Predictions for 2017

Sales and Marketing Predictions

After peeking into the crystal ball for a few minutes, here’s what jumps out.

The growth of the mystery story. It’s referenced in Robert Cialdini’s new book, Pre-Suasion, and brands will latch on to it in 2017.  It’s an old storytelling technique, but the reason it will become more prevalent is because it’s been codified and Cialdini is more widely read than ever. Read more

Build on Your Strengths


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

I have a bias. It happens when I think about your business.

I default to creating or uncovering the innovative ideas inside your business. Breakthrough concepts. I want to encourage visionary thinking. Invent ways to propel the business to the next plateau in the S curve of growth. Read more

Greg, What Does Your Planning Look Like?


Yes, I take my own medicine. As proof, I spent the weekend applying some of my ideas to recapping 2016 and looking ahead to 2017. Specifically, I’m planned my flow of business for next year. I use this map, which you may have seen before. Read more

Goodwill Omaha’s CEO Pay and Your Growth Mindset


Recent front page news in Omaha is the revelation that CEO Frank McGree has been bringing in an annual salary over $400,000 and received a onetime bonus in 2014 that put his pay over $900,000. (“No Culture of Thrift,” Omaha World Herald) It was brought up at a coffee this morning and we debated non-profit versus for-profit and whether or not highly paid executives were worth it.

The debate illustrates a particular mindset that it part of the work I do. Specifically, do you believe in MVPs or do you think that you’re only as strong as your Weakest-Link?

MVP vs Weakest-Link

Let me give you an example. In the world of sports, there are endeavors that are MVP oriented and others that are weakest link oriented. Last year’s NBA finals showed us that the game of basketball is MVP oriented. As a team owner, you can bring in a LeBron James and he can almost single-handedly win the championship. On the other hand, the current MLB championship suggests any single superstar player will only have so much impact. If your roster is tough top-to-bottom, you have a better chance at winning. That’s weakest-link oriented.

A highly compensated CEO represents an MVP mindset. There are few qualified to do the job and the right person will have an outsized influence on results. This mindset permeates the upper echelons of the corporate world. Hang around with this group long enough and you can see why. Highly paid executives are some of the most talented people you’ll ever meet: high-bandwidth, high-focus, and high-energy.

So what’s the issue? The Goodwill Omaha business is big and complex, $30MM in revenue and 600+ employees. It requires bandwidth, focus, and energy.

Non-profits are weakest link in nature

The issue is that non-profits, by their very nature, are weakest-link organizations. Think about it. If a for-profit endeavor is out to serve the interest of a few key stakeholders, specifically shareholders, the not-for-profit world, by contrast is aiming at serving the interests of multiple stakeholders. There are beneficiaries, donors, the community, employees, volunteers, and even the government, probably others.

Frank McGree’s compensation is incongruent with the nature of a non-profit.

So what?

“Great,” you think, “tell me something I don’t know. There are very few who can run an organization of that size and he’s done a bang up job over the last few decades.” You’re mindset is tilted to the MVP side.

“Great,” you think, “tell me something I don’t know. That money could have been used to keep struggling programs at Goodwill afloat and helped countless others.” Your mindset is tilted to the weakest-link side.

“Great,” both sides think, “what does that mean? What am I supposed to do with this information?”

That mindset goes into how I approach sales and marketing at your company. If you’re tendency is toward MVPs, we focus on making your best people even better. If you’re tendency is toward the weakest-link, we focus on bringing everyone on the team along. Suggesting the opposite approach to either mindset prevents improvements from taking place. MVPs don’t waste time with low-producers and weakest-links don’t put up with prima-donnas.

Both approaches work.

My upcoming book, Everybody Sells, is a weakest-link concept because that’s my bias and I think that companies under 150 employees are stronger when the weakest links are improved. Conversely, I think that larger organizations benefit greatly from nurturing their MVPs. Specifically, I think large organizations should shift more resources to their most valuable resources.

But, Greg, what do you think about Goodwill?

Where do I fall in relation to Frank McGree’s paychecks? Good question.

I think the problem is an unfortunate byproduct of large non-profits. We’re asking them to straddle two worlds and shouldn’t be surprised when one strays off course. The vast majority of non-profits don’t have this particular compensation issue. We’re dealing with an outlier. If the majority of Goodwill’s stakeholders think this is a problem, fix this instance and move on. If a majority doesn’t think it’s a problem and they’re willing to live with it, move on.


From Knowing To Doing


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

“Eat foods in close to their natural state.”

“Get 60 minutes of vigorous activity a week.”

“You need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night.”

It’s one thing to know what to do and another to consistently do it. Listening to Alex Goldfayn (author of The Revenue Growth Habit) tell it, the bridge between Knowing and Doing is Discipline. The willingness to hold yourself to a standard.

With that in mind, consider this.

Referrals and Client Testimonials are a business development best practice across multiple industries and disciplines.

Much like the 3 pieces of advice used to open this article, in order for your junior partners to get referrals and testimonials consistently, it requires them to put forth a consistent, disciplined effort.

Just before I heard Goldfayn make his points, I was listening to Dr. Martin Seligman discuss the concept of well-being. In his talk he mentioned the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. What his research found is that one way for us to consistently exhibit the behaviors that lead to our well-being is to identify our particular Strengths and apply them to high-gain tasks. Especially those tasks that we know we should be doing, but can’t seem to get started on or consistently complete. A way to be more disciplined.

You can find the free strengths test here:

If your junior partners struggle to consistently ask clients for Testimonials and Referrals, apply Dr. Seligman’s advice. Have them take the test, review the results and brainstorm ways to apply their particular strengths in order to consistently ask for referrals and client testimonials.

Then sit back and prepare to reap the rewards next year.

Chambers Pivot: The fourth year that was at CPI

3 Things You Can Use

Each fall I look up and think, really? Another year?

This is the fourth annual recap for Chambers Pivot Industries, LLC. In case you didn’t know, every year I take a full day and think about the year that was, then sit and make a big list of hits and misses from the year. From that point, I narrow the big list down to a few useful ideas for you.

Here’s what I came up with from year four.  Read more

But What About the Competition?


A marketing meeting turns a new direction when the competition’s website comes up and the CEO says, “Company X has it right. They’re killing it. Why isn’t our site more like that?” Heads nod as the person managing the projector scrolls through a visually striking website. The CEO can see me shift in my seat, and asks if I have something to add.

I’m a guest and it’s 12 minutes before I have to leave, but I can’t let this go.

“Here’s the thing. What do we know about the competition? We can see the design, and we can read through the content, but do we know anything about their strategy?”

The scrolling on the projector stops and they turn to look at me.

I smile defensively, “I just want to challenge the assumption that the competition has it right. Unless you’re privy to some seriously private internal information, it’s best to take another approach when it comes to competition: Put them down 4th on the agenda.”

Blank stares.

“Let me explain. Before we think about the competition, we need to check three places that are much closer to us and look for evidence of one thing. Is our strategy being implemented like we expect?

The first place to check is with the customer. Is our customer experiencing the service or product we are providing in the way we expect? Are we fulfilling our vision there? That can be done with surveys or Net Promoter Score, but the most powerful feedback comes from customer panels and direct interaction. Make sure the customer is receiving what you want them to.

Second is to get with your front line people. The direct interface with the customer. You’re listening to the words they use when they describe your company’s strategy. The challenge with this group, versus customers, is that you have a monetary relationship with them that clouds the conversation. The customer is more likely to tell you your shoes stink because they can leave, but your employees are searching for what you want to hear. Surveys are great, but town halls and face-to-face visits are better. You want to hear their interpretation of your strategy.

Third is your general managers. This should be easier since you meet with them on a regular basis, but that’s the challenge too. You want to listen to what this group tells you in a self-reflective way. You want to be sure that you’re giving them the signals that implementing strategy in the long term matches what you expect in the short term. You want to make sure you’re providing them with the resources necessary to implement the strategy and lastly, you want to hear from them that management’s inherent comfort with ‘present pain, future gain’ isn’t in conflict with front-line employees desire to put food on the table now. Specifically in the sales department because that’s where new customers and future customers live. ”

There are a few nods.

“I have to run here, but I want to leave you with this. My best clients are incredibly good at implementing their visions throughout their organization. Many of them have brochures and websites that you might find sub-par compared to their competition. All of them worry a lot about whether their customer is getting what their strategy promises. I don’t hear them guessing at what the competition is doing.”

I point to the projector, “It’s great to get inspired by design ideas and content from other businesses, but before you spend too much time there, check to make sure your vision is getting through.”

It’s quiet as I gather my notebook and stand up.

The CEO stands too. “That’s what I meant,” she said and winks as she shakes my hand.

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.


Not Being Your Own Worst Boss

Not Being Your Own Worst Boss

Check out this interview I did on The Entrepreneur Way with Neil Ball.

Neil is out of Manchester, England and I’m in Omaha, NE, but through the miracle of modern technology we had sit and a talk about sales and marketing. You can listen to it here:

Neil gets me to cover all sorts of ground including my startup experience, talking about my worst boss ever, how decisions are made, and the importance of culture. As often happens in these interviews, I think I learned more from Neil than he learned from me!

As a bonus, you can hear Wilson the Amazing Border Collie let out a howl just before the 21 minute mark.

Good stuff.

Teleseminar: Getting the Most From Your Marketing Vendors

Marketing Vendors

Have you ever said something like this?

“I think there are as many ‘marketing consultant’ hucksters out there as there are Nigerian Prince internet scams…I want to grow, we NEED to grow, but finding truly talented and capable marketing and sales professionals is more difficult and painful than picking auditors and lawyers…”

If you have, this seminar will give you a process for getting the most from your vendors, in a way that makes them happy too.

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

Good stuff.