Predicting Success Tool


Help your people make decisions faster with this little tool.  The reason you’ll want to put this into practice is twofold. One, it helps you push your decision making down a level which speeds up results, and two, it raises the level of the decisions you do get pulled into. Plus, it’s way better than the advice I used to get from my bosses, “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”

Here’s the situation where it works best. Your people come to you for advice and you know that each time you answer a question or solve a problem for them, they get a little dumber.

That’s it. Nothing too exotic. If you’re asked to help make a decision or if you’re not sure how your people are making decisions, this tool will come in handy because it gives insights into how you think and exposes nuances of that thinking which get glazed over in regular discussion.

Tool examples

I have two examples. The first, came up after we started including the business owner as a closing tool for bigger opportunities. It was successful at landing more and bigger deals and a time crunch ensued. We developed a tool for the reps to use to score the opportunity before asking for the owner’s time.

First, we made a list of the items he considered when presented with a new opportunity.  The owner interpreted that as a list of things the owner needed to know to make a difference in the transaction. I had asked him, what do you want to know before you get involved?

  • He wanted to understand the client’s desired outcome
  • He wanted to hear how the client described the issues
  • He wanted to know he was talking to the right buyer
  • He wanted to hear how the client felt about not taking action
  • He wanted to know the rep’s motivation

Once we had the list, he needed to describe the range of answers expected. This step is critical because it gives your people context. For instance:

  • Understanding the client’s outcome will range from an outcome that is assumed or guessed at by the rep on one side to an outcome that is defined and uses measures given directly by the buyer.
  • Hearing how the client described the issues will range from a paraphrased conversation to direct, verbatim language from the buyer.

It’s since been refined with use, but here’s how it started:


Let’s look at another example. I just used this to demonstrate how I troubleshoot a Google Adwords campaign.


It starts with my broad list: Who’s the buyer? Does the ad align with their search? Does the page align with the ad? What information is on the landing page?

Then I give context to each question by defining the range of answers expected. “I know the buyer uses search to learn” to “the buyer learns offline” or “my ad is aligned with search” to “my ad is loosely related.”

That’s it. Once you have a rough draft, pull it out and go through each question with your team member. You’ll know you’re on the right track when they point at an item on the list and you hear, “Why does that matter?” It’s a teaching moment and the knowledge transfer will follow.

To get started, think about last week when you were asked to weigh in on a decision. The size of the decision doesn’t matter, it can be major or minor. Once you have something in mind, make a list of what you will consider before making that decision, then give each consideration a range of possible answers.

You’re on your way. As Mary Poppins says, “Well begun is half-done.”

Good stuff.

Teleseminar: Building a Sales Team That Doesn’t Suck

Sales Team

It’s not the real title, that would be “Building a High Performance Sales Team,” and it’s inspired by hearing this:

“… finding truly talented and capable marketing and sales professionals is more difficult and painful than picking auditors and lawyers…”

I can help with that and this seminar will give you a bunch of ideas for making that happen.

Register here. (recording will be sent 24 hours after the event)

Good stuff.

5 Tips For Starting a Google B2B Adwords Campaign

(um, don't drink that Ulysses)

(Tip: Ulysses, don’t)

(a version of this article appeared in Strictly Marketing Magazine, May/June 2016)

I am talking to the director of marketing at GoLeads, an Omaha based database marketing firm, discussing the journey a buyer goes on when making a decision. On our big whiteboard of ideas, it’s not a surprise to see search engines listed. Actually, it wasn’t a surprise to see Google listed. (Who says search engine these days?) With Google making up at least 65% of total search volume as of late 2015, there’s a good chance that your buyer is going to use it at some point in the search process, and that’s why you should consider, or probably are considering, using Google Adwords to promote your products and services.

As a long time Adwords user and past Google Partner, I have some hard-won advice for you as you incorporate Adwords into your marketing mix. Five ideas that will keep you within budget and shorten the amount of time it takes to start producing results from the channel, because once you tap into the massive flood of Google users, if you’re not careful, your budget could be gone and you’ll have nothing to show for it.

  1. Before you start a campaign, finish it on paper.
    finish-on-paper-before-starting-adwordsWhat I mean by that is that before you start spending money on the channel, you need to know how your company can tell if the campaign is a success. Do you need leads? Do you need calls? Do you need online traffic that leads to online signups? You need to have an idea of what success looks like before you chase it. A big part of that chase is going to be tracking. If you have an idea of where you want to be in the future, start with where you are today. I have firms that track phone calls, new CRM entries, online signup sheets, or price quotes. For those of you that are new to the channel, keep tracking simple. A rough idea of how it’s working is better than no idea, to start.
  2. Plan for three budget phases.
    3-stages-of-adwords-budgetAny good management team wants a static budget that produces leads immediately, but real life insists that your budget will go through three phases: Experimenting, scaling, and optimizing for ROI. In the experimenting phase, you’re going to invest 80% of the budget into finding search phrases that work. Small controlled experiments. Once you have phrases that seem promising, you’re going to scale the experiment to see where it breaks. Most phrases break either when you discover the initial win was a one-time victory, or it breaks when the volume of that phrase doesn’t meet planned objectives. Once you have phrases that work, you’ll optimize the budget. Here’s a hint on how to set a budget. Start by finishing this sentence, “if you walked up to me with a qualified lead, I’d pay X.” For example, “. . .I’d pay $1,000, and I need 10 new leads a week so I’m going to budget $10,000 a week to start.” That budget number will go through the three phases, experimenting, scaling, and optimizing.
  3. Stick to the Google Search to start.
    only-use-google-search-networkWhen you are setting up campaigns in Google, you will be encouraged to expand your ad’s reach by selecting Search Network with Display or Search Network only. When you’re experimenting, start with the Search Network only, but go a step further and uncheck the Include search partners option. This is important in the early stages of your campaigns because new campaigns have a learning curve and you need all the data you can gather when you sit back and evaluate what’s happening. To get the most data, I suggest using Google Analytics in addition to the Google Adwords reporting tools for these evaluations. Once you get the phone to ring a few times, it helps to know which half of your spend is responsible for driving the activity.
  4. Clamp down on the match logic.
    match-logic-adwords-b2bIt’s almost impossible to guess the exact syntax a potential customer is going to be searching for. The searches could be early in the decision process like “how do you fix a squeak by front brakes,” to middle of the decision process like “average cost to replace brakes,” to the very end of the process like “best brake shop near Glenview Oakland area.” If you’re bidding on the word “brakes” you will end up paying for a lot of searches and clicks you don’t want. Google helps you by providing match logic that ranges from Broad, to Phrase, to Exact. I suggest starting with Exact matches on your phrases until you get an idea of the cost per click and the results from your campaigns. From there, once you find some phrases that work, move out to Phrase matching which will generate more matched searches, and then Broad matching, which will generate the most searches, and the highest spend.
  5. Be relevant to your buyer.
    measure-adwords-resultsThis last idea focuses on what happens once the prospect clicks on your search ad. Up to this point, you’ve set a goal, you’ve set a budget, you’ve selected phrases that fit, and now they’ve clicked. You’ve done a great job qualifying them, now send them to a page that makes sense. If I’m searching for “average cost to replace brakes” and your ad promised a “one stop shop for brakes,” don’t send me to the home page unless it has a giant “AVERAGE COST FOR BRAKES BY VEHICLE” or similar promise on it. Even if the ad didn’t mention prices, I am looking for a ballpark estimate. Don’t let me down. Your clicks will tell you the phrase they searched for and the ad they clicked on. Take a minute to trace their path and make sure the page they land on is relevant.

As you’d expect, you’ll need more than just these ideas to make your Adwords campaigns rock and roll, but if you can incorporate the five concepts I’ve mentioned, you’ll save hours and dollars to start. Your buyers are using Google daily. It makes sense for you to invest in learning how to put Adwords into your company’s marketing mix. If you finish your campaign on paper before you start, if you understand the three phases of budget, if you reduce the number of spots your ads show, if you narrow the terms your ads show on and if you keep the buyer on a relevant journey, you are giving your company a fighting chance at driving cost effective leads and sales.

Good stuff.

Who Are You Talking To?

hero to zero

Whatchu talkin bout?

Grow faster by double and triple checking if your people are talking to buyers.

From hero to zero

Years ago, I worked an inside sales job where I logged into my terminal and contacted the companies that showed up on my screen. It was easy money because the list was filled with past customers and the sales cycle was short. I enjoyed multiple sales a day, month after month of success, and big commission checks. The chart on the wall confirmed that I was a top performer and I got to ring the sales bell multiple times a day. Some days, just to be dramatic, I wouldn’t log my sales until the afternoon, holding them until I could step up and ding that bell four or five times in a row. It was great.

Until I went into a slump.

Weeks of no sales. It was depressing. The others in my area were up ringing the bell every few minutes and the sales board was lighting up. After a few days of not seeing me at the bell, co-workers asked if I was okay. The team leader huddled with me twice a day, making sure my call numbers stayed high. The general manager gave me pep talks when I arrived and told me to hang in there when I left.

I was at a loss. I knew the product. I had previous success. I made the calls. The list was good. My results were terrible.

Working hard or hardly working?

I doubled down and got to work earlier, made more calls, sent more faxes, ran my own sales promotions, and pressed but it didn’t make a difference.

Three weeks in, on a Saturday, I went in early and just scrolled through my database. Our system was an old mainframe/terminal green screen setup and you could move to the next record in your list by hitting F3 on the keyboard. I sat there in a fog just hitting F3 over and over again.

That’s when I saw it.

At the bottom of each record there was 15 lines of notes below the contact information and purchase history. The notes were dated on the left and the text showed to the right. What I noticed as I scrolled through each record was that my notes all said the same thing. “Msg” I scrolled through my past weeks of activity and that 3 letter note was in almost all of my records. I started making tick marks on a legal pad when I saw anything suggesting a real conversation, and there weren’t many. Most of my conversations were service calls to previous buyers.

That was my insight. I was busy making calls, busy installing the product, busy moving through the marketplace, but I wasn’t busy having new sales conversations. New sales was how I made money. Over the years I’ve been continuously amazed at how clueless I was the month before, and this was no exception.

The right focus

Armed with this new insight, I began tracking actual prospecting conversations and results were back to normal within days. Within weeks, I was back at the top of the leader board, and within months my commissions were higher than ever because I had a new focus beyond the number of calls I made. I was only interested in the number of buyers I talked to.

And that made all the difference.

I tell this story because it continues to influence the first questions I ask when working with new clients. How many people does your team talk to each day? How many of those people are involved in decisions about your products and services? How many new product and service discussions are happening each day?

What you can do

The focus on these particular buyer conversations applies to all sales cycles at any level of complexity. It applies to marketing efforts at any organization. You need to know how often your team talks to people that can make a decision about your products and services. Whether you’re selling jet engines, consulting, or mapping software, understand how many discussions your people are having and who they are having them with. If it’s one a week now, or 52 a year, get it to 57. If it’s 5000, get it to 5500.

Here’s how you do it. Ask, “Who are you talking to?” That question, asked consistently, will increase the number of discussions your team has with the right people and the magic will happen.

Good stuff.

Leaving an Effective Sales Voicemail: You’re Not Doing It Right


This was on my voicemail last week (the phone number masking is my work):

Let’s critique it.

It’s terrible. Her volume is low, she sounds confused, it sounds like she mixed up scripts, and to top it off, she doesn’t know what my business does.

Ooh, I Hate Voicemail

So voicemail’s don’t work, right? As my uncle might have said, “Not so fast, Sparky.”

Over the years, people have stopped picking up the phone. Especially those people that have no idea you’re calling, like your prospects. If your job involves calling new prospects, that means you’ll get voicemail most of the time.

So be prepared.

Not all voicemail is bad. Like, what happens when an old friend calls and leaves a message? You listen to it. I know that sometimes you call right back and say, “I haven’t had a chance to listen to your message,” but on the whole, you listen to the message and confirm a few things:

Who is calling?
What do they want?
What does that mean to you?
What are you supposed to do next?

And that’s for someone you know and want to hear from. Someone who you have a history with.

Before I get into what makes for a better voicemail, is it fair to expect the same warm response from a call to someone that doesn’t know your company name or why you’re calling? Probably not. So I’m suggesting that you work with that idea and do the following to make voicemail work for you.

Make Voicemail Work for You

The Rule of 27 is an old sales and marketing rule of thumb that says a prospect needs to be exposed to your idea 9 times before they take action. Since prospects are bombarded by messages, only every third message gets through. So, plan on trying to get in front of prospects 27 times before expecting them to understand your offer.

Voicemail is one of those 27 touches.

With that in mind, that voicemail is simply one of 27 touches a qualified prospect needs to understand who you are and why you’re calling, take these four steps to optimize its effectiveness.

Start with this idea: Who are you? 

When we consider it takes multiple touches to build awareness, the idea that you should mask your company name is a bad one. I used to run a training center and leaving the company name with receptionists and on voicemails was our number one advertising method. We had 100 locations with at least 10 salespeople making up to 100 calls a day. That’s 1000 calls per center, 100,000 calls a day, every day for 250 days a year. 25,000,000 impressions of our company name.

It adds up. Identify yourself.

Second, state what the call is about.

Once the voicemail recipient knows who you are, they want to know why you’re calling. Get to the point. “I’m calling because. . .” followed by a short sentence describing your client’s typical outcomes is all that’s needed here. Something to associate with the name of your company. “I’m calling because our clients are saving up to 30% on trade show shipping costs,” orients the prospect’s brain.

Third, relate that to the listener.

They now know who is calling, they have an idea about what you do, now relate it to them. “. . .and since you do multiple trade shows we may be able to help you too.” Here’s where my offending caller went awry. I looked them up and they offer trade show shipping. I haven’t been in that business for years. Do your homework and make sure you’re calling the right business. When spelled out, a quick message explaining what you do – and put in front of the right person – is an effective “touch” in the rule of 27.

Last, what do you expect the listener to do now?

You’ve identified yourself, you’ve oriented your business and related it to the listener, now you should explain what you want to happen next. Like, “You don’t need to do anything, but I’m going to try and catch you on [date] to see if we can help you with your next trade show.” If this is for a prospect you can help and it’s viewed as simply one of 27 touches they will need to understand where you’re coming from, you won’t be caught expecting too much from this voicemail. It’s one in a series. It may cause some action, or it may be one of the 18 touches that miss the mark.

Those four steps take about 15 seconds. Like a short radio spot.

Learn to Love the Voicemail

Voicemail isn’t bad. It’s one of the arrows in your sales and marketing quiver. Following these steps will help you use it in a way that helps.

Good stuff.

Are You Working Too Hard for New Business?


This note is for growing companies under 150 employees. Regardless of how fast you’re growing, on a scale from easy to hard, 1 to 5, how would you rank the effort expended to find more business? Think of 1 as “so easy that I have to pinch myself every day to see if it’s real” and 5 is “hard enough that we end each month drained and exhausted and don’t want to talk about it.”

If you gave yourself anything more than a two, I have a tool you can use to self-assess your company’s sales and marketing practices. Specifically, whether or not your best-practices are the right fit for your organization. I have seen time and time again that if you consciously design business practices to be a natural fit with your people’s disposition and talent, they will actually enjoy the activity needed to bring new business to the door. More growth with less effort.

Download the FIT assessment here.

It’s 25 questions that will give you a snapshot of how well your company takes advantage of sales and marketing practices that your people can live with. Plus it gives a quick way to narrow your focus if you want to improve and allows you to engage your management team in the broad concepts behind taking a human approach to business development. It’s pretty great.

The assessment is featured in my tentatively titled book, “The Human Being’s Guide to Business Growth: Grow your business twice as fast, with half the effort, in ways your people will actually enjoy, using sales and marketing practices that fit.”

I’ll be writing more about it in the coming months. Let me know if it helps.

Good stuff.


Writing Content: What’s Your Company’s Tone of Voice?


When your marketing team asks, “we’re thinking about using a conversational tone of voice for this piece, are you okay with that?” Do you find yourself getting annoyed and thinking, “why are you asking me? Isn’t this what I’m paying you for?”

If so, this little article is for you.

I don’t expect you to take a deep interest in the writer’s voice, but I want you to have an opinion, because as the boss, you want  the tone of voice to match the way you imagine that customer or employee interaction. If you agree with me that branding is defined as a consistent expression of quality at every customer touch point, that’s why I think you need an opinion.

To have an opinion, start with defining what voice is. Take a look at this quadrant:


On the horizontal axis, we have a range of expression from enthusiastic to matter of fact. On the vertical axis, we have a range of situations ranging from formal to casual.

Tone of voice is where that range of expression and situation intersect. If you’re in a formal situation and matter of fact in your expression, we’ll label that traditional voice. If the situation is more casual but you’re still matter of fact in your expression, we’ll call that a polite voice. That same casual situation with an enthusiastic expression is a funny voice. (label aside, whether or not the humor hits the mark is a separate conversation) And finally, a formal situation with enthusiastic expression can be labeled as casual voice.

Using that orientation, you can have an opinion and meaningful input. Let’s use a customer thank you card as an example.

“Thank you for your continued patronage.” – Sounds formal, right? Traditional.
“Thanks for being a great customer.” – The “thanks” suggests a more familiar relationship. Polite.
“Thank you for trusting us with your business.” – The use of “trusting us” is more enthusiastic, but it’s still formal. Casual.
“You are awesome.” – The thank you is implied and the use of “you” suggests intimacy. Funny.

I want you to stake your brand on one of the 4 axis labels. Formal, casual, enthusiastic, or matter of fact. Just one. Use that as your guide.

Next time you hear something like, “we’re thinking about using a conversational tone of voice for this piece, are you okay with that?” think about your guide. “I’m okay with that as long as we don’t drift into anything too casual. We’re not your father’s old law firm, but I want to keep it on the formal side. Can you do that?”

You’re marketing and communications people will thank you.

Good stuff.

The Summer 2016 Edition of Amalgamate


Amalgamate Summer 2016 (#3)

It’s here! The  Summer 2016 edition of my semi-annual collection of ideas for your business.

This edition includes ideas on Decision Making, Managing Your People, and Persuasion tactics your team can implement today.

If you received a copy of the Summer Edition 2015 and the Winter Edition 2015, you’re going to get the Summer 2016 edition. If you have yet to receive a booklet and want to get a copy, send me a note to with your mailing information and I’ll drop one out. The ebook can be emailed immediately.

Good stuff.

Where is your Energy Directed?


This Father’s Day, I was invited to buy my family breakfast at the local pancake house. We weren’t the only ones in town with this idea, and were placed on a waiting list with a promised fifteen to twenty minute wait. I took mental note of who looked like they were there the longest and asked them how long they had been waiting.

“15 minutes,” they said.

I took my place in line and looked around some more. Empty tables not bussed. Patrons sitting with waters but no food or coffee. Two frazzled looking waitresses and a manager running around the expansive restaurant. It was clear that it may be 20 minutes to get a table, but it was going to be longer than that to get fed. I looked at my hangry teenage boys and made a decision to leave, inadvertently encouraging half of the patrons to walk out with me.

The pancake people were obviously working hard, giving 100%, but that wasn’t enough.

It happens in your company too. Your team members giving 100% of their energy is a given.  What I want you to consider is where your team’s 100% effort goes. They are directing some of their energy to what’s going on inside the company, and they are directing some of their efforts to what’s going on outside the company.

Quick self-assessment. Out of the 100% effort that your team gives to your company, what is the breakdown between energy spent internally versus energy spent externally?

What happens if we dedicate just 10% more externally? Specifically, 10% more energy spent thinking about our customers?

It’s an exercise I do with my clients on a regular basis. You need some internal focus to get things done, but if you take it too far, customers suffer.

Back to that pancake house. What if they had just a little more external focus? What would they think about?

Father’s Day happens once a year. Staffing will be a problem. Customers will be cranky while waiting in line. Every restaurant will be facing the same thing. What can we do to take advantage of that traffic? What can be done to deal with the inevitable crank who gets out of the house just three times a year? What can we do to make sure we can turn the tables as fast as possible?

A few hours spent thinking about their customers would have altered my mid-morning visit for everyone.

Where is your team’s energy directed?

Outcomes Not Outputs

Mug by Chris Lysy (click to buy)

Mug by Chris Lysy (click to buy)


This article originally appeared in Amalgamate: A Mix of Ideas for Your Business, Summer 2015

Your team of marketing professionals are expert communicators. Plying their trade in semantics. They love the discussion around the differences found in words like Outcomes and Outputs. To an industry outsider, those words may be synonymous to results. When it comes to the real world however, if your firm is selling Outcomes but charging for Outputs, it’s going to cause real problems. For one client, this disconnect showed up in pricing and retention problems.

However, this article isn’t about pricing strategy. It’s about taking control of the language we use to communicate.

Communication tools will change over time, but the principles of effective communication will not.

In order for your people to accurately and persuasively communicate your company’s perceptions, they need to be effective communicators.

I’m going to ask you to take in the beauty of my talking icebergs below. But before you look, imagine the popular image of a sole iceberg surrounded by icy blue ocean. The iceberg visible both above and below the water.

If we’re on the same page, 20-30% of your imaginary iceberg is sticking out of the water and 70% is under the surface of the water out of view, right?

Okay, you can look now.

iceberg effect of communication

Linguists tell us that when people communicate, there are not only the Words/Inflections/Gestures/Syntax at work, but a world of Thoughts, Beliefs and Values are working just under the surface. Just like an iceberg.

In those Thoughts, Beliefs and Values there will be overlap (the Common Underlying Proficiency) but it’s not complete. It runs on a spectrum of strong commonality with, say, a family member, to near zero overlap if you communicate with a Pygmy tribesman.

That’s how I end up with two talking icebergs that touch under the surface.

My point is this.

You have a department inhabited by people with a natural inclination for defining terms and repeating messages. Expert communicators that can build commonality. Your customers want Outcomes. Direct your marketing team to be sure they are communicating Outcomes to customers. Then ask them to focus that effort internally.