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4 Questions to Take out of your Backpack

28 Aug

Your kids have probably loaded up on pencils, notebooks and a few new clothes in preparation for another year. Summer vacations in Minnesota are aplenty and it always seems to be the slowest time of the year (quickly followed by the busiest). As fall arrives, this is an important time to refocus and examine past and present business and personal goals. As we shift to a more hectic time of year, set aside an hour to do a little self-reflection.

The August stock market has soured as the United States, Europe and China’s economies have decelerated in 2019. The Federal Reserve cut rates, job growth has slowed, China and the U.S. haggle over trade agreements and Brexit drags on – there is a lot of uncertainty and undoubtedly, lack of confidence in the year ahead.

Economic highs and lows are a part of running any business. Don’t miss the opportunity to gain market share if the downturn occurs. As your competition restricts, they will under-perform and provide you a chance to gain new customers. Are you ready to seize the day?  

September is upon us! This month can be critical for you setting the right tone as the end of the year nears. Below are a few questions for you to consider as you approach the last four months of the year.

1. How did the last 8 months go? Have you taken time to objectively reflect on the successes of the first half of the year both personally and professionally? If not, take a moment to note how the big deals were closed, how goals were accomplished and why you missed the mark on others.

2. Are you ready for the last 4 months? Your sales projections for September through December were probably made almost a year ago and may likely seem a little out of touch right now. It’s time to fine tune them. If the general business climate is slower, do you have sales methods to overcome it? What is your big hairy audacious goal for this year? Which goal needs to be put aside for the moment – so you have the time to ensure that you surpass your gross margin goals?

3. What else do you need? Do you have the support and resources around you to hit your numbers? Who can help? Have you reached out to them? People make the world go round and often we fail to simply ask for support and guidance.

4. Are you happy? We probably don’t ask ourselves this question often enough. Do you have the right position and work environment – or is that something you need to work on before 2020 is upon us? Do you have the best team around you? Whether you are the manager or not, you have an influence on your team and culture.

This 2/3’s turn of 2019 must be a time for questions and reflection as you charge forward. If you are behind, it’s still possible to catch up. If you are asleep at the wheel, a good year can turn south quickly. And if you are on track, examine what you accomplished and how it can be repeated or even improved upon.

Good luck accomplishing your remaining 2019 goals!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

YOU are the Sale

17 Jul

In 2019, we are selling ourselves. It doesn’t matter what your position might be – frankly, it becomes more and more important the higher you are in a company. And as an entry level salesperson, you carry YOU forward – whether that’s at the same company all your life or more likely, whatever career is generated from your first few years in the workplace.

How do you sell yourself today?

1 – You have a kick-butt LinkedIn profile. Because that’s what professional people do. You also have other social media sites – at least Facebook – where you are community-facing on a regular basis. In the old days, networking happened in your neighborhood or at your place of worship or the grocery store where you knew everyone. Today, it’s on the world wide web.

2 – You operate every day with every person under the golden rule. People around you start saying (because you usually succeed at living the golden rule), “I wonder what that guy does…”. They won’t listen or remember – unless they ask with genuine curiosity. That curiosity only comes when they like you as a human being.

I grew up learning from people and many sales books that the buyer didn’t need to like you. It’s actually true – but then you can only be one thing – an expert with a perfect product or service. In case you aren’t the expert yet and/or your product service is only very good in a competitive field, genuine, trusting relationships go a long way in the ten years that I’ve been running my own business.

3 – You are authentic. Part of being likeable is being vulnerable. You have a couple warts and you talk about them openly.

For example, I don’t like golf. That makes me a bit odd in the business community, but I haven’t played a hole since my third child was born. Somehow, I’m accepted.

I’m also a spazz. My children and fiance definitely understand this. They also know they can say “shoosh you dumb bear”… and I’ll immediately realize that I might be talking an octave too high about something that probably isn’t that big of a deal.

4 – You strive to be the best in the world at something. It doesn’t have to be work-related because whatever it is, it makes you human and helps people remember you. I’m not the best in the world (yet) but my passions and talents are in writing. I’m a recruiter, consultant and salesman, so I decided to put off the fiction novel and pour my efforts into these blogs and business books until I’m 50 (then I write the novel).

If you have these four principles above well in hand, there are many directions you can go from there. It’s all about taking your passions and making you memorable – beyond the privacy of your friends and family...

You’re good at golfing… then represent your company at EVERY charity tournament this year.

You’re a juggler… then learn how to juggle EVERYTHING and tell everyone about it (think concise, short stories 🙂 ).

You love to travel… is your office covered with pictures from your vacations away? What’s the front-page screensaver on your phone? Buy a padfolio with photos on the cover. Start a blog for photos or writings.

You’re a pastry chef… then why isn’t EVERYONE at your office getting a birthday cupcake from you every year? Or maybe deliver some cakes to your clients? They will think you are nutty… but they won’t forget you.

You’ve got a heckuva story to tell… you don’t have to be a writer to be an author. What would be cooler than starting your own book? I can help you with that one if you reach out.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Pivoting around Chickens Rabbits and Zip Lines

15 Jul


Drew Schmitz
Sales Recruiter (Blue Octopus LLC) | SalesContingent Coach (Grow Faster LLC)… See more74 articles

Since “pivot” has been a common theme of mine the past month, I thought I would share a couple stories about personal pivoting – which is obviously a key strategy in any organization trying to make a profit.

We use the verb version of the word pivot in business to describe a rotation, turn, spin, swivel, twirl or whirl in our business strategy. You might be selling to European truck drivers in 2018 and suddenly you find there is a better market for plumbing and HVAC companies in 2019. It often doesn’t make any sense until it starts to happen to us…

PART 1: HOOPS & ZIP LINES

About four weeks ago, I was putting the finishing touches on a basketball hoop for my 14-year-old son, Jonah. It had literally taken me a YEAR to complete – the pole needed to be cemented into the ground… then I had to fill it with cement which took four additional days (when it wasn’t raining). But slowly, and surely, we were building the world’s coolest basketball hoop for my future NBA All-star (hopefully he turns out taller than me)!

The last step was attaching the glass backboard, rim and net. I was beyond bored with the process and had other backyard tasks, so I hired David, a handyman, for a 1/2 day to help finish it as well as assist me with a couple of other projects.

As they were tightening the bolts on the backboard (my son holding it, David attaching it and me running back and forth with tools), the basketball hoop’s post snapped in half and almost killed my son. Jonah walked away with a bruising scrape on his back but was otherwise, entirely intact. I have no idea what happened and had an attorney come out and take pictures; I followed every bloody step of the instructions (and I hate instructions) and even re-examined the process after-the-fact.

A week later, I asked my son, “Jonah, how about we skip the stupid hoop and I finally build that zip-line off the treehouse that I’ve been promising for years?”

“That would be pretty cool…” Time to PIVOT!

PART TWO: CHICKENS

About three weeks ago, my 12-year-old daughter, Amelie, asks me “Dad, can we get chickens?”

“Huh, what?” I asked.

“Well, we are raising chickens in science class and we can buy one for $5 and bring it home at the end of the year.”

“Cool!” I stupidly respond. “Let’s do it! Get two but make sure they are hens,” All she had to do was bring a permission slip signed by a parent to class and come up with $10.

My fiancé rolled her eyes at me as soon as I excitedly shared the news. “We’ll have to build a chicken coop…” I was already running ahead to raising chickens.

“What in the world do you know about raising chickens? What are you going to do with them in the winter? Have you Googled or researched anything?” she asked me.

“Um… it will be fun. If we don’t like them, we’ll just get rid of them at the end of the summer!”

And… so it began (we’ll finish this story after Part 3)…

PART 3: RABBITS

About 2 weeks ago, I stopped by a bar that serves up my favorite burger and the bartender overheard my fiancé and I discussing our pet rabbits (we have two “free range” bunnies that have roamed the backyard for the last 2 years and we almost never lock them in their hutch).

Kevin, the bartender, starts asking us questions leading to… “Do you want my rabbit, Winchester? I’m pretty sure he’s fixed… I got him from a lady that didn’t want him any more…”

A week later, Winchester arrives at our home. He wasn’t fixed and immediately started mating with our male and female rabbits (Jonathan & Domino).

PART 4: BACK TO THE CHICKENS…

My daughter failed to turn in the permission slip (or get me the teacher’s contact info) and so the last day of school came and went and we were chicken-less.

So, Winchester is now in the half-finished chicken coop. We have a vet friend that has fixed the other two rabbits, but she’s gone for the summer. I’m going to build a better coop and am shooting for autumn chicks… that way we can actually have adult, egg-laying hens next spring.

PIVOT! I wanted a basketball hoop and chickens this spring… but I end up with a cool, new rabbit (albeit a bit randy) PLUS I will have a zip-line by the 4th of July.

Have you considered pivoting your sales strategy of late? If you don’t, life has a way of forcing you to pivot. Ideally, you are planning ahead, and you’ll experience less chaos.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

8 Characteristics of Inauthentic Leadership

17 Apr

authentic

Authentic leaders stay true to who they are and are comfortable voicing their own truths. They aren’t pressured into decisions or judgments by outside influences. Because of this, people who are authentic succeed over their competition.

Do You Have Any of These Flaws?

dumbo1. The unauthentic don’t expose their own faults. Instead, they hide their flaws and try to make themselves look ‘perfect’ which drives people away. A few years ago, I wrote a piece about “the fat fireman”. Essentially, I told the story about a disarming neighbor that cracked jokes and always had a smile on his face. I compared him to an intelligent attorney who always wore an expensive suit and perfect bow tie … but the lawyer was plain and not interesting. People were drawn to and disarmed by the fat fireman. I’m friends with the fat fireman and all his flaws and would definitely buy from him.

mistakes2. Therefore, they don’t learn from their mistakes. Because they are always hiding their faults, the unauthentic aren’t going to learn from them. A strong leader fosters an environment where faults and mistakes are not only accepted but encouraged. Everyone in their world is required to speak the truth and give feedback even if it hurts. Great leaders and their teams will learn much more from their mistakes versus their successes.

Ass_Kisser_Mug_300x3003. They are butt-kissers and people-pleasers.  Don’t kiss butts – it doesn’t work long term. Instead, tell the truth and be direct. Help, give and make genuine relationships with the right people and stop worrying about taking care of everyone. If your organization doesn’t promote this type of culture, you are probably working for the wrong organization.

4. They make short-term decisions that benefit themselves. Hopefully the reasoning behind this is obvious but it’s amazing how commonly this occurs. Great leaders stick to their guns and often make unpopular long-term decisions for the greater good.

Corporate America fails at this over and over again. They care about the stock price today, tomorrow and at the end of the quarter. This causes them to lie, hide and often make horrible decisions for the long haul. Artificial bubbles are created by poor, short-term decisions – and I have no doubt that America is building another bubble right now.

tightlipped5. They are tight-lipped. Don’t get me wrong, an authentic individual doesn’t need to be totally transparent. And a great leader usually isn’t the most talkative person in the room.

I have a deal with my three children that they can ask me anything and I’m comfortable answering 3/4’s of their questions. But there are 3 other categories: (a) I’ll tell you when you are 18 (b) I’ll tell you when you are 21 and (c) That’s dad’s business and I’m not going to share that information with you. Strong leaders need to express their thoughts, feelings and views unapologetically. In business, stay away from religion and politics… the rest should be fair game!

6. They are more concerned with impressing versus helping others. I had lunch with someone last month and I almost walked out on him after he referred to himself in the 3rd person for the 5th time (“John is really good at sailing…”). I decided instead to call John out on it. Let’s just say it was a funny moment (for me) but I don’t think we’ll be having lunch again.

Authentic leaders don’t care about their self-importance. They are much more concerned with helping those around them become successful. The authentic individual gives and shares because it’s obviously the nice thing to do – but understands that it also will benefit them. Warren Buffet isn’t significant because of his money and boasting. Buffet will be remembered for a long time to come because of his humility and value system.

surrounded-100526213-primary.idge_7. They surround themselves with anyone and everyone. Inversely, authentic leaders carefully select their trusted inner circle (because they tend to attract so many people). They conscientiously choose others that are direct, reliable and honest. In turn, authentic people are loyal to these relationships to the end of time.

8. Their value system constantly changes. That doesn’t mean those with strong value systems don’t adjust their principles here and there. If you watch the hit NBC Show “Good Place“, it provides laugh after laugh while consistently focusing on good ethics. In today’s ever-changing-world, the show recognizes that the definition of a “good decision” changes… but the core value system does not. Authentic leaders understand that their strong value system is at the heart of all they do.

The_Good_Place_S3-KeyArt-Logo-Show-Tile-1920x1080

If I haven’t convinced you yet that authentic people win long term, I’ll close with the fact that unethical behavior will cost you real money in business. You won’t land certain deals and customers because of poor decisions. A recent study by Goodpurpose demonstrated that where quality and price were equal, the leading purchase driver for 53 percent of consumers was social purpose.

So be real and be you. Live without regrets and be authentic!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

Blogs Written at a 5th Grade Reading Level are Better?

9 Apr

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Surprisingly, blogs (or any of your marketing materials) that are written at lower grade reading levels typically get the most attention. I’m failing. My last three blogs were written at 8th, 9th and 9th grade reading levels. This article is written at an 8th grade level. I’m striving for a 7th grade reading level.

The Wall Street Journal is written at an 8th grade level. My local paper, the Star Tribune (and probably most newspapers), is written at a 5th grade level. Hemingway wrote at a 4th grade reading level and Leo Tolstoy wrote at a 7th grade level. The Affordable Care Act is written at a college reading level! 

4 reasons why I think blogs written at lower levels succeed:

1. Your entire audience can’t read at a 7th grade reading level. 

There’s a book called What Makes a Book Readable that cites:

  • 1/3 of adults read at a 2nd-6th grade reading level
  • 1/3 of adults read at a 7th-12th grade reading level
  • 1/3 of adults read at college levels

If you write at a lower level, everyone obviously has a better chance at being able to understand it.

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2. Even the smart people need new material dumbed down a bit.

Learning Solutions magazine says that we forget 50% of what we learn within an hour. The more complicated, the more likely we are to forget. Humans require immediate comprehension of the material to increase our chances of retaining the information; when reading an article, we are often reading about topics that we don’t know a lot about.

3333. We want it quick and fast. 

In the internet age, things get skimmed, not read. The most popular blogs are one of two types: Lists and How-to’s. The most attention any of my 100+ blogs have ever received was a recent post I did on the Top 50 Largest LinkedIn Groups (Largest Groups on LinkedIn). Lists are simple – and how-to’s tend to be quick lessons that can immediately be applied. It has been found that on screens, we read faster and consequently, understand less.

44444. Reading has changed.

With the younger generation clamoring to YouTube and Facebook for “news” and information – and communicating through short texts and emojis, the demographics have shifted to suit our shorter attention spans. As a writer or blogger, you should embrace this change versus fighting it. If you want to write the next Moby Dick, go for it! But recognize that half of your audience CANNOT comprehend it (granted, it is probably much better material than your average blog).

What is the ideal grade level for your writing? 

The answer is dependent upon your audience, but my overall point of this blog is that it is probably a few grades lower than what you think. A few suggestions for “improving” your score include keeping your paragraphs and sentences short, avoiding complicated and unnecessary words and breaking up your content. And a few pictures and bulleted lists go a long way in keeping the reader’s attention.

There is a measurement called the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Reading Formula to determine the level of any piece of writing. It was first published in 1948 and it relies on the structure of the English language taking sentence and word length into consideration in order to determine readability.

How to figure out the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level:

  • If you are a user of Microsoft Word, go to the Review option at the top of the screen and Check Document.
  • This will give corrections (like spelling, as you probably know) and other refinements; after running through those, the Readability Statistics window will pop up.
  • Listed are the word counts and averages as well as the readability score which shows the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of your document. This will pop up after you run through the suggested corrections and refinements.
  • If you aren’t a Word user, you can also go to this site to measure the documents readability: https://readable.com/
  • Here is another site for editing lengthy and complex sentences: http://www.hemingwayapp.com/
  • Lastly, there are a few other formulas if you’d like to try them out: the Gunning-Fog Score, the Coleman-Liau Index and the Dale-Chall Formula.

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Now, my title is a bit deceiving… I don’t think 5th grade level blogs are “better”. But if our end goal is to garner attention and educate, we need to be thinking of our audience and cater to them. I personally need to do a better job of making it easier to read my material. It’s not about dumbing it down but rather making your point clearer and more concise.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

 

Are You a Squiggle?

28 Mar

 

squiggle9My most popular blog of all time is about this quick personality exercise – so I thought I would revisit the topic with a little updated editing. I originally wrote articles on WordPress (now I write on LinkedIn as well) and this 2011 post continues to get daily visits even though I never promote it (Old Blog Post).

Are you a square, circle triangle, rectangle or other?

Quick, without thinking – go with your gut and answer that question in your head (better yet, quickly draw it on paper) before you read the rest of this and we will dig into your answer in a minute. If you are thinking about your answer 10 seconds later, this exercise probably won’t be accurate.

shapes1Many moons ago, I met Connie Podesta (Connie’s Site) at a conference. Connie spoke over the lunch hour on this very topic of shapes and the personalities typically attached to them. Based on how people answered (first silently in their head), she described the likely personality traits of the individual with surprising accuracy. For example, Connie said, “the circles are probably talking right now…” and sure enough, I was talking at my table.

This is an oversimplified exercise and admittedly, a little silly. But similar to many personality assessments, there is some real accuracy to it … and it only takes 20 seconds! Give this exercise a try and don’t fret about the results as we are all a bit of each of the five shapes. I often ask this as an interview question to candidates, depending on the position. I’m not only curious about their answer, but I like to “read” their reaction to the question as well.

Note that I modified the original exercise on two accounts:

  1. I found that too many people were answering squiggle when given as an option (just because many people thought it was clever or funny) so I changed it to Other.
  2. I also added a rectangle because there was a void between squares and triangles. And those who choose rectangle seem to fit my personality description below.

copSquare: They are typically organized, work hard, love structure and want more order in the universe. Squares dislike situations where they don’t know what’s expected. They prefer working alone and are logical, sequential thinkers who often collect loads of data and file it so it’s easy to locate. Squares have trouble saying, “I’ve got enough information,” to make decisions. They strive to label everything as black or white – and they usually dislike this shape exercise more than the others! Your librarian or the next police officer who pulls you over is probably a square. I hope your CFO is a square.

edisonRectangle: They are a seeker and an explorer who is always searching for ways to grow and change. Rectangles often ask themselves “Who am I? What is the world about?” They are the most receptive of the five shapes to new learning. Rectangles are the least attached to a specific ideology and often cause their co-workers confusion when changing from day-to-day. Most people go through rectangular periods of their life when they’re in a state of change. Thomas Edison was probably a rectangle.

Steve_Jobs_Headshot_2010-CROP-780x611Triangle: They are decisive leaders who focus well on end goals. Triangles are self-confident and carry strong opinions. They can be dogmatic and shoot from the hip. Triangles like recognition and put stock in status symbols. American business has been run by triangles, and this shape is most characteristic of men. A huge positive is that they can communicate well with all the other personalities. Steve Jobs was a triangle.

marilynCircle: They get their energy from other people and work well with others due to their ability to communicate and empathize. They read people and can spot a phony right off. Circles like harmony and have more difficulty in dealing with conflict or making unpopular decisions. They can be swayed by other peoples’ feelings and opinions. They can be very effective managers in egalitarian business structures. Circles like to talk! Marilyn Monroe was a circle.

ladygagashockingpics2

 

Other / Squiggle: They are creative; a “what if” person who’s always thinking of new ways to do something. Squiggles are starters, but struggle with finishing because their mind never stops as they leap from A straight to Z. These catalysts do not like highly structured environments and can’t tolerate the mundane due to their shorter attention span. If squiggles don’t get excitement at work, they’ll find it elsewhere in life. Undoubtedly, Lady Gaga is a squiggle.

 

What’s your shape?

Beyond this shapes exercise, I’m a big fan of personality assessments like DiSC, Myers-Briggs and Strengths Finder 2.0. Over the years, I’ve probably taken 40-50 different assessments. I also like the Kolbe index and at our company, we always use a sales assessment for our candidates. In addition, I’d recommend a plug-in tool on LinkedIn called Crystal which analyzes the personality of a connection based on an algorithm that studies their communication style.

I think even the worst assessment forces you to go through an exercise of self-reflection. Even if the results don’t seem accurate, you will examine your personality, habits, strengths and weaknesses. Even the worst assessment accomplishes this.

I personally feel that the best aspect of these assessments is when you share them with your boss, co-workers or significant other. When I have an employee take an assessment, I share my personal results with them as well. I’ve found that it fosters an easier discussion about their weaknesses. We all have a personality and none of them are wrong – they all come with positives as well as negatives. By identifying these, it’s easier to work with others.

If I’m a circle and you’re a square, we can poke fun at ourselves – and objectively, discuss the value and strengths we both bring to the company or team. We’re all great and all a little crazy. Be aware of your weaknesses and focus on your strengths!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

 

The Friendly World of LinkedIn

19 Mar

gif smile

In February, I wrote a blog that I thought had a shot at being featured on a channel of LinkedIn Pulse (link to article here: The 50* Largest Groups on LinkedIn). It’s not really an “article”, but a list filling a void that I couldn’t find updated anywhere on the world wide web. After publishing and getting some organic steam, I decided to drive as much traffic to my post as possible. I did some considerable research on the topic of getting featured on LinkedIn Pulse and certainly got a lot smarter along the way as I interacted with a lot of friendly connections…

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The primary way that my post received a lot of attention was by reaching out to my network one by one and asking for their support with the article. I certainly didn’t have time to invite all 14,000 of my connections, but I asked about 400 people and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support from my network.

I used the opportunity to reconnect with 100 people that I hadn’t communicated with in some time and I shared it with 50+ clients asking them for a ‘like’. Then I rolled up my sleeves over the weekend and really dug into mining my connections and asking the biggest influencers in my network for help.

Who were the last 250 people I asked?

lion1. LION’s aka LinkedIn Open Networkers. I may go a little overboard as a recruiter connecting with other LION’s (I have over 2,000 of them), but they have real value and I saw this in action. I didn’t invite all of them, given this was actually me doing the invites (I don’t let my virtual assistant touch my LinkedIn due to it containing many real relationships, so I don’t want them to feel spammed). Instead, I searched through the LION’s that were most active, the ones that had the most connections and the individuals that also wrote articles that I could help to cross-promote. LION’s typically have a lot of connections so their resharing value is exponential.

I sent them different versions of this message (within LinkedIn):

Hello Susan, I’m trying to get this article featured on one of LI’s Pulse channels. Is there any way I could get you to reshare it and/or comment on the article? Let me know how I can return the favor. Many thanks! ~Drew

bee1

2. The Busy Bees. I asked people that were more active on LinkedIn. I view my newsfeed almost every morning, so I’m aware of who is most involved in using LinkedIn. These connections certainly got an invitation.

3. Recruiters and HR Professionals. They use LinkedIn probably more than any job title. All of the recruiters and HR folks that I know well received a message from me.

4. Groups. These weren’t individual people I messaged; I went to almost all of my LinkedIn groups and posted my article there. In turn, this generated a lot of visibility from 2nd and 3rd degree connections. Since I do not promote very often in my groups, I don’t think any took down my post. A lot of them were listed in the article, so it was certainly relevant material.

I assumed I’d get help from 1 out of every 10 people but that ratio ended up being closer to 1 out of every 4. The number of reshares was my biggest surprise and more than not, they reposted with a nice plug on the blog post and me. The comments were awesome as well and many of them came with thoughtful questions and meaningful feedback.

thumbsblogOngoing, I realized who in my network could help again if I asked. I’m guessing half of the aforementioned connections would be annoyed if I asked for another “favor” this month, but the other half offered to help anytime. These 75 or so connections (you know who you are) recognize the enormous value of a supportive community on LinkedIn. I will be liking their posts, reading their articles (and reposting if I like the material), joining some of their groups and likely asking for their help in the future.

As of today, I have over 800 views of my article, 168 likes, 47 comments and 97 reshares. Woo hoo! Of course, it never got featured on a channel of LinkedIn’s Pulse, which was my original objective… but it did garner a lot of attention, my answer on Quora is on the first page of results when you Google “largest LinkedIn groups”, I have a meeting with a new prospect and last Friday, I got a call from a radio host that wants me to be featured on his program. Listen to me live on Cover Your Assets with Todd Rooker on ESPN 1500 AM 8:00-9:00 am on April 13th!

I have been loudly reminded all over again of the utility of LinkedIn and the value of my 1st degree connections. The key is to actively engage with them on a regular basis. We all have only so much time… but I don’t think you can afford not to comb through your relationships and communicate with them on a regular basis. Thank you, Microsoft and LinkedIn, for your imperfect but valuable social media site. A thousand thank-you’s to my network for your ongoing support!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

P.S. Can I still get featured? If you like this post, please give it a thumb. If you benefit from reading my articles, please go here and give me a like, comment or reshare: The 50* Largest Groups on LinkedIn

 

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/friendly-world-linkedin-drew-schmitz/

What can Joe Mauer teach us about sales?

14 Nov

joemauer

Very little.

This month, Joe Mauer, long term Minnesota Twin, announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. On Monday, I listened to Joe’s news conference where he emotionally discussed his retirement for over 30 minutes. I wondered where in the heck this Joe has always been…

I grew up here in Minnesota with the luck of watching my Twins capture World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. We had Kirby Puckett, a passionate, joyful character that always made me giggle; Bert Blyleven, who kept levity around the Twin’s clubhouse with almost daily pranks; Kent Hrbek, who was almost as hilarious as Blyleven… and Minnesota had Jack Morris for one year, who was as fiery as any competitor and won game 7 of the 1991 World Series pitching 10 innings. We had great personalities and players full of emotion.

Many years later in 2004, the Twins had a new star catcher named Joe Mauer as a rookie… Joe’s first 5-7 years with the Twins were unbelievable and he clearly looked to be headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 2010, he signed a record $184 million 8-year contract. In the following years, Joe Mauer had a major concussion and a number of frustrating injuries. In 2014, the Twins moved Joe to first base and he was never the same player again. Like many Minnesota fans, I began to lose faith in him. He was expensive, often injured and very average from that point forward at first base.

The real reason why I’ll never look at Joe in the same light as the aforementioned Kirby, Bert, Kent and Jack is because Joe seemed to lack any of the passion we saw from my World Series favorites. In interviews, Joe gave short answers in a monotone voice and in general was very close-lipped. Joe was boring. He was a good man and ball player… but extremely boring.

I always talk about authenticity in connection with others in sales. You can overcome many flaws if you have an engaging personality and approach people with the genuine ‘you’.

Joe never seemed genuine to me… until I listened to his press conference. Joe teared up many times as he spoke; he was verbose, and I might dare say loquacious, even. He was open in his press conference and forthright in his responses to questions. Joe seemed REAL for the first time in a long time (or ever). I wish we could have had this Joe Mauer over the last 14 years. I wish we could have seen his real personality as a player. If I’d heard him speak from the heart, I would have been much less disappointed in his average play and more sympathetic regarding his multiple injuries.

I never would have hired Joe for a sales position, but after this new glimpse into the life of Joe Mauer, I’m going to give him a call and see if I can get him to sell for Blue Octopus.

It’s time to grow faster~
Drew Schmitz

Lessons from my World Travels

1 Aug

earth junk

I accomplished what few Americans do before 65 – I took two vacations in one month. I’m not bragging as it comes with its share of challenges (being away from Minnesota for 3 out of 4 weeks requires a little juggling of the demands of work and home, plus you really miss your kids if you don’t bring them along!).

On the first trip, I traveled solo to Sweden to visit my brother’s family living there and the second trip was to Colorado with my girlfriend. June was a fantastic voyage, but I’m more than happy to be back to the “norms” of Minnesota summer!


From a business practicum, what stands out to me about this past month is people. Being a traveling extrovert, I met many great Swedes and Coloradans, plus a horrible woman in Denver. There were many transactional exchanges at airports and gas stations that even surprised me.

I was reminded that I’m always in the “elevator” with the next potential client… and if I don’t think of that, then I miss opportunities. I imagine that a prospect could be sitting on the park bench right next to me. There were two connections I made in Colorado that could lead to new business for Blue Octopus!

The Good 

  • Many kind people and fellow travelers. Especially outside the U.S., I was blown away by some of their helpfulness. a.) One man walked me four blocks out of his way to help me with directions. b.) On a bike ride in Sweden, I was stopped by some locals and offered a beer as they sat on a bar patio. c.) In Stockholm, I met a woman in their legislature who chatted with me over fish and chips. She returned to the restaurant to make sure we connected on LinkedIn.
  • Even more great customer service people. a.) A bartender walked into the restroom to quietly warn me about the drunk we were sitting next to in Denver (suggesting we slide down a couple spots). b.) I think the woman from KLM airlines held an entire flight for me for 5 minutes; at the very least, she made sure my bag got on the plane as I ran to the gate. c.) I was navigating the light rail in Denver one day and this woman helped me figure out the confusing transfer to a second bus (“come with me, I’m going that way!”).
The Bad 

  • I’m not going to get into specifics on Mariah in Denver, but it was the worst customer service I’ve ever received in my life.
  • I had six flights in total – I was bumped twice and two other times the plane was delayed by more than 90 minutes. Apparently when you check that little Terms & Conditions box, you are agreeing that they can overbook the flight and you might get bumped. Airlines like United, Spirit and Frontier are unbelievably bad… I’ve always had more luck with KLM, Delta and Southwest.

 

The 8 Things I Learned:
  • You never know when/where you’ll find the next client – and you don’t have to be wearing a suit. So always be friendly and say please and thank you.
  • The Mariahs (sorry nice Mariahs) are everywhere. They wear the same face at work or play. I try to stay as far away from them as possible as they’ll pull you apart (clients, candidates, family or friends).
  • When meeting someone for the first time, assume their dog died today. I’m a spazz that jumps to conclusions. People have good days and bad days – if you return their attack on the bad day, they will reciprocate (often understandably).
  • Never ever visit the IRS office (a story for another day).
  • Ask for help. From my experience, 50% of the world LOVES to help their fellow man. So, if your Google Maps isn’t connecting, then ask the first friendly-looking person for directions.
  • Don’t ask the other 50% for help. They are Mariah. They carry a neutral or negative vibe (i.e. people who don’t make eye contact) … and it is easy to see by their eyes and body posture or words that they are exchanging with the person next to them.
  • Don’t refinance your house in between two vacations. I won’t bore you with the details…
  • Be brave. Fear is the #1 reason we don’t discover new opportunities or meet new people. Get comfortable asking for help and looking stupid. It’s all in your head. If your mind gets foggy, then take a nap or go to bed early (you are on vacation!). The only other reason you don’t ask for directions is laziness.

Make it a great day~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

It’s time to grow faster.

 

 

The Dog Days of August

31 Jul

dogdays

How was your summer? Nope, it’s not over, but it is getting closer to Labor Day…

When it comes to my business cycle, August is always similar to the January turn at the beginning of the year. It’s still a bit slow – but we all know a busy season is approaching us. Given the Blue Octopus’ pipeline, it may be the busiest fall/winter yet! So… I can stall a few more weeks – or get “back on the horse” and prepare as if I’ll have no time September through December.

An August To-Do List:

  1. Email, Paperwork, etc. Are your files in order? If you don’t clean out that inbox this month, you are going to find July emails at the bottom of your inbox in January! Delete ’em, refer them onto someone else, file them away or take action.
  2. Finances. Personally and professionally, where is the cash flow going to fall for the rest of 2018? Match this up with the planning that I suggest below in #8.
  3. Networking. I vacationed twice in June and July and my networking plummeted. I have a lunch, three meetings and a networking event set for the first half of August. I’m shooting for at least 12 of these in August before I start getting comfortable.
  4. Marketing. I have a nearly finished second sales management book that I’ve been sitting on since April. It’s time to finish proofing and editing so I have a prayer of getting it out this fall. Partnering with Elite Holding Co., I also released a YouTube video last month (https://youtu.be/jkMq-HS-iZM)… and we need to get two more done this month.
  5. Sales. Not everyone is working hard this month, but those that are in the office aren’t getting as many emails and phone calls. This is a great month to keep the sales push going. Catch them now and you probably double your chance at a meeting with them in September.
  6. Old Connections. A different bent on sales & marketing is simply dropping an email to those that you haven’t talked to in the last few months. My best clients and referrers are practically friends. Don’t forget to proactively reach out to them regularly (and ask in return if there is anything you can do for them).
  7. Management. My personal responsibilities are to my recruiting team. I’m the salesman and they do the bulk of the recruiting and screening work. It’s time for a simple 2-way review. I certainly evaluate their performance but a one-on-one with each of them is important to make sure (a) Are we on the same page? (b) How is your boss doing? (c) What do you need in order to hit our numbers the rest of the year? This one hour interaction goes a long way towards better retention of your employees.
  8. Planning (and Thinking). It might sound stupid, but this could be your last chance to really think before the boss, clients, spouse and kids start dictating most of your schedule. Lay out your year and 4Q goals. Are they still achievable? What actions need to take place?

People are generally happier in the summertime (particularly here in Minnesota), so it’s a better time to catch them on a good day and bend their ear.

Don’t let your August blow away without some serious planning as well as taking action on that plan. What are you going to accomplish before Labor Day??

It’s time to grow faster.

Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com