Embracing healthy change in unhealthy times

heart diseaseYesterday, I completed my virtual follow-up visit with my cardiologist, Dr. Michael at MGH.  It's hard to even use those words, "my cardiologist" after being diagnosed with "massive heart disease" (another uncomfortable choice of words) five years ago with 100% of one artery blocked and 60% of another. 

The only reason I lived was that I had grown two new arteries which "naturally bypassed" the two diseased arteries. Who knew?  Not me!  Not my Vermont country doc who had incorrectly diagnosed my shortness of breath as asthma and loaded me down with three different scripts for inhalers which I used for years before moving back to Boston and new docs at MGH.  

Following a double bypass five years ago, I committed to echo and stress tests every two to three years.  Last week was my second round, and the results given to me yesterday by Dr. Michael were "benign"-another weird word, which simply translated means "normal".   

Of course, none of this experience was "normal".  The only reason I found out that I had a heart issue (no symptoms, no pain, no abnormal BP or heart rate-no nothing) was because I was required to do a stress test before undergoing a cancer operation.  My black humor joke is that cancer saved my life.  


Here are a few stats:

  • Many people survive heart attacks.
  • Most cardiac surgery patients resume their old ways.
  • Only 20% give up smoking, change their diets or get more exercise.
  • In fact, as a result of the success of bypass surgery, the illusion is a return to normal. 

In my own case for decades, I am at the gym five days a week (now on the Peloton in the cellar). I snowboard and surf regularly, and I watch what I eat...most of the time. 

Cheerios6-2Even given all of that, there was no return to "normal" for me post surgery.  I am never going through that that again!!! 

My workout routines have increased, zero salt, heart-healthy breakfasts like Cheerios and lots of other changes...including trying to reduce the abnormal stress of trying to do too many things at one time, which is how I'm wired and, of course, how I got to "massive heart disease" in the first place. 

But now I'm focused on doing more "normal" activities and cutting down my 70-hour work weeks...most weeks.  

Our Return to Normal in these Abnormal Times 

Just like the planning that goes into taking care of our health, there are a number of adaptive ideas to help us rethink how we can go about reframing the business of Sales:  

  • There's no "new normal"...not yet.    This is not a singular event.  This is not 9/11. This is not the market crash of 2008.  This is not HIV or SARS.  This is an insidious, highly deadly virus, which we still do not fully understand, and we're at least one year away from readily available vaccines. Just don't overthink this anymore, since there's little to nothing that we can do to change the environment of this virus except be religious about our own and our families' healthcare.  Ultimately, there will be a "new normal" for business and specifically for Sales and Marketing sometime late in 2021, but not now, not yet.  Let's just focus on Q3 for now.  When we get to September, we can take a new look at what it will take to get through Q4.  If definitely will not be normal. 

    What I learned through my heart experience is that "the new normal was what it was", and I had to make a choice to change only what I could control, and just the same as it is in Sales and Marketing, there's a lot that we can control.   We just need to focus on that and forget anything else for now.

  • Be adaptive and embrace disruptive change!   Seize this opportunity to break out of your comfortable sales and marketing practices of "the old days"-pre Covid.  No more hunkering down and waiting to see what happens. 90 days in, this is it.  Maybe the virus results will get better, probably a bit worse given the reopening, but, again, focus only on what you can control, and what you can control is change!  This is a time, like no other we have ever faced in business, and the winners during the next six months will be defined by those who purposefully push and unbalance what was previously accepted as comfortable and balanced.

    Comfortable "Back in the Day in '19" July-December 2020
    Field sales in physical territories no field sales-shift most of your channel mix 
    large open offices with collocated employees 90% reduction in office space
    Events, conferences, trade shows no physical events-impactful online content
    Balanced Outbound & Inbound Marketing  Inbound only-social, SEO, blogs
    Field service and specialist field teams quick, inhouse professional-level video 
    Outlook, gmail & GTM Slack, Zoom, & Teams 

    "If you had told me in January that 95% of my employees would be working from home, and the firm would be running as well as it is, I would never have believed it.  Now that we recognize what's possible, the paradigm shift is going to stay with us."  Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco

    Gryphon Driving Sales EffectivenessThis is a time to embrace discomfort and leave behind our old "best practices" that most probably do not make sense anymore in a world of 15 and 30 minute sales call Zooms, of marketing messages that begin with empathy and a focus on families, and of entirely new toolboxes filled with new sales readiness tools from companies such as Hubspot, Brainshark, Gryphon Networks, and other tech platforms.   By the way, if you can, Join me Tuesday, June 10th, when I talk with the Gryphon management team about selling today in a Covid world. 

  • Create a Summer Sales Playbook...right now!   We all like the concepts or the actuality of "playbooks".  We open the playbook, put it on a virtual table, page through the sections titled "creating marketing awareness": "using blogs and social media". "executing sales discovery", "preparing for the call", "making the best proposals", and of course, our personal favorite..."closing the deal".  None of any of what we have today in our 2019 playbooks makes much sense today.  Even if some of the actual tactics made some sense, the lack of recognition of the pandemic would immediately sound antiquated at best...and not-caring at worst.   This is the same reason, I am deep into re-writing our iconic (and free) Writing the Winning Business Plan book used now at MIT for 20 years with around 60,000 downloads.

    PlaybookYour new playbook is a playbook-on-the-fly. 
    Don't take weeks to write it or have it edited by some outside marketing agency or waste time getting anything other than the absolutely necessary approvals. In a street fight what we need to do is to get easy-to-use, tactically driven tools into the hands of the team.  We can make the playbook prettier later...plus, we're going to be rewriting it again Labor Day weekend and then again during the Christmas break.  This playbook will not look like anything that you had back in the old days of pre-Covid 2019, and it will also not look like anything that your write in December for 2021.  Do not overthink this tactic.  You need to get these better tools into the hands of the troops right now!  Need help here?  Just connect with me, and we can set up a quick, no-cost call. 

    Have a great day selling (virtually) today!  

    Jack and Tufts Entrepreneurship Center -1If at any time, you have a need for a confidential sounding board in business planning or for Sales or Marketing , just connect with me at any time.  Text or email me, and I will quickly set up a call. 

    I'm a pretty good listener.  Obviously, no cost for a call or two; just an opportunity to listen intently and make a few recommendations based on decades of experience.

    Be safe, be positive and be disruptive! 
    Have a great weekend!


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Tags: Sales Best Practices, Sales Management Best Practices, sales effectiveness, sales enablment, how to write a business plan, sales planning meetings, 2020 business plans, 2020 sales plans