Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, a book review

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Oct 09, 2013

When I was a boy growing up in South Australia, I distinctly remember the day the news broke that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. I remember it because after I heard the news I began to cry. 

I was 11 years old and to this day I don't know why I cried. I knew nothing of American politics and I had only seen scant television clips of the President on one of the 3 stations on the TV, that broadcast from 4.30PM till station close at 11PM. I knew he was a great man however and admired by Australians and my school teachers.

When Steve Jobs announced that he was resigning from Apple in August 2011, I knew the end was near for the great man and I felt a lump in my throat. The day after his death, I was walking in Pebble Beach and I met a neighbor. We stopped chatted for a few minutes and Steve Jobs death came up in conversation and we both started crying. Steve Jobs was a great man, whether you liked him or not.

I never met Jobs, but I knew about Apple, having owned a Mac a couple of years after they were introduced. Stories of his unusual behavior were already legend in Silicon Valley when I moved here with Sun MicroSystems in 1991. Sun Microsystems kept close tabs on what Jobs was doing with NeXT as the Sun UNIX workstation began it's meteoric rise.  

I listened to the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography over a couple of weeks on my commutes to the WittyParrot office in Bay Area, (I am an investor in and advisor to WittyParrot, a new Silicon Valley Software company) and was riveted by the story and the storytelling skill of Isaacson.  

When I arrived at the office I would share the latest insights I had gleaned from listening to the Jobs story with the design team at WittyParrot and I sent several emails with condensed insights and suggestions on the design and out-of-box experience.  

For entrepreneurs, designers and engineers, the Steve Jobs biography is a case study in the importance of thinking outside-the-box, simplicity and elegance in design, and execution.  

From the numerous true anecdotes throughout the book, it is clear that Jobs was a tyrannical leader, ripping subordinates to shreds and firing people summarily. He did however build a team of “A” players who were extremely loyal and believed in the Jobs Apple mission… which was to change the world.  

His reality distortion field influenced and inspired others to do what was previously thought impossible. He would look subordinates in the eye with an unblinking stare and exclaim “this is shit” on being show work or programing that was less than breathtaking, to see if they believed it was less then their best.  

Steve Jobs changed our lives in the same way Edison did a hundred years earlier. He was inventor like Edison, with more than three hundred patents in his name and like Edison, he was a visionary. Jobs obsession with creating technology products that incorporated art in their design gave us products that redefined the look and feel of consumer electronics and computer retailing.  

Every reader of this article has been touched by the experience of using Apple products. It’s worth recalling the breakthrough products that Jobs and Apple gave us, here are a few that changed the World:-
  • Apple-2 one of the first mass produced personal computers.
  • Apple Lisa and Macintosh, Mac - the computer for the rest of us, which heralded a new era of computing and introduced the GUI, the mouse and beautiful fonts
  • iPod, - a thousand songs in your pocket
  • iTunes – a new spin on music
  • iPhone – The Internet in your pocket
  • iPad – "The iPad is…”
  • Apple Stores– the most profitable stores on the planet
  • The App Store - More than a thousand apps. One simple new way to get them
  • Pixar Animation – Toy Story and many others.
Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography is a riveting account of a life fully lived and of a great man who changed the World and is a “must read” for anyone in the technology business. 

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Topics: book review, steve jobs, walter isaacson, apple

Holiday Reads for Hi-tech Entrepreneurs, Marketers and Salespeople

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Dec 15, 2009

I have read some really important books this year that expanded my view of the World and gained valuable insight and I wanted share my top reads in 2009 with you and include links to either Amazon or to my reviews. Please feel free to recommmend any of your favorites that have a base in science and serve to expand our understanding of the sales and marketing sphere.

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Topics: inbound marketing, killer products, book review

The Nature of Technology - Admarco Book Review

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sun, Dec 06, 2009

W. Brian Arthur's The Nature of Technology is an important book for technologists, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, in fact anyone in the business of creating, marketing or selling innovative technology.

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Topics: book review

The Magic of Rapport and Empathy to Connect with Buyers

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sun, Nov 22, 2009

I subscribe to the New Scientist magazine because each week articles are published from the fields of pyschology, neuroscience and behavioral science on the understanding of human behavior.

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Topics: book review, communication

Sales Talent is Overrated—Practice is key to Sales Performance

Posted by Mark Gibson on Fri, Oct 30, 2009

Want to be great at golf or in sales? Anyone can be great at golf, provided they are physically able and prepared to put in the hours of disciplined, deliberate practice and get regular feedback from a professional coach.

Want to be outstanding in sales? - same rules apply; anyone can be truly great in sales - if that’s what they really want. Maybe you don’t aspire to be a truly great golfer or become an outstanding salesperson, you just want to get better - so you can have more fun playing golf or improve sales performance. Then this post is for you.

Tiger Woods is an elite athlete. If he remains healthy and unimpeded by injury, he may become the greatest golfer the World has ever known and his records (and those he has yet to set) will likely never be beaten. Why, what sets Tiger apart, how can I make such an emphatic statement? April 16. 2010. (Since this article was published, the Tiger Woods sex scandal became public knowledge. It is not clear at this stage that he will regain the confidence that fuelled his earlier success, or ever if he will ever win another major.) August 13th. 2012, The pundits are shutting the door on Tiger Woods after the Rory McIlroy win at the US PGA CHampionshipo at Kiawah Island yesterday, but Tiger has plenty of time and events in front of him to overcome his current lack of confidence.

His father Earl Woods introduced Tiger to golf at the tender age of 18 months. By the time Tiger won his first his first US Amateur Championship at age 18, he had built a foundation of fifteen years of deliberate practice and had been competing at top levels of junior golf for the prior ten years. What sets elite athletes in any sport, elite musicians, top surgeons, pilots, ballet dancers, investors, chess players, sales-people apart from the rest? Were they born with some innate gift?

The 10,000 hour rule

The evidence suggests this is not the case and many researchers in the field of great performance, the most prominent of whom is Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University have proven that truly great performance is a combination of years of deliberate practice, plus intrinsic drive and passion for their chosen field. Leading scientists all agree on the ten-year rule; no one gets to the top of their profession without ten years (or 10,000 hours) of sustained and deliberate practice.

The problem for Tiger's peers is that they will never catch-up on the practice, unless of course Tiger stops practicing but continues playing - and that is highly unlikely. Selling, like golf is a skill or craft, except you don’t need any special equipment and you don’t need to go to a golf course or practice range to do it; but you do need to deliberately practice the skills and get feedback from professional coaches and skilled managers in order to improve.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice isn’t what most of us do when we practice. When we practice golf, most of us go to the range and hit balls, chip shots and maybe putt for a while and we’re done.  Deliberate practice according to Anders Ericsson and other researchers isn’t work and it isn’t play. “Deliberate practice activity is specifically designed to
•    Improve performance, (often with a teachers help)
•    It can be repeated a lot, (high repetition is essential)
•    Feedback on results is continuously available,
•    It’s highly demanding mentally and it isn’t much fun”.

According to Noel Tishy Professor of Management & Organizations at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, former head of GE’s famed Crotonville Management School, only by choosing to practice activities in the learning zone can progress be made.
Identifying and continually seeking those unsatisfactory elements and striving to improve them is what makes practice deliberate. Tichy illustrates the point in the diagram, where improvement only occurs when people practice outside their comfort zone.

Hard Work Alone Wont Do it

Years of hard work alone will not improve anyone’s performance at anything. Without deliberate practice outside a person's comfort zone and without the help and feedback from a coach, no improvement in performance is likely, regardless of the discipline. This explains why so many salespeople (and golfers) do not progress past a certain level of performance...they don't like operating outside their comfort zone, yet this is where performance imrovement opportunity lies.
Having recently led a series of classroom sales training courses where salespeople were required to perform multiple video-taped and critiqued role-plays I can offer some insights into what skills a salesperson should practice. Let me repeat, the journey to excellence is painful and at times wearisome, which is why excellence is only achieved by the few. Of the 50 salespeople in the role-plays, only one performed an exceptional call. Role-playing isn't something salepeople like to do, in fact there is usually a great deal of resistance to it. Why? - because the close examination of performance and skill under their managers and peers critical eyes is way outside most salespeople's comfort zone.

Communication, language skills & Coaching are  key

The skills that matter in sales are not managing the CRM system or creating account plans or reciting product features and benefits; they are communication, language, listening, rapport, empathy and interpersonal skills which are undeprinned by an understanding of the psychology of human behaviour. Read my post on Soft-skills - Hard Currency for Sales Professionals
These skills require regular practice and daily use with feedback until they are mastered and it will take years until they are all fully integrated into a salepersons make-up. Classroom training sessions are not an effective preparation for success in sales, unless they are part of a structured curriculum underpinned by a learning methodologywhich includes;
  • Performance Support to master the theory elements of interpersonal psychology, communication and language,
  • Honest feedback on actual performance in face-face or telephone selling situations from coaches and field sales managers,
  • Regular role-playing in the branch with peers, sales managers and expert coaches,
  • Self assessment after every call as to what went well and what could have been improved,
  •  Regular performance assessment from managers, certification and advancement.
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Topics: sales training, book review

Inbound Marketing - A Book Review

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sun, Oct 18, 2009


As Hubspot customers, Hubspot partners and fellow travelers on the inbound marketing journey for 10 months now, we heartily recommend "Inbound Marketing", by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan, as this book represents a very readable and do-able playbook for implementing inbound marketing methodology.

Packed with concise guidance, case studies, and practical to-do’s that you can implement today, this book is really a text-book on the subject and is one of the most important books for Internet era marketers published to date.

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Topics: inbound marketing, hubspot, book review

Value-created Selling - key to winning the early market

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Jun 30, 2009

What is Value-created selling and why does it matter?

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Topics: killer products, book review, value creation

World Wide Rave reaches St Andrews, Scotland

Posted by Mark Gibson on Fri, Mar 20, 2009

David Meerman Scott's new book World Wide Rave builds on concepts in his highly original "The New Rules of PR and Marketing" and creates a manifesto for massive inbound marketing success in marketing ideas/products/services over the Internet. Rich with anecdotes and stories from people who have created their own World Wide Rave, David inspires challenges and stimulates thinking which has profound impact for anyone selling or marketing anything. 

An overnight success - 10 years in the making, David's ideas are rapidly changing the way people market products and create PR. He describes himself as a recovering marketing executive having led marketing efforts at Knight Ridder and News Edge in the old World of Marketing and PR.

Every day in the technology business I see old-World examples which David highlights - marketers wasting time, money and precious resources on doing things the old way. Buying PR services, counting print impressions, spamming people with direct mail and email campaigns; hiring telemarketers to generate leads because their me-too Websites don't have sufficient inbound lead flow to feed the sales force.
Typically these companies are product-centric; you'll see product features and benefits (another sure sign of old-World thinking) on their site and the good stuff, their interesting ideas are under lock-and-key...you have to give your contact details to get it - so they can SPAM you with email and hound you with Telemarketers.

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Topics: inbound marketing, book review, buyer-persona

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