To Build or Kill, That Is The Question

What happens when one of your sales people loses a big deal? Do you kick the shit out of them by calling out everything they did wrong? Do you play Monday morning quarterback and point out all the mistakes that were made and how losing the deal could ruin the quarter or even the year? Do you make it readily apparent how they screwed up?

If you do, don’t.

Here’s the deal. As a sales leader, you have the power to build or kill. How you engage with your sales reps after a big loss goes a long way in their development as a sales person, their self-confidence and their role in your sales organization.

As a sales leader your job is to build up your people. It’s to empower them with the confidence and skills to be badass sales people and the loss of a big deal can be one of the best times to do this.

When a rep loses a big deal, the first the thing the sales leader needs to understand is the salesperson is absolutely bummed out. They are devastated. The sales person is acutely aware of the impact the loss has on them, their quota, their commission check, and their bank account. You piling on and letting them know how bad it is, isn’t helping. It brings no value. You’re just pounding them into the ground for no good reason. When we beat up salespeople for losing a bid deal, it’s more about us and our frustration. It’s about our ego. It’s about our bank account. It’s about our agenda and that’s not fair.

The goal isn’t to kill the rep but to but to build the rep. When a rep loses a big deal, take the time to sit down and do a loss analysis with them. Schedule, an hour of one-on-one time, to walk through what happened and what could have done differently. The key is to come prepared. Have the CRM notes in front of you. Do your homework too. It’s not all about the rep.

A good lost deal analysis that builds rather than kills looks like this;

  1. Schedule a dedicated one-on-one meeting for an hour
  2. Start by setting the tone that the rep isn’t in trouble, but that its is a coaching and growth opportunity for the both of you
  3. Kick the meeting off by asking the rep to describe the sale; why were they buying (the problem)? What was the process? What was the customers pain (the motivation)? Who was involved? What was the timeline? etc. The goal here is to set the context of the sale.
  4. Ask the rep what his or her sales strategy was and how they came up with it. What were their objectives and why that strategy?
  5. Ask the rep where they felt things went wrong.
  6. Ask what do they think they missed.
  7. Ask the rep what they would do different looking back. With hindsight what would they do different?
  8. Once you’ve spent 30 minutes or so evaluating what happened and the decisions that were made, start asking questions that help the rep see other possibilities. Ex: You said the customer said XYZ, do you think that could have been an opportunity to . . . ? When the competition lowered the price by 20%, why didn’t you . . . ?
  9. Work with their answers to broaden their perspective and give them solid takeaways for next time. Anchor them in the missteps AS WELL AS the correct steps. Don’t focus only on the mistakes, emphasize the things they did well. You want them to keep doing the things that work and stop doing the things that didn’t.

The key to leveraging a big loss for the positive is to keep it light, collaborative and supportive. It shouldn’t feel like an ass whooping or a scolding. If done correctly, sales reps should look forward to them as a way to get better. Liken it to film day in football. Player’s love film day. Yeah, their teammates give em shit when they mess up, but what’s most important to them is they get to see where they made their mistakes and what they need to do to correct them. They get to evaluate themselves and watch their play. Film day is invaluable.

Don’t kill your sales reps for losing a big deal. Use it as a way to build them up. Remember, the better they get, the better you get.

The Prospect Said Yes, Why It Doesn’t Mean Sh*t

I’m sitting in a pipeline meeting and I ask the rep if the deal is going to close. He says, “Yes!”

Great I say, how do you know?  The rep responds with; “The prospect told me. She said they’re gonna go with us.”

Do you know how many times I’ve hear a rep say the prospect said they are in and the deal never closes? Lemme give you a hint, more times than when it does close. Just ’cause a prospect says yes, it doesn’t mean the deal is gonna close.

I have a client that shared this killer saying with me.

The longest distance in sales is the distance between the lips and the pen.

How true is this? Customers and prospects say all the time they want your product or service, but it doesn’t mean they’re gonna buy.

Getting the client to say they want your product or service is only half the battle. Getting them to actually sign the dotted line and buy it, that’s the other half.

As a sales person it’s our job to understand what it’s going to take to move from yes, I want it (the lips) to, I’m buying it (the pen), here’s my signature and money.  There are a lot of steps or hurdles in getting from yes to closing the deal.

To close a deal you need a yes, AND:

  1. all the other stakeholders to agree
  2. budget approval
  3. executive approval
  4. timeline approval, (I want it, but not today)
  5. price approval
  6. T&C’s approved
  7. detractors minimized
  8. competition ousted
  9. and more

There is a long way from yes to close and if you’re not paying attention to that journey, then you’re in for a difficult trip.

How do you measure the trip?

How do you measure the trip?  Just ask!

The minute you’re client says, “Yes, we’re in. We want it.” Simply ask one little question. What do we need to do to close this deal and wrap this up? Then just sit and listen. This question is excellent at helping you measure the trip. You’ll hear everything from;

  • I just need to check on budget
  • I just need to get my bosses approval
  • I just need to run it by IT
  • I just need to run it by HR
  • Can you send the contract so I can get it to legal
  • Can you send the final pricing for approval
  • Nothing, we just need to put in through procurement
  • Nothing, but I’d like to wait until the second quarter, if that’s OK.
  • etc.

Once they’ve answered the question, probe further and ask what’s going to take to get your bosses approval? What it going to take to IT’s support? What’s it going to take to get . . ? That’s were your work is.

Notice everyone of these answers is contingent on something or someone else. You’ve got the yes, but you don’t have the contract. The deal ISN’T closed. There is more work to do. If you want to get to close, you have to be ready for the second half of the sale. To do this is to be extremely clear on what the next steps are, what the landscape looks like and exactly what the buyer is going to need in order to execute on their “yes.”

Too often salespeople think their job is to get the customer to say yes and that couldn’t be anymore inaccurate. The job of salespeople is to close the deal and closing the deal goes far beyond getting a yes.

Thinking the deal is done because the customer or prospect says “yes” is a rookie mistake.  Know better, be prepared for the second part of the sale, your numbers and your close rate depend on it.

Just ’cause the prospect said yes, it doesn’t mean shit.


Execution Quotes: Quota and Goals (A Sales Guy Book Club)

The biggest gap in sales is quota and quota assignment. Quota is almost  always dolled out willy nilly, with little understanding of the market or what the executionorganization is capable of doing. Usually, the organization has picked some arbitrary revenue number and pushes it down to the sales team with an edict that it must be made. We’ve all seen how this works out and what it does for moral.

I love how Larry and Ram address this in the book.

The gap between promises and results is widespread and clear. The gap nobody knows is the gap between what a company’s leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organization to achieve it.

It’s critical organizations create goals that are achievable and that everyone knows what it’s going to take to accomplish. When this doesn’t happen, goals are missed and working/selling harder doesn’t solve the problem.

In an execution company’s operating review, the leader will want to know if the goal is realistic. “Fine,” she’ll ask the manager, “but where will the increase come from? What products will generate the growth? Who will buy them, and what pitch are we going to develop for those customers? What will our competitors reaction be? What will our milestones be?” If a milestone hasn’t been reached at the end of the first quarter, it’s a yellow light: something’s not going as planned and something will need to be changed.

Imagine how much more accurate quota setting would be if leadership up and down challenged numbers in this fashion every year?

I recall one year, while sitting at the sales-kickoff, the CEO and CSO stood in front of 5 thousand sales people and told them that we were going to grow 20% this year and that it was going to be a big year. I remember being shocked and looking over at my boss and saying are they high? The economy was in the tank, it was October of 2007. We hadn’t launched a new product. We weren’t penetrating any new markets. We hadn’t had that kind of growth in more than a decade. There was no evidence at all, internal or external that suggested we’d be able to generate that kind of growth. Yet, that’s what they put on the sales team. As you can imagine, not only did we not hit the numbers. They were so drastically off in 2008, the had to cut everyones quota by as much as 50% halfway through the year in order  to give people a fighting chance. It was a catastrophe. It didn’t need to be. The writing was on the wall, if they knew how to execute.

Being realistic about your goals and how you get to them is key being able to execute and get stuff done.

Conceiving a grand idea or broad picture is usually intuitive. Shaping the broad picture into a set of executable actions is analytical, and it’s a huge intellectual, emotional and creative challenge.

Everyone can come with an idea or a goal. Know how to achieve it, now that’s impressive.


Execution (A Sales Guy Book Club)

One of my favorite business/sales books is Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s Execution. It’s the best book written on getting shit done. The greatest challenge I’ve ever seen with achieving success isn’t the lack of ideas, but rather understanding how to execute on the idea. Getting shit done is all about the “how.”

“How” are you going to get to the CEO? “How” are you going to reach quota? “How” are you going to get 6 new logos? “HOW” are you going to displace the competition? “How” are you going to renew the account? “How” are you going to . . ? The answer to these questions is the true difference between the average and the great, the successful and the failures. If you wanna be a badass, then learn to execute.

I’m reading Execution again (for the 4th or 5th time) with my team. Every time I read it, I’m reminded of how good the book is.

The value in this book to sales leaders and sales people is its ability in teaching how to deliver. Sales is a complex profession. Sales leadership is even more complex. Our success is deeply rooted in our ability to execute against difficult, shifting, emotional environments. Therefore, being damn good at executing is the key to winning and this book is good at teaching you how to execute.

Over the next few weeks, I thought I’d share our book club with the community.  I will be sharing good quotes from the book to help that deliver killer insight in how to get shit done and what it takes to execute.

I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to share your thoughts.

To kick it off, I’m thinking the quote would be a definition of execution.

Execution –

Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows an whats, question, tenaciously following through and ensuring accountability. It includes making assumptions about the business environment, assessing the organization’s capabilities, linking strategy to operations and the people who are going to implement the strategy, synchronizing those people an their various disciplines, and linking rewards to outcomes. It also includes mechanisms for changing assumptions as the environment changes and upgrading the company’s capabilities to meet the challenges of an ambitious strategy.

In it’s most fundamental sense, execution is a systematic way or exposing reality and acting on it.

If you’re goal is to be a true badass who get’s shit down and knows how to deliver, their is not better skill to hone than ability to execute.

This should be fun.

Why Most People Don’t Operate From This Mentality Is Beyond Me


Why don’t most people get this?

Life is too short. You get one shot. So, it baffles me that most people don’t operate from this mentality.


Are you a badass?

Why aren’t you a badass? Being a badass means attacking everything with vigor, tenacity, audacity and passion. It means not settling. It means being committed to being the best you can be and never accepting mediocrity in anything you do.


Why don’t we all aspire to be badasses?


And if you tell me everyone is a badass, I’m gonna throw up in my mouth. :)  Just sayin’

Can You Sell Like This?

There is no question selling is both art and science. Like most things where art and science collide, science gets all the attention. Why? Science is measurable. It’s data-driven. We can touch and feel the science of sales. It’s black and white and as humans, we love that shit. How many times have we heard the phrase; “If it can’t be measured it doesn’t count?” I think there’s some truth to that statement, but to me sales goes a lot further than the science.

The art of sales is very hard to measure. It’s hard to put our finger on the delivery of one sales reps message over another. It’s hard to measure the “relationship” skills from rep to rep. It seems almost impossible to assess how personality, inflection, timing, engagement, tone and more influence a sale. We all know it does, and it’s for this reason we’ve put it all into the art of sales box and there it sits, in a nebulous, unshaped mess.

With this said, my goal of this post is to drop a little sales art think on ya and try to give a little shape to this art of sales thingy. I’m freestyling this post, so who knows where it’s gonna go. I’m diggin’ deep in my gut and leveraging what I’ve seen in the past and what I do myself.

I believe there is one art form in sales that the best of the best do, and it makes a HUGE difference. It’s the art of the metaphor (or the simile).

Great salespeople tell stories. We know this. However, the best salespeople go further. They wield powerfully, visual metaphors that simplify the complex, captivate the bored, engage the disconnected, and educate the ignorant.

Leveraging metaphors while selling, is an art, it is not a remedial task. It requires a solid understanding of the intricacies, connections, the context and the subtleties of what is being sold and how it can or does relate to other aspects of the world. Leveraging a metaphor to clarify a point, engage a prospect or simplify the complex requires nothing less than perfection. Otherwise, it will fall flat. I’ve stubbed my toe more than once trying to wow with a metaphor only to find myself half-way through and thinking; “Shit, I’m going down the wrong road, how do I put this sucker in reverse?”

But once you get good at selling in metaphors, you have a powerful tool that you can whip out when necessary. It’s an additional arrow in your quiver to connect and engage with your prospects. It’s an additional approach to teaching your prospects not just preach at them.

Now, here’s the tough part of this post. How do I teach you to speak in metaphors? How do I help you sell like this? It’s kinda like teaching someone to act. It starts in the gut. I can tell you what feelings you’re supposed to have. I can give you your lines. I can share the context of the act. I can share the emotions the act is trying to create, but in the end, you’re going to have to create the scene yourself. ;)

Selling in metaphors or simile’s is like acting. It requires you are in touch with you and the prospect. It requires you have a deep knowledge of where you want to take the sales call/scene. It requires you understand your audience. It requires you know your lines. It requires you understand the context of the moment. It demands you understand the emotional impact required to move your audience and exactly when to inject a story that will move the sale.

Selling in metaphors (or similes) is no joke. Like Picasso, it all comes down to the artist.

You’re NOT an Employee, You’re A Product

How’s that title make you feel? Are you feeling a little minimized? I get it. Saying you’re not an employee can sting a little, but why play games, why pretend? As much as we like to think we’re an employee, that should be cared for and respected; we are the product before we are anything else.

Here’s why? It breaks down like this. When a company is hiring for any position, they have a problem. Something isn’t getting done that needs to get done. The company needs more sales. They need someone to do payroll. They need an application built. They need help on the production line. They need an HR program created. They need a compliance system created. They need more people to man the cash registers. They need to catch more fish. They need to ship more product. They need something done and hiring people is how they get it done and meet their goals.

Hiring isn’t an altruistic endeavor. Hiring isn’t a social activity. Hiring is an investment. Hiring is how companies get shit done. Their objectives and desired outcomes are no different than ours when they buy a piece of software, a building, a piece of equipment, office supplies, a computer or a service. The objective is to invest in the things that will get the business closer to its goals and objectives and if YOU can’t do that you provide no value.

Would you buy or keep a car that doesn’t get you from point A to point B? Would you buy or keep a dishwasher that doesn’t get your dishes clean? Would you buy or keep a bed that gives you chronic back pain? Would you buy or keep a TV that displays your shows only in the color red? Would you keep or buy a chair that falls over every time someone sits on it? Would you continue going to a restaurant where the food tastes like shit? No! You wouldn’t do any of these things. If something doesn’t provide value, you don’t buy it. Guess what, that’s exactly how it works when it comes to people and hiring. If you can’t or aren’t providing measurable value, you gotta go or shouldn’t be hired.

You’re not an employee who needs paid vacation time; you’re a product that needs to sell $500,000 a year worth of product and services.

You’re not an employee who has worked at XYZ company for ten years; you’re a product that needs to reduce the shipping time by 15%.

You’re not an employee who is a badass in Ruby on Rails programming; you’re a product that needs to get an application built and launched in 2 months.

You’re not an employee who needs medical insurance and free lunches, you’re a product that must create stunningly attractive web pages that convert to high-quality leads.

You’re not an employee who went to Harvard; you’re a product that must bill 85 hours a week.

You’re not an employee; you’re a product that needs to get shit done, and until you do, you don’t matter.

Yeah, I get it. It’s kinda harsh. We’re all people; we’re not inanimate objects. We have feelings, we’re complex humans, but when it comes to work, acting, thinking and delivering as if you’re a product is how you get treated like an employee.

You wanna be treated as an employee? Be a badass product that delivers more than expected. When it comes to business, the same economics apply, there is no difference between people and products. It’s all about return on investment and delivery.

Would you invest in you? Would you hire you? Why? What does the product you deliver? If I asked you right now, what does someone get for hiring you, could you answer it? Would it be compelling? Would it make a company invest in the product you? It better!

You’re not an employee, you’re a product and the faster you accept it, the more successful you will be. And that’s how you become an employee.


Martin Luther King Day — Is The Equality Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what to write today. The events of 2014 and Ferguson andMichael Brown, Eric Gardner and I can’t breathe, Tamir Rice and the toy gun, and John Crawford and Walmart have pushed many people to question how far has this country really progressed when it comes to race? To many, we’ve come a long way and racism is a non-factor. To others, we’ve barely moved an inch and racism is still the ugly scourge it has always been. It has just found a home hiding under the surface.

So which is it?

For me, I think we’ve come a long way. I think racism still exists, but the opportunities that exist today far, outstrips the opportunities afforded them 50 years ago when MLK gave his, I Have a Dream speech. I think it’s undeniable. So, for me the glass is half full.

However, here’s where the real problem lies. Too many people are working the extreme’s, and it’s causing more division. For many of those that think the glass is half-full and that we’ve come a long way, they use the advancements as a way to excuse or deny racial or biased behavior. Because they are so convinced race is no longer an issue, they refuse to acknowledge even it’s impact in situations like the above, then blame the victim; they should have complied with the police, they were thugs, if they just obeyed the law, etc. Within this group, the acceptance of race as a factor is almost wholeheartedly rejected. On the other side, for those who believe the glass is half-empty, all they see is race. Every situation is race related, there are no other circumstances, and everyone is a victim of racist people, police, corporations and more. Within this grip, the acceptance of race as a factor is almost wholeheartedly accepted, placing no blame on the perpetrators.

This is the problem with race today. Race is still a problem AND race is not a problem, and until we as a society can embrace these paradoxical truths, we may languish in our journey to achieve MLK’s dream.

So my thoughts for this years MLK holiday are this, spend less time defending your position and more time evaluating other people’s experience with race. Look to expand your view of race in this country. If you think the glass is half-empty, you’re wrong. There have never been the expanse of opportunities for minorities (black, gay, women, etc) than there have ever been. This country is the freest it has ever been; opportunity abounds. If you think the glass is half-empty, you’re wrong. Racism still plays a nasty role in the lives of millions of people here. The road to success is still more challenging for many, as they have to overcome prejudice, and bias that says they don’t belong. Prejudice, racism and bias still exist.

The fact is, both sides must accept they’re wrong and embrace the fact that the cup is neither half-empty nor half-full, but rather filling up every day and that it is not yet full. Because the truth of the matter is, wether it’s half-full or half-empty it doesn’t matter until the glass is just “full.”

I’ve written a lot on the topic of race,

Why Ferguson Happened that No One Knows, (Including most black folks)

Civil Rights Hasn’t Fail Us, We’re Failing the Civil Rights Act

Race in America, Enough Already

I’m Black . . . Thanks!

Black Leader or Civil Rights Leader

The key is to avoid defending our own opinion of where this country is in terms of race relations and start absorbing other peoples experiences and beliefs, because that is where racism lives and dies, in people.

Happy Martin Luther King Day!


Who Wants to Go Skiing With Me?

OK, who wants to go skiing with me? As most of you know, I’m an avid skier. Last year I logged over 1 million vertical feet. I’m also a PSIA Level 2 ski instructor. I love skiing. It is a phenomenal experience. It’s challenging and relaxing. It’s cerebral and ethereal. It’s great alone or with a group. You can do it when you’re young or old. It’s fun on AND off the hill.  It truly is one of the most inclusive, holistic sports there is and we at A Sales Guy want to share it with our badass community.

Therefore, this year we’re rewarding one lucky member of this community for referring business to us. This community referred a lot of business to us last year and we felt that we should give back and not just take. So we came up with this, a BadAss Vail Vacay Referral Contest.

VAIL Referral Contest (1)


How frickin’ cool? There is no place more beautiful than Vail/Beaver Creek in the winter or the summer.  The mountains are majestic, there is tons of stuff to do on and off the hill.  It’s truly a badass place to spend time just chilling. So don’t worry if you’re a summer or winter person, you’ll have a blast either way.

The Silly Rules and Regulations: 

Yeah, right, “rules and regulations” sounds funny saying that, not being the “rules” kinda company. But, we do need to have some semblance of order. So here’s how it breaks down.  If you refer a candidate that gets hired or a company that hires one of our candidates we’ll put your name in hat, (not a real hat, but a proverbial hat) for a drawing to win this badass trip to Vail.   How frickin’ cool is that?   There is no limit to the number of entries either. If you refer a company and they hire a gang of folks, you get a gang of entries (a gang is a lot). ;)  It’s the gift that just keeps on giving.

It’s just our ASG way of saying thanks for thinking of us and telling your friends.  Ya’ll rock, can’t wait to see you on the slopes.

Get ready to RIP!!!

Do You Seriously Believe You Can Do That . . . Seriously?

Do you seriously believe you can exceed 200% of quota?

Do you seriously believe you can be the CEO?

Do you seriously believe you can get into that account?

Do you seriously believe you can raise 100 million dollars?

Do you seriously believe you can get a job with Warren Buffet?

Do you seriously believe you can have your bosses job in a year?

Do you seriously believe your idea can change everything for your company?

Do you seriously believe you can be the top sales rep?

Do you seriously believe you can grow your company 100% year over year?

Do you seriously believe you can help Bill Gates achieve his goal to end malaria?

Do you seriously believe you can . . . ?

Good you should because it’s better than the alternative and . . .

believing that you’re not good enough.

believing your ideas aren’t good enough.

believing it’s not your place.

believing you have to wait your turn

believing others are better than you.

believing it’s too hard

believing it’s unrealistic

believing you can’t get’er done.

believing it’s not your job.

believing you’re a dork.

believing you’ll fail.

believing you’ll be judged

believing it’s not the right time

believing whatever bullshit you keep telling yourself.

We’re conditioned to know our place, to follow the rules, to set “realistic” goals, to temper our enthusiasm, to pay our dues and this conditioning stunts our vision of what could be, what we believe we can accomplish. It stunts our growth.

But . . .

It’s not good enough to just think  we can. We must do. If you believe you can make 200% of quota, go fuckin’ do it. Don’t think about it. If you believe you can be the CEO, then go kick ass and become the CEO. If you think your idea can help Bill Gates end malaria, then fuck ya, go end malaria.

The key is, don’t wait for permission. Don’t just talk about it. Don’t tell everyone how great you are, just go do it. Don’t wait for others to tell you it’s OK. Listen to the voice in your head and do it. Stop thinking and go.

When we believe we can do something, no matter how bodacious, it changes our outlook and our path.  I’m gonna go corny on ya, but it’s true. If we aim high and fall short, we’re still higher than if we aimed low and made it. Almost everything I’ve accomplished in life came from some crazy belief that I could do it, even if I had no business thinking that big. I just didn’t know any better.

So yes, you better believe you can do that. The world has less and less tolerance for people who aim low, have cheap dreams and don’t take action.

I’ve learned my lessons over the years and I refuse to higher anyone or invest in anyone who isn’t trying to do bodacious things.

Believe it baby, then go get’er done!!!