The Red Rope

It’s great to be on the right side of the red rope. It feels good. You have been accepted and selected, and you’re headed in the door. Personally, I don’t get anything out of being on the right side while watching those who are not, but there are a lot of people who do love this power-play.

The red rope though is a fickle thing. For it to be ‘hot’ the destination must be in the highest demand. The people controlling the rope must be the best at curating just the right mix of people on the right side of the rope. They must select so that the collective energy is greater than the sum of its parts.

There has to a buzz in the marketplace, created by the rope selectors and rope selectees that pulses out beyond their own social spheres. And the end destination on the right side of the rope has to have something to say which is highly relevant to that moment in time in that marketplace.

As all of these conditions evolve and change almost daily, the red rope comes fast and usually dies faster.

Sounds exhausting? It is. Those who chase the red rope burn out. Those who control the red rope burn out. And in the end, one has to question the culture of the red rope- who wants to be part of something that they know cannot be shared? What is the psychology behind a person who finds that…cool?

And so- be Inclusive, not Exclusive. Look to teach, not to shun. Look to foster experiences, not shut them down. You’ll see a multitude of pay it forward energy/karma/etc…and it is very very cool…

on guilt pressure…

Far too many forget that buyers want to buy. Buying literally physically feels good. It allows the buyer to realize their control in the relationship, and it allows them to acknowledge and reward the salesperson- their partner in the relationship- who has put in their time and work with the buyer. But, the reality is that most of the time buyers can’t buy. This conundrum and understanding how to release the pressure off of it is a huge part of the craft of selling.

Understanding this ‘guilt pressure’ is key. And being successful requires finding ways to change the terms of the relationship to release this pressure. What does this all mean?

Most buyers are handicapped by two things: time and budget. In time, especially with the way in which the internet has allowed markets to expand incredibly, buyers simply don’t have enough time to shop. Even if they have a great relationship with a salesperson, they rarely have enough time to give to allow that salesperson to show them all of the products and services they have. So, release this pressure. Don’t ask to show them all of your products and services in one meeting. Ask to show them 1-3 products- that’s it. Don’t eliminate your ask of time-  restructure your ask to fit the buyer’s schedule. Acknowledge to the buyer that you understand that they don’t have time (ie- release the time guilt), and confirm that you want to be in and out, and keep your presentation quick! And by doing so, make those offerings very custom. Understand and respect the buyer’s time, and then over deliver on that time with incredible product offerings. And then ask to do the it again, and again…small chunks of time, each time.

And additionally, most buyers rarely have the dream budget they wish they had. Most have to pass on many buys, not because they don’t like the product, but because they are hindered by a monthly or quarterly budget. And so, don’t ask the buyer to buy all of your products in one buy. Like time, offer to cut the buys up into smaller buys, spread out over time, in order to honor their product flow and their cashflow. Work with them to understand a digest-able schedule that works for them (and for you), and implement that so that they can buy, yet they respect the business they are buying for…ie, release the budget guilt and allow them to buy.

To do all of this, one thing has to happen- you must constantly be asking intelligent questions that allow you to understand how the buyer’s business works. And when I write ‘business works’, I mean how their business sells. Most salespeople make the mistake of asking what a buyer is looking to buy; don’t do this. Inquire as to what the business sells- work backwards from there. So, questions like…How does their business move a lot of product. What is a perfect product for them to move quickly. What is a core product for them, something that they stock? What is an opportunity product for them- something that comes around once in awhile, but they jump on it to sell it because it’s a good deal for their business?  Your questions and inquiries should all be centered around understanding these flows. And don’t feel guilty about asking and even prying…you’re data-mining so that you can understand your client’s business, and thus bring them new product which they can then easily turn around and sell and make money.

Releasing guilt starts with aligning yourself as a partner in your buyer’s businesses. You are not a salesperson- you are working with buyers in business development. You are an advisor. You are a consultant. And as such, you are working with them over a long stretch of time. Understand that, and release the guilt pressure, so that your business can grow alongside your buyer’s business.



Expect no help!

I think I was afraid to ask for stuff as a young sales rep. Maybe this was because I started in sales back in a time when sales still had a good dose of Alec Baldwin Glen Garry-styled managers around; guys in bad suits, aging, fat, and generally pissed off and negative all of the time. The environment was the opposite of supportive. I quickly learned that they didn’t matter.

The beauty of sales is the meritocracy of it. You are as important as you’re numbers, which you solely create. Create more numbers, become more important. Office politics do not exist in sales. So, there I was, young, starving, afraid to ask for help or support, proud- yes, I was also too proud to ask for help- so I just leveraged what I had: hustle. I simply worked physically harder. (Looking back at photos of myself in my late 20s and it was the sales gig that kept me thin- certainly not proper eating). And then at a certain point, the business started to self generate, and I had to rotate from growth to management, and then I had to work smarter.

This journey- hustle to build the snowball and get it going down the hill, then artfully rotating to get on the snowball while it’s careening down the hill and properly manage it’s direction…all with little, to no help…I’ve come to learn that this is business. I want to tell you that there are tricks and tips to make it easier. Yes, there are some (which is one reason why I started writing this), but in the end everyone builds their own snowball, and they and their ball go down the hill in their own unique way. So, you’re probably thinking- ‘well, that’s some completely useless, shitty, advice’. Followed up by, ‘I could use some real advice that might actually work.’

Ok, so here goes. Expect no help! Seriously. Expect no help. If you do get help, you will get a little advice here and there- certainly everyone has their Monday morning quarterback opinions. But, that really deep down, incredibly insightful, “geenie-out-of-the-bottle-solve-all-your-problems” help?…yeah, that’s not going to happen.

You can rely solely on yourself.- on your courage to push forward, -on your reliance and ingenuity to do so with little to no help, -on your own integrity, -and on your own common sense and logic. Now, yes, the bigger the snowball gets, the more people you will bring on it with you (staff, etc), but those fundamental decisions you will have to make, you will almost always make alone.

So, when you start at the bottom. Ask for nothing. Ask for no support. Build it all from scratch. Create your own numbers, and create your own solutions for hitting them, and then go execute. You will have to make adjustments constantly in order to do so. You will be scared. Embrace that. (By the way, everyone is scared.) You will win some weeks/some months, and you will lose some weeks/some months. Try and lose less, and when you do lose, lose less badly. But, trust me, you are definitely going to lose.

And if you do want help? If you do need advice? Well, I’m in the same boat…find people you admire and respect, who exist in the troposphere of business. Research them, and odds are they have probably either written a book, or have had several interviews or expose pieces written on them. Go read all of that. They faced the same battles you and I are facing. Think about how to apply their ideas to your situation. Then go think about how you are going to figure out how to grow and manage your business- by yourself.


Be on time


It’s almost as if, the more simple it is, the harder it is.

Be on time.

Most would say this is all about discipline, but really this is all about care. When you care about something, you make time for it. You arrive early. You’re ready to go at the time assigned (meaning you arrive 15 minutes prior to the assigned time).

How to achieve this?

Honestly, I still work very hard at it. In my head I care deeply about so many appointments, the people at them, the things to be discussed…The problem is simply the time of travel between appointments.

Lately, I’ve been working on building in wider moats of time between appointments to allow for ‘stuff to come up’. And when I’m on the road, I’m also building in travel time as its own appointment- no longer guessing, but literally writing a block called travel time.

Still, I find myself late to too many appointments…

Woody Allen once said that “80% of life is just showing up.” Yes being there is OK. I’ll one up him:
Those who show up on time win more…100% of the time.

Fish where the fish are


I remember being quite lost in the beginning years of my formal sales career. I felt like things were coming at me faster than I could process them. These accounts are important, I should be there….Wait, what about these accounts that I haven’t seen in awhile?…Wait, new accounts, I need to always be sourcing new accounts….Wait, what about follow up, and executing on the details…Wait, what about new marketing ideas? Ahhhh!!!!

I was overwhelmed, lost on what to do, and generally stunned into doing very little. I attended a sales meeting for my employer at the time who fortunately had hired a sales consultant named Peter Benjamin. I simply opened up and shared my feelings of being overwhelmed. He listened and then replied:

“Fish where the fish are.”

What does that mean?

The first part of the answer is to define what the fish is. It’s a client….or, is it? I wasn’t selling in order to sell to a client. I was selling in order to make a sale. A sale generated a commission, and I was paid entirely on commissions. Fish were commissions. Fish- the noun- is all about what we’re looking to get out of it. And Fish- the verb- was all about my time. Hence, spend my time where I could get more commissions. And I could get more commissions by spending more time with the clients who were buying the most wine from me.

The depth of this simplicity blew me away. As once I understood it, my organization became super easy:

*Get an excel sheet with my clients and their current sales YTD.

*Rank the clients/sales YTD using the sort function so that the biggest sales clients were on top.

*Highlight the top 10 clients.

These are the fish. This is where I spent my time, and my sales increased immediately. I also started to shed that overwhelmed feeling, as I had a plan that made sense. And I was also able to feel comfortable not spending time with those clients who didn’t buy as well- no feelings of ‘it’s my fault they’re not buying, etc’.

I have continued to start every new sales territory or market based project by defining what a fish is, how I get them, and how I spend most of my time with the most important of them. Seems to have worked out so far…