Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Recently I had the pleasure of attending the kick-off of the 2012 San Francisco sales campaign for Valley Yellow Pages.  It certainly made life in the back office of the corporate headquarters appear quiet in comparison.  The Regional Vice President gave away the secret of the success of his region: LSD.

At this point I really knew for certain that this was more interesting than life in the Information Systems department!  He went on, however, to explain further.  LSD stood for "Laughing," "Singing," "Dancing;" the importance of a good, positive attitude.  Not just a forced smile but the act of remembering to take joy in life.

Why is it important to tell people what should be self evident?  Because it takes a certain type of individual to be a good “outside sales person,” particularly in today’s uncertain economy.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, an outside sales person is one who conducts his sales meeting outside his office – usually at the client’s place of business.  In British parlance, it’s like the “off in “off licence” but with less moral hazard.   

It is not an easy job.  The salesperson faces multiple rejections every single day, sometimes a polite “no thank you” but often a lot ruder, up to profanity and abuse.  Businesses are struggling in an uncertain economy, tempers are short and often those business owners make the mistake of perceiving Yellow Pages as an expense instead of an investment.  Their frustration with the world may cause them to lash out at an unwanted telephone call or personal visit.  The Yellow Pages salesperson has to shrug that abuse off, put on a genuine smile, and go see the next potential customer.  Setbacks are a daily fact of life, the best laid plans and presentations mean nothing if the decision maker does not stop and listen to what our company can do for them.  A Yellow Pages salesperson needs an attribute that is sorely lacking in society today:  Resilience.  

Resilience is the ability to recover from shock, injury or disturbance.  It is a term that can be applied to an individual, a group, a business, a community and even a nation.  For a business, or even a business sector, resilience is the ability to weather shock in the supply chain.  For example, the lack of resiliency in the automotive manufacturing sector was highlighted when the Japan earthquake earlier this year resulted in factories shutting down due to lack of components.    In business, the opposite of resilience is “Just In Time” (JIT) provisioning.  People should be familiar with it.  When you go to the supermarket, the good on the shelves were probably delivered within the last three days - “just in time” for you to buy them.  That is not very resilient.  Ask anyone who tried to get food and water during the aftermath of a serious earthquake, flood or hurricane.  JIT means having all your eggs in someone else’s basket and relying on them to deliver them on time.  One setback and things grind to a halt. That’s what happened to everyone whose eggs happened to be laid in northern Japan earlier this year.

Resilience means redundancy in the critical infrastructure. For a community, that means having more than one source of each product and service.  Just as importantly, it means that those competing businesses need to have diverse suppliers.  For a community to have resilience, it must have a vibrant, healthy business economy with connections to that local community.  A big box superstore that ships in goods and ships out profits using the JIT model neither contributes much to the local economy nor to its resilience.       

Want to know how resilient your community is?  Pick up the phone book.  It is a snapshot of the health of your local business community.  Forget the massaged statistics of the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics or the older models of economic factors maintained by Shadow Stats - did you know that to keep down the official rate of inflation and unemployment and to boost the appearance of continual growth, the government, regardless of political party, changes the rules on a regular basis? 

There is not a better gauge of your local economy than your Yellow Pages book.  Advertising is purchased for a year with those orders often placed months in advance.  It is an indicator of the confidence of a business owner that they will keep their doors open long term.  For you the consumer, that’s a vital factor if the goods or services you purchase come with a guarantee or warranty.  Is the business confident enough to invest in advertising that will bring in business for another year? Or are they pulling back, only spending money in short-term advertising campaigns?

Oil spikes are a major threat to JIT delivery models.  If your community gets all of its vital supplies trucked in from hundreds of miles away, then when gas prices go up, so does everything you buy. When political or geological factors reduce or stop that oil from flowing freely, those goods and services will no longer be available.  The big chains will close their doors indefinitely, laying off all the local workers, while the shareholders and decision makers pull back to the communities they are invested in.  Big box stores are not invested in your community.  Developers built the infrastructure of the retail parks with taxpayer money, either in grants, tax breaks or other ‘incentives” to entice the development to that location.  Those giant buildings were then leased to the big box store, who would not think twice about defaulting on the lease if they felt it served their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders.

There is another group of very resilient individuals who know what it is like to get up every day, go out and see what they can offer in the way of help to businesses, only to face “no” after “no” after “no.”  They know what it is like to have the door slammed in the face, only to put on a genuine smile and move on to the next business with the important question:  “What can I do today to help your business do better?”

Those people are the unemployed. 

If you have what it takes to get up, day after day, to keep approaching business after business, not taking that "no" as the final answer that will define your life, if you know, deep down in your heart you have something valuable to offer if you can get a few minutes time in front of the decision maker - then you know you are resilient.  In which case, have you considered a job in Yellow Pages?  Don’t take no for an answer.  Keep going back to the recruiting manager.  Show them by your resilience that you have what it takes to help our Yellow Pages industry keep our local communities strong by promoting a healthy, vibrant local business community.  Tell them I referred you.  (Disclaimer: I am the Information System Manager at Valley Yellow Pages and have no influence of hiring of salespeople; - I only influence electrons.)

No trees were harmed in the creation of this Blog.  However, quite a bit of coal was dug out of the ground, burned, and used to generate electricity to power the servers, the internet, and your computer or tablet. 

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