On Training…

by Doug Weaver on September 2, 2014 at 12:16PM

On TrainingMy friend and client John Ruvolo of Martini Media recently posted a manifesto (of sorts) on the status and attitude toward training sales people in our industry.  He invited me to comment and I thought The Drift was the best place to do that.  In his post, John wonders “…why training and development is so universally desired by our sales teams and why it is equally so universally absent from most companies, particularly in our space.”  As someone who’s built a substantial company — Upstream Group — training and equipping digital sellers over the past 18 years, I would say that training is not absent in most companies — but that the approach to it is often flawed.

For starters, there’s the “Training as Content” scenario, in which a company with a weak or non-existent learning and development culture brings in a sales trainer as part of the content for a sales meeting or offsite.  Even if given only a few hours, he or she may do great work but the results are often ephemeral.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

When approached about working with a sales team, I always work to get inside the relationship between management and sales and really understand the deep behavioral change that needs to happen.  Frequently,  discussions about training and development have only centered on fixing some broken quality in the seller –  presentation skills, overcoming objections — and are not  part of a larger plan to invest and grow the individual.  That’s not to say training should just be a warm, fuzzy “Kumbaya” experience either.  That’s why I isolate 5-6 specific actions that sellers can commit to and that managers can manage.  In the end, doing is believing.

To John’s larger point about our industry lacking the stomach for real training budgets, two thoughts:  First, investment flows to the unsolved problem.  If the problem is “we should do some sales training” then very little money is going there.  Reframe this as “we need to shorten our sales cycle” or “we need to change our median order size from X to 3X” and watch the budget tilt in your direction.

Second,  large enterprise training organizations have conditioned us to believe that “training” has to carry a hefty price tag — not to mention internal staffing, expensive compliance software, lots of complexity and days out of the field for your team.  I don’t believe this to be true.  If you believe in training then make it a habit; do a little bit of it yourself on a constant basis.   Even if you don’t think you’re fully qualified or have performance anxiety about it, your effort and commitment will be recognized by your team members.   You develop a closer bond, better communication.  Pretty soon, you’ve quietly developed a learning culture.  Then when you bring in somebody like me, we end up doing incredible, transformative work together.

So, When’d You Get In?

by Doug Weaver on August 26, 2014 at 2:23PM

Cocktail party 2Labor Day marks not only the unofficial end of summer, but the unofficial kickoff of the fall conference season.  So I’m reposting this Drift from February 2012, hoping it will make our time in the ballrooms and corridors just a little more meaningful.

I’ve lost count of the industry conferences, trade shows and networking events I’ve attended over the last 25 years.  But I’m certain I’ve been to more in the last five years than in the first 20.  There are probably not more than 20 days a year when the industry event machine goes dark.  And collectively we spend hundreds of millions to mingle, drink and panel with one another…But  we can all get more for our money with a little advance planning and strategy.  So here’s my list of simple rules and practices to consider as you pack team members off to their next event.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

1. Marketing, Meet Sales. In far too many cases, trade marketing (the folks who buy the sponsorships and tickets) are not well-aligned with sales (the folks who end up attending).  The result is a lot of confusion about who will “represent” the company at this event or that one.   Personalize it:  As you plan your sponsorship and conference schedule, be specific about who will attend and why.

2. Level Set. If your CRO is attending every single event on the calendar, that’s not a good thing.  They’re not all worth the CRO’s time.  Events, like nightclubs, have their own natural crowds. Some are very high level and strategic; others are more tactical and transactional.  Push the event producer for a sense of who’s really attending and what they’re likely to talk about.  Create an internal hierarchy about which events are relevant at which levels.

3. Have a plan. I’ll put it right out there.  The vast majority of sellers show up at resorts and conference centers with no real plan in place.  Get the attendee list in advance.  Figure out the ten people you have to meet and find their photos on line so you have a visual cue.  Reach out in advance to attending buyers and set appointments.  Most of all, know what it is you want out of this particular conference and measure it.  “Was this event a success for us?” is not a rhetorical question.

4. Spread Out. Yes, trade events can be a good time for sellers from different offices to bond with each other and with management.  But when I see sellers from the same teams never leaving each other’s sides for an entire evening — or an entire event — I smell trouble.  Divide, conquer.  If you’re part of all the same conversations, half of you aren’t necessary.

5. Ask Questions that Mean Something. When meeting someone at a trade event, be prepared with a question that will spark a real conversation. “What’s on the agenda you don’t want to miss?”  or “What’s Your Highlight so far?”  Do NOT ask the following:  “So….when’d you get in?”  That’s a non-question:  you don’t really care about the answer, it will produce meaningless data, and they know you didn’t really care to think up anything better.

6. Don’t Close the Bar. Enough said.

7. If you Present, Personalize. Nobody wants to hear the general presentation.  Pick a couple of customers who will be in the room and tell them how you can help them.  The others wont’ be offended: they’ll be intrigued and curious about what you could do for them.

Take a few of these to heart and you’ll be able to answer “What did you learn?” and “Who did you meet?” instead of “When’d you get in?”

Gonna Need a Bigger Box.

by Doug Weaver on August 20, 2014 at 9:28AM

Gonna Need a Bigger BoxYesterday McDonald’s named its first-ever U.S. Vice president of digital.  The new VP, Julie Vander Ploeg, will report to McDonald’s chief digital officer and will lead… “digital strategy efforts on several fronts — such as enhancing our customers’ restaurant experience, more relevant ways to share our story and how customers engage with our brand.”

It’s noteworthy that the word advertising is never mentioned.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first digital advertising buys:  our team at Wired Magazine and its digital cousin Hot Wired were doing deals with agencies like Messner Vetere, Modem Media, Ogilvy and NW Ayer to run ads for brands like Volvo, AT&T and IBM on the new site – the first ever to accept advertising – 468 x 60 pixel banners, no animation, no dynamic serving, no analytics.  Over the subsequent two decades I’ve had a front row seat for the development of our craft, working with hundreds of companies, thousands of digital sellers and every manner of tech, data, service and platform provider.  And I’ve come to a conclusion:  this isn’t really about advertising at all.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

For twenty years we’ve tried to jam the power, creativity and intelligence of “this thing of ours” into the confined space of an advertising business that was already starting to implode way back in the 90s.  The bigger and more multi-dimensional we become (with social, native, data-driven decision making and more) the more anachronistic and restrictive the conventions of advertising become.  Separation of church and state?  Attribution?  The Gross Rating Point?  Don’t get me wrong:  all of these things matter, and they’ll have a bottom line impact on how successfully video advertising dollars migrate from television to other devices and streams.  But all of the wildly successful companies of our era have all realized they are part of something much bigger than the advertising business.

McDonald’s seems to be acknowledging that fact.  Brand engagement and enhancing the customer’s retail experience can’t even be contained by marketing, let alone advertising. And even to share our story is as much about CRM, public relations, social media management and staff training as it is about advertising.

Don’t look now, but it appears we’ve been super-sized.  Gonna need a bigger box.

Native vs. Naive.

by Doug Weaver on August 14, 2014 at 8:00AM

TOSHIBA Exif JPEGLots of hate brewing lately for native advertising.  We’ve all seen John Oliver’s hilarious 12 minute rant on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.”  More recently, on Digiday, we learn – courtesy of JWT Atlanta’s Todd Copilevitz – that “Native advertising is further proof we’ve lost our way.”

I’m going to shortchange Todd’s otherwise thoughtful commentary by pointing out what I think are its wobbliest pillars.  The first is contained in the headline:  the idea that advertising and media ever really had a “way” to lose in the first place.  The old rules about church and state worked about as well on Madison Avenue as they did in Tudor England.   Advertisers have been trying to crowd the lines and occupy the editorial and entertainment spaces since long before Don Draper was shaking down patrons for change in that Pennsylvania whorehouse of his youth.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

The article also calls for a re-commitment to our various roles in the mix:   advertisers make great brands and products, editors write great articles, while agency creatives pen masterful ad messages. But this agreement that we’d all stay in our lanes and swim our hardest was, in truth, nothing more than a convenience.  That advertising would live in little fenced-off pods and boxes while content would stay outside those lines was simply a delivery arrangement; in the world of TV it’s still a darned good one.  Online we’ve seen the rapid commoditization of those pods and boxes matched by consumers studied willingness to ignore and avoid them.  So the arrangement breaks down more rapidly.  No big surprise.

A third point in the piece is that marketers and agencies are just not doing a good enough job of storytelling.  This is a myth we’ve told ourselves about advertising for generations, and we’ve embellished it with creative award shows and the annual Super Bowl beauty pageant.  There are some ads that are more clever than others, but what it comes down to is just whether they are effective (or not) at doing what they’re supposed to do.  Storytelling is far too big a concept to be contained in banner ads, 30-second spots and full page ads.  Marketers will use every channel available – packaging, publicity, events, public relations, retailer relationships, infomercials and, yes, native advertising.

Todd is right in saying that native isn’t a brand new concept.  But it is a timely acknowledgment and codification of a practice that’s going to be increasingly needed in today’s asymmetrical world of marketing and media.

Flopping Into the Future.

by Doug Weaver on August 5, 2014 at 10:45PM

Flopping Into the FutureIn looking through my business and creative library for ideas for this fall’s Upstream Seller Forum Leadership event, I came across The Imagination Challenge by Alexander Manu, which my good friend John Durham gave me a decade ago.  I immediately recalled one of the great stories of innovation contained in the book.

For a couple of millennia, the high jump had been pretty much executed the same way.  The jumper would approach the bar straight on and then execute a straddle jump, in which the lead leg and arm are thrown over the bar and the back leg and arm follow.  The jump would end with the athlete landing in a shallow sand pit. If you saw film of such a jump today it would look archaic – much like the underhand free-throw or the straight on placekick.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

In the early 60s, foam rubber was developed and, in a nod to athlete safety, sand pits were replaced by foam landing pads in the pit.  To most jumpers, this meant fewer sprained ankles and broken wrists.  But one jumper – Dick Fosbury – took a deeper look at this innovation: he asked, “What is now possible?”  Fosbury realized that the new landing surface would also prevent broken necks, allowing for an entirely different approach to the bar.  Inventing what was then called “the Fosbury Flop” – and what’s now simply “the high jump” – he ran to the bar, turned his back on it, cleared it backward, kicked his trailing legs up, landed on his back and neck in the foam pit – and blew apart two thousand years of a sport’s conventional wisdom.

What relevance does this story have in our world?  More than you might imagine.  We are constantly confronted by massive innovation:  real-time, data enabled marketing…programmatic audience buying….cheap and plentiful broadband access…social and sharing technologies.  These are the foam rubber of our age.  A great many of us take these innovations in stride, going about the business of what we already know and do.  Some wring their hands or curse the fates for bringing so much unwelcome change.  Other might make some subtle changes or adjustments to the new reality, all with the goal of protecting their own status quo.

Rare, though, is the modern day Fosbury, who looks at the newly disrupted landscape and asks, “What is now possible that wasn’t before?”  Innovation and disruption are not the sole province of the Jobs, Gates, Pages and Brins of the world though.  We can all stand a little reinvention…and we’re all capable of it.  Take the leap.

If you’re a CRO, EVP, SVP or VP in a digital media sales organization and would like an invitation to the fall Upstream Seller Forum in New York on October 28th, drop me a note. We’d love to have you join our unique, peer-to-peer community.

Not So Fast!

by Doug Weaver on July 30, 2014 at 8:56AM

You there!  Yes, you!  DropNot so fast the mouse and back slowly away from the keyboard…hands where I can see ‘em.

Sure, sure…I’ve heard it all before.  You were just going about your business getting ready for one of those “sales calls” that your boss likes so much.  You finally wore down that 29-year-old Media Sup to the point where she agreed to “get the team together” for a sit-down next week.  And now you’re making sure you’re armed to the teeth and ready for battle.  You’re pasting the customer’s logo onto the front of a hefty PowerPoint that has it all:   company intro….partner logos….all your products….case studies….even the obligatory Questions? slide at the end.  You’re even packing up a few gifts to make them all feel engaged and included:  a little swag to grease the skids.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

But I just can’t let you go through with it.  I’ve seen this movie and I know how it ends.  It’s Fatal Attraction and you’re Glenn Close; it’s Thelma and Louise and you’re both of them.  In the name of all that’s holy, stop now and start over again!

Too many of our sales calls end up with both parties simply falling into their assigned roles.  Both the seller and buyer know they have to have a certain number of meetings, and they end up in the business equivalent of a bad blind date.  You share the same space, make polite but disinterested conversation, and part with some vague talk of keeping in touch or sending something.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

What is the meeting going to be about?  If you haven’t proactively identified a business or marketing problem and centered your entire meeting on it, then you’re simply another rep doing another “catch up” call who’s hoping for some of their money.

What exactly to you want to happen?  Write out the words of your closing “ask” before you walk in.  If you don’t know what you want to happen, you’re certainly not going to get it.  The right people might not even be in the room to give it to you.  Any answers that include words like update, education or evangelism are just too soft and meaningless.

What are you telling them that they don’t already know?  If you’re armed only with the information that the buyers themselves have given you, then you end up being another rep who’s describing their own product, rather than one who’s prepared to make something new happen.

Do you really need that PowerPoint?  People really looked forward to seeing PowerPoint decks….in 1995.  If you’re seeking a real, genuine conversation, then a piece of paper with some observations about the account is a better bet.

How will you use the first 90 seconds of your time together?  Sales calls have something in common with fistfights.  How they begin goes a long way in determining how they will end.  Hyper-awareness and presence right at the outset can change the entire character of a call.

If your sales calls are feeling less than fulfilling, look hard at your own approach.  You just may be sleepwalking into mediocrity.  You deserve better.

Stop Checking In.

by Doug Weaver on July 22, 2014 at 2:12AM

Stop Checking inIf you read only the headline over this post, you might think I’m working to stamp out those ubiquitous “I’m at gate 71 at SFO!” social media updates.  OK, yes, I’d like to have that result too, but that’s not today’s topic.  Today I’m addressing something much closer to the heart and soul of sales:  the “pointless contact.”

Here’s how it goes:  You’ve submitted something to a potential customer (an RFP response, a proposal) or are just trying to get them to pay attention to you.  Perhaps your boss asked you about the status of the account; perhaps you got a Salesforce.com reminder; or maybe you just woke up in a cold sweat about making your number this month.  You don’t think, you just start typing.  And then, tragically, you hit send.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

And, just like that, you’ve made a pointless contact.  The phenomenon was nicely spelled out in a recent slideshow on LinkedIn.  But every seller – and every buyer – recognizes the script.  “Hey…it’s me…how are you?  Just checking in to make sure you got my proposal….”  It’s a tough habit to break, but nothing could be more destructive to the rep’s reputation and perceived value than “I’m just checking in.”  Translated to English, it means “I got nothing.”  Worse, you start to sound like that insecure, clingy relationship stalker: “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t lose my phone number.”  What to do instead?  In my workshops, I always encourage sellers to break the cycle.

  • Establish a deadline when you make your proposal.  “I’ll call you on the 23rd and then once a week until we have clarity on whether you’re buying from us.”  This approach assumes a level of professionalism, respect and mutual commitment.  And the reason your writing or calling is because it’s what you said you were going to do.
  • Invite the No.  Read your tone of your past emails carefully.  You’re not asking for an answer:  you’re most likely asking for a meeting or an extended conversation that keeps your feeble hopes alive.  I’m a big fan of saying “If we’re not in your plans, I’d be glad to know, because I’ve got other customers to pursue.”  Or better yet, “If I hear nothing by the end of this week I’ll assume we are not getting the business and take you out of our projections.”   This sounds dangerous, but you only risk knowing the truth sooner.
  • Include a Surprise.  Include something of value for the customer.  A bit of relevant news, an article you found, insights on one of their competitors…just about anything.  You become the rep who always sends along something valuable…not the one who’s wasting my time “checking in.”

Crossdressing.

by Doug Weaver on July 16, 2014 at 12:25PM

CrossdressingI just read about Walmart launching its own digital marketing platform, effectively becoming sort of a media buyer (and sort of an agency), leveraging a treasure trove of sales and behavioral data on behalf of its suppliers.  According to AdExchanger, through the new Walmart Exchange (WMX) the company is “harnessing purchase, loyalty and other unspecified third party data assets to help suppliers spend their media dollars.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve been around media and advertising for so many years – or perhaps because I binged on MadMen recently – but it feels like the marketing world is getting curiouser and curiouser, and that the basic notions of identity and structure in the advertising world are falling away.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic Advertising Systems, an advertising technology company focused on delivering innovative software that streamlines and automates media workflow for marketers, their advertising agencies, and publishers.

Let’s take a look at how things are shaping up.

  • Traditional “publishers” like Conde Nast, Hearst and others are increasingly offering creative services to marketers, edging themselves into traditional turf of creative agencies.
  • Agency holding companies are using their trading desks to pre-buy inventory and audiences and then holding that inventory – often briefly – for the future distribution of client ads.  In one sense of the term, they are becoming ad networks.
  • Marketers are getting into bed directly with publishers through native advertising executions.  When they’re not, they’re pursuing more of a direct content creation role through branded entertainment efforts.  Either way, they’re in the media business.
  • Xaxis, WPPs erstwhile trading desk, has morphed into more of an ad technology powerhouse, folding in the former publisher-side technologies (ad serving, etc.) of 24/7 Real Media.  So now they serve both the buyer and seller side of the markets.  Along the same lines, Rubicon Project once existed primarily as a sell-side platform (SSP) but now also offers some buyer-side tools and capabilities.
  • Walmart and Amazon are both retailers who opened their considerable online presences to advertising distribution.  Amazon the retailer is also Amazon the device company; Apple the device company became (through iTunes and terrestrial stores) Apple the retailer.
  • Any online publisher can now work with third parties to tag and find its site visitors when they are on other sites around the web, and/or find look alike customers.  By doing so, they can extend and fulfill ad buys beyond their own site borders.  So they are now media aggregators, something that agencies (and more recently, ad networks) used to do.

I could go on, but you probably get the picture by this point.  So who loses in this asymmetrical hall of mirrors?  Command and control based companies and channels.  In the past, they’ve clung to defined roles and control of access – to inventory, to audiences, to distribution of goods and content, to talent.  I think many of them will start to look very old and tired very quickly.

Who wins?  The nimble, the creative, the right-brain thinkers who solve problems and make order out of chaos.  Someday the generation that remembers a gentler, more stable time in the ad business – a time when agencies were agencies and media was media – will move on and institutional memory of role definition will fade.  There will be no us and them.  Only opportunity.

Maybe that day is already here?

Watch TV.

by Doug Weaver on July 9, 2014 at 9:45AM

Watch TVOne of the most compelling things I’ve read lately is “TV’s Untapped Potential as a Digital Business,” David Cooperstein’s recent post on Forbes.com.  While he makes some really insightful recommendations about TV’s need for digital innovation – updating the ratings currency, speeding decision and switching times and integrating more easily with the ‘rest of the industry’ – Cooperstein ultimately serves us best by laying waste to the anachronistic notion of some kind digital victory over the dark forces of TV.  “..You have to add up a lot of digital pieces to begin to approach the size of the TV ecosystem today, and TV keeps growing,” he points out, adding that TV moves a lot of money and attention “…at far greater scale, and with a lot less effort.”

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic Advertising Systems, an advertising technology company focused on delivering innovative software that streamlines and automates media workflow for marketers, their advertising agencies, and publishers.

To some, this may sound like a recipe for inertia and another decade of running out the clock on a TV-buying model that serves agencies and broadcasters pretty well.  But I think the real story is far more complex, challenging and interesting.  I don’t consider myself an expert, but based on all I’m seeing and hearing, the next five years should see a virtual renaissance in the TV/Video ecosystem.  But in order to see it all clearly and fully participate, it’s important to reconsider a few big ideas.

  • Broadcast and Cable TV can become more digital without walking away from their core economics.  Look for the kind of innovations Cooperstein notes in the article to help update TV’s economic infrastructure.
  • Addressability and data-driven buying are crossing the line.  Set top box data from cable MSOs and satellite companies is already starting to be used to drive addressable and enhanced TV buys.  If you’re wondering why AT&T bought DirecTV, the answer is in here.
  • TV is not one business, but several.  Those in the digital trenches love to ball up our fists and talk about “TV,” but what exactly are we talking about?  National broadcast? Syndication? Local?  Basic Cable?  “TV” is like Yugoslavia:  an artificial patchwork of different tribes and beliefs.  Just add many more layers of new complexity and scores of new players to the business.
  • Video is bigger than TV.  The desire for professional video content is bottomless.  And it’s going to be enough to support a lot of niche content and distribution businesses.  There will always be consolidation of power and dollars (the next Viacom, Google and NBC will probably be Viacom, Google and NBC) but innovation and riches have always grown in the margins.
  • Scarcity vs. Abundance is the real fulcrum.  I’ve always thought that what truly separated “TV” and “digital” was the portion of supply that could be controlled.  So far, broadcasters and agencies have done a good job of using scarcity and control to keep a profitable model thriving.  We’ll see how it goes from here.

It’s still early.  And man is it going to get interesting.

Beach Blanket Bibliography.

by Doug Weaver on July 2, 2014 at 11:42AM

Beach Blanket BibliographyWe’re hurtling toward the Independence Day weekend and the beaches and lakes and country porches are calling.  Maybe you’d feel guilty spending a couple of days on some Dean Koontz thriller but are intimidated by something like “Capital in the 21st Century.”   Or perhaps you’d just like to take a fresh look at your strategy and approach, and come back from your summer break with fresh momentum.  With that in mind, here are a few previously recommended sales and management books to toss in your bag as you head out for the long weekend.

Anyone who’s been in a workshop with me in recent years will be familiar with “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.” For my money, this is the best sales book of the past 15 years, and particularly relevant for the asymmetrical, dynamic world of online marketing.  An efficient and engaging read over its first 100 pages, “The Challenger Sale” exposes the failings of “solution selling” and butchers many of the sacred cows of sales theory.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic Advertising Systems, an advertising technology company focused on delivering innovative software that streamlines and automates media workflow for marketers, their advertising agencies, and publishers.

While not technically a sales book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future” just may be the most important thing a digital seller reads this summer.  We’re all drowning in statistics and throwing data at one another with savage regularity:  but where’s the meaning?  It turns out that – just like Dorothy – we had the power all along.  By tapping into your inner artist, you learn to synthesize, fuse ideas, interpret and make the numbers start to sing.  And you can finally show your Dad that the painting class you took senior year wasn’t a waste of tuition after all.

I never miss a chance to recommend “The One Thing You Need to Know” by Marcus Buckingham.  A sharp and engaging business writer, Buckingham distills the most important things we each need to know about Leadership, Management (quite different from Leadership, thank you) and sustained personal success.   One of the very best, and a perennial read for me.

Engaged Leadership by Clint Swindall.  Great follow up read to “The One Thing…”  Written as a series of parables, it gives the sales manager some good tactical guidance on cultivating employee engagement, which is the soil in which success and excellence grow.

The Go-Giver  by Bob Burg and John David Mann is told as a dialogue-intensive ‘fable,’ and will take you all of about two hours to finish. But the sales – and life — wisdom is so significant that you’ll want to read it again immediately.  What happens when you base your personal strategy on generosity instead of the zero-sum thinking that drives most sales behavior.

Have a recommendation or two of your own?  Please add them in comments.  Happy summer.