Sales Conversations

I originally posted this article on my other blog on 1/10/2011. I’m republishing it today because many 2800 attendees are doing a ‘fresh start’ today after returning from Inbound 2012 and many others are doing a similar restart after Labor Day. Just change the dates and if you need me, send me an email.

Let me start with three hopes.

  1. I hope that you wrote down your goals for 2011 and that you’ve checked them for conflicts.
  2. I hope that you’ve converted your sales goals into a behavior plan that’s based on actual historical metrics rather than guesses or hopes.
  3. I hope that you’ve given your written goals and your behavior plan to someone that will check for validity, know when to coach, when to mentor, when to motivate, and when hold you accountable.

I spend most of every day working with business owners that are looking to double or triple sales in a few months and typically, as soon as we do, they raise their sights and we do it again. Today, I’ll be speaking with each of them. We’ll be looking at last week. First week of the year. Did they meet their sales goal? Did they meet their base move goal? Did they meet their conversation goal?

Notice that each of these is a yes/no question. Notice that each yes/no is based on a number. Numbers are concrete and specific, black and white, no gray. You either did it or not. We have to start there. Once we get the quantity, then we can work on quality. Quality will be determined by the quality of the conversation that happens at each step in the process. “Do you want to buy?” is better than not asking, but not as effective as the Inoffensive Close. The quality of a conversation is also affected by

  • tonality of delivery
  • emotional accompaniment
  • business relevance
  • personal relevance
  • depth of engagement
  • a few other factors

So, today, one week in, did you meet your behavior objective? Were your sales conversations effective? Do you need to improve? Where?

Selling for Introverts

Somebody asked, “What was your favorite part of Inbound 2012?”. There were many great speakers, several exciting announcements and innumerable, useful ‘how to’ tips, but Susan Cain made my trip worthwhile. She twisted my head. She told me that I’m OK. She made me understand the ‘why’ of Rick. She also made me realize how I want to spend my working time.

I will not try to recap her talk, and I haven’t yet read her book. (I will, but I just heard her yesterday.) So, you should visit her website, go hear her speak or buy and read her book.
So, how did Susan Cain make my trip worthwhile?
I knew this before, but Susan (May I call you, Susan?) gave me permission to be OK with the fact that, I am an introvert that is expected to be an extrovert. I’ve been telling people all day about my introversion, and they’ve all been replying with, “Yeah, right!”, but it’s true.
Remember this post? Did you read, “I learned to pretend that I wasn’t smart, shy, or introverted“? My mother (who reads this blog and will probably comment to confirm) has told me that I’m the last one of her children that she thought would ever be a salesman. It took me six months to make a friend in kindergarten. You want further proof? I was smart in school. I always knew the answer when the teacher called on me, but never raised my hand. Class participation or divide up into groups? Yuck! Reading my paper in front of the classroom? I’ll be sick that day!
How come people think that I’m an extrovert? “I learned to pretend…” I’m an actor, but when I get off the stage, I love being alone. I’ve written 823 posts with a total word count of 232,314 words. That’s a lot of alone time. Think about you. If you would rather reply by email than pick up the phone, you might be an introvert and I can relate. I don’t want to talk to people, but I realize that I need to talk to people in order to do my job.
Now, here’s how Susan changed my life. She made me realize that I am not alone. That there are millions of entrepreneurs and small business owners that are introverted. They like being alone and would rather do ANYTHING else than start a sales conversation. So, they nurture their leads using software. They build an on-line following in the hundreds of thousands, but never have a conversation with any of them. Susan made me realize that I like working with introverts more than extroverts because I relate to the introverts because I’ve been there and they realize that when I coach them, I’m using my actual experience and do understand.
So, buy her book, and if you’re an introvert and want to learn how an introvert became a maker of RainMakers,
send me an email

and I’ll do the rest.

True Colors and Personal Branding

Have you ever had one of those surreal days when you think that this must be someone else’s life? Today was the first full day of Inbound 2012, but for me- it was the day that I met my first ever celebrity- Cyndi Lauper. Of all of the memorable firsts in my life, this is one that has many metaphors. (and I am the queen of metaphors after all, at least according to some colleagues).

When I first found out that I had won a backstage pass to meet Cyndi- I was excited of course. Then, as is my nature, I did a little research. What had my teen idol been up to since “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.’? Turns out, she went from dance pop to blues- no small transition. She appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice” and got fired by Trump for being honest and not playing games. When I told friends that I was “meeting” her, we got into a discussion of what the Cyndi brand meant to us. In short, it meant “who gives a crap what other people think? This is who I am, take it or leave it- it ain’t changing to make you more comfortable”. In the “Apprentice” you didn’t see evidence of her throwing anyone else under the bus in the attempt to “do whatever it takes to win.” It would seem that, in her mind, you won on the merits of what you did, not whomever else you had to walk over to get there.

Throughout the day, I kept getting these looks- like, ‘hey- I know you!’ But I had not idea why. Finally, I stopped and asked- why the look? Apparently, somewhere in Hubspot my picture hangs on the wall. And no, not for darts either. (Yes, I asked…)

I met people in real life who follow me on Twitter, read my blog, and actually said to me, “I am such a fan.” Seriously? I have done nothing special, other than be who I am without apology or regret. Something I learned from Rick…

I met colleagues who were surprised when I said to them, when I think of ABC company- YOU are who I think of.

People buy from people, not brands.

Painful Good Byes

I expect that this post will be one of my least read posts of all time, but the dozen or so people that do read it mean more to me than the rest of my readers.

Today was the first day of Inbound2012. I didn’t plan on attending, but my son ‘suggested’ that I should and Melissa, my new daughter-in-law was going to attend with her business partner. Two good reasons, so I was there today. I expected to see Carole and Chris there, but I was really happy to see Philip there. Philip is a really good guy and when last I spoke to him, I was worried about him. He and Jennifer have had a heck of a year, but as Philip says, “It’s all good.” Great to see you again Philip. The highlight of my evening was when Stephanie hugged me. I think that it completed a cycle that needed to be completed. Here’s the story…
During 4Q11, I was coaching a dozen or so clients multiple times/week and we had developed a relationship that was easy and caring, but not extremely productive. Yes, they were paying me. Yes, I was meeting their needs. Yes, they were happy. But we weren’t changing the world. When I retired on 12/29, Stephanie told me that I liked her too much to not talk to her again and she was right. When she called, it hurt not to take or return her call. But I knew that if I wanted my clients to grow, they had to learn that they didn’t need me. That they could do it on their own. Stephanie’s fine as is every other client that I stopped coaching that day.
Two things.
The next day, after I ended my relationship with all of my clients, I made my coffee and dialed into my conference line, ready to coach. Then, I realized, what am I doing?
Second, and this may be reflective of a parent talking to a child. Not talking to you hurt me way more than it hurt you.
Love you. Miss you. Thank you.

Are you a Sales Fraud?

Ask people what they do.


Have you ever had a 22 year old financial advisor tell you that he works with “high net worth individuals”? Yeah! Right! Like I’m gonna trust some theoretical kid with my life savings.

I just read a blog post that was written by a marketing consultant. Truth be told, I think that the consultant is a pompous, self-absorbed has been, but the post was tweeted by someone that I respect with a shortened link, so I didn’t know where I was going when I clicked through. I read the article anyway because I didn’t want to have a closed mind. The post had 21 links in it. All 21 were to the author’s website. Come on. Nobody else knows ANYTHING? We’ll see how long it is before his competitors take the rest of his business.


I had a conversation recently with a CEO that has many clients in the $10M space, but felt qualified to target the Fortune 100 space. Interestingly, the CEO has done very little to get into the space and really has little experience in the space. I was a little surprised that the CEO didn’t ask me if I had any ideas. (Probably figured that I’d try to “sell him”.) Anyway, I decided to check out my ‘one introduction away’ LinkedIn connections to Fortune 100 companies.

  1. Walmart – thirty three 1 intro connections: including an EVP and a Senior Brand Manager
  2. ExxonMobil – three 1 intro connections: including a VP-HR
  3. Chevron – fourteen 1 intro connections: including the COO of a division
  4. General Electric – sixty eight 1 intro connections: including a social media manager and a dozen with SVP or global in their title.
  5. Bank of America – sixty eight 1 intro connections: including 108 VP’s (I thought everybody at a bank was a VP?)

Anyway, the point is, Fortune 100 isn’t my space, and I could get me introduced. If this CEO feels that he fits in the space, shouldn’t he be able to get himself introduced?

I don’t know. That’s what’s on my mind today. 

Understanding Sales VP’s, Sales Managers & CEO’s

I originally published this articled on my other blog 2/2/11. If you missed it then, I hope that you enjoy it now.

I just read Frank Belzer’s post, CRM – 10 obstacles to making it work. As usual another great post, but he uncovers another issue around the quality of communication between a CEO, his Sales VP and their sales managers.

Communication issues may have several underlying causes..

The CEO hires good people, gives them latitude, but may be somewhat isolated and not aware of what the real issues are ‘on the street’ and he either doesn’t fully listen to his subordinates or he doesn’t recognize that they’re unwilling or afraid to tell him the truth.

The VP’s/managers may know what the answer is, but not be willing to communicate to the CEO that they need help. because they don’t want to appear weak or inadequate or give the CEO a reason for early termination. In some cases, the VP’s/managers may actually tell the CEO that they need help, but the CEO doesn’t listen. He believes that he hired good people that should be able to overcome any obstacle and that they’re just not trying hard enough. Work harder. Work longer. Work smarter with what you’ve got.

Meanwhile, the sales managers are frustrated because they can’t get their salespeople to hit their numbers. The salespeople are looking because it’s better to look for a job while you’re still employed.

They need a sign that change is on the way.

Website for picture 


A Tale of Two Referrals

I originally posted this on my other blog 4/11/09. If you missed it then, I hope you enjoy it today.

CJ Bowker sent me this email on Tuesday, 4/7.

Thank you for the follow up.  After our meeting I really think you should meet Rick, so…

Joe meet Rick
Rick Roberge 508-xxx-xxxx
Rick meet Joe
Joe LastName 617-xxx-xxxx

I called Joe on Wednesday. Had a conversation. Followed up by email and scheduled our next event. Then, I called CJ on Thursday, thanked him for the introduction and told him that we had spoken and were scheduled to talk again.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

On the flip side……

On 1/16, I sent this email to Sylvester.

Sylvester, this question was posted to one of my groups. Is it something for you? (Then I included the question which was a ‘sweet spot’ request for Sylvester’s stuff.)

Three hours later, I received this email from Sylvester’s boss.

Good lead …we appreciate it very much!!

A half hour later, I received this email from Sylvester.

Thanks for the lead! I will let you know how it goes!

I never heard from either again.

On 4/8, I sent this email to the person that I had referred.

Kate, You posted this question to our group back in January. I forwarded your request along to Sylvester. I think that they contacted you but I never heard how it turned out. Did they treat you properly? Were they able to help? Rick Roberge

Kate replied on 4/10 with this email.

Rick, Thank you for the follow-up (and the original referral). Sylvester did contact me and came for a meeting in our office, but then I never heard from him again. It’s okay though, I am working with somebody on this right now and it looks like we will be installing a new system soon. Thanks again for your help. Kate

I replied 8 minutes later.

Perfect! Thank you for the response. I didn’t know them as well then as I do now. Based on what I know, I wouldn’t refer them today. God watches over us. I’ll be more selective in the future.

What is there to say? I hope Sylvester is good at making cold calls.

Negotiation Skills Sales Training

I originally posted this last year on another blog. Please enjoy if you haven’t read it before.

So, you did your sales presentation. You got buying signals galore. You asked them if they were ready. They asked how much. You gave them the price, They started negotiating and you now have no margin. Do you need help negotiating? Watch this video. You’ll be a better negotiator in 5 minutes.

5 Minutes to being a Better Negotiator

General Motors vs. Toyota

I originally posted this last year on another blog. Please enjoy if you haven’t read it before.

I was talking with a business owner the other day. Actually, he was talking to me. He was expressing his displeasure about an unknown quasi-competitor that was making inroads into “his” marketplace. How does that happen?

But the conversation got me thinking. General Motors was the #1 automaker when my grandsons were born. GM was #1 when my sons were born. GM was #1 when I was born. GM was #1 when my parents were born. Now, Toyota is #1.

Who did Walmart displace?

Hertz was founded in 1918. Remember the Avis commercials? “#2 tries harder. Along comes Enterprise in 1957 and now has almost as many locations in the US as Hertz and Avis combined.

I’m sure that you can think of many other examples of the underdog doing the unexpected.

Here’s the question. Are you General Motors or Toyota in your marketplace?

Sales Decisions

I originally posted this last year on another blog. Please enjoy if you haven’t read it before.

I just read Frank’s post and he asks some good questions.

As I read, I found myself thinking about me, the way I sell and the way that I have sold. I think that I’ve changed and not necessarily for the better. Not a week goes by that I don’t retract an offer to work with someone. They always get upset with me. Last week, I posted about the prospect that replied, “Wow how arrogant” and threatened me. Last week, I was told that I was “confrontational” and “in your face”.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If I could just get every prospect to read Frank’s post, they might learn about my mental short cuts and understand that it “just didn’t feel right”, but the fact is that I can’t get every prospect to read the post just like he can’t get every sales professional to read the book. They don’t care. They want what they want.

A little history –

When I sold Fuller Brushes, Cutco Cutlery, and furniture, I sold what I sold and moved on. My job was to sell as much as I could. It was somebody else’s job to deliver and do customer service. Then I spent the next 20 years in collections, where I learned two things.

Joe hired me to collect three debts. Every one of his debtors threatened me physically saying something like, “If Joe was here, I’d use this chain on him, but you’re here representing him…” I got out of there. Returned Joe’s paperwork and suggested that he might deserve not to get paid. I talked to thousands of debtors, and only got threatened three times, by Joe’s debtors. Joe was not happy. He said that I had agreed to help him and that I was changing my mind. He was right, but I wish that I had never agreed. Never started. Walked away. Why, because I no longer sold and walked away. I had to deliver. I was a partner with my client and what they did impacted my life. If they were clean, I was clean. If they were a crook, I was a crook and if they lied, cheated, stole or were otherwise unprofessional, it made my job difficult if not impossible.

As I mentioned, I talked to thousands of debtors. They were regular people like you and me that weren’t paying for something that they had agreed to pay for. My client made an offer. The debtor accepted it. Did the debtor actually accept the offer? Did the debtor change their mind? Did my client not deliver? Did the debtor’s world change? Are they negotiating after the fact? (In some cultures this is OK.) What I learned was that many debtors appreciated these questions and that I could determine in 5 minutes whether or not this debtor would pay if they could. I worked with the ones that would. The lawyers sued the ones that wouldn’t.

So, what’s the message. Use the comment section to give your version of what the take-away should be.