3 stages


[1] Identify who our customers might be and meet them and move them (or move with them) as they come to trust us to help them solve something.

[2] When the timing is right, and we are liked and trusted, we can have honest and open discourse; arriving at a mutually acceptable decision that includes our providing a solution, for which they happily pay us.

[3] And finally, now that they are a customer, we help them to use our solution to its fullest capacity and make sure they are thrilled with their decision to have chosen us.

Each stage is a brilliant experience that should be enjoyed and savored, not rushed. And if each stage is managed well, our customer will be a raving fan, happy to endorse, refer and recommend.

There are 3 stages in the customer development process.



What problem can you solve? More specifically, what problem can you solve for whom?

These two parameters are the heart and soul of your value proposition. You have to know your audience and you have to know what their challenges, issues or problems are. If you know these not, you have nothing.

The more specific you can be in terms of “for whom”, the more enjoyable and fulfilling will your career be.

It is not what you do that matters … not at all. What matters is for whom you do it. The “whoms” are the ones who make payment. And it’s their challenges, issues and problems that move them.

If you can identify your “whoms” and feel their pain, you will be in a very good sales position.


never ask

I endorse Sandler sales training and am happy to introduce you to my friend Chad Cuttino, the most disciplined sales professional I have ever met.

Anything written about doing business prior to 2008 may be obsolete. Thus, asking for the order, which has been sales mantra since cave men were trading rocks, might be obsolete.

Sandler teaches that we DO NOT ask for the order.
Try it, you’ll like it. And if you don’t understand why, how or whatever, I’ll be delighted to introduce you to my friend Chad.



How good are you really? In the sales game, can you talk people into doing things they really don’t want to do?

Look back over your last 10 sales. How many were the result of your silver-tongue; your being able to overcome objections flawlessly and product knowledge so complete that you truly were the guru of fabled lore? And no one could resist your charm, charisma and … oh please.

Stop it. Your words have little to do with their decision. What matters is your civility, your respect, your concern … your ability to uncover, understand and care about their issue.

The hard part is to earn their favor so that you have the opportunity to be there when they need you.

Compel? No. Impel? No. Care? Yes.


Before taking a job or before starting a business, this question deserves attention.

For simplicity sake let’s assume the answer to be either small medium or large with the following relative characteristics.

Small value

  • Small price
  • Small margin
  • Customer’s do not buy again

Medium value

  • Medium price
  • Medium margin
  • Some repeat business

High Value

  • High price
  • High margin (even 1 sale to one customer is valuable)
  • Lots of repeat business

And there are some intangible values derived from customers like word of mouth, referrals and social media mentioning — increasing their lifetime value.

But the big piece in this puzzle is repeat business and thus customer service is truly critical. And this is something businesses can control.

And so when considering a job or starting a new business, consider the lifetime value of one customer. Choose your niches well and serve them very well.


Connected on LinkedIn, now what?

next steps
Would you prefer we schedule a call or meet for coffee?

I prospect for new business all the time. I use Linkedin to do so. I seek to meet small business
owners in Mecklenburg county.

I have discovered when I ask (via email) my newly connected prospects if they would rather schedule a phone call or meet for coffee, 99% of the time, we meet for coffee.

Conclusion drawn: People in Charlotte who are on Linkedin, want to meet other people in Charlotte who are on Linkedin, face to face.

What is the validity of this conclusion?

[1] Are all people on Linkedin open to meeting others who are on Linkedin for coffee?

[2] How unpopular is a telephone call today?

[3] Is Charlotte unique?

[4] How important is geographic proximity when connecting with new prospects?

It is a different world today and the prospecting efforts we used to do, don’t do what they once did.

If you’re not using Linkedin to prospect for new business, especially here in Charlotte, you are missing appointments and wasting time.

With Linkedin your number of first meetings could double and the time spent setting them up, halved. How many meetings with new prospects do you need to have each week?


PS — At this first meeting over coffee: if you invited them to the meeting, ask about them and the things they’ve done as revealed on their Linkedin profile. And do not try to sell them anything.



The secret to referrals is that they occur one person at a time. And the truth is that no matter what label you choose, referral, recommendation, testimonial or introduction, the event is just an introduction – the opportunity for 2 strangers to meet.

Regardless of the incredibly brilliant adjectives used to describe either or both parties, the result will be two strangers meeting for the first time.

But I digress. The stranger issue is not the topic today.

The point today is if we want our connectors to introduce us to a prospect, we need to stop asking for REFERRALS and start asking for a referral.

The secret to a referral is that it occurs one person at a time. Therefore, when speaking with your leads group or your current customers or your next door neighbor, ask not for some, ask for one.

Here are two high quality ways to ask for an introduction : [1] I would like to meet Bill Gates (or any specific individual). Might you be able to help me meet him? [2] Recently, I completed a project for John Doe, he is a financial advisor with ABC Advisors (use your most recent or most favorite customer). It was a great experience. If or when you might have the chance, might you introduce me to your Financial Advisor?

The truth is all we can do is introduce. We can add a plethora of positive adjectives and adverbs, but the introduction is NOT going to make your sale.

Too many people speak of “referrals” (plural) as the magic formula to success. But let’s be clear. When we speak in plural, we mean more than one of our connections introducing us. We do not mean one of our connections making several introductions.

Should we ever ask one of our connections for the plural, we are asking too much.  Instead, ask for ONE – ONE specific introduction to ONE specific person.

Each week if you ask 2 of your connections to introduce you to ONE person, I’ll bet you’ll get more introductions than ever before.

Who exactly would you like to be introduced to?


Big Businesses work with numbers. Underdogs work with people.

You may be an underdog if YOU are your business. And if so, every person you meet is valuable.

Every person you meet is a face and a human being, just as we are to them. We do not want them thinking of us as a number and we should not think so of them.

LinkedIn permits us to remember their face and who they are and where they came from. The LinkedIn profile is a perfect customer management device and it takes us no time to build it and access it. Every person that we meet is important to us and should be part of our customer management network — also known as our LinkedIn connections.

Be defiant; outwit the giant.



When meeting a potential prospect for the first time, be nice, predictable, similar, and seek to be liked, not hired or bought.

If you requested the meeting, it is your meeting and your objective is to allow your guest to feel comfortable and to leave the meeting thinking well of you. The goal is for them to like you and think warmly of you.

As a rule people think well of those they like. We like people for many different reasons, but one simple thing to remember is we like people who are like us; similar to us. This is not always true and not the only reason, but it is a simple and fairly common condition.

Getting to know someone, building a relationship is a matter of discovery and a good question to initiate this journey is, “Where are you from?”

And then, actively listen.

Applaud the Order Taker

order taking

She doesn’t work hard for the sales she produces. She makes it look easy. Her numbers are great. She doesn’t put in the hours we do. She never complains. And her numbers are great every month. She’s just an order taker.

Oh, but if I could be like her…

Two things: [1] applaud the order takers. Embrace the idea. It’s a good one. Stop belittling it. [2] In most cases the secret ingredient is trust. Her clients trust her. They know who she is, what she can and can’t do and how to do business with her. She has earned their trust. She likes them. She wants to help them.

Earning trust has little to do with closing the sale. It has everything to do with mutual respect, care and concern. It starts with getting to know the people her clients are. It is always about individual people and what is in it for them.