Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set!

Multi-racial business team sitting around an office boardroom



Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set!


Because I’m in the “Solution” business as a consultant I speak to sales leaders quite often who are having a rough go at leading their sales teams. So, you can imagine this time of year I’m fortunately or unfortunately reached out to too share my thoughts on what could have been done differently this past year to achieve team sales success. My modus operandi has always been to ask few but specific questions…and listen more. At times I frustrate the heck out of my clients because they expect this magical wisdom to come out of my mouth and provide them these innovative/disruptive jewels that will turnaround their career….I purposely don’t provide that gift even during this time of year.  Not that I have all the answers they’re looking for, I pretty much convince them that they do they just choose to ignore them. The session typically starts out by asking them “HOW” do they lead their salespeople, and on the surface it seems like a normal simple question right? Nope, the answers are all over the place and I’m not specifically requiring a right answer…just a cogent one. The consistent and I might add typical uninspiring answer I receive is “I provide my people specific direction and support to be successful in executing their job”, that was verbatim from a client. Now, looking at that answer I’m sure many of you are saying to yourself “makes perfect sense to me” and I can’t argue with that because from a textbook definition it makes sense to me as well. However, it doesn’t inspire an ant. Isn’t giving specific direction and providing support a requirement of the job? Does that differentiate a “Good Sales Leader” from a “Great Sales Leader”? Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set! An ability to inspire people to leap over and beyond their expectations is what separates the good from the great. This is why I continue to argue that your best salespeople are NOT your best sales leaders. Yes, you read correctly your best individual salespeople are not your best sales leaders. I can emphatically say that because many organizations prematurely place their best salespeople in leadership sales positions without the adequate development prior, as if somehow thinking the talent will ooze from their pores into the pores of their salespeople. There have been cases where successful salespeople have been great sales leaders but it took a lot of deprogramming. One of my mantras and I’ve stuck by it my entire career is “When leading a global sales organization there are 3 behaviors required: “Humility”, “The willingness to be EDUCATED while EDUCATING”, and embracing “DIVERSITY”. As a successful salesperson entering into the wonderful world of sales management it took me a long time to let go of my ego and hubris to become a successful sales leader…along the way however it was h*ll.

Why do you have to be “SPECIAL”?

I think in order to be a “GREAT” sales leader you have to have special skills in order to lead salespeople. Let’s agree salespeople are a different breed of species (haha!!), and speaking as someone who has been in the sales business for most of my life….we’re NOT easy people to deal with. I hear the stories from sales leaders and I think the reason why they’re comfortable speaking with me about the things they go through is because I’ve experienced them. In any role where you’re leading human beings you are going to have at least one episode of heartburn, and if you don’t you’re not leading. Salespeople can be arrogant, narcissistic, prima donnas, and also wonderfully loyal if lead correctly. “Special Skills” are developed over time and companies that are patient and have thorough “Succession Planning” and “Development Programs” in place I’ve found to have the best sales leaders in place, and conversely higher sales profits. Below I’ve outlined 5 metric points that most special sales leaders have that distinguishes them from the pack:


  • Build an “acumen” understanding of direct reports.
  • Demonstrate consistency in your words and actions as the leader.
  • Be fair but stern: Treat everyone with respect and demand excellence of performance. Everyone will be evaluated based on their performance and competency.


  • Ensure that “Development” is a focus on every work-session.
  • Ensure Development options for “ready now employees”.
  • Track and Sustain Progress.


  • Create an effective learning environment.
  • Coach Plans will be done after each work-session.
  • Ensure learning opportunities exist on every one-on-one.


  • Ensure the team remains focus on executing our sales objectives/goals.
  • Ensure feedback is consistent and has high impact.


  • Be a powerful role model for development
  • Align organizational polices and processes with coaching and development

Finally, the 4 key principles to leading a sales team successfully are:

  1.  Individuals will have the opportunity to improve and capitalize on their developmental competencies. 
  2. Sales Development will help define specific action steps designed to help pull-through competencies in the field.
  3. Training will have an unwavering monitoring process designed to review training initiatives and identify skill competency gaps.
  4. Partnership/Teamwork with Sales, Marketing, and Training will ensure individuals are impacted and fully competent in all 3 areas.


Having the thought process and temperature that “WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER” will not only solidify team energy…..it might just bestow on you that different “Special Skill Set!


Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set!



Checkout my presentation on “Building A Global Sales Team”: http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/developing-a-global-sales-team-for



Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting



“THANKLESS” Profession….or misunderstood?


NOBODY WANTS “SALES TRAINING”….until there’s a problem!


That was the headline of a post I written this past spring that received a fair amount of feedback….most in agreement…..some not so much. We can agree upfront that training/sales training is NOT the only profession considered an afterthought in today’s corporate world, it is however I think the most misunderstood. Everyone says collectively that our society wouldn’t advance without some process that supports “Personal Development”; the challenge in my estimation is understanding microscopically what that “Process” is. Before we embark into the “Process” of training let’s look at the standard definition of training: Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies.    [1] After searching for numerous definitions on training this one was probably the closes comprehensible definition I could find, and I’m not a huge fan of Wikipedia as a reference source. Be that as it may, the point here is that “Training” is defined in so many undefined/abstract ways that it’s no wonder it falls into the abyss waters of “INDIFFERENCE”. It’s a human reaction not to embrace or champion a cause that has little specificity/clarity of the overall process and goal…..and “Training” I’m afraid falls into that category. Until something disastrously goes wrong with regards to someone’s “Competency” the immediate reaction is “WE NEED TRAINING”, and while this seems like the best solution at the moment the underlying problem is ALWAYS underneath the surface. So, inevitably training is used as a plug for the hole in the boat which expands and gets bigger, thus training can’t sustain the widening hole in the boat…..and it fails. Once the training fails then the perception of its effectiveness wanes, it continues to be used as a band-aid, and its importance is deemed “INDIFFERENT”. I’ve always felt having spent years in the training profession that “Training” is about “Enhancing one’s Behavior”. “Enhancing one’s Behavior” has to be continuous and unwavering, and devoid of “Microwave Execution”.

The “Process” of Changing Behavior!

I don’t care what they say…changing someone’s “Behavior” is harder than brain surgery. Yep, I said that and I’m not intentionally trying to be provocative I absolutely think one of the most challenging things to do is changing someone’s behavior. Please note that I’m specifically saying “Behaviors”….not “Habits”. True, habits are difficult to change and being from the sales/marketing profession we were always “Trained” to pick up on habits and alter them…..in my later wisdom I’ve come to think that was incorrect instruction. “Behaviors” drive habit and identifying the underlying root of the behavior is a massive challenge, therein lays the training profession’s conundrum…effectively changing behavior. One of my favorite authors Ferdinand F. Fournies (“Coaching for Improved Work Performance”) spells it out nicely:

“The behaviorists tell us that for every human action there are two possible categories of consequences to the individual: there could be a positive consequence and there could be a negative consequence. One primary rule of the behavior modification concept, which is most meaningful to you, is as follows: Behavior that is followed by a positive consequence (to the individual behaving) will tend to repeat itself. As an example, let’s at how the action of mowing the lawn might look in this concept”:


Positive Consequences
  1. Lawn looks nice
  2. Easier to do because grass not that long
  3. Neighbors tell you how nice the grass looks
Negative Consequences
  1. Don’t play golf today
  2. Perspire in hot sun
  3. Physical effort



Positive Consequences
  1. Play golf
  2. No perspiration
  3. No physical effort
Negative Consequences
  1. Lawn looks terrible
  2. Grass too long next weekend-hard to cut
  3. Neighbors make snide remarks about lawn

I point out this example albeit a very simple analysis of some of the possible alternative consequences to doing or not doing something in this case mowing the lawn. You can see the complexity as the positive consequence for not mowing the lawn might result in some very long grass. The point here is that “Training” is complex and simply looking at it as a quick solution to a multi-faceted problem sets it up for failure….100% of the time.

So, I think the reason for the “Training” profession’s lack of perceived “Value Strength” has a lot to do with misunderstanding and the complex processes to which it has to successfully perform. I decided to enter the wonderful world of sales training years ago because I wanted to obtain that skill set, but, I also wanted to get an understanding of its foundation….because I was one of those who often complained about it. After spending a few years in the training profession I’ve come to learn of its tremendous value and yes its complexity. I wish “Training” wasn’t seen as a “Thankless” profession but a profession that has value and not only on one’s career….but one’s life as well.

Take a look at my presentation on “Building a Global Sales Training Department”: http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/building-a-global-sales-training-dept Start your 2015 business year placing “Sales Training” top priority.



AH2 & Beyond Consulting

[1] Wikipedia





If you’ve been in the sales, customer service or even marketing business you’ve probably heard of the acronym “WIIFM”….pronounced (Wiff-em). As much as all of us would like to say we’d rather give than take….is that really truthful. The holiday season of course is among us and the old jingle “A time for giving” is all around us and it’s a very festive time of year….albeit very short lived. Getting back to the “WIIFM” acronym if you haven’t guessed it, yes, it’s “What’s in it for me”…..“quid pro quo’s” manipulative cousin. I was recently on a conference call where we were discussing how to fund raise for an organization I happen to be a board member, and ways we could partner with other organizations to help raise capital. Much of the discussion centered on how we would go about targeting various organizations based on “OUR” value proposition….not theirs. What the organization that I’m a board member of is doing is absolutely wonderful it literally will choke you up emotionally on what it’s trying to accomplish….yet it’s not enough to get donors. We’ve all seen the commercials on TV that tug at your heart asking for money, yet I’m sure some of you either change the channel or revert your attention quickly to something else to avoid guilt. “Guilt” is a powerful tool but it’s not sustaining. As we continued our board meeting the plans continued down the path of “selling” what we have to offer versus what “VALUE” we can provide those organizations interested in becoming donors. I’ve grown unfortunately or fortunately a sense of “Reality Thick Skin” when it comes to asking others to do something for me when there’s always a passive return of…..”What’s in it for me”? I choose to believe most people aren’t always thinking what they should get back in return when giving something, but I’m NOT naïve to those who expect a return. So, I mentioned in the discussion that there should be some evaluation on how we can deliver “VALUE” to a prospecting partner organization and that we shouldn’t rely totally on our heartwarming story. While the name “Non-Profit” elicits a perception of “Wholesome Good”….it’s still a BUSINESS based on “Social Good”. The buzz statement in today’s corporate giving; “Social Responsibility” code for “Let’s do something good that makes us look good” reiterates that there are not too many circumstances in business or life when something is giving without the expectation of getting something back in return. Thus while my recommendation to the group appeared to be a little insensitive to the overall good, the reality is in most cases “GOOD” comes with a price.

There are arguments however against “Social Responsibility” as it relates to business. For example take the thoughts of Milton Friedman (Nobel Prize winning Economist) who asserts that the task of business is to maximize stockholder (owner) profit by the wise use of scarce organizational resources, as long as the activities of the business are within the letter of the law (excerpt from: Barron’s Business Review-“Management”). WOW. However, Mr. Friedman based his assertion that business should not assume direct social responsibility on both practical and theoretical grounds:

Theoretical Arguments Against Social Responsibility

  • Business needs to measure performance, and social action programs often cannot measure success rates. There is often an inherent conflict between the way business works and social programs work.
  • The function of business is profit maximization, and to require that resources be devoted to social action programs violates this business goal since it reduces profits.
  • There is no reason to suppose that business leaders have the ability to determine what is in the social interest. Social scientists and government administrators often cannot agree among themselves about social interest goals. Why assume business leaders can do a better job defining the social interest?


Practical Arguments Against Social Responsibility

  • Managers have the fiduciary (trust) responsibility to stockholders to maximize equity value, and using business funds to accomplish social goals may be a violation of that responsibility, hence illegal.
  • The cost of social programs would be a burden to business and have to be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices.
  • The public may want government to have social programs, but there is little support for business to have these programs
  • There is no reason to believe that business leaders have specialized skills necessary to achieve social interest goals.[1]


Thank goodness there are strong arguments against the assertion that business and social responsibility can’t co-mingle. Keith Davis (Ph.D-Ohio State University) is Professor of Management, Arizona State University, Tempe argues that social responsibility goes hand in hand with social power, and since business is the most powerful force in contemporary life, it has the obligation to assume corresponding social responsibility. Society, in turn, having given power to business, can call business to account for the use of that power:


Theoretical Arguments For Social Responsibility

  • It is theoretically in the best interest of business to improve the communities in which it is located and in which it does business. Improvement in the community environments will ultimately benefit business.
  • Social responsibility programs help prevent small problems from becoming large. Ultimately this will be of benefit to society and business.
  • Being socially responsible is the ethical or “right” thing to do.


Practical Arguments For Social Responsibility

  • Actions that demonstrate social responsiveness may actually be profitable to the company. For example, new machines that control pollution may be more efficient and cost effective.
  • Being socially responsible improves the public relations image of the company as a good citizen.
  • If we do not do it ourselves, either public opinion or government will require us to do so.
  • It may be good for the stockholders since such actions will earn public approval, lead to the company being viewed by professional financial analysts as less open to social criticism, and produce a higher stock price.[2]

No matter where you stand either against or for business to be involved in “Social Responsibility”, it’s clear that the “WIIFM” effect….is in full effect. The expectation for a “Return” is present in all of business and life regardless if the overall objective is “Good-Will”. All of us want and expect “VALUE” from our investment and while that seems insensitive it’s part of our “human fabric” and should be considered anytime there’s a request for time or money……HAPPY HOLIDAY’S!!



Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting








[1] Barron’s Business Review Series (“Management”)

[2] Barron’s Business Review Series (“Management”)


When to BACK OFF!!….business strategy 2015


“Will they back the …..Off”!!  “How many times do they have to post”!!! “I’m going to unfriend/unfollow this idiot”!!


Yep, I’ve said all of these things….and I’ve been on the other end of receiving these comments. Jimmy Kimmel is the culprit, yes Jimmy Kimmel who created “Jimmy Kimmel’s National Unfriend Day Warning” for today November 17th is the cause of all of this and so I blame Kimmel. He’s outlined a number of offenses that should get someone “unfriended” and one them is posting too much which of course precipitated me to bug you once again….with a post. It’s a hilarious video that’s worth your “Bother” (http://youtu.be/fdrpTqw3SGE), but it absolutely leads to a broader and possibly more serious issue. Residing my entire career on the “Commercial” side of business (e.g. sales, marketing, training, operations) and in the last 5 years venturing out on my own, I can honestly say I’m not totally sure when to “BACK OFF”. I don’t think anybody does. I don’t agree “Timing” is everything because not one person that I know of has actually quantified consistent “Perfect Timing”, and would it make sense that in order to capture “Timing” you would have to aggressively pursuit it….which would piss people off.  Everything is about “Customer Engagement”/”Lead Generation” code words for pestering people, and I say that with pure affection. While these buzz words are all the rage in todays’ business world, I’m much more interested in “Customer Behavior”/“Value Timing” and knowing “When to BACK OFF”. I’ve heard from anywhere of 3 to 4 tries if you don’t hear back from a customer/client then they’re not interested, conversely I’ve actually followed up with a client for several months before finally getting their attention and ultimately their business. Not to revert back to your teen years (but you’ll relateJ), guys-when did they say you should call the young lady after the 1st meeting, 2 days/3days/4days? If you called the 1st day you were considered desperate, stalker, aggressive….it’s funny how that materializes itself in today’s business world.

“Social Media” has brought out the best in us….and the worst.

Anytime, you can just kick back and peck on a key board and have access to be able to send out content that reaches around the globe….well that’s intoxicating. It’s also disturbing. You see we’ve gone from a society of thinking, strategizing, contemplating, and “VALUING” how we communicate with each other to a “throw it out there see what sticks” mentality, and it’s angering people. Heck, it angers me but I find myself doing the same darn thing…I’m just being honest. Those of you who just get outright indignant by the unwanted e-mails, LinkedIn invitations, spam and unsolicited marketing/advertising correspondence, have to look at yourself….because you’re doing the same darn thing. In order to reach people, you have to reach them (it’s a simple philosophy). Now, I understand the argument it’s “HOW” you reach people…..BUT THAT’S THE QUESTION!! (haha!!). No one has been able to determine what’s the best way to reach people without angering them or knowing “When to BACK OFF”. EVERY business/entrepreneur thinks they have what I call the “VALUE KEY”, the product or service that’s a significant “Value” for the customer but if it’s not in front of the potential customer….well it becomes just your “Value”. I will argue till the cows come home that the marketing profession of today should focus on 2 things (“Customer Behaviors” & “Value Timing”). In a recent post “Behaviors are more important….than customers” (http://ah2andbeyond.com/behaviors-important-customers/) I talk about the criticality of diagnosing “behaviors” versus the traditional “demographics” when doing any type of customer segmentation, and how the marketing profession is missing a golden opportunity. Second to that list is “Value Timing” and understanding/determining the most appropriate “Timing” in delivering “Value”. The closest company today that I feel has capture both of these traits is APPLE, however, APPLE will probably admit it took a great deal of pestering, aggressive campaigning, and yes NOT knowing “When to BACK OFF” to reach the current level of success. Their ability to tap into “Customer Behaviors” and brilliantly market their products on a “Value Timing” basis is impeccable.

It boils down to “GUT”

The so-called “Experts” on business psychology who’ve made a living on writing books that explain why people make the decisions they do will probably shun everything I say from here. But in the end most of our decisions are developed from “gut feelings”, “energy” and “biases”….that’s just the reality. As I reflect back on the year that was 2014 I have to say there are things I should have done differently to fulfill the beginning of the year goal. At the beginning of the year the strategy was to be increasingly more aggressive marketing wise of our consulting services….yes, “throw it out there see what sticks” guerilla marketing. Well, that didn’t work because I missed the “Value Timing”, poor timing with little “Value”. 2015 my objective is better timing but a whole lot of “VALUE”….based on “GUT”.  Oh yes, there will be plenty of strategy and processes for me to devise for the following year, however, when comes to “Value Timing” I’m going to rely on the lessons learned from 2014 and my “GUT”. I think all of us have a “GOVENOR” that tells us “When to BACK OFF” it’s just some of us ignore it at the peril of others. I understand that we live in a ridiculously competitive environment and the access to deliver information has gotten so easy, but the companies/entrepreneurs who excel at “Customer Behaviors” & “Value Timing” will be the thought leaders for the years to come….and I plan on being one of them!


When to BACK OFF!!….business strategy 2015

Check out my presentation on “Marketing Value” (http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/marketing-value-presentation1) I have received a lot of positive feedback on this presentation from senior leaders in business, let me know what you think!


Thank you so much!


Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting








Terrible 2017 Sales Year and you’re already “BAGGING IT IN”….don’t!


I hate to tell you this but……….it’s not too late!


To the chagrin of many of you who have had just an absolutely terrible sales year, there is time to make a COMEBACK! Yes, I know it seems very unlikely and for a lot of you the fiscal sales year closes in few  months but there is so much you can accomplish in the next few weeks and packing up prior is a huge mistake. Now, I’m not this “everything is positive” type of guy however I’m not someone who thrives on pessimism either and I’ve seen on more than one occasion where a salesperson rejuvenated their year by finishing strong. Yet there is a tendency to look forward into the next year after a nightmare year and then guess what….the cycle of bad performance continues the following year. I do believe in momentum and that momentum doesn’t necessarily mean “good momentum”, packing it in from a lousy year and having a month or so left can create less momentum going into the next year. Furthermore, if you don’t think your customers feel that energy from you…..think again. I’ll never forget what someone said to me long ago “Andre’ as a sales professional you don’t have the luxury of having a bad year”, and that is tremendously true. Customers are no different from you they just happen to be on the other side of the table. I’ve recently written that your behavior determines just about  EVERYTHING on how you’re going to react, or not react and that is picked up quickly by your customers. This is a true story; I had just come off a miserable sales year with about 2 or 3 more months to go before the sales year officially ended. The company like most thought it would be brilliant to have a sales incentive contest to try to squeeze out the last bit of sales possible before the end of year (read my post on “Sales Contests”….it’ll give you an understanding on how I feel about end of year “Pavlov’s Dog Contests”: http://ah2andbeyond.com/sales-contests-disaster/) and like many of the reps at the time I thought it would be a good idea to all of sudden become this obnoxious competitive rep and aggressively go after my customers. I decided to visit one of my favorite customers just knowing I was going to get a huge sale…….hellooooo can you say wake up call.

The “Re-enactment”:

Andre’: “Hey Steve how are you, all set for the holiday’s”?

Steve: “Andre, how are you guy, no I haven’t even started thinking about it….like everybody else I wait to the last minute (haha!!).

Andre’: Yeah, you and me both (haha!!). Hey, we’re offering a special on the neonatal temperature monitor. I know you and I have been going back and forth and you’ve mentioned to me what you have in place is not sufficient…still the case?

Steve: Well, I know we had that conversation a few months ago and since then we decided to go with another manufacture.

Andre’: Oh…why is that?

Steve: We were offered a great deal during the latter part of the summer and decided to go in that direction….why are you guys just coming out with a deal?

Andre’: (my best tap dance) Well, the company asked that we target our top customers prior to end of year to offer a deal on the monitor that could save considerable dollars for the hospital. Since you’re one of my best customers I wanted to track you down as soon as I could to offer this.

I kid you not Steve said this……

Steve: So, if I purchase this you’ll win the contest…..?

Andre’: crickets……………

I point out this story to say first customers understand buying cycles just like we do, they understand the temperature rises towards the end of the fiscal year and sales reps are eager to close as much business as they can. While my behavior was not appropriate what was more alarming was Steve’s reaction and the risk I set forth in jeopardizing our relationship. 

After that experience (and by the way Steve didn’t purchase the monitor) I decided to pack it in with a month or so left in the year and ready myself for the following year….only to start the following year poorly. I didn’t sustain any momentum going into the next year after getting so many year-end rejections, I just decided to give up (which I regret a gazillion years later). There’s so much that could be gained after a frustrating year and I do not have the golden recipe to serve you and say these are the things you can do in a month to turn your year around….NOBODY DOES. But there are certainly action items you can do right now so that you end on a positive note and have great MOMENTUM going into the following year:

Optional Action Steps:

  1. Are there “Open Accounts” to aggressively pull-through product offerings that differentiate from competition (I.e performance pricing based on ordering processes, product bundling strategies that encourage product line usage, and specific pricing). These same accounts can provide momentum going into following year.
  2. Increase call average on top profiled accounts (ONLY), this will improve/leverage relationship intro into following year (including those accounts you do not have strong relationships with)
  3. Start building “Thought Leader Development” in each account to further level partnership, and also you’ll have a following year “Priority Hit List” for quick sales uptake.
  4. Profile and Identify key opportunities for increasing business unit product category (I.e. monthly utilization report, buying patterns, current pricing, and embellish value added benefits).
  5. Targeting account “Behaviors”/“Characteristics” such as utilization volume, purchasing activity, competition activity, early adopters/late adopters and peer influence. This will provide a great start to the following year business targeting/planning.
  6. Evaluate account call average to ensure appropriate visibility and consistent pull-through product sales. This will help identify “Consistent Access” & “Minimal Access” to customers.
  7. Develop account product algorithms for the customer to help them identify cost savings to their bottom line P&L. This work can be done with top customers and will help build partnership and set up for business relationships in the following year.
  1. Build and Track Account/Customer “Scorecard”. This scorecard should have at least 50 accounts/customers listed, as this will stay abreast of their activity throughout the year where business adjustments can be made.


This list is just an example of what can be done prior to the end of this year to ensure you finish strong and build momentum going into next year. The key is to not sit back and lick your wounds from a bad sales year but learn from it, prepare from it….and SUCCEED FROM IT!


Terrible 2017 Sales Year and you’re already “BAGGING IT IN”….don’t!


Starting to build your following year Commercial Plan? Getting Stuck? Check out my “ADD” principles to building a great “Commercial Strategy Plan”….and then contact me to help you build yours!




Thank you so much!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting




“BEHAVIORS” are more important….than customers!

A shopper looks at tablet computers at a Best Buy Store on the shopping day dubbed "Black Friday" in Framingham



“Careful the plate is hot, don’t touch the plate it’s very hot……..I’ll get you band-aid for your burnt finger”.


“Identifying”, “Anticipating” and “Changing” someone’s behavior has to be up there as the most difficult thing to accomplish. The hot plate example above illustrates the difficulty it is to get someone to comply to an instruction that will keep them safe…..changing behavior FAIL. Even when you know it’s in that person’s best interest to change their behavior, getting them to take that leap is much more difficult than singing Beethoven’s 9th. Here’s a quote from Forbes contributor Erik Anderson that I’d like to discuss with you: “People will change their behavior if they see the new behavior as easy, rewarding and normal”. My first immediate thought response to this quote was yeah makes sense, easy, rewarding, and normal (bada bing bada boom!!)……..but then I thought that’s too easy. When I think of companies/products that have been wildly successful in changing customer behavior easy, rewarding and normal weren’t necessarily the key ingredients. The APPLE IPhone product for example, do you know there are people out there that will not touch the new IPhone 6 that are extremely happy with the obsolete IPhone 4……because they’re afraid the upgrade is too complex when it’s being touted as innovative and uncomplicated. APPLE has had amazing success with early sales of the IPhone 6, but you gotta think there are folks in Silicon Valley not liking the conversion ratio of the earlier IPhones to the latest IPhone 6. So, there’s an argument to be had regarding the importance of “Behaviors” in today’s business, as opposed to being hyper-focused on “The Customer”.

Today’s popular customer nomenclature is “Customer Engagement” every single industry wants it, needs it, and presumably can’t live without it. “Digital Marketing” another fad nomenclature which relies totally on its ability to obtain customer engagement. There are SEO companies out there enjoying huge profits selling corporate America on how they can connect them to the customer…..hence the birth of customer engagement. In a recent Forbes article it stated that a company retaining an SEO on a monthly basis for a national or international campaign that isn’t focused on a niche audience, can expect to pay that SEO $10,000 per month……seriously? By the way, this is not guaranteeing that this form of customer engagement is going to pan out to any meaningful interaction with a potential customer…or help to change customer behavior. I wrote a post recently on “Customer Access” and how it’s getting harder every day to get to them with any regularity so I’m not pooping on SEO companies and their value, however, I do think the bigger question remains…..how does that process actually help to drive changing customer behavior?

Okay, I’m going to take a stab at why people/customers behave in a certain way especially as it relates to making a purchase:

Note: Most people cannot handle the virtual flood of information coming at them (especially with today’s technology) and unconsciously screen information. Social science research indicates that when people don’t have enough time or data to make decisions in their usual fashion, they take predictable “shortcuts.” “Customers” may sometimes use shortcuts in their decision-making process especially if they feel they have confidence of knowledge in the product or service. Below, I explain why commitment drivers can be tools to identify, anticipate, and locate opportunities to help change behavior and have a better understanding of the customer’s natural thought process.

There are six Commitment Drivers:

  • Scarcity: When something is perceived as rare or in short supply, the other party will be more motivated to take action to get it.
  • Deadline: If the other party feels that a valuable opportunity will shortly be unavailable, they will be more motivated to act now to acquire it.
  • Authority: When a credible expert (such as a well-known author or organization) addresses a course of action, the other party will feel that taking action is less risky.
  • Conformity: Sometimes called “Bandwagon” support where the thinking is, “Everyone is doing it.”
  • Bargain: Customers may take action (when they otherwise might not), simply because “it was too good a deal to pass up.”
  • Competition: Injecting an element of competition can often drive behavior change…especially if this is coupled with scarcity.


While there’s tons of data/analytics out there that address human behavior and why we do the things we do, the commitment drivers I listed have been used for years….you just didn’t know it. The next time you’re watching that digital box see if you can identify at least 2 out of the 6 commitment drivers in a commercial, I’ll bet you’ll find more. The customer in the end is still of course critical to business success but don’t fool yourself…..their  behaviors predict that success.

“BEHAVIORS” are more important….than customers! 

Check out my presentation/workshop on “Influencing”/”Negotiation”, 2 skills that can certainly aid the process of “Changing Behavior” (Thanks!): http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/influence-negotiation-presentation2?related=2


Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting


NO “BOSSES”….including NO CEO?




Could it work?


Could a company exist without a hierarchy where EVERYONE’S job is considered critical to the overall success of the company? In others words your “BOSS” would be your work….your performance review would be based solely on your work. Who conducts the “Performance Review”? EVERYONE!


Now, full disclosure I like “Hierarchy” I like the “Buck stops with me” mantra I like the ability to go to 1 person and say “What happen”, so before someone accuses me of “Marxism” please hear me out. In the past few years I’ve been forced to really take an inventory of who I want to be when I grow up….yes I still have a lot of growing to do. A major part of that growth is this whole idea of being a “BOSS”, “leading people up the hill to victory” ……and all that General Patton garbage. I’ve had leadership/“BOSS” positions and to this day grateful and humbled to have had those opportunities, but honestly I never saw me as their “BOSS” however I grasped the torch of being “ACCOUNTABLE”. As I’ve stated I believe in the concept “The buck stops with me” but that’s my accountability kicking in, when it came to leading people I always felt the need to get in the “MUCK” with them. Don’t get me wrong I required respect…..my agenda was “Leading by Example”. So, I’ve been torn at this whole idea of “BOSSES” and “Leading at the helm” when it appears that things like “CONSENSUS”, “PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY”, “EMPOWERMENT” generates the inspiration. In the end isn’t really about capturing that “INSPIRATION”?

I had a chuckle a while back when all the hoopla was about how the Zappos CEO (Tony Hsieh) took the “Innovative” step in “Leadership Change” to abolish the management structure of his organization….yet his position as “Management” remained intact. To me the move was just symbolism; c’mon the infrastructure of “Management” is still in place…..because YOU’RE MANAGEMENT. Far for me to criticize Mr. Hsieh he’s grown a very successful company, but a “Marketer” knows a “Marketer” when she/he sees one. Mr. Hsieh is not alone however since he’s set the table of what corporate leadership should look like many startups have chosen to mimic this sleight of hand I call “I’m still in charge” magic trick. If we’re truly serious about moving away from any type of hierarchy in today’s corporate world and pursuing a true sense of “CONSENSUS”, “PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY”, and “EMPOWERMENT” it’s going to have to start a the very top. I understand the “I built this company” mentality but let’s not get it twisted the success of “YOUR” company depends on the people around it, and keeping the people around it happy takes some “HUMILITY”. One of the things I enjoy about being an entrepreneur is that I still have to collaborate and build consensus despite still knowing I’m building this puppy day by day…..as the “BOSS”. I’m fully aware that without help this business will never succeed.

Okay, I’ll save the best for last…..“MONEY”

I hate being one of those people who believe that “Money rules the world” and I don’t, however it definitely in most cases rule our decisions. If there wasn’t any hierarchy in a corporation how would salaries be determined? Does everyone get paid the same amount of money? Are there certain people in that infrastructure deserving to get paid more? All great questions. Going back to my 3 points “CONSENSUS”, “PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY”, and “EMPOWERMENT” I would tackle each one with this thinking:

  • Build a “Nucleus” consensus team that represents each business sector as this will help further lay the groundwork for team sharing and “PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY”, the team could call it the “Compensation Harmonization Project”.
  • “Benchmarketing” industry compensation/pay scales but in a collaborative/consensus matter. You may determine a more creative compensation plan without a “Hierarchy Influence”.
  • Construct a “Job Competency Model” that looks at each job and it’s “VALUE” to the organization, and yes, some jobs will carry more weight but that weight will be determined by the team…. “PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY” and “EMPOWERMENT”. Variances in pay would be solely the team’s decision.
  • “The Work” and “The Performance” from that work will determine pay increases, bonus structure, company equity etc. Again, there’s no “Vacuum” all decisions with regards to performance will be from a “CONSENSUS”…..and not a handful of people in a boardroom.
  • Build and maintain a “Governance” process that is built on COMMUNICATION, PARTNERSHIP, ACCOUNTABILITY and EMPOWERMENT.
  • Build “Cross Collaboration” teams that develop, and inspire internal talent to work together

Obviously the consistent theme is EVERY decision will be based on “CONSENSUS”, if there’s a bottleneck due to egos, turf battles, personality conflicts etc……well the team will have to figure that out. “PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY” and “EMPOWERMENT” 2 platforms that are highly valued by today’s employee, underneath that however comes a great deal of responsibility. I’m sure many of you are saying “This would never work” and to that I can’t say you’re wrong in your opinion, but, I would then challenge your anger regarding the high salaries, and incompetent leadership with some of today’s “BOSSES”……and why you accept it.

As my mom would say “Be careful what you ask for….you may just get it”!


NO “BOSSES”….including NO CEO?


Check out my workshop on: LEADERSHIP EXCELLENCE…accountable & personal leadership! http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/l-33287676

  Thank you!!


Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting


Do I have to be OVERWEIGHT…..to be an effective CEO?




If you have a bottled water next to you as you’re reading this post please pick it up I’d like to make a toast……here’s to you and GOOD HEALTH!


First, before anyone thinks this is going to be a post to either degrade or demean those that are overweight that will NOT be my intention…..however I will be stressing repeatedly the importance having good health.

My mother teased me some time ago (she will say she doesn’t remember this) “Andre’, you’ll never make it to a CEO…..because you’re way too skinny and people will think that’s your priority (WOW!!!). Now don’t get me wrong my mother use to tell me all the time how I’ll be the 1st black president, so while her confidence in me was a little grandiose this latest statement to me was a little surprising. It wasn’t really so much she thought I was too skinny to be a CEO, but the fact that I would be perceived as someone more focused on appearance rather than being a CEO. If you can imagine a person who basically analyzes wet paint on a wall, then you can imagine my mind racing when she broke that thinking down to me (I analyze EVERYTHING!). Is this really true? You can be too fit for a leadership position? Now, all the reports out there say to the contrary that people do want and expect their leaders to be fit because it’s a sign of personal discipline. Here’s a quote from Leslie Kwoh of CEO.com:

“Being fit matters.”

“New research suggests that a few extra pounds or a slightly larger waistline affects an executive’s perceived leadership ability as well as stamina on the job. While marathon training and predawn workouts aren’t explicitly part of a senior manager’s job description, leadership experts and executive recruiters say that staying trim is now virtually required for anyone on track for the corner office. Because the demands of leadership can be quite strenuous, the physical aspects are just as important as everything else,” says Sharon McDowell-Larsen, an exercise physiologist who runs an executive-fitness program for the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership.”


On the other hand because there’s always another side to this “Buffet”, here’s a quote from Lisa Quast contributor to Forbes Magazine:


“The research study, co-authored by Mark Roehling, Michigan State University professor, and Patricia Roehling, professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, found that only 5 percent of male and female CEOs at top U.S. companies were obese with a body mass index (BMI) over 30. This is much lower than the U.S. average percentage of obese men and women, which is currently at 36% (men) and 38% (women) for the same age group. However, the most shocking study finding was that “between 45 percent and 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight (BMI between 25 and 29)” but “only 5 percent – 22 percent of top female CEOs were overweight.” Stated the researchers, “This reflects a greater tolerance and possibly even a preference for a larger size among men but a smaller size among women.”


Uh oh, so let me get this correct if we had to make a decision on who we would accept as overweight that choice would be in favor of men NOT women? Notice the title to this post doesn’t clarify overweight “Men” or “Women” CEO’s….it just states “CEO”. The fact that I placed myself in that category by providing you my mother’s opinion on what the perception of a skinny CEO might garner, perhaps we have something a bit more at play here. I think it’s true, as a society we are more accepting of overweight CEO’s who are men as opposed to women and that of course opens up a whole new can of “Organic Garbanzo Beans” in the gender issues of leadership….and I’m NOT opening that can. What my mother said to me however I just can’t dismiss, although in every report I find more and more people are championing the fit CEO. The New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has taken a great deal of criticism about his weight to the point that there are some people who think he wouldn’t last a full term as President because of his weight. Living just on the outskirts of Pennsylvania right up close to New Jersey I can tell you there are also people who feel that they can relate to Governor Christie because of his weight……”He seems like a real guy”. We’ve also of course heard the skinny jokes about President Obama, the caricatures of a big head/skinny body are all over the internet.


So what’s the answer? Do I have to be OVERWEIGHT…..to be an effective CEO? My answer personally is ABSOLUTELY NOT, nor would I make that unhealthy sacrifice to be a CEO. Appearance is NOT everything but what’s inside you is, and if high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes works for you in your quest to be a CEO….then by all means enjoy that “Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger”  


Do I have to be OVERWEIGHT…..to be an effective CEO?


Want to know how to “Revitalize a FAILED Brand”? Checkout my very popular presentation (80K Views) below (Contact me for details): http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/resuscitating-a-failed-brand-32157556


Thank you!!


Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting







“Organizational Inertia” is the tendency of a mature organization to continue on its trajectory. This inertia can be described as being made up of two elements – resource rigidity and routine rigidity. Resource rigidity stems from an unwillingness to invest, while routine rigidity stems from an inability to change the patterns and logic that underlie those investments. Resource rigidity relates to the motivation to respond, routine rigidity to the structure of that response.

Gilbert, 2005, 741-743


Let me first say I’ve always been a contrarian (much to my mom’s dismay), I was one of those kids who annoyed adults by constantly saying “WHY”…..for some reason I haven’t been able to shake that part of my personality. So, when I came across a recent challenge in getting a potential client who is just in their research/development stage to start the process of building their commercial infrastructure, I was met with a great deal of resistance. At first, as all entrepreneurs do whether admit tingly or not I took it personally as I said to myself “They don’t think I have the competency to help them do this”, and then after the brief pity party and the ole “It’s just business” speech to myself I realized the company made the best decision not diving into another strategy before completing “Plan A”. This was an “Ego Check” for me and also understanding because a business large or small/mature or startup decides to “stay in its lane” and not leap forward because it’s popular, is in no way a stupid decision……it’s a prudent “Business Inertia” decision. Before sitting down and scribing this post I did some research on “Organizational Inertia” and much like the definition above most of the information I found was negative against inertia practices. Being fully transparent I agreed with most of what I read regarding companies who in many cases purposely stand rigid to any change regardless if that change is guaranteed to provide a favorable outcome. Most instances you find “FEAR” to be the culprit and reasons why a company ices themselves in this “Organizational Inertia” freezer box. Companies whose nature is to be risk averse and whether that comes from a bad business experience or just the personality of its leadership, I’m not sure you can say that’s entirely incompetent thinking. When you read all of the intellectual property that’s out there on “Business Inertia” and how it can kill a corporation, I just think it’s overstated and jumps into un-contextual generalizations. I don’t agree however with corporations who are so rigid in their thinking and routinely avoid common sense growth/change approaches that will keep their business afloat, the old “We’ve always done it this way” strategy doesn’t have a prosperous future. On the other hand there are those wannabe “Trailblazing” outfits where flexibility and risk are championed……but “FOCUS” is typically in peril.

Let’s talk about “FOCUS”, inertia’s sometimes best friend. “FOCUS” definitely has its plusses especially when it comes to sticking with your “Core Values” and “Culture”. Companies who don’t forget where they come from appear to thrive versus those companies who have a “Going Out Of Business” sign posted once a month. CNBC noted earlier in the year that there are 5 companies some we know very well may not survive past 2014, here’s the list:

  • Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
  • Zynga
  • Sears Holdings
  • Radio Shack
  • My Space

Out of the list of 5 the one that caught my attention was Radio Shack. I have been a Radio Shack fan since my early years so truthfully seeing them make the potential “Business Guillotine” bothered me somewhat. However, I have to be honest and ask the question “What is Radio Shack really good at”? What do you think they’re good at? That’s my point. In all these years I haven’t totally been clear if they are an electronics retailer, remote motor car store, cell phone outlet, wiring/cable hardware store…..you get my message. I absolutely understand the “keeping up with the joneses” philosophy when you have to compete with a powerhouse like Best Buy, but in this instance I think putting a tent down and camping on what you’re good at would have been the best strategy. In the Radio Shack example, “Business Inertia” could have led to positive growth and kept them in business competitively. Competition certainly can bring out the best competencies but often times those competencies are delivered sporadically, un-strategic…..and yes UNFOCUSED.  When you look at a company like APPLE that has been extraordinarily successful the immediate response is to say they do not live by the “Business Inertia” model, and I could understand that perception since it seems like they have their paws in so many markets. However, surprisingly enough they’ve used “Business Inertia” to their advantage by “FOCUSING” on the PC/CELLPHONE markets and exploiting those spaces to increase their “Brand Reputation”…..thus becoming “GOD’s” of “Customer-Focused Innovation”.

So, go ahead and jump on the bandwagon and say “NO” to “Business Inertia” but keep this in mind, there are always other sides to the “Business Story” and sometimes NOT “going for it” may be the best business strategy you’ll ever make!




Checkout my presentation on “BRAND A INERTIA”! : http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/brand-a-inertia-presentation1



Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting



Overcoming “INDIFFERENCE”…..worse than rejection!

Symbol of indifference combined from dollars

No one cares……really!


An experience is happening to me right now and it’s showing a very interesting perspective…..here’s the story:


Prior to starting the “Entrepreneur Thing” I spent well over 20 years in the sales & marketing business primarily in the life sciences (e.g. medical devices, pharma, biotech), and along the way I’ve developed close friendships some business some personal. As far back as I can remember starting my first sales job the activity of asking someone to buy something from me was horrifying, to be honest I am surprised even today that I stuck with it 20+ years later. Yes, I had the attitude like most “Asking someone to buy my product will upset or bother them”, “ABC” for me wasn’t “Always Be Closing”…..it was “Anything BUT Closing”. But the epiphany I had which to this day has kept me in the sales & marketing game, I can only explain by giving a golf analogy. When I first learned to play golf I hated it because I didn’t see any logic in hitting a tiny ball and then going to retrieve it only to hit it again and starting that process over and over again….the concept was stupid to me. BUT, to this very day I can recollect that one time when I hit the ball off the tee and the feeling of the connection……hooked me. Unfortunately, I’ve been chasing that same feeling but I still enjoy the game (haha!!). When I received that first “YES” after closing a sale I had that familiar feeling as if I hit the ball smoothly off the tee…..it was euphoric. Of course in golf hitting the ball off the tee well consistently is difficult, and hearing the word “YES” consistently is just as challenging.

Setting that stage up and getting back to the close friendships I’ve made in corporate America, nothing has prepared me for the “Reality Hit” I’ve taken over the last 4 years. Since leaving the white walls and green carpeting of the “Home Office”, the feeling of “Indifference” I receive from trying to “Sell” myself, my consulting work, and recently new product brings me back to that horrifying 1st day as a new sales rep. I now find myself asking old colleagues/friends from my corporate days to buy “ME”, and interestingly I’m not receiving “NO”s” or “YESSES”……I’m getting “INDIFFERENCE”. The perspective is truly weird because these same colleagues who I use to cry with and enjoy success with are now my potential customers and I’m treated like any other sales rep….”INDIFFERENTLY”. I truly hope my old colleagues read this post because it’s not a slam against them; on the contrary, I want to THANK them for pushing me to step my game up and not take relationships for granted. I also hope and pray that they learn something too from the experience, because nothing in life is guaranteed and the skill set I’ve inherited from my recent experiences hopefully they’ll inherit one day.

Overcoming “INDIFFERENCE” is worse than rejection because it’s the poor man’s “NO”. It’s the customer’s easy way out by patting you on the back and kicking you in the a** on the way out the door. Sales and Marketing people face this form of “Pleasant NO” everyday yet very few know how to overcome it. I’ve developed training seminars that address “INDIFFERENCE” as a way of handling customer objections, but I’ll even admit the science of succeeding over it I’m still fine tuning. In the marketing profession, which I have years of experience in face “INDIFFERENCE” in the marketplace constantly. Let’s face it there are very few APPLE’S/STARBUCKS out there that have succeeded with what I call “Strong Inertia”, but that “Inertia” was gained through their beginning success with overcoming “INDIFFERENCE”. The easy answer and one I hear the most in overcoming “INDIFFERENCE” is “INNOVATION”….as long as you continue innovating you’ll defeat “INDIFFERENCE”. That’s somewhat true however bringing “INNOVATION” to market can also sometimes illicit “INDIFERENCE”. The key in my opinion to overcoming “INDIFFERENCE” is being “Visionary Persistent”. First, the “Vision” has to be thoroughly examined/accepted with an unwavering “Persistent” pursuit to the customer that brings about such an inertia effect that “INDIFFERENCE” almost doesn’t make sense. Again, APPLE and STARBUCKS have figured this out masterfully.


It’s been tough sledding for me selling myself through “INDIFFERENCE”…..but it’s a skill set I’m enjoying developing!


Overcoming “INDIFFERENCE”…..worse than rejection!


Check out one of my presentations that’s received “Popular” reviews (“Indifference” versus “Satisfaction” Marketing Strategy): http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/indifference-versus-satisfaction-marketing-strategy


Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting