Tuesday, March 30, 2010
David Ogilvy is one of the icons of advertising. He is also the quintessential salesperson.
He began his career in the 1930's in Scotland, selling stoves door-to-door. Ogilvy got his start in sales by persuading middle-class Scottish matrons to buy pricey Aga Cookers, during the midst of the Depression. His selling proficiency was such that Aga asked him to write a sales manual, which Fortune magazine called "probably the best sales manual ever written." Among its suggestions, "The more prospects you talk to, the more sales you expose yourself to, the more orders you will get. But never mistake quantity of calls for quality of salesmanship." [Here's a link to the manual.]
Soon enough he gravitated to Madison Avenue, where he founded Ogilvy & Mather. His firm was predicated on the belief that the function of advertising was to sell, and that successful advertising for any product is based upon information about its consumer. When David Ogilvy retired in 1973, he was known as "the Father of Advertising."
In a brilliant attention-grabbing maneuver, OgilvyOne Worldwide (the modern-day version of David Ogilvy's original firm) has created a contest that celebrates selling, entitled, "The Search for the World's Greatest Salesperson." The premise of the contest is straightforward. To create a level playing field, all contestants must submit a YouTube presentation/performance that sells just one thing...one red brick.
No sales experience is required to enter. The winner will be awarded a three-month fellowship at OgilvyOne, where they will help write a guide to selling in the 21st century. Contest deadline is May 16th, 2010.
It is interesting to hear the executives at Ogilvy describe the factors whereby they created this contest. Says Rory Sutherland, vice chairman at Ogilvy & Mather, "There's an interesting case to be made that advertising has strayed too far from the business of salesmanship, which is unfortunate because it can be a good test of how well you understand people and your creativity."
Parallels to Financial Services
As one who has been in the financial services business for 29 years now (Yikes!), it has been intriguing to witness the growing de-emphasis on the role of "sales" in our profession. In the '70's and '80's, during the era of stockbrokers buying-and-selling, full-on salesmanship was a recognized skill set. As the transactional nature of our business has yielded to a more holistic wealth advisory model, the role of sales has become less clear. Indeed, most financial advisors today would recoil at being described as "just a salesperson."
Nonetheless, if one considers selling to be a "systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, by which a salesman relates his or her service and product in return enabling the buyer to achieve their goal in an economic way*," it is hard to deny that selling is not a significant success component of today's wealth advisory practice.
* Greening, Jack (1993) Selling Without Confrontation
by Chris Holman
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Youngme Moon is a well-regarded, and highly popular, professor of marketing at the Harvard Business School, and has been on the HBS faculty since 1998. She received her Bachelor's Degree from Yale, and her MA and Ph.D. from Stanford.
In her first years of teaching at Harvard, Dr. Moon found comfort in conformity. She taught what she was supposed to teach. She did the kind of research that was expected of her. She published in the scholarly journals, and wrote for the Harvard Business Review. By her own reckoning, she did not take a lot of risks.
She found this whole persona to be a sham and a facade...as well as terribly frustrating. Her carefully cultivated public persona was not who she really was. Over time, she made the determination to evolve in a direction that was more authentic. She began saying what she wanted to say. She began writing what she wanted to write. In her classroom, she began speaking in her own voice.
Guess what? Her students began responding to her with a new passion. Her colleagues began treating her with a new regard and respect. Her research began taking on a new dimension. In her words, "The amazing thing about authenticity is that once you commit to it, it becomes by nature effortless to pull off."
But the thing I really want to tell you about is her really engaging vimeo, "The Anti-Creativity Checklist"...which looks to be all of the lessons that she has learned in the blood-sport of academia...told with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
For those of you who don't have 5 minutes, here is her tongue-in-cheek list of 14 things "guaranteed to stifle creativity and innovation."
- Play it safe.
- Know your limitations.
- Remind yourself: It's just a job.
- Be skeptical. Show you're the smartest guy in the room.
- Demand to see the data.
- Respect history. Always give the past the benefit of the doubt.
- Crush early ideas.
- Been there, done that. Use experience as a weapon.
- Keep your eyes closed. Your mind too.
- Assume there is no problem.
- Underestimate your customers.
- Be a mentor. [Actually, I don't know what she means by this one.]
- Be suspicious of the "creatives" in your organization.
- When all else fails, act like a grown-up.
By the way, in April, Dr. Moon publishes her first book, entitled "Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd." Looks like a great read!
by Chris Holman
Monday, March 15, 2010
Mark Twain once said, "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, then success is sure."
Although Mark Twain said many wise things over the course of his life, this was not one of them. There's a growing body of evidence that, investing-wise, over-confidence in men causes them to be inferior investors to women.
- A recent Vanguard study shows that during the 2008-2009 market debacle, men were more likely to sell at the market bottom.
- In a study by the behavioral economist Terence Odean, men traded stocks nearly 50% more than women...reducing investment returns by 265 basis points annually.
- In the same Vanguard study women are more risk-averse than men. In portfolio selection, they much prefer bonds (i.e. fixed income not James).
- In a study of mergers and acquisitions, female CEOs were less likely to overpay for acquired companies in corporate takeovers.
Women did not respond much to the same pics.
By the way, for further discussion on this intriguing topic, see this article from the NY Times.
Research continues to seek a possible explanation for these differences. One possible theory might be found in evolutionary psychology where our prehistoric male ancestors may have had an advantage in finding mates with their aggressive risk-taking. Ugh!
Regarding the Mark Twain quote about confidence, Twain was a legendarily bad investor. Over a period of 11 years he went bankrupt by investing in the Paige Compositor, an automatic typesetting machine. He invested more than $8 million (in today's dollars) in the new invention...that never came to market due to the inventor's obsessiveness.
by Chris Holman
Thursday, March 4, 2010
It's not your imagination. The recent Chilean earthquake shifted the Earth's axis by three inches. In fact, this change in the Earth's mass has sped up our planet's rotation. Our days are now shorter by 1.26 millionth of a second as a result.
Don't worry. Daylight savings time returns March 14th. That should help for a bit.
Speaking of shorter days, really good article in the March edition of Entrepreneur, entitled, "Email is Making You Stupid."
• According to Basex, an IT research and consulting firm...the average worker loses 2.1 hours of productivity each day due to interruptions and distractions.
• The typical office employee checks their email 50 times daily, and uses instant messaging 77 times, according to RescueTime, a firm that develops time management software.
• With Facebook and Twitter exacerbating the issue, email use is projected to grow by 66% per year, says the E-Policy Institute.
Multi-Tasking is Neither
This loss of productivity all relates to the myth of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is a fiction. Our brains can't work that way. Although some of us may be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, none of us can do 2 or more thinking tasks simultaneously. What is really happening is that our brain toggles back-and-forth between activities. Some of us can toggle really quickly. Most of us can't. None of us can think about two different things at the exact same time.
The author of the article has some good, helpful tips to reduce E-mail Addiction and Overload:
• Turn off all visual and sound alerts that announce new mail.
• Check e-mail two to four times a day at designated times and never more often than every 45 minutes.
• Respond immediately only to urgent issues. Just because a message can be delivered instantly does not mean you must reply instantly.
• Severely restrict use of the reply-all function.
• Put "no reply necessary" in the subject line when you can. No one knows when an e-conversation is over without an explicit signal.
• Resist your reply reflex. Don't send e-mails that say "Got it" or "Thanks."
• Use automatic out-of-office messages to carve out focused work time, such as: "I'm on deadline with a project and will be back online after 4 p.m."
I would add one thing. If you begin to institute some, or all, of these tips...you should notify your colleagues and clients about the change. Most will wholeheartedly support you. Some needy-types won't get it. But, at the least you have adjusted their expectations.
by Chris Holman
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
It's good to be Google. Better yet, it's good to be part of charmed Google alumni who lived through Google's seminal growth period.
Chris Sacca lives in Truckee, CA...a funky, hip former-mining town close to Lake Tahoe, just off of route 80 in the Sierra Nevadas. Most mornings he hikes/snowshoes before breakfast. Every few weeks he makes the 4-5 hour commute to San Francisco, where he checks in with his companies.
Today, Chris Sacca is one of the 40 ex-Googlers who have invested in 200 companies since 2005. As a fresh-faced Georgetown law school grad, Sacca joined Google in 2003. As head of Special Initiatives at Google, Sacca was on the front-lines in seeing all inbound business proposals. Each day, he saw 50-70 new ideas.
Sacca left Google in 2007, and struck out on his own. In 2007, he was one of the first investors in Twitter, chipping in $50,000. He's done more than two dozen other deals, including FanBridge, a NYC-based company that makes software that helps musicians manage marketing and relationships with their fans.
In December of 2008, late one Friday night, Sacca sent out a Tweet asking if there were any "bootstrapped" and profitable start-ups working late on Friday night. Soon someone responded, "We're FanBridge, and we work late every Friday night." A few weeks later, Sacca flew to New York to meet the FanBridge founders. Within months, Sacca invested $50,000 in FanBridge...as well as pulling in hundreds of thousands from other VC buddies. Today, FanBridge serves 55 million music fans.
Once a year, Sacca joins a regular event hosted by another ex-Googler, Aydin Senkut. Since departing Google in 2005, Senkut has invested between $25,000 and $150,000 each...in 60 different start-ups. Each year, Senkut organizes a gathering for ex-Googlers, VC angels and entrepreneurs at spots like the Calafia Cafe in Palo Alto, CA...which is owned by Google's first in-house chef. Main topics of conversation at this gathering: tech trends and how to get rich(er).
For more info on these modern day Medicis, check out this BusinessWeek article, "And Google Begat".
Question: If you were are a financial advisor, how would you serve someone like Chris Sacca or Aydin Senkut? How would you meet them? What would you say to someone who sees 50 new pitches each day?
For more on Chris Sacca, join him on Twitter. For ideas on how to pitch him, go here! To contact Chris, go here!
Cheers! Good luck!
by Chris Holman