Turn a Minus into a Positive

It took a pandemic to slow me down enough to unpack from a 6 month sabbatical in Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic probably changed your life a lot, too.

This is a great time to stop, look around, take inventory, and do some maintenance or upgrades on your sales, marketing, and business development activities.

It reminds me of an event that happened four years ago….

My mother-in-law’s sister, “Jane”, came to visit. She came over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, while my family was off visiting other people. Jane used our house as a free AirBnB while she spent her days at the assisted living facility. When Jane left, she accidentally left the refrigerator door ajar. For two weeks, the refrigerator was trying to cool down the inside, while the open-door-light was pumping in new heat. Eventually, the refrigerator stopped working. I came home to a lot of rotten and about to explode food.

First, I was, frustrated with Jane. I brought the 65-gallon trash can from the garage to the fridge and emptied it all out. I washed down the entire fridge: all that stuff that seems to collect around the milk jugs, the weird thing that leaked from 2008 on a back shelf, the red wine stain from 2005…

As I threw out food, jams that had crystallized, spreads I didn’t like the taste of, sauces dating back decades, I could see that what was in the fridge was NOT what I needed IN the fridge.

Your marketing and sales activities may be as dated or inappropriate as my refrigerator contents. Now is a great time to take inventory and pitch the stuff that does not work, is too 2003, or is not suitable for your current customer-base or product offering.

Where to start?

  1. Take Inventory
    • What are you doing?
    • Are your new products included?
    • Do you have old products you should stop promoting?
  2. Evaluate effectiveness
    • Do your marketing assets still work the way they should?
    • Are you spending the majority of your time on the pieces that do work and little time on the ancillary items?
    • Or is the equation flipped and you are spending 80% of your time on 20% of your sales?
    • Can you imagine an improved workflow?
    • Does it work if in-person meetings, conferences, or tradeshows are virtual?
  3. Delete the non-essential
    • Simplify, simplify, simplify
  4. Plan the new and improved path forward
    • Improve the workflow now that the non-essential is gone
    • Add new content or new outlets as appropriate
    • Schedule a re-review
    • Put someone in charge of the maintenance

Light Bulbs

Are you the electricity or the light bulb?

Do you provide the energy? the activator in your group? or are you the creative one? The one with more ideas than light bulbs?

This article is on “forcing” the bulb time. Yes, I’m mixing metaphors.

The Data

Creativity is a necessary skill in the 21st century. As we do less manual labor and more knowledge work, our brain and being able to tap into its creativity and problem-solving centers becomes uber important.

The latest research into creativity is focused on creating “flow states” — that optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. This is when you get going and cannot stop, do not want to stop, and wish you could type faster and work longer.

To achieve flow three conditions must be met (according to the research):

  1. Be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress.
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.
  3. Good balance between perceived challenges of the task of their own perceived skills at solving the challenges.

Since the scientists have proven three conditions must be met for you and your team to be in the “flow zone” while being creative, your strategies must require planning to create environments where the three conditions are met: goals, immediate feedback, achievable challenges.

Sales plan example
  1. X numbers of leads
  2. X/Y leads turn into opportunities
  3. X/Y/Z opportunities turn into orders
  4. Orders shipped turn into sales (don’t forget this part, sometimes the factory can’t do this!)

Want to increase sales? Increase X, decrease Y or Z, or increase $ per sale. It is really this simple and yet it is so hard to execute. Our difficulty with executing a sales plan will often derive from an inability to get into ‘flow’ with the process.

Analyze your process where does it work, where does it bog down? Do you get the leads but the have a difficult time following up? Do you follow up but do not get the order?

Use the strategy of optimizing flow to lower energy barriers for execution. We do what we like. If we get orders, then we’ll likely do more of the difficult stuff to get the orders. Lowered energy barrier. Be creative & strategic about how you can permanently lower energy barriers to execute your sales plan.

Flow focuses on goals, immediate feedback, and perceived matching of challenges to capabilities. Setting a sales goal of $/month or $/year fails on at least two of these fronts. Instead, focus on setting up the systems or processes — these can meet the criteria of flow:

  • # of calls per day
  • ## of quotes per month
  • ### of leads of a certain type
Marketing content example

The theory is that content is king.

Content will drive the customers to the sales people. Content will filter out the non-sales leads. Content will enable customers with needs today to find us. 

The person given the task of writing said content says “what content, what can we say, what can we not say, do you have any photos?” Content is now dead in the water.

Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Develop the plan. Use your theory of flow: goals, feedback, achievable.

  1. Start with ### of leads of a certain type (from the sales plan).
  2. What do they need to know?
  3. How will you measure if it worked (or didn’t)?

Often writing content stalls out because there was a failure to find one of the conditions of flow. Don’t know the segment; don’t know what they need to know; inability to fill page due to lack of knowledge. Brainstorm how you can work around the roadblocks and barriers. Can you and your team find a way to flow around the issues like water?


The daily challenge of finding flow is just that, a daily challenge. We get distracted by the environment (too hot, too cold, too bright, too messy). We have that nagging shopping list, taxes to fill out, etc. Some authors about flow suggest that dealing with the distractions is absolutely required in order to find peace and enter the flow state.

5 ideas on how to get into flow:

  • Just write. My professor in technical writing told us when we can’t get going, to find a timer and write for 45 minutes about anything. After 45 minutes, throw that out; start on real project.
  • Lean in. Start the piece. Outline. Find resources and pictures. Get going (but don’t throw it out) and soon you will find yourself in the flow of the work.
  • Minimize distractions. Turn off the phone; turn off email and facebook alerts; give yourself permission to focus. Sometimes it is as simple as saying I have permission to work on work.
  • Windshield time. 20 minutes of windshield time is what I need to have epiphany after epiphany. It’s amazing how many ideas I have on the off ramp at Louisiana. Now I just need to record them without crashing the car!
  • Brainstorm. Write down ideas. Any ideas. There are no bad ideas. Build on what was said or written down before. Fishbone diagrams, whatever. Soon you will be amazed at the great ideas you are having.

Battery Day

February 18 is Battery Day!

Are you the electricity or the bulb?

This post was hard to write. Lots of ideas (too many bulbs?), not a lot of thinning or organization (mixing metaphors, I know), and a difficulty in staying on track with the organization of the piece. Partly because it’s a stretch to say that batteries are closely related to light bulbs and electricity.

Lightening is electricity and while it is “all over the place” it too can have a huge impact. So today, you get something “all over the place”. I hope it has some impact.

Electricity and energy

This post is about harnessing your energy, your natural energy, and finding your reserves when you feel you have lost them.

Light bulbs

This post is about strategically finding or creating flow to generate a creative environment/atmosphere. Two suggestions for marketing and sales when these processes lose their flow. After I wrote the marketing piece I thought I should take my own advice (hmmm…).


1800 Volta invents the first battery, known as the voltaic pile.

1836 Daniell invents an improved battery capable of operating at 1.1 volts and used in early telegraph networks.

1859 Gaston Plante invented the lead-acid battery, the first rechargeable battery and the same technology used today in cars, boats, and RVs.

1912 Lewis started Lithium battery research, but it took 60 more years before they became mainstream in small devices like cameras and cell phones.

1955 Urry at Union Carbide improved upon alkaline battery design to lower their product costs — now making it possible to power a laser pointer to distract our cats.

1983 Borst invents the potato clock as a mass-produced science fair product. It works the same way batteries work: mild phosphoric acid, naturally occurring in potatoes and other starches, results in a chemical reaction where electrons are freed from the zinc probe (negatively charged) and accepted onto the copper probe (positively charged). Boil the potato and the electrical capacity of the potato increases 10 fold!