This Thanksgiving…Be Grateful, Then Insightful

This is a wonderful time of year! It’s a time for family, fun, cuisine, and insightfulness…if you allow it.

Each year at this time, I like to take stock of what is important to me. I look at three different areas and note what stands out:

What I enjoyed
Seeing clients shine during their annual investor/stakeholder meetings by being articulate, conversational, and approachable

What I created
Specific, tailored recommendations that addressed behavioral hindrances and then seeing clients’ succeed based on the work we did

What I am grateful for
My clients’ followership and the enjoyment we share on our development journey together

Looking back is a fine and worthy endeavor. But now is also the time for insightfulness as you consider the upcoming year. When working with clients, I ask them, “What do you want to be known for next year?” and “How do you want to manifest that so that it happens?”

Here’s an example:

This year, I had a client whose direct report was not sufficiently participating in the team’s success. She respected him and valued him on the team. However, she wanted him to realize on his own that he needed to up his game. She was frustrated that he did not seem inclined to have that self-awareness.

We wanted to allow him time to address what she saw as essential commercial challenges that he was not addressing. We created a series of questions that had the potential to have him understand that his participation was unacceptable. His responses illustrated his resignation to the marketplace and jadedness to it. After the second round of questions and insufficient responses, he asked her if she had lost faith in him. She said yes. Interestingly, he admitted he had lost faith in himself. As a result, she recommended a lesser role in which she believed he could succeed in 2024. He willingly agreed and everyone was satisfied that he was setup for success in the coming year.

My purpose in relating this situation is that now is the time to impart YOUR insightfulness to your team, acknowledge them for this year’s contributions, and establish a future with each person to create a fast start in 2024 that you both own.

And as you do that, take some time for introspection. What did you enjoy this year? What did you create? And for what are you grateful? Write your answers down and look at them from time to time as you plan for the coming year.

As always, I wish you much success. In addition, may your family, friends, co-workers, and you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sales Training Solutions: Series Recap

I’ve just posted the final blog of my 5-part series: Sales Training Solutions in 2023. I hope you’ve gotten several good tips as you proceed with your team towards the final quarter of 2023.

Let’s put all the pieces together. Come back to this post as a recap of the series for highlights and share it with your teams as needed. You’ll see that I’ve included links to the past posts so you can easily access them. Consider this one a cheat sheet!

Part 1: Repairing Sales Disconnection

In the first post, I gave you five steps to reduce your team’s disconnection from their clients. During the COVID period, remote meetings led to distancing from clients. We didn’t have that all-important face-to-face interaction of in-person meetings, lunch meetups, or other activities through which your team could more deeply connect with clients. Here are the steps to take to reverse this:

  • Define Top 10 Accounts
  • Amend or Create a Sales Plan
  • Measure for Success
  • Collaborate Often
  • Establish a One-on-One Connection

Part 2: Transform Order Takers into Authorities

The COVID-era created more order takers, salespeople who wait for clients to tell them what they need and then provide a solution. Enough of that! It’s time they take control of their accounts by becoming authorities, people your clients rely on to anticipate issues and recommend solutions. And in this post, I suggested that they start with in-person meetings. Being in front of a client is so critical to understanding their needs. These meetings eliminate distractions so that your clients can focus on sharing their “pain points” after some probing questions from your team members.

Part 3: Changing Behaviors

This might be the toughest to accomplish. Many of your salespeople’s behaviors have become ingrained and nearly unchangeable. Note…”nearly” unchangeable. This post lists three things they should STOP doing right now:

  • Rote Conversations: Each client is different and while your value proposition is consistent, solutions still need to be tailored to their needs
  • Prioritizing Price: Once your team starts discounting your product/service to get the deal, they’ve just made what you offer a commodity instead of a “must-have”
  • Bundling Solutions: While bundling can be effective, it’s not something that should be done as a regular practice. As noted above, each client is different so a “pre-packaged solution” most likely won’t be the answer to their issues

Part 4: Developing Transformational Sales Skills

Does your team know the difference between transformational and transactional selling? It’s time they did…and adopt the practice of the former. There are three things they can focus on right now to move towards transformational selling:

  • Dream with Clients: Understanding a client’s vision and really getting into it with them will create a partnership as you move towards finding solutions that will get them to their dream
  • Create Solution Centers…Then Use Them: Solution centers represent a collective of intelligence gathered from subject matter experts in your company that can help your clients. Your team can rely on this group of people who can provide insight as needed to your clients’ issues…but they have to be asked. Make sure your team members know who to go to…when…and for what.
  • Stress the Urgency of the Solution: Too many times, a salesperson’s pressure to close the deal creates urgency rather than understanding that the solution is urgent to the client and making that urgency the priority. And far too often, they never learned how urgent the need was in the first place. Get them to see things from a client’s perspective first and then concern themselves with presenting a solution so well that closing the deal gets far easier.

Part 5: Actioning Sales Leadership

The first four parts of this series looked at what your teams can do to transform themselves into “authorities.” The actions to be taken are theirs. But this post focuses on you…their leader. What action should YOU take to help them transform? Here is the action list I provided:

  • Observe how your salespeople are spending their time. Contrast this to the ideal commercial activities in which they should be engaging
  • Role model/Mentor best-in-class sales techniques
  • Redefine your ideal customer/client for your teams
  • Express how their habits need to change and how you are going to help develop them
  • Know each salesperson’s ability to manage through a volatile situation and remain commercially grounded
  • Systematize your 2024 go-to-market process
  • Understand who your A, B, and C-level salespeople are so you can create appropriate development plans for each
  • Craft a sales training program that addresses the above actions

I’ve enjoyed creating this series for you and I hope you’ve gotten some new ideas about how to transform your teams. Please let me know what you thought of the series and what more you’d like to read about via my blog. I’m here to help!


Five Actions for Successful Networking in 2023

Often, I hear clients lament about the challenges networking presents and their distaste for the activity.

Just the word networking turns many people off. It shouldn’t.

I recommend that networking is looked at as an opportunity to make and develop new relationships where each person helps the other and their respective organizations.

For many, this will mean transforming how you regard networking. Think “opportunity” NOT “confrontation.”

To help, here are five steps I recommend you take before your next networking event. Take them on and try to enjoy it…remember that other people are looking to find new, beneficial connections also. You’re just giving them the opportunity to see YOU as one.

Five Steps for Networking Success

#1 Define the Reputation You Want

You have a reputation. Do you know what it is? And just as importantly, do you know what you WANT it to be? Define this so that you can go after it. How people think about you is a big factor in how they will interact with you professionally. The reputation you want is one of being clear, interested, humble, and curious. Not declarative or over-confident. You avoid these behaviors by being interested, not interesting.

#2 Make a Target List

Never attend a networking event without deciding on the five to ten professionals with whom you will want to have conversations. Do your best to determine who will be attending this event in advance. If you can’t do that, have in your mind the type of person you want to find. What are your client’s titles? Look for those people at the event.

Also, prepare for what challenges you believe most of the execs will have moving into 2023 that you’d like to understand from them. This will help you to get them talking about things that really matter, rather than the normal chit-chat they’ll get from others. Be sure to listen! They will give you clues on what they might need from you.

Target execs who you believe you can help or offer a confidence-good: a prescient set of ideas a person can use or think about over the next several months that will help their business.

#3 Have Questions Ready

Organize a set of probing questions you’d like to ask of these professionals. Probing controls the conversation and is highly informational to the person with whom you are speaking. Here are some examples:

  • How do you see 2023 at this time?
  • Do you believe X, Y, and Z will present challenges?
  • What’s essential in your efforts to overcome those challenges?
  • How do you want your business to look by the end of Q2?
  • What tailwinds are there?

#4 Know your Value

Create a thirty-second value statement that communicates what you enjoy doing professionally. Keep it concise and make sure YOU are motivated and proud of what you say. Start your statement with: “Here’s what I’m enjoying now.” Then video record yourself delivering it. This is a key step! Look and listen to your statement to be sure it’s relational, authentic, and motivating…and that you deliver it well!

#5 Have Case Studies at the Ready

Prepare two case studies that are emblematic of your unique skill in business. Actual case studies “sell” your value. The case studies should have three elements:

  • Situation/Challenge
  • Recommendation
  • Result

Set these to memory so that you have them at the ready when speaking with your networking targets.

Follow these steps…they work! Recently, I coached a great, disciplined lawyer-client who knew that she needed to be more organized going into an important networking event/dinner. We established nine probing questions to ask colleagues at this event along with a case study that highlighted her strong expertise in cryptocurrency. The result: my client enjoyed the event, felt she was very prepared for it, and created a list of successful people to follow up with that are interested in her counsel.

Try these five networking steps at your next opportunity…and let me know how it goes!

‘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!


Retention Through Strong Leadership

Post-Covid, we’ve all experienced a commercial talent drain. With so many options provided by the new remote-workforce culture, people are now unwilling to remain in a position where they are not shaped and groomed.  I don’t blame them.

Our job as leaders is to create a culture of curiosity, skill-building, and empowerment. However, at least once a  week I hear this lament from clients:

“I’ll just finish this work myself; my direct reports can’t do it right.”

And each time I hear it, I blame the leader. Our job, responsibility, calling, is to contribute to people not to marginalize them. But too often, fiscal pressure to hit goals takes a back seat to growing an inspired, eager, motivated workforce that aligns with those goals. Therefore, taking over a project or task yourself is penny-wise but dollar foolish. Not only have you not shown your directs the method you prefer for accomplishing goals but, you have diminished their sense of responsibility by signaling you don’t trust their abilities. Stop doing that!

People Are Inspired by the Inspiring

It is important for leaders to lose the concern over status and transform it to our teams. A large part of your job as a team leader is to make work enjoyable and affirmational after this awful two-year Covid hibernation that stifled people, their talent, and their inspiration to contribute to the world.

That inspiration to contribute must be lit by you. You must foster this environment. You accomplish this by linking each team member’s work to the attainment of their professional development goals.

To do that, it will require a frank conversation where you both acknowledge road blacks, determine how best to overcome them, and then offer constructive feedback for future growth.

Ask Yourself…

To help you determine your role in retaining talent, here are some questions I encourage my clients to ask themselves:

  • Am I inspiring my team?
  • Have I shared MY vision?
  • What have I commercially declared that has moved me and my team?
  • What can my team count on me for?
  • Have I manifested it?
  • As I look back each week, did I actively contribute to each team member accomplishing their goals?

So many times I hear leaders blame losing employees to some force outside of their control:

“They were never going to make it here.”
“This work wasn’t right for them.”
“They never had the drive to succeed.”
“Nothing I could do…they wanted to move to [fill in the city or company here].”

That line of thinking is disempowering for YOU. Consider that they left due to a lack of inspiration and motivation. And then, hard as it might be to accept, realize you could have provided that inspiration and motivation. Once you take that on, you can see how your actions, attitude, and leadership are what is really needed to retain your teams.

So, how did you do answering the questions above? Let me know. -SG

Video: Working on Employee Retention Skills

2021 Reflections/2022 Direction

With Broadway shows closing, sports games being canceled/delayed, and a worrisome spike in Covid cases, it feels like I‘m writing this as though it were the end of 2020. But of course, I’m not. Things are different.

As a community of business professionals, it’s essential we keep this pandemic in perspective and realize we are demonstrably smarter and more responsible than a year ago.

Learn from 2021

Personally, I’m also more grateful to you, my clients, than I’ve ever been. I’m blessed by being in business with the opportunity to help others accomplish endeavors they couldn’t without my commercial recommendations. I cherish the relationships I’ve built and revel in the success I’ve seen so many of you achieve this year!

As I reflect on 2021, we need to be proud of our efforts in maintaining a relationship with our clientele. We were challenged, weren’t we? Relying on virtual contact or seeing our fleeting in-person contact coming to a second pause again, the challenges are still very real.

The overarching realization though is that we’re still here and gearing up for 2022. BE GRATEFUL FOR THIS.

Define YOUR 2022

As you look towards 2022, define your goals and vision with these points in mind:

  • Know how your clients will forward their company’s goals and their culture
  • Fully and comprehensively understand their challenges
  • Don’t race to solve all their challenges at once, rather be methodical in your solutioning
  • Make every recommendation meaningful
  • Be committed to being creative with all your recommendations

Years ago a client let me know how he defined the overarching culture goal for his firm. As we worked together, I never lost sight of this vision. It was, and still is, to be relational with every client interaction and decision his firm made. I’ve passed that along to every executive of that firm that I’ve coached with great results. I encourage you to adopt this manner of engaging with your clients and employees.

My 2022 wish for you is that you prove to all your clients that you listen first, fix second, and have ample time to understand their challenges. Through this action, you honor people and affirm their work. If you relate first, the business will come.

My Best for a safe, healthy, prosperous New Year!



Whitespace Is the Right Space

First, I hope you all enjoyed a festive, fun, and fulfilling Thanksgiving!

As we enter the last month of the year, it is important to realize that between now and December 19th (because after that, it’s off for Holiday time) is a season of opportunity. Right now, we have the opportunity to pick up share by meeting with clients and reminding them of the accomplishments you achieved together. And, you can present your case for building on that momentum through a discussion of goals that were NOT fully realized yet and new endeavors they are planning for 2022.

Find the Whitespace Gap

To really have an impactful conversation, you’ll need to live in the “whitespace” for a bit. Let me explain…

Whitespace selling means discovering the gap between what your clients need and the services you offer that they are not taking advantage of yet. This requires a careful study of the past engagements your company has taken on and knowledge of your clients’ new goals. Through this study, research and engagement, you may also discover new entities within their organization that could benefit from what your company offers…they just don’t know it yet!

It was said best by Idris Mooteee, CEO of Idea Couture, Inc., “Whitespace is a tool that lets you look at the commercial landscape up and down the value chain with a new lens. It identifies new untouched opportunities. These are profit opportunities where incremental innovation is possible.”

Initiating a Whitespace Review

Right now is the perfect time to engage in a whitespace discovery. Here are a few things you will need to have:

  • Knowledge of a client’s needs/challenges/threats and how to make their day-to-day tasks more efficient
  • An understanding of what’s most important to them
  • A set of clear value propositions that illustrate innovative accretive solutions
  • A desire to relationally hunt for areas to contribute to your customer’s commercial success

To action this process with your team, ask these questions:

  • How well served is this client or has it been underserved?
  • What would be our ideal relationship with this client?
  • Where are our gaps?
  • What core assumptions of our difference in business can we declare?
  • How do our products/services shape our industry?
  • Try it and let me know or call me to facilitate your discussion on it.

It’s important as you set YOUR goals for 2022 that you discover the whitespace for all your clients. The new business opportunities you will uncover should set you up well for a successful and prosperous new year! Let me know how it goes.

Small Talk vs. Business Talk

Recently, I was coaching a lawyer who would soon have a meeting with an organization to potentially perform legal work. As we discussed the meeting, he let me know that his intention was to start by asking directly about the case.

My instinct felt the opposite. He needed to employ some strategic small talk first, then get into business talk. We needed a plan for the first few minutes of this meeting.

Upon further examination, we realized this was a sensitive matter that involved other executives and other circumstances that needed to be vetted. Adding to the complexity, he was brought into the case by a close friend connected to the matter.

Taking all this into account I recommended we outline some initial small talk questions that he ask before discussing the case. Not idle chit-chat but also, not diving headfirst into the case details without setting a tone for the meeting. If you’ve worked with me, you know that I always recommend that you get your “audience” talking first. Give them an opportunity to say what’s on their mind right at that moment. So, that’s what we set out to do.

Small Talk with a Purpose

Small talk is magic when it’s done for a reason. Always think about your small talk before saying it. As in the example below, the people my client was meeting were strangers to him. Can you imagine if all he did at the start of the conversation is credential himself or go straight to the legal matter they wanted to interview him about?

You got it…WAY too abrupt and way too selfish. It’s like meeting someone at a cocktail party and ONLY talking about yourself.

In our session, we engineered some key questions that would help him shape the conversation while also establishing a rapport up front that would help him gain their trust throughout the rest of the meeting. Here is what we outlined:

Thank you for this consideration. I’m excited to speak about it today. 

How did you come to meet Bob (the friend who set the meeting)?

What did Bob say about how I might help?

What’s important to YOU with this matter?

How has it affected you and your organization?

What has been its impact?

How was the matter discovered?

How long ago was this?

What’s important to you with the type of relationship that might ensue with us?

What do you look for in a legal partner?

Small Talk Leads to Perspective

My client paused once we completed our session and commented that he would never have choreographed the meeting this way had we not spoken about it. He commented that small talk was not his forte.

I said that it was important for him to understand the case from each person’s perspective. Each of them was likely impacted by it differently and he needed to discover what those impacts were.

This initial small talk I put forth would credential him as someone who was approachable and someone who was able to affirm the people he was doing business with from his relational approach.

As he discussed the outcome of the call, he was quite gratified by the approach we crafted and shared that the case looks very good for him.

The moral of the story is that small talk is as important as business talk if you use it situationally to illustrate your ability to be adaptive and receptive before you solve anything. Again, it’s the magic of getting the client to talk about themselves first! Once they have given you a clear picture of their goals, they feel affirmed through your conversation. Then and ONLY then can you delve into the matter and make your recommendations.

Leaders…Map to YOUR Destination

Theodore Roosevelt once said:

“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Welcome to the new world of leadership, post-COVID!

Above all else as a leader, you must be positive, confident, and decisive. It’s time to show that you are in command. This is NOT done by running into the engine room of your ship and tinkering with the controls, obsessing over the number of degrees to turn left or right by month’s end.

Set the Ideal Destination and Course

Rather, you need to be inventive and innovative with your direction setting. Pretend that you are mapping a course that will bring you to your most desired destination. You get to define what that destination is and the best route for getting there.

There is nothing more transformational and self-actualizing than this.

What I’m recommending is that you commercially and responsibly create your dream organization. (Hint: you were put in this position to do this).

The next step in this process is to ask yourself:

  • What are the headwinds relative to the transformation I want?
  • Is my organization capable of neutralizing these headwinds?
  • Is what I’m inventing correct?
  • Can I defend it and sell it to my leadership team?
  • Are my initiatives accretive enough?
  • Will they get me to the place I want?
  • Do I have the right team in place?
  • Will my leadership team jump into the engagement of these initiatives as I have?

When you get the answers to these questions, you are ready to impart your plan to your team. Now is the time to get them “rowing in the same direction.” You’ll experience some diversions along the way but my wish is that you NEVER give up the initiatives that excite you and lead to your destination.

So…if you find yourself dawdling in the engine room, call me. I will get you out of it and back to the Captain’s bridge!

People Want to Talk…and Be Heard!

I believe that most people, through their work and personal lives, want to contribute to the growth and self-actualization of others. Now is the time to make it your first AND second priority. It makes a difference, something of which I was recently reminded.

I was about to initiate a coaching session with a CEO recently and heeding my own advice to make it personal now, I asked my client how he and his family were and how they were coping with COVID. My intention was to show him my desire to know him and his family, THEN his business. He lit up and thanked me even before sharing with me that he’d just come from his family physician where his daughter was diagnosed with strep throat but thankfully not COVID.

From then on, I’ve made my conversations during these times personal, then business.

Use Empathy to Check-In

Knowing how a client, teammate, direct report, or even superior is doing is paramount now. Whether they respond or not, you’ve credentialed yourself as someone who understands the mental strain the virus has cast upon us all. You show people you care and have time for them. This is critical now that the interpersonal chemistry of in-person meetings has been stripped away from us. Replace it with your desire to empathetically check-in. The more you do this, the more others will. “How are you and your family doing during these times?” works to cleanse the commercial conversation you’re about to have. You also get a heads up on the person’s level of engagement, which will help you guide your business conversation.

People Want to Be Heard

As I learned by talking to my client about his family, people want to share things that are on their minds. That’s true in their business dealing, too. When conducting a meeting, encourage an atmosphere of open debate and demonstrate the patience for an argument. Let people share their insights. It makes people feel alive and vital. It says to direct reports and peers that no one person has the definitive answer. You are forging an inquiry that gets everyone talking, that’s the beauty of it. By the time the debate winds down, everyone has been heard and everyone has been a part of the resolution. You’ve also illustrated your concern and commitment to understanding everyone’s side.

Essentially, you’ve honored everyone in this process. You’ve shown you can learn from people. That’s being a strong leader!