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

Find Your Gift

What is your gift? I bet that’s a question you haven’t asked yourself in a while…or at all. You should have an answer. Most people don’t.

That is not to say that people don’t have a gift. They do; they just haven’t defined it. In business development and sales, I always say that people buy people first, products/services second. That means they are buying your gift…that quality, personality trait, and/or experience that sets you apart from the next person coming through the door.

Let’s take a look at what I mean.

What do I stand for?

Getting to the core of who you are, why you do what you, why you do it for the company you’re doing it for, and why all of that is a benefit for your clients is paramount. That core is what you stand for and defines how you communicate what you do. What are you most proud to announce to the world? Make a list but focus on the “why” rather than the “what.” For example, “I sell widgets.” That’s the what. “I help companies provide better service.” That’s the why. It’s your personal brand promise. Once you know that promise, making it known to your clients will be one key way to set yourself apart from others who have not likely defined it for themselves.

What Makes Me Unique?

Depending on what your company does or sells, there may be dozens if not hundreds of competing companies that will make similar claims about what they offer. So much gets commoditized these days, it’s why a lot of times (too many, in my opinion) decisions are made on price. Therefore, the person presenting the offer becomes much more important. That’s you. But what makes you different than the next person through your client’s door? Why would someone buy you first, then your product or service? If you don’t know, neither will they.

For example, I have a client in the hotel architecture industry. Her “gift” is a deep understanding and knowledge of back-of-the-house operations. What makes her unique is that she creates designs that respect those operations, allowing them to work seamlessly with the front-of-the-house, leading to a more compatible relationship between the two. Her competitors focus on the “sizzle” of the front of the house, virtually ignoring the core operations. We worked to get her to bring her gift to light quickly and often with new clients, giving her an advantage as clients acknowledge her uniqueness.

Why Can’t I Be Imitated?

What makes me un-imitatable? That’s your secret sauce. If there is something about your background, your approach to the business, your work style, your commitment to clients, that makes you who you are, that’s what you need to bring to the forefront with clients. If you worked with me or read past blog posts, you know I speak a lot about a company’s Value Proposition. So, for individuals, it’s important to know what your Personal Value Proposition (PVP) is. Again, it’s the “why” of what you do and that which gets you up in the morning, ready to tackle the day’s challenges. Clients should be able to sense that you fully understand your PVP and that you will use it to provide a higher level of service to them compared to the competitors right outside their door!

Finding your gift can be difficult. It takes some serious effort and perspective. But once you arrive at what it is…that “a-ha!” moment so many speak of, you will find that it will better define your uniqueness and lead to strong client relationships.

First Impression: Don’t Blow It

We all know the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” A client of mine experienced that first hand when he was recently promoted. One of his first assignments was to meet an industry “mover and shaker.” This meeting could really open doors…and markets…for him if he handled it well. And if he didn’t? Maybe the worst thing could happen….nothing.

Needless to say, he was a little nervous, as all eyes of the C-Suite were on him. He couldn’t blow it. Here are the steps we took together to make sure that didn’t happen.

Prepare Questions Ahead of Time

Many people claim they are “great on their feet” and thrive with a “by the seat of their pants” engagement style. That’s too risky for me and my clients. I want them going into a meeting knowing what they want to learn and asking the right questions to help them make strong recommendations.

I’ve written a lot about creating probing questions ahead of any meeting. This step gets overlooked or bypassed so often it’s shocking! It is why this is where we started when prepping for my client’s meeting. He did his research, learning what he could from the company’s online presence including social media, news reports and the company web site. From there, we gleaned what the company’s unique challenges were. We crafted questions based on that understanding, which is a leap ahead of the “great on their feet” people who will have to ask more basic questions just to get up to speed. Creating these probing questions also allowed my client to start formulating recommendations ahead of time…but not being locked into them in case the answers revealed different opportunities.

Align Critical Capabilities

Back to those “on their feet” people…too often, because they haven’t prepared well, they will present recommendations that include every capability, product, or service their company offers. That approach lacks any tailoring, understanding of key needs, or any perspective that will grab attention. One size does not fit all. My client and I did the opposite, we reviewed all that his company offered and winnowed their capabilities down to those that would directly address the needs that were likely to be most top of my mind for his contact. If you are thinking “but you won’t really know if you’re right until the meeting,” you are correct. But in my experience, people appreciate it when you make a reasoned, intelligent, and strategic recommendation based on doing your homework. If you don’t nail it the first time, that’s OK. You’ve still demonstrated a willingness to take a chance, to make a tailored recommendation, and to become a trusted adviser.

Listen to Earn Their Respect

Throughout each of these steps, it is important to listen. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to listen. Those who are “just winging it” will listen for opportunities for them to speak and sell their service. Imagine if you went to the doctor complaining of chest pain and he immediately recommended heart surgery! You would want him to ask a few more questions and run a few tests before jumping to that, wouldn’t you?

I stressed with my client a different tact. I told him it would be important that he listen with compassion so that he could “stay in the pain” with his contact. He wasn’t looking for opportunities to sell…he was looking for opportunities to learn. Using the probing questions we prepared combined with a compassionate listening attitude, he could go deeper and get his contact to open up more about the challenges he was facing. The more he learned, the more he could make recommendations that would really land, and his contact could see how his challenges would be diminished. In addition, when people feel like they are being heard, there is a higher level of respect they give to the listener and thus, they are more open to hearing recommendations. That’s a win-win!

After planning these steps, my client went into the meeting with far greater confidence than he would have otherwise. The meeting was successful, and he established a solid foundation from which to build this client relationship.

These three steps take time, effort, and practice. But if you keep them in mind as you prepare to make a first impression, you will greatly improve your odds of success and lower the chances of blowing it!

Stay with Their Vision

I often talk (and write) about “pain points” and “staying in the pain” with clients. I stress that finding out where a clients’ frustrations may lie or what keeps them up at night is a good way to tailor your recommendations so that you address those core concerns, all the time.

But the flip side of this is true, also. You need to find out what will ultimately make a client happy so that they are satisfied with your partnership and your ability to make their vision a reality. So many times, concessions are made that dim the light of that vision. In this post, let’s look at a recent example and a client who really needed to stay focused on the “jewel box” her client desired.

Too Many Cooks, Not Enough Understanding

From the start, her client was quite clear what he wanted. It was to be a standard-setting, world-class destination that people the world over would aspire to use as their special event space. He needed it to be head-turning, media-attention grabbing, and beyond anything his customers could imagine. It would take some out-of-the-box thinking and creativity from my client and her team was up to the challenge.

Unfortunately for my client, she works in an industry where this type of creativity is only valued to a point and many times, projects get transferred to other firms that can complete them for less cost. It becomes a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, but no one knows what the final meal is supposed to taste like. That disconnection is where she and I focused our work together.

Jewel Box vs Just a Box

Because my client had been there from the beginning and understood her client’s true vision, I helped her present that knowledge as an added-value as she made her case for completing the whole project. She already saw that several concessions were being proposed that would lower the cost but divert the project from the result her client truly desired. “He wanted a jewel box, which we had proposed, but once it got into the hands of others, it was starting to look like it would be just a box.”
It was at this point, I recommended she say to her client, “We understood your vision for this project from the start and delivered designs that will get you there. We also understood that the investment would be significant. A firm promising you to deliver the project for far less is going to cut corners and I worry that you will not be satisfied with the result. You will get a box instead of a jewel box. Is that what you envisioned?”

Sometimes, Vision Means Looking Back

By tying her recommendations back to the original vision, she has created an atmosphere of partnership and understanding that no firm coming in at the last minute could replicate. It let her client know that she was listening and stayed true to what he ultimately wants from the project, not letting outside influences deter him from his goal.
Distractions, offers of “we can do it for less,” and proposed concessions that will make a project “good enough” can set a client down many different paths. Sometimes, it’s up to YOU to keep them on track based on their own desires and goals. When you realign them so that they stay focused on what will truly make them happy, they will get what they desired and will remember that it was you that preserved their vision. You’ve just elevated yourself to a trusted advisor position. Congratulations!

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.