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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Social Media – Building Relationships

How can social media become a tool for business? Although it has become part of the Sales Model, how often have you still heard that question raised?

Here's a brief look at two examples using Facebook to further develop the relationship with the customer – adding depth and creating a personal bond.

At the Weather Channel, Kelly Cass uses Facebook to keep in touch with her audience, answering questions about the weather (Why is it getting so cold so early this winter?), talking about the show (Tonight Kim and I have a whole bunch of interesting things for you.), offering her personal observations (I just love the snow!), as well as engaging in light banter (viewer: Kelly, you always look great! Kelly: Always???). She will even let folks know that she will not be able to keep in touch when she is doing a solo show – keeping them informed.

Years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Cass while visiting The Weather Channel (my client) – I found her to be warm and engaging – a real person who you'd like to have as a friend. The really cool thing about her Facebook writing is that she projects that same aura – like Kelly is a friend keeping you caught up on what she is doing and thinking. It is as though she is dropping you a personal note each time she posts to Facebook.

In Bethesda, Maryland there's a wonderful restaurant called Chef Tony's – great food and a welcoming atmosphere – like dropping over to a friend's home for a fine meal. Tony Marciante, the chef – proprietor, is always on Facebook with updates and uses the restaurant website to publish the daily menu, recipes, and beautiful pictures of food – among many things. Chef Tony (the person) will post to Facebook about upcoming activities (lobsterpalosia – Maine lobsters, comedy club night, Leadership Breakfast of Maryland, cooking classes), and what he is up to (baking deserts for next day, marinating meat for a special dish, wrapping up for the evening and heading home). He even uses Facebook posts to let folks know personally that Chef Tony's (the restaurant) will be closed and suggest a friend's place as an alternative – with a free glass of wine on Chef Tony.

With all this personal attention, does Chef Tony and his restaurant have a loyal following? Each Facebook piece feels like a personal message and it creates a relationship between the patron and the proprietor. This depth has a fascinating element to it - for many, they will drop a note to Chef Tony asking about menu suggestions or with entree preparation questions – like you might with a close friend. Of course Chef Tony responds with great dish choices and preparation instruction (for me he suggested chicken & prosciutto with a mushroom/white wine reduction sauce – to die for!) .

What's the common thread here? Do the Facebook posts create a stronger bond between the reader and the program or restaurant? Would you be more likely to watch Kelly and visit Chef Tony? This establishes another level to a traditional relationship. To makes it personal – between the reader and the writer. Even though the post may go to a thousand or more people, it feels like it is being sent just to you.

How do you see this 'personal' attention being used by other organizations to develop relationships and create community?

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Give Them What They Need! Are You Reaching Your Audience?

'Your speak with individuals; you sell to organizations; and you live by referrals' – a friend noted in a recent conversation about professional service firms.

Are we meeting the needs of each of these functions in our communications with clients and prospects. ?

I'd say yes when meetings were face-to-face and we were a primary source of information. While speaking in person, we can demonstrate how our service will get the needed results through stories related to concerns we just heard from from the prospect. How best to approach the organization to get an assignment or who else may benefit from our services are just a natural part of the flow of a conversation.

Has this changed as indirect communication has become a more important (or more frequent) part of our contact with others? Has our delivery changed as well?

Clearly the role as an information provider is different now – much of what we provided is available on the internet with just a few clicks; the carefully choreographed metering out of data and information is no longer effective to educate or to sell the prospect.

--But, do we still include this kind of stuff in correspondence and sales materials? Before you answer, think about the boilerplate in a recent proposal or the 'filler' in that thick leave-behind collateral currently in use.

When using the 'new media' should we abandon face-to-face meetings?  No!

-But we must make efficient and effective use of the meeting time. It is no longer a major portion of our meeting to educate – now the focus on what keeps them up at night and how our services will get bring restful sleep..

When I was in the Big Chair (CEO), I was constantly sought out by individuals and firms who wanted to sell me their services. Here's what I found was most useful to me:

  • Don't bring me a solution looking for a problem – learn about my needs and tell me how you can satisfy them – AND show me that you have hands-on, practical experience in doing so;
  • Time is precious – don't spend mine by reading background material or educating me about things I already know;
  • PLEASE don't tell me about your awards and being a member of the million dollar sales league – good for Mom to hear, but it brings nothing useful to my ears;
  • Listen carefully to what I am saying about issues, the market, and my competition, so you can respond specifically to how you can help me – don't spend my 'talk time' framing your next brilliant statement or prepping for line 26 of your prepared sales presentation;
  • Provide me with useful resources that I may draw upon for a deeper understanding and to better assess what help I really need;
  • Tell me stories about other similar or related assignments and how YOU achieved the results my counterpart needed and expected (exceeding the expectations is fine as well – IF true); I am not talking about a brag session highlighting how great you are, more to the point, the stories should make it easy for me to visualize myself as the benefactor of the achieved results;
  • Telling me that you spoke with another person in my organization carries no particular weight – if it was a useful conversation for that person, I probably already know about the conversation; if not, it adds nothing to the conversation if I am the decision maker;
  • It's OK for you to ask my intentions and time frame – HOWEVER, if you offer to do something – get in touch, provide further information, make a referral, or whatever – DO IT in the time frame promised (yes, it is good to set the When for promises);
  • Keep the meeting to the agreed amount of time – if you asked for 30 minutes, you should be shaking hands & saying good bye no later than minute #30 – don't worry, if I want more I'll ask you to continue.

The face-to-face meeting has shifted from an education session to an assessment session – going from the What to the How - are you the right one to do it. And the individual, the organization and the referral will all be satisfied in the process.

Is this how you see it?

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Purpose Of The Presentation

I was listening to a trainer demonstrating how to talk for an hour straight, how to get all the facts out, how to entertain the prospect, how to answer objections before they occur.

That was ugly enough to teach me something important.

Try this: The Purpose Of The Presentation is to have the prospect change the prospect’s understanding of what they want. It can be deeper, more nuanced, or different, but you want them to change their understanding.


First, a recent convert is most likely to take action. Think about a reformed smoker making an issue about other people smoking. Likely to commit assault to express their new beliefs. Over time, I may develop sense of scale, but at the moment of realization, the new idea is the meaning of everything.

Second, if you are present when the prospect changes what they want to buy, everyone who came before you is less qualified to provide what is wanted. And, it would take too much work to requalify those who have gone before.

Finally, my experience is that people like to have a better idea of what they are doing. If they think I was involved once, they are apt to call to see if we can do it again.

All of that practicing and rehearsing I was observing at the beginning of the post now has the purpose of creating the new perspective. I believe that is accomplished in 20 second bursts, not 20 minute sprays, and the heavy lifting is done by the prospect.

What conclusions can you add to this post?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Activity or Results – Which Do We Reward?

Activity is: movement; working on tasks; kinetic energy; being (or looking) busy; doing 'stuff'...

“Getting Results” brings to mind: meeting goals; creating value; making sales; completing projects...

Are they the same thing? NO – Results require activity – BUT – Activity does not necessarily produce Results.

To that point -

I can recall seeing an energetic guy wearing black rubber boots while waiting 3-hours for an 'about-an-hour' work on my car at a large auto repair shop. 'Boots' was in perpetual motion – heading toward the parking lot, front office, mechanic bays and elsewhere. He showed a sense of purpose and moved with great determination. But he never made it to any destination before changing course – off to a different one lickety split!

Fascinated by this constant motion, I flagged down Boots and asked what he was doing – “Keeping this place organized and working!” was his reply. Interesting; I never saw him touch a car or accomplish any task during the entire time.

When settling up for the repair, I asked the service rep about Boots and was told that he is of our most valuable employees – the guy is on the move from the time we open until we close.

In contrast, when managing a club recently, I had a server who had that perfect balance of providing attentive service without hovering. He would glide by the table filling water glasses and removing empty plates as he went – if the kitchen was slow, he'd stop be the table to let his guests know as he put down fresh bread & butter; he would check back with the table as the folks began to eat to see that everything was properly cooked and the meals were correct. This was greeted with smiles from the guests and often a supplemental order of side dishes. Of course, he offered desert and coffee after the meal.

I once overheard him asking the head of the table if she was thinking about coming back soon and offered to put in a reservation for her favorite table – Great Idea!!

In response to lagging satisfaction and declining patronage, we had set new goals of exemplary service, increased sales, and greater diner volume. This server had a grand slam getting top results for all three goals – he was a strong positive peer influence for the other servers as well.

Do you find that we reward – directly or indirectly – activity as if it creates the value of getting results?

Is Boots really perceived as a top employee for his perpetual motion rather than accomplishment? Can top notch service be delivered by disinterested servers – and – can customer service be improved without great service? Focused activity leads to achieving results.(The New Management is Leadership).

Does any of this make a difference in leading an organization in today's New Normal (When Will We Get Back to Normal)? How do you see it?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Landing Page

I’ve been playing with my Google profile, at It’s a very useful tool, providing a launching spot for two websites, and, and two blogs, Sales Lab Posts, and Through The Browser

When you start posting there doesn’t seem to be much on your blog or website, but after a couple of months of posting twice a week, there is too much for a casual reader to navigate.

We can introduce gadgets like LinkWithin and Lijit, or even set up manual landing pages (kind of a greatest hits page) around themes or times, but the Google Profile is a “set it and forget it” resource bringing in updated content from my posts. I can choose which outlets to feature, so it has good granularity. 

I got many ideas from the people at the Google Technical User Groups. I watched a couple of them use their profiles as their  jumping off points to other webapps for their presentations.

The Google profile has a clear advantage over LinkedIn and Facebook. People don’t have to be connected to me to see what I have displayed. It is open to the Internet rather than a piece of the Internet.

I’m thinking my Google Profile could become my primary web address. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Better Meetings

I was volunteered to watch a client's repeating meeting. Depressing. It was scheduled for an hour, people arrived late to protect themselves or avoid discomfort, went for over 90 minutes.

What I learned:

Opinions don’t count. As satisfactory as airing an opinion is to the opinionator, it didn’t add value to the conversation. Higher status participants thinks organizational status confers intellectual brilliance. What works is relating an experience with a prospect or customer, something observed outside the building.

I was once told, “Dick, you’re not creative. Your idea of creativity is to ask ten people what they think.” Now I see that when prospects and customers tell you what they want, that is not your opinion, and it is the information needed.  

Stifle snap judgments. I saw three examples where the alphadog (manager, not worker) gave an explanation before understanding the situation. Needed a do over” each time. Full stop, reboot, repeat previous conversation. There were a lot of people sitting around watching.

Set a consistent agenda. This meeting wandered wherever the leader wanted to go. At the end, I couldn’t tell if he was satisfied or tired. Everyone else was just tired. You can either prototype the meeting format or get good information. I can’t do both at the same time.

End on time. If you can’t get it done in 50 minutes, you probably can’t get it done. Over time people learn based on what happens to them.

My solution? Why thank you for inquiring. *grin* Check out Sales Lab Status Meetings

What is your tip for better meetings?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shortening Your Sales Cycle

Two good things happen in a formal presentation. The salesman learns what is wanted, and the prospect learns what is available.

Especially with services, we can provide more of what the prospect wants, if only we knew what they wanted. The trick is to not get too attached to our model of what we are offering. That model is not what we offer, it is a simplified interpretation of what we have provided in the past.

If breakthroughs usually start with a customer explaining what they want, getting that information is the most important part of the meeting.

Before the meeting, you can help the prospect define what they want by publishing up-to-date information of what you are providing, and the benefits where it is working. This helps the buyers, gets you more meetings, and results in more informed discussion.

Non sellers may be worried about their intellectual property or staying ahead of the competition, but if you were leading the league, everyone would be trying to reverse engineer what you were doing. Your only safety is maintaining your pace of innovation, and the customers are a key resource for that.

Go Intensely Public – Shorten Your Sales Cycle.

Your Thoughts?

Share The Gift Of Knowledge. Please Join Sales Lab At:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
Tuesday, December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria
How to Scale Your Organization – When to Build, Borrow, or Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wrestling with Sales Staleness:

A co-worker left the sales group I work with yesterday. It was time. She had no energy, commitment or eagerness for her work. Maybe she was always this way, maybe not. It did bring to my mind what most successful salespeople do every morning, they get up for the day, re-motivate and energize themselves, work toward the positives of what their day will be like.

The motivation, excitement or energy of salespeople cycles up and down over time. To a company it’s just a matter of putting that person out when they can no longer cycle back up.

This has left me to wonder… doesn’t it cost more to train and replace a once successful salesperson than to reboot or refresh that person?

Isn’t the person coming in an unknown quantity?

Is there a way to keep salespeople fresh over time?

Not every salesperson goes stale, but I have seen it time and again.

So I wonder if there are companies that recognize and have any programs that combat this negative sales occurrence. Is there such a thing as a corporate cheerleader/therapist/philosopher?

Would such a person make a company better or more profitable?

Could it work?

Anyone have any thoughts or experience?

Presentations you might find useful:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria

How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The When of Leadership

This post began as “Is Everyone a Leader?.” I quickly realized that this is truly determined though the crashing together of needed skills, desire or duty, the situation, and timing.

John Wayne typically played characters that are leaders – people follow him over the hill or turn to him for “The Plan.”

To the contrary, Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jack Dawson in Titanic rose to the occasion during the cruise. If he had taken the boat before or after the Titanic, would Dawson have made it to the First Class Deck and had a life changing effect on a rich girl?

Does the situation create the leader – even for those 'natural' or 'born' leaders? Being in the right place at the right time certainly has some weight.

I can recall a recently graduated MBA – top school, great student, head of the class – who joined my organization and spent several frustrating years casting about trying to be a leader with no success. He certainly had the training and abilities for the task, but was unsuccessful in bringing it off – during this period there was just no compelling situation which required a new leader to step forward.

On the other hand, during an early game in the 2004 ACC Basketball Tournament when the team was trailing, John Gilchrist slapped the floor and took leadership of the team – it was electric! Through his playing, encouragement of his team-mates, and creating a shared vision that the trophy was theirs, the University of Maryland basketball team won the 2004 ACC Basketball Championship. Gilchrist rose to the occasion and was clearly the leader at the tournament, but did not serve that role either before or after. Timing...the right circumstances...each member of the team playing above their best effort...all brought together under his leadership.

Leadership in an organization is 'assigned' to certain positions or titles – a team captain and  a company CEO are expected to be leaders. Often, situations develop which require a leader to address the situation or circumstance – either immediate or ongoing – and a person steps up to take the role. There is no magic pill here – the individual needs to have the traits & skills necessary to pull this off, but like Dawson (mentioned above), it just doesn't work too well if you missed the boat or took an earlier one.

The WHEN of leadership is an interesting issue – and there are many, many stories and examples of ordinary people rising to the situation at hand to become leaders.

This topic will become very rich and insightful through the sharing of such stories – PLEASE add a comment below with your favorite example of a 'made leader.'  By doing so, we may better understand the common elements and can apply this knowledge to develop potential leaders.

Presentations you might find useful:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria

How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Subscribe for RSS Notification for Upcoming Sales Lab Events

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Stories

Good stories are a basic unit of communication. Gets to the point in a minute or less. Good stories go beyond words to form a lasting mental picture in the listeners’ mind.

In Talk Your  Business – How to make more and better sales right away! everyone gets to develop a story that interests them, attracts the listener.

A good story sings to you, sings to to your audience.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Gibbs Rules – Leadership by the Numbers?

Leroy Jethro Gibbs heads up the high performance field team of misfits for NCIS. How does he get extraordinary results week after week? Rules, feedback, and required growth for his staff.

Gibbs, a former Marine sniper demonstrates his personal competence and skill through results – not the least of which was shifting from a loner to a leader. His band of 'unique individuals' include: a vain DiNozzo adverse to scutt-work; McGee – a tentative agent & computer geek; Ziva - a Mossad trained assassin; Ducky with his constant stream of inane facts; and Abby - a goth gal with a big heart. That aside, each of these folks is brilliantly competent and extremely dedicated to the success of the team in getting results – catching the bad guys. And, they would do anything for Gibbs.


Gibbs focuses on the talents and skills of the people on his team and expects the best from them at all times, regardless of personal foibles.

Gibbs has rules – he follows them and he teaches them to his staff. Short...Practical...Memorable...they are reinforced by Gibbs and by staff to each other. These rules are NOT written and posted on some wall or in a manual. They are shared as needed verbally. Gibbs says there are 51 rules and it is his job to teach them. In doing so he does not do their job for the staff nor tell them the one right way – to the contrary he presses for their view of the issue and how the team will solve it.

Gibbs puts each of his staff into challenging spots for growth and development – uncomfortable for them but shows they can do it. However, like a father running behind a child riding a two-wheel bike for the first time, Gibbs will appear and help out IF needed.

What keeps the rules alive is feedback – a slap on the back of the head as a wake up call and his acknowledgment of a job well done – WHEN IT IS – emphasize the validity of a rule.

Are the rules some kind of magic? Some secret of a world order? You decide – here's some of them:

Rule #1 Never let suspects stay together.

Rule #1 (yes there are two #1s) Never screw over your partner.

Rule #7 Always be specific when you lie.

Rule #9 Never go anywhere without a knife.

Rule #15 Always work as a team.

Rule #38 Your case, your lead.

Rule #45 Clean up the mess you make.

Rule #51 Sometimes – You're wrong.

And the unwritten rule is Family ALWAYS comes first!

Short – Sweet – To the Point... Applicable to the work they do.

Is this just a fictional account of a TV series or the chronicle of a true leader?

Do you know of a leader in an organization who is like Gibbs?

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the many contributors to the collections of Gibbs Rules; here are several links for more details:

Comprehensive footnoted list -
Annotated list -
List with explanatory notes -

Other presentations you might enjoy:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria

How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Subscribe for RSS Notification for Upcoming Sales Lab Events

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Blog?

Had another request to “ghostblog” for a CEO. It usually goes like, “Well you started us on social media, you know what we do, why don’t you write it for me?”

I’m starting to think that if someone has the ability to do the CEO blog, maybe they have the ability to be the CEO. It’s a new time, calling for new skills.

I’ve gained several advantages from blogging.

First, I have to figure out what I believe a couple of times a week. I can remember when strategic planning was a one time, off-site boondoggle, then we made annual binders that sat on the shelf. Today, strategic direction should be meaningfully altered quarterly.

What if a regular blog was your opportunity to update your strategic understanding of your situation? Certainly things are changing faster.

I find the ideas and words people put in a post subsequently show up in their conversations, become a part of their culture.

Remember listening to some “legend in his own mind” hijack a group meeting? Something about the prospect of showing up foolish in front of a hundred thousand interested stakeholders concentrates the mind.

Sure blogging is a new skill, and sure you can expect to get better at it. But it’s fast  and quickly becomes a potent channel for getting the word out

I’ve heard ABOUT the FUD, what could happen, but I haven’t seen anything other than new, better understandings of reality from bloggers. (If you go to the link, browse around to learn about ESR, one of my heroes, and CatB, his baby.)

Today is Veterans Day. The Veterans Administration is working full bore to improve service to veterans. One new, high possibility service is their new blog, VAntage Point. In spite of what COULD go wrong, they are already accomplishing for their people.

Today is Veterans Day. Head over to VAntage Point and support them with your comment. Start your blogging there. 

Thank you,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rainmaker #1 Gifts

We are providing a new offering, a ten minute “Rainmaker” idea before the monthly Capital Technology Management Hub meetings in Tysons Corner.

This Tuesday, November 9th is the next free CTMH meeting. For details and to sign up go to

Here is the handout for Rainmaker #1.

Joining a conversation, whether a formal introduction or just sliding in, what is the best way to start? We often hear inflated claims that go nowhere, start nothing, or people mumbling or never really joining the conversation.

What works better?

What about giving a gift?

A joke, an observation, a compliment, are all individually created. You can’t come up with THE ONE KILLER LINE, but with practice you get better and the process gets easier.

This is the Information Age, and a valuable and appreciated gift is useful information. What can you offer others that they will appreciate?

We’ve noticed that a handout (short – less than a page) lasts longer and can be re-used for greater benefit.

See you Tuesday night!  


Other presentations you might enjoy:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Dov Gorman, of the Capital Technology Management Hub, has asked for an ongoing series of ten minute “Rainmaker” presentations before the monthly CTMH meetings.

We enjoy the CTMH meetings, as presenters and participants, and this is part of their continuing effort to increase the value of their meetings. CTMH was started by graduates of the George Mason University Technology Management program, and draws many participants from that group.

Capital Technology Management Hub is found on the web as a LinkedIn group.

This is an unusual opportunity and fits directly with some things we are learning from tending our blogs, specifically – the message can always be shorter, and when done right, the shorter the message, the more profound the meaning.

We are looking to define something fast and useful every month. Come along to see how it works!

Please join us this November 9th for the next free CTMH meeting. For details and to sign up go to

What are some topics you would like to see in the ten minute drill?

Other presentations you might enjoy:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bright White Stripe

A guy rang my doorbell the other day – with a generic spray-bottle and a couple of brushes, he completely filled the 10-minutes we spent together with talk, questions, and product demonstrations.

This guy was selling a liquid cleaner door-to-door.

He introduced himself, told me why he was there, and that he was selling the best cleaner in the world.

Then he pointed to my cement stoop, said it was moldy and dirty and asked me to watch this: he sprayed the liquid and used his wire brush to scrub down to a stripe of clean white cement. He kept up a constant stream of talk about the benefits and results of using this cleaner and showed proof on that stoop.

He took me down to the car, asking what was the most difficult thing to clean on the car (wheels). So he squirted his stuff on the wheel and made the spot shine. Then he did a section of the window, the bricks on the wall, and even a portion of the sole on my sneakers. All bright and clean.

When asked about why the cleaner worked so well, he answered by giving a brochure with details about what is in the cleaner while he kept talking about the benefits and results that I was seeing.

He opened his order-book and quoted the price ($48 per quart) and said it is concentrated - makes gallons, and pointed out several order forms from neighbors in the community.

This guy knew his product. He spoke only about benefits and demonstrated results – all from the viewpoint me getting something cleaned. He provided 'evidence' that others had purchased from him and that he would immediately provide the product right on the spot. When we were done, he thanked me and was gone. But I have reminders of the visit with several little clean areas – like the bright white stripe.

He never once claimed he had some Sales Award, or about the history and accomplishments of the firm, or about the thousands of bottles of stuff he has sold, or that he was only one sale away from getting a trip to somewhere.

The number of door-to-door sales has been increasing lately – an old fashioned means of making sales, which - although labor intensive - can be effective even today.

What if sales conversations were based on the principles that this cleaner guy executed so naturally? Does your customer have a need? Do you have a solution? Can you communicate the benefit and results FOR THE CUSTOMER from your solution without a bunch of other noise?

Please join us for:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Go Direct

We are developing a new sales process. My client has a desire to attract a potent source of referrals. The more we talked, the more I realized that aiming for referrals would probably make the campaign maybe one tenth as effective, friction while going from Point A to Point B to Point C. We hadn’t figured how to attract referrers or buyers yet.

As long as we are starting from scratch, why not figure out what we would say to the ultimate buyers? After we know that, we can figure out how to meet with those ultimate buyers.

When I build a presentation to interest the actual buyers, referral sources (when I see them) understand the same message.

It’s usually just as hard to meet with a referrer as it is to meet with the final buyer. Why not go direct?

Please join us for:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Friday, October 29, 2010

Recommendations - Social Media's Game Changer

Recommendations are increasingly important with written social media. LinkedIn is my primary driver, but those recommendations are so good they deserve a wider audience beyond my LinkedIn connections.

I think my recommendations are better than any brochure or resume I could write. Customers describe us differently, and their perspective may be more valuable to prospects.

When you ask a customer for a recommendation, you encourage them to evaluate your relationship. Most of the time we are so busy doing it, doing it, doing it, we don’t have time to focus on what the work means. Defining importance is good for the health of the relationship.

Story matters. Describing what happened has more power than a pile of superlative adjectives. Running an outplacement firm, I found that when asked to supply a reference, explaining the story in addition to giving the contact information led to the interviewer not calling the reference a surprising amount of the time. The interviewer had what he needed to know. 

Short is good. Blogging is teaching me that a lot of the detail I treasure just isn’t that interesting. If someone wants to know more they ask.

There’s drama and truth in “just the facts, ma’am” 

Do you have a process for generating meaningful recommendations? 

Please join us for:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I go to meetings because that’s often where people go to learn something new.

When I connect, I want to make an impression. Neither one of us has time for an extended discussion as the value is in meeting the people in the room, and following the discussion.

Rather than trying to make sales, I measure the number of handouts I give out.

What is a good handout? Inexpensive, interesting, providing a clear benefit with a deadline.

Do your handouts do that?

I recently met a Roy Rogers Restaurants franchisee. He had a normal looking business card. On the back was a walk-in coupon for a free chicken sandwich. He had a unique offer and established his authority on the back of his business card.

I have a card that fits into my pocket that offers valuable advice on one side, and our next public presentations on the other. The handout updates every month, so people I know well and see often keep getting new information.

I once got a phone call asking me if I still presented Talk Your Business – How to make more and better sales right away! I said I did and asked him how he had learned about it. He had just been hired and was cleaning out his predecessor’s desk, when he found my handout. That started a multi-year client.

More recently, Phase://Technology, an open source software development company gave me a wine bottle "opener." They made themselves understood and desired before they started talking.

Comments - What’s the best handout you’ve seen?

Please join us for:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Talking Cold Call Blues

Thanks to Ram Iyer for asking about cold calling.

Cold calling is a technique for getting focus from new prospects. Sales professionals use the phone because it covered a wider geographic footprint than canvassing door-to-door, and the weather is usually better indoors.

The golden age of cold calling was before voicemail. Return has been decreasing over the last 30 years. However, if you can't imagine anything else, it is cheap and allows rookie salesmen to learn about their product beating on people they will never sell.

I am downright frosty when doing something else and interrupted by a cold caller. It's not a buying moment.

When we cold call, we are trying to interest someone in our offering. When do people want to learn?

Most people schedule specific times and activities to learn. How can you be there then?

How do people want to learn? Trying to listen over a staticky phone connection in the middle of another meeting is not optimal. With all the rich media available today, what is a better way to make your case?

Many salesmen think talking about their process is the key to making a sale. It is not.

Explaining how others have benefited from buying your offering usually works better. Doesn't have anything to do with what you did.

Even better is having your happy customers explaining their benefit to their peers. How do you do that?

What can you add? 

Please join us at:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When Will We Get Back To Normal?

Our economy has been going through cycles – up & down – since the depression in the 1920's. Cycles start and cycles end – we are trained to expect things to 'return to normal' at some point. 'NORMAL' was back to growth and abundance – with some adjustment, it was business as usual.

We will not return to rapid growth and abundance this time within the span of a cycle or two. We ARE back to normal, but it is a new normal. What you see in the economy today is the new normal. It is more modest with less return and growth than we have enjoyed in the past. So, it is time to quit holding our breath - waiting, and get back to business at this level and pace.

We may have been distracted by the economic implosion and missed the structural change that has taken place. Seth Godin calls it “the forever recession” which is the end of the industrial age and local markets. Now it's best mix of price-quality-value for goods & services and the extensive access to information and communications for finding them.

The reality of all of this shows up in a recent conversation with a guy launching a start-up – his planning uses what is today for scale and scope and being flexible for opportunities as developed.

Good point of view for all of us, don't you think?

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How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources, October 19th, Intelligent Office, Rockville
Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets, October 20th, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Point Of The Presentation

Lunch with one of my strongest salesmen. He is introducing some new products and fretting that he needs deeper product knowledge.

I let him finish and then asked, “What is the point of your presentation?”

He thought, and said, “To get the prospect to define his problem in your presence.” Usually the best service we can give is to let the prospect focus to define her problem. A side benefit for us is that everyone who came before is no longer qualified to solve that new definition.

He then said, “As a matter of fact, I made a list of ten questions I was going to ask…I only asked four.”

We discussed that and designed the single question that he thinks will get the whole story out, which most often leads to buying his offering. In artillery, you bracket the target, throwing one short and one long. Except the really good guys. They like to put it down the chimney first time.

He has a trade show next week where he can ask his question to between 60 and 100 good prospects in three days. He said, “Do you think I should spend more time cold calling?”

Really good guys never let up.

What does this remind you of?

Please come to

How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources 
 Tuesday, October 19th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, or 
Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets  
Wednesday, October 20th, Noon, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Molehill Business

The other day I sat through seven presentations. That’s about ten hours.

The sales guys uniformly wanted to drape their presentation around their process. The better presentations focused on providing cool nuggets of immediate value.

The boring presentations all featured The One Right Way. The better presentations let me pick and choose.

And after looking at all those clouds and circles, I realized that a process is just like a blog. Shorter is better.

When you get over 50 variables or gates, rethink your model. Your process has died. Tommy Smothers called his imaginary golf book, 352 Things To Remember At The Point Of Impact.

The other thing I realized was that after fifteen points in a model, the purpose is more failure analysis. “Not doing this thingie right here must have been the reason we failed.”
Dr. Deming said, “People who focus on failure become experts on failure.”

The best thing I learned was the novel concept that best practices should be so blatantly obvious that your people rush to adopt them. If you have to apply force, they are not best practices.

What do you think?

Please come to
How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources Tuesday, October 19th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, or Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets  
Wednesday, October 20th, Noon, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Your 75 Accomplishments

This is all about YOU! You are an accomplished person. You have done some pretty amazing things in your life. There are individuals who know and respect you. Others who have benefited from your wisdom and/or labor.

You are a valuable member of the community and of society. AND you are in transition. The latter does NOT change the former! However, at times you may lose sight of what you have accomplished – so having a list helps to remind you.

Here's the task: write up a list of 75 of your accomplishments – the things that you are proud of, that are hard-won, that mean something to YOU. And start it NOW! Keep at it – if you are struggling, put the list aside for a while, then come back and add more.

What makes the list? Things you have done professionally, personal accomplishments and even private achievements that may not mean a thing to anyone else -but are meaningful to you.

Why make this list? When you dig deep you learn more about yourself and by writing it down have it at hand when writing resumes, cover letters and preparing for interviews.

When you are feeling blue, pull out your list and review it – reflect on the things that you have achieved – it can change dark gray clouds into bright blue sky in a heartbeat..

When you complete the task, you will have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and pride – there's your item #76!

Your comments and experiences will help others – please share them below.

Come to How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources Tuesday, October 19th, Intelligent Office, Rockville
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Change Agent

Last week a client, a CXO in a large government contractor, said he was ready to move on. “I’m looking for something better, just so it doesn’t involve business development.”

He has spent the last five years leading the introduction of new technologies to a thirty year old organization. Many of his projects are unique, most are successful, and the company has grown more than ten-fold during his tenure. He is an energetic, effective inside guy.

He is fighting increasing resentment from his superiors. They are tired of the constant upgrading, doing what he wants. He is getting whipsawed by The Older I Get, The Better I Was selective memory.

So, he probably has to go. I had the same problem, at the same organization, twenty years ago.

But what about his desire to stay away from business development?

First, BD is a  government contractor word for sales. Their sale is complex, takes place over decades. However, it is sales, not business development. As Seth Godin defines business development, contractors don’t do it.

Why would a great inside guy shy away from sales? He is breaking himself to make the company perform better for “the right reasons,” to fulfill his idea of the way the world should be. If he had a customer paying for it, he would be making the organization better to improve sales and margins. Same result, more authority.

Working out is a process of breaking down your body and then recovering. Making important sales makes your organization stretch to complete more commitments. That involves stretching, breaking down, and recovering. I think they are similar processes. Breakthroughs usually start with a breakdown.

What if important new sales turn out to be the most important change agent for making your organization better? For making your customer’s organization better? Is sales the real change agent?

Your thoughts?

Come to How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources Tuesday, October 19th, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Simplicity of Listening

Many years ago, when I first went into sales, I thought that it might be a good idea to ask someone who had achieved some success in sales for advice. Luckily for me at that time I was the smallest investor with one of the largest brokers in the country. He was successful for a very good reason, he really had a knack for dealing with people and I wanted to find out from him the secret of his success.

This source of knowledge was Marvin McIntyre of Morgan Stanley, who was a tennis friend of mine, as I had been a Tennis Professional for 20+ years. “Marvin, what would be your advice to me, since I’m going to be in sales?” I asked. “Listen” was his reply. “Learn to listen to the person that you’re dealing with and they will tell you what they want or need.”

Man, that’s it!! I go to him for advice and he gives me this simple answer? I know that already. No, I didn’t!! It’s one thing to have a normal conversation and interrupt and push your own points across without really hearing the other person. It’s quite another to have the patience to wait until they let you know what it is they really want. Luckily, I took his advice more than it would seem from my initial reaction and learned to be a better listener. Seems simple, but as in executing anything the idea of doing a simple thing well is anything but easy.

I have been through extensive sales training from a number of companies and from companies that specialize in training sales people, but I have never received any advice or training that has been as important or helped me to become successful as the first advice that I was given. Many times people have given me the blueprint to become their salesperson just because I listened. Thank you Marvin, it was the best career advice I ever received.

Talk Your Business coming October 4th at 40 Plus!

New Opportunities

Seth Godin has a new post with a novel idea, “The Forever Recession”  that there is a cyclical recession that is ending, and a recession that is the end of the industrial age. This answers, “Why don’t I feel the recovery?”

Last week I realized we are seeing two groups of prospects.

Companies that want more sales. Maybe they can be helped.

A more interesting group are the companies overwhelmed by new business, who are asking for better ways to deploy their resources.

Both are out there in plenty. I choose the second. It’s like dating rich women. More good things can happen.

Which group are you designing your business to serve? Comment here!

Talk Your Business coming October 4th at 40 Plus!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Defenders – Leadership Training?

Last night I watched a new show - “The Defenders” - about a couple of Las Vegas attorneys who are part Robin Hood and part con artist. The show was quite entertaining, but led me to think about its role as a leadership lab for us viewers to learn from.

Here's the four themes running through the first episode:

Nick & Pete interacting – two rather cynical guys practicing law together. Informal leadership bounces between them freely, although Nick is the senior partner. They freely debate what to do but back the other's play once an action is decided. There's a mixture of unimpressive and wiz-bang – transportation is an old classic auto – like a Chevy II convertible however they advertise the firm (and the two of them) on a huge billboard using a vinyl sign (new technology).

Nick and his wife – they are separated but it is clear - they would both like to be back together AND they can't figure out how...and make things worse. This bitter-sweet relationship is entertaining only because you can quickly see how the conversation will turn out even in its early stages.

Pete and the junior associate – he bamboozles the new junior associate into covering an arraignment, and then abandons her to do it. Later they talk (she was yelling) and he shares a story of his first day and how he was thrown to the lions – but also was victorious. While she was skeptical, he continued with how this proved to be a strong foundation for a successful practice and pointed out that she was successful in her first assignment and cataloged how far she had come. Was he sincere or was he 'spinning a tale'? The new associate came away with confidence in her ability and led her to suggest what became a break in their case.

Gutsy approach to case resolution – the two of them pull all the stops to get the outcome they want. Their client was in a jury trial for murder and the jury asked for guidance from the judge, who was going to give instruction on a lesser charge, but Nick got the judge so mad at him that he ended up refusing to give the instruction and their client was found not guilty.

Each of these themes is pretty simple but should give rich material for the season. After all, the Star Trek programs in the different iterations and movies went on for 30+ years on a very simple premise: Gene Roddenberry had a social conscience and incorporated various issues in the programs around the constant tension between the need for humans to meddle and the Prime Directive which prohibited meddling.

Both shows are useful for leadership labs to see how situations develop and what we can learn from them, And with The Defenders, some entertainment for Wednesday evenings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sales Lab Seminars

Several readers have had questions about the seminar announcements at the bottom of our blog posts. We have a strong lineup for October so here is some explanation.

Ken Kropkowski of The Ken Group told me a seminar is a group of interested individuals gathering to discuss an announced topic.

The Sales Lab Irregulars, Dick, Joe, Jack, and Bruce, also write the Sales Lab Posts, and develop these seminars. We keep an updated list of our public seminars above a list of over 30 topics.

On October 4, we are presenting Talk Your Business – How to make more and better sales right away! at 40 Plus of Greater Washington. This is the best known Sales Lab presentation. Bill Van Dyke of Paradigm Mortgage says, “Talk Your Business is the best Economic Stimulus package Washington has seen. It has inspired new business startups, led companies to unprecedented growth, and re-educates the unemployed.”
We have been working with 40Plus for years and like their mission.

October 12th is the Social Media Engagement Forum at the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce. For the past year, Joe Shumard has been getting top area professionals to share how they are using social media tools to grow their businesses. Joe is also running a new member campaign at the Chamber this month, so please come for the information and consider joining.

On October 19th, we are presenting How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources at Intelligent Office in Rockville. This is a way to consistently take up to 80% of the time and cost out of your common processes, while improving accuracy and morale. 

Jonathan Layne is our host at Intelligent Office, Rockville and Matt Whitaker is our host at Intelligent Office, Alexandria. Between them, they provide telephone, reception, office, and conference services for over 400 companies, providing a public presence, making appointments, answering questions, connecting customers to field personnel, and providing first level technical support. As businesses get more focused, Intelligent Office has specialized to provide cost effective, results driven, front end services.

October 20th we are presenting Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets, a compilation of some of the best new management tools we are seeing in the marketplace, at the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce. For over 25 years, we have been providing explosive growth with abundant cash flow (as defined by a customer, long ago), and we have seen that isn’t what businesses are focused on in the current economy. They just want a better margin, or to maintain a margin from what they have been doing. This seminar has many good ideas how to do that.

Come join us at any of these seminars for new ideas you can use right away.

Comments - What would you like to see?

"Talk Your Business" coming October 4th at 40 Plus!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beacon or Gadabout - What's the Board Done This Time?

Have you ever watched ants?  Industrious little creatures in reaching their goal (how can they get into that sealed container?), the 'ant-path' to arrive there is fascinating.  As singles and in small groups, the ant-path is halting and confused - sometime this way, sometimes that way, sometimes back the way they came ... helter skelter with no clear path or rationale.  When in a group, the ant-path is never a straight line to the goal, but a march in a wavering column - meandering single file in a general direction.  No shortest distance from A to B for these guys.

This week Alan Weiss wrote his thoughts about Hewlett-Packard’s Board being human - excusing them for serial mistakes which have taken the firm, known for innovative and superior products, such as calculators (still have my 12C bought in early 1980's) and printers, on a confusing get & purge spree that has driven the stock price to almost nothing.

To me this is a good reminder that boards have a group dynamic going on which can make them drift from the vision and mission into some pretty rough turf for no apparent gain.  The HP Board is mimicking an 'ant-path' approach to moving the company forward, which puts HP in play and can allow Oracle to swoop in to get EDS for a song and finance it by selling off the other HP units to eager buyers. Of course there are plenty of examples of boardroom miscalculations which have crippled or sunk organizations. 

We as leaders, whether in a board capacity or as a key player in our firm, can learn from such examples and determine how an action (and its inherent risks) supports the vision and mission - or why the vision and mission needs an update or overhaul to support it.  A beacon sheds light and offers direction, while a gadabout is founded on whimsey and offers confusion - which leads to a brighter future?

Have you been faced with the question: 'What's the Board Done This Time?'

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 Our next programs are Wednesday, September 15th, Noon How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, and Thursday, September 16th, 7:15am to 8:30,Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets,  Intelligent Office, Rockville,