Author Archives: Michael Dalis

Sales Hiring Mistakes: The 2 Hidden Costs of Choosing the Wrong Candidate

What’s your firm’s success rate in choosing business development talent who’ll ramp quickly and hit goal?

It’s a question that many companies aren’t clear about.  At their best, most sales managers select sales candidates that fail as often as they succeed.  So, it understandably becomes the norm: nobody’s perfect, your underperformers may finally break through, and making mistakes is a cost of doing business.

Does that work for you?

Hiring the right talent is key. In the movie business, the choice of leading actor can play a significant role in box office success or failure.  Production companies hire professional casting directors, may run auditions with hundreds of candidates, and do screen tests with co-stars to get this decision right.

Bringing in a big name with lots of movie credits, and paying up, surely guarantees success, right?  Bruce Willis helped the “Die Hard” movie franchise become one of the most successful in history, grossing $1.4 billion.

Get this decision wrong and you’ve got “Hart’s War.”  Doesn’t ring a bell?  Losing $100 million, this movie also starred Bruce Willis and became one of the biggest box office flops in history.  Same actor, wrong role.

To generate sales, you hire, pay, manage and train talent to hopefully generate blockbuster revenue.  But, sometimes, despite a strong resume, past success and sparkling personality, they’re just not right for the role.  Here’s one more (real) example: as part of a lift-out of a business unit within the same industry, two salespeople were brought over from the old company.  Successful in the past, both were fired within their first 12 months at the new company — for lack of sales results.  How did this happen?  Despite their talent, the conditions into which they were being hired (no internal leads) were different from those at the previous company (many internally-sourced referrals).  Good people, wrong role.

What’s the “cost” of hiring the wrong candidate?  What’s the benefit to getting the right sales talent into the right role?

While you probably know much about the answers to these important questions, here are two ugly truths that my clients have come to discover and that you might want to consider:

  1. Opportunity cost: Hiring an underperformer, of course, may involve fees for headhunters and job boards; and salary (or draw), commissions, benefits, training and travel expenses. But there’s a bigger question: what’s the spread between an average performer (who meets their sales quota) and an average non-performer (who doesn’t).  For one of my clients, this spread is $250K/year.  Multiply the spread by the number of years that a company retains an underperformer, and you may be at $500K or more.  What would the opportunity cost be in your business?
  2. Collateral effect: Effective salespeople like winning, and this requires an A-list supporting cast, from analysts to sales engineers to managers. Salespeople with weak production and weak skills, and who are allowed to carry on without changing, have a corrosive impact on the sales organization.  They consume time and resources, and send the message that sales success doesn’t matter.  While compassionate in one sense, what if that created a level of resentment that caused one or more of your high performers to finally take that offer from your competitor that’s been chasing them?  In your firm, what would their lost production be worth — $500K? $1 million? More?

Because of these two ugly truths, measuring and improving your firm’s success rate in selecting biz dev talent should take on greater importance.  One way you can accomplish that is by using a data-driven approach to assessing sales talent, early in the recruiting process to ensure your team only interviews candidates who will succeed in the role you’re filling.

Want to take a free road test of the sales candidate assessment tool I use to predict success for my clients? Click here.  We can customize the assessment for your company so you can find the right talent you need to accelerate your revenue growth.


Are you making changes to your sales organization with new leadership, a new CRM, going after a new channel or larger clients, or trying to sell solutions that cross multiple lines of business?You probably won’t be surprised to learn that roughly 70% of efforts by organizations to change direction are unsuccessful.  So, what are some ways to bend the curve on your firm’s outcomes?


When making changes, it’s important to consider that one major reason that change efforts often fail is that the organization is not aligned around the change.  Not surprisingly, people are generally resistant to change. Employees often prefer their current behaviors to new ones and will look for reasons not to change; and managers or peers who are not supportive, or even indifferent, about the change might be just the ticket they’re looking for to stay on their current path.

Gaining alignment to change current practices is different from a leader gaining consent to or compliance with their idea.  It involves effective teamwork to, first, make the right decisions about the change and, then, gain alignment around the change decided upon.


How do you do this?  Research from Richard Hackman, whose work on high performing teams lasted beyond his years, and Ruth Wageman (both Harvard PhD’s and organizational behaviorists),  proved that 80% of a team’s performance could be traced to three essential questions:

  1. Are they a real team?
  2. Do they have a compelling purpose?
  3. Do they have the right people?

Allow me to add some color to each, using an example that you’re assembling a task force to choose or change your organization’s CRM system.


A team that’s “real” is bounded, interdependent and stable.  Will the membership be defined?  To choose the right CRM for your firm, will the members need to draw from each other’s experience and insights? Can you count on the members to stay involved from start to finish, and will their managers support this?


A purpose that is “compelling” is clear, challenging and consequential.  Are members clear on the scope of the task?  Does their work end with a systems recommendation, or do they continue on through negotiation, or possibly implementation?  Will participating on this task force engage and stretch people in a way that feels good?  And do they see this system change as something that will help their colleagues, the business and give them pride?


The “right” people are those who can best contribute to the team’s mission.  For a CRM selection, does each member bring a perspective that will lead to the right outcomes?  Do they have teamwork skills that will enable them to operate effectively with others in contributing to the task force’s work?  Will they bring a diversity of thought to ensure there is some healthy tension in how decisions are made?


Ensuring your firm makes the right decisions, and is aligned around them, takes patience.  It’s way quicker to announce a decision and tell people to get on it.  That’s exactly what lands most initiatives in the 70% of fails.  If the change is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.  Getting into the 30% success club starts with a real team, a compelling purpose and the right people.

If you’re frustrated by a team that is charged with important work connected to your growth aspirations, but which is not aligned and incapable of producing optimal decisions, I can help.  By running a quick diagnostic – based on Hackman’s and Wageman’s work – we can gain clarity on both their challenges as a unit, and how to support them effectively, so that your efforts succeed.

Consultative Selling with a Wooden Racquet

Does your sales organization gain enough client information to win consistently?

Are you old enough to remember Bjorn Borg, the Swedish tennis phenom?  You know, long blond hair, headband, scruffy face.  His fitness and innovative topspin forehand helped him win 11 Grand Slam titles in the 1970’s.  Less memorable was his comeback in the 1990’s.  Borg quickly learned that a wooden racquet and topspin were no longer game-changers.

Likewise, the phrase “consultative selling” may bring back memories.  It should, it’s been around for over 40 years.  It’s tempting to dismiss the approach as old-school.  Like Borg’s wooden racquet, surely this tool won’t win deals today.  Right?

Wrong.  For two reasons.  First, there is a misunderstanding of what it is.  And, second, there is an incorrect assumption that everyone does it.

There’s a commonly held belief among salespeople (and their managers) that consultative selling is about identifying and addressing a customer’s needs.  While these things are important, they don’t go far enough.  For a long time now, the internet has empowered clients to source and research their own list of vendors.

In a sales meeting today, asking a few questions and describing your capabilities isn’t enough to win, when other vendors can do the same thing and your client knows it.  Today, selling consultatively means asking deep enough questions, and listening acutely, to uncover an accurate and complete picture of a client’s urgent and compelling needs.  Do your salespeople do this? Do your sales managers know how to do this?

The second incorrect assumption is that, because consultative selling has been around a while, everyone must do it.  Have you ever heard the expression, “common knowledge isn’t common practice?”  It applies. Based on a survey of over 1.9 million salespeople from 200 industries and 130 countries, how many are strong at the consultative selling competency?  Get ready for it: 12%!

This means that, when 10 salespeople compete for a deal, only 1 of them will ask the kind of questions that enables her to position value in a way that a client will find compelling enough to agree to a change.  What about the other 9?  They walk away with participation trophies or, in this case, believing that they would have won if they had a lower price.

Does your sales organization sell consultatively, or just talk about it?  For leaders who are driven to accelerate growth, I offer these five proof points to test whether your people are in the 12% or 88% of consultative sellers:

  1. Client knowledge: When you ask your people about a new business opportunity, are their answers limited to either their perspective (on size, timing or competitive advantages) or that of one decision maker (“he loves us”)? Or are they able to articulate the client’s urgent need, voiced by multiple people in the decision chain, that the status quo must change, and change now?  This requires less talking, more high-mileage questions and more listening; how comfortable with silence is your sales team in client meetings? Do they wait for the client to fully unpack their concerns and challenges, or do they rush in to “solve” what they think is their problem?
  2. DQ’s: What percentage of pipeline opportunities get disqualified (“DQ”), rather than pursued, by your team? This takes client knowledge (see #1 above) and a disciplined process that is supported by your managers.
  3. Win conversion: What’s the ratio between proposals and wins? How often do deals die at the proposal stage?  If your people are gaining strong client knowledge (#1), and they (and their managers) use rigorous qualifying criteria and process (#2), they should be winning 50-80% of deals they decide to propose or pitch.
  4. Win quality: What percentage of new wins meet your criteria for a solid deal? How often does your sales team (including managers) say they lose on price?  What percentage of them require discounting, or an exception to minimums, or require non-standard workarounds?  Who benefits from this new win?
  5. Trending: Are you seeing upward movement in the organization’s ability in the above areas?

Gaining objective, accurate and predictive data on your sales team’s consultative selling skill — as well as the 20 other competencies required to sell effectively today — will tell you how to properly shape and support the sales effort to bend the revenue curve.

If you track the data above in your CRM, and feel confident about its accuracy, these proof points should be easy for you to measure.  If you don’t have access to that data, and are relying on your sales managers, how do you feel about their knowledge and objectivity to give you a true read on your sales organization’s selling skills?

If you would like a clear picture on the strength of your sales organization’s selling abilities and potential, I can help you with that.  In the meantime, here is a link to a free whitepaper on what the data say about “The Science of Sales Effectiveness.”

Bjorn Borg might never have won another tournament with his wooden racquet.  If your sales team is going to market with stale consultative selling skills, do yourself a favor: buy them a new racquet and arm them with the skills they need to come home with more than a participation prize.


Will Your Dogs Hunt? (What the data says about sales “hunters”)

How’s your new business development going during this crazy “new normal?” Are your people getting out there and hunting for new opportunities so your business can continue to thrive?

However you feel about using the phrase “hunter” in sales (wouldn’t that make clients a target to be tracked, followed and killed?), it’s generally used to describe a salesperson’s skill level in finding new clients or new logos.

According to research data from my colleagues at Objective Management Group, who maintain a database of over 1.9 million sales professionals, in 200 industries and 130 countries, only 41% of salespeople are strong in the hunting competency.  So if you’re feeling as though your salespeople are waiting for some incredibly rare planetary realignment to make an unsolicited prospect call, the data backs up your feelings.

What’s holding back your salespeople? The research looks at the following contributing factors in determining whether a salesperson will hunt: perfectionism, rejection fatigue, excuse-making, need for approval, volume of company-generated leads and referrals.

What role do your managers play in finding and developing hunters?  What are the consequences in your firm for a salesperson not hitting their metric of new clients, not maintaining a strong pipeline of opportunities, not sourcing their own referrals or leads, and not being able to convert a network of contacts into new opportunities?

If your business needs more new clients to reach your goals, you might consider pursuing these six best practices to gain better outcomes:

  1. Get good data: Your biz dev people have value, after all your firm decided to hire and keep them all these years. What’s less clear is their ability to hunt for new business.  Gaining objective, accurate and predictive data on their hunting skills will make it clear which dogs will hunt and how to support this part of their work.
  2. Skill them up: It may be years, if ever, since your salespeople were trained in how to prospect.  Today, digital tools have changed the landscape – both for prospects and for your sales team.  Where needed, get them re-grounded and current in the principles of effective prospecting.
  3. Challenge them: There’s a reason mamma birds push their babies out of the nest! Hunting for new business is always going to be tougher than servicing current clients and fielding internal leads and referrals.  Pushing them out of the nest involves aligned and consistent messaging across your leadership team, so they understand there’s no place to hide from this important sales responsibility.
  4. Track them: If you don’t already, use your CRM as the source for tracking new business metrics, such as the number of pure prospect calls, the number of new opportunities created, and their efficiency ratio in converting calls into opportunities. If you are tracking these stats already, volumes and trends should be consistently discussed in meetings between leaders and managers, and between managers and salespeople.
  5. Support them: Be empathetic that changing behaviors and doing things that feel uncomfortable is tough and takes time.  That means managers committing time to observe prospecting calls, and to coach development of prospecting skills.  Equally important, this also means that leaders should coach managers on their coaching effectiveness.
  6. Compensate them: One skill shared by all salespeople is how to max their payout.  Be sure that your comp plan is not only competitive with peer organizations; it should offer salespeople and their managers greater incentives for tougher work like winning new revenue from new clients.

Hunters play an invaluable role in growing your business.  Using the six best practices above will ensure that your sales organization is driving new business development; and allowing its salespeople to engage their inner hunters.  And will tell you which of your dogs will hunt.

Score a free road-test of the sales talent assessment I use to assess a salesperson’s hunting competency (in addition to 20 others), by clicking here.  Let me know what you think!



Goldilocks and the Three Empathies (a COVID-19 tale)

Tired of being confined to her cottage during the COVID-19 crisis, Goldilocks decided to take a walk through the Enchanted Forest and gather ingredients for dinner.  She came upon a market, considered by the king to be an essential service, where local farmers were still permitted to sell their produce.

She approached the first vendor at a socially-safe distance.  When asked how her day was going, she said how frustrated she was with this lockdown.  Vendor #1 then commented: “You shouldn’t feel that way, Goldilocks.  This will all be fine and over before you know it.  And, by the way, I’m running a special on strawberries today.”

Goldilocks walked away thinking to herself, “That empathy was too cold.  I “shouldn’t feel” the way I feel?  And how does he know that it will all be fine and over soon?  That felt icky, just like his strawberries probably were. And I’m allergic to strawberries anyway.”

As she visited vendor #2, who greeted her and asked about her day, Goldilocks again expressed her cottage-quarantine frustration.  In response, vendor #2 remarked: “Oh me too.  I’m so frustrated.  My business is down.  I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent.  I haven’t been sleeping well because I’m so stressed out!  I can’t take this much longer…”

The vendor continued talking as Goldilocks wandered away.  This time, she thought: “That empathy was too hot.   He was not listening and did not care about me. He totally hijacked my story and talked about himself the whole time I was there.  I feel even more stressed out than I did before. Yuck.  What was he selling again?”

Getting even more frustrated and still with an empty basket, she moved on to vendor #3 who, again, said hello and inquired about her day.  This time, when Goldilocks shared her frustrations the vendor said, “Oh Goldilocks, I’m so sorry that you’re feeling frustrated.  Sounds like you’re having a difficult time.  How are you managing through it?”  As Goldilocks talked, the vendor listened with compassion and curiosity.  Then he helped her choose fruits and vegetables for her evening’s feast.  She gladly paid for them, filled her basket and skipped happily home.

On her way, Goldilocks thought to herself: “That empathy was just right.  It felt good to be heard and supported.  Vendor #3 was really nice and helpful.  I will definitely go back to him.  In fact, I will give him a killer Yelp review, and Face-time Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin right now to refer them to that nice man, with his beautiful produce and helpful advice!”

The moral of the story: especially during this unusual time, remember to stay close to and connect with your clients, prospects and centers of influence; and, when you do, ask high-mileage questions, and listen with sincere interest and compassion.  They will appreciate you for it.

Do your salespeople most resemble Vendor 1, 2 or 3 in managing through this difficult time? I care and I’m here to support you.


Low Tide at Revenue Beach

One of the most interesting things about going to the beach is the change in scenery at high and low tide.  High tide is about abundance.  Low tide, on the other hand, reveals all sorts of unusual things: shells, starfish, sea glass, tires, shovels and rocks.

For growing your business, the last ten years have been high tide.  There was so much growth and opportunity, were there points that you were unable to find enough sales talent to keep up with it?

The COVID-19 health crisis has been a difficult period for people on so many levels.  It’s also created a low tide in the financial markets and in many industries.  And as revenue and pipeline opportunities flowed out over the last several weeks, what’s been revealed on your beach?  The common theme in the conversations I’ve had during this period with CEO’s, Managing Partners and PE investors is that there is a now-visible gap between what they need, and what they’ve got, in their sales organization.  These gaps might include some or all of the following:

  • Hunters
  • Legitimate pipeline opportunities
  • True account managers, to both retain and expand relationships
  • Managers who drive accountability
  • Ownership
  • Agility

Whether your current focus is on getting through the current crisis or preparing for what follows, two things — dispassionate data and objective insights — will give you the confidence to make the right calls during this difficult period.  When the time is right, I can help you with cutting-edge tools that will change the way you move forward.

The #1 Action Your Salespeople Should be Taking Today (and why 95% of them will probably not do it)

As a business leader, are these extraordinary times re-stacking your daily priorities and decisions?  Does your sales organization feel paralyzed — with activity and results way off, and a pipeline that seems to have vanished?

No doubt, this is a difficult time to be selling.  The pandemic impacts people, companies, industries, markets and the economy.  And with social distancing, the meeting calendar might have been wiped out.

So, what’s the #1 action your sales team should be taking right now, today?  The answer, while perhaps uncomfortable, is not as tough as it may seem: gaining virtual appointments and conducting what I call “re-discovery” calls with pipeline prospects.  This goes beyond simply checking in.  A re-discovery call takes intention and preparation, and includes the following:

-Leveraging the access your people have earned,

-Conducting fresh discovery with customers on how recent events are impacting their goals, challenges, priorities and decision making,

-Finding (new and maybe different) ways to help.

Why are 95% of your people unlikely to do this?  The data on salespeople suggests that all but 5% of them lack the mindset and skill. Surprising?  Here is a link to a recent post on the importance of value selling by Dave Kurlan from Objective Management Group that highlights some illuminating data from their bank of over 1.9 million sales professionals, across 130 countries and 200 industries.

How much stronger are the top 5% of salespeople compared to the bottom 50% in several critical areas right now?

-Sales DNA: 10,000%

-Consultative selling: 2,000%

-Selling value:  900%

What does this huge gap mean? The data suggests that, even in normal times, poor mindset and ineffective selling skills prevent most biz dev people from having critical and timely conversations.

How do your salespeople’s mindset and skills compare to the averages above? What should you do as a leader to address this – to navigate the current storm and properly position for the rebound?  Let’s talk.



If you’re a leader in a professional services firm, you’ve probably noticed that most of your new business comes from a small handful of your Partner-level colleagues.  If one or more of these Partners left, who would replace them to be your next generation of rainmakers, or biz dev superstars?

Understandably, professional services firms – consulting, accounting, law, etc. — tend to assign biz dev responsibilities to Partners and Directors who are a) extroverted, and b) strong networkers.  It’s true that selling new work can be challenging for someone who doesn’t enjoy being around other people.  However, it is also true that plenty of well-networked extroverts fail to bring in the work.  How come?

I set out to find how rainmakers — which I define here as the top 10% within professional services firms in winning new revenue from new clients — compare to:

  1. Top salespeople in industries outside of professional services,
  2. Non-rainmakers (the bottom 90%) in professional services.

To do this, I engaged my friends at Objective Management Group, which maintains the largest and most seasoned database on the planet for sales and business development talent.  They did a highly targeted study of roughly 500 professionals with business development responsibilities in professional services firms.  The conclusions might surprise you.

Belief #1: Top rainmakers are different from top full-time salespeople.

Whatever term your firm uses to refer to new business from new clients, the rainmakers (top 10%) in professional services firms share the competencies of the top 10% of full-time salespeople in any industry.

In the illustration above, you can see how closely aligned rainmakers (blue) are with top salespeople in any industry (orange) in two key areas: grit (the five factors to the left) and how they’re naturally wired for sales (Sales DNA, on the right).  In fact, there was a 96.7% correlation across the 29 factors OMG looked at.

>>Conclusion: Top rainmakers and top salespeople share the same competencies to win work.

Belief #2: Rainmakers (top 10%) are more personable and better networked than non-rainmakers (bottom 90%) in professional services firms.

Across the 29 factors, there were significant differences between the top, average and bottom performers in our professional services study.

For the same six key factors selected in the prior graph, you can see some wide gaps between top and bottom performers in the areas of grit (left-most five) and how they’re wired for sales (right-most).

The biggest gaps, however, were in several biz dev competencies, or skills:

The five most significant differences had little to do with being extroverted or having a big network.  They were:

  1. Closing: The ability to overcome resistance to close new business.  Here, the top 10% were 123% stronger than the average, and 600% stronger than the bottom 10%.
  2. Reaching Decision Makers: Accessing a broader set of contacts in the sales process, given larger and more complex decision-making processes in client companies today.  For this competency, top performers were 92% stronger than the average, and 582% versus the bottom 10%.
  3. Social Selling: The ability to not to just have a lot of contacts, but to convert them into opportunities.  Here, the top 10% were 71% stronger than average and 336% stronger than the bottom 10%.
  4. Consultative Selling: Through effective questioning and listening skills, rainmakers identify a prospect’s compelling reason to buy or move.  Here, they are 68% stronger than average and 283% stronger than the bottom 10%.
  5. CRM Savvy: Rainmakers realize that their CRM saves them prep time and allows them to stay organized and on track to win more work. In this regard, they are 85% above average and 200% higher than the bottom 10%.

>>Conclusion: There is no evidence to support the concept that extroversion and networking ability produce rainmakers.

While these qualities are helpful for business development, it’s important to look deeper to find your next generation of rainmakers.  If you’re not happy with your firm’s pace of growth, using data to identify business development competencies in your next generation is a more objective and accurate way to promote and recruit those future rainmakers that will, er, make it rain.

Death By 1000 Facts

You know the look.  I’m the client.  You’re seated across the table from me.  In response to my question or request, you’ve begun laying out the details behind a brilliant idea that you are convinced will help my organization.  The problem is, the deeper you go into your solution the more and more disengaged I become.  At first, there’s some eye contact, polite nodding and the occasional grunt of acknowledgement.  Then, I begin looking at my watch and, longingly, at the door as I plan my escape.  What you hear as appreciation and  agreement to your proposed  next step, is in fact an end to our discussion so I can get back to my real work; and sincere doubt whether I will subject myself again to this “death by 1000 facts.”

So, what happened here?  On the positive side, I believed enough in you and your organization to ask for your point-of-view, your recommendation or maybe even a formal proposal.  On the negative side, your ideas — while technically brilliant — failed to resonate with me.

Why did your brilliant idea fall flat?  In order to answer this important question, we need to recognize that there are three basic elements to communicating a standout idea that commands the client’s attention:

1) Articulating the client’s challenging issue(s),

2) Outlining the elements of your solution, and

3) Connecting the dots between your solution and how it benefits the client.

Most professionals recognize these three basic elements, but what is missing is an understanding of which elements are most important to the client.  Of the three elements, professionals are magnetically attached, and can speak chapter and verse, to #2.  And, this is natural, it’s their comfort zone.  What most fail to realize is that, of the three elements mentioned above, the client is far more interested in #1 and #3.  Skimming over or ignoring these conveys to your client two things about you – you don’t understand or care about either the issues they face, and/or how your solution benefits them.  The client’s disengagement was a symptom that your message was generic; it failed to align to the client’s challenging issues and/or or to connect the dots between your solution and benefits to the client’s business.

So, as you prepare for your next important meeting or call with a key existing or prospective client, let’s review what you need to know about the three elements; so that when you put your ideas on the table, they are clearly relevant, and compel your client to act – whether that means committing business to you or just agreeing to take an incremental action step to advance the sale.

Challenging Issues 

What is driving your client’s interest in taking time away from other work to talk with you?  While there are many client contacts who will always accept an invitation to lunch or a round of golf, decision makers and influencers are busy.  The more significant the size and scope of their responsibilities, the busier they are.  Key contacts are focused on solving challenging issues that are preventing their organization from achieving its short-term objectives and long-term business goals.  And they are short on time.

In order to be able to articulate the client’s challenging issues, you need to know (not think you know, not assume you know) what they are.  Uncover this key information by asking questions to understand the organization’s objectives and initiatives, who is driving them, and why?  How has the client prioritized certain strategic initiatives versus others, and why?  You should also discover what stake your contact has in the success or failure of specific initiatives.

Once you understand your client’s challenging issues, you can articulate and validate your understanding in a number of ways.  For example, “Here are the things we heard you rank as your top three priorities…  How well have we captured this?”  By checking for feedback with an open-ended question, you gain an opportunity to course-correct prior to laying out your solution.

Relevant Solution 

Leaving it to the client to connect their issues with your solution is a strategy with a low probability of success.  You work in a technical business; your organization’s products and services are complex.  As a seasoned professional, you have thousands of facts you could call upon in describing your solution.  Out of all these facts, which will be relevant to your client?  For example, if your work is systems consulting, and you learned that data security is your contact’s challenging issue because of a breach last month, you might conclude that the relevant facts to this client was how your approach, software, risk controls, and services would have responded to that same breach.  In addition, you could describe a similar client situation, and the actions you took to address their priority issues.

In the meeting, this would sound like, “Here are the three key parts of the solution we would recommend in order to address your challenge around preventing a data breach: …   ”

The key is to select only those facts and features of your products and services, and/or those success stories, that are relevant to the client’s challenging issues, nothing more and nothing less.

Value to the Client

Many professionals leave it to the client to define the value of a solution.  In so doing, you leave it to chance that the client will see the full impact of your proposal. You should use specific data (% growth, $ savings, % profit margins, etc.) to support your claims.  Another way to position benefits is through success stories, using specific names where appropriate and, where not, describing the company or industry or using aggregate experience.

Here is an example of how you could connect the dots between your solution and its benefits to the client: “We have worked with six organizations this year that have faced a similar issue.  The solution we proposed produced an average of $650,000/year in measurable savings, to each organization.”

Increase Client Engagement

What if you are unclear on any of the three elements – issues, solution or value?  This happens.  If you don’t know key information about these three elements, you’re not ready to meet with your client.  If this is business you want, it would serve you to invest in deeper discovery or research before discussing a solution.  The most common mistake professionals make is moving to positioning a solution too soon.  This typically results in a loss in credibility and/or a negative outcome when they try to close. 

Another way the professional can increase engagement is by checking in with the client.  One of the most common mistakes that professionals make is to assume that a silent response to a solution or idea is a sign of client agreement.  Silence is not golden.   At best, it signals that the client is thinking about what you have positioned to resolve their issue.  At worst, he or she has disengaged.  Only by checking in (with an open-ended question) with the client to gain their feedback can you be sure that your ideas hit their mark.   Asking for feedback with a checking question – such as, “How well do you feel this solution would address your challenges with data security?”  — engages the client.  Their response will guide you where to go next.  If your client responds positively, you can begin to discuss actions, responsibility and timeframes to advance the idea.  If the client responds negatively or neutrally, this is your opportunity to first explore where your solution missed its mark; and then to refine your ideas to satisfy the client’s objectives.

Let’s put an end to disengaged clients.  As you prepare for a meeting, if you find yourself and members of your team saying, “I know…” and “They (client contacts) told us…” you are on track to present a standout idea that is relevant, compelling and persuasive.  Deeper questioning, focused listening, and a consistent process are the basis of positioning standout ideas that resonate.  The value to you as an expert is higher client engagement and a stronger ability to move opportunities forward.  So, before your next important meeting, show some compassion for your prospective client – instead of unleashing a fury of facts, treat them to great open-ended questions; attentive listening; and, when you feel you are fully ready, well-organized and relevant ideas, using the process above.  Your client will appreciate it!

Slow More, Close More

You’re on the road.  Your phone is dead and car navigation is out of range.  Because you’re running late, you miss an important turn.  The clock is ticking as you drive miles past your destination.  Eventually you pull over, realize your mistake, backtrack and finally arrive (even later) at your destination.

Have you been there?

As a sales professional, you may be feeling “late” relative to any number of things.  These could include: your sales quota, your peers, your competitors, an opportunity or client.  During a sales meeting, those feelings can cause you to rush and overshoot important pivot points, like on a road trip. Those details and cues, and the adjustments you make in response, can be the difference between winning and losing the business.

So, how do you slow down when your gut is telling you to move faster, catch up?  Try these five adjustments to pump the brakes for a more effective sales meeting:

                   LESS                           MORE
Cramming in filler appointments Preparing better for meetings that matter
Time spent on rapport Time on agenda development
Talking/tutoring Listening/learning
About you About them
Assumptions Checking for alignment

It’s counterintuitive to feather the brakes when your instincts are telling you to lean on the accelerator.  Yet isn’t that exactly the adjustment you make when you are at your best, most dialed-in, selling self?

What are the ways you find your patience in effective sales meetings, enabling you to advance and close more business?