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Are You a Commodity?


Are You a Commodity?


Do your prospects perceive you as a commodity, even if you don’t? Do they see you as the person they’ll consider working with if you can give them a discount?

Guess what? You’re the 20 percent guy (or girl).

How do you know? They say things to you like: “Things are tough and I’d like to give you a shot, but you have to beat this price.” And you fall for it. So here’s the question: If you are not always the cheapest and you have business, how is that possible? If everyone buys because it’s all the same and they’ll only switch with a discount, how does anyone have any business?

I recently worked with an insurance agency that gets it. Their top salesman was giving examples of how he works with — or, in some cases, refuses to work with — his prospects. Right from the beginning, he is clear that he may not be able to save them money and may even cost more then they are paying now, but he has the ability to bring a true consultative approach to the conversation. And if they respect and are open to that, he can do a true diagnosis of the situation.

Some of the prospects he talks to are quickly brushing him off. They tell him that “if he can’t save them money, then forget it”. He is so thankful when that happens. Why? Because time is the only true asset we have in sales, and to save some by spending more time with qualified prospects is invaluable.

What does qualified mean? It doesn’t mean, for example, that you only call on organizations with a minimum of 200 employees. Since they fit that criterion, they’re qualified. No, it’s much more than that. Consider:

  • Do they have needs that aren’t being met by there existing representative?
  • Are they willing to share these with you and openly discuss their situation: the good, the bad and the ugly?
  • Will they open their “files” to you so you can do a true analysis and not hold back?
  • What will they do if you are not going to be the least expensive, but solve some of the issues you uncover and give them a true assessment?

These are a few of the things that need to be dealt with when you prequalify a prospect. What are we really talking about here? Plain and simple, we are talking about trust. Yes, trust. This is the deciding factor in any relationship. Without trust, you have game playing, bidding wars and all-around time wasters.

How is trust gained? Certainly not by telling them you are trustworthy. Why not? Because people trust you based on your actions, not what you say. It’s the way you work with them, the questions you ask them and truly listening to what they say.

Don’t jump to a proposal, and don’t promise them anything – especially not too early – and always pull back when questions like “Can you save us money?” and “Can you give us better coverage’s or better service?” come up. Yes, pull back. The answer to these questions should be something like: “I certainly hope so, and that’s our goal. But it’s too early in the process to really tell you any of that with confidence”

Scary? Yep. I get it, but start telling the truth – even if it hurts. Have the tough conversations with the tough questions. That’s where true respect and trust come from. You sure don’t want to be the 20 percent guy, do you?


Make sure ALL of the members of your sales team are commodities by getting your sales leader in tiptop shape!

Are You a True Leader?


Being a leader is different from what most of us think it is. Most leaders are actually managers in disguise.

Sarah was excited to be promoted to sales director. After all, she has been in sales for almost eight years and has always been at the top of the leader board. She knows she will really be able to help the other salespeople with their sales, and they already look up to her since she has always been a top performer.


Jeff comes to Sarah one day and asks her what to do about a customer who doesn’t seem to be making a decision, though he really likes their product.

“I’ve tried everything,” he confesses. “I’ve offered free delivery, a 10 percent discount – I’m just stumped.”

Sarah asks: “Can you get a meeting with the decision makers?”

Jeff says he thinks he can and Sarah says: “I’ll come with you and we’ll get it done!”


Jeff knows she will, and is eagerly dialing the phone and spending the commissions he is confident Sarah will help him win.

Real leadership is not managing. Telling someone what to do is absolutely not leadership. Neither is doing it for them. This reminds me of that old saying: “Take someone fishing and they’ll eat for a day. Teach them how to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” The idea of leadership is to get someone to self-realize what they can and should do to make some decisions on their own. Once they feel good about the answer they are looking for, they will continue to use that information and not have to “check in” with you before making that decision.


We often believe that, to be a good leader, you need to be outgoing and charismatic. That is often not the case. You may remember the old E.F. Hutton commercial. If you’re not familiar, it is a room of people talking, but, all of a sudden, E.F. Hutton has something to say and everyone stops to listen. Often, what happens is being a bit humble and a very good listener seems to really work well when it comes to leadership.

Some tips to create true leadership:

  • Stop being a parent to your salespeople. If you think about how we grew up, we asked our parents questions (as curious kids do) and, as parents, they answered our questions immediately. As parents, they wanted us to know the answer. That’s fine, but we are not parents to our salespeople. Our job is not only to get the answer to them, but also to get them to engage with us by thinking about the answer themselves. When they engage in the process with us, it becomes more their idea.
  • Help them feel empowered. The next time a salesperson says “What should I do about?” or “How do I …?” try this: “If you couldn’t reach me right now and needed to make a decision, what decision would you make?” The key here is that you should confirm whatever they say and, if it’s not right, you can say: “And in addition to that, you may want to say….” You need to be a soft place to fall so if their answer is wrong using this process, you can’t get upset with them – or they’ll never feel empowered again.
  • Let them be involved in setting goals. I am always astonished when sales managers/CEOs set goals for salespeople without getting any of their input. If you want to get them engaged and feeling that the goals are not just for what the company dictates – which, by the way, are most often never met –this process should have the salesperson involved: What are their goals? What kind of money do they want to make and why? What activities will they commit to doing daily, weekly and monthly to achieve them? Give them the responsibility to come up with what they feel their goals should be, and have them put the proactive behaviors behind it. Then, review it together to see if it’s real. If it doesn’t meet your standards, then push them a bit: “Oh, I feel you are better than that. Don’t sell yourself short; lets relook at this.”
  • Look realistically at their motivation. Are they making more money than they ever have before? If so, you often find that your salespeople are satisfied with the amount of money they are making, but you aren’ Meaning: The commissions they are making may be great to them, but they aren’t hitting the numbers you need them to hit. Motivation will come from them, not you, so make sure that there is always a carrot. If the carrot stops working, you may need to change the horse.


You can’t motivate anyone to do anything. You can only give them an opportunity to motivate themselves. It may be easier to just do it yourself in the short term, but remember: If you do that now, you will always have to do that. Burnt out much?

4 ways to adapt to change.

Yesterday I was at a governmental affairs meeting in West Palm Beach. The discussion was about changes in the city; transportation, creating local city clusters, more biking opportunities etc.


Some of the people that were at the meeting were part of the original committee that were tasked with putting this together therefore were all behind the ideas brought forth. Others were hearing some of these ideas for the first time and frankly most were ‘poo-pooing’ them.


Why? Because to open yourself to new ideas, good or bad, is all a part of getting comfortable. Most people philosophically are not comfortable the first time they hear a new idea. Especially if the idea is a fairly radical one.


So what does this mean for you as a businessperson? Since the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” is a well-known dilemma, how to we do something new and different ourselves and more over how do we get our team on board with it?


Getting people to engage in ideas and conversation is one of the best ways to accomplish change. No one likes to be dictated to and told that something will change, though often we see that as our responsibility as leaders.


Using the brainstorming technique in presenting an issue and having the group give ideas and responses on how to fix it, without judgment, often will illicit new ideas as well as allow you to present yours successfully.


Some ideas to use in brainstorming;

  • Relay the back-story. Why are you looking to make a change in a particular area? Talk about the reasons for the change, not how you want to do it just yet. When people understand the whys, they tend to be more open to the “hows”.
  • Have patience. One of the things leader tend to do is to rush to the answer and not allow others to get there organically. As a leader we are often open quickly to new, innovative ideas. Others aren’t necessarily that way. Ask good questions to get them to open up, talk about solutions and learn the whys of their ideas as well as opposed to just pushing yours.
  • Be open to another way besides your own. If you are open to other ideas and not stuck on your own, often you will have an even better one right in front of you. Be open to that and don’t assume your is always best.
  • Summarize what you’ve heard and review so the team feels listened to. It is important to go into a brainstorming session with an idea as well as an open mind. Make sure everyone’s participation counts. Reviewing their ideas once they have all been given. You will have ore acceptance when they feel a part of a decision and not dictated one.


Remember human nature says most people don’t like change, at least at the beginning. Approach it properly and you will have a better chance of having agreement and not a mutiny.


greta signature



Will training help your sales people?


This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as yes or no. There are certainly variables, and some are very basic. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is your sales training actually product training?
  • Is it a one-day training that is packed to the gills with information?
  • Is there follow-up coaching and maintenance to assure success?
  • Are there activities set up to create true accountabilities, not just meet the revenue numbers?
  • Are your salespeople trainable?

I recently read a survey of 500 small and medium-size businesses that I want to share with you.

This particular survey found 6 percent of salespeople are at the top of their game. They are consistently beating their goals. As a matter of fact, they set their own goals, depending on what they want to earn.

An additional 20 percent are doing well, but could do better. They are fairly consistent, but could really sharpen their tools a bit more and be unstoppable.

Then there are 74 percent who are not cutting it. Most of the people (about two-thirds) in the 74 percent bracket can improve if they get training.

The other one-third in this group are in the wrong job and really aren’t fixable. Unfortunately, we spend more time with these bottom-end performers and try to get them to improve, when our time and energy should be really spent at the top.

It doesn’t seem to make a difference what industry you’re in, or what type of company you are. Not sure? Ask yourself: What percentage of your sales representatives are consistently successful? Out of 20, two are typically successful, five are pretty good and the rest are not really cutting it. Out of a group this size, the Top 2 are trainable, but will not change what they are already doing right away. (If it ain’t broke ….)

Twelve or 13 will improve quite a bit with training, and the last five or six should be gone. We hold on to salespeople for much longer then we should.

Here is another brilliant comment about training: “I like to go to training seminars, even if I learn just one tip.”

You want a tip? Here’s one for losing weight: “Eat more vegetables and less carbohydrates.”

How’s that?

How about: “To be a better spouse, be a better listener.”

A tip is nice, but will not change behavior. It is, of course, the easy way to “get motivated,” but continue to do what you’re doing.

Sales tends to be a misunderstood phenomenon. We feel like the excuse of doing pretty well or getting close to the goal is OK.

Here is the question I ask salespeople when they say that: If your company’s payroll department says “well, we may not get to create and sign all of the paychecks this week, but we will do the best we can,” would your sales rep kick up his/her heels? You bet. So what is the difference?


Greta Schulz, a sales consultant for businesses and entrepreneurs, can be reached at

Is Social Media Killing Our Sales Skills?


Is Social Media Killing Our Sales Skills?

Recently, I spoke to an organization that spent an ungodly amount of time, energy and money on Social Media to create Lead Generation. So my question was, “Now what?” they said, “What do you mean?” I said “Okay, so you got a whole bunch of people calling you or contacting you through a web form, email etc. How’s your closing ratio?” They looked at me like I had three heads.

The issue is a simple one, just because we believe that we have found a new way to generate business, it is not generating business…alone. Lead generation is Interest; lead generation is getting people to the door. Are they coming over the threshold and are you closing the door behind them? That’s a very important step. One without the other will result in no revenue.


Between Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and Bing ads on any of the Social Media sites, or email-marketing powerhouses like Infusionsoft, amongst other things we do today to build leads is it really working? That’s one question. If we’re doing all of the things that we need to do in Social Media and all the ‘white noise’ is going out, what is it bringing us? Well, it should be bringing us Leads. It should be bringing us Emails, filling out contact Information or a website, web forms and phone call, and if that’s happening, Great you have reached step one. This is a very important step but it is ONLY step one.

The million-dollar question is “Now What?”

It’s important to make sure that we know once people contact us or when we return a request call, we are using the right process to follow up from any kind of lead generation that we get. Are we setting some ground rules at the beginning of the conversation? Are we asking well thought out open-ended questions to engage them and truly understand their needs? Do we have a true picture of all of this before we have the cost conversation and do we clearly understand the next step and what that means as opposed to just “checking back” or “following up” with them?

We often have the naiveté to assume that If they are calling they are already primed to buy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t have a relationship built nor is there is not a true understanding of your product or service. There was just some low level of interest that got them to contact you. Is it better than you calling out cold? Well certainly it is but you still needs the same attention to your sales process as you always have. Getting somebody to call you is only the beginning. So, what are the other steps: What are we doing when we contact them or they call us. Are we using the process properly? Here is what we typically see.


When we get them on the phone, they will typically ask you a simple question that I call a “Wall Question” which is they put up a wall and the question sounds something like this “Hey, I see you guys sell widgets. Can you tell me if I bought a hundred widgets what that would cost?” and we say, “Sure, let me look. What can of widgets you are looking for?” “We’re looking for widget A or widget B.” “Okay well, widget A would be $75,000 for a hundred widgets and widget B would be $82,000. “Oh, that’s a lot of money. “Well, maybe I can do a little better.” You negotiate a price and they say “Okay sounds good, ah we’ll call you back” Or “Sounds good, can you send me a proposal / price sheet/ some more information?”


We get their email, we send that information in writing and cricket, we never hear from them again. We try to contact them back, they don’t contact us. We try to call them, they don’t take our call, and we leave messages.

Sound familiar? Of course, it does. The same situation that happened before when you did your prospecting more proactively occurred. Prospecting hasn’t changed. Sales and the sales process haven’t changed just because they’re contacting you. In fact, I would say that it is more difficult now because we are not as on top of our game since they contacted us we feel it is a ‘hot’ lead.

Not only do you need to do a good job on working on the sales process in closing the sale, you need to do a better job than you ever have before because remember, they have control. They’re the ones that are calling you but they’re also calling your competitor. So they’ve done a little homework, they know who’s out there and they know what the pricing is out there. That’s where the sale process comes in. If you don’t have a process, you’re going to fail whether they’re lead generating through Social Media or not.



Greta Schulz is President of SchulzBusiness, a sales Consulting and Training firm. She is a best selling author of “To Sell IS Not To Sell” and works with fortune 1000 companies and entrepreneurs. For more information or free sales tips go to and sign up for ‘GretaNomics’, a weekly video tip series or email sales questions to

What is Value and What does it mean to Your Customer?


What is Value and What does it mean to Your Customer?


What is value?

When I ask that question to a group of people, I get lots of different answers. Most of the people in the room tell me things like “We give great customer service,” “We give people a very competitive price,” “We have knowledge that others don’t,” “We’ve been in the industry for a long time” or “We’ve always been rated No. 1 or No. 2 in our industry.”

It’s disturbing to me when a salesperson says to a prospect: “We work with lots of clients like you” or “We’ve worked in your industry for a long time and we’re specialists in that industry, so we know what you need.”

That is extremely presumptuous. And I think when you say that to someone, you are immediately putting him in the category of “there’s nothing special about you and your business is just like everyone else’s.”

The fact is that maybe that is true, but as soon as you make someone feel that way, it changes the consultation and immediately turns you into just another sales person.

There is actually only one answer to the question “What value do you bring?” The answer is very simple: It depends. It depends on the perception of value from the person you are speaking to. This is why features and benefits selling doesn’t work anymore: because the benefit of a particular feature that you have may have nothing to do with what your prospect believes the benefit or value is to them. The receiver of the benefit will perceive its value and decide if it’s a benefit or not.

How do you get value? How do you understand what is valuable to another person?

You have to ask them some really good questions. For example, you might ask:

  • What is your biggest challenge when it comes to ________?
  • If you have success with a new product or service in that area, what would that success look like?
  • What would be the advantage if you could utilize a product or service that would allow you to ________?

No. 1, the questions that we ask allow people to talk about what they deem most important to them. No. 2, once they are telling you the points of importance, you can then give them a customized solution that is based upon what they said they wanted.

So, what have you done here? Well, not only have you truly listened to the prospects issues and concerns, but you have come up with a solution based on those particular needs as they see them, not you. So when someone asks what your value is or what makes you better then the next guy, don’t answer that question until you fully understand what they want. And even if you do understand, don’t answer it anyway. The information they tell you will deem much more valuable if they have told it to you and then, from that information, you come up with a forgone conclusion.

In the Spirit of Father’s Day: The Power of Networking I learned from my dad


The Power of Networking I learned from my dad


When I was a college kid, I worked in my dad’s office in the summer and holiday breaks. Often he would take me with him out of the office and to an account visit. One of his responsibilities was visiting his accounts and a responsibility he took very seriously. One day I remember distinctly was walking up to a big silver building. The vast size, the shine, it looked like a character out of star wars. As if that wasn’t intimidating enough, we walked inside a large lobby and when we walked across the marble floors, every step echoed like an old catholic cathedral.


In the midst of all of this larger then life atmosphere, my dad walked over to a large desk in the back of the lobby and with a big smile, greeted Pete, the security guard who was seated there. “Hey Pete, How are you?” “Hey Frank, great and you?”.


“I’m doing well. So how was the wedding? Your little girl. Must have been tough, huh?” “ It really was Frank, you’ll be there some day”.

“Yep, you’re right. Not looking forward to that”

“It’s tough, really is. So who are you here to see?”


My dad told him and we went up.


We arrived at the 4th floor and an older woman was sitting at a circular desk. “Hi Frank!” “Hello Cecelia, how’s that new puppy, is she tearing up the house??” “Oh yes Frank, but we love her anyway! Who are you here to see today?” She asked and we went into a man’s office named Tony.


This kind of conversation, back and forth small talk went on with Tony as well but with Tony there was business to discuss and they did just that. After about 45 minutes we left Tony’s office and stopped by several other offices to “just say hello” before we left.

When we got down stairs after shaking a few more hands and kissing a few babies we finally got into our car and drove away from the big shiny building. “Dad, honestly we could have wasted a lot less time if we just went to Tony’s office and didn’t do so much “chit chat”.

“Wasted time?! Greta Ann (yep that’s my real name) have you not learned anything about how business works? What are they teaching you in school?

“Yes Dad, and I understand how important it is to build a relationship with Tony or the guy who will be making the decision on your work, but we spent time with a security guard, a receptionist and the mailroom clerk. You aren’t going to get much business from them.” -It is amazing how smart you are in college…


He began to explain to me the importance of not only building relationships with your clients but all the people around your clients. I asked if that was because if one of them left their job, you would potentially know their replacement. He said yes but explained there is much more to it then that.


He told me that Pete, the security guard called my dad’s office to let him know a competitor came into the building to see one of the project managers. I asked him if he asked Pete to do that. He explained that he would never do that but Pete felt a connection with him and just wanted him to know.


Cecelia let him know one day that it was Dale, the executive directors, birthday and he was able to stop by with a congratulations note (no email back then).


As a teenager, I was pretty sure I knew everything, after all, I was in college and my dad didn’t even go to college. Being business smart is all of the little things you don’t learn in college. It is the caring, the asking and the listening. Being a real person. Slowing down to smell the roses, or talk to Sam in the mail room or Suzie, the cafeteria lady.


Want more like this? Click HERE

Top 5 Sales Leaders Blunders

Consistency meme

Top 5 Sales Leaders Blunders


  • Hiring from a resume alone. We are all impressed by a resume but does it really mean what it says? In the world of sales if someone has sold before, even for a competitor, that doesn’t mean they were good and doesn’t mean they aren’t going to bring bad habits to you.

resume liar


  • Being inconsistent in managing. Once we make the ‘rules’ and allow them to be broken or even ‘bent’, we are setting a president of inconsistency. We teach people how to treat us and once we allow bending we will always allow it.

Consistency meme


  • Selling for your reps. As a sales manager we are often in that position because we were great salespeople in our own right. We miss the thrill of the sale so our salespeople get a ‘lead’ and we go in and close it. We are teaching them nothing.

excited sales meme


  • Keeping a salesperson longer then we should. When we hire often we see potential. When we do we give more time then we should. Use activities to judge if they are committed. If they work hard and doing lots of activities, they are often someone to coach. If they aren’t working hard at the very beginning, let ‘em go!



  • Not holding them accountable to their numbers. No excuses! Selling is their job! We are to coach, not coddle. Stop allowing excuses for what they didn’t do.


Are Hiring Millennial’s in Sales the Right Move?


Are Hiring Millennial’s in Sales the Right Move?


“I can’t find any good salespeople out there. I even tried to hire some young college kids and that was a mistake,” said Matt, the sales director of a ___ Business. “I hired a few of them and they just aren’t engaged, they just seem board.”


Well, they probably are board. Today this age bracket (18-35) looks at things completely different from some of us more experienced in business. Even one generation before can be a black and white difference to this generation.


According to a study from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the YEC, Millennials are highly ambitious, with a majority placing an importance on jobs with chances for career progression, personal growth, as well as freedom and flexibility. Millennials prioritize value and meaning in their work over money — if their jobs are aligned with their passion, they will go the extra mile.


We need to relook at whom we hire, how we hire and how we train these recruits. Our interaction with them will need to be interactive and fluid.

This generation has had more freedom, which they crave. If we try to put them into your corporate “box”, you will probably fail.


The Entrepreneurial Spirit  


Business leaders say they want creative thinking. Do they really? One of the challenges in hiring this young, free spirit, creative thinker is watching them do things so differently then we did. Often companies aren’t willing to make internal changes to create this type of environment because it often seems uncomfortable or even wrong. Letting go of the past and the way it used to be is a big part of getting the most out of this generation.


I have been trying to get organizations to hire salespeople that could be true “intrepreneurals” meaning an employee of the organization with a true creative entrepreneurial spirit. To get this kind of creativity and spirit it will be important to give them an environment they can thrive in.


The characteristics most associated with entrepreneurs are; self-motivated, creative, have initiative and risk-taking. They tend not to fit inside the rules and bend them often to make things happen.


Do we want these characteristics in our sales organization? You bet.




Create the Right Environment


So what do we do? Here are some changes you’ll need to make by creating an environment they can thrive in;

  • Look on Social Media for candidates. Today these candidates are looking in the non-traditional places; Linkedin, Facebook, twitter, Instagram and glassdoor.


  • Create a casual, open environment that encourages open communication and out of the box ideas. Be open to change the rules if there may be a different way of doing something.


  • Let them communicate with technology, even if you wouldn’t. This is how they really do communicate. Their first choice may be to put something in an email and not in person, let it happen.


  • Use flex-schedules. Don’t hold them to a 9-5 check into the office requirement. Give them the goal and very long leash to get there.



Make sure you are creating this environment. Today this generation checks you out in lots of different ways. One of the most popular sites is A critical consideration for candidates today since this job and company review site began.


Millennials are much more productive than they are given credit for. They know how to use technology efficiently, they are completely invested in work when it aligns with their passions, committed when their contributions and ideas are encouraged and recognized. They are also superior at communicating your brand – These make them natural recruits for top talent. There are lots of good reasons to hire them.

The 7 Critical Elements to Sales Success

The 7 Critical Elements to Sales Success


Selling is one of those things that most CEOs think if they hire their team with a good resume of experience, poof…they can sell. How’s that workin’ for ya?

That has been a badly failing method for as long as I have been in sales so lets talk about the B2B Sales Playbook of success. What does it really take?


  1. The very first thing is hiring right. Easier said then done. What criteria are we using? How are we finding our candidates? How are we interviewing? Are we using an assessment to help and if so which one? Quick tip. Look for people already on the job. Great salespeople are not out looking for work, they always have another potential job lined up because they are an asset not a liability.




  1. Train them the way you want them trained. Don’t rely on what they learned before. Teach them your method, the way you want them to sell. If they haven’t worked before, even better no bad habits. Get a true training process in place. There are a few good ones out there. (email me for more information on this).




  1. Use a repeatable and trackable sales process. The key word here is ‘repeatable’. When everyone adopts the same sales process, there is a common language that is understood, not just by sales, but by the whole organization. This is also important for managing the team and coaching the team to success.




  1. Motivation is individualized, not one size fits all. People are people and are motivated by different things. Is money a motivator? Sure but is it the only one? Don’t assume want motivates one will motivate another.




  1. Your Sales Leader is the Critical Link to Sales Success. Being a sales manager/leader is one of the hardest jobs in sales.  It is also the critical link to sales success.  Unless the sales manager has with all the tools he or she needs to easily manage the business, the whole performance of the sales organization will suffer.




  1. True and critical tracking methods. Complete integration with your CRM delivers the optimum information for you and your sales people. Without true data it becomes nearly impossible to eliminate failure and repeat success.



  1. The ability to Forecast Sales Properly. Sales forecasting for most companies leaves a lot to be desired. It is a guessing game of percentages that some piece of business will close. If you have to and actually need to forecast more closely, a process for the sales funnel needs to be adapted.




The key to all of this is your sales leader. Do you have the right one? Better find out. Here is a place you can go: There is lots of good information there.

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