"Lessons Learned" from my students…and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Mon, Apr 22, 2013

I love my jobs...

...Derby Management, Professor at Tufts and Chairman of Common Angels.  A perfect imbalance of lots of complex work, high emotional and intellectual involvement and demanding assignments and projects. And, most of all, I really enjoy both the stimulation and the satisfaction from teaching marketing at Tufts.  It's complex, rapidly changing, and most importantly, real world work with great students who are eager to prove themselves.  All of which blends perfectly both into our Derby Management clients and even into the exciting, crazy and imperfect world of early stage investing.

Tufts UniversityIt’s final exam time in my juniors and seniors Marketing course, where for the entire semester, my students are grouped into six teams which solve complex assignments given to them a month before the semester begins by the senior management of small and middle market businesses. 

All of the 13 weeks then get boiled down to a 50 minute presentation at which the team members present their findings, recommendations and implementation tactics to the senior management of their companies. After which, each of the team members need to send me their takeaways from their specific project. Three company presentations last Wednesday, and three coming up this week.  Now the tough job of grading, which is always the most difficult part of my job as a professor...ugh!

I thought that Matt Guiness’ comments to me this morning on his takeaways were particularly sound for all of us setting out this week to turn our attention away from the tragedy and celebration of last week and back to focus on our various work assignments and projects:

Three ThingsMatt’s 3 TakeAways…[The text is just modified to leave out the name of the customer]

I am definitely satisfied with the way the team interacted as a whole and the quality of work we were able to accomplish. We were given an almost overwhelming set of deliverables at the beginning of the project, out of which we managed to form a coherent marketing plan.  The group had good chemistry, and working as a team was a pleasure.

  • Ask the Right Questions Up Front

One critical lesson I learned from this project was that asking the right questions is critical. While working on a project like this, our team had a much better idea of the information we needed than the customer did.  If we didn’t figure out exactly what information we needed and ask for it up front, we wouldn’t have obtained most of what we needed to make our recommendations to them.

  • Focus on the Customer

Another lesson I learned is that you always need to be client-minded. When we were creating both our written plan and our presentation, we had to constantly keep in mind the company’s level of implementation capabilities, so we needed to make our suggestions easy to implement, or at least make them clearl and simply explain the strategies and tactics necessary to implement them. 

  • Assume Workarounds

A final lesson I learned from this project is how to come up with workarounds. Not everything will go exactly according to plan. Whether the financials of a plan don’t really work out, you face opposition on an idea you feel very strongly about from the client, or some other unforeseen hassle, sometimes you need to improvise.


Three solid takeaways for all of us, whether we're running businesses or working in the world of Sales and Marketing, to consider on this Monday morning as we move back into the new normal of life in Boston.  You might want to think about how to adopt one or two of Matt's comments into your work this week.

Good Selling!

 Jack Derby 


Head Coach
Linked In and Sales

Tags: sales coaching, Sales Optimization, sales management effectiveness, sales management coach, sales effectiveness, sales enablement, marketing effectiveness, marketing management, sales boot camps, Tufts marketing projects