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August 30, 2020
40+ years, in 5 minutes
Do you feel a change in the air?
Here in Atlanta, it’s still hot and humid.
Cicadas are buzzing in the trees louder than usual. (This summer they made their first appearance in 17 years.)
But the season is winding down.
The days are getting shorter.
The nights are cooler.
Flowers in the garden look stalky and neglected.
Since I was a kid, I’ve associated September with change.
Back to school. Arrival of autumn. New job.
The anniversary of the 9/11 attack.
Birthdays of children and grandchildren.
This year September feels especially significant.
We’re nearly three quarters through this screwed up year, with just 4 months left to go.
If you’ve been with Driven from the start, you know that I’ve talked little about myself here.
Today’s an exception.
I turned 70 last week. And so far, I’m still going strong.
David Ogilvy, the great ad man from the 1960s, said this:
“The secret to a long life is double careers. One until about age 60. Then another for the next 30 years.”
That’s my plan.
September 22 will mark the first anniversary of the inaugural issue of Driven.
Those 2 events – my birthday and the Driven anniversary – have given me reason to reflect more than usual.
In this issue…
I share some important things I’ve learned in more than 40 years working in B2B sales and marketing.
Because I’ve spent about 20 years in sales and almost as many in marketing, I’m a rare bird in B2B tech.
My perspectives come from that unusual experience.
SALES | MARKETING | CAREER
42 years of B2B tech sales and marketing, distilled to 6 suggestions
Here are a few valuable things I’ve learned. I hope 1 or 2 may help you in your work or your personal life.
1. Take care of your physical and mental health.
For years I prided myself on being tough.
A road warrier.
Not getting enough sleep. Working long hours.
Not taking enough vacation.
My biggest regrets?
Not taking enough vacation.
Not protecting more of my time with my family.
2. Don’t take it personally when you lose a job.
Of the 14 jobs I’ve held, I lost 3 for my failure to perform.
And I left 5 for my employer’s failures to perform.
My job tenure varied between 8 years to 8 weeks.
For perspective, the current average job tenure for a VP Sales in tech was about 19 months in 2018.
For chief marketing officers (CMOs), it’s about 3.5 years.
Sometimes you’re just not a good fit for a job or a company.
You or your employer made a mistake.
The chemistry doesn’t work.
Their environment may be toxic.
Maybe your employer doesn’t care as much about their customers as you do.
Maybe you feel you can’t ethically sell their products.
Maybe they misled you when they hired you.
Or you didn’t get the support you need.
Whatever the case, let it go.
Understand the difference between your nonperformance and external factors that can cause you to underperform.
Most problems result from flawed systems rather than flawed individuals.
Always hone your skills, broaden your experience, expand your network, protect your reputation, and don’t burn bridges.
Note the lessons you’ve learned and move on.
Your mental and emotional reslience will make all the difference.
3. Don’t try to deny or resist change.
It’s relentless, and its pace is speeding up.
If you think a lot has changed in the last 10 or 20 years, fasten your seat belt for the next 5 to 10 years.
Human psychology hasn’t changed in thousands of years.
But in industrial societies, our expectations, habits, and behavior change from year to year.
During Covid-19, they’ve changed in months.
So learn to embrace change. Get on top of it.
If you want to succeed in a revenue role in tech, you must stay aware of change and adapt to it fast.
In revenue leadership roles, you must do more than adapt.
You must anticipate where the change are heading.
4. Live within your means.
Plenty of sales people like to live large.
Your management may also encourage you to look successful.
They also want you to be hungry.
Big mortgage. A fancy wrist watch. The executive look. Expensive car.
Good neighborhood. The right golf courses. Kids in the right schools
One boss told me I could always give myself a pay raise by just selling more.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that thinking.
Except for the traps.
So accumulate a good reserve of f*ck-you money.
When someone gives you crap you can’t accept, you no longer have to accept it.
When you get overextended, you have much less freedom.
You’re more likely to sell bad deals.
You’re more likely to put up with nonsense you shouldn’t have to take from anyone.
You’re more likely to jump to your next job before taking time to vet your best opportunities.
Your problems cascade.
5. Always look for a soft place to land.
Do you know the children’s party game musical chairs?
You set up enough chairs for all the players, minus one.
You play music, and the kids parade around the chairs.
When the music stops, everyone grabs an open chair.
The person without a chair leaves this round of the game.
Then you take away a chair.
You repeat the process and again and again until you have one winner.
This is a great metaphor for life in sales and marketing.
It’s also a good metaphor for business in general.
The music is always going to stop.
The question for you is, will you have a chair when it does?
Dozens of things can stop the music.
A pandemic. A recession. An acquisition. A restructuring. An illness. A death. A family crisis. A bankruptcy.
You age out. Your new boss is 25 years younger and thinks you’re a cow.
You can’t take the bullsh*t anymore.
You feel like punching a coworker.
You’ve been “overserved” at the wrong company event.
And on and on.
Be optimistic. Relish the good times.
But never forget that the music always stops.
It can stop fast, at any time.
And it may stop when you least expect it.
So keep your eye on a nearby chair for when it does.
6. Get as close as you can to revenue, and stay there.
A young marketer asked me for career advice.
He wondered if he should stay in content marketing or become a technical writer.
I asked him which role is more likely to generate revenue.
Content marketing, he said.
“Then go in that direction,” I said.
“You’ll have more career opportunities and better pay. You’ll also get more respect and have more fun.”
Today he’s the head of content marketing for a global SaaS software company.
The world is his oyster.
If you have a choice early in a marketing career, go with demand-generation marketing over branding.
It’s easier to measure the results for demand gen than for “pure” branding.
And your work will be easier to link to revenue.
That’s it for this week.
Please remember to share this issue with friends and colleagues.
For an online archive of prior issues, please go here.
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Much of what goes on LinkedIn doesn’t show up here.
See you next Saturday.
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