Competing with Colleagues

The Trusted Advisor: Click to BuyWhen I wrote The Trusted Advisor with David Maister and Rob Galford a few years back, it became reasonably successful within several months. (Amazingly, it still ranks #8,050 – as of this morning – on the list of all books on Amazon. That’s all books, including Harry Potter (#54), Capital (#41), etc. I’ll take long-sellers over best-sellers any day of the week).

With its success came a happy problem: how to parcel out the leads between the three of us? Let me be clear, the book wasn’t drowning us in leads; any one of the three of us could have happily fielded all inquiries. And while we wanted to be fair to each other, we were also all of us very clearly in competition with each other.

So the question: how do you compete with colleagues?

Competing with Colleagues

What if one of us got a lead based on the book? Did we have any obligation to pass it along to the other two? If so, how?  Should we establish a quota system, whereby each of us would get every third lead?

Should we let the market dictate things, and let whomever the client had reached out to handle the response? What if the client had written to all three of us?  Should we all respond confidentially, or in some sense share our responses?

The problem was not unique to us, though it seemed so at the time.  You may face a similar problem within your organization – who gets the lead? Who gets to present?

Or, you may come face to face with an  old friend who has changed uniforms and now works for a competitor. In any case, the tension is much the same – the sensation of being a colleague feels intensely in conflict with the sensation of being a competitor.

How do you resolve it?

The Solution

The answer to the problem came to us fairly quickly, on reflection, and I documented it as part of the Four Trust Principles in my later books. The answer lies in true focus on client needs.

In our case: we agreed that we should all respond similarly to all client inquiries, regardless of to whom they were addressed. In all cases, we would say words to the effect of:

The Trusted Advisor was written by the three of us. I suspect that each of us could do an excellent job in response to your query, and each of us would handle the work slightly differently. You would be best served by having discussions with each of us, and making up your mind on that basis.

We will each be candid with respect to our own strengths and weaknesses, and answer questions to the best of our ability about the others. Each of us will respect your decision, and we are each committed to you making the best decision possible for you.

The best decision for you is what all three of us seek, and each of us will do our best to help you reach it, regardless of your choice.

This solution made everything easier. It kept our relationship collegial. It removed any awkwardness about responding to clients. It removed any awkwardness that clients might experience in choosing whom to talk to.

And, of course, it resulted in the best decision for clients, as each of us have our own particular skills and drawbacks.

So what’s the answer?  Grindingly relentless focus on client service, and the willingness to pursue that logic wherever it leads.

Agile Selling: Q&A With Jill Konrath

Agile SellingJill Konrath has made a name for herself as one of today’s top thought-leaders in sales. A well-known author & speaker, Jill seems to be just about everywhere these days, and with good reason.

I’ve known Jill for years. A smart, driven and straightforward woman, Jill epitomizes the best of the Midwest – she lets you have the truth between the eyes, with good intent and a generous spirit. She also knows just about all there is to know when it comes to selling. Her most recent book, Agile Selling, represents a further evolution of her thinking. As I note in the interview, it reminds me in some ways of The Trusted Advisor.

We sat down recently to discuss her new book on how when it comes to sales, you can never stop learning.


CG: How did you come up with the idea for Agile Selling?

JK: Shortly after SNAP Selling came out, tons of salespeople said to me, “This is great info on selling to today’s crazy-busy prospects. But I’m frazzled too. Just like them. How can you help me?”

Initially, I thought it was a time management problem. But, after pondering it awhile, I realized it was an information management problem. Too much was changing: customers, products, buying cycles, the economy, competitors. It was literally impossible to keep up.

When I thought about it, I realized that rapid learning was one of my core competencies. And, I’d never even talked about it before. It was just who I was.

Then, when I thought deeper about it, I realized I’d developed innumerable strategies over the years to address the fears and challenges you face when you’re trying something new. In researching the book, it was fun to discover that the approaches I’d stumbled on were now verified by neuroscience research.

CG: This book struck me as very similar to Trusted Advisor – a ‘wisdom’ book that can only be written after subject-matter and process mastery. It’s fundamentally about consulting. Comments?

JK: Personally, I’m amazed that it took me so long to “see” some of these things that are now blatantly obvious to me. They are truly the meta-skills that enable subject-matter and process mastery. Yet no one really talks about them. That’s why so many people don’t reach their potential.

And, you are so right that selling is really about consulting. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s about maintaining a singular focus on your client. Where are they trying to go? How can you help them get there? What value will they get from working with you?

Unless you do that today, you won’t get clients. Selling is truly about service.

CG: How far can you get in sales without coming to grips with some of these agility issues? I assume the answer is getting ‘less and less’ as the pace of change accelerates – is that true?

JK: Learning agility issues start from Day One of any new position. At that moment in time, you’re thrown into massive overwhelm, trying to learn all sorts of new things.  And, unless you have a process for doing that, it will take you longer than necessary to become proficient.

Most people don’t realize there are rapid learning practices they can use to quickly master new information or pick up skills. I’m talking about strategies like dumping, chunking, connecting and more.

Plus, when you take a new sales position, you need to take an immediate 30-day deep dive in order to develop situational credibility. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to maximize that time frame. Instead, they muddle around, hoping to absorb everything by osmosis.

In reality there are certain things that need to be learned first – which I outline very clearly in Agile Selling.  And, if the company doesn’t have the info you need (which many don’t), there are fast strike ways to get it.

CG: What about dealing with all the changes? Does that cause more agility issues?

JK: Absolutely. In a world of lookalike products and services, our expertise is primary differentiator. Essentially that means we can never stop learning.

And, those who learn faster than others will have a serious competitive advantage.

CG: On the face of it, this book is an “advanced” book on selling.  Does that mean a newbie can’t read it? What advice would you give a relatively new salesperson on reading this?

JK: Funny you should ask that. Too me, it’s a foundational book that all sellers should read. Here’s what I’d say to a new person:

“These are the underlying skills of all top sellers. They’re not visible on the surface, when you observe or talk to them.

“But this is what’s at their core.  It’s about how they learn, deal with challenges and transform themselves into an invaluable resource.

“If you focus on becoming an agile seller at the onset of your career, you will be in high demand – regardless of the direction you choose to take in your life.”

I think Agile Selling will help anyone who wants to shorten his/her path to proficiency.

CG: This book strikes me as out of sync with what’s usually written in sales books these days – and beautifully so. It’s about the art and craft of sales, not about the mechanics and plumbing. Is that how you see it?

JK: It’s totally out of sync with other sales books. Nobody is writing about this critical meta-skill of agile learning.  And thanks for your kind words too.

To me, Agile Selling is about “being” a top performer. It’s about the mindset that enables people to thrive when they’re in the midst of change. It’s a skill set about being able to quickly assimilate lots of information or to pick up new skill. It’s also a discipline about creating an environment for success.

The more you embrace agile selling strategies, the higher your likelihood of short-term success and long-term mastery.

Insight Selling: A Q&A with Author Mike Schultz

Insight SellingIt’s no secret that I’ve been a contributing author at RainToday for many years. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate and connect with many thought-provoking professionals.

Last year, I had the privilege to sit down with Mike Schultz, the founder and publisher of Rain Group, and talk about their 2013 report, “What Sales Winners Do Differently.”

Recently, Mike and I sat down again and discussed his new book, Insight Selling: What Sales Winners Do Differently, that delves into this same topic in further depth. After reading the book cover to cover in a matter of hours, I was thrilled to get further insight and chat about his findings.


CG: The sales world has changed dramatically over the past several years. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there on what works and what doesn’t. In doing research for Insight Selling, what strategies or tactics did you uncover that work today?

MS: Since articles like “The End of Solution Sales” and “Selling is Not About Relationships” were published in by the Harvard Business Review, there’s been a lot of disagreement in the sales world about what’s working and what’s not. We decided to study what was actually happening.

We wanted to find out what the winners of sales opportunities do differently than sellers who came close but ultimately came in second place. So we studied over 700 B2B purchases made by buyers who represent $3.1 billion in annual purchasing power. We found that winners sell radically differently than second-place finishers and that winners exhibit a specific combination of behaviors to achieve better outcomes than second-place finishers. We found that sales winners:

1. Connect with buyers personally and connect buyer needs with their solutions.
2. Convince buyers they are the best choice, that the risks are worth taking, and that they can achieve strong ROI.
3. Collaborate with buyers by bringing new ideas to the table, delivering new insights, and working with buyers as a team.

And we found that solution sales is not dead and that relationships are still important. Sorry, HBR. Solution sales and relationships need to evolve and they are just a piece of the whole, but they’re far from dead and sellers who dismiss these concepts outright put their sales results in grave danger.

CG: What surprised you most about your research findings?

MS: We studied 42 factors that were common pieces of advice given to sellers in order to determine what sales winners do differently.

In our training programs, we poll our audiences asking them to guess what they think sales winners do most differently than second-place finishers. They usually pick things like, ‘was trustworthy,’ or ‘listened to me,’ or ‘understood my needs,’ and so on.

They rarely pick ‘educated me with new ideas or perspectives,’ which, according to buyers, was the number one factor separating winners from the rest. And they rarely pick ‘collaborated with me,’ which was the number two factor most separating winners from second-place finishers.

With this last point, there’s been a lot of buzz that the new trend in selling is to challenge buyers. Our training participants often say to us, “Isn’t the word ‘collaborate’ more of an antonym than a synonym of the word ‘challenging’?” Perhaps. So it’s not only surprising to our training participants but also to us, because these two factors are not what we would have guessed to be what most separates the winners from the rest.

Now, this doesn’t mean sellers who win don’t say what they need to say in order to help the buyer. But they don’t do it standoffishly. So, what sellers think buyers want and what buyers actually want are two surprisingly different things.

CG: In the book, you introduce a three level model that I love – Connect, Convince, Collaborate. How does this change the way people need to sell?

MS: With connect, even though prevailing thinking in sales has been focused on uncovering needs and crafting compelling solutions to solve those needs, sellers still fall into the pattern of not listening, not investigating, and not tailoring what they sell to the needs of the buyer.

With convince, it’s been drilled into the minds of so many sellers not to pitch or sell anything too strongly that they are unwilling to take a point-of-view or advocate for a particular idea or strategy.

With collaborate, too many sellers have been trained to think of sales as me-versus-them. Or to just try to find ways of selling what they offer. Or simply don’t engage deeply enough. What’s important is that these are the things that buyers value, so they’re the things sellers need to do.

CG: You break down insight selling into two applications – interaction insight and opportunity insight. Can you explain the differences between the two?

MS: When sellers introduce buyers to ideas they need to know about we call it opportunity insight. This is when the seller knows a buyer should be doing something and the buyer has little or no idea about it until the seller brings it up.

Now, I’m not saying go straight to the pitch—there’s a rhythm to getting there—but fundamentally, sellers need to get the passionate beliefs they have in their heads about certain ideas into the buyers’ heads.

The second application is interaction insight. This is when sellers ask disruptive questions, push buyers out of their comfort zones and encourage them to think differently. In this case, buyers often come to new insights by working collaboratively with the seller guiding them.

Sellers bring ideas (opportunity insight), and spark ideas through how they lead their conversations (interaction insight).

CG: But the buyer has to trust you if they’re going to accept your insight. Don’t you agree? They can get information anywhere, but when they trust the person it’s coming from it makes a big difference.

MS: Absolutely. You can’t succeed with insight selling without trust. When buyers trust sellers they:

1. Depend on them
2. Listen to them
3. Give them access
4. Spend time with them

The more a buyer trusts you the more willing they are to listen to your ideas and to implement them. Without trust, insight selling is very difficult to do.

CG: Increasingly we hear how buyers don’t trust information from corporations and sellers – that they trust information from third parties, their peers, or even strangers. How can a salesperson get around this?

MS: Well, Charlie, I’d say they should all listen to you.

There’s not much an individual seller can do to restore someone’s faith in corporations, but they can certainly build faith in them as people and can influence strongly whether a buyer perceives their company to be trustworthy.

When a buyer meets a seller, on the one hand they bring with them a modicum of skepticism about the seller’s competence and motives. On the other hand, when a buyer meets a seller for the first time, that seller has a blank trust slate.

It’s up to the seller to bring their “A” game and demonstrate competence and behave overall in ways that the buyer forms the impression that the seller is trustworthy. Every seller is essentially playing on the same playing field of trust. It’s what they do on that playing field that matters.

CG: What’s the biggest misconception sellers have about trust and where do sellers often fall short when it comes to establishing and maintaining trust with buyers?

MS: Everyone thinks they, themselves, are competent. Amazing, even. But they’re not. The concept is called, in academic circles, “Illusory Superiority.”

What does it mean for trust? Sellers overestimate their competence and buyers don’t. Proving they are competent and have integrity – that they are worthy of trust – is a steeper hill than many sellers think.

Insight selling plays in here. You need to get people to trust your ideas, your advice, and your ability to get things done for and with them. Until they have experience with you, the well of trust you build won’t be very deep. This is why collaboration is so powerful, because it creates shared experience where buyers can be exposed deeply to your competence while spending time with you. At the same time, spending time builds intimacy. All of it leads to trust.

If you want to learn how to sell like winners do, pick up your copy of Insight Selling today. If you order by May 10, RAIN Group has some great bonuses for you. You’ll receive the exclusive expert interview series What it Takes to Succeed in Sales Today with myself, John Jantsch, Jill Konrath, Andrew Sobel, and more along with 5 lessons from Insight Selling and RAIN Selling Online training programs. You’ll also be invited to join Insight Selling author, John Doerr for an exclusive webinar, What It Takes to Become an Insight Seller. Plus, RAIN Group is donating their portion of book sales during the launch to the American Heart Association to support congenital heart defect research (learn why here). So go order your copy today. Mike and John are the real deal.

Rediscovering Selling in Today’s Post-Recession World

I spoke recently with Brian Sommer, President of Vital Analysis, a technology resource firm. He had some insights about what’s happened to sales since the recession. Almost all of it applies to Trust Matters readers, so I asked him to write it up as a guest post. So, here’s Brian.


The recession of 2008/2009 was a bad one.  Organizations made a number of adjustments just to survive in the times that followed. Sales departments made deep personnel cuts as they had too little business for too many salespeople to chase.

Worse, the quality of the deals the remaining sales people pursued was often terrible. Every deal was brutally competitive; deal sizes were small; profit margins were non-existent; and, prospective customers couldn’t do some deals as commercial credit was almost non-existent. It was definitely a buyers’ market (for the paltry number of buyers that were actually out there).

Sales organizations and their personnel were adaptive in those times but many of those adaptations need to be halted now as those changes were a response to a market that doesn’t exist anymore.  A couple of years ago, your firm, if typical, pursued almost any lead that came in the door.  No matter that the deal wasn’t in your firm’s wheelhouse, wasn’t strategic and came from a flighty prospect, it represented the potential for revenue.  Your firm chased a lot of cats and dogs then. This needs to stop.

Selling Post Recession

Chasing Deals, and Other Sins.  Chasing bad deals isn’t the way to build a growing sustainable book of business. You need focus and you need a core set of strategic customers who work with you collaboratively. This is how you reduce sales costs, improve margins and grow your book of business with each customer. Chasing all that one-off stuff is a waste of energy and robs a firm of its future.  It’s also hard work. Building great relationships is easier and more rewarding.

Your firm may have committed other sins, too. During the recession, you probably oversaturated your existing customers with too many sales pitches, offers or entreaties just to drum up any business. No matter how many times they told you that they had no budget for anything, your sales team pursued them like a pack of wolves targeting the weakest member of a herd. It was brutal.

Unfortunately, your overzealous sales efforts have left these customers bruised and second-guessing why they ever thought of your firm as a strategic partner. They no longer like your firm like they did before the recession. Your sales efforts showed them that you valued their money and your sales more than you did their relationship. Simply put, you put your short-term financial needs ahead of their business needs and the partnership between your firms. You probably killed or severely wounded a number of these relationships.

Only now do firms realize the long-term costs that these short-sighted sales maneuvers created.  Now, firms must rediscover how to sell and sell in these new, recovering times.  Let’s hope it’s not too late for your firm. The pursuit of recession-era deals has clouded one sales organization after another and the pendulum must return to a more reasoned balance.

What must be done?

Rediscover that Customers are “Assets” not “Targets.”  Sometimes, in the heat of a sales promotion, you need to remember that there are finite limits as to what any one customer wants or needs. If you see them as assets, then you alter your behaviors and pitches to them.  If they are but a means to you hitting a sales quota this month, they’re just targets.  If a company treats me (or my firm) like a target, I see that company as a commodity supplier. I will not invest one ounce of extra effort, loyalty, etc. with that firm as they won’t reciprocate the gesture. I will invest in my partners – the businesses that value me and treat me like an asset.

Rediscover How Businesses Buy Today.  Buying has changed of late, with B2B buyers having done huge amounts of research, shortlisting, etc. via Internet resources long before your firm even knew a deal was in process. While this customer self-service activity doesn’t mean the end to relationship selling, it does mean that the way you spend the time you spend cultivating and growing your relationships is changing. Now, you have to grow relationships fast and learn how to make these last in spite of your competition putting all kinds of goodies out on the Internet that might tempt your customers away.

Rediscover that Trust Is Earned Over Time and Can’t be Rebuilt Overnight.  My commercial relationship with some firms (i.e., air carriers) has changed markedly over the last few years.  My trust in those companies was broken badly and I doubt it can ever be recovered. These firms would need a culture transfusion and/or new leadership to get my business back. At a minimum, some firms would need to replace the long-standing representative assigned to our firm as the mere sight of him/her stirs up so much animus.

You might benefit from rotating customer assignments as fatigued, weary customers might want a new face – someone who might treat them better and is genuinely interested in created a new kind of relationship.

The basics of great selling never really went away in the great recession of late. But, they, too often, got submerged beneath the dire and crushing short-term needs of that timeframe. It’s time to re-discover these basics again, while adapting them to a newer era of how selling works in an Internet fueled, omni-channel, global marketplace.

Selling To a Friend

Sell to a friend? Or not?

Maybe your firm would like to sell to XYZ company and it turns out you have a college classmate who works there.  Maybe you’ve become friendly with someone in a client company for which you’d like to do further work elsewhere in the organization. Maybe a neighbor down the street works for an organization you wish you could sell to.

Can you sell to a friend?  Should you? And even if the answers are ‘yes’ – how do you go about doing it?

The Ethical Quandary

Let’s face this head-on. The reason you’re reading this article in the first place is that you feel somehow squeamish about the prospect of selling to a friend. Part of you feels it’s unfair to take advantage of a friendship for the sake of sales. Or that it cheapens your friendship. More importantly, you’re concerned you might put your friendship at risk by appearing to use it for your own commercial gain.

Worst of all – you’re worried what your friend might think of you.

Well, rest assured: there are some times when it’s wrong to sell to a friend – and there are some times when it’s right. There are ways to tell the difference. And there is a way to do it that minimizes any risk. And when you follow these rules, any ethical quandary disappears.

Let’s be clear. If you’re coldly using a personal connection solely to get business, but you pretend otherwise, and you don’t truthfully much care about the consequences to your friendship, then you are indeed behaving unethically. And we struggle not only to be clear about our own motives, but with how it will appear to our friend. So, how can it be done ethically?

The Brother-in-Law Test

Imagine you’re watching football (your version of ‘football,’ of course) on the couch with your brother-in-law who is over to visit for the holiday weekend. At a break in the action, he asks you, “Listen, your company works in the widget services business. We’re thinking about buying some widget services; who do you think we should be talking to, and what should we be careful about in talking to them? And should we be talking to you guys?”

Most likely, your first response is not “Boy, have I got a deal for you!” You’d probably say something like, “Well, there are several things to think about. We do widget services of course, but there are others as well in that business. The first thing you need to think about is the scale of involvement you want; and next is probably the complexity of your customer base. Depending on those answers, you might want to talk to us, or to someone else.”

In other words, you’d probably approach your brother-in-law in the manner of a trusted advisor – someone who applies his expertise with the best interests of the client in mind. You place the long-term interests of a close relationship (family in this case) over the short-term interests of your business.

And, if you knew your firm wasn’t the best choice for your brother-in-law, you’d probably tell him as much. The point is, you’re more attached to your long-term relationship with family than you are to a sales transaction at work.

So – what’s the difference with a friend?

Selling to a Friend

The correct answer is – there shouldn’t be any difference. If your services aren’t the best fit for your friend’s company, then you shouldn’t be pitching her. And if you really do have the best solution for your friend’s company – then you should be selling it, if only because you’d like to see your friend and her company do well.

The real question isn’t whether you should treat a friend like a brother-in-law – it’s why you would treat any customer any differently?

Making the Sale

Notwithstanding all the above, it can be socially awkward to sell to friends – as much for the friend as for you. Relax, you don’t have to jointly take an ethics course. All you have to do is Name It and Claim It.

Acknowledge the issue out loud, and the elephant in the room disappears. You might say something like, “Look, I realize it could be awkward for us as friends to do business; I have no intention of jeopardizing our friendship, so I’m making this suggestion very mindfully.” Or, “I initially hesitated to raise this given our friendship, but realized I’d be cutting you off from something valuable if I didn’t speak up.”

In sum: if you wouldn’t sell it to your brother-in-law, don’t sell it to your friend. And if you would sell it to either one, say so, and say clearly why you’re doing it. If it’s the right thing for your friend to buy, then it’s the right thing for you to sell – to your friend as much as to anyone else.

The NFL, Ed Reed, and Trust

photo via jumpingpolarbear.comEd Reed is an NFL veteran defensive safety with an outstanding record of performance. But it’s not just physical prowess that gives him his edge – it’s mental too.

And I’m not talking about toughness, or attitude, or no-pain-no-gain hype. I’m talking about insight, knowledge, and learning. Those of us in advisory or sales capacities have a lot to learn from him.

Analysis or Instinct?

Which is better: to trust your gut, or to study a situation carefully? We have heard both answers, proverbially speaking: both “don’t jump to conclusions,” and, “he who hesitates is lost.

A better answer is – it depends. On the one hand – in a crazy stock market, it’s the cool-headed trader who can recognize fundamental dynamics and make the smart move. On the other hand – in a difficult meeting, it’s the person who can sense subtle mood shifts and instinctively respond who adds the most value.

But the best answer is – both. And this is what Ed Reed embodies.

Reed is legendary for his ability to read offenses. Increasingly, it’s noted that he spends a lot of time watching opposing teams’ video tapes, something that only coaches used to do. In a recent NYTimes article, Reed is quoted as saying, “When you see something on film, just believe it. Believe that something’s going to happen, and just go.”

This is trusting your instincts. It is also putting in time in careful study. “Before you come to work, come to work,” says Reed.

What’s the relationship? It’s one of sequence. The same as what Tiger Woods’ father told him when young: Practice, practice, practice – and then, trust your swing.

Study – then react. Think – then feel. Be intelligent – then sentient.

Being Ed Reed in Your Practice

We can’t all replicate anyone else we choose to. But we can pretty much all move in that direction, if we choose strongly enough.

If you’re in sales, get a process – but don’t treat it like the end-tool, use it to inform your relationships. By all means, get Salesforce – but don’t think great CRM alone will tell you how to read the body language on your client when you’re pitching the sale.  By all means do analytics on your past performance – just don’t forget to internalize the results.

(By the way, if you’ll forgive the obvious pitch: get the best of both by buying my Trust-based Selling Salesforce App, just released with Soliant Consulting).

If you’re in an advisory or consultative or coaching/mentoring role, get a model – but don’t treat it like a one-size fits all blunt instrument, use it to inform your judgment. Read Freud, and Covey, and Schein – but don’t treat your client like a final exam.

Above all, do your research in advance. The final thing you should do before going in to interact with clients and customers is to clear your mind, relax, turn on your senses. Stop rehearsing, stop repeating mantras, stop trying to motivate yourself.  Step aside, and trust your swing.

Being Ed Reed in Life

As I read up on Ed Reed for this blogpost, I couldn’t help but notice what people say about his personality. A particularly good piece is Ed Reed: Hiding in Plain Sight, by veteran ESPN sportswriter Kevin Van Valkenburg.

What emerges is the portrait of someone who has native intelligence, but who is also deeply empathetic. Comfortable in his own skin, not seeking the limelight. Someone who leads by attraction, not promotion. Someone who has the personal comfort level to feel the equal of his coaches, as well as humbly one of the team of players.

And while this post is just about the link between cognition and instinct, I can’t help but believe that link is greatly strengthened by his overall emotional make-up.

In so many ways, Descartes had it wrong when he said cogito, ergo sum. So often, it’s como sum, como cogito. (In case my Latin is faulty, that’s meant to say, “As I am, so do I think”).

Discomfort with Selling: Interview with Author Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore talks about being bold in the face of discomfort – a subject that quicklyBe Bold and Win got my attention.

Jeff is a sales expert, speaker, author and executive coach. He focuses far more than the usual person in this field on mindset issues, perhaps due to his combination of sales and cognitive behavioral therapy approach. Maybe that’s why I was so intrigued. His first book, Deal With It, was for salespeople coping with rejection.  His latest book, Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance, is forthcoming from McGraw-Hill in January 2014.

Here’s our conversation:

Charles Green. The title of your new book, Be Bold and Win the Sale, sounds very upbeat and motivational. Yet the book is built very much around the idea of embracing discomfort. That sounds like a very negative approach. How do you get from discomfort to being positive in relation to sales?

Jeff Shore. Discomfort is an inevitable part of the sales process. The most successful sales people have learned to embrace discomfort as an opportunity for growth, vs. avoiding it. From the perspective of potential change and growth, discomfort is inherently positive.

We all know people who have found a way of enjoying discomfort in order to achieve a goal or to maintain their daily life. We may not think about it in those exact terms, but when we do, it isn’t hard to come up with a list of people who experience joy in the discomfort of their pursuits. (Professional athletes, humanitarian aid workers, the list can go on and on).

We tend to think that people who enjoy discomfort are simply made of different stuff than the rest of us. That’s a handy explanation, but completely untrue. People who enjoy discomfort have trained themselves to do so. They have learned, on a deeper level, how and why the gain is worth the pain and they have reprogrammed their knee-jerk reaction to discomfort in order to recognize it for what it is: the means to a greater good.

CG: You also write and speak extensively about being bold. What does being bold mean to you and how is it related to discomfort in sales?

JS: It’s different from what we sometimes think of as “bold,” in that it’s not about aggressive selling or plowing over people to reach our individual goals. It is a humble, servant-oriented mindset. But it’s also the strategy we use to dismantle what I call “comfort addictions.” Being bold is about focusing on strengthening oneself in order to be equipped to better focus on and serve one’s clients.

Every time we have a moment of discomfort we also have a moment of decision. It takes boldness and a willingness to embrace discomfort to peel back the layers of our habitual actions that are based on decisions we make so quickly that we don’t even realize we are making them.

CG: This is very similar to what I mean by lowering our self-orientation. If we can stop feeling personally attacked, or fearful, in high-stress situations, then we can be free to pay attention to and be of service to our clients.

JS: Yes, and when we take the time to be honest and examine what we are thinking (fearing) and then analyze how those thoughts are defining our actions, we can gain a new understanding for ways in which we can improve in not only sales, but all of life. It’s not at all comfortable to face one’s own well-worn rationalizations or to choose to take action that is not our norm.

CG: Interesting. This reminds me a bit of Julien Smith’s excellent eBook, Flinch: he suggests we need to face our “flinch” moments and drive through them. So, how does ‘trust’ come into play in your message of being bold?

JS: First, trust always has to do with complete honesty and that is what I encourage people to embrace as a starting point: total honesty with themselves. Sales professionals are busy people with demanding quotas and deadlines. Over time, out of a sense of survival and/or efficiency, sales people inevitably develop habits that are not based on self-honesty.

By that I mean, there are so many potentially awkward moments in the sales process that sales people learn how to largely avoid these moments by basing their actions on possible outcomes vs. what actually is. The fear of losing a sale or of experiencing an intensely uncomfortable situation is what largely motivates most sales people. I believe that if a person can change their level of honesty with themselves, they will be freed up to change their actions and then, as I always say, they will be able to change someone’s world.

CG: Fear is a great motivator, but ultimately a limiting one. We need to get over it to get to a higher, more client-focused level.

JS: Trust also comes into play in my message of being bold in that it is crucial for people to understand and believe (trust) that boldness is not an inherent personality trait that is possessed by only the “heroes” amongst us. Boldness is a choice and an action. It can be learned. I have learned, and continue to, that this is true for everyone, including myself. If I hadn’t seen evidence of this in countless aspects of my own life, including my work in sales, I wouldn’t be so convinced of it. But, I have…over and over!

CG: I would echo that. Personally, I’ve never learned as well from positive examples or even positive experiences as from negative ones.

JS: I am utterly convinced that there is no growth without discomfort. Period. If you want to accomplish big things you must first accept and then appreciate discomfort. Every time you find yourself in an uncomfortable position you can be assured that an opportunity for success is around the corner. My mantra is: a moment of discomfort ALWAYS leads to a moment of decision.

CG: And what about that “moment of decision?” Say a bit more about how people can best respond to a moment of decision?

JS: In the book, I explore, analyze and dissect all of the how’s and why’s behind the sequence of feeling discomfort and then making a decision. I talk at length about retraining one’s mind and making “pre-decisions.” Again, being bold has everything to do with being bold with oneself: taking the time to recognize those moments in the sales process that are uncomfortable and coming to grips with one’s fears in relation to them.

When we honestly recognize how our actions are based on our perceived fears, it is then that we can make a plan for change and improvement. I encourage people to be very practical and pro-active in this process. In the book, there are spaces for readers to record what their usual responses (actions) to discomforts are and write down exact plans for different actions. This is part of the pre-decision process. When someone takes the time to foresee discomfort and plans for it by pre-deciding a positive response vs. their usual response, life changes for that person!

CG: You mentioned your work in sales. Can you give us a brief description of your career in sales and how you came to be an author?

JS: My sales career spans almost 30 years and in that time I’ve done it all – sales, sales leadership, executive leadership, consulting, training, speaking and writing. I wrote my first book, Deal With It!, to help salespeople overcome objections (a specialty of mine).

Be Bold and Win the Sale is my legacy book, my vocational ambition for many years. So much of a salesperson’s success is mental. I want to help high achievers to break through barriers and find the real prize.

CG: Jeff, thanks so much for taking the time to share with me today; I love your approach.

For more about Jeff Shore:

Learn more at
follow Jeff on Twitter
pre-order Jeff’s book Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance

Introducing the Trust-based Selling Salesforce App


Today is the opening of Dreamforce – this year’s grandest ever annual event 

Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Marc Benioff, Vivek Kundra, Wayne Dyer, and many more will appear at the Moscone Center and some of San Francisco’s largest hotels as the event takes over the town.

And now you can add one more item to the agenda – the release of the App for Trust-based Selling.

As the author of Trust-based Selling, I couldn’t be more proud to see it join the company of major sales books like Miller Heiman, SPIN Selling and others with their own Salesforce apps.

All thanks go to my developer partners, Soliant Consulting. I’ve worked with them for years, and they’re top-notch; as part of their database applications work, they build complex custom applications built on Salesforce.

Trust-based Selling is based on the simple idea that buyers greatly prefer to do business with those they trust. Trust can be broken down and taught through the Trust Equation and trust principles, as described both in the book and in the app. But it only works for those who grasp its basic premise – that you actually have to care about your customer.

The Trust-based Selling Salesforce App brings those concepts to life on the tried and true Salesforce platform.

If you’re at Dreamforce this week, look up the team from Soliant to ask them more about the Trust-based Selling App, starting with MD Craig Stabler. And enjoy the event.

Applying Trust Principles to Pricing

A New Perspective on PricingLet’s get tactical.

Friend Mark runs a small coaching business, mainly by himself.  He focuses on an intersection of personal and business development issues: helping people get unstuck.

The usual approaches to pricing in that business are tried and true. Rates are typically quoted for a month at a time, over a planned period of months. Variations on the theme are weekly rates, or hourly rates with a stipulated number of hours agreed upon up front.

Basically, it’s a time-based fee linked to some agreement about the period of time over which the agreement will be in effect. It’s an arrangement familiar not only to coaches, but to consultants, lawyers and other professionals.

Attempts are occasionally made to introduce value-based billing. The attempts succeed or founder based on both the definition of value, and the percent of said value attributable to the professional. I’d love to hear from readers about successful examples, but I’ve rarely run across them.
Mark, however, has some interesting ideas.  Let him tell it.

Many of my clients are hourly-type billers like me.  Since it takes me 8 hours, on average, to get a client from stuck to where they want to be…one approach is to charge them 8x the rate THEY bill at. Using their rates rather than mine, I suspect, is both easier to comprehend for them, and it strikes them as client-focused.

Another approach is that I figure I can work with about a hundred paying clients a year.  So, each client represents 1% of my income.  So I now ask 1% of their income as the fee.

Again, from what I can see, it engenders even more trust in the coaching relationship, helps things go faster, and makes it more likely for clients to refer.  Now, there’s no way I’d ask them to verify that the figure they give me is 1% of their income – I leave it all up to them.  And, of course, if they aren’t satisfied with the journey, I don’t charge them at all.  I leave that entirely up to them.  [David Maister used to do the same—CHG]

I see two powerful themes in the approaches that Mark is developing. First, I’m sure the pricing feels more ‘fair’ to his clients, because he is overtly working off their economic model, not his. It’s the opposite of one size fits all.

The other thing is that he trusts his clients – right from the outset. And as I’ve often written about, the impulse toward reciprocity plays out strongly in trust. We live up to the trust people place in us – and live down to the suspicions others have of us.

I asked Mark, “Have you ever, to your knowledge, been screwed over by an unscrupulous client taking advantage of your ‘honor-box’ approach to pricing?”

Mark’s answer: “Never.”

Riding the Shark: Vanquishing Fear in Selling, Part 4 of 4: Shark-proof Your Selling

Shark ProofingThis is the final post in a four-part series on Fear in Selling.  In the first part, I talked about the importance of dealing with fear in sales. In the second part, I wrote about the four types of fear.  In the third part I talked about fending off the sharks of fear. In this last part I talk about Shark-proofing your market – how to banish fear permanently.

The Sharks of Fear: Beyond Shark Repellent

There are Four Sharks of Fear:

1. Execution Fear. “I might mess up in doing this sale; I might not do it right.”
2. Competence Fear. “I might not know how to do this sale right; I may not even know I don’t know.”
3. Outcome Fear. “I might not get the deal at all – everything I wanted to happen won’t happen.”
4. Shame-based Fear. “They’re not going to like me or respect me anymore; and they’re probably right.”

While each can be dealt with tactically (see part 3), fear is a classic case where an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.  So – how do you conduct your selling life in ways that keep the Sharks of Fear permanently at bay?

It can be done.

Five Keys to Vanquishing the Sharks of Fear in Selling

First, let’s be clear where the solution does not lie. It is not in your sales process. You won’t find the key in sales management, and you won’t get there by tweaking your value proposition.

Instead, it consists of constantly applying five principles, or values, to every aspect of your selling life.  And here they are.

1. Always Sit on the Same Side of the Table. You are on the same team as your customer. Your interests are allied. There is no such thing as win-lose or lose-win, there is only win-win or part on friendly terms. You are not playing a zero-sum game, you are looking for a mutually beneficial relationship.

Don’t speak, write or think anything that posits you vs. your customer – your proper seat is on the same side of the table as your customer.

2. The Customer Gets Theirs First. The way to a successful partnership is not by insisting on 50-50 from the outset and at every step of the way. It comes from being gracious, putting the customer’s needs first, offering up some value, taking some risks, and listening before talking. The single best behavioral tool you can employ for this principle is – listen empathetically, long, and well. The result is that, when it’s your turn, you will be listened to in the same way.

Yes, a trust-based partnership has to work for both of you; but you get there by being willing to first focus on the customer’s needs, not your own.

3. Play the Long Game. The most powerful force in selling is the natural human tendency to return good for good, and bad for bad. Again – the most powerful force. Time, though of this way, is your friend, because time lets you develop relationships, not transactions. The more you develop relationships, the more your transactions will have context; and it’s a context of mutual courtesy, obligation and goodwill.

Don’t think of the sales process as a transaction, to be repeated. Think of it as a relationship, with ongoing interactions, but with a permanence all its own. And remember – the way you behave is the way you will be treated in turn. You empower what you fear; and you get back what you put out.

4. Keep No Secrets.  Transparency is to fear as a cross is to vampires. If you have no secrets, then there can be no surprises. If you don’t know something, say so. If you have information, share it. If you’re the best for the job, say so and say why. And if you’re not, say so as well – and that will be a lot more believable. Be the same person at all times to all people.

There are three exceptions, of course. Don’t give away trade secrets; don’t do anything illegal; and don’t hurt someone. Other than that, deal strictly in the Truth in all your affairs, and no one can or will fault you.  (And if you think giving away all your information will empower your competitors, think again – they can never replicate your relationships).

5. Lead With Your Chin. The thing that triggers trust, allows you to play the long game, and encourages collaborative reciprocal behavior is to be the one to take the first risk. Never mind what Ronald Reagan said – there is no trust without risk. If you want to create trust, you must lead with risk-taking.

Talk price early, not late. Admit your shortcomings up front. Give away samples – especially if you’re in an intangible services business. Have a point of view. Go out on a limb. Invest a little time, rather than checking your sales efficiency watch every minute. Dare to empathize.


That’s it. If you conduct your sales life by those principles, about 90% of customers will return your behavior in kind. The other 10%? Leave them to your competitors. Life is too short. And be assured, they won’t do as well as you and the 90% anyway.