Articles providing practical, field-tested advice to sales professionals.

Location: Houston, Texas, United States

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


What are the success secrets of the high-performers? Dr. Charles A. Garfield with doctorates in mathematics and psychology, is a clinical professor at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School.

He has invested 15 years interviewing 1,200 of the top performers in business, education, sports, healthcare and the arts. He says their success techniques can be taught “in the same way you can teach people to play golf.”

Six characteristics mark optimal performers.

  • I can exceed my previous levels of accomplishment.
  • I avoid the status quo – comfort zone.
  • I do what I do for the art of it, guided by compelling internal goals.
  • I solve problems rather than place blame. I am trying to do a job rather than defend or perpetuate a job.
  • I confidently take risks after objectively laying out the worst scenario beforehand.
  • I rehearse coming actions and events mentally.
  • I am a master of delegation.

I mentally rehearse upcoming opportunities. I prepare both my facts and my psyche with a kind of purposeful daydreaming, visualizing and feeling the upcoming results.

I set out the worst that could possibly happen and decide whether I could live with that outcome… then I go for it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Would you like to know how to eliminate the word impossible from your vocabulary and do it in just one week? Here’s how: starting in the morning keep a written record of the times you say or think something “can’t be done” or “can’t happen”. At bedtime review the numbers you write down. The next day start concentrating on reducing that number. Repeat this process every succeeding day for seven days. Presto, you will discover the negative word impossible just does not come to your mind. Now, you can start thinking in terms of the possible. The book title “The Magic of Believing” reminds us it is exciting to discover that belief truly is magic.

Do you think impossible is a profane word? Let’s agree it is an undesirable word and learn how to eliminate it.

Our Creator gave us a marvelous mechanism called imagination. Like a video camera can flash an image onto a TV screen, we can create an image and project it onto our minds. We can project onto the screen of our mind anything we choose to put there. So, get a clear and focused picture of what you really want to happen. Be careful what you want, you may get it!

The super-achievers of history have all been possessed by a vision. They are driven by an idea that seems to be tattooed on the TV of their mind’s eye. A focused target seems to be essential to their success. Being possessed by a persistent idea seems to always help produce more positive results.

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
- Marcus Aurelius

“For as he thinketh in his heart so is he.”
- Proverbs 23:7

When you firmly set your mind on an idea, obstacles begin to fade, as your idea begins to become a reality.

Many of history’s great achievers have been strong believers in prayer.

“Whatever you desire, when you pray, believe that you will receive them and you shall have them.”
- Mark 11:24

Periodically clarify your thinking and thoroughly examine your motives and purposes. Test your dominant idea. Is your goal good for everyone concerned? If your idea becomes a reality, will it be a win-win result for everybody involved?

Remember, there are two types of people in the world – GIVERS and GRABBERS. Be a GIVER because I’ve never seen a GRABBER grab enough to be happy!

Be sure your idea is worth your best effort because you want the results to be rewarding for all concerned when all the chickens have come home to roost.

Decide what you really want. Next, write your dominant desire down on a plain piece of paper. Reduce your goal to twenty-five words… and memorize them. Morning, noon and night stand before a mirror and repeat them out loud. Don’t be afraid to be animated; deliberately use gestures. Act enthusiastic and you’ll become enthusiastic about reaching your professional goal and fulfilling your personal dreams.

Q. What will it cost me?

A. If you do or don’t do it?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

When the University of Houston was expanding the College of Business Program for Excellence in Selling due to the rapid growth and demand for training in Houston, an advisory board was convened. This was the first time such a board had been convened in the history of the industry, and included Carl G. Stevens. Following is an excerpt from an interview Alice Adams, Employment Correspondent with the Houston Chronicle, conducted with Mr. Stevens during this exciting event.


Carl Stevens, president of Carl Stevens and Associates Inc., remembered teaching a class at Ohio State.

“We asked how many had given serious consideration to a career in sales,” he said, “One hand went up in a room of 40 students.”

Tracking that same class five years later, Stevens found 75% of the students were in sales or were migrating into the sales arena.

“But, while people often went into sales because they had failed at something else, today’s mandates take the sales professional to a higher level,” he said.

Reminded of a meeting with a professor from The Julliard School of Music several years ago, Stevens believes today’s sales arena demands training for professionals at Julliard’s same high level.

“Imagine how great it would be for those playing by ear to have a degree from Julliard,” he said. “So why isn’t it just as valid to say, ‘How great it would be for those playing by ear in sales to have an equivalent degree in selling from Julliard?;”

Stevens said he spends much of his time consulting companies and speaking at seminars around the world. But his ideas about selling never have stagnated.

“I think we’re seeing the need to be more selective in picking sales teams,” he said. “But back in the day, it was never unusual to see the best salesman or saleswoman moved into management. Sometimes that’s a mistake.”

But Stevens said there are more chinks in the traditional sales organization’s armor.

“We’re not only selecting poorly but we’re preparing teams poorly as well,” he said. “If we don’t’ prepare them well, we can’t retain even the top producer for very long.”

He once asked an audience of chief executives, “If everyone in your company brought in the amount of business as your top sales person, what percentage would your business increase?”

The consensus was 1,000% - without ever raising overhead, as the majority of the increased business floats to the bottom line.

“So we say, find out the areas of basic weaknesses and address them so you can start getting more production, but we need to realize that 60% of all candidates don’t have the chemistry to succeed in sales,” Stevens said.

According to Stevens’ data, about 20% of the sales candidates today have all the right stuff to make it in professional sales. Another 20% of sales people hired will never make it.

“So, we have to screen more thoroughly to get the right people into the sales jobs we have,” he said. “The next thing we need to examine is attitude. Are they willing to work hard?"

Tiger Woods, for example, has created a true-to-life legend of practicing eight hours a day, just like almost anyone who succeeds in anything.

“I’ll never forget that after Tiger Woods won an early tournament, he turned to his practice coach and said, “Don’t go away, we’ve got work to do,” Stevens said. “That work included spending another four hours on the greens, practicing weak shots.”

Stevens advocates looking for the candidate with “fire in the belly.”

“We want people who have good habits, who work hard and who want to succeed enough to keep working,” Stevens said.

Can You Follow Directions?

1. Read this entire list carefully before doing anything else.

2. Get out a blank sheet of paper.

3. Put your name in the upper right-hand corner.

4. Write the word "name" and circle it.

5. Draw five small squares in the upper left-hand corner.

6. Put an "X" in each square.

7. Sign your name under the title of this paper.

8. Write sentence number seven above and put a circle completely around it.

9. Put an "X" in the lower left-hand corner of the page.

10. Draw a triangle around the word "corner".

11. On the back of the paper, add 75 and 13.

12. Loudly call out your first name (for motivation) when you get this far.

13. If you think you have carefully followed directions to this point call out, "I have" (for self-affirmation).

14. On the reverse side of the paper, subtract 12 from 69.

15. Count backwords to yourself from 10 to 1.

16. Say "I am a leader in following directions".

17. Write all of the even numbers in this list on the page.

18. Say "I am nearly finished and I have followed directions."

19. Now that you have finished reading the entire page do only sentence number two. If you have already completed any of the other tasks in the list, you failed to follow directions and failed the test. Remember following directions involves reading each item carefully starting with the first sentence (it stated "read the entire list before doing anyting else.")

Friday, April 08, 2005

Self Key Sales Motivation (excerpts)

Following are excerpts from “Self Key Sales Motivation”, an article by Greg Miller, Employment Correspondent for the Houston Chronicle, printed May 21, 2000. The article spotlights Carl G. Stevens while he was teaching his famous “Blueprint” sales seminar.

There is no motivation except self-motivation.

That’s how Carl Stevens, proprietor of Carl G. Stevens and Associates, sums it up.

… “You can attempt to convince, persuade or even put them under duress, but you can never motivate them,” Stevens said. “It’s like breathing – it’s a self-influenced activity.”

… Steven’s firm serves as consultants to corporations, trade associations and professional agencies. Stevens, an international authority in the field of professional sales education and effective interpersonal communication, is author of “The Blueprint for Professional Selling.”

… Early in Steven’s studies, he found that, in most companies, 20% of the sales force were making 80% of the sales. He decided to conduct in-depth in interviews, with the 20% that were producing the most.

“I found that they think 10% of the sale comes on a rational basis and 90% of the decision is emotional,” Stevens said. “Motivation is a big part of the 90%.”

Stevens has devoted his life to finding out why one salesperson is more successful than another and to find common denominators. He is intrigued in how people motivate themselves.

In working with the U.S. Army, Steven’s outfit taught the military recruiters how to screen their people because despite a $36 million budget, the results were not as spectacular as hoped.

“(The Army) advertised in the Columbus, Ohio, area and pulled in 27 prospects,” he said. “The sergeants talked to the qualified recruits one-on-one and guess how many they closed? Well, it’s a round number… zero. The pre-selling worked, they got the prospects in but they missed in what Marshall Field calls the ‘last 3 feet’. They did not know how to persuade them enough to motivate themselves to action. You can get the ball 99 yards down the field, but if you miss that last 3 feet, you don’t score..”

Stevens, who has been involved with sales for more than 60 years, said teaching a person motivation is a fallacy in business.

“Motivation is a great complement to the proper aptitude, attitude, knowledge or skill but it is a poor substitute for them,” he said. “Most of the sales managers have seen their role as cheerleader instead of coach. We really haven’t gotten around to teaching management and supervisors how to do what they need to do and that’s how to help salespeople motivate themselves.”

Stevens said there are two key traits a successful, interpersonal communicative salesperson needs – empathy and ego drive.

“You need a high degree of empathy,” he said. “It is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position without becoming emotionally involved so you can read the feedback. You also need ego drive. It’s what the old-timers call the “fire in the belly”. They have to have the want-to’s. The good salesperson needs the psychological reward from the sale as much as they need the money. You never hear of a salesperson retiring. They may go work for the hospital or do charity work or whatever, but they never retire because they never lose that need for the psychological reinforcement.”

… “You’ve got to have these two things in balance,” Stevens said. “If you get too much empathy, and not enough ego drive, you don’t come cross as an authority figure so nobody really values your opinion. If you get too much ego drive, not balanced with the proper empathy, you’re a bulldozer, you’re high-pressure, you scare people to death, you start coming on and (the buyer) starts pack peddling. It’s a happy balance and only about 20% of the people in the general population have that.”

Stevens said many professions require teaching, training and certifications before a person can begin his or her first day on the job. Selling is different.

… Stevens said one of his favorite examples of a person who knew how to help people motivate themselves was (the late Alabama head football coach) Bear Bryant.

“He did two things,” he said. “He’d get this freshman and he’d sit him down, one-on-one in private conversation. Coach Bryant would lean toward the kid, lower his voice and look him dead in the eye and say, “Now son, what is it you want to accomplish while you are here at the University of Alabama?” Then he’d listen and make notes. The second question he’d ask after the kind wound down was, “OK, now what can we do to help you do what you want to do?” Then he’d listen. I have never seen anybody in the real world do that except Bear Bryant. I think it is absolute genius and psychologically sound. We have never understood that the anatomy of a good sale is 30% determining the problem or the challenge and find the answer,” Stevens said. “60% is helping the decision-maker to motivate themselves to want what we are talking about. The other 10% is completing the sale. You’ve got to get the person you are selling to see themselves enjoying, benefiting and getting all the advantages of what you’re offering so it will satisfy the basic motives that they see,” he said.

“There is a methodology in doing that just like there is taking out a gall bladder or sending a person to the moon. You do it by the numbers. If everyone acts in their own enlightened self-interest, our challenge is to find out what is that enlightened self0interest and how can we help them get themselves into a position to get what they want.”

… “I like to ask myself, did I make a buddy on that phone call?” Stevens said. “I may not have made a transaction, but the potential buyer and I had a positive, quality call. In sales, you’ve got to enjoy the people interaction. People like to buy from people they enjoy.”

Two books on Carl G. Steven’s reading list:
· “Why People Buy: Motivation Research & It’s Successful Application” by Louis Cheskin
· “Rethinking the Sales Force: Redefining Selling to Create & Capture Customer Value” by Neil Rackham & John R. DeVincentis

Sunday, April 03, 2005


The credulity that a sales manager’s chief function is to “stimulate” his men is exposed in this article as archaic and ineffectual. The discussion examines the proper role of a sales manager and the growing complexities he must face in managing and training a sales force.

A well-known politician once noted in the margin of his speech: “Yell loud here – the argument is weak.”

Apparently he found it easier to increase the volume of his voice than the validity of his argument. And unfortunately, the same principle too often has held true for managers charged with increasing the effectiveness of sales forces.

Deeply ingrained in the “lore” of the sales manager is what I call the “enthusiasm prejudice”, the naïve assumption that all that is needed for effective salesmanship is a considerable store of enthusiasm. This drastically underrates the needs of today’s salespeople, whose job grows more difficult and demanding as the scope of business and technology broadens.

Historically, sales managers and marketing executives have sought ways to promote this magical brand of enthusiasm as the great panacea for sales ills. In so doing they have ignored other more important responsibilities to their people and their companies. The result… they have too often fallen short of good sales production by failing to offer salespeople qualified, effective supervision.

A study reported in the Harvard Business Review (“Sales Management in the Field”) clearly illustrated the importance of sound sales supervision. In the study, a national association maintained careful records on the careers of 100 salespeople who were assigned at random to competent and less-than-competent local managers.

These salespeople were given a battery of tests when hired and graded “A” or “B”. After several years, an examination of the personnel records revealed that salespeople who worked for competent managers had a much greater chance for success than their unfortunate brethren with incompetent superiors. Specifically, 48% of the “A” salespeople succeeded under good supervision; only 27% under poor supervision. Correspondingly, “B” salespeople with good supervision had nearly five times as much chance for success as their counterparts with poor supervision. Moreover, a “B” salesperson with a strong manger had the same chance as an “A” salesperson with a poor manager.

The same research association, analyzing salespeople turnover statistics for a large national company, sent questionnaires to over 650 salespeople – both “survivors” and “terminators”. It was found that dissatisfaction with local supervision was the single most important reason for salesperson termination.

The author of the Harvard Business Review article pointed out cogent problems in the area of tradition sales management:

My study of the activities of 150 field managers shows that field managers are most skillful at personal selling, trouble shooting, running an office, maintaining satisfactory customer relations. On the other hand they are weak when it comes to developing and supervising and devising local sales strategy… The local managers are in fact super salespeople instead of administrators.

Thus, the author says, selection and training of field sales managers has become one of the most acute problems facing top management.

Despite stated misgivings, many sales executives promote men to management primarily on the basis of selling ability. There are a number of reasons for this practice. In the first place, many executives have not spelled out the requirements for management and thus rely on one obvious attribute, salesmanship. Such a measure is simple and easy to defend. Moreover, the fiction ahs grown up in this environment that any attempt to change the system would damage morale.

The author further points out that the jobs of selling and management are not the same and do not call for the same skills. Competence as a salesperson is no guarantee of management potential. Therefore, the atmosphere and attitudes surrounding selling have never been conducive to the development of effective sales managers. It would almost appear that by some grand design, business has set out to thwart the manager’s efforts.

In research reported by the American Management Association, it was shown that:
  • Over half of the sales managers surveyed had never read a job description of what they were supposed to do;
  • 78% of these sales managers were dissatisfied with their training or had never received any specific training to equip them for their roles as sales managers;
  • Only 1 out of every 33 companies surveyed had any kind of company sponsored sales managers training program.

Nonetheless, sales managers are expected to take firm hold of their new duties and responsibilities as managers and perform at a top level… with little or no training and frequently without really knowing what their responsibilities are.

On examining these responsibilities carefully, one finds that they require a great deal more than pumping up the enthusiasm of their salespeople with sales contests, trips to Bermuda and pats on the back.

The sales manager must be able to select, train, motivate and manage his salespeople, a group of men who historically have peaks of emotional ups and downs. He must help his salespeople develop better work habits and attitudes, practice new presentation procedures, learn new product adaptations and develop additional skills.

Frequently the local sales manager is responsible for creating favorable buying attitudes among customers through good-will activities, the image he creates of his company through his personal contacts, by his use of advertising and other promotional materials, and by his assistance in handling of the final terms of sales.

The local manager helps contribute to the salesperson’s development of good work habits, more effective use of time, call preparation and record-keeping procedures.

Another important responsibility for the sales manager is his role as liaison between his salespeople and top management. He must be an effective link between them, both administratively and for communications.

The sales manager must also make sure that detail work, like record keeping, which the typical salesperson tends to neglect, is well planed and executed so that it becomes an asset to better selling and better overall business management. (A management consulting firm reviewed the record keeping and reports required from one national company’s salesperson and found that it would take each man approximately 100 hours a week to provide properly all information requested.)

The manager’s first and most important job, however, is to understand his people… to develop them, to train them, and to assure himself, his people and his company that each is performing at the top of his capabilities. To do this effectively, he must be willing and able to face his people’s problems squarely.

The National Sales Executive Digest surveyed several thousand salespeople in an attempt to discover their “most secret thoughts, feelings and frustrations” about their careers in selling. The results of the survey are good guidelines for the sales manager to follow in pursuing his responsibilities. Among the three most frequent needs stated were the following:
Specific methods for improving sales - not what to do but how to do it;
A complete understanding of the principles and techniques of salesmanship – and how to apply them in day-to-day selling;
Training in capsule and digest form. Readable, educational material – short, explanatory, illustrated, believable.

The first answer suggests the salesperson wants a coach in his sales manager… a person who can show him “how to do it” rather than a cheerleader urging him on from the sidelines.

In interviewing hundreds of salespeople throughout my career as a sales trainer and consultant, I have found this to be absolutely true. The salesperson wants answers that help him understand specifically step-by-step how he can improve his sales… answers with which he can identify and to which he can relate his own personal experience. All too often, his sales management has provided only a modicum of encouragement and some general indication of what it wants done.

In stating that they need a “complete understanding of the principles and techniques of salesmanship,” the salespeople indicated they want to use in their day-to-day efforts all the components of effective selling. They seek a meaningful understanding of the why and wherefore of selling.

The salesperson needs a procedure that incorporates the elements of good salesmanship much as the pilot has a check list and the architect a plan. The frequent compliant of the salesperson is that his management, failing to provide this, leaves him searching for guidance but with nowhere else to turn.

The salespeople surveyed also indicated a desire for “training in capsule and digest form… explanatory, illustrated, believable”. This brings us to the question, “CAN SALESPEOPLE BE TRAINED?” and the corollary, “HOW EFFECTIVE IS SALES TRAINING?” Basic as it may seem, the answer to the first question is an emphatic “Yes,” if the subject is trainable, and “Certainly” to the second, if the training is professional in the real sense.

In our training programs over the past eight years, we have checked our results carefully, using control groups as a basic reference, and we have established beyond doubt that people with the proper aptitudes will show sales increases when taught what to do and more specifically, how to do it.

The results obtained by our students make ours a most gratifying profession. Letters in our files indicate salespeople doubled and tripled their sales after working with us… selling the same products in the same territories at the same prices. The only variables they perceived were their new-found skill and knowledge.

There is little doubt left in our minds that the right sales training program can increase sales volume greatly. It only stands to reason that the salesperson with the proper aptitudes, knowledge and skill will sell more than his counterpart not equally gifted and trained.

Because of the prevailing reliance on the importance of enthusiasm as the motivating force, a great deal of sales training has really been little more than pep talks cloaked in respectability. The really important - and difficult - segments of training, such as motivation of the customer to buy, have been partially or wholly eliminated.

A spokesman for the nation’s largest industry said that a good sale breaks down in a 30-60-10 ratio… 30% of a salesperson’s time should be spent discovering the problem and presenting an answer, 60% in motivating the prospect to want what you are selling, and 10% to close or complete the transaction.

If this is true, why do we not spend proportionate amounts of training time in these areas? The question must be asked, “Why do we fail to devote 60% of our training time to learning specifically how to “motivate the prospect to want what we are selling?”

Could it be that management is not sure how to do this and, so, with an irresolute bow to the salesperson, continues to talk in the familiar terms of product knowledge, of nuts and bolts, of charts and graphs, of anything but what is truly meaningful to the salesperson 0 how to sell?