Leadership 101: 3 Keys to Leading Effective Teams

I was standing in a packed auditorium ready to introduce the results of our latest study, what behaviors to great business leaders share.  The entire study was done to find out what top tier leaders actually do. More specifically, I wanted to know the behaviors that they all shared and attributed to their success.  As I introduced the topic I could hear 300 people, almost simultaneously roll their eyes.  I get it.  Not another talk about leadership.  “But why the skepticism?” I ask myself as cellphones are drawn at gunslinger speed.


In 2017 there were over 1,500 books published with leadership in their title.  That’s about four books a day!  Now, add those books to over 25,000 white papers with leadership in the title and you can start to feel the subject saturation.


So, what’s with our fascination with what makes for a good leader.  Is it that we all have a deep desire to lead?  Is it we just want to know what to look for so we know who to follow?  Maybe.  The real reason is that leadership is a SUBJECTIVE topic.  Its study has a personal perspective tied to it and that perspective show’s itself in myriad different ways.  Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa are both leaders, but radically different in their styles, whereas Joan of Arc and Steven Jobs are surprisingly similar.  Couple the various individual observations with the constant evolution of what it means to lead and you have one of the most popular topics in history.  Hello, collective eye roll!




When I started on my leadership study, I simply wanted to know what these leaders were actually doing, not what they thought, not even their beliefs, but what were their actions, most importantly their repeated and shared actions.  I had a successful methodology, one that resulted In my best-selling book – THE 21 SECRETS OF MILLION DOLLAR SELLERS. So, I created 10 open-ended questions, identified nine different industries and interviewed over 300 business leaders.  The whole thing took two years.  I identified 11 shared leadership power behaviors,  11 behaviors that all 300 shared.  Interested in working on your leadership skills?  Here are three that will continue on a growth trajectory.





When we hear this term we often think “science”.  In science, a hypothesis, an idea is tested by experimenting and trying things to see if your idea is right or wrong.  Leaders swear by this action.  They test their ideas.  If you are office furniture giant Herman Miller, you build multiple examples of your latest chair.  If you are Chili’s, you serve new menu ideas in your test kitchen and you host focus groups and test scenarios.  As a leader, you EXPERIMENT.  Ideas are fragile things and need care and tending to before they become real.





It’s amazing how many people think that more is better.  It’s practically an American mantra.  At the Wayback Burger chain (95 US locations with 75 more in the works) you can get their Triple Triple Burger, a mammoth stack of meat, cheese and other stuff that will set you back about 1,800 calories.  You can get a hot tub full of Dr. Pepper to go along with a truckload of popcorn at the movies.  Leaders, good leaders, limit their commitments to those that create critical impact.  They say NO, a lot!  They become expert filters of their companies ideas and learn when and where to limit their YES’S.  You can do anything you want, you simply can’t do everything!





A core tenant of leadership is the ability to actually get something done, your ability to accomplish something.   The generation of good ideas is no small feat, but the aptitude to see that the right ideas lead to action is a very impactful behavior of leaders.  Leaders are all about execution.  They design specific strategies around adeptness and capacity and create a unique focus on seeing something completed.  They have processes in place to make objectives become tangible.  Their decision procedures are in place to accomplish things.

I often work with companies that feel they need to move on to the next shiny thing before the last one is even close to getting done.  Wayne is a great leader.  He sat in a strategic planning meeting and presented his three goals (yep, three).  One of them was a carryover from the previous year and the team asked, “Why is that on the list?”  The team was used to committing to new goals every year, which was something I encountered several times in the study. Wayne’s response, his LEADERSHIP response was, “This was a key goal last year and we didn’t get it done.  It still has the same level of importance as when we committed to it and it needs to be FINISHED.”



One Level Above: How Showing Gratitude the Right Way Drives Growth


The organizations we work with come to us all the time to discuss new strategies that they can adopt to take their businesses to the next level. Sometimes, these conversations revolve around high-level organizational change. These are great conversations where we take deep dives into discovering the value of what they are currently doing, opportunities that may exist, analyzing what their competitors are doing, and so on and so forth. And despite their enthusiasm for change, they often don’t like our first and most important rule for implementing change strategies, which is to only focus on one thing at a time. This is hard for most people. When you have the resources that some of our clients have the idea of needing to do more, provide more, and change more is persistent. But, successful organizational change doesn’t happen that way. Strategic changes happen one level at a time.


The Problem

When we work with companies to focus on instituting behavioral change the conversation often goes the same way. Sales managers want to change multiple behaviors at the same time. And, again, change doesn’t work this way. Our goal is to work through a discovery phase with our clients to identify problem areas. What are they doing now that works? What are they doing that doesn’t work? Where are the opportunities to have the highest impact with the least amount of complexity? The solutions to these questions manifest themselves in a number of different ways and at the end of a discovery session we’re left with a long list of “actionable items”. We’re then left to choose which strategy or solution to pursue. Then we’ll have the conversation. “We can only commit to one,” we’ll say. And they always look at the list and say, “what about all of the others?” “The others represent opportunities to pursue after the implementation and successful execution of one idea. Once you’ve had success with one, you can use the experience as a rough blueprint to attack the others.” Our goal is not to take your company from level 1 to level 10, our goal is to slowly and successfully take you from level 1 to 2 to 3 and so on. We just need to go one level above where you are and what you’re currently doing.



Large scale change is appealing. In our minds, there is always one gigantic strategy out there that we think if we adopt will change our business and have us swimming in money in no time. The reality is that the most impactful changes you can make are on a much smaller scale and can be implemented by everyone in your organization. The tricky part is finding a simple solution, just one, and being disciplined in its pursuit. That’s right, the real secret behind these strategies is the dreaded “A” word, accountability. Finding the right strategy to focus on is a daunting task. After all, each business we work with is unique and requires high levels of understanding to customize specific strategies that will impact their bottom line. Some strategies, however, work for every business. If you’re looking to dip your toe in One Level Above strategies, we’ve got you covered. 


A Simple Strategy

One of the best strategies you can implement is simple, costs almost nothing, can be adopted by everyone at every level of your organization, and has a massive impact on the relationships you develop with your clients. I’m talking about GRATITUDE. Pushing behavioral change towards graciousness seems obvious, yet day in and day out we deal with companies that don’t put it into practice. Nothing in business is guaranteed and you should be grateful for every opportunity that comes across your desk. There are any number of strategies you can try out to demonstrate your gratitude to your clients. It doesn’t matter if it’s a phone call, a face to face meeting, or a sale, you should have various ways you show that you’re thankful for your clients time and consideration.


Try This

At Creative Ventures, we have a few. We send various thank you gifts to people that work with us on projects that include food, swag, music, and experiences depending on what we learn about each contact. But getting to know each contact on a personal level to deliver a custom tailored thank you is time consuming, difficult, and doesn’t work for everyone. My favorite strategy and the one that works for everyone and every company is ridiculously simple, thank you cards. I’m not saying a thank you email, a thank you text, or a thank you phone call. What I’m referring to is the good old fashioned handwritten note.



Here’s why it’s great. Like me, you no doubt receive a dozen or so pieces of mail a day. Almost all of them have nice little plastic windows on them and no sense of personalization. But, when you go to your mailbox and find a letter that doesn’t fit the “you qualify for a new credit card,” mold your interest is peaked. You open it and find a thoughtful handwritten note saying thank you and nothing else. This means that whoever you spoke to took the time to get out a card, write a note, address it, put a stamp on it, and take it to the mailbox just to say thank you. They’ve given them a piece of their most valuable currency, their time.



All of a sudden you have an emotional connection to your client. You’re no longer a voice on the other end of the line or that guy that was pushing that new software. You’re a person who appreciates other people and follows through on each interaction. I have a stack of thank you cards right next to my phone. We send a few out every week without fail and the results we see are significant. Sometimes it’s a big result like a new deal, and sometimes nothing happens. (By the way, when nothing happens, it’s a good sign. It typically means that we may not be a good fit to work together.) But one thing that has been consistent since we implemented this strategy is that when we call, our clients and partners answer. This strategy took our business one level above where we were.


It wasn’t easy to create consistency in our approach to this strategy. It took a few months to make sure we had systems and relationships in place to make sure we didn’t let any opportunities to show gratitude fall through the cracks. But, once we demonstrated that it was a repeatable systemic process in our sales cycle, we were able to focus on another strategy. The trick is to always only focus on moving the needle one level at a time. If you follow this process, you won’t need to agonize about how to find the secret to transform your business tomorrow because you will have been operating in a constant state of improvement, which in and of itself, is transformational.

From Engagement to Involvement: Why Creating Buy-In Isn’t Enough


One of the great connections professional salespeople are looking for is engagement,  their ability to influence the outcome through a very specific series of linked actions. Though these actions very between sales processes, they are always there and are always aimed at closing the deal.

If you ask pinnacle sales performers s about this part of their career they often use the phrase – Buy-In.  You’ll hear; “I’m looking to create buy-in around the product or service.” “If I can get a strong buy-in, I will have that level of client involvement I want.”  These types of statements always were used to try to get me to voice my professional opinion on the idea, but as tasty as the temptation was, I always held back. The processes around the interviews that lead to the content of the book were about the million dollar sellers not about me.





Engagement is one of the most critical elements of getting something done.  It’s about emotional involvement and commitment. In fact, it doesn’t matter if it’s something you are doing by yourself (writing) or something you need your team’s participation to accomplish, you need engagement.  The dynamics differ between you, an individual and others, but the goal remains the same, the more involved the tighter the bond between sales professional and client.


That’s why I don’t get the push for buy-in.  As levels of engagement go, buy-in is the lowest rung on the ladder.  At its core, it’s a top/down strategy. I have an idea and I need you to like my idea, to get you to do my idea, I basically need a subtle way to jam my idea down your throat.  In companies, its upper management picking a goal and getting you excited enough to get the goal done. They’re looking for; “Wow, great idea, I’m IN”. This often happens, but more out of perceived obligation than true engagement.


Think of It This Way



Try this instead – think ENROLLMENT instead of buy-in.  This isn’t a vocabulary lesson; they mean different things, requiring different actions.  

In college, you had required classes that were outside your real area of interest.  You went to English (as an author, I’m now glad I did – but I would have rather been surfing) even if you were a physics major.  You lugged your books, marched to the classroom head down. The school wanted your buy-in that this stuff will be needed. But when it was time for something that really interested you, the reason you enrolled in school, you were JAZZED.  


If what you are looking for is REAL engagement, emotional connections that lead to relationships, you need to make a strategic shift to get from buy-in to enrollment.  Its crazy simple – all you need to have is PARTICIPATION. If you want me engaged, INVOLVE me. Let me have a say, tell you about my ideas, make observations, and develop perspective.  LET ME PLAY. If I am REALLY involved in the idea or project you, will have my attention. I’ll be enrolled and, as an enrollee, I will be engaged.


I was involved with an annual goal-setting project for a client.  They weren’t satisfied with the level of engagement they were getting around their targets, especially from the sales force.   It was a typical model. Management created the goals and was working to gain buy-in from their national sales folks. I asked, “How involved were they in setting the goals?”  Turns out, not very. I looked at the goal-setting process for every division and it was the same, created from “on high” and fed to those below. I designed an incredibly simple system that would involve EVERY person in the company (over 400). They would all get a voice in the goals. Not everyone’s idea gets chosen as a goal, but they were heard. The following year they were at 125% of the annual goal. ENROLLMENT.


Try This



In a specific sales example, involve the client in the process.  Don’t pitch the product or service, instead, position a Tell Me strategy.   Tell me about how you see various solutions.  Let’s sketch this out together. Involve the client at the very beginning.  LISTEN. When someone is involved with any issue, when they feel a sense of ownership around the solution their emotions lead them to the highest possible form of engagement ENROLLMENT.


Forget about a focus on buy-in.  I get it, you are probably the smartest person in the room and you have seen this problem a thousand times and have the solution on the tip of your tongue.  STOP. Create an avenue for the client’s INVOLVEMENT and you will find the level of engagement that not only leads to a sale, but that forms the foundation of a great relationship.

This One Strategy Could Save You 100+ Hours a Year


We teach thousands of people every year various strategies to help them manage their time. Time management seems to be a ubiquitous problem. How do I segment my day to maximize my productivity? What can I do to feel like I control my time rather than letting the tasks that come across my desk control it? How do I help my clients respect that my time, like theirs, is finite?


Master of the Day



As professionals we often misplace value, focusing most of our time on business development and revenue growth. The reality is there is only one thing of true value, our time. We can’t buy time, we can’t negotiate for more time, and once it’s gone there is nothing we can do to get it back. When the concepts and strategies for 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers were taking shape, this theme of time and how the participants perceived, manipulated, and used time was an apparent differentiator for their success. They all saw time in a uniquely flexible way. The participants understood that, although they’ve always been told time was linear, it wasn’t that simple. Rather than look at their time as a rigid straight line ticking by one calendar planning block at a time, they looked at it as more flexible, like a rubber band. It could be stretched, flexed, compressed, and manipulated in a way that best suits their needs. These great salespeople didn’t abuse their time. It isn’t as if they said, “It’s my time and I’m going to spend it however I want.” Rather they troubleshoot various techniques to control it, discarding those that had a negative or neutral impact and incorporating those that had a positive outcome.

There is no cookie cutter model we can provide that will work for everyone. Not everyone is dealing with the same products, services, or clientele. Nor are all people most productive at the same time of day. Some people do their best and deepest work at 5:00 am and others hit their grove at 2:00 pm. Let’s not forget those night owls who toil away in the dark and produce their best work while others are counting sheep. There are, however, time vampires that exist in all of our professional lives. One of the biggest time suckers is the dreaded email inbox. Here is a solid breakdown of the data. 


The Culprit: Email



We can be deep in the flow of productive work and hear the ‘ding’ of a new message and have our attention immediately pulled away from what we’re doing. Trying to get back to that state of deep work is futile. Like Keyser Soze, it’s in the wind. I get why we do it, email is a source of new revenue, client communication, internal updates, and so on. I also know how important speed is when it comes to winning new deals and clients, but at Creative Ventures, we have a few guiding principles. One is that speed should never outweigh thought. If we step back and think rather than react to that alert in our inboxes, we can see how detrimental it is to lack an email strategy.

When looking to share strategies that have a direct impact on our readers, clients, and partners it’s always a good idea to focus your efforts on issues that they all mutually share. We discovered various techniques from the top producers we interviewed and worked to find ways to share them in their most simple terms. My favorite, the one I immediately implemented, is the idea of creating boundary constraints to manage communication expectations. For me, this means not reacting to email. I answer my email three times a day. That’s it. Crazy, right? No, this is how I control my time and provides me the opportunity to analyze when I’m most productive. This doesn’t work for everyone but you might be surprised how it could work for you.


Try This


Here are a couple of steps you can take to test this strategy in your business.



Understand your most productive time: Everyone does their best work at different times of the day. These are the times where the world kind of fades away and you’re completely wrapped up in deep and valuable work. Cal Newport talks a lot about the value of deep work and we couldn’t agree more. Deep work can be elusive if you don’t create opportunities for it. What’s worse is, once we get to that space, we voluntarily give it up on a whim to check that email inbox. Don’t do that. Create and value the time when you do the best work. This means getting rid of distractions like email. Once you’ve defined that time you can plan your communication around it.



Commit to your Constraints – My constraints are 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, 6:00 pm. I check my email every day at those three times. I use that time to respond to clients and co-workers, prospect, and prepare to attack the new tasks that arise from those communications. These are the times that work more me. Your task is to create space around that time. Define the times you intend to dedicate to email and be steadfast in your commitment to them. If you go down this path, and dedicate time and effort to this strategy, but are undisciplined in its application, this exercise will be nothing more than another time vampire.



Set Expectations – Communication is key. Most people don’t have set email times. People won’t necessarily immediately warm up to the idea. On top of that, most clients/coworkers/managers want an all-access pass to your time. It is your responsibility to set these boundaries. For existing clients, let them know about your new strategy and why. For new business, inform them of the constraints from the get-go. If you set the expectations from the beginning it is just the reality of doing business with you rather than some wild idea. What if I need to get a hold of you immediately? What if something goes wrong? This is why the phone exists.


This isn’t an all-encompassing communication strategy, it is only an email strategy. This is one thing that you can do to take back your time. If done correctly the effects will surprise you.

And in the words of my friend Greg McKeown,


“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”


We’ll share some more strategies on how you can Master Your Day soon!

2 Proven Strategies to Keep Your Whale Clients Engaged


Earth is a water planet. 71% of Earth’s surface is water with 96.5% of all our water contained in the oceans. There, in the hostile open sea, lives the leviathan of our planet, the great blue whale. Averaging over 110 ft. in length, weighing 209 tons and living 80-90 years, they are the largest known animal to ever exist. That kind of size is hard to imagine. Heck, their hearts are the size of an automobile! They have scale.


In sales, scalability is a critical factor. In 1869 Vilfredo Pareto’s ideas became Pareto’s Law or the Law of the Vital Few, a true POWER LAW. You probably know it as the 80/20 rule. Simply stated 80% of the effects are created by only 20% of the causes. In sales, 80% of your sales are generated by 20% of your clients. For this example, your 20% is the same scale as the Great Blue Whale. They are big and dominant in your world and deserve to be treated differently.


This is not an exercise in client equality; it’s a proven strategy of success.  


The Whale Treatment



I love my whale treatment when I get it.  

Travel is a big part of our job so the airline of my choice gives me preferred seating and first-class upgrades. I go to the movies every week and the theater of my choice knows this. They give me discounts on popcorn and Dr. Pepper and let me buy tickets to blockbuster movies way in advance. This place even knows my favorite seat locations. I stay at a LOT of hotels and they all know me. “Here is your free bottle of water and would you like an upgrade.”


Loyalty and rewards for being a good customer is nothing new. It impacts our choices and is a core strategy for elite sales professionals.

I first heard the term “whales” associated with elite clients when I had the honor of being part of a team designing a marketing plan to lure these big targets to one of the Class A hotels on the Las Vegas strip. We worked for a week on an elaborate idea, specialty customized packages created to bring high rollers to this specific property. This was about creating the “royal treatment” and why not, this elite group of gamblers would think nothing about risking $100,000 on a roll of the dice. It wasn’t about comping them elaborate suites or free meals, every casino or hotel did that. This was about making them feel special, like they hung the moon, and was a great project!

Every sales professional has their own whales and to treat them extra special is to help assure they stay buying their products and services from you. The key is what is special?”


Try This


Here are a few ideas from the pinnacle sales professionals that were interviewed for the book.





I treat clients with a standard of service and attention that marks a relationship as special.  I know how hard it is to establish a client relationship, a relationship where it’s not about one transaction but about a series of opportunities where I can meet my client’s needs”. That’s what Angela, a top-flight commercial leasing agent told me.  She then said, “BUT I treat my repeat clients, people who are special to my book of business differently.  They deserve it. They come back as their needs grow. It is the highest honor I can have and I want them to know it!”

With Angela, it’s about a high bar at the beginning, but as you grow as a client so does the way you are treated. She creates custom newsletters every quarter where the clients business and industry take center stage. She personalizes everything for them, even using their pictures (a very personal touch) in the mast title. That’s a nice ROYAL touch.





It’s hard to imagine that a baby blue whale emerges into the world after a year’s gestation at 25 ft. long and weighing about 3 tons. Heck, they gain 200 lbs. a day for their first year! Every royal customer started as a first-time buyer. You seldom stumble on your first whale. This is an important point and it supports Angela’s idea about setting a strong standard of service but it also falls into Marco’s “build a whale strategy”. Marco is an art dealer. He was an outlier in my study as I stumbled upon him.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t in the 7 major industries I studied and didn’t make the book. He sells a lot of very expensive art, a field I know little or nothing about except I love Van Gogh. I loved his strategy which was to build a clientele of whales. His strategy: first, know EVERYTHING about your current whales.  It doesn’t matter if you are selling peanut butter he told me, just know the model. When you know the model you can duplicate the model. You can clone your next whale. He knows the characteristics and looks for them, INTENTIONALLY. When we teach this particular secret we call it THE IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE. Ideal clients become whales and a filter/profile will tell you the chances of that happening. So, spend some time learning the DNA of your top clients and simply go looking for those other potential clients that match that DNA.


I heard one of my interviewees tell me; “Know where your bread is buttered”. That’s good whale advice.

3 Key Strategies to Build Successful Sales Partnerships


What does a salesperson, a producer, and a sales professional all have in common? They are all singular nouns. The perception of their universe is that it centers on the individual and in many of the top sales professionals featured in The 21 SECRETS OF MILLION DOLLAR SELLERS, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The idea of the “lone wolf” salesperson is common and many of those interviewed in the book fit this model at some point during their early careers, but as these alpha performers were developing their sales careers they started to learn something besides how to close a sale.  They learned how to develop a connected process, a set of pieces, that when constructed properly, would allow them more time to do what they do best – SELL.



Any sales organization has layers of needed actions that accompany a successful transaction. Everything from stacks of paperwork, data entry, key forms needing signatures and a variety of follow up needs construct the totality of a sales process. Sales need connected steps in order to make sure the final elements of a transaction take place. I’s need to be dotted, T’s need to be crossed, marketing materials need to be sent and key follow-up dates need to be set.  

For all of this to happen, especially in the complexity of relationship-driven sales, it is nice to have a team. In fact, nothing can help assure sales success like a team. Even though the craft often appears to be in the purview of individual superstars, it really is about a team effort.



According to a recent study in Forbes, a well-structured team can increase sales conversions by 5%-25% (that’s an interesting spread). They can create stronger client retention by formalizing contact points, assuring follow-ups and adding speed to responses. Teams allow for things to continue moving when the sales professional is out on calls. They free the key producer to produce.


Don’t Waste Good

Secret # 18 is about not wasting good, the idea of leveraging even the smallest of positive outcomes. Teams corral the idea of what they do well and keep it moving forward, the essence of sales momentum. Somewhere in your sales career you will be part of or lead a sales team. Think about this:

Common Goal

The best sales teams we saw all had a firm understanding of the big picture. They shared a goal and the goal was very specific. Everyone knew what the bullseye was and that target was directly tied into economic reward. When the team’s sales went well they all profited.  Successful sales revenue was shared among the team. Common should mean “shared by” in every aspect of the goal.


You can’t build a house with a tuna.  Hammer and nails are essential. A team’s performance is often directly related to the tools they use. Teams need communication structures and rules. They need tracking elements that allow them to know what part of the sales cycle every transaction is in. From CRM’s to Excel spreadsheets, a team’s success is enhanced when the tools meet not only the needs of the team but the needs of the client. That’s the successful tool filter; meet the needs of the team while simultaneously meeting the needs of the clients.

Players Needs

Sales professionals often get so wrapped up in their primal sales needs, the often quoted “we only eat what we kill” mentality, that they often forget the key needs of their teams and soon discover they are often left looking to replace key members for those who have just “had enough”. We heard this over and over so here is the formula to keep in mind. People leave jobs for two very clear and distinct reasons:

    • LACK OF VALUE:  They simply cannot find value in what they do.  They get trapped in the activities and lose sight of their worth in their job. In a sales team, it is the job of the producer to consistently let everyone know how valuable they are in making the team work. It might not seem all that important, but when you lose track of your people, you lose track of your goals!
    • GROWTH:  To some, a job is simply an occupation. It involves waking up, heading to the office and going home in a very repeatable cycle. That’s OK, but great team members want to know they have the ability to grow within the team. This can amount to additional responsibilities or new training opportunities. It can be a lot of things, but you will see a lot of behinds walking out the door if they don’t see the chance to get better.


Building the right team that runs on the grease of shared goals, the right tools, and a significant sales culture can be the difference between selling and building a true sales career.

The Role of Email in Your Sales Cycle


OK, let’s start with this truth – there is no avoiding email.  In our electronic age, email is as real as gravity and despite the impact of text mail and instant messaging, in the sales cycle, email is still king.

There are about 124 billion emails sent each day and an executive can expect to get 150 – 250 every single day.  So, if you love email as part of your sales process, you might want to re-think about its overall impact. It’s just part of the communication map and it’s up to you where to place it in the journey of your sales activity.



How to Get the Most Out of Your Emails


When we started talking about communications and building relationships with million dollar sales professionals we heard about how they think about every form of communication they use, including email.  Their answers, behaviors, and perspectives about communicating formed Secret # 9 – SELL SMART. Here are some things that could help you, a link to a podcast we did on the subject, and some helpful statistics for you to take a peek at. 




Pinnacle sales performers know the value of the “beginning” of building a relationship.  They set the table when the sales process/relationship building starts. The key question is; tell me how you like to communicate? Let the client open the door for your sales communication strategy.  If the answer is email, a million dollar producer might ask; you must receive hundreds of emails a day, is there anything I can do to gain your attention?  Can I add something to the subject line?  Let the client help design the communication approach.



In a well-laid plan, every piece has its place. Email fits that description. Email has its place. Think like a million dollar seller; what is the goal of this communication? What is the desired outcome?  Is it a “please do this” or an “ask” for something communique? Think of it as strong and weak actions.  Strong actions probably are best served in person or on the phone, but a weak push, like sending support material can be best served by an email.  Sales professionals THINK, they PLAN and choose the right communication tool to serve the object of the interaction.



A good sales process is about energy and momentum.  Each part of a sale process generates a form of force.  Force can change momentum. It can affect the magnitude and direction of the action.   Email can play a key role in the level of energy you find the relationship developing. Email is a great tool for touching base, checking on an action item or just following up during the sales cycle.  It’s low on the energy scale and can, at times, carry momentum, but it’s really hard for an email to generate momentum. So place your use of email in-line with the momentum of the sale’s progression. Here is a simple rule –  three unanswered emails, pick up the phone or get in the car.


The key is not to allow yourself to simply default to an email and consider it a full next step in procuring a sale. An email is simply a communication tool. Million dollar producers have a lot of tools in their toolbox and you won’t find them looking for the easy way through a sale!

Dealing with Objections and the Parade of “No’s”


Every great sales person knows this – there is space between cause and effect, between the starting of a sale and the closing of a sale. In essence, this is why it’s called a “sales process.” This is about getting to YES and that space between cause and effect is often separated by a parade of NO’S.

The idea of facing buyer objections is as integrated into any sale and is as common to the profession as the morning coffee. Great producers are all over the idea of NO.


Secret #14: Embrace the Dark Side


EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE is all about the attitude and behaviors surrounding this core aspect of the sales profession – objections and how top professionals embrace it.

Here is the interesting part, sales people know the types of objections they will face are well ahead of trying to make the sale. Most receive specific training around them.  It’s not a secret or some type of unexpected detour designed to throw you off your game. These are known elements in the sales process and great sales people focus on known elements.


The Big 3


  • Price: Every pro is ready for this. It’s the start of the classic haggle process. Great sales pros don’t fight their battles here. It’s a losing game. They shift the conversation to defining the objection around value. Here is what makes them million dollar producers; they are subtle about this shift. They LISTEN, before they move the conversation to value. When positioned with the right knowledge, value will win over price. 
  • Complacency:  This is the shoulder shrug. Great producers in the book could see this coming from a mile away. The potential buyer likes the way things are. This is about their current reality. Million dollar producers love using a buyers’ current reality. It allows them to paint a picture of a different future, a future where their product or service will create an impact. Establishing a current reality provides a shared starting point between buyer and seller. It is an opportunity to tell stories of other successes and gives them something REAL to build a sales story around.
  • Fear of Change:  This is a tightly held rope often connected to complacency. It is what the buyer’s shoulders have to bear, accountability for the purchase. It’s the responsibility for rocking the boat and the potential for blame. It’s fear of making the wrong choice. A pinnacle sales performer loves the fear of change. The buyer thinks of themselves as all alone, as an island of possible fault. A million dollar seller immediately creates the shared burden of the deal. Many sales people in the study called this their – “we are in this together” moment. This shared moment forms the foundation of what will become a relationship. The sales person becomes a partner!




If NO is the worst thing you can hear and it stops you in your sales tracks, remember that NO creates strategies for a million dollar sellers. It’s not a stop sign but an opportunity to prove their worth, create a relationship, and gather critical data that can be applied to future objections.

Secret # 14, EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE, is about the power that million dollar sellers have discovered in the leverage of NO.


Become a Master of Your Day

Most people begin their day without so much as a simple plan.  They end their days without an afterthought to what happened or a thought as to what to do the next day.  Days begin and days end.  They are victims of their day.  Master sales professionals are anything but victims.  They instead plan, execute, review and think about how they spend their time.  It’s a critical measure of their success.  Without a plan, there is the potential of wasted time and wasted time is the enemy of a sales superstar.  Great sales people are MASTERS of their day.


Trudy and Percy are what I call, Sprint Workers and highly successful real estate professionals that share a small but thriving practice in Northern California.  They work in hard 90-minute time blocks which form their “Ultradian Rhythms”, their particular type of energy pattern.  Ultradian Rhythms are activity – rest cycles favored by the brain to generate high levels of productivity.  Early in their careers, they both began to understand their particular patterns of productivity and soon learned they had a lot of what they called “nothing time”, basically just sitting around or doing “nothing stuff”.  It might look like they were being productive, but they sure weren’t generating sales!

It took a little experimentation, but after a while, they learned to “hit it hard and then take a break.”  This became their 90-minute patterns.  Go hard for 90 minutes and then take 10 to 20 minutes off.  They leveraged their biological pattern and matched it to high levels of productivity.  In the world of high-end real estate sales no one cares about your time in the office, all they care about is how many homes did you close.

In an average sales day, Trudy will have 4 to 5 high output periods and an equal number of down time segments.  During the down time, she might take a short walk or enjoy a snack.  Percy has a guitar in his office and will practice and play during some of his down cycles.  Percy tells me the key is to NEVER miss a down cycle.

Superstar sales people get the most out of their days.  They have a laser like focus on productivity and with intent, design their days around their energy.

For more examples of how the big time sales professionals are masters of their days, check out SECRET # 16 in our new book.


The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Problem with “How”!


I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to discover what patterns were followed by great sales professionals.  I had an inkling they were doing a lot of the same things no matter what they were selling.  But, I struggled with the how, how would my curiosity lead me to results?

There have been countless surveys and models based on sales.  In fact, I had been part of many teams for many companies looking at their sales processes with the goal of making them better.  I had seen numeric surveys galore that simply took the scales of 1-10, accumulated the answers, divided by the participants to tell you some number is significant because it appeared in the data.  I was not interested in that.

I wanted to talk to successful sales people.  I wanted them to tell me what is important and I wanted them to use a 40,000-year-old tool, the story.  I wanted their stories.  I wanted their emotional context.  I believed that in the tales they would tell, there would be truly significant patterns of behavior.

As a scientist by education, I always fall back to a simple problem-solving tool, the scientific method (with a few Creative Ventures adjustments).

  • Observe: I had worked on sales projects for Fortune 500 companies for 30 years.  I had a boat load of observing under my belt.
  • Question: I wanted their stories, but I needed a framework for their narratives to follow or you would get an endless rambling of stuff.  Sales people love to talk.
  • Hypothesis: I believed that all successful sales people did many of the same things.  I believed that their successful behaviors crossed products, markets, and businesses.
  • Gather Data: I was willing to take a long time to find the information and a long time it would be.
  • Test: I had the opportunity to see it in action.

So armed with that, I created my HOW framework.

Normally this process comes up with a very OBJECTIVE methodology.  I was not interested in that.  I came up with an insanely subjective approach; ask them questions and let them tell me stories about that subject.  In these stories would be the real ways they FEEL, they THINK and they BEHAVE.  I don’t believe you can find that in any scaled answer.  Not very scientific.

I spent a long time storyboarding the questions that would serve as the foundation for the project (all of which are in the book).  I used my knowledge of story as a strategy to create a framework.

  • Each question would create a sort of subplot to the overall information I was looking for.
  • Each question would create independent stories.
  • In their response would be everything I need to find a pattern.

This brings me to the key to this type of creative procedure:  CONTROLLED STORYTELLING.  This simple sketch below, which drew hundreds of times for the sales people I interviewed, showed the idea.  You can tell me as many stories as you want.  You can pontificate and explore within your response, you simply CAN NOT GO OUTSIDE THE PARAMETERS OF THE QUESTION.  This is controlled storytelling and we became experts at it.



We used this same systemic approach to the application of story patterns for all of our clients that want an internal version of The 21 Secrets.

I agree, not the most scientific approach.  In fact, I recognize that the results and the interpretation of such a bulk of personal data filled with idiosyncrasies and probably biased stories might not fit with any statistician’s view of “real “results.  But, it yielded me and my Creative Ventures team the most significant strategy in the 31 years of our practice.

My HOW has become a foundational aspect of our consulting services.

Funny how curiosity and discovery can yield something of such great significance!


For more about our methods and results, check out our book.