Once & For All People: Telecommuting is Not Slacking!

As someone who has been doing this for almost 12 years, I can honestly say that I spend more time at work than any cube jockey in my field.

This comes as a shock to most Old School managers, as they feel that if someone is not under their direct gaze, they are off goofing off. If you are in Sales, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are a Sales Engineer, you already know why, so let me explain why this is so for the rest of you. There is a reason why Sales Engineers telecommute:

  1. Sales personnel are Performance Compensated. “Huh?”, I hear you say. Performance Compensation is what makes all things in Sales happen. A few examples:
    1. It weeds out the lazy/incompetent for you. If you don’t perform, you don’t get paid, and eventually you are asked to leave, as the company can no longer afford you. IOW, you are not earning your salary.
    2. Even if I could sleep 24/7, I wouldn’t. If I do nothing, then nothing gets done. This means that, just like the above, inactivity does not pay the bills, nor does it make me sit well with my VP Sales and CEO. Another way to look at it is that I can’t blame my reps, but they can blame me. We are seen as the point where “the buck stops”. No excuses. Whatever it takes. You don’t have to look after someone who is Performance Compensated because among others, their spouse is reminding them.
    3. It fosters and reinforces teamwork and cooperation. “OK, Pat. I think you’ve taken it a little too far, there.” Not so! From experience, Sales Support that is salary is virtually dismissed by the reps. But if you are comp’d on the deal as they are, you are seen as having “skin in the game”. You aren’t mentioning an idea just because it would be interesting (which would confuse the deal and lose the account). Far from it, you are mentioning only what is needed to close the deal. Why? Because that’s the only way you get paid! Others in the company soon realize that you are only “bothering” them because your work is directly responsible for their salaries.
  2. Being “at work” includes far more time that you may realize. The time I spend overnight away from my family and flying/driving all over creation to get in front of customers and prospects is time on the clock. I can’t jump from my trans-Atlantic flight to London at 5:00pm because I’ll miss my soap operas. There is an easy test to see if you are still on the clock: Can you leave at will-right now? No? Then you’re on the clock. This can ruin relationships and marriages. Fact.
  3. Talent can be hired from a vast pool of resources. No longer do companies have to be in expensive, dangerous metros in order to be in commuting distance of talent. That talent-and the company HQ-can be anywhere. I often work for companies that have a <some location> Branch Office, which is just one of my reps’ house/P.O. Box & cell phone. Employers can now advertise nationally for very specific talent, and have realistic expectations of getting it!
  4. Those few times we are home, we are at work.A good telecommuting friend of mine, who lives in Eastern Connecticut but works for a NYC bank, once told me his work schedule looks like Tetris. In other words, people schedule meetings, conference calls, demos and sales calls at everyone’s convenience but mine. I have even had reps overbook me for their meeting, claiming that theirs was more important. This means across many, many timezones.
  5. The Family thinks when you’re home, you’re not working, too! Work for you is normally shielded from the kids & wife. You leave & come back. In between you could have that other family across town that thinks you work 2nd shift. In the Sales Engineer’s world, our families might see us at weird times-like during the day. Since they only do fun things with the family when you’re home, it is a logical conclusion that you are there to do fun things! We also get it from our spouses, who will claim “Now that you’re here, I have a list of errands and chores for you”. We fight this a lot, and even my spouse slips into that mode once in a while. The great Ernie Kovacs had this problem in his home writing studio. His solution was to hand a sign on the door of his study that read simply “Not Now.”

So the next time someone says “Gee, I wish I had your job. You never go to work!”, sit them down and review how many hours you spent at work in the past month compared to them.

And for you Old School managers who still can’t get past it, look at it this way; We can’t steal stationary supplies this way!

What if your information wish came true?

Yeah, we’re all watching it happen, trying to capitalize on it. More information is not better information. People more & more are lazy-ing themselves out of making any risky decisions. They want the same kind of assurances a conference room full of yes men and stakeholders would give them: Blame Management. As long as there is at least 1 person to blame if it is a bad decision (that is not you), then they say yes.

But now there is/are magnitudes more info (or rather data) for a single person to go through, and even the yes-men can’t go through it if pieced up-even if it could be pieced up. So what kind of decisions are there? 3 kinds, for us entrepreneur types:

1. Personal
2. Job/Productivity
3. Commercial

Personal: What products do I buy when filling up, or going to the grocery store? Think “consumer”.

Job/Productivity: What stock should I buy/sell? Which job is best for me to move to (a combination of Personal)? Where should I be investing? Is my 401k performing properly/well for this market?

Commercial: (think “provider”) Should I buy more widgets and stock-pile, or will their price go down in a few weeks and I should buy then? Is my company’s valuation going up or down? Where is productivity/efficiency (think “BI”, or “Green/Yellow/Red”, or “Executive Dashboard”, etc.)?

In all three “horizontals”, the data & information available to use in making these decisions is doubling every few months. It used to be that storage (cost) was the holdup, but now it is simply what some early adopters called “data mining”, which is a very poor way of going about it, but it is buzzword-worthy.

So what would you do (on any of the 3 levels) if you had all the information you needed, but it was somewhere in a mass of data that has more words than have ever been written by all humans across all time, and is getting bigger every day? You would want only one thing, and that one thing is the target of anyone ahead of this curve:

Making data into usable, actionable information.

If you didn’t know this 2-3 years ago, you’re already too late.




Want To Be Productive? Do Nothing!

5 Ways to Do Nothing and Become More Productive

I got an email at 5 in the morning that made me angry. It pressed every button. It accused. It threatened. It cc-ed people. It attempted to make me feel guilt. It attempted to make me feel fear. I can go on.

I started to type a response and then I stopped. I’m not so great that I can always stop. Sometimes I respond. Sometimes hellfire breaks loose from the carefully constructed dams.

But I’m trying to get better. We find our strength deep in the valley of our fears.

Sometimes the best thing to do is: nothing.

Many productivity books tell you what you can do MORE of in order to achieve goals, purpose, success money, etc. But MORE is hard to do. I’m already busy. Now you tell me I have to make a to-do list with six things that make me feel grateful on top of it? I can’t do it all.

You need to eliminate first. You need to be a productivity minimalist in order to be a success. The key is to find the easy things you can chop off where you can at the very least do nothing instead of doing things that actually DAMAGE your productivity.

Here’s a checklist I use for when to do nothing:

Do nothing when you’re angry. Some people think anger can focus emotions, but it doesn’t. It’s like focusing on a kaleidoscope. You’ll walk straight off a cliff. Anger is a roadmap off that cliff. You have to wait until it settles down and you get perspective. Time is the morphine drip that soothes the anger. Then you can act. Anger is just an outer reflection of inner fear. The fear might be correct, but the anger blurs it.

Do nothing when you’re paranoid. I initially wrote “fear” here. But fear can focus. If you’re in the jungle and there’s a lion on your right and an apple tree on your left then you better run as fast as you can back where you came from. But often I’m not afraid, I’m paranoid. I imagine a chaotic future filled with misery and hate and homelessness and loneliness. My best bet is to sit down and picture a more realistic future, one based on the fact that almost 99 percent of what I’ve been paranoid about in the past never comes true.

Do nothing when you’re anxious. Why did they call at 5 p.m. on a Friday night and say, “We HAVE to talk. Well, I guess you’re not there. Talk Monday?” Ugh! I hate that! Why 5 p.m.? What did they have to say? I should call her house line. I should write. I should drive up and visit (“Hey, just stopping by! So, uhh, what was up with that phone call?”). There is nothing that is ever so important it can’t wait. And if it was that important, then it’s a roadmap to you and not the situation. It’s an opportunity to say, “What about my life can be rearranged so that this one thing doesn’t throw me off so much? What things can I change?” And then have fun changing them.

Do nothing when you’re tired. I was trying to figure out something on the computer the other day. It was both very technical and related to money. First it was 1 p.m. Then it was 6 p.m. Then, against all my rules for a “daily practice,” it was midnight. And I was no closer to figuring it out. I was tired. My eyes were blurry. I was taking ten-second naps on my computer. A week later I still haven’t figured out what I needed to figure out. But right then, because I had invested this time into my “learning” and I was tired, I wanted to keep going. My wife Claudia peeled me off the keyboard and marched me upstairs. Sleep hygiene is the best way to improve productivity in your life. Not beating your head against a computer.

Do nothing when you want to be liked. How many times have I gone to a meeting? Taken a trip abroad? Made stupid investments? Written an article? Done did doing does? Just so someone would like me: a mother, a father, a friend, a reader, an investor, a customer, a stranger. Answer: a lot of times. Too many times. And it works. I put in the input (flattery, attention, false love) and get out the output (false love back). And continue to live the illusion in search of the dream, in avoidance of the nightmare, ignorant of the reality. Do I make any money this way? Do I feel a sense of accomplishment? In my 25 years of business: Never.


That’s my checklist. If I feel any of these conditions occurring — like a sniffle in the night that turns into a flu by morning — then I stop. What do I do when I stop? I do nothing. I read a book. I write. I watercolor. I take a walk. I sit and do absolutely nothing.

Think about when you’ve been happiest with your life (and if that’s not a reasonable goal then what is?). Is it during those moments when your thoughts have been frenetic and all over the place? Or has it been those moments when your thoughts have been calm – the depths of a peaceful ocean instead of a stormy surface.

It’s when we are in touch with the magic of our silence that we find our inner creators and can change the universe.



If I’m In Charge Of Deciding, Then Why Aren’t I Employed?

From LinkedIn a few minutes ago:

Why am I getting so sick of the ‘salary’ stumbling block?

World’s Most Interesting Engineer at Your Company

I have been around enough now to pretty much see it all. I remember when it was the headhunter/recruiter/agent/employer/hiring manager that actually made a decision whether you were on the short, long, or any list. They knew what they were looking for.

Then came the budget cuts that ruined almost everything-including the entire hiring paradigm (I’m using that word here to impress you, as I have no idea how it applies). It seems like it happened overnight…

Job seekers now filter based on keywords, and I am bombarded by mail merge emails asking me to go to some web site and ‘register’-which means spending 30 minutes filling in database fields for them to do those keyword searches later.

“Take a look at this req, and if you are a match-or you know someone who is-go fill in this registration form…” How has this improved things for a job seeker? Now, I am expected to spend my entire day filling out forms so that someone who has no idea what I do for a living can send me job alerts for roles that are anything but what I do-simply because there was a keyword match.

Worst of all, Continue reading If I’m In Charge Of Deciding, Then Why Aren’t I Employed?

8 Questions You Should Ask Your Interviewer To Prove How Smart You Are

(condensed from a Business Insider article)

Q: What are some of the problems your company faces right now? And what is your department doing to solve them?

Q: What type of employee tends to succeed here? What qualities are the most important for doing well and advancing at the firm?

Q: I noticed that you teach a night class at NYU School of Continuing Education. How long have you been teaching, and what are some of the things that you’ve learned from the experience?

Q: What are your plans for combating Japanese competition in the full-size pickup market?

Q: Who would I be reporting to? Are those three people on the same team, or are they on different teams? What’s the ‘pecking order’?

Q: I read your CEO’s letter to the editor in Business Week. How did his insights about the emerging Hispanic market impact your Hispanic subsidiary? Did they end up winning a lot of new business as a result? Continue reading 8 Questions You Should Ask Your Interviewer To Prove How Smart You Are

Sales Engineering Mistakes

A colleague turned me on to an article here that talks about 5 stunningly awful mistakes for demos. I don’t think these are all that bad, and certainly not stunning, but I’ll include the 5 here, as we have a few more practical ones to add after:


  1. Misunderstand the customer’s needs: Harbor Cruise Don’t make a demo in the hope that your customer will eventually see something of interest. Inexperienced salespeople often inflict these demos on their customers as a replacement for doing their homework. Jaded sales engineers offer these demos when they receive little or no pre-demo information from their sales colleagues. Do the research to figure out what your customers need in advance. Continue reading Sales Engineering Mistakes

What Makes A Good Presenter?

Wendy Russell (the above is not hers) covers most of the mistakes we can make if we lack experience or plain common sense. I’ll comment on her bullets:

I Thought You Were Bringing The Extra Lightbulb

I have never had to bring a projector to present to a large audience. I leave all that up to their IT/AV people, and if all else fails, I always start on time speaking to the audience directly while it is remedied, instead of the the ultimate faux pas of turning your back on your audience.

Information Underload

If you simply memorize, not only does it show, but you are ‘deer in the headlights’ when there is a question. You must be the MASTER of your material, such that you can give the info in any order, with any media, while still ‘working the audience’.

What’s It All About?

“This is the opposite of Information Underload. You know so much about the topic, that you jump from here to there and back again talking about everything there is to know about your brand new widget, and no one can follow the thread of the presentation.

Corrected Presentation Technique #3
Use the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Silly) when designing a presentation. Stick to three, or at the most, four points about your topic and expound on them. The audience will be more likely to retain the information.”

When You Don’t Have Content, Dazzle Them With Complicated Diagrams (Ignorance)

Oh, the stories I could tell you…

Did You Bring Your Glasses?

Small fonts kill it! If you can’t say it in 3 bullets, then you don’t understand what you are talking about. Try to remember that you are not consulting or teaching!

Divine Design

A whole topic here I could spend hours on… because it took me years to master. What seems like high contrast on your LCD screen will not look the same on a projector-especially one that is not 100% color matched to your design screen (and none of them are the same color as your design screen).

What to do? Well, I have yet to see a projector that failed to make white look like white, and black look like black. You take it from there…

Do Not Animate.

Anything. Nuff said.

(note: some of my looping demos for booths are exceptions, but technically these aren’t the same as presentations)

There are more, such as body english, dealing with sharks, snipers, and elephants (the salesie types out there understand this), being too much sales ENGINEER, or too much SALES engineer, etc. but these are a few high points to think about…

As always, keep your horror stories coming!