Decide, Change: The Two Essential Risks for Ultimate Success

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Business, Great Leadership By Dan, Sales | 0 comments

Guest post from Tom Panaggio:

Risk is everywhere, and while common sense and consultants tell you to minimize risk, I suggest the opposite. I maintain that embracing what I call the “two essential risks” is necessary to achieve your ultimate success in business.

Sure, you hope to avoid liability, investment, and market risks as you pursue your entrepreneurial dream, so you take steps to mitigate exposure. But a business owner must embrace and leverage these two essential risks to achieve ultimate success:

1. Decide: Choose a direction and jump.
2. Change: Make both internal adjustments and external innovations to keep going and growing.

With all the potential risks present in business, how could I narrow it down to two essential risks? In my thirty years of experience, I recognized that successful businesses were always moving forward. As the business environment changed, they adapted. As the competitive landscape became more intense, they decided to meet the challenges head-on rather than defer making a move until later.

Successful leaders have the courage to make decisions and to welcome change. So it was obvious that these two essential risks were necessary to maintain the forward motion for long-term entrepreneurial success. Here is a detailed look at why these two essential risks provide you with an unexpected edge.

Indecision is the mental paralysis in humans that prevents them from moving forward. Is there anything more frustrating than waiting for a dinner companion who just can’t decide what he wants even after reading the entire menu, polling everyone at the table, and getting a detailed description of each dish from a clearly frustrated waiter? This is not a life-or-death situation — it’s dinner!

But this decision-making paralysis affects plenty of people, and when it possesses an entrepreneur, there’s trouble with a capital T ahead.

Decision making is a key component of execution, and execution is what transforms a plan into reality. Execution makes a business happen. By deciding to take the leap of faith, you initially embrace this essential risk and your dream becomes reality.

But this is only the first of many decisions you must make throughout your journey. The leader who wants the unexpected edge that comes from embracing risk welcomes the opportunity to make decisions. When no decisions are made, nothing happens, and you don’t move forward; you stagnate, and your dream begins to crumble.

The rule is simple: Businesses must progress, and progress requires change. Change, the other essential risk, holds the risk of failure. It is a difficult concept for most people to accept. In the business world, fear of change probably is the single biggest obstacle companies need to overcome to meet the evolving marketplace challenges. What makes embracing change even more difficult is that a business must be willing to simultaneously change internally and externally, to keep progressing and remain competitive. How a business deals with change is reflective of organizational leadership and its ability to minimize the level of fear.

Internal change happens within the business walls, and it is not necessarily customer facing. Internal change can be organizational; there are changes in personnel, management, department, and staff reorganizations. It also refers to processes or systems, changes in attitude, and the business personality. While these three aspects can and do change independently, they also can be linked, thus resulting in dramatic transformation.

External change is always customer facing; it’s most noticeable to your customers and competition. Innovation, an external change, brings a new competitive edge to your business by introducing products or services that increase the value of a customer’s experience with your organization. Innovation is announced in the marketplace through branding and marketing.

When an entire organization embraces the risk of change, a dynamic transformation occurs: There is a continuous culture of improvement both internally and externally, and the business dynamically evolves to meet competitive challenges. As internal processes are enhanced, the change will ultimately affect the customer-facing components, thus improving the customer experience. And with the proper feedback, this in turn helps to further improve the internal process. Embracing the risk of change creates an environment of perpetual motion FORWARD!


Author Bio
Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge, has enjoyed a thirty-year entrepreneurial career as co-founder of two successful direct marketing companies: Direct Mail Express (which now employs over 400 people and is a leading direct marketing company) and Response Mail Express (which was eventually sold to an equity fund, Huron Capital Partners). For more information please visit
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Critical Lessons: NFL focuses on a better customer experience – Next Gen marketing on display

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Brian Vellmure, Business, Marketing, Sales | 0 comments

I love the game of football. I’ve referenced parallels and correlations between football and business here and here and here, to name a few.

Two of my primary areas of expertise are the “Digitization of Everything” and “Customer Experience”, so it’s little wonder that yesterday’s announcement that Extreme Networks was going to be providing wi-fi and analytics to all NFL stadiums caught my attention – a perfect synergy between three of my passions.

The NFL’s Dilemma

The NFL faces an interesting dilemma. Popularity is at an all time high, but attendance has been steadily falling for the past several years. How could this be?

The summary answer is that the “experience” of watching from home has begun to rival and in some cases even surpass that of attending a live game.

When I can pay next to nothing incrementally, be in the comfort of my own home, grab a cold beer whenever I want, watch several games simultaneously on my 1,000 inch TV in HD, , why would I pay $150 to go deal with the travel, parking, lines, $15 beers, and $8 hot dogs? During commercial breaks and in between games, I can even knock a couple of tasks off the honey-do list to keep the wife happy.

However, as NFL CIO, Michelle McKenna-Doy, mentioned during yesterday’s announcement, there is nothing that can quite duplicate the experience of being at an NFL game. If you’re a die hard Steeler fan, the camaraderie of cheering along side 65,000 of your best friends at Heinz Field for the day is unmatched. The NFL is betting on creating a new and enhanced experience by connecting attendees to all sorts of in-game entertainment and capability that you can only get while inside the stadium. The New England Patriots GameDay Live app includes access to “game replays, live field cameras, statistics, league scores, restroom wait times, weather, traffic and more.”

Other teams are considering or in the process of rolling out similar applications.

Wrapping an experience around the product

The emergence and growth of Starbucks is a legendary tale. The product (coffee) had been commoditized. But Starbucks created a differentiated and unique experience, and cultivated communities within (traditional) communities. The NFL and other professional sports are being forced to do the same thing. The product (the game) has been commoditized. It’s easily available for next to free from anywhere. But the “experience” is where the teams are trying to differentiate themselves… are NEEDING to differentiate themselves.

I see this when I go to watch a baseball game at Angel Stadium. The Disney influence is apparent. Fireworks, kids games, activities, are all part of the stadium experience. The San Diego Padres have a HUGE giant sandbox in their outfield so that kids can play while their parents watch the game.

The possibilities that an integrated digital platform presents are endless. Imagine having access to:

  • Private On field conversations in real time
  • Close up camera angles of the O-Line, D-Line, individual players, coaches
  • Predictions of the next play call based on previous tendencies & analytics
  • Real time polling within the stadium
  • All sorts of interesting gaming derivatives – think fantasy football at a micro scale
  • Prioritized seating, perks, and contests based on “fan value”, not just static ticket prices
  • Augmented reality features of on/off field data in real time
  • And, and, and…

Attention is finite. The NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and Major League Baseball are not only competing against other sports teams. They’re competing against all other forms of entertainment. Not only that, they’re actually competing against all other things that may vie for a few hour block of time.

And they’re not alone. While the dynamics and context are a bit different, this is also your organization’s reality as well. It’s my reality. The government can print more money. But they can’t manufacture more time. Time saving technology doesn’t save time. It just allows us to do more, enabling vendors to race for an increasingly valuable slice of your strictly finite attention.

Extreme Networks CMO evolves marketing for maximum impact in a connected world

A significant subplot to the announcement yesterday was the way that it was done. CMOs and all marketers can learn something from how Vala Afshar of Extreme Networks orchestrated things. The default action from the traditional marketing playbook for this type of an announcement would have been to write up and distribute an excellent press release. Those seeking extra credit may have actually held a press conference, and reached out to media and influencers in the space to try and get some additional covereage. Well, Extreme Networks did that, but they took it a step further and actually created and produced a digital media event.

They invited the CIO of the NFL and an all star cast of NFL executives, while holding the event at NFL headquarters in New York.


They invited well respected analyst and Chairman of Constellation Research R “Ray” Wang, and Crawford Del Prete, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Research, IDC to provide insights about the changes happening in the world around us.

They embedded the announcement within the context of a thought leadership webinar and had visitors register to attend online.

In short, they made it worth people’s attention. It garnered significant signups. It then created a cascade of attention. Nearly 1900 tweets and nearly 7 million impressions through the twitter hashtag #EXTRNFL. It actually was the 2nd most popular hashtag on Twitter in the United States during the event. There are plenty of other metrics that I am not privy to, but it likely did the following:

  • Established Extreme Networks as the top of mind provider of In-Stadium wifi and analytics
  • Created shared value with the NFL and their team’s executives
  • Generated a slew of leads via web registrations and social shares
  • Generated a decent amount of mainstream and new media follow up coverage
  • Created a digital asset to be re-used and leveraged in future content marketing initiatives

So, then, here are your takeaways and challenges:

1. How are you re-inventing and enhancing your customer’s experience?
2. How are you leveraging emerging capabilities to evolve and re-invent your marketing?
3. How are you creatively leveraging emerging technology to do each of the above?

The post Critical Lessons: NFL focuses on a better customer experience – Next Gen marketing on display appeared first on Value Creator.

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Why Am I So Lucky?

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Both Sides Of The Table, Business, Sales | 0 comments

I’m a cynic by nature. And I think it pays to be so. I sometimes wish I were an unbridled, happy-go-lucky, assume-the-best-in-everybody sort of chappy. Sadly, I’m not.

so lucky

You know the old Groucho Marx saying, “I would never join a club that would accept me as a member.” I always loved that line. So whenever I get a deal sent my way that is from out of town and seems amazing but seems almost too good to be true, my first thought is always, “Why am I so lucky?”

It’s a standard line I use at our partners meetings.

It’s not that I lack confidence. I’m usually accused of the opposite. It’s just that I never want to be The Sucker at the Table.

I got a call a few years ago from a well-known investor up North. It was the first time he had ever called me. Their firm is one of those that you think of when you think of Silicon Valley. I didn’t remember getting the calls on all of his super big, high profile deals.

Why am I so lucky?

I got three calls from another big name, big check VC. I looked at all three deals. It’s super hard not to want to spend more time with these companies. After all, you’d get to work with HIM.

Still. I’m not sucker. The only thing worse than not being in a clubby deal where you might get to build a close personal relationship with somebody you deeply respect is being the sucker of that person you deeply respect.

I reviewed a deal for a friend of mine tonight. He’s an incredibly smart investor and somebody that I actually consider to be a mentor to myself. He’s wise, thoughtful and has made money across so many different industries it’s humbling. He wanted to know what I thought of his technology deal. For all the things he’s likely known for, he probably hasn’t yet built a strong relationship as an early stage venture investor (he invests often in later-stage deals where he is very respected).

My email back to him was a version of

“This is a very accomplished executive in his industry across more than 20 years. He has a team of 4 other such executives. Don’t you think if they were so hot and so senior that everybody in town would know them? Don’t you find it a little bit odd that he’s reaching out to a relative stranger through LinkedIn asking for $500,000?

Why are you so lucky to get the call and discover this deal?

Dealflow doesn’t just come without hard work. So I recommended that if he wanted to do more early-stage investing he should establish a direct relationship with many other VCs who might do deals alongside him and he could benefit from their existing dealflow and they would benefit from the breadth of his skills.

I outlined here my views on “proprietary dealflow.”

Semil Shah wrote in this absolutely spot on post

“… for any good investment, from Series A on, there is at least one firm to compete with. Competition is fierce.

VCs will spend over a year networking just to position around one founder or one deal, and if they lose it, it’s gone.”

That’s precisely it. I work on relationships for years and wait patiently for the opportunity to potentially work together. Sometimes it comes. But it doesn’t come easy. Not from a random phone call. Not from LinkedIn.

I read the pitch they had sent my friend. But barely. It almost didn’t matter. It didn’t pass the smell test.

My advice?

Always assume the worst. Always question the motives of those sending you dealfow – regardless of how nice they are or well meaning. I’m not saying all dealflow is bad or all referrers are hucksters. I’m just saying that you need to look at it through the lens of the motive. I always ask when somebody sends me a deal, for example, are you already a shareholder in the company?

Get out your inner Larry David scrutiny.

larry david

I got an email recently from a VC who had invested in a company a small amount in a seed round. He was calling me about the A round. His fund is > $500 million and I guaranfuckingtee he ain’t calling me if that company is crushing it. I don’t blame him – that’s his job. But why am I so lucky that you’ll let me in?

Of course I ask more politely that than. But I always ask. Deadpan. Serious. “I don’t understand. You have a big fund. I’ve seen you write a $10 million check before. Why would you be looking for outside investors at this point? And why would it make sense to bring me on board?”

Then I listen. Is it plausible? Are they authentic?

I offered to fund the seed round of a guy I’ve known for years. He opted for two big VC funds up North who split $1.5 million. They have some of the best names in the Valley. Fair enough. Can’t win every deal. He called me 15 months later excited to show me his metrics and wanted to talk about his A round.

Meh. The signal was way too loud. I’m no fool.

My response? “I’d love to work  with you one day. Please call me early when you start your next company. And I hope it’s right after this one is a huge success.”

It wasn’t. He never raised follow on money. Not from either of his two famous VCs. Nor from me.

Never be the sucker.

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Access to anyone and anything from anywhere: Implications for Professional Service Organizations

Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in Brian Vellmure, Business, Sales | 0 comments

Ciber Cafe Lars Kristian Flem via Compfight

Access and Speed. are the two primary things that are rapidly changing the word around us. Individuals all over the world have unprecedented access to virtually anything, or anyone, from anywhere. Tribesman in Africa now have access to more information than the US president did just a couple of decades ago.

Organizations have unprecedented access to: customers, competitors, and resources; human and otherwise.

How is this changing things for professional services organizations? Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Traditional software VAR (Value Added Resellers) have felt a significant pinch in the recent years. Business models built on software maintenance revenue and professional services have been disintermediated by Cloud software providers making better, cheaper, and more accessible capabilities available with limited need for long sales cycles, significant installation, and configuration expenses, and expensive customizations.

We see the continuing trend of technology absorbing lower value added tasks across the economy. In professional services, we see this trend accelerating as well. Lower value legal activities like entity filings and other forms have given way to do it yourself service firms like Legalzoom and Nolo.

However, the power of access has had a positive effect on another attorney I know. Most of his clients think “Jim” lives in Orange County, CA. However, he actually lives in Costa Rica. soaking up “La vida pura”, and doing most of his work near jungles, warm waters, and great waves. When he needs to be in court, he hops on the 6 hour flight back home, wows the judge and jury, and then flies back home to surf, sand, and toucans.

While it’s no surprise that technology has displaced generations of lower end workers, it’s now apparent that many white collar jobs may soon feel disruption.

Andrew McAfee, well respected research scientist at MIT, and co-author of Race Against the Machine, observes the following:

“There will be some very powerful technologies entering the economy over the next ten years. When I look back at the kind of things computers have been doing, my strongest impression is, “We ain’t seen nothing yet.” Many people in jobs ranging from customer service to various types of diagnosis to driving vehicles are going to be confronted by those technologies, and some will be displaced. And the rate of displacement will increase because technology improves at an exponential rate. It feels like we have recently crossed a tipping point.

Classic theory has it that technology is bad news for those further down the skills or education ladder. That will begin to change, at least slightly. Diagnostics is a good example. This is a large part of what doctors do, and one of the most advanced types of diagnosis is pattern-matching. What astonishes me is that computers have recently demonstrated pattern-matching abilities that make a mockery of everything that has come before. We have not seen such displacement of higher-wage, higher-skilled professions yet, but we are going to see more.”

In addition to doctors being vulnerable to having much of their diagnostic capabilities (and perhaps their prescriptive capabilities as well) being replaced by technology, one of the world’s most elite and respected management consulting firms, McKinsey, began to disrupt themselves a few years ago by building a new practice not centered around human capital for the first time in it’s nearly 100 year history. McKinsey solutions, instead, is built around data, and tools to help enable their clients to make better decisions.

I recently advised a professional services client to change their model from hourly billing to fixed priced packages, which could be easily consumed by their customers. It required a slight shift in delivery methods, and human capital, but the results have been dramatically positive.

Critical Core Competencies Evolving

We’ve seen a dramatic shift in the last 20 years. Talent and capabilities are largely distributed and accessible. Access to a broader set of capabilities, packaged up in easily consumable technology, or more cost effective human resources are seemingly as close as a few minutes on the internet. So if that’s not the challenge, what is?

The impetus today is harnessing these capabilities, collaborating across broader boundaries, and packaging, and distributing value in a manner that resonates with a more intelligent customer.

An evolving set of professional services models that seek to be more agile are showing us new examples of value creation. Along with the examples laid forth, technology analyst firms, Constellation Research and Altimeter Group, have recently brought new models that change the way that clients gain access to research and insights related to the world of disruptive technology.

More than $360 million worth of freelance work gets funneled through oDesk, where 9 out of 10 of their clients say using their freelance marketplace makes their business more competitive.

In Summary

Creating new ways to find, collect, package, and distribute service capabilities will continue to evolve as we become more connected, and technology provides increase challenges and opportunities.

Which new challenges are you faced with and what innovative professional service models are most interesting to you?

This post was sponsored by Work Etc. The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own and don’t necessarily represent, nor have they been influenced by Work Etc.’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The post Access to anyone and anything from anywhere: Implications for Professional Service Organizations appeared first on Value Creator.

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Posted by on Jan 14, 2014 in Business, Sales, Sharon Drew Morgan | 0 comments

prospects As sellers, we’ve been taught that someone with a need that our solution fulfills is a prospect. But that’s not true or we’d be closing a lot more business and wasting a lot less time following the wrong prospects. Just because we see a need does not mean they A. want it resolved, B. want it resolved now, C. have the buy-in to bring in an external solution rather than using their own internal fix or beloved vendor, D. are ready to give up the work-around they have in place that resolves the problem well-enough. So rule number #1: need does not a prospect make.

Unfortunately, the sales model has no capability to go behind-the-scenes to facilitate buy-in from the internal system – the other people who don’t see a need or don’t want to share budget, the tech group that wants to do it all themselves, or the President who has her own agenda and hasn’t informed everyone yet. But, and here’s rule #2: until everyone and everything that will touch the new solution buys-in to bringing it on board, there will be no purchase, regardless of a need.



Buyers have systems problems; a solution purchase (or any sort of change) is merely the last element in a chain of events that must fit together so everything internally keeps ticking along comfortably. Rule #3: the system is sacrosanct, regardless of the efficacy of your solution.


Here are two situations in which I failed miserably (and lost quite a bit of money), prior to understanding that buyers (in companies and individuals) must manage internal stability before they can buy.


I did a pilot for an iconic multinational. Using Buying Facilitation® the group had a 400% increase in sales over the control group (we shortened the sales cycle from 7 months to 4 weeks). They got rid of me because the problems caused by increased revenue and cash flow issues, shifts of the manufacturing schedules, etc., would cost many millions to fix. They eschewed the increased profit to maintain the system.


I trained a large insurance group that got a 600% increase in sales over the control group (they went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales). After the results were in the trained team handed in their resignations because they said they were ‘field sales’ reps and would rather quit then come inside, regardless of how much money they made. They liked handing out donuts and schmoozing.


From my point of view this is nuts. But from theirs it made sense. Systems maintain their status quo at all costs – at all costs – regardless of the benefits of our solutions. Indeed, if the system had wanted to change and knew how to change without disrupting the status quo, it would have already. Systems prefer excellence so long as there is stability.



Philosophically the sales model is accurate: we can see needs that our solutions will resolve. But it’s not a prospect until or unless the Buying Decision Team – everyone who will touch the final solution – is ready, willing, and able to bring our solution in and knows how to shift rules or job descriptions, bring in new technology without downtime, ensure there are no historic blind spots.


I developed Buying Facilitation® in 1983 to manage the sales issues my team was having in my new tech company. After 5 prior years in sales, I couldn’t make sense of why ‘prospects’ weren’t buying as often as was logical. But as an entrepreneur who needed to purchase solutions myself, I faced the problem all buyers face: how, when, if to make a change and avoid disruption. So I developed Buying Facilitation® and trained my team. We began doubling our sales. I even taught my techies how to facilitate their users to make sure they got the buy-in for their programs and projects and got the right data at the right time. Facilitate systemic change in your area of expertise first – enter each sales call as a facilitator rather than as a detective seeking a need/solution match.


Help prospective buyers determine how to change, how to get buy-in, how to bring in your solution. Along the way, you both will determine next steps, who needs to be included, and how to get everyone on board – with you! – to move toward the remedy your solution will provide. And then you can sell. Buying Facilitation® first, then sales. You need both.


For interest or questions about Buying Facilitation® training, contact Sharon Drew.



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Don’t Make this Fatal Sales Presentation Blunder

Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 in Business, Fearless Selling, Sales | 0 comments

Presentation mistakes

graphic created by Jesse Dee.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show last week, renowned director Michael Bay was supposed to speak about Samsung’s latest product, the Curve 105 inch television.

Unfortunately, his brief appearance on stage was a complete disaster. Watch it here.

It is obvious that Bay was completely unprepared for his presentation and that he was relying strictly on the teleprompter for his lines. I can’t get my head wrapped around that especially since public speaking is not something he does on a regular basis. Add to that the fact that he expects a high level of performance from the actors he directs and it just boggles my mind.

I see sales people make this mistake, too.

They fail to properly prepare for important sales calls, meetings or presentations mistakenly believing that they can wing it.

They don’t anticipate objections or questions, and as a result, are unable to effectively respond to their prospect’s concerns.

They focus on their own agenda instead of their prospects’.

A couple of months ago, I watched several sales people pitch their solution to a client. It was evident which people had taken the time to rehearse and practise. One rep in particular, stumbled throughout his entire presentation and was unable to clearly articulate his responses to questions. Afterwards, an executive on my client’s team said, “Well, that’s 45 minutes of my time I’ll never get back.”

I don’t know how much Samsung paid Bay to be their spokesperson but if I were on the executive team I’d be asking for my money back. Although his blunder has drawn more than 335,000 views on YouTube, the attention is on Bay’s performance, not the product.

Invest the necessary time to practice or run through your sales calls and presentations. Don’t make the same fatal presentation blunder Bay did.


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