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

Avoiding Conversation Killers

We’ve all experienced moments when we said something expecting it would lead to an engaged conversation only to get little, or a negative, reaction. For example, asking a friend, “Hey, how is your husband?” only to have the person answer, “We split up last month.” Nowhere positive to go from there. That’s a conversation killer.

In business, this happens, too, but you can avoid a lot of conversation killers if you know what to avoid. Here are my top recommendations.

7 Rules for Avoiding Conversation Killers:

Don’t Flatter Them: Complimenting people seems innocent enough. But most of the time, it is a shallow comment made simply based on appearance. “Your hair looks great today, Mary” or “Nice tan, Jim.” That says you’ve got your mind on their looks, not their business needs. If you want to compliment someone, say something about the business. “The quarterly numbers you sent me were very impressive. Congratulations.”

Never Make a Negative Comment about Clothing: “Hey, that’s some wild tie, Bill.” Are you sure Bill thinks it is? Otherwise, you’ve just said “Who dresses you?” in front of an audience. Bill is embarrassed and you’ve really dug yourself a hole.

Don’t Talk About Yourself: I’m sure you had a fascinating vacation recently, or enjoyed a great meal at a local restaurant, or have a funny story about your Great Uncle Rob. Can it! Your client wants you to talk about them! So, if they mention your vacation, tell them where you went, that you had a great time and that “on my way back, I was thinking about your business.”

Halt When There is No Interest: You might find what you are saying intriguing but, gauge your client. Is she politely paying attention but not reacting? Move on. You’ll find a subject she does care about…like how you are going make her company more successful.

Sports and the Weather Are a Crutch…Be More Creative: Two things people generally have an opinion about are sports and the weather. And so, lots of people will bring either subject up at the beginning of a meeting as a way to break the ice. They use it as a crutch to lean on because they’re nervous about the meeting. But you’re not “lots of people” so come up with something more creative and germaine to your meeting. “Big news about Amazon this week. Incredible how one company can impact markets like that.”

Keep Your Opinions (mostly) to Yourself: Avoid any declaration of anything you have strong opinions about until you have a sense of where your client will come out on that issue. Let them lead by sharing their opinion and then, ask them questions that get them to share deeper-rooted reasoning. Eventually, you can share your thoughts but don’t overdo it. Keep it simple while you guide the conversation to what you really came there to discuss.

Don’t Swear: It’s remarkable that I have to give this advice to adults! But, so many times I hear people curse, thinking they are being colloquial or “one of the boys.” Trust me when I say that even if your client swears like a sailor, if you do it, they think it’s unprofessional at some level. Just don’t do it, for _____’s sake!

When next speaking with a client, see how many of these rules you can follow. You may find it hard at first, but eventually you will see that you are having for more constructive, positive conversations that are alive and well!

Which of these rules will be the most challenging for you? Let me know below. – SG

Effective Presentations: Can You Say It In 10 Seconds?

If you can say it in 10 seconds, it will be remembered.

That’s a tip I want YOU to remember the next time you are preparing a presentation. If you can effectively communicate the main point of your presentation in 10 seconds, you are on your way to creating a talk people will recall long after it’s over.

While coaching an executive for his Fall Kick off Corporate meeting, I realized how essential it is to crystallize a message.

Create a Sound Byte That Will Resonate

We spent a morning videotaping during which I coached him on his delivery style and helped shape his communication. We realized that synthesizing his message down to a transferable sound byte was as important as the content of his entire message. This is an essential activity to perform when you are delivering a vision or sequence of steps your company needs to take over the next six months or longer.

Frame Your Message

Leading off with this 10-second provocative capsule illustrates you understand how to frame your message for your audience and give them a quick understanding of your entire message. When done correctly, the 10-second message becomes viral in that your listeners can relate to the issue and transfer the issue to others.

Multiple Versions for Different Occasions

Once you have refined your 10-second version, create a one-minute and five-minute version.  They will come in handy throughout the business days and weeks you’ve dedicated to putting your recommendations into action.

Practice Makes Perfect

And then, see how your message works.  Videotape yourself.  It will give you a perspective that will allow you to refine your message and delivery style even more. Play the video back and ask yourself: “Am I inspired by the message and the person delivering it?”  For added input, have someone else watch you deliver your message.  That’s one element of what I do for clients, providing immediate, direct input so that they can adjust, refine, practice…and then deliver an effective presentation that will resonate with the audience.

If you need some more tips, try this article from Harvard Business Review, “How to Give Killer Presentations.” Creating the logic arc of events is a great way to plan a client recommendation ,too. The goal, as Anderson says,  is to conceptualize and frame your content.  And as the curator of TED Talks, he should know!

Give this a try and let me know how it goes.

In Over Your Head? Adjusting to a New Job

In my work, I come in contact with many people in new jobs. They’ve recently joined a company, have moved into a new department or have been promoted. And often, the initial reaction these people have to their new situation is, “Wow…I’m in over my head,” followed by a bit of panic.

So, how did it happen and why? And perhaps more importantly, how can you quickly adjust to this new job and it’s responsibilities?

It Might Be Your Fault

Yes, it’s true. You might have gotten yourself into this position. How?

Perhaps you overstated your experience and skills. You were interviewing for the position and were asked about a certain skill needed for the position. While you might have some experience, it didn’t exactly match with what was required so you inflated your background a bit. It happens…a lot. The problem is that once you get the job, you are expected to know what you said you knew. But you’ll worry about that later, right? Well, later is now.

Another scenario, which many won’t admit is their situation, is that you didn’t get along with some of your peers, Instead of letting you go, management moved you into another position, one which you are not as qualified to do. But for them, problem solved!

And finally, maybe you just asked for a new position so many times, they finally relented! Persistence can be a valuable trait, especially as you are advancing your career. But if you don’t fully understand the new position’s responsibilities, well, that’s how you got “in over your head.” You wanted to get promoted without really knowing what the new job was.

It Might Be Their Fault

Creating a balanced team that excels in all the right areas is a constant challenge management teams face. And sometimes, they have to sacrifice one thing in favor of another. And that means putting the wrong person in a position. Why?

One reason is time. So often I have managers say something like, “She wasn’t right for the position but, we need someone in there. I don’t have time to interview a lot of candidates. She’ll do for now.” And so you get promoted into a position that probably isn’t right for you now, or maybe even ever.

Another scenario is that the management team isn’t sure if you are ready for the new position so they “throw you to the wolves” to see how you’ll do. You’ll either grow or wither away. They think this “trial by fire” practice will inform them of your abilities but really it just puts pressure on you which can lead to less-than-stellar results.

Another reason, and you’ll like this one better than the other two, is that you have become so valuable that they don’t want to lose you! Sounds good, right? Well remember, we’re talking about you winding up in over your head so, the outcome isn’t good. But in this scenario, they value the contacts you’ve make, the relationships you have and the institutional knowledge you possess, fearing that you might take all of that to a competitor. “Promote him so we don’t lose him,” is the attitude. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?

Steps to Adjust to the New Job

For whatever reason you wind up in this position, you need to do something about it. You can’t stay stuck like this forever. My advice? Follow these steps so that you take control of the situation and become comfortable your new job’s responsibilities.


Quickly, you need to find out what is important to the stakeholders around you. They include your management team, your peers, your directs and your customers. The best way to do that is meet with them and…listen. Find out what is motivating their careers, their decisions and what aspects of their positions worry them the most. Understanding this, you can relate to them in a way that shows you understand them and are there to provide help.

Get Into the Field

Don’t manage from behind your desk. Get out there! Experience what your team experiences and see how they operate. Observe, at first, without giving advice. And make sure you have a role in meetings with clients that isn’t the lead but still provides value, helping to ensure your directs know you are there as part of the team and are worthy of your position.

Systematize Your Management

Nothing will make you feel in over your head more than just winging it! And your team will have little or no confidence in you if that’s how you operate. Create a system for feedback, check-ins, formal evaluations and business development status updates. Also, create a method for how you are going to report results up to your management team so that there are no surprises. Which leads me to…

Vetting the Pipeline

Remember when I said that one way you got in over your head was overstating your experience? Well, your team will do that too, especially when giving updates on projects and potential new business. If you’ve done the steps above, you should now have an atmosphere of trust so your team is honest with you. Now you need to vet the pipeline and get to the heart of the matter with each employee and their work. You need a realistic picture so that you can project what results your team will, and will not, achieve. What you don’t want is to report false progress only to have projects or deals fall through when they weren’t real in the first place.

It’s not a comfortable situation when you feel less qualified for a new position. But, you can quickly get more comfortable by following these steps.

Let me know how it goes! -SG


Networking Do’s and Don’ts

Your boss says: “Make sure you go to this event tonight, its an important opportunity to network.”

You say, “Ugh, really?”

I say, “Go! You never know what’s going to happen or what it will be like. But only go if you’ll have fun doing it!” Read more

The Are No Easy Answers

Some people assume there’s got to be a secret system to “getting it right” every time—a set of tricks. How else, they reason, can people far less competent consistently be more successful than they are? The temptation is to look for a quick and easy answer. There isn’t one. It’s critical to your success that you realize at the onset that there’s no trick, no secret, no magic bullet. The key is understanding that no situations or clients or employees are the same so, don’t treat them as such!

HEY! Pay Attention!!

My father was a successful surgeon, beloved by his patients and staff. When I was growing up, I used to make hospital rounds with him. It would take all morning. I’ll never forget my dad hovering over a patient and sweetly, with empathy, asking a series of fact-finding questions to discern progress from the day before. Patients would brighten up immediately upon seeing him and answer him thoughtfully and honestly. He was so concentrated on the responses that when I would ask him when we were going to lunch, he wouldn’t hear me. When he was with a patient, a marching band could have trooped down the hall and he wouldn’t have heard it!

This is the sort of interaction that needs to occur whenever you meet with a client or counsel an employee. Pay attention! Not only will they appreciate being heard but, you will be making sure you heard them correctly so that you can make a proper recommendation. We live in a world of distractions. Don’t let them get in the way of your mission.

Treat Clients Well…Just Not the Same

Back to my father. He was a very patient man, always giving people time to explain themselves and what they needed. In other words, he treated everyone well. But, of course, as a surgeon he didn’t treat them the same when it came to his recommendations. He believed no two patients were the same. He used to say, “If you decide to treat one patient the same as the other, you are putting at least one of them at risk.”

It’s the same for you. If you treat two employees or clients the same, ignoring differences like background, experience, personality, goals, etc., then at least one won’t be getting the guidance from you they need. You risk losing one or the other…or both. Can you afford to lose clients? Employees?

I’ve found that you honor others by treating them like no other individual you’ve ever met. This is how you stay fresh, engaged, on target and successful.

Has anyone ever treated you as if they were on autopilot? How? What was your reaction? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks. -sg

Business Development is Not an “Add-on” Responsibility

Are you feeling the pressure? Many of my clients are. When they were hired, they didn’t have any or much business development responsibilities. That was handled by “other people.” However, as the business world evolves, more and more companies are tasking employees with generating new business. So, on top of their day-to-day tasks that have consumed all of their time to date, they now have to figure out how to bring more business on board. It’s an “add on” responsibility that creates a lot of pressure. Sound familiar?

The problem I see time and time again is that these folks aren’t equipped to manage new business development. Some of that can lay at the feet of the executives who created the “get new business” mandate. They haven’t given their teams the right tools. However, that’s only half the issue. The other is that these associates don’t have the right behavior that would make this work easier and allow them to be successful.  

The Tools for Business Development

Being thrown to the wolves in terms of business development without the proper tool set is unfair. You’re not alone if you’ve asked yourself, “How can they expect me to get new business when I’ve never had to do that before?” Regardless, they are asking you to do it so, what’s your answer? I suggest you check your tools to see if you have the following:


Nurturing a new client relationship is challenging for anyone without proper training. You didn’t learn to drive without instruction? Someone had to teach you to write your name, throw a baseball, cook a meal, etc. So, business development requires instruction and mentoring. Ask the person who gave you this new “opportunity” if you can get some training. And if you are in a management position where you are asking your directs to take on business development, be sure that they have had or will get some proper training. The time you invest upfront will deliver a better-prepared representative who will produce long-term results.

A Systematic Approach:

Business development is not a “by the seat of your pants” activity. You need a systematic approach so that you can easily work through steps that will give you the highest likelihood of success. This system should be written down and committed to memory. Doing proper research, learning about the client’s industry hot points, pre-determining possible pain points, having an arsenal of probing questions, scheduling follow-up calls…they are all part of the process that you must have as you move into this new area of business development.

Products/Service Knowledge

How much do you really know about your company, its products and services? If you have surface level knowledge, in business development that’s not knowledge at all. Clients, especially new ones, expect that you are a source of in depth understanding about your company and its offerings. I’m always amazed at how little some people really understand about their company and the benefits it offers potential customers. Do your internal homework!

The Behaviors of Business Development

Just having the tools, however, is not enough. You must have the right behavior to use those tools. Here are the key behaviors that you’ll need to be successful:


If you don’t want to do business development, you will fail. You will find reasons to put it off. You will find people and circumstances to blame for why you aren’t successful. You will get frustrated and distracted easily. While you may not have many or any of the tools listed above, they can be obtained…but you have to want them. If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with your boss and find another position that better suits your, and their, needs.


Very often I’ve seen people ask about their client’s business but only skim the surface in terms of knowledge gathering. You have to be empathetic, a good listener.  In short, you have to care. When you discover a pain point, you have to stay in it and find out what is really at the heart of the issue.

For example, during a role-playing training exercise recently, a client of mine was speaking with a CEO. The CEO said, “We really have to trim the fat to be competitive.” My client said, “Ok. And what are your marketing goals for the upcoming year?”  

WAIT! I want to hear more about trimming the fat, don’t you?  What he needed to do was delve further, even using my tried-and-true question, “Really?”  Getting your clients to open up about what is really driving their decision making will allow you to provide a recommendation that’s far more relevant, timely and purposeful.


Yes, I said one of the tools you have to have in business development is a systematic approach. However, you cannot be so rigid that you miss opportunities to understand your client better. In the above example with the CEO, my client was running through a list of questions we had developed. The questions are important but you must be flexible and have enough ambiguity so that you don’t pre-determine how things are going to go. Let conversations flow so that you get better intel for your recommendations.

Ok…so you never thought you would have to do business development and now you do. Get over it! You can do this if you have the proper tools and behaviors. Your boss has faith in you so, turn that into motivation to get out there and be successful!

What tools and/or behavior are you missing?  Let me know. -sg

Top Ten Leadership Mistakes

Over several years of coaching leaders, I have observed many common mistakes they make. Some have clear signals, others are a bit more subtle. The following is a compiled list of those mistakes. Use it to assess how you are leading your team and be aware of how it affects your leadership abilities.

Failing to Act When Needed

It can happen in a moment’s notice. You see an inappropriate behavior and you let it go. Next time, ask your Direct to explain his/her reasoning for this behavior, then offer an alternative action.

Managing Not Leading

The leadership mistake here is acting as a custodian of your team versus a steward of them. By steward I mean living as though their behavior is also your behavior. What they do reflects on you. Are they presenting the image you want?

Driven By Looking Good To Your Superior

At times a leader will appease their superior versus presenting the required plan to get buy-in for a solution that resolves an important business issue. Looking good is preferred while accomplishing the intended goal is sacrificed. Ultimately, this behavior will not produce the results your supervisor wants so, remain true to that vision and confidently deliver the plan.

Buying a Direct’s Story Versus Asking Questions

We want to believe everything our Directs say. But as noted above, Directs will, at times, present issues in a way that makes them look good to you. When your instinct says I’m not sure this situation is really true, probe to get underneath the issue.

Fearing Confrontation

Ahh…but the solutions could lead to confrontations. OK…but you can’t lead without illustrating your concern and values. When you have a Direct who doesn’t see value in your direction/ethos, confront them constructively and find out why he/she disagrees.

Not Coaching the Right People

While a rising tide raises all ships, spending too much time on those that are sinking slows down the progress of others. Limit your development time with “C” Players. Rather, focus your time with “B” Players who can become “A’s.”

Allowing Bad Behaviors to Continue

Coaching can be done over time with willing participants. But, if a behavior exists that is truly detrimental to the team, it has to stop immediately.  Tell the Direct that his/her specific behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop now. After that, put a coaching plan together that has them move beyond this behavior.

No Follow-Up

Just as in consulting, a successful leader needs to be persistent, yet likable, to coach, lead and develop. Hold your teams accountable for what they said they would do and by when they said they would do it. People who fear this call it “micro-managing,” but I call it establishing standards.

Detaching From Directs

Never orphan a Direct. The more you collaborate with a Direct the quicker they develop.

Allowing Your Team’s Issues To Affect You

Keep your perspective. Notice certain trends and patterns in your leadership efforts. Hold to the objective evidence in front of you versus any loud voice you hear.

See if being aware of these common leadership mistakes helps you develop your skills, and those of your team. Let me know how it goes.



9 Fundamentals of a Group Presentation

A team presentation can be tricky. So many personalities, mindsets, trains of thought and opinions…it can get messy quickly. But as their leader, it’s up to you to direct the presentation so that it flows as well as if one person were delivering it. That says easy but does hard. To help, here is a list of what I’ve found to be invaluable fundamentals to follow when preparing a group presentation.


Oh man, does this one get put off to the last minute! Ever practice your team presentation on the way to the meeting or in your client’s parking lot? You must insist that your whole team rehearse the presentation at least twice. This will help you fine-tune the flow, make sure everyone is involved and give them confidence that they know the material well.

Assign Roles

A good rule of thumb…if someone is in the room but doesn’t have a speaking role in the presentation, they don’t need to be there (unless their role is to take notes!). When organizing your presentation, determine who will deliver each part of the presentation. Assign to their strengths so that they present information they can speak to easily and can answer questions on the fly if needed. Speaking of questions…

Review Possible Questions

Your audience will ask questions, most of which you can anticipate. In your dry runs, have your team consider what questions might get asked and when. You can then determine who will answer certain questions, again playing to the strength of each team member.

Make Each Other Look Good

“I disagree with my teammate.” No you don’t. Ok…maybe you do but not in front a client you don’t! Before the meeting begins, remind your team that you all look bad if anyone of them cannibalizes the others thoughts. Commit to making each other look good.

Establish an Agenda

I’ve written about the importance of a meeting agenda previously. A group presentation can get way off track quickly unless you have a timed agenda. During rehearsal, pay attention to who takes more time than allotted. Work with them to pare down their thoughts so that they don’t usurp the time, forcing others to rush.

Avoid Too Many Participants

While you want to include your whole team, having too many people in the room can a) be hard to control and b) overwhelm your audience. Find out in advance how many client representatives will be there. It’s alright to have more than them…just not too many more. As we stated above, everyone should have a critical role, so that will help you limit participants.

Who is Leading?

While you are the team leader, it doesn’t mean you have to lead the presentation. The meeting leader is responsible for introducing the agenda, keeping everyone on track and being mindful of the timing. If you assign that role to someone else, then you must step back and take on only the role you’ve rehearsed.

Say Only What’s Needed

Too many times, I see people having a need to speak that overshadows whether what they say is important to furthering the conversation. You don’t need to be a “color commentator” like during a football telecast. If what you are about to say doesn’t add more information to what your team just said, keep it to yourself. And that lesson goes for your whole team, too.

Perform a Post-mortem

Reserve time after the presentation to break down what went right, what went wrong and what the next steps will be. If you don’t pre-arrange that time, the freshness of your team’s reactions will be diluted and you will get a much different perspective a day or so later. Do it as soon as you can!

Utilized these fundamentals and you’ll put your team in a winning position for their next presentation. Let me know how it goes!  – sg

Two Sure-Fire Leadership Killers

I have been coaching and developing leaders for many years and during that time, I have found two behaviors that are “leadership killers.” They are acts that consistently, no matter who the leader is, weaken their position in the eyes of their reports and lessen their ability to lead. These leadership killers are: wanting to be a friend and orphaning instead of confronting.

Friendly But Not Friends

It’s important to realize/accept the responsibility you have as a leader that you must convey your observations, especially those that are focused on areas where employees can improve. But many times, I see the leader’s desire to be accepted by the direct report, to be considered a comrade and a friend, as something that stands in the way of delivering those observations. I counsel my clients that while it is perfectly fine to be friendly, you cannot act as their friend or they will not take your input seriously. You are the leader they are following into battle and as such, you must separate yourself so that they count on you for honest, direct input that isn’t mired in emotion.

Don’t Leave Them Orphaned

Providing the input described above can be difficult.  And so, some leaders will avoid the “tough” conversation with a direct report. Avoiding this conversation sets a precedent; it says it’s okay to keep doing what you are doing, it’s fine…when it’s really not. In a sense, you are orphaning your direct report by not interceding and letting them continue on a path towards failure without your guidance.

People you coach can be just as skeptical, jaded and fearful of being led as you are to lead them. takes courage to lead! But the big question is will you deliver frank, constructive input that will eventually help them achieve their goals, and those of your department, or will you simply set them to sea without a compass?  If you constantly choose the latter, you can expect to develop a team that will not take your orders/input to heart and will time and time again blaze their own trail.  That’s usually a recipe for disaster.

Keep interceding. Give them what they need, even if it’s not what they want. You will become a stronger leader and people with thank you for it.


The Courage to Close

People get funny about closing negotiations, deals, interviews, meetings, etc. Nerves take over, body language changes and confidence erodes. Why is this?  I’ll tell you…it’s because closing is inorganic for most people. It feels forced. And that should never be the case.

When it feels uncomfortable for you to close it’s likely because you have not banked enough comprehension of your client’s situation. And yet, you are about to make a recommendation and convince them that your advice is sound. If you are nervous about that, then guess what…it probably isn’t sound!

Gain the Momentum to Close

Closing represents the next step in the momentum you’ve built with your audience. Throughout the course of your interaction, if you’ve been listening well and asking the right, researched probing questions (which you’ve prepared in advance!), then momentum is on your side. But if you collapse the whole process into a mostly one-sided conversation in which you are doing most of the talking, there is no momentum. It’s like you are driving the car and your passenger (your audience) has no idea where you are going. So when you get there, they are confused instead of assured that they are in the right place.

Sell Into the Future…Their Future

You got the meeting because they have some modicum of interest in what you are presenting, right? So, knowing that, you have to find out what that interest is. And ALL of the time their interest is about the future. They have a problem and they need it solved so that their future doesn’t have that problem in it.  For example….

A client recently was having issues with one of her managers who, we discovered, the team felt was quite dour and needed to lighten up to relate to his directs and clients. He always needed to be an expert on everything, which was off-putting. That was the problem. What I had to see was how fixing this problem could create a much different future for my client. If her world didn’t include having to deal with the blowback from this manager’s behavior, what would that free her up to accomplish. Once we both were aligned with that future, we could move forward together solving the issue. This future-seeing isn’t the stuff of crystal balls…it takes listening, understanding and affirmation.

Closing is Helpful to Your Clients

At the point of close, here is what you are doing…you are offering a solution to what your client has communicated to be a problem. In other words, you are helping! So, don’t be nervous about that. You’ve gathered their testimony, you’ve affirmed their position, you’ve asked insightful questions that elicited more detail than they were likely going to share. In short, you’ve partnered with them during your time together. And now it’s time to move the ball forward by asking for a logical next step and that your client will understand is the next phase in alleviating an issue for them.

You can do THAT with great confidence and courage so, let me know how it goes next time.  -sg