Less Play – More Pride

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

This morning I read yet another article on the importance of having fun at work, and why “play” and fun are critical elements to building a successful culture. The author suggests the way to get employees engaged and having fun is “to have fun” and set an example.

I guess I’d rather work with someone who enjoys what they do and to be around a boss that had a good attitude, but the entire notion of “fun at work” is so over prescribed and unrealistic. Sure, we all want to enjoy what we do, but we also know that life doesn’t always bend to our hedonistic wishes. Work is work, and we share our workplaces with others who don’t see play or work the same way we do. Creating engaged workplaces isn’t as simple as being an example of having fun!

We need to redesign our notions of the modern workplace, to reset the expectations and bring people into a conversation with reality. All of the foosball tables, massaging chairs and meditation rooms won’t make anyone happier. Anecdotally, in the hundreds of business I’ve visited, these pinball rooms are often the least visited. Populating the landscape with toys and disco balls … More »

Deviate To Create

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

We are such creatures of habit! As a speaker and trainer, I’ve worked with very successful sales organizations of as few as 20, to more than four thousand. I’ve worked with local and regional sales teams, and been engaged with global brands. In many of these engagements I’ve discovered a stubborn tendency to cling to patterns and habits, to hold fast to processes that at one time led to success, but now are frozen into a comfortable and predictable form. It’s understandable given there is so much change already, and the landscape of the known is more comfortable than an adventure through the thicket of newness.

The trouble starts when we no longer challenge the thinking, when we slowly creep to a blandness and blindness to our hidden assumptions, preferences, or worse, our comforts. As a sales professional our future success might be predicated on how we challenge our thinking, and on our ability to overturn the comfort of habits and patterns. It is this fresh thinking that delivers new ideas and affords us a better view of the future.

When clients call me about speaking at their conferences or training their teams, one of the things I ask about is … More »

The Being Of Selling

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Over the weekend I had a couple of portrait sessions with two young women. It was a terrifically lovely day to shoot out of doors, but I knew once my camera was focused they would feel the need to smile, pose, or do something. The camera seems bring out a fear that somehow whoever we are isn’t enough to fill the frame. Though it took awhile for them to relax and forgo the need to do something for the camera, eventually they calmed down and we were able to capture some truly love images.

I think a similar impulse exists for just about every job, a normal tendency to focus only on the mechanics of the job, on what we do rather than also reflect on who we are while we’re doing that job. It’s easy to work on planning and processing, moving and shaking, but we forget to “tune in” to who we are being while we’re doing all of these things. When we add in the distractions of texting-facebooking-angrybirding-emailing and the like, our focus on things like connection and reflection are woefully vacant from daily life. Analyzing, strategizing and doing are the hallmark of any professional and certainly … More »

4 Ways To Capitalize On The Power Of Observation

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

“There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge available to us: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination…creative geniuses are not common.” Diderot

The power of observation is the lifeblood of creativity and a key trait of improvisational performance and active street theater engagement. It’s also a critical component for today’s successful sales professional.

In the interactive theater a performer develops a heightened sense of awareness for what is going on around her, and how to format and make use of what she sees. Her awareness of the fringe, the developed habit of always looking upstream for what’s coming next, gives her a constant feed of new information, emerging ideas and possibilities. Without these insights, she runs the risk of being locked into the circularity of scripts, patterns, habits and routines, a spiral of lost energy and creative vitality.

We’ve spent years not just watching street performers from all over the world, working in chaotically distracting environments, but also we are performers, as well. We understand first hand, the invaluable utility born from skills of observation. It is the ability to see the periphery that will lead to new material … More »

Always Be Closing

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

In the classic 1993 movie “Glengarry Glenross” *NSFW (Based on the award winning stage play by David Mamet) Alex Baldwin plays a sales director who, in one scene, verbally assaults a group of losing salesmen with threats and intimidation if they don’t close more sales. In the scene, as it thunders and rains outside, Baldwin points to a chalk board with an “A.B.C.” rule for selling success. He barks,


It is a blistering and painful satire about ethics and business and how far these men will go to make their numbers. Most important is the always be closing.

Is selling just a game of numbers? The more prospects you have, calls you make, the more presentations you give, the more likely you are to sell. Once you get it down, script the process, fill the pipeline with clients, get them in the funnel and sell even more! Do this and, we’ve been told, our roads will be paved with gold. Go get em tigers!

We believe the most productive way to sell to another isn’t by seeing them as a pawn to pitch. We’re pretty certain one reason so many folks … More »

The Inquisitive Sale

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Once in high school friend of mine asked the Social Studies teacher “Is Canada part of the United States?” The class froze in silence; it was a stupid question. The uncle of another friend lost a sum of money in Vegas and attempted to ask a cash clerk if there was “any way to get a refund” on the lost sum of money? (That stupid question gets asked more frequently than you might think.) Questions aren’t always useful, and sometimes they’re just plains stupid.

In professional sales, it has been taught that programmed questions can guide clients to the close, give us key insights into why our clients may or may not buy from us. Its Sales 101; ask qualifying questions, gain information so as to disarm what is known as “prospect resistance.” One popular sales program refers to this as “a smokescreen of objections,” and the goal of the seller is to “overcome objections” and “clear out the smokescreen.” This approach is all part of a processed approach to get clients to make a sale. We think it’s outlived its usefulness for the enlightened sales professional.

On a recent trip to London, Mick and I had cause to watch one … More »

Do Less – Sell More

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Working the lanes of a popular renaissance festival in Minnesota!

I’ve was told by a web guru (There are a lot of them lately) that I should practice posting more of my professional work in the form of easy to read lists. I rejected this approach at first because I’ve always enjoyed writing in long form and thought such a reduction would handicap my brilliance. As it turns out, not only am I not brilliant but the practice of reduction to the list is quite useful because it forces an economy on thinking and word choice. It also has the added benefit of allowing visitors to this blog to get in and out quickly while hopefully leaving with some useful insights.

As I was preparing for a shift to lists and a shorter form of writing, I became aware my daily planner was also suffering from too many things to do, too many words and not enough clarity of purpose. I started to wonder how many sales professionals and service leaders also have lists of things to do; people to contact, goals to reach, projects to advance? It seemed to me that filling pages with all that we have to … More »

Extraordinary Amazing Remarkable Cliches

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

I recently attended a conference where a keynote speaker was ranting about achieving success as a leader, “If you want to have an extraordinary company..” he said, “you must be an extraordinary leader.”  He paced the stage, thinking, and breathlessly, and slowly added “If you want to create exceptional and amazing results…you have to BE an exceptional and amazing leader!” Oh, that’s all!

I found myself wondering if those words actually meant something to this speaker who choose to deploy them?  Words are, after all, containers and vehicles of meaning, and if they are to mean anything at all we need to weigh them, think about them, consider what’s inside. We must listen to our own speaking and writing before we engage words and ideas that seem hallow, useless or worse, untrue.  If we really want to be extraordinary, and who doesn’t, then what does that mean? Is it just a matter of choice, do we just have to say it for it to be so?  If we are in a room of motivated sales people and brand evangelists foaming at the temples over the idea that we can achieve success greatness, does that mean we will?  The truth is, … More »

A Question Of Mission

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

A friend of mine forwarded a video to me featuring a talented speaker talking on the subject of mission and vision. In the video he is seen offering a $20 bill to anyone in the audience who can immediately stand up and recite their organizations mission/vision statement.  One woman raises her hand and reads from memory her organizations mission statement and is given the $20. The speaker then goes on to instruct everyone to go back to their offices and memorize and internalize their own mission statements.  The reason for that is, apparently, without a clear mission statement you can’t be fully engaged in the organizations values or stated mission. Is that true?

I admit I’ve not seen the presenters entire speech, but the very idea that we should internalize, or memorize our organizations mission statement seems suspect. The more important question I would have posed to the couple hundred people watching the speaker, is why none of the others had memorized or internalized their mission statement?  Are they lazy, disengaged, uncaring? His question is a set up because he knows most, if not all conference attendees will not know their mission statement? Why? Because they’re smart people, most do good … More »

If TED Would Just Stop Talking

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

As a professional keynote speaker one might expect I wouldn’t like anything that costs me a lot of business. But, being a free market thinker and strong advocate for the economics of rational competition I have to accept that competition in all forms is simple a reality of  life. To compete is good, healthy and useful for driving innovation and creativity, and for jacking up our instincts to fight our way to the top of the mammalian heap. But there is also a brand of competition that is so ubiquitous and relentless that fighting its presence is tantamount to killing a zombie. Good luck.

For the past couple of decades TED Talks has been pimping a lineup of pointy headed nerds, savants, MENSA deities and a host of preternaturally smart people who speak for 20 minutes on everything.  TED talks has been a source of irrefutable evidence that smart sounding people intrigue us, particularly if they have a british accent, and snappy ideas are fun to hear about. Since 1990 when the first TED Talks appeared, people have been addicted to the near non-stop talking by uber-smart guru’s, most of whom we’ve never heard of before.  What started as a … More »