Archives For executive coach

I hope you’re making time for professional development.  I was talking with a business owner about reading the other day – he doesn’t like to read…this is a problem.  Nobody stands still – you’re either growing or shrinking.  Another business owner called in some desperation last week from the west coast.  They are looking at some new directions…their business was going great, in fact they were so busy they stopped planning, and started fulfilling business.  Looking back, their business has become such a commodity that, while they are still busy, they are not making a profit and the future looks grim.  Now they’re in trouble….what do they do?  No matter how busy you are, and how much you hate to read, you still either increase or digress.  What should you be doing?

Read the Right Stuff

There are a million things to read, but reading lots of books isn’t necessarily the right program to be on.  I like to read, but I spend more time on one book, and therefore read less books.  I firmly believe, especially having worked with my wife to home school 7 children for the past 20 years, that it is better to search out the right books and study them in detail, than to read lots of books.  A couple of things I have found helpful:

  • Read and reread the stuff that matters
  • Mark the things that really matter and make notes in the margin
  • After a tip from a friend, I started making an index of key points on the first blank page in the book
  • Forget about selling the book on Amazon.  If it’s worth reading, add so many notes that no one else would want it
  • After reading, I make a list of notes in Evernote by chapter to inculcate what I just read
  • I keep the book on my desk for a few weeks after finishing (while beginning the next book) and refer to it often –  I make the information usable and therefore memorable.

Turn off Talk Radio and Turn on Great Audio Programs

If you drive or fly (I fly all the time), turn your smart phone into a classroom – add audio programs that help you build in the areas you are weak. Talk radio might be interesting, but it isn’t really useful.  Most of it is hype and entertainment, not true value.  If you want the news, watch the news or read the Wall Street Journal in 30 minutes.  Some key topics I include on mine:

  • Marketing strategies
  • Sales – strategy and motivation
  • Spiritual truth
  • Great books on tape related to my field

Note: People learn through different means, but many of us are visual, so while audio books are great, having a book to write notes on might be better – reinforce the good ones by audio.  This is not true for everyone so know your own personal learning style.

Seminars and Workshops

Training – I have said this many times, but it demands repeating…Professional Athletes are always training, and then they might play a few minutes or more (in season) once or twice a week.  Sales people are the opposite; they train one day a year and play 364 days (Assuming they are still thinking about work over the weekend – which many are).  A few key points:

  • At the start of the year, figure out what kind of training you need and schedule it…it won’t happen if you don’t plan ahead.
  • If you aren’t the person with the budget, lobby your management to make it happen.  Even if they don’t bring it in house, you should appeal to go or do something online.  I personally feel that, if all else fails, the individual should make the investment personally – but that is a last resort.
  • Most of the “Sales Training” provided is really product training – this is largely a waste of time.  Study the data sheets as they come out, a few minutes each week, and you’ll have it.  You need training on sales and marketing – don’t assume you know it all.
  • If you go somewhere for training – plan to go for the training, not entertainment.  The high achiever avoids the late night party, fattening foods, and spending each session in the lobby answering email.
  • Remember, you are either growing our shrinking – if you avoid training, you are shrinking, even if you don’t believe it.  One day you’ll be out of business.

Hire a Personal Sales Coach

I can’t say enough about this one.  Every great athlete has a great coach behind them.  Business coaching is somewhat new – but quickly growing because it works.  I don’t mean “Life Coach” – you probably don’t need one of these.  I mean someone who understands your business and who can help you achieve greater things through collaboration, strategy, accountability, and encouragement.  If they don’t understand what you are doing, they can’t really help you.  Some things to consider:

  • It might be costly.  Sales managers might not pay, but what if you grew your business by 25% through a coach…the ROI would be there.  Some studies show a 700% ROI on sales and executive coaching…I’ve had coaches and have a coaching program simply because it works.
  • Not every coach is  great for every person.  Coaches have a philosophy they work by, and they all approach it differently.  You need a coach that gives you what you need, which may not be what you like.
  • There must be a common worldview for this to work.  Ethics, spiritual views, customer views, values and family, etc.  Many things may come into play here, but you don’t want an adviser that will take you down a path that violates your personal convictions.

Master Mind Groups

Don’t confuse this with a leads group…and it’s not exactly coaching either.  A Master Mind Group is usually made up of a group of people that do what you do, with a facilitator.  A group without a facilitator can also work, however a great facilitator can take a group from mediocre to exceptional.  A leads group might be helpful, but this is not a collaboration group since the people in it generally do different things (Rarely do I think these actually work – however there are times…).  The Master Mind Group is set up to allow people that do the same thing, in non-competing territories, to review what is working, and to help each other figure out what will work as they tackle the challenges of daily business.  I’ve been in a master mind group for the past 4 years and it has really paid off.  Here are some important considerations:

  • Synergy – the selection of who is in the group is key.  Everyone must be a contributor.  The sluggard must go.
  • The leader is a facilitator, not a teacher.  While it is good if this person knows the business, it should not be a teleseminar each time you get online.
  • Each person must be committed to meeting – it’s a priority.  It might be weekly or monthly.  I like the 90 minute monthly meeting model with some form of collaboration in between.  I have a private forum set up for those who are in the Solution Provider Master Mind Group I run.
  • The group should not be run by a manufacturer or distributor – why?  It cramps the meeting – participants suddenly can’t openly discuss changing their business, using different distributors, or taking on new products, or how to get the most out of JMF.
  • There should be NDAs in place…I would not allow unethical people to participate, but having things in writing just makes it all the more clearer.
  • Avoid the free group…free usually leads to a lack of long term commitment.  You get what you pay for in most cases.

What else are you doing to grow professionally?  I would love to hear your comments right here!

© 2012, David Stelzl



Micheal Bosworth, back in his 1995 publication of Solution Selling, wrote, “Power buys from power.” He goes on to explain that executives (people with decision making power) are looking for someone to advise them, and that person must be competent (a person commands authority with advisory power). But how do they know you are that powerful person before they buy?  Over time it will become evident, but what about right now while you are working your way into the account.

A problem arises here – the typical sales person gets a new job, feels great about the new position, and goes out with a new brand behind them, hoping to conquer new and bigger accounts.  It feels great at first.  But, regardless of what the recruiter told you, the job is always harder than you expect.  Sale is hard work!  Weeks go by, calls are not returned, emails are deleted, and your ego starts to deflate.  At some point you start second guessing just how great of an adviser you really are.  Your message goes from abounding confidence to a gentler, softer sell.  You are starting to wonder if anyone will ever talk to you.

This often leads to steeper discounts, desperate measures, and pleading with the prospect to do something.  Anything!

I was on a coaching call the other day discussing this very dilemma.  In fact I spoke with two sales people back to back sharing similar stories.  It’s common for this to happen to anyone working a new region, or to a rep in new with a new company having a lesser brand in that territory.  So what should you do?

There are many factors here, and of course, the right marketing strategy is going to be important.  It’s clear to me that pure cold calling, brute force tactics, won’t do it in this market.  But that is not my focus here…my focus has more to do with the self-talk that takes us from feeling confident and able, to subdued and defeated.  A couple of words to keep you going are in order:

  • It’s tempting to sell everything, but the trusted adviser is a specialist.  You can’t advise on something you don’t know – that means picking an area and becoming the best in it.  Jim Collins gives us this advice in his book, Good to Great.  Collins is talking to companies, but the same applies to the rep.  You can expand later, but don’t be all things to all people – you’re just not big enough.  Instead, pick a hot area and learn how to sell it. Lead with it, and learn to expand your presence once in the account.  If you pick an area that is much needed in today’s business economy, you can be sure that most of the people you call need what you sell.  The secret here is knowing how to apply educational marketing strategies to drive your offering.
  • Stop listening to the local rock station while driving to appointments.  Instead, buy some of the great educational MP3s available today.  I’ve mentioned various titles in the past, but the point here is, stop wasting your drive time on empty entertainment.  Rock music actually puts your brain into a sort of trans that eases the pain, but does nothing productive for you (other than, perhaps keeping you awake after staying up too late).  Teaching tapes (MP3s) by successful people bring encouragement and structure to your sales call.  You want to enter these meetings with confidence, even if your numbers are terrible.
  • Use your downtime wisely.  The temptation is to thrash from email to email, reacting to anything that comes along.  Don’t be deceived – wise planning is better.  Take time to study.  Learn about the needs of the people you are calling on, write, read, plan out your calls, and make every thing you do into a quality effort.  When a call comes, plan and execute.  Build marketing materials, build your social brand online, and carefully plan out marketing efforts.
  • Don’t waste time networking over long lunches with people who can’t really help you.  Do reach out by phone to people who bring encouragement and perhaps sound input. Consider using a coach.  Coaches consistently show a strong return on investment because they do encourage and bring accountability to the process.  I know many people shy away from spending the money, yet often the coach’s six month fee is completely covered in one good sale.  That’s pretty strong if you ask me.

© 2012, David Stelzl

How did one of my clients close a million dollar deal?

1. It started with  an event – a prospect, someone she had not done business with in the past, came to an event geared toward educating our audience on the trends and risks associated with today’s cyber criminals.

2. An assessment was done – it was complementary, but led to a greater discovery process that was fee based.  Not a million dollar assessment by any means, but capable of introducing my client to just about anyone in the company.  This took a change in the solution provider’s approach – normally they would send the engineers in to gather some data, put together some plans, and pitch it to IT.  All of this had to be changed – the sales person had to get involve with senior management; she had to put her consultant’s hat on.

3. Gathering business related information, brainstorming over the right questions along the way, and building a strategy to create justification along the way – this required figuring out exactly who would be involved in the approval process, and what politics might get in the way.  Most of this was outside my client’s  normal process – but she was willing to take the steps – take on the risk of failing in order to reach her objective.

4. Delivering the results – normally this would be emailed over to the client.  We had to change this.  Instead, she insisted on meeting with both managers and technicians.  The presentation would have been given by her engineer, but not this time.  Instead it had to be done by her.  Something she wasn’t sure she could do.  But she did.

5. In the end, they said they would take a look at it.  No immediate close, but momentum in the right direction…two weeks later, a decision was made in favor of moving forward.  What made this successful?

  • There is no guarantee – these are people, subject to every kind of inconsistency.  My client’s job was executing the plan and hoping her clients would see her value. They did.
  • The discovery process had to change – it had to be re-engineered for executives, using impact related questions.  The end result had to demonstrate impact vs. likelihood.
  • The report had to be written by non-technical people, in business language, and the presentation had to be delivered to business people by business people.

None of these things were in the sales person’s normal comfort zone – she had to step out, take a risk, and do something she had never really done.  It could have failed, but it didn’t.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Vegas Shot from the RIO

In a recent executive coaching meeting, the subject of RFPs came up…this is a common issue for both resellers and technology manufactures – one worth addressing here…

The confusion comes when we try to relate this to the sales strategies I’ve described over the past several months.  The four things buyers buy – is this operational efficiency, risk mitigation, return on investment or competitive advantage?  Creating an effective value proposition means selling to the 95% who don’t know they have a need, but this person seems to know all about their needs.  Am I coming up with one of the four things or is the client?  How about the four meetings I’ve written about?  Which meeting are we in – where are we entering the sales cycle?  All of the rules suddenly don’t fit.  How about the fee setting rules; is there a way to value price this request?

The request is almost always initiated by an influencer – someone without liability, so where is the urgency?  In my 4 meeting sales model, it isn’t until meeting three that you would be discussing budget, and that would happen only after value has been demonstrated and quantified with asset owners.  Fees discussions usually take place by phone after I review the client’s exact needs and pin point exactly what we are going to deliver- at this point I am looking for a verbal agreement.  Without a verbal, there is no written proposal in my world.  So now, in this new situation, you can see we have violated almost every rule.  We are taking a request from an influencer, bypassing the value proposition phase  with asset owners, eliminating any type of discovery or assessment, and now we are sort of working with an influencer to discuss price –  the wrong person; and way before any value has been established.  It doesn’t make sense because it isn’t a good way to buy or sell.  In most cases you will lose this sale to the person who was chosen before the RPF was ever written!   And the client will end up with something that doesn’t really meet their need.

Here are a few rules I follow to keep this from happening.

1. I understand RFPs are written, usually because the influencer is required to get competitive quotes.  Remember, influencers have needs, and staying within budget isn’t one of them.  Given the chance, I  thank them for the opportunity, and then work to get a meeting – my hope is to get a meeting higher up, either now or in the near future, but before I write anything.  At this stage, I am looking for the true needs of my buyer, working to meet them if possible some some creative alternative.

2. The winner has already been chosen in most cases – knowing this, I also know it will be an upset if I win, therefore we need a strategy that upsets the entire process.  This usually requires convincing someone internal to the process, that they won’t acheive their desired results if they continue with their current approach.  Luckily, RFPs have a poor track record of delivering the desired results, so this isn’t .  Showing up with some case studies helps reinforce this point in the mind of the buyer.

3. REFs strip out the value differentiation of mine and any competitor offer, other than price.  There’s no reason to continue unless I can convince someone to take a look at my value – which is always my intellectual capital, not my price.  Rather than spending 40 hours on a response, I spend my time trying to connect with the buyer on this topic.

4. If all fails, I am ready to walk.  But always on good terms.  There’s no reason to upset those who truely believe they are doing the best thing for their company, or simply following what they have been directed to do.  Instead, leave on good terms, with the buyer wishing you had responded, but wondering why you did not.  There may be a future opportunity in the form of a rescue mission if things don’t turn out as expected.

© 2011, David Stelzl