This week marks the 18th year I have been on my own as a business consultant. 18 is recognized in many cultures as the age of majority when a teenager enters adulthood. In America, 18-year-olds can vote and are expected to register for the armed forces. In fact, a lot of things change for 18-year olds on their birthdays.

In the Jewish religion 18 is a lucky number. The number 18 is derived from the two Hebrew letters chet (8) and yud (10) and put together they spell chai meaning “alive.”  You’ll often here Jews toast each other “L’Chaim” meaning “to life!” (Call me if you want help with the pronunciation.)

As of this morning, I’ve helped 99 different enterprises with sales over these last 18 years. I feel very lucky.  Some were coaching clients, but many were small and mid-sized companies looking to improve their sales performance through my Proven Process.  When I consider the lessons I’ve tried to impart to my clients, these 18 things came to mind.  I’m sure there are more. 

  1. Sales is a confidence game: At the very least, sellers must be able to confidently describe who they help, how, the payoff, and next steps. 
  2. Sellers who aren’t teaching things to their prospects are unnecessary and will be replaced by other sales people or automation.
  3. Being able to build a business case is a core sales skill.
  4. Being direct is not the same as being pushy.
  5. While many marketers and product managers are terrific, too many don’t know how to assemble or package their output for sellers to use in actual conversations. 
  6. Most sellers show off their product or demonstrate too soon. 
  7. Successful sales people work hard; too many non-sales people don’t appreciate how much work it takes.
  8. It’s rare to find a successful sales person who can’t write well; Too many sellers don’t ask for help with their writing.
  9. Build trust before rapport.
  10. Don’t mess with a streak: If what you are doing is working, keep doing it.
  11. If what you are doing isn’t working, find a coach or figure out, critique or revise your process
  12. In the absence of product-market fit issues or macro-economic issues, sellers fail for the same reason kids who don’t have learning disabilities get bad grades: not working hard enough or don’t understand the material (product or process). 
  13. Sellers who are not comfortable asking hard questions are in the wrong profession.  
  14. New sales managers like parents and teachers must start out requiring high accountability and discipline, and later they can loosen up; the reverse never works.
  15.  In technology sales, the less you discuss the implementation pre-close, the more you lose or the customer experience suffers meaning you don’t get a success story or a reference.  
  16. More sellers and sales managers fail due to a lack of process and messaging preparation from the executive team than from lack of skill. 
  17. Successful sellers pivot to project management when they start getting evaluative questions from prospects. 
  18. You can do everything right as a seller and still lose to a name competitor or no-decision; all you can hope for is that your appropriate and thoughtful process-driven activities ratchet up the probability of success. 

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.  What would you add?  What are you not so sure about?  Want to talk about it?  Grab 30 Minutes to chat about sales with me at

Maybe, in November 2040 I’ll add another 18.  But, for now…


SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

My terrific Vistage Chair Lisa Dugan lead our Trusted Advisor group in an “I am From” exercise last month at our retreat.  Many of us appreciate where we’ve come from to get to where we are now.  We don’t, however, always include the soft or jagged details of our lives that make us who we are in conversation.  When we fail to include them in talking with others, they get an incomplete view of us, for better or worse.  Check out the link above and think about it:  What would you tell me if I asked, “Where are you from?” 

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

While googling and thinking about this lesson, I noticed that one of my favorite movies debuted in 2004, 18 years ago.  Don’t laugh, it’s the film adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks book, “The Notebook.” The cast starring Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner and Gena Rowlands is terrific. The story will make you laugh and cry.  I like it so much I wonder if people who don’t like it actually have a heart.  Just kidding…. Sorta. 

Good Selling!