Monthly Archives: October 2020

Different Players, Different Game







Has this ever happened to you?  You think you’re all set for a sales meeting when you learn that the people you were planning to meet with have shuffled the deck and “others” will be joining the meeting.

How does that make you react?  Your brain may tell you to dismiss this as unimportant or irrelevant, that it doesn’t matter, that this change will not affect the meeting and the outcome you are hoping for. But, what if it will?  Will you be able to pivot?


In biology, introducing a foreign species into an ecosystem upsets the balance in, and can destroy, its environment, economy or health.  In your prospect’s buying ecosystem, alien species are additional buyer stakeholders who join your prospect’s decision-making process.  How will this affect your main contact’s role in that process?  Her perceptions?  The ultimate outcome?

Solving for every unknown is impossible, but you can count on one thing: unexpected things will happen.  Changes to which stakeholders are involved in a meeting or in the client’s buying process changes the sale.  Will you be able to make that pivot, and adapt, or will you stay locked onto your prior course?


You may remember Lance Armstrong, the once famous and now disgraced professional cyclist.  In 2003’s Tour de France – the super bowl of championship cycling – he executed a creative, impressive and famous pivot.  Since most pro cycling teams have elite-level fitness and equipment, the major risk is an accident.  When someone goes down in front of you, it tests your agility in a high stakes moment.  Midway through this race and a 185km stage, Armstrong approached a pile-up that had claimed one of his chief rivals.  What does he do?  Instead of plowing into and joining the carnage, wrecking his body and his bike, he steers his bike away from the pile-up.  In fact, he veers off the road completely, into and across a field.  In the process, he eliminated a key competitor, avoided injury and gained time on his rivals.

How do you execute a great pivot in your selling, so that you can adapt when conditions change?  Here are five best practices:

  1. Breathe. In addition to sending oxygen to your brain so that you can think clearly, it will help you remain calm and focused.
  2. Think. Who are the new players? What is their role? Why are they joining the meeting?
  3. Adjust. The sales process doesn’t always move forward.  Be willing to take steps back to do more discovery to understand the interests of these new stakeholders and bring them on board.
  4. Focus. Arrive dialed in, ready to ride across the field to win if needed.


In your pursuit of a sale, the players will change at different points.  If your aim is to win, not just to show up, the best practices above will enable you to stay agile, and ready to adapt to changes so that you can eliminate a competitor and get closer to the prize.

How agile are you in your selling?

You Say Tomato, I Say Sales

It’s funny.  In many professions, the words “sales” and “selling” are taboo.

If you’re in tech or professional services, you may call it business development, or biz dev if you’re a righteous dude or dudette.  In banking, you may call it BD or even marketing.  You may also “monetize” or “commercialize.”

And the people who do it?  Well, of course they’re account execs, consultants, advisors, business development officers, client evangelists and client engagement specialists.

Anything, please, just don’t use the dreaded s-word.


In the most recent Cirque du Soleil show, my wife and I marveled at Aleksei Goloborodko, a 25 year-old Russian and the circus troupe’s contortionist.  How this young man bends, twists and folds his body seems impossible.

Back to selling, why all the contortions around using the s-word and why does it matter?  It’s true that every culture, industry and company is different in sometimes very significant ways.  However, are the activities that your people pursue to grow your business so different that they warrant a unique naming convention?  Do your clients not know that your biz dev people are, well, developing new business? Aren’t your clients and prospects doing the same thing with their business?


To grow your business, how many of the following activities must you or your people do effectively?

  • Find new clients
  • Expand existing relationships
  • Develop trust quickly
  • Ask great questions
  • Listen for understanding, meaning and feeling
  • Convey value compellingly
  • Focus on the most attractive and likeliest opportunities
  • Gain commitment to move forward

Using cryptic names can risk miscommunicating your intent internally.  And isn’t there enough of that already?

When some people hear that what they do is something different from “selling,” it gives them license to not do the activities above — effectively or consistently.  Is that a pattern you see?  How does this affect your bottom line and what can you do about it?


What if you just owned it?  In addition to delivering great solutions, why not be clear that to grow your business:

  1. Your firm has salespeople. To find and close new opportunities with clients and prospects, you need salespeople.
  2. Your salespeople sell.
  3. Selling isn’t dirty. Given how tough it is to do well, selling is worthy of respect.
  4. Selling skills must be developed. To win against able competitors, your people will need to keep getting better to accomplish your aspirations.

You say tomato.  I call it selling.  Whatever you call it, if you want to drive growth, there is no need for contortions.  Be clear and consistent in your messaging, build a team with the right stuff, and support them to do their important work.  If you’re not sure how to get started, I can help you get there.