There’s an elephant in the Room and it’s you. Embrace it!

elephant sales3If you’re an enterprise sales person, you’ve probably noticed the elephant in the room. That’s right, it’s you!

When you meet a doctor, they introduce themselves as DOCTOR so-and-so. When you meet a lawyer, they often say “I’m an attorney.” When you meet an executive, they don’t try to hide it. But when you meet a sales person, you get an explanation.

Why do we sales people so often feel the need to make excuses for being in sales? It’s time we embrace our inner-sales elephant—and profit from it.

Why are you the elephant in the room?

An elephant in the room is something glaringly obvious. Something we all see. Something in the room that creates discomfort or mistrust and yet nobody will acknowledge it.

It’s not easy being in sales. We stand out. We make people uncomfortable. Prospects know that we’re there to sell to them, and by nature, that makes them question our authenticity and look for indications that reinforce their suspicions. As these perceptions go unacknowledged, you are left standing as the proverbial elephant in the room.

Elephant Selling

So why pretend otherwise? You’re a freaking elephant, standing in the room! Embrace it. Address it. Trumpet it! Why not let the obviousness of who you are become your power? Why not point it out right at the beginning, announcing, “I’m a GINORMOUS ELEPHANT!” Use blatant humor to deflate the discomfort. Disarm their mistrust right from the beginning.

Elephant selling is the art of mitigating the negative bias of what normally goes unsaid, by calling attention to it and bringing humor to an otherwise uncomfortable situation.

When I engage with an enterprise prospect, I quickly acknowledge myelephantness. I highlight the fact that I’m a sales person and that I’ve come to sell them something that will help their business. I acknowledge that the prospect is inherently cautious of me being a sales person and humorously accept that we sit on opposite sides of the table for a reason. We both know that I make a living as a sales person and that my motivation is to close a deal. I don’t dance around and pretend that I’m a consultant, an ally or a partner. I’m a sales person: we elephants don’t dance; we make sales!

Elephant Selling is honesty.

It’s amazing how effective blatant honesty can be in sales. When you acknowledge that you’re a sales person, that you’re there to sell, and that you’re there to make money, you rip the Band-Aid right off the unspoken dialogue. Nothing is wrong with exposing that, provided that you can deliver value in the near term. Tell your prospect that you plan to earn their business earnestly and honestly. And then do it. Outline exactly what you plan to do and how you plan to go about it before you begin. Demonstrate that you are fully prepared to earn their trust and business despite their preconceived notions about sales people.

Elephant Selling is transparency.

Don’t try to hide anything. You’re an elephant, you can’t hide. Come prepared. Don’t waste time. Ask questions that help you quickly understand if you have an opportunity. Explain why you’re asking those particular questions and what you hope to accomplish.

“I’d like to ask you some specific questions to gain context for the rest of the conversation. I will explain what I am hearing as we go along and connect my questions, your answers and our businesses.”

The prospect isn’t there to educate you on their business but will respect and answer your questions if you connect the dots along the way.

Elephant Selling demonstrates respect.

Continuously acknowledge your prospect’s time as a sign of respect. Prove to your prospect that you’re worth their time. TELL THEM that is your intention. Even though you secured the meeting, you still need to demonstrate respect for their busy schedule. “How are we doing on time?” Think of it as continuously earning the right to move through your pitch, even after you’ve landed the meeting. Keep earning their time.

Prospects are inherently suspicious of sales people. Don’t confirm their suspicion by providing an excuse for what you do. Your power can come from pointing out the obvious and disarming the resistance that comes from discomfort and mistrust. Put a spotlight on the presumptions. Laugh about it with your prospects throughout the process, over and over again. Endeavor to be different. Be human. Be honest. Be relevant. Be humble. Be the enchanting elephant that closes deals!

DEATH OF A SALESMAN: Email Is Not Your Friend


What happened to sales people? When did email become perceived as the only highly effective form of selling? What happened to the scrappy days of pounding phones, networking relationships and getting creative? Remember the VITO letter? Ever get one of those anymore?

You’re sorely mistaken if you believe that flooding an executive’s inbox with rote solicitations will escape the DELETE key. If you want to be noticed, it’s time you go old-school and pick up the phone. And don’t expect success after the first or second attempt. That’s just silly.

There once was a time when sales people promoted their President Club achievements and sales training certifications on their resumes: Certified in Solution Selling Methodology; SNAP; Dale Carnegie; The Challenger Sale.… Is Email Badgering a program that I missed?

A quick glimpse at my inbox and I’m met with a deluge of subject lines like: … Conference call? … I want to be your first call? … Meeting request? … Do you have 15 minutes to connect? … Can I buy you a cup of coffee? … I am writing to request 30 minutes of your time

My favorite one – or should I say—my favorite annoying one, is the I-Happen-To-Be-In-Town Email. Because every executive likes to hear, “I’ve got nothing better to do and since I’m in the area, I I could swing by and sell you something.” The absurd thing is that this approach is a sad evolution of the following, which was highly effective:

I’m going to be in town for a very important meeting with an existing client and it certainly would be worth extending my trip if you can afford me some time.

Email has become such an abused form of communication by sales people today that executives no longer look, let alone respond to anything. I don’t care if someone hopes that I am well. I’m not interested in just being updated. Are you delusional? Do you really think pretending that we have an existing email correspondence by starting the first email to me with “RE:” in your subject line will fool me?

I‘ve sent you a few emails already I am following up on my previous email Wondering if you’ve had a chance to review my previous emails I’ve sent you a few notes and could use a response I’m not sure if you’ve received my previous emails….

Here’s a secret: seasoned sales people are successful because they DON’T rely on email alone. They don’t expect it to warm up their prospects and develop their opportunities. They do not expect a sale to just jump out of the water and hook itself on the line of an email passively placed in the water. Sure, they use it, but they certainly don’t use it as a crutch like new sales people today.

I’m a salesman at heart. I grew up in sales and believe that part of what makes me a successful CEO is that I continue to be a salesman. I admire aggressive hunters and when I see it, I respond. My assistant knows to let some calls go through, if they are creative, if they impress her too. Most of all, if they are relentless. If a sales person wants to get to me, and they’re not afraid to get out from behind the veil of email, they will find me. Most people in leadership roles still respect scrappy. Unfortunately, scrappy has become a stand-out today.

My message to today’s sales people? Those who are listening but failing because of your dependency on email. Pay attention. I had a mentor once tell me, and he was right, EMAIL IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. Pick up the phone. Call outside of normal hours – not when you know you will get voicemail. Send a hand-written letter. Network hard. Walk into the office and sit for hours until someone will see you. Hunt people down at shows. Do not give up after one attempt, after 3 attempts or even 5. It can take 10 or 15 consecutive attempts over a short period of time for someone to turn around and say “ok, what do you want to say to me?!?” Develop a shark’s mentality and a thrill for the hunt. Those skills will pay off for the rest of your career. Over time, sales people that develop all of their skills and don’t hide behind email will truly succeed. They will earn the fat commission checks, be met with new opportunities, build future sales teams and become tomorrow’s leaders. Or, at least I sure hope so.

The Art of Selling – Stage 1: Lead

First, let’s talk about the LEAD stage. This is when a prospect has been IDENTIFIED as someone who would make a great client or partner for your company. You do not know this person, or the company per se but you have examined their business and you believe that they could benefit from your product or services.

Continue reading

The Art of Selling – Stage 2: Qualified Prospect

If your contact is the right person to be associated with the opportunity; and there is a confirmed fit between your solution and their company; and there is confirmation of need; you’ve qualified the prospect.

KNOW the answer to every one of these questions to satisfy the stage of Qualified Prospect: 

Continue reading

The Art of Selling – Stage 3: Meeting Scheduled

First and foremost, if your upcoming meeting a Business Discussion or a Product Demo and is it an introduction or a deep-dive? This is essential to know ahead of time as it will help you set internal expectations at your company – like with your supervisor who watches the pipeline like a hawk – and with the core experts that you plan to bring with you to the meeting.

Continue reading

The Art of Selling – Stage 4: Meeting Completed

Was the meeting successful based on GOALS that you had set PRIOR to going in? Are you moving forward? And more importantly, does the Client think so too? If a different kind of meeting took place than you had expected, did you lose control of it or did you pivot and get other valuable things from it that will still progress the opportunity? Always post-mortem your meeting to learn from it and involve the participants from your team to elicit feedback. Be sure to check your ego at the door first.

Continue reading

The Art of Selling – Stage 8: Verbal

Don’t get too comfortable…you have not closed the deal.

KNOW if you’ve received the verbal approval, whom did it come from? What is their role and how are they connected to the contract and budget? What about Procurement and legal? Investigate who is still potentially in your way that you may not have identified? Continue reading

The Art of Selling – Stage 10: Closing

Hand-offs are everything

KNOW that now is the time to promoted and leveraged your teams who must DELIGHT the customer you’ve closed. Your company needs to leverage the relationship you cultivated. You’ve worked hard to build a lot of bridges, spend time replacing yourself at each level with your core competent experts. Continue reading

Sales vs. Business Development 101


Sales and Business Development couldn’t be more different

So many people in business do not understand the fundamental difference between sales and business development. Usually these same individuals also carry the title VP/Director/Manager of Sales and Business Development!

How can someone possibly understand the nuances and practicalities that go into artful selling if they do not even understand the appropriateness of their role?

Simply put, sales is selling a product, service or other thing to a buyer directly for revenue. That’s it. A sales person is responsible for revenue. They are expected to carry a quota – a bag – and be responsible for a number.

Business development on the other hand requires selling skills but is not revenue generating – or at least not directly or immediately. It is the practice of developing relationships that can lead to greater revenue. These relationships introduce revenue opportunities with a multiplier such as a channel, resellers or access to customers that would not otherwise be accessible or easily accessible to your sales team.

Sometimes business developers are also responsible for selling through their channels as well. For example, if you are selling ad technology and you establish agency relationships, you may still want to sell to advertisers through the agencies to increase your revenues through that channel. But that takes time and your compensation should reflect that.

So which are you, sales or business development? If you’re both, you have conflicting goals. If your compensation is based on revenue, then you want to be in sales. If you are business development, then your compensation needs to have a different metric, such as number of channels, partners etc. – an override on revenues some time down the path is meaningful only if you have the opportunity to sell through the channels you create.