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The Apollo Program, Accomplishing the Impossible and The Real Commitment

The Apollo Program, Accomplishing the Impossible and The Real Commitment

I just released a new ebook entitled Accomplishing the Impossible: Lessons from the Apollo Space Program. For this book, I did a considerable amount of research on the Apollo space program—the incredible program that put man on the moon. In addition to the famous Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, the Apollo program was responsible for 5 more moon landings before it was concluded in 1972.

The Apollo program had its real beginnings in President John F. Kennedy’s address to Congress on May 25, 1961, in which he famously said:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

At the time of Kennedy’s statement, that last phrase was especially true: “…none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” We had not even made it into outer space yet—that wouldn’t happen, for the US, until the following February, when John Glenn piloted the first American manned space flight. To build a ship that would support three astronauts as opposed to one, and carry them all the way to the moon and back, was nearly inconceivable. A number of the technologies eventually utilized in the Apollo program didn’t even exist at the time. It would certainly be “accomplishing the impossible.”

The Vision…and the Hard Work

What’s the major problem with a project the size of the Apollo program? It doesn’t come ready made out of a box. There’s not even any books on building one. Nobody knows what it’s supposed to look like. To start with, then, a vision is required.

But it takes a great deal more than just a vision. All kinds of people have visions—I call them dreamers. I meet them in life and they say, for example, “Oh, yes, I want to go to America just like you did!” I ask, “Why haven’t you done it?” They usually can’t answer me.

Most people want to avoid the hard work behind bringing a vision to real life. Most don’t even want to go into the heavy details. But success only comes about through those details. Can you imagine if one detail had not worked in the Apollo program perfectly? They might not have made it back from the moon.

In addition to the mentality of someone who has a vision and is willing to pursue it, that person’s employees must also be of a mentality to stick with it, and have the willingness to hang in there for years or tens of years. They need to constantly keep in mind an end product that may not be visible within what they can conceive as a timeframe, and still be committed to performing a great job.

The Cathedral

A great analogy here is the cathedral. The great cathedrals of Europe which today stand as astounding monuments to artistry and architecture took centuries to build. Construction on London’s Westminster Abbey began in 1245, and continued into the 1800s. Construction on the famous cathedral in Milan, Italy began in 1386 and was finally completed in 1965, over 500 years later. The Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, was designed by Antoni Gaudi; construction began in 1882 and has yet to be completed.

The people that began building either of these cathedrals knew they wouldn’t live to see its completion—yet were still very committed to it.

Such a thing would almost surely never happen today. Oh sure, people today still have and desire big visions, but when it comes right down to it, everything today has to be quick, fast and easy or it almost never happens.

This phenomenon is actually ruining the future for all of us. We are right now hopping from one little app, which everyone wants to fully scale in a year, to another. If you don’t scale unbelievably fast, you’re not the instant superstar that everyone is looking for. But there is an enormous amount of difference, for example, in building a Google app—and building Google.

The Overall Plan

Going back to the Apollo program, the foundation for something so grand is its overall plan. Of course that plan is not something that will be immediately put into action. For Apollo, such a plan contained many details, such as the escape velocity from the moon, the moon’s surface composition, the gravity differentials between Earth and the moon, and many others.

Such a plan must be composed before any of the details progress. For example, you can’t have someone writing code for a computer that isn’t even built yet—you have to create the architecture for those that will write the code.

Pipeliner CRM

On a smaller scale, we can take a look at what we have done for Pipeliner CRM. We have an overall plan or strategy, which is to be business-critical. The strategy is based on sound business principles, so nothing about it can be instantly replaced, as is the case with an app.

We developed a tool with which to do this, Pipeliner CRM. This is not simply an application, it is part of the foundation for our platform.

We have written about 90 ebooks designed to help businesses in many areas, and posted countless helpful blogs by ourselves and others. We are also putting into place an online sales academy called the Knowledge Factory which will be launched soon.

All of these things are parts of the overall strategy.


In addition to those willing to step up and make a dream come true, in the overall society we’re also losing investors who would commit to the long-term. Such investors were certainly involved back in the beginning of one of the cathedrals we discussed above—people who knew they would not even live to see the end result. But today many investors don’t even want to commit for a few years.

At Pipeliner, we have been very fortunate. As the founder and CEO I am committed for the long term, our investors have committed for the long term, and my primary staff have certainly made that commitment—some have already been with me for 10 years and longer.

Take Your Time and Do It Right

While we certainly don’t want to take centuries to build a business today, it does need to be done correctly and stably. Stable, steady growth over time, into a successful future, beats a near-vertical explosion and burn-out every time.

Like us, if you’re traveling such a path, you may see other companies around you, maybe even competitors, growing at 1,000 percent. You may wonder if you’re on the wrong team. Trust me, if you’re building a company with solid, long term fundamentals as its foundation, then you are not!

The critics might answer with, “Well, that’s easy to say. You’re just making that up so you won’t be under pressure to deliver now.” But the reality is that we are delivering now, through our product and through our publications. We’ve grown by 100% each year, for the last 4 years.

And we’ll still be here, growing exponentially, when most or all of the overnight sensations are long gone.

You should be, too.

Pipeliner CRM is designed to guide your sales team through the long term. Download it today.

Selling with Noble Purpose

Selling with Noble Purpose

It’s the key question every leader needs to ask:  Do you have a “Noble Purpose?”  Or do you just sell stuff? The answer is directly linked to your profitability.

The data is clear, organizations with a Noble Purpose (that focus on improving life for their customers) outperform organizations that are focused on hitting financial targets.

I created the concept of Noble Purpose five years ago after my research with sales teams revealed that salespeople who sold with Noble Purpose – who truly wanted to make a difference to customers – consistently outsold the salespeople who were focused on sales goals and money.

The words Noble and Selling are rarely seen together.  Most people believe that money is the primary motivator for top salespeople and that doing good by the world runs a distant second. That belief is wrong.

The Noble Purpose concept is catching on.  The Wall Street Journal chronicled Merrill Lynch leader John Theil’s annual address to his more than 13,700 financial advisers and his mission to find Merrill’s “Noble Purpose.”  And he’s not the only one.  When I shared the stage with HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes at a recent Town Hall, he told his entire organization,  “Our business is about helping our customers transform their message into meaningful relationships with their customers.”

Our other Noble Purpose clients include forward-thinking organizations like G Adventures, Flight Centre, Aperian Global, and Genentech.

If you have a Noble Purpose, the odds are on your side. If you’re just selling stuff, you’re going to be in for a very tough time.

What Smart Sales Leaders Do 

What Smart Sales Leaders Do 

Understand that the way to repeat business and continuous referrals is to serve customers in an exemplary fashion and not flog products and services at them. They don’t differentiate between sales and service; serving begets sales. They realize that in the long run, the customer relationship is the primary value sales creates for the organization.

Serve their employees in the same way they expect customers to be treated. If salespeople on the inside aren’t served well by their leader, it’s unlikely they will treat customers well.

Have a sales strategy that mirrors perfectly the strategic game plan of the overall organization; they use it as THE context for designing their priorities and how sales are compensated. Chasing sales tactics that don’t have direct line of sight to strategy results in sales dysfunction.

As a top priority, create a sales proposition that separates their team from “the sales herd”. They understand that the answer to the question “Why should I buy from you and not your competition,” is THE key element of their success. If their team looks like all other teams, customers have no motivation to choose them.

Don’t over-analyze everything. The degree of study depends on the risk associated with the decision to be made. They select a course of action that is “just about right” and get on with it.

Don’t look for perfection. The quest for perfection is a roadblock to execution. They understand that success is a function of doing lots of imperfect stuff fast.

Are known champions of change within their organization which gives them personal currency and the ability to garner resources to support their sales efforts.

Encourage salespeople to lose a sale if it means keeping the relationship with the customer. They do whatever it takes to drive home the message that deepening the customer relationship is the critical sales priority.

Spend copious amounts of time with their salespeople in the field. Learning what’s really going on. Determining barriers to performance. Make meaningful change. They don’t have an ivory tower mentality.

Are contrarian by nature? They believe that the source of opportunity lies not in copying what others are doing, but rather charting a course that no one else is on. They are “180 degree thinkers”. Benchmarking sales best practices is not on their radar.

Accompany salespeople to meet with customers regularly. They rely on obtaining customer feedback on organizational performance and input on sales performance from seeing them in action.

They are relentless and voracious learners. Standing still intellectually isn’t an option in a world changing every instant. Value added to the organization depends on sales leaders “keeping up.” They believe staying ahead requires learning leadership.

The smart generation of sales leaders know that success doesn’t come from an academic pedigree.

Smart sales leaders know that brilliant performance is the result of practicing the fundamentals of being different, staying close to customers, serving employees and executing strategy in the trenches.

Are you a smart sales leader?

Learning from Failure: Make Sure You Can Push Through

Learning from Failure: Make Sure You Can Push Through

For some, failure can mean the end of the road on some activity, venture or goal. But that is only true if you give up and just stop. For me—and for many others like me—failure in some area can act as a valuable learning experience that further enables success. This new series of blogs illustrates, with my own experience and observation, how learning from failure is possible.

The Video Bungle

In 2013 I was advised to create a series of cartoon videos that acted as advertisements for my company’s product, Pipeliner CRM. It seemed like a fantastic idea: we would create these highly entertaining cartoon videos as a series of episodes—1, 2, 3 and 4—post them on YouTube, send out some emails promoting them, then sit back and watch them go viral. Interest in our product would soar and we’d watch the leads flood in the door.

The first episode looked as if it might do it, as it topped 1,000 views and eventually made it to over 2,100. But that’s where it stopped—it certainly didn’t make it to the hundreds of thousands or millions that everyone, including me, thought it would.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th episodes didn’t even do as well as the 1st. The 2nd made it to just over 1,000 views, and the 3rd and the 4th didn’t even make it to 1,000.

Needless to say this was a very expensive disappointment. What happened?

Lack of Brand

First of all, Pipeliner CRM, especially at that time, was far from an established brand. Virtually no one knew who we were. If we had been a known name, viewers might have shared the videos just based on that fact. But the videos themselves weren’t powerful enough to overcome a name no one knew.

Lack of Campaign

The only way to make up for that lack of brand would have been to buy the needed exposure for these videos: that is, pay to get them placed into as many high-profile channels as possible. That’s actually what was needed. That campaign would have been the way to actually put those expensive videos to work for us, and might have resulted in leads and sales that to some degree paid us back.

But we had spent all of our available funds—and then some—just to produce the videos. We had also dedicated numerous staff plus a production company to get them made. Then we had hung all of our hopes on the gamble that people would love the videos enough to share them and cause them to go viral. As with many long-odds gambles, it didn’t pay off.

The considerable cost would have been far better spent on lead methods that we knew worked for us, to obtain more leads.

Lesson Learned

What lesson did we learn from this, that we could pass onto you?

If I had it to do again, I would research and calculate the cost of promoting the videos, and ensure I had to the money to fully utilize them. The cost of getting items like this properly promoted is almost 4 times the production cost—which is what we would have needed to have in place to utilize them correctly. In other words, I’d make sure I had to money to actually get the job done.

So the lesson for everyone is: make sure you take all costs into account. Make sure that, in the end, you can push all the way through.

Better Videos

The one thing we weren’t wrong about in making the original videos was the importance of this medium to marketing in this industry today. Despite the failure of our initial videos, we did not cast aside our dedication to this medium. Today we have more product-oriented videos than anyone else in our industry.

Of course the other lesson we learned from this failure was to make highly impactful videos at lower cost. We have now done this—our videos are now much more communicative and are far more effective in explaining our product and its benefits. You can see one of our latest videos here.

What have you learned from your failures? I’d love to hear about it! Contact me at

Pipeliner CRM is the sales tool that grows along with your company, and is with you every step of the way. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Building the Emotional Formula for Sales Success

Building the Emotional Formula for Sales Success

Every player does not give 110% every day, it’s the coach’s job to increase their intensity and the effort they give

This quote came from Butch Jones, head coach at the University of TN.

Are you an emotional sales manager or a Sales Leader that creates the right emotion on your team?

This is part of what I call the emotional job of sales leadership, it is one thing to analyze data and create sales programs and systems, and it’s another to create the right culture. Last week my keynote at a sales conference was titled: Building a Culture of High Performance, during the program I discussed this side of sales leadership and the need for both personal and professional actions one can take to raise the bar of excellence.

In a turnaround situation this emotional aspect of sales leadership is critical, if you are building a new team it is a necessity. What does the emotional Sales Leader need to do?

  1. Stay focused on energy-yours and your team’s.
  2. Pay attention to their plans, their daily/weekly execution and their intensity.
  3. Be on top of everything…. Pay attention to the details to ensure EVERYTHING works.
  4. If you expect them to work at 100%, your focus, your energy must be 120%.
  5. Always be more aware than the team… of all aspect of the sales/marketing focus.
  6. As a leader in any organization recognize that your focus/intensity/enthusiasm must be above the ones your lead.

Your team wants to feel the energy and belief, as a Sales Leader work on this emotional transfer.  Being a leader and having vision and communicating emotional is a Critical Success Factor in Sales Leadership. In my book on Leading High Performance Sales Teams I cover the tactical steps build this belief.

Notice, in this blog I used the word Sales Leadership not Sales Management, there are two different aspects to building a high performance sales team, leadership and management- you must know the difference and you must be both!

When I spoke with Josh Dobbs, Quarterback of the Univ. of TN this summer (at the airport) his biggest comment was that Butch was a motivator, not a coach, not a buddy, but a motivator.

What are you doing to increase the intensity of your team?

Utilizing Individual Strengths: Is This How to Improve Sales?

Utilizing Individual Strengths: Is This How to Improve Sales?

As leaders, we’re constantly looking for how to improve sales. Our natural tendency is to find things that are not working and make them better. Specifically related to salespeople, our focus could be drawn to weaknesses, like prospecting or closing. This can lead us to send our teams to training that address these areas. Here’s something to ponder. Is that training helping the hunter salesperson to become stronger or fixing the weakness in a nurturing salesperson? I’d submit that the hunter’s find greater and longer lasting improvement through the training than the nurturing salesperson. What is that telling us?

Dr. Fredmund Malik, thought leader, author and professor claims in his book Effective Management for a New Era, “What Counts is Utilizing Existing Strengths. The emphasis here is on ‘existing’ strengths, not on those that must first be developed, and the essential element is ‘utilizing strengths’ and not ‘eliminating weaknesses’.”

I’m a believer in focusing on an individual’s strengths as a way how to improve sales because I implement this focus with all the teams I lead. I work as sales manager with up to seven sales teams at a time. One of my teams has a wide variety of strengths, and I’d like to share with you how utilizing these strengths has helped them produce new revenue highs.

In 2011, I took over a team that had one traditional hunter, two nurturers nearing retirement, a relationship-first rep and a new rep that works best with clear process. In addition, there were two family members selling whose strengths were not in sales and have now found their place in the company that best serves them and the business. The years before I joined the team, the leadership focus was on changing nurturers into hunters and openers into closers. The three-year effort led to little change. The hunter salesperson was selling more but not one else was making much improvement.

Prior to 2011 the team had never attained the annual goal set for them. They had never sold over $600,000 in new business revenue. Here is how they have done since 2011 with a focus on strengths.

In addition to hitting new revenue highs, the team also set new milestones for:

  • Average new business revenue per sales person
  • The number of salespeople selling over the 100,000K mark (4)
  • The number of reps who attained their goal (8 out of 9)

Their company has a 90% retention rate in revenue so the overall annual revenue of this small company has grown by over $2,800,000 over the past five years. They are growing very well at this time.

As you can see, the change did not arrive overnight but growth has been steady. Of course, there were other factors that contributed to this success, but focusing on strengths rather than fixing weaknesses was key. As a leader, you do need to decide to be consistent with this strong focus and make it part of your culture. In order to make the effort to utilize strengths be most effective, I needed to implement the following culture and practices.

  • Develop and support a team selling culture. When you develop a team selling culture, people can compliment each others’ strengths without fear of losing a deal because someone else will reciprocate later. This is not common in most sales teams and is why it must be encouraged and supported by leadership through patience, compensation and the facilitation of learning each others’ strengths.
  • Believe in my team and individuals. If you have the right people on your team, your belief in them and their strengths have more power than you might realize.
  • Develop a humble attitude. Focus on being the best team for customers. The job of the sales team is to bring in business and when they do, they’re doing their job. It’s not to be the hero of the company. Just as the job of accounting is to account for money and customer service is to attend to customers needs, the sales team has the role of bringing in sales. A humble attitude helps the team selling approach.
  • Create an empowering and accountable culture which places the responsibility of results squarely on the salespersons’ shoulders. When the responsibility is with the sales person, it’s no longer the managers’ job to “fix” weaknesses. The salespersons will decide to either fix them or not. The manager will support a desire to fix weakness and to leverage strengths but the focus is first on leveraging strengths.
  • Team members with complementary strengths. It’s hard to be whole if there is a strength missing. Rather than looking to duplicate your best producer find someone that can help make everyone better through their individual strength.
  • Recognize each person’s strengths and encourage the team to become stronger through teamwork.

Below is a list of the individual salesperson strengths on this team. As you read through the list, see if you can identify any strengths that exist on your team.

Hunter – knows how to identify markets that have problems we can solve and approaches them in a way to get their ear quickly.
Association network expert – they understand how to build credibility through association involvement and are consistent and patient enough to allow this credibility lead to sales.
Transparency – the person is willing to pass up on deals due to a bad fit and graciously communicate this to the prospect and on the way out pick up a referral for their integrity.
Educator – He knows products better than anyone else and how they might help solve a prospect’s problem. He does a great job at explaining this to his prospects in a way they can easily understand.
Service delivery – How a customer is taking care of is more important than them buying to this rep. They will work a little extra to make sure a customer’s happy and it can look like they are not using their time wisely until the referrals come in and the closing is easy.
Relational – Asking for things is not their strength but building relationships are. They understand that a solid business relationship that demonstrates you care leads to more business.
Processes – This person will always call for the process when we introduce new products or approaches.

Rather than trying to make people become all of these traits as a way to improve sales, focus on all becoming better communicators within their strengths. Encourage team selling in prospecting, networking, discovery or closing based on what will help a buyer make a good decision. Teach the team it is better to utilize strengths in themselves or others before allowing an individual weakness to get in the way of a buyer making a favorable decision.

If you have any questions about how to make this work with your team, feel free to leave a comment, send me a message or give me a call.

Turning No into a Yes — Engaging New Business

Turning No into a Yes — Engaging New Business

There is nothing worse than getting a sales call from someone who hasn’t done their homework and is stumbling over themselves to quickly figure out a.) who you are and b.) how they can build a connection in 15 seconds. No one wants to be on either side of these awkward calls.

Regardless of how much talk there is about “cold calling being dead,” the telephone remains the fastest method to build a connection with a prospective client and determine if there is a possibility for a real sales conversation. The reality of calling on strangers means you’ll have 30 seconds to create intrigue when generating new business. The goal in that short window is to share why you matter in way that compels your prospect to want to learn more.

Here are three easy steps to engage your prospective clients so they will regularly open their door:

#1: Do Your Homework

Doing your homework will expose common ground which will make connecting with your prospective client easier. Those initial 15 seconds will extend to a few minutes if you can demonstrate that you are knowledgeable, have an alluring story to tell and have a genuine interest in improving their business.

Today’s information age gives us all the opportunity to become experts in any vertical we choose. Therefore it is our job as sales people to be experts in our target market. Setting up google alerts for industry keywords will keep you knowledgeable on the latest trends and news that affects your ideal prospects and their competitors. Other ways to stay informed include: signing up for industry newsletters and following thought leaders on social media. Honestly there is more information available online, than there is time to digest it all. Selecting the most concise market news sources from a couple of key perspectives will help streamline your news feed to a level you can consistently manage.

In addition to the big picture, it is essential to drill down to understand:

  1. your target company’s internal news
  2. top 2-4 buyer personas profiles

It is at this level where you will discover your buyer’s motivations to tie back to how you can help them.

It’s worthwhile to set up additional alerts for your top 20+ target companies. Depending on how big your focus lists is, you may be able to follow more. These company alerts will provide news to weave into your conversations such as product launches, hiring announcements or expansion plans.

In studying your targeted buyer, you will discover their main objectives and challenges. With this information, you can align each persona’s objectives with examples of how your company has resolved similar situations for prior clients with proof points. These proof points can be made up of case studies, testimonials or other data demonstrating your company’s value. In studying each persona you will gain an understanding of their triggers and be able to position how your solution can benefit them specifically.

For example, a Head of Ecommerce focuses on driving digital sales thru an online-store. Whereas a CMO has a larger scope, driving overall awareness and sales for a brand where online conversions are only one component of their total responsibility. Given the shared objectives between both buyers, the positioning will be similar, (i.e. expanding international reach with 1 billion new potential customers.) The proof points will vary according to each persona’s specific objectives (i.e. online conversions rates for a Head of Ecommerce vs. new customer conversions for a CMO.)

#2: Create Intrigue

Creating intrigue is easier than it may seem. Intrigue is defined as: to arouse the curiosity or interest of by unusual, new, or otherwise fascinating or compelling qualities; appeal strongly to; captivate. How do you captivate prospects? By communicating how you help companies, leaving out enough details to peak curiosity and including an impressive proof point.

Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) will differentiate why are your company is uniquely qualified to provide its service right now. Most companies have a rough idea of what sets them apart from their competition. However it is usually it’s based from own perspective or on their technology’s features. In order to resonate with potential clients, the USP needs to be from the client’s perspective- reflecting the benefits of your technology’s features.

The simplest way to gain insight into your client’s perspective is to create a chart listing all of your technology’s features in one column, and the benefits of each of those features in a column to the right. There will be one benefit that resonates above the rest- and it’s your Unique Selling Proposition. You can verify that this USP answers a primary objective across all buyer personas.

Once you have landed on an engaging USP, the next step is to add credibility using proof points. Some proof point examples include:

  1. Listing 3-4 prior Fortune 100 clients– “Some of our clients include: Amazon, Google and Microsoft.”
  2. Specific results your service/product produced last year– “We generated $2B in revenue for our partners last year.”
  3. Average ROI delivered over time– “We triple revenue for our clients in 90 days.”
  4. Results from clinical studies– “We’ve participated in more clinical studies this year than any of our competitors.”

Select proof points that show exactly what will be gained by opening the door. It makes sense to experiment with as many data points as possible in phone conversations and email to see which points consistently inspire curiosity in your prospective clients.

#3: Dance in the Conversation

After you prepared and practiced how the conversation “should” go, there will often be an unexpected curve. Some significant circumstance that you couldn’t have researched, that will require an impromptu tweak of your story to keep the door open. This is where “dancing in the conversation” will keep your prospect engaged. Think of an “old school partner dance” which requires being fully present, listening and observing your partner’s subtle movements, ready to follow their lead.

More seasoned sales people have generally developed their active listening skills to be able to navigate any unexpected curves in new business conversations. However most prospectors have little prior work experience. A common pitfall for inexperienced reps can be an over dependence on scripts. This over reliance on scripts means an inability to deviate from how the conversation “should” go. New prospectors can often miss subtle clues where they could have dug a bit deeper to uncover key details that can shape new relationships. It’s in these moments that having authentic curiosity about your prospect’s business will make following a lead less intimidating.

Dancing in the conversation takes practice. The best way to help your prospectors develop their dance skills is weekly role play sessions. Ask senior teams members to role play as a persona from the reps’ target account list. Make role plays as realistic as possible by having prospectors weave their homework into their practice sessions. The more you can challenge your prospectors with realistic scenarios, the more natural and confident they can be in live calls. The key is building your reps confidence so they can remain present and curious while they dance in conversations into new unscripted territory.

Prospecting for new business is arguably the toughest part of creating an effective sales process. Creating predictability in this process is a must-have if your company is going to scale. There are multiple variables to develop in order to consistently engage targeted prospects. As long as you continue doing your homework, creating intrigue and dancing in the conversation, you will be able to regularly engage prospects, turning their “no’s” into a “yes.”

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