Moving the Chains.


You know what we could use more of in digital sales? Cause and effect. Intentionality. Some good old fashioned I did this and then they did that.

Instead — too often — sellers go through the motions of the capabilities presentation or the big idea pitch and then expect – OK, maybe hope – that an approval or an insertion order materializes somewhere down the line. What’s missing are the numbers on the yardstick… the measurable, incremental answers and victories that get us from here to the sale. As a result, sellers assign far too much value (and time and resources) to the presentation and not nearly enough to running a great pipeline.

Is your team asking the hard questions that would better qualify opportunities and decision makers? For the customer, there’s no upside in communicating a negative decision. Sellers have to work for the real answers. That work can begin with an Upstream Group sales workshop. It’s easier and more cost effective than you might imagine. And the consult is free. Reach out now to talk it over.

Great pipeline management starts before you even schedule time with the customer. Did they open your email? Acknowledge it?  Have we secured a meeting date? Is there an important date on the customer’s calendar that would create a deadline? 

And once we engage, a new set of questions starts to emerge. What’s the most this customer could commit to if this meeting goes well? What specifically am I going to ask her to do at the end of the call? What evidence do I have that this opportunity is either more or less likely than it was a week ago? What else might we try to learn to validate this opportunity?

Moving the chains on a commercial opportunity isn’t just a nice idea. It’s everything. Planning for the very next decision, the next yard marker, keeps the seller in the present. It tells him what he needs to close on in order to keep the deal alive. It prevents wishful – or even magical – thinking from creeping into your pipeline. It keeps everyone focused on what’s still possible and on making it more possible.

It’s sad when a seller doesn’t get the results and the outcomes that she’s worked hard for. But when she doesn’t even know what needs to happen next? That’s tragic.


The On-ramp and the Off-ramp.


As sometimes happens in our sales workshops, someone in the group tossed out a brilliant metaphor the other day. If I could remember who said it I’d give him or her the credit.  (If it was you, please go ahead and raise your hand to claim it – you deserve the notoriety!) With a little embellishment and polish from me, here it is.

A sales call or meeting is like a drive on the highway. The two most critical moments – the only ones that matter, really – are the on-ramp and the off-ramp. Survive these and the rest of the trip will take care of itself.

If you want your team to be terrific, make them specific. Speaking directly to customer needs is good business, and all it takes is a plan and some discipline. A strategic digital sales workshop with Doug Weaver and Upstream Group is easier and more cost-effective than you’d imagine. Reach out now. The consult is free.

Let me explain. The opening of your meeting – the on-ramp – is when you create a strong environment, set the agenda and truly engage and involve your customer. (Or… not.) Like the act of merging onto a busy highway, this moment demands that you be alert and decisive. You must speed up and create momentum while very intentionally finding your spot. At the very moment when this kind of decisive action is called for, too many sellers dawdle and meander through the opening of the call, wasting time and squandering trust with meaningless small talk.

Then there’s the end of the call – the off-ramp. This is the part of your journey that calls for careful braking… the part where you slow it all way down. This is the moment in the sales call where the thoughtful seller picks up most of the good information – where she truly qualifies both the buyer and the opportunity; where she identifies hidden decision makers and learns how she might get the deal done. But it’s at this exact moment when slow, deliberate and careful are warranted that many sellers speed up and rush through the close. As a result, they don’t ask for the sale and never get the chance to ask any of the important questions that follow – questions that could open up possibilities and close business.

The answer is surprisingly simple. Have a plan and practice it.

To hit your on-ramp at just the right speed, do some research and create one slide with a few headlines about your customer. Show the customer that slide and – before you say or do anything else – get them talking about it. You will immediately frame your meeting squarely around client needs while also immediately bringing them into a collaborative conversation.

For the off-ramp, write out and practice the question you’ll ask at the end of the meeting; a question that contains a verb (e.g. budget… approve… recommend…), a number (the amount you’re asking for) and a date (to activate the program, a start date, for the next commitment to be made). Role-playing the questions that follow (Tell me about how that decision will be made… Setting aside the outcome, is this something you’d personally like to see happen? … What other budgets might contribute to something like this?) is one of the very best ways a manager can support his sellers.

Open your calls quickly and decisively. Close them slowly and thoughtfully. And watch your numbers improve.


Things We Say Instead of Selling.


In the dozens of sales workshops I lead every year I can’t help but get hung up on the words. Specifically, all of the non-sales language that erstwhile sellers get stuck on. While they might never actually come out and say Please don’t buy anything from me today, these anti-selling clichés may be the next best thing.

We just hope you’ll keep us top of mind. This is the perfect ending to a sales meeting with no purpose and no agenda. Like Brigadoon or Shangri-La, Top of mind is a beautiful but non-existent place. Buyers today are stretched thin: if you don’t have an urgent sales agenda, they sure won’t either.

This is just an introductory callYou’ve just told me that you can do me absolutely no good in the important half hour you’re about to subtract from my life. You’re either immediately useful to me or you’re irrelevant. And you’ve just chosen irrelevance.

Is your sales team describing instead of selling? You win business one serious, well-planned meeting at a time. Can your team do that? A strategic digital sales workshop with Doug Weaver and Upstream Group is easier and more cost-effective than you’d imagine. Reach out now. The consult is free.

Can we talk about next steps? This is what we say when we don’t want to directly ask the customer to buy from us or commit to anything. In spite of what may have been a very good and persuasive call, this is the kind of question that lays on the table like a dead fish and tells the client you’re not all that sure about, or committed to, your product.

Let’s touch base in the next few weeks. There’s just so much wrong here. It’s the verbal equivalent of awkwardly backing out of the room. You’re telling the customer I know you’re not interested and I’m going to save embarrassment for both of us.

Let me send you more information. Great plan!  If we’re not talking about me buying something from you today then perhaps your ninja writing skills will do the trick. Because we all know how much customers love to pour over documentation and product description.

Today’s buyers have more ways to keep us away than ever before. If you’ve been lucky enough or diligent enough (or if your product is good enough) to have earned an in-person meeting or a scheduled phone appointment, it probably means you’ve got some kind of shot. Why waste it with lazy, ineffective language that lets the air out of the room?

Real sales is about persuasion, and the language of sales is the language of commitment. Practice asking questions that contain verbs like recommend, approve and budget. Then ask even more questions that either advance the sale or tell you why it’s not happening. To do anything less is to cheat your employer, your customer and yourself.


If You Choose to Manage…


At last week’s Seller Forum we published a few top line ideas for managers in our hyper-kinetic, often dysfunctional world. We’re reprinting them here.  Please feel free to share your own.

Don’t try to manage what’s inside the heads of your employees. Instead, focus on their actions. Don’t try to change their minds. Change their behaviors and they’ll end up changing their own minds.

Don’t use meetings and personal interactions to share information that could be delivered in other ways. Reserve your personal interactions with employees and teams to do what you can only do in person – coaching, prioritizing, planning, deciding.

Many managers overburden themselves and their teams with too many scheduled meetings. But management doesn’t fit into neat little boxes on your calendar. Focus instead on maintaining a helpful and healthy presence with your team. Accessibility and being able to focus intently in-the-moment are the superpowers that matter.

As a manager, you quickly become the PEZ dispenser of answers on a million tactical questions. About price, escalation, exceptions and more. Force your sellers to bring you two possible solutions each time they bring you a problem (see item 1 above). This change in the script will turn them from problem-bringers into problem-solvers and make your interactions far more productive.

As soon as a seller elicits your help – on strategy, on an email, in reaching a customer – immediately ask them for a first-draft. You want to put yourself in a position to coach and improve the work they do… not to do it for them.

Don’t give feedback. As a term, feedback has become tainted by association with criticism, nitpicking and negativity. It’s also always about the past. Instead, give guidance… it’s about the future, about possibility. Language matters.

No team is too small or too temporary to benefit from a strong culture, and that culture starts with you. Get in touch with the specific values that matter most to you as a leader – tenacity, generosity, curiosity, whatever – and share them directly with your team. Invite them to hold you accountable to those values and bring them up frequently. Don’t worry if you get a few eye-rolls; it doesn’t mean they’re not hearing you or that it’s not making a difference.

Don’t manage results. Manage excellence. You don’t control whether your team gets the business, but you absolutely control whether they deserve it. Focus on deserving it and you’ll be leading a team centered on excellence. The results will follow.

Insights like these are just the beginning. Join us for our final 2019 Seller Forum on Wednesday, October 23rd, at Reuters on Times Square and enjoy firsthand ideas and advice from your digital leadership peers. Contact us today to save your spot.


So Long, My Friend.


While I always write The Drift from a very personal point of view, over the last 18 years I’ve perhaps only used this space three times to speak about something truly personal. This is one of those rare occasions.

I invite each of you reading this post to think of someone in your career who somehow changed its course. For me, that guy was Ed Gazich, and he died last Friday. I wish you all could have known him.

As a 22-year old college student I interned at a regional ad agency south of Los Angeles where I met Ed, 25 years my senior but with the outlook and enthusiasm of a teenager. On my very first day at the shop, Ed took me under his wing and – quite simply – made me fall in love with the advertising business. A seasoned “account guy,” Ed started his career in the halcyon days of the 1960s, working legendary campaigns for Volkswagen at Doyle Dane Bernbach. When we met, he and his wife Barbara were the kind of fully-committed Californians that only ex-New Yorkers can be. But he was my connection to Madison Avenue and the golden age of creative. Before advertising was a science – perhaps even before it was a business – it was a creative playground informed by art and Hollywood and commerce and real-world experiences. It was all bigger than life, and so was Ed Gazich. The stories of legendary pitches melded into celebrity commercial shoots and always seemed to end with side-splitting laughter. Our business could use some of those stories today.

Like many kids in their 20s, I was adrift and wondering what the hell I would do with my life. Ed and Barbara’s house in Laguna Beach was my second home, and over cold Dos Equis (our account) we’d talk about the future and what might be. On one of those endless evenings, Ed was the one who told me I’d be a very good magazine rep – the exact conversation that started me on the path that brought me here. Without Ed Gazich and his kindness to a clueless kid from suburban LA, maybe I don’t end up here, writing and sharing with you. There’s no way to know. But I do know that my life is less interesting and my passion for advertising is less intense without him.

In recent years, our friendship continued mainly over email. To the end, Ed never stopped sharing his humor and stories and railing about what was not right in the world. He talked too loud, told jokes that were not always appropriate, laughed from the bottom of his feet and shared anything and everything he had.

Why am I telling you all this? Because not all who make a difference end up recognized and eulogized. Because this was a life that mattered, and that had a profound and lasting influence on mine. Because as I try to share completely with those I teach and mentor, I know that I learned some of that from a guy named Ed Gazich.

You should have known him. He’d have loved you.