Closers (...by Canon)

As the former chair and CEO of the global hotel and travel company Carlson, Marilyn Carlson Nelson has spent a lifetime helping companies enhance relationships with employees and clients through incentive travel experiences. We spoke with her recently about the power of travel to build strong bonds. A lot has changed in the travel industry over the past several decades, but Carlson says in many ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

At first blush, Laurie Ruettimann is a former corporate human resources director who uses her brassy blog (LaurieRuettimann.com) to upbraid the women (yes, they are still predominantly women) who continue to fight the HR fight in cubicles around the world. First impressions aren’t all wrong. But Ruettimann has some lessons to impart on managers as well, starting with the fact that HR isn’t here to clean up their messes.

In his new book “Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion,” journalist David Zweig explores the work of some top-performing professionals in behind-the-scenes positions. These intrinsically motivated workers are critically important to the high-profile projects they are involved with, but the general public is none the wiser – and the Invisibles are just fine with that.

High-tech workers love their incentive stock options, but Microsoft’s Michele Samoulides says that incentive travel programs are some of the software giant’s most effective motivators. She runs the company’s annual Gold Club program, which recognizes more than 2,000 sales professionals, human resources professionals, administrative assistants and other employees worldwide through three regional incentive programs.

In her book, “Game Time: Learn to Talk Sports In 5 Minutes a Day for Business,” Seattle sports broadcaster Jen Mueller states that a lack of sports knowledge can cost you money. You don’t need to be able to break down Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, but knowing enough to realize that a fast break isn’t referencing a quick trip to the locker room is a good start.

In her new book, “Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World,” sales strategist Jill Konrath emphasizes the importance of strong starts with new prospects. Konrath knows a thing or two about starting strong. Her first book, “Selling to Big Companies,” was named one of Fortune magazine’s “Must Reads” for salespeople, and is on a number of all-time top 10 lists for sales books.

When he was 12, Mark Cuban sold garbage bags to pay for an expensive pair of basketball shoes. An entrepreneur was born and the business world hasn't been the same. Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association, Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures, and the chairman of AXS TV. He is also one of four “shark” investors on the TV series “Shark Tank.” He recently answered some questions via an email exchange with Sales & Marketing Management.

Former New York Times foreign correspondent Elizabeth Becker circled the world to report on the global impact of travel as a product. Her book, “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism,” was published earlier this year. It is a comprehensive and often discouraging report on the impact of tourism in a world where no corner is left untraipsed. We focused our discussion on incentive travel and experiencing new places as a group.

A recent New Yorker feature on Apollo Robbins described the Las Vegas-based entertainer as a “theatrical pickpocket” who, in pursuit of his craft, has incorporated principles from aikido, sales and Latin ballroom dancing. The sales part left us curious (OK, the aikido and ballroom dancing did, too), so we gave him a call.

Daniel Pink's new book, “To Sell Is Human,” offers a fresh look at the art and science of selling and states that everyone is in sales in one fashion or another.

Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden emerged on the employee engagement scene in 1998 as the “cow guys” after the publication of their book, “Contented Cows Give Better Milk: The Plain Truth About Employee Relations and Your Bottom Line.” Fourteen years later, they’re still crusading for building better workplaces. Now, the duo has published “Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk,” in which they share new stories, showcase new companies and provide new evidence that creating a focused, engaged and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line. We spoke with Catlette shortly before the book’s July 3 publication.

If you’re business as usual, a lot of the methodologies and training that worked in sales 10 years ago just aren’t enough today. The position of sales is more demanding, you need to be more sophisticated, and analytics can help drive that. But this is an incredible time to be in sales.

Before he became a world-renowned depicter of the banality of corporate America with his “Dilbert” comic strip, Scott Adams was rejected for an arts school, and instead earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Hartwick College and an MBA in economics and management from the University of California-Berkeley. In 1997, at the invitation of Logitech CEO Pierluigi Zappacosta, Adams, wearing a wig and false mustache, successfully impersonated a management consultant and tricked Logitech managers into adopting a mission statement that he described as “so impossibly complicated that it has no real content whatsoever.”

Matthew Dixon is Managing Director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Service Practice. Brent Adamson is Senior Director of the Sales Executive Council, a division of the Sales and Service Practice. Their book “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” was published in November 2011 by Portfolio/Penguin.

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