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

When You Hit the Q4 Wall

Recently, a dear friend and client texted me with some alarming news…he had hit a wall. He said that he’d lost his way, didn’t have anyone in his life that cared about him, and didn’t want to go to work at all.

His life/business resignation was palpable and a cry for help. After a very long text and conversation, he got back to a more balanced way to engage with life.

From this incident, I got to thinking…this feeling could arise in any of us at any time. And at the end of a tumultuous 2021, you may encounter several walls that seem insurmountable.

This is especially important to discuss and try to preempt. Now is the time to begin to set your sights on 2022 and how you’ll engage with life and clients more personably given the slow ebbing of the virus. Anticipating that you may hit a wall (or two…or more), is part of understanding how you will finish strong, setting up momentum for 2022.

When You Hit a Wall…Give, Love, and Serve

What I shared with my dear friend is that it’s normal to hit a wall. The question, though, is what we do when it happens.

What’s ironic with my friend is that thirty years ago, his life motto was, “Give, Love, Serve.” I shared that with him because it was and still is a life motto of mine when the going gets tough. What that motto says to me is to place your attention on others and from this, you will be taken care of. It has served me very well lo these years.

Get Out of the Way to Make a Difference

Second, I reminded my friend of the difference he makes in people’s lives by his profession and that by surrendering to his client’s wellbeing, he’d be lifted up from that difference he made. Focusing on their issues allows you to get out of your own way and continue to make meaningful connections that lead to results.

As we go through the remainder of this year and begin to plan our business strategies for 2022, it’s essential to:

  • Put others before ourselves
  • Recognize and be proud of the difference we make with clients
  • Acknowledge that are always more of them to serve and build connections
  • Find business solutions that solve real client challenges
  • Become prescient/look into 2022 and initiate recommendations you truly believe will help your client’s business
  • Start listening NOW for Q1 solutions

If you’ve hit a wall, let me know…we’ll get through it by serving others.

What I’m Learning About Virtually Communicating and Coaching

Yes, virtual communication during this Covid era is still with us. And I believe it will be long after the virus is at bay. I used to say to myself, just get used to it.

Now, nearly two years into this next normal, I’ve said to myself: Get better at it!

And I believe I have. Always more skills to discover and learn to improve. But so far, here’s what I’ve learned about distance learning and coaching.

How I Am Improving Virtual Communication, Training, and Coaching

  • I’ve got to look directly into the camera to illustrate my empathy and desire to connect. Virtual eye contact is better than none at all!
  • Being clearer and simpler with my agendas and data points has improved my meeting flow. It’s difficult to follow someone who is not organized and thoughtful about managing others’ time. Therefore, when I begin a session, I will state the agenda of the meeting and then ask others for their agreement and other topics they feel are germane.
  • When I cede the floor to someone, I gain the floor back by restating their most salient point to illustrate I heard them and respect them. My hope is they will do the same in return.
  • My delivery level is 1.5x stronger virtually. I’ll explain. Over the past few months, I’ve demonstrably increased my enthusiasm and engagement with my content. What I’ve noticed from this lift in my own delivery style is that others are more engaged and more conversational vs. interacting on autopilot. What this says to me is YOU and I can set the tone for the meeting, not others. This is important. Our level of engagement moves others to engage at a higher level.
  • I check-in more. After a few points are made, I will ask people for their feedback/opinion of what I’ve just put forth. It gives me an important window into their assimilation of what I’ve just shared.
  • When I’m asked a question, I repeat or rephrase it. It gives me time to answer it and it takes control back from the person who asked the question.

Try these techniques. They work!

What have YOU learned that has helped you communicate virtually? Share in the comments.

Know Your True Line

McKinsey & Co. recently wrote about the importance of understanding people’s feelings of loss and anxiety due to COVID. As a leader, you owe it to your directs to have this level of understanding as we enter Q4.

My father as a surgeon always said, “You never treat one patient the same as the next. Every person is different.” Therefore, you cannot hold back your desire to understand a direct’s personal and business situation. And you must put action behind this desire.

Years ago a coach of mine taught me to be interested, then interesting with all people. Now’s the time to employ this to get your team’s head on straight for 2022. When you do, you provide an open opportunity to transform someone’s spirit!

Defining and Understanding Your Perspective

When I speak about knowing your True Line, I mean your personal perspective that impacts how you make decisions, guide your teams, and map the future. It’s critical that you have this personal understanding so that you can relate your own vision to the way you are managing your team and individuals.

As an example from my own life, last week I touched base with a client who has thoroughly impressed me with her desire to test new actions so that she can personally develop. We focused on networking a few years back and she demonstrably succeeded at it!

Last week, I found out she had lost a loved one due to COVID and was trying to reestablish her business from this upsetting event. My True Line came to me, which is that I do what I do so that I can help people realize their full potential and make a difference. With that in mind, I said to myself, “I’ve gotta help her. She’s a champion who wants to reengage and can get it back.”

We spoke about her gift to people and how to present her gift once again as a commitment to helping others, regardless of the outcome. She brightened up and realized her “gift” again.

Through conversation and truly being interested in another’s life, you can empower them in a way that they can’t on their own. In this lies the dignity of contribution. You, as their leader, hold a position of great influence as your directs discover their power.

So, what is your True Line? Need help defining it. Let me know and we’ll get there together.

Back to Sales Basics

In these turbulent times, companies are pivoting at nearly every turn, trying to keep their business moving forward while dealing with a mobile workforce, downsizing, and other disruptions.

One trend I’ve seen is sales managers having to “roll up their sleeves” and get back into business development activities again. And while some might say it’s like riding a bike, the truth is that reengaging with clients through direct sales efforts can be daunting.

Concerns include:

* Can I actually sell again?

* Will I have the stamina to succeed at it?

* How do I begin the transition of it?

* How do I neutralize my survival fear throughout the process?

* How will I engage prospective clients I know?

While returning to a sales role might seem like a step back and one fraught with old/new issues, it doesn’t have to be. Now is the time for you to shine by example, learn from your team’s efforts, and contribute at the rubber-meets-the-road level.

Successfully Transitioning Into a Sales Role Again

Here are several steps critical to succeeding in this transition. They will maintain your self-actualization in the process and ensure your celebration of achieving it!

Step #1: Enjoy the Journey

Do not criticize what you’re doing, hold it as an adventure. Promise yourself you will have fun in the process. Determine the difference you’ll make and what you personally will provide to your clients, i.e., your personal brand promise.

Step #2: Own the Choice You’ve Made

Complete this sentence factoring in your unique talent: i.e.

“I chose to make this transition to  _______.”

Possible answers are:
– get back to servicing people my way.
– gain the creative time I’ve wanted.
– inspire confidence from my team in my leadership. “If I can do it, so can you.”

(or, whatever your personal declaration is that inspires you).

Step #3: Create for yourself a Project 25

A Project 25 is a list of 25 people you respect and with whom you have a solid trustful relationship. They are people who are important to edify about your change. They will accept the direction you are taking and support you as you move into it.

Step #4: List and divide A, B, and C contacts

Prioritizing who first you will contact is paramount in importance. “A” contacts are strong potential clients. Within this group, pick the “low hanging fruit” that you can contact first as you dust off your sales skills. They are the people who will be most receptive to whatever you say and how you say it. “B” contacts are possible clients that may require more effort. For now, though, they represent possible referrals and should be mined for those contacts. “C” contacts are valuable centers of influence for the future. They may never become clients but their opinion of you and your services/products will inspire others to create a relationship with you.

Step #5: Meet Them Face to Face

Now is the time to meet your “A” listers. Set up a face-to-face meeting if they are comfortable with it (do it outside if need be). Video call is a second-but-still-good option. Your intention is learning how they see their business going into Q4, how they’ll drive revenue in this COVID era, and what their new challenges are. By being interested in them, they will reciprocally be interested in your change. Be prepared…they will ask about you and what prompted your change. Have a great answer at the ready!

Step #6: Enjoy presenting Step #2

And notice how this resonates with them. Realize you’ve successfully announced your change in a professional, responsible, declarative manner. Now it is up to your trusted contacts to embrace your change and support you in whatever way they’d like. The benefit of this is that you get practice in introducing yourself to prospective clients in a conversational, confident manner.

These six steps should ease your transition into a new sales role, even if it’s temporary. And remember, your directs are watching and learning from you. Not only will you be giving them these steps (right?) but you will be embodying them. Success breeds success!

How to Influence Others in Business

Above all else, it’s critical that you influence your clients and employees.

A lot is made of “influencers” on social media…those who amass huge followings and can impact a brand’s sales and public opinion simply through posting their opinions.

That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Post COVID, our responsibility in business is to genuinely and organically influence our clients/teams to enhance their commercial lives. It’s taken me a while to come to this recommendation but I believe it’s the most important gift we can give our clients and teams. If you’re really concerned about making a difference with your clients/colleagues and becoming/maintaining your position as a trusted confidante, you’ll action my advice.

Influence with Heart, Not Self-absorption

Many social media influencers are primarily concerned about their own image/brand. This level of self-absorption is poison in the business world. Any, and I mean ANY, act of selfish influencing will be discovered and given a scarlet letter. When a client thinks your recommendations are based on moving your (not their) agenda forward and making your company look good (again, not theirs), it won’t be long before you are shown the door. This level of accountability is ever-present…and you need to move through the world always aware of that.

Influencing Can Be Done Silently

The goal is to influence in such a way that you forge a positive/high touch experience such that your relationship transforms. And while our tendency may be to talk, give our opinion, and demonstrate our knowledge…many times, that’s not what’s needed to get the outcome you want.  For example…

..last month, while coaching an executive after she had gotten a difficult mid-year review, I realized the importance of listening to her more deeply and empathetically than ever. During her playback of the review, I listened for her level of responsibility. And while she did accept the feedback she had received, I realized I needed to extend the inquiry longer to listen for her desire/declaration to stop this set of behaviors. At this point, I noticed how much I wanted to take control of the conversation and just go to the “cure.” Sound familiar?

Instead, I chose to listen, remaining quiet enough so that she added several thoughts to her initial take on the review. A few short, well-timed probing questions helped. Finally, she arrived where I needed her to be when she said, “I just have to change this.”

Bingo! I got what I needed. I had influenced her! She signaled a willingness for a cure that would transform this behavior because she said so, not me.

Wait for the Signal, Then Act

I cannot stress this enough: your client/your colleague must say something that signals they are open to your recommendation. At this point, you have influenced them! And now you can move on with your solutions.

This is when you immediately forge a side-by-side relationship with them to mutually craft a cure. In this lies the honor of respecting another person and their frame of reference. And that’s a very positive influence.

Post-pandemic: Don’t Let Qualifiers Seep In!

As we all re-enter the world of meeting people, persuading them to understand and accept our recommendations, I’ve noticed that many of us have gone back to qualifying what we say.

For example:

“What I’d just like to just try and do today is to hopefully walk you through some suggestions that I think could be of benefit to you and your team should you find these suggestions helpful. I feel that possibly our next step should be perhaps to go forward with these suggestions that might help your business.”

Yikes, what was that mess?

Here is that again, this time with all the qualifying words/phrases highlighted:

“What I’d just like to try and do today is to hopefully walk you through some suggestions that I think could be of benefit to you and your team should you find these suggestions helpful. I feel that possibly our next step should be perhaps to go forward with these suggestions that might help your business.”

Ahh yes. It’s the treacherous world of qualifiers that have seeped into our lexicon once again. For example, did the highlighting of “suggestions” surprise you? Suggestions is a soft word that does not invoke confidence. Better is “recommendations.” This lets your audience know you are basing your insight on experience, research, and knowing their business/industry.

Words That Weaken Our Recommendations

One of the casualties from our sheltered environment was the caution to not press someone on an idea or recommendation we have. We were trying to be sensitive to the whole situation when everything seemed so uncertain. Not wishing to offend or seem overly aggressive, we went backward and over-qualified our accretive ideas.

It’s time to drop these qualifiers when offering an idea or recommendation that requires a level of declaration and alacrity to have it accepted.

Listed below are the words I recommend (not suggest!) you use when delivering a well-thought-out idea:

DON’T SAY

DO SAY

Try

Will

If

When

Hope

Will

Think

Can/Is/Know/Am confident

Could/Should

Need/Must

Feel

Know

Suggest

Recommend

Like/Want

Will/Can

Might

Will/Can
Perhaps/Maybe/Kinda/Sorta

Will/Is

Wish/Hope

Will/Want/Am Convinced
Just

(Never say)

Maybe

(Never say)

You may not even know that you are using some of the left-column words. Next time you give a presentation, keep them in mind! Better yet, rehearse your presentation in front of a co-worker. Give them this sheet and ask them to tally how many times you use each of the left-column words. You’re likely to be surprised how many creep in! But then…you’ll be hyper-aware of them when you deliver the presentation for real, making your recommendations even stronger when you switch to right-column phrasing!

Returning to In-person Client Meetings

Today I’m back meeting with clients face to face! Yikes, it’s like Back to School…HAPPILY!

Last night, though, I realized I needed to define how will I facilitate this training. What questions will I ask to re-enter my client’s world relationally and commercially empathetically to make a difference?

Perhaps you are facing the same dilemma as your team slowly returns to the office. Are you (and they) ready for face-to-face client meetings? And how will you engage with them as they reacclimate themselves to in-person interactions?

Here are a few questions I will use. I recommend you experiment with them, tailoring them for your team’s re-entry, and ask them of yourself:

Questions to Ask When Your Team Returns

  • How does it feel to be back?
  • How important is reinforcing your organization’s identity now that we’re all returning?
  • What areas must your team be more agile with?
  • How will you scale your footprint going forward?
  • What’s important to YOU between now and Q4?
  • What challenges are there?

Once you’ve answered these, schedule meetings with your clients on a one-on-one basis. These initial meetings require consummate listening. Don’t fix, just listen. Your goal is to understand their plight and their challenges. Just doing this affirms your relationship and says you’re important to me. And to ensure they get that message, state it! “Our relationship is important to me and my organization.”

It will make a difference.

 

 

Relationally Cross-Selling

My last blog focused on the “WHY” of cross-selling, this blog focuses on the “HOW.”

Always remember cross-selling is good business. It credentials you as an advisor, not a vendor. Someone is going to sell this service to your client, the question is, will it be you?

Even if it ultimately isn’t you, you’ve still shown your commercial empathy and prescience by offering the service you’ve recommended.

Here are some tips for developing business with your existing clients by cross-selling:

How to Cross-Sell

  • Create for your business the definition of a high-value customer
    • This is essential to govern your prospecting activity. By defining what a high-value customer is, you make the job of cross-selling easier by honing in on this customer profile. Then, your cross-selling activity can become repeatable and scalable for your BD Team.
  • Establish a cross-selling profile: What customers have needed these services in the past?
    • You and your company have a stable of clients, each of them using your services/products for different reasons. But are there commonalities? Are there certain types of clients that use the same services/products? Knowing this will help you segment your client base for much more effective cross-selling.
  • Determine who your best customers are that deserve this effort
    • Not all customers warrant cross-selling. If you’ve just started with them and haven’t established strong trust, give it time. Also, some are very narrow in their focus/vision so, they should not make your priority list, either. Those with whom you have developed a trusted adviser role are the ones that will likely be most receptive to your new ideas.
  • Decide on the service that is most accretive to their business
    • Never, ever assume your customer is going to know what they need. That’s your job! Assess each customer’s goals and determine what you can offer that will help them get there.
  • Pinpoint the executives you should offer this idea to
    • We’ve all done it…put a lot of effort into selling to one person only have the response be, “Sounds great but…I have to run this by some people first.” Who are those people? And when can YOU run it by them?
  • Schedule business reviews to reinforce your value, use probing questions to determine future challenges, then cross-sell
    • Before you try to sell them on a new idea…you have to understand how well you’re doing in the first place. Has your product/service met their expectations? Will it for the future? What new challenges are they facing that could be helped by a different part of your company’s offerings? Have this face-to-face (or Zoom to Zoom!) meeting regularly so that you can find opportunities to cross-sell.
  • Recommend a pilot program to initiate the process
    • You are addressing a new challenge with a new offering. Let them see it in action on a small scale. Their risk will be minimal and they’ll see how well your product/service addresses a key issue. It will help you cross-sell and create an internal advocate as your service is sold upstream within their company.

It’s often said that finding new customers is far more challenging than developing new business from existing ones. That’s true…if you have a plan for nurturing these relationships so that your cross-selling recommendations are trusted by your clients as being in their best interest. Follow the tips above to achieve that level of trust!

‘Tis the Season for Referrals!

Yikes! It’s April already!

One of my greatest coaches once said to me, “If you can’t see your year by June, you’ve lost the year”.

Even to this day when I remember him saying this, I still somewhat shudder. Yet, he was right!

Jumping Ahead to Recovery

Let’s look at 2021 pragmatically. All signs point to recovery either in Q3 or Q4. What this global realization means is that we’ll be somewhat back to our normal style of operations, albeit potentially in a hybrid manner, but for sure with the societal intention of face-to-face meetings!

That’s great news except, who are you gonna see?

Of course, you’ll be meeting with clients and constituents you’ve had commercial relationships with pre-COVID. The larger question is: where is your new business coming from in 2022?

New Business from Existing Client Equity

This is actually not as scary/daunting as you might think. What we’re speaking about is cross-selling and the opportunity to gain referrals from clients with whom you already have equity!

Said simply, this is the time to monetize your client’s value by recommending an additional product or service that’s accretive to their mission. As you build equity, you will:

  • Align your clients’ goals to your commercial goals
  • Strengthen your relationship
  • Illustrate your prescience
  • Drive trust
  • Potentially increase their spend

From there, you can manage the relationship in a way that gives them confidence in recommending your service/product internally or externally, thereby strengthening your long-term sales funnel.

In the great book, “The Trusted Advisor” by David Maister (please get it) he states: Existing customers generally give us the opportunity for an audience. They’ll hear us out. The deeper question, however, is whether they’ll engage and open up.

In my next blog, we’ll focus on HOW to accomplish this.

 

There’s Always Time to Differentiate

With so many distractions these days, from finding, then getting, the vaccine to staying true to all our Zoom/Teams calls to following up with colleagues and especially clients, who has time to differentiate themselves?

Answer?

ALL OF US DO. AND WE MUST!

Don’t Dilute Your Personal Brand

You are unique. You have ideas no one else may ever have. You’re not a commodity, replaced easily by someone who bases their value on price, right? Of course you’re not. However, in these times when we are physically disconnected from clients, the trap of just “getting stuff done” and maintaining the basics is diluting our personal brands, that which differentiates us.

Each time I address this action with clients I also address it for myself. In a recent post, I wrote about the importance of being relational and declarative. Now, go the next step and make sure they understand that you are, simply, the best! And here are some tips to accomplish that goal:

Tips for Differentiation

  • Each call is special. As my father, a surgeon, said, “No two patients are the same. You never treat one the same as the other.” That’s so true with clients. Never treat them the same. On every call, they should feel like they are your ONLY client, even though they know it’s not true. Having them feel that way is good enough and creates a strong, unique connection.
  • Listen as though you’re wrong. I’m amazed at the level of curiosity I can have on any client call. I’m not on auto-pilot. I’m genuinely curious about someone’s life, what’s dear to them, and what I can learn from them. This way of interacting makes things so much more interesting…for both of us!
  • Deliver your recommendations as though they’re your last. Minus the drama of that statement, deliver your ideas/recommendations with heart and passion. You’ll be remembered for both!
  • Resolve questions/objections calmly. In high school, Ms. Lynn was my honors English teacher. The class was a challenge for me but as I watched her smooth, calm, focused delivery I actually took many of her behaviors with me to this day. Nothing phased her, no matter how exasperating our questions might have been. I’ve adopted that behavior and impart it to my clients, encouraging them to have a “no problem” attitude.
  • Be persistent, yet likable. There’s no substitute for this behavior. When you believe something is right for a client or someone on your team, stay in front of them with empathy and confidence.
  • Always think long-term. People who operate from a place of “I’ll get this one thing done to keep my client happy and off my back” usually wind up losing them. Steer your relationships as though you’ll be working with this person/client until you retire. You are in it for the long haul and they should know that.
  • Stay friends with everyone. Burnt bridges can never be crossed again. You’ve nurtured these relationships for a long time, right? Then why give them up, even if professionally they end. I have 20+ year friendships with former clients who I call upon often for input/insight…and they do the same with me. Even after we’ve stopped working together, I’m still differentiating myself by staying connected.

You are different. And you clients need to know that…and be reminded of it often. Use these tips to accomplish that goal. Let me know how it goes!