Friday, March 27, 2009

How Not to Sell

Part of my duties as a secret agent, um, er, I mean, Senior Marketing to manage Inside Sales. Since we are a B2B (business-to-business) market, we are a higher caliber than the typical telemarketer, but the "smiling and dialing" aspect of the job remains. Between calls and e-mails, we wear down the prospects in hopes they will buy from us. The art of the sale is the persistence and method we go about to do it. Once there is engagement, closing becomes much easier.

I've also been in sales before so I understand the nuances around being prepared and briefed when going after a customer. As a manager, I drill that into the squad that we never make a contact without first doing our research on the company so we walk into the situation looking like a rock star. Having this intel on my side, I've become the last person you want to call if you are selling me something.

Last week I was given a Web site to check out that provides a service to aid our Outside Sales team. (I also provide Marketing support for the entire Sales team) The site was rather clunky (I'm a Web site snob since I've worked in technology for years) and I had a hard time figuring out how to get information. I decided to sign up for a webinar on their service and start there. Within a few hours I received an e-mail from a representative indicating he was glad I was referred to them and to check out the attachment for their other clients. Huh? First, I never indicated I was referred to them. Second, there was no attachment. I immediately replied and inquired about the attachment.

Within minutes of sending the e-mail, I get a phone call. It's Art, the guy who replied to my e-mail. The conversation went something like this....

Art: "Hi Rose, I got your reply and wanted to see if you'd like to view a demo of our service."
Rose: "Um, well, I signed up for a webinar to check you out first. My e-mail really was to let you know I didn't get the attachment."
Art: "Oh those webinars aren't for prospects. (Ok, then why is it on your site??) And, that was old e-mail copy...we don't send that list anymore." (Good proofreading)
Rose: "Hmm, ok, well, your Web site is rather confusing to figure out...not to mention it's a bit "1992" if I can be so bold."
Art: "HaHa (obligatory laugh), well some folks think it's more 1994. (Bad joke, Art, keep your day job). So, can we go through that demo now?"
Rose: "Well, first, Art, what do you know about my company? you know what we do?"
Art: "Your e-mail signature was very informative." (What?!?! My title, phone, e-mail and company Web site address gave you all the info needed? Obviously he had no clue what we did) Are you ready to take a look at a demo?"
Rose: "Art, I'm about ten minutes from heading into a meeting. And, I'd like to schedule a specific time so my VP of Sales can sit in on the demo too. Can you e-mail me times that are good and we'll set something up?" (Even with my trying attitude, I do provide grace...he needs a sale...probably more than most)
Art: "Sure thing"

Art immediately began following my company on Twitter (that was included in my oh-so-informative e-mail signature) and sent me an e-mail. I responded with the dates we were free and asked for a specific time. No response.

This Wednesday, good ole Art called back....
Art: "Hi Rose. Is this a good time for a demo?"
Rose: "Um, I was waiting for your reply to confirm a time. Plus, I need to loop my VP of Sales in on the demo and he is at another location."
Art: "Hmm, well I never got your e-mail, or if I did, I deleted it. Can you send me an e-mail reminder?" (Now I'm his personal assistant)
Rose: "Do you still have my e-mail in your database? Just send me an e-mail and I'll reply."
Art: "Ok, will do."

He did. I replied. No response. I'm guessing next Wednesday I'll get another call. Sigh. I'm amazed he sells anything. I really am a very sweet person...just sometimes my alter ego, Ruth, comes out when I encounter completely clueless people. Art, I'm trying to buy from you... make it easy, man.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Musings for the Week - Running the Race, Falling in Love and Watching a Miracle

1. This weekend is our annual women's conference at my church. Our theme this year is "The Amazing Race" based on Phillipians 2. I am so blessed to have the privilege to serve some of the most wonderful women on the planet at Ninth & O Baptist Church. This year's conference speaker is our very own, Heather Payne, former member of Point of Grace. She recently retired from the group and her testimony about that is enough to fill a weekend. Our worship leader is a former church member, Julie Largent. Her and her husband, Gibson, serve at a church plant in Philadelphia now and we are so thankful we get to snatch her away for a weekend. Our church has seen some odd things over the past few weeks...things that indicate to us that we are on the brink of something amazing. I look forward to watching what amazing things come out of our running of the race this weekend.

2. I'm the Twitter-er for my company's corporate profile. I don't know that I'm a social media expert, but I do dig it. And think that the leaders of tomorrow are being raised on Facebook and Twitter today, which should reshape the way we communicate in business in ten years. One of my VPs did a blog post for our company's site and gave me a shout out...I love to see my name in lights. He's not as passionate about this Twitter phenomenon (or shall I say, as "Twitter-paited") as I am, but poses some very good observations in his article. For all the love of social networking I have, the face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication needs to be restored to a level of importance again. Or I fear our next generation will not just be Twitter-ers, but simply, twits.

3. Last week, my friend, Julie, told her boys about me. She and her husband, Rod, are in the military and will be moving back home to Kentucky next year. I graduated high school with Julie and Rod and cherish the friendship that has endured all this time. Her youngest, Clayton, when hearing of me asked, "Do you think she would like me?" The dripping sound you hear is my heart melting. During a phone call with Julie last week, Clayton got on the line. He has three heroes....Jesus, Jim Henson, and Walt Disney. We talked for 20-30 minutes about his puppets and all the cartoons he's made. By the time his Daddy got him off the phone to head to bed, I was smitten and ready to take him to FAO Schwartz and buy him a WhatNot Muppet. Yes, I'm in love...with a sweet little boy named Clayton. As we were talking, I had this surreal moment....who would of thought while Julie, Rod and I were yucking it up on newspaper staff in high school that one day I'd be talking to a product of their love. Those kinds of things just give me goose bumps.

4. I'm now less than a month away from the infamous tax date - April 15. Have I done my taxes? No. Am I motivated to do my taxes? No. Am I stressing about getting them done? Yes. I'm much to cheap, um, er, frugal to have someone do them for me and then reduce the amount of refund I'll get. But it's sunny and 65 degrees today and ten thousand more exciting things to do than my taxes. The clock is ticking....

5. I have watched a miracle happen. Our former Youth Pastor's wife, Niki, discovered two weeks ago she had a brain aneurysm behind her eye. She was rushed to a major university hospital not far from their home and scheduled for surgery last Monday. Not only was the surgery a success, her vision is perfect and she came home in less than a week from surgery! One of my friends, Paige, who lives in the town where Niki and her husband now live got to spend time with her yesterday. She shared with me how Niki sees all that God is teaching her and using in this situation for His Glory. She's already been sharing her testimony and certainly will be for a long time to come. Niki made the statement that she always said she trusted God, but those were just words. This experience really taught her how to truly trust God and mean it. Miracles really do still happen....there isn't anything much better than a story only God can craft.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Master Engraver

At the beginning of 2009, I resolved to do some things in my life as I donned this year, "How Rose Got Her Groove Back." One of those goals was to read more books. To achieve that goal, I joined a book club at a local Barnes & Noble....books and Starbucks is close to Heaven on earth for me. Although this group only meets once a month, it has been a wonderful thing for me. On the first Thursday of the month, I get all giddy preparing to go and gather with a group of sweet ladies who love to "pleasure read" as much as I do.

The books we've read have been good, but never books I'd pull off the shelf to read on my own...which was part of the reason I joined. So far I've read books about a woman from World War II Soviet Union suffering from Alzheimers and reliving her life hiding in an art gallery to edge-of-your-seat psychological thrillers. The book we just completed in March was "Burning Bright" by Tracy Chevalier, probably better known for her book turned movie "Girl With the Pearl Earring." "Burning Bright" was set in England in the 1700s and followed the lives of some young people who encountered the poet William Blake. It was light on plot but heavy on character development. It wouldn't make my top ten list, but it was a good book. But, there was one line in the book that has stuck with me, most likely not at all due to the author's intentions.

Throughout the book, many artisans are featured - woodcarvers, button makers - and an engraver. In one of the conversations the engraver had, he explained his expertise in the art. "An engraver must be able to see an image from all perspectives. We have to visualize the engraving in the correct image, as it would appear on the piece, then create and engrave that image in reverse for the production to come out right." That immediately reminded me of this verse...

"Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands" - Isaiah 49:16

I've always loved this verse. But after reading the mastercraft of an engraver, it becomes so much richer. Hands are such a symbol of protection. Your parents grabbed your hand in public as a child to make sure you were by their side. Secret treasures are hidden away in your tightly closed hand. When you need a help up, a friend grabs your hand. A man sweetly holds the hand of the one he loves to assure her he is by her side always.

Through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ took on our sins in the palms of His hands. And, etched within those scars is my name. Sinful and wretched. Yet loved and cherished. He died for me. But more than that, He rose again and lives so that I may live eternally. As the Master Engraver, He sees my life from all perspectives.....backwards, forwards, reverse....He knows my yesterdays, todays and tomorrows. Only an Artisan of that level can hold my life in the palms of His Hands.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Road to Robinson Mountain

Last weekend I spent a glorious weekend at a place I affectionately call Robinson Mountain. My dear friends, Mark and Sharon Robinson, live near Nashville and I always enjoy a relaxing visit in their home. The week prior to my trip was a week full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Providentially, this trip was so well planned that had I not already had my reservations made, I would have taken a road somewhere to get away from what had become a whirlwind week.

It's hard to encapsulate what the weekend was merely in a blog post, so I've decided to just share a few highlights of the weekend. By far, the weekend was better than I could have imagined. I'm confident enough to say that the lessons learned, the conversations shared and the experiences I had that weekend will forever make a difference in my life.

- When I first booked my reservations, I wasn't sure how long I was going to stay. After confirming the dates with Sharon, she surpised me with the news they had gotten us tickets for a concert featuring Selah on Friday night. By far, my favorite Christian group. Upon hearing the news, I didn't know whether to shout or cry. The concert was fun and so encouraging from the music sung and the testimonies shared. What a way to kick off a weekend.

- Through the wonders of Facebook, I was able to see a high school classmate that I'm sure I hadn't seen since high school or shortly thereafter. We'll abstain from how long that's really been. She attends the same church as the Robinsons and when I posted my status on Facebook about what church I was attending that weekend, one of my close friends from high school, Julie, said she was certain that was where Lisa attended. A few messages later and we were able to coordinate seeing each other in person briefly while she cared for some sweet children in the nursery. My motto, "Facebook will change your life" continues to prove itself over and over.

- One of the beautiful things about Robinson Mountain (and there are many) is the homey touches. For those of you unfamiliar with "homey touches," rent Shrek and you'll learn what those are. Those things that make a house a home. Each time I come to Robinson Mountain, Sharon and Mark ask me what I want to eat so they can customize the menu. This trip it was hamburgers. Ok, not that gourmet, but for someone who eats healthly as much as possible and consumes enough chicken to sprout feathers, a good hamburger is heavenly. And, I also enjoy our tradition of s'mores made in the fireplace. If the food isn't enough to spoil me, there are sweet gifts at my bedside when i arrive...devotional book, CDs, and other special touches. No question that the gift of hospitality oozes from their very pores.

- Another bonus of visiting Robinson Mountain is attending their church on Sunday. As a lay leader at my church, it's refreshing to go to a church and soak it all in without responsibilities or having my ministry radar on full force. Add to all that goodness, the fact that the Worship Pastor is Michael Smith, (no not that one), who was the Worship Pastor at my church for years. He was a musical mentor to me and taught us how to truly worship the Lord through music and leading others to the throne. We were able to catch up and have lunch with him, his wife, Melissa, and son, Spencer. The common thread of Ninth & O Baptist Church ran through all of us at the lunch table and shows how God weaves a tapestry in our lives.

- Conversations with Mark and Sharon are by far one of my favorite things about my visits. I met them five years or so ago on an outreach visit with my church after they had visited one Sunday. Little did I know how God would bind our hearts and connect us beyond that night. I could write a whole blog on their insights and wisdom, but I think it can be summed up simply. These two godly servants have walked a road that has been full of blessings yet full of many obstacles and challenges. But unlike most of us, you'd believe they were the richest, most blessed couple in the world. And they are. Their riches are founded in the One who loves and cares for them through it all. And that is the greatest lesson I could ever learn from them. Their love for their Lord and each other is a model I hope to mirror if God blesses me with the privilege of marriage one day.

The road to Robinson Mountain is a journey I always look forward to and a path I hope I travel often, no matter where that mountain may be.