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» Tennessean Column- Sunday, February 7th, 2016( Click Here )

Creating an Atmosphere of Greatness

If you and I bought a young colt from the bloodlines of the greatest race horses in history, we’d hope to have a winner when the colt turns 3.

However, if I kept the colt at my house, if my vet friend checked on the colt periodically and if I let my friends ride the colt on the weekends, then when the colt was 3, I guarantee we wouldn’t have a winner.

Why?  We didn’t create an “Atmosphere of Greatness.”  We created an atmosphere of failure.  Without training, proper medical care, proper diet and proper conditions, our horse would fail.

The same is true for salespeople.  I see so many salespeople who do not find or create for themselves an Atmosphere of Greatness.  When I interview salespeople, I look for a good jockey on a bad horse.  It’s amazing what happens when you take a salesperson that is ambitious and coachable and put them in an atmosphere focused on their success.  They become winners!

So what are a few elements of this elusive Atmosphere of Greatness?  Some elements are in the salesperson’s control and some are dependent upon the company where the salesperson works.  Here are some thoughts on the ones we can control:

Get off to a good start

First, set up your morning to make your day more productive.

The University of Nottingham recently reviewed 83 studies on personal energy and self-control.  These two elements determine our productivity.  They found that self-control and energy were limited (finite).  We run out of both.  When we run out of energy and self-control, we become unproductive.

Our productivity is highest in the morning.  By changing our morning routine, we can both be more productive and extend the time we have before we run low on energy and self-control.

Steve Jobs said, “For the past 33 years, I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

It doesn’t matter whether you are a morning or a night person.  Whether you wake up ready to go or sleepy, these things will improve your Atmosphere of Greatness.

Everyone and every study says to start with exercise.  Even 10 minutes of exercise releases neurotransmitters that improve your energy and your attitude about the day.

Furthermore, eat a real breakfast.  A real breakfast leads to more stable blood levels, less obesity and it reduces hunger during the day.

Next, get enough sleep.  It isn’t a morning adjustment but you get the point.  It makes your morning better.

So, now you’ve gotten enough sleep, you’ve exercised and you’ve eaten. You have already set yourself up for a great day.

Set daily goals

Second, set your day up by writing down your goals for the day.  Keep these in front of you all day.  Take them in the car with you.

Put goals in order of importance.  Put things you might get done or of lower priority at the bottom.  Mark the items on your to do list off as you complete them.  This action gives you a sense of accomplishment.

The point of this is to get the most important things done when you are most productive and have the most self-control and energy.  You could go so far as to assign times to your to do’s.  Assigning times puts your 8-12 hour day into perspective.

Get organized

Finally, clean your work space.  Princeton University conducted a study that found that people who worked in a clean workspace were more productive than those who worked in a mess.  It was found that a cluttered workspace was distracting and created unproductive stress.  A clean work space was motivational and created feelings of pride.

The same goes for your car.  I hate to go for a ride-along with a salesperson whose car is a mess.  I am sure they feel disorganized and stressed out.

Take time to clean up your workspace at home, too.  Remember “Pigpen” was never a top salesperson.  You cannot look at a messy workspace and say proudly, “This is my Atmosphere of Greatness!”

Try these three tips and see what happens.  If you’re like most salespeople, your results will go up.  As your career progresses, fight every day to create your own Atmosphere of Greatness. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, December 27th, 2015( Click Here )

Set Goals to Succeed in the New Year

Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

It doesn’t make much sense, but we all know what he meant. As the year draws to a close, we should all be thinking about next year’s goals.

Another thing we must all face is a work/life balance. Most people don’t have a plan to balance their work and personal life. They do whatever the job requires and hope the rest works out.

That’s not a plan.

One of the earliest quotes I memorized was by Thomas Carlyle: “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”

This is the goals-setting system that I’ve found works the best. Rather than going wherever the wind takes us, we must choose our direction.

Here are some tips for setting goals in the new year:

Set goals in all areas of your life. You should have work goals, personal goals, physical goals, financial goals and relationship goals. Unless you set goals in all these areas, one will always take precedent over the others.

The only way I’ve seen to get work/life balance is to force balance by setting goals in all areas — the overall goal being work/life balance.

Write your goals down. If they aren’t written down, they are just a wish, a hope or a dream — but they are not goals. We know writing things down impacts our psyche.

Set a time frame. That should be easy. Goals can be set hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Without a time frame there is no win or lose or sense of urgency. And the smaller the time frame the better. Smaller short-term goals will be more easily achieved.

Tell someone important to you about your goals. It could be your spouse, parents, boss or friend. The only requirement is that the person be someone you want to come through for. This adds an element of commitment to the process. It’s the reason we get married in public with our friends and family. It adds commitment to what we are doing.

Set high and low goals. The largest companies in the world use this principle. They have an external projection of earnings and an internal projection that’s higher. They tell shareholders the low goal but everyone is working for their internal budget (the high goal). This works for individuals, too.

Set activity and results goals. By setting activity goals, you can control your results. Every results goal should be broken down into the activities required to achieve it. A certain number of phone calls leads to a certain number of appointments. A certain number of appointments leads to a certain number of sales. Sales equals commissions, and commissions lead to your results goal.

Follow the same thinking with all of your results goals.

One final thought: No excuses! Don’t use your circumstances as an excuse not to reach your goals.


Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

It doesn’t make much sense, but we all know what he meant. As the year draws to a close, we should all be thinking about next year’s goals.

Another thing we must all face is a work/life balance. Most people don’t have a plan to balance their work and personal life. They do whatever the job requires and hope the rest works out.

That’s not a plan.

One of the earliest quotes I memorized was by Thomas Carlyle: “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”

This is the goals-setting system that I’ve found works the best. Rather than going wherever the wind takes us, we must choose our direction.

Here are some tips for setting goals in the new year:

Set goals in all areas of your life. You should have work goals, personal goals, physical goals, financial goals and relationship goals. Unless you set goals in all these areas, one will always take precedent over the others.

The only way I’ve seen to get work/life balance is to force balance by setting goals in all areas — the overall goal being work/life balance.

Write your goals down. If they aren’t written down, they are just a wish, a hope or a dream — but they are not goals. We know writing things down impacts our psyche.

Set a time frame. That should be easy. Goals can be set hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Without a time frame there is no win or lose or sense of urgency. And the smaller the time frame the better. Smaller short-term goals will be more easily achieved.

Tell someone important to you about your goals. It could be your spouse, parents, boss or friend. The only requirement is that the person be someone you want to come through for. This adds an element of commitment to the process. It’s the reason we get married in public with our friends and family. It adds commitment to what we are doing.

Set high and low goals. The largest companies in the world use this principle. They have an external projection of earnings and an internal projection that’s higher. They tell shareholders the low goal but everyone is working for their internal budget (the high goal). This works for individuals, too.

Set activity and results goals. By setting activity goals, you can control your results. Every results goal should be broken down into the activities required to achieve it. A certain number of phone calls leads to a certain number of appointments. A certain number of appointments leads to a certain number of sales. Sales equals commissions, and commissions lead to your results goal.

Follow the same thinking with all of your results goals.

One final thought: No excuses! Don’t use your circumstances as an excuse not to reach your goals.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, November 15, 2015( Click Here )

Rules for Doing Business at the Table

America has always done business at the table.  It’s a tradition!  And after recently reading “Dinner at Mr. Jefferson’s” by Charles Cerami, I was further inspired to share the lessons I have learned at the “salesperson’s table.”

It was pointed out to me recently that I had actually spent millions of dollars on meals and entertainment for prospects and clients through the companies I have owned and the salespeople that worked for those companies.  I am still spending money on meals and entertainment for prospects and clients of the companies I am involved in.

The question I have come to ask and that you should ask is, “Am I getting any more benefit meeting over a meal or at an event than I would in the prospect’s office?”  For most salespeople the answer would be no.  No significant advantage was gained by paying for a prospect’s meal.  However, that doesn’t have to be the case.  With proper planning, thought and execution, you can literally get “a bang for your buck.”

The first step to making a productive meal is to determine its purpose prior to even inviting the prospect to lunch or dinner.  Ask yourself, “What are you really trying to accomplish?”

  1. Build a better relationship
  2. Understand your prospect’s business better
  3. Identify needs for your product or service
  4. Sell your product or service
  5. Solve existing or potential problems
  6. Introduce new members of your team

Whatever the goals, it will not hurt to write them down.  You are going to spend somewhere between $40 and $500 dollars, so you better have a solid purpose not to meet in the prospect’s office.

The next step is to set the appointment.  Be sensitive to the prospect’s time constraints.  Do they only have an hour for lunch?  Is an early lunch better than a late one?  If it is dinner, is early better than late?  Does the prospect need to get home?  Once I have a prospect’s agreement to meet, I let them lead by asking questions about their availability.

Next, pick a restaurant.  Your time limits will help here.  I usually pick a place that is close to the prospect’s office or home.  I always ask, “Do you have a favorite place?”  If they do, we go there.  I call and make the reservation.

Always make a reservation; nothing is worse than getting to a restaurant and having to wait. Ask for a table in the back but not by the kitchen.  Sometimes you will have to be persistent with the restaurant, but you are in sales.  Get what you want.  Control the atmosphere in which you are meeting.  You do not want to be near the front door or the kitchen.  There will be too much noise and foot traffic.

Next, if you are meeting the prospect at the restaurant, be a few minutes early.  Do not let the prospect get there first and wait on you.  When you sit down, you should face the wall.  You want to be focused on the prospect, not everything else going on around you.

When you order, follow the prospect’s lead.  This is not about you getting what you want.  If they order a salad, you get a salad.  If the prospect gets two or more courses, you get two or more courses.  The food police will not punish you if you don’t eat it all, but your prospect will if they feel uncomfortable.  I usually don’t order alcohol at lunch, however, I will if the prospect does and then I don’t drink it.  One of your goals should be to bond with the prospect and to build your rapport.

If I pick the restaurant, I consider the following items: location, budget, atmosphere (quiet is good), menu and service.  Each has an impact on the meeting.  Remember, you are having a meeting that you are paying for.  It should be a place your prospect will enjoy.  Your pleasures should be an afterthought.

Finally, don’t talk business while you are eating.  I have seen salespeople try to cover a PowerPoint while food was being served or on the table.  I have seen salespeople talk with their mouths full and ask a prospect a question while the prospect’s mouth is full.  Any serious business discussion should take place after the meal or back in the prospect’s office.

From now on, try to think of a meal with a prospect as a meeting with food.  Keep your standard of excellence high and control the meeting as much as you can.  Do not meet over a meal unless something can be accomplished at a meal that cannot be accomplished in the prospect’s office.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, November 1, 2015( Click Here )

Selling is about service, and your results will show it

If you aren’t selling as much as you want or need to, look in the mirror and repeat, “I am not helping enough people with my product or service.”

That’s the bottom line.  Like Zig Ziglar said, “You can get anything you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.”  Yes, selling is about service.

When I was selling books door to door, I was taught “Always have a service attitude.”  Further, I was told, “The customer can see the dollar signs in your eyes.”  I believe it!

The best sales people in every company I’ve worked with portray this service attitude.  The worst just want to tell their story and leave.  I might add that they usually don’t tell it often enough.  Here are some characteristics I’ve seen in salespeople with a service attitude:

They pay it forward.  Regardless of the outcome of the sale, they are trying to help their prospect.  One of the companies I own sells ATMs.  Our best salesperson called on a bank and the CEO didn’t want ATMs.  He wanted big printers.  We didn’t sell them.  When Steve, our salesperson, left, he did all the research on which printers were best.  He even identified two salespeople from competitive companies.  Then he sent it all to the CEO of the bank.  Steve said he never got a thank you.

Seven years went by, and we got a call from that CEO.  He asked the receptionist if Steve still worked there.  By then, Steve was our president.  That bank ordered 14 new ATMs, which was the largest order, at that time, in the history of our company.  Yeehaw!

Steve had paid it forward without regard for himself, helping the customer first.  The greatest salespeople all do this.  They look for a way to serve first.

A second characteristic I’ve seen in the greatest salespeople is that they ask a lot of questions.  They are genuinely interested in the prospects’ success and happiness.  They really only want to sell their product if they believe that it will help their prospect.  The way they determine if their product or service will help is by asking a lot of questions.  They care more about finding or creating a need than telling their story.

I learned the power of this when I was selling books.  I sold a Bible dictionary.  Before I showed the book, I’d ask three questions:  Have you ever read a word in the Bible you couldn’t pronounce?  Have you ever read a word you didn’t understand?  Have you ever wanted to know about a name or place in the Bible?  After these three questions, many people would buy the book without opening it.  That’s right, they never looked inside to see what they were buying.  I had found their needs and they were ready to buy.  The greatest salespeople display their service attitude by asking lots of questions.

Finally, the best salespeople portray their service attitude by their enthusiasm and work ethic.  When you talk to these service-minded professionals, they are enthusiastic about their product or service.  When they are in a non-selling social situation, they are enthusiastic about their jobs, their opportunity and their product or service.  In addition, they work all the time.  They are on fire about what they do.

By the way, if you aren’t on fire about your job, your product or service, and your opportunity, do something else.  I am so thankful I am on fire about what I do.  I feel bad for those who aren’t.

One word of warning:  You can’t fake it.  A service attitude is genuine or it is not.  If you give to get, you won’t get – but if you give to give, you will get. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, October 4th, 2015( Click Here )

10 Things Great Salespeople Do

Over the past few years, I have worked with over 300 companies’ sales organizations.  One common denominator in every company is this: Some salespeople were better than others. It wasn’t based on luck or circumstances. The most successful salespeople were doing something different than their coworkers.

Here is a list of 10 things I saw repeated over and over again by the top salespeople:

  1. They read or listened to inspirational material.  Inspiring stories do just that, they inspire us.  We all perform better when we are inspired. The easiest way I know to get inspired is by reading or listening to inspirational stories.
  2. They manage their people time.  For most of us, there are only certain hours in the day that we can meet or talk on the phone with people. The greatest salespeople I have met and observed do not waste people time doing administrative work. They do that at night, early in the morning or on the weekends.  Surveys say that the average salesperson only spends 43 percent of their time talking to prospects. The greatest salespeople spend more time than that.
  3. They spend their time with decision makers.  Recently I reviewed a top salesperson’s calendar of meetings with prospects for the year. Eighty-nine percent of those meetings were with decision makers.  The average was 40 percent. That means for every 80 percent performer there was a 20 percent performer. Great salespeople work hard at seeing decision makers.
  4. They find or create a need before they present their product or service.  One top salesperson I met says he ends his meeting before presenting his product if he cannot find a want or a need for his service.  The very best salespeople I’ve met plan out the questions they will ask to find or create a need well in advance of their meeting. They never move into a product presentation without finding a need.
  5. They have canned answers for common questions and objections.  Most companies I’ve been to with high performing salespeople give their salespeople scripts with answers to the most common questions and objections. The great salespeople take the time to practice and learn them.
  6. They support the company.  The average or below average salesperson is most often the one saying something negative or critical about the company to their prospect.  A critical comment or negative information about the company you work with should never be shared with a prospect. Yet I hear salespeople say, “It’s accounting’s fault. They cannot get anything right.” or “That’s customer services’ fault. They mess up all the time.” or “We are in the middle of a merger.  Things are going to be really screwed up for a while.”  These kinds of statements undermine their own credibility. Duh!
  7. They see opportunity in change.  The greatest salespeople realize that things will change.  Territories will change, prices will change, commissions will change, management will change and even the company’s ownership may change. The greatest salespeople look for an opportunity in the change instead of whining about it.
  8. They learn from others. Great salespeople I’ve known have the naivety of a child. They are always asking questions of everyone on the sales team. They approach their success with humility and grace.  They are constantly searching for the best practices and implementing them.
  9. They use names. They use the prospect’s name. Using the prospect’s name breaks down social barriers.  Using the prospect’s name holds the prospect’s attention. Finally, using the prospect’s name stimulates a pleasure center in the brain. The same pleasure center that is stimulated during sex. Like Zig Ziglar said, “Names are magic.”
  10. They set goals. Not casually spoken goals when your manager asks you, but goals that are written down.  Goals for both activity and results. Goals that have short time frames and goals that once set, stand until death or victory. When the greatest salespeople set a goal they mean it. They do not set “unless goals.” Not “I will do it unless something happens” goals, but goals they mean.

So here is my top 10.  There are lots more, but focusing on these should increase your results. Today is the day. Now is the time.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, September 6, 2015( Click Here )

What is preplanning the sales call?

Planning a sales call is essential to top performance in sales.  When I talk to salespeople and ask, “Do you preplan your calls?” most salespeople answer yes.  There are a few cowboys out there winging it, but most salespeople believe they are preplanning their calls.  I don’t believe they are.  I think most of us, including me, do an incomplete job of preplanning.  Recently, I made this list for myself and the salespeople in my companies.

1. LinkedIn: Have you looked on LinkedIn for information about your prospect and their company?  Most companies have a LinkedIn page.  Further, have you looked for other people that your prospect is linked to?  Seeing the whole picture that LinkedIn paints of your prospect and their company is an important part of preplanning.  By the way, you don’t do this research between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday.  That’s people time, not research time.

2. Facebook: Have you looked for your prospect on Facebook? You won’t always find them, but you should look. If you find them, it will help you connect with them when you meet them for the first time. You can search for them by their name and their company name. Do both. Their company may have a Facebook page as well. Take the extra time to do this.

3. Website: It always surprises me when I am on a sales call with my own salespeople and I ask if they have looked at the company’s website and they answer “no” — or worse, “I glanced at it,” which means “no.”  When I press and say, “What did you learn from the website?” most have a weak answer. Start looking at the prospect’s website with the thought, “What can I learn that I can use?” There is usually a lot of information you can use if you click all the tabs. Don’t just look at the home page.

4. Directions: I worked with a woman in Seattle who always allowed an extra hour to get to the prospect because she would always get lost. Preplan your route and arrive on time. Traffic, wrecks and getting lost are weak excuses that losers give for being late. Preplan your travel to arrive on time. Better to be an hour early than 10 minutes late.

5. Rapport: If you are in sales (we all sell something — a product, an idea or a service), ask yourself, "How do I establish rapport with a stranger?"  I never go on a call without preplanning my opening questions with a prospect. I never open with “How are you today?” I might as well say, “I am a salesperson and I want to sell you something.”

Usually, as my butt hits the seat in a prospect’s office, I say “How long have you been here?” or, if the prospect is the founder, “When did you start your business?”  Then, my second preplanned question is, “Are you originally from here?”  Now, I am looking around their office for something personal.  My third preplanned question is “Where were you before this?”  By now, I better be ready for a fresh question. Maybe something I learned from Facebook or LinkedIn, even something as general as, “I looked at your company’s LinkedIn page. Has it produced any revenue?”

Here’s the point. I take control of the conversation from the first and start looking for something I have in common with the prospect. Preplanning allows me to do this. If I don’t, the prospect will say, “Tell me what you are selling.”  I never want that to happen, so I preplan questions to help me establish rapport as quickly as possible. says “rapport is a good sense of understanding and trust.”  It doesn’t say you can’t preplan to get there.

6. Needs based questions: No matter what I’ve sold, I always find myself asking the same questions in the discovery phase of the sales process. So now I have written these questions down and put them on a piece of paper.

I print it out in big print, double spaced, and I use it to take notes on when I am in a sales call. That way I am prepared to find or create a need before I go on the call. It also helps me to remember every question and not just ask from memory.

When I showed this list of six items to some salespeople, the general consensus was, “It is a good idea but a lot of work” and “It is a good idea, but I don’t have time for all of that.”

I always think there are two kinds of people.  One finds a way and the other finds an excuse.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, September 6, 2015( Click Here )

What is preplanning the sales call?

Planning a sales call is essential to top performance in sales.  When I talk to salespeople and ask, “Do you preplan your calls?” most salespeople answer yes.  There are a few cowboys out there winging it, but most salespeople believe they are preplanning their calls.  I don’t believe they are.  I think most of us, including me, do an incomplete job of preplanning.  Recently, I made this list for myself and the salespeople in my companies.

1. LinkedIn: Have you looked on LinkedIn for information about your prospect and their company?  Most companies have a LinkedIn page.  Further, have you looked for other people that your prospect is linked to?  Seeing the whole picture that LinkedIn paints of your prospect and their company is an important part of preplanning.  By the way, you don’t do this research between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday.  That’s people time, not research time.

2. Facebook: Have you looked for your prospect on Facebook? You won’t always find them, but you should look. If you find them, it will help you connect with them when you meet them for the first time. You can search for them by their name and their company name. Do both. Their company may have a Facebook page as well. Take the extra time to do this.

3. Website: It always surprises me when I am on a sales call with my own salespeople and I ask if they have looked at the company’s website and they answer “no” — or worse, “I glanced at it,” which means “no.”  When I press and say, “What did you learn from the website?” most have a weak answer. Start looking at the prospect’s website with the thought, “What can I learn that I can use?” There is usually a lot of information you can use if you click all the tabs. Don’t just look at the home page.

4. Directions: I worked with a woman in Seattle who always allowed an extra hour to get to the prospect because she would always get lost. Preplan your route and arrive on time. Traffic, wrecks and getting lost are weak excuses that losers give for being late. Preplan your travel to arrive on time. Better to be an hour early than 10 minutes late.

5. Rapport: If you are in sales (we all sell something — a product, an idea or a service), ask yourself, "How do I establish rapport with a stranger?"  I never go on a call without preplanning my opening questions with a prospect. I never open with “How are you today?” I might as well say, “I am a salesperson and I want to sell you something.”

Usually, as my butt hits the seat in a prospect’s office, I say “How long have you been here?” or, if the prospect is the founder, “When did you start your business?”  Then, my second preplanned question is, “Are you originally from here?”  Now, I am looking around their office for something personal.  My third preplanned question is “Where were you before this?”  By now, I better be ready for a fresh question. Maybe something I learned from Facebook or LinkedIn, even something as general as, “I looked at your company’s LinkedIn page. Has it produced any revenue?”

Here’s the point. I take control of the conversation from the first and start looking for something I have in common with the prospect. Preplanning allows me to do this. If I don’t, the prospect will say, “Tell me what you are selling.”  I never want that to happen, so I preplan questions to help me establish rapport as quickly as possible. says “rapport is a good sense of understanding and trust.”  It doesn’t say you can’t preplan to get there.

6. Needs based questions: No matter what I’ve sold, I always find myself asking the same questions in the discovery phase of the sales process. So now I have written these questions down and put them on a piece of paper.

I print it out in big print, double spaced, and I use it to take notes on when I am in a sales call. That way I am prepared to find or create a need before I go on the call. It also helps me to remember every question and not just ask from memory.

When I showed this list of six items to some salespeople, the general consensus was, “It is a good idea but a lot of work” and “It is a good idea, but I don’t have time for all of that.”

I always think there are two kinds of people.  One finds a way and the other finds an excuse.


» Tennessean Column- Sunday, August 23, 2015( Click Here )

In Sales, EQ is just as important as IQ

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”

So a sales person calls on me and she is 20 minutes late.  She says, “I got lost,” or she tells me “The traffic was horrible.”  My thought is, “I’ve been late, but for important meetings I leave early and know where I am going.”  Or a salesperson calls on me and doesn’t follow up for several days. When she does, she says, “I had trouble getting all the information together” or “The office misplaced my request but I’ve got it now.”

Let’s face it, salespeople cannot be perfect, but what we do far outweighs what we say to our prospects. Our prospects are judging us. Rarely, when we call or meet with a prospect, is the prospect saying, “I am so glad you called or came by.”  There is a healthy degree of skepticism that every prospect has about every salesperson when they first meet or talk to them.

Remember this: Everything you say and do will be used against you. This is the harsh standard that every salesperson must live by. Every prospect is asking themselves, “Is this a person I’d like to do business with?” and “Is this a company that will deliver what the salesperson has promised?”

Then, the question becomes, what can salespeople say and, more importantly, do to help the prospect answer these questions positively?

A large part of this is your emotional intelligence, or EQ. There is no connection between your IQ and your EQ.  We all know very smart people who are emotionally incompetent. Yet psychologists have proven over and over again that a salesperson’s EQ is just as important as his IQ.

For the record, intelligence is your ability to learn. It’s roughly the same at 14 as it is at 60. Emotional intelligence is a skill set that can be improved and acquired, especially with practice.  Some people’s environment has given them greater emotional intelligence than others but salespeople can constantly improve their emotional intelligence. Studies have shown that our EQ is just as important as our IQ in making up our personality.

EQ is made up of several things, but the two most important are self-awareness and social awareness. Your emotional intelligence is a strong predictor of your success. In a test against 33 other important skills, 58 percent of all respondents’ success or failure was predicted by their EQ.

EQ determines over half your success and it’s a skill set you can improve. Good news, right?

Another study found 90 percent of top performers also had high emotional intelligence (EQ).  Only 20 percent of bottom performers had high EQs. Think about that. Your odds of being a top performer without a high EQ are not very good.

Here are a few skills we can practice to improve our EQs and increase our success:


  • First, manage your emotions. One of the things we all can control is our reaction to our emotions. No matter how we really feel, salespeople need to portray a positive, enthusiastic outer view to our prospects.  Part of this is self-awareness. That’s the ability to recognize how we are feeling but not let how we’re feeling effect our behavior or the subtle signals we send our prospects. Check in with your yourself several times a day. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” and “Is how I am feeling affecting my behavior?”  The more you check in, the more self-aware you will become.
  • Second, improve your social awareness. That is being aware of how the prospect is feeling. Picking up on their emotions, reading their body language and noticing what’s going on in their environment. Then, based on your social awareness, you can learn how to manage the relationship with your prospect. The higher your social awareness, the better you’ll manage your prospect interaction. During every call, ask yourself, “How is my prospect feeling?” and “How would I want to be treated in this situation?”

As you practice these skills, your brain will build pathways that make these new skills habits. Better yet, as you practice these skills, your brain will eliminate the old bad habits that held you back. By putting this all together, you will sell more, and that’s what we all want. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, August 9th, 2015( Click Here )

Common Mistakes Salespeople Make- Over and Over and ......

Grace Williams said, “We all learn from experience.  A man never wakes up his second baby just to see it smile.”

Sometimes I wonder if some salespeople do learn from experience. I see them repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Throughout the last year or so, I have been recording the mistakes I see so often repeated.

Improper follow-up.  Literally hundreds of salespeople have told me “The prospect didn’t call me back” or “He didn’t return my email.”  It is not the prospect’s responsibility to call or email you back. It is our job to find them and motivate them to respond. The statistics support my observations. Forty-eight percent of salespeople never follow up with a prospect. Twenty-five percent of salespeople make a second contact and stop. If you follow up a second time with your prospect, you are in the top 25 percent of salespeople in the area of follow-up. The statistics go on to say that 17 percent of salespeople make a third contact and stop. Only 10 percent of salespeople make more than three contacts. Like Zig Ziglar said, “Timid salespeople have skinny kids.”

Learn from this mistake. Only 2 percent of sales are made on the first call. Three percent of sales are made on the second contact, 5 percent on the third contact and 10 percent on the fourth contact. Eighty percent of sales are made on the fifth to 12th contact. Despite this research, salespeople continue to fail at following up.

Always be closing. There are still those salespeople out there who think they should always be closing. No; first comes identifying a need and establishing rapport. No sophisticated buyer wants to be manipulated or pushed to a decision. Most buyers don’t even want to be led. Yes, you must bring your prospect to a point of decision, but this in no way needs to be pushy. If your closing tools show to your prospect, then you are too pushy.  The best close is a good presentation of how your product meets your prospect’s needs. Do not let your need to make a sale or earn a commission cloud your judgement about “always be closing.”

No enthusiasm. Often I will ask a salesperson what gets them excited. They will start to tell me about their family, their hobbies or even their favorite sports team. Their posture changes, their voice changes and they become animated. Then I see their presentation and they are back to the same old boring conversation. Speak about your product or service like you speak about the best thing in your life. For every sale you lose because you are too enthusiastic you will lose 100 because you weren’t enthusiastic enough. Enthusiasm comes from the ancient Greek word eufousiasmz (en + theos), meaning "inspired by or possessed by God."  Be as enthusiastic as you can and quit making the same mistake over and over again.

Winging it. This drives me crazy. Salespeople know what the objections are going to be. "I am not interested." "I don’t have time." "I am happy with my current provider, etc." Although we know the objection beforehand, salespeople tend to wing it. When presented with the option of a well-planned, enthusiastic, well thought out answer to an objection vs. winging it, everyone picks the first option. Yet for some reason salespeople continue to make the same mistakes. Yes, you can make some sales by winging it. However, you will make more sales by memorizing and practicing what you are going to say.

Work on these common mistakes and you will improve your results.  Remember, no one can stop you from succeeding without your permission.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, July 26, 2015( Click Here )

The Future of Selling

People keep asking me about the future of sales and selling.  With an ever expanding base of knowledge through the internet prospects know more.  They are better informed and have access to more information than ever. 

You can find out the price of any article you want with a few clicks.  As more and more products become commoditized, where does that leave the salesperson and what is his or her future?

It may surprise you but all the research states that the salesperson will become more important not less.  The ten year projection for large companies is that they will be hiring more salespeople not less.  In face over 20% more.  So why don’t these two facts connect?  There is more information available for the prospect and yet a need for more salespeople.

The research says that when a salesperson’s products are basically the same as their competitors the key differentiator becomes the salesperson themselves.  Current studies of prospects indicate that 57% of the buying decision occurs prior to a prospect talking to a salesperson.  The impact of this is an ever increasing importance about how the salesperson interacts with the prospect.  Yes, salespeople will become more important not less important.

How does a salesperson interact better and build a better relationship with the prospect?  Here are some ideas:

  • About the relationship- We all like doing business with someone we feel a connection to and like.  How do you, as a salesperson, become that kind of person?  One way is to be a good listener.  Take notes while you are listening.  Taking notes gives importance to what the prospect is saying.  Nod your head.  Studies say that people speak 66% more when the listener nods their head.  The more the prospect talks the better your relationship.  Rephrase and repeat back what the prospect says.  This adds value to their thoughts and opinions.  We all want to be around people that listen to us and think what we say is important.
  • Make your prospect your friend.  You share good news with your friends.  You stay in contact with your friends.  You do little things for your friends.  You take an interest in the things they are interested in.  You remember things your friends tell you.  It always surprises me when salespeople don’t like their prospects.  Find the good and value in your prospects and they will find the good and value in you.  It’s called psychological reciprocity and it works!

Think about your best-selling relationship.  I’ll bet that you know a lot about that person and that you have spent an above average amount of time with them.  I’ll bet the exact opposite is true for your worst relationship.  You can fix a lot of that with focus and practice.

Most salespeople focus on the sale’s process, the questions we need to ask and the facts we need to present.  The process is important but the process will work better the better your relationships.  In addition, your prospect will listen better and be more persuaded by someone with whom they have a trusting relationship.  Instead of worrying so much about what you are going to say next, focus completely on the person in front of you.  Try thinking of them as the most “Interesting man in the world”.

  • Finally, make sure everything you say and do sends the right signals.  Make sure you are viewed by the prospect as someone with whom they would want to do business.  Speak professionally, work on your grammar and vocabulary, smile often and look your prospect in the eye.  Its old school but it works.

Remember 57% of the decision has already been made before you arrived.  Now it’s your turn to make the difference.

People may doubt what you say but they will believe what you do.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, July 12, 2015( Click Here )

So You Have a Bad Attitude, Your Attitude Doesn’t Matter

When I started to sell, I was told “You can’t sell with a bad attitude.”  What I came to understand is that, “You can’t sell if you let your attitude affect your performance.”

If you’re like me, you have mood swings   most people do. Most people are more productive when they’re in an upbeat, positive mood. Most people are less productive when they are in a low or bad mood. Since I want to be as productive as possible I try to do 2 things:

First, I try not to let my attitude affect my performance. Every professional goes through mood swings. The greatest in every profession separate themselves from others by not allowing a bad attitude to determine their performance. Actors say it well, “The show must go on.”  Despite how we feel, we must put out our best effort and give our clients and prospects our best performance. Our mind set must be “I don’t feel as good as I’d like but my mood won’t control my performance or results. As I’ve said before, “No excuses accepted today!”

Second, we can to some extent, control our attitude to keep it in its most productive state. William James, the Harvard Psychologist and founder of modern psychology said “The mind can’t tell the difference between real and artificial stimulus. If we tell ourselves we feel healthy, happy and terrific, we can become healthy, happy and terrific.” It’s not mysticism; over 3,000 books have been written on this topic – Controlling Your Attitude.

Over the years, I’ve put together a four step plan to help me keep my attitude as high as possible, as often as possible. First, most psychologists tell us to read and listen to inspirational material. I subscribe to four different ‘Quote of the Day’ services. They’re all free. Inspirational material helps us focus on the positive and the potential, not the problems.


Second, creative visualization. Close your eyes and paint a mental picture of what you want. Your name at the top of the sales leaderboard, a new car, a new house, etc… this works! What the mind can conceive and believe and act upon it can achieve. There is a law of the universe, what we ardently believe and act upon, the universe will deliver. Olympic athletes are taught this technique. Psychologists use it in therapy. It works.

Third, positive affirmations. Either verbally or in writing repeat what you want. “I can, I will, I am going to become the greatest salesperson in my company.”  “I can, I will, I am going to win the sales contest.” These are positive affirmations, verbalized or written work some kind of magic on our attitude. It’s been proven over and over again that this works.

Fourth, focus on purpose. Denis Whaitley, former Chairman of the Psychological Advisors for the US Olympic team says, “In the moment of crisis, focus on purpose.”

Every world class athlete faces a moment of crises. “Is it worth it?”, “it’s painful”, “He’s just faster than me.”

It’s in the moment that our attitude drops and we’re in danger of letting our attitude affect our performance.

However, a focus on our purpose at this moment allows the great athletes, sales people and entrepreneurs to push through to success. Control your attitude and increase your success.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, June 28th, 2015( Click Here )

Don't Wing the Sales Process, Perfect It

Recently I met with a company that asked me what I meant by a sales process. The question started me thinking about whether salespeople in general had a process they used or whether their process was PFTA (plucked from thin air).

Sales and Marketing Magazine reports that 2 percent of high performing sales organizations have a nonexistent sales process; 26 percent of high performing sales organizations have an informal process; 22 percent of high performing sales organizations have a well-documented sales process; and 50 percent of high performing sales organizations have a closely monitored, strictly enforced sales process. By contrast, only 28 percent of underperforming sales organizations have a closely monitored, strictly enforced sales process and 72 percent of underperforming sales organizations have a weak sales process.

In addition, high performing organizations rank disciplined sales processes and systems usage as the second most important factor, separating great from good sales organizations. My point is this, both in terms of actual results and in the perception of high performing salespeople: A disciplined sales process is important to salespeople’s success.

So the sales process starts with developing a prospect list. How do you develop it? There is a best practice for developing a prospect list. Do you have the best process or do you have any process at all? If you don’t, then talk to your manager or the best salesperson in your organization and get their process.

Every step of the sales process has a “best practice.” Your phone approach to get the initial appointment or your cold call in person to get the appointment is a process — a small part of the whole sales process. To improve your process or get one in the first place, you must go through each step of the whole sales process and decide what your process is.

When we make the initial presentation of our product or service, we have a process. Is your process the best possible presentation of your product or service? Best by definition means only one. There cannot be two bests. So, to achieve the best results as a salesperson, you have to have a process and then you must try to make each part of the process the best it can possibly be.

Here are the areas you should examine by asking yourself two questions. First, “Do I have a process for this?” And second, “How do I make it better or the best process?”

The approach: How do I get the appointment?

Getting the initial meeting: How do I establish rapport? How do I find or create a need before I present my product or service? What questions should I ask to uncover these needs?

In the initial meeting: How do I best present my product or service? How do I ask interest-based questions to ensure the prospect’s involvement and attention? How do I explain features and benefits best?

How do I close for the sale? What is the best way to phrase the call for action on the prospect’s part? What is the best way to answer objections? Do I have the best answers?

Then there are all the little things. Was I enthusiastic? Did I use the prospect’s name? Did I mirror the prospect’s body language?

The greatest hitters in baseball watch films of each of their previous at bats. They do this because they want to improve their hitting process. Salespeople should accept the same challenge — to make our sales process the best.

So many salespeople have no process. They wing it. Those that do have a process rarely work diligently to improve it. Those that do will reap the rewards. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, June 14th, 2015( Click Here )

Persistence and Determination Alone are Omnipotent

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not. The world is full of unsuccessful people with talent. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Half of the business days you have to sell are over for this year. Excluding holidays, you have about 120 business days left this year. It is a good time to review your past efforts and recommit to the second half. Just like in sports, like football and basketball, what happened in the first half is not how the game will necessarily end.

One thing you can do to guarantee your second half is better than your first half is to reevaluate your level of persistence. Here are some things to think about to focus you on this most important value in selling.

The most pleasantly persistent salespeople I know welcome challenges. When you cannot get in touch with a prospect, tell yourself that that is a good thing. The easiest people to sell are the ones hardest to get in touch with. Call early, call late, drop by, send an email and send a slow mail. Tell yourself that, “I will talk to this person no matter what.”

So many salespeople I talk to have this standard response when asked if they talked to their prospect: “I tried.” Stop. From now on, answer, “I will.” Do not allow yourself the justification that “trying” is good enough. Never tell yourself or anyone else that “leaving a message,” “sending an email” or “they didn’t call me back” is an adequate response. It isn’t!

If the person you report to has been accepting anything less than “I will talk to them,” don’t let that get you off the hook. You set your own standard of excellence. Make yours the highest despite the people around you.

Remember this: Your agenda is not your prospect’s agenda. Most people have a stove with 10 burners, nine in the back and one up front. Pleasant persistence is the only way to get your product or service moved to the front burner.

I firmly believe there is only about 1 percent of the people you want to talk to that you will never reach with proper persistence. No one ever goes off my prospect list, no matter how many times I try, until I contact them.

The second thing I want to say about persistence has to do with long-term persistence. Recently I talked to a salesperson who has called on a prospect for 12 years. For 12 years, she had regularly reached out to this prospect. The 12th year she made the sale.

Starbucks was founded in 1971 and for the next 15 years the company operated six stores in Seattle. It took 15 years of persistence to get to six stores. In 1987, the original owners sold the chain to a former employee and the brand quickly expanded to 17 stores. Today, there are over 20,000 stores in 64 countries. Long term persistence was the key ingredient.

Many salespeople believe if a prospect says no today that means no forever. Over and over again I see prospects change their mind. The prospect’s circumstances change. The competition fails to meet the prospect’s needs, etc. Remember for the rest of your career that “no” means “no today,” not forever. Long-term persistence pays off.

On my desk I have a quote from T.S. Eliot. “Only those who will risk going too far will possibly find out how far they can go.”

Remember, “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” — Calvin Coolidge 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, May 31st, 2015( Click Here )

Harness the Benefits of Short-Term Stress

Recently I was talking to a group of salespeople and the topic was stress. They were stressed by quotas. They were stressed by the competition. They were stressed by their commissions. They were stressed by their boss. They were stressed by their chosen profession.

So I ask, “Why do you stay in sales?” The answers were “the money,” “the freedom” and “the opportunity for making an impact in their businesses.” I agree these are the reasons we chose sales as a profession and, yes, there can be stressful components of our job.

The question I ask, then, “Is stress good or bad?” TalentSmart asked 1 million people about their emotions in stressful situations and they found 90 percent of top performers remained calm in stressful situations. Wow. We can all learn to do this if we don’t already.

Stress can be good. Most of the research shows performance peaks in times of moderate or temporary stress. Stress is a necessary emotion. We all have that emotion and, as long as it isn’t long term, it’s harmless. Yes, harmless if it’s short term. In fact, many experts argue that short-term stress brings out the best in us.

Elizabeth Kirby from the University of California at Berkeley found that stress causes us to grow new brain cells. Kirby says, “I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keep the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert.”

Other studies indicate hormones are released during stress that boosts performance on tasks that require brain power (like IQ tests). Further evidence suggests stress helps us process information quicker. C.L. Clark and others did a study that shows post-stress growth of mental toughness and deeper meaning. In one final study I will mention, E. S. Epel says that stress can help physical recovery and immunity.

Stress can be positive, useful and beneficial. My first advice would be to focus on the positive benefits of the short-term stress we all face in sales.

However, long-term stress can be very unhealthy. We know stress causes heart disease, depression, obesity and can even reduce our abilities to think clearly. What are the coping strategies that 90 percent of top performers surveyed use to benefit from stress?

The most powerful tool begins with recognizing that stress can be beneficial and that it, like all emotions, can be controlled. When you feel stress, take a deep breath, think about the event causing the stress and remind yourself that in 100 percent of past stressful situations you survived. You are undefeated. Say to yourself, “This, too, shall pass.”

Second, if the stress continues, remind yourself of “how good you have it.” Really, most of us in a stressful moment focus on the event and not on the bigger picture. I’ve always been able to find someone who is in a worse situation than me or had a worse situation and survived. This coping method will give you perspective. Everyone has stress butterflies. The trick is to teach them to fly in formation. My mom used to say, “It could be worse,” and this thought will help you reduce your stress. Be thankful for what you have.

Third, use self-talk. Ninety percent of the things we stress about do not happen. The more time you worry about the future, the more stress you will create. Tell yourself to focus on the here and now and not ask yourself, “What if?” Top performers remain calm in stressful situations by not asking themselves about what could be. “What could be?” is for futurists, not salespeople.

Finally, disengage from time to time. Go someplace or do something that takes your mind off the stressful event. When you work 24 hours a day there is no chance to get away from the stress. Yes, I believe in working 70-80 hours a week, but everyone needs to get away to reduce the stressful times in your life.

Stress is inevitable, it’s inescapable and it’s universal. However, it doesn’t have to be harmful. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, May 17, 2015( Click Here )

Ethics in business begins, ends with honesty

Ethics is a big word; we could discuss its role in sales and in life for hours, days or weeks, but for now I want to share with you a little about ethics’ key role in the world of professional selling.

There are certain rules of fair play in selling and most can be summed up in a single word: honesty.

There are endless chances in selling to be dishonest. Sometimes you will never get caught, but for most of us, the stress and tension of living with a lie is just as bad as getting caught.

The first place you must practice honesty is with yourself. Polonius, in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” says, “This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Most of the time, if we look in our heart of hearts, we know what do to. The real hope of improvement and happiness lie in the acceptance of who we are — both strengths and weaknesses alike. And then striving to improve on the weaknesses and make the strengths grow stronger. Honesty to ourselves is the key to honesty with others.

One Saturday afternoon, a preacher was preparing his sermon in his study. His 4-year-old son kept bothering him, and so to keep him busy, he tore a page from a magazine with a map of the world on it. He tore the map into little pieces to make a puzzle for his son. He gave the pieces to the boy thinking that it would keep his son busy for hours. Instead, a few minutes later, the boy returned with the map in perfect order.

“How did you put it together so quickly?” the preacher asked his son.

“When you ripped out the page from the magazine,” said the boy, “I noticed a man on the backside of the map. I knew if I put the man together right, the world would be right.”

Truer words were never spoken.

The second obligation we have is to be honest with our prospects. It’s always better to tell the truth than try to remember a lie. Intuitively, a high percentage of prospects can detect when they are being misled.

Here are a few basic guidelines to abide by when dealing with prospects and customers:

•Don’t overstate the benefits of your product.

•Don’t leave details out purposely that will hurt your prospect.

•Don’t accept money or gifts under false pretenses.

•Don’t offer money or gifts under false pretenses.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Honesty is the best policy. A person who isn’t honest just doesn’t have the sense God gave a goose.” In the long run, good guys do win.

The third place where honesty must be present is within your company. Your company is like a ship; all the employees are on board. Well, you can’t sink half of a ship. If the crew goes down, the officers go down as well. Ultimately, everyone benefits or doesn’t benefit together.

What does this mean to you? It means that you should never lie or stretch your numbers on a sales activity report. Either you made the calls or you didn’t. Either way, just be a man or a woman about it and face up to your performance.

Remember, whatever you put in the lives of others comes back into your own.

It is a truth that so many people are interested in getting all that is coming to them, and not in giving more than they get. People who just do the job don’t get promoted.

People who overflow the job get more money and more responsibility.

So, when it comes to sales ethics, honesty just about sums it up, but here is another thought. Whether it’s honesty or something else, you can’t buy business — the long-term and profitable kind we all want — with anything but good service and good products. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, May 3rd, 2015( Click Here )

Appearance, demeanor are crucial to sales success

Recently I read the results of a sales survey of more than 2,000 companies. They found that only 63 percent of salespeople hit their quotas last year (down 7.62 percent from 2013). If you are reading this and you are one of the 37 percent who didn’t make it, there is hope. If you did, congratulations, but there is room for improvement.

Another fact from the survey: The No. 1 sales objective of 54 percent of companies was to capture new accounts. The No. 1 area of sales execution that needed improvement was “conducting a thorough needs analysis.” These statistics say a lot about our profession. Here are two areas to work on:

1. One mistake you can never overcome is a bad first impression. Yes, once made it can never be corrected. Here are some first-impression mistakes salespeople make.

Stay neat. Twelve percent of buyers say that long hair on salesmen bothers them. It is not right, but that’s the fact. Seven percent thought salespeople with beards must be hiding something. Figure that one out. Other comments buyers made were “If their shoes were not polished, it was a sign of a sloppy businessperson” and “Grossly overweight salespeople must be lazy.” These were not the worst of the comments. The point is that many salespeople are being stereotyped by certain people when it comes to their appearance.

It is irrelevant if you agree or not with what buyers think. However, as salespeople we must acknowledge that our appearance and dress can put us ahead or behind when we first meet a prospect. Look as good as you can and try to stay in the “norm” of appearance.

I have worked with salespeople who had offensive odors. Obviously, this makes for a bad first impression. On the flip side, many prospects do not like too much perfume or cologne. Body odor sends a bad signal. Taking a shower and using deodorant is a necessity. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash. One salesperson I worked with had eaten so much garlic it was coming out of this person’s clothes. These are all unacceptable if you want to be great.

Study after study indicates that “attractive” people have a first-impression advantage. You control what you look like when you present yourself to the prospect. If you are not sure of the first impression you’re making, ask a successful person whom you trust what you can do to improve your appearance. Just because it is not important to you does not mean it is not important to the prospect. Remember, we serve at the prospect’s pleasure, not ours. I wear a suit, don’t have a beard and have no body odors.

2. Another mistake I see salespeople commonly make is bad listening. This relates to “thorough needs assessment” (the No. 1 area of sales execution that companies say needs improvement). Below are some good listening tips:

First, face the prospect with feet on the ground, leaning forward and nodding your head when the prospect speaks. By facing the prospect, you send a subliminal message that you are open to their ideas. When you cross your legs or turn sideways, you are sending a message that you are not open. Leaning forward says that you are interested. Watch any conversation and you will see who is and who is not interested by the position of their body. Also, studies indicate that people will talk 66 percent more when the listener is nodding his or her head. Good listeners want the people they are talking to to talk as much as possible.

Second, good listeners take notes. Even if you just write down a few words. Taking notes does two things: It focuses you on what the prospect is saying and it says to the prospect, “What you are saying is important.”

Good listeners mirror their prospect. This means repeating back what you believe the prospect said. Great listeners ask open-ended questions for more information. This brings you clarity and alleviates any misunderstanding. Psychologists say this technique helps avoid conflicts.

Finally, good listeners repeat back action items that they will do as follow-up to the conversation. Once again, this reinforces that you believe what the prospect said has merit. It also shows appreciation to the prospect for sharing.

If you clean up your act and improve your listening skills, your sales will go up, too. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, April 19th, 2015( Click Here )

Tell a story, make a sale

As a child, some of my favorite words were “Once upon a time.” Yes, I loved a story, whether it was at bed time, a Walt Disney movie or a book I was reading myself.

I think no matter what we do or who we are, we love an engaging, interesting story. The TV networks and movie production companies have proven that. So how does that apply to us in sales? Well, a great sales person is usually a great storyteller.

Over the past two years, I have noticed more and more sales trainers talking about storytelling in sales, so I thought I would weigh in. In selling, a story is really a third-party testimonial.

Zig Ziglar said, “The most powerful influence in selling is the third-party testimonial.”

In every sales person’s career that I coach or manage, I teach them about stories.

Here is what I teach:

Have a story for every situation. The prospect can argue with YOU. He may distrust YOU, but that does not happen with a story. If it is a story about someone else’s experiences, you can’t argue with it. You should have a story ready for every possible sales situation.

When the customer says, over the phone, they are not interested, you should acknowledge the objection and then tell a story. “Bill, I can certainly understand that. That is exactly what Mike at ABC Construction said before we met. He has been a customer now for two years. As I mentioned, I will be in your area next Tuesday. Would you have some time in the morning or afternoon to let me introduce myself and my company?”

Your prospect cannot argue with a story. He cannot say, “Mike at ABC Construction is an idiot.”

With a story to answer the objection, your odds of getting the appointment go way up. They go up even more if Bill (your prospect) knows or knows about Mike at ABC Construction. Your story of someone else the prospect knows overcomes his objection and raises his curiosity.

I ask sales people I coach to have a story to illustrate every benefit they claim for the product. For example, “Mike at ABC Construction said, ‘This product has saved me thousands of dollars over the last two years.’ ” If you sell a product or service that has a benefit to the prospect (duh), then get a story with the specific name of the hero in it to illustrate each benefit.

Sometimes, when I ask the sales people to role-play their stories, they will say something like this, “We had a company that saved thousands of dollars using our product.” It is not the same story and it has way less impact without the person’s name in it and the name of their company.

In addition, when we are in a competitive situation, we have stories of customers who switched to us from the competition and why. We also have stories of prospects who chose us over the competition and why. These are basic tools you should have in your sales person’s tool kit. In a competitive situation a story is much more powerful than “he said” or “she said.”

If you are a sales manager and reading this, help your people get their stories together and you will see their sales rise. If you are a sales person, take some time and write down your stories for each situation. Practice saying them out loud. Get your delivery of the stories down perfectly.

If you do this, someday, someone will say, “Once upon a time there was a great sales person. He told beautiful, interesting stories that illustrated benefits, answered objections and differentiated his product from the competition.” 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, April 5, 2015( Click Here )

What is persistence?

All my life I have heard it said, “Be persistent.” I tell every sales person I meet that “Persistence and determination are omnipotent.” But really, what does that mean?

Today I want to talk about long-term persistence. For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to assume you have a good competitive product or service you’re selling and you work for an ethical company. If you can’t have these two things, you’re a jockey on a bad horse. Go find a good horse. If you have these things, then persistence and long term persistence can be your best friend.

Have you ever heard of Ron Wayne? Probably not. He co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Wayne designed the original logo, wrote the manual for the Apple I computer and drafted the original partnership agreement. He owned 10 percent of Apple, a position that would be worth over $40 billion today. That’s with a “B.”

He would be one of the richest men in the world. He sold his shares back within the first year for $300. If he would have hung on another six months, he would have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Long-term persistence wasn’t in his vocabulary.

When Wayne was recently interviewed, he said, “My whole life has been a day late and a dollar short.”

Wozniak, in his autobiography, describes his thinking upon meeting Ron Wayne as “Wow, this guy is amazing! He ended up playing a huge role in those very early days of Apple.”

However, Wayne didn’t have persistence and determination to finish what he started. In sales there are no get rich quick schemes. There are get rich slow schemes, and that’s what you signed up for.

Larry Ellison did have long-term persistence, he just kept at it. In the early days of Oracle, the company had to restate earnings twice and its value dropped 80 percent. It was on the verge of bankruptcy. Ellison faced massive lawsuits. His advisers told him to bankrupt the company. However, Larry put his chin on his chest and pushed through. He is now the fifth richest man in the world.

Mark Cuban got fired from his first sales job. He missed opening a Dallas retail computer store. When he showed up he was promptly fired. However, he didn’t get out of sales. He went on to build a personal fortune of over $3 billion and own the Dallas Mavericks. He had long-term persistence.

Richard Branson was dyslexic, which led to bad grades. His high school principal told him he’d “either wind up in jail or a millionaire.” He almost went to jail. At his Virgin Records stores he was accused of violating tax laws. He survived by paying back taxes and substantial fines. His mother had to mortgage her home to pay the debts. He struggled for years and had many failed ventures, but he didn’t quit. He was persistent despite adversity. Today he’s worth over $5 billion.

There is a lesson to be learned from these stories and from a song my mother used to sing to me:

“Just what makes that little old ant

Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant

Anyone knows an ant can’t

Move a rubber tree plant

So any time you’re feeling low

’Stead of letting go, just remember that ant

Oops there goes another rubber tree

Oops there goes another rubber tree plant.”

Indeed, remember long-term persistence is omnipotent. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, March 8th, 2015( Click Here )

Secret to sales success? A killer presentation

Success in sales does not come from playing the good hands well. That is easy. It comes from playing the bad hands well. So how do you play the bad hands well? It comes down to practice and preparation. This week, let’s focus on giving “Killer Presentations.”

A Harvard study found that sales scripts (canned presentations) started in 1863. We have a long history of canned, planned sales presentations. They started even earlier in England. The most important element of a killer presentation is that it is prepared and practiced.

I can hear some of your objections already. “I don’t want to sound canned.” “I want to be flexible.” “Every situation is different.” And, “I like to wing it.” Sometimes I wonder if these aren’t just cop outs for not doing the work. Making these excuses is a lot easier than doing the work of a professional, which is preparation and practice.

Most salespeople would agree that it is better to meet a prospect in person than send a proposal or PowerPoint. If that is true, then it admits the fact that our presence and words have value.

The next logical conclusion is that we want to use the best words we can. Let’s call this the “Best Presentation Possible.” So how do we give the “Best Presentation Possible”? History tells us that a well-prepared, memorized approach is best. Best is an interesting word: It means, by definition, one and only one.

It is hard to believe that “best” can be accomplished by winging it. No other profession allows its professionals to wing it. Why would salespeople be different? Sometimes salespeople have to wing it, but even that is easier if we are well-prepared and well-practiced and it will not sound canned if it is really learned well.

Here are some advantages of a canned presentation:

1. A “canned” presentation allows you to be thorough. You never leave anything out. Every salesperson has left a meeting and said, “I forgot to tell the prospect this or that”. Leaving something out of a presentation happens less frequently when your presentation is practiced. The order of presenting the facts is guaranteed as well. There is a best way to present your case and that is what you are striving for every time.

2.It allows you to focus on what your prospect is thinking, doing and saying. You cannot focus on a prospect’s needs if you are worrying about what you are going to say next. For example, studies tell us that 60 percent of communication is body language. How can a salesperson watch their prospect’s body language when they are trying to figure out what to talk about next?

3. A third advantage is efficiency. I have seen lots of salespeople that let little non-relevant information creep into their presentation. Those non-relevant comments and information distract the prospect. Not only that, but in sales “Everything you say can and will be used against you.” An efficient, thorough presentation with no extraneous information is essential for peak performance. Speaking of efficiency, we have all been the prospect when a salesperson repeats himself. A practiced, planned presentation eliminates that. Also, we all have sat through sales presentations saying to ourselves, “get to the point” or “you have already said that.” It is hard enough to hold a prospect’s attention without torpedoing our own boat. Unplanned presentations can go on forever, leave important points out and in general waste a prospect’s time.

4. Finally, you cannot gauge your results effectively if you are giving a different initial presentation each time. A great salesperson can have bad days, bad weeks or even longer slumps, but using a planned presentation can help minimize the effects of these bad times. You can gauge your performance if it is basically the same every time. You cannot if your performance is not consistent.

It is simple: Pay the price and memorize your initial presentation to a prospect. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, February 22nd, 2015( Click Here )

Beating the Competition

If you’re in sales, you face competition every day. Some salespeople hope their prospects will never hear about their competition. Some salespeople hope the competition just won’t show up, while others, the great salespeople, welcome competition.

In sports, there are no world records and no unbelievable performances without competition. The same is true in sales. Competition makes the free enterprise system work. Good, honest competition makes us all better and ultimately the prospect/customer wins. I hope everyone that reads this understands the ultimate value of the competition.

Now, how do you surpass your competition? Here are some ideas that have proven to work and continue to work:

First, know the competition. Learn everything you can. Visit their websites regularly. There is always a lot of good information there.

It happens all the time, I ask a salesperson if they have been on their competitor’s website and they sheepishly say “no.” Don’t be that salesperson. Look on LinkedIn. Search by company name and read the bios. You can learn a lot that way. Do a Google search. Read the articles and press releases. Everything public about your competition is available on the internet. Be an expert on what is public.

There are also non-public ways to learn about your competition. When a salesperson leaves the competition, it’s a good time to pick their brain. Don’t be afraid to call them. After they have left the competition, they are usually ready to talk about their former employer.

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for information too. You can ask about pricing, delivery, to see their proposals, etc. Not every client or salesperson will give you information, but you will get nothing if you don’t ask. And just because one says no, it doesn’t mean the next one won’t say yes. Keep asking. Everything you can learn about the competition will better prepare you to win in a competitive situation.

Second, outthink the competition. In a small town in Kansas, there were three shoe stores side by side that took up the whole block. People came from miles around to buy shoes. One day the owner of the store on one end of the block put up a sign that said “Lowest Prices in Town.” In response the owner of the store on the other end of the block put up a sign that said “80% Discount.” The man who owned the shoe store in the middle was frantic about how to match his competition. A few days later, he put up a sign that said “Main Entrance.”

He out-thought his competition. By knowing how the competition sells, you can outthink them. Ask every prospect to see the competition’s proposal. You are at a competitive disadvantage if you can’t compare “apples to apples.” Tell every prospect that it’s in their and their company’s best interest to let both sides compare apples to apples. Competing in secret helps no one. It’s why there is “discovery” in legal cases so there can be a fair trial.

Tell your prospect he can only get the best deal if there is open competition. Some of your prospects will resist because they have another agenda, but the logic is irrefutable.

Third, out-serve them. Sales will always be service. Your prospect is judging, among other things, how the service will be after the sale. You help him make that decision during the sales process. Follow up properly. Get answers to the prospect’s questions quickly, touch base frequently during the sales process. By out-serving the competition during the sales process, you will win many times.

Finally, learn about the prospect’s business. CSO Insights says, “Executives value having business conversations with salespeople four times more than product conversations.” They go on to report that “only 24% of salespeople they meet understand their business.”

So you will immediately differentiate yourself from most competition by understanding your prospect’s business and engaging your prospect in a meaningful conversation.

These four methods will help you win in every situation unless your competition is as good as you, and then you’ll have to figure out your next strategy to move ahead. By the way, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, February 8th, 2015( Click Here )

Tough Minded Salespeople

Recently I read an article that said, “The most successful salespeople are mentally tough.”  As I thought about what that meant, I decided to list qualities that mentally tough people exhibit.  This week I want to share that list with you.

  1. Mentally tough people maintain control.  When salespeople lose control they give up their power.  Sure, salespeople face issues that upset them.  Prospects lie to us.  Prospects change their minds from yes to no.  Our companies change “the deal” and on and on.  It is our reaction that separates an average salesperson from a great salesperson.  As Kipling said, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…yours is the earth and everything that's in it.”
  2. They focus on the present.  It does a salesperson no good to dwell on past failures and disappointments.  The only control we have is in the moment.  Mark Twain said, “If a cat sits on a hot stove it will never sit on a hot stove again.  It won’t sit on a cold stove either.  It gets out of the stove sitting business.”  Many salespeople let their past failures limit their future action.  Tough minded salespeople forget the past and focus on today.  Write it on your heart.  Today is the day; now is the time.
  3. They are persistent.  Great mentally tough salespeople have staying power.  They realize success and failure go hand in hand.  They realize that many times the winner is the one who holds on the longest.  In the middle of our deepest depression, Calvin Coolidge said “Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence.  Talent will not.  The world is full of unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts.  The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
  4. They have a touchstone of values.  Call them core beliefs or basic values or even ethics.  There is a set of beliefs which they use to operate every day.  These beliefs usually include: the customer comes first, give without hope of gain, discomfort is part of life, failures are part of success, honesty is the best policy and change is inevitable.  This set of values allows the great salesperson to see setbacks and success as just part of the flow.  This set of values allows them to continue to perform despite the ups and downs of their lives.  If you do not know your core beliefs, take a minute and jot them down.  When we run out of our own juice your values are your ultimate source of power.
  5. They believe in the law of the Universe.  Whatever you ardently believe and act upon the Universe will deliver.  Over and over again I see salespeople so tough minded that in the face of all odds they make the sale or save the customer.  They refuse to believe that what they want and act upon won’t be delivered.  They do not let self-doubt creep in to undermine their efforts.  They refuse to believe that what they have set their mind to is unachievable.  The motto used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II applies to these salespeople.  “The difficult we do immediately.  The impossible takes a little longer.”  When Napoleon was asked the French word for impossible he replied, “It is not a French word.”

As you think about being tough minded remind yourself of these characteristics.  In these characteristics lie the seeds of success. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, January 11th 2014( Click Here )

The List

I have had “to do” lists since I was seven.  That is how old I was when my mother gave me a “to do” list every Saturday before I could go outside and play with the neighbor kids.  Still, to this day I have a “to do” list every day.  However, today I want to show you a different kind of “to do” list.  It is a list you should remind yourself of every day.  I will go so far as to say you should copy this list and put it in your car, on your desk, or by your bathroom sink.  Just make sure you see it every day.

  1. I will be enthusiastic.  Nothing sells like enthusiasm.  Selling is a transference of feeling about a product or service.  Unenthusiastic salespeople have skinny kids.  Zig Ziglar said, “For every sale you lose because you are too enthusiastic you will lose 100 because you were not enthusiastic enough.”
  2. I will be honest.  I will not hide the truth or give vague answers.  Your product or service cannot do everything.  So do not stretch the truth.  You aren’t much of a salesperson if you can’t look your prospect in the eye after they have bought your product or service.
  3. I will be prepared.  I was an Eagle Scout and I ask myself what was the most valuable lesson I learned.  I would have to say that it is, “A scout is always prepared.”  No more winging it!  Wings are for birds.  I am not a bird.  However, if you are prepared you can soar like an eagle.
  4. I will leave my comfort zone.  When you are green you grow; when you are ripe you rot.  A rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out.  The single biggest thing holding salespeople back isn’t not knowing what to do; it is doing what they know.  Here is a trick of thought that I have used for 30 years to push through call reluctance, closing reluctance and follow-up reluctance.  “I hate the price.  I love the prize.”
  5. I will maximize my time.  The most valuable asset I have is my time.  Try living each day as if it were your last.  Treasure each hour, for they can never be returned.  Avoid with passion the killers of your time.  Do not let those people steal your most precious prize.
  6. I will control my attitude.  Everybody has circumstances, problems and obstacles.  It’s not just you.  However, despite your circumstances, problems and obstacles you can control your attitude.  Do not let your thoughts control your actions.  Make your actions control your thoughts.  When you have a bad attitude, refocus on your purpose.  85% of the impact of circumstances, problems and obstacles can be controlled by your attitude and you control your attitude.
  7. I will learn something new.  How can you increase your value unless you are always learning?  At the end of the day ask yourself, “What did I learn new today?”  Go to seminars, read books, listen to CD’s.  In our profession one new idea can be worth thousands of dollars.  Ask the best of your profession what they do.  Learn from them.
  8. I will be a team player.  The company does not exist for you.  Nor do you exist for the company.  The greatest salespeople realize that they earn more and create more opportunity for themselves by supporting the team.  Without regard to reward or recognition commit to the success of the whole team.  No, you do not have to like every player on the team to play as a team.  That is bad thinking.

Use this to do list for at least 30 days and you will begin to see changes in your results.  After all, isn’t that why we are in sales to earn more to put in our jeans to spend on ourselves and our family and to give back to the community? 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, December 28th 2014( Click Here )

Email Tips

When I started in sales I had a Dictaphone. I dictated sales letters and memos into a handheld microphone. They were recorded on a floppy plastic belt. Alexander Graham Bell invented the technology and owned the company, also named Dictaphone. It was founded in 1879.

American salespeople have been communicating with prospects since the turn of the century. I can still remember typewriters and carbon paper, but only vaguely.

Today we use email and texts, instant communication with spell check. Who knows what we will use in 50 years — maybe telepathy. That’s scary. Here are some ideas about using email more effectively, both for your own time management and as a communication tool.

First, email can drive your life. Salespeople get many emails, and it can be both a distraction and an excuse not to do more difficult and important things.

So one rule you should follow, if you can, is to read an email once and act on it. The reasons are obvious. Going back takes time, filing takes time, searching later to respond or act takes time. You will be surprised how much time you save with this rule: “Read once and act.”

A second tip is to forget about personal folders. They are time-consuming and unnecessary. They are old school, with few exceptions. Rely on searching for research or follow-up. It is quicker and more efficient. By the way, searching can be done using so much more than just a name. Learn all the searches possible on your email system and use them.

Another idea is time blocking. Customer service demands that we respond quickly. However, ask yourself if an instant response is required or if a one-hour, eight-hour or 24-hour response is adequate.

The national average for salespeople is 34 percent of our time is spent in front of or on the phone with prospects. One of the reasons is that most of us are reading and answering our emails. I turned off the sound on my email notification. I try to wait two hours minimum between checking email or texts. If the subject line tells me it can wait, I do not open it until day’s end. Every possible minute between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. should be spent with prospects, not writing or answering emails.

Finally, delegate and delete whenever possible. This means forward emails to the responsible party (they can read; they do not need an explanation). Delete spam and irrelevant emails immediately. Why even open them?

These tips may add up to a couple of hours a week, maybe more. Just ask yourself, “What is my time worth?”

On the other side, we mercilessly send emails out to our prospects. Here are some things I would recommend. Touch prospects by email like you would want to be touched. The golden rule works here as well. Follow this rule: “Be attentive, do not be a pest.”

Use the subject line wisely. It is the first thing we see, so it better grab our attention. Really give it some thought before you send it. By the same token, the first line should grab your prospect’s attention. Come straight to the point. Do not ask meaningless questions. Overall, be as direct as possible.

The above rules really apply if your email is to someone you have never met. Blind emails work, but only if you follow the above rules and you have a compelling message.

As sales professionals, we must use email. In 2015, commit to be the best user of email on the planet. It is a fantastic tool for the serious professional. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, December 14th 2014( Click Here )

I Don’t Like That About Salespeople

Recently I asked several people what they don’t like about salespeople’s behavior.  Based on their responses and my own experiences I would like to submit, for your pleasure and to improve your performance, an open letter to salespeople from the prospect.

Dear Salesperson,

After years of meeting with your profession I would like to tell you some things I don’t like.

I don’t like salespeople who just drop in on me without an appointment.  I don’t mind if you drop by and ask me or my assistant to set an appointment, just don’t expect to stay.  Another thing I don’t like is for you to flirt with me or the people in my office.  It sends me the wrong signal and puts me in a bad mood.

I don’t like salespeople who feign an insincere interest in me.  Yes, I will give you a chance to get to know a little about me but let’s not kid ourselves.  You want to sell me something.  On that same note, I don’t like it when you don’t get to the point.  Establish some rapport with me and then get to the point.

I don’t like salespeople who don’t find out about my needs.  The meeting is supposed to be about me.  So find out something about my needs before you explain your product or service to me.  I only listen to one radio station, WIIFM (What’s in it for me!).

I don’t like salespeople who don’t ask my opinion.  Some of you are so focused on your pitch and your PowerPoint that you never ask me if I am with you or if your product would even help me or my company.  I like a presentation of a product or service to be conversational.  Sometimes I even have questions as you rapid fire your presentation.

In addition, I don’t like to be misled, under informed, lied to, be fed B.S. or given half-truths.  Most of my friends in responsible positions can see through that as can I.

I also don’t like to be asked to make a decision in a vacuum.  I like to get other people’s opinions and reactions.  I like to check references and I like to expose new products or services to my family or some of my co-workers before I buy.  As a company leader I like to build consensus among my management team before I jump off the deep end.

I don’t like salespeople who are controlling or manipulative.  Leading questions like, “Something like that would be beneficial, wouldn’t it?” make me blow my stack.  By the same token, I hate pushy.  I’ve made decisions before.  This is not my first rodeo.  So don’t think that by pushing me to do something I’ll decide any quicker.  Your product or service may not be my top priority right now.

Furthermore, I don’t  like to be told directly that I am wrong when I raise an objection or a question.  I want recognition for my thoughtfulness and then I want to be corrected gently if I am wrong.

I don’t like it when you call me back every day after you leave expecting a decision.  Don’t send me an email every day with new information.  I do want you to be attentive.  I don’t want you to be a pest.  Just let me know you haven’t forgotten me from time to time if my decision making process drags out.

Sincerely yours,

The Prospect

P.S. Try to lose the image of a pushy, high pressure, con man, charlatan, cheat, dishonest, crooked, twist your arm, say anything to get the sale, good golfer!

» Tennessean Column- Saturday, November 29th 2014( Click Here )

Objections are a Buying Sign

One summer when I was selling books door to door I called on Mrs. Craighead of Farmville, Virginia.  She was an elderly woman and her family was grown.  I showed her a family Bible and she loved it.  When I told her the price I thought she was going to throw me out of her house.  Then I learned a very important lesson.  Objections are a buying sign.  One no doesn’t equal a no sale.

Mrs. Craighead shook her head and said, “That Bible is high.  It’s just too expensive for an elderly woman like me.”  She paused, I said nothing and she finished her thought, “But I always wanted a nice family Bible.”  I got her check and she got her “nice family bible”.

That day I learned that most sincere objections are a buying sign.  I underline and emphasize the word sincere.  She was sincere.  She was saying, “I really want this if you can solve my buying problem.”  In professional sales I see salespeople believe when they hear an objection it means a no sale.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Americans have a buying ritual.  Most people do not buy anything the first time you ask them.  Go to the grocery store and camp out by the peanut butter.  The shopper will pick up JIFF, put it down, pick up Skippy, put it down and then pick up another brand. 

After the customer picks up two or three jars of peanut butter they will go back to the original jar of JIFF and put it in their basket.  They have a “buying ritual”.  Most people object before they buy.  Psychologically we express our fears of a change in behavior before we will change.  We do it every day, several times a day.  As a sales person embraces this understanding they grow in their ability to deal with sincere objections.

Here are two tips to help you decide if an objection is sincere. 

  • First, after you hear the objection but before you answer it, isolate it.  Try something like this, “I can certainly understand how you feel.  Many of my customers said that before they decide to move forward.  Is there anything else besides (the objection) that bothers you about our product or service?”


This simple question lets you know if the objection is sincere or a screen for something else.  Remember, there is always a trust issue between a salesperson and a prospect.  It is always easier to try and get rid of a salesperson than to engage in a sincere discussion of the product or service.  Therefore isolating the objection helps you get to what you want- the sincere reason the prospect fears buying your product or service. 


  • Another tip to find out if the objection is real is to ask something like this, “I can certainly understand that.  A lot of our customers said that before they moved forward.  Do you see any benefit in our product or service if it were not for that (the objection)?”

This question lets you know if you have found or created a need and if the objection is sincere.  If the prospect sees no benefit then they just did not want to hurt your feelings by telling you so.  If they answer that question with, “Yes, I see benefits,” then most likely if you solve the objection you will make the sale.

Selling can be so much fun if you take the approach that you are providing a needed or wanted service, and then helping the prospect overcome their fears to gain a benefit they did not have before you arrived.  Remember, we all learn from experience.  A man never wakes up his baby a second time just to see it smile. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, November 16th 2014( Click Here )

Do Your Homework Before the Sales Call

Tom Peters, while at McKinsey and Company, said, “we prepared one hour for each one minute of anticipated meeting time with a prospect” (30-minute meeting, 30 hours of preparation).

Today, sales people have more opportunity than ever to prepare for their sales calls. Yet over and over, I see sales people arrive on the call without as much preparation as possible. Technology, social media and the glut of general information available allows us to be very prepared for every call.

When we are calling on a new prospect, we should know everything we possibly can. You never know when some bit of information will help you communicate more effectively.

Many companies I have been associated with lately have had a great deal of success with LinkedIn. This source gives you information about your prospect, their co-workers, their supervisors, their circle of influence and even details of your prospect’s performance. If you are not using LinkedIn, you are still living in the 20th century.

Of course, it goes without saying you should use Facebook and Google. We make it a policy to Google search every prospect before we go on the call. Recently, I was shocked when a sales person called on me and knew nothing about me and very little about my company.

Facebook and Google can give you details of a prospect’s personal life and professional information. You also can get business information by Googling the company. Every bit of information is helpful.

It is hard to believe sales people go on calls without even looking at the prospect’s website? The website should be the first stop in your information-gathering journey. It is not a bad idea to print a few pages from the website and also look at your prospect’s competitors’ websites. Knowing these things will set you apart from most other sales people.

Some other ideas are to look at industry websites, association websites and general information sites like Hoovers. Hoovers gives you proprietary company profiles and industry information. Another source is Dunn & Bradstreet, which offers credit and vendor information that can be helpful. Finally, try Standard & Poor’s if the company you are calling on is public.

Now, you have all this information, how do you use it?

I may be old-fashioned, but I still keep a paper file on each prospect as I begin the sales process. I am informed and it is easy to start a conversation about their business. I dare say, if you do your homework, you will know more than some of your prospect’s employees do about their company.

Furthermore, if you believe (as I do) that a salesperson’s primary job is to find or create a need then this goes a long way toward helping you find or create a need. It also allows you to separate yourself from other sales people that do not do their homework. We are all looking for ways to look better than our competition. This preparation allows us to show our prospect we are serious about their business.

Remember, the common denominator of success. “Successful people form the habit of doing the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do or know how to do.”

Now, you know how. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, November 2nd, 2014( Click Here )


The holidays are on us.  Time will be at a premium.  Everyone will be busy with shopping, parties and bad weather.  At the same time the holidays will put more on every salesperson’s plate.  In addition to scheduling, it is everyone’s last chance to hit their annual numbers or win the prizes and trips.  What’s a salesperson to do?

Well, the statistics I have been sharing with you indicate salespeople waste a lot of time.  The more companies I work with the more convinced I am that we just do not know where the prospect is coming from.  The difference between the deals we project and the ones we sell is roughly 50%.  That is a national number based on a survey of over 1000 companies.  Ask yourself what the difference is between what you project and what you actually sell.  One company I work with is running at 22% sold of what they projected.

If we, as salespeople, are experts in communication this statistic is pitiful.  We can be better at forecasting and thus use our time better.  Not just at the holidays but all year long.

National statistics say salespeople only spend about 37% of their time face to face or on the phone selling.  Ask yourself what your time allocation is.  If you are at 50% you are 30% better than the average and 50% is still bad.  We can spend more time with our prospects if we focus on it as a measurable activity. 

Here is one more fact and then some advice.  Research estimates show that 53% of the overall decision to buy new solutions is based on the efficacy of the sales experience.  Effective communication and an accurate assessment of the prospect’s needs is over 50% of the decision to buy.  In a previous article I indicated 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.

With all these facts it is easy to see how valuable our time with a prospect is and how important it is to know if your prospect is really a buyer or not.  How can we know?  It comes down to the questions we ask and the answers we get. 

First, eliminate your fear of the answers.  Know that any answer is better than not knowing.  Wordsmith your questions to get the answers you need and make the best use of your time.  Salespeople fear being told no.  No is your friend.  It saves you time.  Realize prospects do not want to say no most of the time.  They want to make you feel good too.  So ask direct questions.

Here are some questions that are non-threatening and let you know where you stand. 

  • “Can you see yourself doing this, this year?”
  • “If you did move forward would it be in the next week or so?”
  • “Have all the influencers and decision makers in your organization been  brought on board?”
  • “Have you had a chance to look at the agreement?”

If you ask just these questions your forecasting will improve and your time utilization will improve.  Try this, get on the phone with sales you are forecasting and ask your prospect these questions (unless you already know the answers).  Do not assume that you know- ASK.

Second, put yourself in the prospect’s shoes.  One of the many t-shirts I have been given has “TOPS” on the front.  It stands for “The Other Person’s Shoes”.  If you ask yourself what the prospect’s needs are and what hurdles they must overcome to make the buying decision, the better you can communicate.  If you suspect hurdles ask about them.  Do not be afraid of the answer.  In fact, it is a good question.  “What hurdles do we have to overcome to move forward?”

It is hard to start asking these questions if you aren’t.  It is hard to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  You must leave your current comfort zone.  Max De Pree said, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, October 19th 1014( Click Here )


Part of a true professional salesperson’s skill set is the ability to “wordsmith.” The difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between a lightning bolt and a lightening bug. They sound alike but their impact is significantly different.

Let me illustrate. A man comes home and tells his wife, “Honey, when I look at your face time stands still.” Another man comes home and tells his wife, “Honey, your face would stop a clock.” You get it. There is a right and wrong way to say anything.

Over the years I have developed some answers to common selling situations. These answers have been wordsmithed over the years and I thought they might be helpful to you.

A salesperson often finds herself trying to reach a prospect who is postponing his decision. After a few contacts with no decision I have used these carefully crafted phrases:

“John, I appreciate your situation. I do not want to be a pest but I do want to be attentive. What do you feel is a reasonable time frame for your decision?”

This phrase accomplishes several things. First, it lets the prospect know you do not want him to feel like you are a pest. After several calls from you a prospect may feel like you are hassling him. Saying you just want to be attentive lets the prospect know you are putting him first. Next, by asking for a time frame for a decision, you are putting him in control of the process while getting what you want, a decision! Finally, you are asking him to be reasonable and make a decision in a reasonable period of time. I have often said the great salesperson performs communication at a higher level. This is an example of what planning each word can accomplish. Many times salespeople finds themselves hearing the prospect say, “I think getting together would be a waste of time.” After hearing this a thousand times I found an answer that works very well (nothing works 100% of the time):

“Mary, I do not want to waste your time. However, when you think about it, I cannot waste your time without wasting mine. My time is the most valuable thing I have. We will know within 10 minutes if we are wasting each other’s time.” Then ask for the meeting or the appointment

Once again, there are many subtle messages in this phrase. First, I acknowledge her concern (harmonize with the objection). Second, I let her know I am more than a salesperson — I have value and a sense of purpose. Third, I let her know that I respect her time as much as she does. There are a lot of times every week I use this phrase. You will find it useful as a sales tool.

A final tool I want to share concerns a delay in action. Maybe it is a delay in a first meeting, a follow-up meeting or a final decision. It could be a delay in documents or information you are waiting on from a prospect so you can finish your proposal. Whatever it is, here is what I say:

“Bill, no worries about the delay. However, I know you well enough that I would bet you would not leave the lights on when you leave your house for a week or the water running if you left for a day. I sincerely believe I can save you money and/or time with our service. When do you feel you will be able to stop running the water?”

Again, every word is crafted to send a subtle message and to motivate the prospect to action. First, I let the prospect know I understand the delay. I do not want him to feel bad or guilty. Next, I use an analogy we can all relate to (leaving the lights on or the water running). Then in a lighthearted, indirect way I ask for the “water to be turned off.” There is no pressure and I appeal to the prospect’s already established value system (turning the water off).

How do you learn to “wordsmith”? How do you get good at it? Well, like most skills you have to practice. You have to say it out loud. You have to say it to the prospect and see how he reacts. Frankly, you have to fail before you have success. But as Robert Browning said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?”

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, October 5th 2014( Click Here )

Follow Up

Here are some facts that may surprise you.

  • In a survey of 1200 firms it was found that 37% of their salesperson’s time was spent selling face to face or by phone.  63% of their time was not spent selling.
  • 21% of their time was spent on lead generation/account research
  • 48% of salespeople NEVER follow up with a prospect
  • 25% of salespeople make a second contact and stop
  • 12% of salespeople only make three contacts and stop
  • Only 10% of salespeople make more than three contacts

Now with all that, here are the results concerning success/making the sale:

  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

Yes, as salespeople we are spending less time selling and less time following up with contacts.  Whatever your definition of selling, salespeople need to spend more time in front of the prospect “following up”.

Here are some good follow up techniques.

  1. A sense of urgency- do not worry about being pushy.  Obviously from the statistics the pushy salesperson is in the overwhelming minority.  After the first call (if the prospect is interested) send an email or make a phone call within 24 hours.

Send your follow up emails after 5:00 p.m. the day you see your prospect or the next day before your day starts.  The email should say something like this, “It was nice to meet you.  Our company can help you save time and money (explain how).  I look forward to seeing you again on (put follow up date or follow up phone call).  If you have questions or thoughts call or email me at ….”  If you do not email them, call them with the same kind of message.

Whichever you choose, make contact with your prospect within 24 hours of the first meeting.  Surveys say only 7% of salespeople do this 100% of the time.  It’s your job.  Just do it!  
  1. Never leave your first call on an interested prospect without follow up scheduled.  When you do not schedule your second contact with a prospect at the end of the first contact you have turned control of the sales cycle over to the prospect.  “I will call you Tuesday” is not a scheduled follow up.  “I will call you on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.  What is the best number to call?” is a scheduled follow up.

When the second follow up is not scheduled you can spend hours trying to chase down the prospect.  This is bad because time kills deals and your time in precious.  When the second meeting or call is not scheduled you will waste your time.

  1. Drip on your prospect regularly.  Let’s say your sales cycle is longer than two weeks.  You cannot just keep calling your prospect.  They will think you’re a pest.  Get creative.  One thought is to get someone else in the company to send them an email.  Maybe it is your sales manager, the CEO or the director of customer service.  Anyone in your company that sends an email adds to the feeling of importance for the customer and adds weight to your company’s impression.

We have a canned email that goes out from the CEO that lets the prospect know he has been called upon.  In addition, the email from the CEO encourages the prospect to call or email.  This touch from the CEO is unique.  Other companies just don’t do it.

Another follow up email might include testimonials from satisfied customers.  The email should say something like, “Bill, here are some things our customers had to say about us.  Any questions give me a call.”  Further follow up emails might be an article of interest to the prospect.  Either an industry specific article or something you know would be of personal interest.  I have sent prospects articles about baseball, health issues and even their universities.  The point is, find something of interest and then drip, drip, drip.  Ask anyone who does this faithfully and they will tell you it works.

So if you believe the statistics, never have a live contact with the prospect without scheduling the next contact and follow up.  Do this as if your life depends on it.  You will make better use of that 37% of the time you are actually in front of the prospect. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, September 21st 2014( Click Here )

Pay it Forward

Many times in sales we get a bad reputation for “greed” or “say anything to get the sale”.  Sometimes it is true.  One of the greatest things I have learned in my sales career is to “pay it forward”- to give to my customer or prospect without hope of return.  Here are two stories that inspire me to keep that philosophy.

Story one:  Al Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie”.  Eddie was as good as they get.  He kept Al Capone out of trouble many times.  Al paid him well too.  He lived in a mansion that covered a city block.  He also had armed guards around his house.

But Eddie had one soft spot, his son.  He did everything for him and had an unlimited budget to care for him.  Despite Eddie’s work he tried to teach his son right from wrong.  Like all fathers, he wanted his son to be a better man than him.

One day he had an epiphany and decided to set the right example for his son by going to the authorities.  He gave up the “goods” on “Scarface Capone”.  He went so far as to testify against Al Capone to set the record straight for his son.  Within a year he was gunned down.  The police found him with a rosary and a crucifix in his pocket.  He gave up his life to set an example for his son.

Story two:  In WWII there were many heroes.  Butch O’Hare was one such hero.  He was a fighter pilot on the USS Lexington in the South Pacific.  On February 20th, 1942 his squadron left their ship on a mission.  After he was airborne he realized that someone forgot to refuel his plane.  Under orders he returned to the ship.

As he returned to the ship, much to his surprise, he came upon a squadron of Japanese aircraft speeding towards his fleet.  He could not warn the fleet so he did what he had to do.  Without regard for personal consequences he attacked the Japanese single handed.  He plowed into the surprised Japanese planes guns blazing.  He shot down four planes.  When his ammunition was spent he tried to clip their wings in hopes of disabling them.  Finally, discouraged and defeated, the Japanese planes retreated. 

Butch O’Hare returned in his badly damaged plane to the carrier.  The film from his gun camera told the story.  He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.  For his bravery, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He was the first naval aviator to receive this distinction.  A year later, Butch was killed in aerial combat.  He was 29 years old.

His home town of Chicago honored him by naming O’Hare airport in his honor.  His memorial with the Congressional Medal of Honor is on display there today between terminal one and two.  He was a true American hero.

These two stories have a common thread.  Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.

Pay it forward should be a way of life for a salesperson just as it was for Butch and Eddie.  I hope these two stories inspire you as much as me to keep “laying them on the landing deck” without regard for immediate personal benefit.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, September 7th, 2014( Click Here )

Fourth Quarter, Your Best Quarter

The fourth quarter has started.  There are only four months left in 2014.  When you break it down into days that’s 80 work days.  There are a lot of holidays in the fourth quarter and many of your prospects will take off more days around the holidays.  I know I do.  So with the rest of your year flying by how can you maximize those 80 days?  Here is some advice and some ideas to help you maximize the end of your year.

  • First, review the prospects you have seen so far this year.  I am assuming you are in the 21st century and you have kept a list.  There will be some who said, “Check back at the end of the year.”  Call those prospects.  There will be another group that told you “It is not in the budget.”  Companies prepare their budgets for next year in the fourth quarter.  Be sure to call this group as soon as possible.  This is the time of year when there is no “It is not in the budget” objection.  Contracts with competitors renew this quarter; be there to compete.  It is too late if your prospect renews with the other guys.


  • Second, if you are like most salespeople you have some prospects that are bigger than others.  Some sales are worth more than others.  Make a top 10 list, a list of your 10 biggest opportunities between now and the end of the year.  Do this without putting all your eggs in one basket and spend as much time as you can focused on these top prospects. 


It only makes sense that where you spend your time is where you will get your results.  If you are worth your salt as a salesperson, when you start talking people will start writing checks.  So the last quarter, the last 80 days of the year, spend more time with your best prospects.


If you have had trouble seeing your best prospects this year (everyone faces this problem) pull out all the stops.  Stop by their office. Call early (before 8:00 a.m.), call late (after 5:00 p.m.) or call during lunch.  Be creative, try emails or try a FedEx package with a letter in it.  Try sending a drone.  You will never know how far you can go until you go too far.


  • Third, take care of your health (both your mental and physical health).  Read or listen to motivational and instructional material.  Instead of listening to your favorite tunes or a fictional audio book listen to something that makes you a better salesperson.  Put a book out in your home that you want to read.  Try reading it for 10 minutes a day or more if you can.  Put the book in your car.  If you leave it on your bookcase you probably won’t read it.


Your physical health is just as important.  If your fourth quarter is your best quarter there will be a lot of stress.  Nothing diffuses stress like exercise.  A short walk is better than nothing.  Eat regularly.  Recent studies have linked glucose to will power.  Do not skip meals, eat healthy snacks and get enough sleep.  The great sales warrior is mentally and physically healthy.


  • Fourth, put in more time.  One of the greatest salesperson’s I know said, “I cannot work 80 hours a week all year long.  It is just too tiring.  I can work 10 or 12 hours a day for 90 days.  I always save my best effort for the fourth quarter.”  Make sure that your best effort comes at the end (last 80 days).  I have found over and over again that the person who works the most hours gets the best results. 


It will be difficult to miss the holiday parties, take a day off to do holiday shopping or to fill out your holiday cards but this is not the highest and best use of your time during the work week.  I have a poster on my desk that says, “Finish strong!  Make your last your best.” 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, August 10, 2014( Click Here )

Price Objection

“It is too expensive.”  “I cannot afford it.”

When salespeople are asked why the prospect did not buy over 70% say it was one of these reasons.  When prospects are asked why they bought only 22% say price was the major factor in their decision.

Wow, that is a 50% difference in perception.  Why the disconnect?  I believe it is because the vast majority of salespeople do not want to face the truth.  The truth is that over 50% of the time the salesperson failed to communicate the value of their product.

When the customer says, “It is too expensive” they are saying that the product is not worth what the salesperson is asking.  In other words, your little product is not worth the prospect’s big pile of money.  When you  hear this objection your only hope is to create value in the prospect’s mind or to discover the real objection.  Remember, only 20% or so of your prospects are telling you the truth.  Here are some ideas to help you deal with this objection.

  • First, before you give the price of your product, do something called the “price build up”.  When I watch or talk to salespeople most leave out this very important step.  The best time to answer an objection is before it comes up.  The “price build up” does this.

The “price build up” works like this- “The best thing about our product/service is the price” or “Many of our customers cannot believe the value they receive for the price”.  Now, after you say something like this, you can present the price. 

After you give the price you can further soften it and preempt the objection.  “That is only X per month” or “That is only X per employee” or “Most people get a 200% return the first year”.  If you do this properly the price objection will begin to disappear.  You will still hear it but less often.

  • Second, I have said before that you must harmonize with the objection.  “Bill, I can certainly understand that.  Most of my customers said that before they bought.”  Anything like this sets the table for the next steps.  Do not proceed to deal with this objection until you have taken this step.
  • Third, once you have harmonized with the objection you need to uncover the real objection.  Before you try to justify your price ask this question, “Besides the price, is there anything else that bothers you about the product/service?”  Listen very closely.  This is your chance to be a sales detective.  Another question I have used is, “Besides the price, is there anything else that worries you about our product/service?” 

Remember, most of the time the price objection is not the real objection.  Your job is to find the real objection. 

Let’s say the price IS the real objection.  This means you have not qualified your prospect properly (why are you calling on people who cannot afford your product?) or you have not established the value of your product.

The answer to the objection must create value for the prospect.  Try this:  “Here’s what most of our customers have found- the value of the product/service far exceeds the price when you weigh the benefits (then restate your benefits).”

If you take anything away from this advice, remember that most of the time the price objection is not the real objection.


» Tennessean Column- Sunday, July 27, 2014( Click Here )

A Great Sales Presentation

Is it really a “sales presentation” if no one is listening?

As a prospect in front of sales people I do not always listen to what is being said.  It would be naïve to assume that we hold a prospect’s attention 100% of the time.  However, every salesperson can improve their presentation.

Here are some general tips to help you get better:

Establish rapport.  Before you start talking about your product or service be sure you have connected as a human being with your prospect.  It is so much easier to say no to someone you have no connection with.  Once you have found something in common with your prospect you can begin talking about your product or service.

If you have trouble establishing rapport memorize some opening questions like “Where are you from originally?”, “How long have you been here?” and “Where were you before this?”  Look around the prospect’s home or office and ask about something that stands out.  If the prospect is a referral, talk about the person who referred you.  You will get good at this if you keep practicing.

  2. Find a need for your product or service.  There is only one way to do it, ask questions.  No matter what product or service I have sold now or in the past I have written down a set of questions that will help me uncover needs for my product or service.  Make a promise to yourself that you will not start explaining your product or service until you have found a need for it.  If you cannot find a need, wrap up your meeting and go find someone who needs you.  It may seem harsh but why explain what you are selling to someone who does not need it.

3.  Ask a lot of questions.  I will never forget the first time I was a prospect and the salesperson made me listen.  No, he didn’t tie me up or threaten me.  He just asked a lot of questions.  “Does that make sense?”, “Would that be beneficial?” and “Are you with me so far?”  These types of questions keep the prospect engaged and listening.  Many salespeople are so excited to tell their story that they never pause to ask a question.  Do not present an idea without asking the prospect a question about it.  Most of your prospects have other things on their mind.  The mind can think three times faster than we can talk.  Therefore it is our job to keep them focused on our product or service.

Tell stories.  People love stories.  An entertaining real life story is the best way to communicate an idea.  It is not you, the do anything to get the sale salesperson talking.  It is the third party person in the story talking.  Recently, there have been more and more studies and articles about the power of storytelling in sales.  If the story is funny, even better.

However, funny or not, get some stories about how clients used your product or service successfully.  Pre-plan stories that illustrate your most important benefits.  Tell stories that answer objections and stories that portray a happier, more successful customer because they did business with you.

5.  Ask for the business.  Another time I will write an article on closing but for now just know that there is no sales presentation without a call for a decision.  Great salespeople pre-plan their close.  No matter what product I sold I knew when I would ask the obligating question and what that question would be.

I am always surprised when the meeting and presentation goes great and the salesperson does not ask the obligating question.  Here is one that almost always works to get a decision or to move the sales process to the next step.  “Bill, what kind of decision making process would you go through in order to determine whether or not you would move forward?”  Once you have established the decision making process you have moved the sale forward or you are done with this prospect.

Strive to make every presentation better than the last.  Work on these five points all together or one at a time.  When you perfect these your name will go high on the list of “the greatest salespeople”. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, July 13, 2014( Click Here )

Second Half

The year is half over.  Now is (if you haven’t already done it) a great time to reflect and rededicate yourself for the remainder of the year.  Most of us find ourselves in one of three places. 

  1. Way ahead of your goals and coasting to a great year, maybe your best year ever.
  2. Just on pace to get the results you and others expect from you.
  3. Behind and headed for a terrible year.

Wherever you are, things can change and you can change them.  If there is one thing I have learned and believed, in over 30 years of selling and coaching sales people, it is that there is no such thing as long term circumstances.  I do not believe in circumstances.  The people that win are the ones who find their circumstances.  If they cannot find them they make them.

So here are some ideas to make the second half of the year your best half ever.  First, you cannot be too busy chopping wood to sharpen the axe.  Commit to some form of continuing education that will improve your performance.  Recently I read that less than 2% of sales people spend any of their own money on continuing education.  If their company does not spoon feed them they just do not eat.  Almost every profession has continuing education requirements.  Sales people should too but sadly we do not and as a profession we are lazy when it comes to continuing education.

If nothing else, as soon as possible, attend a class on selling or communication.  Read a book about your profession or one to inspire or motivate you.  Go online and take a sales course or do research on your prospects and competitors.  Make a commitment to yourself and someone important to you that you will improve your skills and knowledge in the second half.

Second, learn from the first half.  Two platitudes I have heard over and over again are, “Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way over and over again and expecting different results” and “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”.

So ask yourself and write it down (please write it down).  What went right and what went wrong in the first half of the year?  Now it is easy to correct what was bad and multiply what was right.

An easy way to do this is to review your calendar from the first half.  Here are the questions you should ask yourself:

  • How many days did I actually work?
  • How many prospects and clients did I see?
  • How many decision makers or strong influencers did I meet with?
  • How many meetings were with the wrong person?
  • How many sales did I make (now you can figure out how many people you must see to make one sale)?
  • What was my average sale ($)?
  • What was my average commission?
  • What percentage of sales came from new prospects?
  • What percentage came from existing clients or customers?

I would suggest that based on this review of the first half you can now make the second half your best half.

Of course the easiest answer is to see more people.  That always works.  The law of averages is a law of nature.  You can trust it.

But I will go a step further, you do not have to see more people and you can still sell more by eliminating unproductive meetings and replacing them with productive ones.  You can also improve the quality of both the meetings and the prospect.  Either of these will increase your results.

One final piece of advice, do not be disappointed in the results you did not get for the work you did not do.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, June 29th, 2014( Click Here )

Know Your P’s and Q’s

Recently I was talking with a sales person who told me he was a “natural born salesperson”.  So I slapped him.  Seriously, it led to a discussion of that thought.  Are salespeople born or are they made?  I suppose it is obvious no mother every gave birth to a baby with an order pad.  Nor has a mother ever given birth to a baby with a law book or a stethoscope.  No one was ever born to be anything.

It is true that as we grow up we gain skills and knowledge that better prepare us for some professions than others.  In a survey of 200 sales people with college degrees none (zero) said they went to college to be in sales.  So how did they end up in sales?  More importantly, what made them successful in sales?

When given IQ tests sales people are no more intelligent or less intelligent than the general populations.  We would all agree it takes a basic level of intelligence to do any job but once that level is achieved (minimum level) higher intelligence is not a predictor of sales success.  By the way, the sales person I was talking with was not a genius. 

If it is not intelligence what is it?  Studies have looked at grades, SAT scores and general academic performance.  These all turned out to be less accurate than rolling a pair of dice.  So enter psychologists with a new measurement of “emotional intelligence”.  Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own feelings.  The EQ tests they developed measured a person’s ability to regulate their emotions.

Yes, successful sales people regulate their emotions, they have too.  However, when a person starts in sales their EQ can be low and they can learn that behavior.  The sales people that do not learn this do not last long or they suffer in mediocrity.  It is a skill that can be learned.  EQ tests show people have the ability to improve scores with time and experience.  Not so much with IQ tests.  So the end result, EQ scores were no predictor of success either.

Still searching for a predictor, “the born sales person”, researchers introduced the idea of “social intelligence”.  These tests measured an individual’s ability to relate to and understand other people.  Of course the greatest sales people have high SI.  Were they born with it or was it learned?  Well somewhere along the lines they learned it.  Maybe as a child but it is a learned skill.  I call it empathy but it is definitely learned.

So we have IQ, EQ and SQ, but no P’s and Q’s.  We still have no natural born sales people or successful people in any field that were born that way.

I am going to suggest that great sales people combine all these skills and they constantly strive to improve.  Four Q’s determine results in sales:

  1. The quality of your effort.  Two brothers follow every great sales person.  See-more and Sell-more.
  2. The quality of the presentation.  There is a good, better and best presentation.  Once you embrace this thought it is inevitable that you conclude, as a sales person, that you want yours to be the best.
  3. The quality of your prospect.  Decision makers are better prospects than non-decision makers.  People with the ability to pay for your product are better prospects than those that cannot.
  4. The quality of your values.  Belief in yourself, commitment to your profession and others, etc.

Follow these Q’s, despite your IQ, EQ or SQ, and I guarantee your success. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, June 15th, 2014( Click Here )

Create Your Own Sales Culture

For the last five years I have been working with other companies to help them improve their sales results.  We always talk about a “sales culture”.  So I would like to share my observations with you about what makes a great sales culture.

First, and most important, the company is customer focused and sales driven.  I was in one company the other day and every administrative employee had a sign on their desk; “Sales makes Salaries”.  That’s right, the focus of the entire organization was on increasing revenue. 

After all without new sales most companies cannot exist.  New sales mean growth.  New sales are necessary to replace lost customers.  New sales are necessary to keep great employees.  Great employees do not stay with companies that are not growing and providing new opportunities.

I am always shocked by companies I visit where operations, accounting and administrative employees act like their day is being interrupted by a call or request from a sales person.

Second, a great sales culture includes great sales people.  Not self-centered sales people but ones who realize they are part of a team and their job is to find long term profitable customers.  Sales people who believe constant improvement is possible and are committed to improving day by day.

Third, great sales cultures have a bias for action.  General Eisenhower said, “Ready, shoot, aim”.  The idea is clear, great sales cultures do not wait for all the lights to be on green before they leave on a trip.  I believe it is like Steve Jobs said, “Sell it and then we will build it”.  It is this bias for action that beats the competition, keeps enthusiasm high and stretches everyone involved.  Take one thing away from this observation.  Every time someone on the sales team says, “I or we are waiting on…” you lost ground to the competition.  Great sales cultures avoid this at all costs.

Fourth, great sales cultures weed the garden.  I have found many companies that will not weed the garden.  The “anybody in the territory is better than nobody” does not encourage the flowers to grow or produce  the pride needed to inspire great performances.  No great team in business or sports was ever built without a commitment to find better players and upgrade the current player’s skills.

Fifth, there is a commitment to the customer.  One company I worked with fined their sales people $10 every time they caught them saying “they”.  It is we or our.  Customers and prospects sense this commitment.  They are tuned into thinly veiled insincerity.  Most of us have had a BS meter since we were 14 so does your prospect or customer.  I hate hearing sales people say how dumb or messed up their prospects and customers are.  It is evident to the prospect, more evident to the customer.  Seventy percent of attrition in American business is due to the human factor in dealing with their current provider, not price or features.  They did not like who they were dealing with.

Finally, great sales cultures are actively driven.  They realize that the more people you see the more you sell.  This means they embrace values like hard work (more than 40 hours per week), persistence, positive thinking, etc.  They embrace a philosophy for their sales people of no excuses today.

If you have read this as a sales person, a CEO, a CFO or any other position in your company ask yourself both personally and for your company, are you customer driven and sales focused?  If the answer is yes, congratulations!  If the answer is no, start doing something about it. 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, June 1st, 2014( Click Here )

Prospecting with Power

A salesperson without a prospect list is unemployed.  The single most important tool a sales person has is his prospect list, yet company after company I work with does not put enough emphasis on this one thing. 

Here is what I teach people about prospect lists.  First, get one.  I don’t mean a list of names in your laptop.  I mean a list of prospects that have these qualities: 

  • A prospect is a decision maker not anything else.  A non-decision maker is not a prospect.
  • You must know something about the name on the prospect list.  Recently, I was working with a company calling for appointments out of a “Domino Data Base”.  That is not a prospect list.  Here are some things you can look for:
    • Are they in your current verticals of customers?
    • You sell manufacturers.  Are they a manufacturer or a services company?
    • If you sell individuals and your average customer is 50 years old, is the name on your prospect list 50 years old?

                        In other words, don’t just call a name.

For example, ABC company sells mostly to businesses in two verticals (lawyers and accountants) and they haven’t had as much success with consulting companies but they have a few customers in that vertical.  History says put lawyers and accountants on your prospect list until you run out of them.  In other words, shoot lay-ups versus half court shots.

In addition, ABC company has most of their success with firms under five partners and 100 employees.  So put that qualification on your prospect list also.

  • A prospect list has at least 70 names on it at all times.  Not two or three or 10 but at least 70.  My experience says with 70 you can call through in about three or four hours.  I recommend, no matter what you are selling, taking one full office day to set appointments with new prospects and to set follow up meetings.  If you are calling on prospects without an appointment (cold calling in person) you still need 70 names to make a productive day.

When you eliminate a prospect from your prospect list immediately add a new one.  Make a rule that you will not start a new day without 70 names on your prospect list.  By the way, sales is not a 40 hour/week job.  Do your prospecting before and after your people time (roughly 8:30-5:00).

  • A prospect list is printed on paper.  Keep it in your CRM, on your laptop or anywhere you choose, but have a paper copy you can carry with you to make notes on.  I have seen hundreds of prospect lists on paper that you had to squint to read and left no room for notes.  This is not a prospect list.  It is a list of names that is hard to read and work with.

By having your prospect list on paper you can call from anywhere.  If you have a dead hour between appointments you can call prospects for new appointments.  If you are at the airport you can call for new appointments.  Paper prospect lists allow you to maximize any time you have during the day.

If your prospect list is in your computer, laptop or iPad there is a barrier that sometimes stops you from calling.  Eliminate that barrier.

With a place to take notes you can keep track of details you learn after every call.  For example, their assistant’s name, their direct phone number, whether they work late or come in early, if they are on vacation or when to call back.  With a prospect list on paper you are in control of your time and your future sales at all times.  I ran two software companies.  I have four PC’s in my house, three iPads and a lot of cell phones.  I believe in technology but in this one area you need to go old school. 

Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies.  The good news is you’re the pilot.”  You can be a better pilot if you have a proper prospect list.


» Tennessean Column- Sunday, May 18, 2014( Click Here )

The Sales Profession is in a Mess

Here are some interesting facts about Sales and what you can do about them.

Only 67% of sales people make their quota.  This is even more revealing when you realize that not every company has sales quotas.

Figures vary, but between 45 and 60 percent of a salesperson’s time is not spent selling.  They are responsible for many things that do not involve prospects. Did you know that 90% of selling content provided by the companies is never used in selling a prospect?  There is just too much information for a salesperson to mobilize and use effectively.  Qvidian Sales Execution Survey for 2014 says 88% of missed opportunities were because salespeople could not leverage or find internal resources.  WOW- 80% of sales are made between the fifth and the twelfth contact with a prospect but 48% of salespeople never follow up with their prospects after a first call.  The good news is your competition is facing the same problems.  The bad news is when your competition does not face these issues.  Not all companies do.  These are averages.

So if you are in sales these statistics may be shocking but most of us are guilty of some or all of these “sales sins”.  Most of these issues are resolved by time management.  Salespeople are pulled in many directions but it is the salesperson’s job to straighten it all out and they must do it to be successful.

I have observed one quality from salespeople that are not part of the statistics.  They have a well-organized and effective “to do list”.  Yes, almost everyone has a to do list but most are not used effectively. 

  • A to do list assumes deadlines- some are short term and some long term.  Give each item on your to do list a due date.  Hold yourself accountable or get a coach or manager to hold you accountable.
  • Review your to do list at the beginning of each day.  Not after you have done other things.  Make it your first duty each day.  While you are reviewing it, prioritize it.  Put the most important task at the top of the list and then second, third, etc.  Focus on finishing one task (starting with the most important) before you move on.  Multitasking is not appropriate here.  Most of the time you will not get everything on your to do list done but you will get the most important things done.
  • Secondly, use time blocking.  Block a time on your calendar to do certain tasks.  Follow up, new calls, proposals, etc.  Make an appointment with yourself.  Write it out or put it on your calendar and keep it.  Do not let other people or events make you break your appointments.  Keep your appointment with yourself just as you would a client or a prospect.
  • Finally, be your own coach.  Watch your game (filins ?).  Look back over your calendar for the last calendar and analyze where you spend your time and what mistakes you made in time utilization.  When we recognize past mistakes it makes it easier to avoid making them twice.  Constant improvement is possible but only by examining past mistakes.

Shakespeare said in Measure for Measure, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, May 4th, 2014( Click Here )

People Love to Buy - They Hate to be Sold

Everyone in sales has heard a prospect say, “You’re a salesperson.  You are just trying to sell me.”  If given a choice no salesperson would want to hear that from a prospect.  It means there has been a communication disconnect.

In any selling situation the prospect has a healthy degree of skepticism.  Most of us are guarded when we meet a salesperson.  The common stereotype is that, “This person will say anything to make the sale and earn a commission.”  However, if you are in sales you know that is not true.  The idea of “let the buyer beware” has long past.  Despite this reality, no matter what you are selling, the prospect is asking themselves “Should I trust what this person says?”  They are looking for a reason not to buy, not looking for a reason to buy.  The prospect is suspicious.

So, as a salesperson, one of the first things we must do is to get people to trust me.  I call it, “getting promoted from salesperson to human being.”  That’s right; when salespeople first meet a prospect they are subhuman.  Once they establish trust they become human in the prospect’s eyes.  This is crucial in the first phone call or the first meeting.

So how do you do it?  First, you use names.  The most important name you can use is the prospect’s name.  This accomplishes several things.  When a person hears their name it breaks down natural social barriers that exist between prospect and salesperson.  This has been proven over and over again.  Further, scientists have done brain scans that show when you use a person’s name you stimulate the same part of the brain as sex.  Now that is a good start to building trust.  Also, although it does not directly build trust when you use your prospect’s name you do hold their attention for 7 seconds.  You will never build trust if they are not listening to you.

Another type of name you must use are those of your satisfied customers.  It is much easier to get an appointment with a stranger if you know people in common.  Zig Ziglar said, “The most powerful influence in selling is the third party testimonial.”  The names of your customers are magic.  We all trust people more when we know they are doing business with our friends, acquaintances or even people we have heard of but never met.

Almost every salesperson I have watched has difficulty with this at first.  It requires leaving your comfort zone.  One technique that works is writing the name of the prospect down and also the names of customers you want to use and putting this list in front of you when you are on the phone and during your initial meeting.  If in person, put it on your lap or in a folder so the prospect is not offended by your cheat sheet.  The true professional will memorize the names they want to use.

A second way to build trust besides the use of names is body language.  Studies have proven if you mirror the prospects body language you break down natural barriers between prospect and salesperson.  Smiling and nodding your head have been proven to do the same thing.  Sixty percent of communication comes from what our body is saying.  Start making your body talk more effectively. 

Finally, to get a leg up on the trust issue find something in common with your prospect.  You can do this by getting preapproach from someone you know in common with your prospect or by looking around their office.  Maybe you are both in Rotary or Kiwanis.  You both could follow the same sports teams.  Whatever it is it helps if you find that common interest.

So next time the prospect says, “You are just trying to sell me”, realize you failed to build trust and mutual respect.  Practice these ideas and that comment will go away or you will hear it less often and make more sales.

Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” 

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, April 20th( Click Here )

Winging It

“Today I begin a new life.  Today I shed my old skin which hath, too long, suffered the bruises of failure.  Today I am born anew…”  ~ OG Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World

I have noticed the same bad habit by the same bad salespeople over and over again. 

It’s winging it.  For some reason salespeople have told themselves that they can wing it and succeed.  Some salespeople even have some measure of success winging it.  However, the greatest salespeople do not wing it. 

No one wants to work with a doctor, a lawyer, a preacher or any other professional that wings it.  Of course all those professions have people that wing it but they usually are not successful and they usually do not serve their clients very well.  I have never heard anyone say, “I want to work with someone that wings it.”

For some reason a lot of mediocre salespeople tell themselves, “I can get by winging it.  I know more than the prospect and I can get by this time.”  Then winging it becomes a way of life.  Sadly, sometimes it works so this reinforces their justification for a lack of preparation.

My first sales manager said, “Perfect performance is preceded by perfect preparation.”  In this day of unlimited information there are no excuses for a lack of preparation.

As salespeople we should prepare by knowing as much as possible about our prospect’s company and about them personally.  LinkedIn can tell you about your prospect personally and you might even check out Facebook.  Most companies have websites and those should always be checked before a sales call.  Despite these resources many salespeople don’t do this.

In addition to knowledge about the prospect, salespeople should have unlimited knowledge about their product or service.  No one in operations at your company should know more about your product or service than you.  Yes, that means asking questions and digging in.  It means extra hours beyond what your fellow salespeople and competitors are doing.  Although you may hate the price you pay you will love the prize.

What about competition?  When I do sales training I ask, “Have you looked at your competitor’s website?”  Easily 25% of the salespeople I ask have not.  Over the years I have learned the best solution does not always get the sale but the most knowledgeable salesperson does.  Learn and know what your competition is doing as well as they do and you will win most of the time.  Most of your competitor’s will not do the work.  They are winging it.

Finally, how about you and what you say?  60% of communication is non-verbal.  So you better look and act your best.  Blue colors send a message of trust; pastels send a signal of weakness.  What colors are you wearing?  By the way, notice how our national politicians dress.  They have image coaches.  They are not winging it.

A huge part of what salespeople bring to the table is what we say and how we say it.  Is it memorized but does not sound canned?  Have you practiced it?  Is your presentation part of your fiber or do you wing it differently each time?  Do you have planned and memorized answers to your most common objections?  Most salespeople do not because they are too lazy to do it.  The greatest salespeople are prepared for anything.

If you have been winging it, stop.  Begin your “new life” today!

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, April 6th( Click Here )

Change is Possible

For 30 years I have been saying “Embrace change”.  Our hope for the future is based on “change”.  In every change we face there is a seed for greater growth.  Charles Darwin said in The Origin of the Species, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive nor the most intelligent but the ones most ADAPTIVE to change.”  All very true.

However, let us back up a step.  We as salespeople can change our brains to improve our performance, the amount of money we make and therefore our lifestyle but improvement is based on change.

Science used to believe that once the brain reached maturity it could no longer change.  “You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.”  In other words, our potential is fixed biologically.  Shawn Achor explores this thoroughly in his book “The Happiness Advantage” (buy it).  We now know that there is something called neuroplasticity.  Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice.  No matter how old we get our brains can change.  Brain scans prove this over and over again.  “Change is possible!”

Scientists proved this with taxi drivers in London.  A cab driver's hippocampus, the part of the brain that holds spatial representation capacity, is measurably larger than that of a bus driver. By driving the same route every day, the bus drivers do not need to exercise this part of the brain as much. The cabbies, on the other hand, rely on it constantly for navigation. 

As salespeople we want our brains to change in order to make us tougher emotionally, more positive, better wordsmiths, etc.  So if change is possible let’s get started!  The beautiful and exciting part is that scientists have found no limits by age and no limits on the human mind’s capacity for change.  We can change as much as we want to for as long as we live.  Better yet, we can make the change last as long as we like.  Now that you know the facts scientifically how do you make change that keeps you growing and lasts your entire adult life?

As I read and live here are three things I’ve found that can help you grow and succeed as salespeople:

  • Exercise, yes exercise to sell more.  Everything I read says exercise releases endorphins that improve our mood and attitude.  Without drugs we can improve our disposition and our confidence.  In fact in some studies exercise was better than anti-depressants in relieving depression.  In selling I always want to be up and exercise helps me biologically to improve my mindset.
  • Give to others.  When we give to others our brains release more chemicals.  Chemicals that help us to have lasting improvements in our performance and how we deal with people.  One of my sales people who makes too much money (just kidding) says that every act of kindness he does for others who cannot repay him makes him more enthusiastic and appreciative of his life.  Then these positive feelings are conveyed to the prospect when he talks to them.  Selling is a transference of feeling.  I did not think of it but I believe it and have seen it work; “Whatever you put in the lives of others comes back unto your own.”
  • Give unbridled praise.  That’s right- just like the wild horse that runs without a bridle; praise your co-workers, your customers and your vendors.  Scientists tell us that the act of praise for others causes our brain to react as if we are praising ourselves and we could all use more praise and recognition.  The benefit- you will perform better yourself.

Science is learning more about the brain’s ability to change us and improve what we do and who we are everyday but for now know “You can teach an old dog new tricks”.  We can change for the better every day.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, March 23, 2014( Click Here )

Failure Leads to Success

This is what I have noticed from coaching salespeople for 30 years- successful people have a ferocious drive and hunger, yes hunger, for success.  This drive and hunger pushes them to never give up when others would quit or be satisfied with where they are.

Success in sales does not come without bumps.  One year I went six months without a sale but I still had my best year ever.  There is usually no perfect ascent to success.  It just does not work without obstacles, frustration and defeats.  Sometimes I wonder how I kept my job that year.

Most of the time I find successful salespeople are spurred on by defeat.  They learn from their defeat and start over from a stronger position of knowledge and determination.  In addition, I have seen successful salespeople take full responsibility for their defeat.  They do not blame their circumstance or their situation.  They go over, under or around any obstacle in their way.

One of the greatest salespeople of our time is Richard Branson.  He created great companies like Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Music.  He is an inspiration to all of us.  He dropped out of school at 16.  He started a magazine that failed.  Along the way to his success he failed at Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Vic, Virgin Cards and several others.  Yes, Richard Branson had a lot of failures but that did not stop him.  In sales if you want more yes’s you need to get more no’s.

How about J.K. Rowling?  Everyone knows about Harry Potter.  The series has sold over 400 million books.  It is one of the top five book and film series ever.  It made her the richest woman in Great Britain (besides the Queen).  Did you realize she received dozens of rejections from publishers?  They told her “children’s books never make money” and that her book “was too long.”

J.K Rowling was living in her car with two children.  She was divorced and on welfare.  She had no visible means of support.  However, in the midst of the darkest circumstances she never gave up.  She had a hunger for success that was unquenchable.  Ask yourself what is your level of hunger.

Finally, look at Walt Disney.  He was fired from his job with The Kansas City Star newspaper.  The reason was because he wasn’t creative enough but he did not quit.  In 1922 he started his first company Laugh-O-Gram.  This business produced cartoons and shot advertising films.  One year later the business went bankrupt.

Rather than quit he moved to California and started the Walt Disney Company.  It’s a global empire of films, products, amusement parks and talent.  It has made an impact on almost every person in the United States.  Wow, what if he had quit when he failed?

You see almost every successful salesperson I have met or read about failed at some time in their career.  As you approach your life in sales realize that every failure is an opportunity to get better and move forward.  Remember in every seeming adversity there is a seed for greater growth.  Our job is to find it.

» Tennessean Column- Sunday, March 9th, 2014( Click Here )

The Tennessean - Sunday, March 9th, 2014


“There are two kinds of people.  One looks for a way the other looks for an excuse.  I want you to be the kind of person that goes over, under, around and through any obstacle that stands in your way.”  That is one of the first things my mentor, Sam Johnson, told me when I was 18 years old.

Over the years I have learned that in every walk of life there are those that make excuses and those that find a way.  In the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio tells his new salespeople “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the B.S. story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”

After my second summer selling books for Southwestern my sales manager came to me and said, “You can be #1.”  I was sure a light out of heaven had shined on me.  How else would he predict I could be #1 out of over 6,500 students?  Later when I was a manager I learned that you go to all your second year salespeople and tell them they can be #1.  I was drinking the Kool-Aid.

So I made a commitment to be #1.  I did not say I would be #1 if my car didn’t break down because it did.  I did not say I would be #1 if my roommates didn’t quit, go home to their girlfriends and leave me alone in Virginia to sell on my own. Because they did.

I did not say I would be #1 if I didn’t run out of territory.  Because I did.  I went back through territory where another boy had been selling the same books.  I did not say I would be #1 if I didn’t have a death in the family.  Because I did.  I did not say I would be #1 if I didn’t lose my voice because after 12 weeks of working 15 hours a day 6 days a week my voice gave out.  The last week on the field I whispered my sales talk and carried a jug of salt water in the car to gargle with between calls.  I said I would be #1 despite my circumstances and I was.

In life there are internalists and externalists.  The internalists say, “I control my destiny” the externalists say “It is my product, it is my territory, it is my family, it is my company, it is my manager and it is the economy that is holding me back.”

The world does not care about the storms you encounter.  They only want to know “Did you bring in the ship?”  Everyone has circumstances.  For the most part, I do not believe in circumstances.  The people who get on in the world find their circumstances and if they cannot find them they make them.

I have never met one great salesperson who was successful because they caught all the breaks.  They won the prizes and received the awards year after year not because they were lucky.  Sure we all face setbacks, detours and problems.  That is life.  The more challenges you face the more alive you are.  Consistently, the great salespeople are those that look for a way not an excuse.

At the end of that summer I was #1 and they gave me a t-shirt.  N.E.A.T. was written on the shirt.  I still have a t-shirt with those letters.  The initials stand for No Excuses Accepted Today.  This is the best lesson I can give you.  Write it on your heart.  Now is the time.  Today is the day.  Within you is the ability to win.

For more information on The Tennessean, visit 

» PRESS RELEASE --Tennessean Column June 2012( Click Here )


For Immediate Release

 Striving for Success Column

Column Launch --June, 2012

The Tennessean has selected Tom Black, The Boxcar Millionaire, to share his sales wisdom in a continuing column in their business section.

Randy McLain, Business Editor sought Tom out to partner with The Tennessean in reaching out to sales professionals with helpful advice on strategy as the economy recovers. Tom hopes his column will provide a touch of humor, inspiration and motivation for those along for the ride in the roller coaster career of sales.

 He says of Tom: “The Tennessean is adding a total of five new business columns written by experts in their field, including Tom Black. Tom’s new column on sales to help people in the trenches learn to prospect for clients more efficiently and close the deal more often is going to be perhaps the most fun one to read of all.”

Tom founded the Tom Black Center for Excellence based in Nashville, Tennessee. Tom is a member of the National Speakers Association. Tom offers customized sales training services to national clients of all sizes in a wide range of fields.  Tom is passionate about sharing his secret to success.

He says, “I believe that success is not something you own, it’s something you rent.  And when you stop paying the rent on success you immediately start paying the rent on failure.”

For more information about Tom Black, visit For more information on The Tennessean,

To read "Striving for Success" column, visit:|newswell|text|Business%20columnists|more

» PRESS RELEASE --News-Leader Column August 2012( Click Here )

Businessman Tom Black gives back to Ozarks

Successful businessman, MSU grad maintains ties to Springfield area


7:40 PM, Aug 4, 2012

Written by: Kathryn Wall


Coming Monday

Tom Black will be writing a regular business advice column for the News-Leader. Watch for his first column Monday, followed by one every other Monday on the Business page.

Tom Black might not be a household name in the Springfield area, but he’s definitely had a local impact.

Black came here from Kansas to attend Missouri State University and join the debate team. There he met future local standouts like Chamber President Jim Anderson and Attorney Tom Strong.

Although Black now lives in Nashville, Tenn., he still maintains connections here, including a business in Republic. Bancsource, a banking equipment sales and service company, has around 400 employees, compared to the 27 workers there when he bought the company in 2001.

Black also has a strong relationship with Missouri State, supporting the debate team and other ventures on campus. He is a 1973 graduate who still visits Springfield about once a month when he can.

“He really got a great start to his career in the debate team,” says Brent Dunn, MSU’s vice president for university advancement.

“He’s really a true success story.”

Black is a big name in the business world now, but he started from very humble beginnings. The first years of Black’s life in Nickerson, Kan., were spent living out of a boxcar his parents had converted into a semi-livable space.

Eventually his family moved to a two-bedroom home where his parents had one room and the kids shared another.

He admits his first motivations were the “opportunity to have whatever I wanted materially and enjoy what I had materially.”

And succeed he has. He’s now recognized a successful businessman as well as a top sales trainer in the country.

Black is the author of “The Boxcar Millionaire” which chronicles his life, from his youth through his adult successes.

If there was just a single thing to take away from the book, it’s that Black doesn’t consider excuses an option.

“There are two kinds of people — the ones who make a way and the ones who make an excuse,” he says.

The true sales experts are the ones who don’t let roadblocks stop them, he says.

In the business world, he’s well known as a communicator. But there’s also another side to Black — he’s a renowned wine collector.

His collection began when his first boss told him he’d need to learn about wine. At a sales lunch, the salesman would be expected to understand a wine list and properly order for the table, Black was told.

“I started reading at first,” he says. “I didn’t have any money to buy.”

But eventually, as his sales grew, he started collecting little by little. Now he writes about wine and boasts a personal collection of more than 20,000 bottles.

Although his first motivations were material, Black says his drive now comes from the challenge.

“I think now it’s just the idea of building something that has value and the idea of creating new wealth for other people and giving back. I don’t want to sound too goody-goody, but that is a big factor for me,” he says.

Tom Black's article can be located through the following link: 

» Biography of Tom Black( Click Here )

     Tom Black is author of the wildly popular book The Boxcar Millionaire and he exemplifies the essence of the American dream. His rags to riches story will amaze and inspire you.
     Tom began life in a railway boxcar. He grew up in extreme poverty and worked his way up the free enterprise ladder known as America. Today, Tom is recognized as the "Greatest Sales Trainer in America" and is also world-famous as owner of the greatest wine collection in the United States, with some of the rarest and oldest wines in existence. As one of the world’s most knowledgeable and well-known wine experts, Tom Black has been featured in international food and wine magazines and he is honored to count the best chefs and winemakers among his personal friends. A tour around his plantation style estate in Nashville, TN, reveals numerous treasured snapshots taken while entertaining famous guests like Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes, Sheryl Crow, Ashley Judd, Brooks and Dunn, and legendary music producer Tony Brown.      
Tom now dedicates his time to teaching others everything he has learned through business-strategy coaching in his signature no-nonsense manner that rivets his audiences. Tom is passionate about sharing his secret to success and he travels the globe bringing hands-on sales tools to business owners and their employees through his sales mentoring enterprise called the Tom Black Center for Excellence. He is an entrepreneur who has founded, purchased, sold, and taken companies public.
He says, “I believe that success is not something you own, it’s something you rent. And when you stop paying the rent on success you immediately start paying the rent on failure.”
     Tom Black’s personal and professional story is a message of hope and it moves us to reach beyond our current circumstances and bring our greatest vision of ourselves to reality. Mark Victor Hansen, author of the New York Times No. 1 Best Seller Chicken Soup for the Soul, says, “He is going to show you how to sell yourself rich, my dear friend Tom Black.”
     Tom’s story is about a boy who was born and raised in a boxcar. He had a dream to be the best at whatever he set his mind to. “I didn’t set my goal to be No. 1 if my car didn’t breakdown, because it did. I didn’t set my goal to be No. 1 if I didn’t get sick, because I did. I didn’t set my goal to be No. 1 if I didn’t run out of sales territory, because I did. I set my goal to be No. 1 despite my circumstances,” says Tom Black.
     Today his dream is to share his story with others in the hope that it will transform someone else’s life with the knowledge that we can make our inspired dreams come true.

» PRESS RELEASE: Commencement Speech at Missouri State University 2010( Click Here )

For Immediate Release

Missouri State University Commencement
685 S. John Q. Hammons Parkway
Springfield, MO

Sherry Stringfellow
Tom Black Center for Excellence, Inc.
[email protected]

May 14, 2010 - Springfield, MO.  Missouri State University has selected Tom Black (The Boxcar Millionaire) for their commencement address Friday, May 14th.  Tom graduated from then Southwest Missouri State University with a degree in Rhetoric and Public Address.  He was a nationally ranked debater and was active in student government.  He is a significant contributor to the University and remains in close contact with the current debate team.

His business career is a true rags to riches story.  Born in humble circumstances, he has built several large nationally known companies in the banking services industry.  Recently he created the Tom Black Center for Excellence to teach and coach sales and sales management.  He has been asked to deliver keynote speeches around the world, and is the author of the wildly popular book, “Boxcar Millionaire”.  Tom says, “The highest honor I have received in a lifetime of honors is being asked to give the commencement address at my university”.

Missouri State University was founded in 1905 originally a “normal school” to train teachers and prepare them for the public school systems in the southwest region of Missouri.  In 1945, it became Southwest Missouri State College to display the school's expansion beyond teacher education to liberal arts and sciences. It became Missouri State University in 2005 to reflect an institution with tens of thousands of students as well as higher admissions standards and increased graduate programs.  It has grown into Missouri’s largest undergraduate business school.  Serving students from every state and over 100 countries, Missouri State University continues to provide a high quality of education for the world.  Known for both its excellence in sports and academics, its alumni have achieved success in every field.

Missouri State University will confer 2,539 degrees during the spring commencement ceremony May 14 at JQH Arena.

For more information about Tom Black, visit  For more information about Missouri State University, visit

» PRESS RELEASE: Ordre Des Coteaux Promotions - May 2010( Click Here )

For Immediate Release

June 17, 2010, Reims, France – The Ordre Des Coteaux Has Recently Announced Promotions for Three Americans; Bruce Fingerett, Todd McGowan, and Tom Black.  Bruce Fingerett and Todd McGowan Were Inducted into The Order as Chevaliers.  Tom Black, a Member for Over 11 years Was Promoted to The Office of Chambellan.  Only a Handful of Americans Have Ever Received this Designation and it Truly Sets Tom Black Apart as One of America’s True Champagne Authorities.

Tom Black has been given numerous rewards in the food and wine world.  Being a member of the Commanderie de Bordeaux, on the National Board of the Chaine des Rotisseurs and an officer in the Order de Conteaux separates him from most gastronomiques.

Unlike other champagne wine fraternities, which confine themselves to the promotion of a particular “cru” or variety of grape, the very special feature of the ORDRE DES COTEAUX DE CHAMPAGNE, is that it extols the wines of Champagne in general and in their diversity.

The role of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne is to promote the wines of Champagne, their unique features, their ways of consumption and everything which contributes to their reputation and their image as the most prestigious symbol of success and celebration.

Around 1650, young aristocrats at the court of Louis the XIVth, amongst whom were Mortemart, Ollonne, Brousse and the satirist Saint-Evremont, founded an elegant academy dedicated to good wines. They were all famous wine connoisseurs and were particularly fond of the champagne wines from the three "coteaux" (hillsides) Ay, Avenay and Hautvillers. Hence the name given to this association "Ordre des Coteaux". It disappeared shortly before the revolution.

In 1956 a group of "champenois" led by Roger Gaucher and Francois Tatittinger in particular, who did the historical research, decided to revive the original "Ordre des Coteaux". The first champagne firms to open their doors to the new Order were TAITTINGER, LAURENT-PERRIER, MERCIER and MUMM.

Since 1956, four thousand members have joined the Order, headquartered in the Champagne province of France.

Pierre-Emmanual Taittinger, the current Commandeur of the organization says, “The Ordre des Coteaux has several thousand members worldwide and celebrates the unique place Champagne holds in the world”.

Tom Black says, “I never set out to get all this recognition in the food and wine world.  I only set out to be informed”.  As Tom’s friend, Michael Broadbent says, “The aristocrat of the table, the gentleman of the cellar…the deeply knowledgeable, is rarely, if ever, a snob”.

For more information on Ordre Des Coteaux, visit:

For more information on Tom, visit: and

Sherry Stringfellow
Tom Black Center for Excellence, Inc.
Phone: 615.263.2833

» PRESS RELEASE: Sales Managers Forum Launched-5-21-09.doc( Click Here )


Contact:  Jon Sturgeon, Club Organizer & Host, 214 Overlook Circle, Suite 152, Brentwood, TN 37027 615-812-8611 [email protected]

Sales Managers Forum Launched - A New Professional Development Club
Nashville, TN – May 20, 2009. The newly formed SALES MANAGERS FORUM, a professional development club exclusively for managers of sales people launched in April. A monthly luncheon meeting is held the last Thursday of each month from 11:30 - 1:00 at Carrabba’s Restaurant next to the Mall at Green Hills.

“The idea for this club was borne out of the need to address the unique issues that managers of sales people have,” says Jon Sturgeon the club host and organizer. Sturgeon says, “There is nothing like this in Nashville and the response has been great. We had barely started to get the word out and had 20 managers attend the first luncheon meeting in April. Our current location can accommodate 70 people.”

At each monthly luncheon meeting attendees have a chance to network with other sales management professionals over lunch and give a brief introduction of themselves and their company. A notable keynote speaker each month presents the topic of the day which is followed with small group table discussions on that topic. A volunteer from each small group then reads the list of best practices gleaned from their group discussion and this information is later distributed.

The Keynote speaker this month (May 28th) is Tom Black, the author of The Boxcar Millionaire. His topic is Sales Reporting: Metrics that matter - How to use them to motivate your team and increase sales. Black is one of Nashville’s top entrepreneurs and sought after keynote speakers with a long history of building great sales organizations.
Each quarter the club will also host an After Hours Mixer at Carrabba’s.

For additional information contact Jon Sturgeon, 615.812.8611 or [email protected]

» PRESS RELEASE: Sales Excellence Awards-5-08-09.doc( Click Here )

Contact: Sherry Stringfellow, Tom Black Center for Excellence, 615.263.2833

Inaugural Sales Excellence Awards Winners Recognized
Nashville, TN – May 8, 2009. The Tom Black Center for Excellence revealed Nashville’s top sales people and runners-up in eight industry categories at the first annual “Sales Excellence Awards” ceremony and luncheon at F. Scott’s on May 1, 2009. A crowd of businesspeople from many of Nashville’s foremost companies attended in support of the nominees.
In the inaugural year of the Sales Excellence Awards, The City Paper and the Tom Black Center for Excellence joined forces to highlight great sales achievements for 2008. Winners were chosen based on their percentage increase in growth of their business over the previous year. The results were tabulated and vetted by Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC and Associates. “Sales is the gas and oil that drives the free market enterprise our country was built on. We wanted to do something positive and champion the hard work and dedication of Nashville’s top sales people,” said Tom Black. Black is one of Nashville’s leading entrepreneurs and has a long history of building great sales organizations. He is the founder and CEO of the Tom Black Center for Excellence, a sales consulting, coaching and training company based in the Nashville area.

Award winners were nominated in the following categories:

AUTOMOTIVE: Bradley Snyder, Mercedes-Benz of Nashville and Rick Rardon, Crest Cadillac Hummer Saab
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: Richard A. Fleming Sr., Cushman & Wakefield and Andrew Robinson Jr., Cushman & Wakefield
RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE: Patricia Straus, Fridrich & Clark and Anne McGugin, Fridrich & Clark
INSURANCE/FINANCIAL SERVICES: David Adams, Southwestern Investment Services, Inc. and Jason Gornicki, Liberty Mutual
MEDICAL: Chris Stewart, Stryker and Graham Young, Surgical Resources Network
MEDIA/ADVERTISING: Evan Owens, center Interactive Strategies and Amanda Durand, Paramore|Redd
TECHNOLOGY: Carrie Bain, Simplex Grinnell LP and Brent Clements, Nuvox
OTHER: Ashley Johnson, Tom James Company and Odie Caduff, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

For the full story and information about each nominee, see the Monday, May 5, 2009 edition of The CityPaper. For additional information contact Jon Sturgeon, 615.812.8611, [email protected]

» May DECANTER interview with Howard Goldberg( Click Here )

My Passion for Wine

The frank Tennessee businessman talks Howard G. Goldberg through his advice for Barack Obama, and his 20,000-bottle cellar

Tom Black, 49, owner of around 1,000 bottles of Champagne, made a whirlwind visit to New York in February to attend a fellow collector’s Champagne tasting. I asked: ‘If you could have just one bubbly for life, what would it be?’ A quick reply: ‘1979 Salon Le Mesnil or 1979 Cristal.’ Is there a US sparkler he likes? Quicker: ‘No.’

Direct, quietly intense, informal, Black can be wry. Why did he become a collector? ‘Women have large wardrobes and lots of shoes so they can pick and choose what they want to wear. I wanted to pick and choose what to drink.’ The Boxcar Millionaire, Black’s self-published book, evokes Horatio Alger novels that inspired 19th-century youths to strive for rags-to-riches lives. Born in a small Kansas town, he first lived with his family in a railroad boxcar split into two bedrooms and a living space; the bathroom was outside. During an early life of deprivation and struggle that generated self-reliance, he vowed to escape into wealth. Today, his 20,000-bottle cellar – mostly at his home in Nashville, Tennessee – testifies to his success, achieved through artful salesmanship and ownerships in businesses, among them banking services.

Aside from 5,000 bottles each of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Black has 3,000 from Italy, 2,000 from the Rhône, 3,000 from America and 1,000 from Alsace. ‘I love steely, dry Alsace Rieslings,’ he says. ‘I love Hugel. They may be France’s best winemakers. I like Zind-Humbrecht, Trimbach, Kreydenweiss. Alsace Pinot Blanc is amazing.’ Black, divorced, drinks wine six days a week, but ‘never during a workday lunch’. What’s the downside of being an aficionado? ‘You bore people: A wine question turns into a drink from a fire hose. You spend a lot of money. You can’t find good wine in many restaurants.’

His immersion began when his first boss asked him to learn about wine to entertain bankers. He began collecting in 1986. His first wine book? ‘Michael Broadbent’s Wine Tasting.’ Best tastings? ‘60 vintages of Haut-Brion with (winemaker) Jean-Bernard Delmas and Serena Sutcliffe MW (head of Sotheby’s international wine department); 63 vintages of Pétrus with Serena and (her husband) Bordeaux expert David Peppercorn MW; 67 vintages of Pichon-Lalande with (owner) May-Eliane de Lencquesaing and Serena; 43 Rousseau Burgundies with Jim Clendenen (owner/winemaker at Au Bon Climat) and (Burgundy expert) Clive Coates MW; tasting every vintage of Stag’s Leap Cask 23 with (winemaker) Warren Winiarski.’ It’s fair to say Black moves in the right circles.

Blue chips aside, Black’s wine interests are global. Asked for his standout lower-cost bottles, he reels off a list. Bordeaux: Château de Pez, Ormes de Pez, Bellegrave, Chasse-Spleen, Phélan-Ségur, Belair. From Burgundy: ‘Bourgogne Rouge from great or good producers; whites from great producers in Mâcon like Lafon’. Elsewhere in France: Château Jolys in Jurançon. Germany: JJ Prüm. Washington: Chateau Ste Michelle, Bonair, Hogue. Chile: Concha y Toro, La Playa. New Zealand: Greystone, Pegasus Bay, Muddy Water. California’s Central Coast: Au Bon Climat and Talley Pinot Noir, Qupé and Alban Syrah. Australian sweet wine: Campbells. Canada: Inniskillin.

Black buys and sells at auction, only in America, mainly through Sothebys and Zachys. Any disappointments? ‘I bought lots of Opus One and Diamond Creek. They never came around. I sold them all.’ His hesitations? ‘I don’t feel confident when I buy German wines. I don’t know how dry they’ll be.’ Except for Sancerre, he’s ‘ambivalent’ about the Loire. The most promising New World country? South Africa. He thinks the 100- point scoring system is a 15-point system because only 85–100 points have market clout. He rates wines using the 20-point scale, for comparison’s sake, in group tastings; casually, he mostly desists.

Black has recommended wines to Al Gore, Bill Clinton’s vice-president. So, amid the recent debate, if he were the White House wine adviser, what would he suggest? ‘100% American. The whole gamut: wines from Virginia, Texas, Missouri.’ Warming to the political theme, he decries America’s interstate shipping laws as crazy. ‘We scream free trade to the world but don’t allow it. I’d let people buy direct from the winery and have it shipped home.’ And his thoughts on wine and health? ‘The benefits are enormous. But who really drinks for health?’

Decanter magazine, May 2009

» april nFocus issue_tomblack( Click Here )

“Is this the Boxcar Millionaire?”
Chicken Soup for the Soul, Art Linkletter and Tom Black come together for one dynamic day of inspiration
by Beth Alexander

Author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, which along with dozens of Chicken Soup iterations has sold more than 144 million copies, Mark Victor Hansen is looking forward to coming back to Nashville. His April 17 seminar, Building Your Mega Success: Take a Day to Invest in Yourself, will take place at the Presidential Ballroom of Opryland Hotel and will also feature powerful presentations not only from Mark, but from famed and beloved television icon Art Linkletter (author of 28 books, from Kids Say the Darndest Things to How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life) and long-time Nfocus columnist, entrepreneur and oenophile Tom Black.

Tom has been a significant player in several well-timed IPOs, was the founder and CEO of Private Business and is now the CEO of Bancsource, Inc. “Tom is exploding,” Mark says, “in terms of what he offers in salesmanship and entrepreneurship. He is the classic rags-to-riches story, started out selling books door-to-door, became their highest salesperson and then their best trainer.” Mark packs a lot into a sentence, skipping over unnecessary descriptors and barreling on to his next point. My advice: If you’re coming to the seminar, brush up on your shorthand.

A friend sent Mark a copy of Tom’s book, The Boxcar Millionaire. “Mark called me on my cell phone when I was in the airport on my way to France,” Tom says. “I ducked into a men’s room to get away from the announcements and noise, and his first words were, ‘Is this the Boxcar Millionaire?’ From there, I flew out to meet with him. We formed a partnership, and he asked to publish my book.”

According to Tom, the seminar will provide “motivation, inspiration and education, with takeaways that anyone can apply to their own lives. Most people spend thousands of dollars every year on technology, but never invest even $1,000 in their own personal development.” Mark Victor Hansen bills it as an invitation to spend a little time making your life fuller, more meaningful, more romantic, more successful. “It’s about how to make yourself into a masterpiece,” he says. Tom will share his proven sales success system, along with applicable sales, marketing and entrepreneurship strategies in a segment titled, “Think, Act and Sell Like an Entrepreneur: Multi-Millionaire Secrets of Business Success.”

Art Linkletter, an abandoned orphan in Saskatchewan, grew up to befriend presidents and host TV shows on three major networks. Now 95, his latest collaboration with Mark (they’ve trained together for more than 30 years) is a love letter to baby boomers, How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, printed by Thomas Nelson with sales in the millions of copies. “He’s totally against letting people age and retire,” says Mark. “He is the most smoking guy I know. He’s building the world’s biggest planetarium in Myrtle Beach, he has 38 great-grandkids, and he’s heading up Alzheimer’s research because of his friendship with Reagan. People come up to him and say, ‘You look like Art Linkletter, but he’s been dead a long time!’”

Four Mega Success seminars are planned per year, Tom says. “Art Linkletter wants us to do one per month, but not everybody has as much energy as he does.”
Mark will attack (that’s how he speaks) the power of focus. He cites Pareto’s Principle, the 80/20 rule, as old-fashioned thinking. “We’re saying one percent determines the other 99 percent. I’m going to show people how to do this, so that what they are doing is highly profitable.” Human beings began as hunter/gatherers, he says, then moved into the agricultural age, then the industrial age, then the computer age. We’re now entering the conceptualization age of intellectual property. We may be facing tough times, “but there are brand new opportunities out there, and we have to wake up to them and conquer” current negative economic indicators. “The recession will only hurt those who aren’t awake,” he says.

Mark Victor Hansen has an evergreen mind. Aged 60, he says, “I’ve been doing this for 34 years and have another 60 or 70 to go. We had a neuroscientist in here last week who said that when you scan the brain, it’s either red,if it’s dying, or blue if it’s still growing. We’re here to be learning machines; we’re knowledge workers, and I am learning at a full-time level. I’ve never learned so much so fast!”

The average American has a vocabulary of about 1,500 words he says, maintaining that “you can’t think any deeper than your vocabulary.” With an elastic, growing vocabulary, you can convey messages more accurately and more powerfully. “Words give you a level of discernment,” Mark says. “What I’ll be teaching is how to use focus to create your fortune. Everyone has a fortune inside that is invisible until they come to a seminar like this one. People will realize, ‘I’ve been sitting on my personal power!’”

Other presenters at the all-day seminar are Dr. Denis Waitley, author of The Psychology of Winning, and Loral Langemeier, who wrote The Millionaire Maker, each of whom have equally impressive portfolios of achievement. On April 16, all the presenters will come together for a special dinner at Sunset Grill to benefit two local nonprofit groups. If you’d like for a little of the magic of this infectious group of overachievers to rub off on you, for just $1,500 per couple you can be a part of something pretty spectacular. And if you’re a wine-lover, you know that when Tom Black is involved, the vino is top flight, as well.

Mark recently visited Andrew Carnegie’s home, now the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, a 60,000-square-foot, 64-room mansion, at 91st and Fifth Avenue in New York. Understandably awed, he said Carnegie’s favorite quotes were painted on the walls of his library/study between the frieze and the ceiling—such thoughts as, “No man can get rich without enriching all others,” and, “The gods send thread for the web begun.”
If you’ve begun your web, there’ll be plenty of thread—and plenty of inspiration—at the Mega Success Seminar on April 17. For information on tickets, visit

» Sales Excellence Awards - City Paper & TBCS( Click Here )

Nominate Your Best Salespeople Today!
Presented by the Tom Black Center for Excellence

The City Paper and the Tom Black Center for Excellence are looking for the city`s best salespeople.If you manage salespeople in the Nashville MSA, we want you to nominate your top achiever. Three Finalists and the winner in ten different industries will be honored at an awards banquet and in the March 31st edition of The City Paper.
Finalists will be chosen based on percentage sales gains for 2008 over 2007 and vetted by LMBC.
Complete rules and a nomination form can be found.

TheCityPaper, Tom Black Center for Excellence, LATTIMORE BLACK MORGAN & CAIN, PC and Affiliates

» For immediate release 120508 - Leadership Seminar-7( Click Here )

America’s Greatest Sales Trainer to Hold Leadership Seminar - Learn How to ‘Sell Yourself Rich’
For Release: Immediate

(Nashville, TN – December 5, 2008) – It turns out there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after all. Tom Black is author of the wildly popular book The Boxcar Millionaire and he exemplifies the essence of the American Dream. Black was born in the small town of Nickerson, Kansas, where he lived with his family in a railroad boxcar – yes, a boxcar.
Well, Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore! While the road to success isn’t exactly paved with yellow bricks, it is paved with hard work and a commitment to following a proven sales system. Tom Black worked his way up the free enterprise ladder known as America and today, this Nashville based entrepreneur and author is recognized as the greatest Sales Trainer in the Country.

Black is passionate about sharing his secret to success and he travels nationwide and overseas bringing his hands-on sales techniques in his signature no-nonsense manner to business owners and their employees through his sales mentoring enterprise called the Tom Black Center for Excellence.

On Thursday, December 18th, Black is holding a Sales Leadership Seminar at the Cool Springs Marriott Conference Center in Franklin, TN. The event is a full-day of interactive training commencing promptly at 8:30 a.m. and concluding at 4:30 p.m. Mark Victor Hansen, author of the New York Times No. 1 Best Seller Chicken Soup for the Soul, says, “He is going to show you how to sell yourself rich, my dear friend Tom Black.”

The event is designed for sales managers and company leaders and is presented at an investment of $500.00 per person. Attendees will learn how to recruit, select and hire quality salespeople, set clear expectations to help increase performance, improve management effectiveness, de-hire salespeople who aren’t performing, and gain knowledge of the best practices from thousands of top sales leaders across the globe.

To register call the Tom Black Center for Excellence at 615-377-7752. You may visit for more information.

For more information or media interviews, please contact:
Tom Black Center for Excellence Inc. 214 Overlook Circle, Suite 152 Brentwood, TN 37027 Tel: (615) 377-7752 [email protected]
Release prepared by Complete Image Consulting LLC

» For immediate release 112608 - French Embassy-7( Click Here )

Tom Black Chairs Wine Auction to Benefit the French-American Cultural Foundation

For Release: Immediate
(Nashville, TN – November 26, 2008) - For the first time ever, all 61 châteaux listed in the historic 1855 Médoc classification and all 26 châteaux listed in the 1855 Sauternes classification will donate a bottle of their wine to compose two rare and unique auction lots. All are from the remarkable 2003 vintage, making this the trophy collection that will transform your cellar into the talk-of-the-town!

These unprecedented offerings will be auctioned on December 3, 2008 at an extraordinary black-tie fundraising dinner to be hosted by the French Ambassador Pierre Vimont taking place at his Washington, DC residence. The Chairman of this exciting event is Nashville entrepreneur and renowned sales trainer and author, Mr. Tom Black. The Tom Black Center for Excellence is among the numerous ventures in which we have come to know this dynamic businessman. Black is internationally recognized as one of the world’s top wine experts and is the owner of the largest wine collection in the United States, approaching 30,000 bottles. Black has staged wine auctions for charity for nearly two decades.

Proceeds from the event will benefit The French-American Cultural Foundation (F-ACF) which is a nonprofit organization that supports and encourages cultural, artistic and educational exchanges between France and the United States. In addition to presenting visual and performing arts at the French Embassy, the F-ACF collaborates with major cultural institutions like the Kennedy Center and the National Gallery of Art to bring French programming to the United States, and helps to foster a healthy relationship between the two countries. The F-ACF also publishes France Magazine, an elegant and upscale quarterly magazine showcasing the best in French culture, travel and art to readers throughout the United States.

“On behalf of the French Ambassador to the United States, and myself, I would like to express our gratitude for the honor of hosting this prestigious event,” says Tom Black, “Let’s make a memory together and experience the magic of time and art captured in a bottle.”

The guests of honor will include Philippe Castéja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855; Jean-Michel Cazes, owner of Château Lynch-Bages and other famous estates; Jean-Paul Kauffmann, a renowned author and wine expert; and celebrated wine critic Robert Parker.

This spectacular soirée will also feature guest chef Thierry Marx of Pauillac’s famous Château Cordeillan-Bages who will cross the Atlantic to prepare the dishes that have made him one of the most lauded chefs of his generation.

In addition, a silent auction will offer guests a chance to pick up some fabulous holiday gifts, including premier grand cru wines, many with 100-point ratings; a weekend at a Relais & Châteaux property; and Baccarat crystal stemware.

This celebration of terrior and talent will be an experience of a lifetime that no serious wine enthusiast will want to miss! Tickets are open for sale to the public at $1,000 per person and $12,000 per table. It is no surprise that so many are traveling to Washington, DC next week when we consider these words from Tom Black, “Your participation also represents a donation that will help to strengthen French-American cultural ties and friendship.”

To be included among some of the best in the wine business and be present for your opportunity to own a piece of Bordeaux’s legendary history, you may reserve your seat by contacting Karen Taylor of the French-American Cultural Foundation at (202) 944-6042.

For more information or media interviews, please contact:
Tom Black Center for Excellence Inc. 214 Overlook Circle, Suite 152 | Brentwood, TN 37027
The French-American Cultural Foundation (202) 944-6042 (615) 377-7752 [email protected]

» Chaine des Rotisseurs Promotion( Click Here )

BRIEFS - nFocus, March 2009

Tom loves wine and wine loves Tom. That`s pretty clear now that Tom Black has, in essence, been knighted by the gods of the wine world, the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the world`s oldest and most prestigious food and wine society. Tom was named to the rank of Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Bailliage des Etas-Unis. Cool.

The guild is a non-for-profit society officially founded in Paris in 1950, with written history which has been traced back to the year 1248. At that time, French King Louis IX assigned the task of bringing order into the organization of gastronomic traders, developing young apprentices and improving the technical knowledge of its members. Today, this storied French royal guild of food and wine afficionados continues in its efforts to educate and unite those who love the good life.

If that weren't enough, Tom is also an officer of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, an organization established in 1656 by King Louis the XIV (these French kings named Louis sure do like their wine!) to manage global communications for the wine of Champagne, France.

So know this. If you`re going to dinner at Tom`s and you want to take a gift, box wine probably won`t go over that well.

» For immediate release 120108 - Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne - English version( Click Here )

America’s greatest Sales Trainer receives ‘Royal Promotion’ In the most prestigious symbol of success and celebration

For Release: Immediate
(Nashville, TN – December 1, 2008) - Established in 1656 by aristocrats in the court of French King Louis the XIVth, the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne is responsible for managing a global communications policy of essential information concerning the wines of Champagne, France through a worldwide network of highly-knowledgeable staunch supporters. These individuals are prudently chosen from all over the globe and include renowned restaurateurs, sommeliers, connoisseurs and international personalities in politics, media, stage and screen.

Entrepreneur and author Tom Black is one of America’s top wine experts and collectors and has been a representative of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne for the last decade. At a prestigious ceremony held at the Saint Regis Hotel in Manhattan on Friday, November 21st, Black was promoted to the rank of Officer by a delegation of the Grand Chapter of New York. “There are only a few of us in the Country with this distinction and I certainly feel honored to receive this promotion and be recognized by the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne”, says Tom Black.

Black has become a celebrity in the world of wine and has been featured in countless magazine articles. He is privileged to be one of America’s most extensive and recognized wine collectors. His personal wine collection approaches 30,000 bottles, and he owns some of the rarest wines in the world. Black counts the greatest winemakers, chefs, and wine critics among his closest friends and he has conducted some of the most comprehensive and famous wine tastings in America.
First making his mark in the corporate world, Tom Black is author of the wildly popular book The Boxcar Millionaire and he exemplifies the essence of the American Dream. Black is passionate about sharing his secret to success and he travels internationally bringing hands-on sales tools to business owners and their employees through his sales mentoring enterprise called the Tom Black Center for Excellence. You may visit for more information.

For more information or media interviews, please contact: Tom Black Center for Excellence Inc. 214 Overlook Circle, Suite 152 Brentwood, TN 37027 Tel: (615) 377-7752 [email protected]
Release prepared by Complete Image Consulting LLC

» For immediate release 120108 - Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne - French version-7( Click Here )

Libération de Mass-média
Le plus grand Entraîneur Des ventes de l'Amérique reçoit ‘la Promotion Royale’
Dans le symbole le plus prestigieux de succès et de célébration
Pour la Libération : Immédiat

(Nashville, TN – le 1 décembre 2008) - √Čtabli dans 1656 par les aristocrates dans la cour de justice de Roi français Louis le XIVth, l'Ordre des Coteaux du Champagne est responsable de diriger une politique de communications globale de renseignements essentiels concernant les vins de Champagne, la France par un réseau mondial de supporters dévoués hautement-bien-documentés. Ces individus sont prudemment choisis de partout sur le globe et incluent des restaurateurs illustres, sommeliers, des connaisseurs et des personnalités internationales dans la politique, les mass-média, le stade et l'écran.

L'entrepreneur et l'auteur Tom Black sont un des experts supérieurs de vin de l'Amérique et des collectionneurs et ont été un représentant de l'Ordre des Coteaux du Champagne pour la décade dernière. À une cérémonie prestigieuse tenue à l'Hôtel de Saint Regis à Manhattan vendredi, le 21 novembre, Noir a été promu au grade d'Officier par une délégation du Grand Chapitre de ew York. “Il y a seulement quelques-uns d'entre nous dans le Pays avec cette distinction et je me sens certainement honoré pour recevoir cette promotion et être reconnu par l'Ordre des Coteaux du Champagne”, dit Tom Black.

Noir est devenu une célébrité dans le monde de vin et a été présenté dans les articles de magazine sans nombre. Il est donné le privilège pour être une de l'Amérique la plus étendue et a reconnu des collectionneurs de vin. Sa collection personnelle de vin s'approche de 30,000 bouteilles et il possède certains des vins rarest dans le monde. Les comptes noirs le plus grand winemakers, les chefs et les critiques de vin parmi ses amis les plus proches et il a accompli certaines des dégustations du vin les plus complètes et réputées en Amérique.

D'abord en signant d'une croix dans le monde d'entreprise, Tom Black est l'auteur du livre extrêmement populaire le Millionnaire de Wagon de Marchandises et il exemplifie l'essence du Rêve américain. Noir est passionné du partageant de son secret au succès et il voyage dans le monde entier en apportant des instruments des ventes de terrain aux propriétaires d'affaires et leurs employés par ses ventes mentoring l'entreprise ont appelé le Centre de Tom Black pour la Vente. Vous pouvez visiter pour plus d'informations.

Pour plus d'informations ou interviews de mass-média, contactez s'il vous plaît:
Tom Black Center for Excellence Inc. 214 Overlook Circle, Suite 130 | Brentwood, TN 37027 Tel: (615) 377-7752 [email protected]
Libération préparée par Complete Image Consulting LLC

» For immediate release 112608 - French Embassy - French Version-7( Click Here )

Tom Black exerce les fonctions du Président pour Profiter le Fondation Culturelle Française-Américaine

Pour la Libération : Immédiat
(Nashville, TN – le 21 novembre 2008) - Pour la première fois jamais, tous 61 châteaux énumérés en 1855 historique la classification de Médoc et tous 26 châteaux énumérés dans la classification Sauternes 1855 donneront une bouteille de leur vin pour composer deux lots de vente aux enchères rares et uniques. Tous sont de la vendange de 2003 remarquable, en le faisant la collection de trophée qui transformera votre cave dans la "conversation de la ville"!
Ces offres sans précédent seront vendues aux enchères le 3 décembre 2008, à une tenue de soirée extraordinaire fundraising le dîner à être accueilli par l'Ambassadeur français Pierre Vimont survenant à son Washington, résidence de courant continu. Le Président de cet événement excitant est notre très propre, l'entrepreneur de Nashville et l'entraîneur des ventes illustre et l'auteur, M. Tom Black. Le Centre de Tom Black pour la Vente est parmi les nombreuses aventures dans lesquelles nous sommes venus pour connaître cet homme d'affaires local. Noir est dans le monde entier reconnu comme un collectionneur avide de vin qui a organisé des ventes aux enchères de vin pour la charité depuis presque deux décades.

"De la part de l'Ambassadeur français dans les États-Unis et moi-même, je voudrais officiellement étendre cette invitation (à la communauté Nashville) pour nous rejoindre le 3 décembre dans le Capitole de notre Nation," dit Tom Black, "faisons une mémoire ensemble et connaissons la magie de temps et d'art capturé dans une bouteille."
Les invités d'honneur incluront Philippe Castéja, le Président du Conseil des Grands Crus Classés demi-cadratin 1855; Jean-Michel Cazes, le propriétaire de Château Lynche-Bages et d'autres états réputés; Jean-Paul Kauffmann, un auteur illustre et un expert de vin; et critique célébré de vin Robert Parker.

Ce soirée spectaculaire présentera aussi le chef d'invité Thierry Marx du Château réputé de Pauillac Cordeillan-Bages qui traversera l'Atlantique pour préparer les plats qui l'ont fait un des chefs les plus loués de sa génération.
En plus, une vente aux enchères silencieuse offrira aux invités une chance de ramasser quelques cadeaux de jour férié fabuleux, en incluant de grands vins cru premiers, beaucoup avec les estimations de 100 points; un week-end à un Relais et la propriété Châteaux; et cristal de Baccara stemware.

Cette célébration de terrior et le talent sera une expérience d'une vie qu'aucun enthousiaste sérieux de vin ne voudra manquer! Les tickets sont ouverts pour la vente au public à $1,000 par personne; et $12,000 par table. Ce n'est aucune surprise que si beaucoup voyagent à Washington, le courant continu la semaine prochaine où nous considérons ces mots de Tom Black, "Nous avons une des communautés les plus grandes et les plus significatives de vin du pays juste là dans Nashville, Tennessee et nous serons représentés bien le 3 décembre."

Pour être inclus parmi un peu de meilleur dans les affaires de vin et être présent pour votre opportunité de posséder un morceau de l'histoire légendaire de Bordeaux, vous pouvez réserver votre place en contactant Karen Taylor de la Fondation Culturelle française-américaine à (202) 944-6042. Votre participation représente aussi une donation qui aidera à renforcer des liens culturels françaisaméricains et une amitié.

Pour plus de renseignements ou interviews de mass-média, contactez s'il vous plaît:
Tom Black Center for Excellence Inc. 214 Overlook Circle, Suite 130 | Brentwood, TN 37027 (615) 377-7752 [email protected]

» Nashville Business Journal - October 2008( Click Here )

The ‘practical’ art of the sale

‘Boxcar Millionaire’ gives motivation to small businesses

Nashville Business Journal - by Linda Bryant Nashville Business Journal

Tom Black’s life began in the tiny town of Nickerson, Kan., a long way from the corporate offices in Middle Tennessee where he served as CEO of two public companies — Private Business and Open Solutions.

Black’s parents weren’t members of the local country club. They were dropouts who worked low-paying jobs and were so destitute the family lived in a railroad boxcar.

Surprised that he even made it through high school, Black got his first introduction to selling at Nashville’s Southwestern Co., where he peddled books door-to-door in the summer while he worked his way through college at Southwest Missouri State Teachers College.

Thus began his escape from a hard-scrabble life.

Black’s journey from poverty to wealth has become more public since he stepped down as CEO at Open Solutions Inc. in 2003. He frequently talks about it at sales training and public speaking events, and he writes about it in his book, “The Boxcar Millionaire.”

The self-help sales guide was published in 2007 by the Tom Black Center for Excellence, the small Brentwood-based company Black started after retiring from the echelon of corporate life in 2005.

Black, 49, started the company to satisfy his urge to help small businesses succeed, not to grow a company in the traditional sense.

He made $330,000 last year, a pittance compared to the fortune he’s amassed, but that’s not the point.

“When you’ve decided you’ve accumulated enough money,” he says, “then you should ask yourself what you can give back.

“I’m doing this because I didn’t want to retire and because I love teaching.”

Black says there’s a lesson in it for others like him who’ve reached a career pinnacle and might be at a loss for what to do next.

“Focus on what you know you do best and on what helps other people,” he says.

Black has offered sales training to the agents at Fridrich & Clark Realty LLC, a Green Hills-based residential real estate firm.

Steve Fridrich, managing partner of the agency, says he’d shied away from hard-core sales training before tapping Black to talk to his staff.

“A lot of people do motivational speaking, but Tom gives more than that,” Fridrich says. “He gives sales people something they could work with every day. He’s pretty convincing.”

Practical techniques Black shared with Fridrich and Clark agents included tips on effective communication with clients in the moments before they make a decision, breaking down goals in manageable bits and using simple, effective language in sales interactions.

The bottom line, Black says, is that sales gets a bum rap because there are so many people who are either bad at it or unethical in their approach.

“No long-term success will come from anything but honesty,” Black often says to participants at his workshops and seminars.

In recent years Black has found more time to travel and network around the globe. In the process, he’s linked with some well-known entrepreneurs and high-profile inspirational speakers.

Earlier this year, he was a participant in Mark Victor Hansen’s “Building Your Mega Success” event at the Opryland Hotel, and he has teamed with the author on other projects.

Hansen, a friend of Black’s, is the co-author of the mega-successful “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, which has sold more than 144 million copies.

Joining Black on stage at the Nashville event were famed TV personality Art Linkletter, sports psychologist Denis Waitley and financial strategist Loral Langemeier.

Such alliances illustrate another post-corporate career lesson for Black — seek out your heroes and join them.

Black is unashamed of his belief in positive thinking. He surrounds himself with inspiring people and motivational material. Last year he self-published a book of inspirational quotes.

“I’ve been to every motivational seminar I can find,” he says. “But I have also found out something in the process. You can’t just be inspired. You have to act.”

In September, Black spoke at a large conference in Japan where several internationally known motivational speakers gave presentations. He was inspired, but felt something was missing.

“They offered a lot of hope, but I realized they didn’t talk about the importance of having a plan,” Black says. “I want to give people a plan for their hope.”

Fridrich says Black’s approach is practical.

“A lot of people do motivational speaking, but Tom believes in giving sales people something they can work with every day,” he says.

“His message is that consistent work pays off.”

But it’s not all about work in Black’s post-CEO world.

A wine connoisseur, he has a wine cellar with over 30,000 bottles, considered one of the best in the world.

He also has a charitable fund managed by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee that specializes in helping those impacted by poverty.

The Tom Black Center for Excellence
ADDRESS: 214 Overlook Circle, Brentwood 37207
PHONE: 615-377-7752
REVENUE: $330,000
Custom-designed sales training in field sales, national accounts and telesales. Executive coaching, keynote addresses, business consulting, competitive analysis, strategy development and employee opinion surveys.

[email protected] | 615-846-4258


» Stags Leap Article( Click Here )

News Fall / Winter 2008-09 Volume 40
Collector’s Corner
By Tom Black

I started collecting wine in the mid-1980s, during my second visit to Napa Valley. I had the opportunity to taste some older vintages at a winery there and realized how much more interesting and satisfying the wines were when aged and cellared properly. It was on that trip that I put down my first wines for later consumption. Among them was a 1984 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars CASK 23 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Over time I have put down over 30,000 bottles of wine and tasted what most people judge as the greatest wines of all time. For many years I collected only California wines, and at one point I had approximately 5,000 bottles. Since then I have opened some and sold some, and my California palate has widened to include European wines. But all throughout my 22 years of passionate collecting, I could never part with my Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars wines.

Why Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars? Simply put, because they compete with the greatest wines in the world. I’ve been at many tastings and dinners that have proven this out. In 2000 I was at a tasting of over forty wines considered to be the greatest wines made in Napa Valley before 1985. Two of the top three were Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars CASK 23 – the 1985 vintage was 1st and 1978 was tied for 3rd.

Last Thanksgiving my friends and family shared a 1959 Lafite, 1982 Petrus, 1970 Vega Sicilia, and 1985 CASK 23, all out of magnum. Of 16 guests, eight preferred the ‘85 CASK 23. I thought the best wine was the ‘59 Lafite but the CASK 23 was clearly 2nd for me. (Had to tell the truth.)

I’ve also experienced my own little “repeat” of the Paris tasting. I was at Alto in New York at a dinner with the winemaker and the director of Château Palmer. I served a CASK 23 blind and both judged it as Bordeaux. This year Château Palmer served CASK 23 at its own tasting of American wines. Not surprisingly, it was the guests’ favorite.
Every Christmas, Tom Black opens a bottle of 1973 S.L.V. to share with friends and family. He has 6 or 7 bottles left in his cellar.

“Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is just great wine. It’s at the top of the wine pyramid among American wines almost every year, and at the top of the wine pyramid worldwide in certain years.”

One of my fondest wine memories is a comprehensive tasting of CASK 23 – every vintage from first to last – that I did with Warren Winiarski in 1999. On that day, the ‘94 was judged best with ‘85 and ‘78 close behind. When I pulled out the 9 liter bottle of 1990, Warren said he had never seen one opened. Well, we not only opened it, we drank it, but I must say it was still too young for my taste.

All of these tasting experiences, and many more, have reinforced my belief that Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is just great wine. It’s at the top of the wine pyramid among American wines almost every year, and at the top of the wine pyramid worldwide in certain years. My personal belief is that it has to do with the philosophy of wine making – using only the best grapes and letting the wine speak of the site rather than an over-extracted caricature of itself.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars makes wines for the long haul. That’s the kind of wine I like to drink and the kind I’ll continue to collect for many years to come.

About Tom Black
Tom Black’s first interest in wine was born of necessity. As a young sales manager early in his career Tom was required to entertain clients, and his boss told him to learn about wine so he could order intelligently in restaurants. He learned (and tasted) a lot, but Tom’s real awakening to the world of wine – his first “epiphany” as he likes to call it – came in 1986 when a colleague took him on a weekend visit to the Napa Valley. There he had the opportunity to taste library wines, and was struck by the difference aging made. He immediately began to collect California wines and to organize tasting dinners with friends back home in Nashville.

After his time as a sales manager, Tom forged a successful career founding, buying, developing and selling several banking services companies. As his career progressed, so did his wine cellar, and by the late 1990’s he had amassed one of the largest and best-rounded collections of wines in the world. He traveled to all the major wine regions, meeting and tasting with many of the wine industry’s luminaries. Today, his cellar has strong verticals from many of Bordeaux’s and California’s most famous and well-respected wineries, including Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

As one of the first wines he purchased for his cellar, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars always occupied a special place in Tom’s heart. Describing his first visit to the winery, he says “it was like going to the Mormon Tabernacle if you were a Mormon.” He and founder Warren Winiarski struck up a friendship early on, and have shared many a dinner and bottle of wine at each other’s homes. Says Tom, “I love to drink great wines and share them with friends. It’s as simple as that.”

Tom is active with the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and the Commanderie de Bordeaux. For the past 10 years, Tom has also been an active member of the Executive Committee of l’Eté du Vin Wine Auction, which contributes not only to the important work of the American Cancer Society, but also offers grants in financial support of other cancer related non-profit organizations.


» PRESS RELEASE: See Tom Black at Entrepreneur Media Conference in Miami Beach( Click Here )


For Immediate Release

(Nashville, TN – June 3, 2009) – Tom Black, well-known as one of Nashville’s most successful entrepreneurs, the nation’s best sales trainer, and author of the wildly popular book, Boxcar Millionaire, will speak at Entrepreneur Media’s 2010 Growth 2.0 Conference presented by the UPS Store on January 26, 2010 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. 

Tom was specifically asked to present his incomparable “Secrets of Sales Success” sales training to over 500 entrepreneurs and small business owners.  “It is an honor and a privilege to be associated with an organization like Entrepreneur Media,” said Black. The Growth 2.0 conference is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get hands-on, business-building advice. The content offered in the seminars is specifically designed to offer fresh ideas, hands-on tools, powerful insights and strategies that work for the small business owner.

Entrepreneur Media Inc. is the premier content provider for and about entrepreneurs.  Their products engage and inspire thousands with the advice, solutions and resources that fuel the bold and independent way entrepreneurs think.  After 30 years, nobody reaches more growing businesses.  As the original magazine for the small and midsize business community, Entrepreneur continues to be the definitive guide to all the diverse challenges of business ownership. is the most widely used website by entrepreneurs and emerging businesses worldwide.  Entrepreneur Press publishes the books that turn entrepreneurial skills into business success.  

Black began his sales career while still in college as a door-to-door book salesman for the Nashville-based Southwestern Company. After setting sales records, he was asked to become a full-time sales manager. More records fell, and Black was on his way to a remarkable career that included successful ventures in the banking industry and the launch of public companies.   Tom now dedicates his time to teaching others everything he has learned through business-strategy coaching in his signature nononsense manner that rivets his audiences.  Tom is passionate about sharing his secret to success and he travels the globe bringing hands-on sales tools to business owners and their employees through his sales mentoring enterprise called the Tom Black Center for Excellence.  He says, “I believe that success is not something you own, it’s something you rent.  And when you stop paying the rent on success you immediately start paying the rent on failure.”

For more information about Tom Black and the Tom Black Center for Excellence, visit

About the Tom Black Center for Excellence
Based in Nashville, Tenn., the Tom Black Center for Excellence, a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), offers customized sales training services to national clients of all sizes in a wide range of fields. Areas of specialization include basic sales skills, key account strategies, sales management training and keynote speeches. For more information, visit or call (615) 377-7752.

- END -

» PRESS RELEASE: Japan Mega Event 09( Click Here )

Contact: Lesa Eden Executive Director Tom Black Center for Excellence 615.377.7752


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – April 1, 2009 – Tom Black is well known as one of Nashville’s most successful entrepreneurs, the nation’s best sales trainer, and author of the wildly popular book, Boxcar Millionaire.

Black has recently been invited to speak at Team James Skinner’s business/personal motivation, and leadership conference, MEGA EVENT 2009, in Tokyo, September 19–26, 2009. Tom was chosen from thousands of sales trainers to present “Secrets of Sales Success” at this highly acclaimed event. Black will take the stage along with Dr. Stephen Covey, Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul), John Gray (Men are from Mars…), Hyrum Smith, and others. “It is an honor and a privilege to be associated with an organization like Team James Skinner,” said Black. This special 8-day intensive course will change attendees’ perspective of life by teaching important skills for communication, leadership, male/female relationships and business in order to redesign attendees’ lives and reach ultimate goals.

Team James is a unique group committed to create dramatic changes to individuals and organizations. Their mission is to help their customers achieve success by offering the most valuable information, knowledge and learning processes in the world.

Black began his sales career while still in college as a door-to-door book salesman for the Nashville-based Southwestern Company. After setting sales records, he was asked to become a full-time sales manager. More records fell, and Black was on his way to a remarkable career that included successful ventures in the banking industry and the launch of public companies. Tom now dedicates his time to teaching others everything he has learned through business-strategy coaching in his signature no-nonsense manner that rivets his audiences. Tom is passionate about sharing his secret to success and he travels the globe bringing hands-on sales tools to business owners and their employees through his sales mentoring enterprise called the Tom Black Center for Excellence. He says, “I believe that success is not something you own, it’s something you rent. And when you stop paying the rent on success you immediately start paying the rent on failure.”

About the Tom Black Center for Excellence

Based in Nashville, Tenn., the Tom Black Center for Excellence, a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), offers customized sales training services to national clients of all sizes in a wide range of fields. Areas of specialization include basic sales skills, key account strategies, sales management training and keynote speeches. For more information, visit or call (615) 377-7752.

» Wine Spectator article( Click Here )

Wine Spectator Magazine, June 15, 2007

A Life of Wine Lessons

Businessman Tom Black`s Cellar-Building Strategy Stresses Classics    By Peter D. Meltzer

Tom Black has a spectular 20,000-bottle wine cellar (with an additional 9,000 bottles on consignment to Alto, an upscale Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning Italian restaurant in New York), but you`ll never hear him boasting about it. He firmly believes that collectors should appreciate the scope of what they have and not try to impress guests with trophy bottles all the time.

"I probably have 100 vintages of Chateau Latour,"  he says, "but I don`t feel compelled to brag about it. I`m happy drinking Chateaus Haut-Bailly, Batailley and Grand-Puy-Lacoste. Wine is an art form, and I enjoy learning what the winemaker-as-artist has accomplished."

Black, a 48-year-old Nashville, Tenn, businessman (his company, Bancsource, sells and repairs ATMs nation-wide), began collecting in a methodical yet somewhat unorthodox manner soon after he graduated college. "It was 1986 and I had just landed my first job. One day, my boss asked, 'Do you know anything about wine?'  I said no. He explained that I was expected to do a lot of business entertaining and would have to learn the ropes of a wine list." So Black gave himself a crash course in wine.

Initially, he focused on California "because the French labels were a bit intimidating." He was living in San Francisco at the time and made regular excursions to Napa Valley, tasting wines from established producers such as Sterling, Beringer and Ridge, many of which he would ultimately lay down for his personal use. "I started with California, and I would start with California again. You have a platform there to build on. I think everybody should experience labels like Caymus, Shafer Hillside Select, Montelena and Stags Leap to establish a baseline."

Cult wines are another matter. Black says he still buys them, but is not a true fan. He feels that Harlan is doing the best job in the category, but with vintages such as the 1994 now priced at more than $1,000 a bottle, they are beyond most people`s reach. "I`ve done several tastings of the cults. In my opinion, most are not developing well. I also feel that if a neophyte sampled young vintages that haven`t had the benefit of age, he`d get the mistaken impression that this is what wine is supposed to taste like-which would leave the rest of the world`s great wines tasting a little hollow."

Black always enjoyed wines from Bordeaux, but he didn`t start collecting them seriously until the early 1990s.  May-Eliance de Lencquesaing ( then owner of Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Lalande ) came to Nashville, where Black by then resided, and he attended a tasting of older Bordeaux.  "It was an epiphany. We sampled vintage classics like 1959, 1982, and 1985, and I remember thinking,'This is really different from what I have been drinking. This is great.'"

To bolster his stash, Black began buying at auction. At Butterfields, he acquired what remained of the late actor George Burns` exemplary celllar, including treasures like Chateau La Mission-Haut-Brion 1961. He is regular at Manhattan`s major commercial wine auctions, bidding either in person or by phone. Then as now, Black tries to taste examples of his prospective purchases or to seek out advice from trusted palates before placing a bid. "If I`m going to spend $1,000 (for me that`s the threshold) on a bottle of wine, I`ll ask the auction specialist for a very detailed background report. They will tell you, but you often have to ask. Most people don`t."

Black says fellow collectors have the mistaken impression that he doesn`t like Burgundies. "I love Burgundies," he says, " but don`t like them as much as Bordeaux. I have a lot of great Burgundy from top producers like Rouget and Roumier. When Henri Jayer died last year, I opened his Vonse-Romanee Les Beaux Monts 1985. That`s probably a $2,000 wine that we drank casually around the kitchen counter in memory of the man."

Looking back on his collecting strategy, Black says he would still want to acquire the great wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, although probably not as many of them. His collection now takes up three cellars on his Nashvile property, all maintained at 53 degrees F and 70 percent to 85 percent humidity. "They are strictly utilitarian - not show pieces," he insists.

If he had it to do over, would he have chosen a different strategy? "If I were starting out again," Black says, "I'd determine a budget and decide what I want to drink. And stick to it. My approach was to proceed wine region by wine region. I didn`t stray into another area until I felt I'd mastered the previous one. I`ve just now begun to explore Spain in depth."

Black tracks his collection with a simple spreadsheet, and every bottle is tagged. His major regret is that in his largest cellar, the wines are stored double deep - a system he would never employ again, because it`s easy to lose track of what you have.

Black finds the rise in hammer prices at auction over the past couple years troubling. "Every collector must realize that to enjoy a collection you must deplete it. Yet given today`s going rates, I`m sometimes reluctant to go down to the cellar and uncork one of those bottles. It`s so funny to me, because I didn`t think that would ever happen."  To counteract any reticence about enjoying his stash, Black says now and then he`ll spontaneously open something very special, such as a Quinta do Noval Nacional 1931 (a vintage Port which has a market value of $5,640 per bottle, according to the Wine Spectator Auction Index).

Black is a firm believer in thinning out a collection when it becomes unwieldy. But things don`t always work according to plan.  Recemtly, he consigned an array of large format bottles to a Zachys evening auction of fine and rare wine.  He sold the equivalent of five cases, but ended up buying 30 cases more.

Now, that`s a collector.

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