I originally wrote this post as a tribute to John Henry and as a lesson for young graduates with no real experience in business.
One of my childhood heroes was the folklore story of John Henry -The steel driving man. To me he was the ultimate superhero giving his life in the process of winning. Today, I question the why of that story and question the question of which is better, the machine or man.
When I started my career my prospecting method was a shoebox filled with 3×5 index cards. I had those cards broken down by what we use to call x dates. My box was divided into the following sections:
Contact next year.
Six month’s to one year
Three to six months.
Next 90 days
Next 30 days
Ready to sign and cut me a check.
By the way in today’s terms. My shoe-box was very dynamic. it kept me busy, focused, productive and yes made me allot of money.
The next big leap in my productivity was when Microsoft Office gave us a product I still use today, Microsoft Outlook. With Microsoft Outlook I transferred my dynamic shoe-box to a computer and started using techniques such as mail-merge to send an occasional piece of information to the whole list and also for faxing as a way to prospect. Yes my sales increased and my free time too. I made more money and now had an agency, so I trained my staff to do as I did, My staff made easier money and it multiplied the wealth at the agency.
From their we started training our clients staff to work the same way and by now we were ready for another leap in technology in the form of Microsoft CRM and sales for outlook. This next leap in technology also introduced us to the use of digital and social media as a way to further increase our communications after 30 years in what we now call the supply chain.
Recently, I visited a University with majors that are based on sales and business development and a soon to be graduate was proud to show me how he was going to make millions the moment he graduates because of the large lists of followers, friends and online contacts he had and all he had to do was post once and wait for the millions to come in for whoever he represented. I sat back and thought about this.
I thought about John Henry and so I challenged our future young grad to a small contest. I actually gave him $1,000.00 for an advertising budget toward his cause to spend to help him get started and I would print out my next seven day list of people to contact from outlook and would turn my computer off. Technology versus the shoe-box. Social and digital media versus a sales person. The challenge would last for one week.
A week later I closed more business than the soon to be graduate believed even existed and a pipeline of new potential clients based on referrals with a thank you for visiting me. The graduate received many hits and clicks based on the analytic s on the server. So after 30 years of believing in the folklore of John Henry, I re ask the question.
What is better, great technology or great people. My surprising answer is neither. I want to hire great people who want to leverage the power of great technology so that they can do that much more than ever thought possible. Unlike John Henry who died to be that good, I want my staff to enjoy a great life made better by the better use of the new tools around them.