4 Mindsets of a Successful Leader

By Keith Ferrazzi, Career Builder Contributing Writer

Are you trying to climb the corporate ladder while the company is working through the recession? In other words, are you aiming to be a leader?

Well, behind every great leader, at the base of every great tale of success, you will find an indispensable circle of trusted advisers, mentors and colleagues. These groups come in all forms and sizes, and can be found at every level and in nearly all spheres of both professional and personal life. What they all have in common is a unique kind of connection with each other that I’ve come to call “lifeline relationships.”

In order to build these all-important lifeline relationships, there are four core mindsets that can be learned and practiced, and help lead you on a path to personal and financial prosperity. They are:

This is the base from which all the other behaviors arise. This is the commitment to mutual support that begins with the willingness to show up and creatively share our deepest insights and ideas with the world. It’s the promise to help others succeed by whatever means you can muster. Generosity signals the end of isolation by cracking open a door to a trusting emotional environment, what I call a “safe space” — the kind of environment that’s necessary for creating relationships in which the other mindsets can flourish.

This means letting your guard down so mutual understanding can occur. Here you cross the threshold into a safe space after intimacy and trust have pushed the door wide open. The relationship engendered by generosity then moves toward a place of fearless friendship where risks are taken and invitations are offered to others.

This is the freedom to be totally honest with those in whom you confide. Vulnerability clears the pathways of feedback so that you are able to share your hopes and fears. Candor allows us to begin to constructively interpret, respond to and grapple with that information.

Accountability refers to following through on the promises you make to others. It’s about giving and receiving the feet-to-the-fire tough love through which real change is sustained.

The real key to establishing close relationships with people you consider your trusted advisers in your career and in your personal life is how these four mindsets work together.

The process starts with generosity. It jolts people out of traditional transactional do-for-me-and-I’ll-do-for-you relationships. Actively reaching out to and helping others gives us the opportunity and permission to take a relationship to a deeper level. This allows us to explore intimacy, ultimately to the point of being vulnerable and open with one another.

If we’ve created a safe space, a place where we feel safe enough to say candidly what we think and feel, we can take greater risks in the relationship. It can lead to making a commitment to mutually support one another through thick and thin and to hold one another accountable for doing the things that will allow us to achieve our dreams and destinies. Taking such risks can lead us to create more than just friendships — we can create lifeline relationships to a better future.

This process is iterative: The more you give, the deeper you get and the more profound your sharing becomes. That strengthens your safe space, and provides more freedom to be vulnerable and candid — which opens the relationship even more deeply. Trust builds incrementally, by stages, growing deeper and stronger as the mindsets are practiced more sincerely and passionately.

Once you work within the four mindsets, you will see it’s a truly inspiring experience. Whether you’re working with an experienced sales team or building a business from scratch, the lifeline relationships you build will become more than your colleagues or assistants. They will become you’re a trusted circle of advisers and your peers.

That’s worth repeating: peers. Equals. Even though one of them may have clear organizational authority — and the title and decision-making power to go with it — each member functions as a highly respected equal, offering up creative ideas, candid feedback and criticism voiced with authentic concern for the others’ interests, and rigorous attention to accountability around goals, goal setting, follow-through and, of course, results. Each member has free, open and respectful permission to call the others out when they are falling short (because we all fall short, and most of us, as I know well, tend to do so repeatedly).

“Who breaks the tie…?”

By John Hirth

I was in a “pipeline management” meeting with one of our clients, running what we affectionately refer to as a “bid scrub”. These meetings are tough, but productive, and help to realistically assess the likelihood that we can close what has been bid. This was a new client and had not yet implemented our selling process… hence there was still a lot of “quote and hope” strategy at work!
Initially non-threatening, people catch on quickly and as they go “painfully” through each opportunity it becomes apparent why and how their deficiencies occur. Defensiveness can sometimes get in the way but people at the end of the process have a distinct advantage and leave with a much better handle on managing their own pipeline. In the end they recognize the futility in trying to justify what is often a weak position. In fact many have the good sense of starting out the story with “I can see I am missing a lot of information but I’ll go ahead anyway” and accept the “beating” with humility. As uncomfortable as it may be, it is a vital learning experience that will ultimately help everyone be more successful, make more money and reach their goals (getting what they want out of life).
We were well into discussing one of the last opportunities when we ran into a problem. The deal was far along in the selling process and at the point where the sales person felt comfortable and had made an offer. There were strong buying motives, the project was budgeted and we had qualified the decision process and the people making it. With this information at hand the sales person felt confident enough to say this one is a “lock”.
Some questions followed and we found out that there were two different groups with an equal number of people and slightly different agendas. I asked a question that had not been asked by the sales person, “what happens if there is a tie, one team votes one way and the other team votes the other way?”. There was silence, and then the answer “I don’t know”… followed by a sheepish look of confusion.
However,and with aplomb, the sales person quickly recovered and suggested that a tie would be “highly unlikely…” to which we asked “could it happen”, followed by the answer “yes”. Then, I asked “if there is a tie who breaks it?”. More silence… which confirmed my concern that we had not covered all of the decision makers.
The lesson; when working with multiple decision makers we need to ask “what happens if people can’t decide and there is a tie?” The answer will be “the real decision maker”. Businesses are not democracies, they are monarchies and for that reason there is always someone who can break the tie. The tie breaker is who you really need to get to and is the “real decision maker”.
Action Step- When selling to multiple decision makers ask how many people/departments are involved and if it is an even number make sure you ask the question “if there is a tie who breaks it?” It may be all you need to know to get the deal!

A Salesperson’s Most Important Competitive Weapon

By Steve W. Martin

Today’s customers are smarter and more sophisticated, and technology has become a way of life for them. For example, our cars have global positioning and mapping systems based upon satellite communications. The appliances in our kitchens turn themselves on and off. Our entire music collections are carried on digital devices the size of a deck of cards. We take pictures, play games, and send text messages to friends with our cellular phones. Over Nintey-five percent of all homes in the United States have personal computers. Via the Internet, customers can research products, prices, and opinions. Collectively, this has raised the level of sophistication of the customers we must converse with and sell to.

Perhaps the most interesting change is how people receive information. According to one university study, the world’s total yearly production of media content for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet would require roughly 1.5 billion gigabytes of storage. This is the equivalent of 250 megabytes per person for each man, woman, and child on the earth. Because of this information overload, customer attention spans are shorter than ever.

Information must now be packaged with the customers’ shortened attention spans in mind. For example, USA Today, the largest selling newspaper in the United States, was designed to stand out visually. The colorful newspaper always includes bold diagrams and numerous pictures so that time-pressed readers can pick up a story’s message with minimal effort. Even the racks used to sell the newspaper are colorful boxes with rounded edges as opposed to the black square boxes of other newspapers.

Shortened attention spans have changed the nature of information itself. USA Today distills and condenses the news into easy-to-read chunks. A paragraph is rarely longer than three short sentences. Every article is written with the reader in mind, using a “what’s in it for me?” style. USA Today’s style is best summarized by the newspaper’s tagline, “An economy of words, a wealth of information.” If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, USA Today is the most successful newspaper ever because newspapers everywhere have adopted its format.

But even USA Today has had to continue to change both their online and print editions to maintain readers… This Brings Us to The Main Point of This Article:

Have You Changed The Way You Communicate to Connect with Today’s Customer Who is Smarter, More Sophisticated, But has a Shortened Attention Span?

Successful communication is at the foundation of all sales. “Sales Linguistics” is the revolutionary new field of study about how customers and salespeople use and interpret language during the decision making process.  The conversations you have with customers are quite complex, they consist of verbal and non-verbal communication that are sent consciously and subconsciously. Sales Linguistics will help you learn to say the “right” words at the “right” time to convince skeptical customers to buy.

You must be able to adapt your use of language to a customer’s thought process and personality. You need to understand the process of communication and how it determines the level of rapport that is established between people. Language can be directly linked to customer behavior. It can be deciphered to predict the future, determine truthfulness, and used proactively to influence a customer’s thinking and opinions.

The salesperson’s most important competitive weapon is his mouth, and the winner is the salesperson who uses words to reduce the customer’s doubts, ease his fear and fosters his fantasy. That’s why it’s critical that you learn sales linguistics before your arch-rivals learn to speak more persuasively.

5 Tips for Lead Nurturing to Grow Your Sales Funnel

By Lori Richardson

As a seller you are working hard to create a full pipeline (funnel) and now that you have all of these companies and some actual sales opportunities on your radar, how will you bring them to closure?Here are 5 tips to help you gain and nurture more sales opportunities:

  1. Re-educate yourself and all that you know about selling. Start by reading about the Buyer Experience Funnel and how the buyer’s process has changed to being nearly unrecognizable by old school sellers. Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions has written a four-part series called, Capitalize on the Content Marketing Continuum where she talks about the BEF and the very fluid content marketing continuum. She is one of the smartest people I know on the topic, and anything she writes is worth reading.
  2. As a mid-market company, you likely do not have as many formalities such as written sales processes and a clear set of tools to help you build revenues. Work to gain clarity on creating a formal process once marketing has sent potential leads to sales. If you are even less formal and have combined marketing and sales, create a clear roadmap to sales closure for each and every customer scenario. This becomes the foundation for scalability and in training new reps.
  3. Work closely with marketing so that you are getting good educational content to where your prospective customers are before they contact you. According to IDG Connect*, less than 40% of buyers say they spend their time in the buying process either  interacting with your sales team or reviewing promotional content. The other 60+ percent of your future customers say they are:
    1. In discussions with colleagues (23%)
    2. Searching the web (19%)
    3. With educational content (19%)

[*source: How Online Publishing Changes the Game, Albee]

4. We know it takes ongoing follow-up to not only reach your prospective customer but actually interact to add value – so where is your plan to do this? It needs to be incorporated into your process and understood by marketing and sales.  Most mid-market sales teams either lack the leadership to create and make sure reps follow a clear and specific nurture plan or they are simply ignorant about understanding their future customer’s buying cycle. We could spend 100% of our work with our clients in this area, so we know there is a great opportunity for your company to put a roadmap together on how to continuously add value with your more-probable prospective customers.

5. Refine and refine again. Look closely at your messaging – what sellers are saying and how they are saying it. Take a random sampling of emails going out to prospective customers as well as any other follow-up communication. Is it clear? Is it compelling? Does your rep sound excited and are they able to convey that to prospects? Is it free of mumbo-jumbo terminology and focused on adding business value to the client company? Coach your sales reps on this regularly – not just when they are new in the on-boarding process.

Don’t forget that it is ok to simply pick up the phone and call your prospective client to ask a direct question or two about the opportunity. Many times they are deluged with other issues, and sometimes they really don’t see the value to move forward as you do (or others around them).

Try these ideas and post comments as to how they work. If you already use some of these, post as a comment what has worked best for you. When you do that, it helps others.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012 and speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

How To Deal With Criticism From Your Sales Manager

By Jeremy Ulmer

Criticism from your sales manager (or from anyone) is not easy to handle, however, learning to deal with it can be a valuable skill. Here are some ideas to practice and keep in mind next time you receive criticism.

Take A Deep Breath & Pause Before You React

If your first reaction is to lash back at your sales manager or to become defensive, take a moment before speaking. It is natural to feel a little angry or to be on-guard. However, if you can teach yourself to take a moment before simply reacting, it will give a chance for logic to sink in and not just raw emotions. There is certainly nothing wrong with emotions, but when people are upset, they are more likely to say things they will regret later on.

Turn Lemons Into Lemonade

Sure, it may sting to hear negative feedback, but in most criticism, you can find a suggestion for improvement. For example, this criticism: “You are talking too much on your sales calls with prospective clients and just overloading them with too much information.” Can be interpreted as: “I need to listen much more, ask more questions, and talk less.” That’s just one example of course — you can do that with just about any criticism. View criticism as challenge to improve your sales skills.

Say, “Thank You For The Feedback.”

Even if your boss is tough on you, just say “Thank you.” Your gratitude will probably catch them off-guard and they may even respect you more for taking it so well. Not everyone is as positive as you may be, and your manager might just be having a bad day, (not an excuse, but be aware of this) or have a much more negative personality than you.

Learn And Integrate

After seeing criticism in a positive light, and thanking the critic, don’t just go back to selling as usual. Decide what the key take-away is to improve upon, and determine how to integrate the new learning into your work.

Don’t Stoop Down To His or Her Level

It is so easy to take criticism as a personal attack. View the criticisms as an attack on your sales skills, not on you as a human being. You will be tempted to attack the attacker, but if you do this, you are just stooping to his or her level. When you do this, you are no better than the attacker and it will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Be the bigger and better person. Rise above the critical comments and respond in a calm and positive manner…You will feel better about yourself at the end of the day.

Give The Critic Some Background When Needed

Sometimes the situation might be much more complex than it appears on the surface. After you have followed the above steps, know that is ok to give more background that might be important for the critic to understand. For instance, You could say, “I understand what you’re saying, thank you for the feedback, and I want to make this work. But last time I tried what you are recommending, it didn’t work because of ________. What do you suggest I do to make it work this time?”

Bonus Tip: Keep All Of This In Mind When YOU Are The Critic

Remember what it feels like to be on the receiving end of criticism when you are the one dishing it out. Not everyone will handle it as well as you, so make sure you are clear that you simply want to help.

How to Improve Your Struggling Sales Team

By Tim Donnelly – Inc.com contributor

Trying to get your sales team back on track? Forget the pep-talk. Experts suggest sales management and training techniques that can improve your company’s sales

What do you do with struggling salespeople?  It’s a problem that’s vexxed multi-national corporations and start-ups; assistant managers and presidents of boards. 

It’s simply hard to know when to pull the trigger on removing underperforming team members when it could be that the staff just needs a little guidance, encouragement, or training to get back on track. A little professional nudge in the right direction is a more economical choice over the time-consuming and expensive process of hiring a replacement sales representative. Many sales professionals would rather give their struggling sales people a chance to improve and bring their results up to company standards.

When you’re trying to figure out whether your sales team can get back on track, first try these expert strategies on how to lift sales team out of the profit gutter.

Step One: Install a Great Sales Manager

You can’t have someone overseeing your sales team who is nothing more than a glorified cheerleader, says Liz Wendling, owner of Insight Business Consultants and Sales Coach For Women. You need to employ a manager who is not only willing to engage the team, but to also identify weaknesses and work directly with sales staff to overcome their challenges.

“It’s not somebody who can just pat somebody on the back,” she says. “They do pep talks, and pep talks aren’t enough for some salespeople.”

Many companies make the mistake of promoting their top salespeople to manager positions, but often the most skilled salespeople don’t have the coaching dexterity needed to effectively guide a whole team.

In fact, research by the Corporate Executive Board says sales representatives strongly prefer coaching to come from their direct supervisor.

“By far unless the direct supervisor is perceived as owning that coaching, the coaching is likely to have relatively minimal impact,” says Brent Adamson, senior director. “At the end of the day, people don’t leave bad companies. They leave bad managers.”

Step Two: Implement One-on-One Coaching

Sales coach Jeremy J. Ulmer, who lists among his credentials twice being ranked the No. 1 sales performer at two global Fortune 500 companies, says the first step to improving sales is talking directly to the team to find out what struggles they are facing. What makes their jobs difficult? What could they do better? What could they be provided with to do better?

“Sometimes they’re very open and they tell you a lot of things,” he says.

Other times you will have to pry a little by asking how they’re managing time, what an average day looks like and to describe how they run sales call.

Then he picks one problem at a time to work on to get better results. That sometimes means removing technological distractions and giving additional management support.

Several experts recommend pairing low-performing sales representatives with successful ones. Ulmer says that strategy was a better learning experience at his first sales job with Xerox than the company’s 10 weeks of official training.

Sometimes Ulmer will put a sales team on a strict schedule so they are making sales calls during dedicated blocks during the day, instead of sporadically throughout all work hours.

Limiting the coaching to specific groups of employees is often more effective than spreading it around the company as a whole, says Matt Dixon, managing director of the Corporate Executive Board.

“Coaching is not meant to be democratic,” he says.

Too many managers fall back on what he calls “spreadsheet coaching,” where the focus is on whether the sales staff is hitting its numbers. Instead, you should be working closely with the individual sales representatives to understand the context of the problems.

“When it comes to coaching, they’re so focused on that number and hitting that quota, they lose sight,” he says. “The way that you do that is not focus on those outcomes but focus on behaviors.”

Michael J. Galante, who runs TheSalesCoach.com, creates what he calls a Performance Improvement Plan for each ailing salesperson he meets. It’s essentially a battle plan to help the employee assault obstacles to productivity. Often times, the problem is a lack of follow through, which leads to fizzling sales momentum. Having an action plan helps keep track of things like that that might otherwise be overlooked, he says.

“That’s why I try to document,” he says. “I can show the sales person or manager that there’s some growth or some success.”

Step Three: Put Your Team on a Sales Diet

Like anyone leading an unhealthy lifestyle, a sales staff sometimes needs a “sales diet” of sorts to get some perspective on challenges.

Wendling recommends giving struggling employee a smaller stack of calls to work through. They’ll can gain confidence and avoid the burnout of intense extended sales pitch efforts.

Then, work with them to dissect the sales calls to note areas for improvement: Do they have good rapport and conversation skills? Are they moving through the pitch at a natural pace or steamrolling right to the point?

Setting individual benchmarks can help put people on the right track to success, especially if you are forced to put sales staff on probation until performance improves. But it’s important to keep a balance between realistic goals and creating too much performance anxiety.

“They could see (the office) as this daunting place they have to go. That could scare a lot of people off,” she says. “With that internal pressure, sales people wind up making desperate calls, stretching the truth, lying to customers just to get sales.”

Step Four: Looking to the Future, Hire Smart

It’s an obvious piece of advice, but one worth repeating, Galante says: the best way to handle lackluster sales represtnatives is to not have them in the first place, or to at least identify them early.

“It’s really important for the management team to avoid this situation,” he says. “Stay on top of the rep’s performance, intervene before they become the worst sales person or significantly underperforming.”
Adamson says companies need to sit down and figure out a map of the behaviors that drive success before doing any hiring.

“If you’ve got a profile of the behaviors to drive success, you’ll make sure people more likely to be aligned to great behaviors,” he says.

Wendling says your company’s expectations should be communicated during the job interview so candidates know what’s in store. You can test their skills by including in the interview exercises that force them to think on their feet; or by sending them off with a homework assignment to see how they can prepare for a big task.

But when all else fails, you may have to come to grips with trimming the sales team of dead weight. Data collected by the Corporate Executive Board show that companies tend to spend too much time coaching the top 20 percent of performers and trying to improve the bottom 20 percent. But focusing on the core middle 60 percent of the sales force is the best way to improve your profits.

“For true under performers, no amount of good coaching is going to make them better at their job,” Dixon says.



Birth of a Social Salesman

By Christine Crandell  – Forbes

Social business was born in marketing. The ability to listen, monitor and act on changing market sentiment is a powerful way for companies to better align with their current and future customers.  Social is touching every corner of organizations as profoundly as it has changed how we conduct much of our personal lives.  But there is one place where the benefits of embracing Social aren’t obvious, namely Sales.  It’s made Sales harder yet it’s also enabled greater focus.

I caught up with Phil Arturi for a discussion on how the social transformation has changed his life, or not.  A soft spoken, calm mannered guy, Phil has an obsession with results that has produced over $1 billion in value for clients including companies like KPMG, Accenture, MasterCard, Pitney Bowes, and Mercer.  If you’ve been following my writing, you’ll understand when I say he is a “thinker” sales archetype.   Today, as president of White Hawk Sales Partners he serves the sales outsourcing needs of B2B companies.

  • What does Social Selling mean to you?

Social selling embraces the fact that prospects are better informed and control the buying process.  They research and validate their buying options through multiple social channels. This well informed buyer is demanding relevance from sales people, expecting them to know about them, their companies, and their needs. The best inside sales professionals will leverage the multitude of social channels to actively listen, engage, and understand their prospects’ buying environment and opinions. A proactive inside sales outreach integrated with social media listening produces the best opportunity to engage with relevance – and a high quality pipeline.

  • Is Social ringing the death bell for sales?

It all depends on which engagement model is best for a potential buyer. From a cost perspective, the model is straightforward; employ the lowest cost channel to reach the broadest audience. Use social and the web for broad ongoing engagement, and highest cost direct salespeople where the potential short term benefit is highest; a closed deal. However, it is important to understand how your prospects buy.  That determines which model, or weighting of channels, is most appropriate and at what time in the buy cycle.

That is why it is so important to take the time to really understand how your buyers buy and align your selling channels appropriately. Building a high quality pipeline requires you to clearly understand your buyers.  Where do they spend their time in the buy cycle; map your sales and marketing efforts to match where they are and what they’re looking for.  Do this effectively and you can optimize your sales and marketing resources while making sure that each stage of the buying process is being handled correctly.

  • If that’s the case how has B2B sales changed?

“Sales” today means building long term engagement models. It used to be that Sales was defined by a set of short range activities that led to closing a deal.  Today “sales” means engaging in a broader, deeper and longer term relationship that engages a potential buyer every step of the way through their buying process.

B2B selling has become more targeted and focused. Making the relevant connection to a potential buyer at the right time has always been the greatest challenge in sales. Originally salespeople literally knocked on doors to find good prospects. Knocking on doors was replaced by direct mail, cold calls, and mass emails. Today, the Internet has created many more ways to determine where in the buying cycle a potential prospect is and what might be the most relevant outreach. Marketing automation platforms, social media listening tools, and lead scoring and ranking all provide more insight than ever into where prospects are in their “Buyers’ Journey” and how to interact with them with real relevancy.

  • Are social technologies marginalizing sales?

Not at all – just the opposite. Social enables sales to get an even better sense of what’s really happening within their markets. Whenever Sales has more information and can use it to drive a smarter conversation, we can do a better job matching offerings to buyers who really care. If anything, social technologies create efficiencies in the selling process.

But let’s get real, social has made selling harder. The best salespeople know where to spend their time, where they can get the most leverage for their efforts. Getting more insight into buying behaviors via social media helps develop messages that resonate. The challenge, and what is harder, is making sure your time is spent focused on only those areas that can yield results. That requires more discipline. Getting caught up in turning over more stones in order to find a few opportunities is a surefire way to miss your numbers.

  • How does outsourcing sales development fit into the Social model?

For many companies, the complexity of the sales engagement process deserves a dedicated company salesperson. However, for most B2B companies, inside sales for buyer targeting, engagement, and qualification is better handled by a professional outsourcer.  Why? Many companies don’t put their best, most seasoned people on inside sales.  Instead, they treat it as a proving ground for younger, less experienced hires.  In social business that introduces a significant level of risk because you’re trusting your ZMOT to someone without experience in developing continuity in conversation or buyer experience.  What better place to have a seasoned, professional than where the buyer will most likely first engage in a meaningful conversation?

That being said, outsourcing requires a partnership between the client and the outsourcer. This is not a ‘throw it over the wall’ relationship but one governed by mutual agreement on process, methodology, and execution so that everyone is bought in and works as a team. Regular touch points to review results, change-up the approach, and review the pipeline of opportunities is key. What sets the best outsourced sales firms apart from telemarketers and appointment setters is they recognize this and have experienced, articulate people building meaningful buyer relationships. Incorporating a well structured methodology and process to engage with the client’s direct sales counterparts to insure a seamless sales transition of opportunities and consistent buyer experience is the second key to success.  The best outsourcers align their fees with their client’s results to create the best selling environment where everyone wins.

  • What advice do you have on how to drive growth?

Focus, focus, focus. This seems so elemental yet we see so many companies that don’t take the time to create an appropriate coverage model for the kinds of customers they want to win.  Start by understanding your target market’s Buyers’ Journey, align a sales model to match the Journey, continually look for patterns of success and failure, and then measure the results.

The reality is that in the transformation to becoming a social business, sales needs help.  Instead of carting everyone off to Las Vegas for the ritualistic Sales Kick Off and annual sales training that no one pays attention to, let’s spend that time teaching sales how decipher a prospect’s social body language, use social media to build a meaningful relationship with buyers, and have sales conversations that prospects actually look forward to.  Do that and sales will be reborn.