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Stop Lying to Yourself in 2019

December 12th, 2018

Stop Lying to yourself in 2019.  PLEASE.


Most people have a good heart and want to do the right thing.   They do their best to be truthful in their dialogue and interactions with others.


Unfortunately, research shows we do not tend to be so honest with ourselves.   Our self-talk is loaded with piles of BS.


Our internal conversations have enormous ramifications on the level of our performance.   Simply, your self-talk ultimately determines your actions, achievement, and growth.   It controls your personal and business success.


We all have many motivations to lie to ourselves.   We lie to satisfy our psychological needs, avoid pain, stay in our comfort zone, and remain confident in our personal abilities.   We lie to feel better.   


Unfortunately, these lies drive us to consistently make unskillful decisions.  


By lying, we sacrifice our long-term needs in order to fulfill our short-term desires. 


The psychological motivations here are deep-rooted and strong, so overcoming the desire to maintain false beliefs and deny reality requires courage and commitment.


Our self-talk controls our choices and behavior.  So if we don’t make ourselves acutely aware of our lies and commit to an intentional process to prevent them from dictating our actions, we will continue to BS our way into poor decision-making, missing our goals and aspirations and falling far short of our potential.    We become ineffective robots.


In other words, productivity and effectiveness are a 100% function of our self-talk.   If you have the courage to totally transform your personal and business performance, you can do so by adopting a process to improve your truthfulness.    The resulting actions will elevate you to much higher levels of personal freedom and happiness.  


Executives share their internal lies with me all the time.  I’m sure you hear them as well.   Here are just a few examples of some destructive self-talk I continually hear from well-intentioned business owners:


·         “I would do that, but I can’t because…”


·         “If I could only ________, then my life would be fantastic.”


·         “If I do __________, people might think I’m nuts (or dumb, or arrogant,…).”


·         “I would change, but I can’t do it because of ________ .”


·         “I know what I’m doing.”


and I’m sure you’ve heard this popular diddy…


·         “I’m really busy right now, but I’ll get to it next quarter when I’ll have more time…”


This last lie is one of the most destructive because it continues to feed upon itself, taking the liar deeper and deeper into the un-productive abyss.  


You might notice that people who tell you how busy they are tend to always be busy.  Most are never able to escape their shackles.


A person’s self-talk creates their busy-ness.   So without changing their BS, they will continue to make choices that create busy activities instead of productive ones.


Most honest people would agree that Busy-ness is not success or freedom, but simply a lack of priority.  As with all self-lying, the Busy Lie mortgages long-term happiness for near-term emotional gain.  And the mortgage interest rate is astronomical…


A business owner can do anything, but cannot do everything.  One can choose to be busy, or choose to be effective.   But not both…


Being truthful with oneself is a life-long journey.   The process is not easy (especially if you try to go it alone).   But the process is fairly simple.   Here are the steps…:


1.      Muster up the courage, then COMMIT to a process of BS elimination.


2.      If you don’t have a coach, find an accountability partner – someone who will agree to talk with you frequently to call you on your BS and resulting choices and actions.  


3.      Find yourself a peer group.  Remember, this process will take courage.  Peers will keep you on course, drive your accountability up a notch, unearth hidden self-lies, help you generate new effectiveness insights, make better decisions, and much more.


4.      Tell EVERYONE you know that you have committed to this new process.  The more people that know, the less likely you are to bail out.


5.      Decide what you REALLY want (since you won’t be lying to yourself anymore, you’ll be much more likely to earn it!)


6.      Set specific goals and make a plan to achieve them.   Share your new plan with your partner and peer group for advice, council, and insight.


7.      Be humble.   Ask yourself what lies you are telling yourself today (use the examples above as a starting point).


8.      Stay the course and continue the process.  Doing so will make BS-elimination a productivity habit.    



When I founded Z3 Performance Development 21 years ago, I did so to help private business owners find Freedom through Results, Results through Responsibility…


During that time, I have observed honest self-conversation transform the lives of hundreds of owners.  It lies at the core of performance transformation.


I sincerely hope you will adopt this process, leading to a much more effective and prosperous 2019 and beyond.


If you have any questions or want to share anything about your journey or success, please email me.   I would love to hear from you.


Cheers and Best Wishes for a Prosperous and Happiest New Year!




Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.



Has Selling REALLY Changed?

October 22nd, 2018

People often ask me if selling has changed.


The answer is YES and NO.  

In order to sell effectively, it is vital to understand both halves of this equation.  


Effectiveness begins with an understanding of the selling landscape.   You wouldn’t attempt to cross an ocean on a bicycle, and wouldn’t choose a boat to traverse a mountain.  In other words, it is important to understand what you are selling INTO, before selecting tools and processes to get the job done.


Here are just a few things that have changed (dramatically) about the landscape over the last ten years…:


·      Buyers have much greater access to information.  Consequently, there is a good chance that they know quite a bit about your company and your product or service (as well as those of your competitors) before they speak with you.


·      Your competition also has greater access to information.  So they know more about you, too.


·      Unprecedented access to quick information has made it MUCH more difficult for any company to differentiate themselves from their competitors.   Differentiation is especially difficult for a smaller private company that doesn’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget.


·      Buyers have much shorter attention spans.  They are short and getting shorter.   Studies show that the average person can only pay attention for 8 seconds.   Goldfish beat humans with an average span of 9 seconds.


·      The combination of information access and shrinking attention spans means transactional selling is finished.   Most other antiquated approaches like feature-benefit, AIDA, presenting & proposing, solution selling, needs-based selling, strategic selling, and relationship selling are all on life-support or dying a quick death.


Here are few things about selling that have NOT changed…:


·      As a group, buyers do not trust salespeople.  Never did, never will.


·      The fundamental psychology of buyers remains unchanged.


·      So do the principles of effective communication.


·      Despite tremendous access to information, most buyers will not make a purchase of any type of semi-sophisticated product or service without first speaking with a sales representative.


·      Research still shows that a buyer’s interaction with the sales representative is the #1 factor in determining which company they buy from.   This human interaction has a greater effect on a prospect’s purchase decision than their perception of quality, reputation, service, and price combined!


·      The vast majority of salespeople are totally ineffective.  

Most salespeople have not changed with the changing landscape.


The good news is that addressing today’s evolved selling landscape does not require more work or harder work.  It simply requires a different approach and primarily lies in the development of one skill.


The single factor that addresses the changing landscape, differentiates a salesperson, and contributes to effectiveness is the ability to sell consultatively.   You’ve probably heard this term tossed around, but most people who use it don’t really know what it means.   In fact, most salespeople that have told me they are consultative sellers do NOT sell consultatively.  Not even close…


Consultative sellers…:


Develop trust by slowing down the sales process and asking dozens of high-value, attention-keeping, tough, assertive questions.


Abandon Convinc-aholic preferences.


Facilitate discovery to help prospects create a totally new buying vision.


Never waste time (the buyer’s or their own)


Continuously explore the “Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” domain.


Differentiate themselves via a unique mindset, belief system, & conversation.


Deeply explore the decision maker’s TRUE reasons and motives for…:


§  Solving a problem

§  Capturing an opportunity

§  Saving money

§  Changing the status quo

§  Switching suppliers or partners

§  Initiating a new project or process

§  Selecting one vendor over another.

§  And much more…


Directly and honestly address the potential consequences of change.


            Discuss who might be affected by change, and how.


            Develop relationships based on caring, sharing, mutual discovery, and trust.



Less than 15% of sales professionals even attempt to approach selling consultatively.   If your salespeople haven’t changed with the times, they are only generating a tiny percentage of the available potential business, sacrificing an enormous volume of profit.                   



Learning a consultative process, then developing and mastering the skill to execute it, will drive sales far beyond expectations.




Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.


How to Become a Five Percenter

September 24th, 2018

People often ask me “Are there a set of critical factors that distinguish the Top Performers from those that just can’t seem to get there?”


Over the past several decades, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with many thousands of entrepreneurs and salespeople.   The performance of these individuals can be separated into three primary groups.   A very small percentage consistently over-achieve.   Let’s call them The Masters or Five Percenters.   Opposite The Masters are a fairly large percentage (over 50%) of business owners and salespeople that consistently fail.   Unfortunate, but true.   Most entrepreneurs struggle for survival or fail.   Most salespeople rarely make quota.   Yikes.   They simply do not get it.


Most of the remaining owners and salespeople try continually to break out of the pack.  Few succeed.  Many of these execs work extremely hard.  A significant percentage of them believe themselves to always be “really busy”.  Unfortunately, their busy-ness never seems to produce the results they seek.  If they could only find “more time”, they feel like they could right the ship, but they somehow never get around to effectively prioritizing their time.


Many well-intentioned execs struggle to break through.  They try many different approaches, reacting to urgency after urgency and often looking for a quick fix, magic pill, or silver bullet.  Quite a few of them of them are prone to chasing shiny objects, the next big thing that will propel them out of mediocrity and transform their performance.   As society continues to move in the direction of rapid-response and instant gratification, I’ve noticed this group has been growing.


If you happen to be a CEO, owner, or executive seeking superior performance, I have bad news and good news.  The bad news is that there are NO quick fixes.  The good news is that ANYONE can achieve mastery and become a Five Percenter.


Master business performers possess a very distinct, limited (and amazingly simple) set of attributes that separate them from the masses, independent of whether their goal is to become an elite salesperson or an elite CEO.    Although Masters come in all shapes and sizes, they all possess the following common attributes..:


1.    They are UnConditionally Committed to Personal Development.  They never rest on their laurels and always strive to be the best person possible.  They are committed to mastery.  No matter how “busy” they might feel, they ALWAYS allocate time and energy to improving their skills, knowledge, and ability to become a better person and leader.


2.    They constantly Seek to Learn.  5 Percenters possess the humility to understand that there is always much more that they do not know than that they do know.  Masters understand that they often don’t have the best answer, and very often don’t even have the right question.


3.    They take advantage of Universal Truths.   I’m often amazed at how many executives struggle because that they choose to ignore many universal truths and laws.   What goes up, must come down.  Gravity exists.  So do Key Human Attributes and Key Relationship Attributes.   These are Universal.  We all have only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.  Even the most disruptive, innovative companies in the world succeed by virtue of exploiting Universal Truths.  Ignore these truths at your peril.


4.    They insist upon giving more than they gain.   Masters clearly understand the Law of Reciprocity and the fact that they will never get there alone.  Masters are both Generous and Grateful.


5.    They understand the Path to Mastery.   Whether you wish to improve your performance as a CEO, salesperson, athlete, musician, or parent, the Path to Mastery will always include these three basic components:


a.     Skills Development:  To learn HOW to become a top performer in the pursuit of your choice.


b.     Peer Learning:   To develop new insights & possibilities, to recognize personal and organizational blindspots, to avoid potential risks and potholes, to help you develop the right questions, to keep you motivated, to help you effectively prioritize, to help you know what you don’t know, to learn to use your time wisely, to make better decisions, and much more…


c.     Coaching:   To help keep you on track in making skillful choices (e.g.:  how to invest your time wisely) and taking skillful actions in accordance with your vision and intentions.


Attempting to achieve peak performance without taking advantage of all three legs of the Path is like running a marathon in wet sand.  You might get there (one day), but it will take much longer, you’ll have to work much harder, and your journey is going to hurt a lot more than necessary.


It is rare for any performer to fail because of the hard stuff.   They sometimes fail because they do not choose to do the right stuff, but they mostly fail simply due to a lack of Discipline.


While the attributes above are important, one will never achieve Mastery in the absence of Self-Discipline (aka:  doing the EASY things on a consistent basis).   A good coach can help enormously here.  


If you’d like to share other Critical Attributes of Mastery, or would like to discuss any I’ve listed here, I’d love to hear from you.


Enjoy the Journey!



Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

The Astronomical Cost of Being Busy

August 8th, 2018

Do you need to do more, or to focus on less?


Every month, I meet with dozens of business owners.   Over the last 20 years, I’ve visited with thousands of them.   After a while, obvious patterns begin to emerge.   It has become obvious that owners fall into 2 primary categories—BUSY and PRODUCTIVE.


A significant percentage of the owners I meet live in a constant state of overwhelm.   They never seem to have enough time and feel like they are always “Busy”.   It is relatively easy to spot a Busy Owner.   When you ask them how they are doing, they will often choose to tell you right away how busy they are.   Some try to convey busy-ness as a badge of honor as if it is a good thing.   Perhaps they actually think it is, but their results prove otherwise.


Busy Owners constantly struggle to prioritize and re-prioritize their schedules and activities but find doing so to be an exercise in futility.  The massive influx of productivity tools, social media, and technologies only seem to exacerbate their problem instead of helping.   By adding new priorities and goals each month, some live in a constant state of over-commitment.  It is not uncommon for these owners to drop balls, become forgetful, miss appointments, lose trust, and damage their personal and company reputations.  They fall short on most of their goals due to lack of focus.   Many Busy Owners haven’t taken a real vacation in years and when they do, they are unable to peel away from their emails, texts, and voicemails.  They are truly busy but mostly ineffective and unproductive.


An interesting thing about Busy Owners is that their busy-ness usually leads to more busy-ness.   For them, being busy is like pumping more wood into a fire.  The fire may temporarily get larger and feel like progress, but the end result is simply a larger pile of ash.


Conversely, the most successful owners focus intensely upon productivity. Productive Owners rarely seem to be busy.  Although all businesses have occasional issues that may require additional attention from the CEO, the Productive Owner is typically relaxed, thoughtful, curious, and balanced.   They appear to have a great deal of control over their words, thoughts, calendars, and decisions.  They keep appointments and are proactive instead of reactive.  Rather than adding more goals, strategies, and activities, which tend to disperse focus, these successful owners invest an appropriate portion of their business and personal planning deciding what NOT to do (the most challenging, but important part of planning).  Productive Owners can always find time to focus ON (versus in) their businesses and their lives.  


The Busy Owner “never has the time” to do this.  There is just too much “important stuff” to get done.


The most successful entrepreneurs understand that there is no more powerful force than focused energy.  So instead of investing exorbitant time creating and trying to execute their To-Do list, Productive Owners devote extra effort to creating and managing their To-Don’t lists.    Doing so helps them to invest their limited, valuable time, energy, and resources in the most effective way possible and to focus only on those activities at or above their pay grade.  Instead of striving to be busy, these owners strive to be productive.   


Productive Owners outperform Busy Owners by a landslide in every imaginable category including growth, profit, valuation, vacation, sleep, happiness and more.


I love entrepreneurs, and it kills me to see some of them waste their time and energy on the Busy-ness Hamster Wheel.  


So if you are a Busy Owner who wants to become a Productive Owner, here are a few steps to get you started..:


1.     DECIDE and DECLARE that you will no longer be Busy.


2.    CHOOSE Productivity over Busy-ness in all things you do for 90 days.   By then, Productivity will become a habit and busy-ness will taste like poison.


3.    BLOCK OUT a minimum of 8 hours each month into your calendar to devote to becoming a Productive Owner.  Don’t tell me you’re too busy.   Do it right now!  


4.     LOCATE an Accountability Partner or Productivity Coach to keep you on track.


5.     JOIN a CEO Peer Group like the Alternative Board to help you make more skillful choices with regard to how to invest your precious time, money, energy and resources.



If you have any questions at all, please email me at joe@zthree.com.  I’m on a mission to eradicate busy-ness from the entrepreneurial community.

I’d love to hear from you.



Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

The Profit-Burning Dirty Dozen, Volume One: RFPs

May 16th, 2018

How often do you typically reply to Requests for Proposals?

How much does it cost you to create, package and create one of these proposals?

What percentage of RFP responses do you typically win?

Most companies feel compelled to obediently reply when they receive a proposal request.   When they respond, they often do so VERY prematurely.   They substitute promptness and volume for efficiency and effectiveness, losing sight of the correct goal of maximizing growth in revenues and profit.   Here are just a few of the costly beliefs that lead to this counter-productive behavior…:

·       “We really want the business!”

·       “All of our competitors will respond!”

·       “We need the business!”

·       “If we don’t respond, we might lose credibility.”

·       “We won’t get future requests and opportunities if we don’t respond.”

·       “We’ll never get this business if we don’t submit a proposal.”

·       “This is a good opportunity to WOW them with our incredible capabilities!!!”

·       “This might be a way to get our foot in the door.”

·       “We historically win 15% of bids. Since we don’t know which 15%, we better reply to every one.”

·       “We may not be their preferred vendor, but would like to be a backup option”

The majority of companies that receive RFPs do respond to them, quickly.  For many responders, the expense of preparing a proposal can be substantial (including time for design, engineering, estimating, opportunity costs, and more).  All of these costs cut dramatically into margins and the bottom line.

The majority of companies win only a very small percentage of the bids they submit.  So the cost of creating proposals for the few sales that are won must be distributed across the many submissions of those that are lost.

Many companies never give a second thought to replying to RFPs.  They behave reactively, versus proactively.   “Of course we need to be responsive, it’s the way we’ve always done it!”

I’m not suggesting here that you should ignore RFPs.   The question is not if you should respond, but HOW and WHEN.

Most salespeople (and the companies that employ them) have lost millions of dollars of revenue (and profit) because of a destructive behavior disorder known as Premature Satisfaction™.   Replying to a blind RPF is a glaring and extreme example of this disorder.

Premature Satisfaction™, and the resulting volume of lost profit it creates can be reduced and subsequently eliminated by implementing an effective sales process.   UnCommon Sense Buyer Facilitation© is one example of such a process.   If sending a proposal is a critical (or mandated) part of your buyer’s purchase protocol, the submission of the proposal should be one of the final steps in your process.

Premature Satisfaction™carries a consequence in 100% of cases.   In the BEST case, it will cost you time, expense, and profit.   In the worst case, it can destroy trust, lose business you should easily be winning, and remove your company from future consideration as a potential product or solution provider.


There are five (and only five) reasons that you will ever receive a Request for Proposal:

  1. The prospect wants to drive prices down by creating a bidding war.
  2. Their internal policy mandates a certain number of bidders, and you are a convenient filler.
  3. They want to buy from your competitor but don’t want to be taken to the cleaners on price.
  4. They want to buy from your competitor and need a high bid or two to justify their decision.
  5. They would prefer to do business with you but need you to submit via their formal process.

No other reasons exist.  If you aren’t in category #5, you should not be proposing.

Contrary to some conventional thinking, a proposal is not a selling or closing tool.    Companies will not buy from you because of your beautiful proposals, and proposals don’t differentiate you from your competition.  Your MVP Quality - specifically your trustworthiness, ability to connect, questioning, listening, discovery skills, and sales process are the things that will set you apart from your competitors.   Tons of research and buyer polls support these facts.

So next time someone requests a proposal from you, do NOT get busy creating and firing one off.   Instead, learn why they sent it to you, why they want you to propose on this particular solution or configuration, and why they are asking you to solve their problem in the specific way they have outlined.    If necessary, get the specs of the RFP changed before proposing.

The process I’m describing here applies whether you are addressing a highly formalized, bureaucratic, or institutionalized proposal request, or simply a “Hey, can you send me a quote?”   Remember, satisfying prematurely always carries a negative consequence.

So before investing your valuable time, money, and energy putting together a World Class Proposal, make sure that you know they want to buy from you and that the business belongs to you if you want it.   If there is any question at all or if you are not sure, you are simply not ready to propose.    End of story.

If you are sure, you can then put your proposal in any font, color, and package that excites you.  In other words, the buyer has effectively written the proposal for you.   You have simply documented it…

I know this all may be a tough pill to swallow if you work in a company that has developed a habit of rapid-response proposal generation.   Like all habits, this one might take a little time to break.  I can promise the reward will be well worth it.

To Your Freedom…



Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.