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November 2009

Lessons from a Most Memorable Meal: a Recipe for Success

This year my birthday came on the same day as Thanksgiving. Of course, that called for a double celebration and we decided as a family to celebrate at the Inn at Little Washington which is located in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, a 90 minute drive from Washington DC.

The Maestro behind a magnificent meal

Patrick O’Connell is a self-taught chef who financed his education working as a waiter since the age of 15. His first dream was to become an actor, but he soon discovered that it would be better to create a “living theater”, a restaurant where fine food and refined service interact in an exquisite setting to create a divine experience for every guest. Patrick spent hours in the local library reading cookbooks and developed an insatiable curiosity about what makes a great dish that surprises and delights the customer. He learned about the historical background of a dish and immersed himself in French culture by visiting top rated restaurants in the French countryside, talking to owners of country inns and famous chefs. In 1972, when Patrick started a catering business in Little Washington, Virginia, the population of this tiny town was less than 180 people. His kitchen consisted of a wood-burning stove and a frying pan. After creating a booming business that catered to the many wealthy people who owned big farms in Rappahannock County, Patrick and his partner decided to open The Inn at Little Washington in 1978.

Early on, Patrick made a decision that he was not merely feeding people, or selling food, but to providing a peak experience that his guests would never forget. The dining room features only 30 tables and the adjacent Inn offers its out-of-town guests 18 rooms and suites. Patricia Wells of The International Herald Tribune described him as "a rare chef with a sense of near perfect taste, like a musician with perfect pitch.” Over time, Patrick’s quest for stratospheric levels of culinary excellence earned him a Mobile Five-Star rating for the restaurant as well as the Inn.

A VIP reception

The moment you approach the Inn, you are treated as a welcome guest. You are greeted outside by a receptionist who opens the door and escorts you to the sumptuously decorated reception area. There is no standing in line, and you won’t hear a condescending question like “do you have a reservation?” Rather, you will hear, “Thank you for joining us this evening; may I have your name please?” Next, you’ll be escorted to a sitting area where you will be offered drinks while the staff prepares your table.

Our Mood is Measured and Managed

After a short wait we were seated and without knowing it, were on stage where our waiters quietly observed our mood. In a Harvard Business Review article (3/2006), Patrick O’Connell explained the basics of customer experience management. “After the guests are seated, the waiter assesses the party’s collective mood and ranks it from one to ten. The score is logged into our computer system along with the order and appears at each workstation throughout the restaurant. For example, if the prevailing mood is a three or four, the whole team works together to elevate it.” During our tour of the kitchen at the end of the meal, Patrick explained that waiters may bring complimentary champagne to the group and then reassess the table’s mood and update the score. Mood management continues until the end of the meal with the goal that no guest should leave with a score lower than nine. (If you want to “game” the system, try to fake a sour face after you’ve been served your last dish – you are practically guaranteed an additional dessert.)

Our mood was festive. I had to chuckle at the misspelling of my name on the menu – something I am used to, but when I pointed this out to the waiter, he apologized profusely. He took all menus back, corrected the misspelling and handed each of us a fresh copy of the menu at the end of the meal as a souvenir.

A mini banquet of tasty compliments from the chef

While many great restaurants offer an “amuse bouche” with compliments of the chef, The Inn at Little Washington offers a plate laden with white porcelain spoons with little delicacies such as tuna carpaccio, baby rock shrimp with guacamole, prosciutto with melon, or, my favorite, the world’s smallest baked potato. (This potato is smaller than a golf ball, perfectly cooked, filled with sour cream and a sprinkling of bacon). The waiters encourage you to take more than one of these delicacies, and they are eager to offer seconds.

The second amuse bouche was an apple rutabaga soup served in a tall, narrow glass. It is a creamy delight with a touch of sweetness (maple syrup). The breads include a freshly baked white roll and a thinly sliced rye with a slightly salted crust.

The wine list

The wine list offers a great selection from around the world as well as rare vintages with eye-popping price tags. For example, a magnum bottle of Chateau Petrus, Pomerol 1996 sets you back $4,500, a Chateau Mouton, Rothschild from 1945 is $7,950, a Chateau d’Yquem produced in 1900 sets you back $10,000. If the 2,400 wine selections are too overwhelming you may ask the sommelier for a wine pairing with your meal, or you can order wine by the glass at reasonable rates. At the end of the 96-page wine list you’ll find a quote from Thomas Jefferson “Water separates the people of the world; wine unites them.”

We ordered a magnum bottle of Puligny Montrachet, 2005. When the waiter arrived, I noticed that the vintage was 2000, not 2005. I tasted the wine and found it acceptable, though a bit too heavy for my taste. I mentioned the discrepancy between the wine list and the bottle and the waiter apologized, and mentioned that this was a misprint on the wine list. After a couple of sips our party agreed that the wine wasn’t that great and after consulting with the Sommelier he replaced the bottle with a wonderful Chablis Grand Cru.

The agony of pairing the right appetizers

I ordered the beet appetizer, Beet Fantasia featuring 3 varieties of roasted beets, beet mousse with caviar and citrus salsa. The beet mousse was truly amazing.

As I surveyed the table for the other appetizers, I noticed spinach ravioli with a molten-gold center. When you cut it open, out flows a stream of warm egg yolk.

At this point I am beginning to understand why Patrick uses analogies from the stage to explain the dialogue between different ingredients on a plate. In his book Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine, he explains how he helps aspiring chefs define their culinary compositions, "I often ask them, 'who is the star or lead singer in the dish?' Once that's established, it's easy to point out that the back-up voices are competing or drowning out the featured performer. For example, the tarragon may be overwhelming the chicken, while the lemon may be so subtle that it's 'inaudible.'"

To see Patrick create a simply, earthy, but delicious appetizer called “Beet Carpaccio”, please click:

The Main Course

My second appetizer is a delicious sea scallop. The main course was a traditional Thanksgiving turkey with thinly sliced white and dark meats, mini Brussels sprouts, pomegranate seeds, sublime pecan-apple stuffing and side dishes delivered separately including peas with pearl onions, cranberry sauce, sweet potato puree and creamed corn casserole. I am reminded of Patrick’s philosophy of allowing the countryside to take center stage on his menu. Every ingredient is fresh and most are purchased from local, organic farmers. At this point I am oblivious to time and space and completely caught up in the spirit of the moment. When the waiter brought a second helping of turkey delivered in a roasting pan fresh from the kitchen, I knew that I was completely full, but had my plate filled anyway. I realized that I was having a better meal than the Queen of England- and that was reason enough for me to continue the feast. I am sure that by this time the waiter pegged our mood meter at 10.

Patrick, who employs over 100 people, says that waiters are not allowed to speak to guests until they have completed their first year of training. He told one culinary writer that newly hired waiters don’t fully understand how savvy and knowledgeable his guests are and how much there is to learn.

Desserts are not the end

As our waiter passed the dessert menu, I asked myself how many miles would I have to run on a treadmill to metabolize another 300 calories? I passed on a dessert named “The Seven Deadly Sins.” I said no to everything to the chagrin of the waiter who suggested that I “go rogue,” so I asked for mixed berries. The special plate was delivered with a "Happy Birthday" ribbon made of marzipan and chocolate.

A tour of the Kitchen

After settling our bill, the waiter invited us to to tour the kitchen and visit with Patrick O’Connell. Patrick graciously showed us around his spotless kitchen where his moves are often followed by TV cameras. He suggested that the next time we visit, we should eat in the kitchen (there is a special table for six) where we can watch the food being prepared. Patrick remembered that we covered his restaurant in Selling Power about ten years ago, where he told us about his “mood management” technique. He is always eager to innovate and said, “If you came here a year ago and had the lamb, and you had it again today, you’d say, ‘that’s exactly how I remember it.’ But in reality we have incorporated several improvements. We can’t stand still in this business.” Innovation keeps Patrick ahead of his competition. While many restaurants folded during the recession, The Inn continues to have a long waiting list. There is no recession at the top of the food chain.

The parting gift

We all received a small cardboard house - a replica of the inn. When you lift off the roof, you’ll get access to a handful of treats such as chocolate covered almonds, chocolate truffles and assorted cookies. It was one of the most memorable meals I had in my lifetime.

Lessons learned:

1. Always deliver more than what the customer expects. Instead of offering one amuse bouche, Patrick delivers two.
2. Manage your customer’s mood from the opening to the close. Make it your goal to have the customer leave on a high note and they will return more often.
3. When you made a mistake, apologize quickly and do everything you can to correct the situation.
4. We cannot stay competitive without ongoing innovation. Customers expect the best from us, and we should expect even more from ourselves.
5. Excellence in execution is always the result of excellence in thinking, planning and preparation. Our work speaks volumes about who we are.
6. If you deliver excellence beyond compare, geography doesn’t matter.

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Where Selling Is Headed in 2010: Action Steps to Winning – Part II

Traditional sales training is dead

Sales trainers who live by the fiction that salespeople can be taught by lectures, PPTs, and war stories from the field are standing in the way of progress. We need to eliminate the boring roleplays and toss out the time-wasting hypothetical scenarios that will never happen in reality.

Many sales-training efforts are still focused on product knowledge and measured by butts in seats and smiley sheets.

Sales training 2.0 begins with an individual performance assessment that shows salespeople what skills they need to work on. Successful sales organizations create a three-step system that begins with virtual learning, which is then extended through live training that focuses on the exploration of ideas, processes, and solutions. The third part happens in the field with one-on-one coaching.

The old model of sales training or coaching consisted of sales managers telling salespeople, “Let me show you how I did it when I was in the field.” This approach allows the teacher to hide behind a cloud of authority while ignoring the trainee’s real needs. The future of sales training lies in a prescriptive learning model in which every salesperson follows an individual development plan.

The new model of learning revolves around self-exploration, reality-based peer discussions, and discovery-based coaching. The role of the trainer or coach is not to play the all-knowing supersalesman, but to assume the role of the change leader, the creator of an open communications platform in which sales transformations are enabled, not mandated.

Action step for winning in 2010: Make sales coaching a top priority for frontline managers.


Sales Coaching by Linda Richardson

Sales Training

Traditional sales technologies are not helping salespeople sell more

Customer relationship management describes the methods companies use to interact with their customers. CRM software is often promoted as a tool that offers companies a 360-degree view of the customer, which will drive up productivity. In reality, CRM software is often poorly adopted by the sales team. Why? Salespeople don’t want to be data-entry clerks. Salespeople would prefer to spend more time in front of customers, not staring at a screen. Sales managers get frustrated when sales forecasts are inaccurate, when leads contain poor data, and when salespeople fail to enter comprehensive account information.

While CRM implementations often fail to deliver ROI, Sales 2.0 applications can often translate into significant paybacks. Sales 2.0 technologies have improved sales productivity, enhanced lead management, increased forecasting accuracy, accelerated compensation management, dramatically cut the time spent generating quotes and proposals, improved sales enablement, and enhanced marketing. Successful companies have integrated a suite of Sales 2.0 solutions that have accelerated sales and created a sales culture based on measurement. CRM isn’t going to increase sales; it is merely a repository for customer data. Smart companies develop a complete suite of business solutions to help salespeople sell faster and better while driving up customer value and company revenues. The software company SAP has recognized this trend and recently introduced SAP Business Suite. offers customers an overwhelming number of solutions (more than 800 different applications).

Action step for winning in 2010: Step up to productivity-enhancing Sales 2.0 technologies.


Marketo – a revenue-focused, sales-and-marketing tool that creates more leads, facilitates lead scoring, enables lead nurturing, delivers greater pipeline insights, and enhances sales and marketing collaboration.

InsideView – empowers your salespeople by providing the latest personal and business information about each sales opportunity. Salespeople can set “triggers” to receive automatic alerts about game-changing events in their prospect’s business.

Kadient - enables your salespeople with a playbook for winning the deal. This advanced collaboration tool allows sales organizations to harness the collective intelligence of their peers.

BigMachines – helps salespeople automate complex price quotes, accurately configures solutions, and creates customized proposals. Salespeople are able to save hours of preparation time and spend more time seeing customers.

Right90 – helps sales managers accurately measure the value of their sales pipeline to dramatically increase forecast accuracy. This effective sales analytic tool creates a climate of accountability and predictability.

Xactly - energizes sales teams to reach higher levels of performance with a powerful incentive compensation management solution. While most sales organizations calculate sales commissions and incentive rewards with spreadsheets, Xactly eliminates costly errors, shadow accounting, and time-wasting commission disputes while creating a climate of trust and fairness.

Social networking will dramatically change the way we sell in 2010

To stay competitive, salespeople need to invest in learning how to talk to prospects in different social spaces. Why? Traditional emailing has become less and less effective. A prospect that is getting 160 emails a day is not likely to take time to respond to a salesperson’s pitch. When salespeople use social- media tools, they can connect with customers by whatever means they happen to find engaging.

“Texting is more popular than email with younger people,” says Gartner Group analyst James Lundy. “The older generation tends to disagree. The future is an aggregation, so that people will be able to choose the modality they want to use.” With the astronomical growth of social media, it is important to take that growth as a yardstick to measure our progress. It is an inevitable conclusion that if we want to create value for our customers, we need to communicate in a way that our customers value.

Action steps for winning in 2010:

1. Create a social-media policy. Salespeople need clear guidelines as to how to communicate online.
2. Create a social-media strategy that is tied to your sales and marketing objectives. For example, share specific examples of how sales managers can use LinkedIn for hiring, how salespeople can use LinkedIn for prospecting, how marketing managers can follow Wall Street Journal writers and pitch a story to them, etc.
3. Set reasonable performance standards for socialnetworking proficiency. Some companies expect newly hired salespeople to have a total of more than 1,000 connections in the three major social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
4. Create a socialmedia learning channel that will help you stay current with the field. Here is a list of the top 25 socialmedia gurus you want to follow on Twitter.
5. Spotcheck your salespeople’s socialnetworking channels during sales meetings. For example, if salespeople follow leading entertainers instead of industry business leaders, remind them of your policy, socialmedia objectives, and expectations for socialmedia effectiveness.


The Facebook Era by Clara Shih

Twitter Power by Joel Comm

A list of the top 25 socialmedia gurus to follow on Twitter

Social Media tips by Kodak

Social Media Guide by Dell

There are only five certainties in selling in 2010

First, the customer IS our business. Our number one business goal is to create new customers. Customers are not created through the sale, but through their success with our product or service.

Second, all customers want to trade their problems for outcomes that accelerate their success. Our customers don’t want solutions, they want outcomes.

Third, if we continue to deal with our customers the way we did in the past, we are certain to fail in 2010.

Fourth, companies that fail to prepare for success in 2010 will lose their best salespeople to companies who offer better opportunities for winning.

Fifth, change with the times, but never forget your DNA to success: your company’s mission, vision of the future, and core values.

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Where Selling Is Headed in 2010 – Action Steps to Winning – Part I

The recession has clearly exposed the weaknesses of many sales organizations. Warren Buffett said it best: “When the tide goes out, you know who has been swimming naked.”

Sales organizations that cling to the old sales paradigms are going to fail in 2010. They will be unable to realize their company’s true potential in the market. The economy has changed, technology has changed, buying behaviors have changed, markets have changed, and many companies see sales slipping because their sales processes, sales technologies, and sales-training methods are stuck in the past.

Salespeople thought of customers as targets to whom they would sell by following the AIDA formula: get the Attention, arouse Interest, fuel Desire, and compel a prospect to Act.

We can no longer think of the customer as an individual decision maker; rather, we need to think of customers as part of a team in which each member is linked to a social network that participates in a global marketplace. We live in a world of interconnected complexity that is often too hard to understand without consulting highly specialized experts.

Many customers are facing complex challenges that are often difficult to describe, diagnose, and resolve in a way that will accelerate their success. While many sales leaders claim that their salespeople are “trusted advisors,” we can no longer assume we know what customers need, since customers are not always clear about what they need to improve the value of their business.

The big paradox is that prospects often say what they want but don’t always mean what they say. What makes this even more challenging is that prospects have less time available than necessary to understand the full extent of their situation, let alone the full extent of the available options.

Successful salespeople need to follow a more rigorous process for diagnosing customer problems, such as one that includes the following steps:

1. Ask the right questions to fully understand the customer’s current situation. What drives his or her business? How does the customer create value? What holds him or her back?
2. Summon the most capable subject matter expert – if needed.
3. Identify the root cause of the problem – and don’t merely rephrase the symptoms.
4. Understand the cost and consequences of doing nothing.
5. Don’t construct a solution solely based on what customers say they want. Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
6. Cocreate with the client an effective plan of action . This will get the client invested in the plan and process.

Action Step for Winning in 2010: Adopt question based selling strategies. It will get far better results than solution selling.


Barry Rhein

Tom Freese

Traditional Selling methods are increasingly useless

The sales pitch is dead. Salespeople whose egos are tied to their spiel are suffering from disappointment. They blame the economy for their poor performance. A good manager or coach would tell them to ditch their pitch and adapt to the new buying behaviors.

Salespeople can no longer rely on the traditional ways of building relationships, such as a round of golf with the prospect or client or offering tickets to a ball game. The era of wining and dining has passed. The relationship with the prospect represents only a fraction of the buying decision that’s now heavily influenced by intracompany communications and a rapidly growing social network.

Solution selling is fading. Why? Buyers are becoming increasingly suspicious of salespeople who pitch their solutions in a generic manner. Buyers know that most solution sellers only put lipstick on a pig, which they want to trade for money. Buyers want to solve their unique business problem and collaborate with smart sellers who can help create and deliver a positive outcome. The successful salesperson is a customer success agent, someone who can diagnose a business problem, cocreate the sale with the buyer, and deliver outcomes that accelerate customer success.

Action step for winning in 2010: Prepare your sales force to focus on business outcomes.

Lou Schachtner: "The Mind of the Customer"

Traditional sales processes prevent sales progress

In most companies, the sales process consists of a hodgepodge of “best practice” steps that worked well when companies enjoyed steady growth year after year and managers had discretionary budgets. Customers asked, “What’s the ROI? Is this the best solution? How does this extend my growth? How can I get this product/service at a lower price?”

Many sales organizations have created proposal templates, white papers, and sales messages that provide compelling answers to the above questions. The result: customer indifference. Why? The recession has transformed these questions to, “Do we have time to think about this now? Is this purchase critical to our company’s future? How big is the risk involved in making this purchase? How confident are we that this investment is a safe bet?”

As a general rule, sales organizations like to design their sales processes based on what makes most sense to them. History has shown that sales processes that are designed by the company don’t reflect how customers want to buy. Mark Sellers created the idea of the BuyCycle Funnel™, based on his book The Funnel Principle.

One of the most effective processes for selling in a recession has been developed by Geoffrey Moore. It was described in a Harvard Business Review article in March 2009 as “provocation-based selling.” The process begins with salespeople identifying a burning issue that is mission critical to the company’s future. This burning issue must be framed in a way that will provoke serious concern that even in this recession, money will be found. To test whether or not the provocation will raise serious concern, sales executives must answer three key questions: 1) Is the burning issue sufficiently serious that it will handicap our ability to compete? 2) Are we unable to fix this ourselves with our existing resources? 3) Is the seller the most reliable and competent resource for solving this issue? Once all questions have been answered to your satisfaction, begin formulating your provocative point of view. For example, “We’ve followed your market very carefully and noticed a significant gap when compared to your competition, which could be alarming unless circumstances change.” The provocation-based selling process: 1) Describe the threat. 2) Get agreement that the challenge exists. 3) Describe the hard consequences of ignoring the challenge. 4) Describe what outcomes you can deliver.

While solution selling aligns with the prevailing customer situation, provocative selling challenges the customer’s established point of view.

Action Step for Winning in 2010: Train your sales team in provocation based selling strategies.


An excellent slide show: "Selling In a Downturn Economy- A Summary"

The original HBR article: "In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers"

The Funnel Principle

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Ten Challenges on Sales Leaders’ Minds - Part II

Here are more notes from the recent Sales Leadership Conference that was held in Miami on November 9th.

Common challenges faced by sales leaders:

1. Sales processes that are not aligned with the way customers want to buy. In many cases the process steps follow generic templates that were created by software engineers who have little experience about how to optimize a salesperson’s time.

Action step: Ask 10 of your best customers to describe their best/worst experiences in dealing with your company.

2. Many sales technologies are designed so that salespeople spend more time in front of a computer than in front of a potential customer. We see salespeople spending less than 30% of their time seeing customers.

Action step: In addition to next month’s sales quota, set a time quota and mandate that salespeople spend X amount of their time with customers or prospects. Customers should come first, everything else second.

3. Fewer salespeople are reaching their quota this year. CSO Insights research confirms that only 47.8% of all forecasted deals are closed.

Action step: Improve your pipeline analytics. There are great solutions on the market that are waiting to be explored.

4. Sales managers are not sufficiently trained in coaching their salespeople, yet most sales leaders agree that of all their development initiatives, sales coaching will deliver the biggest payback.

Action step: There are a number of highly effective sales-coaching programs on the market. Select one that fits.

5. Customers have radically changed their buying behaviors. Traditional sales-training programs rely on obsolete tools that are ineffective to meet tomorrow’s sales challenges.

Action step: Bring customers to your sales-training sessions. Your salespeople will be eager to learn from them.

6. Collaboration between sales and marketing needs to be improved. Sales leaders agree that the majority of leads generated by marketing are weak. Successful companies found that if sales VPs and marketing VPs report to a chief revenue officer, effective collaboration becomes easier. One company has created an ideal- customer profile to facilitate lead scoring. They filter out “garbage leads” and feed those that will mature later into a lead-nurturing system.

Action step: Create a notification system in which marketing alerts salespeople in real time when their customers are visiting the company’s Website.

7. Sales forecasting and pipeline management are two areas that deserve a closer look in every company. Sales forecasts are often done on spreadsheets, and they tend to reflect the gut instinct of the sales manager, not the true potential of the sales pipeline.

Action step: Create a “sales pipeline council” that meets twice a month to review a) the effectiveness of your marketing and lead-generation efforts, b) lead behavior in the pipeline, and c) forecasting accuracy. Also, create a side-by-side comparison to highlight the results of sales-generated opportunities vs. marketing- generated opportunities.

8. Salespeople keep forgetting what they are hired to do. Companies make too many demands on their sales forces that have nothing to do with creating customer value.

Action step: Create a not-to-do list for your salespeople. Cut waste. Refocus on clear expectations.

9. Product diversity leads to process inconsistency.

Action step: Create a sales-enablement strategy. Kelli Stephenson, VP of sales effectiveness at Experian (a $4 billion company that employs more than 2,000 salespeople) presented the evolution of Experian’s sales tool kit at the conference. This tool kit, supplied by, is now a fully integrated part of her company’s CRM system.

10. Mistakes happen to everybody. What’s important is transforming the mistake into a powerful learning lesson. General Keith Thurgood showed a great, one-minute video clip that speaks volumes.

Action step: Teach your team that it is OK to make mistakes – providing that the team will translate them into powerful learning lessons.

Below are a few pix from the Selling Power Sales Leadership Conference. If you attended the show, please feel free to download the presentation slides and the research papers in the resource library. They are free for those who attended. (click on resources)

To receive an invitation to the next conference (April 19, 2010, in Las Vegas), email

Brianna Scalici, a sales student at Central Florida University won a $300 certificate by entering a drawing sponsored by Paul D'Souza, the author of the new book The Market Has Changed - Have You?

Sanford Brown, Chief Sales Officer of Heartland Payment Systems with Doug Press, CEO of the Incentive Group.

Kevin Hooper, VP Hewlett Packard,

Sales Students from the University of Central Florida. Selling Power invited these students to meet and interact with top sales leaders. Several students got an opportunity to present their workshop ideas on stage. Their enthusiasm for the sales profession reassured the sales leaders in the audience that the future of selling looks bright.

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What’s on the Minds of Sales Leaders? (Part One)

This week has been enlightening. On Monday we had our Sales Leadership Conference in Miami at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Here are my key takeaways:

1. What are the burning subjects on sales leaders’ minds? The day prior to the conference, we organized a dinner in a private dining room for our distinguished speakers. I asked them to share briefly one burning question each that they’d like to get answered, with the intent to share their questions with university professors who are always interested in hot research topics. Here is a sampling of questions that deserve deeper examination:

a) What are the best ways to drive up employee engagement?
b) How do we use branding as a tool for engagement?
c) Is there a relationship between branding, engagement, and customer success?
d) How do we evaluate our sales managers’ skills in an environment where all things have changed?
e) Why is it that in difficult times, salespeople go back to behaviors they’ve learned in the past and no longer work in the present?
f) What is the “new normal”?
g) How do we create better comp plans that reward salespeople for those behaviors that will improve the bottom line?
h) How do social-media strategies impact the sales process? What are the new rules and best practices?
i) How can we get salespeople to focus more on filling customer needs – without getting side-tracked by trivia?
j) What are the best practices for selling to the C-level suite and winning larger accounts?
k) How can we get our salespeople to do what they need to do consistently?
l) How can we get sales managers to stop selling and start coaching?
m) Why is it that sales managers are not as good today as those who were trained by the great corporate learning centers like Xerox, IBM, Armstrong, etc.?
n) How can we enhance innovation in execution?
o) What can we do to drive up sales effectiveness?

2. Is selling an art or a science? To open the conference in the past, I wrote out a speech and created a PPT presentation. Then I realized that we are in a conversation economy. Conversation drives commerce. I decided to turn my presentation into a dialogue with the audience. How? At first, I thought we’d have a town-hall style meeting, but then I came up with a different concept. I used a three-minute video clip of Mad Men and then engaged the audience in a conversation by asking a chain of questions. This video is a great jump-off point for a productive conversation.

In this video, Draper presents the Kodak Carousel. His message is creative and powerful. He talks about the emotional connection between a product and people. Great salespeople know how to use logic and emotions to lead the buyer to say yes. Great actors know how to establish a powerful emotional connection with the audience.

In the video, one client was so moved by Draper’s presentation that he left the room, all choked up. After showing the video, I started the conversation with the question, “Is selling an art or a science?” I had no script, no notes, no agenda, and 45 minutes ahead of me to fill with content. With 150 sales leaders in the room, I had no problem with getting people to share their views. Instead of pumping information into the audience, I was able to tease out rich content, reflect on and reframe it based on my own experience, and extended their current understanding with new questions. Here are some of the more relevant points:

First, selling is both an art and a science. The role of sales leaders is to advance both and expect more of their salespeople in the future.

Second, we need to teach salespeople how to create a deeper emotional connection with the company’s product or service, while marketing needs to create a deeper emotional connection between the company and the market.

Third, sales managers need to be clear about what they expect from a salesperson. In many companies, salespeople are not exactly sure what their company wants them to do, and they are not always clear as to the steps to take that will lead them to success.

Fourth, when sales managers communicate to their salespeople what needs to be done, salespeople don’t listen well and misinterpret the manager’s instructions.

Fifth, sales managers know that coaching can make a huge difference, but they prefer closing deals for the salesperson.

Sixth, the science part of selling is technology, and it is external. The art of selling lies in establishing an authentic connection that begins with salespeople and then translates into an authentic connection with the customer.

3. “We suck less than the competition” was a funny but sarcastic comment made by a CEO of a $30 million company who privately complained that he traveled too much, worked too hard, isn’t getting enough sleep, gained 15 pounds this year, had the worst August sales in years, and experienced the best October ever. “We suck less” seemed to resonate, since the comment caused many to respond with chuckles of approval.

4. How do we lead in times of uncertainty? Sam Reese, CEO of Miller Heiman, chaired a blue-ribbon panel of sales leaders who shared their expertise on managing change in uncertain times. The panelists agreed that many sales executives are clinging to yesterday’s tools. In times of stress, people revert to behaviors that worked well in the past. They ignore that the world has changed (and thus they regress), and when they realize that they don’t get the results that they’ve gotten in the past, they become frustrated and discouraged. Kevin Hooper, VP of Hewlett Packard, got the most audience votes. Kevin joked that it must have been his British accent.

(So much more content to follow. I’ll share why we invited 15 sales students from the University of Central Florida, why this conference was so special, plus photos.)

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The More You Know, the More You Sell

Umberto Milletti is passionate about helping salespeople create stronger connections with their customers. In 2005, he started a company called InsideView, which delivers strategic opportunity intelligence to the salesperson’s desktop (integrated with, Oracle CRM and Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions). Salespeople can set “selling triggers” so that they can receive the critical information about their key accounts that will add value and velocity to their sales pipeline. InsideView filters and prioritizes the information so that salespeople won’t waste their time on trivia.

Milletti, who speaks Italian fluently, recognizes that salespeople have to speak the language of the customer if they want to win more sales. He has moved his company ahead of its competition by integrating social information with business intelligence. Milletti’s marketing team coined the word “socialprise”, meaning a mash up between social information and business information. Milletti says the key to selling more is in recognizing that it’s no longer just who you know that will make the business deal happen, but “what you know about who you know” and “when and where you should know it.”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Umberto Milletti. Watch this 4-minute video to learn how to harness business and social intelligence and enhance your sales.

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Let’s Measure the Quality of Your Relationship with Your Sales Manager

Why this is important?

When two people enter into a relationship, a set of rules emerges. It’s important to have ground rules that help people navigate the many challenges life throws at us. For most people, family relationships create a blueprint that determines how we relate to others. The quality of the relationship between father and mother has a great impact on the quality of the relationship their children have with their friends. The same is true in selling. The quality of your relationship with your sales manager has an impact on your professional growth, and it also can impact the quality of your relationships with your customers.

Many salespeople talk about how important relationships are in selling, yet there is very little research on this subject. I recently had a conversation with Ron Gajewski, a senior consultant of the Dallas-based research firm Beyond ROI. Ron shared a number of insights (the first four items in the list below) that led me to expand on his thinking.

Below is a checklist that may help sales managers think about how their behaviors impact their relationships with their salespeople. If you are a salesperson, use this checklist and assess your manager. Then ask your sales manager to take the same assessment and discuss a) what points you agree on and b) what points you want to improve on. It should make for an interesting conversation.

1) Connection: Do you have a real sense of connection with your sales manager? Does he or she know about your life, passions, and history outside of work? Or…is your manager all business?
2) Commitment: Do you feel your manager is actually committed to helping you grow and be successful? Or…do you get the sense your manager is simply using you to make the numbers?
3) Trust: Do you fully trust your manager’s guidance and ideas? Or…do you sense your manager is out of touch with your situation and clients?
4) Relevance: Are you successful in your role because of your manager? Or…are you successful in spite of your manager? Is the relationship key to your success?
5) Autonomy: Is your manager taking over on joint calls, trying to close the sale for you? Or…does your manager give you enough leeway that you feel you are in charge of the call?
6) Respect: Is your manager respectful when he or she gets upset about a problem that has come up with a customer? Or…does your manager berate you, belittle you, or insult your intelligence?
7) Guidance: Is your manager constructive and instructive when you ask for his or her help? Or…does your manager brush you off with platitudes?
8) Praise: Does your manager have a habit of recognizing your achievements by praising you in public? Or…do you sometimes wonder if the manager knows that you exist?
9) Fairness: Is your manager fair and evenhanded when it comes to making decisions that impact rewards, compensation, promotions, hiring, and firing? Or…do you sometimes wish for a better manager?
10) Challenge: Does your manager challenge your abilities and ambitions so that you continue to reach higher levels of performance that you never thought you could reach on your own? Or…do you feel that your manager knows little of your talents and capabilities?

Please share your feedback. How did you do? Are you really good at creating successful relationships? If you are, please share your insights.

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Let’s Try this One More Time: Stress Management

Here is some good news and some bad news: The bad news is that we can’t avoid stress. The good news is that we can manage it. Dr. Amora, a stress-management expert, believes that salespeople who manage their stress better than others will sell more.

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Watch this six-minute interview and compare your current stress-management techniques with Dr. Amora’s practical tips:

1. Manage all five health areas: psychological, physical, social, spiritual, and environmental health.
2. Embrace the idea that you can grow from stress. This is the first step toward successful stress management.
3. A healthy attitude toward your challenges has a positive effect on your performance.
4. Accept the scientific fact that physical exercise will reduce the effects of stress on your body.
5. Develop a health plan that is in line with your goal for managing stress.
6. Choose a routine that you can enjoy for a long period of time, such as walking, tennis, squash, basketball, soccer, or swimming.
7. Create a plan for managing your nutrition. Avoid the temptation to resort to sugar or fat to manage stress. Plan for more but smaller meals each day to maintain a peak performance level.
8. Plan for five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
9. Boost your immune system with antioxidants such as dark chocolate, soy, or a glass of red wine.
10. Vitamin B supplements can help manage stress.
11. Reduce your social connections with people who negatively influence your health habits. If your friends like to eat inexpensive, greasy foods, meet them at a Starbucks, not over dinner.
12. See more friends who evoke good feelings in you. Don’t attempt to reform negative people – they only increase your stress and frustration.

For more health-related tips, check out Dr. Amora's Web site:

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Why Creigh Deeds Failed to Close the Biggest Sale of His Life in Virginia

Deeds Although I was born in Austria, the same country that gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Governator), I have resisted the urge to run for governor of Virginia. The only reason I would faintly consider that career path is that I like the natural fit of that title with my name – “Governor Gerhard Gschwandtner.” I could have my shirts monogrammed with “GGG.”

OK, enough about my delusions; let’s dive into the hot subject of the day. Why did Bob McDonnell outsell Creigh Deeds by 17 points? Or rather, what can we learn from Creigh Deeds’s failure to close the biggest sale of his life?

1. Speak your customer’s language

Great salespeople and great politicians have something in common: They can act like a chameleon and blend in with any group of people. For example, at the Shad Planking event (a fascinating local custom that’s worth checking out on Wikipedia), Bob McDonnell opened his speech with just the right dose of humor that reflected the mood of his audience. He said, “This is the first Shad Planking I have been to that we actually have on April 15th – tax day – and you know, that points out some of the differences… between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans know that Independence Day is the 4th of July; Democrats think that it’s April 15th.” The crowd responded with huge applause.

Compare how Creigh Deeds tried to persuade a huge crowd in Norfolk, VA. Watch this short speech on YouTube. Deeds wasn’t in synch with himself. He mentioned that one bill he voted for created or saved 80,000 jobs. He followed up with this line: “When I talk about job creation, I got a little experience to talk about.” This is like a salesman saying, “This product will save you $80,000 a year! When it comes to saving you money, we got a little experience to talk about.”

2. Don’t throw mud into your competitor’s face without provocation

In September 2009, candidate Deeds bombarded national media with the details of a thesis McDonnell wrote as a graduate student at Regent University in Virginia Beach. Deeds tried to brand McDonnell as against gays and working women. On August 30th, the Washington Post broke the story.

The next day McDonnell faced the media and calmly explained that his views had changed. He made reference to arriving at, in some instances, similar perspectives as Democratic governor Tim Kaine and President Obama. But he stood firm when he affirmed the differences. Instead of letting the print media sort out the controversy and focusing on his own next move, Deeds ran TV ads that slammed McDonnell with hit-them-over-the-head commercials.

Whether you are in sales or politics, it is risky to sling mud. Great salespeople don’t attack their competition, and neither do great politicians. Great salespeople sell their customers on the strong benefits of their product or service. Great politicians know that America likes to see the underdog win. What should Deeds have done? Instead of assuming the role of the attack dog, Deeds could have played the underdog. Just like Senator Sam Ervin Jr. said when he presided over the Watergate hearings, “I am just a simple country lawyer.”

3. Talk about what your customers value

Savvy salespeople do their homework before calling on an important customer. They learn about their customer’s business, industry, and pain points. In this three-minute video, you’ll see Terry McAuliffe, President Bill Clinton, and Creigh Deeds speaking at a rally in McLean, VA.

Notice how McAuliffe opens with self-deprecating humor. Watch how “master salesman” Clinton uses a thoughtful and insightful approach that urges the audience to judge wisely and act decisively. What happens when Deeds approaches the podium? He rattles off political platitudes and tells an unconvincing story about a lesson he learned in summer camp – “You’re going to get out of this camp exactly what you put into it.” If you want to sell your commitment to a new job, try to use your most compelling story.

How did Bob McDonnell focus on the customer’s pain? The two pain points Virginia is experiencing – like any state in the country – are a) the economy and b) jobs. McDonnell branded himself the “Jobs Governor”.

While Deeds uses the referent power of Presidents Obama and Clinton, Bob McDonnell had a number of high-ranking Republican leaders stump for him. The list includes Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani.

4. Don’t mess with your customer’s traditions

The motto “Virginia is for lovers” gives the state sex appeal. What’s even hotter than sex in Virginia? Guns. McDonnell got the NRA to sponsor a clever commercial that shows a mafia type advising Virginians to vote for gun control, implying that if they didn’t, there would be consequences. The call to action: Defend gun rights in Virginia!

In the past, Deeds has received an A rating from the NRA as a defender of gun rights by getting the group’s endorsement when he ran for State Attorney General in 2005. But over time, his voting record has shown a softening of his views. He voted against the gun-show loophole and opposed bans on buying more than one handgun a month.

5. Make each dollar work harder for you

Every sales executive knows that success in selling is getting the most bang for your buck. A quick analysis of how both candidates spent their money in TV advertising reveals that Bob McDonnell consistently paid the lowest cost per point (CPP) each week out of the candidates who advertised during the Virginia primary. (Source: Smart Media Group) While McDonnell paid an average of $53 CPP each week, Terry McAuliffe paid $62, and Creigh Deeds paid a whopping $66. Great salespeople are not only good at selling; they are also smart at buying.

Full disclosure: I have never met either Bob McDonnell or Creigh Deeds. My personal favorite in the race was Terry McAuliffe. I met him, listened to his stories, and I laughed a lot. I was impressed with his amazing ability to sell very wealthy people on parting with their money and handing it over to finance Bill Clinton’s and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns. In his book, What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals, he shares a ton of amazing and amusing sales stories.

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The 12 Qualities of a Successful Sales Leader

Recent Salesleader research suggests that the average tenure of a chief sales officer is about 24 months. Why the rapid turnover? In today’s tough market, CEOs demand a return to growth and change. If the sales leader can’t manage change, CEOs change management.

I like to think of sales leadership as a steam locomotive. Good sales leaders have fire in the belly. They are able to create enough steam to move the train (their people) forward so they can reach the company’s revenue goals, on time and on budget.

Good sales leaders have vision. They see, think, and plan ahead. They are also dreamers. They dream big and with their eyes open. When others ask, “Why bother?” sales leaders see opportunity. They imagine what could be and ask, “Why not?” Leaders keep their followers on track and on time. They say, “Get moving or get left behind.”

A good economy and business model make all sales leaders look very smart. But with success comes arrogance and reluctance to change. What many sales leaders fail to realize is that, while they run the engine in front of the train, there is a second engine in the back that is pushing the train forward. That second engine is the economy. In good times, the engine pushing in the back makes the leader look and feel good. Arrogant leaders often believe that it is their own steam that creates the forward momentum. When the economy shrinks or when the business model falters, the back engine quits pushing. That is the moment of truth in which the true sales leader will create more steam to move the train forward while poor sales leaders get stuck and get the boot.

When the economy runs out of steam, sales leaders are willing and able to build up more steam, pick up the slack, and keep the train moving ahead at top speed. How?

1. They don’t give up until they’ve found the best way to harness the collective genius of their organization to reach their business objectives.
2. They help their salespeople improve by clearly communicating what they need to do to meet the company’s goals and the expectations of management.
3. They coach salespeople and help them adopt the successful behaviors that lead to results.
4. They give their salespeople the right technology they need to improve their performance, drive up productivity, and cut out the tedious and repetitive tasks that salespeople are not paid for
5. They help create sales processes that reflect how customers want to buy.
6. They associate analytics with every sales process in order to ensure ongoing improvement.
7. They measure their salespeople’s performance objectively and create a level playing field.
8. They set high expectations for each team member and appraise and review results on a regular basis.
9. They praise good performance in public and consistently celebrate high achievement.
10. They help salespeople connect with C-level executives to help increase the chances for closing the sale – without taking over the salesperson’s role.
11. They create effective compensation and incentive programs that are motivating to the sales team.
12. They generate hope and optimism throughout the sales organization and help their team grow and win against an overwhelming tide of adversity.

How can you spot a good sales leader? Just ask one how long he or she has held his or her job. If the answer is for more than three years and with the same company, you know that he or she has already beaten the odds.

Related video: Effective Sales Leadership

Watch this six-minute interview with Dr. Todd Harris, director of research for PI Worldwide. Dr. Harris found that 50 percent of sales leaders seem to suffer from a lack in competence, as judged by the people who work for them. He believes that successful sales leaders have three common attributes: passion, principles, and performance.

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