My Great Pumpkin Lesson


I carved a pumpkin for the first time in my life Sunday.  Truly, I never had before.

My young son was feeling sad that he had not yet carved a pumpkin this year with Halloween being right around the corner and all.   He’d carved pumpkins with his mother before, but he wanted to carve one with me.

I was a little nervous about it.  I know that sounds silly.  My son said, “Daddy, it’s easy, you can do it.”

It is something many or perhaps most other people have done.  I never have.  No real reason I guess;  I grew up in the city and maybe that has played a part but I’m also not an artist and it sure looks like it would take one to make a pumpkin look any good.

“I’ll draw the face on the pumpkin for you, Daddy.”  He said.

I worried about the knives but he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take the little one and you can use the big one.”

I honestly (and please don’t laugh too loud) never thought to think what was in a pumpkin and how making it hollow or carving it out must be something that is hard to do.  “It’s full of squishy seeds and stuff and we need a bowl to put it in…” he said.  He was right; it wasn’t as solid I thought it would be.

We cut and scooped out the pumpkin.  “You do this section Daddy, you are stronger, scrape it all out.”

And then… Oh…what a face he drew!

I carved and sculpted and shaped the face.  “Careful not to push on the holes while you carve the other holes” he said.  Great advice.

I had so much fun.  I loved it.  It looks really cool and very scary.   “You did a great job Daddy.” He said.   I was all smiles.

Something about carving this pumpkin meant more to me than I expected.

I thought what a great teacher my son is.  He eased my fears and took control when he needed to.  He helped me through all the tough parts and even praised me.  But in the end gave me something so much more wonderful that I did not readily see it.

He was, in the carving of this pumpkin, being the teacher to me that I want to be, for him.

Later that day on the long ride back to his mother’s house, he put his hand in mine and said “Thanks for carving my pumpkin with me Daddy.”

No son, thank you.

Till next time,

Grow the Business.


Post originally published October 2010


Change (the word) Opens The Door To Sales


Dear Reader, put on your existing customer hat (either as consumer or business owner) and pretend you are calling a customer service or sales rep at a current vendor/partner for a reorder or a question and then say out loud the first word that comes to mind after reading each bullet below.

  • “We have an exciting new product…”
  • “I want to make you aware about something new”
  • “Now you can upgrade to….”
  • “There are some additional choices now….”
  • “This is actually part of a bundle now….”
  • “There is a new a new feature to think about…”

OK I can hear you!

NO!   NO!   NO!   That is the word you are saying.    And if you’re not, you’re probably lying.

Worse than you saying “No” is the fact that you the existing customer,  are shutting down your ears and your brain to hearing anything more from the cross-selling or upselling rep you are engaged with.   And dear reader since you likely working for a business in the business of profits – you need to know this happens.

Imagine if you heard this instead; And say the first word that comes to mind out loud here as well.

  • “There have been a few changes since you last called.”
  • “There is a change to the ordering platform/process.”
  • “There are some changes to the product(s)..”
  • “We’ve made a few changes to this….”

I can’t hear much!   That’s right – your reaction isn’t overt.   Mostly it’s silence or an “uh huh”.or a soft “OK” but most important, it’s a reaction that says…. tell me more…

And that is so much better than the immediate mental (or often verbal) shut down we get.    Change gets a bad rap.  It’s something people usually don’t like, but it’s different now in the world we live in with all the version 8, 9’s and 10’s we see.   Using the word change in the selling process can be to your advantage; especially when introducing new products or upsells to existing clients.  Massage your message to leverage the word as means to share the positive possibilities with the new product(s) or upgrade.  The word change makes people stop.  Change piques interest and/or curiosity.  The word change even if it raises a tiny bit of tension – creates attention.   The word Change makes people listen even if it’s only for a few seconds.

Those few seconds of attentiveness are the key.  It opens that door.  What you say after you get the attention I suspect you are already very, very good at – now it won’t be wasted!

When something changes we’re wired to find out what the change is. We have to know. That’s not always true for when there’s something new, something added, something bundled or something you can upgrade.

There’s been a change to your sales process.  The change is to start to use the darn word!


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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Instructor-Led Training Won’t Die, Here’s Why


Instructor-Led Training is not exactly “in” these days.

  • One recent study states the top 6 things workers believe are essential for Learning have nothing to do with Instructor-led Training and range from “Sharing knowledge with my team”, to “Web research for resources” to “External news feeds and blogs”. Way down the list at # 7 was “Company Training / e-learning”.
  • The “70-20-10 Theory of Learning” is alive and well in the Training industry where the belief  (this too is based on surveys) is that real corporate learning comes from 70% on the job experience, 20% from social encounters ( learning from co-workers or boss) and 10% from formal corporate (mostly instructor led) training.

I think the workers in the first study believe what they say about essentials for learning.  I know there are legions of L&D professionals who believe in the 70-20-10 Theory.

All would be wrong however.

Here’s what we’re all forgetting:   Corporate Instructor – Led (live or virtual) Training is more often than not, at the beginning of an essential foundational learning period (like onboarding or new hire training) or when something completely new or transformational is occurring (new products, new systems) and as such, this type of training falls in the realm of Primacy Theory.

Captain Sully Sullenberger knows this.   When his plane went down in the Hudson 7 years ago he talked at a conference about Primacy and not just the retrieval and leveraging of his skills learned in his earliest training days while flying- but spoke of his veteran crew of flight attendants screaming “Brace, brace, heads down, stay down! Brace, brace, heads down, stay down.”   This was not, he explained, what they were recently and for the last 5 years been trained to say in an emergency like this.   Rather the crew shouted out what they learned 20 years ago when they first were trained in emergency procedures.  Primacy Learning sticks.

Primacy Learning is a learning period that both psychologically and neurologically creates almost life long, unshakable connections to content delivered in this period.   It does so because it is in this period where learners make their first mental maps around new transformative ideas and literally in parts of the brain, hard wires these.    Core concepts in this type of training stick hard thus giving Instructor-Led Training a big leg up on real value vs.  being reason number #7 in the worker survey and the “10%” in learning theory of 70-20-10.

It’s not there aren’t other effective and sometimes cooler ways to learn than instructor led training – there are.  It’s not that people don’t perceptually think they learn 90% more about the job from experience and talking with others- they may in fact believe that.   The reality however, is that the Instructor-Led Training, especially when delivered in the primacy stages of learning, is the stuff that lies below your iceberg; you may not think that’s how you learned what do to at work because you don’t see it or consciously remember the instructor led training every day, but it is foundation upon which much of the other things you learn sit upon.

Never underestimate the investment you should make in Instructor-Led Training.  It’s critical.   It needs to be glorious.  It needs to be inspirational and correct.   Instructor Led Corporate Training today shouldn’t look like it did 10 years ago (obviously brain science has taught us much) but it will never die and we’ll hardly do anything more important.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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7 Killer Training Tactics You’ve Never Even Thought Of


Asking more of your corporate learners than ever before?  Are they challenged with having to remember more, perform better and deliver faster than ever?

No problem.

I’ve been training at some level all my working life.  But more importantly, I have been stealing shamelessly from amazing learning professionals for the last 20 years, many of whom I get to work with every day.

Time to Train it forward.

  1. Hide the product and show it to nobody. Product training? Keep it hidden.  Wrap in a blanket, hide it until the 27th slide and never give it a name until you absolutely must.   Instead focus 70% of your product training on what this product does and not what it is.   What problems this product solves or what opportunities it creates is what you obsessively train about!
  2. Quit asking people to participate in training. Instead, call on specific people to participate.  No volunteers unless you’ve already called on at least two people to answer questions or offer insight.  The small tension of not knowing when you might be called on (and potentially embarrassing yourself) is enough to force learners to focus harder (especially in virtual training) and thus retain and retrieve knowledge better.
  3. Training should be harder than you think. Adding a little more stress to training (live, virtual or self-directed) and the more likely it sticks.  Are learners nervous about the training?  Anxious?  Worried about a tough test at the end?     Remember to disregard all the adult learning theory blather from the 80’s you think is the gold standard and latch onto all the recent credible research about the brain and how people truly learn. 
  4. Video Should Be Part of Every Training. I still believe the skill of a training facilitator is the most important factor in any successful facilitated training.    And that’s why video is a win-win.   Every training should have a video element.  When it’s short (less than 3 minutes please) it’s therefor retrievable and repeatable and of course it’s imagery on steroids.  When done well, video can tackle aspects of learning that leave the facilitator able to focus on the application of learning and not obsessed with the X’s and O’s.
  5. Skip the positive feedback in role plays: Make it clear in advance of any role play (live or virtual) that we are all going to focus on what you can do better, not what you did well – we know what you did well, that’s fairly easy to see – so focusing equally on the good or “sandwiching” or “starting with the positive” is drivel and a waste of time.  We’re here to learn and drive performance, make more money or get promoted – let’s get to it!
  6. Every training should have a Game(s) element however small. There are so few humans who don’t take a little joy, a little pride out of winning something – and that adds focus.  Example: The learner or team with the most chips for great answers gets to leave a half hour early and skip the Wrap- Up ( heck they won- they probably don’t need the wrap up) or perhaps the winners take only the 5 question quiz ( again—they paid attention more and probably don’t need the 20 question quiz).  Here’s a fantastic book by Karl Kapp
  7. Flashcards Flashcards Flashcards: One recent neuroscience study proved we did get it right back in the day when the use of flashcards in corporate learning improved retrieval of information at a clip twice as effective as just studying the material.  Flashcard use actually leaves memory traces in the brain more resistant to forgetting.    Here’s a simple flashcard maker site I’ve used.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Not Even A Dog’s Year Old


number six

Not Even A Dog’s Year Old

A small trip down memory lane today.  6 years ago on this day, this blog began.   I started it to help 10 sales folks I was working with at the time and it has become something different than that – but not really.   It is an effort to write something short, perhaps interesting but most importantly, something you can use that day to help you be better at what you do, and to grow the business.

Though not even a dog’s year old, there are more than 350 posts (and over 50 others in draft form so awful that you will never see them) and 180,000+ words blathered in blog form.  Thought it would be fun to share the most popular posts based on the stats as well as some of my favorite posts and a few more of my favorite posts today.

Have fun rereading or reading these today (I did).  And thanks as always for reading and sharing.

5 Most Popular (based on your views and shares)

“Piano Man” is a Bad Song

My 25 Secrets for Selling To Small Businesses

The 6 Rules of Marketing and Sales

Treat Your Boss Well


Some of My Favorites

I am Joe’s Lead

6 Questions Never To Ask a Customer

The Perfect I’m Sorry

Angela’s Assist

Platinum Questions Are Better

My Other Favorites (a bit closer to home- but lessons nonetheless)

My Great Pumpkin Lesson


The Luckiest Man in the World

A Wii Bit of Advice

4 Minutes with Little Miss Dangling Arms

Fixing a Throwback Problem

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


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Hear Them Play



I didn’t  expect to break down.  Heck, I didn’t expect anything.

Last Wednesday, I had just walked in the door after work with bag in tow and sunglasses too dark for the basement door I entered through, and saw my son standing next to the old stereo.

“I fixed it” he said.  And he gently put the needle down and a vinyl album began to play.

And I lost it.

I’m not a hugger.  I’m not a crier.   But I remember that stereo.  I remember that sound!  So I did both hug and cry; hanging on to my 17 year old confused and somewhat concerned son.  I held on for a good 2 minutes.  He’s way taller than me and it must have been quite a sight at 6 O’clock at night on a Wednesday in the basement.

That stereo has been sitting in my basement for over a year.  It is more than 50 years old and was my mom’s, who passed away three years ago.   And it was glorious.  I remember it being just about as tall as me though it is not more than 3 feet off the ground.  I remember the music it sang: the operas, the arias, even country and western music and Anne Murray at Christmas.  I remember it all.

But I didn’t quite remember it all like that till I heard it play standing there in that basement last week.     The sound, the crackle of the hi – fidelity speakers, the soft dance and hum of the needle on the record.  It all came back.   And it was too much.  But it was not sadness that made me cry.  It was happiness.  To hear that sound again, to look at that stereo in awe and wonder again like I did as a kid.  To remember in a flash how much time I spent with that stereo through grade school and high school.  It was a good thing to feel.  Wonderful, actually.

I got to thinking about the things we hold on to.  I got to thinking maybe just holding onto things isn’t enough.

I wonder if that old hand carved cribbage board from grandpa needs to be taken from the mantle and put front in center for Friday night game night.   I wonder if that 8 mm camera with the black and white family films needs to be carefully and gently opened and then played for all to see.  I wonder if the dusty photo albums that never get looked at unless someone dies needs to get hoisted out of the crawl space and spread out across the kitchen table offering a backdrop to some great storytelling.

I got to thinking about things we hold onto at work.  I got to thinking maybe just holding on to things there isn’t enough either.

I wonder about that book you’ve had since you were first promoted and that you keep carrying with you from space to space; perhaps that book needs to be pried open and read again as it must have some gems.  I wonder about that dear and trusted relationship with a mentor you always remember fondly, if that needs a rekindling with a phone call or a joyful visit.   I wonder if those memories of the greatest successes you’ve had, faded though they may be, may need your undisturbed and thoughtful review for they have most certainly left lessons worthy to play again.

I’m not sure my son completely understands what happened to his father last week.   I’m not sure I do either.  I know this now for sure;

It’s nice to hold on to things but it’s magnificent to hear them play.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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That Hero Formula





That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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