Changing a Habit

18 Apr


This is a continuation piece of my previous blog regarding neuroplasticity. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here:

Our brain can be PHYSICALLY rewired when we make decisions regarding any change or improvement  – or when you develop new habits (good or bad) without consciously making the decision to do so. It all happens through neuroplasticity, which is the process of developing more connections between the neurons in our brains. The longer we repeat actions and decisions, the more permanent the wiring resets in our brains.

The problem is, we don’t always make good decisions and consistently carry out good actions, and the brain can then fall back to its original wiring. Neuron health and connectivity is pliable; thus, it is also vulnerable to setbacks.

The primary flaw with rewiring the brain is two natural instincts:

  1. Our human brains evolved to identify and avoid threats.
  2. We are also predisposed to remember a single negative incident more than multiple positive experiences.

These survival mechanisms usually occur unconsciously – We are constantly experiencing “fight or flight” thoughts and reactions.

Here are two examples:

  • A co-worker is initially perceived as a threat versus a helpful partner.
  • Hard work often comes without rewards, which makes it easier to…umm…not work as hard.

Changing a diet, an exercise routine or kicking a bad habit is naturally tough to rewire because it takes constant conscious thought, effort and discipline. In three weeks, a habit can be formed due to the neuron restructuring, but it will take continued work to permanently cement that new rewiring.

It was only recently that the technology used to study the human brain has advanced enough to allow us to actually see the physical changes as they occur, so there is still much more to be learned about neuroplasticity and the neuron’s amazing abilities. An expert in the field, Dr. Michael Merzenich, shares ten core principles necessary for the rewiring to take place which you can read more about here:

Ready to change a habit? Choose to make that change and neuroplasticity will begin to work  its magic.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew



5 Apr


This might be my favorite topic under the sun – it relates to sales, training, self-improvement and just about everything in your life. Neuroplasticity is an umbrella term regarding how your brain can retrain and reorganize itself, both physically and functionally. With the latest technology, we can actually look inside the human brain to see these things called axons and dendrites creating, repairing and improving neuron connectivity.

If you change a behavior, you actually rewire your brain. Change a good or bad habit and the x-ray of your brain will look different. 

The number of atoms in our entire universe is approximately 10 to the 80th power. The number of possible neuron connections in our brain is 10 to the millionth power. I wish I had enough space to write out those numbers, but it would take way too many pages. Our brains are as infinite, malleable and resilient as anything in the universe.

Here’s a simple example of how neuroplasticity works:

Let’s pretend that your sales team is horrible at documenting in the sales CRM and you, as the manager, decide to change that behavior. You ask, plead and push them to document every call, every appointment and to provide more detail on their activities. You “measure” (qualitatively and quantitatively) their documentation and reward those who improved this habit.

It takes three weeks to truly change a behavior. If a salesperson documents everything in the CRM for 3-4 weeks, their long-term behavior is altered. Your salespeople improve the connectivity between a few hundred neurons that were neglecting to habitually enter the information. A month later, half of your team is probably doing it without even being asked because they deemed it important (enough) to unconsciously develop the new habit. Their brains changed because they wanted to change their actions.

This new behavior – the initial stages of rewiring – is only temporary. If the experience rewards us with an important or positive outcome, then we continue the habit and the neuron connectivity becomes more permanent over time. So, it takes 21 days to change a behavior – and probably 3-12 months to make that behavior a permanent habit.

The capability of changing your tendencies is pretty simple. Rewire your brain. Drop a bad habit or start a good habit, implement it for three weeks – and the miracle of neuroplasticity will start to take over.

That said, neuroplasticity isn’t easy. I’ll share a little more on this topic in my blog post next week.

Forward, never straight~ Drew

It’s time to grow faster.


What is a Salesperson Exactly?

27 Mar


I was having coffee with someone last week that does online sales assessments. We started to break down what a B2B salesperson really means in 2018. I tend to oversimplify and think of salespeople as an inside or outside employee. Smaller companies tend to only have those two positions – but let’s break down the roles into individual sales skills sets (this blog will not cover the growing list of marketing & social media roles).

In an ideal situation, you have all these people on your team. If not, it’s important to think of these nine roles and who takes on these responsibilities inside your sales team. Some people can do 2-3 of these positions, but almost no one is very good at more than a couple.

  1. Sales Leadership: it could be more than one role depending on the size of your organization.
  2. Sales Trainer: someone in the company that teaches the product or service (and company culture) to the sales team. Typically, “how to sell” (and close) is still taught by the manager.
  3. Sales Admin: they are the organizer and support for all the roles on this list.
  4. Sales Channel Manager: this position focuses on managing and selling to distributors. Many companies obviously don’t need this title depending on how their product or service is sold.
  5. Account Manager: I have a hard time calling this a sales position unless they are servicing and focused on account penetration (or else this is simply customer service). They typically work full time at a desk. In many companies, the inside salesperson has this responsibility.
  6. Inside Salesperson: works the phone and email and converts conversations into appointments or demos. They focus on generating leads at the top of the sales funnel.
  7. Technical Salesperson or Sales Engineer: they are the topic expert. In software, they do the demos and discuss content. In other technology companies, this is the Sales Engineer.
  8. Outside Salesperson: someone that opens the door to a proposal stage. They work the entire sales funnel from lead to close.
  9. Closer: sometimes it’s the sales leader that comes in to help close all the deals. Often it is the responsibility of the outside salesperson. Regardless, closing is a trait that many do not have and separating this role should be considered.

It starts at the top. Many companies end up promoting their best salespeople into sales leadership. I’m guessing a promotion to Sales Manager/Director/VP is successful half the time at best (unless the executives above are matching their other abilities to the position). Sometimes effective sales leaders are only average salespeople, but they understand the science of sales and how to motivate a team.

Regardless of how many different sales titles you have in your organization, it starts with the sales leader. He or she is going to have a lot of input into how these roles are divided. In an ideal scenario, they look at every individual on the sales team and place them in the right role to suit their talents.

I’m a big believer in Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept; there are 3 circles for defining what someone is best at: (a) Passion (b) Skills and (c) Money. If you are skilled and passionate about a certain area of sales, that is where you will have the most value. Understanding someone’s passion, skill set and economic engine lead to more success and less stress. These three circles help define where someone best fits into a sales team.

There are a lot of assessment tools that I use for hiring but start with the Hedgehog Concept and you have a quick litmus test of how to design your sales team.

Forward, never straight~ Drew

Better sales recruitment. Better sales coaching. Better sales. 

It’s time to grow faster.


Unemployment in Free Fall

20 Mar






For the 9th consecutive year, the U.S. unemployment rate ended the year lower than the previous.

Dec 2009: 9.9%

Dec 2010: 9.3%

Dec 2011: 8.5%

Dec 2012: 7.9%

Dec 2013: 6.7%

Dec 2014: 5.6%

Dec 2015: 5.0%

Dec 2016: 4.7%

Dec 2017: 4.1%

 In October, 1999, the U.S. hit 4.1%, in April, 2000, we dropped to 3.8% and we stayed below 4.2% unemployment until January, 2001. Otherwise, we haven’t been in this territory since January of 1970 (3.9%).

The U.S. began 2018 at a 4.1% unemployment rate (the Bureau of Labor Statistics is two months behind so we only have January’s unemployment rate as of mid-March).

We are obviously experiencing incredibly low unemployment numbers (it’s currently 2.1% in Hawaii!). If we can be of service finding you top sales & marketing talent during this historic period, please reach out to us.

Forward never straight~ DREW

 It’s time to grow faster.

If interested in a free copy of my eBook, Sales Neutrinos, please let me know.

A Foolproof Hiring System for Salespeople?

8 Mar


Salespeople are great at interviewing. I, too, have been fooled by someone who looks good on paper, tests well, writes well and is personable. They look great and are hired… but fail.

Over the last nine years, our success rate at Blue Octopus is over 90%. That’s pretty darn good – actually amazing (if I can pat myself on the back), in comparison to most companies hiring salespeople in any B2B industry. But no matter what, we can all make mistakes and our new hires can fail.

Bad hires cost company time and money, hurt internal morale and sometimes damage your external reputation. The most expensive can be the average hires and the marginal performers that hang around for 2-3 years and never really make the company money. Here is an out of the normal paradigm idea…

Need to hire 1-2 salespeople? Hire 8!

  • Start interviewing. Upfront, tell every candidate about the entire process below in the first interview. In order to run the experiment with integrity, make sure that candidates will not be surprised along the way.
  • Hire 8 salespeople that you believe will succeed and pay them a $50K base + commission.
  • Fire 2 of the salespeople after 3 months and give the remaining 6 a $5K raise.
  • Fire 2 more after 6-9 months and raise the other 4 salaries an additional $5K.
  • At 12 months, you have 4 left standing; fire 2-3 of them and you are left with 1-2 high-performing champions.
  • Don’t bother creating new goals for them in their second year. They were fighting for survival in Year 1, so they have already defined their lofty goals for Year 2.
  • Give them another raise and let them run.

Of course, you were measuring their activity, results and ROI throughout the year. My last bullet above assumes that they are in the neighborhood of 2-3X ROI (gross margin / cost). If they are under 2X, then the experiment potentially failed (but I attribute that to poor hiring, sloppy on boarding and bad training – feel free to challenge my stupid idea).

The experiment cost: $378,128 + commission paid. Here’s my rough math:

  • 1Q, $125K ($50K/4 = $12,500 * 1.25 benefits+ = $15,625 * 8)
  • 2Q, $103,128 ($55K/4 = $13,750 * 1.25 = $17,188 * 6)
  • 3Q & 4Q, $150K ($60K/4 = $15,000 * 1.25 = $18,750 * 4)

I made some assumptions, but my little experiment will probably cost you about $500K (when commissions are included) in order to identify a star.

A lot of businesses would pay $500K for one guaranteed salesperson. If all of the salespeople brought in $1 million in margin over the course of the year, you certainly made money.

And I think every business would pay that if they found two strong salespeople producing 3x in year two.

Crazy idea? If the team is given good training and has a hands-on manager, it’s a hiring system that could work.

Forward never straight~ DREW
It’s time to grow faster.

If interested in a free copy of my eBook, Sales Neutrinos, please let me know. My next book for sales management is coming soon…

The Problem with Millenials…

13 Feb


In 2015, millenials took over the lead as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. By 2025, they are forecasted to be 75% of our workforce.

This isn’t your usual blog (I hope) by a Gen X or baby boomer discussing “How do we connect with these millenials today in business?” This is a little bit of a rant and an expression of disappointment in how we (the non-millenials) are managing and interacting with their generation. Time and time again, I’ve read articles primarily written by baby boomers that come across as somewhat demeaning on this topic.

I recently saw a speaker who gave away his book at the event. Kit Welchlin asks in The Communication Kit “Why don’t millenials ever call me back? … You may have more success connecting with millenials by sending a text message. Or heck, you may want to take a picture and send an Instagram.”

It sounds a bit belittling, no?

Check out this 1 minute video with a different take: which parodies “What if millenials talked about baby boomers the way baby boomers talk about millenials?”

Memes, emojis, Snapchat and Instagram aren’t going to work if you don’t use them for any reason other than to “communicate” with millenials. We are talking DOWN to millenials. I feel that we are viewing them as a problem we have to resolve in order to profit from this troublesome group – rather than a generation of individuals with unique needs, emotions and ideologies.

Millenials are a collective but not a single identity. I would suggest we start getting to know the individuals one by one. Every one of them has a different belief, a better idea and a unique angle on life.

From here forward, let’s stop regarding their generation like a Rubik’s Cube we need to solve with one methodology.  Let’s stop talking about “them” because they are a part of “we” in the work place. Let’s stop treating them like a problem – because they are going to run 3/4’s of our workforce within 10 years.

Forward never straight~ DREW
It’s time to grow faster.

If interested in a free copy of my eBook, Sales Neutrinos, please let me know.

11 Ideas for Generating Leads

6 Feb

Leads Week 2

I’m following up on my last blog “Generating Leads” ( where I lamented the constant struggle of small businesses in finding enough balance to be able to focus on the top of the sales pipeline.

I asked the question – Who inside your business will be selling on Monday morning and is focused on lead generation?” Lead gen is MUCH more effective if your customer service/operations and sales & marketing functions are divided. With that in place, we can tackle some of the following actions…

11 Ideas for Developing More Sales Opportunities:

  • Referrals. The best lead is one referred by a client. Offer an incentive discount program for these. You should be asking every happy client for referrals on somewhat of a regular basis.
  • Affiliate Programs. Are there others in your industry that can introduce leads in return for a small percentage of the sale?
  • Testimonials & Reviews. These are crucial and can be shared on your website as well as various places on-line; they will generate exponentially more leads than any brochure about your company.
  • Understand SEO. Whether it’s organic or through a Google Adword campaign, this is no longer an option but a necessity. The success behind search engine optimization lies in understanding the keywords pertinent to your company (and your customers). They are the words that you should be repeating over and over and over again online. This should be the #1 focus on your existing website (as well as most of your online content). Check out this great video specific to Google Adwords:
  • Write a Blog! Who is the best writer on your staff? Using topics relevant to your customers, what stories do you have to share? Consider guest blogging on other sites – or pay an industry expert to promote your company through their blog.
  • Offer Free Education. What do your potential customers want to learn in 2018? Create a video, a presentation or offer a free consultation. Videos are cost effective and can be shared online through your website, YouTube and countless other platforms. Use Slideshare to broadcast a presentation. Consider sharing the information through a series of emails.
  • Be Effective on Mobile Devices. More than half of your visitors are probably viewing your online content from their smart phone, so be certain it is compatible with mobile browsing.
  • Collect Info. Be sure you are gathering information on prospects who are visiting your site. Offer a quiz or white paper for signing up. Add pop-ups to capture their attention and increase the probability of them sharing their name and email address.
  • Social Media Mining. Uncover and interact with prospects on various social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook and many other sites offer a wealth of information in regards to topics and trends being discussed surrounding your business solution. These also provide an ability to interact with others discussing that content. Go back to your keywords under SEO and you’ll quickly be on the right track to drumming up leads through mining.
  • Public Relations. Share a feel-good story for potentially free PR. It takes a special story if it gets picked up by others – but give it an hour of brainstorming and you might have a great experience to share that is right underneath your nose. Start a pro bono program – or community service project and you have the start of a PR story.
  • Industry Conferences. Attend one either as a displayed vendor or attendee as these are great opportunities for helping you zero in on your best prospects. You’ll likely return to the office with a stack of warm leads.

You can’t do all of the above immediately… but you need to do more if the top of your sales funnel is light. The beginning is focusing on some new methods and brainstorming the best way to implement. It requires some time, but probably not as much as you think. Then you’ll have to answer the next question – WHO is going to follow up on all of these leads? That will be a more exciting challenge!

I’d love to hear from you on some of your successful lead generation programs. Each of my bullets could probably be a blog unto itself… so drop me an email if there is one that you’d like to learn about in more detail.

It’s time to grow faster.

If interested in a complimentary copy of my eBook, Sales Neutrinos, please let me know.