Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Simplify Your Strategy

After reading the following article, I had to share it with you. It is amazing how, as the saying goes, we can't see the forest for the trees. Read and consider Greg McKeown's wonderful philosophy of focusing on the vital few instead of the  trivial many. I especially loved one phrase; you are the CEO of your own life. By the way, I am on my way to the store to buy some post-it notes  -Andrea Michaels

By Greg McKeown

For the last 15 years I have been obsessed by this non-trivial question: Why is it that successful people and organizations don't break through to the next level?

It's an important question for CEOs of companies (and for the rest of us as CEOs of our own lives) to answer. The answer I have found hidden in plain sight is: success.

I first noticed the phenomenon while working with executive teams in Silicon Valley. When they were focused on the correct few things, they had success.

But with that success came the "right problem" of more options and opportunities. These opportunities distracted the leaders from the focus that had led to success in the first place.

So--exaggerating the point in order to make it--success can actually become a catalyst for failure. It can lead to what Good to Great author Jim Collins has called "the undisciplined pursuit of more."

The antidote to this is what I call the disciplined pursuit of less but better.

This is a simple enough idea to understand. But reflect on your own life and ask yourself, "How easy is it to fall into the undisciplined pursuit of more?" and "How hard is it to lead my organization toward the disciplined pursuit of less?" Everything in modern life leads us to the first. Almost nothing leads us to the second. It is only a very particular kind of leader--what I call an Essentialist--who can do it.

Consider the opposite kind of leader--a Nonessentialist. This is the highly-driven, highly-dispersed, and distracted leader we see everywhere today. It is the CEO of a 3,000-person company who recently announced he has 107 goals for the organization this year. That absurd number is only surpassed by the company's 700 products. The company has so many products, in fact, that when I asked the marketing team about them I found that not one of them even knew what all the products were. I see similar examples everywhere.

Behind that example is a management myth that has been shared so deeply for so long that people don't even question it. Stated succinctly, the idea is this: If you can fit it all in, you can have it. The problem is it happens to not be true. It is a lie.

We have even changed our language to make the idea seem as if it is true. For example, the word "priority" came into the English language in the 1400s and it was singular. It meant the very first thing. It stayed singular, very sensibly, for the next 500 years! Only in the 1900s did we began to speak of "priorities." So while we can find ourselves feeling that everything is a priority, literally by definition, it can't be.

Essentialists operate out of a very different mindset. They assume that almost everything is meaningless noise. They see their priority role as discerning between the trivial many and the vital few. For example, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, has said he sees himself as the Chief Editor of the company rather than the Chief Executive.

Essentialists don't see focus as one more thing to do; they see it as the essence of their leadership. It isn't what they occasionally do; it is who they are. It is their disciplined pursuit.

The situation for CEOs is that life is fast and full of opportunity. The complication is they think they have to do it all. The impact of this is that they will end up making a millimeter of progress in a million directions. My position is that CEOs can make a different choice: they create space to discern the vital few from the trivial many. As a result they can lead their organizations to break through to the next level.


Every night, write down the top six tasks that are essential to get done tomorrow, in priority order. Cross off the bottom five. Take the top item, write it on a Post-It note and put it on your computer. Schedule the first two hours of the next day to work on that one thing. Repeat often enough that this becomes easy and part of your routine. One entrepreneur I work with started this daily routine and has built his $300,000 business to a $400 million business. He completely subscribes to the idea that the discipline of this routine is what got him there. -Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown is the CEO of THIS, Inc., a company whose mission is to assist people and companies to spend 80 percent of their time on the vital few rather than the trivial many. He is the author of the bestselling Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This article is condensed from an interview with him from SOLVE magazine. To learn more about Greg and his company, visit: 

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For Extraordinary Events,  2015 started with a bang as EE (along with partner Patina Catering) was honored with winning The Special Event Gala Award for Best Off Property Catered Event for our work on the YPO/WPO Global Conference. This was EE's 39th Gala win and was not the week's only accolade as EE President Andrea Michaels was presented with the 2015 Steve Kemble Leadership Award at a special ceremony.  For more on EE and this amazing program please visit

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When Is a Contract Not a Contract?

Douglas Kolker, President at Sandler Training, recently wrote an article that dovetails perfectly into my last blog about winning business without losing money. And, it shows you how to avoid doing unnecessary up-front presentation preparation. Douglas graciously agreed to let me share his article with you. Read, learn and enjoy! -Andrea

Salespeople sometimes dig themselves into a hole by leaping into action at the very first sign of interest from a prospect. Maybe something like that has happened to you. Perhaps you had a "good initial discussion" with a prospect, and, based on that conversation you agreed to invest time and energy gathering information, working up prices, and putting together your presentation.

Then what happened? You kept your word. You delivered your presentation in a competent, professional manner. As you wrapped up, you felt confident that one of two things was going to happen. You were either going to get the sale (which was what you wanted), or at the very least you were going to obtain a clear decision.

Instead, you got one objection after another, followed by a series of stalls, and finally, you left with nothing more than the prospect's promise to give your presentation some "careful thought."

Unfortunately, the above scenario is a common one. If your expectation about what will be achieved during a meeting and how it will be achieved is different from that of the people with whom you are meeting, it's a sure bet that someone (you) will leave the meeting with unfulfilled expectations - likely accompanied by feelings of frustration and resentment - and no sale.

Before you volunteer to do any of the work in this relationship, it makes sense to establish clear, appropriate expectations and time investments on both sides. How do you do that? Lots of people are familiar with the Sandler® concept of the Up-Front Contract, under which both sides agree ahead of time about what the ground rules of a discussion will look like and what the possible outcomes of the exchange will be.

Yet too many salespeople end up attempting to establish up-front agreements that do not require the prospect to do much of anything! In reality, that is more of an up-front surrender. Over the phone, at the end of that "good initial discussion," the up-front surrender might sound like this:

You: Beth, what I'd like to do is come by next Tuesday at 10:00 AM to show you some pricing and production options, and also go over the program we put together for ABC Company so we can see how everything looks to you. Does that make sense?

Beth: Sure.

You just surrendered. If you imagine that what you just read constitutes a mutual up-front agreement, guess again! All that happened was you agreed to do everything ... and the prospect has agreed to do nothing (other than show up for the meeting).

Your goals here should be much more substantial. You want to establish a clear objective for the interaction, clarify the initial time investment, identify the specific topics to be discussed, get permission to ask a lot of questions, gain agreement on the intended outcome, set benchmarks by which to measure the progress made, and, last but not least, give the prospect something to do between now and the time you meet.

This is where salespeople so often sabotage themselves. They imagine they're securing an agreement, when all they're really doing is volunteering to do all the work themselves. That's not an effective "contract," because the other person has not committed or decided to do anything. Here's what a contract where the prospect is fully engaged would sound like:

You: Beth, why don't you pick a day when you can invite me in for an hour and we can determine if the type of targeted marketing programs my company has created for other distributors would make sense for you.

[Beth chooses Tuesday from 10:00-11:00 AM.]

You: That's great. Can we set aside an hour for this discussion?

[Beth agrees.]

You: Wonderful. When we get together in person, it would be helpful if you would provide me with some samples of your previous marketing campaigns - the ones that worked and the ones that didn't. That would help me develop a more complete picture of exactly what your customers respond to. Would you be comfortable doing that?

[Beth agrees.]

You: That would be great. I'll also be asking you a lot of questions to see what all your challenges are. You Okay with that? Then, I could share with you the approach I would take and explain what would be involved. If you are comfortable with my approach, we would then have time to discuss the various aspects of implementation such as objectives, timelines, budgets, people, and so on. If we get that far, I could then put together a formal presentation for you.

But, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. When we get together next Tuesday, let's focus on determining if there's a good fit between what you're after and what I have to offer. Does that make sense to you?

Notice the three questions in bold above. You must receive a positive response to these questions in order to have a "contract." If Beth is uncomfortable or unwilling to commit to the defined actions, the time for you to deal with it is up-front, at the time the appointment is scheduled, not at the time of the meeting.

If a prospect is unwilling to commit to the actions necessary to reach the meeting objectives, is there any point to having the meeting? (Hint: the answer is "no.")

By engaging your prospect to make clear commitments and to actually do something before the meeting, you'll spend more of your valuable time with people who are just as invested as you are in producing a positive outcome. You'll get out of the cycle of doing all the up-front work. You'll avoid long meetings with "decision makers" who won't really make decisions. And you'll close more sales.

This article was originally published in SandlerBrief, a monthly e-newsletter provided by the Sandler Training network of trainers. For more information on Sandler Training, contact Douglas Kolker via or visit

©2014 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reprinted or used without the express written permission of Sandler Systems, Inc. 

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