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Does 10,000 Hours Make the Best Businessman?

July 9, 2010 2 comments

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he talks about the rule of 10,000 hours. He cites researchers agreement that “10,000 hours of practice is the optimum time needed to gain expertise”. He goes on to demonstrate in a myriad of industries that all experts in a field have a minimum of 10,000 hours working or practicing in that field. He cites The Beatles, violin players, Bill Gates and software programming, and numerous other examples.

He does not, however, tie this into any sales, marketing, or other businessmen. Does this ‘rule’ hold true when applied to business? If yes, it would certainly show that “experience” is the #1 factor in determining job hires an success rates; but we know experience is not the #1 factor. I believe that the 10,000 rule can translate to business, however past the point of 10K hours, there is likely little difference in someone who has worked 100K hours vs. 50K hours. At that point, it would be more about innate ability and ambition.

In going back to Gladwell’s book, his examples all talk about “practice”. The Beatles “played” for 10K hours, Bill Gates “coded” for 10K hours…so I’m wondering, how do we “do” 10K hours of business? Does this mean 10K hours of work in 1 area? 10K hours of work researching? I look at myself and executives tell me my ‘best’ skillset is sales. Well, I started to sell when I was 18 and had my own business in college; is that why I’m more successful now than the majority of people my age? Did I hit that 10K hour mark sooner?

I’m not sure about me; but I am sure that I would like to figure out how to go about getting 10,000 hours in each business area – so this will be my next conquest.

10 Days in Europe: No “Work”, But Much To Learn – Any Suggestions?

April 29, 2010 7 comments

I leave today for Europe for 10 days. No sales, no marketing, no business. Ok, who am I kidding? I will definitely be on the computer a couple times the first few days I’m in Barcelona and on the 11 hour flight, but WILL NOT be on during the Mediterranean cruise.

I’ve realized over the past several months that it’s not only “work” or “driving revenue” that I love, but more so, it’s learning. Learning different ways to work with people, different ways to make money, creative / outside of the box / innovative ways to market on the internet that has not been done before.

I take this zest for learning and bring it with me to Europe. I’m certainly interested in the history, the sites, and the cultures. While I’ve been before, that was 8 years ago and I’m guessing my view will be a bit different now.

I look forward to immersing myself in the culture to really ‘see’ how the global marketplace responds to different types of online advertising. I’m interested to hear how many folks in different areas are using social networks. I’m looking forward to bringing back new / different ideas that I pick up that have not yet been executed on in the United States.

I’ll be in Madrid, Barcelona, Sorrento / Naples, Rome, FLorence, Nice, Cannes, and Monte Carlo.

If anyone has suggestions for sights, I’m all ears…if anyone has suggestions for areas I can learn about the culture and possibly the global economy, I’m all ears. Please feel free to comment or shoot me an email.

Consultants; Why Some Make it…and some CRASH

April 19, 2010 10 comments

When I stopped working FT a few months ago, I wasn’t sure what direction I was going. Three schools of thought: 1) Start my own company. 2) Be a consultant 3) Get another job.

I knew I didn’t want another FT job (at least not right away) as I’m a ‘start up ‘ junkie. I like to build businesses, departments, strategies, and ideas…and then take from conception to “LIVE”; and make them profitable. So that left me with either my own business or consulting. I realized, the two did not need be mutually exclusive. So, while building a business plan, I’ve been consulting and contracting. As higher education, specifically online higher education, is an incestuous industry; as soon as word got out, the phone calls and requests came in. It seemed that this would be easier than I thought – at first.

I quickly realized that to be successful in consulting, to be referred, and to work with numerous clients, it would take a lot more than a great past track record. It would take patience (something I don’t have much of), discipline to NOT take every job offered, and more so, this was yet another great experience where I was learning to ‘check my ego at the door’. In return, and the reason I love consulting, I was learning just as much from clients as they were learning from me. I quickly took the revenue driving sales and marketing strategies I had employed in higher ed and took them across numerous verticals.

So, why do some consultants make it? Why are there some of us that get repeat business while others may spend weeks or months marketing themselves and get nothing? Very simple answer: PAY PER PERFORMANCE CONSULTING.

So how does that work? Well, it depends on what you’re consulting on. However – there is one thing we can agree on: companies would rather YOU take the risk than them. We can also agree that if a consultant came to me and said, “I’m so confident in the strategy I lay out for you that you only have to pay me if I execute on it and execute well enough to hit the revenue goals you have set forth”. Why would a company EVER say NO? I know I wouldn’t. There are, however, many of us, that do need that “month to month” paycheck. You can look at this in 2 ways: 1) You can map out your beginning projects as if you are in a start up company. So, you map out your consulting KNOWING you will be “in the red” for 3 months; or until your projects start ‘making you money’. Who better to make an investment in than yourself? 2) You can charge a ‘small’ up front fee…maybe “min. wage” per hour…and get most of your money on the back end while still having money to live on the front end. Every project or consulting assignment is different, however by being paid on performance, you are not only showing your confidence, you are also ensuring yourself you will not take on anything you cannot handle OR if you do choose to take on something you cannot handle, you will make certain that you partner up with one of the best in the industry to learn.

It’s very simple in sales / marketing to set goals and only be paid if the goals are obtained, but what about other industries that have a large number of consultants or companies vying for the same business. Broken down below are 5 areas where I see a lot of consulting and how you can structure your pay on a performance basis.

1. Web Design / Development
– May be held accountable for a) web stats b) number of sales on site c) stickiness of site

2. Free lance copyrighting
– May be held accountable for a) Amount of time user spends on page b) Drop off rate c) CTR

3. Career Coaching
– May be held accountable to getting someone the job they can succeed and prosper in

4. SEO mapping / content development
– May be held accountable to page rank in “x” amount of time

I know there are many more, but these are ones I see the most often on the networks that I am on. As with anything else; if you need work, you need to take some risk. If you’re good, you’ll be rewarded. Consulting models such as this are good ol’ capitalism at its finest.

Why START UP companies are KEY to Work For!

April 13, 2010 8 comments

Two things I look for in every company I work with:

1. Do they executives believe in continuous learning as well as personal / professional growth AND will they aide you in your journey…
2. Is their business model, or product, something new, innovative, and / or something that the market has not seen before.

If the answer to these two questions is not “YES”, than I know this start up business is not for me. However, if the answer IS “yes”, I know that I will do anything in my power to work with, and learn from, these individuals. Even if it means working for free for a while; just to prove myself.

When I was 22 yrs old, I began working at Kaplan University, online higher education giant. However when I entered the working world, Kaplan University was called “Kaplan College”; they only offered 4 degree programs (now offer over 100 if we include specializations); and more importantly, only had 60 admissions advisors or ‘sales reps’. While it wasn’t a “pure” start up in the sense of the word, it did grow immensely over the next two years and when I moved to a ‘real’ start up, had over 1500 admissions advisors, and had grown the student base over 1000%. It was a rush to be a part of. We purchased new buildings, there was a lot of room for advancement and learning. We had access to the C level business executives, ideas were listened to; and while sure – there were bumps along the road, it was still fun to come to work everyday. Not only were we doing jobs we believed in, but there was always something “new” and “innovative” to look forward to.

About five years ago, original owner and SVP of Sales and Marketing for Kaplan University, Richard Capezzali, developed a business concept with a young man named Todd Zipper. They wanted to prove that they could execute on numerous strategies that had never been ‘done’ before. The two innovators founded Education Connection, which was at first a lead generation company, and became the first lead generation company to 1) Be agnostic 2) Develop commercials – not school specific, for themselves, 3) Develop a lead that converts at over 10% 4) Build out an advising call center. I basically stalked Richard and Todd until they brought me on as their ‘first’ employee. I was in heaven. I was working with two men; one – an expert in education sales and marketing and the other – an Ivy league MBA who taught me operations, finance, etc. and both believed that it was POSSIBLE to make the impossible possible. I learned more over the four years with these men than I could have in any MBA program.

After four years with Education Connection, my husband and I were recruited to another start up higher education company out in Dallas. While the answers to the questions above were “Yes” and the interviews were fantastic, there was a difference in this company, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it. As soon as I came aboard, I was back in the “start up” mode; building and executing quickly, driving revenue, and having fun doing what I love to do: build businesses. What I realized while I was working for this company was that although they were a ‘start up’ company in that the idea was new, we were just reaching profitability, etc. all of the C level executives or business partners had worked together for 15 years. And in that 15 years, they had already developed a culture; one that was unlike a “typical” start up business; it was more like a 10 year old corporation. Not for me. That being said, because I believed (and still do) strongly believe in the mission, I stayed onboard and did what I do best: drive revenue and cut costs…

Until a few months ago.

For the past few months, I’ve been consulting with numerous marketing and education companies. Some are start ups, some are trying to devise new revenue streams, some I’m working with to build out new products…but here is what I know. I love consulting. Every ‘project’ is basically a small start up company AND I get to choose who I work with. If I don’t like a project, I “just say no” and move to the next. I’m only working with companies I believe in, working with people who are innovators and allow me to be innovative, and I’m building my skill set with every project I take on.

The first three companies I worked for, while only over a seven year time span, all played integral parts in allowing me to do what I’m doing now.

So, for those of you who are going to be out of college soon, looking for internships, a career path, a job, etc. my advice to you is to look for a start up company. You will learn and blossom quickly and it will give you the skills you need to go anywhere. You will be adaptable, wear many different hats, and know what a true “team” environment is. There are several solid sites you can check out, a great one being Start Up Digest, that will send you jobs from all over the world with start ups.

Be innovative. Work for a start up.

Does a Director of Admissions Need to Have PHONE Experience?

April 8, 2010 1 comment

I am reposting this entry as I received interesting feedback the last time it was posted. Making a slight tweak here and there, but content remains the same.

Higher education companies – I plead you to listen; When you hire anyone who will make decisions regarding marketing and sales, anyone who can effect the revenue of your business – get them on the phones! Every manager needs to go through admissions or enrollment services (sales) training! To be a great marketer is to KNOW your audience. To be a great marketer or businessman in the higher education industry, you first must be able to SELL education. Selling education is not the same thing as selling a stock or selling a credit card. It’s not an impulse buy or a quick sale. Selling education is selling a prospect on graduating and finishing their degree. Selling education is finding a person’s dream and then helping the potential student come to the conclusion that the only way to achieve their dream is through education. How on earth can someone manage, train, or market this if they’ve never done it? It’s a process, a long sale; sometimes a 45 minute conversation; but it’s the psychology behind the sale that every manager needs to learn. Mark my words; a “good” marketer can get away with not having been on the phones and not knowing their consumers…a great marketer – one whose goal is not only to have a low CPE, but more importantly, a high graduation rate and high net tuition revenue – will understand the psychology behind the student and will know their consumer. The best marketers in the higher education industry are those who have a thorough understanding of the sales pitch and process as well as the retention model. The more a marketer knows about every aspect of the business, the more successful they will be. AND if the marketer does not want to get on the phones, get down in the ditches, and “get their hands dirty”, they likely have too big of an ego to be successful regardless!

Over the Edge

April 8, 2010 1 comment

I woke up this morning to read a great blog post that hit home for me.

Ty Unglebower, a writer, actor, radio host, movie lover, and recent ‘connection’ blogs about the difference in Passion and Obsession.

This leads to me ask the question, “how does one know they’ve gone over the edge?”. I ask that because I was there and I hope this posting helps others to STOP before they become obsessed. Being a natural extremist, working in a booming industry like higher education, and working in a revenue driving sales and marketing position sounds like a dream to anyone in sales who would like to make money. But, when does that ‘dream’ become your life?

People talk about addictions; drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gambiling, sex…but i’ve never heard of a group called “workers anonymous”. I contend that people can become as addicted to their career as anything else. The science behind addiction says the reason people become addicted is because they feel a “high”; just as anyone in sales and marketing knows – right after closing a deal, you feel a “high” as well. We know that drugs and alcohol elicit 2-10 times more dopamine in the brain than normal (dopamine makes you happy); hence people getting addicted…gamblers, for example, have the same reaction when they win a bet; the dopamine takes over and they feel a ‘high’; working, especially in sales, can elicit the same response.

5 things I should have recognized but didn’t…and went over the edge.

1. Waking up in the middle of the night and immediately getting on the computer.
2. Refusing to take vacation time
3. Forgetting to eat or only eating at the office
4. Mood is always dependent on how work day went
5. Prioritizing work before family and friends

If you experience any of this, pull back now. I don’t regret my decisions in that I love the life I lead now, but I do wish I had been more aware at the time so I could have made a conscious decision how I wanted to live my life versus letting the business dictate how I would live my life.

Personal Branding – Real or Fake?

April 6, 2010 21 comments

When I first watched Gary Vaynerchuk video on TED, I thought to myself, “hell yea – there’s a guy that keeps it real”.

Since that time, I have studied many of the ‘personal brand’ gurus, most of whom you know: Dan Schawbel, Mashable, Chris Brogan, and then another 30 or 40 you probably don’t.

The 3 above, I’m impressed with – they are clearly marketers, learners, and connectors; but with many people now, I’ve thought to myself, “Seriously? There is no way you really believe and act on that”.

So I’ve started to question whether the ‘personal brand trend’ is people being real or people cashing in on being something they think others WANT them to be; in a sense, people have become actors. Many of these individuals promote themselves, but I want to look at them and ask for the “old fashioned” resume. This is business. I’m glad you can sell yourself; you’re obviously creative, you know about social media, connecting, and can certainly be a good ‘sales person’….but what else have you done? How many billions in revenue have you brought to a company? How many people have you managed? Moreso, does it take a business minded person to excel in the social media world and vice versa – because someone excels in social media, does this mean they’ll excel at business? Or does it just take a lot of hard work? connecting? content development?

My number one question is; how do you know what these people are saying is ‘real’?

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