Category Archives: Blogging practices

Skepticism: An Antidote for Statistical Malpractice

Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, doesn’t suffer fools. He questions assertions that others accept as fact. He challenges claims of “scientifically proven” when he doesn’t see any science. He examines experimental hypotheses, and weighs research methods and data. “The principle is to start off skeptical and be open-minded enough to change your mind if the evidence is overwhelming, but the burden of proof is on the person making the claim,” he says, adding, “I would change my mind about Bigfoot if you showed me an actual body, not a guy in an ape suit in a blurry photograph.” [emphasis, mine]

Just like those grainy images of Bigfoot, marketers often use shaky evidence to support contrivances of irrefutable proof. They crow that numbers don’t lie, and latch onto statistical tidbits to drive home their points. “Studies show . . .” The cliché preamble to a sales pitch.

“Hands down, the two most dangerous words in the English language today are ‘studies show,’” Andy Kessler wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial, Studies are Usually Bunk, Study Shows (August 13, 2017), “If a conclusion sounds wrong to you, you’re probably not a hung-over grad student.” Snarky, but I get his point. Heavy partiers make poor skeptics. What about the rest of us?

Marketers routinely spin study percentages into clickbait. A Frinstance: 39 Shocking Sales Stats that Will Change the Way You Sell, from which I drew this sampling:

  • Email marketing has 2x higher ROI than cold calling.
  • 92% of all customer interactions happen on the phone.
  • 92% of salespeople give up after four “no’s”, but 80% of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes”.
  • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call.
  • 68% of companies struggle with lead generation.
  • 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting.

The article gives separate sources for each of these nuggets, but from there, tracing their provenance becomes convoluted.

No matter. Many stats get bandied without scrutiny. They’re embedded in tweets that are liked and re-tweeted. The shares are shared, and those shares get re-shared. And on, and on. Along the way, the original meanings of many numbers get warped or over-amplified. Flawed findings mutate into hallowed truths. As these clipped numerical snapshots flow through the social media pipeline, they lose meaning, and transform into verbal nothingness: “44% of salespeople give up after one follow up call.” Since I don’t know the research definition of give up, how it was measured, or the operational meaning of a follow up call, it’s impossible to draw any insight from this statement. But the person who shared it in this article has a goal, which is to change the way I sell.

“There’s some kind of weird thing that happens to people when mathematical scores are trotted out. They just start closing their eyes and believing it because it’s math,” says Cathy O’Neil, author of the book, Weapons of Math Destruction. Statistics persuade. That’s often the point of using them. They can give authoritative glamor to sales pitches. They can also be used for malevolent purposes, like distracting prospects from seeing truth, as Coca Cola recently demonstrated.

Coca Cola funded faux research through the now-defunct Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN). The objective was to promote the falsehood that preventing obesity didn’t depend on people eating less, or (most importantly) drinking less soda. Instead, the wonks at GEBM told us that people just need to be more active. A message Coke knew that people wanted to hear, and advanced their revenue objectives at the same time: Getting thin didn’t mean anyone needed to give up their habit of swilling a 40-ounce Big Gulp.

Try this out: In a search window, type, “% of marketing content goes unused by sales” – quotes and all. Just now, my top three results (out of 3,150) are “80%,” “70%,” and “60%” respectively. Further down the stack I see “90%.” If you’re not sure what to believe, you’re in good company. Still, I get a strong vibe: content sucks. And not just content in general, but my content.

The not-subliminal message: “Be really, really dissatisfied with your content strategy, and remember, we content gurus can fix it!” Expectedly, with every link, I found a company with a product or service to dig prospects out of a rut they probably didn’t even know existed.

Jordan Ellenberg, author of the book How Not to Be Wrong, refers to the practice of hyping stand-alone percentages as statistical malpractice. By cherry-picking a study’s percentage or finding and stripping away its context, additional results, ancillary data, explanatory detail, and caveats, its meaning becomes corrupted. In this way, instead of imparting understanding and knowledge, statistics serve as mathematical bling to trick out a marketing message.

Unless you are skeptical, you’ll miss the flip side of these percentages, which conveys a different reality. Based on the percentages from my original query, anywhere between 10% to 40% of content is used by sales. Marketing teams create content for many different purposes, and looked at this way, the statistic (whichever one you choose to believe – 60%, 70, 80, or 90) seems less dire. Further, content creation is innovation, and when compared to another measure of innovation efficiency, for example, the 85% failure rate of new consumer product introduction, these numbers become less alarming. Relief! Perhaps you can wait another year before hiring an intern to spiff up your company’s content.

Guidelines for the aspiring healthy skeptic. James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me,  recommends questions for vetting history textbooks. I’ve adapted his points for marketing and sales:

  1. Why was the study conducted?
  2. Why were the measurements chosen? Which ones weren’t – and why?
  3. In presenting the findings, whose viewpoint is reflected – and whose was omitted?
  4. Do the points of the study/article cohere? Are they logical? Are they believable? What explains the anomalies?
  5. Are the findings corroborated elsewhere?

Many biz-dev articles I read decompose rapidly when tested on numbers 4 and 5. If the “Top 3 success traits in a sales person are [X], [Y], and [Z],” what explains salespeople who are successful despite having a completely different trio of characteristics? And I’ll wager that another study of customer interactions could be conducted using a different sample, yielding a substantially different result from “92% of them happen on the phone.” All too often, those sharing such information are happy to reply to accolades posted on their articles, but don’t respond when pressed for more detail or clarification. I’m assuming they’d rather not be bothered.

According to Andy Kessler, “Many of the studies quoted in newspaper articles and pop-psychology books are one-offs anyway. In August 2015, the Center for Open Science published a study in which 270 researchers spent four years trying to reproduce 100 leading psychology experiments. They successfully replicated only 39 . . . Add to this a Nature survey of 1,576 scientists published last year. ‘More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments,” the survey report concludes. ‘And more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.’” If we chose to be similarly introspective in marketing and sales, our performance would likely not fare any better.

I’m under no delusions that my squeaky complaining will slow the tsunami of statistical malpractice. But if asking these pointed questions causes anyone to pause before hitting the Retweet button, or to hesitate before chiming “spot on!” following a study gratuitously calling itself authoritative, then mission accomplished.

Daniel Levitin, author of A Field Guide to Lies,  provides a counterpoint to hyped statistics, one that underscores that the burden of proof must always be on the person making the claim:

“Statistics, because they are numbers, appear to us to be cold, hard facts. It seems that they represent facts given to us by nature and it’s just a matter of finding them. But it’s important to remember that people gather statistics. People choose what to count, how to go about counting, which of the resulting numbers they will share with us, and which words they will use to describe and interpret those numbers. Statistics are not facts. They are interpretations. And your interpretation may be just as good as, or better than, that of the person reporting them to you.”

What makes statistical malpractice insidious isn’t that percentages are purposefully shocking. It’s that the numbers are actually fairly ordinary, and pander to our biases. Everyone has experienced a salesperson who is slovenly or unmotivated. It’s not a stretch to believe a “finding” that 40% of them give up a customer pursuit after perfunctorily following up. Effective time management plagues nearly everyone. Who would be astonished to learn that 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting? This is the “secret sauce” in statistical persuasion: find a bias, and harden it with a number. Never mind that terminology like give up, struggle, and unproductive are too fuzzy to have meaning in an experimental sense.

Grainy images, be damned. No matter what, people still really want to see Bigfoot.

Don’t be Content with Your Content!

by Rachel Davidson, Highspot

Digital media has changed how we view, interact with, and share content. But you might not know that while it changes the type of content we engage with, it simultaneously jeopardizes the value of that content.

The push for blogs, podcasts, social media posts, and more hasn’t gone unnoticed from content creators or their audience members. In the business world especially, sales teams seem to need it more and more: Demanding that their marketing counterparts produce more content, in more channels, with more customer touchpoints – all while sacrificing content quality and positive customer engagement. The result is wasted investment and friction between vendors and customers.

Leaders frequently look in the wrong places for answers to their content marketing problems. A modern sales technology that organizes, prioritizes, and analyzes content can give teams the insights they need to deliver the right content when and where their reps need it.

Throughout this article we go mythbuster-style and crack a few common content misconceptions. We’ll see what your team is misaligned on while debunking some popular beliefs, and reevaluate the tools they need to get them back on track.

“Content Is King”  In an age where news stories are free and newspapers are dying, qualified and unqualified newshounds alike are hopping on their keyboards to write articles, spread falsified or misleading stories, and clutter your newsfeeds with worthless content that you either don’t care about or can’t easily verify.

Bharat Anand, author of The Content Trap, was interviewed during a podcast episode produced by the Harvard Business Review, saying that “content is not simply about broadcasting information or news to your readers, it’s also about facilitating conversation and connecting your readers.” Within a few minutes, Anand contrasts America’s failing newspaper industry to successful social networking sites today. The main difference?

Social media sites utilizes content creation as a complement to their service – not the service itself.

On the other hand, newspapers have completely relied on their advertising revenue to drive content creation. In the process, the ads themselves have become the service.

Lesson: Recognize when content creation undermines your business, instead of supporting it.

 

“Quality Over Quantity”  Yes, this is typically a great rule to write by, but there are plenty of ways to utilize all of your content – rather than only the pieces that “pass the test,” so to say.

A 2015 study by SiriusDecisions shows that a whole 65% of marketing content is wasted and never implemented or used by sales teams. This breaks down to 37% of marketing content being useless or unusable, and reps aren’t even able to find or search for a full 28% of that content. These numbers make existing usable and findable marketing content all the more valuable.

Chances are, if you discover a piece of content to be particularly effective, so will your team. That’s why it’s so important to use a sales tool that provides you and your teammates with organized, prioritized feeds so no valuable content is lost or falls through the cracks.

 

“Content Marketing Is Dead”  If there ever was an outlandish myth, this is it! Content marketing may be mismanaged, misused, and misunderstood – but it is far from dead.

As Bharat Anand shared, it’s not about what content you produce; it’s how it relates to your business. Ensuring that your articles, videos, infographics, and podcasts complement your service will drive your company’s success.  Not only that, you need to ensure that your content – and what you do with it – matters to your customers, inspires them to engage with you, and opens conversations. In any case, you should be learning from and building off of each piece of content you produce – not from the content itself, but from the insight you gain via customer feedback.

It’s not a matter of whether the content marketing industry is alive and thriving; it’s whether your business is using the right tools and technology to manage and mediate the content that matters most.

 

Conclusion  You can’t believe everything you read, see, or hear online. Despite what your instincts tell you, skepticism is a valuable trait in many instances, especially when it comes to managing the validity of business content.

It takes is a bit of sifting to separate content junk from treasure. But you will be rewarded, and you’ll see exactly why content can be such a powerful resource.

 

Author Bio Rachel Davidson is a content specialist for Highspot, the sales enablement industry’s leading platform for content management, customer engagement, and analytics.

On Writing Wrong

Imagine yourself nestled in first class aboard a flight leaving Washington, DC. You’re enjoying a cup of coffee and halfheartedly riffling through The Wall Street Journal. As the jet accelerates on its takeoff roll, you’re oblivious to the rattling, but your thoughts meander from the headlines. “Did I remember to buy yogurt? Will my seat mate annoy me with conversation about a personal health issue?” But in the cockpit, there’s tension:

Co-pilot: God, look at that thing. That don’t seem right, does it? Uh, that’s not right.
Pilot: Yes it is, there’s eighty.
Co-pilot: I don’t think that’s right. Ah, maybe it is.
Pilot: Hundred and twenty.
Co-Pilot: I don’t know . . .

That conversation happened aboard Air Florida flight 90 on January 13, 1982. About 60 seconds later, the Boeing 737 crashed into the Potomac River, within sight of the US capitol. Ice on the wings prevented the aircraft from staying aloft, and seventy-eight people died, including four motorists caught beneath the plane. You don’t have to be a linguist to pinpoint one culprit leading to the accident: unclear communications between the crew members piloting the aircraft.

It took more incidents attributed to the same cause before airline executives found an effective fix. “Crashes at U.S. airlines resulting from hierarchical cockpits and poor, stunted communication between crew members led to an entire science of crew resource management, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2008. Crew Resource Management reminds us that communication demands clarity. A need that many marketing and sales writers too often ignore.

I understand how it happens. What’s marketing without zingy words? What’s sales without distortions? What’s thought leadership without authoritarian-sounding superlatives? In 2015, I commented online about a writer’s recommendations to “Capture the whole buying decision equation,” to “Identify all parties within a customer account with the power to kill a buying decision,” and to “Integrate Influencers’ Inputs to Paint an Accurate Picture.” My objection was that the extremity of her terms – whole, all, kill, and accurate – made her recommendations unachievable. In marketing scenarios, these terms are not generally found on the spectrum of outcomes. I also believe that a corporate buying decision is less an equation than a convoluted process subject to random events – a reality that defies symbolic expression.

“First, plenty of writers make broad statements that use phrasing such as ‘whole, all, accurate’, etc.,” she replied. “These words are not necessarily meant to be taken absolutely literally, Rather, one could see them as the writer intended: more whole, complete, or accurate than in current practice.”

Point taken. Readers have many foibles. They could see things as the writer intended. But should they? Let’s put aside metaphors, idioms, and figures of speech for a moment. When people read operational recommendations, they expect exactitude. Therefore, writers should anticipate literal interpretations. Placing the onus on the reader to interpolate seems unfair and risky. And while I agree that many bloggers commonly indulge imprecise words and phrases, I learned more than once in the principal’s office that just because plenty of people do a certain thing doesn’t make it acceptable.

The writer’s expectation – that words are not meant to be taken absolutely literally – worries me because “a colossal advantage of our species is the ability to communicate complex nuances and to receive confirmation of our accuracy, or information of our folly from other people,” according to GrapplingIgnorance, a forum that discusses rhetorical logic. As writers, abdicating our obligation to communicate clearly forfeits a powerful ability. Good revenue results depend on semantic clarity. Word choices matter. And when writers are lackadaisical, argumentation and understanding suffer, as these egregious misappropriations illustrate:

-phobic, -phobe, and -phobia. I start here because I have used this term in my writing – incorrectly, I have recently learned. Phobia is a mental health condition that carries meaning for diagnosis and treatment, namely, “an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance.”

But for writers, -Phobia and its derivatives offer powerful efficiency. A two-for-one word punch that combines what is feared (foreigners, Islam, homosexuals . . .) and typecasting the fearer as deviant. Hence, calling someone a xenophobe accomplishes quite a bit if your rhetorical goal is to convince people that you are right, and someone else is wrong.

There is phonophobia (fear of loud sounds), not to be confused with phone phobia (fear of making or taking phone calls). Both are documented psychological disorders. But marketers regularly misappropriate the term. According to an article, B2B Telemarketing – Phone Phobia in a Recession, “It is no surprise that what we have found (both internally and externally) is that during a down economy, cold calling efforts plunge. In fact, studies have shown that during economic rough times, cold calling efforts decrease by up to 38%.”

The fallacy is that by saying “it’s no surprise,” the writer isn’t discussing a phobia, but a correlation that has nothing to do with an irrational fear. A person clinically diagnosed as phone phobic would be unlikely to ever get a job in a call center, let alone bother to apply for one.

Alternative suggestion: reluctance.

Genocide. Genocide means the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. When I think of genocide, I think of the Holocaust. Pol Pot. Rwanda. Bosnia. Not, as I saw in a blog title, Lead Generation or Lead Genocide: What Companies Do to Kill Their Leads . Using genocide in this context trivializes an abhorrence.

Alternative suggestions: Reduction, undermining.

Terrorism. Terrorism, the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims, should be reserved for atrocities such as the one committed in Brussels on March 22, 2016 – the day I sat down to write this article. That act of terrorism killed 30 people and maimed many others. But an article, The Importance of Keeping Consumer Power in Balance, uses terrorism frivolously, describing consumers who abuse business ratings as Tripadvisor Terrorism. What some customers do on Tripadvisor might be reprehensible, but it’s not terrorism.

Alternative suggestions: If alliteration turns you on, try Buyer Bullying, or Rating Ransom.

Brutal honesty, or brutally honest. Brutal means savagely violent. Invoking the visage of, say, Rodney King seems a bizarre approach for selling a product or service. But marketers nonetheless gravitate to this expression, believing it commands respect and trust by dint of its superficial no-nonsense toughness. Author and poet Maya Angelou eloquently exposed the hypocrisy in this expression. “Some people pride themselves on being brutally honest with their friends – but you should never be brutal with those you love. Be direct and kind instead,” she said in a radio interview. Angelou had a much different sense of the word’s meaning. Growing up in the Jim Crow south, she experienced brutality firsthand.

I’ll go further: we should never be brutal with those we like, or who we want to like us. One article crows, How Brutally Honest Blogging Will Skyrocket Your Business to the Top of Your Industry. Why not just blog honestly, without brutality?

Alternative suggestions: Honesty.

Violent execution. General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Given the context, I understand: warfare, tank battles, fighting Fascism. But Gareth Joyce, Mercedes Benz USA’s Vice President of Customer Services brought an altered version into biz-dev vernacular: “The difference is leadership. It is all about inspiring people toward violent execution.” Huh? What does he even mean? When I search online for this term in quotes, the results are so disturbing, I can’t look at them.

Alternative suggestions: effective, purposeful, determined.

Obsessed or obsess. Obsess means, “preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.” But ever since Jeff Bezos of Amazon said, “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed,” marketers have been all over obsession like flies on poop. But I’ve worked with people who are obsessed. They are miserable, and miserable to be around.

With obsess, Bezos singlehandedly established a new standard for customer-centric intensity. Goodbye, dedication! Adios, loyalty! Sayonara, commitment! Rationality? That’s so passé. As a customer-loving service provider, you must be obsessed, or you are nothing! Frighteningly, with customer obsession, we’re at penultimate level of fervor. Customer idolatry stands at the pinnacle. Don’t laugh – it’s coming.

Alternatives: dedication, loyalty, commitment, focus

Why have bellicose words such as genocide, terrorism, brutal, and violent infiltrated and stained our marketing conversations? I cannot provide an answer. Maybe it’s an artifact of a society that values polarizing language and vitriol as way to “cut through the noise.” Or, it gives marketers a way to express bravado, righteous anger, or indignation.

Why have some expressions failed to generate scrutiny, even we painstakingly dissect and debate the meanings of terms such as -centricity, experience, relationships, and love as they relate to customers? Again, I don’t know.

But without scrutiny and circumspection, the costs are insidious. What pathway do we travel toward a solution when we slap people with labels like phone-phobic? What operational targets do we choose when unachievable superlatives dominate business parlance? And how do we develop ethical and valuable business plans when the edicts are customer obsession and violent execution?

The words add pizazz to PowerPoint, but try visualizing an individual or team tasked with the unfortunate drudgery of translating these ridiculous, misappropriated terms into specifications for building processes, establishing HR policies, or writing software. “When I said, ‘hire obsessed people,’ I meant Jeff Bezos obsessed, not Donald Trump obsessed . . .” Thanks. Clear as mud.

Unclear communications plague all industries, even one of the most rules-bound of all: sports. As Jason Gay wrote in The Wall Street Journal about the NFL’s new rule for deciding what makes a catch a catch, “the receiver must now establish himself as a ‘runner.’ This is a significant change in nomenclature from the prior rules, which stated that a receiver merely had to commit to a ‘football move.’ That language was terrible, because nobody knew what a football move was, not even the people playing football.”

If we fail to be diligent about word choices, we’re headed for trouble. Unclear semantics won’t abort a problematic takeoff, and they won’t advance our core mission – persuasion – either.

Fourteen Blog Writing Tips for the Dedicated Non-conformist

Content. Today, we slap that label on almost anything that gets communicated. Marketing? PR? Advertising? I don’t know! Just call it content. That way, no department feels slighted.

“What’s your content strategy?” Ugh! Tepid water conjures more excitement, but somehow content got elevated to a revered strategic perch. Soviet agents are still out there, trying to undermine our economy, and drive us to insanity. I know it!

Content strategy involves content creation, and fortunately, we have software tools to perform much of the heavy lifting. A helpful suggestion from one I tried reads, “Use a Term at least five times to create a Focus Term and increase your score significantly . . . Please note that singular and plural versions of the same term are treated differently. For example, California vacation is not the same as California vacations.

How would this perverse machinery have corrupted great literature like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, written in a different era when prose was formed using pen and paper, or typewriters, and automation was confined to factories. Angelou’s book began from a series of Ebony magazine articles, first published in 1970. Imagine: “We suggest using Focus Terms uneven scholastic funding allocation, sub-optimized opportunity, and systemic racism.” I’m grateful that the beauty of her writing was not lost to SEO, or to her publisher’s infatuation with Tweetability.

To those who eschew the indignity of assigning the word content to a well-constructed essay, who don’t cave to the blandifying demands of SEO, who stubbornly adhere to high standards for the craft of writing, I celebrate your non-conformity, and offer these tips:

#1 Read obsessively. You knew that already.
#2 “Collect string.” When a topic moves you, collect quotes, articles, and URL’s about the subject.
#3 Begin with a dramatic opening.
#4 Don’t fizzle out – “stick the landing” at the end.
#5 Unlearn what Mrs. McFarland, your high school English teacher, taught you about essay writing. She beat the stuffing out of your creativity, and now you must bring it back.
#6 But give her credit for being a stickler about proper grammar and spelling.
#7 Tweak, tweak, tweak until you have expressed your thought exactly right.
#8 Don’t be shy about writing from the heart. Your first visceral reaction might be the best one to run with.
#9 This is a secret I won’t reveal right now. Maybe later.
#10 If you cannot find any words to adequately express your idea, coin a new one. I like fuzzify. You won’t find it in any dictionary.
#11 Champion your professional errors and shortcomings. Readers find your mistakes way more fascinating than your perfection and infallibility. (Full disclosure: I still can’t explain the literary purpose of a semicolon – and that’s just for starters!)
#12 Trust a few people to provide candid opinions about your writing.
#13 Don’t continually torment them with your own concerns and misgivings—unless you want them to stop offering opinions.
#14 Finally, as Mark Slouka said in The New York Times, (Don’t Ask Me What I’m Writing) “Shut up and write.”

Seven Sales Topics That Need to Die. And Seven That Need To Be Heard

What kind of sales topic screams for quick demise? One that has been beaten six ways to Sunday. One that no longer creates learning, insight or understanding. And – I’m especially pained to mention – one that’s a pander for behaviors and tactics that are ethically shaky, or reinforces negative stereotypes about salespeople.

Seven Sales Topics that need to die:

1. How to get prospects to [fill in the blank].  Getting people to do things . . . .  Nothing reinforces the manipulative-salesperson stereotype better than sharing manipulative sales practices for them to use. One recommendation I read online today: “Question [prospects] into a corner – and close them when they get there.”

2. How to “prove your ROI.” – Or how to improve it. Amber Naslund said it best: “. . . quit bastardizing the term ROI and using cryptic, fluffy interpretations of it in order to avoid admitting that you don’t understand it, or to dodge the whole measurement and accountability issue altogether.” Amen.

3. Ending “the conflict” between marketing and sales. Decades of rancor-filled debate hasn’t brought resolution. That’s because people are chasing the wrong issue. It’s not marketing versus sales. It’s how companies organize to profitably create and deliver value to customers. Look upstream. Marketing versus sales is a chronic artifact of a more important problem.

4. How salespeople can become “trusted advisors.” Trust is something one person grants to another. It’s never self-assigned. While facilitating trust in a business relationship is fundamental to selling anything, asking salespeople to become “Trusted Advisors” to their clients is a setup for failure. I trust my insurance broker. But as long as he’s on the hook to make a quarterly revenue target and earns commission on the services he sells, he will never be my “trusted advisor,” and he doesn’t need to waste effort trying.

5. Best techniques to “close” deals. When was the last time you were “closed?” Was it fun?  “The very best salespeople don’t employ any special closing techniques at all. They simply focus on understanding their customer’s business and helping them achieve their desired outcomes,”  Jill Konrath wrote.

6. “Immutable laws” of selling. In an uncertain and unpredictable world, shreds of certainty are attractive—and potent tools for those who prey on the gullible. Nothing’s constant. New situations require questioning old theories, strategies, and practices, while searching for emerging exceptions. Revenue rewards go to those who see things differently and break from convention.

7. Strategies and tactics to “beat” a bad economy. Although the idea appeals to my inner warrior, The Economy cannot be vanquished. The Economy isn’t a thinking, sentient being with a malevolent agenda. Rather, The Economy is a combination of complex forces that present risks and opportunities. Beating-the-economy thinking distorts planning, and makes no more sense than beating the force of demographic change or beating the weather.

Seven topics that need to be heard:

1. How sales leaders must lead to balance ethics, productivity, and improving shareholder value

2. Emerging new competencies for sales success

3. The impact that millions of new mobile-enabled social media users in the developing world will have on sales strategies

4. How to open sales career opportunities for economically disadvantaged people, and how to ensure those individuals are successful

5.  Significant forces on business development strategy, and what they mean for process innovation and revenue achievement

6.  What makes a salesperson valuable and effective, and what contributes to a positive experience – from the buyer’s point of view

7. The sales story behind achievements that have created positive social change

There’s a strong flavor of do-goodism because the sales profession badly needs a makeover. These topics desperately need oxygen. They need attention, opinion, debate, and room to expand. That can be achieved when other topics that have been presented and dissected ad nauseum have been retired.

Now, it’s time for me to shut up, and get to work. I’m going to change the image of the salesperson from paunchy, opportunistic huckster to one that resembles Mother Theresa. I won’t do it alone, and it won’t happen overnight, but choosing good topics seems a reasonable way to begin.