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

Location: Houston, Texas, United States

Friday, June 24, 2005

*************** QUOTE OF THE WEEK ******************
"Aim for success, not perfection.
Never give up your right to be wrong,
because then you will lose the ability to learn new things
and move forward with your life."
- Dr. David M. Burns

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Winning Combination (Part One)

What do you think is the most important 3 feet in your company? Is it the distance between you and your computer… your desk… your banker? Let’s think about it.

Maybe these quotes will give you some clues:

  • Powerful men know the secrets of persuasion: that is, they know how to sell… Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca believes that sales technique is the key to advancement for anyone in business.
  • Harvard MBA teaches that marketing is important, but selling is where the rubber meets the road… Thomas Watson, Jr., former CEO of IBM said the key to the company’s growth was not being the first in a given technology, but in knowing how to sell it.
  • The way American companies train the people who work for them is a national disgrace,” Tom Peters – Co-author of In Search of Excellence and Thriving on Chaos continues, “only 30% of them given their sales forces any training whatsoever. Sales are where the money comes from.”
  • W. Clement Stone, founder of SUCCESS magazine says, “Most sales are made because of the way the salesman, not the prospect, thinks and acts.”prospect and your salesperson.”
  • Marshall Field, the department store entrepreneur, said, “The only problem with advertising is that it misses the last three feet, the most important yard in the yard business, the distance between your This has been referred to as “The most neglected, most misunderstood, and most important three feet in your business.”
A football analogy: a back-breaking, time-consuming, super effort can be made to move the ball 99 yards down the field, but you still have three more feet to the goal line. And all the effort and all the time counts for absolutely nothing unless you can cover the last three feet!


“If nobody sells anything something bad happens… Nothing!” This sign is on the door of a professor of Economics at Purdue University.

Everything is “outgo”, expense until something is sold to get “income”, sales, and hopefully, profits.

The name of the game is to have more “income” than “outgo” and that spells profits. It is trite but still true - you can’t have a profit without a sale.

AS YOU REVIEW YOUR RECENT RESULTS AT “THE LAST 3 FEET”… If you are not completely happy with your current sales and profits… consider these facts:

STATE OF THE ART: “80% of the business is done by 20% of the salesmen.” - Sales & Marketing Executive International.

  • IMPROPER PREPARATION: A national survey discovered less than 5% of salespeople had decided upon a selling career while they were in high school. – Carl Stevens & Associates.
  • POOR SELECTION: Six out of ten salespeople should not be selling at all, regardless of their training, because they do not have the innate characteristics it takes. Journal of Psychology.
  • ECONOMIC LOSS: “90% of all the work salesmen put in is worthless – only 10% of what they do earns money for them. Nine-tenths of all their efforts is lost motion – utterly wasted.” - Prentice Hall, Inc. Survey: 4,000 salespeople.

If, indeed, these things are true, maybe it would pay us to learn more about selling?


Let’s play the what if game, ok? What if… all the sales producers in your company brought in as many premium dollars as your best sales producer… what would happen to your total gross sales $_____________? Your net profit $______________? What would these extra dollars do to help improve your agency/company _____________________?

What are those top 20%… the super-producers doing that produces their superior results and how are they doing it?

Again, “what if”… we researched those top 20% to determine their “success secrets”… exactly why and how are they selling so well? Suppose we did interviews over say 8 to 10 years and asked several thousand of them to share their methodology. Next, suppose we take this information and consult with 4 or 5 professional learning theorists as to how our research information can be translated/converted into a teaching curriculum so our findings can be shared with agents who want to improve their sales productivity. Suppose we were to invest a healthy budget to develop a body of knowledge that could teach us how to use their proven sales procedures. Then we could determine the effectiveness of our research and development by testing it.

ALL OF THE ABOVE WAS DONE. Nine and half years of research, $100,000 invested in curriculum development with 5 learning theorists, the test involved property and casualty agents from 13 states with an average of 14 years sales experience. These sales professionals studied a 171 page illustrated sales manual that had been custom-designed for their industry. The executive secretary of the sponsoring trade association wrote – “The results are in and the average sales increase for those attending was a whopping 144% the first ninety days!”

A survey of several thousand salespeople found that their most frequent needs are:

  1. Specific methods for improving sales – not what to do, but how to do it.
  2. A complete understanding of the principles and techniques of salesmanship – and how to apply them in day-to-day selling.
  3. Training in capsule and digest form – readable, educational material that is short, explanatory, illustrated and believable.

Friday, June 17, 2005

********** QUOTE OF THE WEEK **********
"Personality can open doors,
but only character can keep them open."
- Elmer G. Letterman

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Developing & Measuring - Salespeople & Management (Part 2)

Five criteria, in broad terms, should dominate our thinking at this point. Certainly, one must be measured against the numeric standards. They must also hear from their boss how their personal development is coming along. Their product knowledge presentation skills must be continually assessed, and their time and territory management skills must be formally reviewed. Lastly, an often overlooked criteria is customer service. Clients served must not be unhappy with either the company or the company’s representative.

To be fair, opportunity assessments must be evaluated. Sometimes, the market moves and changes and even the best salesperson needs “ripe” territory. Market studies and their associated analysis provide a foundation for evaluation. Geographic analysis and client mix are also important to aid in understand not only the salesperson but also the opportunities, the clients, and any unusual territory characteristics that may need to be considered when formal evaluations are being conducted.

So many times, business owners and sales managers really do not fully evaluate the things that matte to their businesses. Experience has taught us that one must know not only what the individual seller sold but they must also know what was lost. It is essential to know whether the territory is growing or declining. Competitive losses must be documented and discussed. Distinctions must be made between what is being sold to new customers and what is being added to the existing service base. So, all effective measurement systems monitor growth, new account numbers and dollars, existing account volume and service enhancement effectiveness, new market penetrations as directed by strategy, and relationship nurturing.

In its simplest form, the evaluator must ask, “Is this salesperson growing as an individual? Do they have the drive and determination it takes to learn the process of effective selling? Is constructive correction willingly sought and freely acted upon? How effectively do they manage their time and territory and how much of your time do they require? Is the significant investment in salary, sales education, coaching and evaluation reaping reasonable rewards both for the individual and the company within a respectable period of time?” With these questions answered, the reviewer can move on to asking the questions that matter more to the company than they do to the individual.

When our customers found where they were thought to be, did they buy what they were intended to buy, and am I finding an ever-growing number of clients who want more of what I sell at the price I’ve agreed to sell it?

All businesses must monitor their effectiveness in the marketplace. Experience has taught that salespeople thrive in an environment that clearly states what is expected of the salesforce in total, specifically what each person’s role in the organization is, and lays out from the start the specific criteria to which they will be held accountable.

A company that is growing its territories, its customer base, expanding its services, developing new products, and winning new accounts regularly, invariably have a “behind the scenes” measurement system that is consistent with the points previously made in this article.

Lastly, what formal documents are created when professional men and women meet to formally evaluate performance? Elaborate appraisal forms and statistical spreadsheets seem to be the most prevalent. The tool is not so important as is the fact that periodic “meetings of the minds” occur. Fundamentally stated, a company can afford to keep its salesforce only so long as they achieve their pre-stated goals.

Being an effective salesperson in today’s competitive world is a combination of constantly refining personal skills and behaviors accompanied by a management that genuinely cares about the hiring, coaching, and retention of individuals who are capable of responding to direction and guidance both willingly and eagerly. Then, working together in service to their markets and customers, they achieve and document the fact that they achieved what it was they set out to do.

Those who fall short, are given ample opportunity to improve. Those who fail at selling go on to something more suitable to their talents. Those who succeed enjoy the fruits of their labors.

In closing, effective salespeople drive themselves! They make evaluation time a time for reflection, but they are constantly self-evaluating and self-improving.

Great sales managers create environments where talented people not only survive – they thrive.

Effective business planners create plans and programs that are so measurable and specific that sales managers can understand them and salespeople can achieve them. All the while, at all levels of the organization, each individual is constantly setting their sights on even loftier goals for next time.

The individual who sells should constantly be seeking insight into both themselves, their company, and their customers. Measuring has many forms. What is most important is that the people who do the work feel god about what they do in service to others. One of the greatest joys of management is seeing someone you trained and coached achieve individual success. Nothing is sweeter than knowing that you were fair, firm, specific, and successful in developing, measuring and evaluating sales performance. The management of the total sales function can be an exciting and rewarding experience!

Friday, June 10, 2005

************** QUOTE OF THE WEEK *************
"Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work."
- Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Developing & Measuring - Salespeople & Management (Part 1)

Salespeople need help and management needs help in helping them.

If management is to improve sales productivity and profitability for their company, they must be able to better develop and measure their professional revenue producers.

  • What can we do to maintain and increase sales?
  • How can we beat the competition?
  • How can we get new salespeople more productive faster?
  • Is the quality of our salespeople as good as the quality of our product/service?

In today’s competitive market, these questions face every manager. The answers lie in a highly effective process for developing and measuring our sales professionals.

Clearly, our objective must be to teach salespeople the arts of conviction and motivation so thoroughly that they know them well enough to be able to use them in their day-to-day selling. Self-confidence comes from knowing specifically what to do and exactly how to do it.

The soul of professional salesmanship is knowledge, skill and style! If you are not completely happy with your current sales and earnings, this may be a good time to invest in your professional revenue producers.

Today’s sales professionals want the self-confidence that comes form knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. What they really want to learn is how to structure a comple professional sales presentation in the proper psychological sequence to achieve maximum motivation appeal. Why aren’t we giving them what they want?

Have you ever wondered what the ideal state-of-the-art professionally structured sales presentation of your product to your prospect would sound like?

If, indeed you are serious about improving “the most important three feet in your business” this may be a good time to invest in your differential advantage – your people! If these people did not need a manager - then they would the manager.

There are two halves to this canoe: (1) developing, and (2) measuring the successful salesforce… they must complement each other.

Successful businesses manage the sales process, not just the salesperson.

Few executive managers understand that they drive the sales process to either success or failure.

Success comes from the establishing of a series of effective actions, and failure comes from failing to establish the chain of actions that would have worked reliably and consistently had they properly established the “sales effectiveness” framework.

The first means of measuring an individual who sells is to establish within the business, a strategy which the salesforce will be expected to follow. Without strategic direction, the salesforce may sell the wrong things to the right people for the wrong price and thereby o irreparable harm to the goals of the business. So, rule number one is “Set strategy and measure individual performance to specific goals.”

When you, as a reader, see the world “goals”, what comes to mind? Most likely you thought of something like, “I will make fifteen calls today, or I will get five appointments this week, or I will close two sales wroth a minimum of $2,000 before next Monday.” There is nothing wrong with this kind of thinking, but effective measurement systems go far beyond these numeric “scorecards”.

Sales executives who have achieved success know that they must clearly understand business unit strategies, and that they must hire, train, professionally educate, and coach men and women to success. They know that selling is a process and that people of all sizes and shapes who have the innate ability can be taught to be effective in front of a qualified prospect.

An effective measurement system certainly measures individual productivity. That’s where you and I agree on the quantifiable things you are going to do and then you are compared to the standard we both agreed was reasonable. Personally, in my experience, self-motivated salespeople drive themselves to success once they understand the mathematics of sales. Simply stated, there is a number of leads that results in a lesser number of calls and then visits. For every certain number of visits, proposals result. Not every proposal brings a sale, but any successful seller knows his “proposal win rate”. By measuring the selling cycle – cold leads, warm leads, hot leads, calls, visits, professionally planed presentation, proposals, and finally firm orders, not only does the salesperson know how they are doing, but the sales manager also knows. Some salespeople talk effectively on the telephone but cannot effectively perform in a face-to-face environment. The secret to effectiveness is managing the entire “selling chain”. Salespeople do many things very well. Many need to improve certain aspects. Some make lousy first impressions, others lack product knowledge or do not manage either their time or territory well. Still others are not good team players. When salespeople are measured, they must be compared to achievers. They must be coaxed, critiqued, praised, and kept in a constant state of self-improvement.

Once strategy has been decided and teams have been funded, given initial education and development, and deployed, the real fun begins. The salesforce hits the telephones and then the streets and meets their customers day after day in mainstreet America. After daily coaching and monitoring for the specified period, it is time to sit down together formally and review sales progress and effectiveness.

Friday, June 03, 2005

************* QUOTE OF THE WEEK *************

"In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman."
- David M. Ogilvy

Thursday, June 02, 2005


“How an individual handles communication both as a receiver and as a sender, has a greater effect on his life than any other thing he does,” says Dr. DeWitt C. Reddick, Dean of the University of Texas school of Communication. According to Dr. Reddick, “Currently we suffer from acute communication indigestion.”

The difficulties of communicating with one another he described by telling of a father pointing out a cemetery to his four-year-old daughter. “A cemetery is a place where they buy people’s bodies when they die,” the father explained. After a few minutes of silence, the daughter asked: “But Daddy, what do they do with their heads?”

Communication Gap

Why do we experience difficulty in communicating with other individuals in our business, social, and family relationships? Why are many parents experiencing difficulty and even frustration in trying to communicate with their teenage children?

The Austin Statesmen newspaper quotes Dr. Reddick as referring to the present generation of college students as “over-exposed” and with a sense of “inescapable responsibility”. Statistics show that the heaviest viewing age among television viewers is four to six years. This generation of college students, he said, is the first to have grown up with exposure from birth to pictures – both true and false – of the troubles of the world.

In the past, education was shaped to introduce the child gradually to the horizon of the world, whereas today he is flung, unguided, and at an early age, into scenes of violence and turmoil facing the world.

This overexposure has left the student of today with a curious sense of inescapable responsibility for others and a distrust of the older generations who have failed to solve these problems that exist today, he said. The dean continued that the life of accelerating change, leaving few traditional symbols of security, surrounding the student and his sense of wanting to be relevant in the world around him have set today’s student apart from past generations. Thus, to communicate effectively with our college age children, our business associates, or our social acquaintances, we must be able to put ourselves in the world of the person with whom we are talking.


“Older people who become alarmed at the antics of teenagers fail in empathy; instead of imagining themselves as teenagers again, they expect the younger generation to act like oldsters.” Says John Kord Lageman in a Reader’s Digest article, “How’s Your Empathy?”Mr. Lageman further states, “Psychologists have given us a new word to describe a trait that can increase our understand and enjoyment of others. Empathy is the ability to appreciate the other person’s feelings without yourself become so emotionally involved that your judgment is affected. It sharpens our perception in all sorts of situations in our daily lives. It’s a state of mind which anyone can develop and improve.

The biggest mistake in dealing (communicating) with others is to underestimate the importance of their feelings. You can acquire empathy through role-playing. To grasp the essential feeling pattern of another person, say to yourself, “Now I am going to imagine that I am Jones facing this situation.” The first step is to find out what Jones is “like”. Often we assume that others feel exactly as we do when faced with a difficult situation. Empathy asks you to forget your own reactions while attempting to see through Jones’ eyes.

There is nothing people will not tell us about themselves if only we tune in on the feelings behind their words and acts. The awareness of how others think and feel can be a key to effective communication. Using empathy to enter the mind and heart of another human being can become an interesting and rewarding adventure.

How much more effective and happy would you be in your family, social, and professional life if you could become more proficient in communicating? Would your increased skill as a communicator help you toward the attainment of some of your personal goals? If so, maybe it would be worth a reasonable amount of time and effort to develop the knowledge and skill to become a good communicator. A good communicator is a good salesperson.

Everyone’s a Salesperson?

Was Robert Louis Stevenson right when he said, “Everything in life is selling?”
“What Makes a Good Salesman?” written for The Harvard Business Review by Dr. Herbert Greenberg states, “A large amount of empathy and ego drive is what makes a good salesman.” Dr. Greenberg has spent over 15 years working with over 350,000 salespeople to determine these basic characteristics. Since all of us want to “sell” others on our ideas or concepts, our products, our services, or ourselves, maybe we should attempt to learn “how to” best achieve our goals.

Our friends. No merry thought has any significance unless we share it. No flash of wisdom is worth anything unless we disclose it. Cicero summed it up like this: If a wise man were granted a life of abundance of everything material, so that he had leisure to contemplate everything worth knowing, still if he could not communicate with another human being he would abandon life.

Dr. Reddick has listed one of the barriers to communication between individuals: “The human tendencies is to jump to conclusions and to consider that the words of another person mean what they would mean if we were saying them.”

Sharing… Talking Together

Dialogue begins in an act of faith: the assumption that those who converse speak in honesty for the purpose of reaching understanding, and with generosity toward each other. Dialogue is an achievement of civilization. It has assertion, reply, and rejoinder, so that thoughts are interpreted, and ideas are combined or blended.

Truth is reached by dialogue. Dialogue demands that we earn the right to be heard by lending our ears to what others have to say. The only way we can get another person’s idea or reaction is by listening to him talk.

When we come to the point of presenting our ideas, we should not start with talking or writing. We should begin by analyzing the problem, and then follow with gathering facts, organizing the facts, forming an outline, determining what is needed to convey our meaning, throwing it into interesting form, and adding human interest so as to motivate action. Then we may speak or write with assurance.

Sincerity should show itself in every sentence. To win confidence the words we speak and the things we write must breathe sincerity. This requires imagination of three kinds: (1) Plan – Creative imagination, to see how our proposal contributes to the needs or wants of the other person; (2) Show – Constructive imagination, to put our ideas into attention-winning form; (3) Tell – Interpretive imagination, to see ways in which our message may be conveyed most effectively so as to get the desired response.

In communion with others, we start by capturing attention, determining the situation or problem, and then go on to arouse interest, convince, then motivate, and indicate some course of desirable action.

Dealing With Facts

To write or speak with authority demands that we have facts. Once we start putting our facts on paper we may obtain a new and objective measure of our position or proposition. Having gathered a mass of facts, we proceed to consider their relative significance. Creative thinking, or application of our critical faculty, is our only guarantee that we shall not be stampeded into unwise action by misjudgment of the importance of facts.

Truth in any subject is to be found only through the confrontation of facts, and the interpretation of facts. We need to know not only our own side of any case, but the opposition, too.

Plain Talk

Everyone who speaks or writes in support of what he believes has a moral obligation to be intelligible. As Queen Elizabeth said to the King in Richard III: “An honest tale speeds best being plainly told.”

The heavenly twins of speaking and writing are Simplicity and Clarity, as Beatrice S. Findlay said so well in the C.A.A.E. book, Let’s Tell People. What we are trying to say must be clear-cut in our own minds. We must be sure of what we want our audience to know, and how we want people to act in response to what we tell them. And then we must put all that into unambiguous and appealing words.

Plain talk is necessary because the public has a rather well-based suspicion of schemes that can only be understood and carried out by very clever people. Even if you have the whole secret of human happiness within you, it is useless to society unless you express it in a manner that attracts attention and in language people understand.

What Do You Mean?

A word is not a symbol on paper or a vibration in the air; it is a tool of communication. The measure of the good word is meaning. It should be as exact as is required to avoid ambiguity, and it should be appropriate to the understanding level of the person to whom it is addressed.

What does a word mean in fact? It doesn’t make much difference how long the yard is, or how heavy a pound is; what really is important is that we all mean the same thing when we specify a yard or a pound. When a word kindles the same meaning in the mind of the hearer as in the mind of the speaker, there is successful communion. Bring the arguments out of your depths of thought and make them over so that they mean the same to others as they do to you. A private meaning is in reality no meaning at all.

Presenting a Case

Expression of one’s convictions must not be left to look coldly intellectual. No appeal to reason that is not also an appeal to a want will succeed.
We must become aware of the thinking that goes on inside other people – people who are living on islands of their own interests. We need to build a bridge with such things included as common sense, reason, fair play, love, dreams of a better self and a better world; and then add interest, feeling, and sentiment. It would take a thick government White Paper to say in official language what President Roosevelt said so effectively in a dozen words: “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.”

Instead of reading aloud the minutes of a meeting supporting an enterprise, we should try to hammer out some phrases that will convey the spirit of the cause to the people who listen or read so as to bring them into communion with us. Use familiar symbols, tell parables, bridge the gap between what the situation is now and what it can become following the proposed action. This is what Isaiah did in his prophecies; this is what Paul did in his Epistles; this is what Churchill did in his wartime speeches; this is what Roosevelt did in his Fireside Chats.

Use the Third Party

Are you the one to say it? It may be more effective to communicate indirectly or to have someone else present your message. Recall how the audience listened more actively to Charley McCarthy than to Edgar Bergen. Third party documented evidence may help convince the other person. You must present the evidence. Your prospect determines whether he will accept it as proof. He is the judge.


You have immersed yourself in the facts, you have chosen those which are pertinent; you have thrown them into understandable form and clothed them in bright language; now is the time to display your zeal, your enthusiasm, and your earnest sincerity. As you help your volunteers use their imaginations so they can visualize their dreams come true.


Show that what is proposed is in the hearer’s enlightened self-interest. In his own life story, every man and woman is potentially the hero or the heroine. It is not sufficient to paint a picture of what people are; it is not even enough to paint a picture of what they know they want to be; paint, rather a picture of what they would like to think of themselves as becoming. You have succeeded if your message strikes your audience as a wording of their own highest thoughts now brought to remembrance by your words.

You do not need to have an outstandingly high intelligence quotient or special talent. Harriet Beecher Stowe was not a literary sophisticate, but she painted word picture of slavery that were unforgettable, pictures which played a big part in freeing the slaves. That could not have been accomplished by the staid, solid, exactly truthful articles in the abolitionist journals.

Look at how cleverly the Communist Manifesto was put together by Karl Marx. It has all the allure of a fairy tale. Once upon a time, he says, there were patricians, knights, plebeians and slaves. Then there was a feudal society consisting of lords, vassals, build-masters, journeymen, apprentices and serfs. Then rose the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marx loads is story with dramatic struggle. He gives his reader something to fight for. And he puts a happy ending to his tale: the classless society with everyone sharing in property. That is an especially beautiful and desirable picture to the man who does not now own property! He buys the picture because it is to his self-interest.

Your key to success in effective human relations may indeed be achieved through your better communication.