Friday, December 30, 2011

How to Survive Your First Year As An Entrepreneur


I loved talking to the skankiest prostitutes at three in the morning with a camera crew around me, fires burning in the street, sad, abused people clinging to scraps of life for their pleasures, bailed out prisoners and the drug dealers waiting for them to be released, homeless addicts with nowhere to go and they only weren’t freaks if you saw them at three in the morning .

In short, I loved my job.

Entrepreneurship ruined it. I’m not like how Mark Zuckerberg describes himself: “a builder”. My guess is, I’m not like most of the smart people who read this blog who go out there and build things to improve the lives of others. And yet, I kept doing it to myself over and over again. Once you enter the world of “eat what you kill” you can’t go back to being spoon-fed by the pencil factory anymore. Sadly. I write about my first job here (and the prostitutes).

I had a regular job at HBO. My title: Junior Programmer Analyst in the IT department. I told HBO, “you do original TV programming so why not do original web programming.” And magically, from 1996-98, they let me do whatever I wanted to do at three in the morning and then put it on their website. My original job was to do some Unix/ Oracle thing that I was totally unqualified for and didn’t know how to do. So I figured out a more fun idea for myself and persuaded them to let me do it.

Someone in the marketing department at HBO told me, “You CAN’T DO THAT.” But, as the readers of this blog already know, that’s the call to action to anyone who is going to do anything. For John D. Rockefeller it was to roll up all the oil companies in America. Nobody thought he could do it. For Andrew Carnegie, it was to buy all of the steel companies in America. For Larry Page, it was to build the 100th search engine without any ideas about a business model. They became billionaires. For James Altucher, it was to interview all of the prostitutes at three in the morning in NYC for almost no money. We each have the built-in predilections given to us by genes, upbringing, and whatever black magic you call god.

Then other entertainment companies started asking me to do the same thing for them. “Can you make our web presence entertaining and fun?” We want fun, they all said. So I jumped ship. Entered the world of the wild. Suddenly I was an “entrepreneur”. I didn’t even know what that meant. I got to the office. I had nobody to call. And nobody would return my calls anymore. I was no longer at HBO. I would cry every day. I wasn’t a natural businessman. But I tried to learn from the 5,000 or so mistakes I made that first year.

All I’m saying is, thank god you first-timers have me to now tell you exactly what you should do in your first year of being an entrepreneur. Do everything I say below or you’ll probably fail. I’m dead serious.

- Don’t hire anyone. Only hire people when you are absolutely desperate for more hands. And then start with freelancers. So you can fire them right away. When people raise money from VCs I notice the first thing they do is hire people. After my first company, which was profitable from day one and never raised a dollar, I started a second company where I raised $30 million from VCs and then hired $30 million worth of people, was fired as CEO and from the board, they then raised another $50 million or so and sold a year or so ago for about $1.

- Keep the cash. If VCs put money in your business then no matter what they say, keep cash in the bank. Don’t act like a big company all of a sudden. Do you really need your lawyer at $400 an hour to take notes at a board meeting? Do you really need a board meeting? You don’t need a secretary until you have at least five, paying, profitable customers, if ever. You don’t need a head of sales or marketing your first year. You are the head of sales and marketing. You don’t need any VPs. You’re all VPs. You just started!

- Get a customer. In order, here is the easiest cash you can get for your business: Customers, borrow against receivables, borrow against your house, friends and family, angels, venture capitalists, the public. Note that the VCs are near the end. Maybe you never need them. Why does everyone chase big-time VCs all the time? Do you really need $10 million in the bank. You just started! I shoud’ve made this point number one. Don’t even start your business unless you have a customer.

- Get a customer, part II. Give equity if you have to. Sell your first baby (or take mine). Do whatever it takes to get one paying customer. If you are a content site: get a sponsor. If you are a product or a service, get a customer. If you can’t get a customer then that means you have a shitty product or you’re not passionate enough about it. Go back to the drawing board. Take an extra $5,000 and make some new features. Note: I said “$5,000”. Not “$10 million”.

- Get a customer, part III – I mentioned this last week. Say “yes” to everything. EVERYTHING. If they need surgery performed on them, you’ll do it. If they need a database updated and your company makes tennis balls then say, “no problem, I have a guy for that. He was the database expert of Bangalore. And now he makes tennis balls for us. I’ll send him over Saturday morning to fix your database. And he’ll bring some pastries.”

- Corollary to the above: get the potential customer to say “yes”. Even if you have to do stuff for free. Just get them to yes. They can’t say no, for instance, if you say, “we can blow up your enemy for free.”

- Over-promise and over deliver for every customer. But only the first time. Don’t kill yourself for everyone all the time. You need sleep!

- If a client says, “I’d rather have this conversation in our offices,” then listen to me: DO NOT EVER go to their office. Don’t go there ever again.

- Most important: Stay Lucky. If you don’t stay healthy: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, in your first year, its a guaranteed failure. I’m an expert on failure. Not having the four legs mentioned above means the chair you are sitting on is going to break and you are going to fall.

- If someone says, “I’m taking a big chance by hiring you”, get paid as quickly as possible. Get paid up front. You’re never going to do business with that person again. If his version of “chance” was hiring you then that’s it. He’s back to the pencil factory for his next vendor (no insult to pencil factory workers.)

- Every Friday, pay for a masseuse to come in for all of your employees. This assumes you have an office. Ideally, you have no office. But if you do, and employees are there, then get a masseuse. Make: “thank god it’s Friday” mean to your employees: “I’m so glad I’m going into the office today.” I had 50 or so employees at my first business when we got sold. Massages for everyone except me on Fridays (I don’t like anyone to touch me).

- I’m horrible at followup. But you have to do it. If you have a potential client, move it from the phone to the meeting, to dinner as quickly as possible. Dinner seals the deal. Pick up the tab. Ask about their love lives. If they are lonely, hook them up with your best single friend of the appropriate gender and sexual preference.

- Once they are a client, make them a partner. There’s three ways to do that:

Always hold out the bait that they can eventually make the jump from their crappy job at the pencil factory to the cool VP of Marketing position eventually opening up at your company (no offense to pencil factories).
Ask for advice. Ask them what else do they need that you can help them with, for free if you have to (over promise and over deliver the first time).
Ask them if they know anyone else who might need your services.
The best new customers are your old customers. The second best new customers are your old customers’ friends.

- In all of your spare time, do favors for your clients. Hire their mentally-challenged nephews. Contribute to their charities. Volunteer where they volunteer. Give double everyone else when they run in one of those stupid marathons for cancer. I say “stupid” because why can’t the cancer thing just ask for the money without forcing people to run for 26 miles. Your entire free moments of the first year of being an entrepreneur should be spent thinking of favors to do for your clients. Use the techniques of “Super connecting” to build up your clients’ networks. The bigger their networks, the more valuable yours becomes. Don’t horde your network or your favors.

- Fire immediately any employee with a negative attitude. Employees start to smoke in the stairwell and talk about you. So negative attitudes spread like a cancer. The only way to get rid of advanced cancer is radical chemotherapy to burn off the bad cells. Fire all negative employees immediately. No second chances. You won’t regret it. This doesn’t mean keep only yes-men. But the no-people have to work with you, not against you. If they start grumbling in anger, then they are fired.

- If someone wants to be your head of sales, only hire them if they are immediately bringing in enough revenues and profits to cover their salary. Everyone else is a waste of time.

Corollary: if someone makes an intro for you and it doesn’t work out (i.e. no customer results out of it) then never listen to them again. They gave their best shot and it didn’t work. So their second best shot won’t work either. And once you are on their third best shot then you’re probably an idiot.
- Reseller agreements are for suckers. Companies have a hard enough time selling their own products. Nobody really gives a shit about your products or services. Maybe in year two. But in year one, if someone wants to resell you then say, “sure, give me some phone numbers to call right now.” Then refer to the corollary above.

- Steal your competitors’ customers from them. Remember, they over-promised and over-delivered the first time. Then they began to disappoint (or perform like everyone else). Call up the decision maker and offer to do a little project for a little bit of money and totally over-deliver. You’ll be first on the speed dial when your competitor eventually disappoints. Which they will. Nobody can make the best purple tennis ball forever. Remember the easiest new customer is…err… your old customers! And then their friends. And then…your competitors’ customers.

- Finally, don’t make any of these nine mistakes. By the way, I plagiarized the post that link goes to. But you’ll never find where I plagiarized it from. Just don’t make those nine mistakes in your first year or you will fail. Free PDF of my latest book if you can guess where I take the 9 mistakes from.

Then, on the first day of your second year, if you follow the above, you’ll have customers, cash flows, a network of contacts, new friends who will kill for you, and your entire personality will be different. For the worse. So go back, try to repeat all of the above, and stay healthy. In order to stay sane while you get rich. By the way, you still might fail on that first business. But now it’s too late for you. You’re never going back to the pencil factory. You’re an animal, you hunt in the wild, you dig your sharp teeth into flesh and enjoy it, and at the top of the mountain you roar like a lion and everyone cowers in fear.

Editor’s note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book is I Was Blind But Now I See. You can follow him@jaltucher.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Overworked? 4 Signs You Need to Recharge

Take a cue from endurance athletes: Here are four ways to tell you're about to hit a performance wall. by Jeff Haden in INC.

Sometimes it’s obvious we need a break, but in most cases we figure it out too late. When you work double-digit hours and Sundays are no longer a day of rest, feeling overworked can become the new normal. Even so you’ll eventually hit a wall, and when that happens it can take days and even weeks to recover the enthusiasm, creativity, and motivation you’ve lost.

Fortunately a few of the same techniques endurance athletes use to detect the need for additional recovery can be used to indicate when you need to recharge your work batteries. Where elite athletes are concerned, chronic overtraining can actually defeat the fitness purpose and result in decreased stamina, power, and speed; sometimes the harder they work the slower they get.

The same thing happens to us when we’re overworked. We put in more hours to compensate… and get even less done. So how can you tell the difference between feeling overworked and really overworking yourself?

I asked Jeremiah Bishop for some simple techniques anyone can use to avoid hitting a wall. Jeremiah is a professional mountain bike rider for Cannondale Factory Racing. He's a twelve-time member of the U.S. national team and is to mountain bike racing what an NBA All-Star is to basketball (except he’s currently not out on strike).

Here are ways to ensure you stay at your professional best:

Check your resting heart rate. Every day, before you get out of bed, take your pulse. (There are plenty of free apps that make it easy. Some even log results.) Most of the time your heart rate will stay within a few beats per minute. But when you’re overworked and stressed your body sends more oxygen to your body and brain by increasing your heart rate. (The same thing happens when athletes overtrain and their bodies struggle to recover.) If your heart rate is up in the morning, do whatever it takes to get a little extra rest or sleep that night.

Check your emotions. Having a bad day? Feeling irritable and short-tempered? If you can’t put your finger on a specific reason why, chronic stress and fatigue may have triggered a physiological response and sent more cortisol and less dopamine to your brain. Willing yourself to be in a better mood won’t overcome the impact of chemistry, and in extreme cases the only cure is a break.

Check your weight. Lose or gain more than a percent of body weight from one day to the next and something’s wrong. Maybe yesterday was incredibly stressful and you failed to notice you didn’t eat and drink enough… or maybe you failed to notice just how much you actually ate. Lack of nourishment and hydration can put the hurt on higher-level mental functions (which may be why when we’re overworked and feeling stressed we instinctively want to perform routine, less complex tasks.) And eating too much food—well, we all know the impact of that.

Check your, um, output. Urine color can indicate a lack of hydration (although sometimes it indicates you created really expensive urine after eating a ton of vitamins your body could not absorb.) The lighter the color the more hydrated you are. Hydration is a good thing. Proper hydration aids the absorption of nutrients and helps increase energy levels. If your urine is darker than usual the cure is simple: Drink a lot of water.

The key is to monitor each of these over a period of time so you develop a feel for what is normal for you. Pay special attention on weekends and vacations, and if you notice a dramatic change, especially a positive one, that’s a sure sign you need to change your workday routine.

Don’t say this sounds like something only elite athletes need to worry about. We all want to be the best we can possibly be, no matter what our profession, and whenever we slam into the workload wall we are far from our best.

And don’t say you don’t have the time to take a short break or get a little more sleep. You owe it to yourself to find a way.

Eventually your mind and your body will hit a wall and make you, so why not do take care of yourself, and improve your performance, on your terms?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In between motivation

Do you remember how the last sales training motivated you to read more about sales and spend more time planning and preparing your calls and visits?

Remember how that seemed exactly what you wanted for about two weeks and how your focus trailed off again two weeks later?

Remember how your colleague hit a 200K deal and that woke you up again and made you read more articles and prepare your calls again, for about two weeks?

This is what we call FOCUS.
In one of my previous articles, I discussed the Reticular Activating System and how you can 'teach' your brain to focus on the things that are necessary to reach your goals.

Needless to say that if your goals aren't clear to begin with, you'll have a hard time focusing. find yourself in between focus-peaks.
How do you re-focus and switch ON again?

You can't be switched on everyday and all day, you may argue.
Well, I would agree that you have to balance your efforts in order to continuously be at your best. And emptying your energy and brain reservoirs certainly isn't the way to go.

However, if you have clear goals, and you have established that those goals will make you happy - you DO have endless energy to pursue those goals.
Quantify your goals and recreate what that means in the number of deals you will need to close in order for you to reach your goal. Quantify how many quotes/business offers you typically need to have in your pipeline for you to expect that amount of business in signed deals. Quantify how many calls you need to make to get to that number of quotes. And break it down per quarter, per month, per week and per business day.

If you calculate that you need 40 calls per day to get 10 deals that will meet your monthly target - not your boss's - YOUR target, then wasting time chatting at the coffee machine may seem a lot less attractive all of a sudden.

With that said, if you DID make your 40 calls, there IS time to reward yourself and take a bit of steam off by chatting with coworkers, playing ping-pong or other leisure.

So, what about the In Between?
How can I regain my focus and energy if I am in between those peaks of attention?

PLAN your daily, weekly, monthly infuse of motivational support, interesting sales tricks, and mentoring conversation.

If you want to make progress, why just rely on your own discipline and insights, why not ask for someone else's help.
If it's a direct sales colleague - all the better. You probably both have the same issue. If you think someone else at your firm, or your ex-boss may be of great value and offer good insight and self-reflection, why don't you plan for a breakfast meeting to start the day energized?

The conclusion is:
You can wait for your sales manager or CEO to motivate you, but ultimately you are chasing your own dreams, and there's no-one more capable and interested in achieving those goals than you. You just need to make it happen.

Make it happen!

Happy selling,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Repost: Mount Everest

Last night, I woke up early because of my jetlag.
Around 3.15 am it occurred to me (the weirdest thoughts come up at night) that getting started in sales has some similarities with climbing the Mount Everest.

A couple of months ago, my good friend Marco Hoogerland (an amazing mental coach for top athletes, including top-notch football players, world and european champions and olympic athletes) hosted an evening event with Robert de Vries.

Robert de Vries is a Dutch climber, and one of few men that has endured the severities of reaching the top of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth.
Robert presented his movie to the in-crowd, accompanied by stories and many questions of the dazzled audience. What an unbelievable performance - I was stunned by his humbling and riveting story.

It also occurred to me that you have to be somewhat crazy/selfish to reach the absolute top.
Many things have to be left behind (sometimes even relationships with loved ones) to achieve the goals at hand. I am not saying anyone should.

I am just saying that my observation of the journey and end-line to these unbelievable achievements seem to have some commonly shared factors:

Dedication, focus, taking risk, preparation, training, endurance, persistance, triomph, glory, and hardship. It doesn't come for free...

It seemed to me that getting started in full-commissioned sales is somewhat like climbing (albeit more comfortable perhaps).

Sales isn't easy...
You can see the top, but have no idea (yet) how to get there.

Considering the following:
- No gear when starting (job knowlegde, product knowledge, industry knowlegde)
- Some are already trained when they start, some aren't.
Trained (experienced) people may have an advantage to reach the top sooner, but it may also hinder them in a way, because they might think they know it all and get reckless/careless while climbing is dangerous.
- You earn your climbing gear (product/job/industry knowledge) along the way, as you proceed through the basecamps.
- Some will fall or go back
- Some get stuck in snow storms and have to wait a while and watch weather conditions before they can proceed to the next camp.
- It is hard work, no matter how experienced you are - you will still have to walk the walk.
- You need your co-climbers, so be a good colleague
- It's great at the top, but anything below doesn't satisfy your dreams, so you may have to endure dissatisfaction, or disappointment when things aren't going as smooth as you had hoped for.
- Getting to the top may not be fun, but there's no easy way there. You have to pass through all basecamps
- Sherpa's (mgmt? finance? administrative colleagues?) can do a lot of the work, but you will still have to climb yourself.
- If your goal is to reach the top, you can't stop when others are not making it.

- Prepare (create prospect lists, organize your approach, create a plan, work the plan)
- Train (read, learn, ask, look around, copy, whatever makes you improve)
- Focus on your goal (top of the ranks)
- Be lead by the leader (pick your example)
- Persist (be relentless)

Dream about the impossible becoming possible by putting the first step in the right direction

Don't let yourself down

Be tough when it gets tough

Take the hardships like a man: it comes with the journey

Celebrate the basecamps, so you can enjoy the journey too

Learn from the winners, not the whiners.

If this doesn't make sense to you: it was late ;-)


[ This is a reposted message from 2008 on]

Monday, August 29, 2011

Are Top Salespeople Born or Made?

Article from Harvard Business Review by Steve W. Martin

My last post on the "Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople" was based on personality tests administered to 1,000 top business-to-business salespeople. The test results indicate that key personality traits directly influence top performers' selling styles, and, in turn, their success. However, the study also raises the perennial question, "Are top salespeople born or made?" In other words, must top salespeople be born with the prerequisite sales instincts, or can someone learn to become successful in sales without them?

Based upon my research, experience, and observations, I estimate over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with "natural" instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success. Conversely, less than 30 percent of top salespeople are self-made — meaning, they have had to learn how to become top salespeople without the benefit of these natural abilities. In addition, for every 100 people who enter sales without natural sales traits, 40 percent will fail or quit, 40 percent will perform at near average, and only 20 percent will be above average (These figures vary by industry and the complexity of products sold).

Based on the figures above, the real question that should be asked is, "What determines whether or not a self-made salesperson will become successful?" While it's easy to recite a laundry list of general reasons for success (hard work, persistence, intelligence, integrity, empathy, etc.), my experience in the field and the research I've conducted indicates four key factors that determine the self-made salesperson's destiny. They are language specialization, "modeling" of experiences, political acumen, and greed.

Language Specialization
The first differentiating factor between the success or failure of the self-made salesperson is language specialization. While all competent salespeople can recite their product's features and business benefits, very few are mavens who can conduct intelligent conversations about the details of daily business operations. Every industry also has developed its own technical language to facilitate mutual understanding of terminology and an exact meaning of the words used throughout a business. The technical language consists of abbreviations, acronyms, business nomenclature, and specialized terms (for example RAM, CPU, and flash drive in the consumer electronics industry).

Successful self-made salespeople possess domain-area expertise and speak the corresponding business operations language, or have deep knowledge of the industry's technical language. These languages are the yardstick by which customers measure a salesperson's true value and greatly influence their purchase decisions. Lesser-performing self-made salespeople are not as fluent in these languages, so they tend to focus on likability and friendliness with prospective customers.

Modeling of Experiences
Modeling is the mind's ability to link like experiences and similar data into predictable patterns. Salespeople continually learn through the ongoing accumulation and consolidation of information from their sales calls and interactions with customers. From this knowledge base, salespeople can predict what will happen and what they should do in light of what they have done in the past.

Modeling can be thought of as the engine that drives sales intuition. For example, let's say a salesperson is asked by a skeptical, analytical, financial-oriented prospective customer how his product is different from his major competitor's. His answer would be based on previous experiences with similar circumstances. Modeling can be thought of as trying to find the what, when, where response — what you should do when you are in a particular circumstance where you have to act.

Successful self-made salespeople have an effective methodology to store and retrieve all the verbal, nonverbal, factual, and intuitive information that occurs during sales calls and sales cycles. This results in a greater proficiency to win business than less-successful self-made salespeople who do not learn from their past mistakes and instead repeat them.

Political Acumen
Unfortunately, many under-performing self-made salespeople take a textbook-type approach to sales and concentrate solely on the procedural aspects of the sales cycle. They don't take into account the human nature of sales and how people and politics determine the outcome.

Politics are based upon self-interests. Therefore, customers do not readily reveal the internal machinations of their decision-making. Political acumen is the ability to correctly map out each decision maker's influence and motivations. Successful self-made salespeople consider this their top priority. Political acumen drives winning account strategy whereas strategic planning without political acumen is a losing proposition.

We normally associate greed with a corrupt character or miserly scrooge. While this may be society's definition, in sales, "greed" takes on an entirely different meaning. In sales, greed and self-respect are closely intertwined. Greed can be thought of as the desire to be fairly paid for one's time. Time is a salesperson's enemy because time is finite. Time is the governor that determines how many deals can be worked and where effort should be focused. Salespeople are on a mission to learn the ultimate truth, "Will I win the deal?" Greed compels the successful self-made salespeople to push themselves beyond their comfort zone and ask difficult qualifying questions while continually pushing for the close. Conversely, the lesser successful self-made salespeople do not possess this inward drive.


Are top salespeople born or made? The true answer is that the overwhelming majority of top salespeople are gifted with innate talents. However, many others are self-made successes who have learned how to apply their language specialization and build their intuition. They know what accounts they should spend their time on and always navigate to powerful decision-makers in order to create the opportunity to persuade them to buy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some physiology for your pleasure - Reticular Activating System

The Reticular Activating System

We can control what we focus on!

How? It's actually a physiological challenge.
Did you ever test-drive a car and notice while driving how many people seem to be driving the same car all of a sudden? Isn't that weird? Why didn't we notice before?

Imagine that you're walking through a busy and noisy airport passenger terminal.
Think of all the noise - hundreds of people talking, music, announcements, luggage carriers.
How much of this noise is brought to your attention? Not a lot.

True, you can hear a general background noise, but not many of us bother to listen to each individual sound. But then a new announcement comes over the public address system - saying your name or maybe your flight. Suddenly your attention is full on.

The automatic mechanism inside your brain that brings relevant information to your attention is our reticular activating system (RAS).

Your RAS is like a filter between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. It takes instructions from your conscious mind and passes them on to your subconscious and vice versa. For example, the instruction might be, "listen out for anyone saying my name".

Our brain subconsciously receives about a million pieces of information per second from all of our 5 senses (visual, auditive, sensing etc). Many of these pieces of information are processed automatically. And we should be grateful for that .

Can you imagine having to think about breathing while being on the phone with a client?
It is obviously impossible to consciously process 1 MLN pieces of information per second.
We can - however - influence our RAS to raise awareness to certain things.

In fact, we can 'tell' our brain what to filter or what to focus on, just like you noticed the presence of the test-driven car all of a sudden - because you focused your brain on actively processing the image of the car.

The RAS is composed of several neuronal circuits connecting the brainstem to the cortex.
The neuronal circuits of the RAS are modulated by complex interactions between a few main neurotransmitters.

In doing so, the reticular activating system helps mediate transitions from relaxed wakefulness to periods of high attention. There is increased regional blood flow (presumably indicating an increased measure of neuronal activity) in the midbrain reticular formation (MRF) and thalamic intralaminar nuclei during tasks requiring increased alertness and attention.

So.. when we consciously focus on something, the RAS fires neurons to our brain raising its awareness to high attention.

There are some interesting points about your RAS that make it an essential tool for achieving goals.

Telling your brain to achieve your goals
First, you can deliberately program the reticular activating system by choosing the exact messages you send from your conscious mind. For example, you can set goals, or state affirmations, or visualize your goals.

Napoleon Hill said that we can achieve any realistic goal if we keep on thinking of that goal, and stop thinking any negative thoughts about it. Of course, if we keep thinking that we can't achieve a goal, our subconscious will help us NOT achieve it.

Second, your reticular activating system cannot distinguish between 'real events' and 'synthetic' reality. In other words it tends to believe whatever message you give it. Imagine that you're going to be giving a speech. You can practice giving that speech by visualizing it in your mind. This 'pretend' practice should improve your ability to give the speech.

What we need to do is to create a very specific picture of our goal in our conscious mind. The RAS will then pass this on to our subconscious - which will then help us achieve the goal. It does this by bringing to our attention all the relevant information which otherwise might have remained as 'background noise'.

In the sales process:
If you focus on buying signals, you might pick them up sooner in the conversation and better guide your conversation. Alternatively, you may be able to spot 'hidden' objections by actively monitoring behavior or non-verbal signs.

Just like visualization, your focused preparation of the conversation now helps to 'instruct' your RAS what to look for.

Ergo: visualize your goals and prepare your conversations well!

Happy selling!


Stephan Derksen

200 members in our LinkedIn group!

200 members in our LinkedIn group!
Hi Everyone,

Great to see that we have just surpassed the 200 members mark in our LinkedIn group!
Please invite your co-workers or any other people interested in sales or motivational discussions.

A special welcome to all CISCO employees.
There is a big diversity of sales professionals or sales managers in this group, INCLUDING many employees from Cisco as well as people from resellers in the refurbished Cisco business across the world.

Even though you may be competitors at times, there are obvious gains from exchanging your perspectives.

I gladly invite everyone to contribute and share insights or thoughts on the business - while keeping focus on sales challenges and sales motivation.

Thanks for being a part of this group!

Stephan Derksen

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ultimate Sales Experience NEW YORK

Hi everyone,

We have had great success with our sales programs, but now we're onto the next level:

I am interested in organizing a fascinating trip to New York for true sales professionals.
If you are a member of your company's Presidents Club or Sales High Performer Club this may be the one trip you want to get onto and tell your boss, HR manager or the CEO about.

We will visit Wall Street and meet with successful, seasoned sales professionals and sales coaches at companies and locations in Manhattan to gain insight, get inspired and motivated about true sales success.

The trip will be accompanied by me and by TOP Performance Coaches from The Netherlands - who have ample experience with top athletes and world champions in various sports - and they will inspire you, share their model for success and help you on your way to continued growth and top performance.

This high-end program aims at high-end performance.
Upon your return, you will be inspired to even greater achievements.

If you are interested, please email me at
If you need to convince your boss, let me know and I will be happy to make a call and explain our program.

Spread the word!

Stephan Derksen

Monday, May 9, 2011

Seven time management secrets

Use your time productively

According to a research conducted by, the average employee wastes 2.09 hours of his/her day, not including lunches and breaks. Especially the internet is a distractor.
Luckily, many people have specialized in productivity and time management.

Forbes selected a few ideas from these gurus that may help you to increase your productivity.

1. Master your e-mail
If it will take you less than two minutes to delete or reply to an e-mail, do it right away.
Switch off your e-mail notification, so that you will not be disturbed by notifications of an incoming e-mail. Send less e-mail, which in turn will yield less e-mails in your inbox. Keep your e-mails short and concise. Whenever possible: check your e-mail a couple of times a day, on scheduled moments.

2. Think (sharpen your axe)
You don't have to meditate, but taking a lunch break or a quick walk, and at the very least: a quick moment to think what to do, helps you focus and concentrate on the tasks at hand.

3.Use To-Do lists
Write your ToDo's down. This prevents you from waking up in the middle of the night, because you forgot something. Experts suggest keeping several lists, including keeping one with the three most important tasks for today. Delegate whenever you can, and be realistic about how much you can do in a day.

4. Make time for creativity
The goal of time management is to free up time for the more profound or complicated thoughts. Try to schedule time for creative thoughts. Switch off your e-mail or phone during that time.

5. Avoid unnecessary meeting
Be rigorous when it comes to spending your time. Say 'no' to every meeting that isn't necessary, or doesn't require your presence.

6. Don't multi-task
Do one thing at a time and focus on a task at hand for a maximum of one hour and move on to the next.

7. Clean your desk.
Spend the last 10 minutes of your day cleaning your desk. Throw away whatever you don't need anymore. Archive the rest. Suggestion: only touch paper once. Do with it whatever you need to do with it and move on.

Imagine what you can do by adding 10 whole ours (5 days times the above 2.09 hours) to your week. That's a full working week per month!

In commissioned sales, that would mean a 25% increase of your income!
Happy selling everyone!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Persistence Without Stalking

Kelley Robertson on Prospecting

You can't get the sale unless you persist. But how do you pursue your prospect without coming across like a stalker?

Persistence is a vital skill that every salesperson needs. It's been said that most sales are made after eight contacts with a prospect. However, most people tend to give up after just three or four attempts. Let's explore the behind-the-scene dynamics involved in a typical scenario.

Meet Mrs. Executive. Her day is booked solid, scarcely allowing her to catch her breath between each meeting. Some meetings are internal. Others are with clients and customers. A few are with current suppliers or business partners. She has a dozen balls in the air and spends most of her time trying to juggle them all. She has several major goals she wants to accomplish this year but progress is slow because the demands on her time are non-stop.

Fortunately, she has an extremely competent executive assistant. Ms. Gatekeeper knows what projects Mrs. Executive is working on and does what she can to help her boss achieve these goals. She is very proficient at protecting her boss's time and has become adept at warding off unwanted calls, especially from salespeople. Today alone, she has warded off fourteen people and it isn't even noon yet.

Today is your first prospecting call to this company. You believe that your solution will benefit them and you want to meet with Mrs. Executive to demonstrate this. You pick up the telephone and when Ms. Gatekeeper answers, you recite your well-developed opening and capture her interest. After a brief conversation you manage to schedule a telephone meeting with Mrs. Executive a few days from now and are given her direct number.

Fast forward three days. Your call with Mrs. Executive flows beautifully. Your pre-call research paid off and through effective questions, you learned additional information that gives you better insight to present your solution. Mrs. Executive requests an overview of your solution and you promise to email it to her within twenty-four hours. You also agree to discuss it with her next week. 

The following week, you call Mrs. Executive at the scheduled time only to end up with her voice mail. You leave a brief message and tell her you will follow up shortly. You call again the next day and receive her voice mail yet again. After some debate you leave another message but as you hang up self-doubt leaves you wondering why Mrs. Executive has not returned your calls even though she displayed interest.

Meanwhile, back at the company, Mrs. Executive has been responding to several unexpected fires and critical issues. Shortly after these problems have been resolved, the CEO dumps two additional projects on her plate and clearly states that these new projects are of highest priority. The other projects go into a hold pattern while she takes care of the CEO's demands. A few days later she is shocked to receive a letter of resignation from her right-hand person, the Director. She now scrambles to put into place systems and processes that will help her manage and deal with this unexpected void. Plus, she needs to begin the recruiting process to fill the gap. She is still interested in your solution but she simply does not have the time or resources to even discuss it right now. 

Here's the dilemma. Do you keep calling? Or, do you leave a final message and tell Mrs. Executive to call you when she's ready to talk about your solution? So far, you have made five contacts with her which means you will probably have to make at least three more connections before the sale moves forward.

It is critical to recognize that executives are exceptionally busy. While they may want to discuss your solution, other priorities crop up all the time. If you stop now, there is a good chance that she will forget about you and your particular solution when she is ready to move forward. Your goal is to keep your name in the prospect's mind and develop a "stay-in-touch" campaign. This can include email, voice mail, letters, and cards. Each point of contact should offer something of value and MUST be brief. Respect the decision-maker's time. Recognize that they are balancing multiple projects at any given time. Like you, they can only work on a certain number of them at once.

Many people close sales long after the initial contact simply because they have been persistent and executed a solid strategy and keep-in-touch plan. While the standard number of contacts is eight, this number is not carved in stone. You can rest assured that if you give up after three or four attempts, a competitor who is more persistent will eventually get the business. Are you willing to give business away or are you prepared to persist until you succeed?

Kelley Robertson is a professional speaker and trainer on sales, negotiating, customer service, and employee motivation. Receive a FREE copy of "100 Ways to Increase Your Sales" by subscribing to his free newsletter available at his website. Visit He is also the author of "The Secrets of Power Selling" and "Stop, Ask & Listen-Proven Sales Techniques to Turn Browsers into Buyers." For information on his programs contact him at 905-633-7750
(article as published on

Sales development - where to begin?

Many new sales managers often struggle with the diversity of their sales team.
Group meetings, group coachings and trainings seem to miss their target audience by 70% of their content - yet on different parts of that content: too far ahead for newbies, too basic for seniors, and too superficial for the mediors.

What to do?

Well... what works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.
Leadership is based on more factors than insight or content alone.
However, there are some basic steps that can be followed to gain insight in your team's individual members and provide some basic structure for you and your team to start the development process.

Through my recent involvement with Talentenacademie ( I have learned a great deal about professional athletes' development. Even if a professional athlete is an undisputed talent, the difference between 1st and 4th place is mainly based on the athlete's mental state of mind. And more importantly, that state of mind is not static. In fact, it changes all the time. So it must be managed actively and consciously.

Obviously, we're all humans, and the above must be true for sales professionals also. In other words: it is not only the skill set that determines the outcome. Although some basic skills and logic are obviously required.

If you know that you (sales manager) will have little time (or budget) for hands-on coaching and participating in client meetings or listening in on calls, hiring rookie salesmen - even when extremely motivated - might not be a wise decision. When you do have the time, make sure to plan those activities in your calendar, so that they get the attention they deserve.

In fact, it all starts with individual attention, and an individual plan for development.
Obviously, many books about this subject are available, and various profound theories exist. I don't claim to know better, or overrule these theories, but when time is lacking and you simply need a quick start to get going the below steps may prove helpful.

Step 1: What drives the individual?
Find out what drives and motivates each of your sales professionals.
Also try to find out what will demotivate him or her.
- What dreams does your professional have (and express to his environment)?
- Can this dream be quantified in money? Not all dreams are materialistic (such as buying a ferrari or so), but many can be quantified. Big home, safety net for the family, college fund for the kids, vacation in the Maldives, etc. Once quantified in the big picture, you can make it concrete by breaking the big picture down into smaller steps that can be achieved on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Aligning the dream with the potential of the job will ensure long-term motivation and commitment. (or you might find out the individual is not somehow motivated by money - even if derived from a less materialistic goal. Maybe not a good basis for a sales position then...)
- Is your team member encouraged by appreciation or self-fulfillment? Does he need a pat on the back and public recognition or does he need some help in determining his milestones, so that he knows he is on the right track?

Question yourself:
- If the team member needs external appreciation and appreciation is lacking, what happens?
- If the team member is motivated by self-fulfillment and he doesn't reach his goals because they're unrealistic, what happens?

In other words, what can you do to make milestones SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely) for your sales professional so that he can visibly pursue and achieve his goals?
Specify your expectations for the first 4-8 weeks, adjust upward and specify for months 3-6, adjust upward and specify for 6-12 months. Make sure to recognize if recognition is important and appropriate. However, make sure to address concerns if lack of proactivity, lack of openness to learn and lack of action are evident obstructors to success.

Step 2: What professional strengths and weaknesses does your sales professional have?
- What professional aspects need further attention, coaching or training?
- Are these aspects tied to sales skills, product knowledge, consultative selling advise, daily structure, discipline etc?
- Can you appoint seniors or mentors to alleviate your task and ensure information transfer on appropriate subjects? (consider this: Should/can the senior be rewarded for this task? Perhaps the senior can be motivated by giving him a % of the commission for his help and mentorship)
- Can you group your team into segments of relative need/interest, so that you can train/coach in efficient subgroups and raise effectivity to 80-90%?

Step 3: Does the team culture support ACTION?
- If the team is quiet and makes little to no noise (calls) or is passive, group behavior theory suggests that it is likely your new team members will eventually adjust to the group culture.
- If the example is passive, don't expect major changes
- Is activity, creativity and internal entrepreneurship rewarded or frowned upon?
- Observe the team dynamic and you will be able to predict the outcome to a large extent.

Step 4: Does the compensation plan incentivize the desired behavior? 
- If the company needs new customers, does a salesmen benefit when indeed bringing that new client in?
- If you're concerned about customer retention, is your sales force empowered and motivated (rewarded) for account management and customer service activity?
- If you need to push a new product line or enter a new market, what reward can be attributed specifically to attaining those goals?
- If your sales team is motivated by money, does extra work or smart work and more clients and eventually more sales lead to significantly more income? (in other words: what is the balance between fixed and variable income?)

Remember: it's not easy - but also remember: you're not the first to run into these challenges.
If you're overwhelmed by the magnitude of these challenges, you can join a sales management group on LinkedIn or offline, so that you don't have to re-invent the wheel. Online or offline groups allow you to discuss your challenges in further detail with someone that can give you an objective insight or advise - from experience. In closure: common sense goes a long way. If the designated hunters aren't making more than 3 calls a day, you know something's going on and it is time to step up.
You can even email your company's top clients to ask them for feedback about the company, the products/services, and their sales representative. Chances are your customers will provide you with the best possible overview of your team's performance.

Much success!!