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: “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: 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: 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!

Adam signature

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

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

Today’s Lesson: Your Prospect’s Experience

I recently attended a Vistage presentation given by John R. Patterson entitled, “Creating An Extraordinary Customer Experience that drives Loyalty and Growth.” Patterson artfully related how the best brands recognize that great customer experience drives greater profits.

I had two meaningful AH-HAH moments that I want to share and relate to our jobs in sales.Back to School....

AH-HAH (1)  – Patterson described how customers want and I must deliver on the following:

  1. Make them smarter
  2. Respect their time
  3. Help them customize the experience
  4. Entertain them (through your offerings)
  5. Anticipate their needs
  6. Treat them with respect
  7. Never take your customers for granted
  8. Link your customers to your professional team or partners

AH-HAH (2) – Patterson relayed that customers expect you to:

  1. Understand them
  2. Include them
  3. Protect them
  4. Surprise them
  5. Teach them

And do it consistently.

Now, substitute the word “prospect” for “customer” and go down both lists asking yourself  –

  • Am I delivering and exceeding expectations in all of my sales cycles?
  • Are my prospects enjoying going through their buying process? Or,
  • Does it seem like they are merely going through the motions?
  • Am I just going through the motions?
  • Are they smarter because of me?
  • Do they feel they are collaborating with me on a solution?
  • Do I feel they respect me as an equal?

Your answers should lead to a much better experience… for everyone.


.wired-and-dangerous You can buy John R. Patterson’s customer experience book, Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to Do About It here.

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

One way to make your customers smarter is for you to get smarter. When I was in my 20s and starting out in sales, I realized that my history and law degrees did not equip me nearly enough to ensure a great prospect experience. So, I started a lifelong habit. I try to read the Wall Street Journal everyday. From the start, it was uncanny how I’d be in conversation with a prospect and something would remind me of an article I had read.  I continue to get smarter about business and to enrich my interactions. I highly recommend this daily habit.

And here’s a company that has embedded learning into its culture.

SalesReformSchool Extracurricular

My wife and two daughters often shake their heads at my son and my sartorial skills. I’ve recently ended a few disagreements with this awesome chart.

That’s all for today.
Good Selling!

P.S. Did you like this email?  Please post feedback to this note below oremail 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.

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.

Two Networking Events, Two Authors, Two Books

 In addition to coaching, consulting, and facilitating, I
spent part of last week attending two networking events aimed at sales and
marketing professionals.  Monday,
the Atlanta
Chapter of the Sales and Marketing Executives International
hosted Jeffrey Hayzlett for an evening
presentation.  Wednesday, Anneke Seley spoke to
the Atlanta
Chapter of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals
.  Channeling Jessica Stein, I let the
lessons presented “marinate” for a while.   


 Sometimes these events are boring and potentially only
valuable for the drinks, hors d'oeuvres and networking with other
professionals.  I try to bring the
same ear to these events as when I listen to a color commentator during a
televised ballgame.  Is the speaker
telling me anything I did not know? 
Is theirs a perspective I have not considered? Would my clients gain
from my note taking? Thankfully, Yes, Yes, and Yes.


 My thoughts and notes below.


 Hayzlett, now former Chief Marketing Officer at Eastman
Kodak, has penned The
Mirror Test
, a book asking whether the reader’s business “is really
breathing?” Find a Q & A here
on Hayzlett. 


 He’s a very entertaining, physical speaker – he’s a large
man – who certainly knows how to work a room.  I was impressed by his ability to connect with his audience
and maintain his energy.  Perhaps
this is some insight into why he performed so well on Celebrity Apprentice.  I was a bit disappointed that he
started out talking about a worn-out sales and marketing tool – the elevator
pitch.  He does, however, have an
interesting spin on it:  According
to Hayzlett, “It’s 118 seconds, because eight seconds is the average attention
span of an adult, and 110 seconds is the average elevator ride. So, you got
eight seconds to hook me, and 110 seconds to sell me.”  So, here’s something we can
practice.  Eight seconds is long
enough to generate interest; 110 definitely long enough to make sense of the


 Hayzlett then described his thoughts on leadership.  He said leaders set the conditions of
satisfaction. “What's the implicit promise to the customer?”  Leaders make sure that promise is set,
understood, and fulfilled.  Leaders,
for Hayzlett also cause tension.  I’m
thinking he would agree that true leaders use stress to push their teams to
greater creativity and results. 
Next, he urges leaders to be themselves letting their personality come
through.  This may lead to leaders
having to be willing to get rid of those that can't keep up.   A favorite saying of his seems to
be, “we love you, but we’ll miss you.”  Finally, sales and marketing leaders should realize that due
to their decisions, no one is going to die.  So, don’t take everything, including you, too seriously.


 Especially for marketers, Hayzlett suggests the following


 1) Buzz is not sales – Marketing executives must recognize
whether the work they are doing will actually generated sales or just
buzz.  Go for the former.

 2) Have an operating philosophy.  

 For him, it’s FAST: 
Focus Accountability Simplicity Trust (each other)

 3) Never compete on price – not exactly original, but a
necessary reminder.



 Next up was a breakfast discussion on Sales 2.0 with Anneke
Seley.  Seley with Brent Holloway
wrote Sales 2.0, a guide for
deploying or re-deploying sales teams for better results. Think of it as a
primer of the combination of modern sales strategies and web 2.0.  We should take notice of the Seley’s
leadership in this area:  She was
employee 12 at Oracle and built the OracleDirect sales operation from scratch
into a Billion Dollar organization. 
A Good
Q & A


 From my perspective, Seley is all about putting the right
resources in the right places and measuring the results.  As a consultant now, she suggests the
following priorities for optimizing sales:
One at a time –


1)     Set your strategy.  Are you a direct selling team?  Indirect?  What’s your go to market strategy?

2)     Assemble or re-assemble your processes.  What are the steps marketing and sales
will take from generating interest to closing opportunities? Which steps can
happen online or over the telephone? 
Which have to be face-to-face? 

3)     Hire or re-deploy your people so you are
taking advantage of their best skills at the right point of your process.

4)     Use technology to both enhance the
buyer-seller experience and measure results.  The best Sales 2.0 companies are taking advantage of social
media technology at the front end of the buyer-seller relationship, using
virtual meeting tools during buyers’ evaluations, and measuring success through
their Customer Relationship Management tools.


 After a concise summary presentation, Seley took questions
from the audience.  The best had to
do with how to hire inside sales 2.0 reps. Some pearls of wisdom:


Of course, everyone likes experience, but Seley
stressed that her best hires were “out of the box” thinkers. 

Have the first conversation over the phone so
you can judge the applicants voice.

Ask the applicant to sell you on your
company.  By this time, they should
have done enough research to give some thought to how they would hold
conversations about your offering(s).

Most innovative question for an applicant Seley’s
heard: “Tell me ten uses for a brick.” It shows the applicants ability to think
broadly and on her feet.

Lastly, what was the applicants follow up?  Did they write a thank you note?  Try to track you down to follow
up?  As a hirer, consider being a
little scarce and see what happens.



 So, a good week’s worth of lessons on marketing leadership
mixed with Sales 2.0. 


Good Selling!


How Can I Help You?

Bfast w/ tech Recruiter Cheryl Abbott. Our networks overlap. Hiring inside sales reps or mgrs or looking for your next gig, you need her.

Introducing StoryLeaders

Do you emotionally connect with biz contacts? Check out

thoughts? I’ll post mine a little later.

Ask Better Questions

From Michael Lombardi at on Leaders asking questions:


“New opinions often appear first as jokes and fancies, then as blasphemies and treason, then as questions open to discussion, and finally as established truths.” — George Bernard Shaw

Learn to Ask Better Questions by John Baldoni

Every leader I know has at least one need in common: a need to connect honestly with others. One way to help foster improved connections is by asking good questions. Leaders who excel at asking good questions have honed an ability to cut to the heart of the manner in a way that disarms the person being interviewed and opens the door for genuine conversation.

Whether they are talking to customers, interviewing job candidates, talking to their bosses or even questioning staff, executives need to draw people out. And so often, it is not a matter of what you ask, it is how you ask it. Here are some suggestions.

Be curious. Executives who do all the talking are those who are deaf to the needs of others. Sadly, some managers feel that being the first and last person to speak is a sign of strength. In reality, though, it’s the opposite. Such behavior is closer to that of a blowhard who may be insecure in his own abilities but is certain of one thing — his own brilliance. Such an attitude cuts off information at its source, from the very people — employees, customers, vendors — whom you should trust the most. Being curious is essential to asking good questions.

Be open-ended. Leaders should ask questions that get people to reveal not simply what happened, but also what they were thinking. Open-ended questions prevent you from making judgments based on assumptions and can elicit some surprising answers. In his autobiography, talk-show host Larry King recalls asking Martin Luther King, who had just been arrested for seeking to integrate a hotel in Florida, what he wanted. To which King replied, “My dignity.” Using what, how and why questions encourages dialogue.

Be engaged. When you ask questions, act like you care. Yes, act — show that you are interested with affirmative facial expressions and engaged body language. This sets up further conversation and gets the individual to reveal information that could be important. For example, if you are interviewing a job candidate you want to encourage him or her to talk about not only accomplishments but also setbacks. An interested interviewer will get the person to talk in depth about how he or she rebounded from failure. That trait is worthy of consideration in recruiting. But interviewees will only open up — especially on sensitive subjects — if you actively show interest.

Dig deeper. So often, executives make the mistake of assuming all is well if they are not hearing bad news. Big mistake. It may mean employees are afraid to offer up anything but good news, even if it means stonewalling. So when information surfaces in your dialogue, dig for details without straying into recrimination. Get the whole story. Remember, problems on your team are, first and foremost, your problems.

Not every conversation need be on point and under the gun. There will be times when you’ll need a more solicitous tone and a more leisurely pace, especially when coaching an employee or listening carefully to a customer concern. There, taking your time might be most appropriate.

Asking good questions, and doing so in a spirit of honest information gathering and eventual collaboration, is good practice for leaders. It cultivates an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing issues that affect both their performance and that of the team. And that, in turn, creates a foundation for deepening levels of trust.