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August 14th, 2017



Wise business owners consistently evaluate key metrics affecting their bottom line.   In an effort to increase profit, owners and their CFOs and controllers review factors ranging from the cost of goods, salaries, pricing, inventory turns, receivables, and more. 


Few companies, however, evaluate ways to improve the area that holds the largest potential influence on profitability — their sales department.   Since time = money, salespeople must use their time (and your company’s support resources) effectively.   Unfortunately, most do not.   Here are just a few of the most popular ways that many salespeople burn up profit….:    


1.     Spending significant time with unqualified prospects.

2.     Talking when they should be listening and understanding.

3.     Not establishing Ground Rules.

4.     Giving presentations to unqualified prospects.

5.     Offering pricing before understanding the whole picture.

6.     Creating and sending proposals before understanding the whole picture.

7.     Listening with Happy Ears, instead of learning the truth.

8.     Sending multiple proposals to address the same opportunity (because they didn’t learn what was really required in the first place).

9.     Emailing or texting when they should be visiting/in dialogue.

10. Offering unnecessary discounts.

11. Understanding true buying motives.

12. Poor territory management.

13. Poor time management.


Most of these issues can be addressed through the implementation of an effective sales plan, success recipe, and sales process.      


Ineffective sales management is also a huge profit-killer.   Sales management is either pathetic or woefully non-existent in the vast majority of private companies.   You may be thinking “my sales staff is too small”, or “I can’t afford a sales manager.”   In fact, you cannot afford to ignore the sales management function.   It is absolutely essential if you are serious about growing and scaling your revenue and profit.    If your sales staff is small, make it happen.    The function does not need to be full-time.   Sales management can be one of the many hats you (or one of your execs) wear.   It can also be outsourced.   Effective sales management is not time-consuming, but it is vital.


A significant percentage of sales managers spend their time rescuing, brow-beating, record-keeping, micro-managing, and covering their butts, rather than focusing on the critical areas of consistently coaching, motivating, developing, recruiting and holding salespeople accountable.   


Poor sales management is actually counter-productive and is the area where many private companies burn up the most profit.   Consequently, the sales management role is also the function where the greatest potential opportunity resides.


A massive volume of profit lies in using an effective sales management process. 


It is the gift that keeps on giving.


Once you implement one, you will never look back.




Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

Interested People Are Expensive

May 3rd, 2017

“Interested” people can be expensive.  Really expensive.

Think about a time when you decided to pursue a goal that seemed to be challenging or out of reach.   A time where you worked hard, focused, persevered, powered through, and achieved something great.

Next, think about a time you wanted something badly, but failed to take the appropriate action(s) to make it happen.  What was different?

In the second scenario, did you have a strong desire to obtain it?

You were certainly interested in having it, weren’t you?

You may have even felt like you really needed to have it, but you still didn’t act.

Why not?  What (or who) was standing in your way?

Every week, salespeople tell sales managers and owners about potential buyers in their pipeline.  Many explain that these “hot” prospects are “really interested”.

Interestingly, most managers would tell you that only a fraction of these “hot prospects” ever convert into actual sales.  In fact, studies show that nearly two-thirds of these forecasted sales are lost to status quo or “no decision”.

How can it be that all these “interested” potential buyers, with such strong needs and desires, never make a purchase?  The reason is fundamental and simple.

Most salespeople consistently miss out on discovering the truth about two vital attributes that must be present in order for a transaction to occur.  They are…:

COMMITMENT:  Nothing will happen without the commitment of the Decision Maker to invest the necessary money, time, courage, personnel, political capital, etc required to solve their problem. Nothing. In the absence of this commitment, all that is left is wheel spinning.

URGENCY:  If the Decision Maker perceives a problem and is committed to fix it, action will only take place if and when the issue becomes a priority. Commitment without urgency translates into “I’ll get to it some day.”  Some day maybe next month, or maybe next decade…   Urgency is borne out of emotion (aka: pain).  Some examples of pain include (but are not limited to) fear, frustration, anger, and anxiety.  In the absence of urgency, time will slip away and other priorities will ultimately replace the issue in question.   Commitment to solving the original problem will diminish, along with a diminished chance of any sale.  Sound familiar?

Think about your current warm prospects.  Are your “hot prospects” committed, or just interested?   Is solving their problem a priority, or simply a need, wish, or desire?

If a decision maker perceives a problem, is committed to fixing it and has the urgency to act, he/she WILL make a purchase.  The only question is from whom.  If any one of these pieces is missing, a transaction will not occur.

Buyer’s interest is a drug. It can make us temporarily feel good. But the after-effects often feel bad.  Most salespeople perceive prospect interest as a ‘buying signal’.  However, it should be perceived as a ‘learning signal’, an opportunity to discover the truth about commitment, urgency, and more.

Interested prospects can cost a fortune if we aren’t disciplined and careful.  Salespeople burn up millions of dollars wasting time with prospects that are interested, but not committed.  Consequently, sales managers and owners frustrated by overly-optimistic forecasts are legion.  Activity for the sake of activity is very expensive.  Only results matter.

There are many things that sales professionals can do today to learn the truth, to stop wasting time, to improve the reliability of sales forecasts, and to dramatically improve revenue growth and profit. For starters, they can commit to obtaining this vital information and to mastering a process of understanding the truth.  Again, commitment generates results.

Remember, these principles do not apply only to your sales prospects.  They also apply to your personal performance.

So if you want to achieve something, or if you have a need or problem you’d really like to solve, start by asking yourself the following questions:

How much do I really want to fix (or obtain) it?

Am I committed to fixing it, or am I only interested?

Is this a priority for me, or are my other activities really more important?   (you can do anything, but you can’t do everything)

Whether applied to yourself or your sales prospects, learning the answers to these fundamental questions will save you a ton.

Become a truth detector.  I hope you’ll enjoy your improved efficiency and effectiveness and take an extended vacation (or two or three) with all the time and money you’ll save.

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

The Universe of Cluelessness

March 8th, 2017

You’ve probably heard the statement “You don’t know what you don’t know!”   When I first heard it decades ago, I thought it was profound.  The statement hit me like a stack of bricks.   Today, the phrase is used so often that it is practically cliché.

 However, I’ve found that many leaders don’t know how to harness its power.

What does DKDK really mean and how can we use it to become more productive, effective, and happy?


Let’s break it down…:


Firstly, Knowledge is stuff we know.


Wikipedia defines KNOWLEDGE as “a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of facts, information, descriptions, or skills, acquired through experience or education, by perceiving, discovering or learning.


In the business world, we don’t really know anything until we apply accumulated knowledge into productive behavior, skillful actions, or wiser decisions.


If we look at the sum of knowledge (everything we know), logic dictates that our total universe of knowledge is comprised of only 3 parts:


1.     What we know we know–KK.  (I know how to ride a bicycle)


2.     What we know we don’t know–KDK.  (I know I don’t know how to perform brain surgery)


3.     What we don’t know that we don’t know—DKDK.  (Am I asking the right question or even starting from the correct frame of reference?  Am I even in the right ball park?)


In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of attending hundreds of CEO advisory board meetings and have witnessed many of the best and brightest business owners helping each other to succeed.    In these meetings, owners support each other, share best practices, validate thinking, and hold each other accountable.   And they (and I) learn a ton.   However, perhaps the greatest learning occurs when a member’s board challenges their thinking, their perspectives, and their questions.   These challenges often result in dramatically different, more effective, and BETTER questions.   Owners often realize that they may be working hard to chop down trees, but that they may be chopping in the wrong forest.   Consequently, the owners are able to use DKDK to make much wiser decisions about how to invest their precious time, money and resources.


I used to believe that DKDK comprised at least half of the total sum of knowledge.  I was wrong.    What I’ve come to learn is that DKDK comprises far more than 99% of the sum of knowledge.   Many of the board members comment that the more they learn, the more they understand that the best solutions lie in DKDK.  In other words, we are ALL clueless.


The most significant discovery and learning resides in DKDK.    So the most successful leaders are the ones that understand this concept.  The strongest board members learn how to use this understanding to make wiser, more effective, skillful decisions.   As a consequence, they thrive.


The only sustainable advantage that any of our companies (or ourselves) have is the ability to learn better and faster than our competitors.  Those who understand and execute this principle consistently succeed.


If you haven’t created a PROACTIVE structure and process that provides you and your employees more opportunities for greater DKDK discovery and faster learning, I’d encourage you to begin today.


Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

Why do People REALLY Buy?

February 4th, 2017


At this moment, millions of salespeople are out promoting their products or services.   They are shaking hands, pitching, demonstrating, and presenting.  They are also (hopefully) spending time asking questions, listening, learning, and facilitating mutual discovery.


Interestingly, the majority of these salespeople (and the leadership of the companies they represent) are operating under popular misconceptions about the TRUE reasons people buy.    They are consequently wasting tons of time and losing out on reams of sales, opportunities, and profit.   If a salesperson doesn’t understand why or how a person buys, and what motivates someone to buy from them instead of someone else, that salesperson’s chance of actually making a sale fall astronomically.    Here are just a few of the most popular misconceptions…: 



“If a Company needs what I sell, they will buy from me.”


Companies do not make purchases.  People do.  Decision Maker People.  Committees never make decisions.  In fact, ‘Committee Decision’ is an oxymoron.   If you are being told that a committee will decide, you can be sure that ONE PERSON on that committee (the one will the most influence, power, and commitment) will get their way.




“If a buyer needs what I offer, they will buy from me.”


The vast majority of salespeople believe this myth.  As a consequence, there are loads of ‘hot projected sales’ sitting on company forecasts right now that do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of closing.  It is highly likely that you need something today that you have not yet bought, and may not buy for months, years, or perhaps ever.  Need is just one component that leads to a potential purchase, but only emotional pain will actually trigger a purchase and make it happen.  Do your salespeople know how to uncover pain, and if so, are they doing it?   




“People buy from people they like”  


Can you think of a salesperson you like that you have not (or would not) buy from?  I certainly can.  Research shows that people do not buy from people they like.  They buy from people they TRUST.  They buy from people that help them create a new buying vision.  They buy from people when they enjoy and respect the process of their interaction.  It is great to be liked by your prospect and I would always encourage you to strive to be liked.  But many salespeople avoid asking vital questions for fear they may not be liked.  Bad idea.  Game over.  It is great to be liked, but it is much more important to respected, competent, and trusted.  



“If I demonstrate ROI, we’ll win!”


There is nothing at all wrong with outlining that a financial return on investment would result from a purchase.  In fact, there are many cases where it absolutely makes sense to do so.  However, don’t think for a second that because you showed someone you were going a save them a million dollars that they will buy from you.  The dominating presumption among ROI sellers is that people buy mostly for financial or rational reasons.  Again, statistical, psychological, and brain science research have all blown this misconception to smithereens.  While there are selected situations where demonstrating ROI is important, it has been proven that in ALL cases that buying decisions are made much more for emotional reasons and feelings that for rational reasons and spreadsheets.




“If my product (or service) is the best, they will buy from me”


A recent survey of 5000 C-level buyers has revealed that 19% of purchase due to “quality or service”, 19% buy due to “reputation”, 9% due to “price”, and 53% due to the quality of their “interaction with the salesperson or company representative”.  FIFTY-THREE PERCENT.  In other words, the process of buying is more important than everything else put together, far out-distancing the product or service.  So if you are currently focusing your sales interactions on either trumpeting or teeing up opportunities to demonstrate the wonderfulness of your product or company, you may wish to reconsider.  Once again, I am not suggesting at all that you should not have a great product, service, reputation, or a great offer at a fair price.  Nor am I suggesting that your marketing should not highlight your unique advantages.  However, managing the sales interaction will take you to the bank much more often with Decision Makers.    


These are just a few of the most popular incorrect beliefs that create ineffective selling behavior (and many lost sales).  There are more.


Do these myths and beliefs exist within your company and salespeople?


If so, I’d encourage you to take a close look at changing them (and the selling mistakes they create) soon.   The rewards will be great.


Continued Success,



Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

Popular Excuses Made by Entrepreneurs for Crappy Sales (And What You Can do About it!)

October 31st, 2016

Many private business owners tell me they struggle with sales.  Most report little, if any, predictability, visibility, or scalability in their sales effort.  A large percentage of seemingly successful entrepreneurs even have a tough time maintaining any level of consistency in growing sales revenues and profit.


When I ask owners for their reasons their sales are lacking, I often hear the same things over and over.  This destructive self-talk hurts much more than it helps.  Following is a list of popular excuses I hear many times each month.   If you find yourself saying any of these things (to others or to yourself), I’ve offered some actions you take today to make things much better.


“When we get in front of prospects, we almost always win.” 


While this may be true, it is not necessarily good.  If your company is closing 100% of your sales, you (or your salespeople) are probably only meeting with SUPER-qualified prospects.  While it is always a good idea to continually strive to improve your closing percentages, understand that the vast majority of private companies (and salespeople) behave opportunistically, versus proactively when it comes to selling.  In other words, they are not selling, they are taking orders.  Opportunistic (reactive)  selling places a company’s destiny into the hands of external forces (like the economy, competition, new features, etc.).  Very dangerous to say the least.



“We don’t have the time to improve sales” (aka: “We’re too busy”)


Fact#1:  You have the same amount of time as everyone else (24 hours per day).


Fact#2:  You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.


Fact#3:  The more your focus on a problem, the more likely you are to improve it.


So we’re really not talking about time here, were talking about priorities.  So ask yourself:  “Are the issues we’re focusing on today really more important than Sales?”   If so, continue as you are.  If not, what will you stop doing today so you can focus on growing revenues and profits?



I don’t have enough money”


Same goes here.  Of course you don’t have unlimited funds.  No one does.  However, every owner is spending money on something.  The real question to ask is “am I investing money and resources in accordance with my goals and priorities?”   If your sales are consistently falling short, the answer is NO.



“If my salespeople (or sales manager) would only…”


Here comes the big pill.   All of your salespeople are currently behaving the way they are behaving because that is the way they CHOOSE to behave. You are also behaving the way you are behaving because that is how you are choosing to behave.  So if you want something to change (improve) in your sales effort, the change starts with you.  If your sales aren’t cutting it, YOU are the problem, but you are also the (potential) solution.


The success (or lack of success) of any private business is a 100% function of the decisions made by its owner (CEO).  The wisdom of how a CEO chooses to invest his/her limited time, money, and resources determines everything.  So choose wisely.


Running a great business is not magic.  Creating a great sales organization is not magic. Both are formulaic, time-tested pursuits.   If you’d like to share methods or processes that you currently use to make wiser choices, or would like to discuss practices that I have seen work many times, I’d love to hear from you.


Many private business owners tell me they struggle with sales.  Most report little, if any, predictability, visibility, or scalability in their sales effort.  A large percentage of seemingly successful entrepreneurs even have a tough time maintaining any level of consistency in growing sales revenues and profit.


When I ask owners for their reasons their sales are lacking, I often hear the same things over and over.  This destructive self-talk hurts much more than it helps.  Following is a list of popular excuses I hear many times each month.   If you find yourself saying any of these things (to others or to yourself), I’ve offered some actions you take today to make things much better.


Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2016.   All Rights Reserved.