tim Hayden on a flight recently (by the way, Happy Anniversary to Tim and his wife, Halea, who were on vacation to celebrate seven years together!). Tim is the CEO of GamePlan Marketing and a national thought leader in the expanding Experiential Marketing industry.

Tim and his team work with businesses, large and small, to help foster interaction with customers in a more personal level. Marketing "AT" someone is old school and has limitations in today's very noisy world. However, creating shared customer experiences are what gets a company remembered.


I have known Tim for over two years, and always find conversations with him to fascinating. I was reminded in talking with him that success comes to those who are not in a copy-cat mode with their competition. Being a little edgy and creating an aura of excitement is the key to winning.

More and more companies are getting the message. You can see this in how corporations now communicate with customers, prospects, vendor and employees on and off the web.

It's all about the experience.

How do people feel about their experiences with you?

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Unexpected Podcast

In today's world of online social media we all need to be aware that big brother is watching and you never know when you could end up online and famous (or infamous). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but being aware that you are being watched, recorded and replayed is important.


A business associate recently sent me a link to a humours speech I gave at my Toastmasters Club that is now on YouTube. A club member had taken video of everyone's speeches at a club contest, but I had no idea that it would forever show up when you search "thom singer" on YouTube.


My friend Jeff (not his real name) works for a major national corporation with a sales force that numbers thousands of people. He is one of the top producers in the country, and continues to be working major deals in a small territory. His success is well documented inside his company and beyond.


Recently the company's training department decided to spend an hour with Jeff to pick his brain to uncover how he approaches his phenomenal business success, with the hopes of being able to impart his ways into training programs for his peers.


He spent over an hour of animated sharing all of his philosophies, pontifications, rants, raves, ideas, theories and experiences that have lead him to the top of the sales food chain in this huge organization.


Jeff thought that was the end of story until sales reps from all over the company began calling and emailing him with follow up questions from his "internal podcast".


PODCAST??? WHAT???? What podcast?


The executives from the training team had decided to record the call and were so impressed with his wisdom, that they made the call available to everyone in the company.


Jeff was on the one hand honored that the company felt so strongly about his words that they wanted all to hear. Yet, on the other hand he has not known that this discussion would be turned into a broadcast, and thus he allowed some of his language to cross the lines of what one might say in a formal business setting. The recording is full of amazing information, but one might say he voiced his vivid vocabulary vivaciously.


"Bullshit", "Shitload of Office Space", "Jesus Christ" "asshole", "bastards" and countless "damn's" and "shits" populated the widely listened to sales training podcast.


Fortunately, nobody in the company was offended by his lively terminology. In fact, his natural style made the program even more effective. If he had considered that thousands would have been listening, he might not have shared his stories in such an open manner.


I laughed for half the day after hearing this story (and listening to the podcast). I walked away with three lessons from this tale of the taping:


1. My friend Jeff is not just good at what he does, he is very insightful in how he dissects the business world. He understands the selling process and knows how to unleash success.


2. One never knows when their words might be being recorded, but you cannot always be on guard or you will sound canned. I would not have wanted Jeff to change his style, or it would not have been genuine. The lesson here is when you get caught saying "shit" or some other word, you just have to laugh. Nobody can be perfect and proper all the time, and if they are, they are usually boring. Jeff is never boring!


3. Even with a few cuss words, when one is being sincere and passionate, the heart shines through. These are the types of people we all want to listen to and learn from. Hey, there were no F-bombs tossed about!!!


Have A Great Day.


thom
www.thomsinger.com

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Austin Tech Industry Party to Support Randi Shade for Austin City Council, Place 3

If you work in or around the Austin Technology Industry, you need to mark you calendar for THIS Thursday, April 10th.

Don't miss a special “High Technology Industry” gathering to support tech industry veteran Randi Shade in her bid for Austin City Council, Place 3.

I have never gotten involved with a local campaign before… but Randi Shade is an above average candidate and a friend. She has experience in the public sector, non-profits and has run a business. Her unique experiences will make her a fabulous city council person!!!

This will be a fun event for you to come see many old friends (Randi has LOTS of supporters in the Technology World !!!), and unlike many political events, there is NOT a mandatory suggested donation at the door. Just come and have a good time and hear what Randi has to say about the future on Austin (although her campaign will gladly accept donations!!!).

This is a chance for the Austin Tech Community to come together and meet a candidate who will represent everyone!

Feel free to bring your friends and co-workers.

Also, we all know that very few people actually turn out to vote in our City Council elections….so in addition to supporting Randi…I encourage you to plan to show up at the polls on May 10th (or to vote during the Early Voting period) . She can only win if we all vote!!!

Host Committee for this Thursday's event:

Randy Baker

Bill Bock

Jeff Browning

Cybele Diamondopoplous

Aruni Gunasegaram

Kim Paschall Hughes

Heidi Johnson

Jack McDonald

Eugene Sepulveda

Thom Singer

Lynne Skinner

John Thornton

Steve Vandegrift

Don't miss this event!

Have A Great Day.

thom

Monday, April 07, 2008

You Get What You Pay For - The Problem With "Free" Internet Tools

I have blogged on The Some Assembly Required Blog for over three years. Many bloggers and other social media gurus have criticized me for being on the "Blogger" platform, as they seem to think that there are better outlets that one can utilize, however I have found the service to work for my needs. I can post, people can read, and life happily goes on every day.

Until last Friday. When I woke on Saturday I was reminded that you get what you pay for in life and blogs. You see, while Blogger.com has been great, it is a free service, and free services have limited access to any human customer service and support.

Late on Friday my blog was "Locked" by Blogger.com's electronic computer robots that patrol their system to limit "spam blogs". While my complaint is not that I was wrongly tagged as a suspected "spam blog" and prevented from posting, (I actually appreciate the fact that they are patrolling their system to eliminate abuse!), but I was saddened that there was no quick way to remedy this situation.

We live in a society that has come to expect instant gratification, and an email telling me that my request to be unlocked will be processed in two business days just seems wrong (especially on a Saturday morning). I wanted to talk to someone immediately.

Yikes, the facts were clear that it would be Tuesday before I could post again.

I tried to see if there was any way to contact a live person in customer service, but there was no manner for me to remedy this situation other than to wait. I did find a Blogger Help Group in "Google Groups" that appears to be monitored by live humans who work for the Google owned Blogger.com, but I was skeptical that this would speed me to a solution.

I began searching the web and found this is common for Blogger.com users to get locked out via a random spam inquiry. The scary part was when I discovered that many spend much more than 48 hours waiting to be reinstated. I could write posts and save them as a draft, but not actually communicate with the outside world through this blog until they decided to get around to a review. Three years ago that would not have mattered, but now my blog is part of my personal identity.

You see, the social media revolution that is taking place changes the way we behave, and many have come to expect all of these online social media / social networking tools to always be available to us, regardless of any other factors.

I started thinking...most of these sights that are so popular and pervasive in the lives of their users are also "free" sites. Since I pay nothing to Blogger.com, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the rest, do I really have any rights to expect them to be there for me every day when I wake up?

I wonder if those power users of Twitter would be relaxed if they woke and found that Evan Williams and his buddies just shut down the whole operation. Poooof. Gone. No more tweets. When the system currently experiences short technical interruptions, many go crazy and restless.

What if Mark Zuckerberg closed Facebook to pursue his professional speaking career? (I know, that was unfair). But if the company just shut down one day, they would take the away much from the users who are now socially hooked on their service.

And what if Blogger.com (or other blogging platform) locked you out from making posts on your blog. How would you feel?

I feel sad. Frustrated. Pissed that it is impossible to reach a real person via the Blogger.com site to expedite getting this issue solved. I also feel vulnerable that I have come to rely on these free social media tools as part of my life and that I am just one of millions of users who possess zero ability to garner their attention. Since I pay nothing, I am not sure that they would care if I started over and moved this blog to WordPress (who would also have the ability to shut me down on the whim of a computer algorithm).

Would we be willing to pay all of these sites just for guaranteed access to a live human beings when we have a problem on a Saturday morning? Some sites yes, some no.

I am a spoiled brat who has gotten very accustomed to 24 hours customer service. I am ashamed to write this paragraph, as I know that my grand-father was born with no electricity (my god, Al Gore had not yet been born, so no internet was invented!) in the 1800s. In fact, Grandpa was born on a farm where their mode of transportation was a covered wagon. I should just be grateful that I even have running water, much less a free blogging service!

I wrote this post at 7:15 AM on Saturday, April 5, 2008. I probably cannot post it until Wednesday based on what they have told me via the blogger website.... but it will be interesting to see how long it does actually take to get this resolved.

My opinion of Blogger will be higher if this is resolved sooner rather than later.

Have A Great Day

thom
www.thomsinger.com

YEAH......by 5 PM on MONDAY I had the ability to post again. I am very pleased with Blogger.com for this being resolved quickly. I am still sad and concerned about the lack of live customer service options, but I realize that you get what you pay for and Blogger.com is free.

I would like to praise the Google / Blogger employees for getting to this quickly and not letting me get lost in a sea of nothing-ness. I am concerned about how the world of free online social media tools leaves the user dependent - yet powerless. I had a lot of time to think about this and is does make me uneasy.

I would like to say "Boooooo" to the fact this had to happen at all, but I am not one who is quick to anger over situations like this. I am pleased that companies like Google are taking steps to limit abuse of their systems.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Happy Anniversary


Happy Anniversary to my lovely wife.

After 16 years she still likes me...most days.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

66 Tips For Better Networking - #67 - Always Give A Little More Than Expected

Route 66 - The Journey Toward Success

Always Give A Little More Than Expected

Whenever possible you should deliver something extra. Your clients, co-workers, friends and others expect you to do a good job. Doing good work is the minimum. It is your entrance fee for being in the game, but to really energize your career and achieve the highest levels of success, you need to produce something beyond expectations.

In the olden days when people used to visit bakeries (we now seem to only purchase mass produced breads and pastries at the supermarket) a customer would buy a dozen items and then find thirteen items in the box. The term "a baker's dozen" meant that when paying for twelve you would get thirteen. The baker appreciated his customers who purchased in bulk and would always toss in one extra.

I love the concept of "a baker's dozen". This saying was not born because bakers could not count, instead it is the proof that they understood the power in going the extra mile....and they did it consistently.

Successful people always look for ways to stand out from their competition. They do not get tired of discovering ways to "wow" their clients, and are invigorated when they have the chance to shine. Real leaders instinctively assist others and share 100% of themselves with everyone. They are never scared to expose their inner-self and they do this through how they serve those around them.

Do not simply provide the same level of service as everyone else, push yourself to go a little further. Surprise and delight your clients in ways they do not expect and you will always be remembered. Avoid being a commodity by your customized and calculated actions that crush the competition.

Thank you for reading the "66 Tips For Better Networking Series" on The Some Assembly Required Blog. I hope that you have enjoyed "the journey toward success" and that I have provided value.

Have A Great Day.

thom
www.thomsinger.com