September 2013

Sell More Without Doing More Selling – Scott’s Sales Yoga Thought for the Day

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A while back I was asked by Donald, a CEO I advise, for my top best practice on increasing revenues generated by his sales team. I told him what I tell all my clients: the most effective way to sell more is by doing less selling. I could tell by his expression this was not the answer he expected, and he confirmed this when he asked me to explain.

His staffing and RPO company, like many organizations, was engaging buyers in a selling experience. They used a number of the traditional techniques: feature-benefit selling, employing trial closes, and controlling the conversation. His sales team was quite good. They continually outpaced the market, growing two or more times faster than the competition. Yet, when surveyed, buyers admitted they were merely tolerating the sales approach by his team. When asked what would make their experience better, they indicated that they liked to buy, but hated to be sold.

This is true of all buyers. Which, by the way, is why we refer to them as buyers (instead of something like “sellees”). Buyers enjoy acquiring things, be it products or services, that improve their circumstances. They resist, despise, and even retreat from being sold. Being a buyer feels empowering, while being sold to often generates feelings of overwhelm, anger, or even powerlessness.

By using a Buying Experience Strategy Template (B.E.S.T.), Donald’s team is on pace for their best year yet. In a recent survey buyers noted a marked difference in their buying experience with his company. One comment in particular, summed up the feedback: “While I’ve always liked what they sold me, now I even like how they sell me.”

To help you get started, I’ve included a process visual illustrating the distinction between a buying and selling experience along with four questions from the five-part BEST system.

  • What do buyers dislike about their current sales experience?
  • How does a buying experience differ from their current sales experience?
  • What needs to change in your sales culture to create that buying experience?
  • How will we engage Radical Accountability for this change?

Yes, you can sell more without doing more selling. You reduce your labor intensity when you do while increasing the satisfaction of your buyers. That’s something you both can be totally sold on.

Scott WintripSell More Without Doing More Selling – Scott’s Sales Yoga Thought for the Day
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Mistakes Will Kill You

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Wintrip Consulting Group : Take No PrisonersTake No Prisoners is a free weekly memo from Scott Wintrip that explores how Radical Accountability prospers companies and changes lives. Instead of taking people hostage with outdated, heavy-handed, and ineffective methods of management, measurement, and motivation, Radical Accountability focuses on creating an unwavering responsibility for getting what matters most done.

Have you ever mistakenly forwarded an email from a friend that contained very personal details? My friend and colleague Dale did this past week. Filled with guilt, he languished in his shame over this “stupid” mistake. This triggered the story-telling mechanisms of his brain to make up frightening yarns as to all the negative ways his dear friend was going to act. Stephen King himself couldn’t have written a better tale of horror.

The good news was this only went on for a few minutes as he realized that shaming himself wasn’t solving the problem. Instead, he did the next right thing, cleaning up his relatively minor mess. His heartfelt apology ended up being met with understanding and a warm embrace. This relationship is at least one notch stronger and deeper as a result of his acting in humility instead of reacting out of shame.

Radical Accountability requires expeditious, mutual forgiveness for our shared humanity. We are all going to screw up. As a result, we must apologize quickly and forgive even faster. Given our fallible natures, we should seize every misstep, misspoken word, and innocent blunder as the opportunity it is-a moment to connect at a deeper level with a follow human being. This applies to all relationships, business and personal alike.

Mistakes will kill you, if you let them. They can murder serenity, decapitate self-confidence, and eviscerate self-esteem unless they are used for good. Every problem is an opportunity to practice the art of contrition and the science of absolution.

This gives a whole new meaning to “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

This Week’s Radical Accountability Activating Action: Practice expeditious, mutual forgiveness in all of your business and personal relationships. This is always practice, as attempting to do this perfectly only invites more self-recriminations and shame.

RADICAL ACCOUNTABILITY ON CALL – An in-depth program for integrating improved accountability in your culture.

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Scott WintripMistakes Will Kill You
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What Was the Question?

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To Lead or Persuade, Master the Art and Science of Asking Effective Questions

When you are in selling situations, do people from time to time ask you to repeat what you’ve just asked them? If the answer is yes, chances are you are using too many words. You are causing people to think too hard about your question, when you’d rather have them thinking about their answer.

I have noticed this pattern not just with salespeople talking with prospects and clients, but also among executives leading their teams. I decided it was worth a closer look.

I did some research into how the human brain processes questions. What I learned is that our brains process short questions much more effectively than long ones. Specifically, a listener can more easily deduce the meaning of a question of ten words or fewer than a question of eleven words or more. What happens is this: when the question is too long, listeners must devote more of their cognitive resources to focusing on the question.

Next time someone asks you to repeat a question, count the number of words you just used. Chances are it is more than ten.

Even if you aren’t asked to repeat your lengthy questions, you have a problem. You have still required the listener to focus on your question, not on delivering an answer. On the other hand, when you use questions of ten words or fewer, listeners are literally able to digest it so quickly, to comprehend it so thoroughly, that they can focus their cognitive capacity solely on framing their answer.

The science makes clear the importance of becoming highly effective in phrasing our questions. If you are an executive or a manager, or anyone in a position to move others, you want the people you influence to be able to think about their answer, not get stuck thinking about your question.

If you sell something, you want your prospects giving you all the important juicy details you need, in order to deliver a high level of service. You do NOT want them struggling with “what was the question?”

So, how do you change your behavior? Like many behavior modification goals, start with observing the behavior you’d like to change. Start counting the words you use to ask questions. Each time you find yourself using more than ten words, write the long question down. When you have a moment, try rewriting those questions. First, strive to use fewer words. Then, look for ways to make those few words more provocative. In a short question, every word must work its hardest. If you get stuck on this task, bounce your questions off your colleagues.

Let me give you an example. For some time, I have been playing a little game I call, “how little can I say?” I discovered this strategy and when I noticed I was hearing “please repeat the question” a little too often. When asking customers what they needed, I would say things like, “Mrs. Customer, I am sure you want things to be better, so what specifically do you need from me to create the outcomes and make your situation better at your company?” You don’t need to literally count that sentence to realize there were many more than ten words. I call that the “verbal vomit,” by the way. Those of us who like words are very good at figuratively vomiting words and phrases all over people. I know that image is gross—that’s how I know you’ll remember it. When you verbally vomit you cause people to have to clean the question off themselves before they can begin to start thinking about their answer.

Playing my game of “how little can I say,”  I finally shortened that from “Mrs. Customer [verbal vomit]” to, “Mrs. Customer, what do you need?”

It’s just that simple. “What do you need?” Then stop talking. Open your ears. Be a sponge. Now let’s finesse the formula. Make the next thing you’ll say a variation on those four simple words. Try, “What else do you need?” Followed by, “What else? What else? What else?”

I work frequently with salespeople—some who take orders, some who garner new business, and some who are growing accounts. They have all told me that the “What do you need? What else?” strategy gets them somewhere around 60 to 80 percent of the information they need to respond with a consultative sales approach. Why wouldn’t it? Customers digest the questions so quickly, they can answer more thoroughly. “What else?” just keeps the ball rolling.

You can phrase the question according to your own style, of course. You can say, “Sure, I understand that, and what else do you need Mr. Customer?” or, “Oh, that’s interesting. Thanks for that detail. What else? What else? What else?”

To further prepare, be sure to have a provocative list of follow-up questions ready. Give thought to what you want to know—and how few words you can use to ask. Remember that ten words or less is the goal.

I invite you play this game. Don’t vomit information and questions and details all over people. Keep it short and simple. Find out what they need, what is important, and the “why” behind each answer.

The art of asking effective questions is all about getting out of the way of the listener. At its core, it is just prompting others for the next thing they need to say. Questions of ten words or fewer are the key.

If you master this technique, I can promise you people will think you are brilliant—not because of what you say, but what you allow them to say.

Scott WintripWhat Was the Question?
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Implement Strategic Direction with Three Simple Questions

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Organizations often struggle to connect vision to action. I’ve seen it many times in my advising and consulting work. Regularly, organizations take their entire leadership team off to a beautiful, inspiring place—a ski resort in Utah or beachside in the Bahamas—and they spend days or a week coming up with a great strategy. Then when I check in with them a few months or even a year later, I hear that no action has taken place on the vision since that leadership retreat. At best, I might hear a few pieces have been implemented.

There’s a simple, three-step solution that could change that outcome dramatically. I say simple because simple is sustainable. Sustained action driven by strategy is exactly what’s missing in too many organizations.

I often tell people one of the key things I do as a consultant is to roll out simple solutions that create remarkable results. The reason the results are remarkable is because things actually get done. How do I turn strategy into action for the companies I consult with? One key focus is on three steps:

  1. What;
  2. Who; and
  3. When.

Think it can’t be that simple. Let’s break them down.

What? An action plan begins with what is going to be done, described in very specific language. The key here is to break the vision down to tasks of manageable size. I like to call these “meal-sized portions.” If you think about it, a meal is something you can eat and digest in one sitting. It is not like taking in the whole buffet and gorging yourself. At times we all tend to do the equivalent of gorging ourselves at work: we take on too much activity, too many tasks, and too many responsibilities. To reduce the “what” of a strategic vision to a meal-sized portion, think about what can be implemented by one person. If it involves a hand-off between two people, that is two tasks. If it requires presenting something for approval prior to executing it, that’s two tasks since there are interdependencies.

Who? Next, an action plan assigns the “whats” to “whos.” Simply put, who is the person (or group) that will be responsible for implementing an action? Who is going to take the lead, and who are going to be contributors? All too often the “what” is defined but the “who” is not made clear. Without clear assignments, miscommunications and false assumptions arise. It’s too easy for everybody to conclude that someone else is “on it” when in truth, no one is.

When? Finally, an action plan specifies deadlines. Setting due-dates is one of the simplest things we do, in both corporate and personal life, but even so, few people do it well. The biggest mistake I see is setting a deadline date but not interim deadlines for starting, finishing key components, and checking in to make sure multiple assignments are coming together on the needed timeline for the final result.

Planning by the simple formula of “what, who, when”  is simple and sustainable. I recommend incorporating those three components into your planning, and then monitoring progress via implementation meetings. The three questions only work if a project manager carves out 10-15 minutes on a weekly basis for a status update from all concerned. It can be a standing meeting where individuals report their progress, make requests for resources if needed, and experience the expectation that they are accountable for results.

A company in the technology space in Southern California that I advise created a plan at the end of last year using this process. Not surprisingly, they’ve had their best year ever, growing revenues more than 50% along with their highest margin improvement in company history. The CEO was not only proud of their results, but also that the company actually worked their strategic plan from start to finish, for the first time ever in company history.

Your strategic plan shouldn’t be a souvenir from that Utah ski resort or Bahamas beach that you hang on the wall like a piece of art. Your strategic plan should be the genesis of an action plan that describes how the strategy will be successfully implemented.

“What, who, when” is the simplest action plan you could wish for. Fold it into your corporate culture and I promise you will find that every minute, every thought, every ounce of energy invested in strategy pays dividends for months and years to come.

Scott WintripImplement Strategic Direction with Three Simple Questions
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Presence is More Important Than Preparation—Scott’s Sales Yoga Thought for the Day

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Preparation in selling is often overdone or overrated. Surprised? If too much emphasis is put on preparation, salespeople focus more on what they have planned instead of what actually happens in the meeting with a buyer.

Today, I watched a sales veteran I work with conduct a masterful sales meeting. Alex’s mastery had nothing to do with what he planned on selling or what he planned on saying. He was prepared just enough to understand his client, their company, and industry. What made the meeting brilliant was his presence in the conversation; it was like a spontaneous, beautiful dance that incorporated some choreography where it fit into the conversation. The buyer was incredibly engaged and showed visible signs of comfort and trust in this sales pro.

Alex, after the meeting, said, “I used to over-prepare, so of course I felt obligated to do all that I was prepared to do. Today, I spend just a bit of time reading and researching. The majority of my preparation is centered on being present during the meeting. I make sure I’m well rested, unrushed, and then I actually visualize myself, before the meeting, being fully present to what the buyer has to say. During the conversation, I employ those Integrative Questions you taught me to create a meaningful conversation for both of us. Since I started doing this, all of my meetings have gone well, even with buyers who started out being standoffish.”

Sales Yogi’s know that presence is more important than preparation, since their is no possible way to prepare for all of the possibilities. So, rather than spending too much time practicing what you’re going to say or even how you’re going to say it, practice presence in role-plays and mock scenarios. Great conversations come from presence and spontaneity, never from rigid choreography.

Scott WintripPresence is More Important Than Preparation—Scott’s Sales Yoga Thought for the Day
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If You’re Lonely at the Top, It’s Your Own Darn Fault

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Wintrip Consulting Group : Take No PrisonersTake No Prisoners is a free weekly memo from Scott Wintrip that explores how Radical Accountability prospers companies and changes lives. Instead of taking people hostage with outdated, heavy-handed, and ineffective methods of management, measurement, and motivation, Radical Accountability focuses on creating an unwavering responsibility for getting what matters most done.

Like most people, I started my career “in the ranks.” I remember the camaraderie I felt towards my co-workers and the sense of healthy competition. When I needed help or had a question, I could simply lean over to the next desk or pop my head into my manager’s office. From time to time, I would also turn to my colleagues to vent or blow off some steam.

As I progressed up the proverbial ladder, I found that there were fewer people I could turn to for support. In addition, a major part of my job shifted from asking for help to providing guidance and accountability. Many times I longed to share some of my thoughts and feelings with co-workers, as in the past. As a manager, though, this would have been inappropriate and would have negatively impacted my ability to perform my duties.

As a company owner and CEO, there were times when I wondered, “Who can I turn to for help?”  This question is a common topic of concern for many in a leadership role. Most leaders admit that they occasionally experience feelings of loneliness and isolation in their roles, and that feeling “disconnected” negatively impacts their personal effectiveness. Besides feeling alone, isolation can cause stagnation in the critical areas of leadership and vision, integral components of the role of a manager or executive.

In our world of infinite ways to connect, loneliness is optional, and those that allow it to persist have no one but themselves to blame. Here are fives to eliminate loneliness:

  1. Create an advisory board, pay them well, and lean on them for support. Yes, pay for this. We get more out things in which we invest both time and money.
  2. Partner with a peer at a competitive company and really leverage the partnership. If it makes sense to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, it makes even more sense to keep your competitors right by your side. They are not a friend or an enemy; they get what being you is like better than anyone. There is zero risk as there is more than enough business out there for both your companies.
  3. Don’t just join an association, participate fully in it. Associations only work if your work in your association.
  4. Work less and play more. Not all loneliness has to be dealt with at the office. Having outsides interests and people to explore those with often fulfills this need.
  5. Hire an advisor. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my Executive Advisor services. Some of my best clients have been with me for more than a decade, citing how having unlimited access to me has eliminated any feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The top looks much less lonely when you invite people to join you there.

This Week’s Radical Accountability Activating Action: Create more connections than you think you need, regardless of how lonely, or not, you feel. Better to have more than you need than find yourself, at any point, not having what you need.

Ready to have a more engaged and productive workforce? Join Scott for Accelerating Employee Engagement on September 24th. Learn more…

Follow me on Twitter! You can find me here:
Every day I provide pithy pieces of advice and wisdom. Join the growing crowd who read these gems every day.

You may subscribe and encourage others to subscribe by clicking here.

Check out my podcast series called Simply Scott on iTunes.

If you’d like to reach me, email: or call my direct line: (727) 502-9182

Visit my web site:

Scott WintripIf You’re Lonely at the Top, It’s Your Own Darn Fault
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