So, Apple had their newest big roll out yesterday. (Watch the WWDC keynote here). I am an Apple fan, but really only barely use my Apple devices (I have three; iMac, iPad, iPhone) to their capabilities. But I loaded the Macrumors live blog of the event, glanced at it frequently, and followed along. (And I kept looking for the announcement of the latest iMac, but, alas, it did not arrive. My son assures me it is coming soon).
From the moment that Siri started it off, to the multiple announcements, the faithful seemed more than satisfied with the latest good news. Here are two obvious lessons from yesterday’s event. And, yes, they are obvious. But the fact that they are obvious does not mean that other companies and organizations have figured out how to match Apple.
Lesson #1 – keep improving, keep tweaking, and keep innovating. Make your really great products and services even greater. Again and again. From the devices to the software to the operating systems, what is insanely great about Apple now is better than what was insanely great about Apple a year ago, and we all know that by this time next year it will be even greater and better and cooler and “must have” all over again. They give us great stuff now, and will keep on giving us greater stuff tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
I don’t even understand all of the ways they make it better. But I know it revolves around the entire package, the full constellation of offerings and capabilities – design, speed, (“faster, faster, faster, faster” – this was one of the mantras from yesterday) power, look, resolution, “retina display.” Apple just keeps making every part of Apple, everything that is Apple, and everything that works with Apple, better.
But most of us do not learn this lesson in our work. It took me way too many years to realize that while I talked about and spoke about constant improvement, I practiced very little of it. Here’s an example: for the first 13+ years of the First Friday Book Synopsis, my handouts for my synopses looked exactly the same: a plain, boring-looking, Word document, with no design appeal at all. Not too smart of me! I finally realized it was time (way past time) to make some changes on my handouts. We found a great designer to raise the look of our handouts to a new level. And I think they look terrific. And now, I have to figure out “so what’s next?” to keep getting better. And, all along, I have to ask “how can I do my work better?” It really is never ending.
Lesson #2 – Communicate very well to all of your intended audiences. Call it what you want: learn to market; learn to sell; learn to call attention to; learn to create anticipation. Though the current crop of Apple messengers cannot match the brilliance of Steve Jobs, (who could?!), they have clearly learned some major lessons from the master. And yesterday was a sold-out, live-blogged, extravaganza of a show. With videos and slides and demonstrations and team-presentations and multiple awe-inspiring moments for the faithful, Apple still seems to be at the top of their game.
You can read all you want about the need for better hard skills. And many who write about those hard skills tend to almost look down on the place of those soft skills.
That is a really big mistake!
Apple’s success revolves around these two realities; they make great products, and they sell them even better. Yes, this was part of the brilliance of Steve Jobs. But isn’t it interesting that no other company has come close to matching this aspect of Apple’s approach? Apple gets this – why don’t the rest of us?
Let me put it simply and bluntly – if you do not know how to communicate what you do, what you have to offer, clearly and compellingly, with excitement and great passion, then your great product just may go undiscovered by a whole lot of folks.
Lesson #1 – keep improving, keep tweaking, and keep innovating.
Lesson #2 – Communicate very well to all of your intended audiences.
How are you doing?
Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something!
Mary Kay Ash (I wrote about this here).
The key to business success? A really good product, with a really great sales person/sales force.
I have known this for a long time. There is an interesting article about Steve Jobs up at Slate.com. It is sort of (ok, quite a bit) critical of Steve Jobs and his “closed approach.” But buried in it, without the use of the word “sales,” it reveals Jobs’ great strength – as sales person par excellence.
If you have been reading Bob Morris’ posts here on our blog about Carmine Gallo’s book about Steve Jobs (and my posts about Gallo’s videos about Jobs); if you have paid attention at all to Steve Jobs; then you know that though he has great, even world-changing products, there is no one – and I mean no one — who is better at sales than Steve Jobs.
The article, Steve Jobs, A New Mogul With Old Methods by Tim Wu, tells much about the Jobs approach, his products, his view that that he wants total control of his “system.” Though the article does not use the word “sales” at all, it is Jobs as salesman that makes the needed, additional, whopping difference in Apple’s success. Here’s a quote:
In the computer world, and particularly for those in the cult of the Mac, a Jobs keynote speech is part rock concert, part sacrament. As he speaks, he is repeatedly interrupted by cheers, an unusual thing in corporate speechmaking.
It reminded me of an article I read years ago. It was about the amazing success of Paul Harvey on the radio. What was his secret? It was simple, really (simple – not easy to replicate!) He was world-calls great at sales. The article was: Paul Harvey: He’s been a radio icon since Limbaugh and Stern were in grade school. More than that, he is the finest huckster ever to roam the airwaves by Mike Thomas at Salon.com (September, 2001). Here’s the key excerpt:
It may be cynical to say so, but therein lies the key to Harvey’s longevity and success. Sure, he’s an astute dissector of current events, cultural phenomena and middle-American minutiae. But more than that, he is perhaps the finest huckster ever to roam the airwaves. He is so good that sponsors are said to be stacked high and deep, waiting to wow him with their products. Because if he is wowed, and only if he decides something is worthy of his own personal use, he will sell the hell out of it. And even while it is sometimes hard to believe that the multimillionaire workaholic finds time to strap on leaf blowers and operate load handlers, one willingly suspends disbelief if only out of respect and admiration for the magical way he woos us to spend money.
So, we’re back to the simple wisdom of Mary Kay Ash: Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something!
I’ve written often about my absolute devotion to Roger Ebert. (Like here: Roger Ebert Reminds us All Just Why We Love Our Books). “Sell all that you have, and read Ebert.” I wrote (with apology to Helmut Thielecke).
Here’s a little bit from his latest blog post. It’s a pretty good reminder that we all have to be selling something – all the time. (“Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something.” – Mary Kay Ash).
Roger’s paragraphs – priceless! — Here they are:
I was a case study. I threw myself into the school’s annual magazine subscription contest, sponsored by the Curtis Circulation Company. A portion of each subscription went to the school, and the best salesman won a trophy. I won two years in a row, flogging the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Popular Mechanics and dozens of other titles (the nuns neatly crossed off Esquire on every form). A Curtis pitchman arrived to kick off the next year. “Everyone you know is a sales opportunity!” he lectured us in the auditorium. “Your parents, your neighbors, even people you meet! Don’t be shy! Sell those subscriptions!”
I raised my hand. “Sir,” I asked, “would you like to buy a subscription?” I expected laughter, applause and his congratulations. What I got was total silence and Sister Gilberta ordering me to meet with her in the hall to explain why I had embarrassed my whole school. Then followed conferences with my parents. I felt humiliated and outraged. I thought I’d been outrageously mistreated by people with no imagination or sympathy. I suppose in another sense I was being a little asshole. That pattern has persisted.
Business Lessons from Guy Kawasaki (excerpted from the Corner Office Interview, NY Times)
Guy Kawasaki is a one-man business idea factory. We link to his blog on our blog roll, and I follow him on Twitter, and I have presented synopses of two of his books, The Art of the Start and Reality Check (which Bob Morris called the best book he read in 2008). Here are some excerpts from his terrific interview in the NY Times Corner Office (Note: Bob usually posts about the pieces from the NY Times Corner Office, and will probably do so again with this one. But I liked it so much that I decided it would be more than ok to give our readers a double dose of Kawasaki).
On the centrality and primacy of sales:
You truly have to understand how to take care of your customers.
I learned a very valuable lesson: how to sell. Sales is everything. As long as you’re making sales, you’re still in the game. That lesson has stuck with me throughout my career.
On Steve Jobs and his brilliance:
I learned from Steve that some things need to be believed to be seen. These are powerful lessons — very different from saying we just want to eke out an existence and keep our heads down.
The most important thing is that you hire people who complement you and are better than you in specific areas.
…make yourself dispensable — what greater accomplishment is there than the organization running well without you? It means you picked great people, prepared them and inspired them. And if executives did this, the world would be a better place.
On clear and simple, easy to understand, to the point communication:
business schools should teach students how to communicate in five-sentence e-mails and with 10-slide PowerPoint presentations. If they just taught every student that, American business would be much better off.
On work ethic:
…success in business comes from the willingness to grind it out. It’s not because of the brilliant idea. It’s because you are willing to work hard. That’s the key to success.
The issue with consulting is that if you go straight to work for a consultant (after college graduation), you develop this perspective that the hard part is the analysis and the decision. In reality, that’s not the hard part. The hard part is implementing the decision, not making it.
You can purchase my synopses of both The Art of the Start, with handout + audio, on our companion web site 15minutebusinessbooks.com. The synopsis for Reality Check should be available soon.
A quick story: we had quite a snowstorm (for Dallas) a few weeks ago. A limb from a tall tree landed on our roof. I have neither the tools nor the expertise to take care of that problem, and as I was trying to figure out what to do, the doorbell rang. It was an enterprising man, looking at the trees from house to house, and he offered to remove the limb from our roof, cut it up, and get it out to the curb for pick up. His price was very reasonable. I hired him on the spot, and was thrilled at the convenience. I had to spend no time looking for someone to take care of this problem.
He showed up again this weekend, observing that we had some more work that needed to be done – and he was right. I had been meaning to call someone. Now, it is taken care of.
So – here’s the lesson – if you have a good service or product, don’t neglect sales.
Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something!
• (the absolute centrality of the independent sales force…)
• the entire company should be sales-oriented
• the company’s attitude can make or break the sales force
• build self-esteem and confidence
By the way, does your company need a custom business book synopsis? Just click the hire us tab at the top of our blog, or send me an e-mail: . A good book synopsis can generate some really useful conversations and help you plan your next steps.