The second stage of the sales cycle was to show us how they made a carpet.

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Hand woven and then burned with a torch to remove the extra silk.

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An intricate process of burning (to tighten and seal the knots) and shaving. With the wool carpets he took a blade to the fibers to finish the process.

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While it is all staged to facilitate the sales process just like in other places such as Murano, Italy, it was interesting to watch. The problem I have as a “tourist” is what is the right price? This vendor was pitching us rugs that ran from $5K-$12K USD. While I know silk rugs in downtown Toronto often go for that price (or more), I was instantly on the defensive. Certainly they send those to foreign markets at a fraction of the cost – so what is the right price?

In the end, that is why we did not buy. Perhaps we would have if we felt there was a compelling reason and a deal to be had due to the “buy from the source” scenario.


When I was younger with a new family, we tried out something new … a boat. We didn’t go for a small boat, we went for medium sized 28’ boat that you could sleep on. A nice Sea Ray with a significant price tag. In the end, we did it for a couple years and then made a family decision that we enjoyed golf and a nice pool more. But it was a great experience.

What has that got to do with drive and motivation? I was on the phone with my sales manager on the Monday after picking up the boat and he was very excited for me. I found it odd, as he was never the ‘interested in your personal life’ kind of manager. I voiced my question:

Me: “Why are you so excited about our buying a boat?”

Him: “I love to see you with a big new boat, hopefully you will upsize the house too. The bigger your mortgage, the harder you will work and the more you will sell”

Motivation, drive, that thing that pushes us to the next level is impossible to teach, very different for each person and often very personal. Good managers understand that and help it flourish. They also understand how to avoid hiring those without it.


I often reflect on my own personal purchasing experiences from a professional point of view, always looking to learn. While I don’t enjoy personal negotiating (I do enough of that at work), I find how salespeople treat me interesting. Upon reentering the Canadian market I provided a few sellers with opportunity, I needed a house (and didn’t need to sell a house to get one) and two cars. As I went through the different sales cycles, a few things stuck out in my mind:

  • Be careful about a flippant comment.  During the sales cycles, a few of the sales reps became a little too comfortable or too casual in my opinion. More importantly, certain phrases that they used are imprinted on my brain and really struck the wrong cord. When people are making a big decision, the ‘fight or flight’ mentality is at the forefront and inadvertent comments can send the whole cycle down the wrong path. Here are a few:

A few months ago we travelled to Italy (still not finished processing all of that, will blog it on a future date) with a stop in Venice and Murano for glass. We decided to buy a chandelier. It is a very well engineered sales process to trap the tourist. The hotel offers you a ‘free’ trip to the factory to see glass blowing. You arrive and a super slick salesman shows you the master craftsman as he blows the glass and then you are ushered into their showrooms. In the showrooms all the prices are very high but you are told that by cutting out the middleman and buying directly from the factory you will get 50% off.

The problem in this situation is simple – who knows what a good price is? If he is cutting off 50% will he cut off 70%? So we negotiated to the price we were willing to pay (65% off). We thought we got a fair deal (and when we went back to the island we looked at the shops and we paid ‘around the right price). But as we got on the boat to go back, our salesman said one thing that has stuck with me, making me feel taken as opposed to feeling that I got a fair price.

He smiled and said ‘Thank-you for the business. Please, make sure that you tell your friends about us. We would be glad to service them. We need more customers like you’.

I had to purchase two cars over the last 2 weeks. I have bought one already and know that we got a fair deal as there was a vendor program that took the negotiating right out of it. But I still have one car to go – my commuter car. I don’t care about this car – I am not a big car guy. I need efficient, reasonably comfortable, Bluetooth and an MP3 jack as I love to listen to books as I drive. So the dealer that I bought the first car is trying hard to sell me a second. The sales rep is alright, but I would not hire her. So as I test drove the car, I asked the price. She stated it and I said ‘That is about $3K more than the other car I am looking at and I am not sure that I am willing to pay the extra’. She smiled and made what she thought was a witty comeback ‘Well, then I guess you are buying the other car’.

This is about her 3rd faux pas. So I told her I think I will pass. The sales manager got involved and he said ‘He really wants to sell me a second car’ (What a shocker). So we went back and forth and as I was tired of looking for a car and have much bigger issues to deal with, agreed on a price about $1K higher than the other car. I felt that it was worth it and that I was getting a ‘fair deal’ until he said ‘Well, that was easier that I thought it would be’.

Later today I am going to call him back and tell him the deal is off. I want a fair deal and that just tells me that he took me.

For a house these days it is a buyer’s market. Agents will tell you differently because it is their job to ensure that you don’t take a long time – or they don’t get paid. So we low balled the house that we want expecting to go through a negotiation phase. After the first back and forth the other agent told our agent ‘Look, we are not going to sign back. My client is a wealthy man. He owns a house in England and a few houses here in Canada. He is a busy man and not interested in going back and forth’.

In any negotiation, I was always taught that you can only negotiate (truly negotiate) if you are willing to walk away. I didn’t want to but my wife was unattached and said lets walk. So I called the agent back and said we are walking, please start looking into these three other houses.

Well, magically, he came back. What he doesn’t know is that had he not said that, we would have probably gone $20K higher over the coming 24 hours. But we figured that because he was ‘too busy’ and ‘too important’ that he was also too arrogant and so why bother.

  • No one sent me a thank-you card:  If you have worked with me you know that I am big on thank-you cards. Less than 1% of sales reps do it and I firmly believe that the little things are important (and no, e-thank-you cards and e-holiday cards are not good enough. They show that you are cheap and take too little effort). I have yet to receive a single thank-you card.
  • Very few sales reps followed up:  In the car pursuit, I went to a range of dealers on a Saturday. Each of them had my information. A number of them provided quotes. Only ONE out of the entire car buying experience followed up. Pathetic.
  • It isn’t about you:  It was shocking to hear how little probing the sales reps did around my pain points, my buying cycle or about my personal situation. One extreme situation was at a the Lexus dealership.  By the time the test drive was done I knew that the salesman next to me was divorced, had two kids, lived with his mom in Collingwood, wasn’t ‘really’ a car salesman but really a golf pro, that he loved to give lessons and often did big corporate events for Audi and Lexus, that he had a 5 handicap and was really looking forward to driving home tonight to have a BBQ with an old friend. He didn’t know anything about me (he didn’t ask). He sent me a quote but never followed up even though I told him I was buying two cars. He absolutely didn’t send a thank-you card. He didn’t even get consideration.
  • I appreciate a great sales person: Our real estate agent has been truly awesome. It has been a rough ride dealing with the house and a furnished place (the other agent has been a nightmare). But our agent absolutely believes that ‘5 no’s make a yes’ and has pounded away. Awesome follow-up, open communication, tenacity and a willingness to fight for the deal. And most important, she has shown empathy to our situation and the stress that it can cause. I truly appreciate the person who does it right. Well done.



A must read for every salesperson, Ben Stein on The Art of (Killing) the Deal. I personally found the following deal killers top of mind with me:

·         You are doing all the talking. I have done hundreds, if not thousands of presentations and to me, nothing is worse than a lack of interactivity. I will often stop and request comments, draw out discussion, get the customer speaking. Nothing is a bigger business killer than a one way conversation.

·         You think you are more important than the customer. This one kills me and I will admit, there are times when I have groaned about the inconvenience of a meeting, but in the end, the customer always comes first. Just the other day, I was unhappy because I need to travel 45 minutes to the same spot, two days in a row and tried to force it into one day. But, in the end, I could not get frustrated with my assistant because I always say ‘Everything else can move, customer first’.

·         Don’t sweat the details. This one kills me and I think that 90% of reps don’t take this seriously. The details are the thank you note, remember names, remembering details about people, birthdays, going that extra mile on holidays, etc. I will blog more on this one soon, but it is one that drives me crazy and I see very few sales reps do it well. Those who do, always have a higher chance of success. Every sales rep should adhere to the MacKay 66, or something like it.


I watched a great movie the other day Thank You for Smoking” . All about a lobbyist for the Tobacco Industry. Truly a great movie on sales, morals and the slippery slope. I think I know this guy. Pay close attention to his rationalization and the way he spins conversations. Truly mesmerizing to watch (And quite funny). Five out of five stars.


A few classic quotes:

Joey Naylor: Dad, why is the American government the best government?
Nick Naylor: Because of our endless appeals system.

Speaking to his son’s class on his job as a lobbyist:

Kid #3: My Mommy says smoking kills.
Nick Naylor: Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?
Kid #3: No.

Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Kid #3: No.
Nick Naylor: Well then she’s hardly a credible expert, is she?

Heather Holloway: My other interviews have pinned you as a mass murderer, blood sucker, pimp, profiteer and my personal favorite, yuppie Mephistopheles.

(Definition of Mephistopheles: Mephistopheles (also Mephisto, Mephistophilus, Mephist, Murphy, Mephy, Murphy Stoffelis, Mephistophilis, Mephostophiles, Mephostophiel, and Mephisophilus) is a name given to one of the chief demons of Christian mythology that figure in European literary traditions. While the name is frequently used as an alternative form of Satan or the Devil, it evolved during the Renaissance; the name Mephistopheles makes no appearance in the Bible.)



 Another great side bar article in Men’s Health (Sept 2006) was called ‘Land a better job’. The lines of questioning are often predictable in job interviews, but these a couple good ones. I blog them for future reference.

Q: Why should we hire you?   I produce results, and I have strong analytical skills and good initiative. Wouldn’t you like to work with a manager with 3 years experience in this position who’s a breeze to get along with?

Like that answer, and like how you can build on it (adding, ‘who gets things done’, add in a few examples). I remember in my last job interview (current role), the hiring manager was tough on me, and he was my last interview when I first came to the company. In my interview with him the first time around, he said to me ‘Are you the kind of guy who get’s stuff done? I need those kind of people.’

This time around, when he hit me with this one I looked him square and said ‘Because I am the guy who got it done for you for the last 4 years, and I will do the exact same thing here. I will run with this, I will ensure you are never surprised and I will nail this job. We both know it’

Q: What is one of your weaknesses?  I’d like to understand the nitty gritty of technology better so I can use it to implement my best ideas. The advise to forget the ploy of strength as a weakness (‘I’m a workaholic’), it is too transparent (I agree). Be real .. as long as it is not something like ‘I have a temper’.

Q: Why are you leaving your current job?  I feel like I’ve come a long way in the 3 years I’ve worked at initech (LOL, they reference Office Space), but I think now is the time to branch out into new areas.

Trash talking the old boss is a fools game. Everyone interviewer looks at you as their potential direct report or as a potential ex-employer. They do not want their weaknesses broadcast to the world. Focus instead on how the new job will allow for new challenges. Come across as a motivated self starter.

Q: What do you do with your off time?  I have a 3 year old daughter who keeps me on my toes. But I still shoot hoops on the weekends with college friends, and I’ve been reading about the revolutionary war’

They reference that the interviewer thinks that they will be seeing this person allot and it is almost like you are hiring a potential friend. I disagree with this, but think it is healthy to show well roundedness. After all, the workaholic will burn out and if I were hiring, I would want well rounded to bring new ideas, thoughts, approaches.

Interesting article.


Men’s Health magazine (September 2006) has a great article on the office. A sidebar article talks about navigating the office party (Titled ‘She’s hot. The boss is drunk. Make the office party work for you anyway’).

In my role, I am often put into situations where I need to ‘work a room’. A few of their office party tips are very relevant to sales people and/or sales managers, in no particular order:

1.       Hold your drink in your left hand: your right should be busy glad handing.

2.       Make sure your drink is empty before you join a new group. Use the empty vessel as an excuse to change groups. (I would also add that you should always take half drinks at the bar to ensure maximum flexibility of movement without drinking too much – see bottom)

3.       Always stay on your feet to increase social mobility, and introduce people. Be the one who is making connections. People will look at you and say “Here is someone you need to know, people will look at you as a connecting point and will return the favour”

4.       Hopping from conversation to conversation can make you look like a climber. Always looking over shoulders and you will be resented. Want to maximize face time, stand where there is lots of traffic.

Some other points from my own handbook:

  • Evaluate the crowd. If this is your event (You are the host), look for gaps. Important client alone or with the wrong people? Interject, be the connector, ensure they are comfortable. I remember a bad scenario where we had a big dinner and the rep did not control seating. The most important exec was last to sit (through the mingling) and was left sitting with a low level table. I looked on in horror as it happened (And ‘educated’ the rep afterward). As soon as I could break out, I hit his table and spent the rest of the evening at his table.
  •  Take control. When seating, take the time to think it out. Put the right people beside the right people. This applies to meetings and dinner events. For example, if in a meeting, think about breaking up tribes, of ensuring there isn’t an ‘us and them’ scenario (i.e. Where your team is on one side, they are on the other or your team is at the back, they are at the front. Intermingle).
  • Remember, always on. Want to enjoy yourself? Take your spouse out for dinner, go drinking with buddies. You are on the job. You are not allowed to sit in the corner, or stick with the ‘comfy guy/gal’ you like. You’re on, be on and control your drinking. Let someone else fall over.


Sales:  “You want answers?”

Expense Admin: “I think we are entitled to them!”

Sales: “You want answers?”

Expense Admin:  “I want the truth!”

Sales: “You can’t handle the truth!!!”

Sales:  “ Son, we live in a world that requires revenue.  And that revenue must be brought in by people with elite skills.  Who’s going to find it?  You?  Mr. Operations?  We have a greater responsibility than you can’t possibly fathom.

You scoff at the sales division and curse our lucrative incentives.  You have that luxury.  You also have the luxury of no knowing what we know: that while cost of business results are excessive, it drives in revenue.  And my very existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, drives REVENUE!!!

You don’t want to know the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about in board meetings…you want me on that call.  You NEED me on that call!!!  We use words like stop loss, cost management, network discounts and transparency.  We use these words as the backbone of a life spent negotiating opportunities.  You use them as a punch line!!!

I have neither the time nor inclination to explain myself to people who rise and sleep under the very blanket of revenue I provide and then question the very manner in which I provide it.  I would rather you just said “thank you” and went on your way.  Otherwise I suggest you pick up a phone and make some calls.  Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!”

Expense Admin:  “Did you expense the $4000 dinner for 4 and the $500 bottles of wine?”

Sales:  “I did the job I was hired to do!!!”

Expense Admin:  “Did you expense the $4000 dinner for 4 and the $500 bottles of wine?”



For at least 5 years, I have been getting these once quarterly snail mails. The mail includes a clipping from a magazine called ‘executive focus’ (Which, from my online searches, appears to be a fake magazine).
The article is on public speaking and attached to the ‘torn out’ article (It is not torn out and it looks like and advertisement type article) is a post-it note with the following handwritten note:
Michael, try this. It works!  J
At the end of the article, the address and subscription detail to American Speaker is circled with a check mark.
The first couple times I got this, I actually thought it was someone sending it to me, someone who knew me. Obviously, that is not the case. But, I admire their persistence. They keep at it after all these years. I have never signed up, public speaking is not an area (perceived or real) weakness for me.
It is a strategy I have used before, and one I will use in the future, but in a different way. I fid a quick handwritten note is an effective sales technique and in today’s world of billions of daily email, mail is becoming a way to differentiate.


I have been expanding on the benefits of golf in sales and have a point to add on the golf tournament.
Executives and clients get many offers to golf tournaments. MANY. They have to be choosy on which ones they go to.
When I was a rep, I can remember my peers struggling to fill their slots, while I hovered around – ready to take the extra slots up because I had too many people wanting to come. Invariably, the excuses would fly:
1. My customer has an event that day (You should have invited them sooner)
2. No one at my customer golfs (can’t see that being true)
3. They are not allowed to golf (can’t see that being true)
As a sales manager, I use the corporate golf tourney as a litmus test. The best reps, who have built strong relationships and positioned the company as a key partner, are the ones who fill the slots to overflowing.
A good measure of the rep.


Once you have bought into the fact that golfing is important to sales, you also need to know the ground rules. Here are a few of the rules that I live by when golfing with clients:

  1.  I don’t let them win:  I have heard this time and time again, ‘let them win’. This type of false sincerity is inappropriate in my opinion. The wonderful thing about golf is that it is an individual sport so play your best.
  2. Tone down the competitiveness: While I don’t let them win, I also tone down the competitiveness. When I am out golfing with buddies, I might start some chatter to beef up the competition, which is inappropriate with clients (Unless, they open the door and enjoy this. But, be careful, they may start it but the tide can turn quickly).
  3. Be a good sport: Don’t make them put out that 1 footer, encourage them, don’t cheat (i.e. give yourself that extra inch) and whatever you do – don’t throw a temper tantrum (i.e. throw that club).
  4. Beware betting: Do you want to work with the client and take their PO or the cash out of their pocket? I don’t bet with clients and if I do, it is for fun on the course and if I win, I never take their money.
  5. Always remember you are the host: Pick up the flag, make sure everyone is having a good time, help them find a ball. Remember, you are there to ensure that THEY have a good time. Your enjoyment is secondary.
  6. Enjoy the duffer: The true test of a great salesperson is when they golf with a duffer or group of duffers. This is one of the greatest opportunities to build trust. If someone is having a really bad game or is really bad at golf, then ensure that you are a good host. Encourage (but don’t offer advice!), help out and ensure that they feel comfortable golfing with you.
  7. When you are the duffer:  Don’t apologize, but ensure that they know who they are golfing with BEFORE they arrive at the course. Make sure that you pick up, keep the pace of play and consider taking lessons (FAST) to get your game up to speed. Again, you are the host, don’t slow down the group.

Golfing is the greatest opportunity to build a relationship or ruin one. Make the most of the opportunity so they want to golf with you again. After all, they probably get hundreds of offers .. and they will golf with those that the have a good relationship with, not the jerk.


My brother was the kid who grew up golfing. A group of them saved their money, got golf memberships and that is all that they did in the summer: golf. He worked at the golf course with a bunch of my friends .. and loved it. He grew up a scratch or low single digit golfer, fated to be a doctor (He is a surgeon). I did not golf.

I started golfing when I was 29. I was working for Dell Computer as an Account Executive and began to quickly realize that the people I worked with (clients – specifically executives and middle management) golfed. Seemed to me that everyone golfed except me.

So, I started golfing. Candidly, it was something that I had to do and I have come to realize that in relationship selling, it is one of my top 10 ‘must haves’ for sales success.

Where else do you get 5 hours with a client? Surely not in a meeting (Although I have sat through my fair share of 5 hour meetings). It provides the opportunity for you to learn about their personal life and what they are like away from the office (serious, playful, thoughtful).

It is also a great opportunity for your clients to get to know you, what you stand for, who you are. All of these things help build understanding and that relationship bridge. It helps you build trust faster than 10 lunches or 20 meetings.

So, if you are in a sales role where relationships are important, I would suggest golf. It was one of the best investments I ever made. Plus, I love telling people that I ‘had’ to start golfing (smile). I wish I ‘had’ to more things like this ….


Body language is an interesting thing. The impact of a smile, the message of a slouch or crossed arms. A simple overview:


The most obvious pointer concerns what you do with your arms. Crossing your arms over your chest indicates a defensive, almost hostile attitude. People will be afraid to approach you or think that you’re closed-off this way. Your arms form a “blockade” keeping you at a distance from others.

When people have an unfavourable impression of you, they develop a schema (a sort of script) on how to converse or interact with you before you even meet. Keep your arms at your side, or if you’re holding a drink, don’t be afraid to switch hands once in awhile to reach out and speak with people.


If you’re sitting, you may think crossing your legs is comfortable or attractive, but the truth is that you’re subconsciously sending out signals that you’re a bit closed off.

This has the same logic as crossing your arms – it’s a subconscious signal you’re sending to tell people that you’re not sociable.


This is a simple one. Don’t wring your hands – it’s a dead giveaway that you’re nervous or anxious. One trick is to hold a drink in your hand. Not only does this make you seem more sociable, it stops you from wringing them!

When shaking hands with others, make sure you have a firm grip. A sloppy handshake can do more damage to interpersonal relationships than you think.


Believe it or not, the position of your torso when speaking to people says a lot about you. Make sure your entire body faces a person when you’re talking to them. This way, you convey a feeling of friendliness and it tells others that you’re giving them your full attention.

Facial Expressions

Lastly, your facial expression is essential to the image that you project. It’s especially important because most people don’t even realize what their faces are saying to others about them since people are not looking in the mirror all the time.

A few weeks back I was at a meeting and the person called me out, stating that they found my defensive body language very interesting. In that case, they were completely right, because the topic was bugging me. Great observation.



Had a bad day? Your boss isn’t treating you well? Your wife just ran off with the mailman and your pet ferret? Did some kids egg your house?

Well, if you are in sales, leave it at home. When you walk out that door, check your emotional luggage at the door because it is not about you. In sales, always remember it is about the person you are serving, not you. It is about what is bugging them, not you.

This point was brought home to me by my local vet. He may be great with my dog, but when I speak to him he:

1. Is always grumpy. I have never seen him smile.

2. Takes my questions as personal attacks and responds with indignation, how dare I question HIM?

3. He is rude. All the time.

4. He has a sense of entitlement, like I should be using him to support the local community.

He really ticks me off and so I use him as little as possible and his business is under performing (I have heard him complain about the lack of ‘local support’ and had more than one neighbor say they will not go back). The community votes on his sales skills with the mighty dollar, something that he does not see a lot of.

If you are going to use the vet’s approach, you better have the best product on the planet, more demand than supply and a strong propensity for saving because as soon as this dynamic changes your customers will flee.

Remember: It is not about you.


While on vacation I read an interesting book: the handbook of coaching. It was not what I expected.

It is a book that explains how to become a professional coach, like an executive coach or life coach. I have always told my wife that she would make an amazing executive coach, as she really understands people and how to manage.

One chapter I found particularly interesting was the do’s and don’ts of management coaching. Interesting thoughts:

  • Do direct the structure and process of the session (focus the conversation, the time constraints, the rules of the tribe) and the process issues of the session (the flow, sequence, what is appropriate when and where).
  • Do ask questions that explore ways your client might manage the future.
  • Do listen and reflect back what you hear to discover if your hearing is accurate.
  • Do ask your client questions about his or her experience that guide the conversation toward a preferred future.
  • Do stay with the coaching agenda, the topics in hand stay within time constraints.
  • Do stay in the present and future tenses, always looking for options and possibilities. Use yourself as an instrument of the future.
  • Don’t direct the content of the discussion or impose a prearranged agenda on your client.
  • Don’t rescue or offer direct advice to the client.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation.
  • Don’t compare the clients experience with anyone else’s, including your own.
  • Don’t let the client make you captive.
  • Don’t try to repair the past or to solve unsolvable problems.

I personally found the don’ts very interesting and a good lesson as I have found myself saying ‘Well, I did it this way’ instead of saying ‘Have you tried or considered doing it this way (Without a personal reference)’.

Interesting. Always learning.


Every since I was a little boy, my mother drilled into me that my name is ‘Michael’, not ‘Mike’. When friends would call the house, she had been known for her response of ‘We do not have a Mike here, we do have a Michael’. Most people call me Michael, mission accomplished.

But, there are a few who call me Mike, even though my business cards uses Michael, my email says Michael and I introduce myself as Michael.

I really do not care, but it sends a negative message to me. That person does not really care about me as an individual. If they did, they would have picked up on my preference with regard to my name, which is a very personal thing.

And that creates a small doubt in my mind about that person. Do they pay attention to other details? If they do not care now, what spurs them to care?

For the person in sales, any doubt or dissonance is bad. For the manager, there are two messages that you can send people when you meet them. It is all about the details.


There is no greater glory in winning alone. However, there is great peril. If you lose, you lose alone and that is a pedestal that no one wants to be on.

The idea of the single salesperson out there winning deals is history. Most sales positions require team work. Today’s sales person needs to demonstrate leadership, acquiring support from technical staff, inside sales reps and support personnel.

The truly great sales person is a strong team leader. Read more on team leadership and going it alone here.


I have always been a big believer in the power of humour. It reduces stress, boosts the immune system and without laughter, what is life? The Pentagon appears to agree. To reduce stress, they have been sending instructors to World Laughter Tour to become certified laugh instructors. Read about it here. Doctors also agree. Even the Bible agrees: “A cheerful heart makes good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22)

The guiding principal: laugh for no reason. (Note: I did that the other day while walking down the sidewalk and a remarkable thing happened, the busy sidewalk cleared as people moved to get out of my way. I almost stopped laughing when they kept pointed .. it was a bit offensive).

I find that in meetings, during presentations and in 1:1 conversations, the ability to laugh or show a sense of humour (At the right time: For example, when your boss slips and dislocates his hip, that is not a good time to laugh) is a key skill. So laugh, and if you have a tough time laughing, try getting certified (no pun intended).


I am almost finished a very interesting (But dry) book – Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Blink is about the first two seconds of looking–the decisive glance that knows in an instant. It is about how people thin slice information, making decisions at a subconscious level.

It is a fascinating read / listen . Chapter 3 focuses on a car salesman, imparting what I consider a few very good lessons. This salesman sells about 20 cars a month, roughly twice the average. He has three rules of success:

  • Take care of the customer
  • Take care of the customer
  • Take care of the customer

If you buy a car from him, he will call you the next day to ensure that everything is fine (Good follow-up, building a long term relationship that drives repeat business). If you don’t buy a car, he will call you the next day to thank you for dropping by (Reinforcing relationship, and opening the door to future business). The rep shares that he has a book full of Thank-you letters from happy clients, clients who refer him new business and return years later to buy more cars from him. These are a few simple rules that everyone can learn from.

What was really interesting was how he viewed the thin slicing approach (Thin slicing is making a snap judgment based on very little information). In his case, he avoids the natural inclination to make a snatch judgment based on appearance. He heavily overcompensates to ensure that his subconscious does not allow him to make a quick decision on whether or not the person in front of him will or will not buy a car. To him, thin slicing on appearance is the kiss of death.

He provides the example of a teenager who comes in, gets blown off by one rep and attended to by another only to return in the evening with her parents to buy a car, of the men who come in waving a cheque book saying they are ‘here to buy’ (9 out of 10 do not) or the farmer who comes in dressed in overalls and is ignored, but has tons of cash and buys quickly. I blogged on this topic here.

Instead, he focuses on the individual, working to heighten his senses as he tries to figure out if the person is suspicious or trusting, naive or knowledgeable, cautious or easy going.

First impressions or physical appearance, if allowed, can drown out all other data. The author refers to this as as the ‘Warren Harding Effect’, where the US voted for a handsome and charismatic president who was, by far, the most incompetent and reckless. You can read about Warren here.

As sales reps or managers, people must be very careful about first impressions, as they can be very misleading without experience. I will provide a personal example, while in University I worked in a high end men’s store. After 2 years of being the store lackey, I finally convinced them to let me sell while still doing my lackey job. I would pick up people who the full time staff would ignore or were to busy to service. One night, on a night that was not particularly busy, a man came in who looked a bit shoddy, and he was not ‘jumped on’ like the reps normally do, so I engaged.

Shortly into the conversation, it became clear that he was there to update his appearance. $2000 later, he was out the door a new man.

In business, people often judge by appearance. But appearance is not just physical, it can be also be organizational rank or the appearance of an office. Sales people are conditioned to look down on the entry level position or middle manager, in that senior sales management quest to get to ‘the top’ (A CXO of some type). Never make that mistake. Everyone is important, perk up your other senses to determine as much as you can about the person: are they a key influencer? are they an up and comer? are they smart enough to get around in the organization (i.e. Can they help you get your deal done)? do they have a backbone to push things through? are they looking to make a name for themselves (i.e. Looking for a successful project to attach their career to?).

Now on the flip side, sales people (and managers) need to really think about how their appearance impacts others as they will be thin sliced. The author took the time to describe the rep as someone who is well groomed, looking like a banker in his suit. He dressed to make a very clear impression – reliable, trustworthy .. someone you want to buy a car from.

Recently, this was reinforced to me by a few recent personal events:

  • I was asked ‘Why do you always wear the same color shirts, it is quite boring. You, X and Y all dress the same’. X and Y are senior people in the organization.
  • I had someone come into my office the other day, sit down and start looking around. I asked ‘what are you doing?’. His response, ‘Trying to figure out who your are’.

In the world of business casual, people really need to think about how they dress – and most don’t. I see junior people walking around in jeans or untucked ‘hip’ clothes all the time and wonder .. have they thought about what message they are sending? When you go into the office next or when you go to a client, have you thought about the image you are attempting to portray? Have you thought about how you want people to thin slice you? As I have said before, you can tell alot about a person by their shoes.


Most sales people and managers do not prepare for meetings. Sure, they prepare for that really big presentation, but what about the smaller meetings? Or even a lunch?

One of my first mentors taught me that you always need to be prepared, and that every meeting is important – no matter how long or short. I often run through a quick checklist in my mind before I go into key sales meetings:

1. What is my goal? What is the next step or action that I am seeking in that meeting?

2. What are topics that need to avoid or issues that might be raised? How will I deal with them?

3. I review key data points. At a personal level (Refresh on things that are important to that person or group) and at a business level (Refresh on the dynamics, outstanding issues, etc.)

4. What are my tactics to achieve the goal?

Clients are busy. While they may give you that first cordial meeting – they will not give you a second. They need to move their business forward, and by moving toward a goal in each interaction, both parties benefit and the sales person gains credibility.



Do you ever come to the end of a day and realize that you have looked at the same email 3 or 4 times and it still sits there? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you get your email down below 100 unread? Are you wasting too much time on internal process? Do you get a sense of accomplishment if you get your internal reports done on time but did not move a single sale forward?

Welcome to the world of ‘busy work’. An old boss of mine described ‘busy work’ as those non-revenue generating activities that reps would cleave to. I have seen many an unsuccessful rep talk about how they respond to email quickly, or are up to date on all of their reports or how they are ‘so busy all the time, lots to do’ – but remain at the bottom of the sales heap.

Why are they at the bottom? Chances are they are busy in the wrong way. What is the right way? It is not doing email, it is meeting customers, driving deals, generating revenue.

Earlier this year I found ‘busy work’ manifesting itself in my email and task list. I would look at the same emails many, many times before actioning them. Outlook was becoming my action item/reminder repository. I was also using Tablet Franklin Covey software, which was becoming problematic. The traditional Covey model of A, B and C was not working for me. My task list was growing, it did not match how I worked and I was getting frustrated.

A friend put me onto Getting Things Done, which he learned from a Microsoft blog. This changed my work life in a few key ways:

1. It made me realize that the source of my stress was that I did not have a trusted repository for the things I needed to do. The hypothesis of the book is that the mind is like RAM (Random Access Memory, on a computer) and that you need to flush that RAM into a trusted repository, which eliminates stress. Otherwise, the mind will just keep working and popping things up such as ‘Close that $5M deal’, ‘call that customer’ or ‘change the oil’ with no end in sight. And as the mind has no ability to remember in priority (i.e. It prioritizes ‘change the oil’ in the same way that it prioritizes ‘get your heart medicine so you don’t die’), the randomness will cause additional stress. So, first step, you need to have a system that you trust so that the mind can rest.

2. It made me realize that email is a source of stress and wasted time. I would look at the same emails over and over, either as reminders or as items that need to be addressed and this was a huge waste of time and it created stress. Every time I looked at Outlook, I was looking at hundreds of undone emails .. that nagged at me.

3. It made me realize that the traditional approach of A,B,C task lists did not work because it did not take into account how I worked. I work in the office, out of the office, on the road. I have email, voicemail and instant messenger as communications models. My tasks are not just work tasks, I need a way to figure out my life inside and outside of work. Last, I live in Outlook. Having a task list outside of Outlook that did not take into account how I work each and every day (Which changes) was not working.

So, while on vacation, I took this book and read it. To me, it made sense. I then implemented it, and since then, my productivity has shot through the roof. And you know what? I have referenced it to 20 or 30 people and I know of many who have come back and told me that it has changed the way that they work.

If you want to be more productive, I highly recommend you read the book and then implement the process (If you use Outlook – you need to buy the add-in also, it is amazing). It had a huge impact on me and thousands of others. It may free up some time so you can go out and see a movie.


I have read hundreds of sales/management books and articles over the years and certain things stick with you, like this one: “Less than 10% of sales reps send thank-you notes”.

I am one of those 10% – not just as a sales rep, but as a sales manager and in life (In general). Why? For a few reasons:

  • We live in a fast paced world and I believe that as a society, we are going down hill. We move-move-move so fast that we don’t take the time for the small courtesies and saying thank-you is an important courtesies that people have forgotten.
  • In this fast paced world, it is easy to become lost in the crowd. I was in a furniture store the other day – one of those really big ones that all look the same and what did I see? It was a Monday and the sales rep was writing out thank-you cards. I read one, and you know what? That big box store and that sales rep will stand out in the crowd. When people win business, very few say thank-you.
  • I have walked into the office of more than one client and seen my card sitting on their shelf. That means that it meant something to them. People like to be thanked.
  • Lastly, because it is the little things that set you apart in everything you do. Recognizing someone’s good work, thanking an executive for spending time with you or thanking that administrator for helping you out. I recently thanked someone who, as I was ramping in my new role, went out of their way to help me out a few times. It meant allot to me that they helped and it meant allot to them when I sent a note to their boss recognizing and thanking them for their assistance.

I think this applies in all walks of life – be it sales, management or administration.

Say thank-you more often. It makes you a better sales person, manager and person.


This story was once related to me:

A young Asian man rode a 10 speed into the Toronto Porsche dealership. Upon entering, the well dressed salespeople promptly dismissed the prospect and went about their business, except the ‘new guy’.

He decided to help the young man, who clearly was not a sales opportunity. They spoke, he asked questions and at the end of the conversation took the young man’s card, got on his bike and paddled away.

An hour later, he came back with a $150K certified check for a brand new Porsche.

I had this happen to me when I was younger. We walked into a high end boutique in Yorkville years ago after I had just received my first BIG commission check. I was there to buy two nice watches for Narda and myself. Our first ‘post graduation – we are finally making money’ treat.

We were dressed casually for a Saturday stroll, jeans, ball caps and the women at the counter treated us like we did not deserve to be in such a nice store. In minutes, I had enough and we left. We walked across the street, were treated very well and bought two very nice Tag watches.

I then walked back across the street, walked up to that snob woman and stuck out my arm with the new watch and said ‘Your aloof attitude just cost you this sale’ (They carried the same watch). As an aside, I went back to that other store a year later to buy my engagement ring, and then a year after that to buy our wedding bands … Their attitude cost them a good chunk of business.

Remember, you cannot judge a book by the cover. Treat everyone as your best client and you will always win.


A true story: I was on a business trip at my company’s head office with clients. I had 2 people from my team with me and 4 clients. One of the clients was a rather cantankerous individual who kept throwing up road blocks for us, I will call him Bob (Although, he liked to spell his name backwards). The senior most person on my team made a valiant effort to get to know this client and break down that barrier. While enjoying the company of the others, I watched in amusement as he repeatedly crashed and burned:

“So, where did you go to University?”

Bob: “I went to Waterloo”

“Really, me too! I took …. (Insert long diatribe on his own personal story)”

Bob: “Well, that is interesting. I was there long before a young pup like that” (I wince, good one Bob. Shut down the conversation and insert a put down all at once)

Insert silence, followed by the sound of a big crash followed by a burning sound. So, why did this conversation fail? Why did he not get the opportunity to build a relationship?

Because he did not LISTEN. When Bob provided the PERFECT opportunity, he talked about himself. What did this accomplish? Bob got to learn all about him, whether he wanted to or not. Bob also got the message that he was not important. The sales person’s role is to build that bridge, to understand the client at a personal level. Only by understanding what makes someone tick, can you build trust on THEIR terms. The salesperson does not get to dictate the terms of the relationship (As he tried to do by talking about himself), the salesperson must conduct a reconnaissance and, as every single relationship is different, build the bridge of trust according to the terms that the client dictates.

So, how did this end? I stepped in, asked a few questions and LISTENED. Before I knew it, Bob was talking all about himself. Unlike my counterpart I was not listening to the conversation thinking ‘Gee that is nice, but let me tell you this about myself’. I SINCERELY remained interested and found the common threads upon which to build a relationship. To the amazement of my colleague, we spent the evening laughing and talking about some very diverse topics (I learned that he was a sci-fi nut, and I love sci-fi. I also learned that he has a cool hobby that I know nothing about and now know alot about). We started building a relationship while he sat on the outside.

Over time, that relationship strengthened. Bob began sharing his concerns about our company. We built a relationship and the barrier came down. We started doing business. An additional benefit was imparted, I learned from Bob (A side benefit that most people miss and a topic for another blog).

In summary, the key is sincerity and the ability to listen. Check the ego at the door, your opinions and views are not important, what you are about to learn is. So what do you do with that knowledge? With so many daily contacts – how do you keep track of it all when you can have a bad habit of forgetting names? (A topic for another blog)


In my blog on relationships, I mentioned the old sales adage that ‘people buy from people’. I do believe that this is true, but I think that the company they represent plays an important role. While the slimy salesperson can sell ice to an Eskimo or a motorcycle to a blind man, they will never be allowed to return and in the end, it will catch up to them.

To build a strong relationship in a sale, the company’s value proposition must be part of that sale – as it reflects on the individual. For example, a company that is universally know in the market for their rather interesting business practices has lead many clients to comment to me that they do EVERYTHING they can to avoid buying from that company. Why? Because they have been disappointed in the past. It does not matter if the person coming into their office is a salesperson of integrity, the fact that they work for that company instantly puts up flags. A simpler example is when you drive into ‘Earl’s Used Cars & Ice Cream Depot’, you look at that rep and instantly make a value judgment which jades your buyer’s perception.

In the age of ethical explosions such as Enron, this is something for the sales rep to seriously consider as it will impact your ability to build relationships and be successful. When I left Dell, I made a brief pit stop at a hardware company. This company is universally know for its kill or be killed sales force and huge income opportunity ($750,000 year was not uncommon). I left after only a few months because I could not do it. I was not afforded the time to build relationships (Sales management pushed hard – do whatever it took to get that deal yesterday) and I did not feel good about the company.

In the end, as you build a relationship, the best salespeople stand in-front of their clients with pride. They know that they can offer that bond of trust because the company they represent will back them up. That is why I would change that saying to “People don’t buy from companies, people buy from people who represent quality companies”.

Now, how do you build quality relationships? That is for another blog.


Why do people buy that expensive suit from the same place for 20 years? Why does IBM remain the No.2 software company in the market even though it is acknowledged that their software is not that great? Why do I go out of my way to pick up my pool chemicals from the same guy when I could get them at one of 30 different places? Relationships.

There is an old sales adage ‘People don’t buy from companies, people buy from people’. I believe that the strength of this statement increases in proportion to the size and complexity of the sale. If you are buying a razor, do your really care where you get it? But, if you are buying a car or spending $1M on a new software system, the buyer wants a relationship. Why? I believe that it centers around one thing: risk. Life is filled with uncertainty, if a person purchases that new system and it fails – they could lose their bonus or even their job. The hard truth is that there is no way to create that guarantee (outside of some very strict contract that most vendors will never agree to). So, the only thing left is the relationship.

The relationship, if done correctly, builds trust and provides a sense of comfort. That trust is often hard won, but when it exists, smart sales people recognize that it transcends cost. While trust provides the buyer with the qualitative benefit of knowing that they will not be abandoned after the sale (If all heck breaks loose, the vendor will remain a trusted partner and be there to help through any bumps), it provides the salesperson with the quantitative benefit of being able to monetize that trust through a higher price (due to perceived value) and repeat business.

But do people really only buy from people? How do you build those relationships? Those are topics for the next blogs.


I don’t gamble, the others in the party where not interested. I have known him a while so I was candid: ‘look, if you want the keys to the Expedition, go ahead and we will all go out for a nice 3 course steak dinner. But if you think that you are going to drag me to some cheese ball casino, your nuts’. Put that way, he said bugger you all, he was going. I gave him the keys and we all retired to our rooms for an hour before the rest of us would reconvene for dinner.

….45 minutes go by, my phone rings. ‘hello, this is the concierge, your customers are down here waiting for you to take them to the casino.’ … A knock at the door…  I tell the guy on the phone to wait, ‘who is it?’ … ‘Bell hop sir. Your customers are waiting downstairs for you to take them to the casino.’ I was beat, down I went and there he stood, with the other execs around him (smiling). He had rallied the troops .. We were off to the casino.

We travel an hour and during that hour he takes me through the theory of blackjack and his cheat card, a color coded card that shows you what to do for the best odds for every possible combination. We arrive and sure enough, it is a dump. After we have a REALLY bad meal we hit the casino with one caveat: when I lose my $100 (big spender), he has 1 hour and the bus leaves. If he is not with us, he can hitch a ride home.Off we go, and he explains to me his philosophy of betting which I later renamed the ‘pansy model’. Start at 5 bucks, each win grows the bet by 5 bucks until you lose, drop back to 5. To me this just means a long night at the table – so I quickly get to a $20 table and begin playing (Fully expecting to lose).Well, not tonight. I was on fire. Every time I put money on the table, I just kept winning (That cheat card was very handy). The louder I laughed at the irony – the more the people around me shook their heads. At one point, I had a string of 5 blackjacks in a row. My dealer of choice that evening – who I called Carolana bobana – (I was also having fun with the name game) was getting tip after tip (Good karma) and I hit a high of $3000. At one point, after losing a $100 hand, I can remember my executive friend saying ‘What? Remember the rule! Don’t go back at $25, start small!” .. to which I looked at him – laughed and added another $75 to the bet (I won). In the end – after tipping the dealer at least $400 through the night – I walked out with $1600 – or as I put it 16 really cool looking black chips.

The moral of this story:

The customer is always right.


As an aside, he is the only boss who I have ever screamed a steady stream of profanity at that would make a construction worker blush. We did not speak for two days after that – but there were times where he truly drove me nuts.
Me? I was one of the top reps, I always beat my number and once clocked my forecast review at a little over 4 minutes. Know your business, be prepared, present it in a simple and clear way, don’t offer extra information and succinctly summarize bad news .. Never hide anything.
As a manager, he had a simple approach to management: call you once a day and cascade pressure downward. The problem is that for those at the top, that pressure always landed on our shoulders as we delivered his number quarter in, quarter out.What I did learn during this experience was the art of the forecast review. When I was first hired, I was hired with another man – Tom. Tom was from New York, he had a big swagger and could really talk a good game. I can remember through the interview process that they seriously did not consider hiring me because I was too young and when compared to a guy like ‘Tom’ – how could I compare?
In the end, Tom was one of those big talking under-performers who never hit his number while I was always top 3.
Every quarter we would get together as a team and review our pipelines. The weak performers (Like Tom) always did the same thing presenting their forecast, they would bury you in detail about deals, talk about business complexity and often go on for more than 30 minutes, invariably to explain their poor performance. The stars were up and down, comfortable in their ability to deliver.


Over my career, this point has been reinforced to me time and time again. As I matured in sales (and business), I have noticed that the best salespeople and executives are not the harried one. Yes, we all go through phases where everything is nuts and the 90 hour weeks are required, but that cannot be the norm.

Some of the best reps I have known have disappeared in the middle of the afternoon to catch a flick. At first I found it odd, but over time I came to understand. If you know your business, you do not need to be the one who works 90 hours a week all the time. I made this point when I passed on that success = 15. In the case of my first mentor, it was not movies, it was the O.J. Simpson trial (smile).

I will now provide a case in point: Last year, when I was still a client manager (I have moved back into management), I grew the business 22% and nailed every single one of my MBO’s. I also played lots of golf with clients and had a wonderful time with my family (The boys are growing very fast and pretty soon this period will be gone). I live a very balanced life – work hard, enjoy life. In my mind, that is success.


I am on vacation this week and read an interesting stat from Fortune about staying healthy. A survey by a staffing firm Hudson says that 34%of employees check in with the office so frequently while on vacation, they come back ‘either more stressed than, or just as stressed as, when they left”

When I was younger, I used to call in on deals. During all these years, I never lost a deal while away on vacation (Christmas time was different – that was end of year).

I am taking this week off, and I was asked to come on 2 conference calls – I said no. Why? Because to truly recharge, you must unplug from work – I firmly believe that. I know a number of people who do not believe that … and I also know that when I come back, nothing will be unrepairable (Or changed).


My boys are getting older and as time passes I find myself thinking of their entry into the workforce. These thoughts are punctuated with a desire to protect them as long as possible, but in the end it is inevitable.When I entered the world of sales it was not a conscious choice. I was in university and needed a part time job. I applied all over the place including a high end men’s wear retailer. I was given the job of ‘Chief lackey’ doing everything from cleaning closets, to folding sweaters and fetching customers drinks (We served coffee and pop). As time passed, I watched the sales team and began learning .. slowly understanding what separated the good from the bad while acquiring that competitive spirit (Which I attribute to one Gordon Gecko ‘want-to-be’ who got me into reading business books). From that point on, I shunned what most business school students seek – the ‘marketing’ job – and sought out sales jobs.

In retrospect, I ask myself would I enter sales again? The answer is a resounding YES and if my boys seek my guidance on their career paths I will lay out the pros and cons from my pragmatic viewpoint. That viewpoint:

The Pros of being in sales:

1. Salespeople are always needed. You can build the best product in the market and not be successful. The best companies in the world have great sales people and they remain in high demand. In the June 2005 Fortune (Salespeople in the catbird seat), they note that in a recent poll of 65 Fortune 500 companies:

  • 80% think they have cut costs about as much as they can and are now looking to grow revenue
  • 77% are hiring more field sales reps
  • 50% are adding telephone and web sales people
  • 56% are boosting base pay to acquire talent
  • 34% are raising commissions

One executive stated “we never laid off any salespeople during the tough years”

2. Sales is the best way to make money. If you are motivated by money, there is no better way. In that same survey they noted that at 90% of these Fortune 500 companies, top sales people earn more than their direct bosses and 19% earn more than the CEO. I can still remember coming out of school and everyone talking about that coveted IBM or XEROX marketing job that paid $40,000. After a few false starts, I really began my sales career at Canon selling faxes and copiers. I was earning $1000 per month in salary and in the first year, I grossed $105,000. In the second year I earned $145,000 and from there it continued to grow. At 29 I broke $200,000 and never looked back.

3. Flexibility: I caveat this statement as it is for outside sales people. Salespeople are measured – at all times – by one simple benchmark: revenue. If you earn your revenue (or gross margin – depending on how the business measures it), you are afforded flexibility. Salespeople are allowed to work the hours that they want, in the manner that they want with a healthy dose of autonomy as long as they hit the number. I often refer back to one of my first mentors: he was earning $350K per year selling photocopiers while spending more time watching the O.J. Simpson trial than making calls. Why? Because he was very good at what he did and he made his numbers – his way.

I provide one other caveat: I also know salespeople who continue to work 75 hours per week to make their numbers due to many factors. This could be because of the fact that they are bad at sales (And should do something else), they have a poor territory, they are given an impossible quota or they work for a company that has built a culture where this is expected. This is the case for EMC, where their sales culture is built around working hard, playing hard, making big money and never spending time with the family. I always remember when I went to EMC (I only stayed a few months – morally, ethically and personally – I was the wrong fit for that culture and was not interested in lowering myself to ‘fit in’. There are lots of ways to make big money, despite EMC’s assertions). My brother-in-law handed me a Fortune article that had just been published about the sales culture, profiling a salesman who left his daughter’s christening to make a call and try to close a deal. I cringed … and left soon after.

4. The sky is the limit: With sales, the traditional constraints of the corporate office are often left behind. Sales people have the ability to innovate and be entrepreneurs. How much time you put in, how you use that time and how much you earn is often limited internally – not externally. As I noted, I was able to join that 2% of workers who earn more than $100K per year in my second year due to hard work, passion for learning and great mentors.

The Cons of Sales:

1. There is no where to hide. You are measured on your number – miss the number too many times and you are gone. Simple. There are very high highs, but there are also very low lows … this job can be very stressful on many fronts (Not hitting your number puts your job at risk, hurts your pocket book and for those who let their external environment get them down – be very demotivating).

2. Driving for the number creates competition. Attaining your number will be at the expense of someone else losing the deal. You must be prepared for ruthless competition.

3. Not everyone will like you. Some customers will hate you because you are in sales, not willing to give you a chance based on their previous bad experiences with some slimy sales person (We have all had this experience!). This can be tough for people who are very sensitive. In sales, you cannot be friends with everyone.

4. Not everyone is good at sales. I never considered myself a natural – I really had to work at it. I read books, I had mentors, I went to courses, I practiced, I made mistakes and I listened to tapes. It is a skill that just will not happen, the best people work at it and are always improving. But even after all of that effort, you can still suck as a salesperson. Look inside yourself, you will know if this is right for you.

I am often approached by technical people, consultants and marketing folks about what it takes to get into sales. My coaching is always the same, there are great rewards for the successful sales person – but there is also great risk. Thought should be put into the decision, before you jump (smile).


In the end it is a personal decision, there are many choices beyond sales. As the judge would say “Well Danny .. the world needs ditch diggers too”

SUCCESS = 15 (Part 2)

All companies talk about work life balance, but we all know it is a bit of an oxymoron. The company wants you to take the vacation and spend time with your family, but loves the guy who works 75 hours a week, will take that Saturday conference call and gives his life to the company (As evidenced by email activity at 1AM).

I don’t buy it. In fact – when I see someone working really really hard, all the time, I start to wonder about that person’s skill level. What are the compensating for?

Using the Success=15 model, if you do invest the time then the effective person begins building skill. If skill grows over the years to an 8 and the person is still putting in an 8 in time, then one of two things is going to happen:

1. They are going to be **wildly** successful and march up the corporate ranks (Or in the case of sales – make a ton of cash).

2. They are going to burn out and then time & skill plummet.

That being said, the top two alternatives do not represent the majority of cases. In my experience, the person who puts in that ‘8’ in time year in, year out is compensating for a skill level that has plateaued. That plateau in skill can be attributed to many things: not becoming a sales expert or good sales manager, not being able to prioritize work (i.e. spending countless hours doing unproductive work), etc.

So, be wary of the time investment. If you remain at the “8” level, ensure that you are on the path to **wild** success. Ensure that you do not need a reality check around the plateauing of skills (Questions to ask: Is this the right job? Am I doing the right things? Am I productive? What training do I need to get on the right track?) or that you are on the verge of burning out.

Shooting stars go from very bright to black in a shockingly short time.

SUCCESS = 15 (Part 1)

My first and greatest sales mentor once taught that success can be thought of as “15” in sales. We break the sales job up into 3 component parts, each worth “5” points, with success being obtained when you reach 5 in each category (5+5+5=15).

In sales, we can think of the three components as:

  • Territory: Everyone gets a 5 for this. We must assume that the company that we work for is fair and therefore, everyone gets a 5. We must assume that everyone is set up for success.
  • The other two components: Skill& Experience and Time – each worth 5 points.

So, in the words of a successful rep: I know what I am doing – I am quite good at what I do. Therefore, I would rank my skill at an 8, which means that for me to overachieve (Go higher than a total of 15), I simply need to invest a 3 or 4 in time (Meaning: I can work less and still crush my numbers).

The lesson was then focused on me (As a new rep): You however are a 1 or a 2 skill level, so you better be investing a 9 or 10 in Time if you want to succeed. As you learn, your skills will increase and you will be able to adjust the skill to time ratio. But you cannot avoid investing the time if you want to be successful.

This lesson has stuck with me through my 16 years in business – as I believe that it can be applied to sales or management. When I take a new position, I make it a habit to remember that I am back in the learning stage and need to compensate for what I don’t know in the only way possible: investing more time to secure success.

I also review my progress continually to ensure that I am learning and growing my skill – so that my time can shift back to something that allows me to a) be very successful while b) attaining work life balance. That review becomes my plan for success.




I had a friend tell me a funny story. He was interviewing sales people and asked one lad: “What is the best sales course you have ever taken?”

The response:  Tony Robbins. End of interview.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think he is great. But he does not teach sales, he teaches personal motivation. What that interviewee did not realize was that … he was being sold.

Quick fact: Did you know that Tony Robbins owns many of these $14,000 USD exercise machines because he is a time maximization guru. Yes, for only $14,000 you too can stay fit in only 4 minutes per day!

Like this 4 minutes work out – people believe that motivation is something that can be quickly fixed – the 4 minute motivator – and in my experience, that is not the case. Most people come out of these events pumped, and for a short period change until their situation brings them back down and they settle into old habits.

For me, motivation ebbs and flows, that is normal. But when it is ebbing more than flowing, I don’t look to a guru – I look at myself and say what is going on. I heard this the other day and believe that it is something we should all ask ourselves:

Do you get up in the morning excited about going to work? And when work is done, do you go home excited to be getting home?

Something to ponder.


When I was in University, I had the good fortune to get a part time job at a high end men’s wear store. I started out as the store lackey – painting, folding sweaters, fetching customers drinks and over the next couple years gained credibility to the point where they made me the first part-time sales employee. During that year I sold $75,000 worth of men’s wear part-time (Without selling a single $1500 suit) – not bad considering the full time guys were selling $300-400K annually.

One experienced salesman there (Who was a great guy, very classy and a strong father figure type – he was also an amazing gardener) gave me the following advice:

Always keep your shoes polished and be careful in your choice. You can tell allot about a man by his shoes.

Through the years, I have realized that as a rule of thumb – this is sage advice. It is interesting, when I first meet someone – I do glance at their shoes, as I try to figure out who they are ….


In the latest Fortune (May 16, 2005) they discuss the unfortunate turn of events that 50+ executives face when they are forcefully retired, or fired.

They speak to the way our society is changing. In the past, society viewed older people as wise – experienced and of value (Think of the village elder and the value put on their wisdom in traditional societies). In today’s society, companies are looking at the cost of a seasoned executive, the pace of change (technology change, business change) and wondering – should I hire the older exec or the younger one who will work 7 days a week and is a lower cost?

A short sighted view in my opinion. The topic reminded me of a valuable lesson that I was given early on in my career: the lesson of the personal services corporation. What this article ultimately points to is that corporations don’t care – if the business justifies it, companies will discard at will. Look at IBM this month – bad quarter – 14,000 jobs gone.

Early on in my career I was taught two things:

1. I am a number to a company. I am expendable. If I don’t delivery – I am gone (Especially true in sales).

2. I must look at myself as a personal services corporation. I am selling my services to the company I am working for. As long as both companies are on mutually agreeable terms – the business relationship continues. That being said – if those terms change and one party is not benefiting, the relationship terminates.

For me, this is one of the key learnings of the article. People often mistake the relationships that they have within the office environment as characteristics of the corporation. By understanding that this is a business relationship, one is able to see past personal loyalties and bias, avoid an attitude of “entitlement” and align their personal corporation with the business goals of their client: the company they are working for. That leads to success.

As another boss once said to me: Remember, loyalty to companies died in the 80’s – to a company you are just a number. The only loyalty you should have is to the people that you trust.


As part of the renewal of my subscription to “Selling Power” ( I recieved a book called “The Top 60 Sales” – a series of anecdotes on selling.I sent in my best story. We will see if I get published (smirk). This is it ….

When I first started selling I worked for Canon selling copier and fax machines. I was fresh out of University and was fortunate enough to convince the top sales person in the company to become my mentor (Sales author Paul Shearstone) and had a great boss. Through that process I learned the foundation to what has made me successful today: tenacity. They taught me to always be learning (Reading, listening to audio books, learning from those around me) and to never give up.
During my 2nd year I moved into the number 1 position in the company at 330% of plan, turning a $30K per month territory into a $100K+ per month territory and I did that on deals like my most memorable.
The deal was memorable from the start. At that time, color copiers were new and very expensive – we had a demo model that we could all use. I did something no one had done before, I created my own copier flyer and convinced the company to pay for a mail drop into my territory (A mass mailer to all businesses within the postal codes that I managed). A week later, I received a call from a lady in purchasing at TransAmerica – asking about our copiers. I promptly returned the call, made an appointment and during the appointment found out that they were buying $200,000 worth of copiers and fax machines! The caveat being that TransAmerica had a world wide contract with Pitney Bowes and I was primarily being used only as a benchmark for quality and price.
Over the next 8 months, I spent countless hours building a good working relationship with the purchasing manager, the office manager and staff in the branch. I pushed past the benchmarking status and convinced them of our value proposition, quality and industry leadership. I convinced them to short list to two vendors and do a product bake-off (I knew that our products were far superior to the competitors). During the bake-off, I camped at their office baby-sitting the machines, holding training sessions to show off the advanced features and how it could make the staff’s life easier and having services proactively service the machines to demonstrate our attention to detail.
Our machines sat at the customer site for 2 months ($100K of demo equipment) and the purchasing manager gave me the verbal – they were going to go against the world wide contract (At a premium) to select our products. I dropped off the contracts for the VP to sign and she told me to be patient, that it would get done by the end of the month. It was the last day of the quarter, I still did not have the paper and I was sitting in my boss’ office when he dropped the bomb “The branch manager does not think that you are going to get this deal. They are pushing me to pull the equipment”. I knew that if we pulled the equipment now, that paperwork would never get signed so I responded “We can’t do that. This is my deal. What do I do?”.
My boss gave me the kind of advice that you usually read in one of the old style Zig Ziglar type of sales books that I have read 100 times, he said “Go to that office, ask to see the VP and sit there until he sees you and you sign this deal”. I was stunned, but it was either do that or watch 8 months of work and my first really big commission check go out the window. So it did it. I called the purchasing manager, explained my predicament and told her I was coming over (She was very tentative). I went to their office, asked to see the VP and waited. A few minutes into my wait, the purchasing manager came out and stated that the VP was not happy that I was here, that I had the deal, come back in a couple of days. I stood my ground, appealing to her with regard to my predicament and their commitment to closing the deal before the end of the month.
She left. I waited.
A half hour went by and I noticed the purchasing manager talking to someone (that someone was hidden from view – just around the corner). She approached me and again stated that she was sorry that the paper work was not done, that she understood my frustration but that we would just have to wait another few days because it required several signatures and was not complete yet – and the VP had to leave for the day. At that point, the VP bolted past me with a nod and headed for the elevator – I excused myself from the manager and jumped into the elevator with him.
To say that he could not believe his eyes was an understatement. I politely talked to him about what a great experience it was working with his company, how I was looking forward to servicing them, how I was ready to go that extra mile to make them happy and closed out with their commitment to sign the paper by the end of the month and how that had put me in a really tough situation. This conversation went on from the elevator out to the parking lot in front of his car with the occasional objection such as ‘I know, but you will just have to be patient’ and ‘If I didn’t have to leave right now to pick up my son downtown, I would do it”. I  answered each objection “I understand, and know that you are going to follow through” and “Is there anyone who can sign upstairs on your behalf?”.
Standing in front of his car door (So he could not enter) he looked at me, smiled and relented “Go upstairs, I will call one of the other VPs to sign it on my behalf”. I smiled, thanked him and went upstairs. I stood at a filing cabinet while a VP signed those documents, the whole time commenting that he “could not believe that he was doing this”. I thanked everyone and drove back to the office yelling at the top of my lungs about the paper that I had in my hands and my first really big commission check.
After the deal was closed, I sent each person a hand written thank-you note, took key people out for a thank-you lunch and followed up to ensure that we also won the second part of the deal (15 fax machines – we did). I would not recommend this to everyone (That was a one time event for me), but due to 8 months of hard work, service and relationship building – when push came to shove I had a strong foundation on which to push that deal to close.
One of my top 5 most memorable deals. I have more (smile).


Ever sit in your car while commuting home, listening to the radio and thinking “My mind is going numb, I am so sick of the radio”. Well, the radio was once described to me as “bubble gum for the brain”. This was when cell phones were still really expensive (so not everyone had one). The time in the car was truly dead time – you could not use the time to return business calls, check voicemail or chat with friends.
I was told – either listen to the radio and melt your brain or do something with that time: so I started listening to sales tapes (I just threw them out finally, I had hundreds). I attribute that attitude to my success and now – it is even easier. You can download books at a fraction of the cost.
I personally subscribe to the following (I have been a member for 2+ years):
For $14 per month I get 1 book and 1 periodical (I listen to Harvard Business Review) and a free MP3 player (I gave it to my kids – I listen on my tres cool Pocket PC phone).
Bubble gum for the brain or leverage the time to learn? Your choice. PLUS – this way, when I get home and after the kids are in bed, I don’t feel the need to read, I can watch TV …. (LOL)


Like I said, I am not sure if this blog thing is for me (Golfing season is upon us and a big time consumer). Of interest – appears I had 1 hit yesterday and even a comment!

That comment provides the blog note for day 2. A piece of advice that was given to me when I first started in sales has always stuck with me (Or maybe it was from Swim with the Sharks or some other sales book?)

When you interview for a job – as a key question: What does the top salesrep make? And if that dollar value is not what you want out of life when at the peak of your performance, move on.

When I first started, I was desperate for that first job – I sold corrugated cardboard (triple wall) and other packaging material. Hey, it paid the bills and even $24,000 seemed like a good start then. After a couple months of grinding away, I asked the “top” rep that question (He was an ex hockey player – even made it to the NHL for a few games). He said that he works hard, long hours and topped out at $45,000.

2 months later, I had a job where the top rep was making $200K. Life is about goals, and if I achieve achieve the corporate goals – I wanted the $200K pay out, not the $45K.