Winging It….

If you’re not a bird, you can’t be successful winging it!

I recently recorded a show on Questioning for Better Communication for my Sales Coaching over Coffee radio show (it will air in March), where I talk about the 5 Ps of good questioning.

  1. Plan
  2. Prepare
  3. Practice
  4. Ponder
  5. Patience

Although I’m not going to go into, that whole concept here (stay tuned for the show). What I would like you to notice are the FIRST THREE Ps…. plan – no wings here, prepare – still not winging it, and practice – certainly not winging it.

To be successful in sales we have to have objectives for our calls and a plan of how we are going to achieve our objective. This doesn’t have to be unique for each call – rather many calls we make will have a shared objective and plan.

Need an example?

  • My Cold Call Objective – determine how what I do would fit into their existing sales training program.
  • Prospect Objective (this is my objective for what action I want the prospect to take) – they and one other person on their team to listen to a 15 minutes quick tip teleclass and have a conversation with me about it.
  • Opening Statement – ___________, Most people I speak with are trying to increase their sales numbers YET don’t have time to spend with the people who are already good salespeople WHO with focused attention could be fantastic.
  • 1st Question – May I steal 3 minutes of your life so we can both decide if having a conversation about sales improvement for this segment of your team makes sense?
  •  Crafted Qualifying Questions – I’m not going to share these here but rest assured I have them!

My questions in the conversation might never change, what makes it interesting is the prospects side!

This doesn’t mean I don’t tailor my objective with Trigger Events (thanks Craig Elias) or insert info I know about the company into my questions. It does mean I don’t spend hours figuring out my objective, prospect objective, opening statement, and first question for each cold call I make!

Make sure you’re ready to have a great conversation every time someone answers the phone…. or you are kicked to their voicemail. The only one’s who can soar through winging it are the birds.

Do you still get giddy?

One of the tenets of my life is JOYFULNESS it’s ok you can laugh (my husband always does). This week I was reminded of the importance, to me, of keeping sales – joyful.

It happened while I was making cold calls… no kidding! Joyfulness and cold calls aren’t necessarily things I think of together either.


The moment came while “doing my thing” I asked a question that made the prospect THINK and our conversation opened up.

That is when I got giddy – I realized that I was in control and you can be too:

  • by asking insightful questions…..
  • questions the prospect hadn’t had time to consider before we talked….
  • questions that change you from a salesperson into a human being…..

each of us is in control of our own joyfulness in sales.

Today take a look at the questions you ask your prospects and customers then ask yourself

  • Will this question make the prospect THINK (or do they have a canned answer prepared)?
  • Does the prospect care about the answer to this question?
  • Am I bored when I ask this?

If your answer is no – no – no OR even if there is only one no… reword the question until your answer is yes – yes – yes. Get giddy, be joyful, by having better conversations.

Oh and if you ‘wing it’ never mind, wait… that will be next week’s post

Stumbling doesn’t matter

Picking yourself back up is what counts!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  ~ Thomas Edison

It sounds so easy when Tomas Edison says it, but today – in our own lives – sometimes it isn’t so fun to think about. Being an avid skier I can’t help but use a few fun winter time metaphors. In a Go Big or Go Home way I’m  starting with one that most people would call an epic fail not a stumble:

Yard Sale
On the mountain this is when you fall so hard you lose all your equipment – polls, skis, goggles… your hat (if you’re not wearing a helmet). I’ll share that there are actually home movies of me somewhere (from the early ‘70s) going from graceful to yard sale in seconds!

© Alexander Ishchenko

In sales this can happen quickly too, regardless of how skilled we are.

  • Not addressing the prospects needs and concerns in your presentation.
  • Sending out a letter that you didn’t change the ‘dear’ salutation to the right name (yes I actually saw that recently).
  • Giving a verbal quote instead of a ballparking number and losing the deal.

These hurt! It is when you are going fast enough that the impact of your fall knocks the wind out of you. Although you haven’t scattered your equipment all over the mountain, you can’t get up and people you don’t know stop to check on you with genuine concern.

© Rares Pulbere

In sales, crashes equate to the times that:

  • You fail to meet a critical customer deadline
  • The first order is a total screw up
  • Something (it feels like everything) you do seems to make the prospect angry

These are a little easier to take, you fall down & go boom – no one feels the need to stop and make sure you’re ok. You pick yourself up, brush off the snow, and keep going.

© Monner

You might recognize a couple of these sales falls:

  • Having to say “I’m sorry I missed that” on the phone
  • Not meeting one of those little commitments that leads to trust
  • Messing up on a quote, but getting a chance to fix it.

Well in skiing I’ve never heard someone call it a stumble, because if you’re not down on the ground it doesn’t count. BUT when you’re skiing under a lift with everyone watching you – looking uncoordinated and like a fool isn’t much fun even if you catch yourself before you fall.

© Brenda Villarreal

As a salesperson this might be:

  • Blowing a voicemail completely and not having a delete option
  • Calling without a good reason (from the prospect/customer perspective)
  • Asking a question, that the customer already answered – and they say that

Whether you stumble, fall, crash, or have a yard sale; the important thing is to not lay there in the snow. Eventually you have to pick yourself up, so don’t lay there getting cold GET UP. Plus when you’re skiing, you have to at least make it to the bottom of the mountain so you can go home.

If we translate that into goals – instead of

  • Deciding to NEVER call an account again, because you feel stupid.
  • Not calling anyone for the rest of the day because the phone weighs 10,000lbs.
  • Calling YOURSELF mean names in the car on the way home.

Take a moment to remember that stumbling, falling, crashing, and yard sales don’t mean you will NEVER achieve your goal…. unless you give up. What matters is learning a lesson so you don’t make the same mistake again,  continuing on, and having fun – it’s your day on the mountain!

Did you create a resource list?

I can’t remember who it was that taught me to do this, but it is another exercise that may be the missing step on your way to achieving your goals. Yet when it is explained, it makes so much sense (at least to me).
Here are a few ‘options’ of resource lists that may help you reach your goals:

  • Skills/Knowledge: what do you already know… or know how to do that will help you achieve your goal?
  • People: who do you already know that you can use when you need help, support, information
  • Information: are there books you own, websites you’ve visited, blogs you read, publications – etc

Now that you’re thinking about what a resource list might be – here is the exercise:

  1. Write your goal at the top of the page.
  2. Without thinking too much – write down all the things you already KNOW that will help you get to your goal .
    (for the extroverts out there – talk about this over lunch instead of staring at a blank page)
  3. Now write down all the places you would go if what you know isn’t enough.
  4. Plus all the people you would talk with to learn more.
  5. Who are the people who will be supportive?
  6. How about the people who will challenge you to be your best?
  7. What else would help to have notes about later when you’re facing obstacles on your way to achieving your goal?

There you go – now you’ve created your own arsenal of resources to help you achieve your goal! All that you need to do now is take action… yes I mean right now, go do something.

Did you plan for the obstacles?

I think the number one reason people fail in goal achievement is that it is HARD. Yup, if you look at when people give up it tends to be when:

  • Something unexpected stands in the way of forward movement
  • They look at where they are vs. where they want to be AND it appears farther away than when they started
  • It’s more effort than they ever imagined

Instead of waiting until it gets to that point – here is a crazy idea. Think about what obstacles you are going to face WHEN YOU SET THE GOAL.

I know it sounds weird, but think about it this way for just a moment……

while you’re excited about the idea
jazzed up about what you’ll get when you achieve it
enthusiastic about the process of getting there

…… what if you used that positive energy and state of mind to creatively come up with ways around the obstacles you are going to face (because I don’t care who you are or what your goal is – you’re going to be facing obstacles along the way)?

As individuals we can probably identify off the top of our heads the top three things that we face when working toward a goal (it doesn’t matter what the goal is… I bet you can come up with a few obstacles right this second).

The worst time to try and use the creative problem solving part of our brains is once we’re frustrated. Especially if you’re someone who has banged their head against the wall a few hundred times before you’re willing to admit you’re stuck (you KNOW who you are!).

The best time to be really creative is when we’re excited! So work on those obstacles at the beginning, when the goal is new & sparkly. Not when the shine has worn off.

When we know where we started.
We know our goal.
Yet… from where we are today it feels like we’ve moved AWAY vs. toward where we want to go.

YECH – I hate that feeling, but instead of being stuck inside a labyrinth (no not the 1986 movie created by Jim Henson, starring David Bowie) of your own creation – take a deep breath and think it through by asking yourself:

  • What do I know now that I didn’t know when I started on this journey?
  • If I abandon my path – what is a different way to achieve my goal?
  • When I look at where I am RIGHT NOW, what is the FIRST small step I need to take to get forward momentum toward my goal?

Now take that step!

Which leads us to – what do we do when it’s HARD? I mean really, really, really, really hard.

When the puzzle pieces aren’t fitting together and it feels like a better idea to put it back in the box (or maybe burn it) most of us consider it – at least for a fleeting moment (ok I’ll admit it I did burn a puzzle once that really drove me crazy…. not my proudest moment but at the time it sure was fun watching it go up in flames).

Goals are like that as well, there is momentary joy in giving up the hardship and extraordinary effort it takes to move forward. That momentary joy is not long lasting, most of the time we replace it with disappointment in ourselves which is no fun at all.

The instant gratification of giving up is the reason I have accountability partners and a support system for myself to make sure I don’t take the easy way out. Let’s face it a goal worth achieving isn’t going to be a snap to accomplish; rather it will take loads of effort (many times a combination of emotional, mental, and physical effort).

Don’t wait until you’re in overwhelm to look for support – create this at the beginning as well. Make sure that you’ve built in people who will cheer you on, help you keep moving, and believe in your ability to get to the end result you are working for.

How To Achieve Your Goals

Don’t worry this isn’t a rehashing of SMART Goals – for goodness sake if you want more about that do a Google search (I got “About 6,130,000 results” in 0.24 seconds). I’m going to make an assumption that if you’re reading this you know how to set a goal; what you want to know is how to achieve it!

Here are my 3 simple steps to achieving your goals.

  1. Figure out what the FIRST small step you need to take to get momentum is
  2. Do it
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2: over & over & over again…. until you reach your goal

Remember though “just because it’s simple doesn’t make it easy” ~ Lynn Hidy (don’t you hate when people quote themselves).

Now for all the stuff I think is more important to think about:

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

That is on a piece of steal that sits on my desk, right below my monitor. Why? I need the reminder to be fearless when I start to move forward toward my goals. It is so easy to stop MYSELF by:

  • playing the “what if” game
  • expend energy on worry (the most useless activity in the universe – my opinion only of course)
  • prefer to do nothing than do the wrong thing (ok so for me that isn’t the issue, but it is for some of my clients)

Action Item #1 = figure out what your stumbling blocks are and work on overcoming them

Do one new thing each day; by the end of a year you’ll be a true innovator!

That is a quote by Nancy A Shenker of that is on the calendar for January 1st. I can’t think of a better quote to start off the year. For inside sales that may not be as difficult as you think!

  • Ask a new question
  • Talk with prospects & customers about products you don’t typically sell
  • Call on a job title that you typically wouldn’t

I could probably get through the whole year with just those three over and over again…

Action Item #2 = do something new every single day

To grow fast, fail fast. Failure is an opportunity to get things right the next time.

That quote is from January 2nd of the same calendar, from Rigdha Acharya of I know it seems like the reverse of my ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?’ mantra but it is actually completely unrelated to me.

What it makes me think about are all the lessons that can be learned by NOT winning deals:

  • What is really important to the prospect organization
  • Questions I didn’t think to ask that I need to incorporate moving forward
  • Was I chasing business that wasn’t in my core competencies

Action Item #3 = make sure that every failure is evaluated for the lesson

Now you have BOTH my simple 3 step process along with 3 more complicated action items to make it work for you. That way when you finish out the year you can look back at your goals – see achievement – celebrate your success!

2012 – what are you going to achieve?

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions but I do believe in magic and setting goals. Maybe that should be ‘the magic of setting goals‘.


Every year I make a pledge to myself on how much money I’ll bring in. Inside a sales organization I always sent it to my boss & the director of sales to really hold me accountable! Now I have some accountability partners that I share it with.

I’m not telling you that is what you should do BUT will share that I made my pledge for 2011 and when I logged in (after being on vacation since before the holiday) I saw I exceeded it by $4,606. I believe that this is a direct result of not only figuring out a stretch goal for myself BUT also sharing it with other people.

Today, take a moment and decide what you want to accomplish for yourself next year. Then take an even bigger step and leap into the world of accountability:

Of course the next step (and another blog post) will be to figure out how to accomplish that goal!

Wishing you a joyful & profitable 2012.