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Saleswise Blog

February 2013

Develop Me or I'm History

Feb 19, 2013 9:50 AM
Nicki Weiss

Ignore your employees’ development at your peril

Even during challenging economic times, your best and brightest have options to work elsewhere. If you don’t help your employees grow and develop, they will take their talents to a company that will.

Or they could stay and wreak equal damage by losing interest in moving your company to higher levels of sales, profits and innovation. As Zig Ziglar, the recently departed salesperson and author said: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is . . . not training your employees and keeping them."

Employees you develop through training sessions, coaching, mentoring, role playing, and stretch projects can boost revenue, productivity, innovation and bottom-line results.

So why do so many leaders resist this path to success? Perhaps the answer lies in myths that leaders and managers tell themselves.

Some paralyzing myths . . . and a few suggestions

  1. We don’t have the time
    Tom, VP of Sales for an electronics distribution company, saw the need for his over-busy people to become more sophisticated and effective leaders. His team of managers and supervisors were working with salespeople who were transitioning from transactional sales to highly complex, design-in, longer sales cycle situations and everyone was struggling

    He opened the first session of a one year program by saying:

    “We are busy. The orders are flying in. You and your people are under a lot of stress. And we’re here for two days of this session, and another six days over the year. You’re probably thinking: I don’t have time for this. My people will mess up without me.

    “Yet, good companies take the time to hit the “pause” button and learn. And we don’t want to be a good company.

    “We want to be a GREAT company. And ALL great companies hit the “pause” button regularly to learn, figure out what is working, talk about what is not working, and get what is not working to work. That’s where we’re going.”

    Some employees subsequently departed (a good thing) and those who stayed took advantage of the opportunity to learn and develop. They’re still there, and the division has brought in whale-sized deals that were unthinkable before they took the program.
  2. Training is expensive
    If you haven’t committed to developing your employees, you will experience sticker-shock. Good help is not cheap, nor should it be.

    Instead, think about results. If each of your salespeople made one more sale this year, or grew a small account into a medium or large one, or landed a whale-sized deal, what might that amount to? Certainly more than you spent on training or coaching.

    As a rule, consider investing a minimum of $2,500 annually on each employee. In my business, I invest a minimum of $5,000 each year; some years it’s closer to $10,000. My investment includes coaching for myself and others on my team. I also invest heavily in ongoing learning (live and virtual programs, books and magazines, conferences, ToastMasters, MasterMind groups, and technical training).

    A company I work with invests close to $4,000/per person annually for a division of 30 people ($120,000). Using the new knowledge and techniques they have learned, they recently grew an opportunity by $1.5 M annually for at least the next five years ($7.5M)

    Lately, I’ve received a number of calls from leaders who want to include something new and interesting in their upcoming annual sales meeting and aren’t sure what they want (training? lecture? team-building activity? 90 minutes long? Two days long?) Or they want to offer their people ongoing learning.

    They are shocked when they find out that good programs cost more than 50 cents so they back away.

    And then they wonder why good people leave and the mediocre stay.
  3. My people resist change so development is a waste of time and money
    Be careful about the messages you inadvertently send to your people. If you believe they won’t change, guess what? They won’t change.

    And if you’re not reinforcing learning with ongoing practice, discussion, and coaching, you’re making it difficult – if not impossible – for your people to succeed in the struggle of change.

    Yes, some people resist change more than others. But ongoing learning is THE competitive advantage.

    Raise the bar.
  4. Development efforts are best concentrated on high potentials, who already do a good job
    You can indeed see a significant return on investment in your high potentials. But they make up only about 10% of your workforce. You probably have another 10% of marginal performers. But what about the 80% in between, the "Develop Me or I’m History" middle responsible for doing the bulk of the work? Imagine what even a small investment in their development might yield.

Remember: Growing your business means growing your people. Forget that . . . and the rest is history.

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How to Reinforce Sales Training

Feb 12, 2013 5:46 PM
Nicki Weiss

 When I ask sales leaders if they think reinforcing sales training is important, the answer is always “Yes.” But when I ask how they reinforce their training, or how often, they usually say “We don’t.”

Research shows, again and again, that 87% of what salespeople learn in training will disappear within three months without reinforcement.

Training is not a “spray and pray” approach to professional development. A one-day or even five-day workshop isn’t the one-off solution to help your sales staff reach their potential. Think of a baseball team. Would the owner send a promising player to a week-long baseball camp and think that the player was then ready to play at the top of his game?

Yet sales leaders exhibit this kind of magical thinking when it comes to their own teams.

Reinforcement is a “must have,” not a “nice to have”.

Think and Behave Strategically

Role-Playing Will Help You Play – And Stay - in the Major Leagues
Adults need practice to make learning stick. So why does practice in the form of “role-play” have such a bad rap? Why do so many sales managers think only new people need this training? And why do so many salespeople hold on to the notion that role-playing is a waste of time?

All the Greats Practice
In other professions, continuing skill development is common and, in some cases, mandatory. Before every game, baseball players spend time in batting practice, a form of role-playing. Fans and the media would loudly criticize a player who skipped batting practice, especially if his performance at the plate was less than acceptable.

That baseball player also spends time role-playing in the infield or outfield, running through every scenario his team might face during a game so he can figure out how to handle each play.

Using the same principles, actors will rehearse countless times before every live performance, marking their spots, practicing different approaches.

Think about the best of the best: Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, Robert De Niro. In interviews, they talk about their practice routines and the role their coaches and teachers played in their development. Have you ever heard one of these people say they just had natural talent, so they went out there and did their thing?

I’m not sure why sales managers and salespeople feel and behave differently.

Here Are Ten Ways to Improve Role-playing in Your Sales Organization:

1. Plan to role-play with your entire team every week. Schedule the meeting in advance. No sneak attacks!
2. People learn through both practice and watching. Have the sales manager play the customer and choose a different person each week to be the salesperson. The rest of the team observes, takes notes, and gives feedback.
3. Hold the sessions on the phone if you can’t meet in person.
4. Create safety. At the first role-play meeting, talk about how people want to receive feedback, and what constitutes helpful feedback.
5. Make it fun. Take the role-play exercise into a new environment out of the office. Or give a prize to the salesperson who was chosen to role-play.
6. Make it useful. Make sure the scenarios are realistic but easy. On Monday morning, tell the team the product focus for the role-play, so they can do some research. On Friday morning, hold your role-play meeting. Once people start mastering the selling skills, make the role-play scenarios increasingly difficult.
7. Remind everyone that this is practice, not performance. Better to make mistakes in here than out there.
8. Aim for customer-focused conversations, not those that concentrate on products.
9. Set up a system to give consistent feedback. Look for what the person did well, and areas for improvement.
10. Resolve to make role-playing part of your sales culture, not a one-meeting gig. The best part is that it’s free. Unless, of course, you’d like to hire me to help you get it in motion.

Talk back: How have you, or your company, instituted role-playing? What works and what doesn’t? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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Leadership and the Wet Exit

Feb 5, 2013 9:39 AM
Nicki Weiss

 Have you ever been simultaneously paralyzed about doing something while knowing you were being ridiculous? And that you couldn’t get out of the paralyzing situation so that not doing it was not an option?

That was my reaction about doing a wet exit before my most recent kayaking trip.

A wet exit is the process of getting out of a kayak upside down with a spray skirt on. Just thinking about it still gives me the whim-whams. It is a basic skill that paddlers must know how to perform and I had managed to take long kayaking trips for 25 years without ever having to show I could do it. Until the guides on a trip to The North Channel in northern Ontario wouldn’t let me weasel out of demonstrating the wet exit no matter how much I whined.

What does this have to do with leadership?

A big part of a leader’s job is to make people feel comfortable and safe while moving them outside their comfort zones. Here’s how two leaders made all the difference for me:

Kielyn greeted me warmly when I arrived at base camp. She listened to my fearful complaints about the wet exit with a smile and reassurance. At no time did she say that I could take a pass.

On land and in the water, she showed a group of us repeatedly how to do a wet exit. She encouraged all of us to sit on the dock to watch and cheer each other on as we did ours. Observing the others helped me see that everyone surfaced safely in less than 10 seconds.

Ally, our other leader, stood in the water to coach. Ally has a very calm manner, a great sense of humour, and the patience of Job. As I sat in my kayak, I followed her instructions to verbally repeat the wet exit process until I felt comfortable and safe. She explained what she would do to make sure I didn’t drown if I got stuck upside down.

Giving people opportunities to observe, learn, talk through a process, ask questions, and practice – over and over – allows them to feel comfortable enough to take chances. Ally waited patiently as I sat there, paralyzed, for 15 long minutes. Her kindness and compassion allowed me to start believing I would live when I voluntarily tipped the kayak.

When I surfaced, Ally hugged me and said: “The biggest joy of my job is helping people get past their fears.”

And then we had the best kayaking trip of my life.

The Impact of a Caring Leader

Gallup research has accumulated a mountain of evidence over the years on the impact of a caring leader. Results include employees who:

  • Are much more likely to stay with their organization
  • Are substantially more productive
  • Retain customers
  • Raise profits

It pays off to care.

Talk back: I’d love to hear your ideas, questions, and concerns about the link between leadership and moving people through fear.

Note: Wild Women Expeditions is an amazing all-women outdoor adventure and active vacations company that includes canoeing, kayaking, hiking, cycling, yoga and arts retreats across Canada. To find out more, go to

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January 2013

How a Credo Can Help When You’re Stuck

Jan 29, 2013 9:32 AM
Nicki Weiss

 What do you do when you don’t know what to do? When you’re scared? When none of the options seem appealing? When the consequences are huge, either in your personal or professional life?

Earlier this year I attended a week-long leadership program at the Banff Centre where we tackled these kinds of challenges.

We did an interesting intellectual exercise to help us find our personal credo: words that we say to ourselves when we are paralyzed and can’t figure out what to do next. I came up with: “Have faith, collaborate, write, go.“ Then we put our credo to the test in physically challenging and scary exercises.

In one, I climbed a 50-foot ladder and started walking across a skinny wire that stretched across about another 50 feet. The wind was blowing, the wire swaying and I got twisted up in the overhead ropes that were supposed to help. My original credo didn’t come to mind at all. I heard myself saying something entirely different: “Go slowly. Go slowly. Go slowly. Keep going.”

Putting a Credo to Work

I’m now practicing that credo when I get stuck, either personally or professionally. First, a personal story, where I literally couldn’t get out of first gear. I recently decided to learn how to ride a motorcycle (don’t ask), took a bunch of lessons, and flunked the driving test because I didn’t drive fast enough. My husband commented that he didn’t know a motorcycle could move so slowly without falling over.

But I really wanted that license so I kept practicing, driving around the block, repeating my credo out loud, “Go slowly, go slowly, keep going.” Impatient to turn myself into a confident and capable driver, on one of my rounds I cranked through the gears, sped up and promptly became terrified. Slowing down, I realized (again) that there is no way (and no reason) for me to try and speed up my learning process or my motorcycle.

Two weeks later: I was going fast enough to pass my test. And, for a newbie motorcycle rider, I’m not half-bad. My credo of “go slowly…keep moving” allows me to make progress at a speed that suits me.

A Credo Can Get You Moving

This credo helps me in my sales and leadership work, too. I continually find selling and leading confusing. Who doesn’t?

Here are some examples of my latest challenges:

  • People with whom I have had a good conversation say they’ll call back and they don’t.
  • My colleague and I proposed a program that met a prospect’s specific requests, and he then said he didn’t want to invest the time.
  • We are working with a leadership team who understands that collaboration is the key to success, and each member of the team keeps putting their own interests first.
  • I’m trying to figure out how to develop a new niche.

Selling and leading can be like driving in the night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but that’s enough to get you to your destination.

It helps to have your credo along for the ride so you don’t lose patience or give up.

Talk back: What is your credo? What do you say to yourself when you’re unsure of where to go or how to get there?

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The Most Important Factor for Sales Success

Jan 22, 2013 9:25 AM
Nicki Weiss

 In a famous study about the most important factor in achieving success, researchers put a group of four-year-olds in a room with one marshmallow each. They told the kids that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow for 15 minutes, they would get a second marshmallow, and then left the room and watched.

Two-thirds of the kids ate their marshmallow within 15 minutes; a third delayed their gratification and waited. The researchers followed these kids for 25 years to track their life paths. All the kids who delayed their gratification were successful: they had high grades, earned degrees and landed good jobs. A handful of the kids who ate their marshmallow were successful; the rest were not. They had bad grades, dropped out of high school or university, and some were in jail.

The study conclusively showed that delaying gratification is the most important factor in achieving success. What does this finding have to do with selling?

Salespeople are notorious for eating marshmallows too quickly:

  • They talk about their products and services way before establishing that a prospect actually needs them
  • They show prospects fancy Powerpoint presentations before allowing them to tell their stories
  • They quickly smother prospects in details that invite objections to price or value
  • They defend their products and services against an objection without finding out what is underneath the concern

No wonder their sales are lackluster, prospects are indifferent, and everyone is frustrated.

The solution: Don’t eat the marshmallow and follow the P.A.W.S. principle

Pause and be Present
Manage your urge to talk by listening carefully to what the prospect is saying. Have a bottle of water with you. Before you talk, take a sip to give you time to digest what you’ve just heard and formulate your next question.

Keep asking prospects and customers to talk about their problems, needs and opportunities. Ask them about the history of the problem, what they’ve tried in the past, and help them to broaden their horizons: “How does that affect ____?” “What is causing _____ to happen?”

Research shows that top salespeople ask six times as many questions as average or poor salespeople.

Withhold talking about your products/services until you’ve confirmed a need

Before you talk about what you sell, pause and ask something like: “So, if I understand you correctly, you’re looking for a way to _____. Is that right?”

This small moment can double or triple your sales by ensuring you clearly understand a buyer’s needs.

Slow down
A sales conversation is not a race. Step in front of your competitors by slowing down and taking time with your customer so you can learn about each other. Ironically, slowing down can speed up the buying process and you will beat your galloping competition.

Watch the six- minute “marshmallow” video

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Are you Bumping Your Head As You Lead?

Jan 15, 2013 9:05 AM
Nicki Weiss

 “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head…It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a while.” A.A. Milne

In my work with fast-growing companies, I frequently see individuals whose brilliant technical skills and accomplishments have pushed them quickly up the ranks. However, at a certain point those skills aren’t enough to take them further. They need to learn how to be powerful leaders who can inspire and energize their people. They need to know how to stop bumping their head so they can engage their employees.

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is not the same as job satisfaction.

Engaged employees care about the company and feel a connection to it. They are willing to invest the energy to be great instead of settling for “good enough”. When measuring engagement, Gallup frames questions around major themes of how employees view their workplaces.

  • Having clear expectations and everything needed to do their best job every day.
  • Feeling that leadership cares about employees as people and is interested in their professional development.
  • Getting recognized for good performance.
  • Having a voice.
  • Feeling a sense of purpose.
  • Working among people who want to do quality work.

So how are companies doing with employee engagement?

According to Gallup:

  • At world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees is roughly 10-to-1.
  • At average organizations, that ratio is just about 2-to-1.

Does disengagement affect company results?

Again, according to Gallup:

  • Disengaged employees cost U.S. companies roughly $800 billion in productivity losses annually.
  • Engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings-per-share growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry.

How to develop ‘engaging’ leadership skills

I recently returned from an inspirational program at the Banff Centre that immerses leaders at all levels in ways to focus on engagement. Read about the program at

Be a student of leadership

Think and learn about leadership in the same way you do about sales, marketing, finance, and all other aspects of your business. Take your leadership studies seriously: read, take courses, talk to other leaders . . . and know that no matter how effective you are, you can still learn more.

Here are some of the leadership books I regularly re-read:

  • Co-Active Coaching, by Henry Kimsey House and Phil Sandahl
  • Strengths-Based Leadership, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
  • Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest, by Peter Block (and anything else by him)
  • Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright
  • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith
  • The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company, by Charan, Drotter, and Noel

Two ways to begin setting the conditions for engagement

1. Take a hard look at what it is like to be an employee in your company. Notice how much people talk in meetings, and how candid they are. As the leader setting the context for engagement, you should be talking less and asking more powerful and provocative questions.

2. “Yes, and …” I thought I was pretty open-minded until I noticed how often I said, “Yes, but . . .” or “The problem with that idea is . . .”

In improv theatre there is a two-part concept called “Yes, and . . .” The first part is that no matter what you say or do, I am going to say “yes” to you, accepting whatever you have offered and increasing your engagement. In the second part I add “and”, building on what you said.

It may feel like a struggle at first, but keep at it. “Yes, and…” is particularly helpful when you don’t agree with someone’s idea. “Yes, and…” is a conversation; “Yes, but…” is an argument.

“Yes, and…” is a way of thinking and leading that opens your mind, helps you listen and creates a supportive environment. Try it and see how it helps you stop bumping your head.

Talk back: As a leader, what conditions do you set to create engagement and commitment in your organization?

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How to Improve Your Sales Numbers

Jan 8, 2013 9:01 AM
Nicki Weiss

 The sales year always starts with setting a number. Then it moves to getting to the number. Sales leaders spend a lot of time creating plans, setting quotas, preparing for Q1, looking at the pipeline, figuring out how to fill the pipeline and on and on to make the number a reality.

However, the process often misses a solid understanding of what the team needs to make their numbers. I’m not sure why this important part is missed so often, but it is.

Add some “let’s inspire” to your plan

Sales leaders, go through your 2013 strategy right now, looking for how much is dedicated to support and enablement. Does any part of the plan inspire your people?

How much of the budget is allocated to sales improvement or support tools? How much of the plan focuses on professional development for individuals and for the team? How much of the strategy includes developing a “whale hunting” mindset where the entire company works together to land HUGE deals?

If your plan has a “let’s inspire” part, whether you call it training, coaching, team-building, or stretch goals, you’re on the right track. In fact, you’re at the front of the train, because most sales leaders ignore this essential foundation for achieving their numbers.

Sales teams are hungry and have opinions about what they want to eat

Sales teams never stop growing and changing. They require care and feeding. The best organizations understand this.

Right now, ask the team what they feel is missing. Ask them what they think would make it easier to meet their numbers. Ask them what you could provide to accelerate sales. Turn each answer into a small project to fulfill the need they have highlighted.

Get familiar with the team’s weaknesses and strengths. A good start is the StrengthsFinder Assessment. (There are a variety of books that offer the same StrengthsFinder Assessment: Now Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham; Discover Your Sales Strengths, by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano; Strengths Based Leadership, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie; StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath) Ask each team member to complete it and share the results during meetings.

Identify initiatives that will offset their weaknesses and build on their strengths. Reaching your number, growing sales, and moving product is more than setting revenue targets and creating motivational rewards and recognition. Getting to your number means getting the most out of your team and you need to make sure you supply the support.

Talk back: What is your sales support and enablement strategy? Do you have one?

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Same New Year's Resolution

Jan 1, 2013 9:18 AM
Nicki Weiss

 Did you make the same resolutions in 2011 and 2012 and you really tried to change but you’re still fighting the same battles? Here are a few of my recurring vows:

a. I will not try to be perfect at every task I take on (my new workshop, my marketing materials, a new niche I’d like to develop). My ideas and efforts only need to be good enough.

b. I will network more.

As I look over my resolutions from the past few years, these two keep cropping up and I don’t feel as if I’ve made any significant progress.

What stalls change?

I recently went to a program at Harvard called Immunity to Change. The professors -- Bob Keegan and Lisa Lahey -- cited a recent study that showed when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don’t change their habits (stop smoking, lose weight, start exercising), fewer than 1 in 7 will act on the advice.

Even when the goal is staying alive, the ability to change remains maddeningly elusive. Some other belief or mindset is kicking in that stops us from making the changes we want.

How can we get past the blocks to change?

As Keegan and Lahey explain, we need to understand what makes us put our foot on both the accelerator and brakes at the same time. We need a pen, paper and a thinking partner to help us reveal these blind spots. The conversation takes about two to three hours.

Step One

Identify the changes you are trying to make, and all the actions you are taking, or not taking, that undermine these goals.

a. I avoid writing marketing materials

b. I make excuses about why a particular networking event isn’t worth attending.

Step Two

Identify what fears or worries are undermining your efforts to change.

Here are snippets of my mindset:

a. If I write marketing materials and launch a new program, I fear no one will show up and I will feel like a failure.

b. If I attend networking events, I worry I will not be extroverted enough to start conversations and I will stand alone on the sidelines.

Step three

Turn those fears into statements that reflect how you are trying to “immunize” yourself.

a. I am committed to not writing marketing materials so no one, particularly the people who might buy my services, will see me fail.

b. I am committed to not putting myself in situations where I could be alone in a crowd.

Step Four

Figure out the “big assumptions” you make about yourself and the world so you can challenge them

a) I assume that if I launch a new program people will discover that I don’t know what I’m doing.

b) I assume that if I network and am friendly, no one will be interested in me.

Now what?

Rather than jump into action to challenge our “big assumptions”, Keegan and Lahey recommend setting up safe, small tests.

I’ll keep you posted on my tests, what I discover and the progress I make on my resolutions.

Talk back: Find a thinking partner and discover your own ways of challenging the assumptions that hold you back from the changes you want to make.

If you or your team need help getting unstuck, contact me. I love this stuff!

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December 2012

Why Sales Managers Need Coaching

Dec 25, 2012 9:52 AM
Nicki Weiss

 Pat owns and runs a successful business that employs eight sales reps. After recent changes in his company, the economy, and in his personal life, he doesn’t feel like an effective leader. He’s overwhelmed, feels alone, and worries the members of the sales team are only interested in their individual successes, not working together to boost overall numbers.

Lee is a corporate VP of sales. She navigates difficult politics, does an excellent job of leading a team of 20 reps and is part of a few global/virtual teams. Given the political climate, the senior leaders in her organization don’t collaborate and even undermine each other. Lee is exhausted and confused.

These two leaders have taken extensive coach-like leadership training and are committed to developing people. But what about their needs? Do they need coaches to navigate their challenges? Both know that proper sales coaching is good for business, with research showing:

  • Team productivity increases 35%
  • Retention of sales training improves 400% if coaching is added within 30 days
  • One-on-on coaching, two to three times monthly, results in averaging 107% over quota
  • Sales turnover decreases up to 12%

Why should a sales manager (even a good one) have a coach?

  • Sales VPs who have coaches consistently exceed quota
  • Top athletes and the best singers have coaches. Kobe Bryant (recent NBA Finals MVP) and Taylor Swift (2011 entertainer of the year) are at the top of their game. They have two coaches each.
  • Kids have coaches (usually called tutors). In our local school, 85% of the ‘A’ students have tutors.

When should a sales manager have a coach?

New to the company
How a new company brings you into the fold is critical to your long-term success. Ask about onboarding or coaching programs. If you’re lucky, your boss may be a good coach. Ask. Or you may need to hire an outside coach to support you.

Shifting your sales culture
Teams working together always outperform the contributions of individuals. However, most companies encourage salespeople to go it alone as “lone rangers”. Shifting a sales culture from “me” to “”we” requires thoughtful strategy, discipline in implementing new ways of operating, and courage. You will need ongoing support.

Stuck on a plateau
Few people can sustain their best performance on their own. If your numbers show you have reached the top and you stall there, a coach could help you prevent the typical downslide that follows a plateau.

Feeling Overwhelmed
Is your to-do list getting longer and longer? Worried you’re not making significant progress on key areas of the business? Are you exhausted? These are good indicators that finding a coach could help you hit the pause button, assess what is and isn’t working, and get going on the things that matter.

Reaching for a goal
Do you have a big goal to achieve, and the mountain seems too high to scale? Perhaps you want to be a VP of Sales or consistently exceed quota. A coach can help you develop a strategy and stay focused on your goal.

Looking ahead to 2013
Be open to identifying when you need support, even if you are at the top of your game.

Metrics prove that coaching will dramatically help expand your leadership capacity and drive sales productivity.

Think big: coaching is not for people who want to achieve mediocre results. It is for those sales managers who want to be world class . . . and stay there.

Talk Back: What are your plans for professional development this year? Here comes a shameless plug – if you’re interested in exploring how coaching can help you and your team, contact me.

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Three Things I’d like to say “NO” to in 2013

Dec 18, 2012 9:58 AM
Nicki Weiss

 I am a creature of habit. I like to think that I’ve developed good habits that make my life full and rewarding.

But lately I’ve noticed a small but persistent feeling of discontent in my otherwise happy existence. I started writing down my thoughts to see where my scribblings would lead, and a pattern emerged. Seems I don’t like some of my habits and want to exchange them for others.

Here’s my plan for 2013.

1. Saying “no” to being plugged in all day and “yes” to some quiet time when I can concentrate

Electronic gadgets are essential, but they are distracting. Constant interruptions (primarily phone and email) are taking their toll on me. I crave freedom, if only for a little while, from devices that blink, stream and scroll.

Apparently they are wearing others down too. Research shows that the average office worker enjoys no more than three minutes at a time without interruption.

Intel (of all companies) experimented in 2007 with giving four uninterrupted hours of quiet time every Tuesday morning to 300 engineers and managers. They were not allowed to use the phone or send e-mail and they loved the break. A majority of the trial group recommended that Intel extend the policy to others.

I am trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to observe an “Electronic Sabbath” every week, turning off my computer and unplugging my phones from Friday night to Sunday morning. When I actually do this, I feel more peaceful and energized.

2. Saying “no” to clicking on links when I am reading online and “yes” to continuous concentration on one topic

I don’t know about you, but when I click on links in articles or on websites, I forget what I was reading. I then backtrack, and am caught in a time-consuming, confusing loop of information that leaves me feeling more ignorant than before I started.

Again, I’m not alone . Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain absorbs and processes information much more slowly than our current high-speed life allows. The writings of French philosopher Blaise Pascal in the 17th century ring surprisingly true today. He assessed that all of man’s problems come from the inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

I’m going to consciously cut the time I spend reading and learning online, and go back to the reflective practice of sitting quietly in a room reading paper books, magazines and newspapers.

3. Saying “no” to working with people who bring ulcers to leave room for others who say “yes” to joy, learning, collaboration and great work.

I am going to consistently keep track of the values and concerns that I share with my just-right clients and colleagues, and say “yes” to searching for that dynamic in new work relationships. On the flip side, I will say “no” to business – however well paying –that is fraught with ulcer-inducing angst and cross-purposes.

Talk back: What do you want to say “no” and “yes” to in 2013?

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