building from wooden colourful childrens blocks

Building blocks are not just for kids! Sales people need them now more than ever.

Let me expand and explain.

As sales people we are told to “just go sell”. Get more face time with our clients. Understand what they need and then deliver it. Simple, right? From that single perspective yes it is. And once upon a time that worked.

In the world of the complex “solution” sell of today it is no longer effective, and it never really was what the best of the best did in any case. The very best “sellers” have always had a lot more internal knowledge and intellectual curiosity, and just plain cared more than the average bloke. And it showed.

When the CEB published The Challenger Sale they did not invent a class of person that rose to the top. Their research simply identified a selling style that firmly and totally existed already. This selling style was the best combination of attributes that marked the best producers. What the CEB team did was label things clearly and define them accurately so that we could finally figure out how to search for, find, hire, and enable more of what we wanted in our teams.

(We are finding that hiring for attitude as Mark Murphy has taught us is the most important shift in hiring that we have ever made. We now hire for traits not skills. And it is making a HUGE difference. But, let’s go back to building blocks for the moment.)

As we hire for attitude and train to teach, tailor, and take control, we also find that the new normal in the co-creation and delivery of insight with our clients requires that our team have a total and detailed understanding of all of the elements of business as the client sees it.

Now to do the job we need to have all of the chapters of the book engrained in our soul. The fundamental elements of the trade now consist of having a full grasp of:

As any good builder knows the strength and stability of every tall building is its foundation that it is formed on, its baseline building blocks.  They must be solid and well-defined. So must our knowledge of our own building blocks… ALL of them.  To make a real difference with our clients we have to be experts at the client engagement process.

The sales world that we thrive in today demands uniqueness, but only if we want differentiation from commoditization. And where once that was achieved by having the best products and/or services, it is now achieved by the sales professional and their approach to serving their clients. Now, more than ever our best sales pros have a complete grasp of all of the building blocks that are a part of the complex mosaic of today’s business. Building blocks are now for big kids… like me!


Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. - Theodore Roosevelt

As sales people our past success over several decades has been driven by data - data in the form of what we KNEW. Our success in “selling” was once based on the information that we had in our heads, the people that we knew, the contacts that we had, and the resources that we knew how to deploy.

Unfortunately, today significant portions of what once made us winners no longer matter, and many of us still can’t get over the ways of the past.

In a recent blog, a friend and fellow sales fanatic, Dave Brock wrote about how poorly many sales people today prospect for clients. Check out his thoughts, they are great. I see the same thing today from EVERY single call and email that I get from salespeople who are wanting a piece of my time.

The message starts like this:


(We can stop right here because clearly my name was picked out of some database somewhere. The only person ever to call me by my full name was my Mother, when I was in trouble.)

“Mitchell, my name is Bob Blah and I would really like to have just 10 minutes of your time to tell you all about my blah, blah, blah. We are number one in blah, blah, blah. And today we serve 159 of the Fortune 500 companies. Our blah, blah, blah, will help you sell more and solve all of your problems.”

I actually do not pick up my office phone any longer because these calls come all day, every day. It’s sad. If just once, one of these hard working folks would call up and demonstrate that they actually cared about what was important to me, I would be delighted to call them back. But in the last decade that has never happened. Not even once.

To connect with the people in our lives, while selling or not, we have to CARE, and we have care about THEM.

Our understanding of what is important to THEM, what their challenges are, and how we can help, must come before we ever get into a discussion about our products or services or anything to do with us.

Our clients will care about what we have to say, ONLY when we clearly demonstrate that we care about them FIRST. And it must be in that order. And it must be genuine and sincere. No games, no pitches, no opening and closing strategies, no handling of objections, no manipulation, no SELLING!

Start with caring about them as people, not them as a part of a company. Do your homework about their world. Understand what you can about their issues in their company, their challenges in their industry, the risks that they face daily in innovation… And keep seeking to understand, because you care. Turn the understanding and caring around to focus on the person that you are serving.

You will find that those people that you care enough to serve well from their perspective will in fact care a great deal about what YOU have to say, in time. And from there the caring and information sharing explodes.

Your clients care because you care. You first!

Once upon a time our value as sales people was information. It actually still is, but the new reality is that to get to the point in a client relationship where your information is again valuable, you must enter into that relationship from the perspective of listening and diagnosing first, extensively, before you prescribe.

Sounds easy, but most sales people that I interact with today are still pushing their stuff on me before they have ever stopped to understand me. Too bad. Their loss, and our gain, since we know the secret… CARE about the people who you serve.

Irregular and irreverent rants and ravings from a SALES FANATIC.


We have learned over years of working around the world in every country where commerce exists that the meaning of words often times have huge variations. What I think I am saying can sometimes most certainly NOT be what my listener hears.  And this does not even have to be an issue of local language versus English.  Native English speakers can be just as confusing to each other depending on where they are from.

A good friend, Tom Freese, the author of Question Based Selling taught our leadership team that, “If it is worth saying, it is worth explaining”.  

In my last blog I stated that we have to start with a shift in mindset before we can shift methodologies. This is key to any changes that you want to actually make a part of the culture of an organization, or that you want to make as a human being, for that matter.

My starting premise for shifting the mindset of the sales professional is reframing how they see themselves and developing a clear understanding of why they “sell”.  The premise that sticks is an emotional one, not a logical one.  We are first, emotional beings, and those embodiments are the most powerful of motivators.

So once again, my view of how to reframe the sales professional’s thinking about why we sell is the mindset shift that says this:

Our objective is to make a difference with the people who we serve.

Here is where Tom Freese comes in.  Every word in that phrase is there for a reason, is very specific in nature and communicates something powerful about how and why we do what we do.  Let me explain.


‘To make’ is a very strong verb.  Action oriented and planned, created and intentional.  It is not an accident or a passive thing. It is doable and seeable, and we guide it.


The difference is defined by the other person you are working with; it is something unique and unusual.  This difference has a major impact on them and those that THEY serve. It is not something that anyone else will or can likely do, primarily because it was created together with YOU and that will hold a bond that will not be violated.

(Allow me to interject a practical point here. We are working with clients and our end objective is to serve them the way we know best. This always means that our best service is delivered by serving our client with our best products or services.  There is always a pragmatic side to our serving.  And that’s OK!  It keeps us whole and well and able to serve others even more.)

Now, back to the phrase…


‘With’ is a huge little word here.  This means that the creation and delivery of our “difference” is not done on our own and then served up for analysis.  It is conceived, developed, finalized and delivered WITH the person that you are working with.  With them, on things that matter to them.  This is not done FOR them; it is done WITH them, from beginning to end, and beyond.


We are working with people, not companies, and not even clients, really.  We are working with people and all of their challenges, both professional and personal. This is as much about personal wins for them as it is for helping their jobs and their company in any of the BIG3 types of help provided (help their company grow revenue, help their company reduce overall costs, or help their company manage risks).  However, this is not about relationships as much as it is about understanding.  This means we do lots of diagnosis and exploration, long before we ever get to the prescription side.

Who We Serve

To serve is an interesting and unique perspective. Here I mean a combination of things as defined in many dictionaries. Serve – to do a job or perform duties for a person or organization, to help achieve something, to provide a person with something useful, helping a client choose what they need.  I prefer the servant leadership perspective that Robert Greenleaf has in his book, The Servant as Leader, where he states that to serve is “to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being met.”

So there we have it - a simple yet compelling and powerful reframe of thinking for starting the mindset shift for the sales professional: to make a difference with the people who we serve.

This is just the starting point.  Following the mindset shift comes the methodology shift and that will take us into the world of Prescriptive Execution. It is not enough to shift the mind; we must also shift ourselves into another gear of execution to make a difference.  This takes process, skills, planning and a LOT of work.  This takes the work of Challenger, the conversations like Question Based Selling, and a whole lot of COACHING.

More on that soon…

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram