I am my own boss (well, Mrs Donald is) and I love what I do – Helping Organizations & People ACHIEVE More. Almost 6 years ago now someone suggested I go out on my own. It was scary, exciting, challenging, rewarding and scary (did I already say it was scary?).
When you are really challenged, you really grow.
You also learn a lot about yourself - especially what you are good at and what you need to keep working on. I have learned I am pretty good at helping others. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a work in progress - but at 55 years young I have some experience and a willingness to help and give back. Specifically, I am continuously improving at helping others learn about themselves (strengths and areas to improve) and figuring out what is most important to them.
But that’s not the point of this blog. I have written about myself enough (for now). This blog is about something else I have learned over the past several years: You can’t truly be successful without being surrounded by and working with other like-minded professionals.
For me there are a couple reasons for this:
Although I have written about this before (http://www.sbdgrowth.ca/blog-posts/story-of-scott-reminiscing-and-whats-around-the-corner-on-our-professional-journey) I want to do a bit of a deeper dive into these super-duper talented people I get to work with.
Here is the list of some of the friends and all-stars I get to work and collaborate with on a regular basis.
I have known Gord Dmytriw for over 20 years. In fact years ago I once interviewed for a job with him. He was later a client of mine and since then we have kept in touch for all these years. These are Gord’s areas of expertise:
Doug McCartney is someone I have gotten to know better more recently. His experience in both the public and private sector is ridiculously extensive. Doug helps in the following areas:
Gary Brownstone is a newer professional connection mine. His person’s back ground, experience and professional network are exceptional. His value for organizations is substantial and how he helps can be summed up simply as follows:
Catchfire Group’s website: https://catchfiregroup.ca/
I have known Tim Phelan for about a decade and more recently he has ventured out on his own (as per my recent LinkedIn post). Tim is really talented at helping organizations tell their story by providing:
Winnipeg ‘Hooligans’ business group –At one point someone playfully referred to all of us hooligans and the name stuck. I have been part of this Winnipeg based business networking group for about 10 years. This collection of local Winnipeg professionals provides services in a variety of areas and will be detailed in a future blog. Stay tuned
The Envision Group – I worked at Sprint Canada with Envision Founder & CEO Pat Lipovski waaaaay back in the 90’s. We reconnected to work together almost 4 years ago. The Envision Group (EVG) is a diverse team of professionals across North America focused on “helping People, Leaders and Teams achieve far more than they believed possible”. Solutions include:
As a Sales and Leadership Coach, I gain incredible value working with this diverse group of professionals. I am part of a team that helps me, challenges me and makes me better. They also allow me to better support my clients. Each of them are really good at what they do. Working together, we can do even great things (like saving the world from Thanos).
So while I may be my own boss, I have come to realize that working with other professionals is critical to my success in helping clients.
Need help? I know people (lots of people)…let’s talk.
How does confidence help you perform your role even better? Further, how does your team culture and leadership help create an environment where confidence can grow and team members perform even better?
I have played soccer most of my life. I am not a great player but I run hard, get exercise and like hanging with the guys. Last year I ‘came out of retirement’ at 54 years old to play in an over 45-year-old league here in Winnipeg. (Yes, there is an over 45 league and the soccer is pretty good.)
I had fun last year and it was a good group. I didn’t play as well as I would have liked to and I felt that in large part it was due to an overall lack of skill and a few years of rust. In hindsight though I now get a sense there was something more going on.
One not so positive aspect of playing last year was that a couple people on the team took it really seriously and as a result, they would get frustrated and yell at other players. You could tell that some players were uncomfortable and were playing to not make a mistake, including myself. This in turn made others play nervous and guys make more mistakes! Which resulted in more yelling…
In close games and in particular in the playoffs, it wouldn’t take much to have a couple guys yelling at other guys and also yelling at each other. The more yelling and stress there was, the less effective some guys were out on the pitch (by using the word ‘pitch’ you can tell I am a real ‘soccer’ player).
I made the decision to play with another team this summer. After a few games I noticed something – I wasn’t a better player (too late for that) but I was making less mistakes. Hmmm?
I realized that this was based on a couple factors.
First, this team seemed to have more fun as a group and did not take the game so serious. They played hard and wanted to win, but they didn’t point fingers and blame other guys for a bad play.
Second, there is much more of a tendency to say good play or after the game, tell someone they played well today. They actually took the time to provide some positive feedback to each other.
Lastly, there is a clear understanding of who ‘runs’ the team. One gent has the role and he takes very much a ‘play hard and have fun’ approach to the game. I have noted a couple times during games early in the season he would make a point in subtly reminding me to not be so tight or worry about making mistake. That simple supportive comment went a long way to reminding me to settle down and play my game (whatever that is). And further if I made a mistake, no big deal.
I thought about this and realized that while I am still not a great midfielder and my best days are about 25+ years behind me, I am having fun and playing better – primarily because I am not playing afraid to make a mistake.
What lessons are you taking away from this from a work perspective? Think about the environment you work in or that you are helping to maintain or create:
Working (or playing) afraid to make a mistake can negatively impact the performance of the team. Let’s be more intentional about creating an environment where everyone is comfortable trying new things, playing their game and not being afraid to make a mistake. The results can be super star performance, just like the outside midfielder for the Elmwood Rowdies. Or maybe, you will benefit from individuals on your team being even ‘more better’ at what they do and sharing their ideas more freely.
Many sales reps struggle with lost deals, looooong sales cycles and/or opportunities stuck in their funnel that NEVER move forward. Ever.
In many cases it’s because they're rushing to the presentation and trying to close the deal at 80 mph. By speeding through the process, you aren’t building a sound foundation in the first steps of the sales process that allow you to best discover how you can help the customer.
By racing to the presentation, or ‘close’, what nuggets of goodness are you missing on the sales journey?
When I am out for a ride, I love to enjoy the journey - drive down a slow winding road, stop at an interesting site and maybe take a picture of my beautiful bike at the interesting site (and then post on social media!). Because I am curious, I might see another road that veers off that I haven't ridden before...so I follow that road and see where it goes. The ride is a journey and an adventure of potential discovery-if you're curious and patient enough, you'll see and learn something new every time. Something valuable and insightful. Riding a motorcycle (like sales) is most enjoyable when you make the effort to enjoy every moment of the journey, learn and discover new things and not rush 80 mph to my destination. No mater how hungry I am.
Another example would be taking the ‘main road’ (price?!?!) that everyone else is taking and getting stuck in traffic. If you were heading out for a prospective client visit and knew there were going to be obstacles – lots of traffic, construction, roadblocks and detours, you would likely PLAN to go another route to get to your destination, right? The sales journey requires the same type of ‘sales call’ planning ahead of time and a patient, thoughtful approach as well to prepare for or avoid obstacles and maximize the chance for success.
For your ‘sales journey’, commit to being curious and learning as much as you can during the process.
All of this will position you to be even better able to show how you can help clients solve problems and/or leverage opportunities. By going slower, you will likely get there faster
So treat the sales process like an enjoyable, scenic ride. Not only will you increase the chances of earning more business, you'll likely shorten your sales cycle. You will also get away from focusing solely on price as well since you will be better able to demonstrate how you can solve their problems with the information you learn along the way. Your value as a consultative sales professional goes up.
Enjoy the journey and see how what you learn along the way BETTER HELPS YOU help your customers!
How riding a motorcycle is like the sales journey:
Several weeks ago I had the good fortune of delivering a leadership/workplace wellness presentation called Living Above the Line for QNET as part of their Coffee with QNET series. I have delivered it many times in person as part of a 2 day Emerging Leader program offered by The Envision Group.
Although I am very familiar with the concept and the content, I am ALWAYS nervous about whether people will get value from the program and/or whether I will mess up somehow. Which is why I am always overwhelmed when the feedback is shared with me and it's overwhelmingly positive.
I often ask coaching clients questions like:
"What are you proud of"
"What's going well"
"What's a recent success you would like to share"
I am going to take my own advice and share what I am proud of!
Because it's a great topic and I am proud of the results of the webinar, I am going to share a summary of the feedback and the scores I received from the QNET session.
Attendee ratings of
My message: Many of us are good at what we do and need to give ourselves more credit. Regularly acknowledge what's going well and what you are strong at. Also, Living Above the Line is a great concept for working with and leading others.
Let me knw if you would like to learn more.
Today I want to write about Outsourced Sales Management (OSM) and why it’s so critical for many small and medium sized companies today who want and need to grow. This is especially relevant after taking a beating for the last year + due to Covid.
Let’s explore why this could work for you.
Sales likely aren’t great. Or maybe they are ok but it sure would be helpful if they were even better. Sales and sales growth has really suffered during Covid and you’re not sure what to do anymore to increase them. Because you’re not big enough for a full-time sales manager, sales is reporting to the owner or some other function within the organization. A typical approach is that sales people aren’t doing enough.
Often, when in doubt, sales are asked to do more:
Which closes more sales right???????
You either keep doing what you are doing (and hope for a better result) or you look to increase activity as the best way to grow sales revenue. Often sales either pushes back or it doesn’t work like you think it should.
What else can you do?
I have encountered this situation a lot over the years and can tell you from experience that doing More isn’t always the best solution. We can also do Better
There is a ‘Better’ way to increase sales. Sustainably.
There are a couple of approaches (or strategies) that SBD Growth Strategies provides that you should consider:
Why is Outsourced Sales Management (OSM) important and why should you consider this strategy to boost your sales and build internal capacity to grow business for the long term?
Consider the following indicators (symptoms) you could benefit from an Outsourced Sales Manager:
Imagine a scenario where your company isn’t big enough yet to have a CFO or a VP of Engineering. Or you’ve lost your VP of Operations and you need to replace them. Have you ever thought that you should have your accounting, engineering and/or operations team reporting to sales?
Why not? We do it to sales all the time! And I don’t want to hear you say ‘yah but sales is different’. Successful sales professionals and sales leaders have significant experience, education and training that directly contributes to their success. Companies that fail to appreciate this do so at their own peril-and likely less than desired sales results.
In my over 30 years of experience, I can help organizations with the following:
I have yet to encounter someone without a strong sales back ground and with responsibility for sales being effective at, or having the proper time, to do these effectively. Without experience and/or time, any one of these activities are difficult. Especially if you are also trying to manage sales off the side of your desk all while overseeing other mission critical responsibilities.
Ok then Scott, what are the primary benefits to hiring SBD Growth Strategies as your Outsourced Sales Manager?
Here are the main reasons to hire an OSM:
For many small to mid-sized businesses and start-ups, outsourced sales management has benefits that lead to sustainable sales success and revenue growth. This could be a long-term solution or an interim strategy until you either find the right person externally or build the capacity internally. Both of which SBD Growth can help with.
If you are looking to increase sales and build a sustainable sales engine at a lower cost than hiring someone full-time and, let’s chat.
Ok professional network I would like your input on something. Here’s the back ground.
As we often do in business, I recently asked a person in my network for an introduction to someone they knew as they used to work together and are connected on LinkedIn.
This is the response they received from requesting a warm introduction for me:
“Thanks. I don't know him. He's a sales person who has been trying to get business for years. I am not interested in pursuing that”
He is a sales person…
That felt like it was supposed to be derogatory and demeaning. Didn’t it?
I am not sure why but this really offended me. All morning I kept thinking about it. I have been ‘a sales person’ for over 30 years and am proud of this profession. As I have gained experience and gray hair, I now have an even better appreciation for the value of the ‘Noble Purpose’ (Lisa Earle McLeod) of putting the needs of the customers first. I am consistently looking for ways to help, not just sell something. Why can’t they figure it out?
I quickly checked my CRM and saw that I had reached out about 10 times over 30 months – several emails and a couple voice messages. Was that too much?
My first thought was that this was a poor reflection of the prospect I was trying to connect with and that they were being narrow minded.
Then, as my fragile old ego started to heal, another thought occurred to me. Maybe, just maybe, this is my fault? I must have come across as ‘salesy’, whatever that is. Clearly I have not effectively communicated my intent of exploring ways to help their organization.
I thought about it further and decided that there were a few things I could have done differently. Better. Y'know like the things I train and coach on??
Since we should always learn from setbacks and failure, what have I (re)learned here?
More research - is required prior to reaching out. A generic message likely won’t resonate with anyone. Instead, what will be of specific interest to them? Everything else is just noise. In Hope is Not a Strategy, Rick Page talks of the Arsenal of Competitive Advantage and Linking only what’s relevant to the client. In hindsight I was throwing ‘stuff’ out hoping something would stick. That was dumb.
Shorter emails - I am verbose at times and my subject lines more compelling. There is lots of research that shows short emails with specific messages and compelling subject lines are opened more, increasing the opportunity to connect.
Leverage your network - to learn more about the individual PROIR to reaching out. Spending time preparing better upfront is more effective than potentially wasting time later. Jill Konrath (More Sales Less Time) writes about the benefits of pushing the BETTER button in sales vs the MORE button. If your approach or process is sub optimal, why do even more of it? Figure out how to do it even better.
Negative perception of sales people is still quite prevalent - What can I/we do to help people understand we want to help? Sales is by definition helping, however some people still view sales people as yucky. As per Daniel Pink’s word cloud in To Sell is Human:
As I have written about before, my purpose or mission is to help evolve sales people into even more effective sales professionals through sales training and coaching. This unflattering email response reminded me that we are all a work in progress. Yes, even me. Maybe especially me. It’s easy to get complacent and then reality reminds you there is always room to improve and get ‘more better’.
What recent experience have you had that was a reminder that sales is hard and we need to always be looking to grow and improve professionally?
People chose to work with people. People they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST. Often we do this by researching people, asking them questions, asking other people about them etc. For those of you wondering what this Scott Donald character is all about, I am going to save you some trouble.
For your information and amusement, I present: 20 things you may have wanted to know about Scott (or maybe not)
There you go. The mystery of Scott. What do you want to share with me? Shoot me a note or let's chat live.
I was looking for some funny sales cartoons last week and during my 'research' I was struck by a common theme – a negative perception of the profession of sales. Unfortunately, I get it and it’s our own fault.
Think about the old school way sales was taught (or not taught at all). Sure organizations often provide technical or product training, but what about actual sales skills? There was (is?) the common scenario of ever-increasing targets and misguided compensation plans that reward the wrong behavior. Given the lack of training and poor comp plans, is there any wonder why sales has a bad reputation? We were literally creating an environment where a collection of under skilled, unprepared sales people with intense pressure to ‘close’ were interacting YOUR clients. As a result, it’s not a surprise that we often see desperate or unethical behavior from sales people.
The often poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me. Let’s change that.
Don’t believe me or think I may be exaggerating? Well, I will politely say you are wrong. As noted in my recent LinkedIn post, In his book "To sell is Human", Daniel Pink did a survey on the perception of sales people and 80% of the responses were NEGATIVE.
Based on my ‘research’, I see many top sales writers and influencers speaking about the evolution of sales, especially with the recent pandemic causing even more need to adapt.
The Modern Definition of Sales-Generally speaking, sales is a process of creating value and helping prospective customers fix their problems. Sales is all about ABH or Always Be Helping rather than an old school ABC which was all about Always Be Closing
I like that. I also saw this comment that resonated with me:
“What makes someone effective at sales? A genuine desire to help others solve problems”
Lisa Earle McLoed describes a concept of Noble Purpose. Her research has revealed that salespeople who's focus or purpose is to improve their customers' lives—rather than a metric assigned to them (quotas), actually sell more and are happier in their roles.
So then how do we help sales people evolve into sales professionals and shift the perception of sales?
Well, what elite athletes have in common is an intentional plan and time commitment to work on specific skills. Why don’t we do the same with Leadership and Sales skills? (I don’t know either- that’s why I am asking you!).
Organizations rely on sales to grow revenue. Always have. As we recover from the pandemic, we need effective, motivated and well-trained sales professionals to grow our organizations and our economies. This underlines how important it is to focus the appropriate investment, time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams skills to increase the opportunity for success.
Proper training and coaching is more important than ever to help sales reps evolve into effective and fulfilled sales professionals. All of us can benefit from enhancing and updating our skills.
I am fortunate to be a Senior Partner with the Envision Group and work with many exceptionally talented people across North America. I am also fortunate to be collaborating with several other seasoned professionals closer to home. This diverse teams of business all-stars have helped me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow closer to their potential. The focus is very much on ‘new school’ skills we all need to learn, practice and incrementally improve on over time. Topics include skills such as:
These programs are available virtually and when appropriate, in-person.
Let's work together to professionalize sales by providing better training and coaching support for the people who chose to work in this incredibly important area of our organizations.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.
Think about the last time you were in a work situation where you were handed a new assignment or were given a promotion. Did you think to yourself ‘oh boy, I am in over my head on this one’. Or maybe ‘This is it – I can’t do this and now everyone’s going to know I’m a failure’.
And what happened?
My guess is, with some hard work, persistence, support etc., you did it. Right?
Why am I writing about this now? I have sense that if you’re reading this, we have had similar experiences and doubts in ourselves.
Imposter syndrome: The persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.
In her article Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, author Gill Corkindale states that Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence
I have known for a long time that fear of failure is a HUGE motivator for me. I think it always has been. For example:
University – I wasn’t a great student. But in university I knew I couldn’t goof around anymore. Especially as my parents were paying for me. To make it even harder on myself, I took a Business minor. To avoid failure, I worked my butt off and studied all the time. I graduated with high marks and had way better marks than High School.
Sprint Canada – Everyone seemed smarter, more talented and better looking than me. Crap, I should have stayed where I was. Fast forward 15 years and I can look back on an extremely successful career and made many great friends along the way
KPMG – What am I doing?!?! These people are smart and established professionals. Those 3 years turned out to be extremely rewarding and I Iearned a lot about business and professional services. Most importantly, I started to get a sense that I was more capable, adaptable and resourceful than I gave myself credit.
Envision Group & SBD Growth Strategies – What do I have to offer that could help others? What credibility do I have? This ‘experiment’ isn’t going to work and I will have to swallow my pride and get a real job again. I am not an expert….am I?
While I have been on my own for 5 years, just over 3 years ago Pat Lipovski, Founder & CEO of the Envision Group, invited me to come to Houston to help with leadership training for an oil and gas client. I am 51 years old and I am now having ‘holy shit’ moments constantly.
Um, I can’t co-facilitate leadership training!?!
Pat just called on me to say something!! @%$! Ok just relax
1 on 1 coaching!?! These poor people…
I am starting year 4 with Pat and the client in Texas and Pat’s probably now wondering if I will ever shut up (during the training anyway)! I REALLY enjoy facilitating workshops and I may enjoy 1 on 1 coaching even more. It is so energizing and rewarding. And while I cursed Pat for putting me in those situations (like A LOT), I wouldn’t have grown in my capabilities and confidence if that jack ass hadn’t basically MADE me do it. (Thanks Pat. And sorry for calling you a jack ass)
Stop beating yourself up and give yourself credit for your accomplishments.
Start, or continue, on your plan to get better. Not tomorrow…Today.
You got this!
I don’t know about you, but I am becoming more reflective and sentimental as I get older. Here’s my story, what I have learned and why it just may matter to you.
This weekend my wife and I were cleaning up the downstairs office. I came across some papers that reminded me about the weird and wonderful journey I’ve been on the past few years.
The papers were in a binder from the Province of Manitoba's Self-Employment Program (run by the YMCA) I completed about five years ago. It listed the various attendees, and coaches they were assigned to work with. I could have been assigned any of the coaches, but fortunately for me, I was paired with Frank Atnikov of Frank Growth Solutions. Before I go further and explain why this is so key, I want to go back in time.
In 1994 I joined a young group of professionals at a new company, Sprint Canada. Over the next many years, I learned a lot about sales and leadership while working with so many great people here in Winnipeg and across the country. One of those people was the Founder & CEO of Envision Group International, Pat Lipovski in Calgary.
Fast forward to 2009 and I am looking for a change. Well into my early 40’s, and after 15 years in the telecom industry, I sensed I needed to do something different if I was going to grow professionally. Pat knew that his former sales leader at Sprint Canada moved on to become the National Director of Sales at KPMG – one of the big four global accounting firms. Pat informed me that KPMG was looking for a Director of Business Development. I managed to land the position, but with it came LOTS of uncertainty and trepidation. I didn’t know if I had what it takes to be effective in this role and was pretty sure I was in over my head. Oh, and I hate failure… so there’s that.
I worked hard in this role for three years and came to realize that I could in fact be effective in the role. It was tough and challenging, and it stretched me way beyond my comfort zone. I figure I grew as much in three years at KPMG as I did in 15 years at Sprint Canada. In the process, I learned a great deal about different aspects of business and professional services. Again, I met a lot of terrific people, including TDS’ Director of Client Services Mark Howe. A couple of years later Mark and I started an informal business networking and referral group, meeting monthly with a great group of local professionals.
Now it’s late 2015 and I am trying to figure out what I want to do ‘when I grow up’. One of the people in our business group, President/Founder of 6P Marketing Paul Provost, suggested I go out on my own and look into Manitoba’s Self Employment Program. And that’s where I met Frank Atnikov. We both liked working with nonprofits and felt we could help some of them by providing foundational sales and marketing training. Together, we built 2 unique ½ day training programs to support non-profits by giving them valuable tools for improved sales and marketing results.
I was nervous, again, but with some hard work and support from Frank, it went well and I realized:
The last few years have been a fun, rewarding, challenging, nerve-wracking, humbling, exciting and an incredible learning experience. Further, if you would have told me five years ago that I would be doing leadership and sales training and coaching, primarily within the energy sector, while spending most of the last year working ‘virtually’ from home in a nice shirt and pj pants (ok you didn't need to know that part), I would have thought you were wildly misinformed.
If that wasn’t enough, kicking off my own local practice at SBD Growth Strategies has given me even more to be excited and nervous about. But y’know what? I know I am going to make it work out. Someway, somehow I always have and I have the confidence to do it again. I think...
You may be thinking ‘great story Scott but what’s your point’? The point is:
Enjoy the journey, learn from others, focus on YOUR professional development, don’t be afraid to seek help along the way and if you’re wondering if you can do it, you probably can.
Good luck and here’s to a great 2021.