I have always admired people who can sell. But at the same time, my evaluation criteria are ice cold. So that's the reason, after 53 years of observations in the world of technology, I still maintain my personal list of the six-most-admired sales pros who did it their way – people who were unique, who changed the game, and who are now very rich and successful as a result. Without naming names, I still remember each one, even though I haven't schmoozed with them in decades. So beware. What you see here is personal. Half of the names will be recognized by at least 90 percent of today's world tech audience. The other half won't be recognized by anyone in any audience, unless it was in my shadow. A nice mix, don'tcha think?
Bank tech companies are hurting. Why? Because they are not selling. More than ever before, I believe the job of selling is the most important job at any tech company because one number tells it all. A paltry 4 percent revenue increase in 2010 for the group of six top core vendors is a number looking for excuses. And please note that the 4 percent is a bit of a gift because it includes more than organic, internal, or native growth. It includes bought growth, which any company can produce if it has a cash war chest. For the record, only one of the six had a decline in revenue.
While the banking industry was a model for the "deer in the headlights" syndrome, in my opinion, that's when Seals-type sales guys are at their best. I have built a case, albeit hypothetical, that the well of bank tech sales for the entire U.S. banking industry in 2010 contained a 7 percent organic revenue increase for the six, but when the bucket was pulled up, it was only 57 percent full. Who wants to live with that metric any time any where?
The process of selling anything begins with a psychological issue. The salesperson wants to influence the prospective buyer to notice his goal, even though he won't disclose it. Sometimes that means it starts with a press release. Here are some that didn't make it to my save bin:
1. Exaggerations of language. In the world of sports, movies, presidents, rivers, and all things judged by official rules, it boils down to one winner. In tech marketing, "The leading global …" can include hundreds of companies, depending on the claimer. The word "the" still means one in my book, so right off the bat, that statement, repeated by millions of companies, is worthless. Will the rest of the release be the same?
2. Another press release included nothing but generalities so at the end, I was trying to figure out what the message was. I'll bet no one else bothered to figure out a press release message since most get the 15-second-scan-and-dump treatment. There are 24 categories of bank tech solutions in Automation in Banking - 2011 that represent the 183 pieces of the complete bank tech pie for any bank. I couldn't find one section where this press release belonged.
3. Words have evolved to new hypes. I used to see words like "I am pleased to" or "I am happy to" or "I am proud to." An industry analyst saying, "I am thrilled to" raises the question as to the role of analysts. "Thrilled?" Who coached that claim, Donald Trump?
4. In my opinion, the best press releases are about "Who bought our system."
Thinking back, this is what put my six choices at the top of their game:
Did you hear me say, "Know your product?" That was in the first and second cuts along with a bunch of other attributes like, wear a good suit, comb your hair, look energetic but not too, be courteous, be understood, be humble, have a moderate sense of humor, talk to individuals, not the group. The people included in the group above had all the basics, but it was the extra talent that put them in the top.
Disclaimer: Throughout this blog, reference was made to "he" not "she." That's only because of personal convenience in the exercise of writing.