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: 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



Professionally, many of you are looking at your calendars and realizing that you only have six weeks or so left in the year and you are making your calls to try and close deals, or even create deals now to close by year end. Personally, you may have been involved in some passionate discussions tied to a recent election.

Can we all just take a P A U S E ?

Here’s why. Previously, we’ve described Active Listening as a behavior that honors your conversation partner’s needs. But, there’s another behavior equally important to creating a helpful, respectful environment for your personal and professional conversations: The Pause.

The Pause gives the other person a chance to enter the conversation. It lets them fill in the gaps with information they think is important. It honors their role in the conversation, the dialogue.

All too often in sales conversations we work from a selfish agenda rather than an interest in enlightenment. Here are two examples where you need to P A U S E:

1) While telling stories and positioning you company and offerings.

Your company has done a great job equipping you with conversational success stories. You’ve memorized one in particular and rehearsed so you’re crisp on the phone while talking to that dream key player.   So, after you deliver it, you thought you hit the bulls-eye but are not sure. Why not? Because you didn’t take a moment within the telling of the story to see if they were with you. You didn’t ever pause.

Pregnant Stomach.jpg  Comedians and dramatic actors call it the “pregnant pause,” a couple moments that seem like forever to either build up suspense or to let the audience gather in what just happened.

When should you consciously pause or pause “pregnantly” while telling a story or in conversation? How about at least at every period in your part of the conversation?

But why? Like the performer, you want to let the point of the previous sentence sink in, but also you need to check-in with your prospect – And they will confirm the check-in consciously and unconsciously. It gives them the space to consciously add comments to the story such as “Oh yeah, I hate when that happens?” or “Wow, that sounds like our situation,” giving you follow up items.

And during the pause, you the seller must PAY ATTENTION! Prospects will give you unconscious cues that you are hitting the mark by groaning or sighing out loud during the space the pause creates. Follow up with a question about that groan or sigh. There’s valuable information there.

Selfishly, the pause is also one of the best tools for getting information about your prospect or the opportunity. People hate silence in a conversation and rush to fill it. What do they fill it with? They fill it with either assent or dissent plus additional information. All of which is good for a seller.

So the pause ensures alignment and gives the seller additional information which they otherwise may not have discovered.

2) Another place in the sales process for the P A U S E is while asking diagnostic or clarification questions.

Have you ever heard a seller ask the double or triple question without giving the prospect a chance to answer?

Seller, speed talking, asks: So, why is that? (Without taking a wisp of breath adds) Is it this or is it that?

These sellers feel they know that there are only a few possible answers to their question, they feel they’ve studied their market and heard it all before so they want to make it multiple choice rather than a fill in the blank quiz for the buyer. But it’s not a quiz, and that’s the point. Buyers don’t want to feel interrogated; they want to feel respect, like the seller is truly interested in learning their particular situation and will treat them as unique rather than an item on a sales forecast.not-a-quizAnd there’s always the possibility the prospect has a third answer which you have not furnished, and she is annoyed. Think about this – which conversation would you rather be in? One where the seller seems genuinely interested in learning or one where they seem to have it all figured out and just want you to go through a checklist.


In Stephen Covey’s landmark book Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Habit Five is “Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood.” By asking the double or triple question without pausing to give the buyer a chance to answer you don’t seem interested in understanding, rather you seem interested in fitting the buyer into your agenda. So, let’s add this habit of pausing to your behaviors so you can truly work to understand first and become an even more successful in sales.

Covey’s fifth habit was not only to be implemented in your professional life, but personally too. We get a good chance to practice this week with Thanksgiving upon us. You may have heard that there was a rather contentious election here in the United States recently. It’s possible that there will be conflicting views around your holiday table. When making a point or asking for clarification on someone else’s position, please consider the P A U S E. You may achieve greater understanding and respect in your relationship. Happy Thanksgiving.

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

Seven Habits of Highly Successful People debuted in 1989.  I was somewhat late to the self help genre and did not read it until nine years later, I think.  I do know that it was life-changing.  I’m a better father, friend, husband, seller and business person because of it.  It’s that good.  Although, I constantly remind myself I have a ways to go.  My suggestion: Keep Improvin’ and Buy this book!

SalesReformSchool Extracurricular

fitbitcharge  I didn’t think I’d ever become an activity wristband wearer.  But after cousins gave me a FitBit Charge for my birthday.  I thought I would try it out.  In short, I like it a lot. I like that just looking at it after a day of inactivity is motivation to get off my butt.  I like that it shows who is calling when my iPhone rings.  And I get a moment of happiness when I see it celebrating my 10,000th step.  What’s not to like about that!

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.


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.

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

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.

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!

My son Max has been working hard putting together a skating/dance party for tomorrow evening to benefit an anti-bullying charity  – Kidpower International.  Yes, he’s a great kid, but he’s really doing this to fulfill his “mitzvah” requirement for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.  Think of it as a quid pro quo for having a great party and getting lots of gifts from family and friends.  Maybe that’s too cynical.  The requirement also reminds young men and women (around 13 years old) that they have an ongoing duty to help the community and repair the world – Tikkun Olam.
Read More

Tell Coherent Stories

At the collision of Literature and Neuroscience, researchers are learning exactly why stories work better than facts at getting listeners in alignment.  Allison Kopnik describes this effort in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal.

This echoes a theme I laid out in three workshops last month:  Instead of giving facts and boring descriptions of your offerings features and benefits and hoping buyers “get it”, tell a story that shows how others have gained success or how the offering can help out in a tough situation.

Check it out.