Are you Relevant? ...and more sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Tue, Feb 04, 2014

microsoft Nadella resized 600Cannot imagine what it would be like to become the CEO of Microsoft, but since my buds, Bill and Steve, once again passed over my application, I was reading up on Satya Nadella on Saturday morning (since this is a winta' without snowboarding), and I was struck my his simple, but provoking quote that...

"this business is not about longevity, it's about relevance."

Just the day before, I had had two long discussions with CEOs of two of our customers.  The first was with a strong leader, promoted through the ranks over almost 25 years and now at the still tender age of mid 40's was asking himself, "Am I relevant anymore?".  He could stay where he is and work out his career, but the alternatives, which we explored in great depth, and provided more questions than immediate answers, but also more potential excitement and relevancy than complacency.  

  • What if I could reinvent myself?
  • What if I took a step off the straight & narrow path?
  • What if I could triple my compensation?
  • What if I could learn a new industry and new skills? 
The other discussion that same Friday was with a long term customer, the head of a company, which has done important work. The company had done well in 2013, and he had accomplished pretty much all of this objectives for last year, and was taking me through his 2014 business plan and his personal objectives before he showed them to his board this week.  A solid guy, hard worker, deeply experienced and highly organized, but half way through the 34 page PPT deck, I abruptly stopped him with a series of "So What?" questions.

Yes, the business was doing well.  Yes, he had accomplished all of his primary objectives, but I told him in my own well-known by now, endearing style, that he was putting me to sleep.  The answers to my "So What?" question, were that...

  • There was no there there.
  • The business was doing "things", but they just weren't relevant things
  • There were lots of busy activities, but none were producing real value
And though his and his managers' completion of their many objectives was all very good and produced important bonuses and stock awards, I told him that I did not believe that the mission of the company itself was any longer relevant.  Maybe it never was, but when it began, it was exciting, frothy, noisy and filled the environment with lots of enthusiasm and promise.  Now that it's much more mature, and producing results, it's apparent to me-the outsider-that neither he, nor anyone else in the company or on the board asked the "So What?" question.  "Are we still relevant?  

The question that Nadella is asking about that balance between longevity and relevance got me to think about asking questions of myself and all of our customers during February at both our sales meetings and our business planning sessions.

  • Is what I do still relevant?  Will it be tomorrow?
  • Is what I sell still relevant?  Will it be tomorrow?
  • Are my sales and marketing skills still relevant today?  What about in 2015?
  • Is my company still relevant to our customers?  New prospects?
  • Is my 2014 messaging relevant to the value my customers need in 2015?

The answers to these relevancy questions, should form a bridge between what we do today and how we will have changed by December....or maybe tomorrow?   The question for you and for me-right now-is "What are you going to do about this question of relevancy?"

  • Ask the question
  • Forget about it 
  • Form a committee
dilbert relevancy resized 600
Let me know what you think about this relevancy stuff as it applies to your Sales and Marketing plan for 2014
Happy New Year & Good Selling !!!
 Jack Derby 

No better way to update your own sales management relevancy than from speakers such as Greg Flynn, the President of Brainsharkand Mike Volpe, the SVP of Marketing from HubSpot who will be part of our upcoming Sales Management Boot Camp.  To learn more...

  1. Click on the icon below for an outline of what takes place.  
  2. You can also click HERE for a more detailed agenda
  3. Or just email me at, for a 10 minute call

Sales Management Boot Camp



Tags: Sales Optimization, Sales Management Best Practices, sales plan process, selling skills, sales training, sales management boot camps