It’s Just Sales, Stupid
5 Tips to Closing Bigger Sales with More People, More Often

Sales Excellence Begins with You

PaulShapiro_100Today's Paul Shapiro is a managing partner at vie™.



Almost one year ago, I visited my physician for a checkup and blood work. I learned that my cholesterol was high and that I had several other indicators that weren’t very good. My doctor told me, “This is very common,” and suggested I consider taking a statin, like so many other males over 40.

I hated that idea.

So I took matters into my own hands. I watched a movie (Forks Over Knives) and read a book (The China Study). Both had a profound impact on my view of processed foods and the outcome of an American diet.

When I was finally convinced that I alone was responsible for my own good health, I did something radical: I stopped eating meat and dairy foods. The guy who loved to eat all foods, especially bacon, woke up and said, “I can make this change,” and I became a vegan.

Within six months of eating no meat or dairy products, my cholesterol went from 270 to 131. I also saw significant improvement in my blood pressure, A1C, and several other indicators. I lost 30 pounds, my body mass index greatly improved, and I never felt hungry. I didn’t even miss bacon.

It’s been a year, and I’m still 100 percent on track.

I feel so much better. I have more energy and clarity than ever before. I’m not trying to convert anyone to a vegan lifestyle (although I’m happy to discuss or answer questions about the experience any time). What I want to share is this: I realized my health experience dovetailed directly with my business experience, and both experiences share the same principles.

Over the last decade, as my vie™ colleagues and I worked tirelessly to perfect the sales-excellence process for our clients, we observed and coached thousands of salespeople and managers from some incredible companies. Here’s how the principles of success overlap.

1.  You have to create a blueprint for success, and you must follow it.

When I was creating a blueprint to achieve better health, I identified what I would eat and what I wouldn’t. I learned about the rewards of proper nutrition and the dangers of my current lifestyle, and I developed a strategy and plan to reverse my weaknesses. That was my blueprint.

How could you deconstruct your sales role and reengineer it for high performance? When you think about each step of your selling process, what things could you do differently? As a manager, coach, or leader, what approach could you change to produce better outcomes? What things do you need to stop or start doing? Write it out and create your blueprint.

2.  You are what you consume. Literally.

I admit it: I was filling my body with the wrong nourishment – fatty foods, chemically processed foods, and loads of sugar, all leading to (inevitable) long-term health problems.

What are you filling your mind with every day? Are you consuming information that could help you show your clients that you are a scary-smart advisor? Are you looking around, taking note of what competitors are doing, and collecting new ideas and insight to improve client business? Or are you just showing up with the same stale approach? Skipping good nutrition and substance in this area will have detrimental effects on your ability to help your clients and prospects.

3.  You CAN change ingrained habits.

Have you ever experienced an epiphany? Realized that something needs to change?

I was terrified by my blood work and didn’t want to have a heart attack at 50 like my father did. This jolted me to make some radical changes. Thankfully, it wasn’t too late.

What will be your epiphany? A missed opportunity? Being passed over for a promotion? A job loss? When you reflect on the value you bring to your clients, are you everything they hoped for? Are old habits keeping you stuck in place? Are you too comfortable in your routine? Could you change it up to be more positive, unexpected, and valuable?

Sometimes people wait so long to change, and then it’s too late. The competition swoops in and takes your business. These people lose out on opportunities, or worse, become irrelevant. You’ve heard the saying “Pay now or pay later”? Pay now, because paying later is much more painful.

4.  To be great, you have to practice.

You are what you practice most, and I was determined to practice a lifestyle that would lower my cholesterol and change my health.

To achieve excellence, you need to make sure the changes you put in place aren’t temporary.

When it came to my health, I needed to do several things to ensure that my behavioral change would become a permanent approach to life. I needed to make sure I was eating the right food, exercising according to my plan, and keeping my nose in the research so I always felt motivated and knowledgeable, and not just once in a while but daily. A daily practice of the right disciplines will form a new habit. I told myself I needed new habits not new medicine.

Sales excellence is no different. Ask yourself what habits you’re practicing. Are you putting in the time to prepare for every client encounter? Have you practiced for your next meeting so that you are sharper and genuinely ready? Are you focused on the right disciplines and habits that will lead to success? 

The big takeaway is this: we have the ability to improve. Will there be surprises and challenges that are out of our control?  Of course, but the reality is, there are many chronic conditions in our health and business that can be reversed, controlled, and even avoided.

No one will do this for you. It must begin with you.


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Patti Pokorchak

Congrats on the life style change Paul!

I love how you related the personal health issue with a professional sales life. It is so true, what we consume either through our mouth or eyes affects us a lot!

Good habits go a long way to a healthy wealthy life. Thanks!

Myra Harmer

Like your article, and congrats on your commitment to self. I said good bye to alcohol this year. Made it my New Year's resolution and it's been very easy to keep. Now I have no problem maintaining my weight and I enjoy going out with friends again.
It amuses me that I thought I needed to have a glass of wine to be sociable. They clearly don't care if I have alcohol or not.

I decided to make this change after reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It provided me with very useful information on understanding my habits and how to work with them. It's an interesting read.

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