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

Risk Giving Your Opinion

Imagine you are the quarterback of a football team. You drive the team to the goal line…just one yard separates you from a touchdown. But instead of directing the next play, you walk off the field, leaving your team stunned and unsure how to proceed.

That’s what a client of mine has been doing her whole career.  She is smart, does very good work, and people genuinely like her. She leads her team well, until she has to risk providing her opinion to a client. Then, she clams up.

What she doesn’t realize is that her opinions are the difference she brings to the game. Her team and clients want her to take a strong stance in offering her insights.

Your Opinion Is the Difference

Back to our football analogy. Two quarterbacks are playing in the same game. They have the same number of completions for the exact same amount of yardage. But QB1 has three touchdowns while QB2 none. Who is the more valued player? Of course, the one that scored.

Your team is looking to you to get them across the goal line. They want to hear your opinions and have them based on the experience you’ve amassed over your time as a professional. It is your opinion that is the difference you bring to the game. It is yours. You own it. But you have to communicate it.

Take the Risk of Taking a Stand

My client is known for providing her input by saying, “It seems like the problem is…” I imagine her clients have no idea what to do with that. They don’t want to know what something “seems like,” they want to know how it is. A problem presented in such a soft manner only leads to a client next questioning whatever solution is offered. Can you imagine our quarterback saying, “Well, it seems like they are covering our receivers so, perhaps we should run the ball?” Who would have confidence in that strategy?

Clients want you to take risks and offer your opinion. Tell them what the problem is, according to your view of it, and offer a strong solution. They may not agree with you, but far more times than not they will appreciate the chance you took. You took a stand on their behalf and now, you look like you are fully a part of the team and not just watching from the sidelines.

Be Relational and Create Urgency

I often speak about communicating relationally. This means listening first, speaking second. It also means delivering your input based on your audience’s world view, not yours. You have to understand where they are coming from, get in there (I call it “staying in the pain”), and deliver your opinion in a way in which they can relate.

Doing this will help you create urgency. When you pinpoint specific issues they are facing based on the probing you’ve done to get to their pain points, you can then deliver solutions that are on point and are needed now! If you’ve done your homework, listened, probed, and then delivered tailored solutions, you won’t have to ask if they are ready to move forward…they will ask you when you can start!

I worked with this client over several weeks and the results were tremendous. She changed her relationships, creating ones in which her team and her clients realized her value and the difference she was making. So, the next time you are driving your team to the goal, consider that they are all looking for you to get them across it. What will you do to get them there?

How do you deliver your opinions? Are they scoring plays or incompletions? Let me know. – SG


Enjoy People

Many years ago a client of mine offered me a position at his company. During his invitation, he asked, “Are you as approachable from 5pm to 9am as you are from 9am to 5pm?” I remember freezing at his question. I had no idea how to answer him (though I was pretty sure my answer would be “No!”). He explained that the leader he needed was someone who was approachable 24/7. Wow…I wasn’t sure what that even meant.

All the Time?

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My wife and I were entertaining thirty of her clients over a weeklong cruise. While it was not “my” event, it was clear that I was there as part of her team. Honestly, I found it challenging during certain points of the day to remain social. Hey, I’m human. Sometimes, I just want to be alone and read! I can’t be expected to be “on” all the time, right?


Yes…It Matters

After the second reminder/nudge from my wife, I realized the importance of being present with people socially beyond the time I’d normally devote to it. Everyone (including me) wants and needs the affirmation of being connected and considered vital.

I’ve thought a lot about this experience since and concluded that in business, it’s important to establish and nurture relationships even when you don’t want to! Essentially, relationship building is about risking yourself and your image. And it’s worth it. Making this effort honors the person with whom you are connecting. The more you develop the relationship, the more you will be recognized as someone who cares, someone who listens, someone who is genuinely interested. You are far more likely to generate a mutually positive relationship that way. This is one of the secrets to living a healthy life. It is also the pathway to creating a successful/fulfilling business life.

Be in Action

So, what did I do with this newfound commitment to relationship building? I emailed a potential client last week that I’d been angsting over for too long, recommending that we meet. She declined for now but was excited that I’d reached out. You know what? I felt great after receiving her response. Why? Well sure…because it’s now off my plate and I’ve advertised my services to her. But more importantly, I invested some time building our relationship, letting her know that I was thinking about her and her business concerns. The result is that I’m closer to a new client from this action.

So, next time you are avoiding calling a client, not sending an introductory email, or being anti-social at a networking event, do the opposite and remember that you are always “on.” And that’s not a bad thing. Not at all.

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