Today’s Lesson: Networking – Gotta Do It, Ugh, I Hate It

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an essay adapted from David Burkus’s new book, “Friend of a Friend: Understanding The Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Career,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.   Read More

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: Can She Sell?

During or after coaching or consulting engagements, my clients often ask, “Do you think she (or he) can sell for us?”

Similarly, friends, colleagues, or former SalesReformSchool students often ask me whether they (or lately, their kids) should pursue a particular sales position.

When I think about it, I tend to use the same four criteria for both answers.

  1. Passion
  2. Requisite Intelligence
  3. Competitiveness
  4. Fearlessness

Read More

Today’s Lesson: 10 Links

I’m going to try something different this month.

When I procrastinate, I read. A lot. I also like to share stuff. Sometimes my friends and family say I over-share. Oh well, I gotta be me.

So, I hope you enjoy these 10 Links which I found interesting in the last month or so while procrastinating. Read More

Today’s Lesson: How Do You Get Better?

You may know that I have been a member of a Vistage Trusted Advisor group for over five years. I consider it my graduate business school. While I have a Juris Doctor, I am not a Master of Business Administration. Because of Vistage, though, I feel I’m actually in a business school of sorts becoming a better owner, consultant, trainer, and coach. Maybe even a better person.

At a recent meeting, our chair Larry Hart reminded us about the five reasons for being a member. While the below list contains universal capabilities, it applies especially to sales people. We want to be heroes. We also tend to get bogged down in the immediate at the expense of the long-term.  We forget then to do what it takes to grow.

So, here are the five Vistage capabilities that sellers need to work on for professional and personal growth: Read More

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!

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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.

Can you Argue Both Sides? Think Like a Lawyer?


You may already know that I practiced law in a prior life. Some of my clients like and appreciate it, but I do get eye-rolls and my fair share of good-natured ribbing. I get it. When it comes up in conversation, I usually add that although the practice of law wasn’t for me, I absolutely believe, with no regrets, that I have benefitted a ton in my sales career from law school.

One story often comes to mind. When I was a sales manager years ago, I was reviewing an opportunity with a member of my team. We needed to figure out our next move. I asked her, “And, what do you think their reaction will be” to her suggested course of action. She replied that she had no idea. I made a prediction and suggested she do some research and put some thought into that expected reaction so she would be prepared.  We strategized some more and prepped for the next call.   Long story short, she won the deal, and I happened to be right with my coaching. When she told me she added, “It must be that law degree, you seem to always be able to think around corners on these deals.”

I took the compliment with a smile. She was right. For me, it was my law degree. For one thing, Law professors constantly ask students to be prepared to argue either side of the law when discussing a legal issue. That way, you can learn “the law” from all angles – seeing into every corner of an argument. Her comments have stuck with me over the years. I always tried to work this aspect of my legal education into my sales and sales management career, and for the last 12 years in my consulting business.

How do smart sellers think around corners and argue both sides?  They anticipate the next few and even several moves in a sales process, not just the negotiation. Smart sellers anticipate and prepare for roadblocks or objections prior to their arising. They know their processes cold and have unearthed the buyer’s buying and evaluation processes.

So, how can you hone this ability to “think around corners” like a lawyer?

Sellers need to constantly ask, “Can I advocate 100% for my proposal from my buyer’s point of view?” In other words, can I, as the seller, make the argument for them? Whether you are competing against the status quo or real competition, someone is advocating for another (or the same) course of action. If you can’t argue truthfully, with integrity, that the best course would be to buy your stuff, you have some work to do.

Below I’ve listed some questions to help you to figure out if you are selling like a lawyer; you may have some more:

  1. Have you unearthed what is truly going on that has led them to evaluate your stuff?
  2. Do you understand their current situation as well as or even better than their own team?
  3. In concrete terms, is there agreement that you are offering good value?
  4. Do they see your differentiators as game changers that will improve their present situation more so than the status quo or the competition?
  5. Do they see you as a good implementation partner?
  6. Have you explained how your team understands completely how your products and services will help the buyers achieve their objectives?
  7. Are you sure about the answers to all of the above? How do you know you know? Did you ask?

Please understand, though, that the lawyer-seller analogy is imperfect.  We often hear that good lawyers never ask a question for which they don’t know the answer, at least in court.  Good sellers, however, should follow Stephen Covey’s fifth habit:  First seek to understand, then to be understood.  How?  Ask open-ended questions for which you don’t know the answers.  By the way, they also teach lawyers that Covey’s habit is a good strategy pre-trial, just not in the courtroom.

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

Recruiting is not one of my offerings, I know plenty of folks that do a great job finding and filling sales openings.  From time-to-time, though, I have had clients ask me if I know anyone that could fill an open executive, manager or sales slot. Similarly, I often get calls or emails from individuals looking for their next gig.  These are usually past sales workshop participants or their friends or colleagues, or even loved ones. I’m more than happy to help.  While the economy seems to be good right now, there has been an uptick lately in people reaching out to me who are looking for their next gig. I’ve had several conversations with good people looking for something better: Sales VP-types, inside and outside sales managers and inside and outside sales people, and even some skilled in sales operations or enablement.  Are you hiring? Let me know. I may know somebody.

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

There really is only one meaningful extracurricular coming up.  Kickoff is at 6:30 PM eastern time. – Are you ready to #RISEUP !!!falcons

Go Falcons and Good Selling!

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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: Start bcc’ing


Most sales managers I know have the best intentions. They don’t want to manage their reps, they want to coach them to achieve greatness – or at least quota. Many of them, though, struggle with where to start. The comfortable beginning is, “do what I did.” Soon, they realize, that doesn’t work. So, I get asked, “What can I do RIGHT NOW to make a difference?”

For these managers, here’s my response. I ask two simple questions regarding email:

  1. Are your reps sending out recap emails of their interactions?
  2. Are you reviewing your reps outbound emails on all forecasted or about to be forecasted opportunities?

If the answer isn’t 100% “Yes” to both questions for at least all reps who are below quota, then I suggest the following –

Set the sales team culture as one of support and coaching. Get buy-in on this. As a manifestation of those cultural values, require that your reps “bcc” you on all meaningful prospect and customer correspondence so you can figure out what is going on with their conversations and opportunities. Only then will you be able to “attaboy” or “attagirl” the good and coach the gaps.

The recap email is the artifact of any meaningful conversation. It should follow a simple format:

  1. What was the goal or purpose of the call?
  2. What is the current situation, with data points?
  3. What capabilities or proof or documentation does the prospect need to move to the next step in the buy-sell process?
  4. What’s the value of the above to them?
  5. How does the above fit into the buying process? Next steps?

If a sales manager is not getting bcc’d – or if correspondence is not automatically going into the CRM system, how does she know what was discussed on the last sales call? How does she know if the rep forgot to ask about a key data point or timing or a key player’s role? How does she know on what process step, messaging tool or script, or behavior to focus her coaching?

One last thing, I like bcc, regardless of whether the emails go into the CRM. I have found the reps prepare better and are more focused during the conversations and pay more attention to detail while writing if they know they are going to be bcc’ing their manager.

Try it, let me know how it goes.

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

strunkwhiteWhat if you are worried that your sales team while good at selling is awful at writing? You’re not alone. I have two recommendations: 1) Share this essay on why writing skills are so important and 2) Buy this little book for everyone on your team.




SalesReformSchool Extracurricular

Winter is coming. No, really. This is not a fanboy plot to get you to watch Game of Thrones, although I do recommend it. With winter comes colder nights curled up with… Netflix.

Am I wrong?

This list is a fantastic compilation of old and new, artsy and mainstream. Really, something for everyone. How many have you seen?

Me? 41.  Don’t judge.

That’s all for today.

Good Selling (and watching)!

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: 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.

Carly*, a millennial sales executive in one of my workshops came back on day two beaming with pride.  She had implemented the “Empathy” skill we worked on the day before, but not in a business setting; rather in her personal life.

Here’s what happened:
Carly’s boyfriend worked in a restaurant and often came home at night with a complaint about the manager. Carly would offer advice often replying with “You should…” only for that solution to fall on deaf ears.  That night it happened again, and they talked about it.  This time, instead of jumping in right away with “you should” instructions, she adhered to the Active Listening process: Acknowledge, Clarify, Recap.
With a sweet smile on a beaming face, she proudly reported that after their conversation, “He looked at me with eyes like I’d never seen before.”
*name changed to protect her identity.

How did this happen and
what had she learned the previous day?

Sellers have been told since the beginning of capitalism:
Connect with your buyers! Build trust in your relationships to be successful! Show you care!

 What’s this all about? 


Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. 

Seems pretty simple, huh?  So, how do you practice and show it as a seller? Why is it important?

For some people, empathy is hard wired into their personalities. We all know someone who intuitively recognizes the emotional aspects of people and events around them.  They are sensitive souls who can “take the temperature” of a room and adjust their demeanor.  Friends seek them out for comfort or advice.  Unfortunately, it’s been my experience (and a little self-talk here), that most of these empathic people are not in sales.

If only it wasn’t true.

Most of us in sales have to work hard at empathy.   We struggle with getting into the minds of our prospects in our conversations.  We move in and out of opportunities because the prospect “doesn’t get it” whatever “it” is.

We realize only too late that we failed to truly understand the nature of the prospect’s goals, objectives, challenges and issues.  We are told to show empathy if we want others to open up about these things, but not how to do just that.  We are left winging it, and hoping for success.

Also, we are told over and over that buyers buy from people they trust.  We trust someone when we are convinced they understand our unique situation and feelings about that situation.  That is, we trust those salespeople – going back to the definition above – who shows they have empathy for us.

But try telling another person, “You need to show more empathy!”  I’m talking to you Sales Managers. They may agree, but they may also become either angry or withdrawn, feeling that you don’t have empathy for them!  They may also wonder, “How do I do that? How do I show more empathy?”

The Active Listening Process

At some point in a sales conversation, the buyer will complain about a situation or describe something they are trying to accomplish. Most sellers will then immediately go for the sale – attempting to solve the problem or describe their offerings as a way to achieve the buyer’s goals.


This is not only a bad move, but also dangerous to your sales cycle.  Just like Carly whose boyfriend didn’t listen to her whenever she tried to solve his restaurant manager issues without actively listening first, you are not showing empathy by reflexively going to your tool belt. You risk failing to build trust.

There is hope:  You can become an empathetic sales person who quickly gets to trust by employing a three step Active Listeningprocess.


Acknowledge the emotions of the situation.

While it sounds like the speaker wants you to fix it for them – and they very well may in the future – in reality, they mainly want you to understand how they feel.  “Acknowledging feelings” involves taking in their statements, looking at the “whole message” including body language, tone of voice, and level of arousal, and trying to determine what emotion they are conveying.  Then you let them know that you realize they are feeling that emotion by just acknowledging it in a sentence such as:
“Gee, I think I can understand how that might suck.”
“I can tell that’s really weighing on you.”
“Wow, yeah, that would be awesome!”

In a non-judging way, ask for clarification and detail.

This conveys that you are making a good effort to truly and deeply understand and not just trying to push your opinions onto them.  To formulate a relevant question in asking for more clarification, you will have to listen carefully to what they say. Frame your questions as someone trying to understand in more detail, perhaps even asking for a specific example. This also helps the buyer evaluate his or her own opinions and perspective. Some examples:
“What’s going on?”
“Did something happen today/this week/quarter?”
“How bad is it?”

Recap in a non-evaluative way.

This will allow the buyer to determine if he/she really got the message across to you, that you “got” it. It will also help the buyer become more aware of how he or she is coming across to another person, which may be clarifying for them.  You’ll show empathy by thinking about what the buyer is conveying and paraphrasing it back to them in your own words without judging the correctness or merit of what they said, and asking if that is what they meant. They will appreciate that you clearly took the time to listen first and again, that you “got” it.
“So, what you’re saying is….”


And yes, this three step Active Listening process for building empathy and earning trust, is not only a SalesReformSchool lesson, but a life lesson.  Just ask Carly.

Supplemental Material:

The response to my initial email was heartwarming.  Thank you for the many notes of congratulations on finding or returning to my passion.  I read this article this week that would have been instructive months ago.  Call, text, email, tweet or whatever at me if you ever want to talk about this stuff.

Extracurricular Activity

A sweet and fun movie on Netflix on finding or re-finding your passion.

That’s all for today.
Good Selling!

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.