Heather-Anne MacLean, Cybersecurity

Hundreds of Thousands of Good Paying Jobs! Are you in?

Does this headline seem like a sales pitch that is too good to be true? You might think so, but it is not. The fact is each day organizations – small, medium, large, for profit, not-for-profit, etc. are in need for cybersecurity professionals. As October is cybersecurity awareness month, I wanted to highlight the opportunities that lay before us in both the short-term and long-term.

Putting Things into Perspective

To do so, let’s take a step back and look around your environment.

  • If you are at home, you likely have a multitude of devices that are connected to the internet – TVs, computers/tablets, watches, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washers and dryers, your home security system and now even lawnmowers and so much more.
  • If you are in the workplace, you are surrounded by even more connected devices – computers, projectors, printers, Smart Monitors, Smart Boards, toasters, refrigerators, etc.
  • And, if you are in neither place, there is still an excellent chance that you are connected whether it is via your car, an airplane, your pacemaker, your Fitbit, an aquarium thermometer in a restaurant or other public venue, security cameras collecting data about you…etc.

By now you get the picture.

Nearly every electronic device is either connected to the internet, or can be connected. From our entertainment, banking, shopping, weather checking, home security, communicating with friends and family on social media, nearly everything we do, is done online.

Being Connected Means More People are Needed

“The more we become connected, the more important it is to ensure that we are operating with security and privacy by design principles. Additionally, because we are operating online, we need more professionals who can protect our critical infrastructure – electricity, telecommunications, and our food and water supply!

 In fact, it is estimated that by 2022, more than 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals will be needed globally. In Canada, ICTC estimates that we will need more than 100,000 cybersecurity professionals. As far as I can see, these numbers will continue to climb. This presents a significant opportunity for not only our youth, but also people who are under employed or those looking to be reskilled and/or upskilled.

Fostering the Talent Pipeline – Focused on Results

My focus is just that: Cybersecurity Skills and Workforce Development – developing a talent pipeline for our short-term, mid-term and long-term needs. It’s an exciting time to be collaborating with industry, academia and government and I must say that our ecosystem is both vibrant and engaged. We are working together to achieve results. When everyone is rowing in the same direction and communicating together, great results happen.

In just two short years we have had significant gains:

  • First and foremost, it is the collaborative nature that has developed here in New Brunswick. When you have competitors working side by side to make things happen, you know something special is occurring.
  • In our Youth Development strategy, we have worked with our education partners to have curricula changes and gains from grades six through 12. Additionally, we have become the national leader in the CyberTitan  Program. Three years ago, we had seven teams. Last year we had 48 teams that represented 54% of the teams nationally. This year? Well, this year we knocked it out of the park with 126 teams of the 196 teams nationally. We also have 60 of the 65 middle school teams. This my friends is our future talent pipeline!
  • In our mid-term strategy, we have worked with all of our post-secondary institutions to not only add new program offerings for cybersecurity, but the offerings are compliant with the NICE Framework. This is significant in and of itself as we continue to expand our circle of collaboration with the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
  • Finally, in our short-term strategy, our private-sector partners have created new professional development opportunities for their own resources as well as training opportunities for those in our ecosystem and abroad. Again, these offerings are all compliant with NICE.

Of course, this is a high-level view of many activities that are taking place to grow out talent pipeline and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that focusing only on coding is only part of the solution. The solution also includes a multidisciplinary approach as we need criminologist, sociologists, psychologists, teachers, lawyers, etc. After all, we are not a linear world and there are plenty of opportunities to go around. And as a University Professor, I can say that I get completely excited when I see my students see the vast opportunities that lay before them!

As someone working in the ecosystem, being a part of something with real collaboration and with real results, is rewarding!

Want to collaborate? Let’s connect.





cybersecurity, cyber security, Heather-Anne MacLean

What Your Business Doesn’t Know About Cybercrime Will Hurt You

Cybercrime isn’t going away. In fact, it continues to grow. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that cybercrime will cost the world in excess of $6 trillion annually by 2021. If that number doesn’t alarm you, the fact that 43% of attacks are focused on small business, and that 60% of small businesses attacked go out of business within six months, should.

In April, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued a report entitled: Cyber Security in Canada: Practical Solutions to a Growing Problem. This extensive report provides insight on the current cyber landscape, including business costs and business losses due to cybercrime. It also provides information on the growing role of cybersecurity insurance in protecting businesses. It also offers results from their important and timely research detailing significant gaps in five key areas. (Recommendations from the report are below):

  1. Technology;
  2. Public Relations;
  3. General Awareness;
  4. Legislative Requirements; and
  5. Insurance

This report is particularly interesting for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because of the statistics above. “All companies are targets for cyberattack, and specific solutions change daily. Yet in many companies, there is a lack of ability to recognize these breaches. Today’s attacks are about the data, not the company or person, and they are designed to be invisible.

SMEs continue to believe risk does not apply to them because they believe criminals are targeting large enterprises. While this was certainly the case for a number of years, a shift that emerged beginning in 2013. Especially relevant and noted by Symantec in 2015, was 43% of Small Businesses were the focus of spear-phishing attacks versus 35% of large businesses.

One of the most significant and famous breaches–the Target attack–occurred as a result of a small business. It was an HVAC company working with the retail giant, which consequently had week security. A part of Target’s supply chain, they were ultimately breached and most probably unaware. This meant that criminals were able to breach Target. Three years later reports in the media detail how Target has agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle claims by 47 states and the District of Columbia. This is over and above the total cost of the data breach being $202 million. And what happened to the HVAC company? It went out of business.

Consequently, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce acknowledges in its report, SMEs know they have to do more. With 98 percent of Canada’s economy comprised of SMEs, taking steps to obtain cybersecurity certification, cybersecurity insurance, and more is not something that can be postponed any longer. “For most companies, data is now their most valuable asset. Our goal is to point business in the direction of finding a common sense approach to risk management to protect those assets,” notes Scott Smith, Director, Intellectual Property & Innovation Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce.


The Canadian Chamber of Commerce provides nine specific recommendations in this report that merit review and understanding to help mitigate cybercrime.

  1. Government cannot protect everything, but it does have pivotal responsibilities
  2. We need an outcome-based, systemic/cohesive approach and common model of understanding
  3. Develop a “Secure Canada” Approach
  4. Develop a National Cyber Policy Framework
  5. Adopt an Enterprise Risk Management Approach and Collaborate
  6. Increase Canadians’ Cyber Savviness
  7. Government endorsement and support for the deployment of Industry Certification
  8. Incentivize Security Innovations
  9. Both government and industry need to take a proactive approach to the inevitability of Quantum and develop a Quantum-ready Strategy.

For more information download Cyber Security in Canada: Practical Solutions to a Growing Problem.

This post previously appeared on the CyberNB Blog.

How to Avoid the Reputation Mistakes of Lululemon

Once the darling of women across Canada and the United States for great yoga and leisure clothes, Lululemon seems to have lost its way.  First came the less than stellar quality pants, then the comments that essentially only certain women can wear their pants without issues arising, and now marketing promotions that counter concerns about skin cancer.  Lululemon is not unlike any other brand in that reputation issues do arise. The difference however, could be in how a brand responds.  So, let’ take a look at how to avoid the reputation mistakes of Lululemon.heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com, taylormadecanada.com

1.  The Argument FOR Listening to Brand Conversations

When the story first broke that Lululemon’s pants were of poor quality and actually see-through, Lululemon’s response, or lack of response was odd. At first they completely ignored their customers’ complaints and continued to promote other product in their social channels.

This only fuelled the fire and angered customers. As more people became aware of the issue, the story also grew. Playing the role of the Ostrich and burying your head in the sand does not work.

Key Take-Away:  It is hard to imagine that this commentary still needs to be shared but, apparently it does. Brands can no longer “push” their communications on customers.  Communication is a two-way street.  Therefore choosing to “not” listen is no longer acceptable business practice.  In the case of Lululemon they could have addressed the issue immediately and demonstrated to their customers that their opinion was valued. Instead it escalated out of control, the brand took a hit, as did their stock.  In the end, they were forced to respond.  Once news hits mainstream media and you are forced to respond, you have damaged your reputation.

2.  Act on Your Own.  Don’t be Forced

As someone who provides guidance to companies on PR and reputation issues, I always tell people to come forward first.  Don’t wait to be outed by the media or some other source.  If you did something wrong, admit it and have a plan to fix it.

“Key Take-Away:  Lululemon is certainly not alone in waiting to respond. I can’t put them in that category alone. There are many companies that have also done so. Most airlines, including Air Canada have had to respond to outrage as a result of actions incurred and not addressed properly.  It really comes down to doing the right thing. If you did something wrong, like United Airlines when they broke Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s guitar and then do nothing about, even with video proof, you are headed for a PR nightmare. Over and above that you have a bigger issue though. You have a cultural issue. People working for you just don’t care. You cannot fix a reputation issue without first fixing your cultural issue. This is a big take-away and one that should be looked at seriously.

3.  Test Your Messages

Sometimes we blame agencies for providing marketing materials, campaigns, etc. that result in PR nightmares.  While that does happen on occasion, as brand managers, we must take some responsibility for our brand and what we choose to do.  There is a reason that both agencies and many brands test messaging before going to market. For me personally, if I have this “I don’t know feeling” and can’t really articulate it, I know I need to test it.  Nine times out of 10 the testing comes back with results that send us back to the drawing board.

Key Take-Away:  Don’t let nagging feelings of doubt just fade away with the hopes that it will be o.k.  And, more importantly test your message. Sometimes brands are too close to the message or storyline and can miss subtle nuances that an unbiased audience will pick up immediately. Getting this information before going to market can save you time, money and embarrassment.  Lululemon might want to think about this as a go forward plan.

Now, like all Canadians, I like to see my Canadian companies succeed. I am hoping that these few missteps are just that and things will evolve and change for our much loved Lululemon!

Like this post?  Follow me on Twitter:  @MacLeanHeather.  Feel free to leave a comment, add your input or disagree with me.






6 Easy Tips to Overcome Communication Failures

We all think we can communicate. After all, we are all good listeners. We are all very good at sharing information and conveying messages. Right?  Wrong! Most people are not good communicators. As we move through the corporate world, we are sensitized to “time is money”, “get to the point” and “what’s your ask?”  Our leaders, mentors and peers share these messages with us constantly through words or body language.  Add to that, we all have our own agendas.  We do.  You can deny it, but if you do, you are only fooling yourself. So, we add all of this together and we are hard-pressed for time and we want to achieve our objectives and meet our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  Now, think about your customers.  Think about your prospects.  How are you communicating with them?  There is a good chance that there are some communication failures happening.  Here are 6 easy tips to overcome communication failures:

5 tips to over communications failure, heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com, taylormade solutions (Canada)

Image courtesy of graystoneadvisors.com

1.  Know your Audience

This is by far the oldest piece of advice going when it comes to communications. Despite this, I am often surprised by how many people and as a result organizations, just don’t know their audience. They use communication media that they feel most comfortable with and communicate when they want to communicate. They often have more than one audience, but choose to communicate in exactly the same manner for each.

Key Take-away:  What is (are) the personas of your audience(s)?  Are they in their 20s, 30s or 60s?  All of the above?  How do they consume content?  How often do they want to hear from you and consume content?  Do they prefer mainstream media, social media or public forums?  Does it depend on the situation?  If you can’t answer these questions with validated data, you have some homework to do.  If you don’t have the resources in-house, hire a consultant to find the answers for you.

2.  Slow Down

Yes, this is hard for most of us. Everything is a rush. After all, time is money right? It is..but and there is a big BUT..if you fail to communicate with your customers or prospects, the costs will be much higher. Customer retention becomes an issue. Reputation management becomes an issue. Stakeholders, including boards of directors get riled up as profits dip and stock prices follow. Slow down and pay attention to what is happening in your environment. When you do this, you hear, see and learn a lot. People notice that you are present. They appreciate this. Showing up only when you want something also gets noticed.

Key Take-away:  Be present. Don’t just show up when you want something or when there is a problem to fix. Your customers or prospects will soon associate you with only being there when YOU want something or when something has gone horribly wrong. Customers and prospects are people. People need and want relationships. They need to have confidence in you. They need to trust you and trust that your organization will do the right thing.

3. Follow-up and Follow-through

Similar to knowing your audience, this is one of the oldest and best pieces of advice when it comes to communication.  As mentioned in Good Customer Service:  What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You, be sure to follow-up on your customers or prospects.  This builds real trust and confidence.  And always under promise and over deliver. This can be hard to do at times, but consistent application will pay off in spades.

Key Take-away:  If you aren’t sure of your answer, then say so.  If you can’t deliver the product at a specific time, be up front.  The sooner the better.  And, when you do execute on “whatever” it is, circle back to ensure that your customer or prospect got what he or she needed. Yes, it can be time consuming, but it will be worth it.

4.  Put Your Best Foot Forward

Just like meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, you want to put your best foot forward.  For a brand, this might be about the person they send to a meeting or the one that acts as their spokesperson.  Regardless of which scenario it is, you want to ensure that your point person has the facts, can present the corporate brand meeting or exceeding the brand standards and that that person or persons have the ability to make decisions and answer questions – any questions.

Key Take-away:  Putting your best foot forward, or your best people forward does not necessarily mean the most senior and certainly not the most junior. Each situation requires consideration and judgement. You need to consider your audience and the situation.  Who will provide win/win results?  Who will irritate or provoke?

5.  Be Timely

This one is quite important.  For any communication, it needs to be timely.  Your communications’ professionals need to always be thinking about timing. Depending what the communication is, too early and you sell the farm.  Too late, or too little you will lose creditability and trust.

Key Take-away:  Communications should never be an after-thought or relegated to lower importance.  Communications is a strategic component of everything you do.

6.  There is No Such Thing as Over Communicating

Once a upon a time someone actually said this to me – that we were over communicating. Think about that for a moment. Think about how people process information. Think about how people receive information. Think about how many times a message MUST be shared before it is actually absorbed. This is all proven documentable information.  If you apply fact and research, you cannot possibly over communicate. It is that simple.

Key Take-away:  Just because you know the answer or a few of your stakeholders know the answer, doesn’t mean your audience does.  People absorb information differently. Therefore you must apply proven communication techniques using various media and multiple messages to reach your audience.

Like this post?  Follow me on Twitter:  @MacLeanHeather


4 Ways You Are Damaging Your Career

I recently met up with a former colleague who just didn’t seem herself.  Years ago, when we worked together she was full of energy, ideas and vigor.  Now, well suffice it to say she is not.  She shared with me that professionally, and personally to some degree, that things hadn’t worked out quite the way she had wanted. From our conversation I knew that while sometimes bad things happen to good people, some of her behaviour was likely adding to the mix.  There are definitely ways that we can all damage our career.  Sometimes they are obvious like getting drunk at the Christmas party and telling each of your co-workers and your boss what you really think of them.  Others are more subtle.  Here are 4 subtle ways you could be damaging your career:

Image courtesy of mike54martin.com

Image courtesy of mike54martin.com

1.  Being Resistant to Change

Change is inevitable.  Whether change is brought on by people coming and going, new technology or a new strategic direction, it happens.  How you react to change, regardless of whether it directly or indirectly impacts you is noticed.  For example, if your duties are changed, do you embrace this change or make it difficult for the person or persons who assume some of what used to be your duties?  If you make it difficult, not only do your peers notice, but your management team will as well.  If you make it easy and take on your new role with true enthusiasm, that is noticed to and for the good.

2.  Inability to Separate Professional from Personal

Has anyone ever said to you:  don’t take it so personally?  If so, you might not be able to separate professional experiences from personal experiences.  Now, I would qualify that of course you are going to take it personally if you don’t get the job you thought you were a shoo in for.  That is only human nature and natural.  However, it is how you react and treat others that sets you a part. For example, you didn’t get the job you thought you were promised. Instead, a person from outside the organization was brought in.  Naturally that person will not have the institutional knowledge that you have.  That person may not even have the same level of product experience you have.  What that person likely has are qualities, traits and skills that management did not see in you.  Maybe you have them, but aren’t showing them.  How you handle working with this new person will be a significant measurement of who you are.  Do you resent the new person, talk about him or her every time you get a chance, do everything you can to make the person look bad?  Or, do you get over the fact that person did not deliberately go after “your” job and work with the person as opposed to against that person. Being able to do the latter will show just how professional you can be.

3.  Over Compensate in a Position

Maybe you have been demoted or passed over for promotions just once too often.  Maybe you feel like you have to show your grit when you have a chance.  Over compensating by being pushy and demanding towards others whether in a one-on-one setting or, even worse in a meeting, demonstrates that you really don’t understand the nuances and dynamics of the workplace.  Perform in this manner with your management team in the room and you have set the tone that you are not ready to manage and lead.

4.  Not Taking Direction

This one is a bit of a combo.  You might not have gotten the job you thought you should of.  You aren’t embracing change, etc.  Then on top of that your manager asks you to carry out a certain function or job and include others, including those that might have gotten the job you wanted and/or have been brought into the organization to perform a function or functions that you may have done previously.  Rather than execute as asked, you only include your manager.  This not only demonstrates that you can’t perform as asked, it also could demonstrate that you lack confidence in your abilities. In the end, your boss will likely still ask for input, recommendations from the other parties.  This shows them that you are insecure and/or not a team player. There is no question that work dynamics are interesting to say the least.  And, it is hard not to take things personally.  After all it is your career.  That being said, how we choose to act and react is entirely in our own control.  And, that is exactly what we will be judged on.  So, dig deep and thing about the long-term versus the short-term.

If you like this post, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @MacLeanHeather

Reaching the C-Suite with Content: How to Crack the Code

C-suite: Crack the Code, Taylormadecanada.comMarketing and sales professionals all want to reach the C-Suite. But there are always two questions that come up in those discussions: 1) How do I reach the C-Suite? and 2)Does the C-Suite really even consume online content? Well, thanks to Forbes and Insights, there are some interesting answers to those questions. So, continue reading to learn how to reach the C-Suite and how to crack the code to actually get past the gatekeepers:

1.  The Internet Reigns

There has definitely been a shift happening in the C-Suite.  According to the research, in 2008 the mean age of the C-Suite was 50.7.  Fast forward to 2014 and the mean age is now 46.7.  This small and subtle shift has made for some much bigger shifts in how the C-Suite accesses and consumes business-related data.  As a part of that shift, the majority of members now prefer to use the Internet to access information. Surprisingly for many, the Internet is preferred over references from colleagues, personal networks, newspapers, TV, radio and even conferences and trade shows. This is definitely a shift from just a few years ago.

 2.  Video and Online Networks Emerge as C-Suite Tools

Don’t forgo the text communications just yet, but with the ever busy and on-the-go C-suite, easily accessed and easily consumed content that can be listened to or watched while on the go is definitely on the rise.  If you want to reach the C-Suite, don’t forget this media.

 3.  Generation PC

Did you just get used to the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, etc?  Well, Generation PC is the group that you will find most in the C-Suite these days.  These 40-50 year olds pretty much have worked with technology throughout their careers starting out with electronic spreadsheets, email and word processors.  They are comfortable with technology and even prefer searching and finding business-related information on their own.  Want to reach the C-Suite, think about this age group and their preferences.

4.  Generation Netscape

The newest group to be coming into the C-suite is Generation Netscape.  This under 40 group are the first digital natives that we will have in the top spots of corporations around the world and they are used to consuming content when, where and how they want.  To reach this group, you will want to make sure that your content is not only relevant, but accessible on multiple platforms and devices.

5.  Content is Still King

Rethinking your content strategy?  Is your C-Suite questioning you about who your audience is and whether not you can reach the C-Suite?  Before throwing the baby out with the bath water, remember that content needs to be good.  Don’t just create content for the sake of creating content.  In addition to creating great content, here are some other findings from the research to help guide you:

  •  81% of respondents under the age of 50 check the Internet daily for business intelligence
  • 58% (under 50) see high value of content from websites, blogs and other online content
  • 54% of C-Suite members under 50 prefer sourcing business content themselves (a.k.a no gatekeeper)
  • 87% (of the under 50 crowd) use search engines like Google, so your content must be searchable and more important, easy to find

Thanks for Forbes and Insights, we know that the C-Suite wants and consumes valuable content, including blog content.  The key however, is to create valuable content that can be found through search.

If you like this post, feel free to follow me on Twitter @MacLeanHeather.



How to Have the Perfect Professional Twitter Bio

Do you use your personal Twitter handle for professional purposes?  Of course you do!  I recently surveyed 150 people and 99% indicated that they do in fact use their own Twitter handle to communicate, network and conduct research in a professional capacity. As a part of that survey, I also asked questions about their bios, how they were set up and what information they added to their bios.  A staggering 85% indicated that they did not put much thought into their bios.  And, 100% of those respondents were concerned that their personal brand was less than stellar and that they were not as professional appearing as they could be.  So, you are not alone if you have had these concerns.  To remedy the situation, here are 8 Best Practices to use to have the perfect professional Twitter bio:Social Media, Twitter

1. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Nothing could be more true.  When a Tweet appears, what is the first thing you notice? It is the avatar of course – good or bad.  So, if you want to have a professional appearance, the first place to start is your avatar.

Best Practice is to have the same professional photo that you would use for LinkedIn.  You want to look your part AND you want to be recognizable.  For occasions when you get to meet Twitter connections, it is great to actually recognize or be recognized!

2.  Don’t Be Cute with Your Twitter Handle

Not only are you a brand in and of yourself, you want people to be able to remember you. It is Best Practice to use your own name as your Twitter handle. Now, that can be difficult.  For example, there are a lot of Heather MacLeans out there.  I could have gotten my full name, but it seemed long and with a hyphen in there, that might complicate things.  So, I ended up using @MacLeanHeather.

As a point of reinforcement, there is a wonderfully talented person in the industry that I like to keep in touch with.  Unfortunately I always forget her Twitter handle as it is something obscure.  So, I inevitably have to resort to communicate with her via LinkedIn, even though I know that she is on Twitter more frequently.

3. Use Your Real Name

Again, searching, finding and connecting to people can be difficult if you don’t use your real name in your Twitter bio.  Best Practice states using your real name versus nicknames, or variations on your name.  Of course, if you don’t want to be found…

4. What to Include in Your Actual Bio

You are human and not a robot..right?  So, be sure to use a combination of key words that reflect your profession/industry, but also include some interesting personal information. I used to include that I was an airplane nerd, which I am, but I don’t tend to Tweet about airplanes.  Now  I include that I am a dog lover and wannabe chef.  That makes sense to me as I do Tweet, on occasion, about these things.

So, be professional, but have some fun too!

5. Use Links

The great thing about your Twitter profile is that you can include a link to your own website, LinkedIn profile, about.me profile, etc.  Take advantage of this to help people get to know you.

6.  Location

Be sure to include your location data.  People love to connect with people in their respective regions and/or in new areas.

7.  Use of Header

Be sure to select a header image that not only scales, but also reinforces who you are. Having a blurry out of scale image is not good. Neither of course is something totally inappropriate.  If in doubt, look to others that inspire you or that you admire. Get a feel for what they use. Don’t copy of course, but emulate.

8. Completeness of Information

It is Best Practice to complete the details above.  If you really want to connect with people, they will want to know who you are.  Remember, this is social media.  Many people, including me, tend to return follows of people that share no details about themselves.

So, in the end, these are easy tips and Best Practices to follow.  Still have questions, let me know.

Want to learn more?  Feel free to sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

3 Reasons Why Celebrating is Important to Your Bottom Line

As I get ready to celebrate the 16th Annual Knowledge Industry Awards – the KIRAs tonight, I couldn’t help but think about how important is to really celebrate.  As individuals, it seems easier to celebrate milestones and the people in our personal lives, but how often do we really celebrate in business? Not enough in my opinion!  In fact celebrating is important to your bottom line. 

3 Reasons Why Celebrating is Important to Your Bottom Line, heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com

Image courtesy of 350 × 300Search by image

Celebrating successes, small or large, and the people you work with is definite must.  It has so many ramifications for your bottom line.  If you look at successful companies, I mean really look at successful companies, there is more to their success than just what is shown in their financial statements. And, if you add what it means for an industry, the results are amazing. So, let’s look at the top 3 reasons to celebrate and why it is important to your bottom line:

1. Improved Health

When you celebrate, you are put in a state of mind that is positive and conducive to your health results. Imagine working in an environment where people have a healthy state of mind. Productivity increases, relationships flourish and overall it is a better atmosphere.  

This is not just lip service, studies actually prove this! Even if you are just about the numbers, think about what this means to your bottom line to have happy, healthy employees.  

2.  More Camaraderie

When employees have closer relationships and more camaraderie, there is less friction and less  human resources issues to deal with. Not only does this make for an environment and culture that produces results it means driving results together.

Again, if you only care about the numbers, think about how much time your managers spend on addressing human resource issues – conflict, performance, missed time, etc. Having the right culture with camaraderie helps reduce all of these issues in the workplace, which then results in dollars shaved off of your overhead costs.

3. Banishing Failure Fear

Everyone fails at some time in your career. What sets you a part from others is how you handle. it!  You can learn a lot from failure – a lot of really great things.  (And if you have never failed, you are missing something..seriously…it build character and teaches you so much.) Additionally, what really creates a true culture of creativity is celebrating it and showing people that they can survive and you all learn from it.

For those number crunchers, again it is all about creating an environment where people produce, feel comfortable producing and therefore in a state of enhanced productivity.

So, with this in mind, stop and take the time to celebrate your small and big wins, your failures and what you have learned and most importantly – your people!  

I look forward to celebrating with New Brunswick’s IT industry tonight at the KIRA Awards.

7 Secrets to Customer Acquisition & Ongoing Customer Satisfaction

As a VP of sales who has worked in all functional areas and trained hundreds of sales people all over North America, the question people ask me most is:  What do I need to do to be successful?  The answer is fairly straight forward, and here are 7 secrets to customer acquisition & ongoing customer satisfaction:

7 secrets to customer acquisition and sales best practices

Image courtesy of blogs.mcafee.com

 1. Have a Process

It’s amazing how many sales professionals work with clients from start to finish each day and do not have a sales process.  This goes for both individuals and organizations. 

A process drives consistency, its helps scale, it helps understand where your gaps are as an organization and helps with sales forecasting. A simple  and straight forward sales process is a great start.   It doesn’t have to be too complicated. Perhaps the most important part of your process is to understand your company messaging within your sales process.   It is also important to understand your customer buying cycles and process.  Generally customers have a buying process to understand how to get the most value out of you, so you need one as well.

2. Have a plan

Many organizations have a yearly sales planning cycle. Unfortunately, many times those plans are left at the conference room table the minute the meetings are done.  Often times it is something the boss has asked for and a check mark on the list for us as workers.   

The best sales people have plans. They don’t have to be too complicated, but do include overall goals and objectives that are broken down for the year, quarter and maybe even weekly.  Of course like any plan, you revisit it as needed and adjust to current conditions.7 Secrets to Customer Acquisition & Ongoing Customer Satisfaction  

3. ROI and Industry Insight

As a result of the downturn of the economy in 2008, it has changed the way people buy. No matter how long you have known a customer, no matter how good a friend you might be, customers need and want more. There is more scrutiny on purchases, more people involved in the process and more than ever people want to see a return.   It is essential to determine their goals, objectives, pain points and how you can solve their problems while also saving them money.  They want you to demonstrate their Return on Investment. 

Companies are also looking for Insight, not just into your products and services, but into their own industry. They are looking for people like us to give them insight or intelligence into their business and industry while also providing solutions to help drive their businesses.

4. Ongoing Development

Many people come into the sales profession without planning it and because of the fast-paced nature of the work, they lose sight of the need for continual professional development.  To stay ahead of the curve,  highly successful professionals always have to work to get better, learn new skills and break bad habits. It can be as simple as reading a good sales book. For example, I would recommend The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.  Other options include subscribing to sales blogs, taking a course, etc.  Regardless of what method or methods you choose, never stop pushing yourself to develop your skills.

 5.Hard  Work

Nothing beats hard work.  Through experience I have encountered many reps who tell me they like to take a “strategic approach” or they have their own “system”.  When I hear these words I think: “lazy.” Having a plan, being strategic, having a system, as well as having a high aptitude for sales are part of the foundation, but you still need to work hard. I think it was our good ole Wayne Gretzky that said: “nothing beats skill like hardworking skill.”  When your competitors are  working “strategically” you need to be doing the same, but working harder and in doing so closing more deals.

6.  Perception Is Reality

Very important: Do your customers consider you their equal? Are you perceived as a Vendor? A Business Partner? Or, a Strategic Resource? 

Ideally you are a strategic resource – one that provides value without selling anything.  If a customer will call and ask for your advice on an issue unrelated to your solution, this demonstrates just how highly that customer thinks of your opinion.  But how do you get to be that trusted resource?  Be a professional, provide value before asking for anything, provide insight, and articulate ROI. 

7. Use your Tools

There are many great tools available to us today from a sales enablement perspective. Because we have so many options, choosing the right tools becomes critical.  To make the right chose, determine your needs first.  Ask questions to determine where you need to be, or would like to be in order to be more efficient and then scope out possible solutions. The more you understand your needs the better the results will be to narrow the field and make the right selection.  

To put things in perspective, you can be making decisions around any number of these tools:  social media, CRM, list acquisition, contact acquisition, marketing automation, lead and demand generation and resources, auto call/email/voicemail…. You get the picture.  You need to understand your needs and where you want to be.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

About Chris Cummins

Chris is the VP of Sales with Skillsoft.  With more than 20 years experience in nearly every function of sales, he is a professional sales person and has made a career in an environment that he immensely enjoys and thrives in.  He has interviewed, hired, trained, coached and managed literally hundreds of sales people all over North America.  

Leadership 101 – Respect the Skills of Staff

When I was still at university, I learned a most valuable lesson in managing and leadership: the value of respecting the skills of staff, and the merit of letting staff employ these skills unimpeded by delusions that the manager can improve things by intervening.

Leadership 101 - Management

Image courtesy of philmckinney.com

My Experience

One summer I worked on board a hydrographic ship which was charting the ocean bottom off Newfoundland, Canada. The area of interest was a high point known as the Virgin Shoals. The method of surveying this area was to capture water depths at regular intervals, in a star pattern with the centre point of the star being Virgin Shoals. Every 4-hour shift, the hydrographer in charge (my job) would plot the latitude, longitude and depth at 5 minute intervals. We’d survey a line, and at the end of a line the helmsman would be instructed to turn the ship and start a different line heading back towards the centre of the star at a slightly different angle. If the plotting of the points indicated the ship was not on a straight line, the hydrographer would direct the helmsman to adjust the heading a little bit so the points would all be along a straight line. The other people doing this work on other shifts were seasoned hydrographers, not university students, and not university trained. They were a little contemptuous of a university type presuming to be able to do this kind of work.

Valuing Expertise

Leadership 101 Mary Ogilvie

Mary Ogilvie

When I worked my shift, the helmsman was an older chap, and had spent his life steering ships. I took over from a fellow who obviously couldn’t wait to see what kind of a mess I would make of the night’s work. Every 5 minutes I plotted the readings, and they looked great to me. When the line was over I said to the helmsman, looks like we should turn around now, and we started plotting another line. He kept the ship straight, and on the right angles, and at the end of my shift our lines were the straightest, neatest of anyone’s. Instead of saying “starboard 200 degrees” or whatever, I just let the helmsman do what he already knew how to do. Instead of directing minor course changes as the line progressed, I just let him make the decisions about how to keep the ship straight. The next day my colleagues spent all their spare time replotting our path to try to prove I had fudged it. All that I had done to get these great sounding lines was to let the helmsman do his job – one he knew a whole lot more about that I did. For me I learned quickly that leadership didn’t mean knowing it all, but rather knowing when your team knew what to do and to let them do it. It was a lesson the other hydrographers had yet to learn.

There are of course times when a manager must coach, or direct, or even discipline. And there are lots of articles and courses to help you do these things well. But skilled trained staff can often be more productive if they are afforded respect for their abilities, with words of encouragement rather than suggestions for improvement that may well be unfounded, and counterproductive. Valuing expertise and experience served me well over the course of my career and in every leadership role that I had. I am glad that I learned it early.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

About Mary Ogilvie:

Mary Ogilvie is a professional engineer, having graduated from UNB with a BSc (Survey) in 1972.  After a year with a private survey firm in British Columbia she returned to New Brunswick to work with the newly formed land registration and information service (LRIS) as a research analyst.  LRIS became the New Brunswick Geographic Information Corporation (NBGIC) and then Service New Brunswick (SNB).   During this time Mary oversaw leading edge innovations in digital mapping, creation of products from digital topographic data, and distribution of digital map data.

Mary retired from SNB in 2004 and at the time was the Vice President, Development.  In that capacity she oversaw the major development projects for SNB such as PLANET, Business Registry, Electronic Service Delivery.  She also oversaw the Information Technology unit, which provided desk top, networking  and other services for the organization, and looked after the unit responsible for business development – convincing departments and municipalities to have their service delivery work handled by SNB.  During this time she was also responsible with the arrangements with private sector firms for the marketing of SNB owned software such as PLANET, PPR and G-Biz.

After retirement Mary consulted on several projects, taking her to, Saskatchewan, Chile, South Africa  and Vermont.  She now spends her time travelling, looking after grandkids, and playing keyboard in Rock Revival, a local rock and roll band.