Part of being an effective HR Business Partner is expanding your knowledge base to include your internal clients. My buddy Adam Boyd offers some great advice on the challenges faced by selling professionals. I see a lot of similarities in our roles within HR as well…do you?

Differentiating, Acting, and Your Template

In a recent training session, a bright young man, new to sales, asked the best question of the day: “How do we differentiate from our competitors, especially in a crowded field?” My response to him was the same as it is to anyone else in a crowded field: “You, the sales rep, are the differentiator. It’s rarely product, price, or marketing. It’s the questions you ask, and the way you ask them. It’s asking more questions, better questions, tougher questions. It’s listening better than others, and staying in the moment. It’s having a discussion with the prospect that no one else has. It’s not your feature set, or technical expertise (ok, maybe 5% of the time it has to do with this), but the way you can engage that no one else can. Too many reps are too eager to speak, and tell prospects how great their company is, rather than listen, challenge assumptions, and uncover deeper issues.”

We then ran some exercises on listening, asking more and better questions, and changing the conversation. Afterward, almost everyone in the session (there were approximately 28 people there, from a variety of industries) said, “That’s hard work. You really have to stay focused and engaged.” And that is why the rewards are so great for reps who can do just that. It’s difficult, and others don’t want to do it.

Two day Sales Boot Camp, Dec. 10 and 11. Learn the Sandler system and tools to sell more. Email me at

A part-time actor I know was sharing his experience with auditions. He shared that he, too, was on straight commission. “If I get the role, I can make the money that pays rent for two months.” I asked how he handled the uncertainty, the pressure to perform, and the fact that his financial wherewithal depended on those auditions.

“I prepare, I audition, and then I forget about it. I can’t control the outcome after the fact. I start looking for other auditions.”

In short, he keeps a full pipeline and focuses on the process, not the outcome. The answer to many questions we receive from clients is, “Keep a full pipeline.”

  • How do I walk away from a bad deal?
  • How do ask tougher questions? How do I push back?
  • How do I not respond to that RFP/RFQ?
  • What do I do if that big deal doesn’t land?

Keep a full pipe. How many people spend too much time worrying about the sales call or meeting they just had, trying to “get it to close,” when they could be finding the next opportunity?

?Built your sales plan for 2015? Selling enterprise deals? Want exposure to the next level of training? 1.5 day advanced training open only to past boot camp attendees and Sandler-trained professionals. Dec. 17-18. Register now, as seating is limited. 

We recently hosted a Navy SEAL sniper in our management training program. He shared some leadership lessons from his 20 years’ experience with the SEALs. One of the most poignant lessons was the concept of a template. He said, “We have a template to follow in every situation, and clear guidelines on decision-making that we internalize. We follow those and 90% of the time, the decision we need to make is very clear. If someone doesn’t follow the template, we’ll have problems. First, it would be clear who was out of line, and two, we would deal with it immediately after the event. We’d ask why they did what they did, and then make sure it didn’t happen again.  But the template is the key to working successfully again and again and again. It creates predictability out of chaotic and uncertain situations.”

Sound desirable? Creating predictability out of uncertain situations? How would that impact hiring? Managing large opportunities? Forecasting and managing cash cycles?

How many companies have templates that guide them so clearly? For sales process? For hiring? For onboarding new people? For developing managers? For assessing performance? For pipeline management? For accountability? Too many organizations “do it the way we’ve always done it,” or “go with the gut,” or say, “Everyone can always do better, but it’s not that bad.” The result? Persistent frustration on the part of management that the excellence they desire is always a little out of reach.  In short, frustration with being only a little better than mediocre.  The maturing organization needs systems and processes to ensure they have the right people, doing the right things, the right way, at the right time. Yes, it’s work, and it’s time consuming. But that’s also the cost of growth.

To request the whitepaper “The Modern Science of Sales Force Excellence,” email me at

Adam Boyd  P: 512-241-3601