Don’t Be a Cart-Firster

I’m a guest blogger, too!  Check out SalesReformSchool “on the road” by reading Uncool Sales Practices: Don’t Be a “Cart-Firster” — my first post on the KiteDesk blog at

KiteDesk Goes to School

Sean Burke, CEO of my client KiteDesk, wrote this blog post   – about our work together. If you sell to other businesses and need new customers, get to know Kitedesk and tell them I sent you. KD

Are You Giving Good Phone?

Do you give good phone?

Today, I called a stranger to buy football tickets.

I had found the nice lady on the other end of the phone through her craigslist “for sale” posting.  She had suggested in her listing that interested buyers text her to check availability.  I did, and after she responded I called her.  After introducing myself, I told her, yes, I wanted her tickets and asked her the price.  I then told her the price was fine and that I intended to take my daughter for her 20th birthday.  To my surprise, she said, “You sound like a nice person” and proceeded to knock $15 off the price.  SOLD!IMG_3515

This conversation got me thinking about two pieces of advice on telephone conversation behavior I often give participants in my workshops and coaching sessions:

Be nice and even though you have prepared for the conversation with some sales messaging tools or script, be yourself.

Salespeople often need something from the people we talk to on the phone such as access to others, time on a busy schedule, or any of the many little agreements it might take to make a sale.  The people on the other end of the phone are people too and deserve your respect as human beings. So, be nice.

And be yourself by letting people see the real you, that you have quirks and vulnerabilities  (I need these tickets to bring my daughter birthday happiness).

They may do something for you in return for you giving good phone.

Go Falcons! RISE UP!!

SalesReformSchool is a consulting company that educates its clients in three areas: Sales Process, Sales Messaging and Sales Behaviors. Clients improve through workshops, one-on-one or group coaching, keynote addresses and consulting engagements. Interested? Contact Adam Shapiro at or 404-798-8397.

Where do you go to School?

I have been a member of a Vistage Trusted Advisor group for four years. For me, the best benefit of Vistage is not the valuable business contacts, but rather the opportunity that paying attention to the speakers gives me for real growth and improvement.  I don’t have an MBA. Instead, I attend the graduate business school of Vistage. (Side note:  Our group is also a safe place for announcing success without feeling like we are bragging.)

Here’s one example of Vistage as MBA School. I taught a private workshop over two different half days last week. For this workshop, I customized my materials to fit the client’s sales process, sales messaging and sales behaviors so we could truly implement a sales culture.  In the past, I’ve been cocky enough (surprise) to believe that I was keeping my audiences’ attention throughout my workshops, and that my stuff was going to stick.  Even still, a little voice inside my head always worried that I wasn’t doing enough to insure success.

About 10 days prior to this recent workshop, our Vistage chair Larry Hart brought in Dr. Stuart Zola, Ph.D to speak to us on the “The Challenge of Dual Realities.” Along with introducing us to impressive concepts about memory retention and time, Dr. Zola went through Tony Buzan’s the Most Important Graph in the World. I won’t do it justice here, but the long-story-short is that in any story, episode, presentation, speech, meeting, or even just a list, we remember certain things better than others due to their nature or placement within the event. It got me thinking – any time you have a major presentation/sales call/speech – make sure to respect the MIG!

Hmmm… I knew that in less than two weeks I had to do a workshop in front of more than a dozen 20-somethings (and 17 total), and I was worried this could quickly devolve into an episode of Short Attention Span Theater. So, over the next week, I reviewed my slides, exercises, stories, notes etc. with the lens of the MIG – The Most Important Graph.  I made a few changes and Whamm-O! – I felt bullet proof!

No little voice this time.

Primacy – check.

Recency – check.

A couple Von Restorffs – Check.

An important point repeated throughout – check.

Did it all work out?  Well…

After Day 1, the Sales Manager  – the guy charged with making things happen post-workshop – sent me this note:


Thank you for a great session today. The feedback from everyone I spoke to (most everyone) was extremely positive…I learned a lot and I appreciate it. See you tomorrow.

And then this:

Very early on Day 1, I showed the It’s Not About the Nail video.  Definitely, a Von Restorff item, and maybe early enough to cover “primacy.”  Early the next morning (Day 2) a young woman reported to the group how in the past she reacted to her boyfriend’s complaining about his job by immediately offering up “fixes.” Well, the previous night he complained again, but this time she first showed empathy, “I can totally understand how that would bother you,”  as portrayed in the video and the first sales behavior – Active Listening – that I introduce. She said his face lit up warmly like never before.  The group started razzing her that now she needs to get ready for him to “put a ring on her finger.”


That was real growth, and it nearly brought a tear to my eye.  Imagine how much better she will be on sales calls when a prospect brings up an objection or a concern!

Was it the Von Restorff effect or Primacy? We’ll never know. I do know, however, that Day 2 was a breeze because I was confident I had implemented the Most Important Graph in the World. And I learned it from Dr. Zola thanks to Vistage.

So, check out the MIG and Vistage and ask yourself: Where can I get further schooling?

Your First Sales Process

I recently gave this “101 level” sales process presentation to the executive team at a small B2B technology company who wanted a launching off point for their sales culture.  Immediately, they saw how sales process improves on-boarding, forecasting, meeting planning and customer relationships.  Thoughts?

Take Control + Adult Language = Higher Batting Average

A friend of mine, Let’s call him Joe, asked me to get together with him for breakfast last week. I had a feeling this was going to be a coaching breakfast. I know Joe through another business contact and talking shop mostly frames our relationship. That’s okay – I like Joe. He has a wonderfully sunny disposition and lives a life different from mine – certainly the ingredients for an enjoyable morning.

Generally speaking, Joe sells financial products for a wholesaler to small financial advisers. In a sense, he has a bunch of “products” on his truck that his market needs. His niche of small investment advisors reside mostly outside of major metropolitan areas. These advisers don’t get direct attention from the big financial institutions, so they need the education, attention, and breadth of products that Joe’s firm provides.

Sure enough after swapping catch-up stories about our wives and kids, lifestyles, etc. I asked Joe, “So, how’s biz? What’s going on?”

Joe’s response was typical Joe. Joe’s is a warm and optimistic soul. He’s passionate and eager to please.

“It’s going great. In some respects, my numbers are terrific. My team is great and I love the company I’m working for. I’ve got a full schedule of appointments, face-to-face meetings this week, with a good mix of existing and potential new clients.”

I let him sit, marinating on his comments. I didn’t say a word, because I knew what was coming next.

“But, I’ve GOT to start closing more cases. That’s what we call it when insurance opportunities go to underwriting or offers for our other financial products go to agreement.”

batterOnce again: Lots of at-bats, not a lot of hits. I’ve heard this lament in every industry I’ve worked with – tech, consulting, home services, travel, home remodeling, software, industrial products, etc. Usually, it’s a sales rep or an executive asking how to improve the seller’s batting average.

So, I asked Joe to go through these initial meetings, what’s going on exactly inside of those meetings with financial advisors?

Generally, it seemed the “agenda post facto” went something like this:

  1. Rapport building about the drive down, the weather, something cool about the town or office building, hometown, etc.
  2. Canned intro into Joe’s company and what they provide
  3. “If you can take a little time, maybe we can see if any of our products are appropriate for your ‘Book”” (A “book”, is the financial advisers customer list.)
  4. Offer to provide a tool/calculator that figures out if there are matches between Joe’s products and clients in the Book.
  5. Response from the advisor: “Thanks for coming down, I’ll think about it.”

Joe then admitted that he struggles with “The Ask” or the result that he is looking for out of the meeting. That is, what exactly should he be going for in this meeting?

I saw two areas for improvement. Remember Joe’s prospect conversations are not cold calls; the advisor has invited Joe to the office for a meeting.

First, I suggested that Joe stop teaching and start asking.

Joe’s products broadly solve three challenges a financial advisor often is asked by, or suggests to his high net worth clients. Joe can lay these three out in expert fashion.  The only way Joe makes money is for someone to match up clients (end-users) with at least one of three challenges, provide a product and write a contract.

So, I poked Joe: Why aren’t you laying your cards out on the table early and confidently? Something like this:

“I’m willing to bet you are in a similar position as our other advisor-clients – your book includes clients who should be worried about at least one of these three areas. My goal today is for us together to pinpoint individuals in your book for whom my products would be appropriate. How do we accomplish that?”

And then STOP TALKING. The advisor will then qualify or disqualify himself as worthy of your time.

In suggesting this tack, I’m borrowing heavily from two sources with my suggested language:

  1. Simon Sinek’s Starting with Why. Let’s be totally clear on these sales calls about your intention and objective. Let’s not beat around the bush and allow anyone to think that the relationship is more important than you you both accomplishing your purposes. This language clearly shows in the beginning or at least very early (the start) WHY you are schlepping to all these small offices in small southeastern cities.
  2. We know from The Challenger Sale, that the most successful sales people do a few things very well. Focusing on one particular thing for Joe’s purpose: They take control of the sales cycle. Joe shouldn’t wait for the advisor to find the time to call Joe up and ask for help identifying candidate clients for Joe’s products. Or wait for the advisor to have a client call and slap his forehead, “Eureka, I need to call Joe.” No, he should ask in no uncertain terms how the two of them can go about parsing “the book” looking for clients who would be well served with Joe’s products.

If the advisor doesn’t leap at the request to review “the book”, Joe should politely ask, “Why not? And if you need help, we – you and me – can use this tool my firm created to make it easy for you. We’ve been helping advisors like you help their clients for 12 years, how do we get started?” This is taking control of the sales process by asking direct peer-to-peer questions.

The peer-to-peer comment is clue to my next suggestion relating to taking control of the sales process. I told Joe that he comes off as such a nice guy in person, that his language often fails him. Too often, when I asked him to role play with me like he does in meetings, I heard this, or something close:

Maybe, we can spend a little bit of time going over your book?

Perhaps, we have some products that can help?

Might we talk about your client base?

Joe is already such a nice guy with a great disposition and speaking style, his words like those above in bold, undermine his intentions. They give power over to his prospects and give them an out.

Maybe, maybe not.

Perhaps, perhaps not.

A little bit, can I please have some of your precious time?

Instead, Joe should set up his message as a best practice and assume the advisor wants to follow him.

How should we go over your book against our three product areas?

Which product group of mine is most appropriate for your book?

Do you want to talk about your client base now or schedule another time?

This is borrowing heavily from the transactional analysis model from psychology. If you use weak language you are putting yourself in the child position and elevating the prospect to parent. Instead use strong language and at least achieve adult-adult communication.  This way your market will treat you with the respect you deserve as equals.

So, Joe left breakfast fortified with a couple key ideas and some scripting to hold actionable conversations. I’m looking forward to hearing about his higher batting average.

What’s your Dirty Dozen?

(reposting on request)

Here’s a frequent conversation I have with friends, colleagues, prospects, clients:

FRIEND: How do you get your clients?

ME: It’s a lot of conversations like this one.

FRIEND quizzical look on his face: What do you mean?

ME: Well, when I talk to people about what I do for a living, it’s my opening to inform them about my Dirty Dozen.

FRIEND: Your what?

ME: In any business, but especially Business to Business sales, the issues a company helps others overcome can be thought of as the more-than-annoying issues that your clients face every day or at least should worry about every day. If they don’t deal with them, they fester and can damage the whole enterprise. These pests remind me of the rag-tag delinquents and convicts Lee Marvin whipped into shape in the movie of the same name.

If everyone I know, knows the issues or concerns that my clients have that I help them address and overcome, then they become my advertising and marketing team. If they experience any of my Dirty Dozen or know of someone else who is, it’s my goal that they remember to think of me. If I just talk about my features or my “stuff” then I am leaving it up to my audience to figure out when they or one of their contacts would need what I have to offer.dirtydozen

FRIEND: So, what’s your “Dirty Dozen”?

ME: well, I’m not about to go into a solilloquy, instead I rattle off a few of the below concerns sales and marketing execs face –

  1. No process for ensuring that sellers are putting out the same message in sales conversations as the executive team is creating on a higher level – that is, marketing and sales are not integrated.
  2. Prospects attempt to treat what they sell as a commodity
  3. Sales cycles inexplicably long and expensive
  4. Salespeople find themselves having to unseat an incumbent’s product or service
  5. Maintaining the ‘status quo” one of their primary competitors
  6. It takes too long for new hires to make their first sale or management wants to insure a quicker time to first sale.
  7. Salespeople too often “Wing-it” and rely on the product too early in the sales cycle, instead of having well thought out conversations with the buyers about goals, objectives, challenges and needs
  8. The decision to purchase has to be approved by ‘multiple executives’ who have diverse business issues and who are typically risk averse
  9. Prospects require your product or service to demonstrate a quick and clear cost-versus-benefit analysis even to be considered
  10. What they sell requires a major change in thinking by your prospect
  11. The team is composed of veterans who each bring to the job their own way of selling with no unified dictionary of terms and processes or less seasoned folks with no process at all; It is hard to provide skill and opportunity coaching with everyone doing their own thing.
  12. Within the sales team, there is not a process for sharing information on opportunities

See, in any company, if you are a marketer, it’s your job to condition the market to think of your company when a particular goal, issue or concern arises. For me, my customer’s goal is usually to improve sales performance, but that is too general and broad. My Dirty Dozen, I hope, addresses everyday issues that trouble CEOs and their leadership teams. When they do, I want folks to think of me. By the way, many smart execs tell me that they want a corporate culture where EVERYONE wants to be at least helping drive sales and revenue. Loading up employees with the Dirty Dozen is a good first step.

FRIEND: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, but I am in sales; finding new prospects, that’s marketing’s job, you just said so.

ME: If you don’t hit your sales number, does your boss want to hear that marketing is not doing it’s job? Ultimately, your pipeline is your responsibility. Also, don’t your shortest sales cycles come from referrals!? They do for me. Arming your contacts with YOUR company’s DIRTY DOZEN will start the referral engine. Sorry for the mixed metaphor. Ms. Kelly – my High School English teacher would not be pleased.

Soooo, what is YOUR Dirty Dozen?

Personally, I am not one to thrust what I do for a living onto others. That’s just me, I am not comfortable doing that. I try not to force rapport. For me, rapport doesn’t work and can be a negative unless I have gained some amount of trust. And as I have said before, I agree with Covey that trust = sincerity + competence.

When asked, however, “So, what do you do for a living?” or specifically about my business, like above, I want to make sure I am prepared. Consider this: At a trade show, cocktail party, kid’s soccer tournament, if you or ANYONE in your company is asked “what you do for a living or what does your company do?”, can you answer in a way that could eventually generate a referral? Or would the listener have to figure out for themselves, when they would need it, whatever it is?

Your Dirty Dozen can be your best weapon to boost your pipeline!

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