Sales and Sales Management Blog

March 28, 2012

George Orwell’s Negative Influence on Sales Language

The coincidence of timing: My friend Dan Waldschmidt published a post yesterday on why words matter.  After reading my post on how words a misused, I’d encourage you read Dan’s to see how words should be used.

What words do you use to describe yourself and your products and services?  Are there words you intentionally try to keep out the mind of your prospects or clients?  Do you use euphemisms instead of plain English when making a presentation in order to try to elicit a particular feeling or response from your prospect?

As salespeople, we’ve been taught to frame our conversations and presentations in ways that lead our prospects and clients to the conclusions and decisions we wish them to arrive at.  In order to do this, we are advised by some to refrain from using certain words that may evoke a negative reaction—or to use words that will evoke a negative reaction, depending on what we want our prospect to think or feel.

Much of this advice is based on the idea that if we control the conversation we control the prospect’s attitude, thinking, and ultimately, their decision making process.  In other words, by carefully controlling the words used in the conversation, we can control the prospect’s thought process. 

Some sales trainers even go so far as to recommend we not bring up potential negatives—don’t address a non-existent objection so as not to plant a potential objection in the prospect’s mind.  Or if an objection is raised, deflect it and return to the presentation or closing the sale.  Gloss over the objection and it will go away.    

It seems George Orwell has become the director of sales training.  Orwell’s Newspeak is now the new “sales speak.”  No longer is communicating with a prospect as a rational human sufficient; now we are exhorted to in essence treat them as nothing more than a computer, inputting only the data we want them to compute–as though if we don’t give them the words, they won’t be able to think the thoughts we don’t want them to think.

Orwell believed that words are the keys to thought.  If the words don’t exist to communicate a particular thought or concept, it isn’t possible to think the thought or concept.  Consequently, if you can control the words someone has available to them, you can control not only what they think, but eventually how they act.  Orwell later repudiated the concept.  Unfortunately, a version of this concept has become quite popular in some areas of sales training.

Like Orwell’s world of 1984, some view the world of sales as an arena where words are not simply powerful in influencing thought and behavior; they are the creators of thought and behavior.  If we don’t say it, the prospect will never think it.  If we can frame it using the words we want, the prospect will never think of their own words to describe it or question it.

Rather than trying to communicate, we are told by some that if we create the conversation we wish to have with the prospect, the prospect will unknowingly go along with us.  If only we learn the right words and phrases to use—and the words and phrases to avoid, we can direct the prospect to the ”proper” decision.  Selling in this view is simply an exercise in rhetoric.

So, we learn the right words and the right phrases; we engage the prospect by making sure we eliminate any words that might evoke thoughts, feeling, or concepts we don’t want them to have; and we ask for the order.  Instead of the automatic ‘yes’ we expected, we hear a resounding ‘no.’

What could possibly have gone wrong?  We did everything right.  We used the right words; we avoided the wrong ones.  We were careful to implant the ideas, concepts, and emotions we wanted the prospect to have.  We executed perfectly.  And they said no.  How could this possibly have happened?

Could it be that they did the unthinkable–they actually thought words and concepts that we worked diligently to keep out of their head?  Despite our best efforts to implant the right “data,”  when we pushed the “enter” button they exercised independent thought and rejected our attempt to manipulate their decision making process?

Is it possible the words we use aren’t as important as the communication and connection we make with the prospect?  Is it possible that our attempt to finesse the prospect by trying to direct their thinking through the careful manipulation of language isn’t as effective as we have been lead to believe?  Is it possible that less rhetoric and more communication would serve us better?  Could it be that more listening, more understanding, and more straight answers to prospect questions could prompt more trust in the prospect?

Maybe it is time to rethink the Newspeak of selling and learn instead to listen, to answer honestly and forthrightly, to drop the euphemisms and begin once again communicating with prospects and clients using plain English.  Maybe rather than the belief that the words we use will create the reality we want in the prospect, we should seek try to understand the prospect’s needs, wants, and issues and try to present our best solutions to those needs and wants as honestly and forthrightly as possible. 

The Orwellian experiment has been tried—and failed.  Orwell recognized the failure of the concept before he died.  Certainly, many trainers in the areas of communication and persuasion recognize the legitimate uses of rhetoric in the sales process.  Yet, there are still large numbers of trainers selling the Orwellian concept of easy sales through language manipulation and its false promise of controlling prospect thought and behavior.  There is a difference between the legitimate use of persuasive influence and the intent to deviously manipulation. 

We are selling to independent beings who exercise their capacity to think autonomously of our attempts to stage-manage their actions and decisions.  Our words can influence, they cannot create the reality we want.  Our words can help create an image, they cannot eliminate independent thought.   Our words can create conversation, dialog, and real communication, they cannot produce a pre-determined outcome.  The sooner we recognize their independence, the sooner we can get back to creating relationships built on trust, not on linguistic manipulation.


February 23, 2011

Guest Article: “Your Customer’s PIR: Price Investment Ratio,” by Mark Hunter

Your Customer’s PIR: Price Investment Ratio
by Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter”*

Have you ever really considered how price affects your customer with regard to their *perceived benefit*?  Too often, we use a simplistic approach to determining a price – figure the cost to produce a product or service, tack on some arbitrary percentage, and call it good, right?

Price, though, is consequential in ways we may not initially consider.  The price a person pays for something goes a long way in determining the perceived benefit they expect to get from it.  The perceived benefit cuts two ways. First, the expectation of service goes up the more a person pays for something. Second, the perception of what they’re gaining also goes up with the amount they pay.   The two are not opposites; they work in tandem, and in nearly all businesses, this tandem relationship can and does work to your advantage.

Many companies, hopefully including yours, are known for delivering incredible service.  This quality service may be what your customers comment upon and why they are willing to refer you to other customers.  This level of service comes at a price. One of the things you always should be doing is explaining to and showing your customers how your level of service helps them.

The more you share this type of information with your customers, the more comfortable you become in seeing the value of what you offer.  Having confidence in your service allows you to increase your “Price Investment Ratio” (PIR). This all has to do with what you expect customers to pay.

For the customer, the PIR is revealed when you help frame their expectations.  To help explain this best, let me refer to what I call the “IBM paradox.” This is the belief people have that although you will pay more for anything you buy from IBM, you will never be fired for using IBM.  What this means is there are plenty of companies that sell the exact same items and services as IBM, but at a less expensive price.  Although other vendors will be less money, there is a level of safety and confidence in using IBM – so much so that it translates to a premium price that customers will pay.

The “Price Investment Ratio” (PIR) is the amount over the minimum amount a person would have to pay for something. They are willing to pay it to feel confident in what they are buying.   You might say the PIR should really be the CP – the “Confidence Premium.”

There are no two ways about it – when you have great service but do not reflect it in your PIR, then you are underselling.   If you are underselling, you are not making the profits you could be making.

I can hear some of you at this point thinking, “What if we don’t have a solid sense of how good our customer service really is?”   In other words, maybe your company receives very few complaints, but at the same time, you are not sure if your service is at a higher caliber than what your competitors bring to the table.

In order to find out your “Price Investment Ratio” (PIR), you must do a deep dive with your existing customers to get them to tell you what your service means to them.  Once you do this, you can then match up what existing customers are telling you with what prospective customers are asking you to do.   When you grasp this, you begin to understand what the PIR really should be.  How much “investment” is the customer willing to make in going with you instead of your competitor?

As I have often said, in the B2B arena, companies don’t buy anything, they only invest.   If your customer can’t see the return on investment, they won’t *invest* – they won’t pay the price you want to get.   When they *do*see the value, though, then you can feel very confident in charging a price above what your competitors charge.  Don’t settle for a lower price when doing so is detrimental to your bottom line.

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit


February 2, 2010

Guest Article: “Turn Selling Around,” by Ram Charan

Turn Selling Around
by Ram Charan    

The heart of the new approach to selling is an intense focus on the prosperity of your customers. This is a radical departure from what most salespeople and selling organizations do. The entire psychological orientation is shifted 180 degrees. No longer do you measure your own success first. Instead, you measure success by how well your customers are doing with your help. You’re not focused on selling a specific product or service; you’re focused on how your company can help the customer succeed in all the ways that are important to that customer. By tapping the many resources you have at your disposal to help customers meet their business goals and priorities, you are adding value.

This ability to create value for customers will differentiate you in a crowded marketplace, and you will be paid a fair price for it — one that is commensurate with the value customers perceive they are getting and the value you do in fact provide. I call this new approach value creation selling, or VCS.

Value creation selling is sweepingly different from how most companies sell today, in these ways:

First, you as a seller and your organization devote large amounts of quality time and energy — much more than you do today — to learning about your customers’ businesses in great detail. What are your customer’s goals? Which financial measures is he most keen about? How does he create market value and what are the key factors that differentiate his product or service from those of his competitors? Only then do you look for ways to help the customer in the short, medium, and long term. The greatest opportunities lie in the medium and long term, where you and your customer can work together to change the nature of the game in your customer’s industry based on value you can help provide.

Second, you use capabilities and tools that you’ve never used before to understand how your customers do business and how you can help them improve that business. Sales is no longer just for the sales force: you need to muster the help of people in many parts of your company to do that. People from many different departments, including the legal, finance, R&D, marketing and manufacturing, become intimately familiar with your customer. You compile large amounts of information about your customer, both facts and impressions, in useful databases that are shared and used to determine the best approach for helping your customer win.

This will demand that you build new social networks, both within your organization and between your organization and the customer’s shop. Information will have to flow in both directions, and there will be a need for frequent formal and informal interaction among people serving different functions within your company and between your company and the customer’s. For example, your engineering people will need to meet with the people in your customer’s shop who define the specifications of your customer’s products or services.

Third, you’re going to make it your business to know not only your customers but also your customers’ customers. It is no longer enough simply to satisfy your customer’s demands. You also have to know what motivates his customers, what their problems are and attitudes are and what decision-making processes they use. In order to tailor your solutions to your customer’s market, you have to know who his customers are and what they want. To devise unique offerings for your customer, your company must use its capabilities to work backward from the needs of the end consumer to the needs of your customer. This is the customer value chain.

Fourth, you have to recognize that the execution of this new approach will require much longer cycle times to produce an order and generate revenue. It requires patience, consistency, and a determination on your part to build a high degree of trust with your customers. This is imperative because in this new relationship the two-way information exchange is far deeper than what you have relied on in the past. But once it gets going, the cycle time can be very fast, because you will have established trust and credibility.

Finally, top management in your company will have to reengineer its recognition and reward system to make sure that the organization as a whole is fostering the behaviors that will make the new sales approach effective. Hitting quarterly sales targets is not the only basis for rewarding the sales force under this approach. Further, other members of the sales team from various functional areas must be recognized and rewarded proportionately for their contributions. If after receiving sufficient training and support the salespeople or other functional executives don’t adopt the new approach with wholehearted enthusiasm, you will have to replace some people.

Ram Charan is the author or coauthor of many bestselling business books, including What the CEO Wants You to Know and Execution. For more than thirty-five years, he has worked behind the scenes at Fortune 100 companies like GE, Bank of America, DuPont, Thomson financial, Honeywell and Home Depot to help senior executives develop and implement strategic plans.

December 30, 2009

Guest Article: “The Truth About Frogs,” by Brian Tracy

As we enter a new year, I thought a reminder of Brian Tracy’s advice about eating a frog every morning would be most appropriate.

The Truth About Frogs
By Brian Tracy

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.

Conquer the Hardest Task First
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else.

Don’t Procrastinate
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long. The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.

Take Action Immediately
Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete. “Failure to execute” is one of the biggest problems in organizations today. Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk continually, hold endless meetings, and make wonderful plans, but in the final analysis, no one does the job and gets the results required.

Develop a Positive Addiction
You can actually develop a “positive addiction” to endorphins and to the feeling of enhanced clarity, confidence, and competence that they trigger. When you develop this addiction, you will, at an unconscious level, begin to organize your life in such a way that you are continually starting and completing ever more important tasks and projects. You will actually become addicted, in a very positive sense, to success and contribution.

No Shortcuts
Practice is the key to mastering any skill. Fortunately, your mind is like a muscle. It grows stronger and more capable with use. With practice, you can learn any behavior or develop any habit that you consider either desirable or necessary.

Action Exercise
What is your “frog?” What is the one task that you despise doing each day? Once you have chosen your “frog,” make it a habit to wake up every morning and do that task first.

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations.  Brian’s goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined.  Brian Tracy has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 4,000,000 people in 4,000 talks and seminars throughout the US, Canada and 40 other countries worldwide. As a Keynote speaker and seminar leader, he addresses more than 250,000 people each year.   Visit his website

June 29, 2009

Boost Your Sales series: “Are you being a Caretaker?” by Dr. Gregory Stebbins

Are you being a Caretaker?
By Dr. Gregory Stebbins

Traditionally a caretaker is the individual responsible for responsibility of looking after buildings and the smooth running of an estate making sure the heating is working; cleaning; moving furniture; doing repairs, ordering materials, etc. Often these jobs are held for life and the caretaker has a very personal relationship with the owner of the property.

So it is with sales professionals that take on the role of caretaker with their customers. To accomplish this, the professional needs to move past seeing the customer as an adversary. Listen to the language of many sales people and you’ll hear combat metaphors that might be more appropriate in a military boot camp environment.

Today, it’s very easy to accidentally slip away from being a caretaker. Technology — internet, cell phones, faxes and voice mail — have allowed us to respond instantly to our client requests, without really getting to know them as a human being. In many ways we miss the little things that tell us who the person is, their concerns, their fears, what makes them happy and more.

What are some simple ways that we can start being a customer caretaker and build deeper relationships with our clients?

1. Communicate personally. Take some time to meet personally with the customer. Leave the sales agenda in the office and just treat them as a very important person. Listen to their story. People often ask, “What’s their story.” Generally people want to share their story, sometimes just to get it off their chest. As a sales professional it’s too easy to look at everything as a sales situation. Sometimes the best way to sell is to “not sell,” at least in the classical way everyone expects.

2. Help them without asking. Listen for things that you can do to assist them, without asking them, “How can I help you?” Just the fact that you took time to be with them and did not try to sell them will change how they see you. Delivering something special that wasn’t asked for, but nevertheless was desired will cause them to feel taken care of.

3. Show them the love. This tip might be hard for some sales people to swallow. Think first of someone you love unconditionally. What would you do to help that person? What do you do to make their life better? Are they that different from most of your customers? I’ll admit that there are some people in my life that I choose to love unconditionally — from a distance. If your customer knows that you care very deeply for their welfare as a human being, the errors that show up in any business relationship are easily forgiven.

A responsible caretaker knows his or her responsibilities so well that things that might break never do. The reason is they fix it before it breaks. Relationships with customers are the same. If you’re constantly looking for the next customer and never take care of your current customers the churn might eventually bankrupt you.

Dr. Stebbins is President of PeopleSavvy and an internationally recognized authority on Sales Psychology. He is a master at improving the greatest asset of any business—its people. With more than 30 years of business experience, he applies a wealth of knowledge, street smarts, and high impact ideas to the challenges his clients have. As a trainer, Greg has designed and delivered  numerous corporate sales, management and human resource development programs. Over 20,000 sales professionals have benefited from Greg’s expertise and training. He has consulted on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational culture for dozens of organizations, large and small, profit and not-for-profit. 


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February 10, 2009

Run Don’t Walk

Today’s the day!  Can’t say much till Noon Pacific Standard Time–but it is worth the wait.

Noon today PST, the doors open – on an offer that has the potential to save you thousands of dollars, increase your sales exponentially, and perhaps best of all give you peace of mind in the midst of a downward spiraling economy, massive budget cuts and increased sales quotas!

Watch the countdown to noon here.


Paul McCord

At noon PST run, don’t walk to here

November 13, 2008

Guest Article: “Use Psychology to Create Sales-Winning Relationships,” by Gregory Stebbins

Use Psychology to Create Sales-Winning Relationships
by Gregory Stebbins

A participant in one of my recent seminars asked me, “Can I rearrange my client’s office during a sales presentation?”

The sales person had gone to an initial meeting where the chairs in the office were about eight feet from the customer’s desk. He wanted to know if it was OK to just pick up one of the chairs and move it next to the desk and start his presentation.

How would you have answered this question? Believe it or not, your answer could have huge implications on this meeting’s success.

Everything in a customer’s office tells you a story about him or her-from the way the space is arranged to the items that have been collected and displayed.

Archeologists can dig up ancient cities and create a pretty accurate description of the inhabitants’ lifestyle just from the arrangement of the ruins and pottery fragments. As sales professionals we must do the same thing with the artifacts surrounding our customers, so we can communicate better and develop longer lasting relationships with them.

Here’s how you can promote a desirable impression and create sales-winning relationships by understanding space and the hidden message in things.

How to Promote a Desirable Impression By Understanding Space

In 1966, when anthropologist Edward T. Hall described set measurable distances between people as they interact he defined four distances:

  • Intimate distance – 6″ to 18″, for embracing, touching or whispering
  • Personal distance – 1.5 feet to 4 feet, for interactions among good friends
  • Social Distance – 5 feet to 12 feet, for interactions among acquaintances
  • Public Distance – more than 12 feet, for public speaking

How does this relate to your sales process?

Think about one of your customers. Divide her office into concentric circles, starting from where she sits. The distance between the circles is about the width of her desk. Anything close to the person-usually within arms reach-is the most important part of her office. This space generally contains her most precious, most valuable items. It is filled with clues that reveal to the trained sales professional a wealth of information about the customer and her needs and motivations.

As for the office the salesperson asked about rearranging, the chairs were set at the “social distance,” which the customer was communicating as appropriate for interactions among acquaintances (or in this case, sales people). For the sales person to pick up his chair and move into the next circle-personal distance-would have meant that he was declaring that the two of them were friends.

From the customer’s point of view this may or may not have been true. The customer could have reacted positively and allowed it. Or she could have reacted negatively and asked the sales person to leave. In any case, changing to another distance is likely to cause tension and would not promote a desirable impression.

A better strategy would be to ask permission to move the chair closer to the desk. Or, he could say that he had difficulty hearing the prospective customer clearly and then asked permission to move the chair.

How to Create Sales-Wining Relationships by Understanding the Hidden Message in “Things”

Analyzing your clients or prospects’ rooms will tell you their motivations and behavioral styles. By paying close attention and analyzing the hidden message in things, you will know how to best serve your customer.

If his desk is meticulous, it indicates a high degree of close tolerance, sometimes called analytical. Or his desk could be very messy indicating an engaging personal or social trait, sometimes called influencing. These are all clues to guide you in making a presentation that will have the greatest appeal and impact on your customer.

The books on the bookcase will tell you what is currently or has been important to him. Trophies, plaques and diplomas all tell you that he is motivated by recognition. While pictures of tropical isles indicate an idealistic approach to life and business. All of this information will guide you in presenting your case so the customer really “grasps” it.

Knowing how to analyze and use keys to the customer’s psyche is what separates the ordinary sales representatives from the sales professionals.

Here’s the point: By understanding sales psychology and enhancing your interpersonal skills you will make more sales. I guarantee it-and this is not just an idle claim. With more than 30 years of in-the-trenches sales experience and a Doctorate in Psychology, I’ve applied a wealth of knowledge, know how, and high impact techniques (like those described here) to help over 20,000 sales professionals improve their sales careers.

So, please take my advice. Take a moment to scope out your prospective customer’s office. It’s vital to developing longer lasting client relationships. The information about the person’s motivations and behavior is always available to you. Are you available to the information?

Sales Psychology Expert Gregory Stebbins has helped over 20,000 sales professionals become the point of differentiation while their competitors struggle with how to differentiate their product and service. In his book PeopleSavvy for Sales Professionals, he unveils for the first time his simple but groundbreaking plan to win your customers’ trust and business forever. Get your free sneak preview at

October 23, 2008

Guest Article: “Maximizing Your Price in a Soft Economy,” by Mark Hunter

Maximizing Your Price in a Soft Economy
By Mark Hunter

Establishing maximum value for your price is never easy.  In today’s volatile economy, it’s even more of a challenge.  For most companies, costs are increasing, yet the ability to pass them along to the customer is fraught with numerous roadblocks.  The customer’s response to a price increase is rarely positive, with the usual line of objections that go along with it.  In addition, there are the concerns that a competitor’s price may undercut yours or that the customer may choose to go down a different path instead of buying from you at all.  As big as these issues are, they pale in comparison to the number one roadblock to maximizing your price point:  the confidence of the salesperson.

The main reason why companies do not capitalize on their potential revenue is because their salespeople do not have the confidence to ask for and receive the highest price point.  If a salesperson is secure in what they are selling and in knowing how the customer will benefit from their products/services, then they will be confident in asking for and getting the desired price point.  The problem is that many times the salesperson lacks confidence in at least one of these areas, resulting in their inability to make their sales quota.

To rectify this problem, it’s important to examine how the salesperson first developed a lack of confidence in their ability to maximize their price points.  Generally, it stems from a sale they perceived to be lost because their price had been too high.  On the surface, their assumption probably appeared to be correct.  However, in reality, it just seemed that way because the right price-value relationship had not been established.   If the salesperson had executed a proper sales strategy that allowed both himself and the customer to see the product’s/service’s true value, this could have been avoided.  It needs to be communicated that in a B to B environment, the benefits are to both the buyer and the business they’re buying it for.  In a B to C environment, the benefits are to both the buyer and to the person(s) who will actually use the product or service.  When the salesperson and the customer understand this, it can help erase the uncertainty that the price may pose.

Let me give you two quick examples.  If a person works for a mega-global company and is buying widgets, he’d have no problem spending a little on them if he knew he was buying them from a reputable company that has experience selling to other mega-global companies.  In essence, the customer is looking for confidence and is willing to pay for it.  In a B to C situation, because the customer doesn’t want to look like a fool for their purchase, they want the salesperson to provide them with enough emotional benefit to allow them to convey to others that they made a great decision.  In both situations, an inexperienced salesperson is going to lose the sale if they don’t take the time to use questions that encourage the customer to fully express their needs.  In general, new salespeople often lose the sale shortly after they’ve stated their price.  Thus, it’s only natural for them to believe that the price was the determining factor.  However, when digging below the surface, the price was not what prevented them from closing the deal.  Rather, they lost the sale because they didn’t ask enough questions to fully establish the needs of the customer.

Top-performing salespeople ask questions that allow the customer to elaborate on their needs and then demonstrate their listening skills by asking appropriate open questions and probing deeper with great follow-up questions.  They use the information that they learn to better explain how their product or service can be beneficial to the customer.  In my 25 plus years of selling, I’ve learned that the customer’s real needs, hurts, and wants don’t often surface until you’re demonstrated genuine interest in what their thoughts and goals are.  Ironically, this means that you can throw out their initial comments, as it is rarely the need they are looking to fill.  If you expect to base your price-value relationship on what you first hear, you’ll never come close to achieving your maximum price point. 

In summary, today’s economy is full of opportunities for top performing salespeople to ask really good questions that get customers talking.  This allows both the customer and the salesperson to see, feel, and understand what their true needs are.  When the salesperson can experience this across multiple customers, they will begin to develop the assurance they need to be able to confidently convey the maximum price point their company expects them to receive.


Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter”, is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit

September 19, 2008

Guest Article: “Successful Selling and the Theory of Relativity,” by Lee Salz

Successful Selling and the Theory of Relativity
by Lee Salz

Albert Einstein formulated the theory that says that space and time are relative concepts rather than absolute concepts. For example, consider a car speedometer reading at 65 miles per hour. How fast is the car going? This question seems like the beginning of the joke of who is buried in Grant’s tomb and you are expecting a punch line. No joke here, I assure you. As a matter of fact, most would respond 65 miles per hour. This is the correct answer if and only if you are comparing the car to someone who is not moving. However, if you compare that same car to the car driving next to it that is driving 55 miles per hour, your car is only moving at 10 miles per hour.

So, what does that have to do with sales? When you look at your sales performance, to what standard do you compare yourself? Is it to the others on the sales team? Is it to your quota? Is it to a sales record that has stood for 10 years in your company? Maybe you look at your performance relative to your income goals?

While any of these comparative points are important, they all have one thing in common. They limit your potential. How good can you be? If you set a ceiling to that, you will never know. Yes, hitting your quota is important. Achieving your income goal is also important. But could you achieve more? Could you be better? The car moving at 65 miles per hour is moving pretty fast, but only relative to a non-moving entity. Your competitors are moving right along with you. Maybe you are in the lead, but competition does not stagnate. To them, maybe you are only moving at 10 miles per hour.

Compare that same car to a jet. The speed of the car is not overly impressive. The jet can get you from New York to Florida in a couple of hours. The car needs 24 hours to reach the same destination. Competitors get smarter. Customers get smarter. And you have to get better if you are going to be successful. What worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow. Self improvement is the only way to do it.

There are no ceilings in sales unless you place them there. One of my favorite quotes is, “When someone says it can’t be done, it only means that HE can’t do it.” Every day people accomplish the seemingly impossible. How do they do it? Simple. They don’t compare themselves to any standard. They have no limitations. As I write this, I’m flying on a plane. If the Wright brothers believed in ceilings, I’d be driving. If Bill Gates believed that people would never own a personal computer, I’d be writing this on a typewriter.

To further make this point, I thought I would share a personal story. When I was in the eighth grade, my family moved from New York to New Jersey. (Where to start with the jokes…) At the time that we moved, I was an excellent student, A’s across the board. Shortly after moving, I injured my knee playing baseball. I ended up having two knee surgeries and spent my entire freshman year of high school on crutches. Here I am living in a new state, going to a new school, knowing next to no one. I lost my focus.

I became friendly with a few kids who were not very good students. They were nice kids, not troublemakers, but they did not perform well in school. During my freshman year of high school, I set my personal worst records for grades, but I was able to rationalize my performance. My grades were nothing to write home about, but I was scoring better than my friends. From that relative point of view, I was doing fine.

Towards the end of my freshman year, I became friends with a different group of kids. These friends later attended Wharton, Harvard, Emory, and Bates. All prestigious schools…  Relative to them, my grades were a disgrace. They never made me feel badly about it, but I felt uncomfortable. Their success drove me to rediscover myself. During the remainder of my high school and collegiate career, I elevated my game to top of the class. I credit much of that with changing my approach to relativity.

Nature also uses the theory of relativity. If you put a fish in a 10 gallon tank, the fish will only grow to a certain size. The surroundings of the fish limit its size and growth. Put that same fish in a larger tank and the fish will continue to grow. Want to get better at golf? Play with better golfers. Want to run faster? Train with better runners.

What limitations are you putting on your sales success? Are you failing to achieve your quota? Are your friends on the team missing their quota too? Do you accept that because you are all failing? Or do you compare yourself to a higher standard? What are you doing each and every day to improve yourself? Is your goal just to be better, or is it to be the best?

You are the only obstacle to your success. Get out of your own way and enjoy the results.

Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architectureR methodology.  He is the President of Sales Architects, the C.E.O. of Business Expert Webinars and author of “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager.” Lee is an online columnist for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, a print columnist for SalesforceXP Magazine, and the host of the Internet radio show, “Secrets of Business Gurus.” Look for Lee’s new book
in February 2009 titled, “The Sales Marriage” where he shares the secrets to hiring the right sales people. Lee can be reached at

September 5, 2008

Networking Lessons from Mother Teresa and Machiavelli

Little, sweet, big hearted, concerned only with the poor, the hungry, the homeless. That’s our image of Mother Teresa. And she was that in reality. But she was more-much more.

Conniving, heartless, power hungry, goal focused, destroy anything in your path. That’s our image of Machiavelli. Well, he actually wasn’t all that, but that’s the message that has been gleaned from The Prince, his treatise to his prince on how to govern.

Mother Teresa must have studied The Prince well because she learned the book’s lessons well. And Machiavelli must have been friends with Nostradamus to have envisioned the means by which to create great working relationships in modern American business.

What did Machiavelli understand about modern business so well that he taught it to Mother Teresa and she used it so successfully?

Fortunately, it isn’t the ruthlessness, the exercise of power, or the need to be vigilant in identifying and destroying threats, although it sounds like some modern businesspeople have been reading The Prince also.

What Machiavelli and Mother Teresa understood so well was human nature. They understood how to get what they wanted without the use of force, of ruthlessness, of power. They understood how to create relationships that brought people to do their bidding (admittedly, in Machiavelli’s vision there was always the threat of the more unpleasant means if one sought to resist).

Unlike so many today who try to take advantage of their connections to get what they want, Machiavelli and Mother Teresa understood that you must first give in order to get.

So often I see salespeople and business owners try to coerce people they meet into buying from them or giving them referrals. Not coerce in the sense of force, but rather coerce by immediately overwhelming them with information about who they are, what they do, their great products or service, their stupendous customer service, their unbelievable offers.

They hardly give the other person an opportunity to breath.

They don’t take the time to learn a thing about the other person or what they may or may not need or want.

Their approach is that of a volcano, spewing forth words like lava, hoping to bury them in so much hot BS that the other person capitulates in order to just survive the encounter.

Any of us who have been to a networking event, conference, or seminar have met these people. They swarm the floor like flies, moving from person to person with fantastic speed, leaving in their wake a series of potential connections who hope they never encounter that salesperson again.

We meet them and are appalled. We think to ourselves, “What a dufess.”

But in reality, that dufess just might be us. It’s so easy to fall into that type of behavior without even recognizing it.

Mother Teresa and Machiavelli understood the fruitlessness of this behavior. They understood that in order get what they wanted they had to first take a sincere (Mother Teresa) or calculated (Machiavelli) interest in the other person and to find something of value they could give-and then they could expect to get. And more importantly, they understood the value they gave had to be something the other person recognized as valuable. They understood that they had to dig; they had to discover what was valuable to the person they were dealing with. They didn’t give something they thought was of value; they gave what the other person thought was of value-even if that was something they would not have thought of being of much value themselves.

Whether sincere or calculated, if you want value from your connections, be they clients, family, friends, or new acquaintances, you must find ways to first give value. And you don’t get to decide what’s valuable and what isn’t-that is for the person you’re trying to connect with to decide.

And for their effort what did Machiavelli and Mother Teresa get? Machiavelli’s prince got power. Mother Teresa got the funding and the ability to carry out her work. Each had very different objectives, but they got them the same way. You can too.

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