Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Professional Relationships 101: Win-Win

My post about maintaining an open door to potential professional relationships last week created some good conversation. I'd like to extend that conversation this week into another key component to professional relationships: win-win.

I feel that win-win is the foundation to maintaining any relationship. I believe that no matter what the opportunities are for either party, each party much gain. Those gains are not always equal, but when there is a loser, the relationship begins to fail.

A Story

In meeting with a prospect this week, I got a great reminder of how powerful win-win can be. I was meeting with him to discuss some consulting services that I could offer his business based on marketing opportunities I had identified. Last week, I ran across the business name, did a little digging, and found a real need, so I knew there a genuine need for what I was selling. It would have been easy for me to head into the meeting with my sales hat on, tell him about my research, why my services were better, and brought out my closing lyrics. I probably could have sold him that way too, he had an obvious need.

Instead, the first thing I did was tell him that I wanted to get to know each other. As I had called for the meeting I went first, telling him about my background in finance and banking, why I had made the move to the marketing industry, and how much I enjoyed helping small businesses get their story out. I set the tone for that conversation with a very deliberate statement, "I want to let you know before we start that the most important part of my business is the relationships, I believe that when we understand each other best we can both win."

The rest of the conversation went wonderfully. We had honest conversation about his needs, current marketing plan, budget, and so forth. I'm confident in saying that we started a relationship that should easily last as long as we both stay in business.


The important observation though, is that it started with the vision that we both could win. This is key to any relationship. You need communicate it both by your words and actions - that you aren't just looking for what you can get from this before moving on.

For you fellow salespeople, I believe the best way to add this component to your meetings is by taking a deep breath and starting this conversation the way I did above. You don't need to detract from the rest of your sales process, just to let the prospect know that you aren't another salesperson dropping in off the street hoping to get them to write a check. Rather you are a professional that both cares about them and has a product that may meet their needs.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

App Showdown: Evernote-Catch-Springpad

There are a number of note taking apps available for Android. Over the past few weeks I have reviewed three of the most common ones and today I'm bringing it all together for a head to head comparison.

This is my first attempt at an infographic (as it were). So bear with me a little bit, but I think it turned out well.

As you can see, these apps match up pretty well against one another with the only major notes going to Evernote's lack of QR scanning for notes and the absence of rich text formatting via the Catch and Springpad apps. Depending on how you plan to take notes, either of those items could become important to you, but for the majority of users, these apps are all even.


Evernote: For me, Evernote paced this group with the quality feel of the app. The crisp and flexible UI, and sharp colors (mostly green) were appealing every time I opened the app. 

Catch: The app and sync settings were king of the hill for Catch. That might not seem like a lot, since it's about app taking, but behind-the-scenes features often make the best experiences.

Springpad: The customizable widget offered by Springpad is sweet. You can set up the widget to make the app perfectly functional for you. 

So how do you choose?

The feel of each app is quite different, and I didn't share that in the graphic as it really isn't a tangible thing. The best advice I can give you is to download all three. Take some notes, organize them, refer back to them, repeat that for a week or so and go with the one that is most intuitive to you.

I had been using Evernote for more than a year prior to starting these reviews. So while I tried to be unbiased in my reviews, I also didn't find any compelling reasons to switch. I will say that if I was starting from scratch, Springpad is hard to ignore, I use my widget all the time with Evernote and Springpad's is great.

Download the apps from the Market links below and try them out for yourself:

Let me know if these reviews help you to choose an app or ways that I could make them more useful. I'll probably be staying away from apps that I'm not already using for a while. I worked hard to use Catch and Springpad enough to write a solid review, but feel that I can be much more thorough if I take my time. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Professional Relationships 101

I apologize for missing last week's post, other duties were calling loudly.

My thought of the week involves what I feel is the most basic component to professional relationships - an open door. I'm thinking of this mostly in the context of salesperson/customer relationships.

I'm not sure what it is about our society today, we seem to be either too busy or too cautious when it comes to meeting with people. I've seen it everywhere from consultant/client meetings to sales rep/prospect appointments. Many people simply avoid meeting with salespeople whenever possible.

I don't advocate giving up your time just to be nice to the salesperson, but rather approaching relationship opportunities from the perspective of what do you have to gain.

When you dumb it down, a salesperson's job is to identify prospective customers for a product, introduce them to the product, and justify purchasing the product. They only sell products that are designed carefully with eventual customer benefit in mind, so what do you have to lose?

Certainly, you can't afford to buy everything. Whether you're a business trying to budget equipment, wages, inventory, advertising, etc, or a consumer balancing cell phone, cable, internet, banking, and utility services, you have choices that you need to make.

In making those choices, however, why do we avoid conversations with the very people we who have the training to fully explain the benefits of each product?

I think the load is shared by both parties. Consumers need to step out of their shells and be willing to engage in exploratory conversations about products that may be beneficial to them. Likewise, salespeople need to cut back on aggressive sales approaches and realize that by educating everyone about what they can offer, they can find the ones who truly need them.

I'm painting two extremes here, but there's plenty more ground between those sides than there is behind either one of them.

Here's to spending time this week making yourself a better partner in the sales process, whichever side you are on.

Friday, February 17, 2012

App Review: Springpad

This week I am reviewing my third note taking application, Springpad.

Grade: A

Quick Pitch: Like other note taking applications, Springpad is a full-service application that makes taking diverse types of notes a breeze. It comes complete with ways to add text, pics, audio, and even locations to notes. Springpad also has a built in advertising feature that pushes discounts to your app based on content - an example they give is you adding a recipe for a calzone and receiving a discount offer for $1 off a Pillsbury product. It also has all the usual organizational features with multiple notebooks, a variety of theme options, and a customizable widget.

Full Story: Springpad is compelling application for anyone looking to organize different thoughts and notes into a cloud-based application for access across all devices (read everyone). The app is both simplistic and powerful. The delivery of the options will help novice note-takers find ways to instantly integrate the app into their daily lives. I haven't had the opportunity to experience the content-driven ads as of yet. I'm not sure if this would be an annoyance or convenient, but given the fact that none of my business-minded notes have incurred an ad yet, it doesn't seem to be a major component either way. I can tell after a short time with Springpad that there is a lot to this app I wouldn't be able to review without a much longer test period. That's not to say that it's confusing, just that it's very feature rich and allows you deeper and deeper organization tools as you add content.


  • Customizable Widget - The widget is packed with a "wow" factor. There are 5 buttons on the widget, the first is to open the app, but the other five can be customized to the app features that you use most. This is a delivery that more developers should take note of.
  • Note Organization - Springpad takes organization to another level. There are built in features for everything from recipes, to wines, to TV shows, and products. There are built in search features to match your notes with items from the web. 
  • Clean interface - This is always important to me with apps because you want something that you can get in and get out with relative ease.
  • Rich Text - Springpad lacks rich text features that might otherwise allow convenient things like bold or italics. It also lacks numbering and bullets.
You can download the app from the market here.

Note 1 - This is a review that I wrote after giving Springpad some extensive use for a short period of time, unlike my Evernote review I haven't tested the app outside of the Android application as I tested it for purposes of review.
Note 2 - I intentionally didn't compare the app to previous Catch or Evernote reviews in this post. I'll be putting together a comparison of the three apps for next week.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When the Leader Isn't the Star

I read an excellent article this past weekend about the late Angelo Dundee. I'll be honest, I had never heard the name before. But when I read the intro caption on SI.com, "Angelo Dundee's influence and motivation was the perfect buffer to Muhammad Ali's flamboyant demeanor, writes Richard Hoffer, and without it, Ali might not have been the "greatest." I had to read it. You should read it here too, it's a great piece.

The reason it caught my attention is because, as a leader, I've always been keenly interested in the lives of mentors to great people. Ali certainly has a permanent place as a great person. So what was it like to manage a person like that? What was it like to corral the endless motivation, work ethic, and talent?

Most of us will never be on quite that stage. That doesn't mean that we don't, from time to time, manage someone who does their job better than we could. That's a unique thing about managing that I feel we often miss the boat on - managing is about understanding the process, motivating, and tracking progress.

Managers of great performers excel at this. They take their deep understanding of the process and relay that to an individual with the talents and tools to complete it. They push their students, challenge them, sharpen them. They take raw talent and polish it to a shining diamond.

What things can we do in our everyday management of our top performers to help them reign in their talent and focus their strengths on the task at hand? How can we motivate them to be the best they can be at every turn? How can we elevate them to being all time greats?

Good thoughts for the week ahead.

Friday, February 3, 2012

App Review: Catch

This week I am sticking with note taking and organizing apps and reviewing Catch.

Grade A

Quick Pitch: Catch is a note taking application that allows you to create notes based on text, photo, and audio. It also has features that allow you create a reminder note for task or calendar use. Catch allows you 70 MB of storage for free, sharing options, and up to three "streams" to organize different categories of notes into.

Full Story: Catch is a great application. It offers extreme control over things like syncing, privacy, views, and tags - the options and ease-of-use of the settings are seldom matched in Android apps. Sometimes options like these can feel overwhelming, but Catch has the Settings Menu laid out in a way that even novice smartphone users will find logical.

Like it's competitors, Catch is built to cater to many parts of our diverse lives. As a professional note taking app, it's solidly built. Via the widget or the app itself, users can quickly jump to note creation options like text, photo, and voice. There is even a QR scanner built in to quickly add URLs to notes. One missing link was the options for text formatting with no bullets, numbered lists, or bold/italics/underlining here.


  • Settings - As mentioned, these are slick, you have great control over how the app acts.
  • Widget - A solid 4x1 widget for your home screen that allows you to quickly start notes, great for getting an idea down and not taking up a chunk of time.
  • Simplicity - The entire app is well designed to make sense the first time you use it, you won't find yourself hunting for a feature or menu you saw earlier, or a way to access a note.
  • Free - The 70 MB of free storage is great for notetakers. Like it's competitors, this number sounds "light", but in reality isn't much of a restriction for most users.
  • Text editing - This won't bother you for jotting down quick ideas, but if you're into writing more detailed notes with formatted text you'll find this app lacking.
  • Limited Streams - Catch limits free users to three streams to organize their notes into. If your brain typically organizes notes into more categories than that you'll find yourself having to convert over to tags - which Catch does well enough to make up the difference.
  • Aesthetics - While the simplicity is to be praised, the app might be a bit too clean. The basic graphics and simple colors leave you with an impression that the app is cheap. While the features prove that impression wrong, it's still a hit.

You can download the app from the market here

Note 1 - This is a review that I wrote after giving Catch some extensive use for a short period of time, unlike my Evernote review I haven't tested the app outside of the Android application as I tested it for purposes of review.
Note 2 - I intentionally didn't compare the app to last week's Evernote in this post. I'll be covering another note-taking app next week and then putting together a comparison of the three after that.