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Cutting through the Digital Noise (aka: Differentiation in 2023)

April 20th, 2023

As an entrepreneur, you’re likely bombarded each day with information from various digital sources, emails, form-letters, Linkedin, social media notifications, ads, and more.  This large, growing, and often annoying volume of Digital Noise is making it increasingly difficult for individuals and businesses to differentiate themselves.  While many owners seek technology solutions to stand out from the crowd, the fact is that differentiation via technology is fleeting.  In other words, if you happen to gain any significant advantage by discovering a new digital method earlier than your competition, it is only a short amount of time before others in your space will adopt the same technology (or a superior one) that will wipe out your advantage.

Tech is advancing at lightning speed.  New creative solutions, web-scrapers, and AI-assisted technologies are being developed today at an unprecedented rate.  Some are fantastic and can improve presence, visibility, speed, and efficiency, but please don’t fall prey to the notion that you’ll be able to use any of these technologies to differentiate your company long term.  You will not.  Playing the leap-frog technology game can be expensive and exhausting.  Digital tools can occasionally gain you some advantage, but most gains made via tech will be short-lived and non-differentiated.

While selecting the right tech-stack to support your company business model and infrastructure is certainly important, it is far more essential to focus on a core set of marketing strategies if you are seeking to cut through the digital noise and truly differentiate your company in the marketplace.  Don’t overlook these basics…:

1.      Clearly define your brand and unique value proposition.  What really sets you apart from your competitors?  What truly unique benefits do you offer that no one else does?  Be honest here.  If you say “service”, “quality”, or “value”, what do you think your competitors might say?  Also, remember that all customers expect great service, quality, and value.

Once you have a clear understanding of your brand and value proposition, ensure that all of your digital content, from your website and profiles to social media posts, accurately reflects this messaging.

2.     Embrace the power of storytelling.  People connect with stories, so use your channels to tell your brand’s story in an engaging, compelling manner.  Share customer success stories, behind-the-scenes glimpses of your business, and your journey to success.  Sharing your story humanizes your brand, making it more relatable and memorable.

3.     Deliver only quality content.  Content is king in today’s world, and the internet is flooded with mediocre content.  Ensure that every piece of your content is of the highest quality, informative, and engaging.  Tactics may include blog posts, videos, podcasts, social media, and more.  By creating content that is both valuable and shareable, you can expand your reach and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

4.     Engage with your audience.  In the digital age, it’s essential to build and maintain a strong relationship with your targeted audience.  Respond to comments and messages, ask for feedback, and provide value whenever possible. By engaging in this manner, you are building trust and loyalty, which can lead to long-term relationships and increased brand awareness.

5.     Be authentic.  The cyber-landscape is loaded with scam-artists, charlatans, and goofballs.   Authenticity is highly valued, and people can quickly spot poor actors and bots.  Ensure that your digital presence reflects who you are and what your brand represents.  Be transparent, honest, and genuine.  Avoid trying to be something you’re not.

Following these 5 steps, and executing your plan on a consistent, disciplined basis will help you cut through the digital noise, provide your company with a differentiated marketing foundation, and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.  But marketing is only half of the equation.   The other half is Sales—the manner in which your customer-facing representatives interact with prospects on a conversational basis.  

After all, the last thing you’ll want to do is to invest heavily in the creation of a wonderful, digital presence and generate an abundance of marketing qualified prospects, only to lose the majority of opportunities by commoditizing your company by using salesy scripts, inauthentic pitches, and manipulative, trust-busting, used-car-sales closing techniques.  People need to buy but hate to be sold.  In other words, the absolute best way to truly differentiate your company long-term is by differentiating the manner in which your people conversationally interact with your prospects, customers, and other stakeholders.   Unlike technology or marketing techniques, developing a truly consultative conversational approach and culture will provide you and your company with high-value, long lasting, differentiated advantages that your competitors will find almost impossible to replicate, and will never be able to leapfrog.  For more about this, see here…:   » REAL Consultative Selling: Don’t be fooled by what they say - z|three blog (zthree.com)

 Copyright © Joe Zente 2023. All Rights Reserved. 

A Simple, Step-by-Step Prescription for creating a Predictable, Visible, Scalable, EFFECTIVE Sales Organization

March 3rd, 2023

The vast majority of private business owners know that their Sales Team is not firing on all cylinders.  Owners are frustrated by a lack of productivity & consistency, unreliable forecasts, too many excuses, and mediocre results.   Many have never been part of a high-performance sales organization and don’t know what “good” even looks like, and most have no clue how to make things better (especially in a remote-selling, post-pandemic, budget-tightened environment).  If you’d like to transform your Team into an enviable sales machine that will produce dramatically improved effectiveness and predictable results, simply follow these steps…:

1.  Decide & Commit.  Deciding is the first step to transforming performance in any pursuit.  Don’t be intimidated if you think you don’t know how to get it done.  We’re not talking about rocket science here.  Upgrading a Sales Force is formulaic.   If you execute the prescription, results will follow.

2.  Evaluate your current Sales Organization.  You cannot fix what you cannot see.  If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there, and if you don’t know where you’re starting, you’ll waste a ton of time, money, and effort in trying to achieve your mission.  An objective sales team analysis will quantitatively inform you on the current state of your organization.  It will provide you with valuable intelligence, clearly outlining gaps in skills, strengths, and processes.  It will tell you how much more effective you can be, how long it will take, and what will specifically be required to reach your goals. 

3.  Raise Expectations (Yours and Theirs).  Start by pointing the finger at yourself.  Be courageous and own your part.  If your Sales Team has been delivering lackluster results, it is because you have tolerated some level of mediocrity.  Maybe even a lot of it.  Take responsibility for the current state-of-affairs, then declare to yourself and to everyone else that you are committed to creating a much more effective team and new, brighter future — one that will involve significant change, new processes, and massive growth on everyone’s part.  Tell everyone that you will be investing in creating the absolute best team in the business, and that the team will be composed exclusively of A-Players.  Inspire them.  Inform each one that you are confident in their ability to play a vital part on the upgraded team, and that you hope and expect that every one of them will do their respective part in contributing to the transformation.

The past is dry cement.  It is up to you and your team will create a new, better reality.  Every current employee deserves a seat on the new, improved bus, a chance to step up their game and become a high-performance contributor on your upgraded team.

4.  Formulate Your Plan.  The plan will directly address any root cause that may be producing unacceptable outcomes.  Your company plan will spell out strategies, processes, and priorities.  Individual action/development plans will also be created for each Salesperson and Sales Manager.   Finally, your plan will incorporate a 3-month quick-start bootcamp to quickly reverse unproductive habits and replace them with new, effective processes.

Your 90-Day Quick-Start Plan will include…:

a.  A crystal-clear Revenue Goals Plan tying company goals to individual personal goals.  Each individual rep plan will include a Success Recipe of activities–a leading indicator to ensure all issues and opportunities are addressed immediately and all goals are achieved.  The sum of all personal salesperson goals must exceed the company goal.

b.  A weekly, rhythmic, Consistent Coaching Program to ensure that each session will produce tangible growth.  Every session should conclude with a specific commitment and/or exercise to eliminate any weakness or oversight that might prevent the desired outcome.  Every coaching engagement should also include a Transparent Accountability component to ensure that Success Recipes are effectively executed.

Vital Note:  Any member of your Team (either Sales or Sales Management) who chooses to resist or ignore any component of the 90-Day transformation are demonstrating their lack of interest in adopting to your new Game Plan and in actively participating on your new, improved Team in accordance with your sales upgrade declaration.  They will therefore vote themselves off the island and must be replaced with A-players. 

5.  Replace Weak Players.  No team will win without great players, so all serious sports teams continually seek to upgrade the quality of their player roster.  A superior football team would not wait for their quarterback to break a leg before beginning to look for another excellent QB.  Never make the mistake of waiting to upgrade your Team and always be looking to add sales superstars, 365 days per year.  Begin recruiting A-players on Day One using an effective, time-tested process such as UnCommon Sense Locate, Land, & Launchä  to remove the guesswork.  A strong bench provides insurance against risk and a guarantee that your team, your sales, and your profits will continue to grow and thrive.  A rising tide floats all boats.  Peer pressure provides huge incentive to top performers.  A-players will always elevate the entire team and overall results.

6.  Train & Coach until forever.  All high-performance teams commit to on-going training and coaching.  Elite athletes, pilots, and orchestras train and practice constantly.  It simply comes with the territory and always pays huge dividends.  Superior performers want/demand training, coaching, and accountability.  They do so because they know it will help them grow.  Your weakest players and pot-stirrers may resist with BS excuses like “I don’t need coaching”, “I’m too busy”, “I’ve sold in this industry for years!”, or “I’ve made quota before without training”.  Don’t tolerate them.  This is your team, your rules, your processes, and your result producing game plan.  If a player chooses not to conform, they will covertly corrupt your team from within.   If you hear about any of this kind of behavior, address it immediately.  You’ll find the rest of the team will greatly appreciate your courage, directness, and swift action.

Recurrent training hones vital skills, develops new ones, motivates committed players, and consistently improves the ability to generate desired outcomes.  Videos, articles, and webinars may enhance learning, but only role-play and live interaction will improve selling effectiveness.  To know and not to do is not to know.  Never fool yourself into believing that short cuts will produce sales results.

7.   Develop your Sales Manager into a World Class Coach.  In today’s post-pandemic/remote selling world, coaching is more important than ever.  Consistent, excellent coaching is vital to continuous improvement.  Maximizing success requires two critical components–a Process for Sales Coaching and Process for Sales.  Without correct processes for both, ambiguity and excuses will replace clarity and results.  A formal, weekly coaching rhythm will reinforce correct behavior, creating predictable improvement and growth. 

An effective coaching methodology will identify where in the process the salesperson went off track.  It will also spotlight whether the problem’s root cause was a lack of understanding, lack of skill, or resistance to execution.  Independent of the cause, specific action plan remedies are available that will embed proper sales behaviors.   Every coaching session should conclude with a specific takeaway and action commitment. 

Despite the fact that most sales organizations surprisingly incorporate few, if any, effective processes and struggle every day with massive dysfunction and sales mediocrity, this 7-step process is not new, novel, or complex.   Nor should it be mysterious.  The prescription is time-tested and has been used to successfully transform many thousands of sales teams.

If all of this is brand new to you, it may seem like a lot, but potential ROI is gigantic.  The difference in results will be like replacing a stagecoach with a Ferrari – replacing stodgy inconsistency with a high-performance machine.  In addition to increasing sales effectiveness and results, you’ll also find that this methodology will actually save time in the long run (as well as tons of sleep and stress).   

Transforming the performance of your sales effort only requires a decision and commitment.  Anyone can do it.   

Copyright © Joe Zente 2023. All Rights Reserved.


The Sport of Business, Volume Two (PRACTICE)

August 25th, 2022

Last month, I initiated a blog series designed to help entrepreneurs by drawing the many similarities between success in business and success in sports.  This first article described the most foundational attributes possessed by virtually every elite athlete and entrepreneur—desire, commitment, proactivity, humility, practice, and discipline. 

In today’s article, I’d like to elaborate upon critical components of the Practice Routines that separate virtually every superior athletic and business performer from the mediocre masses.  Not only do the best of the best participate in practice, they unconditionally commit to practicing, correctly.  They make their practice a habit, a habit that they love.  Superior Performers (SPs) understand that their level of success is directly proportional to active participation in correct practice, so they indelibly embed every session into their calendars.  Practice sessions are non-movable and non-negotiable, and consume their full attention and focus.  SPs do not allow distractions or excuses to prevent them from faithfully executing their practice routines.  They are more likely to miss brushing their teeth, than to miss practice. 

SPs place an enormous value on practice and rarely feel like they can get enough of it.  Stories of superior athletes who were always the first to show up for practice, and the last to leave are legion.  SPs are always seeking ways to practice more and to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of each one of their sessions.   Conversely, mediocre performers are often satisfied to simply show up (or not), check the box, and “get it over with…”.   Rather than focusing, learning, committing to new behaviors, and executing, weaker performers will often arrive late, leave early, allow interruptions such as phone calls or texts, and insert other distractions.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of their sessions, Winners (and those committed to becoming Winners) will always insist upon a core set essential ingredients to ensure that the time they invest in practice will yield maximum return, results, and rewards.  These include…: 

Excellent Trainers who will share the best-of-the-best processes, techniques, methodologies and mindsets.

Superior Coaches will help the SP assess their performance, identify strengths & weaknesses, develop new insights, and make necessary adjustments.  A great coach will also help the SP continually set new, loftier goals, push to stretch higher and higher, and hold the SP accountable for reaching these new stretch goals. 

A Powerful Community of Peers who understand that we are all better, stronger, and smarter together, than any single one of us.

A Small Elite Group of Practice Partners – Every great performer will seek out and surround themself with a carefully selected, highly committed group of like-minded peers.  This select group consists of individuals who all live in a similar movie and are willing to share their knowledge, wisdom, best practices, and more.   Each member of this group is willing to invest the time and energy to understand each other’s stories, context, vision, and goals.  SPs understand that they don’t know what they don’t know, and that an elite group of committed SP peers can not only serve to help each other develop new insights and inject accountability but will also call BS or dispense tough love when necessary if they notice that one of the group members is “dogging it” or “just going through the motions”.    

For all Superior Performers, this group may well be the single most important ingredient to ensuring continuous growth and improved performance.  

The good news about all of this is that ANYONE can do it.  You may not have the physical attributes necessary to dunk a basketball or hit a 600-foot home run, but everyone can dramatically improve their (business or athletic) results and blow away their competition by modelling the behaviors of superior athletes and entrepreneurs.

Self-discipline is simply doing the easy things that most are not willing to do.

If you don’t follow a similar practice routine, I’d encourage you to start today.  You will be glad you did. 

Copyright © Joe Zente 2022. All Rights Reserved. 

Effective Sales Management–Your Secret PROFIT Weapon

June 23rd, 2022

Is your sales manager (or sales management function) effectively growing, leading, and directing a consistent, productive, high-performance sales team?  If so, congratulations!  You are part of a VERY small minority. 

If not, I have good news, and bad news. 

The bad news is that you are recurrently missing out on tens (or hundreds) of thousands of profit every quarter on a recurrent basis, and things will likely worsen if you have moved to more of a remote selling model. 

The good news is that most of your competitors also lack effective sales management.   In other words, you are competing with pervasive mediocrity.   Studies confirm that the vast majority of private companies conduct “sales management” reactively (versus proactively).   For most, sales management is perceived as a necessary evil, or even worse, as an unnecessary hassle.   Consequently, management of sales is often conducted more as an afterthought than as a vital embedded organizational habit.   Group and individual sales meetings take place inconsistently, if at all.  Sales Management activities are conducted a fly-by, only occurring “when we have the time…”. 

Companies that do employ effective sales management consistently outperform their competitors, but during times of rapid change and economic turmoil, a solid sales management process will have an expanded effect.  A good SM process can help you quickly capture market share, grow your bottom line, and strengthen your company — a unique and tremendous opportunity.

Here are a few facts…: 

*Many private businesses do not have a dedicated manager of sales (or anyone who owns the sales management responsibility).

*A huge percentage of private businesses do not manage sales at all.

*In many instances the “sales management function” is conducted part-time (and quite poorly) by one of the company principals, who has little or no idea what they are doing.

*The most Effective Sales Managers spend at least 75% of their time coaching, developing, motivating, recruiting, and holding reps accountable.  These are the Critical Activities.    

*Most “sales managers” perform none of the Critical Activities.  Instead, they spend time reviewing accounts, generating reports, going on ride-alongs, and rescuing.

*Less than 10% of salespeople have the skills and strengths to perform effectively working from home, including basic consultative-selling proficiencies.

*Remote sales teams require a much greater level of sales management engagement and direction in order to succeed.  They also require an increased level of proper coaching.

If any of these facts hit close to home, you may feel like getting a handle on things appear daunting or overwhelming, but there is a massive silver lining and more good news.

1.      There are simple, time-tested processes available to quickly upgrade your sales management effectiveness and team performance. 

2.      Upgrading does not require a lot of time or money.  It simply requires using time differently (and more productively), making a few different commitments, and adopting some new processes and habits. 

3.      Today’s volatile economic and business environment has created a unique opportunity to capture massive market share and unrealized profit, for both the near and long term. 

4.      Embedding an Effective Sales Management Process into the fabric of your organization is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Few, if any, companies will maintain status quo over the next 18 months.  There will only be winners and losers.   Effective Sales Management will be a major differentiator and vital component of companies that end up in the Winner’s Circle. 

Copyright © Joe Zente 2022. All Rights Reserved. 

And the Survey Says….

May 26th, 2022

A recent LinkedIn State of Sales survey revealed some ominous (but potentially valuable) trends for small business owners seeking to improve their sales growth and profitability.  Among other findings, the survey of more than 7,500 buyers and sellers in 11 countries determined that…:

  • 75% of sales managers say the ability to cope with change is more important now than it was five years ago.
  • 80% of sellers say they lost or delayed a deal because a key stakeholder changed roles.


·         60% of sellers say they always put the buyers first, but only 24% of buyers agree.

These post-pandemic findings represent an outstanding opportunity for any savvy business owner seeking to increase market share and maintain margins during these rapidly changing and very uncertain financial times. 

I’m actually surprised that 24% of buyers believe that sellers put them first.  I would’ve guessed that the percentage would be far less.  While most salespeople SAY that they sell consultatively, buyer’s perception IS reality, and the proof is in the pudding.   For years now, I’ve been trumpeting the importance of TRUE consultative selling, the microscopic percentage of the profession that can effectively executes consultative selling, and the fact that those who do not are losing a greater and greater percentage of sales each and every year.  

 In other words, having the consultative selling competency in your organization used to be a nice-to-have, and it has now become a MUST-have.   If your salespeople do not possess these selling skills, they WILL lose massive market share, will not be able to maintain margins, and will ultimately die on the vine.   Choose or perish.

 There is a very good reason that more than three-quarters of buyers don’t believe that sellers put them first.  It is because most sellers don’t.  

This is the ultimate sales paradox.  Selfishly, most salespeople (and owners) believe that their sellers SHOULD put themselves first.  However, the most successful salespeople in the world know that doing so will quickly lead buyers to dismiss them from consideration and purchase from their competition.

 As with every other sales attribute, success begins with a salesperson’s mindset.  Here are a just few more critical behaviors required from any truly consultative salesperson:

 Questioning:  A Consultative Salesperson will ask good, tough, timely questions, and when appropriate, will respectfully challenge certain info they unearth.  Most salespeople simply cannot do this, not because deep questioning is difficult, but also because the questions cannot be scripted in advance and because they do not possess the correct mindset.  Follow up questions should never be the result of a script.  They should almost always result directly from the buyer’s responses. 

Outward-focus:   Most sales reps (and human beings) are self-centered.  It is difficult for most people to remove themselves from their own desired outcomes.  Until a rep can train him/herself to set aside their own objectives, desires to be liked or validated, egos, and other needs, they will hear very little of what their prospects are actually trying to convey.   In other words, they will miss out on all of the really good stuff.

Listening (actively and deeply):   Most salespeople spend way too much time talking versus listening and understanding.  When their lips are flapping, they are often spouting either statements or rehearsed, non-differentiated questions.   Yikes.  They rarely ask the question behind the question.  Rather than closely listening to a prospect, they are actually preparing a reply. 

Patience:  Most sales reps just cannot wait to tell people about what they sell, how amazing their company is, and all the ways they can help.  The (disempowering) tapes playing in their heads convince them that time is limited so that they “better hurry and tell them how great we are”.   They avoid asking questions because doing so might delay or replace their presentations, demos, and proposals, all things in which they have much more confidence in than selling consultatively.  Patient, consultative, differentiated salespeople add tremendous value with skilled Buyer Facilitationä.  Because their facilitation is unearthing new insights and adding value, they subsequently learn that buyers will make additional time for them.   A sales representative should always strive to slow down, be 100% present, and go deeper and wider with their listening and questioning. 

Infinite Curiosity:   Children do this very well.  Adults, who become “selling experts”, often develop the “curse of knowledge”.  They consequently lose their ability to be curious and make far too many assumptions.  Infinitely curious salespeople facilitate mutual discovery, differentiate themselves, and help buyers to create a new, better buying vision.

More Questions, Better Questions:   As the survey results revealed, most salespeople who have asked a few (often scripted) questions truly believe they are selling consultatively.  The reality is, until several dozen questions have been asked, a salesperson isn’t even close.  Again, I’m not talking here about rehearsed, blah, blah, blah questions.  Consultative selling demands unique, thoughtful, spontaneous follow-ups to perhaps a couple opening questions asked during the first few minutes.

An extremely small percentage of salespeople possess consultative selling skills.  Those who adopt, develop, and master them have always captured the lion’s share of available business, but now stand to completely dominate in 2022 and beyond.

One final thought…:  Effective Sales Management can have an enormous effect on the mindset, methodology, culture, improvement, and performance of your team.  Team success in today’s (primarily) remote selling environment demands the development of a high-touch coaching and learning sales culture that will pay huge dividends.

Please don’t wait.  The tsunami is already gaining steam, and developing these skills takes time.  Consultative sellers have always captured the majority of sales.  They will soon capture just about all of it.  Whether you are looking to develop your existing sales team, are recruiting new reps, or are seeking to improve your own personal selling effectiveness, I hope you’ll find this information to be valuable.

Copyright © Joe Zente 2022. All Rights Reserved.