The Sales Success Secret Shared by Bill Walton and John Wooden

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 24, 2016 @ 08:05 AM

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I’m reading Basketball legend Bill Walton’s autobiography, Back from the Dead.  There are great stories and lessons, but the one I want to discuss here is about legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.

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Bill talked about the basketball team’s practices and how they were so well scripted, incredibly challenging and the most fun. He called them symphonies! The practices were so powerful that the games, even against the best competition, were always much easier than practice.  The games were so easy that the players did not need to remember plays or even think.  All they had to do was execute.  The team’s system of running the fast break was so well ingrained that executing was easy. This led to an 88-game winning streak!

Translating this story to selling, I need to point out that most salespeople not only hate to practice (read role-playing), but don’t believe it is necessary.  Remember, as much as the basketball team practiced, it was only their own part that they were practicing.  They didn’t have the other team’s playbook and didn’t even prepare for the other team.  They simply practiced every possible scenario that could come up so that they were completely prepared - for anything.  In sales, how many salespeople are so thoroughly prepared that it wouldn’t matter what their prospect said, did, or asked and even the competition would be irrelevant?

"The only difference between successful salespeople and the other 77% is that the successful salespeople actually do the
very things they don't like doing." 

Here is a great movie clip from Hitch that demonstrates how difficult it is to role-play.

Albert Gray, an insurance company executive in the 1950's, said something that is still as true today as it was nearly 70 years ago.  He said, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do. They don't like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”  If he said it today, it might have sounded like, "The only difference between successful salespeople and the other 77% is that the successful salespeople actually do the things they don't like doing." 

See Dan Caramanico's comment below about practice where he writes, "Lots of teams practice but the difference lies in the adage that it is not practice that makes perfect. It's perfect practice that makes perfect. Half hearted practice or practicing the wrong things is no help at all."

And I'm reminded of this message from when I participated in Dave Pelz' Short Game School.  "Practice makes permanent!"

Finally, Bill Talerico wrote an article about John Wooden and translated yet one more great basketball lesson here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, notre dame basketball, john wooden, ucla basketball, bill walton

What Do You Blame When Salespeople Don't Schedule Enough New Meetings?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 23, 2016 @ 06:05 AM

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Most salespeople suck on the phone.  If you read that article, you learned about 10 common mistakes that salespeople make on the phone.  But those are strategic and tactical mistakes - they are skill-based.  What happens when you have salespeople who won't even make calls?  Could they be suffering from call reluctance?  Objective Management Group (OMG) measures 21 Sales Core Competencies and one of them is the Hunter Competency. The Hunter has about a dozen attributes and 4 in particular determine if, and to what degree, a salesperson will have call reluctance:

  • 58% of all salespeople need to be liked to such a degree that it can have a negative effect on their ability to prospect for new business. They worry that a prospect might become upset and not like them, so they don't ask the questions they should - when and if they call.
  • 20% of all salespeople have difficulty recovering from rejection to such a degree that it can prevent them from making calls. Not making the calls is a defense mechanism to protect them from rejection.
  • 13% of all salespeople possess a "will not prospect" belief to such a degree that they won't prospect unless they are forced to by their sales manager.
  • 46% of salespeople are perfectionists who procrastinate until they believe they can do something perfectly. In the case of prospecting, it contributes to what seems like a time management problem (they didn't have time to prospect.)  

The image below, from the evaluation of a large sales force, has salespeople distributed almost equally (unusual) among the four groups:

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  • Hunters will hunt for new business without being asked.
  • Potential Hunters would hunt for new business if their sales managers held them accountable.
  • Fishermen will follow up on a lead, but won't engage in proactive hunting.
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Prospects will not hunt, no matter what, ever.

I'll be leading a fast-paced 45-minute online presentation on The Magic Behind OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment, June 7 at 11 AM ET.  There is no cost to attend and you'll learn a lot about sales selection that you didn't know before.  Click here to register.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, call reluctance, phone prospecting, empty pipeline, not making calls

How Boomers and Millennials Differ in Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 18, 2016 @ 13:05 PM

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I hate this article already - the last thing we need is another article to help us to understand Millennials.  Except for one thing.  Most of you reading this are Millennials and you probably need to better understand boomers.

We've all heard many of the distinctions of Millennials - how they like to work, where they like to work, when they like to work, how little they like to work, how entitled they are, how money isn't that important, how they want to change the world and be a part of something bigger than themselves.  So I'm not going to write about any of that in this article.  Instead, I'm going to talk about several tendencies that differentiate these two generations of salespeople.

We can begin with Motivation.  Boomer salespeople are generally extrinsically motivated - motivated by money and things - while Millennials are typically intrinsically motivated.  They would prefer to love what they do and strive for mastery.  Here is more on the difference between these two types of motivation in sales.

We can talk about New Business Development too.  Boomers are much more likely to pick up the phone and make a call - even a cold call - to initiate contact and follow up and they prefer to meet face-to-face.  Millennials are more likely to use their social networks - LinkedIn, Twitter, Text and Facebook - to initiate contact - and email to follow-up and they tend to prefer selling by phone.  The two newest selling roles - SDR's and BDR's - are both top-of-the-funnel roles where the reps simply schedule meetings and calls for account executives.  These roles are filled almost exclusively by Millennials.  I hear you.  "But they are on the phone and you said they don't like using the phone!"  Exactly.  And that explains why they are so bad at it. The latest statistics from ConnectAndSell tell us that these reps book, on average, 1.5 meetings per week.  If that is the only thing they are required to do, shouldn't the number be more like 2-3 meetings per day?

And speaking of Selling Skills, Boomers are far more likely to have professional selling skills while Millennials are more likely to frame selling in the context of demos, proposals and follow-up.  It might not be their fault, as most of them are in the aforementioned top-of-the-funnel roles, while Boomers are almost always found in outside territory, major account, vertical or account management roles.

One of the new things that Objective Management Group (OMG) introduced last month is industry statistics where the results of a company's sales force evaluation are compared against other companies in their industry.  Here's an image from a slide that looks at the average scores for salespeople in 6 major strands of Sales DNA and how this sales force (burgundy) compares to similar companies (blue) as well as all companies (green).

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Regular readers know that OMG has evaluated more than one million salespeople from more than 11,000 companies.  I am hoping that in the coming months, we can filter our data by generation and share the differences in the 21 Sales Core Competencies that we measure.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales motivation, inside sales, selling skills, top of the funnel

4 Great Sales Lessons from a Notre Dame Commencement Ceremony

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 17, 2016 @ 11:05 AM

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We were fortunate to be in the audience for the 2016 Notre Dame Commencement where Vice President Joe Biden, former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and former Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired 4-Star General, Martin Dempsey were among the speakers.  While all were good, Biden had one great takeaway, and the General shared 3 tips and an action step. I believe that these are all share-worthy and apply to sales and sales leadership as well, and perhaps even better than they apply to those graduating from universities.

Dempsey is known for a 3-word call to action, "Make it Matter."

Let's apply "make it matter" to sales and sales management.  In sales, it means that every conversation, with every prospect and customer, should be meaningful to the customer and/or prospect.  How can we make each conversation matter to them? To them!  We need to stop thinking about our own needs and focus on the needs of the person on the other end of the call or the other side of the conference room table.  This doesn't mean giving up control, or facilitating, but it does emphasize the importance of listening instead of talking.

When it comes to coaching salespeople, this concept is even more important.  How do you get your salespeople to come back and want more coaching from you?  After all, that is the true measurement of whether or not your coaching is having an impact.  Are they getting enough from it to want more of it?  Make it matter - to them!

I found his advice to graduates even more meaningful.  He told them, "We need you to have a warrior’s heart, an immigrant’s spirit, and a servant’s soul."

Let's review.

Heart of a Warrior - It's the will to sell - grit - the ability to do what it takes - and wanting it badly enough.  It's finding a way - any way - to get the desired outcome.  It's more than surviving sales; it's achieving and thriving in sales. 

Spirit of an Immigrant - It's finding your way, seeking something better, and fitting in.  It's being flexible, taking risks, being memorable enough to differentiate yourself from all others.  It's learning your customer/client's culture and embracing it.  

Soul of a Servant - It's about giving people what they truly want and need and you identify that by asking great questions and listening and following up with more great questions.

Biden stressed engagement.  He urged graduates to engage with conversation and build lasting relationships.  My sales translation is that while our current generation of technology is great and should be leveraged, a connection on LinkedIn is not a relationship, a follower is not a raving fan, and a conversation cannot be conducted over email.

These are all common sense guidelines, but today, whether it's politics, technology, or how we view ISIS, there doesn't seem to be enough common sense as a main ingredient of our discussions.

As an example, as I write this, we are in the first morning of our spring Sales Leadership Intensive and the conversation taking place this very moment is about the importance of a formal, milestone-centric sales process.  Common sense suggests that a time-tested and proven sales process will be much more effective, consistent and predictable than going without.  Despite the common sense factor, I've read articles suggesting that we no longer need such things with the current technology available to us.  I've read countless articles about the death of selling, the death of SPIN selling, the death of Solution Selling, and the death of consultative selling approach. And of course we have all been told that cold calling is dead.  Uh-oh.  Most of these articles were written by companies trying to get you to buy their software applications and they hope that you will buy into the dead = need for software.  Nice try!

There is no doubt that selling has changed.  If you just read the article I linked to, you should recognize that the real key is in understanding how the dynamics have changed.  Selling has changed only to the degree that we must understand how to deal with those changing dynamics.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, solution selling, SPIN Selling, notre dame, joe biden, sales software, selling has changed, martin dempsey, john boehner

Are These the Best Roles for Shy People in Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 06:05 AM

I received an email inviting me to review and share an infographic on shy people in sales.  Being an introvert myself, I thought it would be interesting to check it out and see if it resonated.  When I finally got around to reading it, I was surprised by several things I read...and I'm sure you'll be surprised too...

The infographic shows that introverts make up 57% of the population, but it doesn't say what percentage of the sales population is introverted...a striking omission.  I've written about introverts and extroverts before and this is one of the better articles.

They list 5 traits which, according to industry experts, typically make a good salesperson.  They include:

  1. self awareness
  2. assertiveness
  3. optimism
  4. empathy
  5. problem solving skills

They must have talked to the wrong experts because these personality traits are not predictive of sales success! Since the top tier of the infographic listed dimensions from the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, it shouldn't be a surprise that personality traits were used.  But why?  What's most important to know about personality traits is that both good and bad salespeople have them!

If you want to read about sales specific qualities of top salespeople, refer to these two articles:  Article 1 and Article 2.

Getting back to the infographic, it provides examples of sales careers that would be good for introverts.  Really?  If an introvert is suitable for sales, then why only certain types of sales positions?  The most absurd part of this infographic is the income they attached to each sales position.  They used a government website for the income research. It must have been as old as the research on the traits of successful salespeople - only worse!  The salary research must have been from 40 years ago!  Their top category, sales engineer, had a median salary of $96,000.  Today, that's close to the average compensation for salesperson across all industries.  Entry-level salespeople earn, on average, close to $70,000, but most of the salaries listed on the infographic were under $50,000!

I love a good infographic, even though most of the time the info part is made up!  They actually performed research for this one, but in my opinion, used bad sources.  Too bad.  It could have been really useful!

How about a shy millennial?  I don't have any data on that combination, but there is a very short video on managing salespeople who are millennials on the Selling Power YouTube channel.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales compensation, personality traits of successful salespeople, introverts in sales

The 3 Most Important Questions about Sales Process and My Answers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 09, 2016 @ 06:05 AM

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Sales Process is a topic that I have chosen to write about around 25 times over the past 10 years. All 25 articles can all be found in my series on Sales Process.  Lately, we are finally beginning to see some improvements being made in this area.  For example, back in the early 90's, when Objective Management Group (OMG) first began measuring the existence of sales process, only 9% of all salespeople were following one with any degree of consistency and effectiveness.  It was amazing to me that for 20 years, this number failed to change!  But recent statistics are showing that 20-25% of companies and their salespeople are finally following and using a sales process.  Hooray!

With sales process finally getting the necessary attention, we should turn our attention to the three related issues that need to be addressed.  Which sales process should you select, and into which CRM application should it be integrated and how can it be customized?

To help answer the question of which sales process, it's important to understand that there aren't that many to begin with!  Names you might recognize as sales processes, like Challenger, SPIN and Sandler, are really methodologies - not processes.  For example, this short video explains one complete Sales Process - Baseline Selling - and compares it with Challenger, SPIN and Solution Selling.

It should be clear that you need a complete process and it should be customized for your business, what you sell, who you sell to, and the challenges that you face.  If you already have a process, or think you have a process, you can grade it for free using our complimentary sales process grader.

As for the CRM into which it should be integrated, where do I start?

Enterprise-size companies will need to choose Salesforce.com because it's the only platform that will do everything an enterprise-size company needs.

For everyone else, there are lots of choices, and Salesforce.com is probably not the best choice - unless you like spending a ton of money on customization, only to have a clunky interface that salespeople dislike.  And if your salespeople don't like it, they won't live in it, and if they don't live in it, the information on that dashboard, which you paid a fortune to customize, will be as useless as a typewriter.

It's difficult, and in some cases, impossible, to truly integrate sales process into CRM and expect its presence to be useful.  However, there is one CRM application which is perfect for businesses where the focus is sales process, the playbook, the pipeline and the dashboard.  Salespeople love it and that means they will live in it, data will be available in real time, and your dashboard will be predictive!  It doesn't need a whole lot of customization out of the box, and what customization it does require, won't require an integrator.  I think that if you check out the version of Membrain with Baseline Selling pre-integrated into it, you'll want to have it.

Some companies really get stuck when it comes to CRM, swayed by the crowd to move to Salesforce.com, but overwhelmed with the work required to roll out an instance of salesforce.com to their sales force.  Speaking of stuck, the folks over at #Getunstuck asked me to record a short video for them on how I get unstuck and you can check it out here.

Getting back to CRM, I've also written a dozen articles on CRM.  This article on scorecards illustrates the power of having a CRM application that can be easily customized and tweaked as you go along and gain more information.  Another article discusses the 16 problems with CRM.  Finally, this article provides an example of how you can use the information on a CRM dashboard to improve revenue.

Sales process, without a CRM application that can fully utilize it, is solving only half of the problem.  CRM, without a good sales process, yields the same net outcome.  And when both the process and the CRM app are not as good as they could be, you're essentially moving at the speed of water evaporating!  You're slowly moving backwards!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales CRM, membrain, salesforce.com, #getunstuck

Why Salespeople Need to Negotiate and 10 Other Timely Sales Lessons

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 12:05 PM

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Regular readers know that I have written more than 1,400 articles to help them better Understand the Sales Force.  Some of the articles won awards.  A few were stinkers.  I intended for all of them to be very helpful and I believe they are.  Over the years, some of my favorite articles were completely overlooked, getting relatively few reads compared with the most popular articles that were viewed by tens of thousands of people.

Today I wrote an article for LinkedIn that not only explains Donald Trump's rise to presumptive GOP nominee, but identifies ten, great selling lessons associated with his rise.  It doesn't matter whether you love, hate or are neutral to Trump, I invite you to read my observations and lessons and contribute to the conversation.  You can read the Trump article here.

Speaking of lessons, when salespeople miss key milestones in the sales process – and they are often missed – it leads to proposals and/or quotes that rely on guesswork instead of facts, assumptions instead of agreements, and hope instead of acceptance. When salespeople send proposals to their prospects, they hope the proposal will do the selling for them, but it causes one of four things to happen instead. An article I wrote that appears today on the Selling Power Blog identifies those missed milestones and the four things that happen instead.  You can read the Selling Power article here.  

 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales lessons, time management, negotiating, sales groups on linkedin, Donald Trump, sellingpower, sales milestones

Can Free Sales Content Send You Down a Dangerous Path?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 02, 2016 @ 05:05 AM

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Did you ever drive down a street and see a "free stuff" sign?  Maybe it was a free sofa, chair, or table.  Maybe it was a free lawnmower or bicycle. It even could have been free kid's stuff.  Nearly all of the free stuff you find on the side of the road, available to the first taker, is somebody else's junk.  Instead of throwing it out, and rather than taking the time to donate it (if an organization would have it), they are simply giving it away.  

On the Web, there are three kinds of free sales content available.  

There are free articles - like this one - where you could be inspired, might have to think a bit, might learn of an approach you weren't aware of, or might be privy to some statistics or science you hadn't read about.  

There are free White Papers, which could be anything from a scientific report on Sales Selection, Longevity,Trust, or The Challenger Sale (the topics of my White Papers), to a marketing piece made to look like a scientific report.  

And there are Free Downloads offering a great value in exchange for your name and email address.  I downloaded one such free value this weekend - a Sales Process Cheat Sheet - which promised a standardized playbook and a simple, easy-to-follow sales methodology to help managers coach their inside sales reps into following a proven, standardized process from discovery to close.  Was there value?  It was a joint promotion from Hubspot and InsideSales.com. - maybe you received the same offer in your inbox.  Was it any good?  Was it a process?  Was it a playbook?  Was it a methodology?

It was designed for inside salespeople - BDR's and SDR's - whose role is to connect with prospects and book meetings for account executives or AE's.  In my opinion, it was not a Playbook because it did not show how to execute the call.  Playbooks are how-to's with scripts and action trees.  It was not a Methodology because it did not have a defined approach for moving from one milestone to the next.  Methodologies focus on the kind of conversation that is required to move from one step and stage to the next.  And it was not a Process because it was focused on tasks and outcomes, more than a series of milestones.  A sales process must have stages (typically 4-6) and within each stage, milestones that build on each other.  

Worse than not really being any of the things it was advertised to be, it was WAY TOO COMPLEX for sales reps whose job is to book meetings.  By comparison, the sales processes that Kurlan & Associates builds for companies are designed to be thorough, yet clear, concise and simple.  Simple does not imply that it is inadequate.  Simple means that it works without being overly complex or difficult to execute. Of course Kurlan charges for its work and the cheat sheet we have been talking about was free.  Does that mean it was as valuable as the old sofa, chair or table?

One of the many reader emails I received last week was from someone complaining that he used to get value from my articles, but no longer felt like he did.  I responded to him, apologized, and asked what I could write about that would be valuable for him.  He didn't respond.  No article can be all things to all people.  I'm sure that if you're a regular reader, you dismiss some as easily as you find some save-worthy.  Then there's the free part.  I always save the best stuff for the paying clients, for the consulting and training and coaching and evaluating and recruiting.  Unfortunately, and honestly, the material you get for free falls more into the tease category than the value category.   Even Amazon Prime does that.  There are certain movies that Prime members can watch for free, but you have to pay for the best stuff. 

There are some great thought leaders writing good articles in the sales space.  Just look at the list of the Top 50 Sales Bloggers and you will surely find some useful free content.  But as with my material, the others will save the best, most valuable, and most important information for their paying clients.

It's great that today you can get stuff for free.  Just don't confuse what you get for free with what others are paying for.

Speaking of paying - this is the final call for the last 2 available seats for my Sales Leadership Intensive, May 17-18 outside of Boston. [Update - Sold Out].

Topics: Dave Kurlan, HubSpot, sales process, sales methodology, inside sales, top sales blog, insidesales.com, sales playbook

Help is Here for Salespeople Who Find Themselves as the Underdogs

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 @ 19:04 PM

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You or your salespeople are on a call.  Is it an uphill battle?  Do you feel like you need some luck to win the business? Are you up against an incumbent - and your prospect is happy with them?  Are there too many competitors - and you are having trouble getting noticed?  Does the prospect claim to only care about price - and you aren't the lowest?  Do they just want a proposal or a quote - and you feel like you need to provide it to them?  Do you have trouble winning most of the time?  Do you almost always face resistance of some kind? Is it difficult to simply get a meeting?I wrote an article for the SellingPower blog where we discuss the challenges of being an underdog. Read it to now to learn how you can outsell the big companies.

Another one of my articles was named the Top Sales Blog post of the week.  If you missed it, I explained how coyotes show us the importance of external motivation.

Sales VP's, Sales Directors, Regional Sales Managers, National Sales Managers, Local Sales Managers, CEO's, Presidents, Channel Sales Directors, Inside Sales Managers, Board Members and more come from companies of all sizes and industries to attend our Annual Sales Leadership Intensive (where we limit attendance to fewer than 30 attendees) in May.  Every graduate says that this is the-best-training that they have ever attended.  We focus on showing, demonstrating and training sales leaders to coach salespeople in the most impactful and effective way, and nobody does this like we do.  Coaching is how you impact important deals.  Coaching helps you develop salespeople.  Coaching leads to revenue growth.  Nothing - and I mean nothing - has a greater impact on the sales organization than when you spend half of your time coaching and you conduct coaching the right way.  If you would like to join us, we would love to see you there.  This embedded discount code/link will give you a special 30% discount. [Update - Sold Out]

There was a tremendous amount of interest in these ten articles over the past 4 months:

Uncovering Pain Doesn't Close the Sale and the 3 Conditions That Will

On Our Doorstep - 5 Keys to Prepare Your Sales Force for the Recession

Why More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before 

Why Company Methods to Rank and Compensate Salespeople Are All Wrong?

Proof of How Poorly the Bottom 74% of Salespeople Perform

One of These Two Assessments is More Predictive of Sales Success

The Challenges of Coaching Different Types of Salespeople

How We Discovered They Had the Wrong Salespeople

Why This is Such a Great Sales Book

Sales Performance Improves When You Stop Worrying About Your Words

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, effective sales leadership, sales management seminar, closing more sales, beating the competition

Effective Selling is Less about the Words and More About How You Say Them

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 @ 18:04 PM

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Two experiences this weekend support something I have been teaching for more than 30 years.  

Saturday, I walked up to the deli counter and asked the young woman for a quarter pound of imported provolone.  She responded, "We don't have impourded, but we have some from Italy."  I said that would be fine. Then she grumbled to a co-worker that this guy wanted "impourded" provolone and he explained that the Italian provolone was imported.  Then she held up the slices and said, "It's only 5 slices - that won't go very far!"  I explained that it was perfect for a sandwich.

I was able to laugh that one off - it was actually funny - but I didn't think the second one was very funny.

The AAU 13U baseball team was ahead 4-1 when the assistant coach approached us. Our son had just finished pitching his fourth strong inning so we expected to hear, "He's pitching a great game!", but instead he whined that our son needed to develop better command of his curve ball (that I wouldn't let him throw prior to this year because we were trying to protect his arm).  

I nicely reminded the coach that our son had tried out for the team as a catcher, not a pitcher, and that the coaches liked his arm so much they told him he would pitch - a lot.  

The assistant coach growled, "If he doesn't want to pitch, I'll take him off the mound right now!!!"  

Huh?  If he doesn't want to pitch? He loves to pitch! Where did that sarcastic comment come from?  And why was he so nasty about it?

Neither of these two individuals intended to be nasty, or even mean-spirited, but both of them communicated their replies in such a way that they came out quite nasty.

The deli lady could have said, "Will provolone from Italy be acceptable?"

And the coach could have said, "I'm going to help Michael with the command of the curveball he's been working on."

You can say almost anything, to anyone, at any time, without offending them, if you say it nicely, softly, kindly, and sincerely.  You can't get away with saying anything, ever, even when your intentions are good, if you sound arrogant, abrasive, offensive, snarly, defensive, loud or combative.

Whether you are trying to convince a prospect, customer or salesperson, make sure you emphasize the how over the what and your message has a much better chance of being accepted in the spirit you intended.

Read more about how you can stop worrying about the words you use.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, selling, tonality, communication skills

About Dave

Dave Kurlan's Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award five years running.  This year the Blog earned a Gold Medal and this article earned the Bronze Medal. Read more about Dave.

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