The first rule of sales is “Know Thy Audience.” Anyone who deals with sales and marketing probably knows at least a little about the various generations living today. For business purposes, there are currently six generations or audiences alive today. The frugal Silent Generation, born from 1929 to 1945 and now in their 70s and 80s, grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. The free-spirited Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964), who grew up during the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War, are now beginning to retire and are redefining what that means. The GenXers or Boomlets (born 1965 to 1981) were the latch key kids who grew up during the race to Space and the Vietnam War. Theirs was the first generation to transition from an analog to a digital world. Generation Y — the now much discussed Millennials (born between 1982 and 1999) — were the first generation to grow up as technology natives and watched terrorism become a global threat. They are currently the biggest generation living. But there are two more generations emerging. Meet the iGens and the Alphas.
The iGeneration, also known as Generation Z or Post-Millennials, are those born after 2000 who are not just technology natives but also social media natives. This generation is comprised of those born roughly between 2000 and 2012. The oldest of this generation are about to become adults and the youngest are in Kindergaarten. While most iGens haven’t begun to work yet, they benefit a lot from and have access to their parents’ considerable spending power. And right on the heels of Generation Z, the next generation is already emerging. Dubbed the Alpha Generation, they are comprised of today’s babies and preschoolers. Most haven’t even been born yet. While this generation has absolutely no buying power and has hardly had time to be shaped or affected by the world around them, some things can already be gleaned about them. Here’s more about the two newest generations that will be shaping our collective future. Continue reading
Hiring managers often claim to prefer employees with the right character traits and organizational fit over those with the right education, training, skills and experience. They want people with a positive attitude, drive and passion. But what they are really looking for are people who exude confidence. Finding a highly confident employee is viewed like striking gold! Why? Confident people are seen as being self-assured, reliable, assertive, positive, dependable and steady. Confident people also tend to be charismatic, extroverted, and have strong social skills. In most cultures, these are highly desirable qualities. Also, in practically every culture — but especially in the technologically-advanced, developed world – confidence is equated with competence. We automatically assume that confident people are able, skilled and talented.
On the surface, this sounds right. Who doesn’t want to hire a confident go-getter!? However, this is the epitome of judging a book by its cover. Managers often hire people based on confidence rather than on their actual ability to do the job. That’s because employers commonly confuse confidence for competence. In fact, they even sound alike. This is especially true when filling leadership positions. Unfortunately, confidence is the pyrite — or Fools Gold — of leadership traits. On the surface, confidence looks like competence… attractive and desirable. Employers trick themselves into believing that confident people make competent leaders… and that confidence is better than modesty, especially in a leader. The manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential. In reality, confident people are often not competent at all. Why is that? And, if that’s so, how can companies learn to distinguish between cotton-candy confidence and real competence? Continue reading
Imagine that a company or business is like a boat and the boat has a destination… the port of profitability and growth. On the left side of the boat are the Marketing oars. On the right side of the boat are its Sales oars. If only the left oars are rowing, the boat will go around in circles, clockwise. And if only the right oars are rowing, the boat will go in counter-clockwise circles. Even if both sets of oars are rowing, but not in tandem, the boat will not move in the intended direction very swiftly. But if both sets of oars row in tandem, the boat will move forward. If guided by someone who knows the destination, it will move toward that spot. And the faster and more efficiently they row in tandem, the more swiftly it will get to its destination. The process of getting all the oars to row in tandem, efficiently and effectively, to a particular designation is management. Getting there faster than the competition is good management. And leadership is the wind in the sails of the vessel, which can help propel it even farther and faster. If the leadership is strong and steady, the work of the sales and marketing teams is made easier, and everything glides forward quickly.
Great leaders make the difference between an average performance and an extraordinary one. Today’s leaders do many things, including coaching, mentoring, counseling and, of course, managing. Employees today expect people in leadership roles to be willing to roll their sleeves up and keep managing and facilitating. In practical terms, what does good management look like today? It is more than just someone telling someone else what to do. Continue reading
Much has been studied, researched, written and taught about leadership. There are even entire doctoral programs in leadership at prestigious universities. That’s because, arguably, good leadership allows companies to succeed when they might have otherwise failed. And great leadership pushes companies to rise above an ocean of mediocre ones. That is why the most successful investors — think George Soros and Warren Buffet, who achieved annual excess returns 15% over the S&P for over 30+ years — spend an inordinate amount of time every day studying not only a company’s financials but also the skills and track records of the leadership at those companies. Companies with the most innovative products can still fail to thrive without well-developed leadership. To state the obvious, leadership really matters.
Also, great leadership skills are not just essential for Presidents and C-Suite executives. Great leadership is invaluable for those directing divisions, departments, teams and projects. That’s because leaders are responsible for managing finite resources as well as planning and executing direction and action. In particular, one of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to help employees develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. That is called coaching and it is a key facet of leadership. So exactly what is coaching and what makes a great coach? And is there a difference between coaching and other things leaders commonly do such as managing, mentoring, teaching and counseling? Continue reading
Rabbi Avigdor Miller once marveled at the notion that “two gases [hydrogen and oxygen] — neither of which can quench thirst – can be united into a clear and sparkling liquid which pours down one’s throat in a life-giving stream.” He added that “No liquid in the world can take the place of water for relief of thirst. This fluid is the most potent of all elixirs, although its availability and its inexpensiveness cause it to be overlooked. It is the universal solvent and the vehicle of digestion and of blood circulation. If water could be obtained only from the pharmacist, it would be the most costly of liquors, both for its vital properties and for its enjoyment.” And yet, most likely very few in the U.S. open a faucet and marvel as water pours out… precisely because it is so abundant and available.
Yet, in places like Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and even places in the U.S. such as Flint, Michigan and drought-affected parts of California, water is very scarce and the cost (and value) of water has skyrocketed. In such places, people have a genuine and profound appreciation for clean drinking water. That’s because the value of everything is deeply affected by abundance or scarcity, whether the item is essential for life or not. In the U.S., the abundance of water has caused the value of “this most potent of all elixirs” to be mostly taken for granted. On the other hand, other commodities that are not essential to life – such as diamonds, gold, rhodium, platinum, plutonium, taaffeite, tritium, painite, californium – are highly valued because of their scarcity, even if they have no life-giving properties. This value is subjective. This is known as commodity theory, and it is something that every entrepreneur, business leader, and sales professional should understand thoroughly. This is where the laws of economics and the actions of sales and marketing professionals meet. Continue reading