Sales tips, leadership communication skills insight and more from Steve Giglio, sales training professional for more than 25 years.

Getting to the Decision Maker

When proposing…well…anything…it’s critical that you get to the decision maker. While that’s true, don’t rush it! Take your time because you’re ultimately going to need some help.

Don’t Jump Over Your Current Contact

Tread smartly before you ask to meet Mr./Ms. Big. What I mean is make sure your current contact understands and blesses your meeting. Don’t jump over them just because you see an opportunity to move up the chain. Your contact is your way in and they need to partner with you to get the next meeting. Better yet, it should be their idea! If you’ve done your job well, they will see the benefit for themselves first and will champion a meeting since it will make them look like the hero. They also need to have the confidence in you that you will lift them up during the meeting.

Know the Goals before Knowing the Boss

Often in business development opportunities there still is a sole decision maker. But it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure you’ve found, prioritized and met ALL possible decision makers before Mr./Ms. Big. Knowing the team’s goals and challenges is critical to contextualizing your eventual recommendation. It’s also impressive to walk through the intel you’ve gained from their direct reports. Bear in mind the adage; it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and thirty seconds to erode it. With today’s marketplace pressures, there is competition, huge accountability, and people spread thin. These exogenous forces can cloud people’s judgment. Execs are often pressured to make decisions in a short amount of time without a lot of intel to aid in their decision-making process. And on top of that, they’re accountable for every action they take. You will need to gain an understanding of the climate of Mr/Ms Big’s organization before you meet them. This is paramount to understand.

Probing Questions to Ask Your Day-to-Day

Ask these questions to align with your day to day contact to shine with Mr/Ms Big:

1.  How has work been going recently?
2.  What goals do you and your team have this year?
3.  What challenges are you wrestling with?
4.  How’s the team’s overall chemistry?
5.  What’s important to you relative to your image with your team and boss?
6.  How would you like to be perceived by them?
7.  How open will they be to our meeting?

You are under pressure to produce results. Your tendency might be to pressure your contact for a meeting with the head honcho. Don’t do it! You will sabotage your relationship with the very person who can help you gain the trust of the executive you want to meet. Give it time…and effort…and you will be successful.

Setting Goals Requires a New Mindset

“I never worry about the future, it comes soon enough.”

– Albert Einstein

I think about this prescient statement often when I am setting goals. Goals should empower you, not burden you. However, do feel like too often it’s the latter rather than the former? The fault may be your own.

Set Goals You Can Achieve

Be careful in how you select your goals. Do not boil the ocean! Look at the end of the year or whatever horizon you choose and put yourself into that place. Look back and see if the goal you set was the right one for you and your actualization. When working with clients, I’ve seen so many people who have set goals for the audacity of them versus the health of them.

Lost Sight of a Goal? Retarget.

Do not discount a goal because you’ve lost sight of it. Merely retarget the goal and begin living it again. This is often contrary to our black and white mind which says, “well, I blew it so forget it.” Shift this thinking to the exact opposite. The courage of goal setting is to realize when you’ve gone unconscious to a goal and then reclaim your adherence to it. Perhaps you will need to recalibrate the goal if you’ve let it get out of focus for long but, the point is the refocusing so that you are striving towards something meaningful. Otherwise, you’re floating rather than rowing.

Systematize Your Goals

Speaking of floating, if each day you are making up tactics that may or may not help accomplish your goals, that’s likely what got you in this situation in the first place. Creating a system for your goals is critical and, in my experience, makes it far easier to accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Here are some tips:

  • Use your calendar. Systematize your actions to align/achieve the goals you set. Set realistic deadlines for each step in your goal process. Adjust as timelines shift if needed but try to keep final goal/deadline steady, which could lead to more urgency, quicker results.
  • Begin your day reading what steps you will take today.
  • Make sure your directs and your supervisor know your goals and deadlines. Ask for their support.
  • Pre-celebrate accomplishing your goals. Stand 6-12 months out and determine what hitting your goals will feel like. Write it down and review regularly as motivation for keeping on your system.

Clearly, there is a lot more to setting goals. But for many people, it starts with getting in the right mindset about them. Goals should not intimidate…they should motivate. Start with that and let me know how it helps you create your goal system. I’m here to help.

 

Making It Different in 2019

On my blog, I generally try to give useful tips and insight that will help you improve the way you do business. Let me assure you that I turn that critical eye on myself, too. Especially at the beginning of a new year, I like to assess my own behaviors, tactics, and outcomes to determine how I can improve servicing my clients.  This year, I’ve come up with three main areas on which I will focus my attention:

It’s Not What I Say, It’s How They Feel

I probably don’t have to tell you that we live in some pretty contentious times right now. U.S. government shutdowns. Brexit. Social media politics. Assaults on the news media’s integrity. It has made me concerned that the climate my clients operate in may not be one where they are comfortable sharing their real challenges. It’s too risky in this unstable business climate. That’s why I need to be vigilant in making sure I’ve created an atmosphere that evokes trust, sincerity, and freedom to divulge what is really affecting their work. This is critical because the freer they feel because of my affirmation of their challenges, the more they will experiment with my recommendations.

Suspend My Opinions

I’m often asked my opinion on business development/leadership issues. Because it is my professional field, I fall prey at times to jumping in with my opinion on initial comments made by clients. And while I may have some good insight on those comments, it’s better that I suspend my opinion in favor of probing for more information. When I can get a deeper understanding of why they are asking my opinion, and it’s always because they have a situation with which they are struggling, I can provide far more valuable counsel and work with them to create solutions that match their challenges. So, in 2019, I will pause more, listen more, and talk (initially) less.

Remember That Dialogue Takes Two (or More)

Dialogue is a great technique to uncover the true issues someone is wrestling with. A potential client just today asked me to go deeper into what my coaching methods are. Before I responded to him, I asked to select an area of business development that frustrated him last year. That question was critical to tailoring my comments to him, because the issue he wanted me to address was a very real challenge he’s facing now. Perhaps like you, many times I am in the position of providing insight and counsel. This can sometimes result in more lecture, less dialogue. That’s a trap I will avoid this year. A dialogue takes at least two people and it is important that I get my client engaged in it. The more back-and-forth we have, the more “layers of the onion” are peeled back and we can really get to the root of the issue.

I am looking forward to a fantastic 2019 that is filled with growth, learning and success. I wish the same for you.

Giving Feedback to Your Boss: Be a Confidant

“You don’t understand. My CEO doesn’t realize what’s really going on here…”

I hear this at least once a week. The good news is my client realizes their CEO is not seeing the entire picture. The bad news is my client gets distracted with other “fires” and forgets to give this feedback directly to his boss.

The issue is an OPPORTUNITY to be your boss’ confidant, NOT to shy away from it. Abandoning it makes it worse. Said a different way, the glass is half full, not half empty. Read more

Four Tips for Handling Your Employee Review

Your superior sends an email. “Let’s go over your employee review.” You break out in a cold sweat and look for the nearest exit. Perhaps it’s the only time you wish you had a dentist appointment!

We all go through it. Feedback received during an employee review can be a bit nerve wracking. You think you’re doing a good job but, you’re about to find out for sure. In my world of executive development, this glass is half full, not half empty. Read more

Have Something They Need

A little while ago, I was engaged to work with a sales executive on many aspects of his game. But I soon discovered that his biggest stumbling block occurred long before he even had a chance to get his foot in the door. In fact, it was getting his foot in the door that was the real problem.

His challenge was personified by the head of a major beauty care company. My client knew his product was good and he was clear on his message, but he was bedeviled with self-doubt about his chances to even get a meeting, much less present his case.

Doubt Can’t Be Cured with Cheerleading

As his coach, the traditional way to deal with issues of self-doubt would be to convince the executive that he just needed to have the moxie to knock on the door and get that meeting. However, if you come to me expecting that approach, you will be disappointed. Because it doesn’t work…long-term.

My goal is to give people the tools to overcome their difficulties in their careers, be they salespeople, managers or executives. I am not a booster. I am not a cheerleader. I don’t believe that your problems can be solved with a pep talk. My coaching style was once described by a client as “Vince Lombardi…with a little bit of mom in there.” My clients show up with real problems (many of which I have to help them discover) and it’s my job to guide them so that the issues are resolved…forever. IN this instance, had I tried to help my client by boosting his ego, “You can do it!”, it would have been akin to my father, a doctor, telling his patients that they can “wish” their ailments away.

Strength in Knowledge

No, what my client needed was to approach potential clients with something they need. And to do that, he needed a deep knowledge of the client. So, we scoured all available information sources….the company web site, news articles, competitor sites, social media pages, annual reports…all to determine what the company’s goals were. Then we assessed what his company had to offer that helped THEM get to the THEIR goals, not to just sell his product/service. That match was the key to tailoring his messaging and convince the client that he had something worth meeting about. And it worked…he got a meeting and eventually became a trusted adviser for the client, establishing a long-term relationship.

So, just remember this…clients won’t see you to help you out. They only want to see you if you can help them out! Bring something to the table that’s worth their time.

What does your client need or want from you? Are you delivering it? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email.

Want Business from Existing Clients? Ask for It!

As companies plan for the coming budget year, one question I get a lot from leaders and sales teams is, “How can I get more business from our existing customers?” I have a simple answer: “Ask for it!”

Ok…it is a bit more complex than that. But not much!

Customers Are Like a Village

When you think about a client’s business, I want you to think of it as a village into which you just parachuted. At first, you are in unfamiliar territory and don’t know anyone. But then someone greets you and is genuinely interested in what you are doing there. You are genuinely interested in the village, its inhabitants and what they do there. You establish a relationship with the person you initially met, building a trusted reputation. You are in!

However, for many people, that’s where it ends. They maintain a connection with their initial contact and the amount of business coming from that client plateaus. What many people do NOT do is meet other “villagers,” people in other departments who could benefit from their services or products.

So, how do you make inroads into other areas in the company? You ask about them!

Be Curious and Engaged

“Terry…I’m curious…based on the work we’ve done together, I get a sense that there may be other areas in the company that could benefit from the same type of results. Do you agree?”

It really can be that simple. You’ve now established a dialogue that allows you to learn more about the company and possible opportunities that could exist for you. From this, you could get a recommendation from your contact regarding who you could contact next. That’s gold!

“Terry…that’s great and it does seem like we could help them like we’ve done for you. Could you make an introduction for me?”

Now you are rolling. You’ve asked your contact to advocate for you…without really asking. The act of introducing you to another contact in their company is, in essence, them endorsing you internally. You’ve just had a door opened for you….walk in!

Make Them Look Good

And why would your client contact want to introduce you to others in the company? To look good, of course! Again, a simple answer that merits more explanation.

When they introduce you, they are as much as saying, “Look how smart I am to have hired this firm to advance our company’s goals.” That, in turn, creates a situation where others want what your contact has. It’s a herd mentality…they will flock to you if you’ve proven you can deliver results.

Your responsibility now that you will meet with other “villagers” is to conduct yourself well, ask probing questions, learn as much as you can, and make your current contact proud by delivering exceptional service.

And all of this comes your way because you had the desire and curiosity to ask about other areas of the company. See? Simple!

What is stopping you from asking about other opportunities at your client’s business? Let me know in the comments or send an email.

 

Stay in the Pain to Partner

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is the point of this meeting?” Here’s a better question to ask: “What is the pain of this meeting?” Let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve noticed, through client role-play and other probing exercises, that people are able to get to the client’s pain point but once getting there, they move right past it onto other topics not as urgent as the one they first uncovered.

Don’t let this happen to you. Let the pain BE the point of the meeting! Stay in the pain.

Make sure when you are vetting a client or partner you understand their challenges and stay inside those challenges to pinpoint the largest pain point you can solve. Then, play the pain point back to them and watch them elaborate on it. You’ll recall my most favorite probing question, “Really?” Use it so that you fully comprehend, and empathize, with their pain. You want this elaboration because with it will come an understanding of the urgency to solving this pain.

Then and only then can you begin to deliver your recommendation/solution. So next time you are in a meeting or on a call, make the pain the point!

 

Show Your Homework

When meeting with a client where it’s important to recommend a course of action, be sure to show your homework. Your due diligence illustrates forethought and respect.

It also shows that you have put considerable effort into understanding their business and have earned the right to make recommendations. Often salespeople come to a meeting without the correct level of homework completed, therefore their ideas are viewed skeptically versus relationally.

Don’t give into the excuses for not doing homework…”I don’t have time,” or “I know enough about what I need to know already.”

Try presenting your homework and notice your client’s engagement. You will create a level of trust that then gives you the status of adviser, rather than salesperson…which will lead to more sales! Let me know how it goes.

It’s Your Meeting….Take Control of It!

In my last post, I listed six things to stop discussing with your clients. Did you do it? How did it go?

The reason those things are important to eliminate is that when a meeting diverts into those areas, you’ve lost control and it will be hard to get it back.

So this week, let’s look at my key steps to controlling a meeting, even before it begins!

Send out an agenda

So often, this is overlooked. I cannot stress enough the importance of a setting an agenda prior to a meeting or call. If you just said, “Yes, Steve. Everyone knows that” then I’d ask you to recall the last 5-10 meeting you or someone else hosted. Did they all have an agenda, in advance?  Probably not. You must set the agenda because it creates AGREEMENT on what will be discussed and decisions that need to be made. Just as importantly, it puts you in control of the meeting right from the start. Send it out at least 24-hours in advance to give people the chance to review it and comment.

Start with agenda

As last week’s post directed, don’t start the call with the weather, a joke or a story about your weekend. Jump right in and state, “Everyone has had the agenda since yesterday at 1pm. I’ll quickly go over it and then we can begin.”

It’s important that your agenda have a timeline. Make sure people know how much time will be spent on each issue. I suggest using exact times, like this:

1:00 pm Review agenda

1:05 pm Past business

1:15 pm New business

This way, both you and the attendees can tell whether the meeting is on track or running ahead of or behind schedule. Try it and see how much more in control you’ll be when you know exactly where the meeting is vs. the agenda.

Review and Plan

At the conclusion of each agenda item, review what was discussed. Then, determine the next steps and who will own them. Ever been to a meeting where a lot was discussed yet nothing got done as a result? Bypassing this step is why. Don’t do it!

Send a Timely Recap

After the call or meeting, people will jump back into whatever they were doing prior to it or had planned to do after it. You might, too! It is critical that you create time (put it on your calendar) to create the recap notes and send it out to participants. You want them to have a bulleted list that recaps the following:

  • Challenges Discussed
  • Resolutions
  • Next Steps
  • Owners
  • Deadlines

You should close the email with something like: “If I you don’t send back comments or questions, I will assume that you agree with this recap and your assigned tasks/deadlines.” Talk about taking control!

Privately Talk with the Meeting Hijacker

Even if you’ve done all the steps above, your meeting can get hijacked by someone who will manipulate the meeting, sending it down the rabbit hole and into long discussions that ignore your agenda. After the meeting, call that person and discuss what happened. Relationally call them out by asking something akin to: “It might be me, but it seemed that you were upset or frustrated when we were talking about X. Maybe I missed something so, can you let me know what’s on your mind?”

You need him or her to get past whatever it is so that things can move forward. Your goal is to neutralize them for the next call. “I understand. In the 20 minutes we have…let’s find out the real issue here because we all have to move forward on this….we need everyone on board.” I bet they will think twice about hijacking a meeting of yours again!

Try these tactics for your next call or meeting. Don’t skip any! Let me know if you see a change in how the meeting goes and the control you have over it.