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20 Years of Sales Lessons

October 10th, 2017

It’s hard to believe, but this month marks the 20th anniversary of Z3 Performance Development, Inc. I founded ZThree in 1997 with a simple vision of “Freedom Through Results, Results Through Responsibility”. I did so to help responsible owners and leaders free themselves from their perceived shackles and obstacles—the challenges they had the most difficulty overcoming. For many owners, there was no greater obstacle in business than creating a consistent, predictable, scalable sales organization.

 

Much has changed since then, in selling, and in our culture. Back in 1997, Titanic and Men in Black were dominating at the box office and viewers were tuning into Seinfeld on TV.  South Park premiered. Tiger Woods was 21 and earned the #1 ranking on the PGA Tour in his first season. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 7000 for the first time. The Harry Potter phenomenon was in its infancy, and so was the dot-com era.

 

Steve Jobs returned to run Apple Computers and the iPhone did not exist. Neither did Google. Or Facebook. Home video games gained popularity with the Nintendo 64, but kids still spent more time playing outside than being glued to their devices. Amazon went public at $18 per share (Damn, I wish I got in on that one…)

 

Less than 100,000 websites existed at the time. No one had heard of a “blog” yet. “High-speed internet” using cable modems would soon be replacing dial-ups, and DVDs would soon replace VCRs. The term “Social Media” would not become universally accepted for many years.

 

The internet and knowledge transfer changed the world of sales. Forever.

 

At ZThree, we’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and many thousands of sales professionals and have witnessed a long-overdue transformation in selling.  In 1997, most people did not trust salespeople (and with good reason). Over time, cultural changes have forced a good portion of the rest of the profession to (reluctantly) migrate away from many of the old-school, manipulative sales tactics that have existed since the Model T. These techniques didn’t work well 20 years ago. Today, they are laughable.

 

Rapid knowledge transfer has allowed buyers to gain leverage over pushy, talkative salespeople, forcing them to change their ways. Rehearsed scripts, leading questions, boring demos, and trial closes have gone the way of the Telex Machine.

 

From the onset, our UnCommon Sense© methodology has encouraged people to behave like “anti-salespeople” and “facilitators”.  ZThree’s processes and philosophy were never based upon traditional sales manipulation, but instead upon buyer psychology, principles of effective communication, and mutual understanding.  We always believed convince-aholic™ manipulation would ultimately perish.  It has taken a while, but better late than never!

 

Attention spans have contracted dramatically, shortening more than 5-fold during the last twenty years (Twitter built a business on 140 characters). Instant gratification has also become a staple of modern society.  In order to remain competitive, these factors cannot be under-estimated.

 

If a salesperson fails to earn a trust connection with a prospect and open up a buyer’s listening within a couple of minutes, they are essentially finished before the game begins.

 

Before the Internet and reputation management changed the world forever, product knowledge was perceived to be paramount among sellers. Today, product knowledge falls near the bottom of the list with regard to importance in generating sales. Great salespeople will know about their product or service, but they also understand that product knowledge pales in comparison to understanding belief systems, communication dynamics, trust development, listening skills, and buyer psychology. Interestingly, these issues have always been paramount in the minds of the buyers. Unfortunately, it has taken most sellers many decades to learn and adapt (and many still haven’t).

 

I can go on for days about requirements for success in today’s selling environments, but since your attention span is also shorter than in 1997, here is a quick list of things you can implement immediately:

 

1.   Stop talking and start listening: Reduce your talking by 75% and watch what happens. I promise you will not be disappointed.

 

2.   Don’t offer demos or proposals until you understand your prospect’s buying motives.   Before you launch into telling, get crystal clear about the decision process, the decision maker, their needs and pains, and how much they are committed to invest.  This is easier than you might think.  Since you’ll be talking less, you’ll be learning much more!

 

3.   Do not try to convince. Instead, spend your time understanding the real picture.

 

4.   Make the conversation about them, not you. Always.

 

5.   Change your goal. Don’t focus on getting the order. Focus on investing your time (and their time) wisely in pursuit of adult conversations and learning the truth.

 

6.   Use LinkedIn and other social media to learn about interests and preferences (especially personal interests), but do not assume anything you read online is true without verifying. Assumptions are killers.

 

7.   Learn about your prospect’s communication preferences.  Do they prefer to be contacted via phone, text, email, other?  But beware, never hide behind technology.  You cannot listen effectively to the written word, and it is much easier for a buyer to leave out important details if you are not there to probe deeper.

 

A hell of a lot has changed since 1997, but it is also surprising how much has not changed. People are still people. They still value trusted relationships and still have feelings. Recent buying surveys show that the majority of executive buyers still make purchase decisions based upon their interaction with the company salesperson. Buyers can certainly conduct more research than ever before speaking with you, but people still buy for emotional reasons (and always will).

 

Selling today not only requires a different approach and tactics, it requires an entirely new mindset and way of thinking. If you have the correct belief system, your words and actions will follow naturally.

 

Before I sign off, I want to offer a gigantic thank you to all of you for helping ZThree’s vision become a reality and for helping me (and us) learn and grow. You have enriched my life more than you know.

 

Our team remains committed to making an impact in your work and life, and to helping you achieve the freedom you deserve.

 

With gratitude,

 

Joe

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

Christophe S. Borg - TAB Member Spotlight

June 15th, 2010

Christophe S. Borg, CEO
BorgSolutions, Inc.

 

 

 

Christophe Borg is co-founder, CEO and Chairman of BorgSolutions, Inc. Chris is a 15 year veteran of the IT industry where he has worked as director of IT since 1994 in various companies including PCOrder, Inc., Trilogy, and MessageOnce, Inc. (later acquired by Dell).  In 2003, Chris co-founded BorgSolutions to fill the fleet industry’s need for an integrated fleet management and telematics solution. 

BorgSolutions’ primary focus is on business process automation, in specific to the automation of fleet administrative management with regards to maintenance and management.  With customers in the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, BorgSolutions has proven that a global minded multi-lingual platform can be successful in streamlining fleets irrelevant of its location.

BorgSolutions is the leading provider of fleet management solutions that effectively reduce operating, labor and other costs for construction, oil & gas, fleet rental and transportation companies.  Its flagship platform, BorgFleet, empowers customers to easily manage all aspects of their fleet’s operations, and utilizes real-time data analytics for predictive maintenance and repair scheduling, parts, inventory and fuel management, and various otherwise time-intensive, costly tasks. BorgSolutions has been recognized in multiple articles including:

“Throughout my career, I have worked in the high tech industry from software developer, to CIO, and now CEO at BorgSolutions. Those experiences have given me a deep understanding of what it takes for a product to be successful, from an engineering standpoint and from a business standpoint. Defining and managing those requirements for businesses to grow, is what I enjoy and where I excel. At BorgSolutions we are proud of having grown the business organically without using VCs, and of our strong customer base.  

Joining TAB has allowed me to meet many successful business owners and share with them questions and issues that only business owners understand. We collectively solve difficult problems. TAB has also brought a bit of sanity to my work."

                                                                                                                                              -Christophe S. Borg

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Paul Skeith - TAB Member Spotlight

May 18th, 2010

Paul Skeith, Managing Partner
Richard Rodriguez & Skeith LLP

 

 

 

 

Paul Skeith, the managing partner for Richards Rodriguez & Skeith, understands business.  When he’s not representing mid-sized businesses and nonprofits as their outside general counsel, he’s running a growing business himself.  Paul has served as managing partner for Richards Rodriguez & Skeith since he founded the firm with his partners in 2005.  In his spare time, he attends The Alternative Board of Austin peer-advisory membership organization to better his business acumen.  Even Paul’s commitment to the community reflects his dedication to business pursuits.  He serves on the board of Capital Idea, a local nonprofit which empowers working families by providing competitive professional skills to enable them to create life-long financial independence.

Mr. Skeith’s practice in business and corporate law includes negotiating mergers and acquisitions, drafting and reviewing business contracts, structuring business entities, real estate transactions, employment contracts, and business succession strategy.  Paul’s clients are busy CEOs, entrepreneurs, nonprofit directors and board members, which is why he often makes site visits to his clients’ places of business.  Site visits allow Paul to gain a better understanding of his clients’ business environment and staff.  He also finds that these visits offer him a chance to converse with business owners and managers on a one on one basis.  He believes attorneys must be attentive to client needs, which is one reason why the firm conducts a biannual client survey to obtain constructive feedback.  To encourage participation, client responses are matched with a firm donation to the American Cancer Society.

Paul is dedicated to giving back to his community.  He recently completed his service as an appointed member of the City of Austin Electric Utility Commission, and now serves on the board for Capital Idea, a local nonprofit.  His leadership role in Capital Idea underscores his commitment to helping low income working families in Central Texas by empowering them with professional training and networking opportunities.  His invitation as a board member came from his experience as a business leader and his participation in Austin Interfaith, an organization of congregations, schools, and other civic institutions devoted to creating a healthy dialogue between citizens, business, and local government. Paul also now serves on the Vestry (board) of St. David’s Episcopal Church.

Paul earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, before moving to Austin to attend the University of Texas to seek a dual degree in law and Public Affairs.  His training at the LBJ School of Public Affairs offered him additional background in nonprofit management.  As a law student, he was a staff member of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.  Paul was chosen after law school to serve as a law clerk to the Honorable Thomas M. Reavley, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Richards Rodriguez & Skeith LLP provides outsourced general counsel services to businesses in Texas. They help clients resolve disputes, document key agreements, understand and comply with government regulations, protect their assets, raise capital, minimize taxes, buy and sell real estate, and protect ideas and inventions.

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the firm.  To celebrate, the firm is rolling out a series 90-second videos to give business owners a 10,000 foot view of hot button legal issues.  The links to these videos will be posted by the end of this month on their website and TAB Austin’s LinkedIn group and blog.  The first topic – how to get your business ready for health reform.

“I have been a TAB member since co-founding my law firm five years ago.  Law school did not teach me how to run a business – my TAB board members and facilitators taught me that.”
                                                                                                                                                              -Paul Skeith

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Austin CEO Success!

May 5th, 2010

Today we are highlighting some great awards that have been received by Austin CEO’s and active members in The Alternative Board of Austin.  

Samantha Young: Texas Blazing Star Award

The Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas held their annual awards luncheon for Texas Business Woman of the Year (TBOY) on April 22nd. Austin business owner Samantha Young won one of the coveted Texas Blazing Star Awards! The Blazing Star Awards “recognize businesswomen on the success fast track who follow their own distinctive paths.”

Samantha owns Practical Care Continuum, a leading and innovative home care business, and has been a member of TAB Austin since 2005. Samantha was joined by fellow Austinite Mary Pat Mueller, owner of Door Number 3, and several other Texan women in winning a Blazing Star.

Kevin O’Brien: Rackspace Fanati Award

The Fanati Award from Rackspace for Outstanding Customer Service for the year of 2009 went to PetRelocation.com! The award was won with the help of PetRelocation’s own customers in creating a video sharing how they have been supported.

PetRelocation.com is a full service pet relocation company which specializes in the local, national and international transportation of live animals. It was founded by TAB member Kevin O’Brien and his wife in 2000.

Congratulations to Samantha and Kevin-Austin business leaders!

TAB Member Spotlight - Jay Pearce

April 9th, 2010

Jay Pearce, President
Reunion Ranch

 

 

 

Jay Pearce is a truly versatile entrepreneur.  He was born and raised in Austin, Texas and started his first company, J’s Roof and Gutter Cleaning Service, at the age of 20 (he still believes there is a huge market for gutter cleaning).  Three years later, Jay formed Precision Ground Care, maintaining lawns for small offices and apartment complexes.  He obtained his real estate license five years later in Georgetown, Texas, and was ranked #5 among 265 agents.

In 1986, Jay started the Reunion Ranch Event Facility, entertaining large corporate groups.  In August of 1991, he was cited as 1 of 3 outstanding entrepreneurs in the state of Texas by the Entrepreneur Magazine of California.  In 1998, he started Cowboy Cooked Briskets, offering pre-cooked briskets in grocery store chains.  He had never dealt with the retail industry before, let alone the grocery industry, and describes the experience as “tough,” learning some expensive and very valuable lessons.

Next, Jay returned to his passion of real estate and started accumulating property.   He was asked to teach real estate courses for a local real estate school in 2003.  For every 40 students taught, 3 to 4 wanted to work for him, so Jay started Jay Pearce Real Estate.  The company grew up to 58 agents in 23 months and in 2007 Jay was awarded the Realtor of the Year for all of Williamson County.

His family business of Reunion Ranch was still going strong, and when the president stepped down, Jay moved back to take over the position in 2006.   Today, Jay is very happy to be back in the saddle at Reunion Ranch and says, “life is good.”

“My initial idea was to join The Alternative Board of Austin (TAB) with CEO peers in order to increase my revenues.   However, I have now learned that the contacts are invaluable. The knowledge of the group and their business experience is very helpful in my own business and life.”

                                                                                                                                                     -Jay Pearce

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