Data is Nice but it Don’t Make Ya Cry


I recently read an article and buried within, was a short research snippet on the power of stories vs. data.  It was pretty cool.   Got me thinking about how to influence your clients.

The research was a social experiment where students were given $5 to use any way they wanted.  Half the group was then shown a straightforward commercial about a children’s charity devoted to removing hunger; you know – the typical fare about how many children are helped with just so much a day, how your money can sustain so many children or a family – good stuff.

The other half was shown different kind of commercial for the same charity.  It was a little story about a single child and his suffering journey through life.  He of course had a name and it was repeated often in the commercial.  He eventually found happiness and health through the charity.

The students in the first group gave an average of $1.43 of their $5 to the charity and the students in the second group some of which were teary eyed, gave an average of $2.38 (a 66% increase over the first group).

Both commercials were short presumably – maybe 30 seconds maybe a minute long- not sure.  But I do know you have to ask yourself when you are trying to help a client solve some of their business problems with your solution – are you going to rely on the facts and data to make it happen or are you going to tell a short conversational story that inspires?

Don’t give me all that drivel about how consumers are not businesses.  People are people and there’s enough research to prove that business people make decisions as much on emotion as anything else.  That means that stories that elicit joy, optimism, happiness, relief, fear and even tears can influence business people.  Data is nice but it don’t make ya cry.

Tell a short story if you want to influence and motivate.    Here are 3 tips you might not have thought of on making that happen.

Steal The Stories:  Nobody believes you when all of your stories are first-hand experience. You once had a customer find that….and you once had this other customer that did this….. and that years ago you also had this other customer…” Truth is most people that use that approach all the time are making some of it up and it feels disingenuous.    What is more believable and often more truthful is “I have a colleague James in the Dallas office who had a client  who….”  Steal the stories from your colleagues and your company. There are many if you look for them!   If you are a leader—go find the stories and share them so your people can tell them.

Make Them HumanSure in the B2B world your stories are probably about similar businesses who found your product awesome but steal from the charity experiment and make it human.  “So AMC company was freaking out about the competition and Gary over there was working weekends and nights trying to stave off and protect his client base….”   You get the idea—people feel more connected and motivated with emotion, not facts.  Also testimonials are not stories.  Stories are told – not read.

Use Stories All Over the Sales Process:  Mini-stories that support a prospect learning more, a prospect working through the RFP process, a prospect working through risk assessment, price negotiations and /or lack of budget etc. etc. are as important as any story shared to close the deal.  Find those stories through the whole selling process because done well, those stories can influence the client to keep moving to the next step.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



Perfect Done Perfectly


In just 60 seconds, Teri G. taught me something new about giving great technical support to a small business owner by using just one simple word.   Days earlier and 600 miles from where Teri G works, Brent D. taught me something new and powerful by using the same word but in a different way.

I love to sit side by side with contact center agents any chance I get be it in sales or service.   I enjoy hearing customers live on the floor and seeing agents artfully assist them.   I enjoy the complex dance of the interests of client and agent.   There’s so much communication psychology and emotions in play often enlightening because they are compressed into interactions that last mere minutes.  Hence I enjoy most, stealing shamelessly from what works and what doesn’t.

The word Teri and Brent used is Perfect and let me tell you, Perfect works.

Teri’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls Tech Support.  He has a product problem impacting internal communications.   This guy isn’t super comfortable with what he needs to do and has probably just a few minutes to try and fix this thing because all I can hear are door chimes and phones ringing like crazy in his shop.  Teri knows this and she knows what to do.

Teri starts with a simple instruction.  And then another.  And then another.  And then another. And then it occurs to me why the guy is so calm and almost chuckling along admitting his ignorance but hanging on her every word; She keeps saying “perfect” after each instruction is successfully done by the owner!    From the start he wasn’t sure if he was going to do this right – but he sure does now because Teri tells him he’s doing great every step of the way.  And in fact she used “You’re doing great!” and “Nice job” mixed in a bit with all those perfects.

Too often tech support agents articulate the steps to solve the problem in rote fashion because of course they do it all day.  Too often tech support agents forget a reassurance to that customer that they are doing well along the way will ease that customer tension perfectly when they need it most.

Brent’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls.  He just needs to place a reorder for a product he’s been using for years.   But Brent needs to do verify and validate information to ensure high quality as well as do some short discovery as any helpful sales agent would.   But sometimes busy owners have little patience for all that.   Brent knows this and says, “I want to make this order is perfect for you today so I’m going to ask a couple of questions and verify a few things.”

Who doesn’t want what they are calling for to not be perfect? Who wouldn’t answer a couple of questions and verify a few things to make sure what they get is perfect?  Too often agents don’t justify their questions to customers.  Too often agent questions aren’t positioned in such a way that they have the client’s interests in mind.   Brent’s use of “to make sure this order is perfect” was simple and cleared the way for mutually beneficial discovery to happen.  It was perfect.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.


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.



Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

I am Joe’s Incentive Plan



How ya doin?

I am Joe’s Incentive Plan and I’m not very happy, so listen up.  I got something to say.

Don’t worry, Joe can’t hear us – he’s not thinking about me right now, which is an amazing and rare thing.  He’s in the system now trying to figure out how to add another contact with a different address cuz’ he needs to send the quote to yet another guy in the decision making process….

You probably don’t know this but….

Joe swears at me sometimes.  Like bad.  He does.   And that hurts.  We’re supposed to be close.

Usually it happens at the end of the week or the month when we’re walking down the hall together;   I’m computing away figuring out his paycheck in our head and all of a sudden he’s calling me this and that and how much I stink and how stupid I am and how I like other people more than him and that it’s not fair.  Except he really lets it fly with words I’ve never seen – even though I’m 13 pages long if you include the sign off page.

And then I get ticked off.  I gotta live with this guy and he freakin’ hates me.   I know some things though.  I really do.    And you guys got it wrong.

I’m too smart.  I’m too complex.  I’m too long.   And I knew it when you built me two years ago as you passed me around in all those Reply All’s picking me apart with everyone adding their drivel.   I knew it too when you made me sit for 40 days on that HR SharePoint site where I had nothing to do but look at my pathetic, drug out, butchered self until you’ll finished your Turkey dinners or something.

Then I sat in like 5 more meetings getting longer and longer and with as many asterisks as Barry Bonds will have (what you don’t think I read? His incentive plan is legend).

Let me just say what I know is in my DNA about the best Incentive Plans, before Joe gives up on the CRM and (I’ve seen him do this) jumps in the car and delivers the proposal himself;

Rule 1: A New Incentive Plans’ complexity should be of inverse proportion to the degree of change or results needed.  That’s a fancy way of saying that the bigger the degree of behavior/results changes you need Joe and his group to make – the simpler I must be.

Rule 2: Quit putting specific products/ qualifiers all over me.   Your products and focus aren’t going to stay the same.  Joe isn’t going to be asked to sell the same thing every month or in some cases even the same day.  Get Real!  Give me letter designations like  A, B, C, D.  That gives you and Joe the flexibility to change focus in the business on a dime.

Rule 3: I don’t want to be computing all the way down the darn hallway.  Make it as much as you can, something that  when Joe is done for the day or the week, he’s knows what $$ we made and doesn’t need a degree in calculus and blackmail photos to  use against the Reporting and Analytics guy to get him to run numbers .  Stock broker guys don’t have to do it, nor do the waiters or the brain surgeons.

I gotta go, Joe figured it out in the system.  Now he’s thinking about me again.  Do me a favor; help us enjoy our walks down the hallway.  I don’t want to fight anymore.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

The Most Important Question Never Asked


Do you help small businesses in any way, shape or form?

If you do, my guess is you aren’t as helpful as you think you are – especially when that small business reaches out to you for help.

Let’s back up.   I’ve witnessed in the field (trade shows especially) and on the phones, thousands of interactions between small business owners and providers of everything from office vending services to website creation to customized printing over the years.  Nary do I hear the right kind of question asked when that glorious opportunity arises.

Usually I see or hear a face palming like fail (though few realize it till it is pointed out to them).

When that small business person inquires about a product: the sales/ service/ company rep will often say something like:

“That’s great, it’s a very popular widget as you know, is there a specific model you’ve been thinking about already?”  or  “Sure, let me fill you in – most clients choose from 1 of 3 types,  each with its set of services….”  Or  “OK – it’s time for a new vendor you’ve said – you are looking around and you are probably wondering what sets us apart…”

Ugh.  Even worse is that the above examples are trained still today as good things to say in some organizations.

Here’s how to stop doing that.  And actually help your small businesses better 🙂

When a small business owner calls you, emails you or stops by looking for some help, information or assistance, you must first ask:

“What’s happening in your business that is driving your interest in ________?”

There are variations of the above but here is the point:. Whether you represent payroll services, website development, custom printing, insurance products, widgets or trinkets;

Knowing the businesses’ motivations helps you match your product or service exactly to those motivations (improving immediate sales success) and can help you articulate any expanded portfolio ( now or in the future) of your products/services that truly help that small business. 

Here’s an example done right;

  • Prospect: – “I’m curious. I know you build widgets and I’m looking for some pricing and info..“
  • You: “Sure – let me ask you first, what’s happening in your business right now that is driving your interest in the widget?”
  • Prospect: “. Well we’ve added a whole new group of products nobody knows about yet and I’m breaking into 2 more states is the plan – so I’ve got to look a little more professional I think too…”
  • You: “Perfect.  Let’s take a look at some widgets that get your name out faster and wider and there’s a couple of widgets that give a customized look too..”

It sounds obvious.  It’s not.

It’s not about what product or service the prospect is interested in; it’s about what is driving that interest that matters.  The motivation, the challenges, the dreams and the drivers are what you must discover, remember and leverage in the selling process.

Challenge yourself, your business or your team to do better with these opportunities.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

The Most Interesting Sales Rep In The World


The Most Interesting Sales Rep in The World

His commissions are greater than the GNP of Denmark and Finland combined.

His typical sales contest is winning first, second and 3rd prize.

He’s made The President’s Circle so often he may just run in 2016.

His Sales Manager cries softly just looking at him.

He has his own instance of Salesforce .com

He throws live objections into his sales pitches just for fun.

His business card simply says “You’re Welcome”

He is, the most interesting Sales Rep in the world.


Let’s put aside the hyperbole and fun for a moment and think about what this sales person really looks like because you know he or she must exist somewhere!.  My guess is the following is true about the best sales person in the world.

She gets cold calls from prospects asking her what they need to worry about in their industry and if there’s any way she can help them.  And why shouldn’t she? She’s known for not solving problems buyers already know about but rather the one’s they don’t.

She hasn’t prospected since Thanksgiving; her customers flood her email with friends they want her to call on.  And why would she? If you are truly the best, your raving fans do so much of the prospecting for you.

She often tells clients to hold off signing an agreement because she wants to see the right infrastructure in place first to ensure the product will deliver.  And why shouldn’t she? She knows in today’s competitive global marketplace that selling often really begins after the sale.

She’s got a killer professional social media presence that is seen as a credible resource for evolving solutions and industry trends and dynamics.  Of course she does.  She gets that buyers are researching well ahead and she’ll not wait for the phone to ring or the email or lead come in.  She’s there right from the beginning.

I may not always post a blog inspired by a beer commercial but when I do, it makes you think, no?  Stay thirsty my friends.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter