Two Leadership Tips for 2024

And that’s a wrap on 2023! What a year, right? My work saw clients struggle with and overcome many obstacles. But the work is not done! As we look to 2024, I want to give you two key recommendations from my many observations and development engagements this year.

Don’t Focus on Nice and Polite

Stop initiating and cultivating relationships by being polite and nice. Usually what this translates to is saying YES to everything. I’d rather see you start a relationship by being fair and objective. I’m not saying you should avoid being polite or friendly. But you must be realistic and expect that they will be, too. Are their goals out of line with their budget? Does the scope of the work exceed your team’s capabilities? Approach relationships objectively and fairly to determine what matters most to your client’s business AS WELL AS YOUR BUSINESS. Hey, you are not a non-profit…you are in business to drive revenue just like they are.

Therefore, in the New Year, finding what is most important to your client/team and the impact of not achieving it is critical. Then, and only then, can you be fair, objective, and urgent with your solutions.

Here is a tactical tip to make sure that when you are speaking with a client (current or potential), you are keeping them focused on their main goals. When responding to them, start with “As you said…” and then remind them about what they said was critical. You can then base your recommendation on that. You’ll keep their attention, let them know you’ve been paying attention, and structure the conversation about the most important issues they are facing rather than getting into the weeds with every little problem.

Trust Yet Verify

Trust yet verify what clients say. Trusting a client is okay, provided they’ve earned that trust. Often, they’re evasive and peripheral. You must discover why and move them to a place of discomfort. Yes, you read that right…discomfort. This is an art. An art I enjoy teaching. It’s not like a lawyer cross-examining, but it is a heartfelt interest in defining a client’s CORE problems. And many times, they want to hide those core issues, not wanting to admit they exist.

Example: Your client might say “Our last agency didn’t get the work done we needed. They spent way too much time on small projects that didn’t move the needle.” To which you might say, “Who was giving them instructions on what to do? Oh…I see. Everyone had access and could direct them. Do you see that they were only doing what they were told? The lack of leadership on your team seems to have created an ‘every man for himself’ environment. Is that what you wanted?”

Sure, that’s an uncomfortable thing to say to a client. But it gets to the truth. From there, you can have an honest conversation about real issues from which you can make a well-informed recommendation.

In 2024, I’m looking forward to more and more people experimenting with the above from my coaching and facilitation, along with being more commercially candid. As long as you prove you care, you can lead people and sell anything.

Thank you for all your trust and followership this year. It means the world to me. Happy New Year!

2023 Sales Training Solutions: Part 1

In my last post Sales Team Leadership Challenges in 2023, we looked at what the “new normal” has brought to bear on sales team leaders and their direct reports. The current generation of salespeople needs to be treated differently as they have new tools and processes at their disposal. The issue is…they need guidance and leadership to use those tools effectively. In this five-part series, we will examine specific issues and I will offer solutions you can implement immediately.

Part 1: Repairing Sales Disconnection

Sales disconnection happens when a business development person tries selling the same solution in the same way to different customers. The result is a scatter-shot approach to selling rather than a tailored, strategically defined program. The latter is mission-critical for short- and long-term success. It takes a systematic approach. Try out these steps and see what results you and your team generate:

Define the Top 10 Sales Accounts

Review your top ten strategically important accounts by revenue and loyalty. Determine precisely where each account is now relative to the sales plan you envisioned in January (if this wasn’t done, now’s the time…it’s nearly mid-year!).

Amend or Create a Sales Plan

Meet with your salesperson responsible for each account and review their strategic plan. You may find that it is either light on metrics, hasn’t been looked at in a while, or worse, doesn’t exist! This is where you can demonstrate your leadership and get them back on track. Develop a plan that is consistent with your customer’s and your company’s goals. Ensure that your direct contributes to and buys in on the plan with a strong sense of ownership. Approach your client with this revised or new plan so that they are confident in the direction your salesperson will be taking. Doing all of this upfront will help to avoid surprises in the future.

Measure for Success

If you haven’t already, it’s time to create benchmarks so that success can be measured. Jointly establish the commercial metrics that will drive the revenue you know each account can generate. It’s important that both your associate and you agree on these achievable goals.

Collaborate Often

Schedule weekly updates with your team. I can’t stress this enough. Bringing people together to discuss and debate a sales strategy is highly effective, cathartic, and fun. It also gives you a clear window into the abilities of the team and who you need to direct and who can help lead the team. It also establishes an important precedent: meeting together, IN PERSON to create winning strategies. While we may be in the texting and Zoom generation, nothing has replaced face-to-face engagement as a way to communicate. Make it happen!

Establish a One-on-One Connection

Group-think is great and creates an atmosphere of teamwork and collective success.  However, it’s just as important that you meet one-on-one with your salespeople. You must share YOUR desire for this account, the impact of lifting sales, and that you believe in their abilities to achieve results. During this time, you will likely find your associates sharing more about their challenges than in the more public team meetings. As you listen, you are demonstrating that you are vested in their success and want to help them overcome the challenges. This will go far towards inspiriting them to excel!

These are the first sales solutions to implement now. Let me know how it goes. And stay tuned for my next post where we tackle another 2023 sales challenge!

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!


Networking Do’s and Don’ts

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

You say, “Ugh, really?”

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

Find Your Client’s Motivation First, Not Yours




Many times, I see people frame their “ask” of clients in this order. Right out of the gate, they speak about a great service or product they’ve come to discuss. They move next to saying that the solution will fix a problem the client has. And lastly, they will relate that solution to something they believe will motivate the client to say, “Yes…I’m in.”

This is all backwards, as a client of mine found out recently.

He asked me for some help in framing an “ask.” He was worried his client would take it as a condemnation of how things were being handle by him, and his team. He knew he had a good solution but, it would involve a new process that dealt with a serious shortcoming. Product….then solution.

The issue here is that you are telling a client they are doing something wrong or, they are wrong for not knowing something could be done better. That’s not a strong motivator for anyone. And there’s the key focus…motivation. That’s really what you are there to do, right? Persuade your audience so that they are motivated to accept your solution?

In business we’re often pressed to produce a result or fix an issue with no time to design our “ask.” Try asking yourself, “What’s the motivator for the person I’m presenting my ask?”
Here’s a hint, 9 out of 10 times their motivator is NOT yours.

By declaring your “ask” too frequently you risk getting the reputation of “its his/her way or the highway/she’s difficult to work with”, or worse “she’s quite selfish”…etc.

Its better to to pause/think and ask yourself, what’s the motivator for my listener?

I did this with my client and he suddenly had a revelation…by instituting the process he was recommending, his client’s head of sales would actually sell more product at the best margin. “That’s how you initiate the conversation,” I said to him. And we crafted his ask by starting with, “I’ve got an idea on how to increase sales with the best margin.” Now they are on the same wavelength.


Try re-ordering your next presentation with motivation as the lead. Let me know how your communication goes!

I am a GREAT salesperson!

A bold statement. And it was said to me by a prospective client at our first meeting! As I heard him say this I was slightly taken aback and countered with, “That’s great to hear. I’m curious, though, what’s one skill you’d like to strengthen as we look at our potential collaboration together?”

He said, “I never really know how to close once I’ve delivered my presentation.”

Sales Have to Be Closed to Happen

My internal reaction was “but you JUST said that you are a great salesman!” Anyone in sales knows how important closing is and if you’ve worked with me, you know I work on effective and efficient deal closing until the skill becomes second nature. So, I asked him to give me an example of this challenge. He did and it became clear to me that he was not finding and staying in the pain. Here’s what I mean by that:

Closing Starts with Questioning

We ended up speaking at length about how exactly to probe a potential client to understand their goals and challenges. I stressed that if you ask the right questions, you will get the right answers that will help you tailor recommendations. I’ve said it before and said it to him….listen more, talk less. If you hear your own voice far more than that of your potential client, you are not learning…you are lecturing. Keeping them engaged in their pain points and getting deeper explanations through probing questions will open up possibilities for you to give short, precise counsel. And that will help you stand above your competition.

At the end of our meeting he confidently said: “This would help me close wouldn’t it?” I graciously said “Yes. You’re now ready to engage with anyone providing you listen first, recommend second.” This applies to you (and me), too. Make sure you prove to your client you’ve heard and understood them. This affirms your client. It says, ”knowing your world is essential to your understanding my world.”

Be in the pain with them and together, you’ll get out of it!

Are you a great salesperson? Regardless of your answer, what’s a skill you wish was stronger?

Before You Call: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

numbers on a gray phoneEmail. Text. Chat. Voicemail. All of these have become common ways in which we communicate with clients and business associates. But what about the big one…the phone call! Lost in our digital age is the importance a phone call can have in determining the future of your business relationships. And yet, many times I’ve witnessed seasoned executives as well as new sales people stumble when faced with talking with their clients.

Three Key Questions Before Calling

Many people have a deep fear of public speaking. So it is no surprise that the phone call, which itself is a mini-form of public speaking, can be intimidating. To help build confidence, I advise that people ask themselves three key questions prior to picking up the phone:

1) How am I memorable?

There must be something that sets your company and its product/service apart from your competition. Do you know what is? And is that based on up-to-date information? What advantages do you bring to the table? This question forces you to uncover the core of who you are and why your offering is worth sharing with your client. Bullet point the key selling points and have them in front of you before calling.

2) Am I prepared?

What will your client, or prospective client, want to know? This requires homework since you will need to know their current challenges. Are you bringing relevant information to them that will help alleviate one or more of those challenges? If not, then why are you taking up their time? You need to be on top of the business landscape in which your client operates. Not doing so relegates this phone call to being just like any other your client has gotten. Remember…you need to be memorable (see above!).

Another thing to consider when preparing is…are you ready to talk with the boss? Various scenarios could unfold that have you speaking to the CEO or another executive in charge. For example, your client contact could answer and, by chance, have the CEO in the room. Is what you have to say today CEO-worthy? It should be and good preparation to that level will pay off regardless.

3) What do I want to happen?

Wow…if you don’t know the answer to this one before picking up the phone, you’re sunk! However, if you know what you want the result of the call to be, then it will be easier for you to make that happen. What goal have you set for the call? Is it consistent with your client’s goals? “I want to tell him about our new product” is not good enough. That’s about you, not them. “I want to solve their inventory management problem with our new product that will save them time and money” is a far better goal, right?

Phone calls have become a bit of a rarity these days. Be different. Call! But be sure you answer these questions first.

How often do you call your clients? Do you find it more, or less, effective than digital communication? Let me know. -SG

Barriers to Achieving Objectives, aka No Client Left Behind

Recently, a client lamented that he and his firm lost a multi-million dollar order. The CEO, who had not been involved in the process, stopped the expected transaction…after my client had invested a year’s worth of relationship building with the two execs that reported to the CEO. Hence the phrase; no client left behind!

I felt terrible for my client when I heard the news. As we deconstructed the crime, we realized there were THREE other executives who factored into the decision making process that were not met with, let alone tucked in. We’ve all heard and respected the phrase, “Selling starts at ‘No.'” My client didn’t get a chance to hear “No” from many decision makes until it was too late. A great client once said to me “In business, it’s always good to be a little paranoid.” He’s not wrong. In fact, this needs to be an operating principle.

The Money Guy Does The Talking

When you operate from the idea that something can always go wrong, you naturally understand it’s mission critical to determine early on in the process who the decision makers are who will factor into choosing, or not, your product or service. As I explain in the video below, it’s paramount not only to know who these people are but, to meet with them separately. Otherwise, you’ll only hear from the person in the room who makes the most money!

Do not only meet with people in a group. As you meet/vet each decision maker,  you will uncover what’s core to them relative to your recommendation. This will move you closer to a “Yes” and further away from the “No.” The executive will start to get a feeling that their individual wants and goals are being considered, giving them a vested interest in the outcome…not just a group mentality.

Understand Everyone’s Barriers

Many years ago, my first sales manager, Nick, once said to me “You’ve got five minutes to understand what the barriers are to your recommendation…and it’s the first five minutes.” That’s a little too abrupt, but he was correct in that as you initiate relationships with these four to six decision makers, you must understand what barriers could block you early on in the process. As Nick also said, “If you get the objection when you’re closing, it’s too late.” Give yourself a chance early to discover roadblocks and determine how to resolve them.

You’ve got to endear yourself first, then your recommendation, to each decision maker. You will do that by listening first, selling second.  The deeper you understand what’s important to each decision maker the clearer you’ll be in how to communicate and compel them.

Ever get blind-sided by a “silent” decision maker…the person you never knew about who holds the strings? Tell me about it in the comments. – SG

Winning Clients with Empathy

A few days ago, I visited with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. She told me the reason for the longer duration between visits was due to a brain tumor she had recently removed.

Needles to say, I was floored. Though I became quite emotional, I restrained myself in order to begin my natural style of empathetic probing to understand her epic journey and recovery.

Through her recounting of the ordeal, she spoke glowingly of the surgeon she chose for the resection along with the surgeons she didn’t. The surgeons she walked away from made her feel like a number with hardly any understanding of her actual physiology or the procedure they would perform.

The surgeon she hired came to her bedside with iPad photos of her MRI and X-rays and walked her through the exact procedure he would perform. She felt special and, more importantly, she said because of his explanation and humanity, “I wasn’t afraid, I was ready for it.”

Put Your Clients at Ease

At that moment it hit me. Our responsibility as consultants, business leaders and managers is to make clients feel the same way…at ease.

This past week I received a phone call from a potential client who began her conversation with the phrase: ”I’m in a pickle.” I listened for several minutes about her frustration and recommended we meet.

Hear Them Out, Then Recommend

During our meeting, I fully vetted the frustrations she experienced while trying to find a coach for her executive team. I realized throughout her search she had not felt confident in the people she’d interviewed nor confident in their coaching methodology.

I knew I could help and offered to create a program for her team. As our conversation came to a close, she asked me for my fee for this program. I responded by saying unless I meet with each executive and personally interview them, I couldn’t quote a fee. She smiled and said “let’s get started.” I did a bit of a double take and asked how she came to this automatic decision. She said no one else was concerned about her executives enough to want to meet them.

This interaction, along with my friend reminded me of my father’s great bedside manner with a patient. He would draw the entire operation out and explain every inch of the procedure to instill confidence in them.

My wish for you as a leader is you embody the humanity of a surgeon throughout your client interactions. It pays off!

The “So Now What?” Moment is Here

Last week, I gave you the stark news that the holidays are over and we arrived at “the morning after.” As a result, and maybe you’ve felt it too, the “So Now What?” moment is here.   Read more