Friday, January 27, 2012

5 Traits of Highly Successful Salesmen

Are you cut out to make the sale? Make sure you've got these characteristics--or else learn to develop them.
By Geoffrey James@Sales_Source   |  Jan 27, 2012

… Buyers and sellers are emotional human beings, which is why great salespeople are always masters at managing their own emotions. Based upon my observation (and some pretty hefty research in emotional intelligence), highly successful salespeople cultivate the following five emotional traits:

1. Assertiveness
This allows you to move a sales situation forward without offending or frustrating the customer. … For example, suppose a customer is delaying a decision. There are at least three basic responses:

Passive: "Could you give me a call when you've made a decision?"
Aggressive: "If you don't buy right now, the offer is off the table."
Assertive: "Can you give me a specific time and date when you'll make your final decision?"

The passive response puts the sale on hold indefinitely (or give your competitor the opening to outsell you). The aggressive response creates pressure and resentment: … The assertive approach sets up the specific conditions for the close, without forcing the customer's pace.

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings
Image via Wikipedia
2. Self-Awareness
You need to be able to identify your own emotions, understand how they work, and then use them to help you build stronger customer relationships. This is a four-step process:
  • Identify the emotions that you're feeling,
  • Based on experience, predict how those emotions will affect your sales effort.
  • Compensate for negative emotions that might hinder the sale.
  • Expand your positive emotions that might help you make the sale.
For example, suppose you feel furious that an important customer stood you up. You might take a break before your next meeting in order to remind yourself of all the times you've succeeded in the face of challenges. Or you might, as an ice-breaker, tell your second customer that you're having a tough day and why.

3. Empathy
This entails adapting your behavior to the customer's moods and emotions. … You must be able to feel what the customer is likely to be feeling.

Suppose, during a sales call, you discover that the customer's firm just announced major layoffs. …

… [If] you want to build a better relationship, you'll be empathetic and imagine your contact's sense of fear and confusion. Then, depending on your emotional reading of the customer, decide whether the customer would prefer to commiserate, complain or (alternatively) be distracted from the situation.

Image via Wikipedia
4. Problem Solving
The desire to solve a problem helps you create new ways to satisfy the customer's needs, both financial (the ROI of your offering) and emotional–such as the customer's need to be convinced that your and your firm are reputable and reliable. Problem solving is a four step process:
  • See the customer situation as it really is. (Never try to solve a problem before you fully understand it.)
  • Help the customer visualize a more desirable situation.
  • Devise a way to move the customer from the ways things are today to the way the customer would like them to be.
  • Communicate that solution in a way that makes it easy for the customer to make a decision.
While those steps might seem obvious, they're the exact opposite of old-school salesmanship, where selling entails "giving a great sales pitch."

5. Optimism
Optimism helps you maintain a sense of balance when things go awry. … For example, if the first sales call of the day goes poorly, your performance for the rest of the day will be different if you have this rule...

A bad first call means that I'm off my game this will be a bad day.
... rather than this rule:
Every sales call is different, so the next will probably be better.

… [If] you automatically jump to the first rule, rather than the second, it will be difficult for you to remain happy.

This principle works on bigger events, too. I've run into about a dozen top salespeople who saw the weak economy as an opportunity to sell even more,and did so, while their colleagues were busy hand-wringing. …

This column is based on an interview with Robert Scher, president of the Scher Group, a sales performance improvement firm. (He used the term "happiness" for what I call "optimism," but it comes out to the same thing in the end.)

  • Geoffrey James
    Geoffrey James is an award-winning journalist and author of's Sales Source column. Previously, he wrote Sales Machine, the world's most-visited sales-oriented blog. James has written hundreds of articles on sales and marketing for publications like Technology Marketing and SellingPower, and has helped thousands of sales professionals communicate more effectively with customers. To get column updates, sign up for his weekly "insider" newsletter or his @Sales_Source Twitter feed. James' newly published book is How to Say It: Business to Business Selling.

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    Networking For Introverts


    9/01/2010 @ 5:11PM
    Meghan Casserly, Forbes Staff

    “Networking is excruciating,” says Jessica Klein, who works in rare books in Manhattan where, according event listing hub there are hundreds if not thousands of public and private events daily.
    Klein admits: “Actually, I don’t even really ‘network. It’s more like standing around awkwardly while sipping drinks. I make phone calls to avoid talking to people. And concentrate very hard at drinking so no one bothers me.”

    ... Klein and thousands of others, … struggle with networking.

    “In many cases it’s been defined as something negative,” says Devora Zack, author of the new book Networking For People Who Hate Networking. “Some people see it as a means to manipulate people or just an exercise in self-promotion, and these notions can definitely leave a bad taste in a person’s mouth,” she says.

    But a better definition of networking, offered by Zack, is building “mutually beneficial” connections one person at a time. …

    With the new framework for networking in place, Zack sets out a master plan for “introverts, the overwhelmed and the underconnected” for networking success, one social event at a time.

    Here’s How:

    Plan Ahead
    Setting a goal for networking at an event is a great starting point for preparing yourself to succeed. Your goal can be as simple as, “I’m going to have a great time,” or as concrete as, “I’m going to walk away with three new business cards and follow up with them the next day.”

    Prepare yourself to meet your goals by coming armed with questions for new acquaintances, answers you feel comfortable speaking about and tactics to help you feel as relaxed and social as possible.
    Stagger your networking events throughout the month. “Don’t feel like to be a good networker you have to go to every event you hear about,” says Zack. …

    Most people, she says, will crash and burn on an overwhelming schedule of events. To be responsible and effective networker, choose two to three events a month that you feel position you for success.
    In choosing networking opportunities, Zack says the best strategy for success is picking events that you are inherently interested in and not necessary career-related….

    Visiting card, business card, name card
    Image via Wikipedia
    Zack’s point is this: if you go to an event strictly to network, you might dread it and feel as if you’ve failed if you don’t walk away with a dozen new connections. But if you go to a seminar you’re interested in, you will not only be excited to go, but you will have gained something even if you leave with a single business card. An added bonus in choosing an event that interests you? Built-in talking points.

    No matter what event you choose, make sure to register in advance. “You’re much more likely to bail if you don’t pre-register,” says Zack, who knows from first-hand experience how easy it is to backpedal out of events at the last minute. “…[When] you arrive you will find a printed nametag …, which makes you look good,” she says, “a lot better than stragglers who are scribbling their names down with a Sharpie.”

    Work the Room
    … [Another] early pointer from Zack is to never, ever arrive late. “It’s really the worst mistake you can make,” she says. “You get there and everyone’s already talking to each other, or talking in groups. … If you get there late, there’s a lot of noise, a lot of action, and worst of all you’ve got nowhere to go.”

    Zack advises to make a rule of arriving within the first fifteen minutes of an event, when the mood is low-key and the number of attendees manageable. …

    Once the pace of the event has picked up, use Zack’s top tactic for identifying people to talk to …. “I always tell people to get in a line,” she says, “which seems counterintuitive, but think about it: when you’re in line, you have two built in people to talk to. ...” Not only that, but again, there is a built-in talking point to make conversation easy.”

    … [In] terms of promotion, Zack says that no one should feel pressured to come armed with an “elevator speech” to pitch themselves about the room. “But be prepared to ask questions, and prepare for them in return. …”

    Take a Breather
    … “Even within the context of an event, make sure to take a few pauses to simply not be talking to people,” [Zack] says.

    One of the best ways to create “downtime” is to pause after each new acquaintance, step away and jot a few notes about them on the back of their card. … Other ways to take a breather include stepping out of the main room, checking your voicemail, “or pretending to check your voicemail!” says Zack, but it’s critical to take that time.

    Check Out
    Knowing how to best end a conversation within the context of a networking event is important, because you always want to end it before it fizzles out and you’re left with nothing to say. Zack offers two fail-proof exit strategies: “One of my favorites is ‘I promised I’d circulate the room, but it’s been great meeting you. Do you have a card?’ and the other is ‘I’m sure you want to meet other people, so I’ll let you go. Do you have a card?

    The bottom line is that people are at events to meet people. Acknowledge it while the conversation is still upbeat and then move on. And don’t forget to smile.

    Follow Up
    Zack can’t stress this point enough: If you don’t follow up with people you meet at networking events, there was no point in going. … Follow up, and follow up quickly. Zack suggests the next day if it’s just a casual connection.

    But if you’re looking for a favor, aim for the Friday following the event. “People are far more responsive and receptive and willing to say yes to things on a Friday,” says Zack. And if you really want to make a stellar impression with a follow up, go with a hand-written note. “They’re an endangered species, and they take three minutes. Consider them the supertool of networkers.”

    Meghan CasserlyMeghan Casserly
    I cover the juggle of work, life and play for smart, ambitious women.
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    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    10 dumb mistakes companies make over and over - CBS News

    CBS News
    By Steve Tobak

    "Not again!" (Photo courtesy Flickr user Alex E. Proimos)

    (MoneyWatchCOMMENTARY These days I'm constantly bombarded with books and articles about why leaders, executives and companies fail. … Most of the "sage" advice is pretty weak, running the gamut from the absurdly obvious to the obviously absurd.

    One article by author and psychologist Jack Stark lists the top five reasons leaders fail as greed, insecurity, power, arrogance and narcissism. Can't say I disagree, but I seriously doubt if any of the CEOs I know will be running to a shrink anytime soon. Maybe they should.

    Mark Stevens, author of "Your Marketing Sucks," says companies fail because of "lack of leadership." Well, thank you Captain Obvious. To be fair, he also lists "complacency" and "conventional thinking," which I do agree with.

    Why leaders need a good shrink, not a coach 10 reasons why smart people do dumb things

    … Here are my top 10, along with some recent and notable examples:

    Seal of the United States bankruptcy court. Ch...
    Image via Wikipedia
    Killing promising new businesses to maintain old ones. Kodak (EK) just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after years of mismanagement and playing catch-up in digital photography. Ironically, Kodak invented the digital still camera in 1975 and then sat on it for a quarter of a century … . When will companies learn that if you don't cannibalize your own business, competitors will do it for you?

    Image representing Research In Motion as depic...
    Image via CrunchBase
    Lack of objectivity and perspective. Probably the most common mistake executives make is being too self-contained … . They stop asking questions like, "How are we doing," and when a daring customer or employee tries to provide some feedback, they ignore it. As failure modes go, this one even takes down big companies like BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM), for example.

    Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...
    Image via CrunchBase
    Failure to articulate the company's strategy. … [There] are large, public companies with CEOs who cannot tell you what the company's unique vision and value proposition are. As one VP said of Scott Thompson, the new CEO of Yahoo (YHOO), "Maybe he can let us all finally know what Yahoo is." …

    Chronically bleeding red ink. Over the years, I've watched dozens of once prominent companies continue to lose money, quarter after quarter, year after year, until they're either acquired for peanuts or they file for bankruptcy protection. …

    Not challenging the status quo. Many famous leaders have said it a lot of different ways, but it always comes down to the same message: when you stop challenging the status quo, you're dead. Few companies are great at constantly reinventing themselves … But the ones that resist change and try to hold onto what they were are lost.

    Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase
    Image via CrunchBase
    Poor risk management. The flipside of taking no risks … is unnecessarily betting the company on huge mega risks or jumping from one strategy to another hoping that one will actually stick. An example of the latter is the current incarnation of AOL (AOL). An example of the former is the old AOL's merger with Time Warner (TWX). …
    The second logo for AOL, used from 2006–2009
    Image via Wikipedia

    Ignoring hot new trends. Resting on your laurels, ignoring viral trends and failing to innovate turns market leaders into dinosaurs in record time. [There’s] Nokia (NOK), Yahoo, and for some historical perspective, big iron computer companies like Digital Equipment Corp. whose CEO couldn't understand why anyone would ever want to own a computer.  

    Dumb customer service policies. … [Some] companies have systemic issues with bad policies and procedures. The reason, I think, is the inherent conflict between the customer's satisfaction and the company's customer service expense and efficiency. Still, that's no excuse for customer service nightmares we all experience, like these.

    Harassing customers. We all get spam in our inboxes, but most annoying is the spam you can't get rid of no matter how many times you unsubscribe. Don't these companies know better? … Take it from me: persistence is fine, but harassment has the opposite effect.

    The Peter Principle. Last but certainly not least is the gold standard of executive failure, the Peter Principle. Incompetence that breeds more and more incompetence, … is the perennial gift of business mediocrity that never stops giving.
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    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Why Appreciation Matters So Much

    Harvard Business Review wordmark
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    Harvard Business Review

    9:44 AM Monday January 23, 2012

    Tony Schwartz

    Image by glsims99 via Flickr
    … Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter — that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we're recognized for it.
    The single highest driver of engagement, according to a worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson, is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing. Less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.

    Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to do our best work. …  When our value feels at risk, as it so often does, that worry becomes preoccupying, which drains and diverts our energy from creating value.

    So why is it that openly praising or expressing appreciation to other people at work can so easily seem awkward, contrived, mawkish and even disingenuous?

    The obvious answer is that we're not fluent in the language of positive emotions in the workplace. … Heartfelt appreciation is a muscle we've not spent much time building, or felt encouraged to build.

    DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN11 - Daniel Goleman, C...
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    Oddly, we're often more experienced at expressing negative emotions — reactively and defensively, and often without recognizing their corrosive impact on others until much later, if we do at all.
    That's unfortunate. The impact of negative emotions — and more specifically the feeling of being devalued — is incredibly toxic. As Daniel Goleman has written, "Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are almost as powerful as those to our very survival."

    In one well-known study, workers who felt unfairly criticized by a boss or felt they had a boss who didn't listen to their concerns had a 30 percent higher rate of coronary disease than those who felt treated fairly and with care.

    In the workplace itself, researcher Marcial Losada has found that among high-performing teams, the expression of positive feedback outweighs that of negative feedback by a ratio of 5.6 to 1. By contrast, low-performing teams have a ratio of .36 to 1.

    So what are the practical steps you can take, especially as a manager, to use appreciation in the service of building a higher-performing (and more sustainable) team?

    Considered a father of Western medicine, Hippo...
    Image via Wikipedia
    As the Hippocratic oath prescribes to physicians, "Above all else, do no harm." … The costs of devaluing others are so great that we need to spend far more time thinking than we do now about how to hold people's value, even in situations where they've fallen short and our goal is get them to change their behavior for the better.

    2. Practice appreciation by starting with yourself. If you have difficulty openly appreciating others, it's likely you also find it difficult to appreciate yourself. Take a few moments at the end of the day to ask yourself this simple question: "What can I rightly feel proud of today?" …

    3. Make it a priority to notice what others are doing right. The more you work at it, the better you'll get at it, and the more natural it will become for you. For example, start by thinking about what positive qualities, behaviors and contributions you currently take for granted among the members of your team. Then ask yourself, what is it that each of them uniquely brings to the table?

    Appreciation letter by King George V.
    Image via Wikipedia
    4. Be appreciative. The more specific you can be about what you value … the more positive your impact on that person is likely to be. A handwritten note makes a bigger impression than an email or a passing comment, but better any one of them than nothing at all.

    We're all more vulnerable and needy than we like to imagine. Authentically appreciating others will make you feel better about yourself, and it will also increase the likelihood they'll invest more in their work, and in you. The human instinct for reciprocity runs deep.

    Tony Schwartz
    Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebook and connect with Tony at and
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    Taking a longer-term look at M&A value creation

    Companies that do many small deals can outperform their peers—if they have the right skills. But they need more than skill to succeed in large deals.

    McKinsey Quarterly - Corporate Finance - M&A
    JANUARY 2012 • Werner Rehm, Robert Uhlaner, and Andy West

    Taking a longer-term look at M&A value creation article, companies that do large deals fare worst in M&A, Corporate Finance

    Mergers and Acquisitions (The Sopranos)
    Image via Wikipedia
    Measuring the value that mergers and acquisitions create is an inexact science. Typical analyses compare share prices before and after a deal is announced, using short-term investor reactions to indicate how much value it would be likely to create. One benefit of this approach is that it provides a measure of expected value unaffected by other variables, such as subsequent acquisitions or changes in leadership.

    Yet relying on market reactions to gauge value creation has drawbacks. It skews the results to larger deals, which have the heft to affect share prices, and underrepresents smaller ones—even though they account for a majority of M&A. It can also underestimate the amount of value created by multideal strategies whose real worth develops over the longer term. …

    To address those shortcomings, we analyzed the excess shareholder returns1 of the world’s top 1,000 nonbanking companies, which completed more than 15,000 deals over the past decade. … When we segmented companies by the scope of their M&A programs (Exhibit 1), we found that long-term returns vary significantly by deal pattern and by industry. The implication is that across most industries, companies with the right capabilities can succeed with a pattern of smaller deals, but in large deals industry structure plays as much of a role in success as the capabilities of a company and its leadership.

    Exhibit 1: The excess shareholder returns of the world’s top 1,000 nonbanking companies reveal distinct patterns of deal making.
    Long-term returns to M&A
    Because we look at excess returns over a full decade, we’re better able to correlate longer-term strategies with shareholder returns and company survival rates. The data confirm that the larger companies get, the more they rely on M&A to grow: 75 percent of those that remained in the top 500 used active M&A programs, including 91 percent of those that stayed in the top 100 (Exhibit 2). A majority of these companies complete many smaller deals, with no large ones.2 … A correlation of the identified patterns of M&A with long-term excess returns shows that the only companies that had, on average, negative excess returns were those that did large deals (Exhibit 3). …

    Exhibit 2: The larger companies get, the more they use M&A to grow.

    Exhibit 3: Companies using a programmatic strategy are the most successful.
      Companies using any of the other approaches to M&A showed positive excess TRS relative to global industry indices. Those with a more programmatic pattern of M&A (defined as many small deals that over time represented 19 percent or more3 of the acquirer’s market capitalization) on average performed better than companies relying on organic growth. They also had a higher probability of positive excess returns.4 Finally, the data suggest that a growth strategy built around a series of small deals can actually be less risky than avoiding M&A altogether. Organic strategies showed the greatest variability in excess TRS between top performers and companies in the lowest quartile, while programmatic and tactical M&A had the smallest range.
      The importance of industry specifics
      As compelling as these global averages might be, they do not answer the question of whether an individual company in a specific industry at a given time should engage in M&A. … As our previous analysis showed, returns by M&A approach are widely distributed and can obscure individual results.5 Consider the data on an industry-by-industry basis (Exhibit 4). The results vary widely but patterns do emerge.

      Exhibit 4: Returns by M&A approach are widely distributed and can obscure individual results, but they roughly indicate the top strategies by industry.

      Large deals. Companies are more successful with large acquisitions—those worth more than 30 percent of the acquirer’s market capitalization—in slower-growing, mature industries. Here, there is great value in reducing excess industry capacity and improving performance, and a lengthy integration effort is less disruptive.

      In contrast, large deals in faster-growing sectors6 have been less successful, with –12 percent excess TRS in the five years after such deals, significantly lower than the 4 percent excess TRS for companies in slower-growing industries over a similar period. Why did companies in faster-growing sectors underperform? Many focused inwardly during the lengthy integration required for large deals, missing critical product or upgrade cycles. Others attempted to expand into complementary businesses, where targets had limited overlap in products and technology. In addition, over the period we reviewed, we found that these companies tended to do large deals in years when market valuations were generally high. Tech companies, for example, have fallen into all three of these traps.

      Of course, the success of large deals also depends on a company’s strengths and its leadership’s ability to guide it through a year or more of integrating a large acquisition, as well as other factors idiosyncratic to specific deals.7

      Programmatic deals. Companies across a variety of industries do well using the programmatic approach. … Companies using the strategy completed many acquisitions that together represented a material level of investment as a percentage of market cap.8 In addition, we found a volume effect—the more deals a company did, the higher the probability it would earn excess returns.9

      Evidence shows that executing a high-volume deal program requires certain corporate capabilities but not necessarily a specific industry structure. … For example, IBM’s program of acquiring smaller software firms succeeded because the company could offer acquired businesses access to global markets, which they had lacked. …

      … In some cases, big companies are also looking to find new growth opportunities. In the late 1990s, German industrial conglomerate BASF, for example, determined that it could grow more quickly and profitably if it shifted its focus to specialty chemicals—an area in which managers believed they could create value through their technical skills and understanding of customer needs. The company then shed its commodity chemical operations and acquired specialty companies and businesses, which it quickly integrated.

      In another series of deals, The Walt Disney Company acquired brands such as Baby Einstein and the Muppets, lending the power of Disney’s global profile to expand their market and reach. Acquisitions of Club Penguin and Marvel Entertainment were similar: the former gave Disney a product in a new distribution channel; the latter allowed it to pick up content that’s popular with teenage males—a relatively tough demographic for the company.

      Tactical deals. Companies using a tactical approach to M&A also do numerous small deals, but those deals do not, combined, make up a large portion of the acquirer’s market capitalization. … Tech companies were significantly more successful with this approach than with the others: they used M&A as part of an innovation and capability-building strategy, buying options and adding functions.

      Microsoft, for example, has a history of adding features to its core products through M&A to give users incentives to upgrade. Many smaller products acquired by the company found their way to the next release of Excel, and the upgrade cycle provides continued revenue for the franchise. Manufacturer Foxconn Electronics executed more than 20 small strategic and equity outsourcing deals over the decade. Some were intended to expand its capabilities from PC assembly into digital cameras, handsets, and networking equipment, to name a few things. Others eased the company’s vertical integration into components, with the goal of serving end customers better and thus helping the acquired businesses to grow.

      Industrial companies in this segment seem to use tactical M&A to fill gaps in products or channels. … Caterpillar, for instance, used M&A to round up its product portfolio by purchasing companies that made diesel engines, railroad and mining equipment, and specialized repair gear. …

      Selective deal making. Many companies do deals occasionally but don’t appear to have an M&A capability or a proactive M&A strategy. Most of the companies in this segment spend less than 2 percent of their market cap a year on M&A. Their total shareholder returns are in all likelihood driven more by an organic-growth tailwind than by M&A strategy. The rest of the companies in the segment are individual cases, many stemming from unlucky one-off deals at the end of the 2001 tech bubble. It is therefore hard to conclude that the performance of this group is based on a clear M&A strategy. More likely, these were solid companies that engaged in occasional pragmatic deals to support the growth of the underlying business.
      It’s possible to understand M&A performance better by taking a finer-grained look at patterns of deal activity. The success of large deals tends to depend more on the industry where they take place, the success of small ones more on the capabilities of the acquiring companies.

      About the Authors
      Werner Rehm is a senior expert in McKinsey’s New York office; Robert Uhlaner is a director in the San Francisco office; and Andy West is a principal in the Boston office.

      The authors would like to thank Theresa Lorriman for her significant contribution to the research.
      1 We measure excess TRS by assigning companies to subsectors and tracking the difference between a company’s TRS and an index that follows the sector. In this analysis, we used 11-year excess TRS to avoid some of the issues resulting from the collapse of the high-tech bubble in the early 2000s.
      2 Defined as a target acquired for at least 30 percent of acquiring company’s market value in the year the deal closed.
      3 Among companies completing only small deals, we used the aggregated median acquired market capitalization, or 19 percent, as the cutoff between those with significant M&A programs (programmatic acquirers) and those that acquire small deals opportunistically (tactical acquirers).
      4 However, the confidence intervals for average returns are overlapping.
      5 Andres Cottin, Werner Rehm, and Robert Uhlaner, “Growing through deals: A reality check,”, April 2011.
      6 Defined as average annual growth above 7 percent. This data set included 82 deals worth more than 30 percent of the acquirers’ market cap.
      7 See, for example, Ankur Angrawal, Cristina Ferrer, and Andy West, “When big acquisitions pay off,”, May 2011.
      8 A median of 36 percent of market cap acquired with 33 deals over the time frame.
      9 As with the other analyses, this is a correlation, not necessarily a causative relationship. Although we feel confident that the deal strategy contributed to the outperformance, it is possible that better-performing companies executed more deals in the wake of their success.
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      Friday, January 20, 2012

      The Surprising Benefits of Solitude

      Harvard Business Review

      2:47 PM Thursday January 19, 2012
      Andrew McAfee

      Some recent reading crystallized two hypotheses that have been rattling around in my head for a while now:
      Digital crowds work better than real-world ones For some things, nothing works except solitude
      These formed after reading a great article by Susan Cain in the New York Times called "The Rise of the New Groupthink." The column is a preview of her new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking

      The book summarizes a lot of research about what actually happens when people work together in groups, and most of it ain't pretty. As Cain writes,
      ...decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The "evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups," wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham... 

      The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others' opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure
      So it seems like we need to add brainstorming sessions to the scrap heap of plausible business techniques that actually don't work that well, along with focus groups and job interviews. …

      There is one large exception to this rule: groups that come together digitally, rather than in the real world, are often very creative, innovative, and productive. … According to Cain:
      The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet
      Marcel Proust in 1900
      Image via Wikipedia
      has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a "miracle of communication in the midst of solitude," and that's what the Internet is, too. It's a place where we can be alone together -- and this is precisely what gives it power.
      I love this idea, … because it provides a great counterargument to all the hand-wringing about the Net's isolating and society-corroding tendencies. Alone together has until now been a lament; it should also be a celebration.

      The second hypothesis is that as powerful as the Net can be for generating and improving ideas, those of us who think for a living still need to be alone a lot to get good thinking done.

      … It's usually a blast to digitally swap ideas; tweet, update, share, comment, 'like,' and multitask with multi-people. It's usually a drag to take yourself away from all that, sit down, disconnect, and start writing, sketching, coding, diagramming - in short, to start thinking.

      If and when you get into a flow, solitary work becomes fantastic. But it rarely starts that way. It proceeds the way my marathoner friends tell me their winter training runs go: with a lot of initial discomfort and why-am-I-doing-this? followed eventually by enjoyment and accomplishment.

      Getting over that initial hump is hard. And people might stop trying if they start believing that digitally facilitated ensemble work suffices. … It's absolutely necessary, but it's not enough when genuine novelty is the goal. We - YOU - also need to spend some time alone, just thinking. The poet Charles Bukowski got it
      Charles Bukowski
      Image via Wikipedia
       right: "Isolation is the gift."

      Andrew McAfee
      Andrew McAfee is principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the
      MIT Sloan School of Management
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      MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of Enterprise 2.0 and the co-author, with Erik Brynjolfsson, of Race Against The Machine.
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      Thursday, January 19, 2012

      Five Painless Ways to Raise Prices this Year

      | Blog | Daily Dose |

      BY Carol Tice| 23 hours ago|

      Five Painless Ways to Raise Prices this Year

      It may sound odd, but small businesses are increasingly handing out pay raises. …

      Apparently, the pay-raise trend is pretty widespread. A Pepperdine University/Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. study showed 43 percent of small businesses have already hiked worker pay in the past year, and 42 percent said they plan to raise pay this year. …

      This may be a critical time to raise prices for many businesses in any case, as prices are rising or remaining high for many basic materials.

      With the economy still so uncooperative, how can you sell customers on a price hike? Here are five ideas:
      1. English: Customers buying up tea before the pr...
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        Phase it in.
        Let customers know prices are going up next month, or next quarter. … Give clients a chance to buy in volume ahead of time to save money. It feels like a deal, but, sooner or later, customers still end up paying the new price. …
        Related: More Small Businesses Plan to Push Up Prices in 2012

      2. Offer valued-customer discounts. Take a page from grocery stores and offer one price for your loyal frequent shoppers, and a higher one for occasional users. That way you can start grossing more without alienating your core customer base. Don't make those customers haul around a loyalty card, either -- keep the information on who gets the good prices on file yourself.
      3. English: A business ideally is continually see...
        Image via Wikipedia
        Revamp or repackage old products or services.
        Add new features, bundle existing products to create a new one or redesign your packaging. Freshen it up, and you've added value -- or at least created the appearance of added value -- and can command a better price for it.
      4. Introduce new products. … What can you sell that your competitors don't? Add fresh items that can't be easily price compared and you can charge a better markup on them.
        Related: Four Rules for Pricing Products

      5. Review and retool your product assortment. Do you know which of your products has the lowest margins, and which has the highest? … Then drop slower-moving, low-net products and add more high-end ones. Also review competitors' pricing to see whether some products are priced unnecessarily low. Small, strategic increases on a few popular items can add up quickly, while customers may barely notice the difference.
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      Want to Become Known as an Industry Expert? 3 Tips to Get You Started


      1/18/2012 @ 1:33PM

      Cari Sommer, Contributor

      …For those of you who’ve decided that this is the year to up your visibility, you may be asking yourself “how?’’  How will you become known as the one to go to for relevant press stories, speaking events or other high profile events?  How will you make yourself and your brand stand out in your space?

      It starts with building your reputation as an expert. You may be thinking, “Well that’s easy, I AM an expert.”  … It’s great that you feel confident about your knowledge base, but now your focus should turn to getting others to see you in the same light.

      Here are a few tips for doing so.
      1. Call yourself an expert. … We fear that others will perceive us as bragging or that there’s some magical threshold we must pass before we can TRULY be considered an expert. Wrong! If you feel confident enough to put your name out there and speak about a particular market segment or industry, feel confident enough to tell people that you’re doing so. Be on the lookout for opportunities to contribute to conversations—whether through social media or relevant industry groups.  You can also start to build relationships with a targeted group of bloggers or journalists by letting them know your specific areas of expertise and your willingness to chime in if and when they need a specific quote, facts or data.
      2. Share Generously. …  As you have interesting industry news to share—whether it’s about a particular trend you’re seeing or up-to-the-minute data you’ve gathered, let people know about it. Blog about it, email industry influencers about it—maybe even think about putting together a press release.    Sometimes business owners question whether and how much they should share—they think that their knowledge is their ‘special sauce’. When it comes to brand building, application of that knowledge is what counts.  …
      3. Stay Focused: While the ability to appoint oneself an expert opens up a world of possibility in terms of business and personal brand-building, the flip side is the worry that the title doesn’t mean anything anymore.  … Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid the dialogue. Instead, it’s an incentive to be really clear on your skill set and what you want to be known as.   …
      Making yourself known to industry influencers (media and beyond) is an ongoing effort.  It takes time and constant attention. But in today’s noisy world, there’s no short cut in making yourself and your business visible in your space.

      Cari Sommer Cari Sommer Contributor
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      I am the Principal of Cari Sommer Media + Communications (, a consulting firm that works with high growth companies to stand out from the crowd through powerful content, thought leadership and top notch publicity. I developed this expertise first- hand through my role as the co-founder and the head of press relations of the angel funded company
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       Urban Interns (, which has been widely publicized in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Crains, Inc, Tech Crunch, Entrepreneur, Mashable and Reuters. Prior to becoming and entrepreneur, I was a litigator for seven years at an international law firm, where I first learned how to convincingly convey a point of view-- a much needed skill for any entrepreneur. I am a graduate of
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      Cornell University and Brooklyn Law School. I am a mentor-advisor to Cornell students in e-Lab, the Cornell undergraduate incubator program, and a member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women.
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      Train Your Brain to Focus

      Harvard Business Review
      1:32 PM Wednesday January 18, 2012
      by Paul Hammerness, MD, and Margaret Moore

      English: A child not paying attention in class.
      Image via Wikipedia

      … Many of us are proud of our prowess in multitasking, and wear it like a badge of honor.
      Multitasking may help us check off more things on our to-do lists. But it also makes us more prone to making mistakes, more likely to miss important information and cues, and less likely to retain information in working memory, which impairs problem solving and creativity.

      Image by cloois via Flickr
      … Studies of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) using the latest neuroimaging and cognitive testing [PDF] are showing us how the brain focuses, what impairs focus — and how easily the brain is distracted. … The good news is that the brain can learn to ignore distractions, making you more focused, creative, and productive.

      Here are three ways you can start to improve your focus.

      Tame your frenzy.
      English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
      Image via Wikipedia
      Frenzy is an emotional state, a feeling of being a little (or a lot) out of control. … Emotions are processed by the amygdala, … It responds powerfully to negative emotions, which are regarded as signals of threat. Functional brain imaging has shown that activation of the amygdala by negative emotions interferes with the brain's ability to solve problems or do other cognitive work. Positive emotions and thoughts do the opposite — they improve the brain's executive function, and so help open the door to creative and strategic thinking.

      English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings
      Image via Wikipedia
      What can you do? Try to improve your balance of positive and negative emotions over the course of a day. Barbara Fredrickson, a noted psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recommends a 3:1 balance of positive and negative emotions, based upon mathematical modeling of ideal team dynamics by her collaborator Marcial Losada, and confirmed by research on individual flourishing and successful marriages. (Calculate your "positivity ratio" at You can tame negative emotional frenzy by exercising, meditating, and sleeping well. It also helps to notice your negative emotional patterns. …

      What can your team do? Start meetings on positive topics and some humor. The positive emotions this generates can improve everyone's brain function, leading to better teamwork and problem solving.

      Apply the brakes.
      Your brain continuously scans your internal and external environment, even when you are focused on a particular task. Distractions are always lurking: wayward thoughts, emotions, sounds, or interruptions. Fortunately, the brain is designed to instantly stop a random thought, an unnecessary action, and even an instinctive emotion from derailing you and getting you off track.

      What can you do? To prevent distractions from hijacking your focus, use the ABC method as your brain's brake pedal. Become Aware of your options: you can stop what you are doing and address the distraction, or you can let it go. Breathe deeply and consider your options. Then Choose thoughtfully: Stop? or Go?
      What can your team do? Try setting up one-hour distraction-free meetings. Everyone is expected to
      contribute and offer thoughtful and creative input, and no distractions (like laptops, tablets, cell phones, and other gadgets) are allowed.

      Shift Sets.
      … Set-shifting refers to shifting all of your focus to a new task, and not leaving any behind on the last one. Sometimes it's helpful to do this in order to give the brain a break and allow it to take on a new task.

      What can you do? Before you turn your attention to a new task, shift your focus from your mind to your body. Go for a walk, climb stairs, do some deep breathing or stretches. Even if you aren't aware of it, when you are doing this your brain continues working on your past tasks. Sometimes new ideas emerge during such physical breaks.

      What can your team do? Schedule a five-minute break for every hour of meeting time, and encourage everyone to do something physical rather than run out to check email. By restoring the brain's executive function, such breaks can lead to more and better ideas when you reconvene.

      Organizing your mind, and your team members' minds, will yield a solid payoff in the year ahead. … Try holding a no-multitasking meeting and see what happens when everyone in the room gives their undivided attention. …

      Paul Hammerness, MD, and Margaret Moore

      Paul Hammerness, MD, and Margaret Moore
      Paul Hammerness, MD, and Margaret Moore are the authors of Organize Your Life, Organize Your Mind (Harlequin). Hammerness is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Moore is the founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital.
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