Posted by: peterhact | December 4, 2012

In the midst of a downturn, who stays and who goes?

One of the things I have noticed in recent years is that a salesperson in a slump is no longer supported by the business they work for. They are an easy target for retrenchment, for firing and the business feels that they can do without that particular person.

When did this change? When did a salesperson become as commoditised as the products that they sell? Don’t get me wrong, there are some people who aren’t suited to the life as a salesperson, but they usually are weeded out early in their careers. There are certain people who, for whatever reason, believe that they can sell, when they are better in a support role, a technical role, a management role.

The best way to find out whether a salesperson is right for the business of selling is to find out why they aren’t selling. What is preventing them from selling? There needs to be in every salesperson’s life a series of structured and rigid procedures and policies. Why? Well, if the salesperson does not know what the company strategy is, they will “Scattergun” opportunities. They need targets, to measure against, territories, to identify key market segments and support, so that they know that there is a company behind them, a team, not a group of individuals.

Every person who has a job knows what they do. Salespeople do not provide technical support. Office administrators do not order products and services. CIOs don’t engage in break / fix of client systems. Each specific role has specific responsibilities, but all must meet a common criteria:

If your company helps customers, everyone in the company is dedicated to excel in customer service.

From the receptionist, the purchasing officer, the accounts person, the salespeople, the support people, the technical people. If you pick up the phone and answer a client phone call, you must treat them with respect. There is no place for joking about your customers, regardless of whether your comments are directed at them or at your colleagues. You must expect the customers to not be subject experts about technology, medical, secretarial, etc, etc. The customer engages a company for the services that they don’t understand or don’t have the time to learn about. They expect that the experience will be great, not good, and that they can rely on the company to support them. Reliance. a small word, a big responsibility.

Who should go in a downturn? keeping every single staff member may result in far reaching ramifications. The company may go under. The company needs to survive, but you work out who is not able to assist in the growth of the company. The people who aren’t prepared to change, that cannot see the big picture and expect that they don’t need to. Who helps a company grow? Salespeople do. Technical staff support existing clients, they cannot grow a business. If they are selling, where are they letting the company down? supporting the number one person that the company has, which is the client. Stick to your jobs. if you are technical, be the best technician. If you are procurement, be the best in that role. If you are sales, and in a bit of a rut, a good manager will find out the why, the how and what needs to be done to fix it.

Don’t throw away salespeople. Fix them.

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Posted by: peterhact | November 6, 2012

Block and Move on… Nothing to read here.

One of the things that has crept into the social media universe is the nasty side of human nature – the people who, for whatever reason, can’t just accept another person’s point of view – they have to pursue the poster across the Twitterverse, The Facebook conversations or other types of social media engagement. They gain the name troll, in itself not a nice way to describe a fellow community member in the particular social media environment, but this seems to have stuck as a warning to other members.

Many comments come out along the lines of “don’t “feed” the trolls” – a direct reference to not engaging with the person who is creating a dark aspect to the discussion.

Many years ago, on CB radios, the trolls were “breakers” – in the midst of a conversation, a call of “breaker, breaker” would be heard. “Come in the breaker” was the natural response, and someone else would be in the conversation. We didn’t know who they were, but the discussions were impacted by their presence. sometimes, people would try to ignore the breaker, but if they were particularly persistent, we would switch channels and leave them searching channels till they finally found us. It was annoying, most of the breakers were kids who had received a CB for christmas, and they did not understand the etiquette of the radio. screaming “breeaaker, breeaaker” over and over in a loud voice just got a short, sharp response from someone else. We never swore, there was a rumor that there was an RI (Radio Inspector) listening in to all conversations, so we kept it clean. There probably wasn’t, but parents took a dim view when hearing their little angel on the radio cursing like a trooper. It was safer to keep it clean.

In social media, the best way to deal with a troll, or a person making improper comments or threats is to block, report and move on. Bullies feed on acquiescence – if you listen to them and don’t think that it is a bad thing, they have access to your friends, they can comment on all things and if you are not interested in the vitriol that they are gushing, why let them control you? Every single user on the social media universe has an opinion. Their opinion may differ from yours, but if it bothers you, block them. remember, you are online by choice, but that does not mean you have to follow others blindly and accept every connection request.

This applies to every form of Social media. If you don’t like where someone is going in a conversation on twitter, block them. If the updates someone is posting on facebook are aimed at discrediting you, hurting you, hurting your family, report and block them. If you are receiving invitations on linkedin from people who can’t even be bothered to explain why connecting to them is a great idea, ignore them. You can also advise linkedin that you don’t know them.

Every different type of social media product has a way of protecting you. They don’t want you to suffer when using their products, as you won’t for long and they know it. There are safeguards to ensure that you can be left alone by people you don’t know, who are being rude, abusive or threatening. if all else fails, block and move on. You may end up with a smaller amount of content to read,  but at least it will be quality, not quantity.

Posted by: peterhact | September 13, 2012

Where did I go?

One of the fun things about LinkedIn is that there are a number of serial checkers who notice that I have left the company I was at, but haven’t shown up in the usual places. These checkers can’t dignify me with who they are, so it becomes a guessing game as to who they are. Honestly, it is amusing to see who they might be, but if you can’t be honest and open on LinkedIn, what sort of potential connection are you?

I have had a couple of strange requests recently for connections. If you aren’t in a group that I am in, or don’t know you from another connection, please tell me why it is very important to connect to me. Sending me a connection request that says “I would like to add you to my professional network”, where I have no clue who you are, means that it is unlikely that the connection is accepted.

If you think you know me, tell me where from. If you are trying to grow your network, and you really don’t know me, be honest. I respond well to people who say, after the standard “I would like to add you to my professional network”, I am interested in connecting to you because I think I worked with you at… or you were my rep at… or maybe there is some synergy between your company and me. Works a lot better.

If you are trying to hammer contacts through connections, be aware that I am not averse to reporting such activity. Many of my contacts are long term friends or family. Some are clients I have worked with over the years. Some remember me from the very old days of my career. My LinkedIn connections are really my contact database, my card file. (It is a lot easier than keeping business cards as the nature of industry in Canberra means we all shuffle around, no pun intended)

There are people who I have known for years who aren’t in my contacts, but they don’t need to be. I can find their details and contact them if I need to, but their details are kept out of LinkedIn for various reasons. Not my place to guess why.

I have not updated my details on LinkedIn. I probably won’t for a while, as this means that my competitors don’t know where I am. (I know they check my profile)

For those of you who know me, you know where I am. If you know me, but you don’t have a clue where I am, call me. you have my number.

 

Posted by: peterhact | September 3, 2012

“Looking for new challenges and opportunities”

“Looking for new challenges and opportunities” seems to be the polite way of saying, “I am unemployed. I need a job” in the digital age. I sometimes think I need a big card that says “Will work for Money” – to be held in the faces of every single person I know in case they a) have a job going, b) are asking where I am working and c) are wondering what I have been up to.

I saw a young man the other day with a card that read “spare change for accommodation” He was looking worn out, sad, sadder than I could ever be and I wondered where were the people that can help somebody like this, where are the charities when a person needs help but is too proud to ask? Why is it that the job search minefield seems to be just as difficult, and could lead to food and bills paid or it could end up with me, holding his sign?

The recent track history in my career hasn’t been that great. I had heard of people when I was younger who had several jobs and several retrenchments, I never thought that it would happen to me – not one redundancy, but, over my career, 4. The saddest thing about a redundancy, the most soul destroying aspect, is that you just cannot go back and try again. The door is bolted shut against a return, some companies allow you back to sell again if the parting was amicable, but a redundancy really tells you that the door is closed and the position you held will never, ever be used again.

In most cases, the job you left or the job that you were retrenched from meant that you never went back. I call the past mistakes and retrenchments in my career the “trail of destruction” and refer to the advice I received from others as I journeyed along as, in some part, defective. If I think back, I realise that some of the decisions were not my own. I was coerced into making decisions that benefited others, but, when you get down to it, damaged me.

I have the occasional “What if” brainstorm – where I look at decisions and their impact and wonder if I had been more forceful, more demanding, would they have ended the same way? What if I had stayed in jobs that I loved when I was told to find a “better one”, with better hours or better pay? What if I had said no when I was told that the decision was “me or the job”? Where would I be now? Would I be happy? Would I have reached a senior role where I had felt happy doing what I was doing and not worrying about what other people said? The answers as always are that I will never know. I can’t rewrite the past, I can only write the future. The chains that bound me to decisions that were manipulated by others have been lifted and I am now standing on the brink of something better.

I am looking for new challenges and opportunities. I am looking for a new job that calls to me and makes me want to be there. I am ready to face my future again – alone, part of a team, doesn’t matter. I am reborn again with the singular purpose of achieving greatness. I am believing in me again, my positive mental attitude is slowly climbing again and when  that battery level is full, look out, world. I want to take every opportunity with both hands and live it. I want to be able to stand amongst my peers and say that I am of importance.

I am looking for new challenges and opportunities. I know who I am again, where I am going and what I want to do with the rest of my life.

My card now reads “Employ Me! You know you want to!”

The answer is: Never.

Every person you speak to will have a horror story about their bank, their internet provider, the guy who mows their lawns, the trash pack company and, with monotonous regularity, the company who supports their computer systems.

Every IT company has case studies, examples of people who have thought that the service that they have received warrants a “pat on  the back” in print. The bad experiences don’t get a mention, but the great machine of popular discussion, gossip, will take care of telling others how bad it was, how condescending the rep was, how arrogant the tech was, how they just made you feel like an idiot, or a small child.

There is a term used at IT companies, when dealing with someone that isn’t technologically savvy – “dropping down into idiot speak” so that the customers “get” what is being discussed. Bad companies do this, good companies do it as a last resort, great companies don’t do it at all. How do great companies “get away” with not doing it?

They treat their clients with dignity. Without the client, there would be no business. Great companies recognise that we all have strengths and weaknesses, for example, a heart surgeon may know nothing about computers, but can tell you everything about how to fix a heart. Do surgeons treat all people who know nothing about hearts as idiots, or do they raise the education level of the person so that they can understand the topics being discussed? So why do some IT companies think that, because someone doesn’t understand IT, they are idiots?

Because they haven’t encountered the sleeping giant, the IT savvy person who understands exactly what is being discussed, but betrays no hint of understanding. These sleeping giants are often found in retail, often when it is far too late to save your discussion or keep the client. You have made them look and feel like a fool. Now it is your turn to suffer.

Idiots do exist in the world of customer service, unfortunately, they appear to be the ones selling, not the ones being sold to. They are easy to spot. They usually have someone in front of them who has their face contorted into a picture of misery as they explain the speeds and feeds of the product they are trying to sell.

There are many things about a computer. Knowing that it is a core i7 processor, with 8gb of ram and a 500gb hard drive probably doesn’t help when all you want it to do is run the family budget, perhaps type out a few emails and check out the internet pictures that your grandkids have put on their facebook page. But that is retail.

What confronts a small business is far more difficult. In some cases, the small business owner has (not literally) been dragged into the 21st century by demands placed on them by staff, customers and suppliers. They need to get a computer, a website and the internet. They don’t care about the fact that the computer is faster than a blue streak of lightning, processing faster than you can type. The salesperson seems to forget all about what the needs are and has a sort of glazed look – they know the customer is there, but they are so wrapped up in how cool the technology is that they have forgotten what they came to them for.

if they think that the customer isn’t getting it, maybe they will commit the cardinal sin and drop into “idiot speak”.

Imagine if you did this to your mother. She has asked for some help with the computer and you have treated her like an idiot – what happens when she works it out? Let’s just say that the christmas present scene looks pretty bleak.

If you don’t treat your mother like an idiot, when is it OK to do it for anybody else?

Simple answer. It is never OK.

Posted by: peterhact | August 25, 2012

What Happens when your life is in the Toilet?

what happens when the impact of various elements has finally caught up with you? What do you do?

I was separated for 3 years, and finally divorced this year. This was one of the impacts on my life – I went from having a family, a great job, to becoming negative and bitter, lashing out at co-workers, not actually understanding who I was anymore. I didn’t come home to a busy house, filled with kids and warmth and love. I was coming home to an empty and sad home, and it reflected in my behavior.

Another impact was the market downturn – organisations seem to be sticking with safe, not new technologies and this has a negative effect as well.

The final impact was that I was tarnished by comments made by certain individuals for no rhyme or reason, childish behavior that I would have thought was beneath them.

For these impacts to sink in, and do damage to me meant that my Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) was under such burden that I wasn’t positive, I wasn’t “in the game” at all. I have always had a great PMA. I have always seen the positives instead of the negatives and now all I could see was negatives. These impacts have come over a period of years and now I see that I need to rebuild me – I am always strong, tenacious, passionate about my chosen field, but there was something wrong. The fire in my belly was smoldering, not blazing as it should have been.

Where to from here? I have a bit of time to work out what is going on. I have to find the ignition for my fire and re-kindle it. I want to be as bright as the sun again, blazing a light for all to see and creating a fire that burns with an intensity that can’t be mistaken.

What happens when your life is in the toilet?

Flush away the bad stuff. wipe your negativity away and start again.

Because when your life is hitting rock bottom, the only way is up.

Posted by: peterhact | August 17, 2012

it is all about image

Now, I know that over  my career I have annoyed people, never really got on with some people and have a couple that avoid me like the plague. Image in sales is everything. If you are being portrayed in a bad light, it is the most damaging thing, and may result in a complete overhaul of you, a reinvention of who you are and what you stand for. The common thread in my career is that if people don’t like me, they have the common courtesy to tell me. Not everybody else first, and I find out through a couple of trusted contacts, me.

If I have slighted somebody, or made a mistake, they usually tell me what it is I have done so that I can either apologise (if it is warranted), explain myself (if it is needed), or, and this is very important, fix the issue. I am not closed to conversation. In truth, I would prefer to talk about something instead of finding out last about the problem and having perceptions on me, my performance and my character thrown into disrepute. There are certain things about me that I do not discuss with the world. I do not advertise my personal problems, I have only recently opened up about some telling points in my life – and those points happened well over 20 years ago.

The industry I am in is very insular. Someone I know knows someone else who may know me or at least, and this is amusing from time to time, knows someone in the Canberra market with the same name as I. Newsflash, people: it is a pretty common name. There are at least 5 of us with the same name, in the ICT industry in Canberra. I am unable to tell you about their characters, they seem like nice people, but I don’t actually spend any time speaking to them.

Then there was the recent spate of articles that I did not write for a national ICT magazine. I didn’t write those articles. I did write some a while ago for the magazine in question, but the latest batch aren’t me. That bloke with the same name as me lives in Melbourne. He and I are not the same person. I have never met him. Asking me more about those articles is a bit silly, I didn’t write them, and, most of the time, I haven’t read them yet. Taking offence to those articles that “I” wrote and blaming “me” for some of the discussions is a bit silly.

Ask me. I am on many different forms of communication, ranging from LinkedIn to twitter, I am very approachable, I do respond to most queries about me and things that I have done, if you buy me a coffee I will listen to you (I listen to anyone who buys me a coffee), if there is an issue with me, raise it.

I guess what I am asking for is transparency. If you have an issue with me, tell me. If it is something I can fix, I will. If it is something I cannot, I will at least talk to you about it. Perhaps we can find common ground. maybe not. At least by speaking to me directly about your concerns, I can endeavor to  learn and improve myself. I can try to avoid the mistakes I make now in the future.

So here I am. If you know me and have a problem, you don’t need to use this blog to contact me. you know my contact details. if you know me but don’t have them, make a comment here. I will follow up with you and ensure that your question is answered, your criticism is taken and analyzed and responded to, and if there is a mistake I have made, big or small, let me know so that I can do something towards fixing it.

Posted by: peterhact | August 16, 2012

Technology Events and the changing Landscape

This week I attended the Technology in Government and the Public Sector Summit. http://www.acevents.com.au/ausgovtech2012/ This is an annual event, and it was the first time for a while that I attended as an expo delegate and not as an exhibitor. I was able to reconnect with old contacts, speak to a few old friends and customers and get a general feel about what the market was like across several different segments of the ICT industry.

Many people are of the opinion that the Technology event scene is a waste of their time and resources. From the numbers of people at the event, and the difficulty I had finding a park nearby, this opinion seems to be uninformed.

Many years ago, when Dinosaurs roamed the earth, there was an IT event in canberra that had no rival. This was back in the days of AusCom, an event that every company vied for a chance to promote themselves at, when the big players like Pr1me, Cray and Wang were household names, and had elaborate stands to promote their offerings. (it was also back in the days of large margins, new technology being released daily and no internet. the olden days)

Over the years, AusCom started to lose the public interest. My opinion was that, before the internet, so many technology events seemed to lose touch with their audiences. The internet, social media and word of mouth allows events to be successful. The times before the internet when events were held seemed to be lacking the impetus to promote effectively. The event was held in and completely filled the Canberra National Convention Centre.

Back to the present. The Tech in Government event had one failing this year, it had no Hashtag for the attendees to ensure what was discussed in twitter got picked up by others. This was solved by twitter attendees themselves. there was a false start with the hashtag #AusGovIT, but this was quickly replaced with #govtech and we were away. The reason that this was so important was to ensure that people attending the event could hear from other attendees what was significant, what they were looking forward to attending and be able to make informed decisions about which discussions they sat in on.

Based on the numbers that attended this year, I expect that the event will be shifted to another site to handle the volume of attendees, thus making it a premier event for vendors and end users alike. This is the new future of events. Taking a look at historical data about events in Canberra means that a lot of people discount the potential of being here, at these events.

Their basis usually falls on the old AusCom days, which is not a true comparison, the new events have access to social media and the internet. The old events never did. The best way to see the impact on the market from an event is to attend. Next year, let us see who is at the event. I will be there, regardless of my role as I see the benefit it has for the big picture. This is a great opportunity for new players in the canberra market to learn things about this town, the interactions and how to best approach being here.

The Budget surplus has had a marked effect on the ICT industry in Australia. Many smaller companies who aren’t on panels are eking out a life on any scraps that they can find and keep “under the radar” of the larger organisations. They are fighting for their survival, but the government is far too busy to notice as they chase the working family vote – completely ignoring the singles in the process, never realizing that these people have very long memories come election time.

The income tax threshold has been lifted? great. The income tax rates have also been raised. I got my pay packet last month, all excited, and found I had gained an extra $10. I am not on the average wage, in fact I certain most people aren’t.

I was reading an article that is towing the old line that the government needs to do more with less. Lower budgets, less contractors. What is the end result of this for the economy? Departments won’t touch new technology with a 40 foot barge pole, meaning that they will do more with less, using old technology that has been propped up with maintenance renewals. There is no growth. There is no innovation, there are no prospects for new companies coming into the market with a great idea that potentially will solve several problems currently faced by end users.

Where is the support for new businesses in Australia? If you have a great idea, put it out into the market and fail, does the government notice? do they care? Whatever happened to the idea that we promote research and development that lifts our country up to be a leader in the ICT industry, not accept other countries and their own companies’ ideas?

There has been discussion that it will all get better in september. Personally, I feel that it will get better after the next election, where we will either see a new government or an old one that has had a damn good shaking.

We have great R&D exposure here, with ideas that are being developed by specific government departments. How do the budget cuts impact their flexibility? We need diverse approaches to the same ICT problem from many different angles, not all from the same sources as it seems to be currently.

If I was a politician, either the ALP or the Coalition, I would take the surplus and look closely at where it took budgets away from certain departments, then reinstate them. We were sheltered by the Stimulus Package during the GFC, but there were long term ramifications. Companies that survived the GFC, not just in the ICT industry, but across the segments are now closing. The Automotive sector has taken a pounding. Construction, Transport and Retail have fared no better.  One small step to get this country back on its feet with a strong economy and more jobs is to release funds to government – if the departments can buy, then every other segment will benefit – there is a flow on effect if ICT spend increases:

Companies grow. Companies are able to increase their size if there is money available to do so. This may mean relocation, in some instances, if the increase is substantial. They may commission a new building to house the staff sizes that they have gained. The benefit is a lower unemployment rate, and an injection of disposable incomes into the other sectors.

Disposable incomes rise. If a person is earning more money, they have more to spend. They can buy a new car, they can renovate their house, or buy a new house. The current housing situation is alleviated by additional properties being built. New cars are produced. Farmers gain income from crops, it is a complete reinvention of the economy.

All segments gain positive growth. If disposable incomes are up, people can buy things from retailers, new cars, new houses, items to fit out the new houses and the economy becomes more stronger with each new purchase. Government can become more technologically advanced, Companies stop the free fall into administration, and the country becomes stronger with respect to unemployment rates, income tax, GST and other forms of revenue.

To say that this is the magic bullet is a big leap, but a surplus budget is not the most effective way to ensure that the country is stable and profitable. The best way to make money is to spend money. In the case of the government, bailouts for companies are not sustainable. Creating a long term solution that prevents rises in unemployment numbers, promotes growth and creates wealth in the population is a better approach. Tough budgets do not promote growth in industry, they promote critical failures in the companies and the employees that the government relies on for its source of income.

Posted by: peterhact | July 23, 2012

Passion

There is always a bit of a problem explaining what I mean when I say I am passionate about technology. Do I love it? Yes, yes I do. But that is where it ends, I won’t sell one product over another because I am told to, I will sell the solution that I am convinced is the best for the client’s needs.

What do I define passion as? It is a fire in my belly, a click in my head, a moment of absolute clarity when I can see the hole that this particular product fits in. I can work backwards and forwards in my visualisation and see how it can make the solution work better than without it. I want to share this knowledge now, with my client. I can see if the product isn’t part of the solution, that solution will either miss the need being addressed or just fail in totality.

If you can’t visualise, don’t worry. Not everyone can. I can curl my tongue. Many people can’t. But this is an example of the diversity between people. If everyone saw the world in the same way, there would be no innovation, diverse ideas or concepts. My other little known talent (combined with talking with my hands) is the ability to weave the story about this solution. Apparently, I do it when reading stories to my kids, and have always done it, since I was a small child.

This tells me that I love the written word, but I love explaining it too. The greatest test in my industry is the preparation of tenders. I enjoy writing them, I just don’t enjoy the stress that goes with it. Lock me in a room with a Tender and I will deconstruct it, find the products or services that fit and exceed the requirements, usually with whiteboards, and then write a response that meets the core understanding of the tender requirements. I am passionate about writing it correctly, I enjoy researching the technology involved. Just don’t ask me to Bind, wrap and deliver the damn things.

(most are electronic these days, so that isn’t much of a problem)

When I look back at my career to date, there are several key brands that stand out as ones I was particularly passionate about:

Computers: NEC, Acer, HP, Compaq, IBM, Lenovo, Amstrad, Microbee, Apple and ASI.

Servers: Sun, Acer, NEC, Fujitsu, IBM, Apple, HP and ASI.

Notebooks: Acer, NEC, Fujitsu, IBM, Lenovo, HP, Compaq, Apple, ASI and Asus.

Connectivity: Telstra

Networking: Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, Cisco, HP.

Software – Operating Systems: Linux (Ubuntu, SuSe, Open SuSe, Red Hat), Solaris, Windows, Mac OSX.

Software – Applications: MS Office, Lotus Smartsuite, WordPerfect, Adobe Range, Autodesk range, Open Source.

Software – Security & Asset Management /discovery: Symantec, McAfee, Sophos, AVG, Avast, Kaspersky, Landesk, Centennial, several other brands long gone.

This is up until my last employer. Now I am learning about Riverbed, Credant, Imperva, Solarwinds, Websense and new versions from Landesk. There are many others not mentioned, but you get the picture. In today’s ICT environment, it is one thing to know these products, it is completely another to visualise how they can be bolted together to form solutions in each of the segments that the market has been pigeon holed into.

My Passion is now about thinking outside the box. Looking at the current events in the industry and working out ways to create solutions that ensure that the technology is a part of the solution, but isn’t the main focus. The new main focus is services, daunting for a product professional, but it just needs a small adjustment to make the service the product.

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