Today’s Lesson: What Stuck Most

A year ago, I had a full process-messaging-behavior engagement with a client that culminated with a full two-day workshop. They went on to have a terrific year. We are now rolling out an Account Growth process and met this week to introduce the idea in a quick team lunch meeting.   The team of account managers and sales executives is fully engaged – a credit to their management team.

Since I had them all in a room together, I asked during a pause:  Read More

Today’s Lesson: Beatus Aures

Over coffee last Friday a coaching client of mine told me about an RFP he was excited to answer. “It’s in our wheelhouse, but I have to go soon so I can get the answer out. It’s due today and they are making a decision Tuesday.”

I responded that I could see why he was so excited and asked him a few clarifying questions including:

  • Who are your competitors? Um, I don’t know.
  • Do they have a prior relationship with the prospect? Blank stare.
  • How many individuals and what are their roles do you know at the account? Just my one contact.
  • Have you asked to meet with all the decision-makers before agreeing to answer? No, she answered every question I had about the work they need.
  • If there are competitors, how can the prospect possibly make a decision in one business day? Mouth agape.

Read More

Today’s Lesson: “Social” Selling

No, this is not another post on using online sites like LinkedIn to build your pipeline. Rather, I want to talk about my friend Mitch (real person, fake name). Mitch is looking for love. He’s a good guy. Works hard, takes care of himself, and is a true mensch. Over the years, I’ve lived vicariously through the ups and downs of his love life, trying to support him.

Why am I telling you about Mitch? No, I’m not pivoting to match-making, but I do want to talk about your social life.

This year among other things, I’ve taken on two coaching clients who have the express goal of improving their business development efforts. These engagements have reminded me that the early stage dating scene which Mitch is not shy about going through is very similar to early business development conversations. The same goes for other areas of your social life, like making new friends. Read More

Today’s Lesson: Two Existential Questions

For today’s lesson we are going to explore two existential questions:

  1. Why does your company exist?
  2. Why should your ideal client want to talk to you?

Why does your company exist?

The answer to this question should scream at visitors to your web site and all pockets of social media. Every employee, not just salespeople, should be able to recite the answer in some form in every new interaction, whether in a meeting, at a trade show, cocktail party or barbecue.  For us sellers, this question cuts to the very heart of where to place your focus in your initial conversation with your prospects and key players. You’ll return to it as a qualifying tool later and possibly a negotiation tactic at the end of your sales process.

Yes, this is very similar to a mission statement. I worry, though, that the concept of mission statements too often gets lost in translation in actual conversations.

Why does my company SalesReformSchool(tm) exist? Read More

Today’s Lesson: Don’t be a Poodle

During a recent workshop I described how we sales people need to constantly work to be perceived as our prospect’s equals. What do I mean? Here are three examples where we are equals, but not necessarily perceived as equals:

Like you, I am a busy professional.

Often, towards the end of our conversations with prospects or even customers, they will suggest you “circle back” or “re-connect” next week or next month or some time in the future.  At times, your prospect is genuinely interested in this subsequent conversation, but thinks since you are in sales you can’t be as busy as she is. So, in between your checking Facebook and Instagram, they think you have tons of time to call them in the suggested date range and maybe catch them at an available time.  Or that at your leisure, you can bang out an email that you hope they answer. Read More

Today’s Lesson: The Implementation Story


Many of you are trying to close deals with your prospects this week and next to finish the year or quarter on a high note. So, I have a question: Have you included an implementation plan discussion as part of your buyer’s evaluation of your company and its offerings?

I learned years ago from Michael Bosworth’s CustomerCentric Selling that sellers lose to No Decision, Inc. or an actual competitor because the buyer doesn’t embrace at least one of the following stories: Usage, Value or Implementation.

Many sellers have now been trained to show buyers how to use their offerings and the value of that usage – think ROI calculations and Cost v. Benefit tables. But, what about the implementation story?

When the buying organization feels unsure in their (and your) ability to deliver or only have a vague notion of how to achieve success, your opportunity is at risk. Often, your buyers will hide this squishiness out of embarrassment or mistrust. In their minds and possibly in their internal meetings, they may be saying,

“I understand what this is, I understand it’s value,

I just don’t understand how WE can get there.”

So, they decide to do nothing or worse, go with a competitor who has gained agreement on the implementation plan, even if only at high non-detailed level.

What can you do NOW if you find yourself wondering whether your buyers understand the implementation story?

Try the following.

Look at your current open opportunities and ask these five questions:

  1. Have I shared a customer implementation success story?
  1. Do my buyers know how THEY are going to get from their current situation – where they are now without you and missing out – to successfully reaping the benefits of my stuff?
  1. Have I worked with the buyer’s implementers to outline and gain agreement on expectations and processes for both sides for their implementation?
  1. Are questions #2 and #3 documented, shared and agreed to?
  1. Do the main influencers and implementers believe all of the above?

If you have five “Yes” answers, good for you! If you don’t, and your buyer hasn’t told you they are ready to buy, perhaps you need to request a conversation to focus on the implementation.

And by the way, you should also consider the implementation discussion a potential disqualifying tool: If you don’t have five “Yes” answers, AND they haven’t given you a solid verbal buying signal, AND they don’t feel a need to have an implementation conversation, it’s time to question whether you will ever close the opportunity.


SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

Before ultralight weight laptops and notes apps that seamlessly flowed through all my digital devices, I took notes in internal and sales meetings on yellow legal pads. Spiral notebooks or even fancy paper-based notebooks never worked for me because I’m left-handed.

Then, a few years ago I switched to digital note-taking either on my iphone or laptop for utility – my handwriting is awful and I didn’t like having to type my notes up for emails, CRM or otherwise. I did, however, feel at times that something was lacking or missing in my notes and understanding.   I also recognized that using an electronic device while in person on sales calls was much colder and impersonal than pen and paper. Was I hurting rapport (already a worry for me for other reasons)?

After reading this article and this one, I’ve returned to taking handwritten notes for in person meetings. It’s been a couple months now, and although I can’t measure the difference, I do feel my interactions are richer. Also, by slowing down and having to type up my handwritten notes, I have a better understanding of my conversations. Think about it.

What do you think?  Type or Write?

SalesReformSchool Extracurricular

Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or just a winter break – whatever your fancy, you are likely going to get together with friends or family soon. What are you going to do? How about a game? I have a friend – you know who you are – who says he can’t be friends with someone who won’t play. A little drastic for me, but I get it. Tons of fun. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you may be embarrassed, but all in good fun.

Happy Holidays and Good Selling!

P.S.  I’ve had some interest lately in providing keynote addresses for year-end or new year kickoff programs based on some of the things I’ve written you about. Email or call me if you want more information.

P.P.S. Did you like this email? Any comments you’d like to share?  Please post a reply 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.

Today’s Lesson: Why Am I Here?

question-606954_1280You may be thinking I am about to go off on an existential rant about authenticity, our place in the universe, or possibly a lecture on the appropriateness of a paleo diet.

Nah, let’s save those for a get together over coffee or other notes. Today, I’m sticking to an easy-to-implement, do it now, sales behavior.

The other day I serendipitously ran into an acquaintance at a local AA-ISP event. We fell into easy conversation and shared our recent professional histories. Right before it was time to settle down for the scheduled speaker, he asked if we could meet next week at his offices. “Of course!” I responded.

At his office after catching each other up on family goings-on, it was time to get down to business.

I viewed my attendance at the networking event as a marketing effort, so this first real meaningful conversation was the equivalent of an inbound lead. He was “inbound” since he took the first step with his invitation.

I had some options.  I could have started with a description of how I help clients similar to his company.  Then, described my offerings.  That, however, would have been a big mistake. It would have meant I would have to make an assumption correlating his team or company to one of my clients.  I would have also been assuming I knew which offering was most appropriate for him.  You may have heard what happens when you assume.

I could have started with some questions about his team, how many sellers, sales quotas, what they sell, what problems they are having.  Perhaps.  That line of questioning has its time, but not now, in the beginning.  It risked boring my host, or worse, bothering him as self-serving and tedious Q&A.

Instead, I asked a simple question:

“Why am I here?”

He chuckled probably realizing that this question perfectly put the onus on him to describe the reason he felt we needed to spend time together now.  This question’s brevity shocks a lot of people who expect salespeople to open with a long-winded soliloquy about their greatness. It demands thoughtfulness. His answer would tell me where he was in his buying process and what was most important to him.

“Why” gets to purpose and sets the agenda for the rest of our discussions.

Remember, he took action first with his invitation.  NO other question gets to the heart of the matter better in a real first meaningful conversation, which this was.

Consider this:  Where else do prospects take action first requiring a “Why” type – objective or purpose driven question?

Retail.  Retail clerks everywhere usually ask, “May I help you?” And what do we do?  We throw up the Heisman pose and reply, “no, just looking”  at least most of the time fearing the seller is operating on their agenda, not ours.heisman_trophy

But, isn’t walking into a store the same as inviting that store into your life? How much more effective would the clerk be if she asked, “What brought you into the store today?” which is a much softer and congenial but equal version of “Why are you here?” It demands a thoughtful answer telling the seller the main objective for the visit.

Inside Sales.  A prospect downloads an infographic, a white paper, attends a webinar, or just imagine, requests that a sales rep contact them.  The inside sales rep wants to engage the prospect.  Too often (you know who you are), the rep emails, speaks to, or leaves a voicemail for the prospect asking for time to introduce the prospect to the seller’s offerings or learn more about the prospects current situation.  Instead, the seller should merely ask a “Why am I here?” question such as:

“I’m wondering, why did you _____?” or
What’s going on that led you to ____?”

Website Visit.  Imagine if your web site creatively asked visitors early in the visit, “Why are you here?”  Isn’t that the reason for the elegantly simple yet amazingly effective google home page?


Implicitly, asks: “Why are you here?”
Your answer:  To search for something or because I feel lucky.

Bonus Effect”Why am I here” right at the beginning places both prospect and seller on even ground.  It subliminally screams, “I’m your equal, we are both busy business people, and I deserve to know whether I am wasting my time or not?” 


Back to my meeting.  My host sighed and related,  “We have 50 sellers and 50 sales methodologies and that’s what’s keeping us from transforming into one world-class sales machine.”

Long story short – our next step was my being invited back the following week to meet with other key players.

By the way, isn’t “Why am I here?”  the business equivalent of “WASSUP!”

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

Here’s the seminal Simon Sinek TED talk on Starting With Why.
Please consider it SalesReformSchool required viewing.  Reserve 18 minutes of uninterrupted time, and mute your phone.  It’s that good.

SalesReformSchool – Extracurricular

One of the things I do to keep in shape and clear my head is to go for walks and listen to podcasts.  I’m currently using these awesome earbuds I received for my birthday.  I highly recommend them.
My three favorite podcasts:
1) The Tony Kornheiser Show – smart, adult conversation on current events and sports;
2) Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History – he makes me think differently; and
3) The Tim Ferriss Show – lifehacks and excellence.


That’s all for today.
Good Selling!

P.S. Did you like this email?  Please post feedback to this note below or email me and consider sharing it!  
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.

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

Hubie, T.K., and the Ideal Prospect

When Hubie Brown and I were much younger, he was my favorite basketball coach.  I had just moved to Atlanta and adopted the hometown Hawks – his team.  He was smart and energetic.  In interviews, he seemed like a great guy.  Hubie is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor due to his stellar coaching and ongoing broadcasting career.  Although nearly 80 years old, he is still top on top of the game.  I find his commentary spot on, educational, and engaging.  He makes NBA game broadcasts better.

I’m happy to remember that our paths have crossed in person. Years ago, while waiting for luggage early one summer Sunday morning at the Atlanta Airport baggage carousel, I spotted him.  I was returning from a business trip, and of course, could not pass up the chance for a short conversation with my favorite basketball guy.  I am 99.999% sure he has no recollection of this brief encounter, and guess it has happened 100s of times before and since.  He did not disappoint me.  Instead, he made the impression we all hope for.  It was the off season, so instead of bouncing around from city to city broadcasting basketball games, he was returning from a Russian basketball camp. We chatted amiably about basketball and travel.  Hubie Brown was a true gentleman, gracious and engaging even with a  fan for five minutes in a nearly empty airport early in the morning after a long flight.

I love the NBA, and this season has been a blast to follow.  Needless to say, Hubie has come across my consciousness more than once in the last few weeks.  SInce my day job is helping my clients improve sales and marketing, but my attention is getting drawn to this weekend’s beginning of the NBA playoffs, I thought I’d combine the two memes by channeling my inner Hubie Brown.  If you don’t know, Hubie has a sui generis talent for speaking in the second person, and yes, you can make a game of this during his broadcasts.

So here it goes.

You’re a successful CEO with an exit dream, but not necessarily a strategy. One of the biggest daily pressures you face is boosting bottom-line profits by spending most of your time, or more appropriately, your sellers’ time on more high-quality “A” prospects.  Or, you are a CEO of a small, but growing, entrepreneurial company that has started making sales but you are worried about how you are going to keep the funnel full. How are you not going to lose track of where the business is going or should be going?

In both cases, you may also be wary of today’s uncertain economy.  Privately, as either of these CEOs, you may stay up at night worrying about whether your sales people or sales agents are spending time on the right prospects – whomever those are.  In staff meetings, you may ask – or should be asking, “Out of the dozens of different lead-qualification techniques, how do you select the most effective one? (sic, still channeling Hubie). How do you hit the ‘bull’s-eye’, which represents the most profitable, most favorable prospects available? Are you ranking prospects or just going after whoever you can?  If you lose a lot of prospects, waste a lot of time, is it because you are shooting at “B” clients?   How can you take aim at – and score more – ‘A’ quality clients?”

Most of the time, when I help my clients with figuring out their prospects, it’s one layer down the process; more about understanding the individual buyer personas and architecting the sales conversations sellers should be having. But sometimes, leadership can’t articulate their ideal prospect. At this one layer up (or lay-up, groan, I know!) lies the expertise of T.K. Kieran, President of T.K. KIERAN & ASSOCIATES, Inc.

(T.K. and I had lunch this month at Alon’s Bakery in Dunwoody, GA. I think Hubie would say, “You go there for a nice business lunch, you can go rich with stuffed sandwiches or cross over to nice and healthy with veggies or salads.  Either way you can’t go wrong.  And you’ll notice it’s a great people watching spot.”  But I digress.)

T.K. calls this process identifying and implementing your “Ideal Prospect Criteria™”.  As a CEO, you need this Ideal Prospect Criteria™ to overcome some of your biggest head-bangers: keeping your sellers from wasting time on losing prospects and keeping marketing from wasting time, effort and money.   To grow revenue more predictably you need to be able to:

1.       Eliminate the pursuit of low potential prospects

2.      Build a common, effective lead qualification process

3.      More consistently pursue “highest potential, highest payoff” prospects

4.      Segment a prospect base into A, B, C, and D priorities

So, how do you do that?  T.K. shares a few hints:

  • Use no less than five, and no more than eight, criteria in your lead qualification process
  • Writing each criteria to reflect the behaviors, beliefs or abilities (with respect to buying/purchasing) of past clients who were “ideal”, who you want your future prospect to also possess/demonstrate
  • Be prepared to answer your criteria with a binary, “yes” or “no”, without further explanation, otherwise the criteria is too murky.

Strategically, executive leadership looking to grow exponentially or prepare for an exit, must consider constantly where future sales are going to come from.  If you are smart, you will figure out your Ideal Prospect Criteria™” and call T.K. She can help.

Oh, and one last thing.  You have to have the Heat over the Thunder in six games.  As Hubie might say, “You have to respect LeBron James athleticism and the Heat’s attention to detail defending the goal.”

Good Selling and Thanks Hubie.


No, I am not cursing at you!

What I do want to point out is one of the most often overlooked sales closing tools.

I know, “every one knows the key to increasing sales is a good cost v. benefit analysis.”  Then, ask yourself if you’ve ever had a terrific sales presentation, felt the deal was going to close, slacked off (maybe decided to play a round of golf or angry birds) and then NOTHING HAPPENED?

No Angry Birds until after you've inserted #$%E! into your Cost v. Benefit

Why?  Maybe because you were so confident the buyer would buy, that you neglected to put together and gain agreement on the Cost v. Benefit of your prospect using your solution.  The prospect did not feel attached to your capabilities and either chose to stay pat or worse, go with a competitor.

Notice that I did not call it a “return on investment”.  That expression is so yesterday.  ROIs seem so far in the future that buyers don’t believe them.  Even worse, “return on investment” might remind them of their meager personal investment returns and make them shudder.

Alternatively, Cost v. Benefit is upfront and factual.  “Here’s the cost.  Here’s the short and medium term benefit using the information you told me.”  It may be semantics.  So what.  Inituitvely, a cost v. benefit sounds more reachable and less risky than an ROI.

The tricky part is the benefit side of the equation. How do you get there?  THAT IS THE SECRET SAUCE!!!  You get there early in the sales cycle by asking the right questions to gain clarification of what’s actually happening within your prospect’s environment that your capabilities could improve.

Once you both understand and agree on the frequency the challenge or issue arises (“#”), the amount of dollars overcoming the challenge is worth (“$”), and the percentage of time the challenge occurs or percentage of individuals who suffer with the challenge (“%”).  It helps then to know whether the prospect is emotionally connected to improving the situation or circumstances (“E”).  If you are not sure, then ask.

For example:

“How does it make you (your team, the effected group) feel?”

“How badly do you and your team members want to fix …?”

This gives you and your prospect an idea about the emotions of the situation. At times, all the hard dollar gain in the world may not help you close the opportunity if your prospect isn’t connected on an emotional level to your offering or solution.




Even better, plan out the questions prior to the call that will draw out value or benefit, questions that will lead to your gaining agreement from the prospect on #$%E! of their current situation.  Now, what are you going to do next?  Take aim at some sheltered pigs or have a #$%E! conversation with your prospects?

Good Selling.

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.