Today’s Lesson: Receiving Feedback

Constant improvement is one of my bedrock principles for starting SalesReformSchool 12+ years ago. Recently, however, I received written feedback from a post accusing me of not modeling Active Listening in my public discourse like I teach my clients. It knocked me back on my heels.   Had I slipped or not really improved?

I immediately became defensive in my head.

“You’re accusing me? How dare you.”

“Who are you to write that?”

“No way, can’t be right!”

“You’re just an internet troll.”

I trashed it. Then, I took a deep breath.

“What if he is right?”

Another deep breath.

“No, wrong question.

Assuming he’s right, what do I do about it?”

Whenever we receive criticism, personally or professionally, our natural inclination is to either get defensive or shut down. It’s the fight or flight instinct. If our goal, however, is constant improvement then take the leap of faith. AGREE with the criticism and consider what you should do to correct the suggested flaw. See, there’s no downside in accepting the criticism, as long as it’s in line with your values.

How might this work in sales?

If your sales manager says you are interrupting your prospects too much, don’t argue the point. Accept it. The next time you are speaking with a prospect, take an extra pause before speaking to check whether you are interrupting.

If your subject matter expert says you are not preparing them enough for a conference call or demo, resist thinking, “Geez, all I do is talk to you about what to say and not say.” Instead, ask them, “How do you think we should prepare together?” Then create a preparation process.

If a colleague hears you on the phone and offers the unsolicited advice, “Man, you talk SO much on your calls,” don’t sneer at them to mind their own business. Be grateful for the feedback and start listening to yourself in conversations with an internal clock. Maybe you ARE too verbose.

Me? I’m going to try hard to make sure I am listening to my own advice whether I need to or not: Acknowledge, Clarify and Recap. And to improve even more I’d like to take Aaron Burr’s advice from the musical Hamilton: Talk Less, Smile More.

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

Sticking with the same theme of continuous improvement – I learned how to perform a meeting retrospective from a fabulous facilitation course I took from Leadership Strategies, Inc. At the end of each workshop or day within a workshop, I ask the participants to list out all the things they liked about the day we spent together. They can list anything ranging from that day’s content and processes to the lunch menu.  These are the ‘Plusses” or “+s.” I also ask for any gaps or things they didn’t like, appreciate, or understand or even agree with about the day or the day’s lessons. Everything is fair game.

These are the “Deltas” or “Δs”. Sure, it’s a little “Meet the Fokker’s-ish” to call them deltas rather than minuses, but the theme is improvement, and I can’t improve if I don’t know the gaps or deltas. Then I go around the room listing and listening to what everyone noted under + and Δ columns on a board for all to see. The rules for me: Document and seek clarification, but resist discussing or defending. I complete the process by reviewing the board, especially the Δ column, to see what I need to fix or improve. Please note though, that I am rarely responsible for the lunch menu.

My agile software development tools client tells me this is in line with the “Agile Sprint Retrospective.” I like that. Here’s an example from a workshop this month –


SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

“We are not working together as a team!” If you’ve received this criticism and are in the Atlanta metropolitan area, try an escape room at BRAINSTORM ESCAPEGAMES. These games are a fun way to check whether your team is listening to each other and collaborating towards common goals. I’ve secured the promo code SALESREFORMSCHOOL for you to get 20% off.

Good Selling!

Adam signature

P.S.   Did you like this post? Any comments you’d like to share?  Please post a comment below or  email me.  Also, please consider sharing this post!

Through SalesReformSchool, I am available to you for Sales Process Design, Sales Messaging Creation, On-boarding/In-boarding Sales Team Workshops, Keynote Addresses, Facilitation, Group or One-on-One Coaching, Pipeline Reviews and other Sales Management Consulting.

Today’s Lesson: Three Sales Archetypes

Only 54.6 percent of sales professionals produce enough revenue to meet quota according to CSO Insights 2015 Sales Compensation and Performance Management Study.

And, it’s the rare prospect that actually wants to hear from a sales rep.

What’s a senior executive to do?

In many cases, the answer to the above double head shaker has been spending good money on tools and consultants to fill your funnels with “Good Leads.” Yet, when I ask leaders if they are closing more business or doing so in a repeatable and intentional way, they answer “NO “ to one or both questions.

What’s going on?  What I have found is that sales reps are not prepared for the rest of the sales cycle.

BEING REPEATABLE AND INTENTIONAL IN SALES means you are prepared to succeed.

In working with clients, I’ve identified three areas of sales preparedness:

  1. Process – the steps to take in an opportunity from first initiation to close;
  2. Messaging – the conversation models or scripts and recap templates utilized within each step of the process; and
  3. Behaviors – the sales actions and mannerisms sellers exhibit in an opportunity that map to the company culture.

And unfortunately, unlike Meatloaf, two out of three is bad.  You may recognize these “two out of three” archetypes on your sales team.

The Auditor follows an excellent process and messaging but doesn’t care to exhibit excellent behaviors.  This seller risks being viewed as robotic, insincere or worse.

Example – The Auditor exhibits poor listening skills increasing the probability that the buyer feels she doesn’t care to “get” them.

Then, there’s the Surfer Dude
This seller talks a great game with excellent messaging and behaviors – everybody loves this guy, but he lacks a real process.  Surfer Dude risks losing his bearings in an opportunity and being out of alignment with buyers. He often fails to qualify or close or even closes prematurely.

Example – By not documenting the buyer’s evaluation process, the seller has a limited view of the buyer’s decision-making steps and timing.

Finally, you may have some Gamblers on your team. The Gambler has excellent process and behaviors but rather than prepare, she likes to just roll the dice.  The Gambler seems to always be winging-it.  They risk missing out on building trust or figuring out the current situation.  By just rolling the dice, the Gambler sometimes gets lucky, but too often loses to “no decision” or a named competitor.

Example – the unprepared seller who forgets to ask questions about the value of their solution to the buyer may discount too much or fail to have the buyer make the purchase a priority.

So, what are you doing to prepare your sales force?   Are you arming them with a best practices sales processes and messaging?  What are you doing to ensure their behaviors are in line with your company culture and values? By not checking on all three components of a professional sales force, you risk enabling your Auditors, Surfer Dudes and Gamblers.

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

Like it or not, we all have to put together slide decks for sales meetings.  Here’s one of the best posts ever on constructing a winning sales deck.  And here’s where you should sit.

SalesReformSchool Extracurricular

I love to cook.  I dazzled a recent dinner party with these. And impressed at another with these.  Oops, perhaps these two recipes should have been posted above in the “Food for Thought” section.

That’s all for today.

Good Selling (and eating)!

P.S. Did you like this email? Any comments you’d like to share?  Please post a reply at SalesReformSchool or  email me and consider sharing this post!

Through SalesReformSchool, I am available to you for Sales Process Design, Sales Messaging Creation, On-boarding/In-boarding Sales Team Workshops, Keynote Addresses, Facilitation, Group or One-on-One Coaching, Pipeline Reviews and other Sales Management Consulting.

Five Questions to Ask if your Deals are Not Closing: Who, What, How, When, and Why

Last week, I led a two hour seminar at a client’s annual meeting of partners and agents – think 40 B2B sales people and executives.

The President had asked for 2 hours on closing skills to be presented to a group of sales professionals and executives at partner/agent companies.  We talked about what she meant by that and came up with “Five Questions to Ask if Your Deals are Not Closing:  Who, What, How, When, and Why”.  I put together an interactive and fun seminar that included four exercises.  I had 50 people going through group brainstorms, role plays and Q&A.  They seemed to both enjoy it and benefit.
I posted my presentation to Slideshare.  You can watch it below.
  If it’s hard to follow due to it being mostly pictures, I’d be glad to walk you through in a virtual gotomeeting room.   In addition to this ppt, I used a 4 page handout for exercises I spread throughout the two hours.

Good Selling.

Vistage All-City Conference – My Notes

I attended the Vistage All-City meeting in Atlanta yesterday.  Vistage describes itself as “The World’s Leading Chief Executive Organization.”  I would guess around 300 CEOs, key executives and “Trusted Advisors” attended.  I am a member Larry Hart’s TA group.

Before lunch, there were three breakout sessions: one on technology, another on fitness and a third on best places to work. After lunch, best –selling author Keith McFarland gave a keynote presentation, “Getting Breakthrough Results.”   Throughout the day, I took notes on my Ipad, which I will share with you in two parts. If you want, you can skip to Part 2.

Aside:  I am really enjoying this move away from handwritten or laptop note taking for three reasons:  My penmanship is atrocious; the Ipad automatically emails me my notes which I can then copy, paste and edit without having to re-transcribe; and note taking on the Ipad is much less awkward than on a laptop.

Part 1

In the morning, I sat in the breakout entitled, Technology Panel: What every CEO Needs to Know about Digital Megatrends.  Scott Lutz of SAP led this discussion.  That’s a big topic for only one hour, and sure enough the roomful of CEOs and other high powered execs somewhat sabotaged the presentation.  If you reviewed a transcript you would guess the topic was “A 101 level Understanding of Cloud Computing” – there was a lot Q & A on “the cloud.”  Nevertheless, Lutz did a good job answering questions and a least describing an outline of what CEOs are paying attention to or at least should be.

Lutz said that CEOs today are tackling the following big five challenges:

1)    Preparing to compete with global competition both here and there;

2)    Security, collaboration and effectiveness of an increasingly tethered rather than physically present workforce;

3)    Taking business to near real time;

4)    Engaging with hyper informed customer; and

5)    Keeping an eye on reinventing the business model before competitors do it for them.

Since this was a breakout on “Digital Megatrends”, Lutz then listed four technology areas whose capabilities might help CEOs sleep at night:

1)    Cloud computing – that is, web accessible core applications which are highly scalable and deployable (this took up a large amount of time, but the audience was engaged and appreciative);

2)    Mobility;

3)    Analytics – driven by a CEO’s need to access the data he or she really needs to make decisions. Since Vistage is made up of small and medium size companies, the member CEOs often wear many hats.  They need to have access to information and analysis relating to sales, operations, finance, etc. at their fingertips, when they need it; and

4)    Social media.

Lutz commented that highly effective CEOs should figure out how these technologies can help them make decisions. Where to start? Know the answers to four questions:

1)    Where is your data?

2)    What decisions do I need to make?

3)    What are the sources of value?

4)    How can I control and consume data?

At this point, many in the audience started to squirm.  One gentleman asked, appropriately, “How does a CEO keep up and get unfiltered new info on technology?”

Lutz, who is clearly one of the well informed, suggested starting with these news and information outlets (I believe in this order):

1)    The Wall Street Journal Online

2)    USAToday online

3)    Silicon Valley online.  I believe he is referring to

4)    Analysts such as Saugatuck Technology

Those are my notes from the morning breakout session.  Later, possibly tomorrow, I’ll post Part 2 – my notes from Keith McFarland’s keynote address.

Five Minutes on Creating Great Presentations

Maybe the best 5 minute investment I’ll make today – ppt on creating awesome presentations –

A warm review on a cold day

Posted 11/3/10 By Dan Baldwin, TA Executive Director, 951-251-5155 email 


Free Kindle and Facilitation Book with Every Class from Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company



Wow, I just read that my client Leadership Strategies is giving away a free Kindle with attendance at one of their public workshops. If you lead meetings or workshops of any kind, you need the facilitation skills they teach.

Six years ago when I first started leading my own workshops, I took the Secrets of Facilitation class. It was invaluable. I learned a ton that I still use today including tools for openings, increasing audience participation, working through dysfunction, and much more.

I highly recommend you get your free kindle and take a class.

Good Selling!

Intro to Cross-Selling

How do you leverage success with one customer into a cross-selling opportunity with another?
I hope the below presentation that I delivered earlier this week helps.

View more presentations from Adam Shapiro.

Whither Mike Bosworth…

I’m often asked, “So, what is Mike Bosworth up to?” Here you go –

So, How’s it Going?

A year after helping a client of mine with their sales process implementation, the Sales Operations Manager (SOM) asked me to spend a half day facilitating a review and refresh of the sales process with the sales team.

Our agenda at the request of the SOM was the following:

  1. Review of the plusses of the sales process
  2. Details of the deltas (gaps) of the process and the implementation at their company
  3. Refresh the group on best practices when having an initial conversation with an interested prospect
  4. Best practices for over-the-phone sales calls
  5. What’s so important about “Artificial Patience”

I asked the shortest-tenured salesperson to take notes figuring he would gain most from this task.  Below are his notes with some elaboration and editing.

Aside – I learned the Plusses and Deltas tactic for audience participation from another client, Leadership Strategies (LSI).  LSI’s bailiwick is teaching folks how to be great facilitators.

Say you are in a meeting and you need feedback on an idea or program, or whatever.  Too often, you receive a lot of blank stares or repetitive “what she said” responses.  So, instead of asking for direct feedback, ask everyone to take two minutes to jot down the plusses or positive things about an idea or concept, then the negative ones or deltas on their own scratch paper.  Then, go around the room getting everyone’s plusses first, then the deltas and put them up on a white board or easel.

I often joke that this is the “Focker” facilitation tool.  In the movie “Meet the Fockers”, Ben Stiller’s parents loved Ben so much they never criticized him and overly praised him to the point of cherishing his 9th placed ribbons.  Similarly, we don’t want to upset anyone by labeling negative feedback as a “minus”, so we call it a delta, as in a process engineer’s “gap”.

I.  Plusses regarding the company’s sales process implementation

  1. It’s great having a structure
  2. Love the SOE [Sequence of Events, documenting the process the prospect says they will undertake to evaluate the sellers offering(s)]
  3. The Process reinforces that it is beneficial to treat prospects as unique, even if they are not.
  4. The Process Establishes Trust & Credibility
  5. It’s a Consultative not stereotypical approach
  6. Company-wide support around the sales process
  7. Product Specialists are motivated because they love process
  8. Company-wide alignment with Success Stories, Plausible Emergencies, and Usage Scenarios
  9. Not manipulation, rather based on persuasion
  10. Pausing throughout the process helps give the buyers room to express themselves and not feel hurried
  11. The Sales Process is all about the Customer and reinforces the sellers ability to Qualify/Disqualify
  12. Don’t forget you (sellers) have a role on demos – Bring it back to Value; Ask: “Does ‘this’ help with the discussed challenges?”; Ask:  “Are their other challenges you are experiencing that we have not addressed?”
  13. Important to get appropriate pushback from product specialists; they withhold resources if they see they are being brought into the opportunity too early, before it’s properly qualified
  14. Because the company has adopted the sales process top-down, managers know how to coach, manage.  They provide  a 2nd set of eyes on correspondence and a reality check – slapping down happy ears
  15. has been aligned with the Sales Process and now houses all info, so sellers live in it.

II.  Deltas regarding the company’s sales process implementation

  1. May be too formal/heavy based on audience; for example, need pared down champion letter for small opportunities
  2. Need more on how to do first call when they ask for a trial
  3. Need a balance between heavy qualifying and serving the prospect
  4. Need help w/ research about prospects businesses
  5. Compromise btw 30 day trial and customer’s evaluation process
  6. More help w/ e-mail correspondence such as with templates and language barriers
  7. How to deal w/ reclusive, distant (personality-wise) prospects- Suggestion:  rely on emails more than conversations
  8. When prospect is doing a trial, it’s tough to qualify from lead to opportunity – Suggestion:  wait a little for the prospect to gain familiarity then call to ask some light diagnostic questions.  If eager to talk, go to full solution development.
  9. SOE not getting designed results w/ losses, need to figure out qualification questions when prospect receives SOE less than enthusiastically.
  10. No one at prospect has time to discuss the current situation – challenges, issues, goals, objectives [comment – so, find others to talk to).

III.  Warm/Initial Interest Calls:

Do Research On front end.  Then build credibility and rapport with the following

  • I am a Certified ____________ (at this company, all salespeople hold particular industry-recognized certifications)….
  • Are you currently _________, How long, etc…
  • How did you get here?  “What made you do this today?”
  • What tools are you currently using?
  • Tell me about your team size, makeup?

IV.  Best Practices from the Moment You Schedule Something to Placing the Call  – Group Feedback

  • Review Notes On Past Correspondence
  • Know Your Audience
  • Goals and Objectives for Customer, the Call, and Your Next Steps
  • Agenda
  • Align with prod specialists
  • Confirm Call Before
  • Send an electronic Meeting Request
  • Who’s going to be on call?
  • Be prepared with success stories
  • Next Steps-Make Suggestion
  • Follow Up w/ e-mail and ask for feedback

V.  Artificial Patience – When do you need to slow yourself down, even if it seems unnatural? Consider these…

  • Initially when the lead comes in, take a step back early in the conversation and ask, “What is your objective, what are you hoping to accomplish?”
  • After a solution development call, consider waiting to send an e-mail follow up until the next day.  Let it sink in, give yourself time to make sure you do a good job with it.
  • Ask yourself before calling up with a limited selfish agenda, “What is another e-mail/call going to accomplish”?
  • End of Quarter-Be Careful!!
  • When an evaluation drags out, sometime life does get in the way. Chill.
  • In between items on your sequence of events – consider letting them marinate.

Good Selling!