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

Where the Airlines Fail, You Must Succeed

This holiday season, millions of people will take to the skies to visit family and friends. It will all go smoothly, right? One look at the massive construction at New York’s LaGuardia airport or the recent pilot scheduling snafu at American Airlines belies the reality…the air travel industry’s image has morphed from the lap of luxury to languishing in mediocrity.

But what can YOU learn from their mistakes? A lot. Here are some key lessons to consider (perhaps while you arrive two hours early for a flight that is then delayed indefinitely!):

Your Only as Good as Your Last Encounter

Many people have a negative image of air travel because…the last time they traveled they had a negative experience. How did things go when you last talked with your client? If the answer is “Not as good as I would have liked,” then find an opportunity to engage with them again. This time, bring your “A” game so that is the last thing they remember. The longer you let that one bad moment linger out there, the more time they have to make it a bigger deal than it probably was. Reset the table!

Competition is Always Waiting to Pounce

Complacency has killed a lot of customer service today. People just don’t seem to care like they used to. Airlines, which used to come up with many creative ways to attract customers, compete solely on price and convenience. That’s not going to get YOU very far. Remember, your competition is right outside, waiting for you to forget about them so they can slip in and steal your business. Have you worked hard to establish client loyalty? If you haven’t, you might have to go the back of line as your client moves on.

It’s Not the Product as Much as the People

I believe that clients buy people first, products second. However, airlines seem to fall all over themselves promoting seats that recline or that have more leg room. Is the expectation of comfort really something to promote? You should know what your clients expect and deliver it to them. Then, you need to find ways to stand out. Do your research and make smart, fact-based recommendations. Ask solid, probing questions that open up the dialogue. Create a follow-up plan…and follow it! Find ways to contact your client with meaningful, of-the-moment intel that shows you care. Whatever you do, don’t assume that your product/solution is good enough. It won’t be for long!

Be Inventive…Always

Most of us are too young to remember the golden age of air travel. But it wasn’t so long ago that we can’t imagine what it might have been like to travel when flying was new, exciting and something one anticipated with great hope. That’s how you want your client’s thinking about you. If you’ve ever been let go by a client you’ve had for years and replaced with a competitor, you know the sting that comes along with that rejection. What did they do to win the business? More than you because you become a commodity, instead of something of value.

What was the last GOOD customer service experience you had? Why did it standout?  Reply below.  -SG

The Arrogance of Selling

This blog/message is written as a reminder for you..and me.

You know that swagger you have when you walk into a client’s office ready to present your product/service?


Start walking in with a presence of curiosity and support, not surety. It’s implicit that you know and can defend your offering. However, that’s not the point of an initial business development meeting. The point of this precious encounter is care and concern. You’ll have your time for presentation swagger later.

Think doctor to patient. If your physician said to you “do this, try that and I’ll see you in three weeks” and then walked out, how would you feel? My point is, business development is ALL about the tailoring of a recommendation, just like a physician who correctly establishes an empathetic relationship with you then presents his Rx. It’s easier medicine to take.

Too many business development professionals assume their product is perfect just the way it is and unconsciously are arrogant about it.  We’ve got to prove to our client we affirm and understand their challenge WAY before we cure it. Master discovery behavior to condition your clients to your openness and desire to tailor your recommendation, not lead with it.

10 Things to Know About Your Clients

If you’ve followed my blog over the years, you know how much I stress doing your homework. It’s critical. When dealing with smaller companies, this task is mostly manageable. However, with larger companies, you may find that the challenge isn’t getting enough information…it’s getting enough of the RIGHT information.

To help, I’ve narrowed the focus of pre-meeting reconnaissance to these 10 things you really need to know before you enter the room. Get up to speed on these and you’ll be well prepared!

What You Need to Know About Your Clients

  • History. What is the history between your company and theirs? Who were the key players before you got there? What is the temperature of the relationship? Is there anything from the past that could haunt you in the future?
  • Marketing goals. Probing questions can get you the information you need prior to the meeting.
  • Business trends. What’s been happening with your client’s business the past 6 months? Year? 3-5 years? What are the industry trends and how are they affecting your client?
    Market share. How big a player is your client? Where do they have an advantage or are the market leader?
  • Competition. Who is gunning for YOUR client and how? Are they chipping away at your client’s market share?
  • Distribution network. Do you know what industry your client targets? How do they get their products or services to market? How broad a network do they have?
  • Target Audience. Who is the ideal “decision maker” who buys their products or services? Where and how do they find them?
  • Key Contacts. Find out who the key people are at your client’s business. Find them on LinkedIn to know their background. Who ultimately is the decision maker regarding your recommendations?
  • Latest News. Dig around on the Internet and other sources. What’s happened to your client lately? What’s been the biggest news? How does the media cover the company and its leaders? What’s been posted on the company’s social media channels (and what has been the reaction)?

Using this list, you will pare down the vast amount of information that’s out there about your client to the information you can use as their trusted adviser.

Which on the list do you feel most unfamiliar with? Let me know with a reply below. -SG

Get Involved…or Get Out!

Hold onto your hats…this post will sting a bit.

Business Development leaders, what are you doing each day to make your team a team of green berets? Are you on the sidelines reporting their achievements or are you on the field shaping their achievements?

Too often I’m finding leaders are on the sidelines, tracking progress instead of inspiring it. Why do you have this position if you’re just a statistician?

You cannot create a team of green berets without giving your blood to your team. The only way to accomplish this is to see and hear each person conducting business.

As you observe your direct report ask yourself, is my team….

  • Passive or engaged?
  • Tentative or confident?
  • Fast or deliberate?
  • Presumptive or inquisitive?
  • Peacemaking or taking a stand?
  • Clinical or cooperative?

Development is all about direct coaching NOT impromptu coaching. Stop your hallway tips. Start directly meeting with these direct reports and caring for their development.
Know their activity and shape it so that they make more of their bonus, they’ll follow you anywhere from this action.
Be forthright in your coaching. Know who they’ve met with, what’s occurred and what they need to say/do next. That’s development.

Discuss and create together their development plan.

So…are you on the sideline or leading on the field? Let me know in the replies below.  – SG

4 Open-ended Questions That Work

When I was a kid, my father, a doctor, would take me along with him when he made his rounds at the hospital.

I was always amazed at his focus and humanity. While my father was asking insightful questions of his patients, I was dreaming about lunch at the Strathmore Deli in Manhasset…I could just taste the roast beef piled high, steak-cut fries and huge vanilla milkshake (too much sharing here?).

Back to my father. I was enamored with his sincerity and genuine interest in whatever his patient said to him. He was as calm and collected as you’d want a surgeon to be.  He had a great way of getting more information from his patients which helped him provide better care.  His trick? Asking the right open ended questions. Read more

Managing Organic Growth After a Merge

Many organizations scale their business inorganically through buying and merging with companies that enhance/broaden their business proposition. “Overnight” these newly formed entities have a blended set of employees, vendors and customers. This is a fine strategy except once these marriages have taken place, an organization needs to meld their businesses into one cohesive unit that’s in one voice with their value proposition and overall ethos.

I’m always excited about consulting in these situations. By and large, the companies have smart, driven leaders who are committed to shaping their new organization into a formidable foe able to sit at a larger table doing battle with a new competitive set. But here’s the rub: an organization can’t fully transform without focusing on organic growth.

Organic Growth Critical to Transformation

Here’s what I mean. Organic growth is transforming an organization from the inside to accomplish the strategic goals that were achieved inorganically. Post-merger an organization must streamline their operation by synthesizing their new business development value proposition, unique to their company. Essentially, designing their new, broader DNA.

Once this has been accomplished, they then to need train their business development leaders in the articulation of this value proposition and determine who their green berets are that can source and close the business they merged to go after.

Leaders Gotta Lead

A leadership team’s ability to accurately assess talent, shape behavior and strategically lead is what separates a great company from a mediocre company. To be known for having the “top” people, you need to insure that your leaders can cultivate the elite Business Development professionals that excel in conversationally probing and presenting the value proposition in a relational, urgent manner. That creates a strong atmosphere for sustained organic growth because everyone is on the same page.

The new organization becomes a desirous place to work, i.e. the organization that everyone wants to be a part of.

This type of consulting is quite transformational and builds a strong set of like-minded people committed to creating a juggernaut of a company.

Have you been through a merger or acquisition? Did it go smoothly? What could have gone better?  Answer in the replies below. -SG

Presentation Prep: Mitigating Mistake Risks

As you prepare for your next meeting, imagine that CNN will be there broadcasting it live. How does that make you feel? Nervous? Self-conscious?

Truth is, it shouldn’t matter. Facing your next meeting as if the whole world will see it let’s you take the bull by the horns: come what may, you are going to prevail regardless of any possible mistakes.

Of course, mistakes can happen and they come in many forms. So, what can you do to mitigate the risk of a presentation mistake happening?  Here are a few things…

Six Ways to Avoid Presentation Mistakes

  • Prepare for a Bigger Audience: The client says, “It will just be me at the meeting.” But then you get there and she’s brought along five others. Be calm…be flattered…and then step up to deliver because you were ready for this.
  • Meet in a Conference Room: Look around your own office. How many distractions can you count? Even the photo of your family can make your mind wander. Request a conference room meeting. People know where your client’s office is but, probably won’t know what conference room he chose for your meeting. That means fewer interruptions. You have their full attention (if they can be convinced to put away their phone for 20 minutes!).
  • You Set the Stage: I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve rearranged a room in order to maintain control of the meeting. Often, there are too many chairs, the room is a mess, it’s too bright (or dark), there isn’t enough presentation space and so on. If there is a phone in the room, disconnect it! Dirty pool? No. You were promised full attention so, taking a phone call would break that promise. You will reconnect it after you’ve delivered your interruption-free presentation. The point is that you have arranged the room the way you want it and that will allow you to feel comfortable right from the start.
  • Calm Your Movements: Too many times, I’ve witnessed people making exaggerated gestures, pacing too much and making other unnecessary movements. This conveys one thing: nerves. We’ve discussed the importance of practicing, so you shouldn’t be overly nervous, just excited. Stay calm and deliver.
  • Be Neat: Prepare documents well and have them laid out, ready to distribute at the right time. Neatness counts…trite, but true. Control when the documents are distributed so that they don’t’ become a distraction to your presentation (ever had anyone skip ahead because they had the presentation in hand?).
  • Use the Facilities: I know…you shouldn’t have to be told this like a parent to a 5-year old. However, so many times we are rushing to get to a meeting on time, we forget our biological needs until it is too late. That’s a distraction for sure! Scheduling time to use the facilities will ensure a) you get there early and b) you have some time to compose your thoughts in private, which is another way to bolster your confidence.

Mistakes Are Human…So Is Your Audience

You can’t avoid all mistakes, only mitigate the risks beforehand. But Murphy is always lurking and sometimes, the unexpected happens. When it happens to you, acknowledge it. I had a client who just before a meeting accidentally dipped his tie into a full cup of coffee. He made light of it with humor to acknowledge why he wasn’t wearing a tie, which got a positive reaction since everyone in the room had had something similar happen at least once in their careers. Now, everyone could move past that incident and not wonder for the next 30 minutes why he was tieless.

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.  If you follow the steps above and do your homework prior to the meeting, you have taken a big step towards mitigating the risks of mistakes. And that should give you the confidence to deliver the presentation in the way you hoped you would.

Oh…and one more tip…watch your coffee!

Which of these steps did you overlook in your last meeting?  What was the result?  Reply below.  -sg


Clues Are in the Research

I believe it was Dale Carnegie who once said; “Arouse an interest in another person before you present your idea…”
I’ve expounded on this for years…the sale is made in the listening, not in the presentation.

But listening without perspective is a lost opportunity to connect. Doing some quick research about your key client contact, the company, and news of the industry provides you with context for your listening.  The better and more relationally you listen, the easier it is to make the match to your product/service in a genuine manner.

Here’s an example from last week…

Do the Research

I’m coaching an investment executive on his fundraising efforts. At the start of our meeting, I asked him with whom he was meeting. His response was, “Oh, my team puts a list together and I look at it right before the event.”

You can imagine my initial reaction to this. But, remaining forebearant, I further asked, “Do you know what firms they represent? Did you look at his LinkedIn profile? Did you search any recent news about the company?”

Sheepishly he started to get the message and said, “I guess I should know some of this beforehand.” I asked him for the meeting attendee list, and put in the name of an executive he was scheduled to meet in LinkedIn. Up comes the university he attended: McGill University in Montreal. Turns out, one of his own team members also went to McGill. I asked if he thought that might be some good intel that could open up a conversation? He agreed that it was. And that was just a first-pass, tip-of-the-iceberg type revelation from the research.

The More You Know, the More You’ll Hear

Here’s the point, the more you know about your prospective client, the more you can listen to him/her and understand their respective “professional path.” The more you understand this, the more you can break the ice of initiating a relationship in a curious, genuine fashion and shape your recommendation to what their objectives are today.

Have the War Now, the Peace Later

My first lesson in business development came in 1977 in Flushing, Queens. I’d just graduated from college and began working for Met Life. I was assigned to a sales manager who changed my life in days. He could terrorize or motivate in seconds, make me scream with laughter or scream with rage almost at will. Yet what he actually instilled in me was his thirty years of life experiences all in one year.

We fought like crazy but most of what I teach today came from our real world selling situations and his deep understanding of people and how to reach them.  From that, I determined that when working with clients, it’s important that you allow the war first before you get to the peace.

Understand the Obstacles

What he meant was understanding ALL the obstacles you’ll face to close a client as soon as you can. He instilled in me the art of listening and calmly determining the barriers to close in a relational climate. He further demanded I uncover these within minutes of each meeting.

For example, listed below are a series of questions you can ask to find out what war you’ll need to resolve:

  1. What‘s mission critical to you and your business going into the new year?
  2. What challenges/headwinds will there be that can slow down this process?
  3. What’s been working with your current provider/consultant?
  4. What would you strengthen if you could?
  5. What’s your perception of our organization?
  6. How do you and your team like to collaborate with firms like mine?

Establish Empathy and Urgency

What is most mission critical is establishing a climate of empathy and urgency. These two behaviors are not necessarily immediate bedfellows. The empathy must come first. It must be genuine. The urgency comes from staying with the challenges your client shares long enough for them to accept them and declare their desire to get rid of them…pronto! As I’ve written…you have to stay in the pain.


What war is your client fighting? How are you helping? – sg

Don’t Give It Away

You go into a meeting where you will be pitching your company’s services and/or products. At some point, the client turns into a charity case when their expectation is that you will do some of the work for free as “goodwill” to earn their business. Been there? And did you comply?

You shouldn’t. Even though the act of giving them something for nothing may seem like you are earning their trust, what you are really doing is degrading the value of your company and its solutions.

There is Little Value in Free

It seems obvious that if something is free, it has little real value. Yet, so many times we are asked to provide complimentary services so that we can earn a client’s business. The thinking is, lose a little now to gain a lot later. But the minute you provide something for free, you have lessened the value it has. The expectation is that if you can offer it for free now, why would someone pay for it in full in the future?

An example: A advertising sales person has the opportunity to sign a major new brand. The potential client says they aren’t sure the campaign is worth the investment and would like to do a “trial run” to see how well it will work. You say yes because the potential future business is so great. In doing so you have made two mistakes:

  1. Made an assumption of future business. There are so many reasons why a client would back out after the free period is over. Therefore, there is no guarantee that this big fish will ever swim in your pond. Are you willing take that chance?
  2. Forever devalued your service/product. Once someone gets something for free, it’s pretty hard to convince them they should pay full price in the future. Thus, you have decreased the perceived value of your offer, probably forever.

Establish the Value So They Won’t Ask

It’s easy to give in to a “freebie” request (“I suppose I could lower our commission….”). But the moment you do that, it shows that you didn’t do a good enough job of establishing value. No one walks into a Mercedes dealership and asks for a free S550, right?

You need to gain the client’s understanding and trust. Remember, you are the advocate for YOUR company, it’s products and services. The benefits of those should be reward enough for your client. If you can’t demonstrate that, then it’s back to the drawing board for you. It is not a time to give anything away just to get the business. That will come back to haunt you later.

You can be positive in your response to a request for something for free. Honestly tell your client what you can and cannot do, and why. There is great a value in what your company offers and the client should be made aware of that. Doing anything for less than what you believe is fair shortchanges you and your company.

Have you ever been asked to provide something for free? How did you react?