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

‘Tis the Season to Keep Your Clients

Right now, your company’s business development executives are probably creating a 2023 plan that has them growing the business versus 2022, right?  That plan includes an aggressive strategy for securing new business. And where will that new business come from? Mostly from companies that are probably clients of another company right now. Well, guess what? Your competitors are creating similar plans and may be targeting YOUR clients.

Here’s your 2023 client retention silver bullet: make your clients feel special! And no, I don’t mean by getting them an expensive holiday gift. I mean you’re going to make them realize that your relationship with them is special to you, is valuable to them, and that you are their partner as they face 2023.

How will you do this? By presenting a synthesis of their business goals you’ve gleaned over time and outlining the commercial challenges you know they will be facing in 2023.

A starting point:

“From what I’ve learned in our partnership this year, I believe 2022 will end with you ahead in these areas (be specific) while still facing challenges in these other areas (be even more specific). Is that an accurate assessment?”

The more details and real experience you can bring to this conversation starter, the better! You will get their attention. Why? Because all of this is already on their mind but now they know it’s on YOUR mind, too. Good! Now let’s follow that up with:

“Based on that, would it be true that the most mission-critical issues for you in 2023 are going to be ______?”
Again, be specific. Demonstrate your understanding of their business, their industry, their competitive set, their operational issues, etc. And then, you can move on to:

“And the challenges we are going to face together are ________, right?”
There you are, comprehending their internal and external challenges while standing right at their side to help guide them. Can your competitors do that? No…because only you have the relational experience with your client. You know what makes them tick, what keeps them up at night, and what your company can offer that will help them achieve their goals.

Even if you are slightly off with some of your assessments and recommendations, your clients will appreciate that you comprehend their actual issues. This also illustrates a nice level of prescience by offering solutions you’re confident they’ll accept.

Have this conversation with them as soon as possible. It is a positive action that makes clients feel special. ‘Tis the season to do this!


Changing is Hard; Not Changing is Worse

As a leadership development coach, I’ve found that the strongest leaders don’t resist change, they embrace it. But they also know that changing their own behavior can be a monumental challenge. They realize that if they don’t change/adapt they will become “stuck in their ways.” And you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who considers that a positive attribute of a leader!

Being Ready to Change

In a recent article in the New Yorker magazine, I came across a great article by Joshua Rothman entitled “Are You the Same Person You Used to Be?” He states that “becoming you in some cases means embracing a drama of vulnerability, decision, and transformation; it may also involve a refusal to accept the finitude that’s the flip side of individuality.”

This struck me by its simplicity and truth. Evolving means being vulnerable enough to realize that a current behavior doesn’t serve you anymore. You have to be ready to change. In contrast, being dogmatic and stubborn so that you hold onto this behavior usually doesn’t work out well in the long run.

Determining Why You Need to Change

But changing is not for the lighthearted. Not only does it take time but it requires that you look at things, and yourself, differently. You may need to lean on those around you for honest feedback…and be ready to receive it, even when they reveal something about yourself you don’t want to admit.

I’ve realized this through my own transformation.

Some twenty years ago, seven of my closest friends vehemently said that I often talked too much. If memory serves, I balked at this notion! I believed myself to be an excellent and effective communicator. But they were insistent. And that was the crucial moment…right then, I had to decide if I was going act on their feedback or disregard it and remain the way I was. There was something in their passion for my growth that drove me to accept their direction. I recall saying to myself, “Well, if enough people call you a horse, buy a saddle!”

Since then, I’ve concentrated on being concise in my speaking and writing. I’ve also enjoyed the transformed state I’ve gotten to from this advice as it has allowed me to listen more intently and purposely. And as you know…I am consistently stressing that my clients  listen first before they start selling or convincing.

So my advice to you is this…reflect on something you’d like to change.  Begin your transformative journey by sharing your desire with a few committed friends (and me, if you wish!). Listen to how they respond. And then get into action so that you have a plan that will make this change permanent. Ultimately, you will have to work at it and it may not come easy. But as they say, most good things in life never are.

Enjoy your journey.

Four Do’s And Don’ts for Managing Sales People

Whether you’ve had your team for a while or just inherited one, sales team management can be a challenge. Salespeople tend to have outward personalities and strong opinions. They also have a tendency to do things “their way” since that’s what has worked (based on their definition) in the past.

I can’t stress enough that you apply the adage, “trust but verify” here. They probably are good at their jobs or they wouldn’t be on the team in the first place. But are they sacrificing brand consistency and reputation for immediate gain and success? And are you involved enough in their work to know that what they’re doing is good for the long-term health of your company?

The great financier, Andrew Carnegie, once said, “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say, I watch what they do.” I’ve always applied this to my coaching of sales teams. It’s important that you see and hear what your team members are doing so that your company’s value proposition is being communicated effectively and in “one voice.”

Understanding the above, here are my Do’s and Don’ts for your success as a sales team manager:

Sales Manager Do’s:

  • Assess EACH person by measuring how well they listen and how well they tailor their recommendations
  • Get in the field with them regularly and watch them sell
  • Meet weekly and review the activity scorecard that you have BOTH agreed to use
  • Know their personal and professional goals

Sales Manager Don’ts:

  • Trust what they say needs fixing until you observe it yourself
  • Avoid presenting your critique of their sales process
  • Allow their numbers to decline without changing their approach
  • Forget what THEY said is important to them professionally as you craft your recommendations for improvement

How many of these are you doing…and not doing? Keep them in mind each day/week as you work through managing your sales teams. Being consistent in how you approach that responsibility will make a big difference and keep your team motivated out in the field!


Slowing Down the Opportunity

The great Spanish philosopher/essayist Jose-Ortega y Gasset once said, “Life is fired at us at point-blank range with no time to think.”

Too often we allow this tenant to control our client behavior versus SLOWING the process down and injecting humanity into our strategy. I’ll explain:

During a meeting with a client who was presenting a company for potential acquisition to a buyer, I realized it was as important to understand her buyer’s goals and challenges BEFORE presenting the opportunity.

I call this process “slowing down the opportunity.”

Determine Their Motivation First

Her tendency was to first present the merits of her client’s company to “wow” the buyer and then determine their propensity for the acquisition. That is very much a “life fired at us point-blank range” approach. Hurry up…get your message in front of them ASAP! Act…don’t think!

I interceded by insisting she slow down and take time to ask a series of questions to first determine/acknowledge the buyer’s commercial goals and the headwinds they faced to better tailor her comments about this investment.

We developed a series of questions, which I’m sure you could apply in your next presentation (tailored to your audience, of course):

  • What are your business goals for the balance of 2023?
  • What headwinds are you facing?
  • What promises have you made to your management team/Board of Directors?
  • What is your company’s position relative to your competitive set?
  • Ideally, where would you like it to be?
  • What’s your perception of the company and the opportunity I represent?
  • How could this acquisition enhance your organization?

Then Declare a Solution/Recommendation

These questions would affirm the person/team to which she was presenting this opportunity. Once knowing the goals and headwinds of her client, she could then be declarative with the value proposition she developed. In the process, she was also clearly demonstrating a desire for the acquisition that would benefit the buyer as well as her client. The classic “win-win” but this time, she had spent time determining what a “win” for the other side was first!

To sum this up, before you run to present the value of your idea, take a step back and affirm the person to whom you are presenting your opportunity/ideas. Your goodwill and professionalism will shine through, get their attention, and likely lead to positive results!

Get Noticed by Relationship Building

Relationship building should be a constant in your professional life. It certainly is in mine. While I’ve successfully built my leadership development and sales coaching business for many years, I’ve never done any advertising. It’s all been about relationships.

Is relationship building a core part of your daily/weekly/annual activities? Perhaps you’re waiting until you “have enough time for it.” Well, realize this…there will never be a perfect time. So, the right time is…right now!

Relationship Building is Not Random

If you’ve worked with me, you know that I stress that systematizing certain processes is a key to long-term success. This is certainly true with relationship building. It is not a random activity done while bumping into someone in the office. Being strategic about who you target and how you go about is critical. This will allow you to plan how you’re going to build and strengthen certain relationships that will be meaningful to your career growth. Also, your contributions to the relationship will be noticed and acknowledged in a deeper way than those who are doing it at a perfunctory level

Basic Steps for Relationship Building

Step 1: Determine your targets.
Not everyone in your department or company merits your relationship-building efforts. Focus on those who you can either learn from or who can influence the path your career takes.

Is there someone in your organization whose institutional knowledge is valuable to you? Is there someone who does your job but has done it longer or has had more success? Target these people and start developing a stronger bond. You’ll do this by being interested in them, their work, their knowledge, and what they can impart to you. Don’t try to get their attention by being interesting TO them…you need to be interested IN them.

While this might seem like you will only be looking up the chain of command for targets, that’s not always true. Your direct reports can influence your career with positive, or negative, feedback during your performance reviews. But among them, who is the “A” player that already has the respect of your peers and higher-ups? That person’s opinion of your work will prove to be important, so you should make sure you’ve nurtured a positive relationship with them. Again, start by being interested in them and what drives them. Then, you can further the relationship by being a mentor who is genuinely interested in their success and is helping them achieve their goals.

Prepare Questions That Move the Relationship Forward

Before you approach a “target,” prepare a series of questions that focuses on their goals, challenges, and what they hope to achieve this year. Reserve some time when you can ask these questions and then….listen! It’s so important that you absorb what they are saying so that you can develop your own plan to build the relationship based on what they’ve told you. Probe, probe, probe! In my experience, people appreciate being asked about their challenges and will open up to reveal details about their professional life that will only work to strengthen the relationship they have with you. A win, win!

Let Them Get to Know You

And lastly, be prepared to articulate what you want them to know and appreciate about you. This is your elevator pitch. Deliver your goals succinctly and clearly along with what you want to produce going forward. They need to see value in the relationship with you and it’s your job to get them to see the possibilities in it. The balance between caring about their goals/challenges and communicating your own is the foundation of a strong relationship. Succeed at this and you’ll be viewed in a stronger light.

The great coach Marshall Goldsmith has said, People buy you because they like and trust you. Follow the steps I’ve laid out and you’ll be well on your way to developing that trust!

Mid-Year Reviews: Don’t Count on Your Boss’ Memory

For many organizations, it’s Mid-Year Review time.

This should be a time to celebrate your achievements. It is NOT the time to debate them.

There is one problem, though…you’re boss is unlikely to remember what you’ve done these past few months. They probably cannot outline your accomplishments accurately, so do it for them!

Here’s how…

Ideally, you have a well-established development plan that your boss and you agreed to at the start of the year. You do….right? In that plan, you set benchmarks and goals that would be the metrics by which your performance would be evaluated. From this, you should be maintaining a scorecard that let’s you, and eventually your boss, see how you are progressing.

Prior to your review, it’s important that you create an outline of each workstream and what you achieved for each one.

For example, a recent private equity client of mine recently told me that, during the first half of the year, she managed the funds flow on her own for a company her firm purchased. Through this process, she mastered the organization of this endeavor and worked with several third parties to complete the paperwork required. Her achievement was in the area of organization and managing third parties. She will now add this to her other accomplishments this year and outline them for her boss prior to their review meeting.

By providing this information proactively, she is relieving her boss of the burden of trying to remember individual accomplishments…a large ask given that her boss supervises several other people. They both now have an outline of her achievements and growth that they can use to assess where she is based on her development plan.

And if you’re thinking, “My boss will certainly remember when I _________”, what I’ll ask you is how sure of that are you? And will they remember it accurately? In my experience, they forget easily because of so many other priorities they have to juggle. By reminding them, you are jogging their memory and helping them fairly assess your growth his year.

So, if you don’t have a scorecard you are updating, create one today. You, and your boss, will be glad you did!

What is a Healthy Debate?

One often hears the term “healthy debate” as a reference to two or more sides getting together to hash out an issue that could escalate into argumentative discourse if not dealt with upfront. Some might believe that a debate in business cannot be healthy at all since it pits people against each other. They’d rather have a “discussion.” Let’s take a look at why debating can be good for your business…if handled properly.

Debate in Business

First, let’s clarify that debating in business is different from the debates seen during political campaigns. The focus in the latter is winning at all costs. It really is about surviving as the candidate of choice.

The great John Wooden once said:

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

In business, a debate will involve strong, well-researched opinions on both sides of a decision that needs to be made. Each side presents its case and a solution is chosen. While some will feel they “won” and others might feel they “lost,” the goal of the decision-maker is to take valid points from both sides and create the solution that works best for all involved…notably, your clients!

Debate vs Discussion

Debating is not the same as having a discussion. A discussion is when people get together with a common issue that needs addressing and all parties have an open conversation about solving that issue. While some may come to the table with ideas on the subject, everyone is there to arrive at a decision based on the input from all.

In a debate, while the issue at hand may be the same, how it is worked out is different. There are “sides,” individuals or groups who have already determined what they believe to be the best course of action. They arrive to debate their points and convince others of their merits. Sounds like the basis of an argument, right? It should not be. What it really means is that people have put some significant thought into the subject already and have come to the table backed with their research, knowledge and experience to voice their input. I like that! And so should you. It signifies that people have cared enough about the subject to put some strong thinking into it and are prepared to communicate their position strongly.

Tips for a Healthy Debate

However, as their leader, you need to set the playing field of a debate so that it doesn’t escalate to all out war. Below I list 5 tips for debating that should be shared with your team the next time you see teams digging in for a fight:

#1 Have an Agenda

Make sure you have scoped out where the debate should start and where it should end. What is the end result needed from the debate? Usually, it is a decision on how to proceed. Too often teams that debate go off on excessive tangents that cloud their larger issue. Stay vigilant to the larger issue, keep track of time. Make sure a decision is reached at the end.

#2 Ask Questions to Forward the Debate

Rather than shutting an idea down too soon in order to be right, ask questions of the team. This will foster advanced discussions of the point at hand. Asking smart questions credentials you as a forward thinker and establishes you as someone who desires a clear outcome.

#3 Offer Ideas/Recommendations, Don’t Insist on Them

Too often executives insist on their ideas being accepted. Be open to hearing what the other side is saying. Yes, offer your recommendation so that it can be discussed. But then see how it sits with the others and whether it opens up new ideas. Discussion drives acceptance. Colleagues need to vet an idea in order to wrap their arms around it and accept it.

#4 Summarize, Summarize, Summarize!

The more you summarize a point the more you move the debate forward while acknowledging your teammate. Make sure they know you understood their recommendation, even if you are not convinced it is the right way to go.

#5 Present the Next Step in the Process

Never let the debate get away from you. Rather, present the next step that the team needs to take based on your recommendation. They need to “see your math,” meaning that they need to know how you came to your recommendation and why you are suggesting the next step. Even if your idea of the next step is inaccurate, by presenting it the entire team will create the correct one.

Go ahead…debate! But make sure, in the end, both sides feel like they were heard and understood. And, that a strong decision was the result, even if both sides had to give in a little. That’s a healthy debate!

Have you ever lost control of a debate? How did you get it back? Share your experience with a comment. Thanks! -sg



Discover the Purpose Before Setting the Goal

During these times, our zeal to get back to normal and drive business forward is quite important. Goals are set and we create plans that can get us there. But what might get overlooked is the purpose behind the goals. The “why” before the “how.”

A recent example demonstrates what I mean.

I was introduced to a healthcare professional who was having difficulty getting her patients engaged in their personal healthcare development plans. Many of them were not following through on the steps required in the plan. In determining her development goals, we focused on the topics she had to cover with new patients so that they understood their care plan, The topics were certainly essential as they included reviewing the plan, understanding insurance coverage, acknowledging the plan’s financial investment, and realizing the importance of scheduling weekly appointments. We also discussed that her patients’ goals would only be met if they honored their health development schedule.

Once I heard this agenda, however, I paused my client and asked if she ever spent time asking each patient what was important to them?

She considered that for a moment and admitted that no, she never did.

We both shared this spontaneous epiphany: she had been focusing on the goals of the plan and not the purpose. Together, we realized that each patient’s reason for wanting improved health was never uncovered to fuel the attention, commitment, and urgency to their efforts.

The balance of the session focused on asking the seminal questions to determine what was most important to each patient so she could retrofit their purpose into the goals of their health plan.

Some of the questions, which you can tailor to your clients, were:

  • Why is improved health important to you?
  • Why is it essential now?
  • What would a healthier you look and act like?
  • Where would you like your health to be by December?
  • What might prevent you from sticking to your plan?
  • How would you like me to support you in this endeavor?

My client began to realize that without understanding what was most important to each patient, she would not be able to effectively convince them they needed to adhere to their plan.

Within thirty minutes of our session, she had a positive result! The next patient she met with committed to their plan for the balance of this year.

The lesson for all of us is that people are motivated by a host of different reasons. If we don’t discover what they are, then we can’t truly be effective in helping them achieve their goals. Going forward, be sure to know your client’s purpose for wanting the results they want, then present your recommendations.


Do Unto Others….

You know the rest of this important life lesson.

As you develop as a leader, it is mission-critical for you to carry/embody this lesson daily with you.

Recently, I was working with an executive and I conducted a 360-degree review that was quite critical. What surfaced from my interviews was that he exhibited a consistent level of dismissal of others’ points of view. As a result,  whatever his leadership position he had with his peers and direct reports had almost completely eroded.

Further, he was overly blunt, impatient, and put no effort into tailoring his ideas to others’ situations. It was his way or the highway! The outcome of this was a high degree of social inauthenticity and collective insecurity around him. Essentially, if he wasn’t going to care about them (do unto others), then they weren’t going to care about him (as you would have them do unto you). We had work to do!

We began by discussing these issues and pinpointing specific examples of his leadership stumbles over the past six months. We focused on his impatience and inability to see an employee’s challenge with an assigned endeavor. He never checked in with his directs about their workstreams. He just assumed people would complete their work they way HE would do it, never checking on their progress or accepting any new ideas. I pointed out this was a flawed paradigm/belief system. Many clients think that their direct reports should be able to complete endeavors in their image. This is quite incorrect.

Everyone has a different way they will solve a business challenge. The question is: did the person complete the task and how correct was it? And when it is incorrect, asking oneself, WHAT CAN I TEACH THEM, NOT FAULT THEM FOR?

Ah-HAA! We found his major incorrect behavior. He discovered that he looked to blame each direct report rather than discover opportunities where he could advance the genuine effort they had put forth, guiding them with his experience, knowledge, and expectations. This is where the strength of leadership lives: mentoring instead of dictating. You and I will never get a second or tertiary effort from a direct report without this mindset.

From this discovery, we began to agree on a set of altered behaviors that had him listen before he critiqued. Further, he is now serving as a coach to his team rather than a line boss in a factory.

Together, we developed some key questions he could ask regularly:

  1. What’s important to you this quarter?
  2. How would YOU like to grow?
  3. What would you like to transform professionally this quarter?
  4. What would be your ideal state of development by year-end?
  5. What’s been most challenging?
  6. Would you like my help?

He has begun to see a transformation in his team’s attitude towards him as their leader. Progress!

How are you treating your direct reports? And how is it coming back to you in the form of their behavior and attitude towards your leadership?


Stop the Indifference!

I live in a city where a hamburger routinely costs more than $25. And while patrons are enjoying them, somewhere nearby is a fast-food joint selling a burger for less than a dollar. Why in the world would someone pay 2,400% more for the same product?  Two reasons: quality and value.

The same is true in business. People will pay more for quality service and products IF they perceive that it’s worth it. The problem I see so often is that the people often charged with convincing new and existing clients of their company’s value proposition have watered it down so much, the offering gets homogenized. As a result, they are lumped in with the “fast food” competitors and aren’t standing out as exceptional.

That’s where indifference rears its ugly head. By indifference, I literally mean that customers see no difference in your offering compared to your competitive set. When that happens, you know what they’ll base their purchase decision on, right? Price.

Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?

Value Is Based on Their Needs, Not Yours

I’m often approached to transform a team of like-minded business development executives to lift their commercial offering. The value of this is stopping customers’ indifference. This happened with my business recently.

I was referred to a head of business development by a client. Upon meeting with him, he acknowledged that we were going to discuss engaging me in coaching his team but emphatically stated that “Basically, you people are all the same, aren’t you?” Ahhh…there it was…indifference! Yikes!!

Then I realized he was upset and wanted to be heard, relative to what had last occurred. As many of you know, I’m big on listening to understand someone’s struggle before I solve anything. So, I asked him why he thought this. He proceeded to detail his disappointment with past consultants and why he grouped them all together as one homogenized unit. The experiences left him feeling like he’d been promised the $25 burger but got the 99-cent version.

Have Them See Your Value

Once I understood what didn’t work, I was then able to present how I’d approach his challenge and what his unique solution path looked like. I used details from our conversation and the unique perspective he provided to craft my responses. It was then that he could start to see that I was relatable, listening, and engaged. I knew I didn’t want to be grouped in with those who had come before me.  But as I reflected on this situation, I realized that what was most important to him was that HE and his team were not homogenized, either.

Ultimately, we were able to agree on a development path that was unique to his company and the individuals involved. And it’s important to note that I didn’t just sell him on my service…I got him to see the value of my service to him and his business. He may still have indifference toward my competitive set but I’m no longer in that group!