Driven and Distracted: The Secret Problem Many Salespeople Share

A career in sales can be exciting and rewarding. The admin work required? It sucks. CRMs. Expenses. Sales reports. They take away your selling time with little payback. Other tasks, like customer follow-through, are essential to a sales person’s success. Doing them requires discipline and neglecting them GETS you disciplined.

Do you struggle with any of the following problems?
1. Difficulty completing boring-yet-important tasks, like entering calls
2. Habitually turning sales reports in late
3. Not fulfilling commitments to customers-even the important ones
4. Forgetting to bring something crucial to a sales call
5. Doing twice the work of your teammates because of any of the above problems
6. Feeling as if you’re the only rep on the team with these issues

Are these symptoms of a careless sales rep? A manager may think so. Heck, you may agree. To a mental health professional, these are possible symptoms of ADD or ADHD. (Yes, they are two different disorders. For simplicity’s sake I’ll stick to ADHD).

As you know, in sales, effort does not always equal output. Have you ever worked your tail off on a sale only to appear lazy or disorganized? Therein lies the problem. Administrative difficulties can push you away from an otherwise likeable job. At the same time, they distract management from your true effectiveness as a salesperson.

Here are 6 steps to addressing and feeling better about those little problems that add up:

1. Get tested for ADHD/ADD. See a psychiatrist or other physician AND talk a counselor. Why both? One focuses on things from a medical perspective and the other works on how you think. Accept that ADHD is a real affliction. Although you won’t be forced to take medicine, most are proven effective and safe. Do you have a child or other family member that’s been diagnosed? It runs in families. To better understand the symptoms of ADHD and how it’s diagnosed click here.*

2. Get rational about the World. After a mistake, you need to pick yourself up, not beat yourself up. Yes, forgetting your power cord at home, can make you want to throw your company laptop out the window. Stop and think. What can you change about what happened in the past? Anger and self-torture only take MORE time away from doing a better job in the future. And, a supportive, non-manipulative manager won’t be impressed with your self-loathing. You control only your own actions and feelings, not those of others. To take responsibility and stop upsetting yourself, check out, “How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything”, by Albert Ellis.

3. Get rational about customers. Yes, you play an important role in the sales process, but, you’re not the main character. Your clients are thinking, breathing, human beings that act on their own freewill. You don’t truly control their decision-making. After losing a sale, you’ll always be able to find fault in your actions. Stop telling yourself a flawless sales presentation would’ve guaranteed success. You’ve probably made some of the same mistakes with the clients you’ve won. ADHD is not an excuse, but a fact of life. Focus on getting better, not on being perfect.

4. Get organized. This is step 4 for a reason. If you lack a rational view of yourself and your customers, no to-do list will save you. Before you rush out to buy the next killer new app or Day Planner, change your work habits. In, “The Power of Habit”, author Charles Duhigg explains how you can replace bad habits with good. When its time to add technology (digital or paper), check out “Taking Control ADHD” podcast for tips on the latest tech and coping strategies. Always keep in mind, if you have ADHD, you WILL make mistakes again, Being organized will help you reduce, not eliminate, them.

5. Play to your strengths. Many people with ADHD are highly creative. Despite forgetting to put your calls in, you may be the best on your team at answering objections or crafting new solutions. Use that strength and don’t be shy about having it. This also means reconsidering the type of product you sell and company you work for. Companies that offer more autonomy to sales people tend to require less reporting.

6. Measure yourself differently. Accept that you may never be the best at the mundane parts of your job. Nothing about ADHD is a death sentence. Making mistakes and continuing to move forward separates those who improve and those who stagnate. “You’re Never Going to Be “Caught Up” at Work. Stop Feeling Guilty About It.”, is the title of a recent Harvard Business Article by Art Markman.

Ultimately, all of us work for ourselves. So, be a good boss! When you support yourself win or lose, you find the strength to accomplish more.


5 Reasons to Colossally Fail at Your Next Interview

When interviewing for a sales job, everything is big. Big salaries, big titles, and big benefits. They all hang in the balance when we flash our opening smile to start the interview process. Despite what anyone would have you think, few interviews, even when aced, actually end in a job offer. In fact, if you the interviewee, don’t take action, you will likely be walking to your car an hour later not knowing much more than you did at the start.

Traditional interviewing advice tells you act as if you want the job long before you actually do. Be polite. Be enthusiastic. Answer questions thoroughly. Actively listen.

Instead of playing the good candidate, why not make a point of getting you own questions answered first? Does this mean you should be rude? If your interviewer won’t relinquish control of the conversation, I’d say “Yes, maybe a little.” You could say something a simple as, “Mrs. Interviewer, I’d be happy to answer your question, but before we move on I need to know about…” Get your questions answered ASAP and don’t apologize. Why?

Consider the following 5 benefits to risking all-out job interview failure:

1. You find out what you really want to know.
Do you really want to wait until you’ve had six interviews and you’ve flown across the country to find out the company can’t pay what you need to make? Can you imagine accepting a job for a company that sells their services at a 20-30% premium over their competitors for no clear reason? People do it all the time (I’m not proud to admit I know from experience). Don’t wait until you’ve fallen in love with the job to find out!

2. You save yourself from a job you’d hate.
Find out here and now what the boss is really like. According to research, people often freely enter romantic relationships with gaps in knowledge about the other person. They fill in these gaps with positive assumptions ie. “I’m sure he likes to go shopping.” or “I’m sure she likes to go on vacation” (See more on Aaron T. Beck’s research below). Don’t start the job interview process the same way! Many interviewers are simply looking to quickly dismiss unqualified candidates. It’s OK for you to take the same approach and look to quickly eliminate job opportunities that aren’t a fit for you. Just like any other relationship, you don’t want to jump in half-blind and hope for the best.

3. Even if you do offend your interviewer, you’ll learn that failure isn’t lethal.
Let’s say you get your questions answered, but bomb the interview, what now? Should you call 911? Chances are you uncovered some valuable information such as you never want to work for that person or company. Conversely, you may find that you are finally sold on working there and are now truly motivated to re-double your efforts at getting hired. When the time comes to ask bold questions in your next interview, you will be more confident. In his book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants”, author Malcolm Gladwell shares that people can overcome tall odds using the confidence of having nothing to lose. If you’re not sure if you want the job, you too have nothing to lose!

4. Direct, honest questions benefit employers as well.
Even if they do get their interview interrupted and pride questioned, employers learn from your questions exactly what is important to you. They also learn that you are not afraid to challenge an authority figure. This is a sales skill sometimes required in order to work with headstrong customers. In a broader sense, asking difficult-yet-sincere questions demonstrates you actually care about the job fit. You are serious about your job search and you would not join their company simply for the sake of having a job.

5. If all else fails, you at least gain some funny anecdotes to share with your friends.
When it’s clear that neither you nor your career died because of a single job interview, you will see the absurdity of it all. I’ve interviewed for my share of sales jobs over the years, most of which, I am happy I did not get offered. Some of the hiring managers I’ve met could walk straight out of the movie Office Space. One told me his greatest strength was being a micromanager!
When you know, deep down, you want the job you will do a better job interviewing for it. The single biggest mistake I’ve made in this process is giving employers the benefit of the doubt. Assuming you’ll like the job without getting the information you need, leaves your career and your happiness to chance. Don’t waste time convincing yourself it’s the right job. Determine what you want and ask for it. Your future self will thank you!


To find Malcom Gladwell’s book on Amazon click here.

Aaron T. Beck wrote an insightful entitled “Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstandings, Resolve Conflicts, and Solve Relationship Problems Through Cognitive Therapy”. In it, he describes in detail the mistakes people make when entering romantic relationships. To find it on Amazon click here.

Don’t Take Another Breath Without READING THIS NOW!

The sky is falling! Just ask your favorite business blogger! Out of work? Need a better job? Here’s five things you MUST do before your next job interview. Not selling enough? Here’s the six things you SHOULD be saying to all of your customers. If you find yourself irritated with with the flood of fear-engendering advice on social media, you’re not alone. As you read this, another list of the 5 things you MUST do is waiting for you in one of your accounts. Go ahead, read it, and come back. I’ll wait…

Back so soon? The article didn’t change your life? Below, I’ve shared my pet peeves with the melodrama of the blog posts I call “must lists”. They would have us reading all day if they could. After all, the danger of not taking their advice is just too great! Rest assured, you will not lose a good job or a big sale if you choose not to read my concerns below. You may, however, relate to some of the absurdity I discuss. I welcome your comments at the end of this post.

When reading sensational, must-list posts, first consider the source.
I admit, articles with titles like, “The 5 Keys to Winning Your Dream Sales Job” seduced me for years. Often, they are written by job recruiters turned career experts. Heck, I still read them today for entertainment purposes!. While masquerading as experts with close ties to employers, most recruiters do what you already do – send resumes and hope for a response.

When you gain experience selling in a field, you quickly advance beyond the shallow level of industry knowledge the typical sales recruiter possesses. Their goal is to send as many qualified candidates as they can to raise the likelihood of earning a placement fee. Their advice tends to be very specific and certain, yet unproven. Never talk salary. Always close for the next interview. Emphasize your experience in blank. None of this ever guarantees success. If they really were interviewing experts, wouldn’t they be working a better job?

Authors use titles with words like “must” and “should” to scare you into reading their blog posts.
On the surface, using these two words seems just part of living in the real world. It’s reasonable to think that you MUST sell product to stay employed. Ask a therapist, and you will be told beliefs using these words are irrational.

Underneath your “must sell” belief is a deeper, “must keep my job” belief. This tells you that losing your job makes you a bad person. Using ‘must’ and ‘should’ when giving advice is an easy way to appear authoritative without having any real responsibility. Nothing happens to me, the author, if my advice turns out to be useless. Even worse, I’ve now encouraged you to incorporate a ‘must’ or ‘should’ into your belief system. In reality, there are no must-Do’s or Don’ts, only choices. If you’d like to delve further into freeing yourself from the musts and shoulds in your life, read “How To Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).

Blog posts titles often want you to compare yourself to others and feel inferior in an effort to get you to get your attention.
The nine habits of top performing sales people imply that whatever you’re doing, it’s not good enough. Somewhere in the list provided are surely one or more habits you neglect. Shame on you! Ask yourself, does this feeling of inferiority actually help you? Worse yet, does following these habits guarantee success? No two customers, products, or industries are alike. Why would there ever be a universal list of keys to success that applied to all of us? Before you can seriously question this, a new must list appears in your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter feed.

Bloggers (including your’s truly) can oversimplify complex problems.
Sometimes, the dilemmas we face simply need more time and consideration It’s like handing a widow a blog post entitled, “Six Quick and Easy Ways to Handle the Loss of a Loved One”, while she’s leaving the funeral. As blog writers, we want to gain your attention with quick, easy-to read articles that keep you coming back to our site. There’s no way to give you the same level of stunning and relevant insight in five minutes of reading versus an hour or longer. I reference books that dive a level deeper whenever possible not only to give proper credit, but also to provide a true return on the time spent.

The advice your given conflicts with other advice, even from the same blog.
Dress formally. Dress casual. Be aggressive. Be patient. Start a conversation with small talk. Never start a conversation with small talk. On and on it goes. Absorbing it all can be mind-numbing. As as misguided follower of must lists, you will easily find that whatever choice you make is wrong and worse, you should have known better. Inaction is often our response. Instead of feeling inspired, you’re left with a little less time in your day and a little more guilt.
Does chasing must lists sound like fun? Instead, here’s four things you can do to feel more fulfilled (just kidding!). As mentioned, I still read these kind of posts. No blogger or business writer wants to give bad advice and not all of their advice is bad. It’s often the packaging of their ideas that undermines them. And yes, most recruiters mean well too. I have friends who swear by them (instead of ‘at’ them like I do!). Just take what all bloggers say with a grain of salt. Look at all must posts with a healthy dose of skepticism. Finally, If faced with a serious problem, consider committing time to reading a book or speaking to an expert you trust and respect.



To find Dr. Ellis’ book on Amazon, click here.

4 Reasons To Treat Your Sales Force Like Management

How Does Your Company Treat It’s Salesforce? To Your Customer, It Means A Lot!

Company A employs a herd of undisciplined, self-entitled, complainers who call themselves sales people. It’s a continual struggle to teach and motivate them. Thankfully, a handful of good ones do what they’re told and manage to carry the rest of the group.

Company B leverages the knowledge, experience, and relationships of it’s sales people. They employee less sales people than Company A simply because their people are more fully engaged. The entire organization understands that, without customers, there are no sales and, without sales people, there are no customers.

As a sales person, which company do YOU want to work for? Today you can find everything from Facebook memes to college textbooks extolling the virtues of gratefulness and having a positive attitude – especially for sales people.

Shouldn’t these concepts also apply to a company’s attitude toward it’s own sales people? Instead, they are continually measured, questioned, and right-sized.

Here are four reasons companies should treat sales people like experts first and allow them to prove their worth second:

Reason 1: Sales people are the face of your company.

To your customers, your sales people ARE your company. They represent both the good and the bad of what your product or service delivers. If that crucial representative lacks the ability to serve the customer, the entire company suffers.

Reason 2: Customers are more inclined to trust people they know.

A sales rep that has proven her value will gain much more insight than any focus group facilitator. Why? Being paid to take part in surveys or focus groups skews the answers of participants. A well-trained, empowered, sales person can ask the right questions when the customer’s guard is down and get better information in return. Customers are often more willing to share their thoughts positive and negative about what the company offers.

Reason 3: Sales people are better able to gain competitive information.

In most of the companies I’ve worked for, Marketing and Sales Management are the last people to find out about what the competition is doing. Why? It’s the sales people who are in customer offices, seeing competitive literature, getting customer feedback on competitors, and even reading their proposals.

Reason 4: Customers buy from sales people.

Did I mention they are the face of the company? In today’s marketplace, customers lack the patience for vendor titles or org charts. Regardless if you are a service rep or CEO, customers want to know the same thing – what you can do for them. They are more likely to give their business to an entry level rep that can answer their questions quickly and throughly than waiting days for someone more important to come in from headquarters. “This person who deals with you on a regular basis has no valuable information or power to help you,” is not the message you want to send to your customers.

If you’re company was a world class athlete, your sales people would be the lungs. Revenue would be the oxygen the lungs take in. Does this make sense or even seem obvious? Instead of celebrating the people who bring life to our companies, we scorn them. We say they’re overpaid. They’re spoiled. They’re demanding. Finding and dealing with customers is never easy. Every sale is a customer choice – not a sales person’s. Taking the sales force for granted is taking the customer for granted. There is no greater example of entitlement than that.

The Solution
Support your sales people. Give them the information the customer needs and the power to get things done. Ask their opinion and listen. Respect what your sales people say about customer feedback instead of dismissing it as negativity. Turn your sales management function into sales enablement. Really, make the change. Make it abundantly clear to EVERYONE in your organization that customers, who fund their paychecks, need sales people!



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Sales Words: The Performance Effect

Jealous of the Top Performers on Your Sales Team? Here’s a Reason to Reconsider.

In addition to recognition and accolades, top performing sales people enjoy a hidden side benefit that helps them retain there status for ever longer. What I call the Performance Effect is the added motivation gained from simply being a top sales person. Whereas before, you might have identified yourself as a mediocre performer, now you have the extrinsic reinforcement that say you’re a top gun. To you, it makes sense to spend that extra hour or two making an extra call or answering an extra RFP. All the while, everyone else on the sales force wonders how you do it. For reps with steadily growing territories and stable performance metrics, the performance effect may sustain itself for months, if not years. For sales reps who experience significant and frequent changes, the effect may be fleeting.

As shocking as it may sound, the performance effect is something to avoid rather than envy. The reason? All good things come to an end – even for star sales people. One small change in performance measurement, product pricing, or territory geography is all that may be required. The longer a rep believes his own positive press, the more profound the fall from hero to zero can be. Sales people experiencing this abrupt change may become bitter and experience a level of self-doubt. A rep feeling this way may feel she somehow “lost her mojo”.

Unlike other jobs, sales people experience a wiping clean of their performance slate every year. We start every year with $0 in sales and essentially need to prove the right to keep our job once again. Therefore, more so than in others professions, sales people need to be reinvigorated. Daniel Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, believes we all need to see the power of intrinsic motivation. Having a strong sense of meaning or purpose in your job makes you resistant to the extrinsic ups and downs of things like quota attainment. According to Mr. Pink, other essential factors to motivation include autonomy and mastery.

To check out the book click here. If you decide to purchase, please use my link. Doing so supports this blog and keeps me writing!



Sales Words: The Closer’s Fallacy

If Closing Is Essential To Generating Sales, Why Do I Win Business Without Doing It?

Nothing stirs up emotion, positive and negative, in sales people like the “C” word. Some think it’s a relic of the past. Others contend it’s more important to close customers now than ever.

The Closer’s Fallacy is the mistaken idea that the close itself generates the sale. If you can just ask that perfect question, in the right manner, at the end of a call, the customer has no choice but to say yes. Modern research, such as that cited by David Hoffield in “The Science of Selling”, proves that customers make multiple decisions throughout a sales presentation – not just at the end. They seek out answers to their own questions and make their own decisions.
Merely asking your child to brush his teeth applies a form of pressure. So does asking your customer for her business. As a parent, you have leverage. Do what I say because I’m your parent and I said so.. With customers, no such leverage exists. Therefore, sales people can exert strong influence, but never truly compel their customers to take action.



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Eight Ways Salespeople Ask To Be Manipulated

Yes. We in sales are victim to many things out of our control. Unrealistic employers. Unreasonable customers. They can make us feel like toys in a the mouth of golden retriever. At the same time, we fail to see how we set ourselves up to be manipulated.

Here are eight ways sales people unknowingly allow themselves to be manipulated:

1. They’re not honest about what they want.

It’s OK that you took sales your job because it was a stepping stone or you simply needed a paycheck. It’s also OK that you got fooled into thinking your job was more lucrative or rewarding than it actually is. Being thankful for what you DO have is always more rational than lamenting the things you SHOULD have. It’s irrational to expect what you want to be handed to you, without having to ask. If you want your customer to make a commitment, ask for it. If want to be promoted, make it known to your boss. Otherwise, why should anyone help you if they think you’re already satisfied?

2. They’ll do almost anything to make more money.

Bad news! Beyond about $75k a year in household income, more income doesn’t result in more happiness. In his book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants“, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates that you really can have too much of a good thing including money. In fact, after a certain point, more household income makes raising children more, not less, difficult! If true happiness could be bought, rich people would always be happy. Instead, they always want more out of life, just like the rest of us. If you doubt what I say, add up all the salary you’ve made in your entire career. Do you still derive lasting happiness from all the money you’ve made? I didn’t think so.

3. They overpromise to customers.

Would you say anything to get the sale? For sales people, getting answers to customer questions can feel like time-consuming grunt work. For customers, getting those answers from you can make the difference between a product to buy and one to avoid. Yes, some customers will waste your time. It’s up to you to qualify them in advance and only commit to what is realistic. If your customer expects perfection, you probably haven’t educated them properly. Telling them what they want to hear without the backup of truth is a recipe for disaster. If you think answering pre-sale questions is grunt work, wait until you have to deliver on an unrealistic expectation! Not every objection is a deal-killer either. It’s your job to find out.

4. They overpromise to their management.

Yes, bosses do love employees who do what their told and make them feel smart. The problem? Everyone is wrong once in a while. If you don’t respectfully question your manager, you create in-need grief in the future. A prime example of this is forecasting. You know your leadership wants an aggressive number, so you give it to them. Congratulations! You’ve just put unrealistic pressure on yourself that you will, inevitably, transfer to your customers. When this backfires, you may cause reactance* or an overwhelmingly negative customer reaction. Remember, sales reps get fired over lost business, not conservative forecasts. See my previous post, “In Sales, “Playing The Game” means “You Lose” For a discussion on this.

5. They fail to question the company on behalf of customers and vice versa.

In business, telling others only what they want to hear helps no one. The best sales people balance the needs of their employer and their customers. If your company currently loses money on your product, they may need to raise its price. Sometimes your job is to sincerely explain this to customers. Conversely, price increases can make your product truly unaffordable for a customer, despite the value it provides. It’s also your job to explain this to your management.

6. They assume they have no career options.

Is only thing you hate more than your current job is the process of finding a new one? It’s easier to do your job in public and complain in private. However, employers don’t respect job tenure as much as they used to. Adaptability to change is held at a high premium. Overstaying your job is like holding a losing investment. The losses can pile up. You may regain lost income and skills that can result from staying too long. The time you lose can never be replaced.

7. They fail to scrutinize the product or service offering when accepting a sales job.

If you’re new to sales, getting your foot in the door with a mediocre market player is ok. Ultimately, it’s up to YOU to find good products to sell and good companies to work for. No salesperson, including you and I, is good enough to overcome a poorly priced or designed product that isn’t supported. Don’t let your ego take the place of the facts. Your sales career is about more than you and how good you are. Do your homework. Talk to customers. Talk to other sales people. Make an informed decision. Even if you’ve been in the same job for years, it never hurts to objectively re-evaluate your situation.

8. They chase winning harder than a dog chases a stick.

Sales competitions, Table tennis. Whatever the contest, is losing never an option for you? While competitiveness can predict success in simple sales cycles (ie. retail), it restricts your growth in more complex, higher-ticket sales jobs. Why? When competing, we narrow our focus. Complex sales situations require creativity thinking.

Still, if you’re determined to reduce your job to a game of win or lose, don’t forget who makes the rules. It’s not you. It’s not your manager. It’s the customer. See my post, “Think BACk: Freewill Is A Bitch!”, for a more thorough discussion on this. If you push product A, when your customer needs product B, she’ll conclude you put your own needs first. As a result, you may lose the opportunity to sell anything to her company. All because you needed to win.
It may seem, at first, the answer to avoiding manipulation is to turn around and manipulate others first. Not so! Instead, focus on being true to yourself, your company, and your customer. Balancing the needs of all three is never easy, but it’s what a job in sales demands.


To check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” on Amazon click here.

*I first learned the term “reactance” from David Hoffield in his Book, “The Science Of Selling.” It’s a comprehensive, science-based look at the sales profession. To check it out on Amazon click here.

5 Popular Sales Tactics that are Manipulation in Disguise

The most important timeframe for sales people is NOW. The most important goal? GROWTH. Losing bids and losing customers is secondary. The problem? Think back to your best personal experience with a sales person. It’s doubtful he or she was forceful or deceiving in any way. Don’t your customers deserve the same treatment? You know not to lie to customers – even though it can bring short-term success. It’s time to reconsider any sales tactic in your arsenal that doesn’t directly help customers.

Here are five sales tactics that are manipulation in disguise:

1. Non-verbal Persuasion

Think mirroring, using facial expressions, how we dress, eyc contact, etc. These tactics are scientifically proven to make a good impression on a customer. They subconsciously make us more appealing. Is this such a bad thing? Maybe not, but imagine a salesperson dressing like you, posing like you, and smiling like you. Creepy!

2. Passive-Aggressive Pressuring

This is anything from showing up smiling at the same client every day to casually mentioning a tragedy experienced by a company similar to theirs. Whether or not your customer notices immediately is irrelevant. Although your words and actions are polite, what do your actions communicate? Is the insight you’re presenting really a cause for concern? Fear mongering and fake kindness waste your customer’s time and ruin relationships. Customer’s work on their own schedule, not yours.

3. Lying by Omission

This one should be obvious but sales people do it everyday. It’s the fine print that we omit from our presentations. It’s the discount card telling you your medicine is $15 when it ends up costing $150. It’s not alway our fault. Sometimes, corporate keeps us in the dark. What the customer doesn’t know, WILL, eventually hurt them. Getting the sale is never worth risking your credibility. Tell the whole truth.

4. Relationship Selling

Strong business relationships are paramount. Personal relationships can be very helpful, but only when they’re genuine. Don’t be the sales person who goes to family parties or sporting events with clients he can’t stand. Sooner or later your customer will know your a fake and so will you. Try hanging with your real friends a little more. They probably miss you!

5. Keeping Score (Quid Pro Quo)

This means using favors of any sort as leverage. John David Mann and Bob Burg’s book, “The Go Giver”, sums it up nicely.  Among other sage advice, they implore us stop keeping score. Stop expecting something in return for the extra care and service you give to your customers.  Instead, be generous because it’s the right thing to do.  Aren’t you annoyed by sales people who think they can trade a free gift in exchange for a high-pressure sales presentation? To truly give something “free of charge” is to offer it without ANY strings attached.

The verdict:
Are you a horrible person because you’ve used one of these sales tactics I’ve mentioned? Not at all. What separates manipulation from skilled selling is sincerity. If you are having a good conversation, you probably automatically use non-verbal relating techniques. Put your time into answering objections instead of avoiding them. If your customer turns out to be a nice guy our gal, be their friend. Just be a real friend, not one that asks for something in return.

But these techniques work!  Isn’t it my job to sell?  Yes, manipulation techniques do work, but only until your customer figures them out. Then you’re screwed. Don’t risk losing next year’s customers by manipulating them today.



If you’d like to get out “The Go Giver” book on Amazon click here.

In Sales, “Playing The Game” Means "You Lose!"

Are you playing the game?
Do you ignore the inept policies, bad managerial decisions, and unrealistic expectations that come with your sales job in hopes for a brighter future? Do you instead do EXACTLY what you’re told in the manner you’re told to do it? Do you tell management what they want to hear, not how you really feel?
Why We Do It:
You look good to your manager.
You get favored treatment.
You have job security.
You see no other alternative, except the shame of undperformance.
Why We Shouldn’t Do It:
1. You look good only if your numbers are good.
Most of us are only two bad quarters away from a performance improvement plan. Following company protocols rarely, if ever, saves anyone with weak sales results.
2. You take incomplete or bad advice.
If making the sale was as simple as following the 5 step strategy you learned in training, you wouldn’t have a job. A high school kid would be doing it. There is always more to do and learn than management tells you.
3. You often don’t improve your skills.
Doing only what your told is a convenient excuse for not trying anything new. It’s been years since your boss has really sold anything. Have the courage to expand your abilities by talking to customers, reading books etc.
4. You are vulnerable to the next market change.
Selling by the book may pay handsomely now, but when your market changes, you’ll be behind the reps who were thinking ahead.
5. You annoy your customers.
Your customers pay for the value that you and your product bring them. Even the ones that like you have limited patience. Don’t waste their time with anything that doesn’t meet their needs even if it makes the boss happy.
6. You perpetuate the very conditions you complain about.
Can you lose weight without diet or excercise? If you don’t at least TRY to change your company for the better, nothing will happen! The pharmaceutical industry is a great example. For years, many doctors have often not allowed sales reps to talk to them. To make their sales call metrics, pharma reps have, for years, simply put fake calls into their CRM systems. The result? Unrealistic call metrics never go away!
Modern research supports not playing the game as well. For a more in-depth analysis, read on:
Sales is a world of accountability gone wild. When they say “Sell!”, we say “How Much!” Yet we are only as good as our latest sales report. Again, regardless past achievements , most of us are only two bad quarters away from a performance plan. You tell yourself you seek challenge, achievement, and money but more so, you fear failure.
In her book, “Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas”, Professor Laura Empson says that many companies look for employees they describe as “insecure overachievers”. These employees hide their insecurity behind a tremendous work ethic.  Many salespeople suffer from what I call the Oxygen Mask Problem.  “Please put your own mask on before attending to children” We’ve all heard the safety message when flying. The Insecure Overachiever does the opposite. He or she thinks that taking care of everyone else will ultimately result in taking care of herself.  Except the world doesn’t work that way, especially in sales.
Playing The Game
Playing the game in a sales job means blindly following a set of rules with the hope that your career will be taken care of. As an official game player, you may see others who don’t follow suit as irresponsible or reckless. Ironically, it’s you that is not facing up to reality.
Sales people complain about everything from unfair pay, to manufacturing delays, to the color choices for their next company car.  Some complaints are frivolous.  Some are not. Either way, when at the next company meeting, a manager asks for feedback, you, the good rule-follower, remain hidden in the crowd refusing to speak up.  Then, at the hotel bar later that evening, you unleash your complaints on whomever will commiserate. Congratulations! Send me your jersey size because you are officially playing the game!
You tell yourself there are valid reasons for doing this.  It’s what everybody else does.  It avoids getting you noticed for being a complainer. It puts you on your boss’s good side.  Playing the game paves the way to your next promotion. It’s the best thing to do for you and your family. When the opportunity comes to act independently or speak up you turn it down. Ironically, in an effort to avoid betraying the system, you betray yourself.
Take A Time Out
Change is scary isn’t it? The system you hate is still one you know.  Why take a chance when things can get worse?  “I’ll just put my head down, do my job, and wait until things get better,” you may think.  Unfortunately, things don’t usually get better on their own.  Some have thought, “I’ll change the system by first rising through the ranks and then working to make a difference.”
Eric Barker, author of the popular motivational book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” calls this sequencing.  It’s the belief that you can plan your life in large chunks. Life often intervenes with family issues, health isssues, and anything else to send your dreams up in smoke. After downing the huge dose of conformity it takes to be promoted, you will you have the willpower to think of the less fortunate souls you left behind?  There’s a reason newly minted sales managers are know for playing by the book.  They are pre-selected based on their willingness to do so.
So, am I saying you should flip off the boss at the next meeting or conduct a Ghandi-style hunger strike until conditions improve? Absolutely not! Let’s revisit some reasons not to play the game and explore some ideas of what to do instead.
Reason One:  Your Boss Is Human.
Sales people, like craftsmen, see their skills grow with experience.  Unlike craftsmen, the material they work with, their customers, change constantly and have a mind of their own.  Chances are, the customers and situations your boss dealt with, as a salesperson, are not the same as yours are now. High performing salespeople don’t even make the best managers, according to a large study published by the National Bureau of Economic research entitled, “Promotions and the Peter Principle“. The sales advice your boss gives you has it’s limits.   The more experience you have in sales, the less valuable this advice is.  Lower your ROI expectations on what your boss tells you.
Reason Two:  You are being judged on your results, NOT on how well you follow rules.
What you do means more than a number on a spreadsheet.  Like it or not, this is still the way most salespeople are evaluated.  Whether or not you agree with the system is irrelevant.  Most managers are playing their own version of the game and you have to live with it.  In reality, how much you sell trumps everything else.  A stellar record with turning in reports and kissing up to the boss rarely saves anyone with low sales numbers.
Reason Three:  Remaining silent helps no one.
The Bystander Effect, coined by researchers John M. Farley and Bibb Latané in the 1960’s, is a phenomenon in which witnesses to emergencies are less likely to help a victim when in a crowd.  Sound crazy?  It’s not when you consider that each individual expects someone else to help out. Ignoring serious problems doesn’t solve them.  It’s like telling your 13-year-old to skip all the difficult problems on his Math final. Not bringing up a legitimate concern to management can do a disservice to your real boss – the customer.  Don’t forget, he or she makes the buying decision, not your manager.  For a more thorough discussion of this point, check out my post “Think BACk:  Free Will Is A Bitch!” Speaking of customers, how often do they change their buying habits without you or another salesperson supplying them with a reason? Serious problems don’t solve themselves.  YOU need to speak up. It’s that simple.
What you can do about it.
Take responsibility of your own happiness. To address problems you can’t solve on your own, you have three options: bring the issues to the attention of someone who can solve them, decide not to let them bother you any longer, or seek out a better job.
Be thoughtful in the way you present your concerns.  Do not make your complaint personal or deliberately insulting.  Explain the ramifications of the problem as you see it.  How does the problem hinder the sales process or your customer’s business?  Finally, be prepared for any response.  If you’re miserable and your company shows no signs of improving, look for a better opportunity.  The same holds true if your company ignores problems and sacrifices the business you worked hard to win.
Be brave enough to demonstrate how much you care about your company. It’s unlikely you’re alone in noticing what needs improving.  You might gain more respect from your peers for doing it.

Sales Doesn’t Have To Suck – How Therapy Taught Me Why

Ok. You’re in sales. You’re busy. You have a deadline and a quota. You don’t want to be at the bottom of the next sales ranking and you will do whatever it takes not to be there. Am I right?
I get it because I lived these same thoughts every day. When you see one of your peers rising in the sale ranks you wonder why, correct? Have you ever met a sales rep with lackluster numbers who still seems happy? Again, did you wonder why? Here’s a possible explanation: the other rep in question is emotionally healthier than you. That’s right emotionally healthier. It’s often obvious when someone’s physical health differs from you. Emotional health? That’s something you feel for yourself.
Although I’ve started this discussion in terms of having an emotional edge over another rep, competition is not what emotional health is about. That’s a good thing. It’s not about being better than someone else. Instead, it’s about being a better version of yourself. When I started therapy a few years ago, my goal was to gain control of my anxiety in order to be a better sales person, father, and husband. What I came to realize was that my job was actually the reason I needed the therapy. Not vice versa! This forced me over a period of time, to seriously rethink my priorities. As a result, I came to three realizations:
Realization One: Traditional sales management uses fear and extrinsic rewards in a way that’s potentially detrimental to your health.
There is a reason you don’t like disappointing your boss. It makes you afraid. That fear causes the hormone cortisol to course through your body. It’s the same chemical that helped our ancestors sense danger approaching them on the African plains. The problem is that our bodies weren’t designed for us to feel fear all the time. According to Simon Sinek in his book, “Leaders Eat Last”, having excess cortisol elevates our blood pressure, impairs our cognitive ability, and decreases our immunity from diseases. Of course, let’s not forget the accompanying psychological effect of anxiety.
When we get exstrinsic rewards, which includes anything from commission checks, to pats on the back, to even the ‘ding” of our phones telling us we have a new text, our bodies release dopamine. It’s the “ahh” feeling of getting something done or accomplishing a goal. It’s what drives you to make your sales goal and win that extra commission kicker.
What’s wrong with this? Did you ever notice that the high from achieving anything never lasts? It’s because the effect of dopamine is always temporary. Therefore, people can literally become addicted to it. Have difficulty putting your phone down? That’s because every new message gives you a small hit of dopamine. Like cortisol, this brain chemical may have been essential to our evolution but in an age of abundance like today, less of it is definitely more.
Realization Two: Despite the negative influence of sales management, you and I are responsible for inflicting the negative effects of our jobs on ourselves.
“Wait a minute, it’s my fault now?”, you say. Yes, but we all have a valid reason for making the mistake. In his book, “Feeling Better, Getting Better, Staying Better“, world renowned psychologist Albert Ellis, coined two important terms. Conditional Self Acceptance (CSA) and Universal Self Acceptance (USA). All of us, according to Dr. Ellis, use one of these two methodologies to create our self-image. Your boss. Your coworkers. Even authors of sales literature. They all tell you to measure your self-worth in dollars. The premise has been for years, the more you sell, the happier you will be. Almost every sales book is based on this premise and no one dares to question it. Given what science now knows about dopamine, long-lasting happiness as a result of sales success is a lie. Selling more of anything will never make you happier in any long term sense.
Still, don’t we need to sell more so we can buy more things? Unfortunately, bigger houses and nicer cars commit us to making more money long after the dopamine high of their purchase wears off. Dan Pink, in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” emphasizes the importance of Type I or intrinsic motivation over Type X motivation which is based on anything external.
Before we can realize our own Type I, internal motivations we need to rid ourselves of the external ones. This involves adopting USA vs. CSA. Unconditional Self Acceptance means treating yourself much like your pets do. No, not just as a life-giving source of food, but as a good person no matter what you accomplish. Yes. It’s a touchy-feely concept, but to reap it’s rewards, you will need to get over that. Dr. Ellis mandates that you adopt a new attitude about yourself. Regardless if you screw up a sales call or a sales quarter, you accept what happens and move on.
Therefore, USA opens you up to Type I motivation and CSA locks you into traditional Type X motivation. When you have USA and Type I motivation, your happiness is not based on what you own, what’s on you latest W2, or even what your boss says to you. You accept the futility of being anyone other than yourself and are motivated by a purpose. For example, the reason I started this Blog was to improve the way sales people are managed. I write for the fulfillment of writing and expressing these ideas – not the paycheck.
Realization 3: In a very real way, letting go of the metrics forced on us by our jobs, allows us to actually become happier in general and often more effective at work.
Traditionally, companies have assumed that workers are fundamentally lazy and require carrots and sticks for the motivation. Carrots are the extrinsic rewards like money and accolades. Sticks are the fear tactics such as terminations or reprimands. According to Daniel Pink, in the Industrial Age, most occupations involved simple and repetitive tasks. It made sense to pay a factory worker based on the amount of parts produced because he or she could clearly see how increased effort resulted in increased output. For complex jobs, people required intrinsic rewards. They want the stimulation of learning something new or the gratification of helping someone. Contrary to what many sales books teach, the process to complete a sale with each new customer is unique and cannot be boiled down to a shortlist of repeatable tasks.
Complicated, multi-step jobs like outside sales require creativity. We all have creatitivity within us and the way to unlock it is with the positive emotions that USA allows us to feel. For me, making the change to USA with Type I motivation gave me back all the time I was wasting on worrying. I then proceeded to use that time to think of new ways to do my job. Just think, instead of stressing over doing your job perfectly, you could be selling in newer, more effective ways your management never imagined!
This new mindset obviously requires a leap of faith – in yourself. Of course, fear may have made you work harder in the past, but never at your best. Chasing extrinsic rewards is forcing you to use temporary happiness in the place of long-term fulfillment. My process of learning all this started with a trip to a therapist. If you’re in sales, I suggest you spend the co-pay and do so yourself.
I welcome your comments and suggestions!
Ps. Yes. As a result of therapy, I sell more now than ever, but I also have the sense to know that I can never sell my way to true happiness!
Books Referenced:
“Leaders Eat Last”, by Simon Sinek – to access it on Amazon click here.
“Feeling Better, Getting Better, Staying Better”, by Albert Ellis, PHD., – to access on Amazon click here.
“Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, by Dan Pink – to access on Amazon click here.