Jul 072020
 

COVID-19 has turned lives upside down with jobs and careers either temporarily lost or perhaps permanently rejiggered. Many have seen their hours cut back, furloughed or turned to the gig economy to make ends meet. In Canada three million jobs were lost in March and April and two and a half million more faced having to do with reduced hours. A Toronto Star article highlighted several cases.

 

I have had multiple talks with friends, acquaintances and former colleagues about the situation recently who are in the sales and management field. It may be time to think why a career in your most recent role may not be worth going back to. Let’s face it. To take our aforementioned examples, many salespeople do not hit their quotas and hate the targets to begin with. Many have been dragged into the career by winds of reflex and are not inspired by selling. Others may simply dislike the volatile nature of earnings or dislike travel if it is normally required. Unless your religion tells you otherwise, you are not going to be reborn and this is your one chance to live your life the way you want it to be lived. I spoke with Nissar Ahamed the founder of CareerMetis.com who did just that in 2019. He purposefully left a career in technology as a director of marketing to focus on CareerMetis, work on his vision to offer a resource for job-seekers, including this relevant article, and fulfil his dream of travelling as a digital nomad. His thoughts are, “You are never ready. Too many of us often delay the most important decisions of our lives (moving to a new city, asking for a raise, quitting your job, starting a business) until the ‘right time’. Here’s the truth. It’s never the ‘right time’ or the ‘optimal time’. The fear of making a mistake holds us back and this waiting for an opportune or auspicious time delays the pursuit of our goals. You will never be ready. As the Nike slogan says ‘Just Do it’.”

Photograph Credit: Cottonbro

Whatever the circumstance, and this may be insensitive, but there may be a silver lining to being laid off from a job and arena that was not what the heart desires. One study from 2013 suggests 47 percent of college graduates do not find jobs in their fields of study.

If that is the case it may be a good time to walk away and not look back. If you are looking for a career shift consider the following points.

  • Firstly, do not panic and become desperate. It simply does not help.
  • Secondly, start planning and be resolute. COVID-19 has handed you a lemon? Make lemonade and do not dilute your dreams. What do you really want to do and what does it take? Are you missing courses? Online courses are a good option. These are also available for those who are in sales and wish to improve themselves. Does your resume highlight relevant experiences or skills that could be leveraged in your coveted job? If you agree that you only live once and if you believe that those who enjoy doing something do it well then march forward. That is the type of conversation I have been having with a few people who have called after undergoing turbulence. It is a combination of comparing professional notes and discussing philosophy.
  • Thirdly, conduct a no-bias audit of your personal finances and understand where you are, where you will be next month and so forth. There are many free online, free community, low or no-cost governmental and paid professional services to help. Have you availed yourself of those services seriously and methodically? Research is important. Having a plan is important. Reviewing the plan with a professional and trusted source is important and implies you have created a strategy including understanding the deficit in resources and skills you need to overcome. Take account of your transferrable skills.
  • Finally, don’t forget to shift into a career and environment that inspires. Do not just drift into another job like flotsam and jetsam.

Photograph Credit: BezeVision

Ahamed adds, “The right time is now. You will make mistakes, sometimes fail miserably. But, you will only know that once you have launched. You will realize that there is always something new to learn. You will course-correct once you launch. So don’t wait. Just launch. Just do it. The right time is now.”

The bad news if you have lost your job is that keeping one foot in and one foot out of the door as you build, or reclaim, your career is not an option. The good news is that the situation should lead to more resolute actions and decisions.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: A Life Wasted

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Jun 072020
 

According to Gartner 100% of new market participants and 80% of current vendors will have a SAAS (Software As A Service) or Cloud offering by the end of this year. The market has spoken and no matter what the detractors say – and many of them have valid points – Cloud is where it is at.

This is a bona fide paradigm shift that, in the case of traditional providers, takes the whole of the company to pull off. Let us focus on sales and the available revenue streams for the purpose of this post.

1- Subscription: This is the monthly rent customers pay for use of the service. Sellers may charge by the month or for months or years in advance and make the cash flow more positive in exchange for a multi-term discount.

2- Higher Tiers: Which obviously are more expensive as they come with more features like customizations or customizations’ capability, synchronizations or integrations out of the box or higher ceilings for number of users, data and more. A higher tier may even allow a customer to work offline!

3- Resale: Your partners can resell your Cloud service just like they sold your traditional software or service. Think about all the providers for Microsoft 365 (Office 365).

4- Platform Sales: Think about Facebook’s platform that features so many third-party applications and affiliates that they easily dwarf the mothership. Google and Microsoft do a considerably worse job of this than Facebook and hence derive less revenue from third-party partners than do Salesforce via its AppExchange or Facebook. While it could be a category of its own I will throw in advertising a la Facebook or Google here too.

5- Fees: Set-up fees, support fees, data download fees, diagnostic fees, integration services fees, image fees… the list is endless.

Photograph Credit: Tumisu

SAAS may be low on margin and may offer customers the ability to churn, but you are not subsisting just on subscriptions, are you?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Landlords Who Make Money From Monthly Rents Alone And Offering Sub-par Service

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May 182020
 
Cloudy

Photograph Credit: Fabrizio Conti

It seems redundant, and even mildly amusing, to write about the value of the Cloud/xAAS and what the technology can offer a business in 2020. It is not all rainbows and butterflies and there are down-sides to this upheaval, but it is not an exaggeration to write that Cloud – and all its morphed categories – has had a profound impact on the way we consume technology and derive daily value.

My teams and I worked at Microsoft in the early 2010s. Microsoft was introducing, launching, operationalizing and commercializing Cloud products like Office 365 (now Microsoft 365),  Azure, Intune and others and simultaneously shifting millions of customers from on-premises Dynamics and its BPOS and Lync services (anyone remembers the play for time strategy that was “software-plus-services”?) to the new Cloud offerings. The time-line was aggressive, quotas and targets were nearly insane and there was so much to do and propagate both internally and externally.

One critical aspect of this was to drag the partners along for the ride. Famously, some 95% of Microsoft’s business transacts through a reseller of some sorts and bringing them along was imperative. Part of the trick was to get ‘pull’ demand from end-users, which is a time-honoured Microsoft drill. With billions of dollars and millions of customers flowing through thousands of partner resellers the stakes were high.

This is fodder for another post, but there are many ways a company, and not just Microsoft, can monetize an ‘as-a-service’ model. Subscription is just one of them. More of everything is another. Connections (commonly known as APIs), an ecosystem and reporting services are others. It is critical to enforce and reinforce the model among the partner base of the company because most companies are not in the position of doing it themselves. They either have traditionally relied on ‘resellers’ to earn money and ‘channel’ their offerings or newly need the expertise and scale of a channel to make the business work and stick.

With that in mind here are steps on how to launch and maintain, as well as examining the factors needed to improve, a Cloud Channel Partner Program. In the process the main thing to keep in mind is that a good traditional Partner is not necessarily a good Cloud Partner. The revenue model, the production of services and the consumption of the benefits follow a different trajectory. Microsoft, SAP, Sage, Salesforce, Oracle and others all pursue and accommodate for this to some degree and at varying degrees of success.

Photograph Credit: K Mitch Hodge

Without further ado here are the elements years of selling and managing Cloud teach us are imperative for a Cloud Partner Program.

Pull.

  1. Do not exclusively rely on the ‘Push’ model. The ‘Pull’ or demand side needs consideration, work and marketing. The benefits’ statements, the buyer personas and messaging needs to be revamped. While most IT companies relied on selling to the technology folks it was a rude awakening when they found themselves flanked by Salesforce, which had pulled the rug from under their feet and knocked on the doors of the Sales and Marketing departments. Is the product ready and able and have all the commercials been vetted from an end-user perspective? Sage threw in ‘free’ goodies to convert customers. In all weather conditions – Cloudy or not – the customer experience is critical. Multiply that by a magnitude for a changeover and successful conversion.

Renew.

  1. Can your partner work with and articulate consistent technological change? Cloud solutions are always on and always being modernized. Can your partner keep up with this change and the defined process for handling, absorbing and passing on this knowledge between vendor and partner and partner and consumer in practice? These aforementioned factors fall in place only if you have asked for and received true buy-in – then verified it. With that in place the partner, as your organ and megaphone, needs to be vetted as it was when the partnership was initially instituted.

Commercials.

  1. What about a scalable commercial process? Is your reseller/partner/ecosystem in-tune with the revenue delivery model? Are the definitions completely and verifiably understood and rigorously followed? This change management is critical. As distinct, but related, companies the Channel and you are joined at the hip, but are separate entities. There can be no decoupling now or anymore. Have you thoroughly defined and coached the channel on how this whole thing works? At Microsoft everyone was consumed with pushing material, collateral, training, business justifications and methodology out to the ecosystem. People fanned out to partners of all grades to make the change and happen and stick. Crucially, and let us be frank, Microsoft succeeded no small part because much of the early adopter business was bought by another name. Call it MDF, Co-op dollars, training allowances, financing services and complementary ISVs, call it whatever.

Profit.

  1. This one is the easiest to articulate so I will keep it short: As with any partner program how will your Channel make money?

 

There is another point that I deliberately left to the bottom of this post. In the early days of the SAAS model many observers and pundits laughed at the Channel and predicted its demise. In fact, what time and experience has shown us is that partners are suitable for this brave new world. No one is laughing now. It is just that a different kind of partner is desirable.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Launching And Shoehorning Cloud Partner Programs Without The Necessary Preparation. It is better to skip the approach and sell directly absent the footwork.

 

money-on-computer

Photograph Credit: rupixen

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May 032020
 

We are living in a different world. What was normal just three months ago is not any longer. Travel and tourism has ground to a halt. Restaurant sit-down meals are but a memory and I am only allowed one carton of egg at the supermarket (thankfully it is more than enough). The sales landscape has changed too. COVID-19 has transformed many things. What has not changed, however, are the fundamentals. The customer imperatives of managing operations, being productive and staying ahead of the competitors are all still valid and the executive who ignores these is displaying short-sightedness and ineffectiveness.

Equally, the fundamental way to conduct sales correctly has not changed. Sales needs rational thinking and avoidance of yielding to knee-jerk and silly decision-making. What has changed is that customers are prioritizing differently to respond to altered circumstances. Re-gear your emphasis on value (for the customer not for the sales’ org i.e. WIIFM), remote work, health, safety and customers remaining in control of themselves, their families, their suppliers and respective customers (supply chain imperatives), but stay away from haphazard reactions that smack of desperation because “circumstances have changed.” Double down on your process that is now retooled to focus on the aforementioned areas of focus.

You do have a rigorous sales process, don’t you? One that emphasizes understanding your own value, customer’s needs and aligning those two to one another.

I stuck with a disciplined sales methodology and during the 2008 and 2009 years my team managed to hit its numbers and remain busy. Many customers disappeared, but others appeared, albeit with a different set of expectations. The point is do not lose your belief in being methodological about sales and control what you can control.

remore video work

Photograph Credit: Mohamed Hassan

What To Do?

  • Know your sales process, value statement and how it helps today and double down on it
  • Be ready to present, sell and fulfill remotely. Could you have video meetings or even send a video message? Google Meet (previously Hangouts Meet) has been made free and it supports up to 100 participants.
  • Focus on their immediate needs and feeling. To do that you have to ask, understand and care. Are they going through a crisis? Are they busy? Are they encountering an unexpected problem right now? Think about the focus at your local hospital. Elective surgery is relegated to the background and emergencies and COVID-19 are getting all the attention.
  • Sell where the demand is and do not swim against the stream. Consumer sales at the supermarket are surging if you are in the food and beverage industry even if your customary clients in the restaurant sector have vanished.
  • During the entire process do not forget that sales make the world go around. How is a client supposed to feel confident in a sales process if the salesperson does not convey confidence?

 

keep on trucking

Photograph Credit: Robson Hatsukami Morgan

Do you remember the 2008-2009 recession? Here is an older article.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Salespersons Winging It During Hard Times As They Have Done Before The Hard Times!

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Apr 202020
 

Everyone in sales knows they have to speak to decision-makers. Everyone. I mean everybody. This explains why… so few people practice it!?!

That is one of the factors that differentiates a salesperson from someone whose business card says ‘salesperson.’ Please ignore the rest of this article if in your current sales process, or consistently, you do reach and engage with the decision-maker. Simply jump to the Comments’ section below and tell everybody how you do it!

Salespeople are always grateful for customer interaction and see any touch as progress so they often settle. It is the dichotomy of salespersons. They need someone to sell to and when the person they should speak with is unavailable they find recourse in anybody else. The second choice may in fact be an influencer or part of the process, but that does not take away from the fact that a decision-maker is not hearing from the seller. Speaking to non-decision-makers is not without merit. In today’s environment no one is able to make a decision on his or her own and increasingly the purchasing is done by the proverbial committee. More in defense of the salesperson, the pertinent point in not talking to the person they need to be speaking to the most. It is often the decision-maker who chooses not to engage with salespersons. The reason typically is a lack of time, which leads to salesperson being relegated or filtered.

With that said, there is a lot to be said about the professional salesperson who manages to speak with the decision-maker by making the case that the two need to communicate. Moreover, think about how much of the message and advantages of the good or service being offered is not reaching the ears of the person who needs to hear it the most because fact remains that no one can sell for you. No one can and no one will. If they could they would be in sales and they would work at your company. Sales cannot expect prospect company employees to know the selling company’s offering like they work at the vendor. Finally, think of the disadvantage a salesperson is in if his or her competitor has gained access to the person who needs to hear their message the most.

The above is reality.

 

Photograph Credit: Razvan Chisu

 

So what should a salesperson do?

Firstly, do not make demands. Remember, it is not about the needs of the salesperson. It is about the needs of the buyer. Instead follow a two-fold path as outlined below:

1- A good seller asks pertinent questions that go to the heart of the needs, wants and vision of the decision-maker. Not only good questions lead to the seller being considered an expert, but also the answers can best be supplied by the person in charge leading to contact between the two parties.

2- Instead of making demands, appeal to the better judgment of the middleman. If they, like you, see the benefit and if they, like you, want to do right then ask them how to go about it. In other words, recruit them to the cause. Just like the salesperson knows his or her products or services best, the contact knows his or her company and its staff better.

One more thing: please do not carry generic messages. Know your prospect, fine-tune a reason and make it non-generic.

Here is a bottom-line: if the salesperson believes in the reason for the call and believes the decision-maker’s company needs it and believes it is for the good of the prospect company then that conviction will carry the weight, power, presence and tonality to carry the salesperson through.

 

What do you think?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: sales pitches that generically claim to save time and money.

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Apr 192020
 

Salesperson approaches a prospect. What happens soon, if the salesperson is fortunate to advance in sales discussions, is familiar to salespeople. A stereotypical request from the potential customer is to ask for a reference. It is hardly surprising. On the one hand, humans are moulded emotionally to follow the pack. Herd mentality has been ingrained in humans since the Stone Age when moving in groups offered protection and relative safety. On the other hand, the feeling of comfort we all get knowing that others have reached the same conclusion as us is also valid. The wisdom of the crowd is present in so much we all do. Trial by jury is one of the hallmarks of civil society and is a prime example of our society being organized around the concept of popularity and plurality. It comes with its own downfalls as group intelligence is often detrimental and leads to poor decision-making. After all, Hitler was voted in by a plurality of voters. More people dine at McDonalds than at the fruit stand. More people watch Roseanne than Masterpiece Theater. OK, I am becoming subjective. Let’s move on.

One response salesperson receive from customers is a request for information. The gleeful salesperson is happy to oblige and leaves information behind or sends it off and marks one task as complete. Is the sale any closer? Unlikely, it may even be a step backwards in the sales cycle.

Back to our prospects’ asking about references. They do so for all of the above reasons as either a part of a psychological need or as a step in their formal buying process and likely both. The salesperson feels progress is being made and is happy to oblige. Well, the junior salesperson anyway. As mentioned above, references have their place, but their place is as part of a process and when the customer is ready to buy. It is one of the final steps and often just before a contarct negotiation. Otherwise, the request is premature. Customers cannot be expected to provide references and testimonials to every potential customer of the seller. They have their day jobs and limited time. They will grow weary of such requests and soon enough not be available for well-timed reference checks.

 

How should a salesperson handle the request?

When reference check requests have been premature, my teams have acknowledged the customer’s wishes in this regard, agreed that it is a valid one and reminded the customer that such requests should be fulfilled once the seller and buyer are closer to a decision. The seller can also point out to the buyer that the seller will be protective of the prospect’s time when they too become a customer. ‘Could we move a little closer to the sale before I provide you with a reference?’

What else can help?

In the meantime, having canned written statements from existing customers and quotations testifying to the positive about the product and service are handy. Do not forget analysts’ opinions and related case studies helps. Is a Proof-Of-Concept or trial in progress or anticipated to happen soon? That is as powerful as a reference check.

Often the prospect is fine with such an approach. For one, they can identify with existing customers’ lack of time to answer premature questions. At other times, the request for reference is being done by rote and is not actually necessary or not crucial yet.

When is the right time?

References are for when a customer answers ‘yes’ when asked, “Would you be moving forward with the purchase should the reference check be successful?” As an aside, the same concept applies to job applicants and their potential employers.

What else should salespeople know?

Once the time and place is right, instead of spontaneously agreeing to a reference find out what the prospect wishes to find out in a reference check. Understanding the specific questions the prospect would ask helps direct them to the right reference. Having a ‘go-to’ reference is too generic for most needs and may demote the seller to the status of just another vendor.

Buyers should also remember that satisfied current customers’ may not automatically translate to the availability of references. Many companies find themselves either too busy or have policies against offering endorsements.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Reference Checks Without A Tangible Outcome

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Feb 192020
 

… What is the difference between Sales and Marketing? My last post discussed Social Selling and Marketing.

Well, what is the difference between Sales and Marketing? Most have a fairly good gut feeling regarding the difference between sales and the marketing fields, but defining the demarcation line is somewhat trickier. Most know, for example, that Marketing is a degree at universities and colleges while Sales is not (link to courses) and, perhaps just by sheer force of practice at this stage, Sales has become defined as customer facing while Marketing has managed itself into a back office role, but where does one end and the other begin? Is there a clearly defined border? Why do they often speak about the departments and professionals as separate and distinct? In order to contrast the two we can draw a distinction.

 

Think of Marketing and Sales as a linear process with Marketing at the beginning and Sales picking up in the middle. Marketing’s job is to create interest, obtain leads and turn these into prospects for the said goods and services. Sales has to take the baton of these leads and prospects and turn them into paying customers. Defined as such, salespeople running goods, services or territory campaigns are marketing. By extension, Marketing is focused on a market comprised of a larger audience than Sales focuses on. It is a funnel and Marketing is the top and Sales is the narrow bottom part. One can see how Sales is more intimate and closer to the customer, but reliant on Marketing.

Marketing and Sales have one goal, are the continuation of one another and cannot be successful without one another and yet it is amusing and amazing that at many companies they are separated, segregated and do not even know one another. A friend of mine who works at the Marketing department of a bigger company cannot even name a single salesperson at her company.

Marketing should bring prospects to Sales, which in turn, assists the lead to a transaction.

Both should measure and track their activities, but that is a different post.

The two share a common goal: to sell the organization’s goods or services and complement and complete each other, but they are two disciplines clearly practiced by two sets of people with differing skills and temperaments.

Photograph Credit: Domeckopol

Things That Should Go Away: Sales And Marketing Employees Being Like Two Planets Orbiting One Another Without Ever Relating

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Feb 092020
 

 

The problem is many salespersons, or their managers, see the word ‘selling’ and mechanically assume certain behaviour has to follow. Social selling begins with social marketing and should be implemented as such. One cannot skip Baltic to get to Boardwalk. Social selling is undeniably a sales technique and one of the tools at the disposal of the modern sales organization; however, for it to function it should be treated as relationship building with a long tail. Given the tools of social media, the seller learns about the habits, likes and lives of the prospect and gets to work being helpful and relevant. For example, if the prospect is ‘liking’ a certain type of charitable action online then the seller can bring opportunities to be involved and help with the cause to the prospect’s attention. Perhaps the prospect shows a keen interest in a certain vertical or industry. Then it makes sense to share insights or experiences within that industry with the prospect. It is about bonding with the person. The salesperson can be on the lookout for questions the prospect poses and bring answers to the table. In other words, one is not selling a good or service initially; one is selling a relationship and connection by being relevant and helpful. It is by giving value that one hopes to elicit value. It is by showing expertise that one hopes to elicit a favourable picture of oneself as a worthwhile advisor.

 

Photograph Credit: Helloquence

The key here is that knowledge of the needs and wants of customers is finally available in such a way that the keen and observant salesperson can micro-target his or her efforts in a relevant way. It takes consistency of course, but customers are typically advanced in their buying cycles before contacting sales nowadays and, as such, their social activity may be providing an early view of their buying intentions. Listening and reading is learning and gaining a tactical advantage. It is a spectacular method of researching one’s prospects, targeting customers and customizing the approach to leads and potentially even monitoring prospects’ and competitors’ interactions.

Contrast this approach with what often passes as social selling: someone connects with or follows a prospect on social media. Then soon enough comes the request for a conversation or a demo or a meeting and that after one ‘like’ or whatever and nothing more. The sales pitch is crude and not taking advantage of the facilities of social media.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: The New LinkedIn Contact From Yesterday Has A Demo For You

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Dec 032019
 

We have often spoken about how closing a sale is less about closing techniques employed by the salesperson and more about doing the right things in a process-oriented fashion to move the buying journey along.

In this context, are you as a salesperson planning ahead hand-in-hand with the customer to move from speaking to finalizing the deal? Here is an article on this from one angle. It is natural for a buyer to covet the item being purchased as soon as possible when a sales process is advanced. The customer would like to take possession and begin enjoying the fruits of the purchase. The salesperson would also like to make the sale for revenue, for profit and for the satisfaction that comes with assisting.

However, time-lines and urgency are often not aligned.

Professional salespersons know that they need to anticipate and plan for the each of the next and final steps towards a sale and they need to do this with their customers. Planning alone is fine, but it is not as impactful without the participation of the customer and it being aligned to the customer’s real or perceived benefit.

Understand how you can help the customer buy and then what the itinerary is.

Things That Need To Go Away: Wishful Thinking

Photograph Credit: Nik Macmillan

 

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May 192019
 

Several years ago I wrote about customers asking for information. This is often a way to blow off salespeople.

The post refers to the concept of activity versus result. We in sales can show activity, but it should always point to a result. Salespeople ought to want to move forward with their process, with their quota and with sales. Salespeople do not want to have activity for its own sake.

 

Collateral, documentation, etc. have their place. They bring a prospect to an educated point, they raise customer awareness and bring customers to salespeople. If the customer is already speaking to sales then it is time to move forward with our process. Collateral here makes sense only if it is in conjunction with a bona fide sales process, next steps that are time-bound (i.e. exactly when?) and speak to a comprehension of pain and issues.

Otherwise, a customer saying “send me a pdf” is akin to their saying “let me give you something to do so I avoid actually speaking with you or taking action.” Let us be frank. How many times is “send me information” a polite way to say “I am dismissing you.”

 

Customer: “send me information.”

Salesperson Good: “Great! Customer is interested. I will send them information.” Most of the time this leads to a customer disappearing on salesperson.

Salesperson Better: “Thanks for requesting information. However, what exactly are you looking to find out? I want to make sure it is exactly relevant to your need. I may also be able to answer it right now.” Most of the time this either leads to a serious sales prospect (because Better salesperson will dig out pain and make the information relevant and personalized) or disqualifying a false prospect.

 

Salespersons should ask themselves honestly: how many times have you sent “information” to customers and it has not only not resulted in sales, but also there has not even been a follow-through?

 

Sales happen when customers have a reason to act. The Salesperson has tallied the ROI, spoken to the decision-maker and made them know why they need the solution. In such cases, the very least one could do is couple the sending of the information with a Calendar to discuss it. Although, again, why send information that the customer can discuss with their Account Manager/Regional Sales Manager?

 

*Things that need to go away: Confusing activity with actually selling something

Photograph Credit: Geralt

 

 

 

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