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: Are You Good at Rapport? Are you Sure?

Many of us salespeople have a dirty secret. We hate building rapport especially with prospects or even just people we don’t really know well. Sure, we are expected to be the life the party and the meeting, the easy-going back-slapper flush with funny stories and anecdotes – the classic extrovert – able to make friends with everyone we meet.

Uh, please, don’t make me.

If this strikes a familiar chord with you it’s probably because you – like me – got into sales because we both enjoy solving problems and making people happy; and we truly believe in our offerings so we want to share them with the world. Selfishly, the thrill of the chase and the financial aspects can be real sweet, too.

But the cocktail party, networking, pre-meeting jibber-jabber – ugh. One client of mine told me he didn’t want to ever be “that guy… you know the guy in the plaid jacket.”

Me, neither.

Often, I dread having to build rapport, I am not great at it and feel it too dangerous when meeting people for the first time. Reflectively, this may be more about me than anything. I know I am an observer and a student at heart. With age, I realize I have a big mouth and not a big filter. A potentially career-limiting lethal combination.

I now have a standard piece of advice for “plaid-jacket-avoiders”, which I’ll reveal later.

My realization that I’m not great at rapport and that it’s too dangerous happened on an initial sales call in Kingsport, TN. I had driven up alone from Atlanta to see a new prospect and talk about his interest in our technology.

My prospect greeted me warmly with an easy-going smile at the reception area of his office building and immediately apologized. His usual conference room was booked, so we were going to have to meet in his office. His apology seemed weird. Why would I care? It was just the two of us getting together. I wanted to understand his business more so we could figure out if there was a fit between his challenges and my offerings. No big deal being in an office instead of a conference room.

I figured it out immediately upon entering his cramped eight foot by maybe 12 foot office. It was stuffed with all things golf. A Masters flag in the corner. Old clubs against the wall. Putters leaning against the desk. A bookshelf full of golf balls through the ages. Golf magazines, posters, signed memorabilia. An impressive array of golf stuff.

I, however, am not a golfer. It’s just not my game. Yet, before we even sat down, while I was clearing scorecards off my chair, I asked,

“So, you like golf?”

All energy drained from his face. His shoulders sagged. He sighed heavily. I’ll never forget his response. It’s why, to this day, I avoid being the one opening up with rapport building with someone I really don’t know. I let them go first.

“My SOB father-in-law died a couple months ago and my wife made me bring all his golf crap to the office.”

Whoops!!! Well, I guess I shouldn’t have gone there!! All energy drained from our conversation. We had our meeting. I wasn’t at my best; he was distracted. I got in my car and drove home. It may have been my worst sales call. A waste of a day.

Yes, his father-in-law’s stuff was the proverbial elephant in the room. But why did I have to be the one to bring it up? I should have let him lead the rapport part of the meeting. He likely would have apologized again, this time for the décor. I would have merely responded, “That’s okay.” And gotten down to business unless he brought something else up like the weather or the drive up or where I am from (usually something like: You don’t sound like you are from Atlanta or the south?).

What should I have done? Here’s my advice about rapport that I should have heeded and that I tell anyone not wanting to be “that guy in the plaid jacket.”

When you think the situation is going to demand rapport-building, especially when talking with someone you don’t know well, imagine yourself one step back over the shoulder of your audience in the conversation. Do not pass them. Do not play “who can top this?” like a 14-year old boy. Let them open.

If they open with comments or questions about the weather, give them the weather, but don’t pass them with comments about sports. Stay behind them. If they mention something about your background, go with it, but don’t then dig into their background unless they offer. Be pleasant, but during rapport, let them lead. It’s okay to be “Ginger” to his or her’s “Fred.”ginger-rogers-and-fred-astaire-dancing-the-e2809ccariocae2809d-in-flying-down-to-rio-1933


  1. “But, I’m great at rapport.” Are you sure? Have your managers, mentors, friends and loved ones told you so? Unless you are 100% confident, please consider heeding my advice. You might go somewhere you shouldn’t.
  2. “But, I thought I am supposed to control the sales process.” While that is true, rapport is not a sales process step. I often say that sales process and preparation is about ratcheting up your probability of success. Screw up rapport and you risk decreasing your chances of a good outcome. By controlling yourself, aren’t you controlling the process?

So, consider what I imagine a director once said to Ginger Rogers, “It’s okay, we know you are truly the one in charge, just remember, one step back and over the shoulder.”

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

A lot of us procrastinate. We struggle to stay focused on the task at hand. Why do today what I can put off and to tomorrow? I struggle with this. The work for me often conforms to the time it’s needed. Give me a deadline too far away and I struggle with focus. I’d love to be the type of person who can get stuff out of the way now, so I can play later, instead of vice-versa.

To overcome procrastination – or laziness as some might call it – I try hard to break a large project into smaller do-able chunks. I mull over my morning coffee at least one thing I want to accomplish that day, one chunk, unless my schedule is already full. This Quora post on a one-minute life hack goes a few steps further.  Today’s chunk was this post. I have a couple other chunks today as well. How do you fight procrastination?

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

Sure, we know about the four food groups. What about the four drink groups? For me, my Mount Rushmore of drinks is coffee, water, wine, and well, if pressed for a fourth, spirits. Water is either flat or “with gas” as they say abroad. And my favorite is LaCroix. For spirits, I’m mostly a gin or vodka guy. So, I am thrilled to explore this list.

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: Young Gun, New Job, New City

A friend of mine’s 20-something son recently received a promotion. He is a consultant and has been asked by management to help open a new office in a new city. They want to build a presence in this new outpost and have tapped my friend’s son as someone who can help them with business development as well as getting the newly earned business done right. He has excellent technical skills, yet it’s also his genial nature that earned him this promotion. So, my friend asked if I’d talk to him about the “sales” aspect of this new role. Below are my six pieces of advice.

1) BE YOURSELF, BE AUTHENTIC. You got this promotion because you are a 20-something with great potential. They trust you, because of who you are. So, be you, not who you think you should be.

But, how do you know if you are being authentic or faking it? Well, are you comfortable with the words coming out of your mouth when talking about your profession, your job, and your employer? Have you made the descriptions of your company your own or are you blindly using someone else’s script? Do the words work for you? You have to be comfortable in your own skin and your own “tongue.”

2) DON’T BE A LAZY QUESTIONER. Know your business cold and your prospect’s business as well. But, if you don’t, do a ton of research, and if you still are unsure of something, then ask questions. Yes, there are no stupid questions. There are, however, lazy questioners. At your age, you are not expected to know it all. You are expected, though, to know how to look something up yourself. Yes, Google is your friend. In a new city and new job, Google is likely your best friend. If you are about to ask a question, but are worried it’s a stupid question, don’t. Look it up first, then and only then, ask an intelligent question.

By the way, if the more veteran co-workers or your managers don’t appreciate your eagerness to learn…GET OUT!

3) IF YOU’RE NOT EXCITED, NO ONE ELSE WILL BE EITHER. While self-deprecation may be endearing in personal relationships, it’s not in business communications and conversations. You need to be excited about your new adventure with your employer. That excitement will be contagious as you make business contacts in your new city. And if your potential business prospects sense that you are just filling a seat, struggling to get through the day, unsure of your spot in the big picture, they will look for someone else with whom to spend time and money. So, smile more and share your excitement about your new city and new role.

4) PRACTICE YOUR EXCITEMENT. Friends, family and other well-wishers are going to hear that you are moving or you’ve moved and ask about it. In these conversations, practice your excitement. Be able to explain WHY this move is such a great thing for you, your employer and your new city. If their response isn’t “Gosh, that’s great! Good for you!” Then, keep working at it. Soon enough, it will become second nature.

5) BECOME A GOOD BIZ STORY-TELLER.   Figure out the crappy situation you expect your new prospects in your new city to be in that you can help them fix and how you would help them. Better yet, know the crappy situations your clients were in before they met you and your team and how you helped them fix it. These are your usage and success stories and are why you are in this new role in this new city. Can you tell it to a stranger in 30-60 seconds over a cocktail or cup of coffee?

6) GET OUT OF YOUR APARTMENT.   After you arrive, try to get a recommendation from every resident you meet professionally. Where’s the best burrito? Place to go for a run? Then, go experience your new city and be prepared to share your adventures.   It’s human nature to want to help in this situation. And it’s endearing to seek this sort of help.   Plus, it will give you something else to talk about the next time.

New job, new city, new role. Best of luck. Want another perspective on being in a new business development role? Check out this Harvard professor.

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

Another way to gain respect and enthusiasm in your new role is to be able to convey your company’s “Proven Process”. After you’ve explained “why” you do what you do, it will soon be time to show “how” you do it. In Traction: Get a Grip on your Business, by Gino Wickman, the author explains among many other things how everyone involved in revenue creation should know and be able to explain the “proven way you provide your service or product to your customers.” Let me know if you want to figure out how to get traction in all areas of your business. I will refer you to one of the best implementers in the world.

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

After stuffing my belly with all sorts of things for eight days in London and Paris over the New Year’s break, I found the perfect book for getting back on the healthy eating wagon: The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.   Once again, I am a late comer rather than cutting edge: This book is 10 years old. Yet, I found it eye opening and educational.

As omnivores we get to decide what we have for dinner, yet that question is often fraught with difficulty. Will this food kill me now or kill me later? Will it lead to optimum health? The author confirms or challenges many widely held beliefs about what we eat in America and how it gets to our plates. Ever wonder what all the fuss is about organic food? Do you have friends who are vegetarians or vegans and wondered why but were too polite to ask? Is $6/dozen too much or appropriate for a dozen eggs from pasture-raised hens? Pollan is both a gifted story-teller and teacher of complex concepts. I highly recommend this book if you care about nutrition and health.

And yes, I’m now buying the $6/dozen eggs for my family.

Happy New Year and Good Selling!

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