Are You A Player, Or A Coach?

Are You A Player, Or A Coach?

March brings March Madness. March Madness is the college basketball tournament where the 64 teams battle to find out who is the best college basketball team of the season.

While you are watching your team this year, I would like you to learn a lesson that every basketball coach has had to learn. The easiest way to learn this lesson is to do a little analysis. I would like you to count the number of times where the game is tight, one team is on the free-throw line, and the coach makes a substitution – himself.

Yes, count the number of times the coach doesn’t trust the player he has been coaching all season and puts himself on the line to make that winning shot.

I can already tell you the number: zero.

During a game, the coach can rant, rave, coach, and cajole but he cannot play the game. He has to trust that the athletes that he has coached all season will take his instruction, remember the skills that they have practiced, and execute those plays as they were taught.

This doesn’t happen in sales. It is almost commonplace for the coach (the sales manager) to step in and drive the conversation. He puts his athlete, whom he has been coaching perhaps for years, on the bench. 

So, let’s explore what would happen if suddenly you were required to stay on the sidelines while you watched your salespeople sell and it was impossible for you to take over the sale.

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Drive Revenue During A Crisis

Drive Revenue During A Crisis

The global pandemic has caused crisis after crisis to hit US companies. These crises include:

  • global supply chain problems affecting worldwide shipping
  • increased prices due to the shortage of components or subassemblies
  • labor shortages

To assist our clients, Sean O’Shaughnessey and Kevin Lawson teamed up to create the following webinar. The webinar originally aired on January 13, 2022.

The following is a transcript of the webinar video above. It has been sparsely edited to increase its readability, but many of the idioms and poor spoken grammar have been left in place. The transcription was automatically generated by Sonix.ai and, as capable as that product is, there are times when words are missed or sentence structure was incorrectly interpreted. We have tried to catch all of these software misses, but we are confident that some still remain. The below text is provided for those that would rather read than watch a video.

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A Conversation: Why Small Businesses Don’t Have Consistent Revenue

A Conversation: Why Small Businesses Don’t Have Consistent Revenue

I was recently interviewed by Bob Clark on his podcast 808 Podcast. It is named 808 because 808 looks like Bob and the internet loves short video content so it is less than 8 minutes and 8 seconds. We had a great conversation in under 8 minutes and 8 seconds while Bob walked me through four high-level questions (and a few clarifying questions).

I went through the process of having the conversation transcribed so that you can read the content if you prefer to read more than listen. This transcription tries to put the text into a more readable format.

You can find the podcast here. At the bottom of this article, there is a YouTube version of the podcast.

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Do You Have A Great Sales Plan?

Are you experiencing any of the following common sales issues?

  • Inability to take sales “to the next level”
  • Difficulty finding the “right” salesperson for your company
  • Not sure where to start – “I don’t know what I don’t know”
  • Lack of a formal sales process
  • Stalled out proposals
  • Not being able to effectively articulate the value proposition, solution or service

Great companies deserve a great plan

You have developed incredible offerings. You have solid leadership in place. Yet, you still need some help with improving your sales productivity.

Let the Genesis Sales Plan by Sales Xceleration and delivered by New Sales Expert LLC provide you with the structure and key personnel needed to surpass your goals.

Your sales vision statement should be a clear, concise, and future-focused declaration of where you want your sales efforts to lead and the path you’ll take to get there.

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Future-focused
  • Destination-driven
  • Path-Oriented
  • Inspiring and empowering

With such a critical tool in place, your sales team can boost sales by looking forward. If you do not know how to create such a plan, we are happy to help you. Please contact us via our Contact page and we will sit down with you to discuss how we can help you accelerate your revenue.

The Pay Is High and Jobs Are Plentiful, but Few Want to Go Into Sales

The Pay Is High and Jobs Are Plentiful, but Few Want to Go Into Sales

According to ZipRecruiter and the Wall Street Journal, people are hesitant to go into sales for a career. ZipRecruiter shows the number of sales roles advertised has risen steadily this year, up 65% to more than 700,000 open positions around the U.S., after big layoffs decimated the field at the outset of the pandemic a year ago.

happy black woman laughing on street
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Many young workers erroneously assume that sales work means convincing customers to buy with high-pressure tactics and are turned off. In recent years, the sales profession has dramatically changed from cold calls to potential customers to consulting with companies that often seek out products.

It’s time to rethink the way you think about sales. The new template for a salesperson is not about cold-calling. You have to be empathetic and deeply curious about your clients’ businesses. Sales is not about high-pressure cold calling techniques, but rather it is about understanding your clients and using your products to achieve their goals.

Sales is not about high-pressure cold calling techniques. Sales is about building relationships with people. If you are looking to grow sales, stop focusing on the trade tricks and start focusing on understanding how to sell effectively. According to top influencers in the field, the best way to do this is by listening more than talking and asking open-ended questions that allow for two-way communication.

Sales is a profession that helps businesses and people solve problems. As salespeople, managers, or executives, you help your company make more money. You also help customers find solutions to their problems. Sales is about solving problems for the betterment of both parties involved in the transaction. The skillset and mindset needed for this profession are not innate but can be learned with hard work and practice.

To establish yourself as an effective salesperson, manager, or executive, it’s important to know how sales works from all angles – customer-facing interactions and internal processes alike. It is also important to always be curious about your company, product, and prospect’s business.

After 36 years in Sales (and God willing many more to come), this is the greatest career in the US industry. I encourage all bright, young professionals that want a daily mental challenge to go into Sales.

In-person vs. virtual selling: How modern sales teams can operate after COVID

In-person vs. virtual selling: How modern sales teams can operate after COVID

The average cost of a face-to-face sales call is reportedly $250 – $500. With virtual sales calls, you can talk to your prospects for a much lower price. Virtual sales calls are an easy and inexpensive way to start building relationships and generating leads.

Virtual sales calls have become more and more popular in the past few years, especially during and now after the global pandemic. The most apparent advantage of virtual sales calls is that they can be conducted from anywhere and anytime. This means that companies can save office space while still conducting meaningful business conversations with customers and prospects. Salespeople can save time by using virtual sales calls to get on the radar of potential buyers or secure new leads.

Another advantage is the cost savings of not having a physical presence at an event or trade show. Virtual sales calls also offer a level of confidentiality. 

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Curiosity Kills the Quota

I recently spoke to Robert Gillette, the host of the podcast Reclaiming Sales. It was a great conversation! We discussed many things that will benefit beginning sales professionals. Specifically, we discussed:

  1. Get to know your prospects better, understand how they make and lose money.
  2. Get curious, and stay that way… even when you’ve heard your 100th prospect tell you the same thing.
  3. Build your belief, it will keep you company when times get tough.

You can listen to our conversation by subscribing to Robert’s podcast here. You can also subscribe by going to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and many more that are listed here.

The following is a transcription of our conversation for those that prefer to read rather than listen. The transcription is as close as possible to the spoken word but effort was made to try to make it a little more readable with fairly grammar correct phrasing, sentence structure, and paragraph structure. Where the commentary overrode grammar or the use of synonyms, the spoken word was chosen.


Announcer 0:30  

You’re listening to Reclaiming Sales because you don’t need to sell your soul to be successful with your host and fellow salesman, Robert Gillette.

Robert Gillette 0:41  

Robert Gillette
Reclaiming Sales Podcast Host

Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. My name obviously is Robert Gillette, and I have a new friend of mine. I know everybody I meet on the show, I say my new friend, but it’s true so far—a gentleman named Sean O’Shaughnessey. Honestly, the reason why you’re on the show, to be totally honest, is he, you engage with me, you commented on the things that I post, and you send me messages. And you know, when you’re doing a podcast, it’s like screaming into the void. And so when the void reaches back out and gives you feedback, it’s incredibly helpful. I’m used to performing on stage, in general, so I just wanted to have you on the show, first of all, to get your perspective on what we’ve been talking about so far. But, still, you also have some pretty deep claws into this whole sales game as well, and you have some perspectives that I just want to explore and see what we can uncover over the next 20 minutes or so. But before we get onto that, Sean, why don’t you, I guess before you take off your sales guy hat, what do you sell and who do you sell it to.

Sean O’Shaughnessey 1:42  

I am the CEO of a company called New Sales Expert. I sell sales management to companies with bad sales management or don’t know how to have sales management.

Robert Gillette 1:56  

Okay, and we don’t have a lot of, you know, people on the show who aren’t salespeople. But I guess my first question to you before we move too far into this is. Do you think it’s harder to sell to salespeople or to sell to non-salespeople? Is it hard to sell to people who sell for a living?

Sean O’Shaughnessey 2:16  

Sean O’Shaughnessey
CEO and President
New Sales Expert, LLC

So it’s I think it’s easier to sell to salespeople because we like to hear a good pitch. I actually sell, though, to the CEO that is frustrated because he doesn’t know how to manage a sales force. So that’s actually whom I sell to. And that’s the problem I solve.

Robert Gillette 2:32  

Okay, so you’re actually selling to a CEO or someone at that C suite level.

Sean O’Shaughnessey 2:37  

Correct. I’m usually selling to the founder of the company. And he is in a situation where he can’t figure out how to manage salespeople, how to recruit salespeople, and how to make salespeople better. So that’s what I do for him or her.

Robert Gillette 2:51  

Unfortunately, mostly him, but we’re working on that diversity by brute force. We’re doing it as a country anyways. 

So let’s, let’s roll this back to the beginning of your career, how did you get into sales. And why did you stick with it all those years?

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How To Win More 7-Figure Deals

Dean Wiener is one of the best sales professionals that I have ever met. He has made a career out of listening to the customer’s needs, understanding the customer’s business, and helping his customer. Few professionals are as capable as Dean Wiener.

Brian Burns recently interviewed Dean. Brian has done a series of interviews with salespeople and sales management; even I have been interviewed by Brian. This is a great series for salespeople with less than 20 years of experience that want to truly improve their skill in their profession.

Check out the interview below

Top Sales People Want To Work On The Best Teams

Top Sales People Want To Work On The Best Teams

I recently met with one of my clients to discuss the company’s sales team. They had ten salespeople on their team.

Five of the salespeople had brought in about 40-45% of the company’s revenue, and two others also brought in about 40-45% of his revenue. A bigger problem, though, was the remaining three that only brought in 10-15%. Those three were dragging down the team.

The biggest problem that the President was starting to realize was that the top two performers were becoming disgruntled and would probably leave the company. As I did my initial interviews with these two, they confided in me they had become frustrated that every time the company needed more revenue, the challenge was given to them to bring it in the door.

To keep their spirits up, I told them that these challenges were an honor. Like in basketball, you have your best players on the floor when the score is tied, with a minute left in the 4th quarter. One of them replied, “But if the 7th man would have made his four free throws, two layups, and grabbed those two defensive rebounds in the 3rd quarter, the score wouldn’t be tied at the end.”

Great people want to be surrounded by great people. Top athletes want to play on the same team as other top athletes. Top salespeople want to work in the same company as other top salespeople.

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Four must-haves for a practical elevator pitch

Four must-haves for a practical elevator pitch

It is critically important that the succinct time you have in the elevator is memorable because you just don’t know when you’ll get that chance again.

You are a young company. There are more companies out there that don’t do business with you than do business with you. While that is probably true of almost all companies, young or small companies take that anonymity to a new level – your market share is 0.0001%, and your mind share is not much better.

An elevator pitch is an answer to the benign question, “What do you do?” You can get that question at a cocktail mixer, a meetup, on the plane with the guy sitting next to you, or even on an elevator ride. If someone whom you don’t know asks about your company, they have expressed genuine interest. In reciprocity, you should be polite – not only in a succinct response but also in appreciation of their question. Emily Post says, “Etiquette requires the presumption of good until the contrary is proved.”

An elevator pitch is not a 5-minute oratory on your company; be polite by respecting their time and attention. Create innate curiosity with a narrative allowing your guest to follow a path of increasing value.

Your goal in an elevator pitch is to capture the interest and imagination of someone you have just met–in about the time it would take both of you to enter an elevator, travel down to the lobby level, and then cross the office building foyer together.

In that short walk together, you should communicate the essence of your message–succinctly and memorably–whether or not there’s an elevator involved or not.

I would be amazed if any startup told me that developing the elevator pitch is easy. Part of the problem tends to be where to stop. Do you talk about only the current deliverable capability? Do you mention all of the great work that is in the beta product that the developers are just finishing up? Do you talk about the great win that you closed last month? Do you talk about the aspirational stuff that your CTO is currently puzzling over, and you pitch to the latest VC?

1. Describe your business without using any (not even a little) jargon

The first words that come out of your mouth should be a brief and memorable description of your business. That means avoiding acronyms, corporate-speak, or tech talk. Your grandparents, your spouse, or your children should understand this first sentence or two. And then there’s “the pause” which I will explain later.

Focus on concrete words in your pitch, not abstract concepts. If possible, start with a firm metric that you deliver, such as, “We enable companies to set up their secure cloud infrastructure in less than 60 minutes.” Wow, that’s impactful!

The biggest mistake that I see young companies make is to include the word “AND” in their opening statement. The word AND implies that you do multiple things, hence confusing the direction of our elevator pitch, or even worse – going down too many rabbit holes. Boil up all of your AND phrases to one high-level statement. To give you an example, I will use Agile Stacks, a company that I helped as their Chief Revenue Officer, and what we could say (but thankfully do not say) with lots of AND statements:

  • We deliver infrastructure as code AND
  • we provide composable stacks of components AND
  • we manage the Kubernetes ecosystem AND
  • we track and tag all of the components in our stacks so you can monitor your costs AND
  • we have pre-built super stacks of components to allow you to get started quickly AND
  • we deliver your customized stacks to multiple clouds and even into your on-premise data center or mini data center in your stores AND
  • we allow you to store all of those configurations in Git so that you can adopt GitOps in your company.

The above list is a perfect example of what not to say in an elevator pitch. It is filled with jargon, very vague, and not very compelling.

All of those statements above are true of Agile Stacks, but they would probably cause your elevator listener to beg for the door to open to escape your diatribe. When the door opens, he or she will make a Usain Bolt-like sprint to the nearest exit stairwell.

Skip the ANDs. Focus on one value proposition that is very high-level and combines with a metric that makes the listener excited to ask, “How do you do that?”

2. Focus on your clients or customers but most importantly, focus on your audience

In my example above, you will notice a reference to a target market – companies. If I was at an industry event, or I knew my listener’s professional affiliation, I readily improvise with an industry narrative. Let’s pretend I am talking to someone at a cocktail mixer. When we shook hands, she identified herself as someone from a medium-sized consumer goods company that I recognized as having several hundred stores along the Eastern Coast of the US. In this case, I may have enhanced our opening line of the elevator pitch to say, “We enable retailers to set up their secure cloud infrastructure between their stores, data centers, or favorite cloud provider in less than 60 minutes.”

And then I pause.

So what is with the pause? We all know that the first person to fill silence has lost in a negotiation. Effectively, this is a negotiation. It is a negotiation of the topic of our discussion. This pause is your opportunity to allow your listener to respond. A positive response with something like, “Wow! How do you do that?” is an invitation to continue. A neutral answer such as, “I have no idea what that means” is probably a signal to find an off-ramp to move the conversation to sports.

If you don’t get a lot of positive responses to your opening line, it implies that the line is weak, or you are attending the wrong cocktail mixers with absolutely no target prospects in attendance. You should seriously evaluate your results to see which situation is correct.

Also, give your guest a gentle exit ramp if there is no interest in what you are saying. For example, make a witty anecdote about the local professional sports team’s current success. Remember to always to be positive even if the team is on a losing streak.

But let’s assume that you got that positive response. Now you need to tell a story that continues the interest, and we explore that in step 3.

There is a natural point of transition in the conversation. You get an immediate gut check when you know the listener wants to learn more, or they are about to check out. For this ride, and this ride alone – your listener is engaged by actually asking “So how do you do that?” But please don’t start explaining the exceptional performance of your auto-scaling groups or multi-Kubernetes abstraction layer. Umm, snooze – you’ve just made your listener regretful of not only the first two minutes of the proverbial elevator ride but now the remaining 90 seconds to the ground floor.

Instead, pique their interest by not using a sales pitch. Rather, bring it close to home with a story but not some canned Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale of saving a company from the big bad wolf. Instead, keep the story smaller and closer to the people involved. I find that abstracting a story at the ‘company level’ doesn’t cement the point of the story as well. But when you talk about people affected by your solution and the implications then you offer your listener a possibility that they have a similar story.

3. Tell a story of how you’ve helped overcome a challenge

Customer stories may be hard to find for a young company. You may not have that many successes yet. You do not need ten stories; you only need one story. You may be bored talking about that one success, but your listener has never heard the story, so it is new to her. Pick one customer story where you were able to show the success that you mentioned in that opening statement.

I suggest that you follow the advice that I discuss in my book, Eliminate Your Competition, and that is to use the PONI method. PONI is a simple way to tell the story of a success that is easy for the listener to grasp. PONI stands for:

  • Project
  • Old
  • New
  • Impact

For Project, we simply want to introduce the reference company and what they were trying to accomplish in their project that they used your product. Then quickly introduce the team. Was it a large team? Were they distributed? Did they have a tyrant boss (everyone’s been here, believe me)?

For Old, we want to set the stage on what their goal was to change or fix in their organization. The more that you can build the pain in the story, the better. Remember, Stephen King could have written “The Shining” as “A writer went mad while in a haunted house in the middle of winter and tried to kill his family.” The more you build into the old way of doing this, the more your new friend will understand that he has the same problem.

New is the new way of doing business after they adopted your product, and the personal hero stories.

The Impact is the change or success they measured at the end of their project, measuring the pertinent metrics of Old compared with New. If you can do it, Impact is great to state as a percentage improvement.

It doesn’t take a lot to create PONI stories. In each of the four areas, you probably can write it down in 1-3 sentences for a total of perhaps 8 sentences that you can easily recite in 90 seconds. That 90-second speech is critical because now you need to deliver the story quickly and the same way every time. The crucial thing about elevator pitches is that everyone needs to say approximately the same speech every time. Your entire company can learn 90 seconds of talking using the PONI method.

Then you need to pause again. You need her to respond. Does she need to pivot to sports and weather, or can you continue? Step 4 assumes your conversation is more interesting than the fact that we haven’t had rain in 6 days.

4. Close

You have not mentioned all of those ANDs from above about which someone in her company is going to care. Those ANDs detail the HOW question. HOW questions are essential during your sales process, but they are not part of your elevator pitch. In my example of a cocktail mixer where I am talking to a mid-sized retailer, the HOW question inevitably is, “How do you enable retailers to set up their secure cloud infrastructure in their stores, data centers, or favorite cloud provider in less than 60 minutes?”

You now have two options. If you are at a casual mixer, you probably should stop while you’re ahead. You might suggest a more extended meeting in the near future, and you should pull out your calendar and ask for an appointment. Trying to explain how you accomplish this amazing feat could backfire on you and prevent that person from accepting that future appointment now that they have more information. You have achieved your goal with your elevator pitch, they want to talk. Now it is time to stop selling, and it is time to close for the appointment for a more in-depth conversation.

If you are not at the mixer, but instead in an area where you can effectively sit down and discuss all of the details, then, by all means, you should do so. However, be careful that you are not winging it with only a portion of your best pitch resources available to you. Do you have the best version of your slides and documentation with you? Do you need to have your ace technical guy or your ace sales guy with you? Do you think that your prospect needs to have some more people present for this first conversation? Your best strategy is likely to come back in the future with your best foot forward.

Once you have the appointment locked in, now is the time to work on understanding your prospect. It is time for your prospect to tell you about their needs and goals. This information will be invaluable as you formulate your ultimate value proposition that will close the deal. In fact, if you can get her to tell you her elevator pitch, that is a win. Now is the time for you to use the two ears and one mouth adage – listen twice as much as you talk.

An elevator pitch that everyone in your small company can give is critical. You don’t need to turn everyone into salespeople, but you should try to turn those elevator pitches into firm appointments for the sales team.

This post originally appeared on my blog series on my site dedicated to helping salespeople increase their commission.

Header image Elevator by robinsonsmay on 2020-01-01