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You won’t hear a Consistently Successful CEO say this

March 31st, 2021

Over the last 25 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of helping over 1000 entrepreneurs become better CEOs.  Many of these business owners are among the most successful in their respective industries. 

Entrepreneurs often ask me “What is the biggest difference between successful owners and those who constantly struggle?” 

While I don’t think the answer to this question is an easy one, many patterns become obvious.  Simply, CEOs who consistently succeed behave differently than most.   

Many studies tell us that our beliefs drive our actions and that our actions drive results.  We also know that the language we use has a huge effect our beliefs.  In other words, if we wish to transform our results, we must transform our language.   This is relatively simple to do. 

Interestingly, there is one comment that I rarely, if ever, hear emerge from the mouths of super-successful CEOs.   The best entrepreneurs understand that success is derived from using their precious time, money and resources effectively and efficiently.   They know it is crucial to prioritize, so do not allow the tyranny of the urgent prevent them from executing their most important activities.  Consequently, you will not hear a consistently successful CEO say… 

  “I don’t have time”     

Great leaders understand that this type of victim-speak can torpedo a CEO’s performance before they leave the gate.  Unfortunately, I hear the phrase frequently from owners who are constantly struggling to keep their head above water. 

Instead of using self-destructive phrases like “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time”, top performing CEOs use different language.  They say things like…: 

·         We ALL have 24 hours in a day, so I DO have time. 

·         I can do anything, but I can’t do everything (and that’s OK!) 

·         I choose to invest my time in the most impactful way possible, aligned with my vision and goals. 

·         In order to “get” more time to do the things that are most important, I must Delegate, Automate, or Eliminate. 

·         I will re-prioritize to make time for any endeavor that will support my growth and goals. 

·         I refuse to work on activities that are below my pay-grade! 

·         I am in complete control of my choices and of how I choose to invest my time. 

How does your language stack up? 

Are you allowing events and activities to control you, or are you flying this plane? 

Do you have a tough time delegating or eliminating, and if so, what are you doing about it today?

Changing your language is one of the simplest ways to improve your performance. 

If you are struggling to do so, there is plenty of help is available.   Get some now, and please don’t say “I don’t have time”

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

REAL Consultative Selling: Don’t be fooled by what they say

February 11th, 2021

I meet with salespeople and sales candidates practically every week. 

During sales interviews, I always ask new candidates in the first few minutes of our conversation to describe their selling approach.  Interestingly, 80% of them reply with some form of “I’m a CONSULTATIVE Salesperson.” 

Good answer!   Consultative Selling has become the superior method for selling in the digital, information-rich age.  In fact, consultative individuals are the ONLY salespeople that have ANY chance of differentiating themselves and selling effectively in today’s virtual environment. 

Much has been written about this subject, so most salespeople, especially “seasoned, experienced salespeople” know that they are supposed to sell consultatively. 

Unfortunately, as my sales interviews proceed, 9 out of 10 of the candidates who enthusiastically tell me they are consultative, PROVE to me they are actually the exact opposite.  And I’m not just talking about rookies here.   Many of the sales candidates I interview have been selling for decades. 

The vast majority of candidates spend the remainder of our conversation talking, presenting, and gushing—trying to convince me why they are the best.  Each one sounds just like the last one, trying to convey how great they are, telling me about their previous accomplishments, and citing the awards they have won in their illustrious careers. 

Interestingly, very few seek to learn what I am looking for, what criteria I will use to decide, what our decision process might be, what success would look like, what motivates me, and why I would possibly select them over the other candidates. 

In a sales interview, I couldn’t care less what a candidate (or their resume) says.  Their actions will always speak much louder than their words and documents.  You can be sure that they will ultimately sell your product or service using the exact same approach that they did when they tried to sell themself.    So if they don’t interview consultatively, run away FAST. 

If a sales candidate was truly consultative, here are just a few of the attributes he/she would clearly exhibit..: 

Questioning:  A Consultative Salesperson will ask good, tough, and timely questions, and when appropriate, will respectfully challenge certain things they unearth.   Most salespeople simply cannot do this, not because deep questioning is difficult, but because the questions cannot be scripted in advance.   Follow up questions should almost always result from the prospect’s responses. 

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

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

 Patience:  Most sales reps simply cannot wait to tell people about what they sell, how amazing their company is, and how they can help.   They have (detrimental) tapes playing in their heads that 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 Facilitation.  Because they are adding value, they subsequently learn that buyers will actually 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 to buyers create a new, better buying vision.

More Questions, Better Questions:   Similar to the recruiting sales candidates I’ve described above, most employed salespeople actually believe they are selling consultatively when they have asked a few questions.  The reality is, until 4 or 5 dozen questions have been asked, a salesperson isn’t even close.  Again, I’m not talking here about rehearsed questions where a rep simply runs down a scripted list.   Consultative selling demands unique, thoughtful, spontaneous follow-ups to perhaps a couple opening questions which were asked during the first few minutes.

Z3 Performance Development has been helping companies to build world class sales organizations for 25 years.  During these years, we’ve interviewed many hundreds of “sales professionals” and helped thousands of salespeople improve their selling effectiveness.    Patterns become obvious, and quite simply, successful salespeople behave and THINK totally different from the masses.  

Whether you are recruiting new salespeople, working to help develop your existing people, or working to improve your own consultative skills, I hope these examples will provide some fuel for rapid and on-going improvement.  

Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

ONE THING That Will Dramatically Increase Your Odds of Winning in 2021

December 17th, 2020

2020 will go down in history as a whopper.

Many companies suffered. 

Some failed.

Other owners re-invented their businesses to capture new opportunities leading to record success.

One thing is certain–2021 will be another year filled with uncertainty.

For some, uncertainty creates paralysis.  Consequently, a large percentage of entrepreneurs will attempt to maintain status quo in the coming year.  They will change very little, cling to their antiquated thinking, rigid processes, and sacred cows, adopting a strategy of hope and allowing their default future to dictate their outcome. A very risky approach…

Successful CEOs understand that uncertainty and change can be their greatest asset.  These owners will restructure processes, systems, strategies, and mindset.  They understand that the ability to learn and execute quickly is their singular sustainable strategic advantage.  These leaders will commit to invent a much better future. And they will win.

Which approach will you choose?

Will you live into your default future, or will you invent a more prosperous, rewarding, future?

Do you and your company have a practice to learn and execute quicker?

We’ve all heard the popular adage (often attributed to Albert Einstein) – “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

Similarly, many people believe that doing the same thing will produce the same result.  In 2021, this statement could not be further from the truth. In fact, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that doing the same thing will likely get us STOMPED.  The pandemic made this obvious, but the trend has been developing for decades.  Just one example of proof is that since 2000, fifty-two percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist.  That’s 52% in just 20 years! But let’s cut these companies some slack.  After all, it is no small task to overcome the inertia and change the direction of a big, bureaucratic, multi-billion-dollar ocean liner.

Conversely, 2020 has also taught us that massive opportunities abound for nimble, innovative entrepreneurs who adopt a process of learning and acting faster than their competitors.  As a private business owner, you can easily adopt an agile rapid-learning practice in order to maneuver your speed-boat company to previously unimagined new heights.

If you lead a company that struggled in 2020 and find yourself thinking “I’m too busy and don’t have time to adopt a new practice”, your mindset may have already cost you the race.  Simply, owners who consistently succeed do things that weak owners do not. They make time for the important and delegate the urgent.  They do not live into default.  They invent their own future.

If you are committed to proactively creating a better future, but just don’t know how to start, no worries.  Your business and market may be unique, but the formula to optimize your odds of success is bullet-proof.  It has been used by tens of thousands of successful owners to inform their decision-making, and to learn faster, to rapidly convert that learning into executions, to strengthen their companies, and to win.

I’m so grateful to the thousands of owners, coaches and facilitators in the TAB Community who help me learn faster, keep me on track, and inspire me each and every day.  I’m committed to helping each and every one of you have a record year.


Best wishes for an amazing holiday season and to achieving incredible new heights in 2021 and beyond!


Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Is it OK to discuss Politics and Religion During Sales Conversations?

September 23rd, 2020

I suspect you’ve heard the assertion that “you should never discuss politics or religion!” There is certainly an argument to be made to support this statement. There is also a counterargument.

Do you (or should you) ever discuss sensitive “taboo” subjects like these during sales conversations? Let’s explore the pros and cons:

To say the least, these are interesting times.

Fires, storms, floods, and power-outages are devastating significant swaths of geography across the United States. Stay-at-home policies have destroyed many businesses and frustrated millions of parents. Traditional media, social media, and political activists are whipping people into a frenzy. Emotions are high, tempers are short, a number of cities are burning, crime is on the rise and the nation seems to be more polarized than at any point in recent history.

Unfortunately, many people have stopped listening, closed their minds, and dug into their respective corners. Confirmation bias is rampant.

With all of this upheaval, it might seem insane to broach any potentially emotional subject.

Before we decide to totally avoid these stormy waters during sales conversations, let’s explore selling a bit further and start with some very basic questions.

Why do people really buy?

Why would they buy from you, versus your competitor?

How do (should) you currently differentiate yourself from your competitors?

During sales interviews, what percentage of time do (should) you spend talking and sharing your pitches, benefits, expertise, opinions, demos, and product knowledge versus questioning, listening, understanding, and connecting with decision-makers at both an organizational and personal level?

Fortunately, we know the answers to these questions, backed by many dozens of studies and tons of research. In the interest of keeping this article relatively short, I’ll provide you with a summary of what we know:

Why do people really buy?

First, companies do not buy. People buy. Individual people who represent companies. You may be thinking, “duh, everyone knows that”. But in reality, few salespeople understand it, and even fewer use this reality to gain advantage. Most reps focus on selling to the company, not the decision maker.

Next, people who buy do not buy for intellectual reasons from experts. They buy for personal, emotional reasons from people that they trust. Buyers trust people who make them feel comfortable and connect with them at a feeling level. Some buyers may attempt to justify their purchase intellectually, but they will always ultimately make their purchase decision based upon how they feel. This is another basic fact overlooked by the vast majority of sellers.

Finally, purchase decisions include two primary components — Product and Process. Buyers decide based upon the product you offer and the process of buying (their experience). Most sellers believe that Product is most important, but research proves that the Process a buyer experiences has a much greater influence on their ultimate purchase decision.

 Why would they buy from you, versus your competitor?

Contrary to popular belief, buyers do not buy from people they like. They buy from people they trust, and they trust people they perceive share their values & beliefs. They trust people that they feel connected to from both a tangible (conscious) and from an intangible (subconscious) perspective.

 How do (should) you currently differentiate yourself and your company from your competitors?

If your company is like most, your product or service is not totally unique in the marketplace. If it were, it would sell itself. You likely have serious, tough competitors. Seeking to gain incremental advantages, your competitors probably pay more attention to your features, benefits, and marketing messages than your prospects do. Today, unlike decades ago, innovation and product development occur at lightning speed. In other words, if your product or service currently offers a significant advantage, you can bet that your competitors are working on erasing that advantage right now.

The bottom line here is that the only sustainable way a small to medium sized company can effectively differentiate itself is the manner in which their sales reps interact with their customers and prospects.

During sales interviews, what percentage of time do (should) you spend talking and sharing your pitches, benefits, expertise, opinions, demos, and product knowledge versus questioning, listening, understanding, empathizing, and connecting with decision-makers at both an organizational and personal level?

The correct answer is far less than you are spending today. If a salesperson is opining and presenting more than 15% of the time, they are boring the prospect, probably destroying trust, and rapidly diminishing their chances of success.

Instead, reps should invest their time seeing the picture through the buyer’s lens, not their own, and hopefully facilitating mutual discovery in pursuit of a new, better buying vision. Salespeople should be laser-focused on caring, connecting, infinite curiosity, facilitating discovery, sincere interest, and learning — not only about a buyer’s organizational or technical needs, but also about the personal, emotional, compelling, TRUE buying motives of the decision maker. These feelings and motives will never be revealed via pitches and demos.

Now that we know the answers to these foundational questions, let’s return to exploring whether or not it is prudent or wise to discuss politics or religion during sales conversations.

To review, we understand that people buy from people they trust, people they believe are like themselves, people they perceive to share their beliefs and values. Simon Sinek (and several others) have shared many stories and plenty of data supporting the fact that people buy from companies and people who care about the same things that they do. And it seems most care more today than usual about their respective ideological and political beliefs. With this in mind, do you think it might be advantageous to know how your buyer feels about these ultra-personal issues?

I’m not suggesting here that you start spewing your personal beliefs or ideological and spiritual views upon your prospects. I’m also not suggesting that you begin asking who they are voting for in November. Doing so could be extremely dangerous.

However, knowing about your buyer’s most personal views could be priceless.

So, proceed carefully, but assertively.

Salespeople must always earn the right to explore sensitive issues (like money or decision processes), and remember, questions are always more effective than statements when facilitating discovery. We never learn by telling.

The more you know about your prospect and the things they care about at a visceral level, the greater your chances will be of doing business together.

The more information you have about what your buyer cares about most, the better. Period.

The more a buyer is willing to share with you (about any subject), the better. And the more personal the issue happens to be to the buyer, the better.

In this regard, there should be no “taboo” subjects. The most successful salespeople know that there no good news or bad news, there is only information. And personal, emotional information is the most valuable.

So, the question is not really which subjects you should or should not explore with your buyers.

The crucial thing is the manner in which you explore them.




Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sales Management: Your Biggest Potential Opportunity

August 12th, 2020

A GIGANTIC Opportunity

Is your Sales Manager (or sales management function) effectively growing, leading, and directing a consistent, productive, high-performance sales team?  If so, congratulations!

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

The bad news is that you are likely missing out on hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions of dollars of profit year after year, and that things will likely worsen with a remote sales force.

The good news is that most of your competitors also lack effective sales management. In other words, you are competing with mediocrity. Many studies confirm that the vast majority of private companies conduct “sales management” reactively (versus proactively) as an afterthought. Group and individual sales meetings are random and inconsistent, if at all.  For most companies, Sales Management activities are conducted as a fly-by. They are ad hoc, only occurring “when there is time…”.

Businesses that employ effective sales management consistently outperform their competitors, but during times of rapid change and economic turmoil, sales management process improvements have an expanded effect. Today, they can help you quickly capture market share, grow your bottom line, and strengthen your company — a unique and tremendous opportunity.

Here are the facts:

  • Many SMBs do not have a dedicated manager of sales (or anyone who owns the sales management responsibility).
  • A large 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.
  • Effective sales managers spend more than 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.
  • Remote sales teams require a much greater level of sales engagement and direction in order to succeed.  They also require an increased level of real coaching.

This may all sound 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, making some different commitments, and adopting some new processes and habits.
  3. The current economic and employment environment has created an unprecedented opportunity to upgrade the effectiveness and performance of your sales organization, for both the near and long term.

Few, if any, companies will maintain status quo in 2020.  There will only be winners and losers. Effective sales management will be a vital component of companies that end up in the Winner’s Circle.



Copyright © Joe Zente 2020. All Rights Reserved.