Your Salespeople Better Be Business People or Your Business May Be Out of Business

The breadth, knowledge, and ability of your salespeople equal the breadth, knowledge, and ability for them to grow the business. If you want to improve the performance outcome of your sales team, you must first educate them about the business and develop their complete awareness between their decisions and outcomes in sales.

A given? Not at all. Salespeople are expected to do one thing... SELL.  Far easier said than done. In many cases, salespeople are unaware, under-equipped and unsupported in their quest. A lack of a focused approach around teaching them the business of the business will likely leave them unfulfilled and under-performing against the target or expectation.


The mandate to “just go sell” is far easier said than done.
Why do you think this is and what do you think about this statement?

Salespeople as Business People

The leaders of sales teams would be well advised to invest in developing their salespeople to be business people. The days of having a sales manager/director/team leader do everything for a salesperson prevents growth rather than maximizing opportunities. Having someone else do what a salesperson should have the awareness, skill, and presence to do supports a lack of accountability and a lack of performance.

The leaders of salespeople and sales teams need to have a focused approach around increasing the awareness and knowledge of their salespeople connected to the business. This is the process of developing salespeople as business people.

Here are five characteristics of sales teams where their business knowledge is advancing sales growth.

The Sales and Business Behavior That’s Expected is Rewarded

Incentive and bonus compensation are directly connected to the performance that’s expected. They aren’t used to try and manage salespeople. Expected behaviors are defined and the incentive is the result of demonstrating those behaviors.

Beyond Price, the Salespeople Consider Margin in Relationship with Customers

Each investment that’s made has an expected rate of return. Considering customers in relation to profitability is no exception. Every customer deserves to be treated well. Every customer should not be treated the same. Knowing the true profitability of each customer is important to salespeople who think like business people. Here’s a primary question they’re asking - “Who in my territory/area is costing me more to do business with than if I weren’t doing business with them?”

They’re Defining a Complete Business Relationship

They recognize that if it’s only about the transaction, there’s no true depth or mutual business respect in the relationship. This is about having the necessary conversations dealing with the complete business dynamic (credit, turns, marketing expense, etc.) rather than just the sale.

Selling Isn’t Done In Isolation

Beyond the people that make it complex, the number of variables that have to be dealt with in sales and business is only increasing. No matter how local, business is truly global. If a salesperson doesn’t understand the potential variables throughout the world that can impact their world, they will be selling in isolation and doing so at their own peril. Maximizing awareness and not selling in isolation comes as the result of educating salespeople at a higher level and knowing that they have the capacity and demonstrated ability to turn that into forward-thinking conversations with customers.

They Understand the Total Picture of the Business

What happens in the business landscape most often has a direct connection to the sales landscape. Think about the number of times something has occurred outside of your business that had an impact on your business. Did you later realize that this was something you should have seen coming? Think about each of the points above and ask yourself how you see those impacting your salespeople and your business.

It’s imperative that salespeople understand their role as business people. A failure to do so means that the future of your business is at risk, both in terms of sales growth and sustainability into the future.

Be Authentic. Be Purposeful. Make it Meaningful.


P.S. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

How the Best Salespeople Stand Out in the Mind of The Customer

Standing out in the mind of the customer begins with defining how you want to be known.

In the last Thoughtwave Blog, I asked if we were seeing the end of meaningful differentiation among sales professionals. This week, is all about defining what differentiates you from everyone else in an already crowded and commoditized sales world. Read more

Are we seeing the end of meaningful differentiation among sales professionals?

Are we seeing the end of meaningful differentiation among sales professionals?

Differentiation is a complex topic and can be approached from many different angles. For every idea about what differentiation is or isn’t, there’s another view or perspective to be considered. We can be certain of this… Differentiation doesn’t occur as a result of commoditization. Read more

Four Elements of Every Great Sale

It’s summer in Arizona and there’s nothing better to beat the heat of the weekend than a good movie. After extensive searching for something worthwhile, I decided on The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith.

I like movies where the plot centers on a character overcoming the odds and changing their circumstances for the better. So was the case for Chris Gardner.

Based on a true story, his life is the central focus of the movie. Gardner is the real-life reflection of a salesperson whose behavior was driven by his motivation to both improve and change his situation. He experienced challenges and setbacks that would derail even the most seasoned sales professional. In response, Gardner demonstrates a drive, creativity, desire, ingenuity, tenacity and perseverance that symbolizes that his was no ordinary life.

Throughout the movie we take a journey through Chris Gardner’s personal and professional life. We see the trials and tribulations that he goes through and consider the ups and downs that define his journey. We experience his story. And like a great story, a great sale has four key elements that are present each time it takes place.

1. Setting

Every sales opportunity has a unique setting both in environment and the individual behavior of customers, clients or buyers. Scenario planning is a skill that allows the salesperson to consider, plan and prepare for the specific setting associated with the sales call, people’s behaviors, and anticipated response or action.

Chris Gardner consistently adapted his behavior and sales approach to match that of the environment in which he found himself. He quickly and effectively established a scenario plan that increased his predictability of success with people by appealing to their individual behaviors. By considering his setting and making repeated adjustments, he we was able to achieve his goal or targeted objective sooner and in a shorter cycle of time. After all, his personal goal setting required him to achieve in 6 hours a day, what others were doing in 10 hours a day.

2. Conflict

Chris Gardner’s life and sales story is one of conflict; rebellion against the status quo, complacency and people who told him he couldn’t or wouldn’t achieve his goals and objectives.

As a salesperson, some conflict will be internal and some will be external. Either way, it pays to engage and understand the dynamics of human behavior and motivation as a part of the selling conflict. Gardner demonstrates this in the following scenario: After repeatedly trying to get the attention of Jay Twisler, he takes a cab ride with him and engages in external conflict by insisting that he can complete a Rubik’s Cube™ successfully when Twisler demonstrates that he cannot.

Salespeople are often faced with an internal conflict related to career advancement and compensation. The internal conflict is represented in a desire for security (salary) versus the opportunity to obtain financial opportunity and gain significant personal wealth (commission). When Gardner was faced with the decision to accept a non-paid stockbroker internship with Dean Witter and he was financially broke, he faced a significant internal conflict. His decision on how to deal with that conflict represents a key turning point in his life and career. Salespeople must be willing to engage in and deal with conflict to maximize their potential and their paycheck.

3. Climax

The sales process forces a decision. The most successful salespeople support a well defined process. Correctly established and consistently followed, the sales process results in not only a sale, but future opportunities. The climax is that point in the story, movie or sale where the music plays loudly and your heart beats quickly. It’s that moment where you know that the “Big Moment” is upon you. The unique part about the climax is that it only occurs once in each story or sale so you can’t afford to miss it. Your attention and focus are essential. Be careful…The climax is rarely the actual closing of the sale.

Gardner experienced the climax moment when he was selected into the Dean Witter Internship Program. This program accepted a very limited number of people, most of whom who had undergraduate or graduate degrees. Chris Gardner had a high school diploma and finished first in a class of twelve students in a small town. The perception was that he should have never been accepted into the program.

4. Resolution

Look at Webster and resolution will be defined as something that is dealt with successfully, finding an answer or being made clear and understandable. This is where the closing of a deal is likely to take the lead role. It’s that moment where you have addressed the behavioral indifference of the client, customer or buyer who has wrestled with questions or indecision and is now ready to move forward. If they aren’t ready to move forward you have only reached a superficial level of resolution and you will need to apply drive, creativity, desire, ingenuity, tenacity and perseverance that symbolizes that you are no ordinary salesperson. Yours is an extraordinary sales process based on a differentiated resolution and the four great elements of a sale.

Chris Gardner’s level 1 resolution came when he sat a conference room table to hear the outcome of whether he would be hired at Dean Witter. His level 2 resolution came when something else happened in his life. That piece of news is shared at the end of the movie so I’ll stop here. If you sell for a living and haven’t seen The Pursuit of Happyness, make it a priority to watch. When you do, make sure that you pay attention to Chris Gardner’s response to the question he’s asked at the conference room table when they are making broker selections. That line alone is worth the price for everyone who has ever accomplished something meaningful.

Grab the popcorn and enjoy.


  • What has motivated you to improve something in your life?
  • In what area of your life have you had to apply drive, creativity, desire, ingenuity, tenacity or perseverance to achieve something
  • What has been the biggest challenge or setback you have had to overcome personally or professionally?
  • What did you experience when you confronted and overcame that setback?

Thoughts? Share them in the comments.

Make it a great week,

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The Ultimate Compliment…

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The Sales Readiness Index

Sales Readiness Index

Readiness defined is, “the state of being fully prepared for something.”
Index defined is, “an indicator, sign or measure.”

So here’s the question: What’s your sales readiness index?

Advancing Sales

The best way to identify salespeople with a high sales readiness index is by what they do instead of what they say. Look at their behaviors rather than their words. Words can be revealing, but their behavior speaks volumes.

High readiness index salespeople create action that is exceptionally alert, externally oriented, relentlessly aimed at winning, making progress each and every day, and constantly eliminating low value-added activities. They do so by always focusing on their sales disciplines and preparedness.

They pay much more attention to what’s happening externally rather than internally. They move at the “speed” needed to succeed and recognize that they can take fast and make it faster. They initiate and truly own their sales performance with the measured attribute of personal accountability. Most of all, they constantly re-invent and re-examine--they don’t rely exclusively on what has worked for them in the past.

Preventing Complacency

A low sales readiness index and complacency can be the product of success or perceived success. Both can live long after success has stopped occurring or disappeared entirely.

Salespeople with a low readiness index, never think they are complacent. “I’m doing what’s right.” “The real problem doesn’t reside with me. The problem is being created elsewhere or by someone else.” (The measured attribute of personal accountability is significantly lower than in high capacity salespeople). At a very gut level, low readiness salespeople are content with the status quo.

A High Sales Readiness Index Contributes to Results

Being fully prepared and measuring that preparedness leads salespeople to a High Readiness Index. It allows them to fully engage around their chosen sales strategy and approach. As the points below suggest, there is a clear connection between a proactive approach and the readiness index of salespeople.

  • Continually evaluate sales effectiveness–maximize strengths and minimize limitations, discuss best practices with top performing peers and utilize internal and external expertise to grow individual sales knowledge and perspectives.
  • Clearly define priorities and self-initiated performance expectations.
  • Communicate often about the successes, challenges and opportunities impacting customers. Utilize product, service and all other strengths to achieve great results for you and customers.
  • Maximize the use of reporting, tracking and measurement to achieve optimum sales results and financial reward.
  • Be intolerant of a low performance and sales readiness index.
  • Strive for consultative and stronger customer relationships; using a value proposition that is based on a trusted advisor status related to product and service opportunities.
  • Use product and service strength to convert customers who are currently doing business with the competitor.
  • Establish and focus on defined pricing, targeted margins and minimized discounting.
  • Shorten the sales cycle through behavioral awareness of customers and prospects.
  • Regularly assess and review personal performance to make sure that your approach, behaviors and actions reflect that of a sales professional with a High Readiness Index.

What’s your sales readiness index?

Have you defined your value?

Image of Keith's Thank You Note

Houston, we’ve had a problem here.

There’s a major disconnect between the definition and delivery of value by salespeople.

If a salesperson can’t define and deliver on the value they represent as an individual, they shouldn’t expect their company’s product or service to define or deliver it for them. If value is the exclusive property of the product or service being sold and someone exists only to complete a transaction, then we have to ask an alarming question. “Why do we need salespeople?"

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As a result, dedicated thought often gets put on the back burner. Instead of thinking about how to proactively prevent problems, thinking becomes reactionary and something that’s done once a problem has already surfaced.

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“The qualities that help you win on the field are the same qualities that help you win in business,” one of my clients, a former linebacker, recently told me during a sales advancement session.

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